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Grow shrubs for free

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Author: Julia Smith, Posted: Monday, 28th December 2020, 09:00

New Year resolutions are easily made and even easier broken, however if you used your enforced time at home in 2020 to start gardening I think one of your resolutions should be to carry on! Hopefully you will have got the bug properly now and benefitted so much from being outside and perhaps eating some home-grown produce for the first time.

Wonderful pink, purple and violet colours

To see the flowers of your Hellebores at their best in the coming weeks, cut away last year’s grotty leaves. If you haven’t got any this is a good time to buy them, as they are starting to flower and you can pick your favourite from all the wonderful range of pink, purple and violet colours.

They like a nice rich soil and will thrive in semi-shade, and look so magical with snowdrops and evergreen ferns during the dark days of January and February.

Mulch fruit trees , bushes and canes with organic matter, unless the soil is waterlogged or frozen. This will give them a well-needed boost for the coming season.

Take cuttings from deciduous shrubs

Why not grow some shrubs for free? Hardwood cuttings are taken from deciduous shrubs just after leaf fall or just before bud burst in spring. Think Buddleja (above), Cornus and Philadelphus.

Choose strong, healthy shoots and cut stems about 20cm long of a pencil thickness. Trim the top with a slanting cut just above a bud (so you know which side is up!) and square cut the base just below a bud. Remove the leaves from the bottom two-thirds and cut remaining leaves in half.

Remove a sliver of bark from the base and dip the cutting in hormone rooting powder to aid rooting. You can push them into open ground or use pots which you can put in a cold frame. They will be ready to move to a final location in autumn or pot on into containers.

Sort out your fruit and vegetable patch

Tidy up your vegetable plot by clearing away the finished crops and putting them on the compost heap to reduce pests and diseases. If you cover the soil with black plastic this will warm the soil up ready for sowing seed later and keep weeds down.

Try forcing some rhubarb. Cover the dormant buds with either straw or dry leaves inside a terracotta forcing pot or a large bucket to keep the light out. Tender pink stems will be produced in a few weeks’ time. Don’t do this to the same plant every year, as it will need to recover and build its reserves up.

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