The wonderful weather continues to be the main topic of conversation these days with the whole of the winter months being more like spring. This of course encourages us out into the garden to potter or even get down to some serious planting up with the hope of those ‘April showers’ which is a saying in the Spanish language as well although it is called ‘agual mil’ literaly translated as ‘a thousand waters’. This winter could well go down as one of the dryest winters for some time with only a few really heavy rain storms since Christmas, so we hopefully await our April showers.
In spite of the fact that it hasn’t rained the garden still seems to be growing. The grape vines are all showing plenty of tender new growth and it is as good a time as any to keep it in check as it goes along. By this I am referring to the signs of grapes forming on the new shoots. It is probably too early to cut off non productive branches but those already showing the flower buds can be very carefully handled with any larger leaves forming between to flower and the main trunk being carefully removed. At this very tender and early stage the leaves come away quite easily without damaging the branch. By doing this the vine is not wasting energy by filling out the leaves, all nutrients will be going directly to the flower buds and eventually form the bunch of grapes. Much later on it will be obvious which branches of the vine are forming bunches of grapes or not and then these can be cut back to leave only the produtive ones on. Those of us who come from northern gardening usually find growing different fruit and vegetables really quite exciting, well I admit that I do.
Citrus fruits may well be coming to the end of their productive season unless they are a very late variety or like some Lemon trees which can be perpetual having ripe fruit, green fruit and new flower all at the same time. Dead wood must be cut out at any time and new shoots that might be looking to be forming in the wrong place can be snipped off.
By ‘in the wrong place’ I am referring to any tender new growth that is forming growing inwards to the centre of the tree should be the ones to snip off, all trees suffer from the heat in high summer and too much thick inside growth doesn’t allow any fresh air to circulate encouraging all the beastly fungle type diseases that really hot weather attracts.
This really hot weather is still a long way off but some of these little jobs are far easier to do as we go along. These tender new shoots simply rub off between finger and thumb where as when they grow woody they really need the secateurs to remove them.
Watch out for self seeding plants, another of my ‘something for nothing’ ideas. You will frequently find tomatoes, marrow/courgettes or melons on the compost heap. Carefully transplant them either into pots or if the garden is ready into their own space and there you have this years vegetable garden starting. Admittedly they will need a little protection against weather and those unwanted slugs and snails, keep the slug pellets on hand. Now with so much ecological growing coming to the fore ‘ companion’ planting is strongly recommended. Many modern gardening books help out on this subject but some of the popular plants are marigold and African marigold that really seem to keep pest away. Other companion plants either by crop rotation or growing side by side are strongly recommended, onions and garlic being very popular. Tomatoes, peppers and aubergines should be planted where the peas, beans, cabbages and broad beans have been for example. Many of these plants either don’t take all of the same nutrients out of the soil or even put something back in which helps the following crop along.
None of this is really new to the seasoned gardener, crop rotation has been known from long before the world went all ecological! A good old fashioned compost heap and if available some animal manure will feed the garden for all season.