Now every shop on the High Street has stocked up its Christmas aisle, and you’ve been panicked into buying your first gifts for nearest and dearest, get some little gardening jobs done before the mayhem really kicks in. Planting tulips, pruning vines and cleaning labels can all be on your to-do list this month…….
TIME FOR TULIPS
Your daffs should have been planted by now, but tulips like the outrageous T. ‘Estella Rijnveld’ in the feature pic, should be planted now in November, when they are less likely to pick up a nasty little disease called Tulip Fire.
I have all but given up planting tulips in the garden beds – they always seem to get dug up or eaten by something. By planting them in pots of gritty compost with a bit of fine netting over the top, they usually get left alone by the critters. I just sit the pots among the garden plants once the tulips are flowering in spring.
Scoop holes in the compost 6-8″ deeper than the base of the bulbs, and pack them in pointy-end up. Cover them up, give them a water, put over the bit of netting and wait for spring. Job done!
VOT ABOUT VINES?!
The best time to plant new grape vines is actually early spring, but if you already have some established vines, it’s a great idea to get the essential pruning done now: after leaf-fall, but before there is any chance of the plant reviving a bit from winter dormancy. Doing the job later risks a leakage of sap which can severely weaken the plant.
It may not be a surprise to you to hear that I am not a purist about this! There is a great deal of complicated talk out there about vine-growing but I am a straightforward soul……..
I use a ‘rod-and-spur’ system with my ‘Siguerrebe’ grapes. This means I train a few long stems (‘rods’) horizontally along an open-wire sunny fence, and these gnarly stems throw up vertical shoots (‘spurs’) all along their length in spring which then flower and carry the fruit. In November or December, I cut back every one of those shoots to 2 lumpy ‘buds’ from its junction with the main stem.
That’s it. I don’t do anything else until spring and summer when I will:
- Keep tying in the main stems to the wire.
- Cut off any shoots 2 leaves after a flower-cluster if they have formed one.
- Cut off any shoots 5 leaves after the junction with the stem if they haven’t formed a flower-cluster.
Experienced viticulturalists (what a word!) might be aghast at my simplistic methods – all I know is that my 3 or 4 vines (grown from cuttings) flower themselves STUPID every summer, laden with small, juicy plum-coloured pipless grapes tasting of Muscat. YUM!
LABELS TO LAST
We have rightly become SO aware of how much plastic we use in our lives. The garden world is as prone as any to an accusation of plastics overuse, and most of us are trying hard to cut back or re-cycle.
Ever since I started gardening decades ago, I’ve used white plastic labels for my plants. I have experimented with lots of other kinds of label, and I know they all have their champions – black metal ones with white writing, dymo-tape, wooden lollipop sticks (I found these DEEPLY useless – the writing was unreadable after a month)….. But I always came back to the simple white ones.
The difference is that I always use a pencil on them rather than a pen. And once that veg crop is over, or that particular plant has got established in the garden – or died! – I retrieve the label. I don’t like a flowerbed to be sprinkled with little plant-labels, and sometimes visitors nick them anyway! So now, in November, I will sit down with all the plant-labels I have used during the year. I will reflect on the story each one tells, maybe make a note of where that plant is in the garden, or what a total failure those potatoes were, etc. And then I just wash and dry them, rub out the writing with an ordinary eraser, and stack them ready for use next year! I’ve used many of the same labels for donkey’s years. Not high-tech, but it works for me, and it may for you as well.
- Bare-root plants are available now. They are often much cheaper than pot-grown ones, and establish more quickly. If you buy a bare-root plant, unpack it and soak the roots for a couple of hours, but no longer. Trim off any long straggly or damaged top growth or roots, and plant it in a spare bit of soil (‘heeling in’) if you can’t put it in its final position right away.
- Tidy up hellebores, taking off the old marked leaves, which will spoil the flower display in spring otherwise.
- Start making your Christmas present list – gardening gloves because you’ve worn out the fingers on yours, a huge new conservatory (think big) or what about a razor hoe – just the best friend a gardener could have!.
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