GARDENER’S DIARY – 3rd Week of January
No flowers are gayer or more welcome during the often rather empty month of May than St. Brigid anemones. The Claremont Hybrids especially, with their wonderful reds, pinks and blues, are perfect for cutting, quite apart from the vivid show they make in the garden. What is more, they thrive in those shady spots which most other flowers despise. They should be planted as soon as the right moment occurs – that is, when the ground is neither frost-bound nor sodden. The soil should be well dug and if possible enriched with a little compost or rotted manure and leaf-mould. Make the planting holes 4 inches deep and place a 1/2 inch layer of sand at the bottom of each before dropping in the bulbs. Be careful to place each bulb the right way up; the end with the sunken surface is the top. After planting, sprinkle more sand around each bulb before filing in the soil. Allow a space of 6 inches each way between bulbs. Finish by laying plastics over the bed to protect the young plants from cold winds. To keep plants of Christmas Roses healthy and strong for next season, cut off all faded blooms.
Urgent. If the ground is workable, a double row of broad beans can be sown. Put in the seeds 2 inches deep an inch apart, zigzag fashion.
GARDENER’S DIARY – 4th Week of January
If you have a greenhouse or cellar, you can use it to force some very early rhubarb. Dig up a few clumps, leave them on the ground for a few nights to get frosted, then bring them in, stand them on the floor and pack soil firmly round them. Water throughly and leave in total darkness for a few weeks, during which a crop of juicy young stalks will grow. If a cellar is used it will, of course, be dark enough; if a greenhouse, a space under the staging can be blacked-out by nailing sacking from the edge of the staging to the flour. After firing, roots must be discarded, so if your clumps of rhubarb are overgrown it is best to split them up, using one portion for forcing and the other for replanting in the garden. Only the vigorous outer parts should be used for either purpose; the middle piece must be chopped out. In mild districts a few early vegetables may be sown in sunny spot as soon as the ground can be raked to a fine surface. Lettuce (Continuity), carrots (Early Horn), spring onions (White Lisbon), and dwarf peas (Peter Pan or English Wonder) are all suitable.
Urgent. To stop birds from pecking out buds of gooseberry and currant bushes, wind black cotton among the shoots.
Alec Bristow’s tips from the 1940s