May 19 2013 Latest news:
Martyn Davey, Head of Horticulture and Design, Easton College
Thursday, June 21, 2012
The weather may not have been great for us - but it is good for the garden. This mix of sunshine and heavy showers gives plants just what they need to start growing well. Unfortunately the regular rainfall has encouraged the grass to grow prolifically as well and regular mowing is now essential. This week I have mown over the daffodils that have been naturalised in my lawn, the tops have died down and I anticipate the bulbs having built up a good store of food for a good display next year. Due to the bulbs being up and in the way of the fertiliser spreader earlier in the spring, I have also applied a feed and weed treatment to help green the grass up and control the weeds. It is worth treating all the lawn with a fertiliser such as lawn sand during June as this helps to ensure a good colour and maintain the health of the grass through the summer. Only apply granular fertilisers when rain is forecast, to wash it into the soil.
• The young new shoots of garden plants are so soft and sweet that they will attract aphids. The aphids seem to come from nowhere and reproduce at a rate of knots. The aphids are often helped by ants that farm them, if you see ants marching up and down your plants they are not eating aphids but they are looking after them and ensuring other insects don’t damage their source of food. The ants will introduce aphids to new plants and nurture them to harvest the honeydew secreted by the aphids. It is worth finding the ants’ nests and destroying them in the fight against the aphids. This has been compounded by the wet weather encouraging slugs and snails to breed. The secret is to just keep an eye out for the pest and deal with them as soon as you see them.
• The great British summer would not be complete without a huge bowl of strawberries and Cornish clotted cream, and Wimbledon on the telly. The best strawberries are always the ones you grow yourself; they have that extra special flavour. To ensure good fruit set the plants need plenty of water on a regular basis, particularly after flowering. Unless you are planning to propagate from the plants, remove runners as they develop, pinch them out close to the parent plant. The fruit should be kept off the soil, traditionally done by putting straw around the plants, but you could also use strawberry ‘mats’, landscape fabric or black plastic. Birds love strawberries too, so protect developing fruit with netting supported on sturdy posts. Newly-planted plants should not be allowed to crop in the first year – pinch out the flowers this is a labour of love and you will reap the reward next year with a stronger plant and better crops in future years.
• Now is the time to sow the seeds for next winter’s display. Spring flowering biennials, such as wallflower, forget-me-not, sweet william, and Canterbury bells should all be sown now outdoors in shallow drills in the nursery bed, (a quiet corner of the veg plot will do). You could also try sowing them in moist compost in cell trays, sowing two or three seeds in each cell, place the tray in a garden frame until they germinate, then thin the seedlings back to one seedling per cell, for planting out in the autumn.