August 15, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

There we were hailing the arrival of spring last week, only to be assailed by not one but two frosts at the weekend and more cold weather and rain during the week. But the plants are telling us that spring is on the way and the prettiest time of the year for flowers is just starting.

  • Over sow bare patches in lawns. If you feel you must use hormone lawn sprays to get rid of broad leafed weeds, it is best to get onto it as soon as we get a reasonably dry spell. Even with very careful application, some spray drift can occur and badly distort new growth on surrounding plants, particularly deciduous plants so you don’t want to be using hormone sprays when leaf break starts. You can however dig them out by hand at any time and feel virtuous at your decision to avoid the use of chemicals.
  • You can still be digging and dividing clumping perennials but the highest priority in the ornamental garden is to get the winter pruning of deciduous plants done.
  • Sasanqua camellias can be pruned and shaped now. They are the autumn flowering camellias.
  • If you have green crops in the vegetable garden, start digging them in to give them time to break down before you put in the spring and summer crops.
  • It is still a little early to get carried away planting in the vegetable garden unless you know what you are doing. Better to use your time preparing the beds and starting the plants in containers and trays to plant out when we have well and truly turned the corner into spring.
  • One organic reference book counsels pruning apple trees now but leaving stone fruit trees until just at the point where they are going into growth in early spring. This apparently reduces the chances of disease getting into the cuts. One of the tenets of organic gardening is that healthy plants withstand diseases and pests best so if you are leaning in the organic direction, give a high priority to plant health and care.
  • Keep on top of weeds.

Potatoes are of course originally from South America and were introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the middle of the sixteenth century. It would be fair to say that they were not an instant hit. Indeed some even believed that the potato caused leprosy (on account of its lumpy, pockmarked appearance) and the Protestants rejected them because of the South American association with Catholicism. The Germans used to feed them primarily to animals and prisoners while in the same vein, the English gave the potato to the Irish (parsnips were preferred as a staple food in the mother country). How the reputation of the potato has changed over time.