Welcome to a New Gardening Year.

 In George Irvine

Firstly, let me wish all our readers a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year and I hope that all our efforts in the garden this year bring us plenty of success.

Although the weather during autumn and the early part of the winter has been unusually mild with very little frost about, we do not know what lies before us in the coming months. We could get sub-zero temperatures and even some snow, gale-force winds lots of rain, so we must be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at us.

With the possibility of lower temperatures gardeners should strive to keep paths, drives and walkways free from ice and snow and the best way to do this is to keep plenty of rock salt and sand to hand. Small bags of these are available from Cardwell garden centre.

If you wake to find you your lawn exhibiting blanket of white frost, then I would suggest that you refrain from walking on it to prevent damaging the grass.

Creating and Growing in Raised Beds.

Creating a raised bed in your garden can give many benefits for the gardener and it can be used to grow edible produce as well yield attractive blooms.

Raised beds can be constructed from a wide variety of materials, either used or new, and you also have the choice of building them yourself. If you are building raised beds yourself you can either create them from wood, old railway sleepers or brick and slabs. If using old railway sleepers ensure that they are not coated with creosote or tar which can present problems.

Before you begin to construct a raised bed decide on the size you need or want. The important dimensions are the depth and the width. The depth should be deep enough to allow you to grow root vegetables but remember the deeper you make the bed the more top soil you will need to fill it. The width is also important so that it is narrow enough to allow you to reach crops in the middle of the bed easily from each side. Ideally, raised beds should be around 120cm and 150 cm wide.

Raised beds can be placed on any base – even a lawn – but you need to have some drainage holes on the bottom and then fill it with some grit before adding some well rotted manure or compost and good top soil. Raised beds warm up faster than soil in the spring but they dry out more quickly in summer, so they need regular watering during the growing season.

Making Up Your Mind Time.

During this month is a good time to sit by the fireside and decide what you want to grow during this year. You can either grow from seed or choose to purchase small plug plants, but do take into account the amount of space you have available.

Having lots of young seedlings and even plug plants to grow on means that you need plenty of space for them especially in the early days of March and April. If you have a greenhouse  and lots of young plants you may need to heat the greenhouse at night. On dry days when it is not too windy, open the vents of your greenhouse to let air in.

Although can grow some young plants on a window sill they do need sufficient light. Lack of light can cause the plants to become elongated and weak.

My advice to you is to be patient and plan a sowing regime which will avoid you having too many plants ready at the same time.

A Passion to Grow Herbs.

Herbs are wonderful plants to grow in the garden as they produce colourful flowers and yet can be used as a source of edible flavours to enhance your culinary creations.

Basically, herbs can be divided into two categories. Firstly, there are the Mediterranean herbs such as Thyme and Oregano which you can find growing wild on the hot stony hillsides and this will give you some idea of the conditions that will make them feel at home.  For these plants pick a sunny spot and dig in plenty of grit to ensure free draining soil.

Secondly, there are the cottage garden herbs such as Mint, Chives, Parsley and Sorrel , all of which prefer cooler growing conditions and moisture retentive soil. These herbs are quite happy without direct sunshine.

Generally, herbs are not tall growing and hence are suitable for growing in pots and containers. When growing annual herbs in pots it is best to use a good quality multi-purpose but for all others opt for a soil-based John Innes but add extra grit for the Mediterranean herbs. Water the plants regularly and use a liquid feed once a week during the growing season.

Herbs such as Mint and Fennel, Lemon Balm and Chicory and Sorrell are perennial herbs and are best grown in pots. Mint, for example can become quite rampant so it is best to grow it in a bucket in order to contain the roots from spreading all over the garden. Mint comes in various varieties each with different and distinct flavours – for example pineapple mint, apple mint, spearmint and eau de cologne to name but a few. Pick leaves regularly and cut off dead foliage at ground level in the autumn each year.

Top Gardening Award for Greenock School.

Just before the end of  the year it an announcement was made by the Royal Horticultural Society that Notre Dame High School in Greenock has scooped top prize in Scotland in the Society’s Green Plan it Glasgow Competition.

Competing with schools from all over Scotland, Notre Dame pupils aged between 12 and 14 years of age had to undergo a gruelling ten week course to design a school or community garden.

The local scholars, led by Stuart McDougall – a  biology teacher at Notre Dame – won the Best Overall Project which they entitled ‘Cool as a Cucumber’ who came up with the design for a sensory garden for a local care home to provide a peaceful space for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

The school won £100 worth of Horticultural Trade gardening vouchers for their efforts which were judged by a panel of professional judges from within the horticultural industry at an event at Glasgow Botanical Gardens.

One of the pupils, Leah McParland summed up the inspiration for the design by saying ‘Don’t bring a person with Alzheimer’s into your world. Take a step into theirs’.

Teacher,Stuart McDougall, said ‘I’d like to thank our mentor Greg Meikle (a landscape architect from AHR) for all his support but most of all to the pupils for being so passionate.

What a great start to the New Year! Well done Notre Dame.

These Indoor Flowering Plants Are Simply Stunning.

Indoor flowering plants are certain to lift one’s spirit during the dark days of winter, but perhaps the most interesting plant is the Amaryllis and you will have great fun growing one.

These stunning plants are grown from a bulb and you can have the majestic flowers in bloom in just six to eight weeks after planting.

Indeed, many are sold as a complete kit or pack and comprises of the bulb itself together with a pot and a bag of special compost or grown medium. Some others are presented for sale already planted in their pots and with growth started.

The flowers are held above a tall stem and there are lots of different varieties to choose from with some of the star-like flowers sporting strong vibrant red hues while there are other kinds exhibiting bi-colours and pastel shades.

Amaryllis bulbs are usually very large and it is best when buying a bulb to look for a blemish-free large one. The bulbs can normally have a circumference of 12 to 14inches but I have seen some which are very much bigger.

Before planting, choose a pot which is some two inches larger in diameter than the bulb and make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. If you did not get compost supplied with the bulb, it is best to use compost which contains plenty of organic matter such as peat and mix this with an equal amount of grit or perlite.

Plant the bulb into the pot making sure that one third of the bulb is above the compost. Firm the compost around the bulb, and because the plant is quite tall growing, you need to put a tall stake in place to support the plant as it grows.

It is important to place the pot in a warm place, or even on a heated tray or propagator and water sparingly. Soon you will see signs of growth and the stem starts to emerge from the bulb.

It is great fun to watch the plant grow a few more inches every other day and this is one plant where the stem will grow taller without any evidence of leaves. As the plant grows taller, keep tying the stem to the stake so that the plant will grow straight. Often you will find that some bulbs will contain more than one stem and each stem will produce flowers.

Once growth appears quite rigorous you can move the pot to a slightly cooler location.

Once the flowers start to appear and open, move the pot to a cooler, light location or even a cool greenhouse and your Amaryllis will continue to flower for weeks on end. As the plant grows taller you can increase the amount of water you give it, but do not over water or the bulb may rot.

Just take a trip along to Cardwell Garden Centre and you will find a good selection of different coloured bulbs to choose from available in pots.

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