The weather – or not

Today at last most of our plants here have thawed out after the cold spell of the last couple of weeks. Unlike last year there doesn’t appear to be any serious damage to anything, although all the tender plants are still safely tucked away in the greenhouses where they are well protected from the cold.

Hopefully,if temperatures stay near normal, growth will restart on the hardy shrubs and perennials which , after being well advanced about a month ago, now look fairly normal for the middle of February. Being a nurseryman, it’s hard not be obsessed by the weather ¬†because it determines the growth and sales of plants and ultimately the profit or loss of the whole enterprise. Spring is a particularly nervous time as we have many more tender plants around the nursery so when frost is forecast in April or May we often spend half an hour in the evenings and mornings lifting fleece on and off bedding plants to avoid damage.

Customers often ask me for advice about when to plant or sow particular crops and are sometimes disappointed when I always favour the cautious approach but this is based on experience ( sometimes bitter). In a few weeks the sun will shine and every gardener will be keen to get going ,it’s a sort of spring fever that sets in and no-one who loves plants is immune from it, including me. That is the time to stop and think before acting rashly, it’s Ok to take a risk or two but suicidal early plantings rarely work out, often the crop planted a bit later in better conditions will overtake and out perform an earlier struggling batch of plants.

It’s fine to start early in a polytunnel or particularly a greenhouse where the plants are well protected, these are valuable tools for getting earlier and better established plants and extending the growing season at both ends, but for outdoor planting the ground has to be in the right condition and warming up. My grandfather, when asked what was the right time to plant potatoes, recommended one finger in the bum and one in the ground – if they were the same temperature it was fit to plant!

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Jane Lane Nurseries
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