Weekend Work: Time to pollinate your peaches, nectarines and apricots

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The Independent Online

What to do

Peaches, nectarines and apricots growing under cover in a greenhouse will be coming into flower this month. Since there are likely to be few insects on the wing to pollinate the flowers, you need to do the job yourself. Take a camel-hair brush (or a rabbit tail on a stick, the traditional tool for the job) and dust the pollen from one flower on to another, one branch at a time. The job is best done around lunchtime on a bright sunny day. Once you see that fruit has set, mist the trees over with water every morning.

Prune spiraeas, tamarisk, willows and dogwoods by cutting out at least a third of the old wood at ground level. Thin out the stems rising from the trunks of pollarded willows or poplars.

Sow broad beans in pots or boxes (greengrocers' wooden boxes lined with newspaper are ideal), setting the seeds about 7cm (3in) apart so that their roots do not become too intertangled. Germinate the seeds in a cold frame or a cool greenhouse and set out the plants in the open ground when they are about 5cm high. On heavy soil or where mice and birds are a problem this is a more reliable method than sowing direct in the ground.

What to buy

The Seeds of Italy catalogue has a few flowers crammed in the back, but its real point is the vegetables that fill its pages: more than 30 radicchios and chicories, masses of beans, more than 20 tomatoes. This year Paolo Franchi, owner of Seeds of Italy, is arranging a series of masterclasses, explaining how to grow, cook and preserve vegetables the Italian way. The first, on tomatoes, takes place on 13 February (£12). For a catalogue (and details of the classes) call 020-8427 5020 or go to seedsofitaly.com.

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