Les’s Patch column

Les Foden.
Les Foden.

A gardener’s life can easily turn into a running battle with a squirrel.

Cute when performing his acrobatics on the fence but not so cute when he has one of the fat, juicy crocus bulbs in his mouth taken from your garden.

For this problem use the best squirrel deterrent there is – grated soap – the cheaper and smellier the better.

Squirrels hate the smell and will avoid it like the plague. Simply grate the soap and sprinkle over the surface of the soil where bulbs are planted. It may have to be reapplied after rain.

Why does this work? The main constituent of soap is stearic acid which produces an allergic reaction in our furry friend that is similar to hay fever.

It won’t hurt the squirrel but will ensure it stays away from the garden.

Best not to use the cheese grater from the kitchen for this task but purchase a cheap one to keep for this purpose.

To keep the pesky squirrel off the bird table simply cut the soap into cubes, make a hole through the middle of each cube and string together. Then hang this soap-on-a-rope from the table and the birds should be able to enjoy their lunch in peace.

Camellias are robust, rewarding shrubs for gardens on neutral to acid soil. Many parts of the country are ideal for growing camellias but if you live in a limestone or chalk area they are best grown in large tubs of ericaceous compost.

Camellias are rewarding, hardy garden plants with glossy foliage. The variety Donation is perhaps the most popular, not surprisingly, for its pink rose-like blooms.

Bridal Gown has exquisite, pearly white flowers, while Freedom Bell forms a small, dense bush of sultry, deep red.

Always have some garden fleece handy so that if frost is forecast camellia plants can be covered to keep them looking their best. If frost gets at camellia buds they turn brown and will not open.

Another good tip, especially for camellias grown in containers, between the end of August and into September, they must not be allowed to go short of water.

This is the crucial time when the plants are making their buds for flowering the following year.

If they go short of water at that time, at flowering time the buds will turn brown and either not open or fall off. Also during that time give the plants a feed of sulphate of potash to assist the production of the buds.

Tips

Lawns should have had a light cut in February and now into March they should be cut more frequently. A roller may be used once when the surface isn’t too wet. Towards the end of the month apply a lawn fertiliser. If worms are troublesome apply chlordane or mowrah meal.