5 March 2018
Pruning and sowing: February marks a beginning
February is (usually!) the last month of winter and as such it is the last opportunity to complete all winter work. We have been busy at Allt y bela clearing existing borders, creating new borders, completing the pruning of the fruit trees and bushes throughout the garden and of course we have stepped up our work in the kitchen garden.
Having never pruned quince or medlar before, I approached this task with some trepidation, but as these fruit trees are closely related to apples and pears I soon found my confidence. I learned that quince especially tends to produce a constant flush of epicormic growth that needs to be substantially thinned or completely removed every year. Both quince and medlar have a tendency to grow 'into themselves' and need to be confidently pruned in order to clear the centre. I am interested to see the fruit that these trees will bear this year and how storing the medlar will be best approached as it needs to be 'bletted', a process of letting it ripen in a cool place until soft and brown.
Over the course of the month we have continued to cut and clear the remaining plant material from the herbaceous borders, which has, we hope, helped to protect the plants from the worst of the winter weather. In addition, we have increased the size of some borders to accommodate more plants and formalised the edges of others with stone. The process of clearing and weeding borders is one of the aspects of horticulture I enjoy the most. It can be daunting if you are approaching a border that has not been touched for a significant amount of time (I once had the task of renovating a garden that had not been worked on for over three years), however, the process of removing and clearing the borders and preparing the ground for the coming growing season builds to a sense of anticipation.
February is also the month that ushers an increased pace in the vegetable growing calendar. Having prepared the soil in December and initiated the planting with garlic and broad beans, the first significant tranche of crops can be sown in February. To help schedule sowing I prepare a box/seed tray with dividing panels that separate the container into monthly labelled sections. Organising seed into the section that corresponds to the month it can be sown the earliest, allows me to rationalise the work.
With the recent and ongoing very cold and wet weather, we have had a 'false-start' to the season, with the broad beans not initiating growth in the cold frame and needing to be placed in the hot-box. We'll be monitoring the weather over the coming couple of weeks before deciding on how to progress and I look forward to keeping you updated.
Words: Rhys Griffiths, Head Gardener, Allt y bela
Photographs: William Collinson