In the garden 04/12/2009

  • The rains this week will give rise to all manner of fungal attacks (moisture and warmth, even relative, encourages fungal growth). Watch tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes and other vines including grapes carefully. You may need to get an urgent copper spray onto them if you want a harvest later.
  • Roses will be similarly afflicted. If you don’t spray your roses (we don’t), keep working at light summer pruning, deadheading and removing diseased leaves. Good hygiene and air movement will help reduce the impact of fungal and bacterial attack.
  • Wisterias need frequent restraint as their tendrils are ensnaring anything around them. You do not have to be too particular with the summer prune and a pass over with the hedge clippers is fine. If you have a plant near a building, be vigilant. The time from fine tendril to embedded woody stem which is capable of lifting weatherboards and splitting the spouting is less than a season.
  • Convolvulus is rocketing away and can become a major problem alarmingly quickly. If you are not organic, Woody Weedkiller is the way to go. If you are organic, you will probably have to start unravelling the vinous growths and trace them back to ground level where you dig the whole thing out, taking care to get all the roots because any left behind will grow again.
  • Don’t ignore Wandering Jew either and the recommended chemical assault on this is Shortcut (sold in larger quantities as Buster). It is a systemic spray (gets absorbed into the plant’s circulatory system) and has a very quick kill. You can increase the hit rate by raking off as much foliage as you can first (but put these rakings into black plastic bags to rot because they are quite capable of growing again – every bit of it) and then spraying. Follow up with a spot spray a month later. Apparently Wandering Jew can cause terrible skin irritation to dogs and cats which is another good reason to clear it off your property. If you don’t want to use chemicals, you will have to hand pull every bit of it (wear gloves) and keep returning to the patch as it re-grows. Eventually you can clear it but it takes perseverance.
  • The rains this week mean you can continue digging and dividing perennials and clumping plants a little longer.
  • Vegetable planting continues with corn, beans, peas, salad veg, carrots and the like but lay off the brassicas now unless you are prepared to spray or cover them.
  • We are running out of time for pruning. Try and get this finished as soon as possible.
  • The Christmas hint this week is to try making flavoured vinegars and oils for gifts, using herbs from the garden. Wash and dry herbs such as sprays of rosemary, French tarragon (I wish), bay leaves, lime leaves, even thin parings of lemon rind. Leafy herbs like parsley don’t work so well and tend to go off. The rule of thumb is to bring the vinegar to the boil before pouring it over the herbs in the bottle. White vinegar is a neutral base for flavouring. For flavoured oils, use a neutral oil such as grape seed or rice bran and warm it before pouring into the bottle. A word of warning: the flavoured oils and vinegars in shops will be sterilised and sealed whereas home efforts are not. The liquid needs to cover the flavouring herbs. To be really safe, strain off the liquid after a few weeks or store in the fridge. If you have decorative smaller bottles, one bottle of white vinegar or grape seed oil can go a long way and make attractive and thoughtful gifts.