GARDENING: We’re a fortnight behind in the north

It’s a generally-accepted fact that the north of England is often at least two weeks behind the south in terms of seasonal flowers appearing.

Indeed, I’ve enjoyed dazzling displays from named spring cherries (prunus) in Hampshire and returned home to find the same cultivars still in bud.

It follows that in general terms our growing season is also shorter. All the more reason to apply every trick in the book and get the best out of it.

This begins by scanning the seed catalogues in search of vegetables bred for northern climes.

Seed firm DT Brown’s butternut squash F1 Walnut sounds like a promising introduction so we’re trying it this year.

Hope it turns out like the F1 sweet corn varieties Sundance and Swift, which are ideal.

The cobs are good for August harvesting and so sweet. Suttons catalogue rightly suggests starting the seed in pots under glass and planting them out in blocks to aid pollination later.

I’d only add that rather than the April sowing they advise, start them in mid-March as we do.

Most serious vegetable gardeners grow a few potatoes and one of the pleasures, before they even reach the kitchen, is watching their development.

It’s reasonable to anticipate maturity 12 weeks after planting for early varieties, 20 for main-crop.

Planting earlies the first week in April should secure a boiling for late June. But if the weather is favourable, the soil has a good organic content and tubers had good sturdy shoots at planting, it’s worth trying them after 10 weeks.

Should you decide to grow them in containers under glass or in the poly-tunnel border, the time-scale is reduced even further.