Here we are, already at Halloween weekend! In between scraping out pumpkins and dressing excited small children in spooky outfits, there are some very handy tasks in the garden you could tackle/escape to, including reviving your mint pot, taking easy cuttings and digging out the horror weeds.
Just a reminder that if you don’t have time to read this blog, you can always click on the podcast recording at the end of the column. And if you feel like reading about we 3Growbags being silly about Halloween Horrors a couple of years ago, that link is also at the end. Right, on we go…………
HARDwood cuttings – rubbish! They’re easy!
This is a crazily simple way of increasing your stock of many deciduous shrubs, including roses, clematis, ornamental elder, Philadelphus, Cornus (dogwood), Buddleia, willows, Abelia, Euonymus (like the one in the feature pic that came from a cutting a while back!), ornamental vines, honeysuckle, jasmine, Physocarpus, Deutzia, Weigela, hydrangeas, even gooseberries and redcurrants.
The wood in their shoots is now hardened as the plant is entering dormancy and can be treated with a lot more casualness than if they’d been softer. Another plus point is that you can just stick your cuttings in any piece of spare soil or in pots and largely forget about them for months at a time!
Cut a little trench first – 6” (15 cm) deep and maybe put some grit or sharp sand along the bottom, if you’ve got some, to help with drainage in heavy soils. Or a hole if you’ve only got one cutting! OR fill a large pot with gritty compost into which you’ll insert your cuttings round the edge. Then cut long straight healthy 6-10” (15-25 cm) stems from your chosen shrub of roughly a pencil’s thickness, cutting so that you have a bud near the top and another one near the bottom of each one. Trim them up, cut the top at an angle and the bottom straight across (ostensibly so the rain will run off the top, but mostly because it will remind you not to plant them upside-down which would spell disaster!)
(Sometimes I might dip them in a rooting compound, but often I don’t even bother.) Then you just……..stick ‘em in the soil! Bury up to about half of the stem in soil, and give them a water. LABEL THEM – so you don’t stumble over them sometime next spring and wonder what the little sticks are……..Otherwise, just leave them to get on with it. I made a short video on the subject a while ago.
You do need to be patient with these hardwood cuttings – they can take up to a year to root, but even if they show signs of growth in early spring , I strongly advise you to leave them in situ until autumn (you can tell that I’ve been too eager with some promising-looking cuttings in the past, dug them up too early and lost them……..)
Truly, hardwood cuttings are a doddle, worth half an hour of your time and if they don’t make roots for whatever reason, what have you lost? Zilch!
If you have sensibly been growing mint in a pot rather than in the open garden, to prevent it going evverrrywherrrre in the blink of an eye, check it now to see if it needs repotting.
Mint is a super-vigorous plant, and you might well find the roots going round and round at the base of the pot. This will affect the quality of the leaves you harvest. No need to be gentle here – chop it up into sections, each with a few roots, using an old kitchen knife or a garden blade, and re-pot each bit into fresh compost.
If it’s a REAL spaghetti-bowl of white roots at the bottom, you could even cut off the whole bottom third of the plant! I remember seeing Neil Lucas doing that once with an overgrown grass at one of his inspirational talks. This rather brutal treatment triggers the plant into developing more fresh roots.
Tuck the re-potted sections into the compost well, water them and keep them in good light. I always like to keep pots of mint in the greenhouse to deter pests such as whitefly. And if you want to make even more mint plants, just snip off some short (2″, 5cm) bits of shallow root, lay them horizontally on a tray of compost, cover with compost, water and leave them in a greenhouse or cold frame to grow.
Still on the subject of herbs, bring in pots of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (without bursting into song, if you can avoid it, unless you could give Art Garfunkel a run for his money), for better pickings in the winter, and keep them in a cool, bright place.
- While the soil is still workable, get out there with a fork or trowel and dig out some of the perennial weeds in the flower borders – they might be small now, but will romp away next spring if left in – nettles, thistles, dandelions, buttercups…..etc. Make sure you dig out every single bit of root! Please, please allow patches of these elsewhere in your garden, though, if you possibly can – they all have such a deeply important part to play in combatting our tragic loss of insect, mammal and bird populations over the past 50 years.
- Cut down the died-back stems of asparagus and pick up any red berries dropped by the female plants – you don’t want seedlings competing with your crop next year. The chopped-up stems can go on the compost heap. After weeding the bed, spread a thick layer of composted manure over the whole lot.
- We were very pleasantly surprised to find that a tree that we had planted in a rather obscure place as a common crab-apple, has secretly produced a crop of delicious eating apples! A storm last week had brought most of them to the ground, so we should eat them fairly soon. Remember not to try and store blemished or bruised fruit, and check any stored fruit regularly – don’t forget what they say about “One bad apple……..”
- The leaves are starting to fall fast now – keep the greenhouse gutters clean and flowing well. Install more water barrels to catch the rain – my husband is out there doing that at this very moment, in fact………………
Here is the link to the podcast recording of this blog.
And this is us having a bit of fun with Halloween Horror Plants.
More NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.