In the Garden – May 7, 2010

• It is time to make the second cut to large plants you are wrenching (root pruning) in preparation for shifting when the rains finally come. You should have cut two sides several weeks ago. Make the remaining cuts now and let the plant rest for another couple of weeks before you cut any roots below and start the moving process. We remind again to keep the root ball as large as you can physically manage. You can still shift plants that haven’t been wrenched but it does help plant health to do the preparatory work.
• Alas winter is just around the corner and motivation for intensive gardening can wane when it gets cold. Although we are still dry, cooler temperatures mean less stress on the plants and less evaporation so take full advantage of the extended, calm autumn weather to get the autumn clean up done and to plant out if you can get the hosepipe close to water in.
• Polyanthus respond particularly well to lifting and dividing every year or two and the rewards in increased vigour and flowering come quickly. Heucheras are another plant I have found need to be lifted and divided regularly if they are to retain their size and vigour. Give them a cooler position in the garden (not the sunny borders) and plenty of humus-rich, friable soil without root competition from nearby plants.
• Most deciduous perennials will be looking sad and tired. Cut off the dying tops and compost them unless you have noticed that their seed heads are feeding the birds.
• You can plant garlic from now onwards. Don’t plant the cheap Chinese imported stuff – it is from the wrong hemisphere so out of its growing season and often carries viruses which will affect production badly. If you haven’t saved your own fresh garlic from the summer harvest, go and buy some proper New Zealand bulbs. The large cloves will give the best results – each clove should grow to form a bulb. There is a great deal of debate about spacing but if you keep to around 15cm apart and space the rows at 20cm you should be right. Full sun, good drainage and lots of feeding will help get a better crop.
• Sow broad beans.
• If you subscribe to Sky, make a point of watching the Living Channel at 5pm on Sunday afternoons. The British show how to make a really informative and interesting garden programme with BBC Gardeners’ World and what is more, this is actually hot off the production line and is the 2010 series (as opposed to being five years old!).