Out There: Waxwing lyrical

Richard Willison/RSPB
Richard Willison/RSPB

There are one or two things we have to be mindful of in the garden at this time of year, most so with the changing climate.

Roses have been in bloom much later than usual as weather-wise the seasons are mixed up.

With this in mind we are going to get spring bulbs coming through much earlier so they will need some protection.

You may think this is a silly statement when spring bulbs are so hardy, but it’s not the weather that’s the problem, it’s the pests because there isn’t much for them other than emerging bulbs during this period.

Firstly the birds will have a go at them and then squirrels may be around also being a little mixed up about seasons.

Also the worst pest of all, the slug.

So first of all use some slug pellets then use a layer of peat or compost to cover the emerging bulbs.

This will give them all the protection they need.

I have been asked questions about growing camellias.

Camellias need a site that is sheltered from the strongest sun and, more importantly, sheltered from the early morning sun in winter.

They are not tender plants, but the flower buds are often damaged because if they are frozen the early morning sun thaws them out too quickly. The buds then go brown and drop off.

Another cause for the camellia to drop its buds is if it has been short of water during the months of August and September, more so if grown in a container and the roots have been dry.

That is the time of year when camellias are making buds for flowering the following year.

Also keep some fleece handy to throw over the plant if frost is forecast.

A feed of high potash fertiliser during August and September is a good idea because this will encourage bud formation.

There has been considerable concern about problems with composts.

This isn’t just a one-off, it is all over the country and even in the United States and New Zealand.

There has been a problem with plant growth including distorted leaves on tomatoes.

One thought is that it may be the council green waste contaminated with weedkiller used on lawns with the lawn clippings being put on the compost heap.

I must point out that in the UK a compulsory test of herbicide contamination is carried out during the compost manufacturing process.

Clopyralid, a lawn weedkiller, is the problem abroad, which is also present in Evergreen Lawn Weedkiller, Verdone Extra and Vitax Lawn Clear.

I think people read the label on how to use these products but don’t read how to dispose of contaminated lawn clippings and just throw them on the compost heap.

Some time ago I mentioned a query from a local gardener who was having problems with his plants.

I went around to have a look.

A new patch of soil was planted up with various plants, and it wasn’t just one particular plant that was affected, it was the whole bed.

I asked a few questions about where he obtained the plants thinking they may have brought problems in, but then I asked about the soil and he told me he had purchased some compost from the council and I realised that was the problem.

I explained the answer was to dig up a plant or two and take them, along with a sample of soil, to Myerscough College and they would soon tell him what the problem was.

I thought this was the best possible solution.

If you have a few gaps in the garden or some patio pots you would like to fill use bellis and pansies, but look out for leaf spot on pansies and don’t plant them where they have been grown before.

If you have grown pansies in pots you must change the compost before you row any more.

You will find that these plants won’t do so well during the winter, but come spring they will be stunning.

If you intend to use new concrete containers leave them outdoors for a few weeks to weather fully as some concrete can contain setting agents that may be harmful to plants.

Use old tights or stockings cut into strips to tie up plants rather than twine which can slice into stems.