In the Garden this week: May 14, 2010

Gather up the pumpkins and their relations before the bad weather hits

• No doubt the weather statistics will confirm in due course, but this autumn seems to be notable for the extended spell of calm, sunny, dry weather. It will run out soon and we will be complaining about damp, bleak and cold days so make the most of the mild conditions while they last.
• If you wish to use sprays on your lawn to kill out flat weeds and invasive competitors, it is much safer to surrounding plants to apply in autumn. Most lawn sprays are hormone based and designed to leave the grasses while targeting unwanted plants. Hormone sprays are particularly damaging to vulnerable plants which can be affected by even the slightest of spray drift. Always use on a dead calm day. Deciduous plants coming into growth in spring can get hit very hard by a mere whiff (magnolias and kiwifruit in particular) so applying these sprays in autumn can be an extra safeguard and still effective.
• While on lawns, if you wish to fertilise yours, watch the weather forecast and always apply just as the rain is about to start to avoid burning the grass. Don’t be heavy handed – keep to the recommended application rate. If you use a mulcher mower, you don’t need to feed the lawn to keep it lush and green because you are constantly returning the goodness in the clippings.
• If you have any nut trees and have yet to gather the autumn harvest, the rats will likely be beating you to them. It doesn’t pay to delay picking them up. As a general rule, nuts need to be dried in a warm, airy position for a few weeks before being stored or used. The personal nut favourite here is the enormous walnut we grow (nice and easy to shell) but it is not a heavy cropper.

Each walnut is large but the entire crop this year was not a great deal more than this

• Lift the last of the season’s potato crops to avoid damage from insect pests and blight. Gather up your pumpkins before the weather turns cold and wet. Likewise, keep your compost covered to keep it warm and dry. We use heavy black plastic for this.
• Sow down bare areas of the veg garden in a green crop. Lupins are a good winter option and have the added bonus of fixing nitrogen in the soils.
• If you haven’t renovated your strawberries, get onto it straight away because these are spring croppers and they need to get re-established while conditions are still mild. You can split the clumps if they are a clumping type or replanting the runners and discarding the old crown is the usual method. Replant them in well dug, friable, rich conditions in full sun.
• The early spring bulbs are all coming through the ground. Watch where you put your feet and be cautious with weed spraying and push-hoeing.