03 Jul 2022

Kilkenny People Gardening Column

Gardening with Shirley Lanigan

Kilkenny People Gardening Column

There is something to be said for putting things off.

I have a damson tree in the garden. Planted nearly twenty years ago, it has never been much of a cropper. Several years have come and gone where I swore that it was for the chop, so fed up was I with its slovenly delivery of damsons. No matter how tasty they are, a dozen or so fruits do not justify a whole tree. So this year, when there was little in the way of blossom, I thought, it was time for the axe. In the meantime, a perennial sweet pea that grows in the bed in front of the tree, took to climbing it. As I write, there are a few fuchsia coloured flowers peeping out from between its branches. They look good and have given me an idea. There is a Rosa ‘Albertine’ sitting in a pot at the back of the garden at the moment. It has been there for some time, waiting for a home. 'Albertine' is a pretty rose, pink and scented. It is also a rose that does well up a tree. So I am going to plant it under the damson and let it start living properly. In a few years, I should be looking at a great pink rose covering that tree, rather than a waste-of-space, fruitless fruit tree.

The important thing to remember when planting a climber up a tree is to place it a distance out from the tree. This is the distance that will allow you to dig a hole and create a good planting hole, into which you then mix a load of compost and manure-enriched planting soil. By planting the climber like this, at a distance I will also receive its fair share of rainfall.

Direct the rambler toward the tree using a long bamboo or even a rope tied into the canopy and fastened tautly to a peg in the ground. It will possibly take a few years for the branches to reach as far as the canopy, so be careful to make sure that the directing pole or rope is secure and the branches are tied loosely to it.

Problems Problems….

Of the perennial problems that our gardens suffer from, greenflies or aphids are top of the list. Those little green, grey, white and sometimes black insects cause untold trouble with new growth. They arrive as infestations on the soft new tissue of young plants to suck the sugar and cause ruination. They weaken the plant, causing the leaves to become malformed and in extreme cases, left unchecked, they can kill smaller plants. In addition, they can carry virus and disease.

So how do we get rid of them? In the past we blasted them with  insecticides. Some still do this but it must be remembered that if a spray kills aphids, it will also kill beneficial insects. Apart from the trouble that aphids cause, they are part of the food chain, eaten by both ladybird larvae and mature ladybirds. They are also part of the diet of hover fly and lacewing larvae, a range of beetles and even earwigs. Indiscriminate spraying does these useful aphid predators no favours.

The best way to fight aphids is by vigilant housekeeping. When you have seedlings or young plants, check them regularly for infestation.  Brush or wipe them off the plant and crush them.  If you do it regularly, you will only need to deal with small numbers. As the plants toughen up, they become less susceptible to aphid attack.

On bigger plants such as rose bushes, use a garden hose. Working at close quarters, aim the hose at the affected part of the plant with one hand and rub and wash the insects off with the other. Be careful not to damage the plant with too powerful a spray. Again, doing this when the infestation is in its early stages will lessen the work. Little and often is the key. Don’t let things get to the stage where the job is a major one.

In the case of broad beans which are generally attacked by black fly, take the lead by cutting off the top 10 cms or 4 inches of the plants now. As you do this you will possibly see the beginnings of an infestation, but cut back even if there are no black fly present. The beans are developing further down the stem and will not suffer the loss of a few inches of plant. Now look forward to a crop of broad beans in a few weeks. In the meantime, there is still time to plant a last line of peas, if you  opt for fast growing, early varieties and not main crop types. Salad crops and beetroot can also still be sown to enjoy in the autumn.

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