Sitting here looking out the window as sheets of rain buffet the garden beneath an angry grey sky it is difficult to believe that only last week I was out in the sunshine, coming over all William Wordsworth as I simpered at the bluebells and harkened to the sweet song of the mistle thrush. It is bloody miserable and an object lesson on why it is so important not to be too hasty in the garden at this time of year. When we get an unseasonal blast of heat and sun as we did a couple of weeks back it is so tempting to rush out and stock up with summer bedding and take your tender plants out of the greenhouse/cold frame/windowsill (note descending order of poverty/meanness of garden). In Ireland we understandably get carried away as bitter experience has taught us that measly week or so may very possibly be all the summer we shall get. Garden centres are hugely at fault and should hang their heads in deep shame; they have no business selling gullible customers plants that should not be planted out until the end of May at the earliest. All those people who foolishly bought begonias, busy lizzies, mimulus and other tender summer bedding are now looking at nasty little brown stumps. If this has happened to you, dig out and take a good look at each plant, if it still appears to have a viable root system and a bit of green stalk left, cut off the mouldy bits, re-pot and take indoors and it may regenerate. Chuck the truly dead plants in the compost and vow not to be so hasty again.
On the plus side….. Once the rain eventually stops get out and weed ASAP, it is much easier to dig out tiresome tenacious tap-rooted weeds like dandelion and plantains when the soil is good and damp. Hoe out weedy seedlings rather than stamping all over the beds as you don’t want to compress the soil too much. There are another few jobs you can be doing during the breaks in the showers:
- Cut off all the spent flowering stalks of hellebores. If you wish to propagate a particularly good one you are better off dividing it as most seedlings will not come true and revert to pinky sludge. However if you want to take a chance, leave a couple of seed heads on the plant.
- Clematis montana is starting bloom now and it is essential that you remember to cut it back and keep it in check as soon as it is finished flowering to avoid it becoming an ugly, unruly tangled mess.
- You should be tying in your roses as they grow and check for aphids –they adore this warmish damp weather.
- Ditto slugs and snails, this wet patch is like a week in Ibiza for us, they adore it and are merrily chomping away on fresh green shoots, ,in broad daylight, as brazen as you like!