Les’s Patch column

Les Foden.
Les Foden.

As I write this the wind is blowing and the rain is lashing down which is putting the planting and sowing of vegetables on hold because, as I have said before, working on the soil when it is very wet does more harm than good.

The ones we have planted at the college are doing well as, after planting, they were given some protection against the wind, and this will stay in place for quite a while. Vegetable plants certainly do better at this time of year if wind protected.

At college we have sown broad beans, peas, lettuce and potatoes. Once the first batch gets cracking we will sow another batch to ensure a continuity of fresh vegetables.

It will soon be time to prune certain shrubs. The first is forsythia. Its bright yellow flowers on bare stems are a beautiful sight in spring. The plants need pruning immediately after flowering because, if pruned in winter buds that are due to flower in the spring will be removed.

Remove the oldest stems to ground level to encourage new stems. As a general rule don’t remove more than one third of the older growth. Cut back newer flowering stems to a node which will keep the plant compact. Any dead wood should be removed.

Ribes (ornamental currant) need the shoots that have flowered cutting back after flowering. Cut out any old or unproductive wood.

Remove old and weak branches from potentilla now.

One of the nicest shrubs is photinia with its red shoots appearing throughout the year. Cut back the new growth once it has lost its red colour and new red growth will soon appear.

Cut back unwanted growth this month on mahonia. Ilex (holly), both hedge and specimen shrubs, should be trimmed in spring. Another striking shrub is hypericum (St John’s Wort) and the calycinum variety should be cut to ground level but the taller varieties require less drastic action with the top growth cut back by one third.

I don’t apologise for again mentioning the dangers of garden ponds when there are small children around.

With good weather we will all be spending a lot more time out in the garden and accidents do happen, so get some protection to keep the pond area safe for everyone.

Keep an eye on primulas. Any yellowing leaves should be removed as soon as they appear or the whole plant will be affected.

Also remove dead flowers including the whole stem to avoid rot setting in.

There is a new non-chemical, organic weapon against the carrot root fly which comes in the form of a rove beetle, atheta coriaria.

This is a fast moving predator that feeds on carrot root fly larvae, small cut worm larvae and sciarid flies.