Don’t let all this water go to waste

By Richard Wright

Friday, January 31, 2014


Don’t let all this water go to waste

Time to prune winter jasmine.

GARDENING THE Great Flood has certainly dampened enthusiasm for things outdoors — gardening included — but there are jobs that can be accomplished.

Honestly, there are!

There’s water, water everywhere at the moment but, of course, this is a land of feast and famine and you can bet your bottom dollar there will be shortages ahead so, if you have never thought of if before, now is a good time to install water butts and water-collection systems in the garden.

Rainwater is especially useful for acid-loving, ericaceous plants and other plants that dislike tap water. But don’t use it for watering seeds, seedlings and young plants.

If you already have water butts installed, give them a good cleaning out to help keep the water fresh.

You can get ready for an early start when things dry out and warm up by covering beds with clear polythene.

This warms the soil, in a normal year keeps it from getting too soggy, and encourages weeds to germinate, which can then be dealt with before sowing to produce a 'weed-free’ bed.

At the moment, it is probably best to keep off wet, heavy clay soils. If you have heavy clay and have to work on it, use a plank of wood to spread your weight and help avoid compacting the soil.

It is time to start 'chitting’ early seed potatoes, which generally produces a bigger, better crop as a result.

Chitting is simply a means of getting them into growth to produce strong young shoots before planting.

Stand the seed potatoes upright in trays or egg boxes with the 'eye’ end (the end with the most eyes or buds) uppermost. Keep them somewhere cool, light and frost free.

If the tubers produce more than five young shoots, rub off the excess. They will be ready to plant out in the middle of March into April.

Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries (not summer fruiting or recently planted Primocanes), cutting down all the canes to the ground before mulching and top dressing with fertiliser.

Summer raspberries can be cut back to one or two buds above the top of their supporting wires if they’ve grown too tall.

Winter-flowering shrubs can be pruned immediately after flowering, removing the flowering growth and thinning out up to one third of the oldest stems.

To prune winter jasmine (jasminum nudiflorum), remove any dead or damaged shoots, tie in new shoots to the main framework, and then shorten all the laterals from the main framework to two inches or so.

Winter-flowering heathers should be trimmed back as soon as they finish flowering. You don’t have to be too fussy and can use a pair of shears. Simply cut back the flowered stems plus about an inch of the leafy growth below them. This ensures compact, bushy, plants and improves flowering.

As long as the weather is not forecast to be severely cold and frosty, prune bush and climbing roses towards the end of February. Start by cutting out any thin, dead, diseased, damaged, rubbing or crossing stems and then prune back the remainder.

Hybrid teas: shorten last year’s strong shoots to ten to 15cm (4ins to 6ins), weaker ones to two to three buds.

Floribundas: shorten strong shoots to 23cm to 30cm (9ins to 12ins). Prune back less vigorous shoots more severely.

Climbers: Cut back main branches by about one third and shorten sideshoots to two to three buds.

Deadhead amaryllis (hippeastrum) as the flowers fade, leaving the flower stems to die down naturally.

To ensure flowering again next winter, keep feeding and watering until the foliage starts to turn yellow and die down. Then carefully remove the leaves and flower stems and put the bulbs somewhere warm and dry to rest.

Achimenes, begonia and gloxinia tubers can be planted in February. Begonias and gloxinias need to be planted hollow-side facing upwards but only when things dry out a bit.

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