This Month in the Garden (March 2019) with Derek Cox

On the 5th February the members of the Syston in Bloom committee met with many of the members who represented East Midlands Community Rail. The representatives managed the lines as far away as Skegness, Doncaster, Sheffield, Matlock and many of the stations in between. The representatives came, not only to admire the work and planting, which had been carried out by our In bloom committee. Here I must point out that many were taking photographs of the borders and asking what the plants were.
Comments were exchanged about how stations throughout the whole of the East Midlands Trains could be improved. A number of those present at the meeting went first to Costa Coffee for coffee, or tea and then to the Midland Hotel for dinner.
The meeting was not only enjoyable, but also very informative. While we were at the station the daffodil leaves were almost nine inches (22cm) tall and showing flower buds, so by March they will be in full flower and worth a visit just to admire them as they create a colourful carpet of gold on a dull winter’s day. Also on the platform fence a number of self watering troughs had been erected to replace the old wooden ones, this will cut down the number of times members of the committee will have to carry cans of water up and onto the platform.
Here I must congratulate Trevor for not only finding about the troughs online, but also for bringing along the tools to help take down the old troughs and bolt the new ones in place. Now to my own garden, this like so many gardens is not only showing new growth, but also a floral display. Here I must point out that many of the trees, shrubs, perennials and alpines come from many other countries, which are not used to our unpredictable seasons and as a consequence many will start to grow during a week’s mild spell during February, then the growth is cut down by a sudden sharp frost. Such plants will need the protection of a South, or West facing wall, or fence. In the open, or when grown in containers tender plants will need wrapping in a double layer of horticultural fleece.
Now let me warn people about buying seed in packets, often the packets will say the seed can be sown in January, or February. If you have a heated greenhouse, or even on the windowsill in the house, seed sown this early may germinate within seven to 10 days, but then what do you do with the germinated seedlings? Pot them on into cell trays, or pots and watch them grow into soft, lanky plants, which are prone to fungus disease and aphid attacks. After all most vegetable and ornamental plants when grown from seed, cannot be planted out until after the third week in May. I always say think back from the date you can safely plant out and work backwards seven to eight weeks before sowing.
My runner beans St George and French beans, are sown during mid March in a heated propagator that is in my cold greenhouse, the propagator is set at 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 cel) and as soon as there is signs of their first true leaf the propagator temperature is reduced to 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 cel) so they are not too lush before they are potted on in two weeks time. Once out of the propagator they are covered with fleece in case there is a frost.
Once again in my borders I have found many snowdrops have had their flower heads pulled off, I have tried sprinkling chilli powder and pepper around the plants, but the pigeons, who I think are the culprits still walk amongst them unfazed by the smell. Any suggestions from our readers would help.
By mid February the red Chaenomeles, pictured here, on my east facing house wall was in flower, this is beautiful in flower, but when trained on a wall, or fence it need pruning at least five times a year to keep it tight to the wall. In an open border this will form a mound four to six feet (1.2/1.8 meters) tall, but will only need pruning once after it has finished flowering. Most of my spring flowering Clematis are now showing flower buds so given a mild end to the winter they should be in flower by mid March. Clematis alpina and Clematis macropetala should be in flower by late March; both do not have large flowers, but add interest to a late winter garden.