Rockvale Stone & Garden

Then out came the sun! Easter arrived here with eight little ones and their parents. Numbers swelled when the Rockvale Garden Easter egg hunt began on Sunday morn….there was collecting and carnage when Scruff the dog got over excited and disgraced himself, by disposing of a Bantam – much to the horror of a few young spectators who ran for help. Needless to say, Scruff was banished to a lonely afternoon in his kennel for creating such a lasting memory in three small minds!!
Leaves, leaves, leaves – so many on the ground and yet to fall, (groan) – but to compensate, we do have a beautiful gold, red and orange wonderland out here right now. Most leaves turn into good compost, but I do not compost Oak or Walnut leaves – they take too long to break down in my heaps -burning them, then adding the ash will benefit compost.
Camellias are budding up now and some of mine need opening up to let in light needed for buds to develop well, so I have been removing inward facing and crossover branches.Feed Camellias and Rhododendrons with acid fertiliser, water in well and mulch – then forget about them until they reward you in Spring. Azaleas need food as soon as they have finished flowering, but if you did not feed them then, feed them now along with Rhodos and Camellias.
On the coast only, prune back perennial Wallflowers now, to encourage new growth for a good Winter flowering – do the same to Marguerite Daisies. Further inland, take hardwood cuttings, pot up and protect over Winter as a lot of Marguerite Daisy bushes are lost due to continuous frost.
Break up clumps of Viola like Maggie Mott and the clumping Primula Vulgaris. Plant sections with root attached into pots or trays – they will grow and clump up from now on ready to be planted out in Spring. Both of these make lovely edging plants.
I planted out different shades of Ranunculus this week – They are so worthwhile and a good investment, because they multiply well and give vibrant or soft mid height colour to an early Spring garden. Ranunculus corms look very dried up and brittle in the packet when bought – soak them overnight and they will become plump before planting. Plant at least five together in groups to get the best effect.
With Lilies becoming available in shops this month, established clumps may be lifted if necessary, but do not disturb them unless they are very crowded or unsuitably sited. Instead, topdress them with a mixture of compost and blood and bone. (A cup full of blood and bone to each bucket of compost. be sure to keep Lily bulbs moist while they are out of the ground – roots must never dry out. Almost all lilies need to be planted as deep as three times the height of the bulb. The only exception to this deep planting is the Madonna lily, which is planted just below the surface and prefers to be shifted in mid Summer – straight after flowering. This is also one of the few Lilies which also prefers limey soil.
Keep planting well grown evergreen shrubs – still time to get them settled in before Winter. Give evergreen hedges a last light trim during this month
Vegetables / fruit: I have mentioned growing a green crop in vacant areas of the vegetable garden. Barley, Wheat, Oats and Mustard will grow in no time – dig in while still soft and green. First timers might like to follow the green manure suggestion of using Blue Lupin as a nitrogen additive, otherwise use Mustard as a good soil conditioner in Spring and Summer, changing back to grains in the Autumn. Green vegetable seedlings will be targeted by birds right now, so best to cover them with shade or wind cloth raised above the plants while small. Birds will not be so interested when they plump out a bit. Broad Beans can be planted now – try a little Potash in the soil just below the Bean when planted – it is said to help prevent Rust.
Walnuts are falling along with the leaves. Most of the nuts on our tree fall in their green casing and if I don’t pick them up, they attract rats who nibble through the casing and the soft shell to get to the nut. Because of the fleshy casing, they need to be spread out, separated from each other in a dry place to allow the green casing to dry and shrivel away from the nut. If all lumped together in a box, they will soon go mouldy. Feed Citrus well now – Manure Seaweed, Rock Phosphate, Dolomite and Mulch Neem tree oil is an organic product for use on Apples for Woolly Aphid (if you have Woolly Aphid, you’ll have to put Neem onto the roots of the Apple trees using a watering can, as well as spraying the leaves, because bugs overwinter and live in the roots, re-infecting the tops). Use on Pear trees for Pear Slug and on Citrus for Aphid and Mealy Bug if necessary. Codlin Moth caterpillars will be cocooning in hidey holes, once fruit has been removed and leaves have dropped, remove all growth around trees – anywhere pupae may be hidden. Trunks can be scrubbed with a stiff brush and Waxeyes encouraged with bird feeders – they will soon hunt out cocoons and Spring will be the time for grub traps.
Cheers, Linda.

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