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Spring dreaming

All Areas > Homes & Gardens > In the Garden

Author: Julia Smith, Posted: Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 09:00

Happy New Year to you all! This is the time of year when the weather may force you inside to contemplate the garden through the windows. A good time to make plans for the coming spring and to dream of what your garden could look like!

This year we can all do our bit for the environment by trying to manage our gardens using no, or as few chemicals as possible, and plant things that attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Deter pests by using companion plants

Try using companion planting to deter pests – for instance, growing onions and carrots together to reduce both onion and carrot fly. Many people grow marigolds in their vegetable patch for the same reason, as they mask the scent of tasty veg to the predators!

Instead of leaving soil bare, sow green manures such as rocket or mustard greens and dig them in when you are ready to plant up.
Several vegetables can be sown now in modular seed trays, either in a heated greenhouse if you are lucky enough to have one, or in a propagator, including some cauliflowers, onions and leeks. They can be planted out in late March and harvested later in the year.

Inside the house, water your plants sparingly, as more are killed by overwatering than not watering enough. Cut back leggy polka dot plant (Hypoestes), Tradescantia, aluminium plant (Pilea cadierei) and coleus (Solenostemon) to encourage new growth.

Free ornamental shrubs

If you want to increase your ornamental shrubs for free you can take hardwood cuttings. Evergreens can be taken from autumn to about midwinter, and deciduous plants just after they lose their leaves or just before bud burst in spring.

Prepare cuttings by taking stems of pencil thickness, about 15cm long. Trim the top with a slanting cut just above a bud, and the base, with a square cut just below a bud (so you can tell the top from the bottom!). Remove the leaves from the bottom two-thirds and cut remaining leaves in half.

Remove a sliver of bark at the base to encourage rooting and dip in some hormone rooting powder. Push the cuttings into a prepared bed in open ground or put in pots in a cold frame. They should root through the summer and can be moved to their final location in autumn.

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