Valentines Day – when work in the field commences!
I was looking at a flyer the other day advertising a small bunch of valentines day red roses for £35, and I thought to myself, I can’t believe that my ancestor proposed on the 14th of February with a fresh red rose – where would he have got it from in the middle of winter? There were no planes to fly them in fresh from Ecuador? It is more likely that he gave his future fiancée a well grown winter cabbage to show off his agricultural skills and she sent it back a few days later seasoned and cooked to show him her culinary skills ,(and as they say – the rest is history!).
The Origins of Valentines Day
Looking deeper into the origin of Valentine’s Day I find that it has more to do with working in the allotment than it has with sending red roses. I quote from an encyclopaedia – “St Valentines brings the keys of roots. Plants and flowers start to grow on this day, it has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards & in the fields commences. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day.” It seems that we have copied the birds and forgot everything else that this day symbolises!
I met a fellow allotmenteer in the supermarket and asked him why I haven’t seen him for some time on his allotment, he answered me that he doesn’t come in until March – I gave him a piece of my mind – even if he does not want to come in winter at least he should start on February the 14th!
Plant and Plant and Plant
It is now a few weeks before the top growth begins to sprout and as the Valentine description tells us, the roots begin to send down extra feelers at this time to support the coming growth. It is therefore the best time to listen to the words of Stefan Buczacki when he was asked for his topical tips in February, on Radio 4’s GQT many years ago, “Just plant and plant and plant” was his answer. – His legendary voice is still ringing in my ears , and that is exactly what I intend to do this week.
First I am going to transplant various shrubs into the ground or into larger pots. Before transplanting I dig a new hole double the size of the original pot, scatter a little general fertilizer and then backfill with fresh topsoil around the pot that I have placed in the hole, then I remove the plant from the pot and plant it in the hole. This is important so that the fertiliser should not actually touch the roots and ‘burn’ them.
If after removing the original pot you find a myriad of intertwined roots, as the photo shows dig a garden fork into the roots and ease them open before transplanting them – don’t think you are killing the plant- on the contrary you’re doing the plant a favour by letting the small roots close to the main root find new nutrients easier and quicker instead of competing with each other in a vicious circle!
After the summer, as the perennial flowering plants begin to die down the garden centres usually reduce them in price- if that still didn’t attract a buyer they are relegated to the back of the store. During winter I would not advise you to buy them because many are pot bound or rotten. At this time of the year you can begin to see which ones are beginning to break bud and are worth buying – I picked a load of good quality perennials for 70p each, and a tree peony at half price, as the shops need to clear them to make way for new stock . Look out for the clearance shelves in the back corner of the store, but be quick, since once the shop sees that a plant is growing well the clearance label comes off and it is resold at the full price!
I also noticed that Tesco has begun to copy the cut price supermarkets and has got a stock of fruit trees @£6 for one and two for £10. This is a major reduction from the normal high street price.
So just plant and plant whatever bargain you can get your hands on!
I am now off to the allotment to pick a large cabbage (a red one of course), I will cut a notch in the top to make it into the shape of a heart and then stick an arrow into its side, I will give it to my Valentine with a little note from ‘ the January King to the February Princess’!
Boris Legarni .