March 7, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

From the school of We Finally Got Around To It, it really is your last chance this summer to prune cherry trees. These are trees you don’t winter prune because you open them up to silver blight and cherry trees are short lived enough in our climate without making it worse.

  • Next task here is to follow our own advice from a few weeks ago and remove the raspberry canes that fruited this year. Next summer’s fruit is set on new canes so the old ones are superfluous now. Raspberries are a rewarding crop for the home garden if you have some sort of netted cage to grow them in (keeping out the birds) but nobody here is exactly rushing to carry out the pruning.
  • Autumn is certainly here and the heat has gone out of the sun but if you feel drawn back to planting, make sure you soak the root balls in a bucket of water until the bubbles stop rising before you plant. We are still very dry and watering a plant in will not suffice. If the potting mix around the roots has dried out, it will just repel water unless it is soaked first. You can not rush or skimp on this process without risking the plant.
  • Keep preparing ground for autumn sowing into lawns. Push hoeing or raking off each crop of fresh weeds pays dividends in the long term.
  • If you have a grape vine outdoors, do not expect any crop at all unless you have covered it with bird netting. The birds do not understand about waiting until the fruit is ripe before eating it and once they have pecked pretty well every grape in search of the perfect specimen, the wasps move in on the pecked ones.
  • With the gentle rains, diseases can get away almost overnight on vulnerable crops like tomatoes. Keep up the copper sprays with special attention after even light rain. The humidity is the problem. Potatoes may need a spray against late blight unless you are growing some of the more resistant, modern varieties. Blight will kill the top and work its way down to the tubers. It was late blight which was one of the causes of the Irish potato famines. Potatoes are the fourth largest global food crop. Our guess is that they come in behind rice, wheat and probably soy. Given that they have only been around for 400 years, their rise in global popularity is astonishing.
  • Side dress young vegetable crops with fertiliser if they need it to encourage them to continue growing strongly and keep the water up to them. Research shows that fertilising while the plant is growing by sprinkling around it can give better results than raking in all the fertiliser when you are first planting the crop. Cropping in a vegetable garden is no different to cropping in the field – unless you are alternating with green crops which you dig in and adding large quantities of good compost or other fertilisers, then constantly cropping the same area depletes the soil of goodness over time. You must keep feeding the soil.