Les’s Patch: Have a tidy up to keep plot blooming

Les Foden.
Les Foden.

Although the summer bedding plants have had a long season this year, while it may seem a shame to dig them up if they are still blooming this job has to be done to ensure a continuity of the garden’s season.

Spring bulbs should have been planted by now with one exception, tulips, which can be planted over the next couple of weeks.

Keep picking up the falling leaves. Whilst this will stop them becoming a problem by causing slipping, if they are left to fall and settle on plants they will start the process of fungus and rotting.

If there are primulas in the garden keep an eye on the leaves. If any black or brown spots appear or any yellowing of the leaves occurs they must be removed or the disease will quickly spread to the whole plant. It is a fungus and is a menace during damp conditions.

On the subject of plant propagation, layering is one of nature’s own methods of plant reproduction.

In a natural state shrubs that grow long, arching branches, such as the blackberry, layer themselves. Where the tip of the arching branches tough the ground roots will form.

This happens with some herbaceous plants, such as the strawberry which sends out runners and at the top of the runners roots form.

In each case the roots form whilst the stem is attached to the old plant, so each young plant can draw for a time on the food supply of the old plant.

So when there are shy rooters this method solves the problem.

Side stems of carnations and long stems of various shrubs such as rhododendrons and forsythia are bent down to soil level (or more convenient, a pot of soil is raised to the level of the stem) and a slight cut is made in the stem.

This cut portion is then bent down under the soil surface with a little sand mixed in, and fastened down in position with a peg.

When the roots have formed the stem dividing the two plants is cut through and as soon as possible the new plant is moved to a permanent position. A guide to taking cuttings is that hard wood cuttings are best taken in the open in autumn when rain is probable and no leaf growth is expected for some time. This allows the cuttings to make roots during the dormant season.

Soft cuttings of new growth can be taken under glass at any season, just when such growths are available on the plant in question.

Tips

Now is a good time to plant a winter hanging basket using herbs, pansies, violas, primulas and a miniature conifer to add a little height. You could also purchase young plants of evergreen shrubs which again will add a little height to a basket. Although be careful with the watering of winter baskets, if they get too wet the roots are likely to rot.

Geraniums make excellent plants for a balcony or conservatory because they appreciate rather dry soil and not too much fertiliser.

Many of you will be thinking of growing some vegetables in containers next year and it is always best to use good compost for this purpose. Using garden soil can give many problems because unless it is sterilised there will be pests and diseases within it.

Not only do rhubarb leaves help to trap snails they also ward off pests from the cabbage family. Lay a carpet of rhubarb leaves under growing cabbage plants, or steep rhubarb leaves in water and pour the brew on the plants and soil.

Shortening days and falling temperatures bring many attractive changes in the colour of the landscape. Fallen leaves should be swept up and added to the compost heap with plant refuse such as old bean and pea haulms, carrot and beetroot tops, cabbage and lettuce leaves.

It is time to take the last of the half-hardy plants under cover.

Spray peaches and nectarines at leaf fall with a copper fungicide against leaf curl. Apple trees showing signs of canker also need a copper spray before leaf fall.

Many popular herbaceous perennials can be divided but if the ground is heavy it’s better to wait until early spring. These include delphiniums, iris, lychnis, aquilegia, phlox and shasta daisy.

The real beauty in the borders, lobelia cardinalis, can be divided but must be kept in pots in the warmth over winter.