Get busy planning your gardening for warmer days
PUBLISHED: 14:46 23 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:39 20 February 2013
Cheshire Life's gardening writer Jacqui Brocklehurst is busy planning for warmer days already
As temperature and light levels begin to increase, the garden slowly wakes up from its winter slumber.
The first green shoots of spring flowering bulbs, often forgotten, begin to emerge. Crocus chrysanthus and Crocus tommasinianus are the first to flower. C.chrysanthus produces bright yellow, bowl shaped flowers while C.tommasinius produces pale lilac candle shaped blooms. Both will happily naturalise in a well-drained sunny situation resulting in a glorious swathe of early spring colour.
Evergreen shrubs are the backbone of the garden providing structure throughout the year. Camellias have glossy green leaves that create the perfect foil for other plants then, when spring arrives, it is their turn to be the star performers. Tightly packed buds, that have swelled unnoticed, burst open to reveal gloriously exotic looking flowers in shades of red, pink, yellow and white.
Camellias are woodland plants that thrive in humus rich soil in partial shade. They prefer an acid soil but, if your soil is not compatible, a camellia will grow perfectly happily in a container filled with ericaceous compost.
Camellias should always be watered with rain water as tap water often has too high a concentrate of calcium.
Now that the garden has begun to stir and the birds can be heard singing in the hedgerow its time to get in the potting shed and start planning the vegetable garden. If you have a heated propagator you can make a start planting this seasons tomatoes and chillies.
I like to grow a variety of tomatoes. Cherry toms are my favourite small enough to just pop in your mouth as you ukwork through the greenhouse. Medium sized toms I bake in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of basil. Plum toms are good for sauces while beefsteaks are grown more for my amusement than anything else.
Chillies, well, the hotter the better! There are so many varieties in all shapes and sizes its worth looking through a seed catalogue to find something unusual to grow.
To sow tomato and chilli seeds fill a seed tray with seed compost and scatter the seeds on the surface. Cover lightly with compost and water from below. Label and place in a propagator. Seeds should emerge in 7-14 days. When the first true leaves appear pot up into individual pots and grow on.