GARDENER’S DIARY – 1st Week of January
At the top of every gardener’s list of New Year resolutions should come the determination to make the garden tidy and keep it tidy. Not just for the sake of appearances, but because of the hard fact that rubbish left lying about makes a perfect breeding-ground for pests and diseases. All healthy rubbish that is soft enough to rot down fairly quickly – weeds, leaves, herbaceous refuse – should be put on the compost heap. Do not burn anything except diseased material and hard woody prunings.
New plants of potted chrysanthemums can be raised from cuttings taken now. Choose sturdy, short-jointed shoots, about 2 inches long, springing from the soil – not those growing from the old stems. Cut off the shoots at ground level and remove the two lowest pairs of leaves. The cuttings should be planted 1 inch deep round the edge of a pot containing a mixture of equal parts of loam, peat-moss and sand. Allow four cuttings to a 2-inch pot or six to a 3-inch pot. After planting stand the pots in a deep, glass-topped box and spray with tepid water daily.
Urgent. In severe frost, protect celery from damage by placing a layer of straw or bracken over the tops. When the frost is over, remove the covering.
GARDENER’S DIARY – 2nd Week of January
At the first opportunity beds containing bulbs and other spring flowers should be lightly hoed to break up the surface. Do not go deep, and be very careful not to damage any growing shoots. If any wallflower plants have become loose, tread the soil down firmly round them. Pick off dead and dying leaves from the primroses. Examine border carnations for signs of rust disease, which causes brown spots and stripes to appear on theleaves; affected plants should be treated with sulphur or with one of the proprietary sulphur-containing fungicides.
If you intend to grow potatoes during the coming season order them at once to make sure of getting the best seed. As soon as they arrive they should be sprouted, either in trays or in seed boxes. Stand the tubers upright, with the ends containing the eyes uppermost, and put the trays in a frost-proof, but light, place. The idea is to get plump, green shoots. Tubers sprouted in darkness or in feeble light put forth long, pallid, unhealthy looking shoots that snap off at planting time.
Urgent. Prepare the rock garden for the early flowerers by removing all weeds and decaying leaves and surfacing the soil with compost or leaf-mould and sand.
Alec Bristow’s tips from the 1940s