- The distinct cooling of temperatures this week and intermittent rain has me fearing that summer may beat an all too early retreat after a late arrival. Mark delights in pointing out that technically we have under two weeks of summer remaining because March officially signals the onset of autumn. But generally we can look forward to settled, summery weather until April.
- If you have been tempted into buying anemones and ranunculus, remember to plant the former pointy side down and the latter with the claws down. The advice from Aorangi Bulbs is to place the bulbs in a paper bag (not plastic) and refrigerate for a few weeks – six weeks for anemones and four weeks for ranunculus. Then soak them overnight in tepid water before planting. The refrigeration is to simulate the winter chill so that they spring into growth with the warm water. If you have bulk-bought bulbs (and some are ridiculously cheap in quantity), staggering the planting over several weeks is likely to extend the flowering season this year. The chilling process is called stratification.
- Unless you are willing to refrigerate your hyacinth bulbs every year, you need to treat them as annuals in our climate. Bulbs purchased this year have already set their flowers so you will get one season of lovely blooms. But they need a winter chill to trigger them each year and few gardeners in our area will have sufficiently cold conditions to have them continuing to flower year after year. By no means all bulbs need that winter chill, but hyacinths and many tulips do.
- The rains this week will trigger winter and autumn flowering bulbs to break dormancy so you are running out of time for lifting and dividing congested clumps.
- The rains and mild temperatures will also see an explosion of fungal disease in vulnerable plants. Dig main crop potatoes as soon as it appears they are ready, to avoid losing them to blight. You may have to get a spray applied for mildew on crops such as grapes, tomatoes and cucurbits. If you don’t want to use proprietary sprays or copper, you could try baking soda – a level teaspoon to a litre of water.
- If you have been seduced by the current fashion for growing vegetables in raised beds (ideal for over 70s, those with bad backs or otherly abled but otherwise over-rated in our area with wonderful friable soils and drainage) don’t fill the beds to the top. If you do, you can’t dig the soil without much of it spilling over the edge which makes a mess of the surrounding paths. Nor can you keep adding compost and humus to enrich the soils unless you dig the level lower each time and barrow away the excess.