March Newsletter 2009

Hello and welcome to the March newsletter. Today has been a glorious day, pretty mild after a frosty start. Inside our potting tunnel it was very warm which pleased the dogs no end having shivered through the cold snowy weather they resorted to doing what they do best when its warm..snoozing! 

A Snoozing Sox

It’s been great to have a bit of real winter for a change and it has the added bonus of controlling the number of pests and diseases that flourish during milder weather. Most of the herbs have come through unscathed, both inside and outside the tunnels. The plants that are more susceptible to the cold are covered with fleece which keeps them a few degrees warmer, though we failed to do this with the bays and they have all got burnt top leaves. They will recover, it just means we have to cut them back and wait for some new growth before they can be sold. Lots of the plants tend to look shabby after the winter months with moss and liverwort growing on the soil and dead leaves hanging about. We are slowly working our way through tidying everything up as well as potting on seeds and cuttings taken earlier this year.

Frost Damage on Bay


During the winter of 2007/2008 we had a new tunnel put up and fitted it out with heat benches. The tunnel was divided down the middle with a partition. One side was for basils which we grew successfully in there last year; the other side was for an automated misting system for our cuttings. Although all the bits for this arrived we completely ran out of time to get it up and running last spring. In the autumn I got round to looking through he boxes, pulling out nozzles, expansion tank, pump, special glue, lots of fixtures and fittings and some installation advice. I called in our local plumber who mulled over the various bits and pieces before reluctantly murmuring he would have a go if I couldn’t find anyone else to do it. A second plumber recommended by a friend merely chuckled down the phone and said it wasn’t his thing. I was getting a bit desperate. An internet search revealed a company about twenty miles away that specialized in horticultural plumbing and electrics and, even better, one of the partners lived less than ten minutes from the nursery and was the husband of someone I knew. Mick arrived and it took just one and a half days work before everything was up and running. There is a sensor on the bench and, once it dries out, it triggers the misters to pulse water over the cuttings thus keeping the leaves wet. This is important as the cutting is unable to suck enough water up through the cut stem to support the leaves left on it and, left to its own devices, it would wilt. Keeping the atmosphere around the cutting damp allows the leaves to absorb water keeping the plant hydrated until roots form and it can support itself.


In a home situation you might put a cutting in each corner of a pot – the compost is always warmer on the outside than the inside of a pot encouraging faster rooting – and after watering you should cover the top of the pot with a clear plastic bag secured by an elastic band. A big roomy bag is best so it isn’t touching the cuttings. Place it on a sunny windowsill. Moisture will form in the bag keeping the leaves moist, but, to prevent a build up of fungal diseases that might cause the cutting to rot, take the bag off every day, turn it inside out and re-secure. Keep watered. Once the stem starts to lengthen remove the bag and grow on as normal.

Many herbs are slowly starting to push up from the soil. One of the first ones you will see growing wild is similar to chives. I think, technically, it is crow garlic and the flavour is superb. It grows on grassy banks and, at this time of year when the grass is still short, it is easy to spot as it is much taller and tends to be in clumps. It isn’t a plant you would want in your garden’ but it’s a great one to pick wild. Talking of garlic, we purchased a whole load of wild garlic bulbils in the autumn and planted them up. Six weeks or so ago they were beginning to sprout. Today I had a look in a few pots as nothing had popped up yet only to find that they all seem to have rotted away. This is very disappointing. I am assuming they got too wet outside, especially as they grow under trees where I guess the soil is drier. Either that or the snow finished them off. We will have to find out – but it seems we won’t be selling wild garlic this year.

Crow Garlic Growing Wild

A lot of the salad plants are just about ready and we will be experimenting with some new varieties this year. The mustard that we tried for a little while last year went well so that has joined the standard ranks this season.

Mustard Red Frills

Think that’s all for March. Here’s hoping the weather stays as it is – perfect for gardening.