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February Newsletter

February is not well-loved. When did you ever hear anyone say it was their favourite month? In February 1587, Mary Queen of Scots lost her head and in 1958 the first parking meters appeared in London. And on top of that, it is often cold, dark, dank and damp. But (thank goodness for a but) the days are getting longer, and the first hints of spring are showing.

Snowdrops and early daffodils are in bloom as are hellebores and, here in Devon, our county flower, the primrose, is cheerfully brightening the grass verges and woodland.

Further good news is that the Dobies Spring Planner 2020 catalogue is available from 19th February. With 48 pages of flower and veg seed, plants, fruit and equipment it really is all you need to plan your 2020 garden. If your free copy doesn’t arrive then please visit our website and we’ll rush one to you.

“From December to March, there are for many of 
us three gardens:
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind’s eye.”
– Katherine S. White

Potato chitting

February Tasks

  • Chit your Dobies seed potatoes by standing them in empty egg boxes or seed trays. Keep them somewhere light, cool but frost-free and they’ll be ready to plant out when the soil begins to warm up in March
  • Cut over-wintered fuchsias back to a couple of strong buds
  • Digging over the vegetable plot this month will warm you up nicely whilst breaking up any compaction, allowing air to enter
  • Autumn fruiting raspberry canes can be cut down to ground level. Strong new canes will grow and produce those scrumptious berries later in the year
  • Ornamental grasses can be cut down to ground level, allowing new shoots to grow. There may be insects overwintering amongst the grass so place the cuttings in a corner somewhere rather than burning them
  • Plant onion sets, garlic, shallots and Jerusalem Artichokes (if you’re brave enough!)
  • Rhubarb crowns can be planted this month. Rhubarb is an easy crop to grow and the tasty stems have so many uses, ranging from crumble to gin! Established crowns can be forced by popping an upturned bucket over them.
  • Continue to plant bare-root trees and shrubs. They will need regular watering to encourage their roots to spread out and establish
  • Prune buddleia to encourage new growth and flowers for butterflies and bees to enjoy this summer
  • Order your Dobies summer bedding – the later you leave it then the more likely we are to have sold out so get your order in soon.

 

 Tomatoes

When Dobies already has such an extensive range of tomatoes you may wonder why we need to keep finding new varieties for you to try. Part of the reason is that we like to spoil you but also that there are just so many uses for this most popular of veg (or fruit if you want to be pedantic) that a wide selection is best.

Whether for eating raw, adding to salads and sandwiches, roasting or grilling, we want you to have a choice. Plus of course, different tomato varieties like to grow in different ways. Some are happiest grown outside whilst others are less robust and need to be under glass. Some need to grow straight and tall, tied to a cane, whereas others will grow in bush form and be self-supporting.

In the Dobies Spring Planner 2020 catalogue you will find we’ve made your choice a little easier by grouping the tomato section under headings giving their fruit size, e.g. Cherry Tomatoes for greenhouse or outdoors. We’ve also stated whether each variety is cordon and bush. See, I wasn’t joking when I said we like to spoil you.

Tomato Veranda Red

Taking pride of place on the front cover of the Dobies Spring Planner 2020 catalogue is the new cherry tomato Veranda Red. British bred by the breeder of the ever-popular Tumbler, Veranda Red has taken 15 years to perfect.

Ideal for growing in small pots or baskets this tomato is early ripening and sweet-tasting, with some resistance to blight. Carol Klein took a real shine to Veranda Red when she came across it at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2019 and we hope you’ll love it too.

 

Sustainability

In January’s newsletter, we wrote of the steps Dobies is taking towards increased sustainability in terms of peat and neonicotinoids. This month we want to update you on our efforts to reduce our use of plastic.

Look around your workplace or home today and odds are that you will see a multitude of products made from plastic. Although we couldn’t currently live without plastics, we’re all now well aware of their potential to harm the environment if used or disposed of inappropriately. Over the years we at Dobies have used plastics for the best of reasons, including the growing and transporting of plants to make sure that they arrive with you in excellent condition.

For the last two years we’ve been reviewing every part of our business to see where we can switch to recycled; ensure any plastic used is recyclable, or ideally, switch to a non-plastic alternative. Each time we make a change we are also careful to make sure that we don’t compromise on the quality of our products as the biggest waste would be to supply plants or other products to you that arrived in poor condition and subsequently needed to be thrown away and replaced.

As you’ll see from the notes below we have made big steps in the right direction and, although we still have progress to make, you can be assured that we are constantly looking for ways of improving still further so that we can be happy that we are supplying products to you in a way that’s as sustainable as possible.

Parcel packaging: We have switched to compostable ‘bio-plastic’ inflated pillows to help cushion products despatched in outer boxes, and these boxes are made from recycled and recyclable cardboard.

Plug plant trays sent in outer cardboard boxes: We are still searching for a suitable alternative to the plastic trays to hold the plug plants, but we use all recycled plastic and last year we switched to a green coloured plastic which makes the trays recyclable too. Last year we placed a thin sheet of plastic under some plant trays to avoid the outer cardboard box becoming wet and damaged. This year we have switched to wax-coated cardboard boxes to avoid the use of these plastic sheets.

Letterbox plug plant trays: We switched to a new format of tray with a thin, transparent plastic cover (like a microwave meal). Not only do these use 30% less plastic than the old trays but we have found that the plants tend to arrive in better condition. These too are made from recycled plastic and have been switched to the green ‘recyclable’ plastic.

Potted plants: We are switching to a grey coloured pot this year which is recyclable as well as being recycled. We place these in an outer plastic bag to keep the compost in place and prevent the cardboard boxes (made from recycled paper) being damaged by moisture. This year we are switching these bags to fully compostable, bio-plastic bags made from EU grown maize.

In addition to reducing our use of plastic, we are also reducing wastage and rather than throw them away we will be using up our stocks of black recycled plastic trays and black plastic pots. If you do receive your plants in these containers then they don’t have to be thrown away, they can be cleaned and reused.

Visit our website, dobies.co.uk/sustainability for more information.

 

Love is in the Air

Are you looking for a cheeky little something to pop inside a Valentine’s Day card or two?

Well, how about a packet of flower seed? Cheap, fun and sure to raise a smile – the perfect love token.

Dobies Poppy Love Affair

Perhaps:

Perhaps Not:

 

 From Plot to Pot

Jerusalem Artichokes, affectionally known by many as fartichokes, can have an eye-watering side effect. Artichokes are one of the marmites of the veggie world. Either loved for their sweet, nutty flavour or avoided like the plague. The infamous, sometimes explosive, response to eating this vegetable comes from the fact they are made of a carbohydrate called Inulin and some, not all, people’s digestive systems find this hard to cope with.

Dobies Jerusalem Artichoke tubers

Part of the sunflower family, the Jerusalem artichoke has nothing to do with Jerusalem or the Women’s Institute. Instead, its name is a derivation of the Italian word “girasole”, meaning sunflower.

Growing quite tall, at over 3 metres Jerusalem artichokes can be used to form a screen but may need some support in windy (pun intended) conditions. They can take over so, when harvesting, make sure you remove all tubers unless of course, you wish to leave some for next year.

Perfect in risotto, soup and stews, Jerusalem artichokes don’t really need peeling, just a good scrub. They can be sliced and used in place of water chestnuts in stir-fries, boiled and mashed with butter and nutmeg or cooked in a host of other ways. If you are concerned about their reputation, then when making dishes like mash and gratin simply substitute half of the Jerusalem artichoke with potato or celeriac.

Partners well with:

Mushroom                         Leek                      Celery                   Onions                 Garlic

Tomato                               Walnuts               Butter                   Cream                  Parmesan

Rosemary                           Parsley                 Fennel                  Chilli                    Paprika

Sausages                             Chicken                Bacon                   Apple                   Lemon

 

It’s Sow Time!

February is the start of the sowing season. Hopefully, you’ve already checked over the propagator and given your seed trays and pots a good clean, getting them ready for action. If not, now’s the time.

Propagation equipment Dobies

Sow under cover:

Tender perennials, indoor cropping plants such as tomatoes and peppers, plus annuals, can all be sown this month.

Sow direct:

If the soil is dry and workable then now is the time to start sowing peas and lettuces but protect them with fleece if bad weather arrives.

The following links will take you to our advice pages on which vegetable seeds and flower seeds to sow this month.

 

Offer of the Month

Primula Everlast Offer: Buy 1 pack and get your second pack half price – that’s 12 potted perennial plants for just £22.50!

Pretty Primula Everlast is fantastic for long-lasting perennial colour during the dullest months of the year! A modern breeding breakthrough with unique genetics, Everlast will add a continuous flush of delicious pale yellow flowers to your garden for an incredible 5 months – from early autumn right through to spring.

Jam-packed with flowers that cover the plant, this perennial Primula packs a real punch and will delight you year after year. This great new variety is almost a modern version of the incredibly popular wild primrose, Primula vulgaris.

Offer: Buy 1 pack of Primula Everlast 6 x 9cm plants and get your second pack half price! Simply add 2 or more packs to your basket to activate your discount.

Find out more and buy online here.