In the Garden – April 16, 2010

  • Forward planning is needed if you want to move larger trees and shrubs in winter. This involves wrenching the plant, which is simply cutting the roots in a staggered sequence well in advance of the moving process. This will shock the plant but also encourage it to form fresh young roots. Move as large a root ball as you can physically manage. Make the first cuts now with a sharp spade around two sides of the plant. You will follow up with the next cut in two weeks or so.
  • Continue planting out in the ornamental garden and the orchard. Pretty well anything and everything can be planted successfully now though you may need to protect tender material for the first winter as it acclimatises to your conditions. Tender plants are those which do not like cold, wet or frosty conditions.
  • The autumn rains trigger a new round of weeds so try and stay on top of these to save work later on. Slugs and snails also become more active with wetter, still mild conditions. If you reduce numbers now, you may reduce the spring population explosion.
  • Autumn leaf fall is starting. Raking these into mounds or heaps and keeping them moist will accelerate their breakdown. You can then rake them back thinly over the area later in the season to nourish the soils with leaf litter. There is no excuse for burning leaves.
  • If you are harvesting pumpkins, they are best dried out before storage and eat the most blemished specimens first. The softer green skinned buttercup types don’t store anywhere near as long as the armour plated grey skinned ones.
  • By now you should have your winter vegetables in the ground. We are not far off planting for spring. You can get in broad beans, spring onions, winter spinach, peas and even leek plants (though they will only make small specimens now) and the ever faithful brassica family. You can start preparing the beds for garlic which can be planted from next month. Dig the area over incorporating compost and animal manures and then leave it to settle down until planting time.
  • Get any bare areas which are not going to be planted until spring sown down in green crops as soon as possible. We can not over-emphasise the value of green crops in terms of good, sustainable gardening practice. Vegetable gardening involves constant cropping, stripping goodness from the soil. You need to keep replenishing it and it is so much better to do it by compost, manure and green crops than synthetic fertilisers (which do nothing for the soil structure and the worms).
  • Shame on Te Radar. Delightful he may be, but we saw him on Sunday TV filling his new raised vegetable bed with plastic sacks of commercial mix. There is nothing sustainable about that practice.