As promised a few weeks ago, I want to give us all the reminder that this coming week is just about the time limit for the winter pruning of roses. Thursday 16th is the celebration of San Antonio here on the Island and as I have mentioned many times, gardening and agriculture is frequently marked by the Saints days. In this case, the saying goes ‘ if the roses are pruned by San Antonio you will be sure to have them in bloom by the feast of San Jordi’ (Saint George) the Patron Saint of Catalonia which celebrates this day with a red rose. In fact on that day gentlemen must give their lady a red rose and ladies in return respond with a book as it is also ‘Book Day.’ Oh dear we are getting away from gardening.
One reader commented to me that whilst pruning her roses she noticed that nearly all the remaining leaves were covered in ugly black blemishes. This is what is known as ‘black spot’ and unfortunately roses are very susceptible to this disease. It is in fact a fungal disease and not only the leaves but surely the ground around the rose bushes will be infected. Most fungal diseases can be kept at bay with copper sulphate but a consultation with the co-op or farmers market will surely introduce you to whatever products they have on their shelves for this type of disease in roses. So do remember, besides treating the plant, treat the ground around it.
A further point to remember is that roses are very hungry plants, they may well stand in the same part of the garden for years just weeding around them or tidying up but they do need feeding from time to time as the shrub will be constantly taking the nutrients out of the soil. In summer time whilst mowing the lawn, some grass cuttings can be added as a top dressing. The worms will quickly come to the surface and drag some of these grass cuttings down into the soil. A covering or mulch of grass can help keep the weeds down as well. A top dressing of new compost is another option or a little horse manure should horses ever be ridden past your front gate and leave their droppings, it does wonders if you pop out and shovel it up!
Don’t forget the grape vines, they will need pruning now, not to mention all the other shrubs and trees even though some still have their leaves or even a few flowers , it is always surprising just how they all respond to being cut back.
Even though, strictly speaking we are in ‘winter’, the months we consider the coldest season of the year, here in Majorca nearly everything seems to continue to grow. Just look at the fields of newly planted cereal crops and above all, the almond blossom is already in full bloom, one of the winter spectacles this island is so well known for. So, take a look at some of the corners of your own garden, you may find a few surprises. Amongst the herb family fennel will be showing its new feathery to growth. Make sure to cut back all the dry stems but be sure to leave all those sprouting bits, you will need them for frito Mallorquin or any of your favourite fish dishes.
There is nothing better than just popping out into the garden for fresh herbs. Here as well is where the balcony gardeners can come into their own, make sure you have a selection of as many potted herbs as you have room for. Some supermarkets still have small pots of sweet basil, parsley, mint and chives, even a few others and they are all less than a euro a pot. Just be sure when you purchase such a bargain that you re-pot them. They will do better in a really big pot with lots of fresh compost, this can be purchased usually in the same store, spread the seedlings out a little to give their roots space to grow and there you have your herb garden already made for the rest of the year. Be sure to stand the pot in a drainage plate of some sort and water frequently. Most herbs are quite thirsty plants. And even going back to the subject of roses, there is no reason why one shouldn’t enjoy a rose or two on a balcony, they thrive just as well in pots.