Les’s Patch column

Les Foden.
Les Foden.

If you are lucky enough to be moving into a newly built house, whilst the interior will be perfect you could face problems with the garden when you get round to making plans for the exterior.

When a house is being built the garden soil can get badly compacted by heavy machinery and builders’ boots.

Unfortunately all sorts of rubbish may have been trampled into the ground as well.

Sometimes the soil is bulldozed to one side at some point in the build and then not re-spread evenly.

Looking at building sites, whilst the work is ongoing the area around each house will have a solid pan of clay-like soil.

Then when each house is finished a few inches of top soil will be placed on top of the solid ground.

This may give the illusion that there won’t be much work to do in the garden, but there could be problems due to lack of drainage, leaving the top soil continually wet causing plants to struggle.

There is only one way out of this problem and that is to double dig, a tremendous task because of the underlying solid mass and any rubble left behind.

When dealing with a new garden resist the desire to plant hedges or put up fencing immediately, no matter how windy or short on privacy the garden may be.

Think carefully about the choice of hedging material to suit the size of garden, the soil and the situation. Bear in mind the problems very fast growing tall hedges may cause in a small garden.

Extra work keeping them within bounds, excessive shade and borders made too dry by vigorous hedge roots.

Hedges are important and to ensure a healthy and fast growing one soil conditions need to be right.

Plant a hedge into poor, unimproved soil and you will have years of frustration, with slow, sickly growth and patchy screening due to plant loss.

Do the job properly.

Dig a trench and break up the sub-soil in the base to ensure good drainage, then fill in with soil enriched with peat or compost and compound fertiliser.

This should provide good growing conditions.

Blight is a devastating disease which attacks potatoes and tomatoes.

Trials have again proved that the potato varieties Sarpo are resistant to blight.

There are three varieties at the moment – S Mira, S Axona and S Shona, but more are on the way.

As for tomatoes outdoor varieties are more vulnerable.

Two varieties that did show blight attack, but later in the growing season so some crop was available, were Lossetto and Lizzano.

One way around this problem is to grow early varieties such as Red Alert or Tumbler so you get to pick the crop before the blight strikes which is usually in late summer.