Gardening Cuttings: Weekend work

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The Independent Online
A MAN with a broken nose of heroic grandeur turned up at the door last week with a trailer-load of mushroom compost he wanted to get rid of, so I know what my weekend work is. Mulching. The trees and shrubs get a thick collar of dung. The compost, more finely constituted, goes round the plants in between.

You cannot expect mulch of this kind to sort out such bully weeds as buttercup, but it stops self-seeding weeds such as groundsel and bittercress. It also feeds the soil, adds bulk to over-light ground and opens up clammy clay.

Soft surface paths can be top-dressed with crushed bark. Whether or not to treat paths with weedkiller first is a vexed question. Self-seeded violets and primroses look charming, dandelions not so good. Bindweed is showing its heads. Clobber it with a herbicide such as Roundup.

Prick out seedlings into trays of compost as soon as their first pair of true leaves are showing. Set them in the compost so that the lower leaves sit on the surface. Keep them well watered. There is still time to sow seed of fast-growing annual climbers such as cobaea. Wrap the pots in clingfilm until the seeds germinate.

Sow seed of vegetables such as the courgette 'Early Gem' (Unwins, 95p) and outdoor cucumber 'Tokyo Slicer' (Unwins, pounds 1.45) for planting out after all danger of frost has passed. Sow seed singly in 3in pots and cover with clingfilm until the seedlings emerge.

Nip the heads from daffodils as they die to stop them diverting their energy into seed production. Do not cut down or bundle up the leaves. The bulbs need the resources fed down from above if they are to produce the goods next year.

Wild winds have torn climbers from their moorings. Lash them back as soon as it is feasible. Ceanothus, which has brittle wood, is particularly prone to disaster. Solanum, still evergreen after a mild winter, has also suffered, torn from pergolas and walls. Any climber that is in leaf or flower presents greater resistance in the face of gales and so suffers more.

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