Journal of a rose gardener 26-01-17
As the growing season fast approaches it’s now time, if you haven’t already done so, to get a few jobs done in the garden and tend to the wild visitors…
You can now cut back your perennials that were left standing over winter, as the birds have collected all they can from the seed heads by now. The same goes for any deciduous grasses. Do this now before the new shoots start to appear.
Enrich your beds and borders with well-rotted farm yard manure. A good couple of inches will suppress any weeds and give good moisture retention as the weather warms up (which feels like a lifetime away!) Not only that but it’s a good quick fix to give the garden a neat appearance.
Apple and pear trees can now be pruned to shape and to open out the centre of the tree. This will allow good airflow to the centre of the tree.
Further guidance can be found in "The Fruit Expert" by Dr. Hessayon, available to purchase in the Garden Centre Shop.
Autumn fruiting raspberries can be cut right to the ground as, unlike summer varieties, they will fruit on this season’s growth. Summer flowering raspberries fill fruit on the previous season’s new growth, so just cut out any old looking stems from the base leaving the fresh green stems to fruit.
Whilst on the subject of fruit, why not try forcing some rhubarb for an early treat! Use a traditional rhubarb forcer or an inverted pot will do the same job. The trick is to block out all the light so that the stems strain upwards seeking the light. This in turn will also blanch the stems making them sweet and tender. Pick the stems when they are 20-30cm, but this should only be done with established crowns. If you try this with newly planted rhubarb you will exhaust the plant. Start getting your vegetable gardening going.
It’s not too late to plant garlic and if you get them in now, you will have a taste of the Mediterranean come the summertime! Place your seed potatoes in an old egg box to start them into growth. This is called chitting. The aim is to get short green growths from the eyes of the potato, which can be done by placing them in a light frost free place. If the growth is leggy, move to a brighter spot. They should be ready to plant by March. If you have a greenhouse or cold frame you can sow salad leaves which will be ready for cropping as baby leaves in no time.
A job that I have been busy doing in my own garden is what I call “the hermit crab shuffle”. Moving plants from one pot to the next. Giving them a new home in the next size up whilst removing the top couple of inches of compost and replacing with fresh. This task is also a good opportunity to give them a trim, tidy up or re-shape. Keep an eye out for vine weevil grubs. Treat with a systemic pesticide if found. These little grubs will nibble away at roots causing the plant to wilt and eventually die.
This time of year can be particularly hard going for our feathered friends as they start to exhaust their natural food stocks. Think about installing a bird table or even a plate on a garden table will suffice in a fix. Keep the food topped up as the birds will come to rely on this larder and will even visit on schedule as they become accustomed to the time that you feed them. Much enjoyment can be had from watching the birds tussle for a turn at the table. At this time of year, high fat foods are what they’re looking for. Fat balls, suet and peanuts are perfect. Robins and Blackbirds are particularly partial to mealworms which can be strewn across the lawn for them to forage. Ensure that your bird bath is unfrozen for them to have a drink with their meal.
When all your work is done (if you have any energy left) why not take a walk in the woods on the hunt for snowdrops? The first ones are beginning to appear now, a comforting sign that spring is not too far away!