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The Grumpy Gardener - March

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In this part of the French News Online "Lifestyle" Section, professional gardener Michael Alexander, takes us, gently, through those tasks you should be tackling in the garden this month.

prune your roses now
Prune now for results like this

Talking to Plants

Talking to plants is a subject somewhat scorned as Prince Charles, Britain's heir to the throne, discovered some years ago.

I however, believe it is crucial to the well being of the gardener, if not the plants themselves, and this is the time of year that I find my horticultural conversations become most pronounced.

Wars of the Roses
Now is a good time to prune roses and I have lots of these to deal with, my hands soon start to look like they have been plunged into a bag of angry kittens. I find gloves cumbersome to work in and, as yet another thorn stabs itself into one of my tender digits, I have a little one way conversation, usually related to the parentage of the plant to which I now find myself attached. I have though, had good results from the roses with which I work, although it may be that the language barrier prevents French roses from fully understanding what has been said. Either way it enables me to let off pent-up, finger-pricked frustration. Don't be shy to cut roses back hard to an outward facing bud. If you leave it a little late it won't really matter and it may even make spotting buds easier. Despite all the mythology surrounding them (generated by us gardeners of course) roses are extremely forgiving.

Early flowering bulbs are either through now or starting to come through. Last year I planted dozens of Crocus "Blue Pearl", largely because they were cheap, and they have given a wonderful display. Cheap bulbs are often the easiest to grow and the most reliable so don't always go for more expensive plants thinking you will get better value for money.

Crocus (Blue Pearl)
Crocus (Blue Pearl)

Sneak Attacks
Hopefully spring is just about on us and so work levels will now suddenly start to pick up considerably. Weeds will of course try every sneak attack they can think of and by the end of the month the lawn will be starting to get too long to be ignored.

It is a good time to divide perennials. Before replanting throw in a handful of bone meal and mix some compost into the soil so that they have plenty to nourish them over the coming summer. I always water plants in after replanting, even if the soil is damp. This causes loose soil to be washed into any gaps around the roots. Also it is time to plant summer flowering bulbs such as lilies. They are great for filling gaps and giving splashes of colour late in the year when other plants are starting to go over.

Wasp Early Warning
It is really important to get wasp traps up early. After lovingly nurturing so many fruit trees last year it was a shock to then lose as much fruit as I did, to the squadrons of wasps that attacked them.

In addition as I noted in my article here the Asian wasp Vespa Velutina is having a devastating effect on the honey bee population and gardeners can play a vital part in the fight to control them. Wasps send out scouts early in the season to find nesting sites and food sources. If those scouts can be captured early then wasp numbers can be radically reduced later in the season.

Wasp trap - make your own
Home-made wasp trap. Just add beer!

Traps can be bought but it is really easy to make them with old one litre water bottles. Simply cut off the top third of the bottle, invert it and stick it back in to the bottom two thirds with some masking tape. Hang it in a fruit tree and then pour in about two thirds of a can of beer.

Rest and Recuperation
Prevent waste of valuable natural resources by drinking the remaining beer before repeating the procedure in the next fruit tree. If you are working a large orchard this can be quite tiring, so you may need to lie down beneath a handy tree for a short siesta when finished.

Previously - click an image below
To read February's gardening tips article - click this image
To read an article
- click on the image -
Prune for Results
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
What you should have done in January!
A World Without Bees?
Fruit Tree Pruning

Grumpy Gardener
Our Grumpy Gardener has been professionally gardening in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Article: Mike Alexander

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