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Pics attached plus roundell of rhubarb

Get ready to sow!

A greenhouse is a great asset for any gardener and very soon the spring seed sowing season will be upon us. With just a little heat to germinate the seeds it is very easy to grow a wide selection of flowering plants and vegetables in a greenhouse. The most cost effective way to provide heat for germinating the seeds is to use an electric propagator where you can control the temperature. Most seeds will germinate very well where the temperature is maintained around 18-20oC. Onions, tomatoes, peppers can all be sown any time now along with geraniums, begonia, impatiens and petunias which all need warmth to germinate. Once the seedlings are through and ready to grow on they can be grown in the greenhouse where a cooler temperature of around 10oc is maintained. Before you start sowing seeds in the greenhouse, make sure that the greenhouse is spotlessly clean by washing down with disinfectant to kill insect eggs and fungal spores. It’s also a good idea to make sure pots and seed trays are clean. Bags of compost should be brought into the greenhouse for a few days to warm through as sowing into very cold compost may delay germination. And, finally, make sure that your greenhouse heater and propagator are working properly. The best way to do this is to switch them on for a while and then check the temperature with a thermometer and adjust accordingly.

Readers’ Questions

Jean from Ripon has emailed me about a jostaberry plant that a friend has given her to plant on her allotment and she would like to know how to grow it.

The jostaberry is a hybrid fruit bush created originally by crossing a blackcurrant with a gooseberry. They have been around for a long time, but have never really become that popular. The fruits are like very large blackcurrants and are really good in pies or for jam making. They are easy to grow, spine free and will thrive in most soil, including clay. An allotment is perhaps the best place for it as the bush does grow to be quite large and spreading. Pruning is as for a blackcurrant, which means once established you prune out some of the old wood after fruiting, leaving as much of the new growth as possible to flower and fruit the following year. After planting prune all the stems down to a few inches from ground level. This encourages lots of new growth over the summer and helps to create a bushy plant. You won’t get any fruit this summer, but next July you should get a good crop of berries. Josterberries are resistant to mildew, leaf spots and big-bud mites which are all problems that can affect blackcurrants and gooseberries, so are a good choice for gardeners that don’t like spraying insecticides and fungicides.

Jobs for the Week

Any perennials that were not cut down in late autumn can be tidied up now before new shoots start to emerge.

Old gooseberry bushes with congested branches can be pruned by thinning out some of the old wood to allow more light and air into the centre of the bush.

To force some early rhubarb in the garden you can cover over an established clump with a large bucket or decorative rhubarb forcing pot. Excluding the light will force the plants into early growth.

If you have a gardening question for Martin Fish please email him at martin@flowershow.org.uk and we’ll print a selection of questions and answers for readers to share. Or, write to Ackrill Media Group, 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate and we’ll pass on your question