Les’s Patch: Now is the time to plant evergreens

Les Foden
Les Foden

Start planting evergreens this month.

Deeply dig soil adding well-rotted compost or manure to the bottom of the pit.

Acid living plants like rhododendrons and heathers appreciate generous amounts of peat worked into the top soil.

Many evergreens will grow from cuttings inserted in a frame or under a cloche.

Use young, non-flowering shoots making cuttings three to four inches long, which is slightly longer that would be taken in July. It’s better to pull them off with a small heel of older wood. Otherwise trim them to the right length by cutting just below a leaf joint.

Remove a few lower leaves and dip into hormone rooting powder. Insert the cuttings in a well drained mixture of sand and peat and place in the chosen spot.

You could also insert the cuttings round the edge of a pot containing peat and sharp sand mixture and cover with a plastic bag.

Lilies can be planted between now and April but the sooner they are planted the better. Soil should be neutral or acid (lime free) and rich in leaf mould or peat. On heavy soils it is best to make a raised bed for lilies.

Plant bulbs 12 inches apart in groups, making holes six to eight inches deep.

This month is the ideal time to start a lawn from seed. If not already done, fork the soil to remove perennial weed roots, large stones and other debris. Tread the soil to firm it and rake the surface to remove bumps or hollows.

Push the rake to and fro until no particle in the hop half an inch surface layer is any larger than a pea.

Apply blood, fish and bone at two ounces per square yard and rake in. Sow the chosen seed at the rate of two ounces per square yard and rake in. Erect bird scarers or black cotton to prevent birds from taking dust baths. The black cotton is simply stretched across the lawn using canes which stop the birds from flying in.

Prune rambling roses which have only one main flowering period a year and produce long, arching growths. After flowering remove as much of the old flowering growths as possible to leave long, young shoots arising from near the base. Tie these growths to supports.

Most roses grow quite well from cuttings at this time of year. Make cuttings nine to 12 inches long from strong young shoots. Cut just below a leaf joint at the base and just below a leaf joint at the top removing unripened soft wood. Remove all leaves except for three at the top.

Insert the cuttings in the open where the soil is well drained. Make a six inch deep V trench with one vertical wall. Along the bottom scatter sharp sand then stand the cuttings six inches apart along the trench. Replace the soil and firm down.

Rose cuttings can be removed with a heel of older wood as well as the evergreens.

Keep the soil watered during dry spells.

It’s time to give shelter to tender plants needed for next year.

Plants like pelargonium and fuchsias can be potted up and taken indoors for the winter. Also dahlia tubers will need lifting early next month.

I used to grow 900 dahlia plants for exhibition and I usually waited until the frost had blackened the tops of the plants before lifting, but with the weather patterns having changed so much it isn’t safe to leave them in the ground too long because we could easily have an early hard frost which would hard the dahlia tubers.

Many of the hardiest hardy annuals can be sown now for an earlier display than those from the spring grown plants. Types to include are alyssum, calendula, candytuft, godetia, larkspur and annual poppy.

Choose a sunny site for annuals where the soil is good but not excessively rich.

Large quantities of fresh manure in the soil will cause luscious growth at the expense of flowers. Allow the soil to dry out sufficiently so that it will be easily workable before sowing.

If you have not done so, turn it over now to the full depth of a fork. Then carefully tread the seed bed by shuffling over it.

Before sowing apply a good handful of blood, fish and bone per square yard and work this into the soil’s surface as you rake the seed bed level.

The finished border will look best if flowers are sown in groups of one type rather than in a haphazard mixture.

Sow in drills six inches apart which will make for easier weeding later on.