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 now for results like this
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.
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)
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
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
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.
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.
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