Pea preda­tors will be on the prowl



Peas pre­fer to crop in cool weather, so sow them now for spring har­vest­ing. The seeds will ger­mi­nate even in frosty soil, but be vig­i­lant for birds and rats. Rats will dig the seeds out be­fore they sprout and birds will zero in on the first hint of suc­cu­lent green­ery when it shows through the soil. For this rea­son, it’s of­ten more con­ve­nient to start peas off in pun­nets or trays, then care­fully trans­plant them when they’re 5cm high. Other ways to beat the birds in­clude sow­ing them through chicken wire pegged on the ground (so the birds can’t scratch them out) or mak­ing lit­tle A-frames over them by pok­ing short sticks along the row.

I gen­er­ally pre­fer climb­ing peas to dwarf va­ri­eties for ease of pick­ing (no bend­ing once they’re up a frame) and be­cause they’re less sus­cep­ti­ble to mud splash and fun­gal disease than those grown at knee level. I use the same steel re­in­forc­ing frames that I grow run­ner beans on later in sum­mer. You do need to tie them to give them a leg up early on; af­ter that their ten­drils seem to find each other for sup­port.

If you fancy a re­ally cute crop of pot­ted peas, sow ‘Tom Thumb’ from Kings Seeds. This English heir­loom only grows to 25cm high – it was bred for win­dow boxes orig­i­nally – but has full sized pods that can be eaten as a flat snow pea or left to swell for shelling.


It must be the sea­son for mealy bug on indoor plants as three peo­ple have asked me for erad­i­ca­tion ad­vice this week. This pest shows up as cot­tony white tufts on the leaves and stems that, on closer in­spec­tion, have legs and a slater-like ar­mour.

They must have a rea­son­able in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod be­cause you can have happy, healthy house­plants for months, only for them to sud­denly suc­cumb to a plague.

They are hard to com­bat be­cause they live in dry pot­ting mix as well as on the plant, so soak­ing the whole thing may be nec­es­sary. Spray­ing oil pen­e­trates their waxy skins and smoth­ers them, but a two-pronged de­fence us­ing a pyrethrum spray or in­sec­ti­cide such as Con­fi­dor may be re­quired for se­vere in­fes­ta­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, if your indoor plants aren’t frost-ten­der, you can put them on a win­dowsill at night and the bugs will mi­grate away from the cold, mak­ing them eas­ier to muster and kill!

If all else fails, com­post in­fested plants and buy new ones, like these lovely lime-green pha­laenop­sis or­chids.


There’s less than one month un­til the of­fi­cial start of spring, which means there’s only a few weeks left be­fore the in­evitable in­va­sion of an­nual weeds. If you have va­cant beds, cover the soil now with a thick layer of com­post, fine bark, tree mulch, pea straw or news­pa­per to sup­press weed growth. As a bonus, it’ll help warm the soil prior to spring sow­ing.


Chitting’s just an­other word for sprout­ing. Lay seed spuds out in a tray or box in a warm, well-lit spot. Over the next few weeks, the eyes will bulge and, when the sprouts are 1-2cm long, you can pop them into the soil know­ing that they will hit the ground run­ning. If you have a glasshouse, tun­nel-house or sunny con­ser­va­tory, you can plant seed potatoes in pots or buck­ets now. But don’t plant out­doors yet as frost kills them.


This is a great recipe from the Com­mu­nity Fruit Pick­ing char­ity. First, squeeze enough citrus to yield 500ml juice. Strain. Then make a sugar syrup by boil­ing 500g-750g sugar in 500ml wa­ter. (Use more sugar for sour juice such as grape­fruit, lemon or lime and less for man­darin, or­ange or tan­gelo). Add the citrus juice and re­turn to a sim­mer, then take off the heat and stir in 1 This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­

ta­ble­spoon each of tar­taric and cit­ric acids (avail­able from su­per­mar­kets). Pour into bot­tles and seal. Di­lute to taste, or use as a soda syrup or driz­zle for citrus cup­cakes. Store in the fridge once opened.

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