Hedges may need a haircut right away, as all that rain we had earlier helped to send out new shoots everywhere. The early spring bulbs are over so cut off any dead flower heads and consign them to the compost bin. If you’re leaving them in the ground feed the plants with a general fertiliser (all the same numbers) so that the leaves and bulb will work at ensuring you have a flower next season. Do be patient and let the leaves die down naturally, even if they look unsightly at this stage. When they turn brown or yellow then you can gently pull them off. Some people tie them in a loose knot but this breaks the pumping system which feeds the plants and you will end up with blind plants next time. If bulbs have not had flowers this year then it may be time to dig them up and replant them deeper in the soil – 2-2½ times the depth of the bulb, or store them until the autumn in a dry place. Sometimes, though they have just had their lifespan.
Bugs begin to appear as the temperatures warm up. Black fly and especially greenfly love soft new growth. Left unchecked the bugs can create untold damage to leaves and flowers buds so deal with them as you spot them. The well-tried remedy is to use a drop of washing up liquid in water and spray often. Those horrid red beetles, Dionconotus neglectus, have been around chewing my daffodils to death and the only way I have found to deal with them is to shake the flower and stamp on them – the beetles not the flowers. Then they move on to other plants likes irises.
Summer salad plugs make growing your own so much easier than sowing seeds and waiting for them to appear. Some things have to sown directly in the ground, like beetroot, carrots and peas, but beans come in little plugs to add to our summer menus. Don’t buy plugs if they are dry and crusted, as it is unlikely that they will be able to take up water again. If you cannot plant them straight away, then give them a drink and keep them in the shade until you can. Remember to leave space amongst the rows to let them expand and grow. Sometimes sparrows peck away at lettuce seedlings attracted to the bright green leaves, but as the plants grow they leave them alone.
Tie in any loose stems of roses and jasmines and other climbing plants and take off deadheads as the flowers fade. As Jasminum mesnyi flowers start to drop then this is a good time to start some summer pruning. Other plants that are just glorious at the moment are osteospermums in such a variety of colours. Check them every day whilst the sun is out, so that you only remove the dead heads. If you leave them on then you have tons of seedlings. Cut them back to a leaf axis down the stem where new leaves and flowers will soon emerge. Give them a feed every three or four weeks. Liquid Phostrogen, a capful in 10 litres of water, will feed several plants.
Click on a picture to see a larger image.