Fiveways Gardens...April 2013

Silver-leafed shrubs such as lavenders, sage and santolina should be cut to within 15-30 cm of the ground if you have young plants that you want to keep compact.  Just check that you can see new buds emerging on the lowest stems.  If you have older woody plants that you want to try to revive, a good technique worth trying is to cut them back pretty hard, into the old wood, and then mound good compost on top of them. 

If you've tall perennials that needed staking last year, it's a good idea to put supports in place now, before the plants really get going.  This way, the plants grow up through supports and disguise them, and look better than plants that have been propped up once they've been wind-battered.

Pest-wise, slugs and snails will no doubt be the number one pain in the wotsit this year.  With any luck, 2013 won't be a monsoon year and we won't quite have the problem we did in 2012.  However, our old crumbling walls and living on the chalky south downs means we're always going to have to contend with these creatures.  I plan to try nematodes that will target slugs this year.  I'd be interested to hear anyone else's experience of using them, as there does seem to be mixed views (isn't there on all gardening related matters).  Anyhow, writing this article has reminded me that I need to get ordering.  The other thing I'll be doing in the next week is placing copper rings around the base of susceptible plants that I like to grow, eg. delphiniums and dahlias.  In every year except 2012 this was effective, so fingers crossed.

Climbing honeysuckle, or Lonicera can be prone to powdery mildew infection - there seemed to be quite a bit of it about last year.  As so many of us have and love this plant, it's worth mentioning how we can better look after them this year.  Powdery mildew is often caused by drought stress.  Even when it seems to be raining quite a bit, we have to bear in mind that most of us have very freely draining, chalky soil, that dries out quickly.  Given that most honeysuckles are planted at the foot of a wall, in particularly poor soil, and are sheltered from a lot of the rain, you can see how plants get drought stressed.  To help prevent this, put a good 7-10 cm. mulch of organic matter around the base to conserve moisture and condition the soil.  Adding some blood, fish and bone and / or chicken pellets to encourage strong growth and lots of flowers will also help, as nutrients are quickly washed away in our soil.  This should be an annual job, and will benefit all wall trained climbers.  The new shoots are prone to aphid attack - spotting this quickly and spraying regularly with a weak dilution of washing up liquid usually solves the problem. 

 Happy gardening