Les’s Patch column

Les Foden.
Les Foden.
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With winter fast approaching it is important to finish planting tulips, hyacinths and other spring bulbs before soil conditions deteriorate, and there is still time to plant lilies.

As long as the ground is not waterlogged continue to plant trees, shrubs and roses.

This is also a good time to plant trees and shrubs in tubs to brighten a patio or hide a manhole cover.

Use a six inch layer of gravel to cover the drainage holes in the bottom of the container and plant firmly into a mixture of good soil, peat and sharp sand, adding two ounces of blood, fish and bone per bucket of compost used.

Remove supporting stakes from herbaceous plants and cut the dead or dying stems of plants like Michaelmas daisies or phlox to within four inches of the soil level.

Scatter Growmore at three ounces per square yard between the plants and carefully fork this into the soil removing weeds at the same time.

In most areas outdoor flowering chrysanthemums can be cut back and treated like other herbaceous plants, but if you have a frame it is better to lift the stools, place them on the floor of the frame close together and scatter soil between the roots leaving the crowns well exposed.

Also, two or three times during the winter, scatter around some slug pellets.

No heat is needed and winter losses will be minimal. In spring the plants will produce a plentiful supply of cuttings.

In the rock garden Alpines will stand any amount of cold but dampness will kill them.

Remove all fallen leaves that land on the rock garden and cover choice plants, especially those with woolly leaves, with a sheet of glass supported at the corners with pegs.

Prune bush apples and pears once leaves have fallen. The first pruning is given immediately after planting.

Until a tree is four years old pruning is fairly drastic to encourage the development of sturdy, well placed branches. Aim at a goblet shaped tree.

The first year cut back each branch by two thirds and the next year or two by half, always to an outward facing bud.

Once an apple or pear tree is four years old prune very lightly.

Remove any dead wood and any crossing or crowded shoots, otherwise only prune to produce more growth which may be necessary to replace old branches which are drooping on the ground.

To produce the best results there is nothing like an autumn sowing of sweet peas.

Against this, it may be argued, is the work entailed in looking after the plants during winter including possible hard frosts.