Tuesday 17 September 2019

A tough May to be a garden plant

Andrew Collyer.

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Plant of the Week: Allium giganteum

I can't say that I am usually glad to see the back of May but this year it is so.

 I can't remember such a poor May for growing conditions. Low temperature, strong winds and a lot of rain have made the garden a less than favourable place to spend your time this month.

Many shrubs and trees that came so beautifully into leaf have had their new growth tips scorched by the strong cold winds we have had to endure. This is caused by the wind drawing moisture out from these vulnerable new leaves more quickly than the root system can supply them. You don't see this in general on herbaceous plants because of their different botanical structure. This scorching won't kill the plant but it can weaken it leaving it more susceptible to pests and diseases. If a plant is weaken like this over a couple of years it can ultimately cause its dieback or death.

It is particularly important therefore to make sure you feed your plants annually with organic mulches and well balanced fertilisers. Foliar feeding can be beneficial on smaller plant as it is taken in and used immediately by the plant. Treat it as a tonic a short term heath boost but not at the expense of a longer lasting fertiliser.

The wind has also cause problems with trees, both young and mature. When we get rainy windy days on trees in full leaf it puts a huge weight stress on branches and trunks. This can cause major damage with broken branches or by even uprooting the whole plant. Check the stakes and ties of trees planted over the last two years and give the tree a friendly wobble to see how secure it is.

I had a two year planted cut leafed birch [Betula pendula 'Lacinata'] break its rubber tie last week and it was flattened to the ground. Luckily despite some damage it looks savable by re-staking but this was only because birch are so flexible when young. This is a tree I really didn't want to lose and the damage was caused by not checking all my tree stakes over winter. And this was despite suggesting that it should be your task of the week at one stage. A case of 'Physician heal thyself'.

Another problem that might have been suffered after the bank holiday storm was herbaceous plants, that should have been staked and were not, having been blown over. Not guilty this time but I'm sure many gardeners were caught out. This is another example of doing specific jobs at the right time. If you have flattened herbaceous plants see if they have broken off completely.

If so clear the snapped stems away. You will find even the most damaged plant will reshoot and flower for still ,albeit later than usual. If not completely broken try to provide a support using bamboo canes and tying wire or string to get the plant back upright again. On the subject of flowers those who didn't heed my advice on not planting bedding too early, June is soon enough, may also be counting the cost of last Monday.

Finally to add to my May woes vegetable seeds I sowed in late April have come to all but nothing. I'm blaming low soil temperatures. Peas, lettuce, beetroot and carrots, nothing fancy, are so sparse that I have decided to take the unprecedented step of re-working the soil and re sowing. Thank goodness for the reliable old potato.

Task of the Week: Plant outdoor tomatoes from potted plants

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