Dig it with Fulke Andel

Gardening advice for the new (and not so new) gardener

April, although nice and sunny, provided us with a number of late frosts. Thankfully I didn’t lose any of my tender plants, through the judicial use of newspaper ‘hats’ – to protect them overnight. Who’d have thought the art of origami would find a use in the garden! The cold weather should now be behind us, and we can look forward to a spurt of growth as the warm weather kicks in.

As ever, you need to continue to wage war on slugs and snails. They love tulips and delicacies such as the delicious young shoots of delphiniums and the like. So use pet-friendly slug pellets, drench the ground around Hostas with liquid slug killer to exterminate slugs below the surface, or invest in biological nematode control (this employs nematodes to deliver a slug-lethal bacterial infection) – all are available from your local garden centre. Keep an eye out for snails and pick them off…. what you do with them is up to you. Birds are your friends here – flat stones artfully located are useful accessories for birds to practise their snail bashing techniques.

Other unwelcome visitors on the move are lily beetles (bright red little darlings with black heads or their yellow larvae) and the black-spotted green caterpillars of the gooseberry sawfly. These can strip the leaves from your gooseberry bushes in hours. Squash them or spray with chemicals suited for this application. No room for being squeamish with this lot!

Plant out cannas and dahlias when danger of frost is past. Tubs can be planted up with summer bedding plants, borders towards the end of the month.

If you want to grow your own spring bedding for next year, many common choices (including wall-flowers, pansies, and Bellis perennis) need to be sown between now and July in order to flower next spring, as they are biennials. Winter bedding plants for the following winter can also be sown from now until July.

Divide clumps of herbaceous perennials that you want to propagate. Bamboos and clumps of bulbs or rhizomes can be divided in the same way. Cutting back clumps of spring-flowering perennials such as Pulmonaria and Doronicum can encourage a fresh flush of foliage.

Divide Primula (primroses) after flowering, planting them in a nursery bed until they are ready for planting out again in the autumn, for a display the following spring.

Divide hostas as they come into growth. Spreading and trailing plants such as the annual Lobularia (sweet alyssum), and the perennials Alyssum and Aubrieta, can become tatty and patchy. Trimming them back after flowering encourages fresh growth and new flowers.

Apply a liquid fertiliser to spring bulbs after they have flowered, to encourage good flowering next year, and help prevent daffodil blindness.

Allow the foliage of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs to die down naturally.


JOBS TO DO IN THE GARDEN FOR MAY

Sow/Plant

French Beans – Runner Beans – Beetroot – Broccoli and Calabrese – Cabbage and Cauliflowers – Chicory – KaleKohlrabi – Peas – Turnips and Swedes

You should sow your salad crops every few weeks to ensure continuity of supply:- Lettuce and leaves such as Rocket – Radishes – Spring Onions

Sow under cover

Sweetcorn – Courgette – Marrow – Pumpkin

Greenhouse / Poly-tunnel / windowsill

These now need to be planted into their final position (grow bags, pots or direct into the soil):- Aubergine – Peppers (Chilli and Sweet) – Cucumber – Tomatoes

Plant Out

Brussels sprouts – Summer cabbages – Celery – Celeriac – Leeks

Harvest

Asparagus – Broad Beans – Spring Cabbage – Carrots – Cauliflower – Chard / Perpetual Spinach – Early salad crops from the green-house border

Fruit

It’s mainly a matter of ensuring that you get the crops rather than the birds! A fruit cage is a big investment but very effective, otherwise use netting to keep the birds away.

Strawberries planted this year will perform better in subsequent years if you remove the flowers so they don’t set fruit in the first year but concentrate on building their strength for next.

General

Watch out for late frosts. Protect tender plants

Earth up potatoes, and promptly plant any still remaining

Plant out summer bedding at the end of the month

Collect rainwater and investigate ways to recycle water for irrigation

Regularly hoe off weeds

Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days

Mow lawns weekly

Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges

Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs

Watch out for viburnum beetle and lily beetle grubs

Readers Tips

If you have problems with local cats using your tubs (or your veg patch) as a toilet, you may be interested in this simple way to deter them. When you next go for a stroll in the countryside, take stout gloves and your secateurs. Cut lengths of brambles, stripping the leaves. Cut these to size and lay in criss/cross fashion in your tubs. The prickles will deter the cats and once they’re out of the habit of using your tubs, you can remove them. M.T. Southgate

Seasonal Recipe

Bright pink rhubarb is now finding its way into the shops and if you can find blueberries as well (sadly, likely to be imported at this time of year), then here’s a simple recipe for a stunning dessert. To serve 2 to 3 people you’ll need:- 240g of rhubarb stalks cut into short lengths, 200g of blueberries, 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Preheat your oven to 160 degree C (Gas mark 3). Put all the ingredients into an ovenproof glass or china dish. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, maybe a little longer until the fruit is soft and the juice is a deep pink. Serve warm or thoroughly chilled.


Garden Make-over – continuing with Fulke’s garden make-over for a friend

Virtually all the planting is now complete. A few plants are still awaiting a final decision on location – this isn’t unusual, as what looks good on a plan, can sometimes look totally wrong when you put the plants in location. Those awaiting confirmation of their new homes (Lavandula angustifolia Munstead, Camelia williamsii hybrid Tony Finlay’s Fragrant and Ilex aquafolium J.C. Van Tol) have all now been re-potted into larger pots to allow some more time for my friends to ruminate over their position, without impinging on their growth.

The vegetable patch (pic above) is finished, with broad beans and garlic already sown and showing good growth. Sweet peas have been moved into the vegetable garden, due to the poor soil – these are coming on nicely and should be in flower by the end of June. The runner beans will be grown in a cane wigwam, with 10 canes. So 5 seeds have been sown indoors in April, and will be planted out, once the danger of frost is over with. The remaining 5 seeds will be sown in the ground, once the first beans are halfway up the poles. This should give a good continuous supply for around 4 to 6 weeks.

The plan to remove all the pebbles from the remainder of the garden, has been postponed, again due to the poor soil. The likely approach here is to clear one area per year. Good luck with that!

The plant support (pic left) put in place for the Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) I thought was quite ingenious – it’s a recycled wrapping paper stand, salvaged from a book shop, and given a couple of coats of Hammerite. This will provide ample space for this vigorous plant to grow.

By the next update, I’m hoping to have some pictures showing the changes to the garden, since the start of the project.

 

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