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Starting Tender Allotment Plants.

My Chrysanthemums were planted out in early April when there was still a good probability of frosts, but they will stand some cold as long as they donít get too wet. I remember, three years back I had planted them out and then snow was forecast, so I covered the row with some Horticultural fleece weighted down with stones and then the snow didnít harm them at all! They were quite dry and snug under the fleece. In fact, after looking it up, it was at the beginning of April and we had 2 foot drifts of snow on the allotments that lasted for several days! This year, after the exceptionally mild and wet Winter the Chrysanthís were shooting well in my greenhouse at home - too well really, but they were not so good in the cold frame on the allotments. The Winter wet had got into the cold frame and rotted most of them. As my brother had got some old plants in his garden that I had given him in the past, I scrounged some cuttings off them. His town centre garden is a lot milder than the countryside and with his sandy soil, he can happily leave them in the ground all Winter with no problems. Also, I put in a few cuttings off one particularly nice one that had been in my greenhouse. It is in fact the ideal time to root Chrysanthemums and specialist nurseries do it now before sending them out as rooted cuttings when you order plants. Later on in the season it is not so easy as flower buds will be everywhere on the older plants. If you buy mail order Chrysanthemums that is always what you will always get, not mature plants, unless you pay a lot more and they specify the pot size.

Fuchsia Nurseries do the same sort of thing at this time of year as the plants are just coming back to life now as well. Iíve got several plants that were kept almost dust dry though the winter including a couple of supposedly hardy ones that I usually bring in as it gets colder at the end of the Autumn. Hardy Fuchsias should survive in the ground, especially in a sheltered spot, but in tubs the roots will freeze solid and this can kill them. The hardy ones came into growth first inside and have been cut down to shape them up with the bedding ones also shooting now. On the subject of Fuchsias, my Fuchsias with the edible berries came through the post, have been potted up and are looking good. Of course I will try taking some cuttings as soon as I can after they have grown a bit and before they start making flower buds.

Geraniums are another plant that some people discard every Autumn when their tubs and baskets are emptied, but they are also quite expensive and not too difficult to over winter as long as you keep them very dry and well ventilated, but frost free. In fact the dry atmosphere of a spare bedroom is ideal for them. They really donít want any water when they are dormant, so you must be careful when you start watering them as the weather warms up every Spring. Mom had two lovely variegated ones that were also scented which I bring in for winter protection, but they are still looking a bit sad in the greenhouse at the moment.

At the back of the greenhouse I found some pots of Agapanthus, but am not sure where they came from. On our travels round all the local garden centres Mom would often buy all sorts of packets of odd bulbs and things to try and many were just got forgotten about in much the same way that other people buy packets of seeds. Looking them up in one of our many gardening books, I found that they can be used for cut flowers, if the cut ends of the stems are dipped in boiling water. They are not the only flowers that need special treatment when you cut them, because others like Chrysanthemums do as well. The Agapanthus have gone into my allotment to give me a few more flowers for cutting. The book says that they can be left in the ground all year as long as you cover them with some sort of mulch for protection in the Winter. Hopefully, wood Chips will be OK as I already use them on my plots.

Dahlias are of course another tender plant that many grow for cut flowers on their Allotments, and over winter in sheds and greenhouses, but I am not that fond of them, so donít bother, although I do grow one of their near relatives. However, it is not grown for flowers. That is of course the Yacon, which produces a lot of thick, fleshy tuberous roots that resemble Yams. The Yacon has had quite a bit of publicity just later, because of the sweet, sugary juice called INNULIN that it contains. This sugar is indigestible and therefore gives no calories at all. In fact research says that a chemical that it yields in the stomach actually causes internal fat to break down. There are thoughts that it could be a miracle slimming agent, but more research needs to be done on the health implications! I always over winter a few growing buds, but this year I have also ordered some of the new purple skinned variety that is supposed to be hardier.
Another plant that I have started back into growth is my Oca, which is a member of the Clover family, the proper name of which is Oxallis Tuberosa. These useful, little, edible tubers are easy to over winter as they will keep for several months at room temperature before they start to shrivel. 
The start of April saw me put in Tomato seeds to grow to produce outdoor plants. (The Indoor/Green House plants should be growing well by now and getting quite big.) I havenít grown ďFerline,Ē this year, although I have done well with them in the past. They are more like an outdoor Beef Steak Tomato and particularly Blight resistant, but when I ordered them they didnít come. However, I found a packet of ďOrkado,Ē in the seed tin. (They sound like an Online Supermaket!) When they were bought the packet had been reduced, but when I opened them I found two seed packets inside the outer packet, so I did well. As an F1 seed there are not normally many seeds in a packet. (F1 seeds are a First Generation cross, so you have no chance of saving the seed as it will not come true.) At the beginning of April I also put in seeds of; Chicory, Courgettes, Cucamelons, Cucumbers, Squash and Tomatilloes. I hadnít got a packet of Tomatillo seed, but realized that I had got a tub of frozen juice in the Deep Freeze. The thought was that it was only the same as them keeping seed in one of the big seed banks. So, hopefully it still will germinate!!! I am not confident that my over Wintered Cape Gooseberries will shoot again so I put in some seed of those as well. Another new vegetable that I have put in for the first time this year is Celtuce.
Most of the afore mentioned seeds were just big enough to sow individually in modular trays, but the bigger seeds of things like Cucumbers, Courgettes and Squashes I put into individual 3 inch pots. Donít forget with these bigger, flat seeds they are best sown in compost on their edge to stop them rotting. All of these frost tender plants will go outside later in May after all the risk of frost is over. At the time of writing this in the middle of April we are still having the odd late frost and even the occasional flurry of snow in parts of country.

 

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