Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Repot, pollinate and plant

It’s a good time to repot citrus just before they start into growth. To keep my lemon tree at a manageable size, the old compost is teased gently from the roots, which are then trimmed back by about 1/3 and repotted into peat free John Innes no 2 mixed with 20% horticultural grit for drainage. My containerised figs will be treated similarly but planted into John Innes no 3 leaving a gap between the compost surface and rim of the pot for watering. Once the weather warms in early June, they can go outside onto the patio.

Peaches and nectarines flower early in the year, there are a few insects about, but hand pollination guarantees a good crop. To check the time is right, if you run your fingertip over the anthers and there is a dusting of pollen on your finger, carefully transfer the pollen from the anthers of one bloom to the stigma of another, using a soft artists brush, or piece of cotton wool on a matchstick. Do this over several days to ensure that all of the flowers are pollinated, then look forward to a bumper crop in the summer.

Rocket and chard can also be sown for later transplanting

Encourage dormant tuberous begonias into growth by putting them in seed trays and covering with equal parts John Innes no2 and peat substitute, concave side uppermost. Water with a tepid water/fungicide solution, cover with a sheet of newspaper and keep around 16-18C (60-65 deg F) once the first shoots appear, remove the newspaper and keep the tubers in the shade. If you don’t have a propagator, wait until late April and start them off in a cool greenhouse.

Although parsnips and carrots resent root disturbance they can be sown in modules, then transplanted before the roots become too large. Do this early in the month in the cardboard centres from kitchen towels cut to about 10cm long placed vertically in seed trays, so they remain upright and filled with peat free multipurpose compost. (some gardeners sow earlier, from early to mid-February depending where in the country you are). Sow three seeds per tube and thin to leave the strongest. I also sow round rooted beetroot and carrots around the edge of a 7.5cm pot (or a similar), for later ‘hardening off’ and transplanting and harvesting when they reach the size of a golf ball. They develop in a cluster, like eggs in a nest.

Peas can be sown in pots, ‘root trainers’ or sections of guttering cut to a manageable length – usually the width of the bed, in peat free multipurpose compost in a repeat pattern of a 5 on a dice. Transplant when the seedlings are 5-7.5cm high, water the compost well, then starting at one end of the drill and moving towards the other end of the drill, slide the peas and compost gently down into a shallow pre-dug trench and gently firm. Adding a little detergent to the water helps the compost slide down smoothly, then protect them from pigeons with netting with the netting always a distance from the plants.

Happy gardening. Matt