GARDENING: No garden gossip, but plenty of work to do

Absorbing though the home garden has been since March lockdown, I have missed the spontaneity of a chance encounter with fellow enthusiasts.

By Tom Pattinson
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 12:00 am
Keeping vines under control.
Keeping vines under control.

Knowing that they too are under restrictive circumstances, giving their respective plots more attention than they`ve had in years, is small consolation. We all love to compare the progress of our vegetable and fruit crops or the performance of a favourite ornamental plant as June progresses, but when some local fellows meet the conversation invariably turns to potatoes, tomatoes, and onions. Just like someone describing the big fish that got away, this can involve the use of hands and perhaps an element of exaggeration. The potato chat beings with reference to the height of their haulms, whether they`ve got flowers yet, and possibility of their readiness for digging during Newcastle Race Week. The key must-haves to gain any kudos with tomatoes are, more than one truss formed, with lots of fruits of decent size.

And unless you can form the outline of a large onion with both hands to describe the current size of yours, don`t even enter the fray. I am happy in the garden but clearly missing the friendly banter. Pruning and the removal of dead plant material is constant in a garden, and it offers an excellent opportunity to recycle the resultant waste. But what happens when the in-house composting facility is overflowing? Two main options involve hiring a green-waste bin or bins from the local authority and taking advantage of the fortnightly collection service or, transporting the excess to your nearest recycling facility. Such is the production rate in this garden that we`re occasionally doing both.

This said, there was no panic recently when the lady of the house reminded me there were two bins standing empty and the collection was due early next morning. So, after a quick glance around the various borders, we picked up secateurs, shears, and long-handled pruners, then went to work.

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First up were daffodils. They`d had more than six weeks since flowering ceased, adequate time for the remaining leaves to process food and boost the bulbs for next spring`s displays. Groups of dried foliage throughout the garden confirmed they`d done their job.

June is rather early in the season to expect much waste from herbaceous perennials other than via Chelsea chopping. However, we`d left three large groups of comfrey (Symphytum caucasicum), that collapsed in the wind two weeks earlier, because the bees still visited their blue flowers. Now the blooms had faded, this considerable bulk of stems and leaves was ready to go, and the search for more green waste continued.

Large tub in hand, I headed in one direction to pick up heaps of coarse grass, raked together previously after strimming, while the lady of the house went in search of shrubs to prune.

Spiraea arguta (bridal wreath) had been magnificent with arching branches of white, but now they`d faded the timing was right to set up next year`s display. Spent flowering branches were removed at a point where young shoots emerged. They can now grow on, mature, and bear next year`s blooms.

Beautiful flowers of Ceanothus `Concha` had just faded and this is a shrub that does not enjoy severe pruning but whose annual growth must be kept under control. So, the lady removed as much as possible without cutting into old wood.

Winter heathers, which abound in this garden, bloom for over five months and are ready for a trim in late May. If this is too severe it can impact on the next display. Therefore, a light prune, removing spent flowers and a moderate amount of growth is the best approach. We collected a tubful of waste from them. The rampant rosemary, which had just finished flowering,

also contributed.

After a visit to the deciduous and evergreen viburnums to see what excess of growth they had to offer, both bins were filling up rapidly, so our search turned to smaller contributions.

A spot of vegetable waste was found. We`d been picking a spicy mix of leaf lettuce since early April and it was now going into flower. Young replacements were ready so out it came. Both bins were full by now, but you can always squeeze a little extra in and still get the lids to close.

Last port of call was the greenhouse. The peach carries a heavy crop that demands a good flow of air. This can be encouraged if you shorten all lateral growths, which I did. Then finally the vines. Notorious for those invasive side shoots that must be pruned back to two buds, this completed our roundup of green waste for the bins!