We are at our English home for a week or so but before we left there were some important jobs to get on with. I didn’t really want to come back at the moment as Spring is a crucial time in the garden but we had to be here to welcome our idiot son back from Japan. At least Cruella told me that was the reason, but I have since found out she wanted to buy the latest indoor cauldron – more later – let’s get on with the gardening.
19th March: Things I have been doing lately:
🌱 Pricking our seedlings. If you have sown annual seedlings then now is the time to start pricking them out before they get too overcrowded. Now I know the term “pricking out” has those of you with the more puerile minds sniggering, but the process is simply one of moving seeds from their first seed tray and planting them more spaciously in a second. The photo below shows my trays of Marigolds waiting to be pricked out – stop it, it’s not funny and makes you look childish.
It is very important that you do not prick out seedlings until they have “true” leaves. The first leaves that come through are just forerunners of real or “true” leaves. Once you have 6/8 true leaves then you can prick out the seedlings. You should use a pencil to gently lever the seedlings out, then always holding them by their leaves, never the stem, gently probe amongst the seedlings to find those with the best roots. Be ruthless, 90% of the seedlings will be heading for the compost heap so you want only the best. The photos below show the process in action.
Once you have selected a good strong seedling replant it into its new seed tray by gently lowering it into a pre dibbered hole. Push the seedlings roots right into the hole using the tip of the pencil. It is important that all the roots are pushed into the hole. The photo below shows a seedling being rehomed.
Finally place the new seed trays on the potting bench for a couple of hours out of the Sun. They will need to be put back into my mini greenhouse for a week or so before gradually being acclimatised to the outside. The photo below shows my new seedlings which will be ready to plant out in about two weeks. The seed tray that you can see in this photo that has not been pricked out is my reserves. Despite my best efforts snails will get some of them so you needs reserves to fill gaps.
🍊 Pruning Citrus trees. Orange and Lemon trees in particular need to be pruned and thinned every third year. The timing of this is always tricky as you need to undertake the process before the new blossom gets going or you are pruning off next year’s crop. The difficulty is that in heavy cropping trees such as our we are still picking and “juicing” oranges every day. The way I get around this is to concentrate on one tree each year. I prioritise the tree and pick all of its fruit first before picking from any other tree.
When pruning citrus you have to be brutal. Start in the inside of the tree and cut out any branches that are growing straight up. Then cut out any diseased and crossing branches. Then create a large gap at the centre of the tree that is open to the sky. Finish the whole thing off by using your hedge trimmers to just gently bring the tree back into a tidy rounded shape. The Spanish say that the end result should be a tree that a pigeon can fly straight through. The first photo below shows one of our trees with its congested overgrown centre that is stopping light and air getting to the centre of the tree. The second photo shows the treeafter its centre has been opened up.
🦔 Weeding and feeding Roses and bleeding to death. If you have Roses (and if not why not, they love the Spanish climate) now is the time to weed underneath them before they start into real growth and get too big. Using your trowel get right underneath each Rose clear all the dead leaves etc so that there is no homes for snails and slugs. Once you have cleared the debris then start to dig out the weeds, making sure you get all of them.
In Spain we have a particularly pernicious grass that loves getting right underneath Roses and has long roots that end in a clump of pearl like bulblets. It is important that you get every part of this grass out including the pearl bulblets which is difficult as they deliberately break away when tugged. When you eventually get the weed out, do not put this particular grass on your compost heap as it can withstand the heat of the compost heap and come back to haunt you next year. The photo below shows the weed with its deadly little bulblets.
Once you have cleared under the Roses then now is the time to give them their first feed. Use a specialist Rose food (granulated is best as it is longer lasting) and distribute a small handful under each plant. Once you have completed this top up the soil under each plant with good compost. Now I have to confess that I used store bought compost this year as last year I used my own and this resulted in too many weeds. Commercial compost will be “cooked” at a much higher temperature which will kill all weed seeds. Under the Roses is the only place I use commercial compost as it is impossible to hoe underneath when they are in bloom. Everywhere, else I use my own compost and hoe like a murderous Jack Ketch – history and gardening; look it up. Complete the whole process by profusely watering each Rose.
The first photo below shows one of my climbing Roses receiving a well deserved meal, other Rose foods are available. The second photo shows the process of topping up with good compost.
🚑 Gardening health and safety. Now I am going to depart from gardening blog to cover health and safety issues. Weeding under Roses can be a very bloody job as Rose thorns will tenaciously rip at your arms despite the strongest gardening gloves. This will leave you covered in scratches and bleeding profusely. Now we gardeners are a hardy bunch so we normally carry on then give our wounds a perfunctory wash later. However, Sepsis (blood poisoning) can be a real problem for gardeners and there are many deaths every year. Nowadays I have strong medicinal alcohol that I apply to my many gardening wounds at the end of a day of doing bloody battle with Roses. I steal Cruella’s (my wife) make up removal pads (industrial strength) apply the alcohol and vigorously rub this into all cuts and scratches. The downside of this is that it stings like crazy. The upside is I have invented new dance moves.
The photos below show my bloodied and bruised arm together with my anti sepsis saviour.
🍔 Feeding the lawn. Unlike feeding the Roses, feeding the lawn is extremely pleasurable. Using a wheeled hopper feeder I just stroll up and down the lawn scattering my largesse to the grateful adoring grass. Now that the ground temperature has warmed up you will soon find that your grass will leap into growth. Feeding will ensure that each blade of grass gets a good start after the depredations of Winter. When feeding grass you must be careful not to overdose as you can “burn” the lawn and end up with unsightly black patches.
My lawn is in particular need of tender loving care as I have been wheeling large rocks etc across it as I built my water feature. The end result is that lots of the lawn has compacted and I will need to do some work in aerating when we get some rain (if ever). The photo below shows my trusty wheeled feeder and my unsightly compacted lawn.
🧙♀️ Cruella has a new high tech Cauldron. Cruella (my wife) has always prided herself in staying at the cutting edge of witchcraft. You can imagine my surprise when I returned home only to find that she has equipped our English home with in an indoor electric cauldron. This she assures me will be the envy of everyone else in her coven as she can now perform her spells no matter what the weather outside.
If you look carefully at the picture below you can see that she has already been experimenting with indoor spells. She has melted the clock, made the Hare bookends start boxing and seems to have created a round circle in our carpet.