Get in trim for blooms

Don’t be shy when prun­ing fuch­sias and re­move dead tulip flow­ers, says Mary Lovell-smith, but let the leaves re­main on bulbs.

The Dominion Post - Your Weekend (Dominion Post) - - Gardening -

EDIBLES • Sow cour­gette and pump­kin seeds in trays un­der cover but hold off plant­ing them as well as toma­toes, aubergines and pep­pers for at least an­other fort­night in all but the warm­est dis­tricts – un­til the ground dries and warms up, air tem­per­a­tures lift, and the weather is a lit­tle more set­tled. • In the mean­time, make sure the beds are ready for them by en­sur­ing they are clear of weeds and mix in plenty of or­ganic mat­ter, prefer­ably com­post, or sheep pel­lets. Pile it on top if you’re a fan of the no-dig method of gar­den­ing. • Toma­toes like a sunny spot with good air­flow – to

help com­bat fun­gal dis­eases that can be­set them. • Cour­gettes, aubergines, pep­pers and pump­kins are also sun lovers, while gen­er­ally, leafy crops will cope with a bit of shade. • Swot up on what tomato va­ri­eties you like best – big and fleshy for cook­ing, small and sweet to pop in your mouth, acid-free… Each year gar­den cen­tres and farmer’s mar­kets and the like seem to stock more and more va­ri­eties – an al­most over­whelm­ing choice, and it pays to have a rough idea of your pref­er­ences. Fail­ing that, buy sev­eral dif­fer­ent types. • Car­rots, leeks, onions, parsnips and radishes may be sown di­rect into the gar­den. A fine tilth will yield the best re­sults – both in ger­mi­na­tion rates and health of plants. Hold off sow­ing corn out­side for an­other fort­night or so. • Net­ting might be needed over straw­ber­ries to stop

birds pick­ing off the fruit as it ripens.

ORNAMENTALS • Prune flow­er­ing shrubs and trees once flow­er­ing

is fin­ished. • Re­move dead flow­ers from tulips to stop them set­ting seed – it can take up to 30 per cent of the bulb’s en­ergy – which could be bet­ter em­ployed grow­ing the bulb and its off­sets. • All bulbs’ leaves should not be re­moved for at least

eight weeks af­ter flow­er­ing as bulb re­gen­er­a­tion oc­curs via pho­to­syn­the­sis through the leaves. Gen­er­ally, when the leaves go yel­low it is OK to re­move them. Note, though, that this serves no other pur­pose than to make the gar­den look ti­dier.

• As they re­pro­duce read­ily from seed, the likes of sparaxis, freesia and mus­cari (sailor boys) should be re­moved, rather than al­low them to nat­u­ralise.

• Feed spring-flow­er­ing bulbs with a liq­uid fer­tiliser, or mulch around them with com­post.

• A firm hand prun­ing fuch­sias will en­cour­age an abun­dance of blooms.

• Lightly rake lawns to re­move old plant de­bris and al­le­vi­ate the sti­fling ef­fects of thatch­ing.

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