In the garden, February 12, 2010

  • It is pretty much the last call for heavy pruning on flowering cherries. These need their pruning done in summer to reduce disease. While you are about it, you can prune plums and other deciduous fruit trees straight after harvest. This encourages them to set more fruiting spurs for next year, rather than too much leafy growth.
  • While you are watering container plants (should be done every day), don’t forget to top up the fish pond. Even robust goldfish get stressed if their water heats up too much.
  • While planting in the ornamental garden is largely on hold until temperatures cool or we get some serious rain, mid summer can be a time to give lawns some attention. You can spray for flat weeds now or sprinkle sulphate of ammonia. If you are not keen on spraying, get out with an old carving knife and crawl around the lawn. This last activity is guaranteed to engender a rosy glow of virtue. Never feed a dry lawn – the fertiliser is more likely to burn the surviving grass. If you are planning on sowing new lawns, autumn is the optimum time for this but preparation can start now. The quality of a new lawn can be directly linked to the amount of effort put into preparation. Level the area, cultivate it, remove all green cover and keep hoeing off successive waves of germinating weeds.
  • Vegetable gardens are all about forward planning so while some of us are enjoying full summer (and quite possibly worrying about how to stem the deluge of courgettes), organised home growers are already on the ball for winter. As summer crops are harvested, winter veg are sown and that takes in root crops of the carrots, beetroot, turnips variety and brassicas and leafy greens. Some people start sowing onions this early. You just have time to get a final sowing of green beans but do it asap.
  • Because we maintain active websites ( for published writings and for garden and plant information), I track google search terms. This week saw somebody looking for advice on how to propagate swan plants (the food for monarch caterpillars) aka asclepias. Seed, preferably fresh seed is the answer. If you sow it at this time of the year and prevent the butterflies from laying eggs on the germinated seedlings and then the baby plants, you will have well established plants next summer which in turn will produce seed. If you have room in your veg garden, it is worth putting a row in. If you are buying swan plants from garden shops at this time of the year, you will end up raising some very expensive monarchs. The idea is to have large, well established plants (bushy and chest or head height) coming ready from now through autumn to enable the monarchs to linger longer into winter.
  • I fear the naïf who googled asking if snails are good for kentia plants (presumably kentia palms) may not have a great future as a gardener. I can not think that snails are good for any plants at all unless squashed and feeding the soil.