Weekend work: Time to provide shelter for aubergines

 

What to do

Aubergines are one of the first vegetables to sow for the season ahead, but you need shelter. A greenhouse is ideal, but you can also use the expanded polystyrene trays that garden centres throw away; prop them up to make a reasonably cosy space.

Varieties that produce a quantity of small fruit (such as Thompson & Morgan's 'Ophelia', £2.99 for six seeds) may be a better bet than growing only plants that produce big fruit.

Sow a couple of seeds in a small pot or a module and keep at around 20C. If both seeds germinate, then discard the smaller plant. When the roots fill the container in which the seeds were sown, pot them on into something bigger.

When they are well grown, plant them out in a greenhouse border or in your shelter, 45-50cm apart. They must be kept frost-free.

When the plants are 20-25cm tall, pinch out the growing tops to encourage them to bush out. Keep the atmosphere round them as damp as possible. Feed weekly with liquid tomato food.

What to buy

The top-selling propagator in Two Wests & Elliott's jam-packed catalogue of stuff for greenhouse and garden is a Window Sill Propagator (30inx7¼in, £34.99) which was introduced in the mid-Nineties, but still outsells all other models. It'll hold seven ¼-size seed trays and keeps compost 8C above surrounding temperature; 01246 451077, twowests.co.uk

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