So much to do at the busiest time of the year

By Richard Wright

Friday, March 30, 2012

 

So much to do at the busiest time of the year

Japanese quince

GARDENINGSPRING definitely sprung at the weekend.
SHRUBS, such as Japanese quince and viburnum plants, are well in flower now.
Shrubs, lawns and the veg patch need attention and you need to keep an eye on weed growth because they will really start to flourish especially if we have some much-needed rain.
Now that warmer weather is encouraging new growth, it is time to remove the old flower heads from hydrangea to tidy up the appearance of the bush and to encourage more flowering buds to form if you haven't already.
Buddleia and hardy fuchsias also appreciate hard pruning at the start of the season to encourage fresh growth and plenty of flowers in late summer and autumn.
But, with many shrubs, trees or climbers, it is probably best to wait until they have finished flowering.
This is especially true of spring-flowering types, such as forsythia, calluna heathers, kerria and jasmine.
If you have a fair space to fill in your flower border, don t forget this can be done economically with one or two packets of mixed hardy annual seeds.
Hardy annuals include many cottage garden plants, including annual lavatera, cornflower, Californian poppy, coreopsis, clarkia, love-in-a-mist, tiny viola and linaria.
Together they will make a great summer display that is easy to grow. If you only want dwarf plants, perhaps for the front of the border, look for Thomson & Morgan s Fairy Mixed that includes only plants that will flower to a maximum height of 45cm (18ins). See that all the plants that germinate have enough space in which to thrive. If your sowing has
been too thick you can always dig out clumps and replant into spaces where none exist.
One way of ensuring that what you get is not contaminated with weeds, which always seem to overtake what you want to grow, is to sow seeds thinly in trays of sterilised compost and transfer mixed clumps to the border.
Roses and other flowering shrubs will be producing new leaves that may need protection from plant diseases, such as mildew, rust and blackspot.
If your roses were badly infected last year then it s a good idea to start treatment against rose blackspot early in the season, for that s when the spores enter the new leaves.
You won t see the tell-tale signs of disease until summer and treatment is always more difficult once any disease has taken hold.
A couple of treatments a fortnight apart with RoseClear Ultra Gun! will provide internal protection, killing any spores of this disease that may have got into the new foliage from a carry-over from last year's growth.
At the same time the treatment will also kill any aphids that may have found a new breeding place on fresh stems and on the underside of new leaves.
Feed the foliage and roots of spring flowering bulbs, such a daffodils, crocus and tulips, to give them the energy they need to produce flower buds for next year s display.
This is especially important if you are growing bulbs in a grassed area where you may be tempted to trim off the foliage before they have finished their life cycle.
Also dead-head those daffs, because seed production is a bulb-sapping process too.
Plant out summer-flowering bulbs, corms and tubers, such as gladioli, lily and dahlias.
Late March through to mid-April are the weeks when it s all happening.
Parsnips, early peas, onions, summer cabbages and cauliflower should all be planted as soon as possible. Leeks, Brussels sprouts and autumn cabbage can be sown in short rows in a seedbed ready for transplanting to their final position later or in pots.


Seaweed, the wonder ingredient for your garden

WELL blister my barnacles! Seaweed seems to make asparagus tips somewhat precocious down Shanklin way.
John Groucott sent me this a week ago with the comment: Mid March and I have outdoor asparagus and without a cloche too.
I couldn t believe my eyes that it was popping its head out so early.
On the subject of seaweed, I had a letter the other week. The envelope made me wary but the contents included sage, sober advice.
The envelope bore the missive Escape Foreign Domination with a red line drawn across the ring of Euro stars.
But inside was not a green ink rant but a letter from Mike Tuck, an Islander working down in Cornwall.
He swears by seaweed, pointing to it being more beneficial than manure, as it is packed full of nitrogen, iodine and many trace elements.
As a safety-first precaution I have always advised others, if they are worried about the salt content, to spread it out and leave it in the rain for a while but we both spread it straight on the patch.
Mike uses it in large quantities, making a layer six to eight inches deep in November and doesn t bother forking it in.
The rain washes the minimal salt into the ground and the seaweed layer kills off any slugs and it also acts as a winter weed killing and suppressing, blanket.
After a period of two to three months, you will find the seaweed has largely disappeared as the seaweed flies lay their eggs on it and the maggots help decompose it and provide food for birds, such as robins, wrens and blackbirds, working in conjunction with worms, who pull most of it underground where it will slowly rot, says Mike.
It is wonderful in breaking up clay soils and the salt content will do no harm to plants and will kill off most of the slug population in the garden, which has meant that since I have been using it I have very little problem with slugs in my lettuce etc.
This message to you, Mike: Ehaz ha sowenath whath tho why ha tho goz henath!
To those not fluent in Cornish, that s a wish for health and prosperity to Mike and his family.
The internet is a marvellous tool but it is very nice to get a real letter or two.


This year's plants for next year's catalogues

THERE used to be a real thrill in those dim and now very far-off days before junk post and e-mail joy in that simple pleasure of looking forward to the post coming.
Not quite the same as the old days but I received a couple of old-fashioned letters the other day, both of interest and one of them packed with good news.
It came from a well-known seed company, including me in a trial of vegetable and flower varieties set to be included in next year s catalogue.
So, at the beautiful warm weekend, I was busily preparing and planting next year s varieties of dwarf and runner beans, leeks and lettuce, a full 12 months before other gardeners can do the same. Smug old me.
Those varieties already planted will be followed by a mystery tomato and agastache, which I have not tried before but I am told that it has flowers and leaf tips that can be added to dishes to give a mild taste of anise.
There is also a number of flowers including a new sunflower, which and not a lot of people know this the buds are also delicious to eat.
The catalogue for 2013 will be published in September and I will be sure to let you know whether the postman made a first or second-class delivery

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