In the garden this week January 22, 2010

  • Only mad dogs, Englishmen and dead keen gardeners are doing much in the ornamental garden at the moment. But do stop weeds from going to seed if you want to save yourself a great deal of work later. If you catch them before the seeds are set, you can push hoe them or just pull them out and leave them to frazzle in the sun. But if you can see seed heads formed already, you will have to gather them up and either put them out in the rubbish or hot compost them. Weed seeds will survive baking in the sun and indeed survive most people’s compost heaps which don’t get hot enough to sterilise. If you have rubbish collection, the wheelie bin is the safest option for seeds.
  • While you can’t be doing much planting in the ornamental garden, you can at least summer prune, limb up, tidy up and deadhead. We tend to be spring garden specialists in this country and can look rather dull, green and tired in full summer. A grooming round can freshen it all up considerably.
  • We summer prune the roses constantly, trimming back to leaf buds where possible, deadheading and generally tidying up the bushes. If you don’t spray your roses, this is an important process to look them looking half way decent. The books all recommend watering and feeding too, but we don’t tend to get around to this.
  • Most clematis which have finished the first flush of flowering and which may now be sporting an unfashionable powdered white look (powdery mildew) can be cut back to a few centimetres of growth. Feed them, give them a good drink and they will spring back into fresh growth and even flower for you in about six weeks. You can not do this to all clematis, but most of the hybrids that you buy will respond to this treatment.
  • In the vegetable garden, harvest continually to encourage the likes of beans, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes to continue producing fresh crops.
  • Even though we have had little real summer yet, the end of January signals the time to get late sowings of corn in to carry you through to early winter. Planted after that, they are unlikely to mature in time.
  • Basil is best pinched out to encourage bushy plants.
  • Most garlic will be ready to be harvested and alas after a bumper crop last year, we are going to be lucky here to have sufficient to keep the vampires at bay. Store in cool, dark conditions with good air movement – in other words plait them in traditional style or recycle mesh onion bags.
  • If you enamoured of the Brussels sprout, you need to be getting in plants right now if you want to be confident of a harvest later. Keep up with sowing fresh salad greens – a little often is the key.
  • The new gardening programme on Prime (Sunday at 7.00pm) is all about learning to veg garden but unless you fit the demographic (urban dwelling female, under 40, upwardly socially mobile and probably drinking skinny milk decaf latte and driving a people mover), it may not inspire you.