Gardening: Weekend Work

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WATERING IS becoming a priority. My clay ground has already cracked into craters of frightening proportions, despite the non-stop rain of the winter and spring. Hydrangeas (pictured) flag particularly badly when water is short, and it has also been difficult to get young brassica plants established. Water them in their holes like leeks before stamping the ground firm round their stems.

THE MOST efficient way to water single important plants is through a pot or length of drain pipe sunk into the ground close to the main stem of the plant. By watering direct into the pipe or pot, you deliver straight to the roots and less water is lost through evaporation.

I USE a plastic funnel to water shallow troughs and alpine pans. The water, which seeps through the bottom of the funnel, is taken up more slowly and comprehensively than if you splash over the whole surface with a watering-can.

BEARDED IRIS should be split up and replanted now. Break up old rhizomes, discard the pieces with no leaves and then replant the new sections, cutting down each fan of leaves to about 6in. Plant shallowly, so that the top of the rhizome is above the ground and can be baked by the sun.

REGULAR DEAD-HEADING is important if annuals are to continue making a show through August. Argyranthemums and osteospermums also respond well to regular winnowing. Trace the stems back to their base, or to the point where they have a fresh bud, before cutting.

MILDEW HAS started to be an unsightly nightmare. I have been vastly disappointed by the performance of some blue scabious I planted this spring. From the start, they have suffered grossly from mildew. Acanthus also looks bad. Drench plants with a fungicide such as Benlate.