Jobs you should be doing now; not including chicken entertaining!

We are now well into Autumn and you should be finishing off all the loose ends of summertime. Do not be tempted to start your big winter cutback until January, instead you need to be doing the pre cutback chores which will be too late by January. In addition to all my normal tasks, Tango the blind Labrador and I have also taken on the task of chicken entertainers, but more of that later, let’s get on with the gardening.

5th December 2022. Things I have been doing lately:

Cutting back and tidying Bird of Paradise. Strelitzia is one of the delights of Spanish gardens and they flourish here in the Costa Blanca. However to keep it at its best you need to regularly deadhead and cutback flopping fronds. When deadheading, don’t just cut off the flower head, I find it is best to go down the stem until you see a diagonal join in the stem. If you cut here then a new stem and flower will grow from this spot. You can only do this once on each stem before you have to cut right back to the ground next time.

In addition to cutting back stems, it is helpful to peel the dead parts of flowers away as this stimulates further flowering from the front of the flower head. Once you have cut back flowering stems and stimulated further flowering, then it is time to go round the whole plant cutting back any floppy fronds and taking non flowering stems right to the ground.

The first photo below shows my Strelitzia ready for its winter tidy up. The second shows how to stimulate further flowering, whilst the next shows where to cut on the stem to produce another flowering stem. Finally the tidier plant. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Don’t cutback Cannas yet! At this time of year it is tempting to tidy up your Cannas. All those lovely tall flowering stems are gone and the beautiful showy leaves are a shrivelled mess. But don’t cut back now or you will hinder next years growth. Canna need to fully die back with no green left in their leaves. This allows the plant to draw back into its corm (ugly bulb) all the energy from its dying leaves which will power next summers flowers. The photos below shows some of my canna clumps not yet ready to cutback. Strangely they possess a passing resemblance to Cruella (my wife) and her coven as they come home from another night drinking strong potions. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Time to harvest Chilli seeds. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I have been growing some lovely Chillis for the last couple of years. To keep this process going each year I harvest seeds for my next years crop. In August I marked the best looking chillis for seed gathering by marking their stem with tape to ensure I didn’t harvest them by mistake. I then leave the marked chillis on the plant to fully wither and to allow the seeds to ripen and mature. Once harvested I place the full chilli pod in an envelope ready to recover the seeds next Spring.

The first photo below shows me checking out the almost mature chilli. The next photo shows an almost mature chilli but not ripe for harvesting as long as the stem is green. Finally, the fully mature chilli ready to produce next years crop. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Close weeding your bulbs. Most of the year my favourite garden tool is my hoe. This allows me to perform a quickly daily sweep up and down my flower borders to keep them weed free. However, once bulbs start to come through their is a danger that you will accidentally hoe off your lovely new bulb shoots by mistaking them for grass stems. Well now is the time to hang up your hoe and get down on your hands and knees for some close weeding; and if you like say a prayer while you are there.

Close weeding is very therapeutic as it lets you get down close to your plants and allows you to feel the soil running through your fingers. Using your trowel, gently work around bulb stems to probe and lift out any encroaching grass stems. Although it can be difficult to tell grass stems from bulb stems at this stage of growth, a good rule of thumb is that generally bulb shooting stems are round whilst grass is flat in blades.

The first photo below shows my last hoe of the year and the beginning of the close weeding season. The next photo shows me feeling for the tell tale round stem of a bulb, and finally the gentle easing out of grass stems that threaten to choke emerging bulb stems. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Tie up your climbing plants. If you have climbing plants, then now is the time to tie them up and make sure that your wires and trellises are secure. Whilst normally the weather in this part of Spain is usually lovely, we can get strong winds occasionally. Strong winds are usually ok in the summer as the plants are full of sap and are flexible and better able to bend with the wind. It is different in the winter. The sap has been withdrawn to the roots and the stems are less flexible and much more brittle which means you can lose a plant as it will snap off at the roots.

It is time to wander round and check all your trellises and wires. If you are using vine ties, then tighten them up and if you can oil them to keep them usable. It is silly little jobs like this that you can do now that will ensure your plants stay climbing as opposed to crashing to the ground destroyed or losing years of growth.

The first photo below shows me midst tightening with my various accoutrements. The second shows some of my newly oiled vine ties. It may look boring but it is heaven, it keeps me out of the house and Cruella can’t see me when I am close to walls and not moving; she has the same type of vision as a Velociraptor. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Chicken entertaining. Regular readers of this blog will know that Cruella’s fancy chickens are causing havoc in my garden. At the first sight of bare earth they immediately begin digging with their huge dinosaur type feet. I have tried my best at chicken proofing the garden by placing small wire fences around my flower beds. In addition I recruited Tango the lonely blind Labrador as a watch dog. The folly of this approach soon became obvious as he is blind. However, I supplemented Tango’s efforts with my trusty water pistol which I would wield at the first sign of any chicken indiscretion.

But unfortunately it was all to no avail. The first minute my back was turned one of the chickens would hop over my little fences and start digging up my bulbs. As a last resort Tango and I have been holding evening concerts in the garden for the chickens in the hope that this will act as a diversionary tactic. Each night we assemble on the front veranda. Usually I start by telling a series of “why did the chicken cross the road” jokes; which I have to be honest do not go down too well. I put this down to chickens lack of road safety awareness as opposed to my joke telling skills.

After I have finished my turn, or as I prefer to call it set! we have the interval. At this point Cruella emerges carrying a tray like an old fashioned cinema usherette. The difference is that she is dressed in a full chicken costume and on her tray are a huge range of very expensive insect based treats for her girls. She proceeds to address them all by name in chickenese whilst at the same time dishing out individualised treats. The chickens have become such fussy eaters that Cruella now has them all on bespoke diets, or as she calls it her chicken fusion menu.

After the break it is over to Tango the lonely blind Labrador who performs a series of stunts mainly involving bumping into things and falling down steps. Tango’s act is a real chicken favourite as they wave their wings and cluck enthusiastically at each bump and crack on poor Tangos head; if you can imagine Romans in the Colosseum whilst Christians are being eaten by Lions that is the sort of thing. Tango finishes his turn with his old favourite roll overs which are well received.

The whole evening comes to an end with an enthusiastic singing of the national anthem in chickenese; (as a staunch republican I take no part in this and remain as silent as an Iranian footballer). As the sun goes down Cruella leads her girls back to their roost lustily singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic again in chickenese.

The first photos below shows the audience assembling for the evening concert. The second shows Tango the lonely blind Labrador nervously waiting his turn to go on. The next shows the evening finale with Tango doing his world famous roll over. The final photo shows an exhausted Tango resting after the show; it really takes it out of him. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

3 thoughts on “Jobs you should be doing now; not including chicken entertaining!”

  1. Canna seem to try to grow right through winter. I leave much of their old growth until the end of winter to shelter the new shoots below, even if they get cut down later anyway. In some sheltered spots, they are evergreen, which is actually more work, since old growth must get cut out from new growth, without damaging the new growth. Also, they are never dormant enough to dig and divide without guilt. Fortunately, they do not care if dug and divided while still growing.


      1. Some of mine went for several years without division while I was unable to work on them, and they were always fine. However, they are just as fine with excessively annual division now that I want to maximize their propagation.


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