Weather records broken

It has been announced that March was the warmest on record and the lighter nights had gardeners itching to get out into their gardens - but rain did dampen their activities to some degree.

Judging by the number of readers approaching me in the past week with all kinds of questions many are certainly thinking ahead about their plans for the coming summer in terms of flowers and vegetables alike.

Remember in this area we can get air frost right up to the first or second week in June. Keep planning ahead for future months and enjoy your garden.

Talk by Parklea Branching Out

Despite a number of regular members who attend the fortnightly garden talks organised by Gourock Horticultural Society being absent through holidays and health problems, a healthy attendance gathered at Cardwell Garden Centre last week when Sharon Gemmell and her team addressed those attending on the work being done at the Port Glasgow site.

Sharon was accompanied by Alice of Inverclyde Food Network who outlined her role in dealing with a variety of organisations throughout the district.

Attendees were given samples of wildflower seeds to take home and plant in their own gardens and given lots of other informative handouts. The talk attracted a number of new faces and everyone enjoyed their afternoon.

Sharon can be contacted by telephone on 07384972661.

Growing rhubarb

Rhubarb is grown from crowns and these can be planted in a corner of the vegetable plot any time now. The important factor is that the crown can be planted and be left to grow without too much attention from the gardener. However, new rhubarb cannot be pulled up and used in the first year. It must be left untouched until next year. Keep a close eye as there is a danger of the new plant running to seed, which if noticed can be easily sorted by removing the seed head entirely.

Existing crops can be forced by placing a bucket over a couple of crowns and this will give an earlier crop which will be sweeter and paler in colour. But do not force these stalks again the following year. When pulling rhubarb stalks cut the large leaves off at the top and also cut the bottom of the stock.

The leaves are quite acid and should be left to rot down or added to the compost heap. Stalks left in the ground can be harvested near the end of the growing season and used to make jam or preserve.

Shrub plants

While browsing round Cardwell Carden Centre just the other day I came across the first of the new season shrubs, and there is a good selection to choose from.

These plants are popular and range from large flowered shrubs to quite small low-growing species. They have proven popular year after year. Even more popular is the price, at any four plants for £12.

Introduction to herbs

Medics are forever suggesting that we should eat less salt in our food and one of the best ways to season food is to use herbs instead of salt. Popular herbs such as parsley can be used as a garnish or in soups, salads and stews. Bay leaves are not eaten but added to food during cooking and then removed before consumption. Mint is also popular but needs to be grown in a container as the roots are quite invasive and will spread over a wide area of the garden. Mint can be used for jelly and mint sauce, or added to various cocktails. Its leaves can be infused in hot water to yield a refreshing brew of mint tea.

Other herbs such as Thyme and Rosemary are popular in stews and can be useful as an additive to a wide range of meat dishes. Most of the herbs mentioned here are best grown near to the kitchen door where they are easily harvested when required.

Society update

Gourock Horticultural Society hold their next talk at Cardwell Garden Centre on Tuesday April 23 and all members and their friends are welcome to attend. The meeting commences at 2pm and usually lasts about an hour. This is a great opportunity to discuss your gardening problems with other like-minded friends and together find all the answers you have been looking for. Come along and bring a friend and help to enhance your knowledge.

Garden tools

Now is the ideal time to spend a few minutes giving your garden tools a quick clean and oil them by giving a clean with some light oil and this will keep them in good condition for use during the coming months.