In the Garden: July 23, 2010

The cloche, not as Spike the dog briefly thought, a dog agility tunnel

The cloche, not as Spike the dog briefly thought, a dog agility tunnel

• In response to the many search engine terms I see coming through on line most days, if your buxus (box) hedge is looking brown and the leaves have fallen off, it is dead. If it is still in the mid stage with extensive browning and many areas with no leaves, it is dying. In the vast majority of cases, the problem is buxus blight. It can be treated in its early stages by repeated spraying but you will have to continue spraying because it is a fungus that does not go away. There is no point in replacing the dead sections with more buxus because they will just get infected too. That is it in a nutshell.
• It is time to address problems with lawns. If you insist on using hormone sprays (and some common lawn sprays are hormone based), get it on straight away. If you delay too long, you risk causing severe damage to deciduous plants just breaking dormancy. It doesn’t matter how careful you are – spray drifts invisibly and the slightest whiff can damage other plants at critical times. Our next Outdoor Classroom topic will be on renovating a tired lawn but often all lawns need is a minor bit of attention. Fill hollows and dips with top soil, over sow bare patches, dig out flat weeds, use a garden fork to lift compacted and solid soils.
• Mark is particularly brassed off at the sparrows which have destroyed his freshly germinating peas. He is constructing a moveable frame from split giant bamboo to be covered in netting in an attempt to beat the critters.
• A cloche in the vegetable garden is particularly valuable at this time of the year to protect young crops. Our microgreens are doing very well under cover, though Spike the dog had a brief time when he found the ends unsecured and thought that the cloche resembled an agility tunnel.
• The advice for the ornamental garden is the same as it has been for weeks on end – prune. Time will start to run out for heavy pruning soon. You want it all done before the plants start their spring spurt. Then dig and divide overgrown clumping perennials.
• Onions can be sown now. These are generally done from seed (except for shallots which are grown from segments). Onions are gross feeders and the usual rule of thumb is to plant them where you had a green leafy crop which was heavily fertilised last summer. Where space is limited, any onion types other than spring onions or shallots are probably a low priority because they are cheap to buy and widely available. However commercial onions are usually one of the more heavily sprayed crops so if you are shunning sprays, you may like to give them space at home. Red onions are easy to grow but have a shorter storage life.
• It is time to prune grapevines. We covered this in Outdoor Classroom last year.