This week 23 March 2007

  • Gardens can start to look a little tired at this time of the year. Clipping hedges and maybe the occasional clipped feature plant can create a sharp contrast to the late summer blowsiness. Ensuring you have some seasonal autumn plants also adds a fresh note. If you like bulbs, colchicums (autumn crocus), cyclamen hederafolium, belladonnas and nerines are delightful. In the perennials, asters are flowering and there are range of autumn annuals which will also add fresh points of colour. Garden chrysanthemums are an autumn flower and tree dahlias are coming in to their own while shrub dahlias continue to flower.
  • Do not delay on planting spring bulbs. If you are trying to achieve the look of a natural drift, the usual approach is to scatter the bulbs and plant them where they fall. This can be a problem, as a friend found, if you have a hill. The Kew method is to take an area, remove all the turf, scatter thousands of bulbs and then replace the turf but this may be a little extreme if you plan a drift of 30 bulbs only.
  • Feeding the lawn immediately before rain is forecast will help green up tired looking areas. As the autumn rains have arrived, new lawns can be sown now or bare areas can be renovated. Rake over old lawns and fill dips and hollows with weed free soil before oversowing. A mix of fescue and fine leafed ryegrass gives a reasonably hardwearing but lush lawn.
  • It is still an important time for planting winter vegetables while they have time to grow before the cold temperatures set in.
  • Keep pinching out laterals on tomatoes.
  • If you have a grape crop (our fruit set this year was terrible) remove all the leaves from around the bunches to allow them to be exposed to the sun and to air movement. If you haven’t covered them with birdnetting, it is probably too late but if you still have fruit left, then netting will allow you to eat what crop there is rather than feeding the birds. If you can keep the birds out, it greatly reduces the wasps as well because it is the pecked fruit that attracts the wasps.