Our gardening expert has a host of horticultural tasks for you to tackle this week.
•Buy seeds of winter flowering pansies ready to sow in the greenhouse at the end of the month. I know they are in bloom at the moment but the seeds have to be sown now to ensure a good display of flowers at this time next year. It is called forward planning.
•Plant out leeks now. These popular winter gems are prone to attacks of leek moth which devastate foliage and destroy the heart of the crop. Many gardeners ask me what has gone wrong as they have never had this problem before. The leek moth lays eggs alongside seedlings and in late summer the leaves are chewed badly. This devastates the long white heart of the crop. Beat this pest by covering the seed sowing with insect barrier netting and as soon as the young plants are set out in rows, cover the plants with insect barrier netting suspended on plastic water piping . Put wooden dowels in the ends of the piping to make it easier to be pushed into the soil. Just think, the crop must be covered to prevent the flying moth from laying eggs which hatch out as caterpillars which are very difficult to see because they are exactly the same colour as the veins of the leek leaf.
•Slugs are very active. Go into the garden early in the morning, pick them off and give them a quick size eight on smooth paving.
•Sow seeds of F1 hybrid Brussels sprouts. If you have already planted out early varieties, choose another which will produce sprouts from January to March. The seeds are quite small. Sow single seeds into insert cells. The size needed is 24 cells to a standard seed tray. F1 hybrid seeds are expensive but they are well behaved and they don’t turn into miniature cabbages like old-fashioned types.
•Clematis plants are now growing rapidly. Encourage shoots to grow upwards. Clematis-support frames don’t cost a fortune.
•Short rows of lettuce, spring onions and beetroot can be sown Sow thinly so the hoe can be used between rows.
•Sow seeds of sweetcorn in the greenhouse. These will be ready to plant out in blocks – 15in between plants with 15in between rows– in three weeks.
•Plant out runner bean seedlings but cover them if frost is forecast. Everyone should try to grow runner beans, they are the most nutritious vegetable and everyone loves them, especially if grandma cooks them! Plant some in a flower border.
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