November 16, 2007 Weekly Garden Guide

The useful rains this week mean that you can divide perennials now if you wish. Most are in full growth so will repair the stress of your splitting them up.

  • If you have a plant with a very dry rootball, watering it in after planting will not do the trick and it is more likely that the centre of the rootball will remain dry and the roots will start to die. There is no substitute for soaking the plant thoroughly in a bucket or trough before introducing it to its new home.
  • Water holding crystals which turn to jelly are fine for container plants of annuals but do not be tempted to use them with woody plants, bulbs or perennials because they will make the plant too wet in winter. If you have very dry container plants, you can sprinkle the surface with surfactant to help the plant absorb water. Surfactants are cheap to buy but even a little dishwashing detergent will suffice.
  • Deadheading annuals and perennials does extend the flowering season considerably, if you can be bothered. Roses also benefit from deadheading, as do rhododendrons.
  • Keep sowing corn, scarlet runner beans, lettuces, green beans and all the summer and early autumn veg. It really and truly is your last chance to start melons from seed but it is the optimum time for planting kumaras.
  • If you are really keen, you can start your brussel sprouts for winter though we are not the best climate for brussels which prefer colder conditions and frosty conditions. Inland gardeners may be better placed to impress their coastal cousins with their brussel sprouts.
  • Keep a copper spray on potatoes (remember the Irish potato famines…) and on tomatoes. This is best done every couple of weeks after rain if you want to maximise your harvest though you can get away with less. If leaf miners and caterpillars are attacking your brassicas (the discovery of cooked caterpillars in your broccoli is most off putting, even if your mother insists that it is merely added protein) you may need to resort to an insecticide spray. Ask at your local garden centre for the current recommended option.