WELCOME to 2024 - and I’m sure many gardeners will be glad to be able to get outdoors again after the festivities of Christmas and new year celebrations.

With the winter solstice passed, green-fingered growers will now be looking forward to the springtime and the daylight hours slowly increasing.

It is important that everything is done to maximise the amount of daylight that can reach our greenhouses, as the glass can become quite dirty over the winter months.

Much benefit can be achieved by giving the glass a good wash with warm soapy water outside to remove the grime, but also inside too. When washing the inside add some disinfectant to the water.

Next item to get busy with is planning what you want to grow during the coming year and order your plants and seeds and other important and useful commodities.

Meanwhile, take care and sprinkle rock salt over your garden paths, steps and patios to prevent untimely falls which may cause injury.

Welcome mail brings cheer to gardeners

It was Christmas Eve when a large envelope popped through my door. It was not Santa delivering a last minute greetings card but the postman delivering a large envelope which upon opening I found was the seed and plant spring catalogue for 2024 from well-known seedsmen based in Newmarket D.T. Brown.

They can supply by mail order. but you will find their plants and seeds in many garden centres up and down the country.

The first thing I noticed from my new-found festive reading is D.T Brown are holding their products at last year’s prices, so there will be no price increases to annoy gardeners as 2024 gets off to a new start.

Plants such as the chillis and pepper families can be procured now and started into growth as they need a long growing season.

If contemplating growing such crops you will need a greenhouse. The hotter the pepper then the longer it will take to germinate and grow.

Gourock garden talks

Regular attenders at Gourock Horticultural Society's fortnightly talks in Cardwell Garden Centre are commencing their year’s activities on Tuesday January 23 by getting together for a Burns Lunch.

As this will be the first meeting of the year members wishing further details or information can telephone one of the following numbers – 633422, 710750 or 636412 - where they will be able to get details regarding menu, cost and other essential information before the event.

Regular fortnightly meetings will continue after this event.

Peat-free compost

Much has been talked about over recent years about stopping using peat in much of the bagged horticultural composts on sale in retail outlets. Now almost all composts must be either peat-free or at the very least peat-reduced.

There is nothing wrong with peat in technical terms – it contains organic material and other moisture, but if you take out the peat then what do you put in its place?

Compost producers are still trying to make a suitable peat-free or peat-reduced product and great difficulty has been found. Compost needs to be free-draining, yet moisture retentive to some extent. The particle shape must be such that gives an interstitial that will help drainage and create sufficient air space to promote good growth.

The chemical composition of all the ingredients is important and so the entire subject of compost is best summed up as being a physical/chemical exercise which must also be cost effective.

Among some of the ingredients that has been used in composts to replace peat are wood chips, sawdust and wood shavings.

Another product is coir, which is derived from coconut shell. Garden waste has also been used as a way of utilising waste collection from household collections but these have been found to contain a lot of dangerous materials such as glass, stones and sharp objects. Some local authorities do compost and sterilise their waste products but even then, there is the big question as to whether the sterilisation is hot or cold.

Home composting is a great way to recycle household and garden waste either by using a compost bin or a simple compost heap which can include green waste such as grass cuttings and hedge trimmings and even decaying leaves.

But the recipe for good compost also needs other non-green material. Ideal are old newspapers, cardboard and shredded waste paper from office sources. The vital procedure is to keep turning the compost as you are making, it so that air can get into the ingredients and help break down the waste ingredients.

One should not add food products to compost heaps and bins as doing this will attract vermin.

An alternative to compost bins are wormeries, which have the advantage of creating a liquid waste as well as dry solid waste. The liquid waste can be diluted and used when watering your flowers and vegetables, thus saving you the expense of buying liquid fertilisers.

Check and inspect over-wintering bulbs and corms

If you had stored away corms from such as gladioli begonia or Gloxinia for the winter, or tubers from Dahlias, in the hope of being able to increase the number of plants you can propagate, then I suggest that you take a peek at them now and discard any that show signs of rot or disease.

The bulbs , corms and tubers which prove to be healthy can be planted into fresh compost and started into growth over the coming weeks. Now is also the ideal time to purchase new products introduced by growers and specialist nurseries over the past year.

When checking out these items also spare a moment to have a look at your indoor house plants and remove any brown leaves that may be appearing on house plants Remember most house plants can be killed by over-watering...but more on this next week.