August 29, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

If you have been meaning to move any established trees and shrubs, do it as soon as possible. Take as large a root ball as you can and prune back the top to reduce stress on the plant.

  • The optimum time for fertilizing plants is just as they are starting to go into their main growth period. So feed sasanqua camellias now but wait until the others near the end of their flowering (when they will put on their new season’s growth). Feed deciduous trees and shrubs when they are breaking into leaf. Don’t waste money on the expensive plastic coated slow release fertilisers which are designed for use in growing container plants, not for topdressing garden plants. Bioboost, nitrophoska blue, blood and bone or similar are much cheaper and all that is needed to give garden plants a boost. Fertilisers do not condition the soil. That is achieved by adding compost, leaf litter or humus.
  • With September looming, it is all go in the vegetable garden with planting for spring and summer. Dwarf beans can be started in containers or, if you have a warm, coastal position, you could even sow the first crop directly in the soil. Get new potatoes in, if you haven’t done so yet, as the fear of frost is over for coastal areas at least.
  • Peas can be sown now on a fortnightly basis and should be a compulsory addition to any garden with children. They will probably eat the entire crop but what lucky littlies to learn that peas actually grow in the garden rather than in a plastic bag in the freezer. As the peas germinate, they need a support to twine their way around and climb. You can use criss-crossed branches or bamboo if you don’t want to put in a more solid wire or netting frame. Sparrows in particular will take out the young shoots so having some netting to spread over them while they get established will hold the birds at bay.
  • Never underestimate the usefulness of a large patch of parsley, especially at this time of the year when the price of fresh vegetables is skyrocketing. Parsley is fearfully good for you and chopped and scattered in quantity on top of meals otherwise lacking in fresh greens can make you feel virtuous. It is also a useful addition to make-do salads if you are lacking in much that is fresh or green. Parsley is biennial – in other words it goes to seed in its second year so you need to establish it two years running to ensure continued supply and to always let one plant seed. Otherwise it looks after itself.

Apparently (according to the Curious Gardener’s Almanac) baseball legend, Babe Ruth, used to wear a cabbage leaf under his cap to keep his head cool in games. This is a fashion which appears to have been slow to catch on amongst our sporting and farming fraternities.