Best to wait a little while before planting

Les Foden.
Les Foden.

At this time of year be careful what jobs you undertake in the garden.

I know gardeners are eager to plant out, after what seems like an age, but it’s best to wait a little yet. The weather is very changeable, going from warm to cold, so just imagine if you had planted some of the tender plants they wouldn’t have stood a chance of surviving.

I always say that if the weather suddenly goes cold we can put on a coat, but plants can’t.

One job that does need doing is to give the strawberry bed attention so as to produce as much fruit as possible. The plants need a pick-me-up.

This is applied to the surface and lightly hoed in but take care not to cut into the roots as these are in the top six inches of the soil.

Mix your own using four parts of super phosphates, three parts of sulphate of potash and one part sulphate of ammonia. Use half an ounce per square yard. After hoeing this in, apply a light mulch of rotted manure or compost over the same area.

Mildew often affects strawberries and it is better to prevent it rather than try to cure it. Dust the leaves with flowers of sulphur, especially the undersides – a puffer is very useful for this job.

Another problem for strawberries is the seed beetle. Sink jam jars into the soil up to the rims dotted along the row. Place a small piece of meat in each and this bait attracts the beetles. Once they fall into the jars they can be destroyed.

A little later you will need to place some suitable material around each plant for the fruit to rest on. Straw is good for this as it stops the fruit from rotting and keeps it clean. Cover strawberry plants with netting, raised above the plants to keep the birds off. This needs to be done as soon as the flowers appear. Don’t cover the strawberry plants with cloches to keep the birds off because this keeps out bees and other insects that fertilise the flowers.


Give wall trained fruit trees a thorough soaking with water and apply a generous manure mulch.

Don’t plant outdoor tomatoes until the first week in June. The best place for a row of plants is on the sunny side of a wall and ideally south facing.

Make sure to use a variety that is suitable for outdoor culture – Eurocross and Outdoor Girl are good for this area because they ripen 10 days earlier than others. Nip the growing tip out once three trusses of flowers are on each plant and don’t use tomato fertiliser until the first truss of fruit has set.

Cordon grown fruits depend on the system of summer pruning. Stop the laterals when they have grown about five leaves and in winter prune back to one or two buds. Don’t summer prune the leading shoot but cut it back half way in winter.