This has been an exceptional spring for early growth and flower; have you noticed how long the flowers have lasted on all plants from bulbs to spring bedding plants, shrubs and trees? As I write there are Wisterias still in full bloom, with some honeysuckles (early types) matching them for a show – unusual to see them both flowering together. These will now charge ahead and make a lot of growth over the next four weeks or so and the trick with Wisterias to get consistent flowering is to shorten all this soft growth back by two thirds by the end of July. This will stimulate flower buds at the base and it will also tidy them up!
Last month I was asked to give advice on cutting back a Laurel hedge that had grown too high and too wide. I replied “If I needed to hard prune a Laurel hedge I wouldn’t do it now”, not the most helpful of replies you might think! A hard cut back at this time of year will leave the hedge looking unsightly for most of the summer as it struggles to recover; there is also a good chance that it could destroy or disturb a lot of birds’ nests. If you are in this position I suggest you wait until the end of this month and give it a light trim and plan to cut it hard in late January or early February; at that time of the year you should be ahead of bird nesting and you will also catch the spring growth response. Remember to aim to have the sides of the hedge gently sloping in towards the top to avoid that ‘top heavy’ appearance and ensure there is minimum shading of the base of the hedge. You will find that it may be necessary to cut the early shoots back in June/July to keep it in shape.
The early start to the season has tempted many to plant out runner beans and climbing French beans and where these have not been given protection from cold wind and some chilly nights they look a very sad sight now! There is still time to sow beans and harvest a crop; they might even overtake the recovering early plants so sow a seed near your struggling plants and see how they grow much better - and make a note for next season!
In late May I finally got round to rotovating the last quarter plot on my allotment and noticed just how damp it was beneath a dry surface. The surface soil can look very dry and this fools many who then start to apply lots of
water thinking the plants are going to suffer – not so! Please be careful how you use water in the garden, especially if you are still using mains water. With well prepared ground and initial watering to settle in your plants or seeds, it should not be necessary to continually apply water. Use a probe to gauge what water might be needed; a thin cane, or your finger, will do the trick and you will be surprised to discover that just a few inches down there is an adequate supply of moisture. A mulch of compost (there is still plenty of ‘Black Gold’ available from the Community Compost Scheme at the allotment site on Saturday mornings 10.00 – 12.00) around your plants will slow down the drying effect of any hot weather this month.