This week in the garden
Sowing, cutting back, planting and pinching out
Cut back chives to encourage new growth. Photograph: Richard Johnston
l Sow spring cabbage now for a tasty harvest early next year. Seed can be either direct-sown into the ground or else sown into modules (my preference) and transplanted into their final position, roughly a month later, as baby plants. Traditionally gardeners use the plants to fill the space left by freshly harvested early potatoes. Recommended varieties include “Hispi”, “Pyramid” and “Spring Hero”. If sowing into modules, place these outdoors rather than in a glasshouse, as high temperatures inhibit germination.
Finish taking cuttings of hardy and half-hardy bedding plants such as pelargoniums, argyranthemums, anthemis, osteospermum, aubrieta and fuchsia. These should be 2-4 inches/5-10cm long, ideally taken from a non-flowering shoot early in the morning when the plant is still turgid. Dip the ends in rooting powder and place in a pot filled with John Innes Seed Compost, firm in, water well, cover with a lid/plastic bag and then place in a heated propagator/ somewhere warm, but out of direct sunshine, until they root, at which point they can be potted on.
l Use a sharp garden shears to cut back the tatty, fading foliage of chives, lemon balm, sorrel, tarragon and lovage, which will encourage the plants to grow new tender young leaves.
l Plant new strawberry plants, using either runners bought from a garden centre or nursery and certified as virus-free, or “runners” propagated from a parent plant you’re certain is disease- free. Choose a sunny, protected site where strawberries haven’t grown for the past three years, to reduce the chances of pests and or disease. Before planting, enrich the soil with generous additions of manure/homemade compost.
l Pinch out the tips of climbing beans once they have reached the top of their supports/climbing frames to encourage them to send out more new shoots below. The result is a heavier crop of beans. Liquid feeding with a tomato feed every two to three weeks will also encourage greater productivity, as will regular picking.