George Irvine's Blog
Local gardening expert George Irvine presents handy information and tips to ensure your garden is in perfect condition all year.
10th May 2013
Branching Out with Brassicas in the Vegetable Plot.
Vegetables of the Brassica family include such succulent species such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts. Brassica plants are extremely hardy plants and many can survive in the soil well into winter, making them very useful crops for the kitchen to last for many months.
Before you embark on growing these vegetables it is best to consider what ones you will really want to use in the kitchen and often it is best to grow a small number of different varieties. Take cabbage, for example, there are summer varieties and winter types such as Savoy which will keep you supplied with plenty of green vegetables over a long period of time. There is even a red variety of cabbage which can be pickled or even used as a delightful change to your normal culinary skills. It is worth planting maybe just a dozen of each variety rather than plant dozens of the one kind.
Broccoli and Kale will stand very well right through the winter months and you can harvest them just when required. Brussel sprouts is another crop which has a long growing cycle and they taste much sweeter once they have had a touch of frost before harvesting - ideal for picking for your Christmas dinner.
Brassicas can be grown from seed, but if you only require smaller quantities you can buy plants which are ready for planting out in the garden just now. Cardwell Garden Centre now have quite a range of these vegetable plants in stock, just ready for planting out now.
Vegetables of the brassica family grow best in a neutral or slightly alkaline soil. If you are in any doubt about the pH of your soil, you can buy an inexpensive soil testing kit from our garden centre and a simple test will let you know the state of acidity or alkalinity in your soil.
It is usually best to increase alkalinity of the soil using lime - two or three ounces per square yard - as this also prevents club root. Brassicas do not like dry soil, so water regularly especiallyin dry spells of weather. Over the coming weeks, I will give more detailed hints on vegetable growing.
More Lessons on Lawncare.
Over the past few weeks quite a number of readers have remarked to me that they have followed my articles on removing moss and have been really surprised at the amount of dead moss they have raked out from their lawn. Indeed, most of them are now tackling the restoration of the bare patches by sowing grass seed over them. When reseeding your lawn it advisable to use a slightly higher quantity than the packet suggests as some of the seed may be eaten by wild birds or rodents.
Many lawns will benefit from a tidy up of the edges, and indeed nicely trimmed edges certainly enhance the look of your lawn, Do this using a half-moon edging tool rather than using a spade, since many spades have slightly curved edges. Use a straight edge to guide you, along with the half-moon edging tool, and you will certainly make your lawn look really amazing.
Avoiding the Perils of Pricking Out.
Gardeners who opt for raising their plants from seed find themselves faced with the task of pricking out the young seedlings and planting these into small pots or cell trays to grow on.
This job needs some tender care, especially when handling the tender young plants. Handle them by their leaves and not the stem, as this can cause bruising and other damage to the plants. When planting into pots or modular cell trays ensure that you plant deep enough so that the leaves are just above the level of the soil. Doing this will ensure good strong plants rather than have them growing weak and straggly. Water them using tap water which has been acclimatised to the temperature of the greenhouse. Avoid using rainwater to water your plants at this stage of growth.
Give Established Hedges a Treat.
Many hedges are looking just a tad sad after the ravages of winter, and given the high rainfall last year, many hedges might be in need of a little bit of nutrition. If you feel your hedge is looking a little bit under the weather, rake in some bone meal around the base of the hedge. This should provide a bit of feeding to last the hedge over the next couple of years.
Frost Protection is Vital.
Over the next week or two summer bedding plants will be making their appearance in many retail outlets and garden centres. It is worth noting that summer bedding plants are not frost hardy and therefore should be protected from frost until late May or early June in this area.Frost protection fleece is ideal for this and can easily put on at night. It should be removed in the morning so as to avoid an unwanted build up of moisture which can lead to fungal growth on your plants.
May is a Time of Great Growth in the Garden.
As we embark on the month of May it is important period for making those final preparations for summer. However, there is a need for some caution as there is still frost about during the night and early morning. For instance, just last Saturday, I had to use de-icer on my car windscreen to remove a film of ice just after 8 o'clock. Summer bedding plants are not frost hardy, and hence will need protection from the occasional snap of frost. Keep an eye on the weather forecast until the end of the month, when the threat of frost has passed. It's a good idea to have some frost protection fleece handy in case you need to protect your plants. Only use the fleece overnight and remove it in the morning to avoid a build up of moisture.
The same applies to hanging baskets, they can be planted up just now but keep them inside for the next few weeks.
Tall growing perennials will need support as they start to grow in order to keep them straight and upright. Clematis needs to be tied to control their climbing habit in the direction you would like them to grow. Try and tie rambling roses as horizontal as possible as this will restrict the flow of sap and increase the number of side shoots resulting in more flowers.
Many gardeners find that Cauliflowers can be just a tad difficult to grow successfully in their gardens. However, the following tips should help you to get some good results.
Firstly, spacing is important. Cauliflowers need a minimum distance between plants of about 16 inches but give a bit more space to late season varieties. Allow at least 2 feet between rows.
When planting out. Dig a hole about 4 to six inches deep and put a heaped tablespoonful of lime into the hole. Scatter about the same amount round each plant after planting. Put down slug pellets after planting. Water when necessary but when the plants begin to bulk up and the developing curds are around four inches round, increase the watering to every other day and give half-gallon to each plant.
When the curds are near to maturity, ties the leaves up over the curds with string in order to keep the curd shaded and as white as possible.
Don't Forget Your Pond.
If you have a pond in your garden, pond weed needs to be dealt with regularly before it becomes too troublesome and harmful to pond life. Make sure you leave any weeds you remove by the side of the pond for a good while in case any pond life is harbouring among the pond weed. This allows them to make their way back into the pond. Make sure any new aquatic plants are well established first before you attempt to begin stocking the pond with fish.
22nd March 2013
Water With Care
When potting up young plug plants into cell trays or small pots ,watering will be essential to keep these plants - and indeed,- any young seedlings growing strong over the next few months.
While water is vital for growth, too much water will be detrimental to the plants. It is important not to over-water them as this can cause the roots to rot. Just keep the compost moist - not soaking wet.
When you water young seedlings it is best not to use the garden hose. The high pressure of a hose pipe may be damage tender and fragile young plants. Additionally, the mains water will be quite cold at this time of year, and the sudden cold shower is sure to shock the tender young seedlings. The best approach to watering is to use a watering can with a very fine rose on the end of it. Also keep the watering can - filled with water- in the greenhouse so that the temperature of the water will match that of the plants.
12th March 2013
A Great additive for Seed Sowing
When you are sowing seeds, the instructions on some seed packets will tell you that some seeds need to be covered over with seed compost before germination will take place. However, rather than use seed compost for this task you can opt to use vermiculite, and indeed it's use has many advantages.
But what is Vermiculite? Vermiculite is a mineralogical name given to hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminium-iron silicate and it resembles mica in appearance. It also has insulating properties, and it is sterile and hence free from pests and diseases. Covering your seeds to the required depth with vermiculite is worth considering, and you can also add it to the compost when pricking out young seedlings. It will help improve drainage but yet hold moisture and allow air to reach the roots..
Caring for Acers.
Many gardeners simply love Acers in their garden and these small trees, which are actually Japanese Maples, provide a bit of welcome architecture to any garden with the added bonus of lovely coloured leaves. Many are also grown for their shape too and this also will enhance your garden.
One of the many questions I am asked is about when and if they should be pruned. The answer is that generally Acers do not need to be pruned at all. By nature they are slow growing, and hence pruning is not usually necessary. However, sometimes you do need to lightly prune them just to retain their shape or to remove damaged branches.
If you do have to lightly prune, you must do it soon before the sap starts to rise, otherwise new cuts will tend to bleed. You can give a light feed in early spring but do watch out for black fly.
Growing from Plug Plants.
With the plug plant season now about to start in earnest I want to feature on the steps needed to be taken to successfully grow these little plants on until ready for planting out in the garden by early summer. With any plug plants, it is vitally important that you don't let them dry out. You also need to pot these on into small pots or cell trays. The latter are available in various sizes and are obtainable in Cardwell Garden Centre.
Use new fresh multi-purpose compost when potting-up these small plants. Don't be tempted to use old compost which you have had lying about since last year, as this could have decomposed, creating toxins which could be harmful to your new plants. Gently ease, or pull the plug plant from it's original tray and replant into cell trays or 3 inch pots containing fresh compost. I often find it useful to use a little bit a split cane to push the plug from it's original tray. Gently firm the plant into the compost in it's new abode and then water each plant carefully. Keep the plants in a light but frost-free location - such as an unheated greenhouse, but do not let the overnight temperature fall below 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep a Look-Out for Frost.
Over the next couple of months we can still get some severe frosts during the night and early morning. My advice is to watch the weather forecasts and if heavy frosts are on the horizon make sure you cover tender young plants with garden fleece , or even a few layers of old newspaper. Keep off lawns if they are covered with frost, otherwise you can damage the grass.
Trimming Winter Heather.
Most of the winter heather which has given a bit of colour to the garden over the dull dark days of winter, will be starting to fade now. As with most heather, they do need to be trimmed after flowering and now is the time to do this. Lightly trim off all the old flowers, taking care not to cut into old dark wood. Perhaps the best way to trim off the old flower spikes is to use your garden shears. Remember, just a light trim is all that is needed to remove the old flowers.
Get the Secatuers Out.
Perennial Lavatera - or the marshmallow plant as it is often known - should be pruned back to about nine inches above the ground during this month. After pruning, rake some general fertiliser such as bone meal or 'Growmore' around the base of the plants.
Hydrangea - the Mop Head varieties- should have all the old flower heads trimmed off now but do not be tempted to prune these bushes down, because, you will prevent any flowers from appearing for the next three years. Should your bushes become too cumbersome, remove only one third of the stems taking them down to ground level, selecting only those that flowered last year. Otherwise, leave your bushes untouched.
1st February 2013
Getting ready for Sowing Seeds.
During February and March most gardeners will be getting down to the business of sowing seeds for their summer plants and vegetables and here are just a few hints to help you on your way and ensure you get the best results.
Firstly, just what is a seed? A seed is a ripened, fertilised ovule containing a dormant embryo, capable of developing into an adult plant. Each seed contains sufficient nutrients to sustain the young seedling during the course of germination.
When we proceed to sow the seed, it is best to use specially prepared seed compost like Levington Seed and Cutting compost. This is formulated to provide enough drainage to prevent the seed from rotting should the compost become too wet. Equally, seed compost is low in nutrients so that the emerging seedling is not damaged by strong fertilisers. It is important that you do not add fertiliser to your seeds until they are well established. Too much fertiliser will kill you seeds before they get a chance to grow.
It is also important that seed trays are clean before you start in order to prevent disease affecting your seeds. A good cleansing agent is Armillatox or Jeyes fluid. There are other detergents available, but please make sure they are formulated for the task. Many household detergents will leave a residue which can kill young plants.
The seeds of different plants will require different temperatures for germination, and also the time taken for seeds to germinate will vary between different varieties. Propagators are convenient for a good harvest of seeds and if you plan to have a large harvest a heated propagator will speed things up enormously!
Some seed may need light to germinate, sow you should not cover the seed with compost or vermiculite, while other seeds require darkness in order for germination to occur.
It is very important to read all the instructions on the seed packet before you begin, since all the relevant information is usually given by the seed producer.
If after you have read the instructions on the seed packet and are still unsure, please do not hesitate to ask the garden centre staff for help with any aspect of seed germination, or any part of your garden. The staff at the garden centre will be happy to offer unbiased advice which can save you a lot of time and maybe even some money! Everyone is a beginner at first, but a few hints and tips can make the process enjoyable, rather than a chore. This whole process can seem quite daunting if you have never done it before, so I have compiled a brief glossary of some of the more common terms below.
Seed: The ripened, fertilised ovule containing a dormant embryo, capable of developing into an adult plant.
Seedling: A young plant that has developed from a seed.
Germination: The physical and chemical changes that take place as a seed starts to grow and develop into a plant.
Cotyledon: A seed leaf. The first leaf or leaves to emerge from a seed after germination, often markedly different from the mature leaves.
Annual: A plant that completes it's life cycle, ie.germination-flowering- seeding - dying- in one growing season.
Hardy: A plant that is able to withstand year-round climatic conditions, including frost, without protection.
Half-Hardy ;. A plant that will not tolerate frost, or relatively cooler conditions.
Biennial: A plant that flowers and dies in the second growing season, after germination.
Perennial: Any plant living at least three seasons. Eg. Herbaceous plants and woody plants. ( trees and shrubs)
Hardening-Off.: Gradually acclimatizing plants that have been raised under cover, to cooler, outdoor conditions.
30th January 2013
Countdown to Spring.
Members of Gourock Horticultural Society host the annual spring Flower Show in the Gamble Halls on Saturday 23rd February with support from Cardwell Garden Centre. Show schedules are now available from committee members or can be obtained from Linda at Woolcraft, in Shore Street, Gourock.
With classes for various spring bulbs and pot plants plus a host of exhibits from the children of local nursery groups, primary schools and youth organisations. In addition there will be sections to exhibit handcrafted items from both adults and children and a section featuring Floral Art.
Currently, members will be busy preparing their pots of bulbs and forcing them into flower for the end of February. Even if you haven't entered a flower show before, why not make a point of doing so this year as we've included some handy tips below on how to plant and take care of bulbs.
Bulbs planted earlier in the year, should have been removed from their cold dark domain and introduced into a light but cool environment to green-up for about a week. Bulbs for the show can now be forced into flower by bringing them indoors to the warmth. Keep an eye on them to ensure they do not come on too fast. Just when they are in bud and about to flower, the bulbs can be put back into a cool place such as an unheated greenhouse until the show date.
For a full range of bulbs and seeds please visit Cardwell Garden Centre where you will find one of our experts who can answer any queries that you may have.
For further information call 633422.
31st October 2012
Give Autumn Attention to Roses.
With winter fast approaching it is time to give some thought to your rose bushes. It is best to prune all your bushes back by half their height at this time of the year. Autumn pruning will stop winter winds rocking the bushes and loosening up the root ball, which can cause the bush to die over the winter, or become infected by a number of diseases. Addionally, you will prevent stems from becoming broken during winter gales. It is also important to check the ties on climbing and rambling roses and ensure all the branches are securely fixed to their supports. Young shoots can be easily damaged during winter gales and high winds.
Look after your garden hoses..
If you have an outside tap to connect to your garden hose, it is advisable to turn the water off at the stopcock now to prevent damage by freezing over the winter. When you turn the water off make sure that you drain the hose too. Water lying in the hose-pipe can freeze and cause the hose to split or rupture. This also applies to any water features and fountains you have in the garden. Drain both the pump and the water bowls to avoid any frost damage. Covers are available for water features to help protect over the winter.
Planting time for Spring Colour.
Over the next week or two make time to plant out spring bedding plants such as Wallflower, Sweet William, Primroses and Polyanthus. These, together with winter Pansies and spring bulbs will bring a welcome splash of colour to your garden early next year. Most of these plants are now available at Cardwell Garden Centre and are ready for planting.
Get the Lawn Mower Ready to Mothball.
Now that the grass cutting season is past, it is time to consign your lawn mower and strimmers to the garden shed for the winter season. Before you put them into winter storage, however, take time to remove all grass sticking to the undersides, using a wire brush. Include the grass box too in this cleaning operation. Finish by applying a spray of light oil or WD40 to the blades and other metal parts. Remove fuel from petrol driven mowers.
Caring for Containers.
If you have plants or shrubs growing in containers, do take the time to raise the container a few inches off the ground using proprietary plant feet or even a couple of bricks. This will allow winter rains to drain easily from the compost within the container and prevent freezing during a cold snap. Freezing can cause ceramic pots to crack during winter.
November is Tulip Planting time.
There are many varieties of tulips available - ranging from the dwarf rockery types, to the tall growing varieties. Available in single and double flowering blooms, and in many colours too, tulips can bring loads of colour to your garden from March through to late May, depending on the varieties you choose.
All bulbs can be planted over the next couple of weeks.
3rd October 2012
Useful Hints on growing Crocus
Last week I wrote about planting crocus bulbs for a colourful display during late winter and early spring, and I know that some gardeners experience disaster due to the small bulbs being eaten by field mice and squirrels.
Indeed, these small rodents can cause a lot of despair to many gardeners, but one safe way to deter them from feasting on your bulbs is to cover the soil - or compost, if growing in containers- is to sprinkle grated soap over the surface where you have planted the bulbs.
Plan to Move Delicate Plants to a Sheltered Location.
Now that we are into October, it will not be long until the first frosts start to appear around our gardens. Although everyone hopes heavy frosts and ice are a bit distant, a drop in overnight temperatures can do untold damage to tender plants.
Rather than wait until damage occurs, it is better to start and move your tender plants indoors or relocate them to a sheltered spot on the garden. Indoor plants that you have had outside during the summer should be taken inside again. For plants which you cannot move, think about mulching the soil around them and cover them with garden fleece - obtainable from garden centres- to give extra protection.
Jobs to keep you busy in the garden.
Over the next few weeks there are plenty of tasks to keep you occupied in the garden.
It's time to harvest all your summer crops of cabbage, cauliflower and potatoes and keep cutting flowers from your borders
Don't give up on the slugs and snails, or they will bury under your soil and lay more and more eggs which will hatch out next year and cause even more devastation in your garden.
24th August 2012
Getting Hyacinths in Bloom for Christmas.
Hyacinths, with their stunning colours and fragrance, make a welcome presence in the home during the festive season.
However, to be sure of success you have to start planting these bulbs during the first half of September. Begin by taking a trip along to the garden centre and look for 'Prepared Bulbs'. These bulbs have been specially prepared for flowering at Christmas, and are available in the popular shades of blue and purple as well as lovely pink and yellow hues or white.
These bulbs can be grown in either bowls or pots - and if you choose the former- you are best to plant them using bulb fibre. For growing in pots, you can use any good quality multi-purpose compost, preferably peat-based.
Plant the bulbs so that the neck of the bulb is just above the surface of the compost. After planting, give the compost a light spray of water, before placing the pots or bowls into a cool dark place and keep them there for a period of 8 to 10 weeks.
When the shoots are around two inches above the compost, move the pots and bowls into a cool but light position for a week at least keeping the compost moist, before moving into a warmer environment.
Hyacinths can cause a skin irritation in some people so if you are susceptible to this, you should use gloves when handling them. Gloves are available in the garden centre.
Gourock Flower Show.
Gourock Horticultural Society Autumn Flower Show takes place in the Gamble Halls, Shore Street, Gourock on Saturday & Sunday 8th and 9th September. Doors are open from 2pm until 5pm on both days.
Attractions include exhibits of Cut Flowers, Vegetables and Pot Plants as well as displays of Floral Art, Handicrafts. The kitchencraft section will include home baking, jams and jellies and even homemade vegetable soup. A host of entries from the children of local schools , pre-school groups and youth organisations are also expected. During the afternoon, visitors can enjoy a welcome cup of tea and home baking in the ever-popular tearoom or try their luck in the raffle held each day. There will also be a plant stall.
The show will be opened on Saturday afternoon by Eric Gallagher of Cardwell Garden Centre who are kindly supplying the stage decoration at the show.
13th August 2012
Protecting your blooms from nocturnal nibblers.
Earwigs attack a wide range of different flowers but are particularly partial to Dahlias and Chrysanthemums and Delphiniums and Clematis among a host of others.
Most of the damage caused by earwigs result in ragged holes appearing on the petals of the flowers, thus causing distressing disfigurement to the blooms.
Earwigs tend to hide within the damaged flowers during the day, but the feed mainly at night. Indeed, leaves and buds can also be damaged and often young buds are killed off.
There are not a lot of chemicals that are effective and easy to use to rid your garden of these nocturnal nibblers, although if you can locate a crowd of them, a puffer application of a general insecticide can be useful.
By far the easiest and most effective solution is to trap the earwigs by placing an upturned plant pot on a cane and placing these around your flower beds. Fill the upturned flower pot with straw- or better still - crumpled up newspaper. The ear wigs will take refuge in the paper or straw during the day and you can remove and discard the paper each day, replacing with new paper. Doing this daily will certainly protect your beloved blooms and get rid of the earwigs.
Tomatoes seem to be slow in ripening this year according to many gardeners I have spoken to over the past few weeks.
Once your plants have reached five trusses high, pinch out the growing tip. It is also beneficial to remove the lower leaves below the first truss to allow air and light to reach the fruit and encourage ripening to take place.
War on Weeds.
Weeds just seem to growing like mad this year, so do try and keep on top of them by regularly hoeing and hand weeding. If you do resort to using weed-killer, make sure you pick a calm day to spray, as even a light wind can cause the weed-killer to drift on to your crops. Always read the directions carefully when using any weed-killer and wear gloves and other protective clothing as required.
Many weed-killers such as 'Round up' are now available in ready to use spray containers avoiding the need for you to dilute before applying.
14th May 2012
Keeping Your Greenhouse Free of Aphids.
At this time of year, flying insects such as whitefly, greenfly and blackfly - not to mention thrips and midges can cause great havoc in the greenhouse. Rather than reach for the chemical sprays, you can hang a few yellow sticky traps just above your plants.
Greenhouse pests find the yellow colour irresistible, while the double-sided strong adhesive coating makes the strips inescapable to the insects.
The glue is safe and non-toxic and the entire product contains absolutely no pesticides, thus making them totally environmentally friendly. You can buy the insect traps at Cardwell Garden Centre.
Keep an Eye out for Gooseberry Sawfly.
Warm and damp weather provides the ideal conditions for pests to attack various crops in our gardens, and this time of year seems just right for the gooseberry sawfly to feast on the leaves of our gooseberry bushes.
The sawfly, which looks very much like tiny caterpillars, can usually be found on the underside of the leaves of the bushes. Left unnoticed, the sawfly will devastate a bush in literally hours, so it is important to take a close look at your bushes every other day. If spotted on the leaves, spray your bushes immediately with an insecticide such as 'Bug Clear' or 'Provado'. Even dousing your bushes with soapy water will help.
Over the past few weeks I have been approached by gardeners asking for a way to prevent deer from scoffing their treasured plants. Although there are a number of plants which are reputed to be 'deer proof' there is nothing totally immune to the taste buds of these animals.
Deer usually appear in your garden quite early in the morning, and several usually appear together - yes, maw, paw and the kids- love to visit.
One of the best deterrents is to use a product called' Grazers' which will deter both deer and rabbits form your plants. The product is non-toxic - so it will not kill them - and it is also beneficial to your plants too. 'Grazers' is available at Cardwell Garden Centre.
Don't Forget the Stakes.
Now is the time to plant out Dahlias and Chrysanthemums in your garden, and these tall growing plants are ideal for use as cut flowers later in the summer. Gladioli also fall into this category. Being tall growing, all of these will need staking as they grow taller in the coming months, so it is advisable to put place tall canes or stakes as you plant them. This will avoid disturbing the root system later.
Moss on Hard Surfaces.
To remove moss from paths, walls and other hard surfaces, drench the affected areas at a rate of 1 part Algon to 3 parts water, or 1 part Brinton's Patio Magic to 4 parts water. Both of these treatments are safe to use on hard surfaces like paving or decking. We always recommend trying a small area that is out of the way first to make sure that your surface is not stained, before treating the whole area.
These treatments are not suitable for use in/around plants or on lawns. If you have moss problems in these areas please ask a member of our trained staff for advice on how to treat them.
14th May 2012
Planting Summer Bedding
Now is the time when many gardeners will be getting ready to plant out their summer bedding plants to give a brilliant riot of colour to their gardens during summer.
Here are a few simple tips to help you get the best results from your plants.
Having purchased all your favourite plants, next comes the planting of these into their final flowering positions.
If your plants have been purchased in cell trays, just push each plant out of the tray by pushing up from the underside of the tray. Then carefully tease out the roots before making a planting hole with your trowel. Place the new plant into the planting hole and gently firm it into the soil with your fingers.
Water each plant well, to help it become established into it's new flowering position, before scattering some slug pellets around the new plants.
Don't let your plants dry out - keep watering them -especially during the first few weeks after planting. Even with the amount of rain we get in the west of Scotland you need to check your bedding plants daily for watering. Sometimes when it rains the water will only wet the top centimetre or two, whilst lower in the soil, where the plants roots are, is completely dry. This is even more relevant in hanging baskets and planted tubs.
Your bedding plants will need fed every two weeks or so with whatever food you prefer. For bedding plants we recommend a soluble fertiliser which is fact acting, such as Miracle Gro or Phostrogen. Slow release fertilisers can be also be used, but these should be added to your soil or compost before planting.
Remove any flowers from your bedding plants when they are past their best to encourage new growth.
As always, if you have any questions relating to your garden please ask our trained staff for advice.
2nd May 2012
The Perils of Frost.
Over the past few weeks quite a number of gardeners have been concerned that the tips and top buds of some shrubs have turned brown as well as some of the leaves.
The good news is that this is not some kind of disease, but is simply due to early morning frosts. Let me explain this just a little further. March was an abnormally warm month and many plants put on a bit of new growth a bit earlier than normal. Along came April and the weather turned a bit colder with quite low temperatures - for example 4 degrees and below, and this is what caused the damage to shrubs such as Pieris, Rhododendrons, Hydrangea and even Mahonia to name but a few.
However, nothing needs to be done. Just a week or so of warmth and sunshine and everything will come all right.
While on the subject of frost, please remember that summer bedding plants - perhaps with the exception of Pansies and Violas etc - need to be protected from frost for the next few weeks. Keep your plants in the greenhouse or a cold frame at night, or if you have planted them out, try and protect them with frost protection fleece or cloches.
Look out for Garden Pests.
By far, one of the worst pests around the garden at this time of year is the dreaded slugs and snails. If you are planting out any new tender plants over the coming weeks, take the precaution of scattering some slug pellets around these young plants. Slugs and snails just love to feast on young plants and they particularly love French Marigolds.
Believe it or not, slugs have over 20,000 teeth, so they can munch their way through your plants fairly rapidly.
Going on a nightly slug patrol is a sure way to reduce the population of these 'slimy monsters' but don't be tempted to pick one up and throw it over the garden wall. They have a built-in homing device and hence will so find their way back again.
Other pests which are causing havoc in gardens just now are the vine weevil and greenfly. The vine weevil grub - or larvae - works away quietly under the soil and feeds on the roots of your plants. They are easily spotted, being a white coloured grub in the shape of a small letter c. As soon as you spot this, drench the soil or compost with Bayer 'Provado' and repeat this a few days later.
Greenfly can attack plants both in the greenhouse and outdoors too. Look out for the clusters of these tiny green insects and spray immediately with a general insecticide, repeating the dose over a couple of weeks. The application must be repeated to counter any larvae that will hatch after the initial spray. Greenfly not only weakens your plants but they can also spread disease from plant to plant.
Around the Garden in May.
Plant perennials any time this month to fill in gaps in your borders.
Feed your lawn if you haven't already done so. Ideally apply Evergreen Complete which will feed the grass, kill moss and weeds all in the one application.
Plant out vegetables such as Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale and main crop Potatoes. Why not plant a few herbs too.
Gladioli corms can also be planted into your flower borders to give a fantastic display of these tall colourful summer flowers.
As always, please ask the staff at Cardwell for advice if you are unsure of anything and follow sensible precautions when using any chemicals in your garden.
When potting up young plug plants into cell trays or small pots ,watering will be essential to keep these plants - and indeed,- any young seedlings growing strong over the next few months.