This week 30 March 2007

  • Planting of spring bulbs can continue but time is starting to run out.
  • Start the autumn clean up round. Big floppy perennials which have started to fall apart and smother surrounding plants can be cut back hard if they are now past their best. Many perennials will grow true from seed so you may want to gather ripe seed for sowing in seed trays. Splitting up large clumps to get divisions is a faster means of getting instant plants but if your clump is small, seed may be the way to go.
  • Practically all annual and perennial flower seeds, from ageratum to hollyhocks to pansies to wallflowers, can be sown from seed in trays now for planting out in winter. It is a great deal cheaper to start from seed than to buy in plants but you need to be organised and to have bench space. It is safe to put trays in the glasshouse now that the heat of summer has gone.
  • With the autumn rains having arrived, it is the optimum time for dig and divide. This gives plants time to establish before winter. Grasses, clumping perennials which are past their best and herbaceous plants such as astelias will all benefit from some renovation. Thinning out the congested clump and tilling the surrounding soil gives them renewed vigour. Polyanthus can also be divided and replanted now for spring display. The rule of thumb is that these types of plant material will benefit from such treatment every three years or so.
  • The rains mean renewed activity from slugs and snails. Be vigilant.
  • Keep spraying your tomatoes with copper every couple of weeks or after heavy rain to keep blight at bay until the fruit has ripened.
  • Beat the birds to autumn fruit harvests such as pears and apples but it is a fine balancing act between getting tree ripened fruit and letting the birds discover it before you do.