Well, looks like spring is certainly here in the garden!

Firstly, I have been having lots of fun sowing all my annual summer flowers – lobelia, petunia, alyssum, marigold, pelargonium, impatiens, gazania etc. My new greenhouse is starting to look full already!

Secondly, another indication of spring, is that some of my Asiatic and Tree Lilies have started to sprout. Now we love all God’s creatures, but lily beetles are pushing it a bit! A couple of tips to prevent 90%+ of lily beetles, all free and organic! 1) in Nov/Dec, when your lilies have died down and you cut them back, remove the top one inch or so of compost, adding fresh compost. This will remove 70% of the eggs in the soil. Now the eggs overwinter in the soil, and have a hard shell around them, but they drop that shell when the lilies start to sprout, ready to attach to the foliage, and are vulnerable. So 2) in Feb/Mar, just ‘disturb’ the soil with your fingers, as you see the lilies starting to sprout. This will kill another 20% of them. Not 100%, but nearly. Photo 1 shows some lilies in pots where I have disturbed the soil this week.

Thirdly, I checked on the broad beans I had sown in Oct/Nov, after the severe and prolonged frost that we have just had, and they are 90% recovered (photo 2). The best variety is Aquadulce, others are not winter hardy.

Fourthly, photo 3 shows my veg plot, and the overwintering broad beans, onions, garlic and shallots are doing fine. They can be harvested in June, just in time for the salad and other items to be planted.

Fifthly, I took the opportunity to sow some early radishes in between the shallots (photo 4). Also, it will soon be time to sow grass seed, to cover up any bare patches in your lawn.

Finally, as promised, outside my front door (64 Dudsbury Avenue, BH22 8DX), I have some pre-chitted Anya potatoes. For anyone who wants to take part in the competition for the heaviest crop, please take one (and only 1 please), put your name and contact down on the paper, and we will have a weigh-in around June time. Potatoes can be put in potato bags or containers in early March, and in the ground in mid to late March.

And don’t forget your birdboxes and feeders, the birds are pairing up fast, looking for nesting sites!

Happy Gardening, Spring really is coming fast now!!

Kevin Steele



Well, after all the frozen ground we had last week, this week’s weather has been so much better, so I have been very busy. With my new (unheated) greenhouse sorted (hurrah!), I have been moving some of the plants from my heated garden room, freeing up more space there for planting lots of seeds. I have already planted my chillies and sweet peas as you know, so this week I planted the tomatoes (11 different varieties – daft I know), and cucumber, as they both need bottom heat (I use heatmats). To get an early start, I also thinly planted spring onions and carrots, in shallow trench containers, so they can be simply plonked into position in the beds in a month or so, without disturbing the roots. Not on heatmats, but in the warm garden room. I also planted leeks, mint and chives, for pricking out later on. It’s still too early for beans/peas etc. Photo one shows the compost I used for planting, and includes about 30% Perlite, plus some sieved leaf mulch. As well as my various leaf and root cuttings, I will start my annual flowers off next week, including antirrhinum, petunia, pelargonium, alyssum, cosmos, marigolds etc. Very exciting stuff, spring is definitely coming!

I notice some of the garden birds have also started pairing up and looking for nesting sites, so now is a great time to both clean any boxes you may have, or add any new boxes (I have 5 already, 4 were occupied last year, and now adding 3 more). Remember to site 2-4m above ground, west or east (never south) work best down here, and sheltered if possible. 25mm holes for blue/coal tits, 28mm for great tits/tree sparrows, 32mm for house sparrows/nut hatches, and 45mm for starlings.

Finally, as previously promised, next Sunday (28Feb), I will leave some pre-chitted anya potatoes by my front door (64 Dudsbury Avenue, Ferndown, BH228DX). For those that want to enter the competition, please take one, and sign your name, so I know who is competing. You can pot it in a) a potato bag in early March b) in open ground at end of March. In June we will then dig them up, and weigh the potatoes, with a prize for the winner. If you can’t pick it up on Sunday 28Feb, please email me ( for alternative arrangements.

So have a great time gardening, even if it is just a windowbox, because spring really is just round the corner!!


Kevin Steele



Well, Happy Valentines Day to everyone. As it has been extremely cold this last week, and the ground has been frozen, I have been concentrating on a few other jobs.

Firstly, I have been preparing all the compost from my hot bins (see photo 1), which is about 6 months old. Hot bins make great compost in 6 months in the winter, 3 months in the summer. I will use this to plant up my potatoes in potato bags at the end of Feb. See photo 2 for it ready to use.

Secondly, my new greenhouse should be finished in a week, so my conservatory and garden room are full of plants waiting to go into this new greenhouse. Earlier in autumn, I had taken root cuttings from eryngium, lupin, hollyhock, echinacea, gypsophilia and asters, so this week I have repotted these on into larger pots, as they have developed nice roots. Photo 3 shows some of these. The leaf cuttings I took last autumn from pelargoniums and fuchsias are now ready for repotting, when I have the space to do so. Photo 4 shows my crammed garden room.

Thirdly, I did manage a quick foray into the garden, to put in a bean trench. Beans and peas require lots of organic matter and mulch for their roots, so dig in as much as you can. If you don’t have a compost heap, just dig in some kitchen scraps (not meat) and newspaper, at the bottom of the trench. Whilst doing this, I came across several acorns that squirrels had stored for the winter, which had started to develop their taproot. So I’ve planted these on into pots (the taproot grows first, so just plant to acorn with the taproot down). Sure they will make a lovely present for someone who wants to commemorate a loved one.

Happy gardening



As mentioned previously, I like to extend the flowering season as much as possible, including getting flowers as early as possible. To this end, I have been overwintering my fuchsias, pelargoniums etc in my unheated greenhouse, as they can be flowering in March or April. If you do this, you should open the greenhouse doors and windows on fine days, as much as possible, to avoid getting grey mould (dilute vinegar is great to keep this at bay). However, it is very difficult to avoid getting the grey mould, and I suffered the same problem. I was getting a newer, much bigger greenhouse delivered, so I transferred the 100+ plants temporarily to my conservatory, noting the mould straight away (see photo 1). But don’t be disheartened, you can easily cut the infected parts off (see photo 2). Just make sure you a) cut into ‘green’ material, not brown, dead material b) cut just above a leaf node (to encourage more shoots) c) you prune the plant to a nice shape d) you scrupulously take away all the infected material, and spray the workbench with vinegar.

Whilst I wait for the major seed sowing to start in a couple of weeks in my heated garden room (including heated mats), I have been chitting my potatoes (some of them in photo 3), including 7 different varieties (including some for RHS Shows). These can be planted into potato bags in early March, and into the ground in late March (assuming no heavy frosts). Photo 4 shows the Anya potatoes, and for those who wish to enter the competition for the heaviest crop from one Anya potato, I will put these out for people to pick up in my drive, at the end of February.

Finally, just to show that I have as many failures as everyone else, photo 5 shows an amaryllis in full flower. I planted 2 of them in mid October, both the same size bulbs, in the same place (my conservatory), the same compost, same size pot, same amount of light, same level of watering. One did indeed flower for Xmas, and this one flowered 6 weeks later. You cant win them all!

PS – I still have lots of spring bulbs for sale for charity, in my front drive

Happy gardening




Well, the start of February is the start of the exciting seed sowing season, so here are some tips to make germination as successful as possible:

1) you need to use multipurpose (peatfree if you can) compost, rather than soil or compost from your compost heap/hot bin. You can of course use seed potting compost, but that is more expensive.

2) you should add around 30% Perlite to the compost, plus some sieved leaf mulch if you have it. Germinating seeds don’t need lots of nutrition, they need a growing medium that is open and free-flowing with lots of air in it, for the delicate roots to find their way through. If you don’t have Perlite, try sand or horticultural grit.

3) Many people think Perlite and Vermiculite are the same, they aren’t. Vermiculite retains more moisture (not good for roots). You should add Perlite with the compost mix for any germinating seeds. You should use Vermiculite as a top dressing (or grit or sand), to prevent die-back.

4) The worst thing you can do is to sow your seeds too thickly, this will cause them to wilt. Less is better.

5) some seeds (like spring onions, marigold etc) are black, and so very difficult to spot on the soil. So roll them in a bit of flour first of all, they then become white, and then scatter. This way you wont sow too thickly. Also, for other seeds, mix them with some horticultural sand first, so you don’t sow too thickly either.

6) Read the seed packet very carefully. Some seeds have to be scattered on the surface (they need light to germinate), some need to be covered with just a bit of Vermiculite, some a thin scattering of sieved compost, some are planted more deeply. And some larger seeds (like cucumber, sunflower etc), just have one seed per pot.

7) Larger seeds (like sweet peas, or peas/beans), sometimes need soaking overnight (although I don’t bother), and a few need ‘vernalisation’, so put them in the fridge for a week beforehand.

8) For more delicate seeds (like tomato, chilli and cucumber), it is best to have some ‘bottom heat’ if you can, either a heated mat, or a heated container. For these, if you have them available, try to have a see-through cover (sometimes just a clear plastic bag), to retain the moisture.

Well, during February I will be planting my tomatoes, cucumbers, leeks, peas, French beans, plus a whole range of annual flowers (like alyssum, lobelia, marigold, petunia, pelargonium, cosmos, etc), but more on that later. Good job I have got a much larger greenhouse being delivered next week!!

And I still have lots of spring bulb pots for sale in my front drive, all proceeds to charity, so tell all your friends and neighbours.

Happy gardening, spring is coming!!

PS – did my Big Garden Birdwatch, 2 great tits, 3 blue tits, 1 blackbird, 3 woodpigeons, 1 robin, 2 dunnocks, 1 coal tit, 6 house sparrows




Whilst waiting for the start of the February seed sowing season, some of us are thinking about how we can extend the flowering season in our gardens, so here are a couple of tips, especially us lucky ones down in the south.

Some plants, including those sometimes seen as annuals, can in fact be overwintered in a cold (but lined) greenhouse or conservatory, including pelargoniums, fuchsias, even antirrhinums and osteospermums etc. They will then be ready to plant into the garden in late March, and could be flowering in April. This is my cold greenhouse, shown in photo 1. You should open the greenhouse door as much as possible when the weather is fine, to avoid fungal infection, but this can easily be cut off if necessary, the plant will survive.

Back in September last year, I took some cuttings from my pelargoniums and fuchsias, and these are shown in photo 2. These can also be planted out in March (if no severe frosts), flowering in April, albeit as smaller plants. This compares with purchased pelargoniums/fuchsias etc, not normally available as large garden-ready plants until May (although mini plugs for growing on, may be available before then).

Also, perennial summer-flowering bulbs wouldn’t normally be in bloom until May or even June if already planted in your garden, or from garden centres. This is because they often need a period of ‘vernalisation’ (ie the plant thinks it is winter, and waits for spring). However, if you buy such bulbs (lilies, gladioli, liatris and many others), in late winter like just now, and plant into a warm greenhouse/conservatory/windowsill, this will fool the plant into believing it is now spring, and it will start to grow. Some people put the bulbs into the fridge for a week before planting out. Photo 3 shows some oriental lilies I only planted 2 weeks ago in my heated garden room, and these will be in flower in April (again watch out for late heavy frosts).

In fact, I am looking to have at least 2 or 3 plants in flower in every month of the year. I currently have snowdrops and iris reticulata bulbs, winter jasmine, mahonia, hamamelis (witch hazel), and my camelia, viburnum and quince are just starting their first flowers. This is in addition to the winter bedding plants – primrose, pansy, viola, cyclamen.

Happy gardening!!

I am having a sale of spring garden bulbs in pots from Monday, on my front drive, to raise money for my charity (not the U3A one unfortunately).