The low tech slug bait station
- The official start of spring may be another month away but gardeners know that it really starts earlier than that and we can expect significant warming of temperatures in August. This means the pressure is mounting to finish winter pruning. You really do want it done before September and time will run out all too soon. This refers to the usual candidates: grapevines, raspberries, apple and pear trees, hydrangeas, roses, wisteria, hybrid clematis, sasanqua camellias, rhododendrons and most deciduous plants.
- As you complete the winter clean-up round, it is the optimum time for getting fertiliser and mulch laid. Plants will leap into growth soon and that is the time when you see maximum uptake of fertiliser. Laying a good layer of mulch will greatly reduce the spring weed infestation if you do it properly (covering the whole area to a depth of 4 to 6cm). In areas prone to drying out over summer, the mulch layer will conserve moisture levels.
- September will signal the start of the busy planting time for summer vegetable crops. If you were good and sowed down bare areas in autumn green crops, you should be starting to think about digging these in. We are still cold and you need to allow six weeks for the crop to break down in the ground before you start planting again. This means you can be using the ground about mid September.
- If you have already sown early potatoes, keep mounding up the soil around the shoots as they grow (commonly referred to as earthing up). This helps the soil to warm up faster, encouraging more growth, kills the weeds and gives some measure of frost protection to the tender shoots. Early potatoes need every helping hand you can give them and particularly to be given protection from frosts (which means you can’t plant them inland yet).
- Keep an eye on slug and snail attacks on emerging bulbs. I found a treasured spring crocus which I don’t think was meant to have frilled edges to each bloom. Don’t broadcast slug bait like fertiliser. One bait can kill many. Our practice is to establish little bait stations where necessary – a screw top lid from a milk container with a couple of baits and a large shell semi covering it. The shell looks unobtrusive and keeps the bait dry while allowing the varmints in to feed. Don’t forget that slug bait has an attractant in it so you don’t need to carpet the ground so thickly that they trip over the stuff.
- Heavy lichen infestations on plants can be unsightly but rarely poses a threat to plant health. Lichen growth is an indication of very pure air (lichens are one of the first organisms to succumb to pollution). If it worries you, you can do a clean-up spray with copper or lime sulphur. If you are using the latter, keep it to deciduous plants in winter and cover any plants below with a tarpaulin so that they do not get damaged or killed.