September 4, 2009 In the Garden

Spring is officially here though for most of us, the advent of spring came last month. While cooler inland areas will continue to get a few frosts, in coastal areas we would be unlucky to get frosted now.

  • A reminder to hard prune rhododendrons (including vireyas) now if you are planning to do so. Don’t delay. Prune, feed, mulch then cross your fingers and hope.
  • If you have had enough of winter pruning, you can lift and divide dahlias now. In colder parts of the world, these get lifted every year and wintered under cover but here we tend to plant them once and leave them. Overcrowding can cause the plants to fall apart in full growth so thinning out the tubers every few years is helpful.
  • If you haven’t lifted and divided evergreen grasses, at least give them a brush up to take out the unsightly build up of dead foliage in the middle. You can use a sturdy leaf rake, small fork or your hands – but if you are using your hands, wear gloves to avoid leaf cuts (the equivalent of paper cuts.)
  • There is an open verdict here as to whether the failure of daffodils to flower is due to growing them in ground which is too fertile (so they put on lots of leaf and no flower – also a sign of too much nitrogen in the ground) or whether it is the effect of the narcissus bulb fly laying its eggs in the crowns of the bulbs last year. If you find hollowed out and rotting bulbs at any stage, or if you dig them when dormant and find large white maggots in the centre, then you have narcissi fly in your garden. They are difficult to beat, though I have seen Mark, like his father before him, stalking them in the rockery.
  • Potatoes, peas and carrots can all be sown directly into the vegetable garden. It is the very last chance for onions, be they red, brown or shallots, if you want a good crop. Last chance also for garlic. Green crops must be dug in now to give them time to start breaking down before the Great Labour Weekend plantout. Experienced veg gardeners are starting with seeds of summer crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and the like to get a jump start but you do have to sow these in trays and pots and keep them under cover for a while. Inexperienced gardeners will probably buy the baby plants they need from the garden centre late next month.
  • Early aphids are appearing already. Get onto them early with pyrethrum or an organic soap spray to avoid an exponential population growth. Flyspray does at a pinch. It is pyrethrum based though made synthetically these days rather than from the daisy. Dead head hellebores to stop the aphids setting up home in the spent flowers.