The day started with such promise. Cruella (my wife) was going to our English house to welcome back our idiot son from Japan. She left early as she was unsure of her new broomstick. But after a few spills she took off from the front lawn without any great problems; circled a few times, did a victory roll, cackled a bit and then disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.
I had my whole day planned. First a saunter round the garden to check on everything and then off to various shops and garden centres to indulge in a spending splurge before Cruella landed in England and checked our bank balance. All seemed set fair, but how wrong I was. When I left in the morning a stiff wind was blowing, but hadn’t yet reached the gale force that it would become before I got home.
I arrived back with various purchases and accoutrements only to find disaster. The wind had not only blown over and wrecked pots – that I could stand – but more disastrously it had whipped the cover off my little mini greenhouse and blown all the seed trays over. To put this in context, this post was going to be all about how the seeds were just sprouting and the start of another great gardening year. This comes on top of the great disaster of 2019 (Which of course you all remember) when all my seedlings got roasted in the Sun. I have tried my best to recover what was possible, but when you garden from seed it is a terrible blow as it means only cuttings stand between you and a disastrous year.
I have wandered round the garden reciting Rudyard Kipling’s great poem “if” especially the lines: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same” – it doesn’t help; I may seek counselling. The photos below only give a hint of what I was faced with.
Anyway, on with the show.
2nd March. Things I have been doing lately:
☠️ Killing broadleaved weeds on the lawn. If you have a lawn; and I do recognise it is a luxury in Spain, then now is the time to selectively kill broad leaved weeds. I mention broad leaved weeds in particular because these are the ones that will gradually shade out grass. As I have become older I am far more tolerant of general lawn weeds as I recognise their role in sustaining pollinators. However, now is the time to apply a selective weedkiller (one that does not kills grass) to your lawn. If you apply it now before the weeds flower then you will save yourself heartache later. The photo below shows the weedkiller I use (others are available) which works very well.
🐣 Pruning Bird of Paradise. Strelitzia which is more commonly known as “bird of paradise” grows very well in Spain and provides many gardens with an exotic look. To prune bird of paradise you need to differentiate between flowering stems ie those with flowers at the end, and leaf stems which do not have a flower. Leaf stems that are bending over and touching the ground can be cut right back to the ground without causing the plant any problems. However, flowering stems can be treated in one of two ways. You can, if you just want to tidy up the plant, cut a flowering stem right back to the ground. However, you can cut a flowering stem back to a fold about half way down the stem and it will flower again from that point by growing a new stem. When you cut, cut at an angle along the fold in the stem and it will regrow. You can only do this trick once before the stem will then wither.
The first photo shows the non flowering stems being cut back. The second photo shows where to cut for a second flowering. And the last photo shows the stems happily being recycled in the compost bin. Click on each photo for a larger view.
🍊 Pruning Orange trees. Yes it’s that time again. If you want lots of lovely oranges on your tree later this year, then you need to prune them now. It is always difficult to get the time of pruning right. Ideally, after the last orange is off the tree and before the blossom starts is the perfect time for pruning. However, who ever said gardening was perfect. If like me you have a number of orange trees then you will still have fruit on the trees when the blossom comes along. Well, nobody said it wasn’t tough being a gardener.
You should start pruning your orange trees by removing any suckers that are coming out of the branches. Suckers are soft, bright green growth that can easily be removed by just tugging them down and they will come off easily. Next, you need to cut out any branches that are growing straight up. Then you should cut out any crossing branches, or branches that are rubbing against each other. You should be aiming to have an open structure that leaves the centre of the tree open to air and Sun. Finally, you should lightly trim the outside of the tree and its height to ensure that fruit remains within reach. Yes, you will lose some blossom, but don’t worry as not every flowers turns into a successful fruit.
The photos below shows one of my trees at the start of the pruning process. You can see from this that the tree is in blossom, it has lost shape, and has some branches that are too high. Note that the tools needed include: secateurs, long handled lopers and finally an extendable trimmer for the top of the tree (if you are freakishly tall you won’t need these).
The photos below shows suckers and an upward growing stem that needs cutting out.
Lastly, I present you with the nicely pruned and trimmed tree ready to go forth and be fruitful.