This week 20 Oct 2006

  • If you have box hedges surrounding garden, root prune them when you are trimming them. In other words cut along the garden perimeter a small way out from the hedge with a sharp spade. Buxus have big matted root systems which will reach in to the garden and compete with other plants. But they are also hardy so will take root pruning.
  • Dead heading annuals and perennials greatly extends their flowering. The plant’s instinct is to set seed to ensure its perpetuity so if you prevent it setting seed, it keeps putting up flowers to try again.
  • Clematis are on the move and need something to climb up. One cheap option is bamboo teepees to prevent them choosing their own host and risking strangulation.
  • Check for any infestation of mealie bugs, particularly on clematis and grapevines and any plants under cover. It may be necessary to resort to an insecticide spray to prevent them getting out of control. Mealie bugs are a white aphid and you can see infestations as clusters of white threads and webs. Confidor appears to be the current recommended insecticide for the home gardener with Conqueror Oil added at summer strength.
  • Mulch ornamental flower beds now to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Labour Weekend is the traditional magic date for many activities in the vegetable garden. If you follow this time honoured ritual you will have no spare hours this weekend but readers in cold, inland areas may want to delay another couple of weeks. It is time for the first direct sowings of corn. Plants of tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkin, melons if you have your plants all ready – these can all be planted into the garden now. Keep successional sowings of peas going before it gets too hot. Main crop potatoes are planted now and even kumara plants if your runners are prepared. Get carrots in now if you haven’t planted them yet.
  • We have been enjoying the mesclun salad mix sown into a seed tray at the end of August. Kept in a glasshouse, we started cutting it after thirty days. It is a clean crop, tasty and it keeps growing if you cut it with scissors. Even if you don’t grow other vegetables, mesclun mix is worth a try and may actually save you money if you buy it from the bins at supermarket. It is a great way of bridging the salad gap in early spring but can be grown any time. Misome, a Japanese green, is a similar tasty leafy veg ready in 30 days and edible raw or lightly cooked. Kings Seeds sell both.