In the Garden: February 11, 2011

• My optometrist tells me that the most common cause of embedded foreign objects in eyes he sees is… gardening. He mentioned this as he fished out what he thought was part of a seed head well stuck to the cornea of one eye. As I couldn’t spot anything wrong, I had thought I must have an eye infection and was rather slow off the mark to seek help, during which time the condition of the eye deteriorated rapidly. I just mention this so readers know to be less stoical and faster to seek treatment should they experience escalating eye problems after being in the garden.

• Bearded irises can be lifted and divided now. These spring flowering beauties need attention every three years or so and we did an Outdoor Classroom on the topic last year which you can find on this site (type “dividing bearded irises” in the search box on the right of the page). In summary, discard mushy or old sections of the tubers, trim off the roots from the sections you are saving, chop off two thirds of the foliage and replant to a shallow depth in light, friable soil in full sun.

• Bulbs are arriving in garden centres so keep an eye out. Anything choice or unusual is likely to disappear quickly.

• If you planned to lift and divide daffodils in your garden or lawn, do it now because they will start putting on fresh, white root soon. The same goes for bluebells which are early starters.

• Pinch back rampant runners on cucumbers, melons, courgettes, pumpkins and other vegetables that grow in the same way. You want the plant to concentrate its energies on ripening its crop rather than making a run for the neighbour’s place. The tips are delicious when young and tender – steam them lightly.

• The recent wet and humid weather means there will be an explosion of fungal ailments in both the vegetable and ornamental gardens. These often show as a white powder over the leaves. It is a fact of life in our climate. You can be out there spraying your cucurbits every week if you want to but we just live with it. Thin the foliage to allow as much light and air movement as you can but don’t spread the diseased foliage through the garden or compost heap, unless you make a hot mix. You either have to bury it or put it out in the rubbish.

• I was going to do the next Outdoor Classroom on making cold compost (by far the most common for home gardeners) but dealing to wasp nests is more timely so we will return to the final instalment on compost a little later.