September 18, 2009 In the Garden

  • We were shocked by the infestation of onion weed on the local Lepperton roadsides, spread we suspect by road works. Onion weed is a thug and not easy to get rid of. Any small bulblets that you leave will respond with renewed vigour and the most common weedkiller spray, glyphosate, doesn’t touch it in our experience. If it is a small patch in your garden, you can dig it (and then let it heat and rot in a black plastic rubbish bag left in the sun). If you are not averse to using sprays or if you have a massive swathe, try treating it like wandering jew – which usually means spraying with Amitrol. Add a surfactant to encourage it to stick to the shiny leaves.
  • With asparagus season starting, if you covet your own patch remember that asparagus is a permanent crop and grows from underground crowns which are best left undisturbed. To establish a few plants, dig the area really well, then dig it a second time and dig deeper than usual and add plenty of compost and humus. Do not harvest anything for the first couple of years because you want the crown to build up strength and size. Asparagus is a long term commitment. While bare root divisions were sold earlier in winter, what is available now will be more expensive potted crowns. You may well have more success with buying potted crowns than smaller bare root divisions.
  • Strawberries are still available and these are a cheap and cheerful crop to try with children. Planted right now, they will crop later in early summer so it is a quick turn around. If you have ever been to a PYO place, you will know that they want full sun, well tilled soil and if you plant them on a little mound, it improves the drainage and heats up faster for early growth. However it isn’t necessary to mound and it does increase drying out later. Laying some straw beneath the plants later will help keep the fruit clean and reduce disease caused by splashing. Pine needles work equally well as a mulch.
  • If you go to the garden centre and get tempted to buy little pots of tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, courgettes, cucumbers or similar, don’t be too fast to plant them out in the open. You won’t gain anything and you are more likely to lose them when we get a cold, wet spell (which we will – it is still only early spring). Labour Weekend is the traditional time for getting these crops into the ground. Experienced gardeners may put them in earlier but usually only under a cloche (plastic or glass covers). If you have already planted them, you can salvage the situation by cutting the bottom off a 2 litre plastic bottle for an individual cloche (clear plastic or opaque will work). If you are looking at the little pots still waiting to be planted, pot them on instead to larger sized pots and keep them in a sheltered, warm spot on your verandah for a few more weeks.
  • If you feel they need it, the usual time to feed bulbs is immediately after flowering. However, many bulbs come from poor, impoverished natural environments so to be honest, we don’t feed them here as a matter of course. If you have bulbs which failed to flower this year, it may be that they are badly overcrowded and need thinning, or that their position has become too shaded.
  • Resist the temptation to tie bulb foliage into tidy knots after flowering. Nothing shouts out your ignorance more. Tying them in knots greatly reduces the bulb’s ability to store away energy through its foliage to keep its strength up, forcing it into early dormancy. If you are trying to tidy up and the foliage looks untidy, make a mini fence out of twigs or short pieces of bamboo.