Gardening Deja Vu

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Hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year. I got the day off from Panto and was thoroughly spoilt as I didn’t have to do any cooking my Dad did it all – what a lovely man!

Back to Jack and the Beanstalk today but only one show which is rather nice, it’s normally two or even three. Doing three is hard work, apart from keeping the energy levels up it gets very confusing i.e. haven’t we done this scene, said this line or was that just in the last show, it does keep you on your toes, all very “déjà vu”.

The other time that I get “déjà vu” is when I do gardening question and answer sessions; so many questions come up over and over. Such as, “I’ve had a Wisteria for ages but it’s never flowered – why?, “My lilies (Lilium) start off growing really well but by the time they flower all the leaves are eaten and the flowers are damaged to”, “The leaves on my rose / bay tree / laurel get covered in a black sticky stuff”, “When it comes to pruning I don’t know where to start”, “How do I get rid of Marestail?”

So here goes one more time! With Wisteria choose a named variety, although it will grow on a north or east facing wall it will flower more readily on a south or west facing wall. When you plant it add a good multi-purpose fertiliser and soil improver and keep on top of watering for the first couple of years as being on a wall means that it will often be in a rain shadow. Next make sure you summer prune – cutting back the long wispy side shoots by two-thirds and then winter prune, reducing the side shoots to 2-3 buds. Also some wisteria take up to seven years to flower so be patient!

Lilium often get damaged by ‘lily beetle’, it’s the grubs that do the damage and are difficult to kill with insecticide as they cover their maggot like bodies with their waste – it ends up looking like bird poo on the leaves. I find the best way to reduce the numbers is to scrape off the ‘maggots’ and squash them. Also when the lilies are growing look out for the adults which are bright red beetles about 5-8mm long and dispose of them, the over winter in the soil so if your lilies are in pots its re-potting each year and getting rid of the old compost.

The black sticky stuff you get on leaves is called sooty mould and is a fungus that grows on the sticky sap that will have come from the plant itself due to insects like aphids and scale, so it’s a case of getting rid of them first and then the sooty mould will go!

Pruning really depends on the type of plant but a good starting point is remove any dead material, dying, diseased, weak growth or stems that are growing inwards and crossing over. And always cut just above a bud by 2-3mm so that there is less chance of die back. Perennial weeds are more difficult to get rid of than annuals but most will respond well to a Glyphosate based weed killer as it goes down in to the roots of the plant.

However Marestail is particularly difficult as the reduced leaves are very thick and the weed killer has difficulty getting into the plant so its best to ‘bruise’ it first by literally trampling it and you will probably need to treat two or three times. But I think it should be a case of positive thinking as it’s the New Year and you won’t get any problem weeds or pests!

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