Gardening Gardening 2009


Congratulations to the founders of Roseland-Online. Whether you like technology or not it is here to stay. I see the use of a computer as another means of communicating and spreading knowledge, although not the only one. But now to gardening!

My Dad bears the responsibility for my interest in gardening and all things natural. I spent hours as a little girl learning with him, growing our own fruit and veg and I grew more flowers latterly as he didn’t see the point of anything you couldn’t eat. One of his rules though was, ’If it flowers before June prune immediately after it has flowered.’ So here we are in June and you should be setting about pruning all those shrubs which have given spring colour. If you leave it too late then you will cut off next year’s flower buds that are beginning to form now and through the summer.

Those we should therefore be pruning include forsythia, weigela, philadelphus (mock orange), deutzia and there are many more including late flowering camellias and also azaleas and rhododendrons.

Look for the old wood that has flowered and prune to the next bud or right to the bottom of the stem. Always remembering another old adage that the harder you prune the harder it comes back.

The purpose is to let in light and air and as a general rule, taking out about a third of the branches will open up the shrub and encourage new shoots.

Lilac trees and shrubs can be treated the same way by pruning to the two new shoots below this year’s flowers.

There are exceptions to every rule and be careful with broom (cytisus) and genista which will not shoot from old wood so cut new growth to about one third of its current length.

I become very concerned in early and mid May, when the sun comes out and everyone rushes out to buy bedding plants. The retailers and supermarkets are very much at fault for putting tender bedding on display so early. We are fortunate here that whilst we are unlikely to suffer frost in May we are still vulnerable to wind and rain and cool evenings. Bedding raised in heated tunnels and not properly hardened off may die; become stunted and loose vigour quickly. For the sake of waiting three weeks to end May many could have avoided the worst of the problems.

Most of our bedding plants are sun lovers and, if you like bedding plants, we can enjoy hanging baskets and tubs on patios for the next three or four months. That is of course as long as you feed regularly (even if you have used slow release fertiliser which in my experience is pretty much exhausted after a month or so.) Proprietary brands such as phostrogen and miracle gro really do work and make a significant difference but tomato food also does the job for all summer flowering plants.

I use very dilute liquid seaweed to avoid the use of chemicals. But remember that fuchsias and busy lizzies prefer at least partial shade and both will thrive in full shade. If your busys go yellow they are either too hot or too wet. The endless dead heading is essential too to prolong the flowering period. Once a plant has flowered and set seed it has done its job to produce its next generation. Take off the dead flower heads, stop it setting seed and it has no choice but to react to the stress and produce more flowers.

Other jobs for this month include:

Sow biennials such as polyanthus and winter pansies
Sow ripe hellebore seed
Plant anemones for autumn flowers
Train climbing roses
Plant cauliflowers
Tackle weeds, especially perennials

I had an interesting conversation recently with a local chap who last year was plagued by cabbage root fly. Unfortunately when you realise you have got it it’s usually too late. The tell tale sign is a transplant keeling over and if you pull it up small white grubs will be evident in what is left of the roots. The adult fly will lay her eggs in the soil as near to the root as she can. You can buy little collars especially made to put round the stem of the young plant onto the ground or you make your own with a bit of old carpet. If she cannot lay eggs on the ground next to the stem of your cabbages she will go to your neighbour instead!

Another beast which turns up now is the codling moth. They fly around on warm evenings now looking for apple trees where the female will lay one egg on a single leaf or immature fruit. These become the maggots that you find in your prize apples. It is difficult to trap the females but a pheromone trap will attract the males and if you trap them it restricts the mating.

The tortrix moth is prevalent again this year. It is not easily identified but lays its eggs and sticks them between two leaves on a plant. If you see leaves apparently stuck together and uncurl them there will be a small green caterpillar or a brown chrysalis formed. I squish them but you can buy a nematode liquid which destroys the caterpillars and last year we erected a small blue insect attracting light which we put on in the tunnels at night night and we have trapped many more tortrix moth than I thought we had and so far this month there is no evidence of any damage from their caterpillars. Like the yellow sticky traps though there is the dilemma of catching beneficial insects too.

And finally, my tulips in their third and fourth year now have been admired this season. Now all the foliage has died down I will lift them and replant down to about eight inches to get yet another display next year from the same bulbs.

Now a quick advert for the Veryan Show – always an attraction in September, and open to everyone for visiting or competing. Last year’s largest pumpkin competition was great fun. Gilbert’s exploded on the steps of Veryan Hall, Mike’s was not as large as he’d led us to believe and Trevor beat us all, with mine a creditable second and third. I will post show details in full in due course but get growing and give us some healthy competition.

Geoff Hamilton said gardening is half achievement and half optimism. In our pumpkin plants we have both!

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