In the garden, February 5, 2010

Some deciduous magnolias repeat flower in summer - this one is Apollo

  • If you have deciduous magnolias which have flowers on them, this is not some freaky abnormality. It is all in the parentage. Some varieties repeat flower in summer. This second flowering is but a shadow of the early spring display but it is a bonus. Black Tulip has had particularly good, dark flowers this summer but proved too difficult to photograph.
  • Naturally you will be attending to your bearded irises, as per today’s Outdoor Classroom. Just make sure that the replants don’t frazzle if we get a run of sunny, dry weather.
  • Some readers may have seen the media coverage of the unfortunate arrival of the hadda beetle which so resembles the charming lady bird. In fact the potato and tomato psyllid that we referred to two weeks ago is already here, established and wreaking havoc. The psyllid attacks all solanums which includes tamarillos, cape gooseberries and capsicums. Sudden, unexplained deaths in any or all of the solanum family (which includes a range of ornamentals too) may indicate a psyllid presence. In the short term, worry more about the psyllid than the hadda beetle especially for those who prefer to garden organically. Garden centres should all be able to offer advice on controls but there is no simple answer to effective management of the psyllid.
  • Spring bulbs in the garden are starting to show white roots which means they are breaking dormancy. If you were planning to lift any congested clumps of daffodils or the like, get onto the task without delay.
  • In the vegetable garden, thoughts are turning to planting for winter. The idea is that most plants do their growing while temperatures are still warm and then they hold in the garden through winter so you can pick them fresh. So you can be sowing parsnips, carrots, dwarf beans and brassicas now for winter harvest.
  • If your garlic harvest this year is poor, take heart. You are not alone. The wet and cold November and December probably did not help.
  • Pinch back cucumbers, melons, courgettes, pumpkins and similar spreaders to keep them under control and to encourage fruit set. Tender pumpkin tips are delicious to eat, as are stuffed courgette flowers, if they are not infested with white fly. I have never seen any merit in the fruit of chokos, but we have always enjoyed eating the tender tips when lightly steamed as a fresh green.
  • The rains this week and the warm, humid conditions means that the weeds will be growing and spitting out seed even as you turn your back. Ignore these at your peril.