In this age of bullying I don’t want to add to anyone’s problems or perceived inequities; nor do I want to be the cause of a gardener’s “me to” campaign, but we have to get on, there is so much gardening to do before summer. I have told you all before, March and April are the foundation months for the garden year, get them right and your garden will be lovely, get a bit behind (like me) and you will always have the same problem as the Red Queen in “Through the Looking Glass” (I trust to the literary knowledge of my readers).
6th April: Things I have been doing lately.
🌿 Never give a sucker an even break.
I am conscious I have used the above double entendre before, but I just love it, so expect it as an annual event. By now you should have picked all the fruit off your orange trees, lemons can be left a while yet. The trees themselves should be in blossom, so it is time to do a little bit of preparation. In total we have 9 fruit trees – a mixture of orange, lemon, persimmon, fig and pomegranate. See the photo below for a view of what I grandly call the orchard and my wife Cruella calls “some trees”.
The first thing you need to do is go around all your trees and pull of suckers that will be growing from the bottom of the tree or along lower branches. These can be identified by the fact that they are usually bright green and growing straight up from the branch. The easiest way to take these off is just to pull downward on each one with your gardening gloves on and it should come away very easily. If you don’t do this, then the suckers will quite quickly gain brown wood and be more difficult to remove. If the suckers are left they will take the goodness from the tree and ensure you get a much lower crop of fruit. The photo below shows some suckers on an orange tree.
🖼 Cutting the lawn
Hooray lawn cutting time has come around again. You should be doing your first cut anytime now. The grass will soon start to grow strongly, so make sure you get the first cut in before it gets away from you. The first cut should always be high, just enough to take off the ends of the longest bits of grass and even everything up. The mown grass should be placed on your compost heap and interspersed with wooden and carbon rich cuttings. Don’t worry if you are not keeping up we will have the delights of a “compost special” post in a few weeks time – such fun. The photo below shows the newly mown lawn.
💊 Feeding the lawn
After the first cut it is time to give your lawn its first feed. Although the grass has not yet got into full growth, it will be weakened after the Winter, and this first feed will urge it into a growth spurt. I use a feed that contains all the main ingredients that plants need: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This gives the grass a great boost though it may cause your lawn to fail an Olympic drugs test. The best way to apply this feed to a largish area is by using a feed spreader. This gives a nice even distribution of the feed across the lawn and stops you putting too much in any one area thereby causing grass scorching. If you are broadcasting by hand then use much less than you think you need; there is a danger in overestimating and ending up with burnt patches all across your lawn. Nine times out of ten the scorching will grow back, but sometimes it doesn’t resulting in lots of reseeding. The photo below shows my lawn feeding equipment ready to go.
✂️ Taking cuttings
Now is the time to start taking cuttings from plants. Most plants will be showing signs of that lovely new growth, will not yet have flowered and are ripe for cuttings. By taking cuttings now you can get them established before the heat of summer though you may have to use a cold frame or a mini greenhouse to keep them warm at night.
Over the next few weeks I intend to take lots of cuttings, but I have started with Carnations. I bought one carnation plant about 5 years ago and ever since then have propagated it by cuttings. To take cuttings from Carnations you don’t actually “cut”. Instead, you gently tug on a non flowering healthy stem and eventually the stem will come apart leaving you with a short stem in your hand. Peel off all the bottom leaves so that you just have two or three left at the top. Then using a knife (never secateurs as these will crush the stem) create a fresh cut in the stem and dip the bottom of the stem in hormone rooting liquid or powder; this last bit is not absolutely necessary, but it helps. Then either place all the cuttings around the edge of a four inch pot, or, as I have done in this case place each cutting singly into a small pot.
The photos below show the key stages of taking Carnation cuttings. First the stems pulled off from the mother plant, then the stems stripped of their lower leaves, cut and dipped in hormone liquid. Finally, the cuttings in the new dinky little pots and later place in a mini greenhouse.