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Notes from the Garden Shed

June Notes

Spring is often referred to as ‘blossom time’ which is true, as most trees and shrubs produce their flowers at this time of the year, in an attempt to attract the insects needed to allow pollination to take place.

Blossom time in this area seems to invite cold winds and rain, just at the most unwelcome time of the year, this is reflected by the poor fruit crops often found on apple and plum trees in our gardens.

Orchards of fruiting trees produce a beautiful sight when in full bloom and of course a delightful scent on a warm still evening, but surely the most spectacular sight must be the magnificent Japanese cherry trees, which have graced our gardens for the past century.

There are a very wide range of cherry trees or ‘prunus’ to give them their proper name, trees of varying habit, size and flower colour to satisfy most gardeners, and of course there are also many fruiting types as well.

The flowering type most often seen is the strikingly beautiful Prunus Hisakhura which is clothed in pale pink blossom in early spring. Sadly this is short lived and petal fall leaves the ground covered in pink ‘confetti’.

The wild cherry (Prunus Avium) is seen growing in hedgerows and certain woodlands, this valuable timber tree produces small white flowers, and is not nearly as striking as some of its cultivated cousins. Another cherry for the larger garden is the ‘bird cherry’ (Prunus Padus). This is an upright growing tree which produces bunches of small white blossom in early spring.

For the small garden, the compact upright growing cherry (Prunus Ama-Na-Gawa) is ideal as it has a neat habit and masses of pink flowers, without becoming too large for the average garden.

Weeping cherries are popular; if you have a larger garden you could try ‘Cheals weeping’ which produces double pink blooms in late spring. If space is not a problem there is nothing more striking than Prunus ‘Taihaku’ in full bloom, this wonderful tree also known as the ‘Great white cherry’ is surely without equal in a large garden or public park.

I have recently planted a Prunus ‘Autumnalis’ which is unusual in the fact that it starts flowering during the winter , in mild spells and continues in the early spring.

There are literally dozens of other varieties available from specialist Nurseries. It is worth doing some research before making your final choice of a tree as it will be growing with you for many years to come.

Happy gardening and blossom watching

Old Gumboot.

March Notes

February has certainly lived up to its traditional title, ‘February Fill-dyke’ and has left our stream and ditches flowing well. March winds are now blowing strongly, but they are not drying the ground adequately to allow progress to be made in the vegetable garden. With a bit of luck things will improve before Easter. When the days lengthen and the temperature rises, it will be worth starting off the new growing season in the vegetable plot. Onion sets and shallots are usually the first subjects to plant out. These should be ready for harvesting by late summer.

Seed potatoes should be sprouting well by now in their‘ chitting trays’ in a frost free place and be ready for planting out soon. Traditionally, early potatoes were planted on Good Friday every year. Harvesting would then commence 12 ~ 14 weeks later in an average season.

Smaller seeds can be sown when the soil warms up a bit more; early carrots, beetroot, broad beans, spring onions etc. may be sown outdoors. The greenhouse is really useful at this time of the year. Apart from being a‘bolthole’ for the gardener, the protection provided allows the sowing of more tender vegetables such as tomatoes, French beans and, of course, all the salad crops. With the annual ‘Garden Competition’ being held again this year, why not raise some of your own plants from seed this year to enhance your front garden display of summer bedding. Try some dwarf African type marigolds. These are easy to grow and give a dazzling display with large yellow/orange blooms above neat foliage, giving more impact than the smaller French marigold family. Cosmos are also easy to grow and are a very showy plant that will give a bit more height to a bed or container. ‘Sonata’ is probably the best strain to choose as they do not get too tall, therefore they do not suffer too much wind damage. If you wait a few weeks for the warmer weather, you will find a wide range of annual bedding plants available from your local garden shop or nursery. Plants chosen should not be in full flower when you buy them. Far better to buy them while they are still in bud as they will establish themselves more quickly and ultimately make better plants. Feeding your annual display is vital if you want them to last all season.

If you are planting in a multi-purpose compost, it is simple to add some ‘slow release’ fertiliser prior to planting or mix in some ‘fish blood and bone fertiliser if you do not like chemical fertilisers.

Water newly planted plants thoroughly and of course, keep them watered through the season. The lawn has probably had a tough time during the winter with heavy rain washing away some of the nutrients which will encourage the growth of moss. A good scarifying or raking with a spring rake will help to remove some moss and the build up of old grasses that form a ‘thatch’. This will enable the grass to ‘breathe. Apply a lawn fertiliser to encourage grass growth, which in theory helps to stifle moss growth as moss hates nitrogen fertiliser.

Mowing too closely is not a good idea early in the season, it is far better to gradually mow closer in stages. Spiking or hollow thinning the lawn will help drainage which will also help to discourage moss, but in our local climate it is difficult to combat the moss problem due to the high level of rainfall and humidity.

When you have completed all those tasks, and think that you have finished work for the spring, I am sorry to say that is when the weeding job starts, along with dozens of other tasks, so I am afraid you will have to wait a little longer before you can relax with that refreshing drink!

Happy gardening.

Old Gumboot