In the garden 02/05/2008

Further rains mean that autumn has well and truly arrived but while temperatures remain mild, there is good and bad. The good is that it is now ideal for planting anything woody and it remains pleasant to work outside. The bad is that wet and warm weather not only brings on mushrooms and facial eczema, but also every fungal disease possible in the garden. They may well have taken out your cucurbits and tomatoes already. If you still have the upper hand, keep up the copper sprays but if the fungi have won, then give up and pick all the remaining produce before it rots.

  • Plant trees, shrubs and hedges of all descriptions.
  • Lawns can be fed now while it is still warm and if you have not yet sown your planned new lawns, get on to it immediately.
  • Repot root bound container plants. You can either move them to a larger size of container or you can root prune and return them to the same pot. If you are doing the latter, hose off as much of the old potting mix and dead root as possible and if you are savagely attacking the root ball, make sure you prune the top of the plant by a corresponding proportion to reduce the stress. After repotting, place the container in a shaded position for a few weeks.
  • Not all potting mixes are equal in quality by any manner of means. While cheap mixes are fine for temporary pots of annuals or for starting off seedlings, where you have semi permanent plants in containers it is false economy to use inferior mixes.
  • Look out for an explosion in slugs, snails and freshly germinating weeds brought on by the rains.

Really keen gardeners will be sowing their onion seeds now, in preparation for planting out in a couple of months’ time. Less keen gardeners will pay more and buy plants closer to the time. The Curious Gardener’s Almanac points out that onions have been used since the sixteenth century to treat gunshot wounds and that General Grant refused to move his Union troops without supplies of onions, so gun-totin’ onion growers may like to plant a few extra in reserve. However, Cervantes pointed out in Don Quixote that one should not eat garlic or onions for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant.