October 10, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

It pays to deadhead hellebores (winter roses). The spent flowers provide a splendid nursery for aphids and the seed which eventually falls can germinate too freely and over time the seedlings will compete with established plants and all become choked. It is also a great deal easier to pull out freshly germinating seedlings rather than leaving them until later when you have to dig them, rather than pull them. Being promiscuous flowers, unless you have isolated your plant, the seedlings will not come true to their parent.

  • If you are saving hellebore seed, sow it while still very fresh. It does not like being kept and germination rates fall dramatically.
  • Trees and shrubs tend to follow a sequence where they flower and then go into growth, so optimum pruning time is often as flowering finishes. Tidy up daphne bushes now but the common odora types are best with light pruning, rather than radical hacking back. If you have a scruffy bholua (the Himalayan daphne), it can be subjected to heavy pruning though it can take a year or two to recover.
  • Moss growing on paths can be hazardous, making them slippery and is a common occurrence in our damp climate. There are various products you can buy, though if you price out common household bleach you may find it is cheaper. Heavily diluted swimming pool chlorine will also work. If you want to avoid using chemicals, including chlorine, where the moss is thick you can push hoe or scrape it off and then rake it up. The path will then dry out better and remaining moss spores are more likely to die. Or a water blaster will give a thorough clean up if the path surface is up to it. Be very cautious about laying paths out of old bricks, especially in shady or damp areas. They may look quaint and rustic but they can become veritable skating rinks quite quickly.
  • Gaps in perennial beds will be apparent by now and it is a good time to dig up clumps of plants to split up and spread into gaps.
  • It is still a little too cool to get too carried away planting out the vegetable garden, except for seeds such as peas and beans. Labour Weekend is the traditional D Day for getting baby plants and summer crops in because the risk of cold snaps is greatly reduced by then. As it is only 2 weeks to Labour Weekend, you need to ensure the garden is cleaned up, dug, raked, rested and ready to receive its crops.
  • If your deciduous fruit trees are at the green tip stage (new shoots showing but not yet in flower), you have time to get the critical copper and oil spray on. The oil is to deal to over wintering red spider eggs as well as other nasties, including codling moth. It is best done in winter, but a summer strength oil with copper is better than nothing.