In the Garden: February 18, 2010

Rather too high a ratio of barely edible pumpkin to seed yield

Rather too high a ratio of barely edible pumpkin to seed yield


· Do not delay on summer pruning cherry trees as time is running out.

· Get on to planting the winter vegetables too. They need the rest of summer and all of autumn to grow because once the winter cold comes, they stop growing though they will hold in the garden so you can harvest fresh each day. Fresh veg are usually much more expensive to buy in winter and spring rather than the bountiful summer and autumn so it makes economic sense to grow your own, even aside from the pleasure and satisfaction of gathering your own produce. So get the parsnips, carrots, peas, Florence fennel, beetroot and brassicas in. The turnip family too, if you regard them as suitable food for humans.

· We have been trying out growing pumpkin for seed this year – a variety that has no hulls so needs no separation. It is an oil-seed variety. Certainly the fresh pumpkin seed is delicious but based on the first gathering, it appears that you would need a very large area to attain self sufficiency in pumpkin seeds. And alas, the pumpkin flesh itself is of no merit. If you were starving, it might be okay to eat but it is nearly as bland as marrow.

· We have been a little slow on the uptake revisiting beetroot here but, as many others have discovered, when picked young and tender (about golf ball size), they are delicious cooked in a variety of ways but especially roasted. Beetroot can be sown from seed pretty much all year.

· Rocket and mesclun bolt to seed in summer but with cooler weather just around the corner, it is fine to return to sowing these crops from seed.

· If you have been intending to spray your rhododendrons for thrips (the cause of irrevocably silver leaves and a weaker plant), now is the time. You need to use a systemic insecticide so the plant sucks it into its system. Contact insecticide only kills where it touches and as the offenders are on the undersides of the leaf, you can’t get total coverage. The alternative is bands of old carpet or similar soaked in neem oil and secured around the main trunk. This approach seems to be getting good reports though we have yet to get around to trying it ourselves. Soaking a band in Confidor or similar insecticide will also work but wear gloves when handling it.

A handy implement for dealing to lawn weeds

A handy implement for dealing to lawn weeds

· Autumn is an optimum time for sowing or over sowing grass so if your lawn is looking very sad, you can start preparing it now for resowing in a few weeks time. Getting out the flat weeds is a good start. You can either dig them out (I have a very handy tool for this), sprinkle them with sulphate of ammonia or use a designated lawn spray. Don’t feed your lawn at this time. We are too dry and it is more likely to kill the remaining grass instead.