Rockvale Stone & Garden

Signs of Autumn this week with our Silver Birch trees tinged with gold after that north west wind, but this garden is still holding green and colour and should continue to do so a little longer if moisture is kept up. Summer potted annuals will be looking tired now – but dead heading and folia feeding will keep them flowering through Autumn.
Here on the coast we can still enjoy colour during Winter if bedding plants are prepared now. The idea is to utilize the warmth from now on to encourage individually potted plants to bush, bud and harden for planting before frosts get heavy. Bedding plants that respond well to this method are Pansy, Viola, Polyanthus Wallflower, Stock, Calendula and Primula malacoides. It is so worth taking the time to pot individual young seedlings on into single pots for root development and become acclimatised to early Winter conditions rather than buying plants that have been forced into flower at the time. I place these pots on trays and store them in a cool shady place until the frosts begin, then the trays are put in a sunny spot to bud up. Getting a bit desperate for potting mix while re potting, I dug into one of my compost heaps and was pleased to find everything decomposing really well and was able to add some to what remained of the potting mix, making it go further.
March is definitely a great planting month, with warm soil and nights and mornings cooler – newly planted trees and shrubs settle in well. There are a lot of well grown trees, shrubs and plants on offer right now in Garden centres, ready and waiting to be planted. Gardeners further inland will need to read labels to establish frost ratings before buying – if in doubt, wait until Spring.
I am still dead heading Roses to encourage a last vibrant show before they will be left to harden off for Winter. Rust is always a problem on Roses in Autumn. Strip the affected leaves from the bushes, as well as those on the ground and burn them to reduce this problem for next year. Don’t feed Roses now – soft growth needs to make a start at hardening off.
Spring bulbs can be planted now. If you have not already done so, break up really large clumps of bulbs – clumps tend to double in size without you noticing and in no time a garden bed can become choked – looking attractive only in Spring and dull for the rest of the year. I have often been asked the reason for Spring bulbs not flowering after the first couple of years from planting. The problem can be over-crowding, lack of adequate light as trees become larger and throw more shade during Summer, but the most common problem is, bulbs may not have not been planted deep enough. Spring bulbs need to be planted 4 to 6 inches deep – that’s 4 to 6 inches of soil on top of the bulb. If not planted deep enough and they do come into leaf – then experience a dry patch in Autumn, they wont take up and retain enough moisture to come into bud.
Rake mulch off bearded iris rhizomes – they need to be exposed to the sun for a baking now.
Layer Carnation stems by pinning the centre of the stem down under the soil while still attached to the mother plant with the flower end still exposed. Roots should form along the buried stem. Once rooted, cut from the mother plant and pot up to grow on before planting out in lime sweetened soil. This layering method can be applied to many Herbs, plants and shrubs.
Lawns: After baking hot days and a lot of mowing, lawn growth starts slowing down from now on, but catchers will still be filling for a while yet. Keep catchers up – a scalped lawn dries out faster and encourages weeds. There should be a lot of new lawns being sown in the next couple of months. Don’t worry about annual weeds appearing as the grass germinates – most will disappear after the first mow. All lawn weed sprays are too strong for new grass.
Fruit: This is proving a good season for Apples, Quince, Pears and Walnuts. The more I read about the health benefits from eating Walnuts, I feel we should all have access to a tree. The east coast is said to be the preferred place for growing Walnuts – they need a dry climate with a high Summer temperature and Winter chilling (down to -10ºC). Walnuts are self-pollinating, but the more trees you have, the better the pollination rate. If planting trees from scratch, they won’t be producing at economic levels until about Year 8.
Vegetable Gardens will be growing new crops for the cooler seasons. Leaf veg should not bolt so readily now and will not mind the days getting shorter and cooler – root veg seeds will germinate well while the ground is still warm. My second sowing of Peas are up, Corn is still being picked and the Pumpkins have outgrown their space and just keep going. Onions can be lifted once leaves have bent over. Don’t bend or damage leaves before they are ready to bend naturally if you want them to store and keep well. Once dug, lay them out in a warm place to fully ripen, then store in a cool place. Cheers Linda

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