December 28, 2007 Weekly Garden Guide

  • Check out and see if thrips are starting, particularly on your rhododendrons. They build up more in shaded areas and also where there is little air movement. An insecticide spray now is well timed to kill off most of the little critters (look for dark and dirty threads on the underside of the leaves). If you don’t want to spray, at least open up around the plant so it is not crowded and if it is a variety that gets badly affected (you can tell by its silver foliage), consider replacing it with a healthier option better suited to your conditions.
  • Keep copper sprays on tomatoes to prevent blight. Once your plants succumb to the dreaded blight, it can be too late to save them. If you are just starting to develop it (look for black spots on leaves which then wither and shrivel) then remove any affected foliage well away from the plant. Don’t put it in your compost unless you manage to make a hot mix which will kill the spores.
  • Keep successional plantings going on brassicas (cauli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broc) as well as leeks, peas, corn and most other vegetables.
  • Most seed sown vegetable crops will need thinning at an early stage and these thinnings can be eaten as micro veg.
  • Make a New Year resolution to stay on top of the weeding and to avoid letting weeds get to the seeding stage. Weeds with seed heads are a real problem. Few people manage compost heaps that will generate sufficient heat to kill the seeds so all that happens is that you spread them far and wide when you use the compost later. And you can’t leave seeding weeds to shrivel in situ if you push hoe because all those seeds will take this as an invitation to grow then and there. Better by far to cut them off before their prime.
  • Grapes need to be thinned – one bunch per runner, if you want good sized fruit. Stay on top of the laterals too, to prevent the foliage from shading and crowding the fruit too much.
  • The only other piece of advice from the House of Jury this week comes not from either of us, but from a Christmas resident who advocated recommending that readers at least sit out in their gardens (between showers) to drink their Christmas booze and to eat their festive fare. You can then make plans for how to improve the outdoor scenery.