Your garden, May 3rd


Autumn is a good time to assess the limitations of your garden.

Some questions to consider are whether the climate during summer suited outdoor tomatoes, runner beans or onions, and whether winter greens were planted at the right time.

Something to consider is improving the vegetable gardens by having raised beds. Not only do raised beds ensure better drainage and increased soil warmth, they also enable the gardener to add a layer of clean soil and/or compost each year to improve productivity.

To shelter the vegetable plot from wind, look at shelter made of manuka scrub, pine branches or commercial wind-break netting.

If you have hedges, trim them now to remain tidy for the next six months. Do not cut those from conifer and cypress families too severely, or whole sections will die back.

This is the time to clean up garden rubbish. Destroy any diseased material, then compost the remainder at home or at a community green-waste depot.

Vacant ground can now be dug over and lime can be applied at the rate of 100g per sqm.

Laundry powder scoops make a good measure for lime and other fertilisers. Alternatively, sow empty plots with a green manure, lupins, oats or barley for digging in during October.

If you have not done so, remove all stems, leaves and weeds from rhubarb and apply a mulch of stable manure, cow manure or compost. Blood and bone lightly forked in is also useful.

Where winter vegetables are growing, control weeds by hoeing the ground as often as soil conditions allow. This also helps control excess moisture in the soil and lets oxygen penetrate the upper levels, where minute life forms convert organic material into plant foods.



Prepare areas for new plantings before the soil becomes sodden with winter rain. Fresh cow manure can be added to retain moisture in light, sandy soils, while stable manure containing sawdust or straw, or a rich garden compost, is best for heavy clays. Mix lime into the topsoil, but avoid mixing it with the manure.

Perennial plants that have grown into large clumps can be lifted, divided and replanted in ground enriched with compost or well-rotted manure. Hollyhocks, lupins, delphiniums and red hot pokers (Kniphofia) look good as the back row in a perennial border, while Asiatic lilies, Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis, A. vitifolium and A. tomentosa), phloxes, paeonies, gaillardiachrysanthemum and Michaelmas daisies look good in front of them.

Dianthus, lower-growing bright annuals, polyanthus, violas and bedding geraniums can be used in the front. Alternatively, catmint (Nepeta) or ladys mantle (Alchemilla mollis) are good perennial choices if a single-colour edging is wanted.



In the glasshouse, remove most of the leaves from tomato plants to divert plant foods up from the roots into the fruit.

Alternatively, cut off a portion of stem with the fruit attached and hang in a warm place to ripen.

Plants can be pulled up to give the soil a rest. Mustard or oat seeds can be sown in the greenhouse and dug in later.