March 28, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

  • In the current dry conditions, there is not a lot you can do in the garden. Treat this hiatus as a time for contemplation and planning. In cold climates where gardening is not possible for months on end, winter is the time for planning. Here we can continue to garden all winter, but this abnormal dry spell has put the brakes on most gardening activities this autumn.
  • If you are still mowing your lawns, set the lawnmower on a high level. If you scalp your lawn by mowing it too short in these dry conditions, the grass will die and it will be weeds which will be the first to colonise the bare areas.
  • Keep preparing areas for new lawns. At least the dry weather makes it easy to hoe off germinating weeds. Wait for the promise of a second rain before you actually sow the lawn.
  • If your vegetable garden is well cultivated and well watered, you can be planting winter vegetables such as brassicas, lettuce and even broad beans if you are really keen.
  • Dig potatoes. Clear old crops and sow areas you don’t need for replanting in green crops.
  • It seems a bad season for whitefly. If you have particularly bad infestations (check your pumpkins and other cucurbits), get rid of the host plant by covering it at the bottom of your compost heap. Whitefly appear to have overcome their natural predators and are now immune to many of the sprays available to the home gardener so early intervention is best, especially in a glasshouse. With a life cycle of five days, the population can explode exponentially in an alarmingly short period if you ignore it. If you feel you must spray, Confidor kills the adult flies and works as long as the plant is not getting reinfested. Applaud attacks the larvae stages but not the mature flies. Flyspray or summer oil with added pyrethrum can also knock them down.

Mark was given The Curious Gardener’s Almanac for Christmas which is proving to be a fund of information. This week’s snippet for readers is the origin of the wheelbarrow – thought to have been developed in China around 1800 years ago as a form of transport for military supplies. There is no evidence that it reached Europe until the thirteenth century. Where would we gardeners be without it today?