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Pic of daffodils attached fore roundell

Spring catkins!

Spring is definitely late this year by several weeks and the recent cold weather is holding many plants back from flowering and starting into growth.

Normally by this time of the year daffodils are in full flower and trees and shrubs are coming into leaf and full of blossom. One plant that is a sure sign that spring is with us is the hazel with its long catkins that dance around in the breeze. They are also very late this year, but over the past week I have noticed that the catkins are developing nicely and starting to put on a show which I hope is an indication that the weather might be warming up! For a garden situation, the corkscrew hazel makes a good specimen plant and is often grown by flower arrangers for its twisted and contorted stems and crinkly foliage during the summer months. Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ is propagated by grafting a twisted stem onto a hazel seedling to produce this unusual plant that is grown as a large shrub or small tree. In spring the decorative long catkins develop and make a lovely show. The corkscrew hazel is a ‘marmite’ plant, you either love it or you hate it! I like it in the right place and when allowed to grow into a specimen shrub it can look very impressive. Its one fault is it can produce lots of suckers from the roots and to keep the plant growing well it is essential that the vigorous straight stems growing from ground level are removed. Other than that, it’s easy to grow and hopefully is a signal that spring is at last on its way!

Potatoes in Pots

Normally at this time of the year I’d be reminding you to plant your early potatoes out into the garden, but this year my advice would be to hang on for another week or two until the soil warms up a little more. The cold spring has kept soil temperatures down and in many gardens the soil is still very wet. In cold wet soil, the potato tubers won’t grow and may rot off, so it’s better to wait a while longer. However, if you are starting to get a little impatient with the weather and you have already chitted new potatoes ready for planting, why not plant a few in some large pots or buckets. This is a really easy way to grow potatoes and it means that after planting you can keep the pots in a warm environment to start the tubers into growth. As soon as new shoots appear through the compost they need plenty of light and protection from frost. Planted now you will be harvesting new potatoes in around 12 weeks’ time and a few pots of potatoes will bridge the gap until the garden potatoes are ready to lift.

Jobs for the week.

Finish pruning any fruit trees by shortening last year’s new growth by around one third.

To prepare the ground for runner beans in the summer, dig out a trench and add some garden compost or manure to the bottom of the trench.

Sow summer cabbages and calabrese into plug trays in a cold frame or greenhouse to produce young plants for planting out in late spring.

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