Tips on using the winter to plan ahead with Martin Fish - garden writer, broadcaster and advisor.
I know we are in winter and potentially we still have some very cold weather to come over the next couple of months, but there’s no harm planning ahead to spring.
In fact winter is the ideal time to plan exactly what you want to grow in the garden next year and to make sure you have everything prepared and ready to go.
At this time of the year all the seed catalogues are available and although the modern trend is to order online, I still prefer to be able to flick through the pages of the catalogues and select my flower and vegetable seeds. However, before I start to order new packets for the 2014 growing season I am going to have a good sort through my existing seed box.
As well as the seeds that I buy, I also get sent trial packets by several companies and then of course there are those free packets that are often on the cover of garden magazines.
As a result I often end up with a large selection of seed packets, some that have been opened and half the contents sown and others un-opened.
Many of the seeds can be saved for next year, especially if the packets haven’t been opened and nowadays the packets should display a sow by date.
In many cases opened packets can also be saved for another year as long as the seeds have been kept cool and dry. Seeds that don’t keep to another year once opened include primula, meconopsis and parsnips, so if you come across part packets of these they are best thrown away.
Sorting through the packets now also gives me the opportunity to get rid of things that I’m not intending to grow again.
Only when I’ve thinned down my packets of seeds will I order some new ones for next year and then I’m totally ready for spring sowing.
Jenny from Knaresborough is going to buy a cold frame for her garden and wants a few tips on the best type to buy.
A cold frame is a really useful piece of equipment for the garden and once you’ve had one you’ll never want to be without.
Their main use is to give plants a little protection from the elements and they are particularly useful in spring, autumn and for over-wintering plants.
Bear in mind that they do not give much in the way of frost protection, although they will protect plants from a light frost.
During the winter a cold frame is ideal for protecting hardy plants that need protection from heavy rain and in spring I harden off bedding plants and start vegetable plants off in a frame.
When it comes to choosing a cold frame there are several designs available.
If you want to grow salad crops that need maximum light for good growth, I would suggest a frame that is fully glazed on all sizes, plus the lid.
For over-wintering and hardening off in spring I prefer a frame with wooden sides for extra insulation.
Jobs for the week
Christmas house plants such as hippeastrum need to be kept moist at all times.
Tidy garden sheds and clean tools ready for spring.
Remember to feed the birds and supply clean drinking water.