My new strawberry runners (Flamenco, chosen by my 7-year old daughter) arrived at the end of last week and I had hoped to get out into the garden to plant them. Ha! No such luck – a few inches of snow put paid to that idea. We got off quite lightly snow-wise compared to other parts of the country, but it was enough to stop me in my tracks and wonder what on earth I was supposed to do with these new plants.
You see, I haven’t got a greenhouse, cold frame or a conservatory and my windowsills aren’t very deep, so any plants I order have to be pretty robust and able to take a bit of neglect. Our garden is south-west facing and gets a lot of sun and, as long as the weather behaves itself, plants usually do ok. I never order plug plants, simply because I haven’t got anywhere to grow them on, so bareroots, bulbs and hardy seeds are best for me.
However, my poor little strawberry runners are still in their packaging, simply because I have no idea what to do with them. They seem ok at the moment, but they won’t last long if I don’t do something soon. It made me wonder how many other gardeners are in the same situation – unfavourable weather conditions present quite a challenge to gardeners who would normally be expecting a little more sunshine at this time of year!
I emailed Andrew Tokely, our horticultural expert, to ask his advice…
Strawberry runners can be plunged together into a pot of compost and then planted out when the weather improves. (Great! A fairly quick job that’ll keep the strawberries alive until I can get them in the ground).
Bareroot trees and shrubs can be temporarily ‘heeled’ into a pot or piece of ground. Plant them out into their final position when conditions are more favourable and the soil is workable. (Heeled simply means covering the root itself with soil, but not firming it in as you would when planting into the permanent spot).
Plug plants should be unpacked immediately and watered if necessary. Keep them in a frost-free place, preferably a greenhouse or a warm windowsill and pot them up as soon as possible. You’ll need to keep them in a light position, but turn the pots/containers daily to avoid leggy growth. Move them to a cooler growing position when the weather changes, but make sure it’s still light and frost-free.
Asparagus, rhubarb and artichokes crowns and roots need to be removed from the packaging on arrival. We recommend to wrap asparagus crowns in a moist towel or cloth and place them in a frost free area. Asparagus particularly has fleshy roots which must not dry out so it is important to keep the towel moist, although not wringing wet, at all times. This can safely be done for up to 3 weeks whereby, hopefully, soil conditions will be suitable to plant out. Rhubarbs are less fussy and could be potted up in suitable sized pots of moist multipurpose compost and placed in a frost free area. If artichokes are on your order then these are frost hardy so could be planted individually in smaller pots of moist compost and placed outdoors.
I’ve also got some garlic waiting to be planted. Andrew suggests planting them into small pots or plastic drinking cups and grown on a windowsill – even my shallow ones could cope with this! Once the shoots start to grow they can be moved outside to harden off and then planted into a pot. The same goes for onion sets.
The weather reports aren’t looking very promising for the next few days, with forecasts of more snow into Easter.
On BBC 4′s Today programme, Jon Hodder, senior gardener at Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds stressed the importance of being patient: “Spring will come around, as sure as eggs are eggs. Anyone thinking of transplanting stuff just needs to hold on… just gently wait and keep an eye on the garden.” (Source: BBC News website)
Do you have any bad weather gardening hints to share? We’d love to hear them!