Making an Early Start
Speaker: Brian Kidd
Date: 26th February
Brian Kidd, our President, is well known for his enthusiasm, and for his entertaining and informative talks and this was no exception.
He began in the Greenhouse explaining how to insulate it with bubble wrap, starting with the most difficult bit and using D clips to fasten it up. The door should come last with a double thickness of fleece. He then told us how to make a heated propagating table using sand and a soil warming cable or small heater underneath, a glass top and a thermostat. With moist sand it should take four hours to warm up.
Then came sowing seeds in best sterilized compost and in flower pots with crocks for drainage in the bottom. It is important not to press the compost down and to level off the top with a piece of wood.
And ALWAYS label your seeds. For begonias sow the seeds and then put the pot in a bowl of water for eight hours. They should take 10/11 days to germinate. Tomatoes should be sown in a wide round pot and put in twelve seeds one at every station of the clock face, using a match stick to carefully transfer the seeds. When germinated transfers to small pots and keep the plants as small as possible. Put them on a shelf near a window and rotate ¼ turn every day.
Polyanthus must have light to germinate and they are erratic in their germination rate. Brian’s trick is to use a screw top jar and some sharp sand. Put the seeds in the jar and shake for five minutes, this breaks down the resin coating. Then sow on compost label and date and put the pot in a bowl of water for two hours. Don’t cover the seeds but add a layer of vermiculite.
This absorbs water and glistens in the sunlight causing additional light. This method should give 92% germination rate in 10/15 days. Works for poppy seeds too. Lobelia however is allergic to vermiculite.
Brian’s method for germinating Broad or Runner beans is to use a lunch box and put wet kitchen paper in the bottom seeds on top and another layer of wet kitchen paper. Put the lid on and watch the beans swell up and in a few days a single white root appears. Only plant out in cells or pots the ones with a root. For peas put two seeds per cell
Old poem for beans; “Four beans in a hole, one for the rook, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow”
For those with no garden use a grow bag up ended against a wall, cut the top off and insert seven, eight ft canes, attach them to the wall and grow runner beans up them. For a second crop, plant more in the second week in July.
Brian went on to describe how to get a good crop of strawberries in pots in the greenhouse using large pots, pot thick, John Innes No 3 compost plus 10% sharp sand. When the flowers appear, hand pollinate with a soft paint brush. and then feed with Maxicrop.
Next came building a raised bed for carrots to defeat carrot fly, using short canes in the ground, attaching water piping to make an arch and a covering of fine mesh. Wood pins make it all secure. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Use the same protection against leek moth.
He told us you can plant anemones any month of the year in a round wide pot. Plant five large corms at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock timewise and one in the middle. Soak the pot for one hour in a bowl of water. Wait for the leaves and if nothing appears dig up the corm and turn it over. Then plant out in the garden.
Brian finally wound up his talk with how to take a hard wood cutting of his hardy desert grape; a straight cut below a bud and a slanting one above another one about six inches long altogether. Plant the cutting deeply in a pot with the top bud showing and wait till June and pot on. Plant out in the Autumn and three years later you should be eating delicious grapes if you follow his detailed instructions to cultivate the new vine.
His method of aerial layering shrubs which are hard to root was in the Spring (now) make a slanting cut half way through a node on a suitable twig and push sodden moss up the cut, squeeze out some of the water, wind black polythene around it and tie off top and bottom with wire twists. After one month undo the top fastening and water. Remove the covering in the autumn and you should find long white roots. Cut the rooted part from the mother shrub and plant the whole lot moss as well in a pot of compost.
Brian’s talk was as usual full of tips and information to improve our gardening techniques and get things going early for a fruitful and colourful year.