Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Saving your Plants from Frost, Pests and Flies

During last month’s sunny weather I replanted my collection of cordon gooseberries, that had been lifted when new paths were laid around the raised beds and greenhouse, now all they need is to be tied in to a support. They will welcome the improved soil and with plenty of TLC should re-establish rapidly when the weather warms. Although many of the older varieties in the collection taste delicious they are prone to American Gooseberry mildew, covering the leaves and fruits, reducing vigour and crop production. This year I intend to start a control regime well before infection starts. It is important to ensure that there is good air circulation and they don’t get dry at the roots, then treat them with sulphur alternatively it can be sprayed with a solution of 1:10 milk and water, which is surprisingly effective. Disease resistant varieties are a good option too and planting them should be a top priority for anyone wanting to minimise disease problems, among Mildew resistant gooseberries are ‘Invicta’ and ‘Greenfinch’, if you want a really tasty variety, try ‘Langley Gage’.

This is the time of year when sudden frosts damage blossom and buds and shoots of newly planted potatoes. Keep newspaper, horticultural fleece, old net curtains or bubble wrap handy ready to cover your crops at a moment’s notice and make a point of listening to the weather forecast. It is an important time for pollination, too, if the weather is cold, hand pollinate apricots and nectarines with a paintbrush of camel’s hair. Cover early sowings of vegetables with horticultural fleece this encourages germination and prevents crops from ‘bolting’ later in the season.

‘Growing your own’ has become extremely trendy and long may it continue. People have suddenly woken up to the fact that home grown fruit and vegetables are nutritious and packed full of flavour, Garden centres, nurseries and DIY stores have responded by stocking a wonderful range of vegetable plants, saving us compost, time and heating. I’ve ordered some unusual varieties of tomatoes and pepper’s, aubergine’s and chillies which should arrive in mid April as temperatures increase. I can’t wait!

Carrot fly is such a problem in my garden that sowing carrots has become a gamble. Thankfully, there are several solutions, including covering crops with horticultural fleece from sowing to harvest. One option is sowing after mid May and harvesting before mid August avoiding the main egg laying and hatching periods and sowing early and late season carrots in cold frames. Alternatively, alternate rows of carrots with rows of garlic or onions, or create a with a 60cm high barrier around them, mulch with a thick layer of lawn mowing’s, use rove beetles as a biological control and grow resistant varieties like ‘Legend’, ‘Sytan’ and ‘Flyaway’.

Now rabbits have invaded my garden, eating everything in sight, particularly vegetables. Fencing around my plot, has suddenly become a priority. It is important to bury the wire fencing around 30cm below ground level and facing outwards to prevent them from burrowing underneath. More time and expense in the battle against pests, no wonder gardener’s often complain! Happy Gardening!