Well this is it. There are usually good chances to garden at some point during the Six Nations and this is the first. Not too cold, dry all week, even sunshine at times.(in my part of Derbyshire anyway). Get out there and clear up the borders, edge those paths and lawns and see what is starting to sprout. Most importantly on this note, Don’t Panic! If you think your favourite plants still look dead, I’m sure that if you look hard enough you will see signs of life coming back. If not, it is still early and some plants are wisely still asleep so hold back on ripping things out and doom and gloom for now.
First things first then, the threats facing gardeners for this year. When I was little if we had a good summer, the odds were we wouldn’t get another one for a fair few years. With climate change I’m not so sure I would bank on this summer being wetter than the last. Did you make note of what did well in your garden in the heat and drought of 2018? Do you remember what suffered badly? One of the most important ways to make our gardens help the environment is to fill them with plants that can tolerate the conditions without added help. Make a list now of plants that did well, in case you have gaps, those plants may be the ones to fill them with.
Secondly, make sure you get on top of the weeds this week whilst the soil is as dry as it can be in February. Anything we can do to reduce our use of weed killers and pesticides in the garden will benefit the environment.
Thirdly, Did you see the article in the news this week about the shocking decline in insect numbers? Whilst I agree the problems are caused by a range of deforestation, climate change and overuse of pesticides anything we as gardeners can do to help by planting insect friendly plants, focusing on single flowers and the blue and purple colour spectrum will help a little
Other threats lurking on our borders, Xylella and Asian or Citrus Longhorn Beetle mean we have a massive responsibility as gardeners to Think Before We Buy. Plants are available all over the internet these days. If they are not imported through the proper channels, they may not have been screened, they won’t be traceable and they may bring pests and diseases in to this country that can devastate our landscape for generations to come. photo copyright to https://cisr.ucr.edu/asian_beetle.html
I also want to mention Hazel woven panel fencing. This too is available now on the internet to be ordered from China at a fraction of the cost a local supplier such as Underwood Crafts can create panels. Panels created from Hazel and Willow grown locally are a much safer bet than ones imported. I know someone who tried this, they had all the panels impounded and sent back due to beetle infestations.
Gardening is hard enough battling Green fly, vine weevils and drought without more trouble being added to the list for the sake of saving a few pounds. Please let’s show we have learned something from the mistakes of the Victorian plant hunters who left us with Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam.
Sweet Chestnut, Castenea sativa, are being threatened in the south of England now by an Oriental Gall Wasp and by Chestnut Blight. The wasp whilst not killing the tree, will affect the leaves and can cause them to drop early. The galls will certainly reduce the ability of the leaf to photosynthesize so it will lose some of its vigour and will look unsightly.
The important thing is to get a correct diagnosis before anyone suggests to you removing the tree as there seems to be some confusion over the result of a wasp attack which the tree should survive. Unfortunately, the same is not true if the tree is infected with Chestnut blight. Girdling cankers may develop causing whole branches to lose their leaves and yellow-reddish brown pustules will appear on the trunk. A mature tree may take several years to die but it will not recover. Let’s make sure we only take trees out for the right reason so look closely. Both problems are still notifiable so check out the RHS pest and Diseases pages to find out more info if you suspect a problem. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=761
Besides clearing and weeding this week, prune your buddleja. Make sure you cover some of your rhubarb to force it and if you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse or cold frame, sow a couple of rows of early salad leaves, along with your other seed sowing this week . They will be done by the time you need the space in the greenhouse and will provide you with your first leaves of the season.
Just before I leave you to get out and garden,
The Harry Chapin lyrics came to my head this week with all the Valentines flowers around,
“Flowers are red young man and green leaves are green,
There’s no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen.”
But more on this next week. Happy days in the Garden x