April 17, 2009 In the Garden

* If you are intending to move any large plants this winter, start the wrenching process without delay. This initially involves making cuts to the roots on two sides of the plant. Calculate how large a rootball you can reasonably move (the larger the better) and cut from there. In a couple of weeks, follow up on the other two sides, and underneath if you can and then carry out the removal operation two weeks later. All this is to reduce stress on the plant and to encourage it to start the process of forming new roots where you have cut. You don’t need to bother with small plants.

* As you do the autumn clean-up round in the ornamental garden, get a layer of mulch onto all the garden beds possible. Any mulch suppresses weeds as long as it is thick enough (3cm or so). Our standard mulch here is home made compost which also provides nourishment and texture to the soil. Mulches of bark chip, gravel, stones and the like (fortunately the dreaded scoria seems to have disappeared) do not do anything for the soil. Pea straw is very fashionable and very expensive (so we do not use it) but is ideal as a mulch, if rather intrusive visually. Last year’s calf shed wood shavings are excellent but don’t put it on too thickly. Sawdust can be used if not tanalised but needs considerable caution. Don’t dig it in. Only people of no aesthetic sensibility use weed mat as a mulch and we hope in this day and age that nobody who reads this column would even contemplate using black plastic.

* If you covet a politically incorrect green velvet sward, you can fertilise your lawn at this time of the year. Use a cheap NPK fertiliser or Bioboost.

* Anything planted in the vegetable garden from here on is more likely to be ready for harvest in early spring, rather than the depths of winter. All the usual candidates – brassicas, winter greens, spring onions, carrots, broad beans, beetroot and even leeks (from plants not seed) – can be put in now.

* If you have a favoured warm, frost free position, you can put in an early crop of potatoes. Pick a quick maturing variety such as Swift or Rocket. For some unfathomable reason, being able to dig a very early crop of potatoes earns maximum brownie points amongst serious gardeners. Make sure the potatoes are well sprouted before planting and do not waste your effort unless you can be sure of protecting them from winter frosts.

* Although the potato hails from South America, apparently 90% of the world’s potato production occurs in Europe. In the somewhat harsh climate of much of Britain, it was the prime source of Vitamin C in the two world wars, thereby holding scurvy largely at bay. The modern diet of the very thin potato crisp may not be sufficient to achieve the same outcome.