Les’ Plot: Working on your plot is not an exact science

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The weather plays tricks on gardeners – we can have a hot spell, then a downpour, then a big drop in temperature.

The rain after a hot spell is fine for the plants but not the temperature change.

One example is tomato plants growing in a cold greenhouse.

As the temperature drops the leaves curl into a tight cluster which makes people think there is something wrong with the plant but there isn’t, it’s just the temperature difference.

Gardening is never a science, there is always something to give the gardener a problem.

A year or two ago blight suddenly appeared affecting potatoes and tomatoes and it is still with us.

Another problem that appears to be coming more of a menace is that fruitlets on pear trees are turning black and dropping off.

This is the work of the pear midge.

The pears that drop off will be black and distorted and if you cut one in half look for tiny white or yellow grubs.

The grubs and any fallen or distorted fruitlets should be gathered up and destroyed. This will break the life cycle of the midge which pupates in the soil under the tree.

At the nursery we used to have hens penned around the trees from April to June and they would pick up any of the midges and their maggots.

In my days at the nursery we didn’t have any chemical sprays but we used to turn out wonderful crops using all sorts of methods, like the hens, and they all worked.

We can’t all keep hens under our pear trees so just before the buds open next spring spray with Provado Ultimate Bug Killer.

Pear trees will be the first ready for summer pruning, when the new wood (stem) is mature and beginning to look at the base like wood rather than a soft green shoot, and over nine inches in length.

Cut back all mature laterals from the central stem to three leaves, counting from the basal cluster.

Cut back sub laterals (those emerging from existing laterals) to one leaf beyond the basal cluster.

Leave immature shoots until September.

Treat cordon apples in the same way only about a couple of weeks later. Do not cut back the central stem.

Bearded irises that have been undisturbed for three years or more will need to be lifted and split up.

Remove young, single rhizomes from the outside of the clump and cut the leaves back by half.

Replant firmly in well manured ground with the top of the rhizomes just above soil level.

When replanting arrange the foliage in the same direction so clumps don’t grow into each other.

Prune philadelphus and weigela shrubs by removing stems that have flowered to leave strong shoots from lower down.

Also remove dead, thin or weak shoots.

When wisterias are large enough keep them within bounds by cutting side shoots back to within about six leaves of the main stem.

Plenty of flowers in the garden are a living reward for work carried out earlier in the year.

Roses should now be at their peak.

Don’t be afraid to cut plenty for the house.

This is a form of summer pruning and will encourage a second flush of blooms later in the summer.

Cut each with a long stem making a sloping cut just above a leaf joint.

Soon a new flowering shoot will appear from this point and grow rapidly if rose fertiliser is applied.

In the same way most other flowers, like annuals, sweet peas, etc, will continue to flower profusely if faded blooms are removed to prevent seed forming.

Tie a folded-over, double thickness of sacking or corrugated paper around the trunk of apple and plum trees.

This will trap the caterpillars of codling moth and red plum maggot seeking hibernation quarters.