This month in your garden

Feed fruit and nut trees this month with 20.10.10 fertiliser – three mugsful for mature trees and a mugful for young trees. This will give the citrus leaves a boost whilst the fruits are ripening. Find a spot halfway between the trunk and the tree canopy and put your irrigation nozzles and food there, which is where the feeding roots are.  It is also not a good idea to have a hedge close to your trees, but if one is already in situ in your garden then plant new trees about 3 metres away from it.  This is a really good time to plant them as well as shrubs, giving them a chance to establish whilst the soil is damp. Older trees and shrubs may also need a tidy up.  Cut out any dead or diseased branches and those that cross in the middle of the tree.  The exception to this rule is plum trees, which tend to grow in higher elevations here.  They should be pruned after harvesting the fruit, or they may be affected by silver leaf, a fungal disease of the wood and leaves of some trees. The fungus infects the wood through pruning wounds that have not healed, and causes a silvering of the leaves, followed by the death of the branch. Shortly we will be able to enjoy the first swelling almond flower- buds and that will be a sight to behold.

National Poinsettia Day is December 12, although they have been on sale since mid-November, so ensure that you have your plants by then in order to make the most of them. Remove them carefully from their cellophane wrapper and give them a good soak. The best way is to hold the plant pot over a bowl and let water trickle through, before displaying them in a draught-proof place. Despite all the ease in which they are brought to the point of sale nowadays, they are still a tricky plant to keep looking good once you get them home.  They need a bright spot in your living room away from any window or door draughts and watered only when dry. I am sad to say that most of them will be consigned to the compost heap after Christmas. In Cyprus it is still possible to find the old species poinsettia trees in some older gardens like Terra Santa Gardens in Larnaca, whose bracts are quite different to the mass of cultivated plants.

Orchids are produced so cheaply these days (every supermarket has them on display) that they are no longer the expensive ‘special’ gifts to give to someone. They are available in wonderful colours nevertheless, but beware, as some of the colours are not natural and have been artificially applied by the growers.  Some growers think that cacti and other plants such as tiny fir trees should be smothered in fake snow in time for Christmas, but give them a miss, for although they may look attractive for a short while, the plants cannot tolerate the coated leaves and will soon demise.

Spring flowering plants such as freesias and chasmanthe are shooting up already and may need some staking soon to protect the flowers.  This is best done before the leaves become too tall. Tiny cyclamen are pushing up their attractive, green silver-mottled leaves, which have been dormant since late spring, and it is a wonder of nature that they survive our hot weather. In the Levant, where most native cyclamen come from, summers are extremely hot and a covering of leaves helps to keep them cool, although the tubers can withstand a certain amount of cold weather, too.  What a splendid sight to see the huge colonies of tiny cyclamen make towards the end of winter. The speedy spread of these lovely plants is helped by ants, as they distribute the sticky seeds around shaded areas of gardens, particularly under trees and shrubs, in order to shelter them during their dormant summer season.

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