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GARDENING IN MAY & JUNE 2008

by
PAM PICKARD

Irises

Welcome!
This column aims to give you useful information and handy tips to help to inspire you in your gardening endeavours.
Flowers to be seen at their best this month include; Alliums, sweet rocket, peony, weigela and irises (pictured above), whilst Hardy Geraniums are really starting to come into their own this time of year and are featured in this month's Plant Profile.

Jobs for this month
At this time of year we need to take advantage of the long evenings to keep on top of routine tasks, even it does mean we have to wear a fleece to keep out the evening chill.
Mow lawns frequently (but remove no more than half the height of the grass each time) and apply weed and feed and moss killer.
Trim formal hedges and prune informal ones after flowering, including azaleas and rhododendrons.

Plant border perennials and stake plants like poppies and rudbeckia before they start to flop.
Pinch out the tips of fuchsias and dahlias to produce more compact plants and sow quick hardy annuals like marigolds, candytuft, nasturtiums and godetia. These are useful for filling gaps in the borders.

When planting up hanging baskets and pots remember to use slow release fertiliser pellets and water gel crystals to prolong the life of the plants.

It’s a good time to put shading in the greenhouse and ensure vents are open in the day but closed at night. Remove side shoots on tomatoes and watch out for pests such as whitefly, spidermite and aphids. These are best controlled with sticky traps.

Net soft fruits when the flowers start to fade to keep the birds off. Earth up potatoes so they don’t turn green.

In the pond remove duckweed and blanket weed remembering to leave it on the bank for wildlife to crawl back into the pond. You can add new fish at this time.

By late spring plants are beginning to grow and flower, but this also means unfortunately that weeds are also growing at the same rate. Weed as often as you can or, if you don’t have the time, pull off their flowers before they set seed.

Common pests and problems
Slugs and snails are also feasting on the new tender shoots and seedlings and are often hard to control. Suggested methods include surrounding the plant with grit or up-ended slate. Coffee grounds from the pot and human hair have also been found to work as has burying a dish filled with beer.

If the affected plant is in a pot a band of ‘velcro’ can stop them or a copper band. I personally believe that picking them off by hand or using a light sprinkling of slug pellets are the most effective methods. It has been proven that slug pellets do not affect wildlife as previously believed, however they should be used sparingly.

The other main pest that needs urgent control is the vine weevil. These are known to attack anything grown in a pot or hanging basket. The adult lays its eggs in the soil and the small cream ‘C’ shaped grubs eat the roots of the plant.

These grubs will be maturing into adults during June so it’s worth keeping an eye open for the grubs when re-planting up pots. The adults, which are 1cm long and black speckled with brown, will feed on leaves and have to be squashed!

A good method to trap them is to leave a cardboard tube in the pot overnight as they will tend to hide from the sun in it. The only way to get rid of this pest is by using an insecticide in the autumn/winter on all pots to kill the grubs.


Plant Profile - Hardy Geraniums

Geranium 'Kashmir White'

Often thought of a cottage garden plant and also known as ‘cranesbill’ because of the shape of the flower buds, these plants are often drought tolerant and vary in colour from white through the pinks to magenta, blue, purple and deep mauve. The foliage is often as pleasant to look at as the flowers and can be variegated or fernlike.

Geraniums can be propagated by division of the root stock in the spring after they emerge from their winter sleep or from seed which is best sown in the spring. Favourite varieties include; Ann Folkard (magenta), Wargrave Pink (salmon), Johnson’s Blue (violet blue), Kashmir White (pictured above - white with pink veins) and Buxton’s Variety (china blue). Most are tolerant of semi-shade but some will thrive in shady corners e.g. Joan Baker (pale lilac)

Places to go / Things to do
Cobble Hey Gardens – off Hobbs Lane Claughton-on-Brock, Garstang, lancs Tel: 01995 602 643 This haven of peace and tranquillity has recently acquired the National Collection of Hardy Geraniums, well worth a visit!

Gresgarth Hall Garden – Caton, Lancs. 01524 771 838 These gardens designed by Chelsea Gold medal winning Arabella Lennox-Boyd are open every 2nd Sunday of the month until October.

Coronation Gardens – Waddington, Lancs. Ornamental gardens set in one of Lancashire’s best kept villages.

Plant World and Garden House – Myerscough College, Bilsborrow, Preston, Lancs. Tel 01995 642 222 Free admission to these extension and diverse gardens.

Tatton Park – June 7th – 15th Tatton Orchid Festival

Chester – May 30th – June 1st Home and Garden Show at Chester Racecourse.

All products mentioned are available at most garden centres and DIY stores.

The column in July will have an environmental theme and tips on how to be a greener gardener, whilst 'places to go' will focus on Cumbria.

Happy Gardening!

© Pam Pickard
25/5/08


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