Anna Clayton column

Lancaster Guardian columnist, Anna Clayton.
Lancaster Guardian columnist, Anna Clayton.

As the days lengthen it becomes an exciting time for gardeners facing a new growing season.

However, late frosts can dampen enthusiasm unless measures are taken to protect young seedlings.

This week Anna Friewald from Pixee Maintenance, www.pixeemaintenance.co.uk, reflects on her experience with horticultural fleece.

“Early Autumn 2014 in Lancaster turned out to be a tricky time of the year. The summer was exceptionally hot and unpredictable and many of my client’s plants struggled. Reports about Autumn and the weather it would bring were unclear.

“At the start of September I had to find over-wintering vegetables for a client. A trip to Ashton Hall Garden centre gave me ‘Nantes Frubund’ Carrot and ‘Sweetbell’ Turnip seeds.

“Protection was paramount for the seedlings against carrot fly. I was also concerned that I was going away for a week with no guarantee that my busy client or their kids would remember to water the seedlings.

“Horticultural fleece is ideal for keeping carrot fly away, although it is primarily used to protect tender plants from the cold. For this reason I decided to use it for the turnips too in case cold weather came in my absence.

“Once the site had been weeded, prepared and the seeds sown, an elongated wigwam was erected around the buried seeds.

“This structure consisted of tied bamboo canes draped with fleece and secured with clothing pegs.

“I buried the fleece ends in the ground and held it in place with stones. Each wigwam structure was about 1.5 metres long and one metre tall.

“During my week on holiday I was anxious. Will the seedlings be burned to a crisp? Will they dampen off from excess moisture?

“Upon my return, I rushed over and peered through the fine mesh to see lovely, lush green growth!

“The cool mornings had provided just enough moisture whilst the fleece retained water during the long hot days.

No seedlings had dampened off as the permeable nature of the fleece had allowed for a balanced airflow. The hot, glaring sun had diffused the light – batting off the worse of the heat but letting enough light through to the seedlings. There was also no sign of slug damage! The buried fleece seemed to have done the trick!?

“I can imagine that if you have an allotment but visit it sporadically, this ‘fleecy’ set-up would come in handy. One thing to consider however: stronger bamboo canes! The gale force winds that came managed to snap one cane right in half.

“Alternatively you could buy a fleece poly tunnel.”