Keep up successional sowings of all salad crops.

Marrows and courgettes: Early this month is a good time to sow marrows. Sow three seeds at each station, spacing these 90 cm (3 ft) apart each way, and placing the seeds 5 cm (2 in) deep. Thin to the strongest plant if more than one germinates. Transplanted thinnings will not develop into plants sufficiently large to produce fruits.

Marrows are at their best when 30 cm (1 ft) long. If courgettes (which are simply immature marrows) are preferred, cut them when 10-15 cm (4-6 in) long. Plenty of water is needed for this crop, especially while the plants are fruiting.

Whether one requires marrows or courgettes, by far the best cultivars to sow are the bush types of the F, hybrids, such as ‘Diamond’, ‘Zebra Cross’, ‘Zucchini’, and the very attractive ‘Gold Rush’, with its banana-like fruits. Try the latter raw, thinly sliced, in place of cucumber, as it adds colour and variety to the salad bowl.

Swedes: Sow swede seeds about the middle of the month in shallow drills 38 cm (15 in) apart, thinning the plants to 30 cm (1 ft) apart in the rows. Two reliable cultivars are ‘Acme’ and ‘Marian’.

Growth will be checked if the soil is allowed to dry out, so watering will be needed during dry spells. About 9 litres per sq m (2 gal per sq yd) will increase the size and improve the quality of the roots.

One useful tip when growing swedes is to buy seed a year in advance of sowing it. Fresh young seed tends to make a lot of top growth at the expense of the roots, but the reverse is true if one-year-old seed is used.

Tomatoes Plant outdoor tomatoes in rows spaced 90 cm (3 ft) apart, with 45 cm (1.5 ft) between the plants. Put stakes in position before planting, otherwise the roots may be damaged. Water freely during dry weather.

Pinch out the side-shoots of indeterminate cultivars (those that should be stopped and have side-shoots removed) and cut off the growing point one leaf beyond the last truss when four trusses of flowers have formed. If green tomatoes are wanted for chutney, stop at five flower trusses.

Bush tomatoes stop themselves, and all that is needed is a straw mulch when fruits are forming to keep them clean.

Brassicas Winter brassicas sown in April should be ready to plant out towards the end of this month. Plant the cabbages 45 cm (1.5 ft) apart each way; the kale, winter cauliflower and sprouting broccoli 60 cm (2 ft) apart each way. Herbs Make another sowing of coriander. Take softwood cuttings of sage.


Harvesting This is the month when the gardener reaps his or her reward for all the effort put into the vegetable garden. Gather all crops as soon as they are ready, particularly pod crops, as this helps continued cropping and maximum yields.

Later sowings July is the latest month to sow beetroot, carrots, lettuce, turnips, spinach and sea-kale beet for harvesting this season.

Herbs Sow parsley seeds for a winter crop. Thin to 25 cm (10 in).


Spring cabbages

If sown during the first week of this month, cabbages will be ready for planting out about mid-September. This gives the plants a chance to become established before winter. Sow in drills 2.5 cm (1 in) deep. Winter-hardy cultivars are ‘Durham Early’, ‘Offenham’, ‘Pixie’ and ‘Spring Bounty’. Earthing-up Draw a little soil up to the stems of winter greens, particularly the tall-growing kales and sprouting broccoli, as this helps to prevent them rocking during winter gales.


Sow turnips to harvest as spring greens. Harvesting Continue to gather all crops as they mature. Herbs Gather seeds of anise. Harvest some basil leaves before the flowers open, and again before the first frosts. Take semi-ripe cuttings of rosemary and thyme.


Sowings and plantings Spinach sown now will overwinter as seedlings and the crop will be ready about April when greens are scarce.

Turnips grown for spring greens may be sown early in the month.

Plant spring cabbages, with 45 cm (1.5 ft) spacings between rows and the plants set 23 cm (9 in) apart. Alternate plants can be cut as greens in the spring, leaving the rest 45 cm (1.5 ft) apart to mature into cabbages.

Harvesting Harvest onions as soon as the tops die down.

Pull up tomato plants, with any green fruits still attached, and put them in a frost-proof place to finish ripening. Alternatively, pick the green fruits, wrap them in paper and leave them in a dark place to ripen.

Herbs Make a final sowing of chervil. Take cuttings of thyme if this was not done in August. Sow chives where they are to grow.


Harvesting Lift potatoes for storing; also beet and carrots sown before July.

Tie onions in ropes as soon as the bulbs are thoroughly ripened and hang them in a dry, well-ventilated place.

Miscellaneous jobs Remove all spent crops as soon as possible, especially the stumps of green crops.

Cut down asparagus ferns as soon as they turn yellow and before the berries fall. Burn the tops as they are unsuitable for composting.

Begin digging and manuring, applying lime where necessary. Herbs Plant mint and comfrey. Protect July-sown parsley with a cloche to ensure a winter supply.


Broad beans Broad beans can be sown in the open, the most suitable cultivar for this autumn sowing being ‘Aquadulce’. Vegetables in store Check stored vegetables frequently and remove any showing signs of rotting. Rhubarb Plant out rhubarb, allowing 90 cm (3 ft) in each direction. Sets with a single bud are best. Dig a hole 30 cm (1 ft) square and a spade’s depth, place a good spadeful of well-rotted manure on the bottom and plant the rhubarb set so that the bud is about level with the soil surface. Two readily-available cultivars are ‘Hawke’s Champagne’ and ‘Tim-perley Early’. Herbs Divide roots of tansy.


Lifting and digging Lift and store swedes and late-sown carrots. Continue to remove spent crops. Dig vacant ground, applying manure or lime according to need. Try to complete the digging of heavy ground before it gets too wet.

Herbs When hard weather threatens, move pots or tubs containing bay under frost-proof cover.

THERE are few more satisfying experiences for the gardener than picking fruits that have been allowed to ripen to the peak of perfection from trees that have been carefully chosen and tended. Added bonuses are the beauty of their spring blossom and the bright colours of the fruits at harvest time. On each of these counts, and also for economic reasons, there is a case FOR growing fruit of one or more kinds in practically every garden, large or small.


Except for the harsher coastal regions and upland areas, fruits of some kind can be grown in most parts of Britain.

The cool, temperate fruits, such as apples, pears, plums, cherries, hazel nuts, and the soft fruits, will grow and CROP reasonably well almost anywhere. Fruits such as figs, apricots, peaches and nectarines, which need a warm, temperate climate, grow best (though not exclusively) in the southern half of Britain. A warm wall is necessary, especially in the north, though in particularly favoured areas they can be grown in the open.

Nevertheless, these are general comments and there ARE no absolutely rigid lines of demarcation. Warm microclimates can occur anywhere in the British Isles -such as areas favourably influenced by the warm Gulf Stream, and sunny, sheltered slopes facing south. There are also artificial microclimates, such as those found in walled gardens and where a well-sited windbreak keeps out strong, cold winds.


The higher the altitude, the more limited the range of fruits that can be grown. This is because the climate will be cooler and the growing season shorter. High altitude is associated with strong, cold winds and high humidity caused by low clouds and mists. Nevertheless, most soft fruits grow and crop satisfactorily in cool conditions provided these ARE NOT extreme and the garden is sheltered. In general, the best dessert fruits are grown in the southern half of Britain at altitudes of less than 120 m (400 ft) but there are, of course, many successful fruit gardens further north and at higher altitudes.

The temperate tree fruits are quite amenable to cool conditions provided the right cultivars are chosen. These are shown as being hardy in the descriptive lists under the relevant fruit heading. RAINFALL Low rainfall is not likely to be a problem, because usually it can be supplemented by irrigation. However, the wet conditions that go with high rainfall – that is I m (40 in) or more per annum – present special problems. Diseases such as scab on apples and pears, leaf spot on currants, the rotting of stone fruits and grey mould on all soft fruits are more prevalent. Fortunately, efficient fungicides are now available, giving reasonable control provided the gardener is prepared to spray at the appropriate times.

For gardeners who are reluctant to use chemicals, there are cultivars which are more tolerant of wet conditions. In particular, culinary fruits, where appearance is not so important, can be grown. SOIL The ideal, for most fruits, is a deep, slightly acid, well-drained medium loam, not less than 45 cm (1.5 ft) deep and in some cases deeper. These requirements are by no means critical, however, as most fruits tolerate a wide range of soils provided there is reasonable depth and adequate drainage.

The larger the fruit tree, the deeper the soil needs to be. As a general guide, sweet cherries require fertile, well-drained soils 75 cm (2.5 ft) or more deep, other tree fruits 60 cm (2 ft), bush and cane fruits 45 cm (1.5 ft) and strawberries 30 cm (1 ft).

Shallow soils over a chalk base will give rise to problems such as lime-induced chlorosis and extreme dryness in times of drought. The alkalinity can be reduced by acidifying agents, such as peat, and moisture retention can be improved by adding bulky organic materials.

Good drainage is essential as waterlogging will kill the roots, leading to die-back of the above-ground parts or the possible loss of the whole plant. Apples are more liable to develop canker on badly-drained land. A few fruits, such as currants, gooseberries, blackberries, plums, damsons and culinary apples, will tolerate slightly impeded drainage below a depth of 45 cm (1.5 ft), but for other fruits, especially dessert apples, raspberries and peaches, good drainage is essential.

Frost Severe frosts at blossom time can damage, reduce or completely destroy the potential crop for that year. Typical examples of damage are the ‘running off of black currants, when the flowers and fruitlets drop off; black eye in strawberries; severe circular russeting and cracking around the eye or the stalk of an apple or pear; and also malformed fruits of many kinds.

The short answer is to avoid, if at all possible, growing fruit in a frost pocket, though very few areas of Britain escape spring frosts every year. A frost pocket is a place where cold air collects. It may be a natural depression in the ground – for example, at the bottom of a valley – or it may be created artificially, often by a wall or a hedge that prevents the escape of cold air to lower ground.

Such barriers should be examined to see if they can be modified in some way to allow cold air to disperse. For example, a gap could be made in a hedge or the lower foliage removed.

Where nothing can be done about the frost itself, there are ways and means of protecting crops against it. Protection is certainly practicable on small fruits and is feasible, too, on top fruits grown on dwarfing rootstocks.

For example, protecting the blossom of black currants over the danger period will mean the difference between a heavy crop and no fruit at all.

Where sloping ground or a hollow is involved, the effect of frost can be minimized by positioning the smallest plants on the higher ground and the tallest ones lower down. Also, fruits which flower late can be planted. Raspberries, for example, and related Rubus species flower later than most other soft fruits. The apples ‘Court Pendu Plat’, ‘Crawley Beauty’, ‘Edward VII’ and ‘Suntan’ blossom much later than other cultivars.

The flowers of some cultivars are said to be partially frost-resistant. These include: Dessert apples ‘Beauty of Bath’, ‘Ellison’s Orange’, ‘Greensleeves’, ‘James Grieve’, ‘Laxton’s Fortune’, ‘Laxton’s Superb’, ‘Spartan’, ‘Sunset’, ‘Worcester Pearmain’.

Cooking apples ‘Emneth Early’, ‘Lane’s Prince Albert’, ‘Newton Wonder’, ‘Wellington’ (’Dumelow’s Seedling’). Pears ‘Conference’, ‘Fertility’, ‘Williams’ Bon Chretien’.

Plums ‘Czar’, ‘Early Rivers’, ‘Laxton’s Cropper’, ‘Marjorie’s Seedling’, ‘Purple Pershore’, ‘Yellow Pershore’. Damsons ‘Crittenden’, ‘Prune’ (’Shropshire’).

Black currants (late-flowering) ‘Amos Black’, ‘Ben Lomond’, ‘Ben More*, ‘Ben Sarek’.

RED CURRANTS ‘RONDOM’. Raspberries ‘Leo’ (late-flowering), ‘Autumn Bliss’ (autumn-fruiting). Strawberries Any perpetual cultivars, as these flower in flushes throughout the summer.

STRONG winds

Shelter is essential for successful fruit-growing. Strong winds can inhibit the movement of pollinating insects, damage and distort growth, flowers and fruit, and remove heat from the plants and the soil. An exposed garden needs one or more windbreaks to give protection from the prevailing and coldest winds. Take care, though, that these do not create a frost pocket.

An artificial windbreak can be permanent, such as one provided by a fence or wall surrounding the garden, or else a temporary structure formed from netting or purpose-made plastic material and placed around the fruit plot until the natural windbreak or the fruits themselves are established.

There is a wide choice in natural windbreaks. Whatever the trees chosen they should be fast-growing and, if deciduous, come into leaf early in the spring.

Where there is a choice, the windbreak should not be completely solid as this will cause buffetting. Remember, too, that natural windbreaks compete for light, nutrients and water so the fruit plants should be at least 1.8 m (6 ft) away. As a rule, the higher the windbreak the further away the plants should be.


Plan the plot and order trees and bushes early to make sure of getting the cultivars that you want. Likewise, buy any necessary materials and fertilizers in good time.

To avoid mistakes, it helps to draw a scale plan on graph paper. Once planted, the fruit may be in the ground for a long time – trees perhaps for a lifetime. WALLS AND FENCES Make full use of walls and fences, especially in cooler areas, as the extra warmth and shelter they give will improve fruit quality and extend the range of fruits that can be grown.

The aspect decides the kind of fruit that can be grown. The height of the fence determines the form that can be used. South aspect This provides the most warmth and for the longest period each day. All fruits can be grown here, though it is best reserved for the warm, temperate fruits, such as figs, apricots, peaches and nectarines, grown as fans. It is also ideal for the best dessert varieties of pears and gages. West aspect This also is a warm aspect because it receives the afternoon sun. All fruits can be grown here, including the warm, temperate kinds, except that, in the cooler parts of the country, figs and apricots are better omitted. East aspect This is a cool situation, receiving the morning sun and being open to easterly winds. It is often dry. Such an aspect is suitable for early and mid-season pears, apples, plums, sweet and sour cherries, gooseberries, red and white currant cordons, blackberries, raspberries and hybrid berries.

North aspect This is the coldest situation. It is suitable for gooseberries, red and white currant cordons, sour cherries, cooking apples, raspberries (not autumn-fruiting) and blackberries.


LOW FENCES, UP TO 1.5 m (5 ft), are suitable for cordon gooseberries, red and white currants, and single and two-tier espaliers – both apples and pears.

Fences 1.8 m (6 ft) high and over are suitable for oblique cordons, multi-tiered espaliers and fans. Sweet cherry fans require at least 2.4 m (8 ft).


Bearing in mind the need to net against birds, possibly in the winter and certainly in the summer, it is best to have the plot square or rectangular.

Keep the soft fruits separate from the tree fruits, as most soft fruits ripen earlier and have different spray requirements. Plant in full sun, if possible, so that the wood is well ripened. Well-ripened wood is fruitful and winter-hardy; also, fruits in full sun have a better colour and flavour than those that are shaded.

Most fruits require sun for at least half the day but some will tolerate more shade than others. Examples of fruits that will grow in partial shade, as long as the soil is not dry and there are no overhanging trees, are raspberries, blackberries, red currants, gooseberries, the ‘Morello’ cherry and culinary cultivars of many tree fruits. Even so, the more sun all fruits receive the better quality they will have.

Plant the smallest kinds on the south side of the plot and the tallest on the north so that they all receive their fair share of sun. In practical terms this means planting gooseberry and red currant bushes on the south side, black currants and raspberries in the middle and tree fruits on the north.

Where space is limited, as in many modern gardens, consider planting gooseberries, and red and white currants, as cordons. These fruits must be on dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstocks. Closely-shaped oblique cordons are ideal for small gardens because a relatively large number can be planted, extending the season for both pollination and fruiting.

The espalier, too, is a useful form for planting along the boundary or as a screen between one part of the garden and another. Both cordons and espaliers need some form of support – for example, a post and wire fence, a wooden fence or a wall. Comparative yields are not as large as from trees grown in the open.

Where space is not so limited and a high yield is important, it is better to plant in open ground and to use one of the forms suitable for this purpose, such as the dwarf bush, bush, dwarf pyramid or spindlebush.

Standards and half-standards are unsuitable because they are grafted on to vigorous stocks and will become large trees. There is a place for them, however, as specimen or shade trees – in a lawn, for example.

Yield The number of fruits to plant, and the cultivars to choose, depend upon the family’s needs and preferences relative to the amount of land available. It is not possible to give exact yields as there are so many variables involved, including soil, locality and cultivars.

Apples and pears No other tree fruits can offer such a wide choice of varieties, flavours and seasons of use – particularly apples, both dessert and culinary. It is not surprising that apples are our most popular tree fruits.

Plant apples and pears in full sun, if possible, or in a position which receives at least half the day’s sun. Pears need more warmth than apples.

Both will tolerate a wide range of soils provided this is at least 45 cm (1.5 ft) deep and is well drained. Avoid shallow soil over chalk, where the trees are likely to suffer from chlorosis and drought. Add lime to very acid soils to give a pH of between 6.5 and 6.y. If the soil is light, mix in bulky organic material to improve its texture and moisture retention.

Before buying the trees there are some important decisions to be made. These include the tree form to be used; the rootstock upon which the tree is grafted; the cultivars to plant; the pollination needs of these cultivars.

TREE FORMS here are two types: (a) restricted, and (b) non-restricted. (a) Restricted types are the cordon, espalier, fan and dwarf pyramid, all of which are summer-pruned. Cordon This is one of the most popular forms for small gardens because it takes up little space. It is a single-stemmed tree clothed in short fruiting spurs and is usually planted obliquely. More rarely, there are double and triple cordons. The cordon needs some kind of fence to support it. It is grafted on to a dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstock. Espalier This consists of a central stem upon which are carried horizontal arms more or less opposite each other. The arms (tiers) are spaced between 30 cm (1 ft) and 45 cm (1.5 ft) apart. Usually the tree is sold as a two or three-tiered espalier.

An espalier makes an attractive boundary marker and can be used to clothe low or high walls, depending upon the number of tiers. It is grafted on to a semi-dwarfing or moderately vigorous rootstock. FAN The branch framework radiates outwards from a short central stem. It is excellent for walls 2.1 m (7 ft) or more high.


This is a centre-leader tree for open ground, grown to a height of 1.8-2.1 m (6-7 ft). The lower branches are longer than those above, forming a pyramid shape. The tree’s composition is similar to that of an upright cordon, with fruiting spurs replaced by short branches.

Pyramids are a good form for small gardens but, as the branches are closely spaced, summer pruning is crucial to prevent them from becoming overcrowded. (b) The non-restricted types are the dwarf bush, bush and spindlebush. These are winter-pruned.

DWARF bush AND bush

These traditional tree forms are the ones most widely grown. Basically, they are open-centred, goblet-shaped trees on a short trunk ranging in height from 45-75 cm (il/2-2 1/2 ft). The dwarf bush is grafted on to a dwarfing rootstock and so has less height and spread. Both are useful as orchard trees. SPINDLEBUSH This is a relatively modern form of tree which crops well but requires a good deal of pruning skill to maintain its shape and cropping ability. It is a cone-shaped tree supported by a strong stake set about 1.8-2.1 m (6-y ft) out of the ground.

Branches need to be at a wide angle to the main stem, so tying down of young laterals is an essential part of early training. Rootstocks for apples The rootstock upon which a tree is grafted influences its eventual size and the time that it takes to bear. Those grafted on to dwarfing root-stocks make small trees which generally bear fruit within three or four years; those grafted on to vigorous stocks make large trees which can be slow to start cropping.

The rootstocks widely used today are as follows. The tree sizes given are no more than estimates for they will vary according to conditions.

‘M.27’ Extremely dwarfing. This makes a tree with a height and spread of about 1.8 m (6 ft). It is best grown as a centre leader tree (that is, as a dwarf pyramid or spindlebush) because a dwart bush tends to collapse under the weight of fruit.

‘M.27’ requires a fertile soil, feeding and irrigation. The tree needs to be staked throughout its life. It is also suitable for cordons.

‘M.9’ Very dwarfing. This widely-used rootstock makes a dwarf bush, with a height and spread of 1.8-3 m (6-10 ft)> which will start to crop within three years.

‘M.9’ needs a fertile soil, feeding and irrigation and the tree has to be staked throughout its life. It is used for dwarf bush, spindlebush, dwarf pyramids and cordons.

‘M.26’ Dwarfing. Making a bush with a height and spread of 2.4-3.6 m (8-12 ft), it is suitable for average soil conditions. A bush requires staking for the first four or five years. This rootstock is suitable for bush, dwarf pyramid, spindlebush and cordon trees and it could also be used for small espaliers and fans.

‘MM. 106’ Semi-dwarfing. Bush trees on this rootstock will have a height and spread of 3.6-5.5 m (12-18 ft). It is suitable for most soils, except those that are poor and shallow.

‘MM. 106’ is the most widely used apple rootstock. Bush trees need staking for the first four or five years. It is suitable for bush, spindlebush, cordon, espalier and fan trees.

‘MM.in’ and ‘M.2’ Vigorous. Both stocks make trees with a height and spread of 5.5-7.6 m (18-25 rt)> depending on soil and variety. On average to good soils they make fairly large trees, but only medium-sized trees on the poorer, sandy or shallow soils. They are used by nurseries for bush, half-standards, standards, espaliers and sometimes for cordons and fans. They are too vigorous for most gardens, except where the soil is poor. Rootstocks for pears Pears are usually grafted on to quince rootstocks, either ‘Quince C or ‘Quince A’. These stocks make moderately dwarfing to moderately vigorous trees.

‘C tends to be slightly less vigorous than ‘A’.

As with apples, it is possible to give only an estimate of the eventual size of the tree. Pear cultivars also differ greatly in growth, some being rather dwarf, some spreading, and others having a pronounced vigorous, upright habit. As a guide, mature bush trees on ‘Quince C have a height and spread ranging from 2.1-5.5 m (7-1 rt) and those on ‘Quince A’ from 2.4-6 m (8-20 ft).

A few cultivars of pear which are incompatible with quince have to be ‘double worked’ by the nurseryman. This means that an intermediate stock of pear, which is compatible with both, is grafted between the quince rootstock and the pear variety. The classic example of incompatibility is the pear ‘William’s Bon Chretien’, though there is now a compatible selection of it.

Pear rootstocks are extremely vigorous and are used only when large standard trees are wanted.

Varieties to plant The number of apple and pear cultivars is legion. There are, for example, over 2,000 different apple varieties in the National Fruit Trials at Faversham, Kent. Many are old and a few are modern. Most date back to the Victorian era but some are hundreds of years old. They are, in effect, a genetic bank and a living monument to our plant breeders, past and present.

Those listed here have been noted over the years as being good garden cultivars, fairly reliable and of reasonable to good quality. Those that will give an acceptable crop in the cooler parts of the country are noted as being hardy.

POLLINATION NEEDS NO APPLE OR PEAR IS completely self-fertile. Even those that have a reputation for setting a crop with their own pollen do better with cross pollination.

This means that at least two different cultivars, but of the same kind of fruits, should be planted and, of course, they must flower at the same time. With this in mind the pollination group of each cultivar is shown. Ideally, select cultivars within the same group, though as there is some overlap in flowering, groups immediately adjacent to each other can also be chosen. Points to note Triploids (T), which have three sets of chromosomes, produce very little viable pollen and where these are chosen it is necessary to have two pollinators to pollinate the triploid and each other. They are extremely vigorous and are unsuitable for small gardens unless on ‘M.27’.

‘Family’ trees have more than one cultivar grafted upon them and the cultivars chosen by the nurseryman are selected to pollinate each other. A ‘family’ tree, therefore, can be planted singly.

APPLES – DESSERT VARIETY SEASON of EATING POLLINATION GROUP COMMENTS ‘Vista Bella’ (B) Late Jul.-early Aug. Perfumed. Soon goes soft.

‘Discovery’ Mid Aug.-mid Sept. 3 Crisp, juicy and sweet. The best early.

‘James Grieve’ Sept.-Oct. 3 Crops well but canker prone. Hardy.

‘Worcester Pearmain’ Sept.-Oct. 3 Sweet and chewy. Hardy and reliable. A partial tip-bearer.

‘Ellison’s Orange’ (B) Sept.-Oct. 4 Soft. Aniseed flavour. Hardy.

‘Greensleeves’ Late Sept.-mid Nov. 3 Crisp at first. Crops heavily. Dwarfish. Hardy.

‘Lord Lambourne’ Late Sept.-mid Nov. Sweet. Crops well. Fairly hardy. Dwarfish.

‘Egremont Russet’ Oct.-Dec. Crisp and nutty. Prone to bitter pit.

‘Sunset’ Oct.-Dec. 3 Cox-like flavour. Dwarfish. An excellent garden variety.

‘Spartan’* Oct.-Feb. 3 Crisp, vinous flavour. Canker prone. Hardy.

‘Cox’s Orange Pippin1* Late Oct.-Jan. 3 First-class. Not suitable for cold situations.

‘Gala’ Nov.-Jan. 4 Crisp and juicy but flavour fades. Scab prone. Hardy.

‘JUPITER’(T) Nov.-Jan. 3 Cox-like. Crops heavily. Very vigorous.

‘Ashmead’s Kernel’* Dec.-Feb. 4 First-class flavour. Crops lightly.

‘Fiesta’* Jan.-Mar. 3 A promising new variety. Cox-like.

‘Idared’ Nov.-Apr. Flavour fair. Keeps well. Fairly hardy.

‘Pixie’* Dec-Mar. 4 Small fruits. Crops well.

VARIETY SEASON of EATING POLLINATION GROUP COMMENTS APPLES – CULINARY ‘Emneth Early’ (B) Midjul.-Aug. 3 Fruits small unless thinned. Hardy. Cooks frothily.

‘Grenadier’ Aug.-Oct. 3 Crops well. Dwarfish. Hardy.

‘Rev. W. Wilks’ (B)* Sept.-Oct. Excellent cooker. Dwarfish. Compact.

‘Peasgood Nonsuch’ Sept.-Nov. 3 Large, handsome fruits. Baker.

‘Golden Noble’* Oct.-Dec. 4 First-class, medium fruits. Moderate cropper.

‘Bountiful’* SEPT.-JAN. 3 Crops heavily. A promising new variety.

‘Blenheim Orange’ (T)* Nov.-Jan. 3 Rich, nutty, dual purpose. Extremely vigorous.

‘Lane’s Prince Albert’ Dec-Mar. 3 Good cropper. Compact, hardy and reliable.

‘Bramley’s Seedling’ (T)* Nov.-Mar. 3 A first-class cooker. Sometimes biennial. Extremely vigorous. Fairly hardy.

‘Annie Elizabeth’ Dec.-Jun. 4 Uncertain cropper. Keeps well. Hardy.

PEARS – DESSERT ‘William’s Bon Chretien’* Early-mid Sept. 3 Excellent musky flavour. Scab prone. Fairly hardy. Will pollinate ‘Doyenne du Cornice’ and vice versa.

‘Beth’ Early-late Sept. 3 Sweet. Small fruits. Crops well.

‘Onward’* Late Sept.-early Oct. 4 First-class flavour. Unsuitable as a pollinator for ‘Doyenne du Cornice’ and vice versa.

‘Merton Pride’ (T)* Mid-late Sept. 3 Large fruits. First-class flavour.

‘Beurre Hardy’* Oct. 3 Slow to bear. Vigorous. Hardy.

‘Beurre Superfln’* Oct. 3 Moderate vigour. Good flavour.

‘Conference’ Oct.-Nov. 3 Regular and reliable. Fairly hardy.

‘Doyenne du Cornice’* Late Oct.-end Nov. 4 First-class pear. Requires a warm situation.

‘Glou Morceau’ Dec-Jan. 4 Requires warmth. Pollinates ‘Doyenne du Cornice’.

‘Josephine de Malines’* Dec-Jan. 3 Excellent flavour. Requires a sunny position.

PEARS – CULINARY ‘Pitmaston Duchess’ (T) Oct.-Nov. 4 Very large fruits. Dual purpose. Vigorous. Unsuitable for small gardens.

‘Catillac’ (T) Feb.-Apr. 4 Large fruits. A stewing pear only. Hardy.


Plums, gages and damsons thrive on a high-nitrogen diet, with plenty of moisture during the summer. They need a deep, moisture-retentive soil which is slightly acid to neutral – that is, a pH range of 6.5 to 7.2. If the soil is light, irrigate during periods of drought though take care near harvest time not to give so much water that the fruits split.

Given the right conditions, all these fruits can crop regularly and well, sometimes heavily. The biggest problem arises during cold weather in the spring because these trees flower early. They may also suffer badly from bullfinches, aphids and silver leaf disease. These problems are not insurmountable, however. Certainly the trees are worth protecting against frost at blossom time, which is easiest when they are grown as fans or dwarf pyramids. Avoid a frost pocket if at all possible.

Many of the plums, and certainly the damsons, will do quite well in the cooler parts of the United Kingdom but the gages must have warmth and sun to develop their true flavour. In the north, gages are best planted against a wall and grown as fans. In the south, grow them as fans or in the open.

Most, but not all, of the plums and damsons – also some of the gages – are self-fertile and they can be planted singly. Some, particularly the gages, are self-incompatible, or partly so, and require cross-pollination to set a full crop.

In the list of recommended cultivars, these are shown either as s.f. (self-fertile), p.s.f. (partly self-fertile) or s.I. (self-incompatible). Trees in the last two categories must be planted with another, different cultivar so that cross-pollination is provided for. The partner chosen should, for preference, be in the same pollination group or else in an adjacent group.

Plant in a sunny, sheltered position and not in a frost pocket- unless protection can be given. Culinary plums will tolerate partial shade provided that this does not derive from overhanging trees and that the soil is not dry.

Rootstocks and tree forms Suitable root-stocks for plums, gages and damsons in a garden are ‘St. Julien A’ and ‘Pixy’. Other stocks (until new ones are bred) are too vigorous for most gardens. Out in the open plums, gages and damsons are grown as bush trees, half-standards, standards and pyramids, and on walls as fans. Because of their growth habit they do not respond to the cordon or espalier methods of training.

‘St. Julien A’ is a semi-vigorous stock compatible with all varieties. It is suitable for bush, half-standard, pyramid and fan trees and is the stock most widely used by nurserymen. Tree sizes vary somewhat due to soil, cultivars and climate, but a mature bush or half-standard may range from 2.4-5 m (8-16 ft) in height and spread.

The pyramid, which is an excellent form for planting in the open, can be kept compact by summer pruning and on ‘St. Julien A’ will be about 2.1-2.4 m (7-8 ft) high, with a spread of 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft).

‘Pixy’ is a dwarfing stock, and relatively new, but it should make a fairly small tree with a height and spread of about 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft). It shows promise of being a most suitable stock for pyramids. Dessert plums ‘Victoria’. Fairly good flavour. The fruits are oval, large, pale red and mottled. The flesh is greeny-yellow and juicy. Late August-early September. Very heavy cropper. Prone to silver leaf disease. S.f., Group 3. Fairly hardy.

‘Kirke’s’. Very good flavour. The fruits are round and deep blue, with green, firm, juicy flesh. Moderate cropper. Dwarfish and spreading. Late August-early September. S.I., Group 4.

‘Coe’s Golden Drop’. Very sweet. Large, oval, yellow fruits with golden flesh. Juicy. An irregular cropper, making moderate growth. Late September. S.I., Group 2.

Gages ‘Oulhns Golden Gage’. Sweet, with a fair flavour. Large, round, yellow fruits. The flesh is pale yellow and juicy. Vigorous growth. Slow to bear but a good cropper. Fairly hardy. Mid August. S.f., Group 4.

‘Early Transparent Gage’. Good flavour. The fruits are small to medium and round, being pale yellow with crimson dots. The flesh is golden and juicy. A moderate cropper with spreading growth. Mid-late August. S.f., Group 4.

‘Denniston’s Superb’. Good flavour. The fruits are a medium green-yellow and the flesh green and juicy. A heavy cropper and moderately vigorous. A good garden variety. Late August. S.f., Group 2.

‘Cambridge Gage’. A seedling from ‘Old Green Gage’, and similar to that variety.

‘Old Green Gage’. Excellent flavour. The small round fruits are green with russet dots. The flesh is yellow-green, syrupy-sweet and juicy. Slow to bear but vigorous. Late August-early September. S.I., Group 5 (late-flowering).

‘Jefferson’. Excellent flavour. The fruits are large, oval and green, having russet dots and a pink flush. The pale yellow flesh is juicy. A moderate cropper of compact growth. Late August – early September. S.I., Group I.

CULINARY PLUMS ‘Cherry Plum’. (Myro-balan) A fair flavour. The fruits are very small and round, coloured bright red or dark purple. There is also a yellow form. This cultivar flowers very early. Very vigorous grown on its own stock. Late July. S.f., Group I.

‘Early Laxton’. Fair flavour. Small, oval, yellow and pink fruits. The flesh is golden and juicy. It has dwarfish growth and is a heavy cropper. Hardy. Late July. P.s.f., Group 3.

‘Early Rivers’. Good flavour. The fruits are small, oval and purple-blue, the flesh golden and very juicy. Growth moderate. Fairly hardy. Late July-early August. P.s.f., Group 3.

‘Czar’. Fair flavour. The fruits are medium in size, oval or round and dark purple. The flesh is greenish-yellow and juicy. Moderate growth and hardy. Early August. S.f., Group 3.

‘Pershore’. (’Yellow Egg’) Fair flavour, the fruits being of medium size, oval and golden. Yellow flesh. There is also a purple form. A heavy cropper with moderate growth. Hardy. Mid August. S.f., Group 3.

‘Marjorie’s Seedling’. A dual-purpose plum with a good flavour. The fruits are large, oval and purple-blue, the flesh yellow and juicy. A very good cropper. Vigorous, upright growth. Fairly hardy. Late September – early October. S.f., Group 5.

Damsons ‘Prune’ (’Shropshire’ or ‘Westmorland’). True damson flavour. The fruits are small, oval and blue-black, the flesh green-yellow. Crops well and has dwarfish growth. Late September. S.f., Group 5. Bullaces These are round forms of the damson. They are often found growing wild in the hedgerows, but there are good cultivated forms, which may be white, golden or black.

‘Golden Bullace’. Sweet, with a fair flavour. The fruits are small, round and golden, the flesh pale yellow. Growth moderate. Hardy. October. S.F.


Unfortunately, the vigour of these lovely fruits means that they cannot, as yet, be recommended for small gardens. So far there is no dwarfing rootstock to keep them to an acceptable size, though the fruit research stations are working on the problem. The only rootstock worth considering for gardens at present is ‘Colt’. This is semi-vigorous, making a bush or standard with a height and spread of about 6-9 m (20-30 ft), depending on conditions, which means that they are suitable only for large gardens. It is possible to grow them as fans, but the wall should be at least 2.4 m (8 ft) tall and allow for a spread of 4.5 m 15 ft.

Another possible solution is to try growing the sweet cherry as a pyramid on ‘Colt’, keeping it to a manageable size by tying down and summer pruning. Preliminary experiments have shown that it is possible, given sufficient space, to keep it to a height of about 2.4 m (8 ft) by tying down strong, upright growths in June and July to a horizontal or weeping position. Where space is inadequate, cut back the young laterals to five leaves during June, and again in July if necessary.

Two other problems associated with the sweet cherry are that birds will take the ripe fruits – hence the importance of keeping the tree to a manageable height where it is practicable to net it effectively – and its critical pollination needs.

The Duke cherry is a cross between the sweet and sour cherry and, as one might expect, is intermediate in character and


Flavour. It requires the same cultural treatment as the sweet cherry. Most cultivars are self-fertile.

Both cherries do best in the southern half of Britain but they will grow and CROP reasonably well in most parts provided the site is in full sun and sheltered. Cherries flower early, so avoid frost pockets.

Cherries require a fertile, well-drained, medium to heavy soil, 60-90 cm (2-3 ft) deep and with a pH of 6.y to 7.5. Shallow soils are unsuitable. On light soils cherries should be given plenty of irrigation during dry periods but be careful not to cause the fruits to split at ripening time. POLLINATION NEEDS At present, the only self-fertile sweet cherry is ‘Stella’. All the others are self-infertile and may be incompatible with certain other cultivars. To simplify matters, suitable pollinators are grouped together in the following list:

Group 1 ‘Early Rivers’, ‘Noir de Guben’.

Group 2 ‘Roundel’, ‘Governor Wood’, ‘Van’.

Group 3 ‘Stella’ is self-fertile and can, therefore, be planted singly. It will also pollinate ‘Napoleon Bigarreau’ or any in Group 2. SWEET CHERRIES ‘Early Rivers’. Mid-late June. The fruits are large and dark red, the flesh red-black. Excellent flavour. Very vigorous.

‘Noir de Guben’. Late June-early July. The fruits are large and dark red-brown, the flesh dark red with a fair flavour. Vigorous.

‘Roundel’. Early July. Very large, dark red fruits, with flesh that is dark red. Juicy AND sweet with an excellent flavour. Vigorous.

‘Governor Wood’. Early July. The fruits are medium to large and dark red WITH yellow flesh. Has a good flavour and crops well. Moderately vigorous, making a relatively small tree.

‘Van’. Late July. The fruits are large and bright red, with dark red flesh that is firm and sweet. Very vigorous.

‘Stella’. Late July. The fruits are large and a dark, shiny red. The flesh is dark red and sweet with a good flavour. Vigorous, upright and then spreading.

‘Napoleon Bigarreau’. Late July. Very large fruits, yellow with red mottling. The flesh is pale yellow, juicy and has a good flavour. Moderate vigour. DUKE CHERRIES ‘May Duke’. Culinary and dessert, mid-end June. The fruits are medium or large and dark red. The flesh is red, slightly acid and sweetish. Crops heavily and is vigorous. ACID CHERRIES This culinary fruit is excellent for pies, jam and wine. It is too sour for most people to eat raw, though some find the flavour quite refreshing.

Acid cherries have the advantage over sweet cherries that their growth is relatively dwarf, allowing them to be planted in smaller gardens. They are also self-fertile. Other points are that these cherries tolerate a certain amount of shade and are among the few fruits that will crop reasonably well on a north wall.

Acid cherries will grow in most parts of the British Isles but, as the trees flower in early spring, they require shelter against cold winds and should not be planted in a frost pocket.

The acid cherry can be grown either as A bush, a pyramid or as a fan. IT IS usually grafted on to ‘Colt’, a semi-vigorous root-stock, and when grown as a bush makes a tree with a height and spread of 2.4-3.6 m (8-12 ft).

The soil should be at least 45 cm (1.5 ft) deep, slightly acid to slightly alkaline (a pH of 6.7 TO 7.2), and well-drained.

The best example of the acid cherry is the ‘Morello’ which gives large, juicy fruits, dark red to almost black. It crops heavily.


To crop well, peach trees must be grown in a warm, sunny situation. For this reason, they are best grown as a fan on a south or west-facing wall, though in the south of the British Isles they can be grown in the open as bush trees.

The nectarine is a smooth-skinned form of the peach and needs slightly more warmth. Apart from this it is grown in exactly the same way, so the advice given here for peaches applies equally to nectarines. The basic need is soil that is well-drained, fertile and moisture-retentive.

Important points to know about the peach are that it flowers very early in the spring, that it may suffer badly from peach leaf-curl disease, and that only the early and mid-season cultivars are suitable for growing outdoors, the late cultivars being unlikely to ripen.

Taking each point in turn: Early flowering To prevent damage from spring frosts, it is essential to protect the blossom from the pink bud stage onwards until the risk is over.

As few, if any, pollinating insects are about at this time, hand pollination is needed.

Peach leaf-curl This debilitating disease attacks the leaves and, occasionally, the fruit. A bad attack will result in severe defoliation, dead wood and die-back.

The disease can be controlled by a regular spray programme or by placing a polythene lean-to over the fan to keep the framework branches dry throughout the winter and spring.

Early and mid-season cultivars Both peaches and nectarines are self-fertile, so a solitary tree can be planted if desired. Suitable rootstocks Both peaches and nectarines may be grown on ‘St. Julien A’, which is semi-vigorous. An alternative is ‘Mussel’, which is semi-vigorous to vigorous but produces rather a lot of suckers. Early peaches ‘Duke of York’. Mid July. Excellent flavour, with tender, white flesh. The large fruits are crimson over pale yellow.

‘Hale’s Early’. End of July. Good flavour, pale yellow flesh. Medium yellow fruits with a red mottling and flush. Mid-season peaches ‘Peregrine’. August. A peach with an excellent flavour and green-white flesh. Large, crimson fruits. Cropping is moderate to good.

‘Redhaven’. Mid August. Has a good flavour, with yellow, melting flesh that is red near the stone. The fruits are round and of medium size, being deep red over a yellow skin.

‘Rochester’. August. This is the most reliable outdoor peach. A fair flavour, with yellow, juicy flesh. The medium-sized fruits are yellow with a crimson flush. It crops well and is fairly hardy.

Nectarines ‘Early Rivers’. End of July. Has a rich flavour and pale yellow flesh. The large fruits are yellow with red streaks. It is best on a wall or under glass.

‘Lord Napier’. Early August. Richly-flavoured fruits with white flesh. These are large, and yellow-orange with a crimson flush. It crops well but is best on a wall or under glass.


This fruit is best grown against a south or west-facing fence or wall. The ideal is a warm house wall, built from brick or stone, with a substantial cave to help to ward off frost as well as to support any protective material. The apricot is a vigorous tree and needs a wall not less than 2.4 m (8 ft) high by 4.5 m (15 ft) wide. In the south of the British Isles it can be grown in the open as a bush, but because it flowers early cropping will be erratic. It is self-fertile.

The soil needs to be well-drained, moisture-retentive and slightly alkaline (a pH of 6.7 to 7.5). Light, sandy soils are not suitable unless bulky organic material is added and adequate irrigation is provided in the summer.

Rootstocks Apricots require the same stocks as plums. For a fan, the semi-vigorous ‘St. Julien A’ is widely used. Recommended cultivars ‘Early Moor-park’. Late July. Richly-flavoured fruits which are small to medium in size and yellow with a crimson flush. The flesh is deep orange and juicy. It crops well and is vigorous.

‘Farmingdale’. Late July. Has a very good flavour. The medium-sized fruits are orange-yellow with a red flush. The flesh is orange and moderately juicy. A heavy cropper of vigorous growth. Good resistance to bacterial canker.

‘Hemskerk’. Early August. A very sweet, rich flavour. Large, yellow fruits with red patches. It crops well and is moderately vigorous.

‘Moorpark’. Early-mid August. The most widely-grown cultivars, with a rich, sweet flavour. The large fruits are pale yellow with a reddish-brown flush and dots. The flesh is orange, firm and juicy. Moderately vigorous.


The fig is a sun-loving fruit, from a warmer climate than that of the British Isles. Nevertheless, it can crop reasonably well here provided certain essentials are met.

It must be grown on a warm wall or fence, such as one with a south or southwesterly aspect, or in a sunny corner bounded by two walls. Although there are successful trees in the open in especially favoured sites, these are the exception rather than the rule. As might be expected, the fig is more suited to the south. Further north, it is better under glass.

Root restriction is essential, as without it the tree will tend to be vigorous, producing lanky, leafy growth and no fruits.

The embryo figs, or fruitlets, which are carried over the winter to develop and ripen the following summer, are extremely vulnerable to winter damage. Without protection they will be destroyed in a hard winter but may survive a mild one. To be certain of obtaining a crop, the branch framework which carries these young fruits must be protected against frost throughout the danger period. Recommended CULTIVARS ‘Brown Turkey’. August-September. A reliable and widely-grown variety, with large, oval fruits. The skin is shiny brown with a blue bloom, the flesh red, rich and sweet.

‘Brunswick’. Mid August. Very large fruits that are green-yellow flushed brown. The flesh is pale yellow, but red near the centre. Hardy, and a moderate cropper.

‘White Marseilles’. August. Hardy and reliable and crops well. Large, pear-shaped fruits. The skin is a pale greenish-white, the flesh translucent, sweet and rich.


Collectively called hazel nuts, these are ornamental trees in their own right. They produce long catkins that are yellow or claret-red, these doing much to brighten the last days of the winter, and their leaves are an attractive light green. There is also a purple-leaved form. The nuts borne in the late summer are a welcome bonus.

Botanically, cobnuts and filberts are distinct, though they are grown in exactly the same way. The difference lies in the length of the husk and the shape of the nut. In a filbert, the nut is long and the husk envelops the nut completely. The nut of the cob is a rounded oblong, while the husk is short and the nut visible. Filberts are considered to have the better flavour.

In its natural habitat the hazel nut grows in light shade provided by larger trees. The flowers, which open in February or March, are wind-pollinated, though they do not react well to strong, wet winds. They cannot withstand very hard frosts.

Though self-fertile, sometimes the catkins and female flowers do not open at the same time, or insufficient may be produced. To be sure of a full crop it is best to plant two different cultivars of either cobnuts or filberts.

Plant them in full sun or partial shade in a site sheltered from strong winds. Hazels are vigorous trees and can attain a height and spread of about 3-3.6 m (10-12 ft). However, they should be kept to a height of 1.8-2.1 m (6-7 ft) by fairly hard pruning.

Hazel nuts are lime-tolerant and will grow in almost any soil provided it is reasonably well-drained. The ideal is a medium loam over chalk, with a pH of 7.0-8.0.

Cobnuts ‘Cosford’. Large, oblong nuts with a good flavour. Numerous, bright yellow catkins. A good pollinator that crops well and is vigorous.

‘Nottingham Cob’. (’Pearson’s Prolific’) Small or medium sized nuts with a good flavour. The catkins are prolific and pale yellow. A good pollinator. Dwarfish habit and an excellent cultivar. Filberts ‘Kentish Cob’. (’Lambert’s Filbert’) A filbert, despite its name, and widely planted. It has a good flavour, with very long, large nuts, although it needs a pollinator. Moderately vigorous; crops well.

‘Purple Filbert’. Medium sized nuts with a good flavour, in purple-red husks. Purple leaves in the spring. A highly ornamental tree, but only a moderate cropper.

‘Red Filbert’. Small, long, narrow nuts with a reddish husk and an excellent flavour. The long, claret-red catkins are sparse, so a pollinator is needed. Vigorous.

‘White Filbert’. Similar to ‘Red Filbert’, except that the husk is white.


Quinces Though neither is commonly grown, the quince, Cydonia oblonga, and the medlar, Mespilus germanica, are attractive trees in their own right. If there is no space for them in the orchard, they are worth planting in the ornamental part of the garden.

The quince is a relatively small, deciduous, thornless tree with a crooked, branching habit. Its flowers, borne in May, are large, solitary, pale pink or white and similar to those of the wild rose.

However, the fruits are the tree’s most attractive feature. They may be apple-shaped but more often are pear-shaped. When ripe they are a beautiful golden-yellow, usually with pale grey down upon the skin. Their flavour is powerfully aromatic but sharply astringent. Though they cannot be eaten raw, they make a delightful perfumed pink jelly. Also, a slice of quince in an apple pie gives the dish an extra touch of quality.

The tree is fairly hardy but must have a sunny position for its fruits to ripen properly. In southern England it can be grown in the open, usually as a bush or standard, but further north it is better planted in a sheltered position – for example, against a warm wall or in a sunny corner. It succeeds in most soils but prefers one that is fertile and moisture-retentive. It does well when planted near water.

The quince is self-fertile and usually starts cropping when about five or six years old. If more than one is planted, space them 4.5 m (15 ft) apart.

Cultivars of quince ‘Portugal’ (’Lusitani-ca’). The pear-shaped fruits have deep yellow skins covered with grey down. Their flesh is tender, juicy and excellent for cooking and preserving. The tree is taller and more vigorous than the others but not quite so hardy. This is the best quince, but better suited to southern England.

‘Vranja’. The fruit is very fragrant, of a clear, shining gold, and tender. Growth is vigorous and this is a precocious cropper. A recommended cultivar.

‘Berecski’. A variety very similar to ‘Vranja’.

‘Champion’. Large, pear-shaped fruits with bright yellow skins. The flesh is tender when cooked, with a delicate flavour. A very productive tree that starts to bear freely when young.

‘Maliformis’ (apple-shaped quince). Roundish fruits, 6 cm (2.5 in) in diameter and of a rich golden colour. It is very productive and will ripen in a less favourable climate than other cultivars. Medlars The medlar, which is related to the quince, is a deciduous, long-lived tree, sometimes thorned but rarely so in the case of cultivated forms. Some have an attractive weeping habit and they are usually grown as half or full standards. When mature, trees may reach from 3.6-6 m (12-20 ft) in height, depending on the environment, rootstock and variety.

The leaves are lanceolate, dark green and downy, changing to reddish-brown in the autumn. The flowers are white or pink-tinted, very like the quince, and are borne singly in May or June at the ends of short shoots. The fruits resemble large, flattish rose hips, but they have a russety, dark brown skin.

Medlars’ fruits make a superb, orange-coloured jelly, with a distinctive flavour. They can be eaten raw but are not to everyone’s taste. The fruits are left until they are just beginning to decay, a process called ‘bletting’, when the flesh becomes brown and soft.

Medlars are hardy and can be grown in all parts of the British Isles. The site should be sunny and sheltered, however, because the leaves and flowers are easily damaged by strong winds. They tolerate a wide range of soils, provided that the drainage is good.

Cultivars of medlars ‘Dutch’. The fruits are 5-6 cm (2-2.5 in) in diameter, flattened, russet-brown and with a fair flavour. It makes a handsome, flat-headed and weeping tree and is the most ornamental form.

‘Nottingham’. Small-fruited but with a better flavour than ‘Dutch’. Each fruit has a diameter of about 4 cm (1.5 in). The tree has a more upright growth habit.

‘Royal’. The fruits are 4-5 cm (1 1/2-2 in) in diameter, with a good flavour. This cultivar crops well and makes compact but fairly upright growth.


The importance of planting only healthy stock cannot be too strongly stressed. Trying to succeed with disease-ridden, unhealthy plants is hopeless.

For certain fruits there is a Ministry of Agriculture Certification Scheme. Under this arrangement, which is voluntary, nurserymen submit their plants for official inspection and, if the plants are healthy and true to name, the nurseryman receives a certificate to this effect. The plants are termed ‘Certified Stock’.

Obviously, these are the kind that the gardener should obtain wherever possible, but not all soft fruits come within the scheme. At present, it covers strawberries, black currants, raspberries, certain hybrid berries and a few gooseberry cultivars. If you wish to buy other types of soft fruit, obtain them from a reputable nurseryman.


This hardy, deciduous bush fruit is widely grown throughout the British Isles. The fruits make excellent pies, superb jam and fruit juice, and are rich in Vitamin C. Black currants are grown as ‘stooled bushes’. This is a method in which the shoots are grown from ground level rather than from a single stem.

The chief points to note are as follows: Certified Stock Plant only Ministry of Agriculture Certified Stock, thus ensuring that the bushes are free from big bud mite and the virus-like disease, reversion. Once planted, keep a firm control over this mite. Site Black currants flower early, so try to avoid planting in a frost pocket. Where this is not possible, protect the bushes against frost at flowering time. Given a frost-free spring or adequate cover, a well-grown black currant bush will yield at least 4.5 kg (10 lb) of fruit.

Bushes are best planted in full sun, though they will tolerate some shade. The flowers are pollinated principally by bumble bees so it is an advantage to have a sheltered site where their movements will not be inhibited.

The soil needs to be fertile, moisture-retentive and well-drained, but the bushes will tolerate slightly impeded drainage below 45 cm (1.5 ft). Very acid ground should be limed to bring the pH up to between 6.7 and 7.0.

Feeding and pruning Black currants bear their best fruit on wood made during the previous summer. For this reason, generous feeding and fairly hard pruning are needed so that strong young wood is produced every year.

Spacing Space the bushes 1.5-1.8 m (5-6 ft) apart, depending upon the vigour of the variety.

‘Ben Sarek’, which needs only 1.2 m (4 ft), is an exception. Early black currants ‘Boskoop Giant’. Large, sweet berries and a heavy cropper. It flowers early and so is prone to frost damage. It is a very vigorous bush, and is therefore unsuitable for small gardens. Space 1.8 m (6 ft) apart.

‘Laxton’s Giant’. This is similar to ‘Boskoop Giant’, the berries being very large, sweet and of good flavour. Space 1.8 m (6 ft) apart.

‘Blackdown’. Has sweet berries and is a moderate cropper. The bushes are of medium size, sprawling and with lax growth. They are very resistant to mildew. Space 1.5 m (5 ft) apart. Mid-season black CURRANTS ‘Ben Lomond’. The berries are medium to large, with thick skins and a fair flavour. It crops well and has some resistance to mildew and frost. Space 1.5-1.8 m (5-6 ft) apart.

‘Ben Nevis’. Crops heavily and in most respects is similar to ‘Ben Lomond’. Mid-season to late black currants ‘Baldwin’. (Hilltop stock). The medium size berries have a good, acid flavour and are rich in Vitamin C. Crops well, is moderately vigorous and fairly compact. A good garden cultivar. Space 1.5 m (5 ft) apart.

‘Ben More’. The large berries have an acid flavour. It forms a vigorous, upright bush, with some mildew resistance and frost hardiness. Space bushes 1.5-1.8 m (5-6 ft) apart.

‘Ben Sarek’. Large berries on short sprigs, with an acid flavour. It crops heavily. This cultivar makes compact, short growth but needs support to stop it sprawling. It is suitable for small gardens and has some resistance to mildew and frost. Space 1.2 m (4 ft) apart.

Very late black currants ‘Amos Black’. Medium sized to large berries, which have a fair but rather acid flavour. It forms a small bush with stiff, erect shoots and cropping tends to be light. Space 1.5 m (5 ft) apart.


Though somewhat neglected in comparison with black currants, these fruits yield well and are more tolerant of cold. Red currants make excellent jelly, pies and wine and are an important ingredient of any summer pudding.

The white currant is a sport, or mutant, of the red and is grown in exactly the same way. It is slightly less vigorous, however, and the yield is not so heavy. The berries are regarded as sweeter than those of red currants.

Both are usually grown as open-centred, goblet-shaped bushes on short stems about 10-15 cm U-6 in) high- They also make excellent cordons or, more rarely, standards and fans. There is no Certified Scheme for red and white currants, so be sure to obtain your plants from a reputable source.

Important points to note are: Site For maximum flavour and early ripening this should be in full sun, though the bushes will tolerate partial shade. They can be grown quite successfully as cordons on a north-facing wall or fence.

These currants flower early, so avoid a frost pocket if possible, or be prepared to protect them in April and May. The site must be sheltered.

Soil These fruits tolerate a wide range of conditions but, ideally, choose a deep, moisture-retentive, light to medium loam that is slightly acid.

Feeding Red and white currants are prone to a deficiency of potassium, so this is one element that should not be omitted in the annual feeding programme.

Spacing Space bushes 1.5 m (5 ft) apart, with 38 cm (15 in) between cordons. Red currants ‘Jonkheer van Tets’. Very early, with a good flavour and bunches of large berries. A very heavy cropper.

‘Laxton’s No. 1’. An early variety, with a good flavour and medium-sized berries. Crops well and makes moderate growth.

‘Red Lake’. A mid-season variety and the most widely grown, being hardy and reliable. It carries large berries and bunches and has an excellent flavour. Crops well.

‘Stanza’. Mid-late season, with a good flavour and large bunches and berries. It is a heavy cropper.

‘Rondom’. Late to ripen, with large berries and short sprigs. It is difficult to pick, but a heavy cropper.

‘Mailing Redstart’. Mid-late season. A promising new cultivar, with long sprigs on an erect and moderately heavy bush. This is a very heavy cropper. White currants ‘White Versailles’. An early white currant, with very long bunches, that makes a moderate-sized, upright bush. The berries are large, light yellow and sweet. It is widely grown and a good garden cultivar.

‘White Dutch’. A mid-season cultivar with a good flavour. The bush is moderately vigorous and a little spreading. The bunches are 5-8 cm (2-3 in) long; the berries large, milky-yellow and sweet.

‘White Grape’. This cultivar, which produces large clusters and large berries, is considered to be the best flavoured. The berries are a clear yellowish-white, with firm flesh, and are sweet. The bush is of medium size and spreading. It crops well.


Few other fruits have as many attributes as the raspberry. It freezes well, is excellent as a dessert fruit and makes a lovely, perfumed jam. Raspberries give about 1 kg (2 lb) of fruit for each 30 cm (1 ft) of row, take up very little room and will grow almost anywhere in the British Isles. They are also one of our most popular fruits. Certified Stock As raspberries are prone to all kinds of virus troubles, ensure a clean start by planting only Certified Stock. Site A sunny but well-sheltered site is necessary. Raspberries will grow in partial shade but not under overhanging trees or in dry soil.

Soil A well-drained, moisture-retentive, fertile, slightly acid, light or medium loam is ideal. Very heavy, badly-drained soil is unsuitable because of the canes susceptibility to fungal troubles. The land should be drained before planting and, if proper drainage is not practicable, construct a soakaway of brick rubble, clinker or similar materials under the rows. In such situations it helps to plant on a slight ridge.

On alkaline soils raspberries suffer badly from lime-induced chlorosis, and in this case an acidifying agent, such as peat, should be added generously. Mulching with peat is advisable on shallow soils, too. Training Raspberries need some kind of wire fence to support the canes. Cultivars ‘Glen Clova’. Ripens early. This is a heavy cropper, with fruits of medium size and good flavour. The canes are vigorous and abundant. It is susceptible to virus infection from ‘Mailing Jewel’ and should not be planted with it.

‘Glen Moy’. An early cultivar. The fruits are of medium size and good flavour. The canes are vigorous and stout, the fruit laterals short. It is resistant to raspberry aphids and therefore less susceptible to virus infections. Crops well.

‘Delight’. Ripens early mid-season, with large, pale orange-red fruits. The canes are prolific and vigorous. It carries long fruit laterals which are susceptible to spur blight and botrytis. Resistant to some strains of raspberry aphid and crops well.

‘Mailing Jewel’. A mid-season cultivar, bearing good-quality, firm fruits, with compact growth but sparse cane production. For this reason, plant two canes per station, 38 cm (15 in) apart. It is tolerant of virus infection.

‘Mailing Admiral’. Fruits late mid-season. This is a heavy cropper, bearing good quality, medium sized berries. The canes are prolific and vigorous and the fruiting laterals long. Some resistance to spur blight, mildew and cane botrytis is shown.

‘Glen Prosen’. Mid-late season. Fruits of medium size, firm and with a good flavour. They are suitable for all purposes, and there is a long picking period. The canes are moderately vigorous and resistant to aphids. Crops well.

‘Leo’. A very late cultivar. The fruits are large, bright orange-red, firm, and with a good, slightly acid flavour. The canes are very vigorous but are slow to build up in number. Plant two per station. It is fairly resistant to spur blight, cane botrytis and some strains of aphid, but susceptible to cane spot. A good cropper.


These crop at the top of the current season’s canes, extending back over 30 cm (1 ft) or more. The fruits ripen from the beginning of September until they are stopped by autumn frosts.

The same conditions are needed, except that they will not tolerate shade. Choose the sunniest position available, otherwise too few fruits may ripen before the cold weather arrives.

Cultivars ‘Autumn Bliss’. The fruits ripen from mid-August onwards. A promising new cultivar, with firm berries of good size and with a good flavour. The canes are short and sturdy. A heavy cropper.

‘September’. Ripens from late August onwards. Flavour is good and the berries are small to medium in size. Cropping is good, the canes being very prolific but only weak to moderate in strength.

‘Fallgold’. Fruits ripen from early September onwards. A yellow/orange berry with a sweet, mild flavour. The berries are small to medium, the canes vigorous and prolific.


Wild blackberries thrive in hedgerows throughout the British countryside. The cultivated forms have larger fruits and give a heavier yield relative to their size. Some varieties ripen much earlier, some are just as aggressively thorned while others are thornless.

Hybrid berries are of mixed Rubus parentage, most having the raspberry as one parent and the blackberry as the other. As might be expected, hybrid berries are intermediate in character and flavour between the two parents. Usually they are sweeter than the blackberry and ripen earlier – though not as early as the raspberry – and they are not as vigorous or as thorny as the blackberry. Unlike the raspberry, their canes are perennial.

Blackberries and hybrid berries are rambling, sprawling cane fruits which need some kind of support to keep the canes off the ground and the fruits clean. They are productive plants for covering walls and fences and look most attractive trained over structures such as arches and pergolas. Out in the open they are best grown on wire fences.

These fruits do best in a warm, sheltered position. This is essential for hybrid berries, but blackberries will tolerate a good deal of shade provided the soil is not dry. Both will grow in a wide range of soils provided they are reasonably deep – preferably 45 cm (I ½ ft) or more. Blackberries can withstand slightly impeded soil drainage.

Source of supply Obtain the plants from a reputable source because, as with raspberries, they may otherwise be infected with virus and impossible to grow successfully. A limited Certification Scheme exists for the Tayberry. If certified it is sold as MedanaTayberry.

Choice of varieties Blackberries and hybrid berries are self-fertile and can, therefore, be planted singly. Some varieties of blackberry are very vigorous and powerfully thorned, making them quite unsuitable for small gardens. A few varieties are thornless and make fairly compact growth and these are the best ones to choose if space is limited.

Where space is limited, hybrid berries may perhaps be a better choice as most make relatively moderate growth and their taste is different. Training methods are suggested in the following list of varieties. BLACKBERRIES ‘Bedford Giant’. This is the earliest to ripen (in July), with large, shiny, blackberries of mild flavour. It crops well but the canes are extremely vigorous and thorny. It is therefore unsuitable for small gardens. Train on the rope or weaving system. Space 3.6-4.5 m (12-15 ft) aPart- ‘Himalaya Giant’. Early to mid-season. The large berries have a fair flavour and it crops heavily. The canes are exceedingly vigorous and thorny, so it is unsuitable for small gardens. Train on the rope or weaving system. Plant 4.5 m (15 ft) apart to allow for growth.

‘Ashton Cross’. Mid-season. The medium sized berries have a true blackberry flavour. Train the vigorous, thorny, wiry canes on the rope system. Plant 3.6 m (12 ft) apart.

‘Oregon Thornless’. (’Parsley’ or ‘Cut Leaf). Mid-late season. A thornless form of the parsley-leaved blackberry, with a mild blackberry flavour. It has attractive leaves and, though vigorous, is easy to manage and therefore suitable for small gardens. Train on the rope system. Plant 3-4.2 m (10-14 ft) apart. HYBRID BERRIES ‘Tayberry’. Early. The berries are medium to large, with a mild, sweet, perfumed flavour. It crops well. The prickly canes are moderately vigorous and not fully winter-hardy. Train on the rope system. Plant 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft) apart.

‘Boysenberry’. Early to mid-season. The large, purplish fruits have a good acid flavour and it crops well. The canes are moderately vigorous and there are thorned and thornless forms. Train on the rope system. Plant 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft) apart.

‘Tummelberry’. Early to mid-season. The fruits are large, with a sharp, acid flavour. It crops heavily. The canes are vigorous, moderately thorny and more winter-hardy than those of the ‘Tayberry’. Train on the rope system. Plant 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft) apart.

‘Loganberry’. Mid-season. This is the most widely grown of all the hybrid berries, the berries being medium to large and with a distinctive acid flavour. It crops well, and the canes are moderately vigorous. There are thorned (Clone LY.59) and thornless forms (L.654). Train on the rope system. Plant 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft) apart.

‘Smoothstem’. Late. Large, shiny, black fruits with a sharp, acid flavour. It crops well and the canes are thornless, strong and compact. A warm, sunny position is essential, and it is unsuitable for the north. Train on the fan or rope system, planting 2.4 m (8 ft) apart.


Gooseberries grow just as well in the north of the country as in the south. Indeed, they are more popular in the northern part of Britain.

Ideally, the planting site should be in full sun, sheltered and away from overhanging trees. However, gooseberries will tolerate light shade provided the ground is not dry. They are one of the few fruits that will crop successfully against a north-facing wall or fence, though to achieve the full flavour of the dessert cultivars they are better planted in a warmer situation.

Flowering is early, so a frost pocket should be avoided if possible. Failing this, the bushes are small enough for protection to be possible. Bullfinches and sparrows can be troublesome, too, for they eat the fruit buds during the winter. Netting is the answer.

The soil needs to be well-drained and 38 cm (15 in) or more deep. Chalky soils are tolerated if sufficiently deep. Very acid soils should be limed to bring the pH up to about 6.y. If the soil is light, mix in some bulky organic material to improve moisture retention.

Grow the plant as an open-centred bush on a stem about 15 cm (6 in) long. Alternatively, it can be grown as either a single or multiple cordon, or as a fan against a wall or a fence. The cordon is an ideal form for a small garden as it allows a good selection of varieties to be grown in a relatively small area.

Thanks to the past existence of ‘gooseberry clubs’, in the Northern and Midland counties, there is a wide choice of cultivars – early, mid-season and late – with red, yellow, green and white fruits. Growing the largest gooseberry was the principal objective of these clubs.

Gooseberry clubs were at the peak from the start of the last century up to the first quarter of the present, and the romantic-sounding names of the cultivars they have left us are a reminder of the events taking place at the time – names such as ‘Hero of the Nile’, ‘Roaring Lion’, and ‘Leveller’.

At present, the only cultivars that come within the Certified Stock Scheme are ‘Invicta’ and ‘Jubilee’. Fortunately, though, gooseberries are not virus prone, and provided plants are obtained from a reputable source should be no problem.

Cultivars (in order of ripening)

Early (These fruits develop rapidly and can be picked green for cooking.) ‘Keepsake’. Has a very good flavour, the fruits being medium to large, whitish-green and with a transparent skin. It crops well but is susceptible to mildew. Suitable for both dessert and cooking.

‘May Duke’. Has a good flavour when cooked. The fruits are of medium size, oblong, and dark red when fully ripe. A good cropper, suitable for both dessert and cooking.

‘Golden Drop’. Has a very good flavour. The fruits are small, round and a dull greenish-yellow. It has an upright, compact habit and is a moderate cropper. A dessert cultivar.

Mid-season ‘Careless’. The virus-tested form, called ‘Jubilee’ or ‘Jubilee Careless’, should be obtained in preference. It has a good flavour, with berries that are large, oval, smooth and green milky-white. It is a reliable and good cropper. Suitable for dessert and cooking.

‘Invicta’. A new cultivar, highly resistant to mildew. It has a good flavour, with large, oval berries that are greenish-white and smooth-skinned. With a vigorous, spreading habit, it crops heavily and is suitable for dessert and cooking.

‘Lancashire Lad’. The flavour is fair, the fruits medium-large, dark red, oblong and hairy. It requires good soil and is a heavy cropper. A cooking variety.

‘Langley Gage’. An excellent flavour; medium size, oval, smooth fruits, pale yellow in colour. A dessert cultivar that is a moderate cropper.

‘Leveller’. The most widely-grown dessert gooseberry. It requires good soil but has an excellent flavour, bearing large, oval, sulphur-yellow fruits with a slightly downy skin. It is a good cropper, needing thinning if the fruits are grown for exhibition. A good choice for the latter.

‘Whinham’s Industry’. Widely grown and reliable, it does well on most soils. The bush is very vigorous, though prone to mildew. The fruits are large, dark red, oval and hairy, but with a sweet flavour. It crops heavily and is grown for both dessert and cooking.

‘Whitesmith’. With a very good flavour, the berries are medium to large, pale green with a yellow tinge, and with a downy skin. A dessert and culinary cultivar, rigorous and with good crops.

Late ‘Howards Lancer’. The well-flavoured, large berries are oval, pale greenish-white, thin-skinned and downy. This is a vigorous bush that crops well. Suitable for dessert and culinary purposes, and for exhibition.


This deciduous North American plant belongs to the Ericaceae family. It is closely related to our own indigenous whinberry or bilberry but is a larger shrub that gives bigger berries and a much heavier crop. It is a delicious fruit, excellent for freezing and deservedly renowned in America for making blueberry pie. The fruits ripen from late July onwards, depending on cultivar.

Like the bilberry it is a heathland plant and must have a very acid, light to medium sandy loam. A pH of 4.0 to 5.5 is the maximum acidity. Bear in mind that the pH of acid to slightly acid soils can be brought down to the required range by using acidifying agents.

However, it is pointless to plant blueberries in neutral or alkaline soils as the plants will suffer from iron and manganese deficiencies. In such situations they can be grown in specially constructed beds filled with an acid-based compost, provided that alkaline water is prevented from permeating into the area. Alternatively, blueberries can be grown in containers, a diameter of 45 cm (1.5 ft) being the minimum.

The blueberry is grown as a stooled bush. It is an ornamental plant with pretty, urn-shaped, creamy-white flowers-sometimes pink-tinted.

Blueberries will fit in quite well with rhododendrons and other calcifuge plants. The berries are extemely attractive to birds, however, and where it is grown primarily for its fruit it is better planted separately so that the plants can be netted properly.

Being winter-hardy, blueberries can be grown almost anywhere in the British Isles if given the right soil conditions. As it flowers early, a frost pocket must be avoided. The site should be sunny and sheltered, though the plants will tolerate light shade. Plenty of summer moisture is essential but it is advisable to use soft water for irrigation.

Blueberries are only partly self-fertile and for a full crop more than one cultivar should be planted.

Cultivars ‘Earliblue’. Early to ripen, with large berries of good quality. Strong, upright growth and attractive autumn colouring. Cropping is moderate.

‘Bluecrop’. Early to ripen. The berries are large and with a good flavour. It crops well and has vigorous, upright growth. A good garden variety.

‘Ivanhoe’. Mid-season. The berries are of medium size, dark blue, sweet, and with a good flavour. It crops well and has attractive autumn colouring.

‘Elizabeth’. Late. The berries are large and dark blue, with a moderate flavour. Crops heavily and is vigorous and upright. Bright autumn colouring.

‘Coville’. Very late. The berries are large, light blue and with a good flavour. Makes a vigorous, spreading bush.


Though at one time this soft fruit was thought to be a hybrid between the gooseberry and the black currant, it is now considered a true species – Kibes divarica-tum, from North America.

The bush is extremely vigorous, very thorny and hardy, and has a good degree of resistance to mildew. The berries are borne singly in a similar way to those of the gooseberry. They are slightly larger than a big black currant, a dull brownish-black and rather acid. They make excellent jam.

Worcesterberries do not crop as heavily as gooseberries, relative to their size. They are grown in exactly the same way as gooseberries.


The Jostaberry is a genuine hybrid between the black currant and the gooseberry. It is an extremely vigorous plant, resembling the black currant in habit but with gooseberry-like leaves. It is thornless and resistant to mildew. The berries are slightly larger than those of the Worcesterberry and make excellent jam. It crops well, though not as heavily as the black currant, relative to its size.

The Jostaberry bears its fruit on the old wood and also on young shoots. It is best grown as a stooled bush and treated in a similar way to the black currant. It needs plenty of room, so space the bushes 1.8 m (6 ft) apart.


Given a soil depth of not less than 30 cm (1 ft), together with good drainage, strawberries will grow in a fairly wide range of conditions. Drainage must be attended to if there are signs of waterlogging. On clay soils, where drainage is slow, results can be improved by planting the runners along the tops of ridges, some 5 cm (2 in) high, so that the water runs away from the plants.

Site Frost in the spring can damage the flowers (resulting in strawberry black eye) and the crop may be lost or substantially reduced. However, it is possible to grow strawberries even in a frost pocket if the plants are protected until the danger period is over.

Overall, the important points to bear in mind are to purchase good, healthy runners, to practise soil rotation and to plant early.

Healthy runners If possible, buy Certified Stock or plants that have been propagated from Certified Stock in the very recent past. This will get you off to a good start and also enable you to propagate your own runners for the next four or five years. After this, it would be safer to buy in Certified Stock once again.

Runners from other sources may be virus-infected. If they are, the plants will never be any good, for there is nothing you can do to rid them of virus diseases. Soil rotation All kinds of harmful organisms can multiply in the soil – especially eelworms, red core and verticillium wilt – when strawberries are grown in the same plot year after year. It makes sense, therefore, to plant runners in fresh ground as far as practicable.

This is most easily done in the vegetable plot, where soil rotation fits in well with most planting programmes. Practice a three-year rotation – that is, have one patch planted with one-year-old plants, the next with two-year-olds and the last with three-year-olds. After harvesting, dig up the three-year-old plants and plant new runners in soil that has not grown strawberries for at least three years. Early planting This gives heavier and better-quality crops. Berries from newly-planted runners are, in any case, a little earlier and larger than those from older plants.

‘Early’means July, August or September in the north of the country and not later than the middle of October in the south. However, July and August runners are expensive and more difficult to find, as they are pot-grown. Often, one has to settle for either pot-grown or open-ground runners in September or October. 2/

Though planting is possible in November or the following spring, the plants will not be well enough established to sustain both growth and a crop during their first year and must therefore be deblossomed. Sadly, the maiden crop will be lost.

Do not plant in open ground between December and the end of March. Instead, overwinter runners in a sheltered spot – in an uncovered cold frame, for instance. TYPES OF STRAWBERRIES There are two main types grown in Britain: the ordinary strawberry that fruits in early summer, and the perpetual kinds – or remontants, as they used to be known.

In addition, there is the alpine strawberry, a separate species closely related to our own wild strawberry. The fruits of this pretty little plant are small and dry, though their flavour is intense. It is usually grown from seed.

Ordinary cultivars New ones are introduced every year, but the following are of known performance and listed by many growers: ‘Pantagruella’. Very early. Ideal for growing under polythene or glass for an even earlier crop. The flavour is good but cropping only moderate.

‘Cambridge Vigour’. Second early. Fruit size deteriorates in the second and third year, so it is best grown as a maiden crop every year. The flavour is excellent and cropping good.

‘Tamella’. Early in the first year, mid to late thereafter. The fruits are large and the flavour good. Cropping is very heavy.

‘Royal Sovereign’. Second early. An old cultivar that has survived because of its reputation for good flavour, but it is a poor cropper. Susceptible to botrytis, mildew and virus infection.

‘Red Gauntlet’. Early to mid-season. This cultivar is widely planted and reliable. If protected in the spring, or in a good summer, will give a second crop in the autumn. Flavour is poor but the variety is resistant to mildew.

‘Cambridge Favourite’. Mid-season. The most widely planted and reliable variety. Flavour is fair and cropping good.

‘Hapil’. Mid-season. A promising new cultivar with a reputation for giving large fruits of excellent flavour. It crops well on light soils.

‘Tenira’. Mid to late. Fruit size and cropping are good in the first year but less so in the second year. It is therefore best grown for two years only. Flavour is excellent.

‘DomaniP. Late. The latest of the ordinary strawberries at present. The large fruits have moderate flavour. It crops well. Perpetual cultivars There are a few cultivars that will crop well in the summer and again in the autumn, given a warm season. These are sometimes called ‘two croppers’, and ‘Red Gauntlet’ is a typical example.

There are also the perpetual, or remontant, types, which crop in light flushes throughout the summer and autumn. They do not yield as heavily as the ordinary cultivars at any one time but it is nice to have fresh strawberries out of season. Points to bear in mind are:

I. A moisture-retentive, fertile soil and a sunny, sheltered position are essential.

They are not so easy to obtain as the ordinary type and are best planted not later than mid-September in the south of the country or early September in the north. Failing this, remontants should be planted in the spring.

To obtain a heavier late-summer crop, remove the first flowers produced during the early summer.

They are best grown as a maiden crop each year, as fruit size generally deteriorates badly in the second year. The cultivar ‘Gento’ is an exception and can be grown for two years before replanting.

Ample irrigation is essential during dry weather.

It is difficult to obtain certified stock. This is not important, provided plants are bought from a reputable source. Some of the best cultivars include: ‘Aromel’. Best grown as a maiden crop. Flavour is very good. This variety crops heavily, but only in the first year.

‘Gento’. One of the few perpetuals that will give a satisfactory crop in the second year. Fruit size is good and flavour excellent. Cropping is good.

‘Rapella’. A promising new cultivar.



If there are still fruit trees, bush and cane fruits to plant, try to complete this work when soil conditions are favourable. LIMING Most fruits do best in slightly acid conditions, so do not apply lime unless the soil is very acid. If it is, add lime to bring the pH to about 6.y, using ground limestone or chalk.

Do the job in fortnightly stages, applying 130 g per sq m (4 oz per sq yd) each time. Two weeks after each application, measure the pH and apply more lime if necessary. PRUNING

Try also to complete the pruning of all hardy bush, cane and tree fruits (except stone fruits). In districts where bullfinches are troublesome, leave gooseberries and red currants until March, in the meantime protecting the bushes by zig-zagging strands of black cotton from branch to branch.

Collect and burn the prunings and store the ash in a dry place. This represents a useful supply of potash for later.

Strawberries For an early crop, cover strawberry plants with cloches or polythene tunnels at any time until mid-March. FRUIT STORAGE

Inspect fruits in store frequently and remove any that are rotten. Use slightly damaged fruits immediately before they can rot.

RENOVATING NEGLECTED APPLES AND PEARS (BUSH OR STANDARD) This task can be done at any time during the winter, up to the end of March. However, if there is a lot of wood to be removed, spread the operation over three winters to lessen the shock to the tree. On each occasion, work evenly over the whole head of the tree to avoid a lop-sided or imbalanced effect.

It has been found that the later a tree is pruned during the winter, the less growth-response there will be during the following summer. Therefore, a tree that is inclined to be over-vigorous is best pruned during the late winter. Conversely, a tree that lacks vigour and needs the stimulus of winter-pruning should be pruned early.

However, before starting try to find out why the tree is in poor condition. There may be other courses of action, pruning being only part of the remedy. Consider the following: 1) Damage by pests and diseases due to neglect of appropriate con trol or prevention. 2) Too much competition for water and nutrients from other plants, such as grass and weeds.

Excessive shade, due to overcrowding within the tree itself or by nearby trees or buildings.

Unsuitable soil conditions due to lack of depth, poor moisture retention, a hard pan beneath or poor drainage. 5) Over-pruning or lack of pruning.


Lack of water.

Damage to the framework or root system due to poor staking.

Damage by vermin.

There are two extremes as far as neglected trees are concerned -those that are too large and crowded and others that are weak and stunted:

OVER-LARGE AND OVER-CROWDED trees First, remove dead and diseased wood. Next, prune to give adequate spacing of the main branches. As a guide, if a tree has a height and spread of 4.5 m (15 ft) or more, the main branches should be at least 60 cm (2 ft) apart when side by side at the perimeter and not less than 75 cm (2.5 ft) apart when directly above each other.

This applies to large trees with many branches. Moderate the pruning proportionately for smaller trees.

Branches to remove include those that are too low, badly placed or crossing in the centre; also tall branches, including those that are vigorous and centrally placed, and consequently difficult to spray and pick.

When removing a branch, cut back to its point of origin or to a limb large enough to take up the vigour. The latter should be at least one third the diameter of the branch removed. Remove heavy limbs in stages to lessen the weight, always undercutting first and then completing the cut from above so that the falling branch does not tear the bark. Protect saw cuts with a wound paint, first paring the edges of the wound to give a smooth surface.

Such reduction in height and the cutting out of main limbs is called ‘de-horning’. The aim is to achieve improved spacing of the limbs so that light and air can reach all parts of the tree. It also facilitates spraying, cultivation and picking.

Very hard winter-pruning with secateurs on a vigorous tree causes the buds to grow out as shoots instead of developing into fruit buds. If a tree has been subjected to over-pruning in the past, pruning should be relatively light. Thin out the branches, as already described, but avoid the excessive use of secateurs.

Light pruning work should be confined to dealing with laterals that cross over, to thinning out surplus leaders and to the removal of clusters of strong, unproductive laterals that are crowding other spurs. Remember, also, the technique of summer-pruning an over-vigorous tree. WEAK AND STUNTED TREES SOME- times a weak tree will carry a mass of dense, complex spur systems, bearing small fruits – perhaps biennially – and making no new growth. In this case, the first task is to remove worn out and over-shading spurs and to reduce others. This will increase fruit size AS well as the formation of new leaders and laterals.

Thin growth, weak fruit buds, small leaves and early leaf fall are symptomatic of starvation and, possibly, lack of water. Such trees must be fed and irrigated during dry weather.


MANURING FRUIT trees, BUSHES AND canes This is the main month for feeding and mulching fruits.

The three major elements needed by fruits are nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). These must be applied in the form of fertilizers on a fairly regular basis. Occasionally, too, there is a need for some of the minor elements.

Nitrogen promotes growth and fruit size; phosphorous is required for root development; potassium for winter hardiness, fruit development and flavour.

Lime (calcium) is sometimes necessary, but this should be applied well before the other elements to avoid any risk of chemical reaction with certain types of fertilizer.

There are two main categories of fertilizers – organic and inorganic. Usually they are applied separately, but some formulations contain a mixture of the two. Organic fertilizers In the main, this heading covers the bulky organic manures, such as farmyard manure and garden compost. There are a few non-bulky orga-nics, such as hoof and horn, dried blood and fish meal, but for the purpose of feeding outdoor fruits only bonemeal is relevant, this being used at planting time.

The main purpose of bulky organics is not so much to supply nutrients, as to improve soil structure and moisture retention. In THIS respect they are invaluable.

Nevertheless, they do contain plant nutrients to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon their nature, though nothing like as much as the inorganic fertilizers when compared on a weight to weight basis.

Bulky organics are chiefly used as a mulch once the plants are in. Spent mushroom compost, being weed-free, makes an excellent mulch. However, it contains chalk and should not be used too frequently, except on very acid soils. Do not use it on raspberries.

Straw may be used as a surface mulch to conserve moisture but if mixed into the soil it should be well rotted or, alternatively, extra nitrogen must be applied. Inorganic fertilizers Both ‘straight’ and ‘compound’ fertilizers are available. There are also ‘slow release’ fertilizers, both straight and compound, which release nutrients over a longer period than the ordinary ones. Straight fertilizers supply only one nutrient, although they may sometimes contain small amounts of others. Compound fertilizers contain three or more nutrients, depending on their formulation.

The straight fertilizers commonly used on fruit are: Nitrogen: sulphate of ammonia (21% N). This has an acidifying effect, which is an advantage on soils containing an excess content of lime. On other soils, repeated heavy dressings may make the soil too acid for crops such as black currants and young apple trees. Nitro-chalk (21% N) is neutral and may be used instead.

Phosphate: superphosphate (18% P205) and triple superphosphate (47% P205). A dressing of phosphate for soils is not usually necessary more than once every three years.

Potash: sulphate of potash (48-50% K20). There is also muriate of potash (60% KzO), but with this there is a risk of chloride damage to certain fruits (strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and red currants). Its use is limited to tree fruits and black currants.


Compound or general fertilizers contain all three major elements, and sometimes some of the trace elements as well. The fertilizer may be balanced – supplying nitrogen, phosphate and potash in equal amounts – or the proportion of one nutrient may be higher in relation to the others. Usually, they are higher in either nitrogen or potash.

Growmore (7% N, 7% P, 7% K) is an easily-obtained balanced fertilizer.

APPLYING FERTILIZERS AND MULCHES Really keen fruit-growers may prefer to use straight fertilizers, which allow greater precision regarding timing and quantities, rather than compound types. Nevertheless, a compound fertilizer may be used on a more general basis, provided that the grower adds extra nitrogen when necessary.

If Growmore is used, the recommended rate is 100-130 g per sq m (3-4 oz per sq yd), applying the higher amount on poorer soils.

In the following instances, fertilizers are applied as a top dressing – that is, on the soil surface over the rooting area, which in the case of a tree is slightly beyond the spread of the overhead branches. For smaller fruits, apply them over the whole area.

Apply mulches about 5-8 cm (2-3 in) deep over a radius of about 23-45 cm (9-18 in), depending upon the size of the plant, or as a band 30 cm (1 ft) wide along a row of closely-spaced fruits.

Taking each fruit in turn, apply fertilizer and mulches as follows: Dessert apples Sulphate of potash at 20 g per sq m (V4 oz per sq yd) in early February. Superphosphate (every third year) at 65 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) in early February.

Sulphate of ammonia (Nitro-chalk if the soil is acid) at 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd) in late February, but at 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) if trees are grown in grass.


HERE, LARGER fruits are desired. Apply the same rates as for dessert apples, except that the amount of nitrogenous fertilizer should be doubled. Pears These require plenty of nitrogen. Apply the fertilizers at the same rates as for culinary apples. Mulch young trees. Peaches Apply sulphate of potash at 20 g per sq m (3A oz per sq yd) in early February. Superphosphate is needed every third year at 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) in early February, and sulphate of ammonia or Nitro-chalk at 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd) in late February. Mulch with peat, spent hops, mushroom compost or well-rotted stable manure afterwards.

Apply a high-potash liquid fertilizer every ten days from the pink bud stage until the fruits begin to ripen.


ALL thrive on a regime of high-nitrogen feeding, with plenty of moisture during the summer. Apply at the same rates as for culinary apples, but give a little extra nitrogen by mulching with bulky organics. Mushroom compost is ideal.

Irrigate the trees in dry weather. Cherries Give the same dressings and rates as for culinary apples. BLACK CURRANTS

THESE REQUIRE heavy nitrogenous feeding with both inorganics and bulky organic fertilizers. Every year apply sulphate of potash at 15 g per sq m (1/2 oz per sq yd) in early February; superphosphate at 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) in early February; and sulphate of ammonia or Nitro-chalk at 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) in late February.

Mulch heavily afterwards.


THE bushes are very susceptible to potassium deficiency. Give sulphate of potash at 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd) every year in early February; super-phosphate, every third year, at 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) in early February; sulphate of ammonia or Nitro-chalk at 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd) every year in late February.

Mulch young plants, and also older bushes if grown on light soil. Gooseberries Give the same applications as for red currants. Take care when applying nitrogen, as an excess may cause soft, lush growth which is vulnerable to mildew. Mulch young plants. Raspberries Apply the same fertilizers as for red currants, spreading two thirds of the quantities per metre or yard along a band 60 cm (2 ft) wide. Spread the rest over a wider area. Mulch lightly along each side of the row with a bulky organic substance such as peat; avoid mushroom compost.

On very fertile soils, where cane growth is excessive, reduce the supply of nitrogen by half or eliminate it altogether. Lush growth is susceptible to spur blight. Blackberries and hybrid berries Treat as for raspberries. Strawberries Potash is essential for strawberries, so apply sulphate of potash at 15 g per sq m (1/2 oz per sq yd) in early February. No nitrogen should be necessary, assuming that the ground was manured before planting. If applied, it would induce leafy growth at the expense of fruit. Where growth has been poor, apply sulphate of ammonia at 15 g per sq m (1/2 oz per sq yd) in early February.

All the above recommendations are intended as a general guide. They may be modified, particularly THE application of nitrogen, according to the performance OF the plants.


The hazel nut flowers from late February into March, and sometimes as late as April. It is monoecious, meaning that it bears separate male catkins and female flowers on the same tree. Pollination is brought about by the wind.

A nut tree is grown either as an open-centred, goblet-shaped bush or as an open-centred stooled bush, with the height restricted by pruning to between 1.8 m and 2.1 m (6 ft and 7 ft).

Because the disturbance caused by pruning assists pollination, the task is left until the catkins are releasing their pollen freely and the female flowers are fully open and receptive.

Pruning Once the flowers are ready for pollination cut back strong laterals – previously brut-ted (broken) in August-to 5-8 cm (2-3 in). Do not prune weak laterals, as these usually carry the red female flowers.

Cut back the branch leaders to a height between 1.8-2.1 m (6-7 ft). Remove any growth crowding the centre of the tree and any suckers. STRAWBERRIES

For crops, cover the plants with a polythene tunnel or glass barn cloches if this was not done in January.

PRUNING AUTUMN-FRUITING RASPBERRIES As autumn-fruiting raspberries bear their fruits at the apex of the current season’s growth, they should not be allowed to crop on the two-year-old canes. This means that all canes must be cut down to ground level. New canes will grow in the spring to fruit in the autumn.

Figs: pruning fan-trained TREES In late February or early March cut each alternate shoot back to one bud. This will stimulate new growth. Leave the remainder to bear fruit during the summer.



Now that the sap is moving upwards it is safe to proceed with the formative pruning of stone fruits, such as plums, gages, damsons, ‘Morello’ and sweet cherries, peaches and nectarines.

Some stone fruits – peaches, for example – produce single, double and triple buds on the one-year-old wood, these being either growth buds, flower buds or a combination of these. It is, of course, useless to prune back to a flower bud, as this will not grow. When in doubt, delay pruning until a green shoot appears, although it is quite safe to cut to a triple bud.

The formative pruning of all young stone fruits is basically the same. It is only when dealing with a cropping tree that there are some differences in pruning methods.

Always protect the cuts on A stone fruit tree with a wound paint to guard against silver leaf disease. BUSH, HALF-STANDARD AND FULL STANDARD trees

A bush should have a clean stem of about 60-90 cm (2-3 ft) beneath the head. The stem of a half-standard is 1.4 m (4.5 ft) and that of a full standard 1.8 m (6 ft) or more. The pruning of the head itself is the same for all three, the only major difference being that the central stem of A standard may need to be trained up a cane or stake for a further year to achieve the necessary height. It is then headed back. Pruning A maiden (one-year-old) Cut back the central stem to a bud or lateral at 90 cm (3 ft) for a bush, 1.4 m (4.5 ft) for a half-standard and 1.8 m (6 ft) for a full standard.

If the tree has strong, well-placed laterals at the top (a feathered maiden), use these as primary branches. Select four or five and cut them back by two-thirds, pruning to an outward-facing bud. Cut back the remaining laterals flush with the main stem. Finally, cut out the central stem, pruning back to the topmost selected lateral.

If the tree is unfeathered, the top four or five buds should grow OUT strongly in the summer to form the first branches. Remember, in the spring, to pinch back the lower, unwanted shoots to two or three leaves. These will help to thicken the main stem but should be removed eventually. Second year (two-year-old) If the tree was well-feathered in its first year, treat it as a three-year-old. If it was unfeathered, select four or five well-placed primary branches to make a balanced head. Cut back the leader of each selected branch by half to an outward-facing bud. *

Remove the remainder flush with the main stem.

Remember, in the summer, to remove any unwanted shoots below the head.

Third year (three-year-old) and subsequently With a three-year-old tree select a further four or five branches, so that the tree has a well-balanced head of from eight to ten primary and secondary branches. Cut the leader of each by half or two-thirds to a bud facing outwards. Prune the remainder to three or four buds.

In subsequent years, little pruning is needed at this time, except that weak trees may need some formative pruning for a further one or two years. Thereafter, pruning is done in August. Pruning to form a fan-trained tree This is often the method chosen for peaches and nectarines but it is equally suitable for other stone fruits – and even for apples and pears.

Most maiden trees of stone fruits are well-feathered. Provided that some of the growths are Bush stone fruit suitably placed, they can be used to form the primary ribs.

The number to use initially depends upon the vigour of the tree and the strength of the laterals. With a peach or nectarine only two should be used, but with a plum or cherry it is often possible to select four to form the first ribs.

A system of horizontal wires is needed for securing the ribs of the fan. The wires are spaced two brick courses apart – every 15 cm (6 in) – starting 30 cm (1 ft) from the ground. For straight growth, the primary ribs are trained along canes fixed to the wires. Pruning a feathered maiden (one-year-old) Select two strong laterals, one to the left and one to the right, parallel with the wall. These should be about 23-30 cm (9-12 in) from the ground. Cut back the central stem to the topmost selected lateral.

If the tree is a plum or a cherry, select four shoots to form the first ribs. Cut each by two-thirds, pruning to an upward-facing bud. Tie the ribs to the canes, angled at about 25-45 degrees, so that they radiate outwards. Remove all others flush with the main stem.

In the summer, it should be possible with a two-ribbed tree to train in two more ribs on either side, so that by the autumn it consists of three on each side.

A tree which started with four ribs should have at least eight by the end of the summer.

Young shoots not wanted to form ribs are pinched back to one or two leaves in the early summer. Pruning an unfeathered maiden (one-year-old) If the maiden tree has no laterals, cut it back to a bud on the central stem about 45 cm (1.5 ft) from the ground, ensuring that there are two good buds – one to the left and one to the right -beneath it to form primary ribs.

In the summer, probably about June, when the two ribs are about 45 cm (1 1/2 ft) long, cut out the central stem to the topmost of the two. Throughout the summer, train these ribs along canes angled about 35 degrees to the ground.

Thereafter, follow the same pruning and tying programme as for a feathered maiden. Formative pruning in the second and third year The aim is to fill the wall space with ribs which radiate outwards like the spokes of a wheel. As the shoots grow, train them along canes but leave the filling of the centre to the last. This is because vertical growth tends to become too dominant, at the expense of the side ribs.

Repeat the same procedure as in the first year. Prune the leaders by half to two-thirds to stimulate extension growth and new shoots to be utilized as ribs. Pinch back to one leaf any shoots that are surplus to requirements.

By the third year all wall space should have been filled in and the tree will be entering its cropping phase, though the same treatment can be repeated if necessary.

Pruning techniques applied to cropping trees differ according to type and are described under the relevant months.

Pyramid plums, gages and damsons This tree form is eminently suitable for a medium-sized garden. Bush or half-standard plum trees tend to grow too big for many gardens and they are more prone to silver leaf disease caused by branch breakages. Pyramids have a stronger branch framework, achieved by planting a well-leathered tree with naturally wide-angled side-shoots and by summer pruning.

A self fertile variety on the dwarfing rootstock ‘Pixy’ is best for a small garden. Space them 1.8-2.4 m (6-8 ft) apart. Priming Alter planting, head the tree back to a bud 1.5 m (5 ft) from the ground. Prune any branches (feather shoots) to half their length, but remove those less than 38 cm (15 in) from the ground. Thereafter, prune to shape in April and again in July. Planting This is the last month to plant bare-rooted tree, bush and cane fruits. Container-grown fruits may be planted at any time. Alpine strawberries Sow alpine strawberry seed under glass, ready for planting out in May. Alpine strawberries make a pretty border plant, as well as yielding highly perfumed, though dry, fruits. Perpetual and ordinary strawberries Plant out over-wintered strawberry runners now, ready for de-blossoming in May. Gooseberries and red currants Established gooseberry and red currant bushes should now be pruned to minimize loss due to birds.

Heading back-budded root-stocks Cut back rootstocks immediately above the bud. This will induce the bud to grow and form a maiden tree by the autumn. Throughout the summer, train it up a cane and remove side growth.

Hand pollination: trees on walls Hand pollination is essential for early-flowering trees as few pollinating insects are about.

Use a soft camel-hair brush, gently transferring the pollen from one flower to the next. This is best done in the middle of every day until flowering is over. Pruning blueberries During the first four years after planting, blueberries are pruned lightly if at all – just sufficient to cut out any dead or broken wood. As with many other fruits, they crop best on the young wood and from the fourth year onwards it will be necessary to cut out some of the oldest wood to stimulate new growth, ideally from the base.

Pruning is best done this month because at this stage it can be seen which wood is carrying the most flowers. Remove the oldest, weakest and least productive growth by cutting down to the base or to a strong upright shoot. Cut out no more than one quarter of the bush.

Hybrid berries and blackberries Untie the young canes that were bundled together for winter protection and train them according to the preferred systems. Pyramid plums: Pruning after planting Cut back the central leader to a bud at about 1.5 m (5 ft) from ground level in late March. Halve the length on the maiden tree branches cutting to a downward or outward-facing bud. Re- move branches within 45 cm (1.5 ft) of the ground. Protection against frost Fruits grown outdoors in the United Kingdom are winter-hardy, with the possible exception of the fig. It is when the flower buds start to open in spring that they become vulnerable, and the more advanced their growth the greater the chance that they will be damaged by cold and frost. A severe frost while they are in full blossom can destroy the crop for that year.

For most fruits the danger period is from mid-April until the end of May. However, wall-trained fruits, such as apricots and peaches, as well as forced strawberries, may flower earlier. For these, protection may be necessary from March onwards.

The Meteorological Office issues warnings when frosts are anticipated, enabling preventive measures to be taken in good time. As forecasts are not infallible, cautious gardeners may prefer to protect their fruits every night until the risk is past.

The usual method of protection is to cover the plant with a material thick enough to keep out the frost. If this is opaque it should be removed during the day to allow light and pollinating insects to reach the plant. This does not apply to clear material, such as glass, so long as provision is made for pollination.

Small plants are easier to protect than large ones, hence the advantage of growing tree fruits on dwarfing rootstocks whenever possible. Rows of cordons, espaliers, dwarf trees and both bush and cane fruits can be draped with hessian, lace curtaining or with two or three layers of bird netting – the heavier the material, the greater the protection given.

It is essential that it does not rub against the flowers. This calls for some kind of framework to hold the material just clear of the blossom. Canes held together with rubber um-joints are ideal for this purpose. For wall-trained fruits, a roll of hessian held at the top is best, for it can be unfurled at night and rolled up the next morning.

Strawberries in the open can be covered with something light, without the need for a framework. Straw is suitable, or two or three layers of newspaper. Glass cloches provide some protection but thin polythene gives practically none at all. When a severe frost is threatened, extra covering is advisable.

Because of the cost, artificial heat provided by oil or paraffin burners is best reserved for fruits under glass, though it might be a practicable system for wall-trained fruits that have a polythene lean-to over them.

Another means of frost protection relies upon the principle that latent heat is released when water freezes. This is a commercial practice and can be adopted in the garden provided permission is obtained, if necessary, from the local water authority.

The plants must be kept sprinkled with water, the droplets the size of raindrops, throughout the period of frost. By the morning they may be covered by quite a heavy layer of ice, so the branch framework must be strong and the weaker branches propped up. Good soil drainage is needed to avoid the risk of waterlogging.


Routine tasks

Continue frost protection and hand pollination of early-flowering fruits.

On sunny days, ventilate strawberries under cloches and polythene to prevent the temperature getting too high and to provide access for pollinating insects.

Control weeds throughout the fruit garden.

Harden off in a cold frame alpine strawberry seedlings sown in March.

Liquid feeding Start giving liquid fertilizer to plants in containers and on walls, such as peaches, nectarines, apricots and figs. The fertilizer should be rich in potassium, so a tomato type is ideal. Give each between a half and a full watering can.

Pruning pyramid plums One year after planting, shorten the central leader by two thirds, cutting to a bud. Repeat this pruning every year until the tree has reached I.8-2.1 m (6-7 ft) if on ‘Pixy’ rootstock, or 2.4-2.7 m (8-9 ft) if on ‘St. Julien A’. Thereafter, shorten the central leader (previous summer’s growth) to 2.5 cm (1 in) or less to keep the tree to this height. Remove any vertical shoot competing with the leader.


Alpine strawberries

Plant out alpine strawberry seedlings 30 cm (1 ft) apart in rows 75 cm (2.5 ft) apart, or as an edging to a flower border. They will grow in full sun or in partial shade. Incorporate a little peat and some Growmore fertilizer at about 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) before planting.

Alpine strawberries are best grown for no more than two years before replanting with new seedlings, as after this they usually deteriorate with virus infection. Perpetual and ordinary strawberries Remove the blossom from spring-planted runners to ensure that they become well established, with strong crowns, for future cropping.

It should be possible to pick the first of the protected fruits from mature plants towards the end of the month.

Thinning gooseberries Where there has been a heavy set, thin the fruits large enough for cooking and freezing. Remove every other one along the branches.

Repeat this thinning procedure whenever more fruits are needed, but leaving sufficient to ripen fully for dessert use.

Pruning restricted trees Once restricted forms have reached the desired length or height – for example, the length of espalier arms or the height of cordons and dwarf pyramids – cut back the leaders (the previous summer’s growth) to 12 mm (0.5 in).

With oblique cordons, it is possible to grow the main stem a little longer by carefully lowering them and their canes, five degrees at a time, once a year. Finish at 3 5 degrees to the ground, as there is a chance they may break if trained lower than this.

Frost protection and hand pollination Continue protection techniques until the danger of frost is completely over.

Uncover frost-protected figs at the end of the month. Re-train the branches if necessary.

Continue the hand pollinating of peaches and nectarines if they are still carrying flowers.


Remove the netting from one side of fruit cages to provide easier access for pollinating insects.

FEEDING AND IRRIGATING WALL-TRAINED TREES Continue the liquid feeding of wall-trained trees. Ensure that no fruit suffers from lack of water. Remember that the soil at the base of a wall is often shielded from rain and therefore needs special attention.

PRUNING ESTABLISHED FAN-TRAINED PEACHES AND NECTARINES IT is important to know the cropping habit of peaches and nectarines in order to understand the pruning of fan-trained forms.

Peaches flower only on growth made during the previous summer, so the aim in pruning, as well as in feeding, is to obtain a succession of strong young shoots year by year. It is on this young growth that the fruits are carried in the second year. To achieve this, peaches are pruned on the replacement system.

Looking at a tree in the spring, the fan can be seen to consist of the basic framework and the fruiting laterals – the previous summer’s growth. These, in turn, are now carrying the flowers or fruitlets. Also, at this stage, young green shoots are starting to appear, some of which will be next year’s fruiting laterals.

The task in May and June is to thin out the young shoots and to tie in those that are kept – a process called ‘de-shooting’.

Start on the fruiting laterals first. Ensure that a young shoot is left at the base of each (the replacement shoot) together with one in the middle as a reserve. Pinch out all the others, back to one leaf. Stop the extension growth – the fruiting lateral itself – at six leaves. This stage may not be reached until June.

Finally, deal with any remaining young shoots. Thin them by pinching back so that they are spaced 10 cm (4 in) apart. Pinch back unwanted shoots to one leaf. WALL-TRAINED CHERRIES, PLUMS, GAGES AND DAMSONS

Tie in the young shoots of fan-trained trees parallel to the wall where there is room. Remove altogether those growing directly towards the structure.



The first of the raspberries, dessert gooseberries, and both red and white currants should be ready for picking towards the end of this month. Before this happens, it is necessary to protect the crop from birds with netting. This can be of plastic, terylene or some other man-made fibre, with a 12 or 18 mm (V2 or 3/4 in) mesh.

A ready-made cage of tubular metal can be bought – a simple, though rather expensive solution. Alternatively, the cage can be home-made. A small cage to cover a few bushes can be constructed of stout bamboo canes held together by rubber uni-joints, but for a taller and larger cage it is better to use wooden posts to support the net.

The height is important. A cage should be high enough to allow picking in comfort and to avoid the plants growing through. A structure 1.2 m (4 ft) high will do for strawberries, but for cane and bush fruits it should be 2-2.1 m.

Drive in the posts at 1.8 m (6 ft) intervals along the centre and run horizontal wires or thick string from post to post, draping the netting over this. It will help to prevent the net snagging if a plastic plant pot is placed over the top of each post.

The sides can be of plastic or galvanized wire netting. Do not use wire netting on the top because of the risk of zinc toxicity.


Water tree, bush and cane fruits during dry weather. Apply not less than 20 litres per sq m (4.5 gal per sq yd) – the equivalent of 2.5 cm (1 in) – once every ten days until rain restores the balance. Large trees can be left for longer periods, but apply double the above quantity every three weeks. Keep the grass short and weeds under control.


Continue de-shooting wall-trained peaches and nectarines. Tie the retained shoots to the wires.

Thin the fruits in two stages, first when they are the size of hazel nuts and finally when the size of walnuts. Thin those that are badly placed, malformed or diseased, and reduce pairs of fruits to one. Initially, space the fruits to 10 cm (4 in) apart, with a final spacing of 23 cm (9 in) for peaches and 15 cm (6 in) for nectarines.


Thin plums, gages and apricots in two stages, in early June and again in late June. The final spacing should be 8 cm (3 in) apart. FAN-TRAINED APRICOTS, SWEET CHERRIES, PLUMS AND GAGES

Continue removing shoots growing directly towards the wall from fan-trained sweet cherries and plums. Stop those that are projecting directly outwards at six leaves so that they form spurs. If shoots are growing parallel with the wall, tie them in if there is room, or stop them at one or two leaves.

Fan-trained and bush figs Pinch out the apical (top) bud on the young shoots to induce them to break lower down and so produce more shoots upon which the embryo figs will develop. Raspberries Some varieties are too prolific in the production of new canes (suckers). In this event, thin them out to 5 cm (2 in) apart so as to divert energy into the remainder. Hoe out suckers growing too far away from the row to be useful.

Remove the 23 cm (9 in) stub from newly-planted raspberries as soon as sucker growth has appeared from the base. Blackberries and hybrid berries Tie in the new canes as necessary to reduce the risk of damage by wind or cultivation. Bush and cordon gooseberries; red and white currants At the end of the month start summer-pruning of gooseberries and currants, both red and white. Spread the operation over four weeks, aiming to complete the job by the third week of July. The purpose is to open up the plants to light and air, helping to ripen the wood and fruits. This also helps to get rid of mildew and greenfly.

Prune the young shoots (cur- rent season’s growth) back to five leaves. Cut the longest laterals first, together with those crowding the centre in the case of a bush and any that are drooping towards the ground. Remove altogether basal and sucker growth on the 15 cm (6 in) leg of cordon or bush.

Do not prune the leaders of a bush unless they are affected by mildew. Cordon leaders should be summer-pruned in the same way as the laterals once they have reached the desired height, not before.

Strawberries: straw beds Before strawberries ripen it is necessary to spread straw beneath them in order to keep the fruits clean. Do not do this too early, as it increases the risk of frost damage to the flowers. Before starting, scatter slug pellets around the plants and between the rows.

The softest straw is barley, but wheat will do. Oat is not recommended as there is a risk of eel-worms infecting the land. Tuck the straw under the trusses and across the row.

Alternative materials to straw are dry bracken, strawberry mats and black polythene. Strawberry runners If you plan to grow new plants from your own runners, the earlier they are planted the better the crop the following year. To secure early runners, peg them down as soon as they are produced by a healthy mother plant. These new runners, or plantlets, start to appear about the end of June.

Pegging down, so that the plantlets make good contact with the soil, aids rapid rooting. Peg each new runner down into a 9 cm (3.5 in) plastic pot filled with John Innes potting compost No. 1, or a peat-based compost, with the pot plunged level with the soil surface. Take no more than five runners from each parent plant and pinch out the stolon beyond the runner. U-shaped pegs can be made from straightened paperclips.

Pot-grown runners transplant better than open-ground runners at this time of year, when the weather is hot, because there is less root disturbance. Even so, runners pegged down into open ground usually transplant fairly well. Whichever method you choose, keep the plants well watered. After about three weeks they should have made sufficient roots to allow them to be severed from the parent plant and set out.

These fruits gently so as not to bruise them.

It is difficult to judge when peaches and nectarines are fully ripe. When ready, the fruits should look bright and well-coloured, with a yellowish or pink-white background. Even so, some fruits with this appearance may still be hard. The surest way to tell is to press the shoulder of the peach gently. If it gives slightly the fruit is ready. It should also leave the spur easily.

Hard fruits picked in error will usually soften after a few days at room temperature, provided they were not excessively under-ripe when picked. Keep fruits in a cool, dark place until needed. Pruning pyramid plums First summer Prune in the third week of July when the young shoots have finished growing. Shorten all the branch leaders to 20 cm (8 in), pruning to a downward or an

Preparing a new strawberry bed

First, get rid of perennial weeds by forking them out or by spraying them with a weedkiller such as glyphosate.

With the weeds removed or killed, spread a 2.5-5 cm (,_2 in) layer of well-rotted manure, peat or compost and dig it in. This should be done at least three weeks before planting to give the soil time to settle.


Harvesting The soft fruit harvest is now in full swing. Although strawberries are coming to an end, gooseberries, raspberries and currants are at their best; blackberries and hybrid berries are starting to ripen. Sweet and acid cherries are also ready, while early plums, peaches, pears and apples are now developing their colours. Pick all outward-pointing bud. Cut all the young side-shoots of the current season to six leaves. Subsequent years Shorten branch leaders to 20 cm (8 in), pruning to a downward or outward-facing bud in the axil of the leaf, and laterals to six leaves. Also cut back to six leaves any strong, young vertical shots at the top of the tree if they compete with the leader. Supporting plums In some years the branches of plum trees are iable to break under the weight of fruit unless supported. This can lead to the killer disease silver leaf entering through the wounds.

The branch can either be propped up with a forked length of wood, like a clothes prop, or else the tree can be ‘maypoled’. A stout pole is driven into the ground near the centre of the tree and thick string or rope is led from the top of the stake to each branch. Fan-training Continue the fan-training of bushes and trees. Where there is space, tie young shoots to the wires parallel with the wall so that they radiate out- wards like the ribs of a fan. Where they are crowded, thin them out by cutting the unwanted shoots back to one leaf.

Thinning apples and pears If a great many fruitlets have set, thinning is needed to avoid overtaxing the tree’s strength. Failure to thin may result in undersized fruits and start the tree into biennial bearing – that is, cropping one year and resting the next.

Wait until the natural fruit drop has occurred, for very little thinning may be needed after this natural shedding of fruitlets. Although called the ‘June drop’, it usually happens in early July.

Pay special attention to young trees, for all their energies must be channelled into creating a strong framework of branches. Newly-planted trees should have all their fruitlets removed.

How much established trees should be thinned depends on their state of health. A vigorous tree with a good show of healthy leaves can carry more fruit than one that is weak or stunted, where the leaves are generally small, sparse or poorly coloured.

As a general guide, thin dessert apples to io-I 5 cm (4-6 in) apart-about one per cluster, but occasionally two. Cookers must be thinned more severely to obtain large fruits, and a good average is 15-23 cm (6-9 in) apart.

Remove the poorest fruitlets first – those that are blemished, malformed or under-sized.

Pears must be thinned, too, using the same guidelines except that two fruitlets can be left per cluster. Do not thin until the fruitlets have turned downwards, by which time the natural drop should be over.

Planting strawberries This is the best month to plant new runners, so that the strawberries are well established by the autumn and have developed strong crowns to yield a good maiden crop next summer. The difficulty is that runners are scarce and expensive at this time, unless you have propagated your own. All is not lost, if runners are not available.

Although July planting is best, you can still get a crop next year from runners planted by mid-October in the south and by the end of September in the north.

Complete the soil preparation if this was not done in June. Just before planting, rake Growmore fertilizer into the top 10 cm (4 in) of soil at 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd). No additional feeding will be needed during the life of the strawberries, except for some sulphate of potash applied in early February. Finally, give the bed a thorough soaking.

Space the plants 30-38 cm (12-15 in) apart in the rows and leave 1m between rows. The lesser spacing is on light, sandy soils. Use a line to ensure that the rows are straight, a piece of cane or a measuring rod as a spacer, and a trowel to take out the holes. Spread the roots out well, and firm the soil with your knuckles to ensure that it makes good contact with the roots.

Plant the runners with their crowns just level with the soil. If planted too deep, they may rot during the winter; if too shallow, the runners may dry out in hot weather. Rake the ground level, tidy up and water the plants in. Alternatively, they may be inserted through holes in black polythene. Weed control The choice is between weeding by hand, using herbicides or planting through slits in black polythene sheeting. Weed control is essential to prevent competition for water, light and nutrients.

If you decide to use weedkillers, the first one that can be applied is propachlor, which is sprinkled over the soil surface after planting. Later, in December, simazine may be used. It is effective for a longer period.

Black polythene not only suppresses weeds but also serves as a substitute for straw, which otherwise has to be spread under the foliage to keep the ripening berries clean. Being black, it absorbs heat so the berries ripen two or three days earlier. However, the crop is over more rapidly and watering has to be watched very carefully.

Use heavy-duty polythene cut into strips 90 cm (3 ft) wide. Plain polythene will serve, and there is also a perforated type with numerous tiny slits that admit air and moisture but do not allow weed seedlings to grow through.

Lay the polythene before planting, first forming a slight ridge where each row will be and then soaking the soil thoroughly. Press the edges of the polythene about 8 cm (3 in) deep into the ground, using a spade. Leave a 15 cm (6 in) gap between sheets to allow water to permeate towards the roots. At each planting station slit the polythene with a sharp knife, making a diagonal cross, each slit about 5 cm (2 in) long. Plant through these as already described.


Few tree fruits are grown on their own roots but are propagated by budding or grafting the variety (the scion) on to a different rootstock. The main purpose is to control the eventual size of the fruit tree, for it is the rootstock more than any other factor that influences the size and vigour of the plant. So, if a small tree is wanted, the scion is budded or grafted on to a dwarfing rootstock.

Budding is done in July, August or not later than the middle of September on rootstocks planted the previous winter. There are two main budding techniques – chip budding and T-cut budding, the former being the more important of the two.

Chip budding

Necessary equipment and materials include a sharp budding knife; a length of polythene tape 2.5 cm (1 in) wide; a piece of clean, damp sacking; a pair of sharp secateurs to collect the budwood (scion wood); a sharpening stone, oil and rag; marker pen; pencil and labels. Budwood The budwood, or bud-stick, should be a healthy shoot of the current season’s growth, which must be about pencil thick, well ripened and well-budded.

Collect the budstick from the outside part of a healthy parent tree where the growth is well exposed to the sun and more likely to be ripe: nut-brown and woody over most of the shoot’s length. Usually, an apple budstick is about 30 cm (1 ft) or more long and will have twelve or more buds on it.

Each bud is in the axil of a leaf. They should be well developed by July but, if not, delay budding until August.

Preparing the budstick

Remove all leaves with secateurs, leaving about 6 mm (0.25 in) of leaf stalk in each case. Also cut off the soft, green, immature tip of the bud- stick. To prevent the shoot from drying out, wrap it in damp sacking until ready to bud. Rootstock Remove all side shoots on the stock up to, and slightly beyond, the height where budding will take place. The usual height is 15-30 cm (6-12 in) from the ground, preferably the latter. Budding Straddle the rootstock and hold the head of the stock between your knees to stop it waving about. Select a smooth piece of stem at least 5 cm (2 in) long. Make the first cut at an angle of 20 degrees into the stem, and to a depth of about 3 mm (1/8 in), to form an acute lip. Make the second cut about 38 mm (1.5 in) above the first – a shallow cut about 6 mm (0.25 in) wide – sufficient to remove the bark and directed downwards to meet the first cut.

The chip bud is made in the same way and should, ideally, be of the same length and width so that it fits the cut on the stock exactly. Place the bud on to the cut on the stock, sliding it under the lip so that it is held firmly during tying.

Should the cut on the stock be wider than the chip bud, place the bud to one side of the stock cut. The important point is that the exposed cambium of the bud should press against the exposed cambium of the stock to ensure a successful union.

Tying Secure the bud to the stock by tying. Wrap the bud completely with polythene tape, exerting maximum pressure above and below the bud and with a slightly slacker, but still firm, pressure pass over the bud itself. Tie release After about five or six weeks, remove the tie by carefully slicing the polythene at the back of the stock (away from the bud) so that the tape falls away easily without disturbing the bud. No further attention is needed until next spring, apart from general cultivation such as watering. T-cut budding In this technique a T cut is made on the stock, and the flaps of the rind (bark) are lifted so that the bud can be slid underneath. The essential point about the method is that the bark of the stock should lift easily. This condition is usually reached in July and T-cut budding remains possible until September.


Harvesting There are still some soft fruits to be gathered, including remontant strawberries, late raspberries, blackberries and hybrid berries, as well as the last of the currants and gooseberries.

Early top fruits are ripening -plums and gages, peaches, figs, early apples and pears.

To test whether an apple is ready, lift it gently in the palm of your hand. When given a slight twist it should leave the spur. Use colour as a guide, too, for not all the fruits will be ready at once.

Eat early apples within a few days of picking, because they will not keep. Gather pears while they are still firm and slightly underripe. They will become more mellow off the tree. Examine them frequently, however, as they soon go ‘sleepy’ – become mealy. Strawberries Immediately the crop of ordinary (not remontant) strawberries is finished, cut off the old leaves about 10 cm (4 in) above the crown. Cut off all the runners, except any that are needed to fill gaps in the row. Rake off the straw, leaves and weeds, and burn the lot.

Apply Growmore fertilizer between the rows at 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd). Fork up the soil, then rake it to a fine tilth so that the weed-killer simazine can be applied.

Strawberries are best dug up and burnt after their third harvest.

Summer-pruning restricted forms of apples and pears In all but wet areas, prune pears in early

August and apples in mid-August. In areas of high rainfall, delay pruning until September so as to avoid too much secondary growth.

Cut to three leaves – about 8 cm (3 in) – all mature shoots of the current season’s growth that are longer than 23 cm (9 in) and arise directly from the main stem. Cut to one leaf – about 2.5 cm (1 in) -shoots that grow from spurs. Leave immature shoots, and those less than 23 cm (9 in) long, until the wood is ripe and they have made more growth.

Leave the leaders of cordons and espaliers unpruned, but stop the branch leaders of dwarf pyramids at five leaves. Propagation Continue propagating strawberries and budding fruit trees. Over-vigorous, unfruitful apple trees Summer-pruning checks growth, opens up the tree and induces fruitfulness. Do not prune trees that are weak.

Cut to five leaves any laterals (current season’s growth) that are longer than 30 cm (1 ft). Spread this task over the whole month, starting with the longest laterals. PLUMS, BUSH, HALF-STANDARD AND FULL STANDARD

IN late August remove any broken branches and dead wood, cutting back to healthy wood. Pare wounds clean and apply a wound paint to guard against silver leaf. If the tree is crowded, remove some of the thin, twiggy growth. PLUM, GAGE AND DAMSON PYRAMIDS Early in the month, prune the branch leaders to 20 cm (8 in), cutting to a leaf on the underside. Reduce current laterals to six leaves. Stop the central leader at 1.8 m (6 ft) if the tree is on ‘Pixy’ rootstock, or 2.4 m (8 ft) if it is on ‘St.JulienA’.

Cut to one leaf any vigorous, upright laterals at the top. FAN-TRAINED SWEET CHERRIES, PLUMS AND GAGES

In late August cut all young laterals back to three leaves to encourage spur formation. However, leave unpruned any shoots that are needed to fill in uncovered wall space. Tie these to the wires.

FAN-TRAINED PEACHES AND NECTARINES Immediately fruiting is over, untie the old laterals that carried the fruit and cut them out by pruning back to young replacement shoots near the base. Tie in the young replacements to the wires, along with any others needed to fill in wall space.

The average spacing should be about 20 cm (8 in) along the branch framework. RASPBERRIES As soon as the crop is finished, the old fruiting canes should be cut down to ground level. Tie in the strongest young canes, spacing them 8-10 cm (3-4 in) apart along the wires. Lace them in place with soft string, or use twist ties.

Finally, cut out the surplus young canes, rake off debris and burn.


Remove fruits affected by brown rot and bird pecks to prevent infection spreading.

Top fruits can be protected from birds by enclosing them in old nylon tights or polythene bags, cutting holes in the bags to allow water to drain away. COBNUTS AND FILBERTS Break (about half-way) the strong young shoots growing from the branches and leave them hanging. The purpose of this is to reduce vigour and induce the production of female flowers at their base. Remove suckers around the base.


HARVESTING Mid-season apples and pears are now ripening, and the later keeping varieties will soon be ready for picking. Now is a good time to check on your storage arrangements.

Clean storage trays and boxes and tidy up the storehouse. If necessary, obtain wooden tomato trays and apple boxes from a greengrocer. Moulded fibre or polystyrene trays are suitable, too.

Autumn raspberries are ready, and perpetual (remontant) strawberries are coming to an end. To extend the season, cover the remontant strawberries with a polythene tunnel or glass cloches. PLANTING AND BUDDING Finish planting strawberries and budding fruit trees by mid-September.

PRUNING ‘MORELLO’ CHERRIES The ‘Morello’ crops on wood made during the previous year. To prevent the tree cropping only on its outside, and to stimulate new growth, it is necessary to cut out some of the older wood.

Prune a fan-trained ‘Morello’ in the same way as a peach. To prune a bush ‘Morello’, cut out about a quarter of the old wood by pruning a proportion of two-year-old and three-year-old branches back to strong, young growth. Paint the cuts with a wound healing compound. ORDERING NEW BUSHES AND TREES Order early while a good selection is still available.

LIMING The main preparations for planting are carried out in October, but where lime is needed to raise the pH this should be applied now.

SUMMER-PRUNING RESTRICTED FORMS OF APPLES AND PEARS If you live in a high rainfall area, and therefore postponed summer-pruning last month, this can now go ahead.



The picking of late apples and pears is now in full swing. Most cultivars should be off the trees by the third week but there are a few which are left until next month – ‘Sturmer Pippin’, ‘D’Arcy Spice’, ‘Wagener’, ‘Idared’ and ‘Granny Smith’.

Pick with the stalk intact and handle the fruit gently. Damaged and blemished fruits will not keep, so use them right away.

Very late apples are unripe when picked. Ripeness develops in storage according to season. STORAGE The essential conditions are coolness, darkness and a little ventilation. Too much ventilation will cause shrivelling, too little will cause the flesh to break down. The ideal fruit store is a cool, dark, frost-free shed, cellar or garage.

The containers, too, must provide for air circulation. Wooden apple boxes, tomato trays, moulded fibre and polystyrene trays are all satisfactory. Although not essential, tissue or waxed paper wraps for dessert apples, and newspapers for cookers, extend the storage life.

Another good storage method is to keep the apples in clear polythene bags, each holding 2.5 kg (5 lb) of fruit. Punch holes in the bag first – two pencil holes for every Vi kg (1 lb) of apples. Do not seal, but fold the top cover.

Load the store in the evening when the fruits are cool. Open up the storeroom at night to reduce the temperature. Keep the different cultivars separate, and those ripening mid-season well away from the late ones; the gases they give off speed the ripening process.

Store pears unwrapped, ideally in single layers. Small quantities could be kept in the vegetable compartment of a refrigerator. When they are wanted for dessert, according to their season, bring them into normal living room temperature where they will soon mellow.

Examine fruits regularly to re-move rotten ones and prevent the spread of spores.

Pruning blackberries and hybrid berries In late October, when the last fruits have been picked, untie and cut to ground level the old canes that have fruited. However, if young replacement canes are scarce, leave the best old canes in.

Tie the replacement canes to the wires, according to the chosen training system; in very cold districts it is better to defer training until March. In the meantime, loosely bundle the canes together for mutual protection and secure them to the lowest wires until the winter is over.

Training Although the canes of these fruits are perennial, they produce their best fruit on the young growth made during the previous summer. To ensure a succession of strong, young, pro- ductive growth they are pruned on the replacement system in a similar way to raspberries. Each year, the canes that have fruited are cut out at ground level and the best of the new young canes are tied in to replace them. These will fruit during the next summer.

This should be done in the late autumn once the harvest is over, and not later than the end of November. However, in areas where the winters are very hard and there is a risk of the young canes being killed by severe frost it is wise to defer training until March. In the meantime, the young canes should be loosely bundled together for mutual protection and secured to one of the lower wires. Cut out the old canes.

Brambles are rambling plants and it is necessary to have some kind of training system to keep them tidy, to hold the fruits clear of the ground and to make pruning easier.

The three most widely used systems are as follows: Fan This is the quickest and simplest way and suitable for varieties that produce thick, rigid canes that do not easily bend. Suitable sorts include the blackberries ‘Smoothstem’ and ‘Thorn-free’, and the hybrid berry ‘King’s Acre’. The canes are secured to all the wires in a fan-like pattern, with space left in the middle for the young canes which will be taken up the centre. Rope This method is suitable for blackberries and hybrid berries of moderate growth which produce flexible canes capable of being bent over parallel with the wires. Varieties within this category are most of the hybrid berries, the Japanese wineberry and the blackberry ‘Ashton Cross’.

Three or four canes are tied to each wire, to the left and right, but leaving the top wire free for young canes during the summer. Weaving This system requires more training than the others and is recommended only for varieties that make long, strong canes. It involves a good deal of handling the canes. Suitable varieties are ‘Himalayan Giant’, ‘Bedford Giant’ and ‘Oregon Thornless’. The canes are woven over the lower wires and, as in the rope system, the top wire is left free for securing the young growth. Ordering plants Order early so that you have a wider choice. Wherever possible buy Certified Stock. These are plants that have been certified by the Ministry of Agriculture as being healthy and true to name.

Not all fruits come within the Ministry Certification Scheme -only those that are commercially-important. At the moment it applies to strawberries, raspberries, black currants, a few cultivars of hybrid berries and gooseberries and all the well-known cultivars of apples, pears, plums and cherries.

Always obtain plants from a reputable source. Preparing for planting Mark out the land. Kill all perennial weeds using the weedkiller glyphosate early in the month. When the weeds are dead, or three weeks after spraying, dig the ground.

Raspberries need special treatment, as good ground preparation is the foundation for successful cropping for many years to come. Take out a trench along the intended row, one spade depth and three spades width. Into the bottom of the trench mix thoroughly an 8 cm (3 in) layer of well-rotted manure or garden compost. The canes are intolerant of poorly-drained land. To improve such ground, first incorporate builders’ rubble or similar open material along the row below the rooting area – about 45 cm (1.5 ft) down. If the ground is still suspect after such treatment, plant the canes along an 8 cm (3 in) ridge.

During the final preparations, fork in a compound fertilizer, such as Growmore, at 100 g per sq m (3 oz per sq yd).

Virgin land, such as grassland, will need double digging before planting any kind of fruit, and so will ground with a hard, impermeable layer (a ‘pan’) beneath. Cultivated ground should be single dug. Impoverished land will need some bulky organic material, such as manure or compost, incorporated during the digging process. Spread a 5 cm (2 in) layer of this, or about 2.5 cm (1 in) of peat, and then dig it in.

The whole plot will need preparing in this fashion before planting soft fruits or closely-spaced trees, such as cordons. For widely-spaced trees it will be sufficient to dig an area 75 cm (2.5 ft) square at each site.

Place any old turf at the bottom of the planting hole, chopping it into small pieces.

Propagating gooseberries, black currants and red currants Each of these soft fruits is propagated by hardwood cuttings. The method differs with each case. Gooseberries Select strong, straight, well-ripened, one-year-old shoots of pencil thickness taken from healthy bushes. The cuttings should be 30 cm (1 ft) long.

Cut to just above a bud at the top, with a slanting cut away from the bud. Make a straight cut just below a bud at the base. Remove any leaves, except for two or three at the top which will help in root production. Leave all the buds on, but snip off the thorns from the bottom 15 cm (6 in) to make the cuttings easier to insert. Dip the base of each cutting in a hormone rooting powder or liquid.

Insert the cuttings 15 cm (6 in) deep, preferably in well-prepared, light, sandy soil, with some boncmeal added, and firm around them. In heavy ground take out a narrow, straight-sided trench and put in some sharp sand to help drainage. Space the cuttings 15 cm (6 in) apart in the row, with 75 cm (2.5 ft) between the rows.

A year later, dig up the rooted cuttings and remove any suckers and unwanted basal shoots to create a clean stem 15 cm (6 in) long. Plant out 30 cm (1 ft) apart in nursery rows.

Black currants Select strong, straight, well-ripened, one-year-old, healthy shoots taken from Certified Stock bushes. The cuttings should be 25 cm (10 in) long, cut to just above a bud at the top and just below a bud at the base. Remove any leaves but not buds.

Black currants are adaptable and will root in most types of soil that are reasonably well-drained and weed-free. Fork in some bonemeal, at 130 g per sq m (4 oz persqyd).

Take out a straight-sided trench 25 cm (10 in) deep. Insert the cuttings about 20 cm (8 in) deep, with no more than two buds showing above the ground. Space them 15 cm (6 in) apart in the row, with 90 cm (3 ft) between the rows. Fill in and firm the soil.

A year later, dig up the rooted cuttings and either plant them out in their permanent stations or grow them on for another year, 30 cm (1 ft) apart, in nursery rows. Prune them down to 2.5 cm (1 in) above ground level. Red currants The propagation of red currants is similar to gooseberries except that, being a more vigorous plant, the cuttings may be up to 38 cm (15 in) long.

They root easily. Remove all the buds except the top four, together with any leaves. Insert them to about half their length, 15 cm (6 in) apart in the row and with 90 cm (3 ft) between rows. A year later they can be dug up and planted in their permanent positions.


Planting: tree fruits The usual time to plant trees – and, indeed, bushes and canes – is between November and March, while they are dormant. For preference, plant in the early winter while the soil is still warm and easy to work. Container-grown fruits may be planted at any time, weather and soil conditions permitting.

The dormant season – after leaf-fall and before bud-break – is also the right time to prune most fruits. Stone fruits such as plums are an exception, because of the greater risk of silver leaf disease entering the pruning cuts if these are made during the winter. Young stone fruits are pruned in the spring. Established trees bearing crops are pruned, if necessary, immediately after the fruit is gathered. Heeling in If conditions are too wet for planting when your fruit trees arrive, heel the plants in temporarily in a sheltered part of the garden.

To do this, take out a shallow trench to contain the roots. Place the trees in this, closely spaced, after untying them and removing any packing. If they were wrapped in straw, spread this over the soil to help prevent it from freezing.

If planting has to be delayed because the ground is frozen, place the plants in a cool but frost-free shed or garage for the time being. Unpack any wrapping from their above-ground parts but leave the roots covered. It is important not to allow the roots to dry out or be exposed to frost. Planting in the open First, fork fertilizer into the topsoil. For each sq metre (sq yard) apply 100 g (3 oz) of Growmore and 200 g (6 oz) of bonemeal.

Now mark out the planting positions. Following are the recommended spacings for bush apple and pear trees:

Dwarf bush apples on ‘M.27’ rootstock, 1.8-2.4m (6-8 ft); on ‘M.9’, 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft). Bush apples on ‘M.26’, 3-3.6 m (10-12 ft); on ‘MM.106’, 3.6-5.5 m (12-18 ft); on ‘MM.in’, 5.5-7.6 m (18-25 ft).

Bush pears on ‘Quince C, 3-4.2 m (10-14 fr); on ‘Quince A’, 3.6-4.5m (12-15 ft).

The lesser spacings are for light, sandy soils or weaker varieties.

The next job is to drive in a vertical stake on the windward side of each planting position. All fruit trees need staking for at least the first four years, and dwarf trees require permanent support.

Use stakes 5-6 cm (2-2 Vt in) in diameter that have been treated against rot. Their length depends on the type of tree. For bush and standard trees the stake must be just clear of branches on that side, to avoid rubbing. For trees with a centre leader, such as the pyramid or spindlebush, it must be 1.8-2.1 m (6-j ft) out of the ground.

To these lengths must be added the part that will be in the ground – 45 cm (1.5 ft) in heavy soil and 60 cm (2 ft) in light soil.

Dig a hole wide and deep enough to take the root system well spread out. Plant the tree -with a helper, if possible – to the same depth that it was in the nursery, ensuring that the graft union between the rootstock and the scion (variety) is at least 10 cm (4 in) above the soil to prevent scion rooting. The stem should be 8 cm (3 in) away from the stake.

Fill in the hole, shaking the tree a little to ensure that soil falls between the roots. Firm gently while filling, finally levelling off and raking the surface.

Secure the tree to the stake with a proprietary tree tie, which provides a cushion between the tree and the stake. Standard and pyramid trees need two ties, one at the top and the other halfway down.

Finally, spread a circle of well-rotted manure, compost or peat. This should be 90 cm (3 ft) across and 5 cm (2 in) deep. Planting against a wall or fence (espaliers, etc.)

Soil preparation The soil at the base of a wall can become very dry in the summer. At planting time, improve moisture retention by mixing in some bulky organic material, such as peat or well-rotted manure. Apply a 5-8 cm (2-3 in) layer over a 45 cm (1.5 ft) radius and fork it in, along with 8 5 g (3 oz) of Growmore fertilizer at each of the planting sites. Wiring the structure The trees need support, the usual method being to secure horizontal wires to the wall or fence.

Planting the tree Take out a hole deep and wide enough to contain the root system with the roots well spread out.

Plant the tree to the same depth as it was in the nursery, ensuring that the union between stock and scion is at least 10 cm (4 in) above ground level. This prevents scion rooting, which would destroy the dwarfing effect of the stock.

Set the tree 15-23 cm (6-9 in) away from the structure, to allow for expansion, with the top inclined slightly towards it and the roots radiating outwards. Cover the roots with soil and firm gently as you fill in. Finally, mulch the tree to a depth of 8 cm (3 in) over a radius of 38 cm (15 in), but keep the material just clear of the stem. Restricted tree forms The restricted tree forms are so called because they are confined, usually by pruning, in some way or another. Cordons, for example, are restricted to a narrow band along the row. Espaliers and fans are confined to a narrow space against a wall or fence, though they are usually allowed plenty of lateral room.

Such restriction is achieved by summer-pruning. However, all tree fruits, no matter what the form, are planted in the winter (unless container-grown) and most require a certain amount of formative winter-pruning at planting time and for a few years afterwards.

Although planted while dormant, stone fruits are not pruned formatively until the spring, when the sap is rising.

Cordon apples and pears Cordons may be grown against walls or fences, or in the open. Planting is the same as for other trees, already described. Before this can be done, however, it is necessary to erect supporting wires.

On a wall or fence, use vine eyes to secure the horizontal wires 10 cm (4 in) away from the support. Three wires are needed – 60 cm (2 ft), 1.2 m (4 ft) and 1.8 m (6 ft) from the ground. Use 10 gauge galvanized wire.

In the open, posts are needed to support the wires at these same intervals. These may be of concrete, 10-13 cm (4-5 in) timber, or 4 cm X 4 cm X 6 mm (1.5 in X 1.5 in x 3/4 in) angle iron. Set the posts at 3.6 m (12 ft) intervals, 60 cm (2 ft) deep, and strut the end posts so that they will not shift under tension. Allow 1.8 m (6 ft) between rows. Attach straining bolts at one end so that the wires can be pulled taut.

Cordons may be planted and trained either vertically or, for preference, at an angle of 45 degrees. It is better, though not essential, that the rows should run north-south, with the tops of the trees inclined towards the north if they are planted obliquely. Rootstocks Because the cordon is a restricted form of tree it should be grafted on to a dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstock. For apples, the most widely-used is ‘MM. 106’ (semi-dwarfing).

‘M.26’ (dwarfing) or ‘M’ (very dwarfing) are also used but both require a deep, fertile soil.

‘M.27’ (extremely dwarfing) is also available, making a small, compact cordon, but it requires a good deal of extra care and attention.

Pear cordons are grafted on to either ‘Quince A’ or ‘Quince C. The latter is slightly less vigorous, but both are acceptable. Planting Space cordons 75 cm (2.5 ft) apart in the row, with a cane secured to the wires at each planting station. For oblique cordons, secure the canes at 45 degrees. Ensure that the graft union of rootstock and scion is at least 10 cm (4 in) above the soil.

Tie the cordon to the cane, using three figure-of-eight ties. Plastic chain-lock strapping is ideal for this purpose.

If the cordon has side-shoots, shorten those over 15 cm (6 in) to three or four buds. This is all the pruning needed at planting time. Subsequently, prune in August. Pruning established cordons August is the usual month for pruning cordons, but winter-pruning is better in areas of high rainfall, where secondary growth is more prolific following summer-pruning. Follow the method described in August.

A weak cordon that is not producing sufficient side-shoots can be induced to do so by pruning the leaders (last summer’s growth) by half to two thirds during the winter.

Winter-pruning will also bring a neglected cordon back into shape. The method is to reduce over-long or complicated spur systems back to two or three fruit buds. Summer pruning can be reintroduced the following year. Lowering cordons When cordons reach the top wire, they may be lowered to increase the length of the stems. Do this not more than five degrees at a time, and never lower than 35 degrees to the hori- zontal, otherwise there is a risk of breaking the stem. Espaliers This attractive tree form for apples and pears makes an ideal divider between one part of the garden and another. It is also an excellent choice for covering walls and fences.

An espalier consists of horizontal arms or tiers. Usually the nurseryman supplies a two- or three-tier espalier, leaving it to the gardener to train in more tiers. Choice of rootstock Apples are grown on ‘MM. 106’ (semi-dwarfing), or on ‘MM. m’ (vigorous) if the soil is poor. Pears are grown on ‘Quince A’ or ‘C

The usual spacing is 3.6-4.5 m (12-15 ft) apart.

Support system On a wall or fence, fix horizontal wires to correspond with the arms, which are usually about 38 cm (15 in) apart. Use 10 gauge galvanized fencing wire, and 15 cm (6 in) lead wall or vine eyes spaced every 1.5 m (5 ft) to hold the wires.

Away from a wall or fence, a post-and-wire structure, as for cordons, is needed. Space the wooden posts 3.6-4.5 m (12-15 ft) apart, and plant the espaliers between the posts.

Training and pruning Tie the tiers to the wires with figure of eight ties, three on either side of each tier.

Prune the horizontal leaders by one quarter to an upward-facing bud. This is to stimulate extension growth and side-shoots during the following summer. Existing side-shoots on the tiers and main stem (except the central one on the topmost tier if further tiers are wanted) should be cut to a bud at about 10 cm (4 in); any side-shoot on the trunk below the first tier must be removed entirely. Pruning to create more tiers In this case the central, upright leader is not removed but is trained up a cane fixed to the wires.

Once this leader has reached the next wire, cut it to a bud just above the wire, first ensuring there are two good buds, one to the left and one to the right, immediately beneath it. These two buds will grow in the spring to form the new tiers. Train the top bud vertically to the cane as it grows. Thereafter, prune the espalier during August. Dwarf pyramid apples and pears The dwarf pyramid is a tree with a central leader, pyramidal in shape – like a Christmas tree – as the name suggests. Being a closely-spaced, dwarf form for planting in the open, it is ideal for small gardens because it is possible to plant a number of varieties in a relatively limited area. Choice of rootstock For apples, ‘M.27’ (extremely dwarfing), ‘M.9’ (very dwarfing) or ‘M.26’ (dwarfing) are suitable. For pears, select ‘Quince C (semi-dwarfing) or ‘Quince A’ (semi-vigorous). Spacing Apples grown on ‘M.27’ need to be 1.2 m (4 ft) apart. On ‘M.9’ the spacing can be increased to 1.5 m (5 ft). On ‘M.26’, a spacing of 1.8 m (6 ft) is usual.

Pears on ‘Quince C should be planted 1.5 m (5 ft) apart; on ‘Quince A’, 1.8 m (6 ft).

Space the rows 2.1 m (7 ft) apart and ideally, though not essentially, align them north-south. Support system If there are only one or two trees, stake them individually. The stakes need to be 2.3 m (7 1/2 ft) long, with a 4 cm (1.5 in) diameter and driven in 45 cm (1.5 ft). For rows of trees, run two horizontal wires down each row, one at 60 cm (2 ft) and the other at 1 m (3 1/2 ft). Secure the trees to the wires with figure of eight ties. Pruning and training: first winter -maiden whip Cut back to a strong, healthy bud at 50 cm (20 in) from the ground, with a sloping cut away from the bud.

Pruning: first winter – feathered maiden Select three or four laterals 30-38 cm (12-15 in) from the ground and cut each to within 20 cm (8 in) of the trunk, pruning to a bud. Remove all other side-shoots flush with the trunk, and protect the cuts with a wound paint. Cut back the central stem at three buds above the topmost lateral.

Remember, during the spring and summer, to train up the central leader and tie it to the stake as and when necessary. Pruning: second winter Prune the central leader to leave about 23 cm (9 in) of the previous summer’s growth. Cut to a bud on the opposite side to the first year’s pruning in order to maintain a straight trunk. Prune the side branches to downward-facing buds to leave about 20 cm (8 in) of extension growth.

Such pruning of the main side branches and the central leader should induce more extension growth and new laterals during the following summer.

From this point onwards the dwarf pyramid is pruned during the summer as well as the winter. Pruning: third and subsequent winters Continue to prune the central leader- the previous summer’s growth – to leave 23 cm (9 in) of extension growth, cutting to a bud on the opposite side to the previous year’s cut, zig-zag fashion, until it has reached the desired height of between 1.8 and 2.1 m (6 and 7 ft). Thereafter, maintain it at this height by pruning in May.

Prune the leaders of the side branches to eight buds while extension growth and new laterals are needed. Once the desired width has been reached, prune these also in May. Also, remove vigorous, upright shoots at the top, and stop branch leaders from growing into neighbouring trees.

Thereafter, very little winter- pruning should be necessary, the main pruning being done during August. Maintain the pyramid f remove those where the branches I have set at the desired angle. Removing secondary growth I from cordon, espalier and fan-) trained apples and pears Secon-1 dary growth is the regrowth that may occur in the same summer, after summer-pruning, from, pruned shoots on restricted tree I forms of apples and pears. Secondary growth may appear if the 7 trees have been pruned too early a or if heavy rain falls after pruning. Such growth should not be left, as t it is too soft and immature to s withstand winter frosts. E Remove it by pruning back to a, bud on mature, nut-brown wood. This will generally be on the lower part of the secondary growth, but I it may sometimes be necessary to t cut back to older wood. T Cobnuts and filberts These can be grown as stooled bushes. However, e the simplest form to maintain, and also the most attractive, is the I open-centred, goblet-shaped tree. S The ideal is a tree with a head of 1 six or seven main branches on a 30 cm (1 ft) clean stem. The tree is kept to a height of 1.8-2.1 m ) (6-7 ft) by late-winter pruning.

Generally the nurseryman sup-1 plies trees two or three years old.

Shape by selective cuts wherever necessary. Remove any secondary growth which may occur after summer-pruning. Spindiebush apple or pear trees The spindiebush is a cone-shaped tree with a strong central stem. Along its length, starting at about 45 cm (1 1/2 ft), are borne evenly-spaced branches and laterals. Those at the bottom are longer than those at the top. The tree is supported by a tall stake.

The success of this form depends upon the tree being well furnished with wide-angled branches and laterals. Tying down is practised to achieve near horizontal branches, which tend to be more fruitful than upright growth. For preference, start with a feathered maiden (a one-year-old tree with side-shoots) rather than a maiden whip, because the laterals on such a tree are formed naturally at the correct angle. Rootstocks and spacing Suitable rootstocks for apples are ‘M.9’ (very dwarfing), ‘M.26’ (dwarfing) or ‘MM. 106’ (semi-dwarfing). For pears, ‘Quince C (semi-dwarfing) or ‘Quince A’ (semi-vigorous) are suitable.

Apples on ‘M.9’ (or, in light r soils, on ‘M.26’) need a spacing of y 1.8-2.1 m (6-7 ft) X 3.6 m r (12 ft). Plant those on’M.26’and 1 ‘MM.io6’, on good soils, with f ‘5 distances of 2.3-2.6 m (7V2-8 1/2 ft) d between the trees and 3.6-4.2 m • 1. (12-14 ft) between the rows.

T Pears on ‘Quince C need spac- ; • ing at 2.1 m X 3.6 m (7 ft X 12 ft), | 1. and on ‘Quince A’ at 2.4 m X 4 m r (8 ft X 13 ft). < s Formation pruning at planting time: maiden whip Cut back to a • bud at 90 cm (3 ft). !

II Pruning: jcathered maiden Select three or four laterals at not less s than 45 cm (1.5 ft) from the ground to form the first branches, e then cut each by half to a down-1. Ward-facing bud. Remove the re- maining laterals close to the main e stem. Cut back the central stem at 1 a three buds above the topmost ‘ s lateral. In the summer, the top- j y most bud will be trained up the stake as the central leader. ; e Pruning: second year Cut back < 1’ the central leader (the previous summer’s growth) by about a : third, to a bud on the opposite side ).’ to that of the previous year. Re- I.’ move any upright shoots at the top I that are competing with the cen- t tral leader. Check the ties and

Space these 4.5 m (15 ft) apart. Staking and planting As it is a small plant at the start, a stout 1.5 m (5 ft) cane or thin stake will suffice to support it. Plant to the same depth as it was in the nursery, spreading the roots outwards. Firm the soil after planting. Pruning: first winter If the plant consists of a single stem, head it back to about 38 cm (15 in), pruning to a bud. This will stimulate the remaining buds to break in the next growing season to form the first branches.

Where the plant has a number of laterals, select five or six that are well placed to form the primary branches. Prune these by half to outward-facing buds. Cut back unwanted laterals flush with the main stem and remove any suckers from the base to leave a single trunk of about 23-38 cm (9-15 in). Pruning: subsequent winters Carry on this formative pruning for the next three or four years, by which time a strong goblet shape should have been formed. Remember to keep the centre open and to remove any sucker growths from the base, as well as laterals on the trunk below the head.

Suckers, if they are young, can be pulled and twisted off; if old, the easiest way is to cut them with an old pair of secateurs or a spade just below soil level. It is important not to allow the tree to develop into a stooled bush.

Once it has started cropping, prune the tree when the male catkins are shedding their pollen. Figs The fig is a sun-loving plant. When grown outside, it is best as a fan-trained tree against a south or west-facing wall. As it is also extremely vigorous, root restriction is essential to stop the tree becoming over-large and unfruitful. This is provided by planting it in some kind of container.

On a patio or in a greenhouse, a fig is an excellent subject for growing in a pot, which might be a 45 cm (18 in) plastic pot filled with John Innes potting compost No. No. 3. Against a wall, the usual way is to construct an open-based trough with a 2.5 cm (1 in) rim above the soil surface. The rim is essential for watering and it also prevents the roots escaping.

All kinds of materials can be used for its construction – for example, corrugated iron, asbestos or plastic, or it might even be a galvanized tank sunk into the ground. The ideal trough is one made of either bricks or concrete paving slabs. A border, 60-90 cm (2-3 ft) wide, bounded on one side by the wall and the other by a concrete path also provides the necessary restriction. Construction of the trough The size of the trough governs the eventual size of the fan. If it is intended to cover a wall about 2.4 m (8 ft) tall by 4.5 rn (15 ft) wide, the trough should contain about V2CU m (13.5 cu ft) of compost and drainage materials. For a wall or wooden fence 1.8 m (6 ft) high by 3 m (10 ft) wide, a 0.054 cu m (2 cu ft) box constructed of paving slabs is sufficient.

To allow drainage, the trough must have an open base. Pack the bottom tightly, to a depth of 23 cm (9 in) with broken bricks and mortar rubble or lumpy chalk. Then fill the container with John Innes potting compost No. 3. Remember to mulch the tree with a 5 cm (2 in) layer of manure or compost, as this will help to protect the roots against winter frosts. Pruning This is done in May or June, after the hard frosts. Winter protection The framework branches of a young fig are very prone to frost damage, as are the fruit-carrying laterals on a mature tree. It is therefore a wise policy to protect the branches throughout the winter. Do this with a loose, open thatching of something like bracken or spruce boughs. The material should dry quickly after rain.

To protect the roots, cover the trough with a thick layer of straw. Soft fruit Planting and winter-pruning black currants Black currants crop best on young wood and for this reason need generous feeding and hard pruning. They flower early, so be prepared to protect bushes at that time to ensure regular cropping and heavy yields. A well-grown bush will give 4.5-7 kg (10-15 ‘b) of fruit.

Black currants are tolerant of a wide range of soils, but very acid land should be limed to bring the pH to between 6.j and 7.0.

The scourge of black currants is big bud mite, so buy only certified stock and take regular control measures against this pest. They are grown as stooled bushes and are sold as two-year-old plants. Spacing Set the plants 1.5-1.8 m (5-6 ft) apart. Use the wider spacing for the vigorous varieties, but plant the new compact variety, ‘Ben Sarek’, only 1.2 m (4 ft) apart. Planting and pruning Just before planting, fork into the top 10 cm (4 in) a compound fertilizer, such as Growmore, at 130 g per sq m (4 oz per sq yd) over the whole area. Plant 2.5 cm (1 in) deeper than the bush was in the nursery. Cut all shoots down to 2.5 cm (1 in). This is to stimulate strong new shoots from the base but it means that no fruit will be borne in the first summer. Finally, mulch each plant with well-rotted manure, compost or peat 5-8 cm (2-3 in) deep, but avoid burying the pruned stubs.

Pruning: second winter There should be between four and eight strong new shoots, which will crop in the coming summer. No pruning is necessary except to remove, between November and March, any very weak growth. Pruning: third winter Again, very little pruning is necessary; but remove, between November and March, any low-lying branches and weak shoots. Pruning an established bush: fourth winter onwards The black currant is now coming into full production and from this point is treated as an established plant. Remove about a quarter to a third of the bush each winter, cutting out the oldest unproductive wood and the low-lying branches.

Make the cuts low down to stimulate strong growth from or near the base, pruning to ground level or back to a well-placed, strong, young upright shoot. Use limb-loppers or a saw for the heavy wood. Finally, take out any weak and dead growth. Planting and winter-pruning red and white currants The red currant bears its fruit buds in clusters on the older wood and at the base of one-year shoots. It is most commonly grown as an open-centred, goblet-shaped bush on a 10-15 cm (4-6 in) clean stem but it can also be grown as a cordon in single or multiple form and, more rarely, as a standard or fan. In the first and last forms it is suitable for a wall or fence. The white currant is a sport of the red and is treated in exactly the same way. –

Planting and pruning young bushes Red and white currants are sold by nurserymen as one- or two-year-old bushes. Choose a plant with an evenly-balanced head of three to six shoots on a clean stem 10-15 cm (4~~6 in) ‘on8-

For the initial soil preparation, see October. Just before planting, fork into the top 10 cm (4 in), at 100 g per sq m (3 oz per sq yd), a compound fertilizer such as Growmore; also, at 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd), a dressing of sulphate of potash. Apply both over the whole area.

Space the bushes 1.5 m (5 ft) apart if more than one is planted. Plant to the same depth as the bushes were grown in the nursery. Spread the roots out well and hrm the soil gently during the filling-in process. Finally, mulch with good compost, manure or peat to a depth of about 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in) over a radius of 23 cm (9 in).

With pruning, the objective is to create an open-centred, goblet-shaped bush with eight to ten main branches growing upwards and outwards. Prune each branch leader by half, to an outward-facing bud, to encourage extension growth and the formation of new branches.

Remove any suckers or side-shoots arising from the main stem below the head. Keep the centre open, but cut back any centrally placed shoots to 2.5 cm (1 in).

Repeat this formative pruning during the next two winters, by which time the main framework should have been formed and the bush will have started to crop. Thereafter, prune it as an established bush.

Pruning established bushes Red currants are spur-pruned to induce the formation of short spur systems along the framework branches. To achieve this, the voting side-shoots (the previous summer’s growth) are cut back to a bud at about 2.5 cm (1 in). The branch leaders are pruned by half, to a bud facing outwards.

Cut out old, unproductive and badly-placed branches, allowing young growth to replace them. Keep the centre open. Planting and pruning cordons Red currant cordons are usually grown vertically and taken to a height of about 1.7 m (5 ‘/2 ft), though they can be grown higher than this if desired. They are excellent for boundary walls or fences, and will crop quite well even with a north-facing aspect. In this case the fruit will ripen later.

Out in the open, cordons need a post-and-wire fence, with horizontal wires at 60 cm and 1.2 m (2 ft and 4 ft) to support the plants and to hold the canes along which they are trained.

The first task is to fix bamboo canes to the wires at each planting station. Space single cordons 38 cm (15 in) apart; doubles, 75 cm (2.5 ft).

Plant the cordon and tie it to the cane with soft string. Cut the central leader by half, to a bud facing away from the cane. This is to stimulate extension growth and the production of side-shoots, which will eventually form spurs. Prune all laterals (the previous summer’s growth) back to 2.5 cm (1 in) and remove any lower than 10 cm (4 in).

Repeat the pruning of the leader each November until it has reached the required height, then stop it in May. The cordon should start to crop in its second year. Pruning established cordons These are pruned in both winter and summer.

Winter-pruning consists of pruning the side-shoots (the previous summer’s growth) back to a bud at 2.5 cm (1 in). Remove any

Pruning red currant cordons

On red currant cordons, trained to canes, prune the leader by half, side shoots to one bud. Repeat for three or four winters until the desired height is reached, to encourage short fruiting spurs on the laterals.

Growth lower than 10 cm (4 in) and any suckers around the base.

After a number of years it will be necessary to simplify and shorten any spur systems that have become over-long and congested, by cutting into the older wood. Paint such cuts with a wound-healing compound. Planting and pruning gooseberries Like red currants, gooseberries bear their fruit buds on spurs on the older wood and at the base of the one-year-old laterals. For this reason, a permanent framework of branches is retained in the same way as on an apple or pear tree.

A gooseberry is usually grown as an open-centred, goblet-shaped bush on a clean stem 10-15 cm (4-6 in) high, with a head of from six to eight main branches. It may also be grown as a cordon, in single or multiple form, and in this case is ideal for wooden fences -even one facing north.

More rarely, gooseberries are grown as fans or standards.

Soil preparation was described in October, but can be carried out now if necessary. Just before planting, fork in a compound fertilizer, such as Growmore, at 100 g per sq m (3 oz per sq yd), plus sulphate of potash at 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd), over the whole area. Planting and pruning a young bush A gooseberry is sold by the nurseryman as a two- or three-year-old bush. Select a plant with a well-balanced head of about three to six primary branches on a clean stem 10-15 cm (4-6 in) long. Plant the bushes 1.2 m (4 ft) apart in the row and 1.5 m (5 ft) between rows.

Plant the bush to the same depth as it was in the nursery, ensuring that the roots are well spread out. Firm the soil as planting proceeds. Finally, mulch with a 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in) layer of peat, manure or compost over a 20 cm (8 in) radius around each plant. This will help to retain soil moisture.

As with red currants, the objective is to maintain an open-centred bush, with the leaders of the main branches growing upwards and outwards. Many gooseberry varieties have a drooping habit, so the leaders are usually pruned to buds facing inwards or upwards, or back to more upright laterals, to maintain an erect compact form.

Prune each branch leader by half, cutting to a bud or lateral, whichever is necessary. Shoots crowding and growing over the centre must be cut back to about 2.5 cm (1 in). Remove any suckers around the base and shoots growing from the main stem below the head.

Repeat this formative pruning each winter for the next two years, or longer if necessary, until a strong, well-balanced head has been formed and the bush has started to crop.

Pruning established bushes If bullfinches are troublesome and the bushes are not netted, delay pruning until the spring, when it can be seen which buds are alive.

The bush is spur-pruned, and pruned hard, if large dessert fruits are required; less so if smaller fruits are needed for cooking or freezing.

Prune the leaders by half, to a bud facing in the required growth direction. If the branch is too spreading, prune to a suitable upright lateral, which will then become the new leader. The laterals (the previous summer’s growth) are-cut back to two buds where large berries are wanted or to three or four buds for cooking fruits.

Cut out weak, dead and diseased wood, and any growth crowding the centre. As the bush ages it will be necessary to thin out some of the older wood which has become congested and unproduc- tive and to leave vigorous young shoots to replace them. Planting and pruning gooseberry cordons The wire-fence system, including cane supports, planting and pruning, is the same as for red currants, except that the less vigorous gooseberry should be planted 30 cm (1 ft) apart for a single cordon and 60 cm (2 ft) for a double cordon.

The Worcesterberry (Ribes divari-catum) Although a different species, with a growth habit and leaves strongly resembling the gooseberry, this soft fruit is more vigorous and very thorny. For cultural purposes, treat it in exactly the same way as the gooseberry. Planting raspberries The initial ground preparation and trenching can be carried out at planting time if necessary. If more than one row is planted, the rows should run north to south to prevent excessive shading of one row by another.

Raspberries need support to prevent the canes bowing over and breaking off under the weight of

Pruning gooseberry bushes

Prune main branches on young gooseberry bushes by half to establish an open head. In subsequent years, reduce leaders by half and aterals and fruiting spurs to 2-4 buds.

The fruit. There are various ways to achieve this, the two most widely used being the single wire and the parallel wire fence systems. Of the two, the single wire fence is the better because it takes up less room, the canes are held secure and get plenty of light and air, and picking is easy.

Nevertheless, some growers prefer parallel wires because no individual tying of the canes is required; this system is obviously not advisable in a windy situation. It is easiest to erect the fence at planting but it can be done at any time during the first year. Single wire fence This consists of horizontal wires stretched taut at 75 cm, 1 m and 1.7 m (2.5 ft, 3 1/2 ft and 5 1/2 ft) from the ground and held by posts spaced 3.6-4.5 m (12-15 ft) aPart- The posts are 2.3 m (72 ft) long, driven 45 cm (1.5 ft) deep and the wire should be galvanized, gauge 14. Parallel wires system This consists of two sets of parallel wires spaced 60 cm (2 ft) apart at 90 cm (3 ft) and 1.5 m (5 ft) from the ground. Drive in 2 m (6 1/2 ft) posts spaced 3.6-4.5 m (12-15 ft) apart, 45 cm (1.5 ft) deep, and fix 5 cm sq (2 in sq), 75 cm (1.5 ft) long battens to the posts as T pieces to hold the wires. Cross ties of wire are also necessary every 60 cm (2 ft) on both sets to prevent the canes falling over in the row. Planting and spacing Space raspberry canes 38-45 cm (15-18 in) apart in the row, with the rows 1.8 m (6 ft) apart.

Plant the canes shallowly, about 8 cm (3 in) deep, and spread the roots out well. Over-deep planting will inhibit the production of new canes from the root system.

Next, cut the canes to a bud at 23-30 cm (9-12 in) from the ground. This will mean foregoing a first summer crop, but will help plants to become established and to produce strong new canes in the first and subsequent summers.

Finally, mulch with a 2.5 cm (1 in) layer of peat, or a 5 cm (2 in) layer of well-rotted manure or compost, over a continuous band 15 cm (6 in) wide along each side of the row.

Autumn-fruiting raspberries

These raspberries bear their fruit at the top of the current season’s canes, extending over 30-45 cm (1-1.5 ft). The pruning of the established plants differs from that of ordinary raspberries in that all the canes are pruned down to ground level in February.

Most of the cultural treatment is the same, including soil preparation, spacing, mulching and pruning at planting time. The canes are cut down initially to 23 cm (9 in). However, as the canes are not so tall and do not grow for longer than one year, they can be allowed to grow a little closer – 5 cm (2 in). They are most easily grown between parallel wires, as described under ordinary raspberries.

Blackberries and hybrid berries Blackberries and hybrid berries are cane fruits with a rambling habit. Like the raspberry, they need some kind of support to hold the canes clear of the ground. They are ornamental as well as utilitarian plants, suitable for growing over pergolas and archways and against walls and fences.

Out in the open, brambles are best grown on a wire fence and a training system is used to keep the plants manageable and tidy. Support system Various materials can be used, but a system of wooden posts and galvanized fencing-wire is probably the cheapest and simplest to erect. Use wooden posts 2.4 m (8 ft) long, with 8 cm (3 in) diameter tops (peeled, pointed and thoroughly impregnated with wood preservative) and 10 gauge galvanized wire. Space the posts 3.6 m (12 ft) apart, driving them 45 cm (1.5 ft) into the ground.

For runs longer than 3.6 m (12 ft) strut the end posts for extra stability and fit straining bolts at one end to draw the wires taut. Use wire staples on the intermediate posts to hold the wires. Altogether, four wires are needed, spaced 90 cm, 1.2 m, 1.5 m and 1.8 m apart (3 ft, 4 ft, 5 ft and 6 ft). Spacing Nurserymen usually supply one-year-old rooted tips. Vigorous varieties, such as the blackberries ‘Oregon Thornless’, ‘Himalaya Giant’ and ‘Bedford Giant’, need spacing 3.6 m (12 ft) apart on light to medium soil, but 4.5 m (15 ft) on very fertile soil. Hybrid berries should be spaced 3-3.6 m (10-12 ft) apart. Allow 1.8 m (6 ft) between rows. Soil preparation, planting and initial pruning Complete the initial soil preparation, if not done in October. Just before planting, fork in a compound fertilizer, such as Growmore, at each planting site. A suitable rate is 100 g per sq m (3 oz per sq yd).

Plant not more than 8 cm (3 in) deep, so as not to inhibit the production of new canes. Spread the roots out well and firm the soil gently around them. After planting, prune the canes to 25 cm (10 in) above the ground.

Finally, mulch with a layer of peat, compost or well-rotted manure, about 2.5-5 cm (I_2 ‘n) deep over a radius of 23 cm (9 in). High bush blueberries This heathland plant will thrive and crop well only in very acid soil. Ideally, it should have a light, sandy soil with a pH between 4.0 and 5.5. It will not thrive in neutral or alkaline soils. Usually, two- or three-year-old plants, container-grown, are supplied by the nurseryman.

Soil preparation It is essential that the rooting medium has an acid, highly organic content. Before planting, mix into the top 23 cm (9 in) a generous quantity of peat or acid leaf-mould. If the soil is very heavy, add sharp sand to help lighten it; spread an 8 cm (3 in) layer over the area and fork it in.

Finally, rake in hoof and horn at 130 g per sq m (4 oz per sq yd) and sulphate of potash at 20 g per sq m (¾ oz per sq yd).

Spacing and planting The blueberry is grown as a stooled bush. Set the plants at 1.5 m X 1.5 m (5 ft X 5 ft) spacings.

Carefully knock each plant out of its container, without breaking the rootball, then gently free and comb outwards some of the outer roots. Spread these out in the planting hole and, while filling in, ensure that the rootball is surrounded by a roughly 50/50 mixture of peat and soil.

Finally, mulch each bush with a 5 cm (2 in) layer of peat, sawdust, pulverized bark or pine needles over a radius of 45 cm (1.5 ft). You must not carry out any pruning at this stage.


Young bush, standard and spindle-bush apple and pear trees are pruned in winter, both at planting time and for several winters afterwards, until a framework of branches has been built up that is sufficiently strong to bear heavy crops from then on. This formative pruning is best carried out in the early part of the winter, when the growth response to the cuts next spring and summer will be stronger.

Although stone fruits, such as cherries and plums, are planted in the winter, they are not forma-tively pruned until March to reduce the risk of silver leaf disease. Bush trees

One-year-old maiden trees The objective in pruning is to create an open-centred, goblet-shaped bush tree on a clean trunk 45-60 cm (1.5-2 ft) long.

There are two types of one-year-olds – those without side-shoots (whips) and those with side-shoots (feathered maidens). Of the two, the feathered maiden is the better choice because the side-shoots, if suitably placed, can be used as primary branches. This saves a year in the formative pruning.

Pruning a one-year-old without side-shoots At planting time, CUT the maiden to a bud at about 60 cm (2 ft) for a dwarf bush and at about 75 cm (2.5 ft) for a bush, ensuring that there are not less than three good buds beneath it. Make a sloping cut away from the bud.

This heading back will stimulate the top buds to grow in the following summer to form the primary branches. Paint the cuts with a wound paint. Pruning a feathered maiden Cut back the main stem to a lateral at about 60 cm (2 ft) for a dwarf bush or 75 cm (2.5 ft) for a bush, ensuring that there are three or four well-placed laterals just beneath the cut. Remove the remain- der flush with the main stem and prune the retained laterals by about two thirds, each to an outward-facing bud. Protect the cuts with a wound paint. Pruning a two-year-old tree Choose three or four strong laterals at the top to form the primary branches. Select those that are well placed and form a wide angle with the main trunk, but nevertheless grow upwards and outwards.

Sometimes, the topmost shoot is too upright, because it is naturally dominant. In this case, cut it out, provided there are alternative leaders. Failing this, tie it down to an angle of 30 degrees for one growing season, by which time it should have set at the desired angle.

Remove all the unwanted laterals flush with the main trunk and protect the cuts. Prune the retained laterals (primary branches) by two thirds if they are weak, or by one half if they are strong, cutting to an outward-facing bud. (If trees were feathered maidens in their first winter, treat them as three-year-olds in their second winter.)

Pruning a three-year-old hush tree Select between two and four more, widely-spaced and well-placed strong laterals to form secondary branches. The framework should now consist of about six to eight branches, forming the basic head of the tree. Cut these by about one half to two thirds, depending on their vigour, to a bud facing in the required growth direction.

Prune any remaining laterals not needed as branches, to about four buds. These will eventually form spurs. However, remove entirely any laterals crowding and crossing the centre. Remember, also, that the technique of tying down strong, upright laterals can be practised if they can usefully fill a gap in the tree’s framework. Pruning a four-year-old hush tree With the tree now beginning to bear reasonably well, the pruning should be moderate unless growth is weak and the stimulus of hard pruning is needed.

Lightly tip the leaders to encourage extension growth and the production of more side-shoots which will, if needed, eventually form spur systems or secondary branches. From now on, winter prune the tree as an established bush. Standard apples and pears Most are grafted on to vigorous root-stocks and are therefore unsuitable for small gardens. However, if they are planted in lawns -perhaps as shade trees – or in a large orchard, prune them in exactly the same way as a bush apple. Other tasks Pick the last of the very late apple varieties, such as ‘Sturmer Pippin’, ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘D’Arcy Spice’.

Check the fruit store and remove any rotting fruits to prevent the trouble spreading.

Inspect the fruit cage to ensure that it is proof against bullfinches, but remove the roof netting whenever heavy snowfalls are forecast.

Check tree ties and stakes. The ties should be firm but not constricting.


Methods of pruning There are-three basic methods of winter pruning a spur-bearing tree, all or any of which can be applied as circumstances dictate. The three methods are regulated, spur and renewal.

Regulated pruning This is the most straightforward method and the one which should generally be used. It quickly brings the tree into bearing, without a great deal of complicated pruning.

Regulated pruning consists of removing diseased, crowded and crossing branches and of removing or shortening laterals where there is insufficient space or where they are competing with the branch leaders.

The centre of the tree is kept open but not completely devoid of growth. If the tree has a drooping or spreading habit, some laterals are left at or near the centre to become replacement branches. In later years it may be necessary to cut back to these if the original branches become too low or spreading.

Branches which rub against each other or cross the centre are shortened or removed. Laterals on the outside of the tree are left unpruned, provided there is space, so that they can develop fruit buds along their full length in the following year.

In later years the size of fruit on trees so pruned may become too small, and the tree lacking in new growth and vigour. If this occurs it is necessary to prune harder by thinning out some of the fruiting laterals, shortening some of the spur systems and practising some renewal pruning.

Spur-pruning (Pruning to form spurs.) This is based on the principle that spur-bearing varieties develop fruit buds on two-year-old wood and form spur systems on the older wood.

Spur-pruning consists of cutting back the young laterals (shoots made in the previous year) to between four and ten buds. The more vigorous the tree, the longer the length of lateral left.

In the second year, the lower buds on the pruned lateral should have developed into fruit buds, while the topmost buds (usually two or three) have grown into shoots. The gardener must then decide whether to extend this ‘induced spur’ by spur-pruning the new shoots, as in the first year, or to stop it by cutting back to a fruit bud on the wood that is now two years old. If there is room, the spur can be extended; if not, it should be stopped.

If you are uncertain whether to ‘cut short or to cut long’, the effect of previous years’ spur pruning should be studied. Or experiment with a variety of cuts and observe, in due course, which system has produced the most fruit buds and then adopt it in future years.

Renewal pruning (Pruning to obtain new growth.) Renewal pruning is applied when new growth is needed – for example, where the old wood has become unproductive and needs replacing. It relies on the principle that dormant basal buds within the wood can be stimulated into growth by hard pruning.

Renewal pruning is carried out on wood up to and including growth that is three years old. It is not normally practised on older wood, because of the large wounds such cuts would make.

It consists of cutting out the wood, leaving a stub 2.5 cm (1 in) long, by making a long, sloping cut on the underside. In the following summer, new growth will spring from the stub and may be used to form a new branch or spur if necessary.

Renewal pruning is regularly practised on spindlebush trees. Applying the principles With a young tree, it will be necessary for a number of years after the initial, formative pruning to continue pruning the branch leaders. Cut by a quarter to a third, pruning to a bud facing in the required growth direction. This is usually outwards, but with a drooping branch it will be upwards. If necessary, cut back to an upright lateral, which then becomes the new leader.

The purpose of all this is to obtain strong extension growth and stout new side-branches. Cut short or remove laterals competing with the leaders. Spur-prune laterals lower down the branch. Later, as the tree becomes bigger, prune the branch leaders lightly, or not at all. Similarly, the laterals may be spur-pruned or left unpruned.

With an old tree it may be necessary to thin out fairly large limbs which are rubbing, too close or crowding the centre. Remove the branch, either back to its point of origin or to a replacement branch.

The replacement branch must be large enough to take up the vigour; as a reliable guide it should be not less than one third the diameter of the removed limb. Do not leave a stub which leads to ‘die-back’.

Remove heavy branches in stages to lessen the weight. When making the final cut, undercut first to avoid any risk of tearing the bark as the limb falls.

Saw close to, but not absolutely flush with, the main trunk. Cutting flush makes too large a wound and removes healing tissue. Pare the edges of the cut smooth with a knife, then paint with a proprietary wound paint. Apply a second coat fourteen days later. Pruning a ‘tip bearer’ A tiee of this type is best pruned on the regulated system, to ensure that the tree does not become overcrowded, so assisting air movement and light.

Most of the young laterals should be left unpruned, because they carry fruit buds at their tips. Nevertheless, vigorous shoots longer than 23 cm (9 in) should be pruned by half their length, cutting to a bud. While this will result in some loss of fruit buds, it will stimulate the pruned shoots to produce more tip-bearing shoots during the following summer.

Similarly, all branch leaders should be pruned. This is to obtain extension growth, more laterals and to prevent long stretches of bare wood.

In later years some fruit-bud thinning may be necessary if too many small fruits are being produced. Pruning a spindlebush (from year three onwards) A spindlebush is pruned on the renewal system, to ensure a continual supply of good cropping wood.

Keep the branches at the top shorter than those below, so maintaining a cone shape, and keep the height of the tree at about 1.8-2.1 m (6-7 ft). Keep the side branches as near to horizontal as possible by tying them down and by selective pruning. The weight of fruit on the branches also helps to keep the branches down.

In practice, this means removing or tying down strong-growing, upright laterals at the top of the tree that are competing with the leader and spoiling the cone shape. Whenever necessary, maintain the height of 1.8-2.1 m (6-y ft) by cutting the central leader back to a weaker side-branch or lateral lower down. Tie this ‘replacement’ upwards to a supporting stake.

The lowest three or four main branches are more or less permanent, but prune the growth that they carry on a renewal basis. The branches above are also replaced by renewal pruning whenever necessary – for example, if they have become too crowded, unproductive or are casting too much shade on the branches below. Old or neglected cordons and espaliers Now is a good time to renovate neglected cordons, espaliers and other trained forms of apples and pears, bringing them back into shape by hard pruning. Simplify complicated and congested spur-systems by shortening, if necessary removing them altogether. Thereafter, restrict pruning to the summer. Planting Continue to plant bush, cane and tree fruits, provided soil conditions are favourable. Try to complete this before the end of the year while the ground is still relatively warm.

Burning Burn all prunings and store the ash in a dry place. It provides a useful supply of potash and lime.

Figs Protect all wall-grown fig trees well before the end of the month.

Fruit store Examine the fruits in store regularly and remove all fruits showing any signs of decay.


F ew gardens are without a lawn of some kind, whether to set off surrounding flower borders or to serve as a children’s play area. The alternative of a paved area should be considered only where space is severely limited, as in some town gardens, where a very small patch of grass is apt to become threadbare through over-use.

Lawns can be difficult in gardens that are heavily shaded. Most grasses do not thrive in such conditions and may become overgrown with moss, although there are special seed mixtures for shade. Removing or reducing the cause of the shade may be another solution. If this is not possible, paving of one sort or another may be the answer, thus providing a place for access, as well as for sitting and entertaining.

Elsewhere, the lawn forms the centrepiece of most gardens, an evergreen area restful to the eye and showing off adjacent planting to best advantage. With imaginative design it can lead the eye to focal points. Carefully maintained, a lawn has a beauty of its own and is a tribute to the gardener’s skill.

Unavoidably, lawns entail a fair amount of work. This can be minimized by sensible design, but for good results there is no evading a fairly continuous programme of care. The following twelve-month guide covers establishing new lawns as well as caring for existing turf.


New lawns Turves may be laid on prepared ground whenever weather conditions allow. The soil should be neither frozen nor sticky.

Routine jobs Remove any dead leaves, twigs or other debris from the lawn.

Overhaul your mower; or have the job done by a specialist. There is likely to be a delay if left until the mowing season.

If water remains on the lawn surface for some time after rain, check that the outlets of any drains are not blocked. If these are clear, it may be possible to locate the drains and check at intervals for blockages caused by roots or other debris. If there is no drainage system, make plans to put such work in hand.


New lawns Try to complete turf-laying by the end of this month. The next suitable time is October, although it is possible to lay turves during the spring and even the summer if you are prepared to irrigate during dry weather.

Towards the end of the month, soil conditions permitting, start preparing the site if you plan to sow grass seed in April or May. If the ground was dug in November or December, a pronged cultivator will break down any remaining lumps.

The decision whether to sow or turf a new lawn is not always easy. Site preparation should be carried out with the same thoroughness in each case.

Successful seed-sowing has an element of chance about it, for it depends to an extent on good weather- that is, it must be neither too wet nor too dry. Birds and cats are a hazard, too.

Turf gives an ‘instant’ lawn, but it is more expensive. Good quality-turf is often difficult to obtain, while laying it requires time, effort and considerable care. Routine jobs Scatter worm casts periodically, using a besom or a long, thin bamboo cane. If worms are particularly troublesome, control them by watering the turf with chlordane. This chemical kills the worms beneath the surface and provides control for about a year.

Check for signs of unhealthy turf.

If the weather is mild and settled, moss-killer may be applied late in the month. Otherwise, wait until March.

Choosing a mower With grass-cutting due to start in a few weeks, now is a good time to consider buying a new mower if your present machine needs replacing.

The basic choice is between cylinder mowers and rotary mowers. The former shear the grass, scissor-fashion, between a series of curved, moving blades and a static blade positioned beneath them. Rotary mowers work with a scythe-like action, having two or more blades that depend on their high speed to slash the grass rather than shear it.

Both hover mowers and wheeled rotary grass-cutters work on exactly the same principle.

The narrow, spiral blades of a cylinder mower are arranged around a central, horizontal shaft. The fineness of cut is related to the number of blades on the cylinder and to the gear ratio. The greater the number of blades, the more cuts the mower gives per yard of travel – and so the neater the trim.

For instance, a mower with four blades gives 30-40 cuts per metre (yd) whereas twelve blades may give 140-150 cuts per metre (yd) -a finish fit for a bowling green.

The blades of a rotary mower take the form of a bar with sharpened edges, or small individual blades may be attached to a rotating disc. In both cases they move at high speed under a protective canopy.

Rotary mowers give quite a neat finish, and have the advantage that they can cut grass that is considerably overgrown. They are particularly useful where areas of rough grass require occasional mowing, and they will also maintain lawns to a reasonable standard.

However, the scissor-like action of a cylinder mower does give a superior finish and they are to be preferred for all areas of really fine ornamental turf.

Whatever the type of mower, width of cut is an important consideration. The wider the cut, the less time is needed to mow a given area. Usually a 30-35 cm (12-14 in) width of cut is satisfactory for the smaller sizes of lawn.

As a rough guide, it will take about thirty minutes to cut approximately 400 sq m (500 sq yds) with a 30 cm (1 ft) mower, 800 sq m (1000 yds) with a 40 cm (16 in) mower, or iioosq m (1500 sq yds) with a 60 cm (2 ft) mower.


Mowing This month usually sees the start of the mowing season. Choose a day when the grass is dry and the weather mild.

Check first for worm casts on the surface. Large numbers of casts will blunt the mower blades and will also look unsightly after being flattened by the mower wheels or roller. Weeds may soon grow on them. If left until fairly dry and crumbly, they can be scattered with a besom or a flexible cane. Although worm activity can improve the drainage of heavy soil, a worm-killer (chlordane) may have to be applied if casts are numerous.

Roll the lawn before mowing if it has been lifted by frost. Mow with the blades set high. Collecting the clippings It saves time not to collect the clippings, but on the whole it is much better to do so. If left, the lawn gradually deteriorates due to clogging and loss of air to the roots.

The least harm results from short mowings left during dry weather on an alkaline soil. If you decide not to collect the clippings for a while, check frequently to see whether they are building up excessively. If they are, loosen them with a wire rake and collect them. Also, keep the lawn weed-free. Short clippings of creeping weeds, such as speedwell, may be scattered widely and they will root readily in moist soil. Feeding lawns Regular close mowing of lawns, which restricts the natural development of the grasses, has a weakening effect. Nutrients taken up from the soil by the grass are removed when the mowings are collected, and to compensate for this lawns should be fed at least once annually.

Lawns that are never fed will usually decline in health and vigour, weak turf being more susceptible to disease and also to moss and weed infestation. Undernourished lawns are less drought-resistant and more likely to be damaged by heavy use. Perhaps the only disadvantage of feeding is that it increases the rate of growth, necessitating more frequent mowing.

When to feed The best time to apply a lawn fertilizer is in early spring when the grass is beginning to grow freely. The nutrients will then be used at once. In southern Britain this is usually late March; in northern Britain, early April. However, if weather conditions are unsuitable, feeding can be delayed for two or three weeks.

A single annual dressing of a fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphate and potash will supply the lawn’s phosphate and potash needs for a season. To maintain vigour and a good colour it may be necessary to give additional nitrogen in late spring and early summer, unless the original dressing contained a slow-release type.

The simplest method is to use a proprietary lawn fertilizer formulated for spring and summer use. However, products vary considerably both in content and in cost. Some contain weed-killers; in others, the fertilizer is combined with a peat-based organic top-dressing. Both add to the cost of treating a lawn.

An analysis of about 5 to 7% nitrogen, 10 to 15% phosphate and 2 to 4% potash provides a suitable and economical balance of nutrients. Although less work is involved in applying a combined fertilizer/weedkiller, weed control may be more effective if both the grass and the weeds are growing vigorously, in response to feeding, before weedkiller is applied as a spray.

As the season progresses and the nitrogen is used up, the grass will decline in vigour and lose its spring freshness, life and colour. The extent to which this happens depends on the type of soil and the particular season. However, the turf can be revitalized by summer feeding in May and July, provided it receives adequate rainfall or irrigation. It will then maintain its attractive appearance until the autumn, when growth slows down naturally with lower night temperatures. Applying fertilizers If applying fertilizer by hand, mark out strips 90 cm (3 ft) wide, using canes and a garden line. Apply the product at half the recommended rate, working lengthways, then repeat the procedure working crossways. When using a fertilizer drill or distributor, the wheel-tracks serve as guide lines.

Avoid overlapping, as too-high concentrations of fertilizer can damage the turf. Where possible, spread matting or newspapers along the end of the lawn, turning on them rather than on the lawn itself.


Mowing Increase the frequency of mowing to suit the speed at which the grass is growing. Both this and the height of cut have a major bearing on the quality of a lawn.

Turf is weakened if it is regularly mown closer than 5 mm (3/16 in), resulting in a build-up of moss and creeping weeds. The coarser grasses can soon become dominant as a result of irregular mowing or if the grass is not kept to 4 cm (1.5 in) or below.

During the spring and summer, medium-quality lawns may be cut to a little over 12 mm (0.5 in), utility-type lawns to 2.5 cm (1 in) and well-nurtured, fine lawns to 5 mm (3/16 in). Cylinder mowers give a closer cut than do rotary or hover mowers.

During the autumn, when growth has slowed down or virtually ceased, raise the height of cut by 6 mm (’/» in). The same applies during a summer drought, when little growth will be made and slightly longer grass will help to prevent the surface from drying out. It also holds good in the unlikely event of a winter cut being needed.

Between April and August, when the grass is growing vigorously, mow frequently. Ideally, average lawns need cutting every three to five days, utility lawns every seven days and fine-quality turf every two or three days. However, few gardeners have the time for such frequent mowing, Reduce the frequency as the growth rate slows in September.

From October or early November onwards there will usually be little need for mowing – possibly an occasional light trim during a mild winter, or in the milder coastal areas.

Whenever possible, vary the pattern of mowing – alternately lengthways and crossways. This helps to reduce localized compaction caused by a fixed mowing pattern and is more effective in keeping coarser grasses and creeping weeds in check. Feeding In the colder and more northerly parts of the country, give a spring feed during the early or middle part of the month. This also applies elsewhere if the job was not done last month.

Weeds and coarse grasses If there are weeds in the lawn, apply a selective weedkiller as soon as the fertilizer has stimulated both the grass and the weeds into vigorous growth.

Check the lawn for coarse grasses. They must be removed by hand as there is no weedkiller sufficiently selective to kill them while leaving the finer grasses unharmed. Use a hand fork or a potato fork, depending on the size of the clumps or tufts.

After removing coarse grasses, carefully refirm the soil, adding a little where necessary to restore a level surface. If bare or thin patches are left, scatter grass seeds over them and rake lightly. Mark with canes so that the seeds are not disturbed when next you mow. Repairing edges Where an unsupported lawn edge has crumbled, cut out a square of turf containing the damaged section and turn it through 180 degrees to give a new, firm edge. Make good the damaged patch with ordinary soil, firm it lightly and re-seed. New lawns Check the joints and levels of recently-laid turves. Top-dress with fine soil to fill any slight hollows or to make good any open joints.

New lawns may be sown towards the end of the month, or in early May, when weather and soil conditions allow.


Routine jobs Early in the month, adjust the mower to its summer cutting height and start to mow more frequently.

Some four to six weeks after the April weedkiller treatment, give a further application to any surviving weeds. Apply moss-killer, if necessary.

Watering Strong, healthy, deep-rooted turf is resistant to drought, whereas neglected turf may soon show signs of distress. First indications are a general dullness and blueness, with the grass losing its resilience. Growth ceases and, if not watered, the leaves will soon shrivel and turn brown and the roots wither and die.

The length of time between the last appreciable rainfall and the first signs of drought depends on the time of year, the condition of the turf and the type of soil. Sandy soils dry out more rapidly than heavy soils. They generally need watering about once a week.

At the first signs of drought, irrigate to wet the soil thoroughly to a depth of at least 15 cm (6 in). Frequent light waterings are harmful. Carefully bore a test hole to see how long this takes, using this as a guide for subsequent waterings. If water soon gathers on the surface, turn the water off and allow it to soak in before continuing.

To help the grass retain its colour and keep growing strongly, apply a light dressing of a nitrogenous fertilizer towards the end of the month. Sulphate of ammonia applied at V2- 1 tablespoon per sq m (sq yd) is effective.

To ensure even distribution and to guard against damage from scorch, mix the fertilizer first with sandy soil at the rate of 100-125 S per sq m (4 oz per sq yd). Apply during cool, damp weather, not while it is hot and dry. New lawns Complete the sowing of new lawns early in the month.


Routine jobs Mow frequently, scarifying the surface lightly before mowing if creeping weeds are troublesome.

Check regularly for signs of drought during dry periods, irrigating when necessary. Also check for compacted areas and heavy wear. Remedy by spiking deeply, followed by a light top-dressing of soil and thorough irrigation. New lawns If you are planning to make a new lawn during the autumn, you will need to start preparing the site next month. In the meantime, it would be as well to give some thought to its position and design.

Where possible, it should be in a sunny part of the garden. Grass is difficult to establish and maintain in deep shade.

Try to keep the shape of the lawn simple, avoiding sharp angles and tight curves. These, along with small, scattered flower beds, make for difficult mowing. Separate beds also entail a good deal of tedious edge trimming.

Grass paths and narrow access points are another source of difficulty, for the surface will soon deteriorate with frequent use. If either is unavoidable, place stepping stones at strategic points.


Routine jobs Under normal conditions mow regularly – but do so less frequently, and with the blades set higher, during dry weather if you are unable to irrigate-

Feed again lightly with a nitrogenous fertilizer.

If necessary, give a third application of weedkiller. New lawns The best season for both sowing and turfing is approaching, and towards the end of this month is the time to start preparing the site. Completing the initial work will give the soil time to settle, a considerable aid in securing and maintaining a level surface.

The first steps are to clear away rubble, kill perennial weeds and check the drainage. Then adjust the overall level, if necessary, and either dig or cultivate the soil. Levels and soil depth A gently sloping or undulating lawn can be quite attractive, but an uneven surface is not. If significant hill- ocks or hollows have to be corrected, first move the topsoil to one side, then level the subsoil and, finally, replace the topsoil. This can represent a great deal of work, but there is no simple alternative.

Ideally, there should be at least 23 cm (9 in) of good topsoil, but earth-moving by builders may leave a new garden either with little topsoil or with one of varying depth.

Try to achieve a uniform depth. Lacking this, the grass may grow unevenly, giving the lawn a patchy appearance. If there is less than 15 cm (6 in), add topsoil to bring it up to at least this depth. Soil preparation Dig the soil, or turn it with a powered cultivator, at the same time working in some organic matter such as well-rotted manure,,., leaf-mould or peat. Heavy clay soils, chalk and the lighter, sandy soils will all benefit from a dressing of about 7 kg per sq m (14 lb per sq yd). The texture and surface drainage of clay soils will also be improved by adding sharp grit or coarse, gritty sand.

Final preparation of the soil must wait until a short time before sowing or turfing.


Routine jobs Keep mowing regularly, varying the blade height and the frequency of mowing to match the growth rate. If you return from holiday to find an overgrown lawn, raise the blades for the first cut and lower them gradually to their normal height over the next week or two.

A final summer feed may be given, if necessary, about mid-month. Do not apply nitrogenous summer feeds after the end of

August. Autumn applications may encourage lush growth just as the weather becomes cooler, leaving the grass more susceptible to disease should the autumn be wet. Complete weedkilling by the end of the month. Although later treatments can be attempted, they may be less effective as growth slows in the autumn. New lawns In colder areas, lawn seed may be sown during the second half of the month in preference to September.


Mowing With the rate of growth slowing, towards the end of the month the blades should be raised by a little over 6 mm (]A in) in order to leave the grass slightly longer. Disperse worm casts before mowing.

New lawns This is the ideal month to sow new lawns in the milder parts of the country. If possible, do this during cool, settled weather, for preference before the middle of the month. Soil preparation Start the final soil preparations when the soil is fairly dry, breaking down any clods with a garden fork or the back of a garden rake.

Next, the soil will need firming, either with a roller or by treading. The latter, which is the better method for small areas, involves taking short, overlapping steps, with one’s weight mainly over the heels. Follow this by raking and further treading until the surface is level and uniformly firm.

Unless the site has been manured or dressed with fertilizer quite recently, apply a balanced mixture a few days before you sow. This could consist of 1 tablespoon sulphate of ammonia, 2 tablespoons superphosphate, half tablespoon 3* sulphate of potash – all amounts per sq m or yd.

Seed mixtures The most satisfactory choice for fine ornamental lawns is a mixture of 80% Fcstuca rubra var. commutata (Chewing fescue) and 20% Agrostis tenuis (browntop bent). Together, these will form a fine-bladed, dense, compact turf tolerant of close mowing.

This combination forms the basis of most fine lawn mixtures, for it will grow well in a wide range of soils. Festuca rubra ssp. Rubra (creeping red fescue) which tolerates both wet and dry conditions, is sometimes included.

Hard-wearing mixtures for utility lawns include dwarf, leafy strains of Lolium perenne (perennial rye grass) a coarser, hard-wearing grass, together with Poa pratensis (smooth-stalked meadow grass). Neither of these likes close mowing.

All grasses grow reasonably well in light shade. Some seedsmen supply mixtures for deeper shade, perhaps under trees, but the grasses are unlikely to survive for long if close-mown. If longer grass is unacceptable in the shaded area, plant shade-tolerant ground-cover plants instead. Sowing Seed may be sown by hand or with a fertilizer drill designed for this dual function. For more even distribution, sow half the seed lengthways, half crossways. When hand-sowing, sow in strips a metre or a yard wide, using a line and marker canes.

After sowing, rake over the seedbed lightly so that the seeds are just below the surface. If buried deeply, the seeds may not germinate. Do not roll after raking. Irrigate gently but thoroughly if no rain falls and the surface of the seedbed begins to dry.

Binds may be troublesome, dust-bathing in the loose soil or eating the seeds. Before either happens, protect the area with brushwood or with black thread criss-crossed 8-10 cm (3-4 in) above the surface.

If the surface soil is lifted slight- ly by the germinating seeds, roll lightly when the grass is about 5 cm (2 in) high. Give a light first cut two or three days later with a sharp-bladed mower. If the mower has a removable front roller, take it off first. Remove only 12 mm (0.5 in) of grass. Dealing with lawn problems Moss Check early in the month for signs of moss. Although traces can be found in most established lawns, it is necessary to use a moss-killer if a considerable amount is present.

There are a number of proprietary moss-killers, including lawn sand. If the latter contains sulphate of ammonia, however, it is better avoided at this time of year, because of the stimulus it gives to leaf growth. Rake out the dead moss after a week or two. Thatch Between the roots and the foliage of all established lawns there is a layer of fibrous organic-material, some living and some dead. This consists of stems, stolons, rhizomes, decomposing mowings and other debris, an 3M accumulation that goes under the collective name of ‘thatch’. On acid soils, where bacterial activity is low, it may accumulate to form a deep, carpet-like ‘pile’.

Routine raking, together with the use of a grass-box on the mower, will keep thatch in check in most cases. Indeed, in moderation it acts as a mulch, keeping the surface moist and giving a resilience to the turf. Further, it helps to protect it against wear.

However, if the thatch is thicker than about 12 mm (0.5 in) it may impede the penetration of moisture. As a result, prolonged rain or watering may be needed to penetrate through to the soil. Fertilizers are slower to reach the roots, and the turf may become less resistant to drought and disease.

A spring-tine rake or a long-handled scarifying tool will deal effectively with thatch. Alternatively, small electric scarifiers can be purchased or hired. Handle them with care, for if used too vigorously they can cause serious damage to the turf.

Add the rakings to the compost heap, but do this in fairly small quantities, well mixed with other materials.

Thatch is most likely to be a problem on acid soils or where drainage is poor. Here, bacterial activity is low and organic matter decays slowly.

Where thatch builds up rapidly, improve the drainage, if necessary, by laying land-drains in late October or November, when regular mowing has ended. If the soil is strongly acid apply a light dressing of calcium carbonate (ground chalk or ground limestone) during the winter, at up to 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) on light, sandy soils, and up to 125 g per sq m (4 oz per sq yd) on heavy soils.

Where the soil is only moderately acid, regular light top-dressing in autumn with good quality loam may be enough to help the thatch decompose. Compaction Many lawns suffer, to some degree, from compaction after a summer of use. This may be local – for example, where deck-chairs are placed or where the newsboy takes a short-cut across the lawn – or it may be more general, due to regular mowing with a heavy mower.

Among other effects, compaction impedes air movement through the soil, in extreme case killing the turf. Compaction can also impede moisture penetration and drainage, encouraging a buildup of moss and thatch during wet weather.

Compaction can be relieved by aeration. Spiking with a garden fork or a purpose-made tool may be carried out at any time during the spring and summer, repeating this every four or five weeks if the lawn is used a lot. Water thoroughly afterwards.

Drive the fork in for at least half its depth at regular, closely-spaced intervals. Light wheeled tools or hand tools that penetrate only 2.5-5 cm (l~2 in) can De useful for dealing with shallow compaction or surface capping, but tools that penetrate 8-15 cm (3-6 in) may be needed in cases where there is deeper compaction.

Powered aerators, including types with changeable tines and blades, are often available from hire firms.

The most difficult soil to aerate is heavy clay. For this, a hollow-tine fork or aerator is needed. Each insertion removes a plug or core of soil which is then expelled on to the surface. After brushing up the cores, top-dress with a sandy soil mixture, working it into the holes with a brush or a twiggy besom.

New roots will soon grow into the shafts of lighter-textured soil. The process can be repeated on heavier soils every third or fourth year; it has little value on light soil. Top-dressing The main value of top-dressing, using a mixture of loam, sand and organic matter, is to achieve and maintain an even and level surface. It will eliminate minor unevenness that may come about during the year – for example, where children have played, or where the weight of a mower has magnified slight variations in the firmness of the surface.

On poorer soils, top-dressing will improve surface fertility, encouraging better rooting of desirable grasses, and so improving the density of the turf.

A good basic mixture is three parts sieved loam, six parts sand, and one part granulated peat (all parts by weight). The sand should be lime-free, if possible with a particle size of 2-5 mm (’/16-3/16 in). Sieved leaf-mould or well-decomposed garden compost may be used instead of peat, but do not use compost known to contain viable weed seeds.

On heavier soils, sand alone may be used. Peat may also be used on its own as a top-dressing, but too-frequent use of peat can build up a spongy surface, particularly on acid soils. This will dry-out and become moisture-resistant during dry weather, and will hold excessive surface moisture during the winter, encouraging moss. Repeated heavy dressings of sand can create an unstable surface layer.

Mow the grass before applying a top-dressing, and do not be in a hurry to start if the grass is still growing vigorously. Wait, too, for settled, dry conditions.

Apply top-dressing materials by spreading or ‘broadcasting’ them with a shovel. An average dressing is about 2 kg per sq m (4 lb per sq yd), but this can be increased to 3-3.5 kg per sq m (6-y lb per sq yd) where the ground is very irregular.

Distribute the dressing evenly, working the mixture into the turf with the back of a broad rake so that the blades of grass remain visible. Grasses which are completely covered may not survive, so do not attempt to correct major irregularities in a single season.

Once a true level has been achieved there is no need for regular top-dressing, though it can be given annually on poor soils. Autumn feeding Under normal conditions, and where the lawn is strong and healthy, autumn feeding is not essential. However, if the turf has suffered from compaction or from summer drought -both conditions that damage the roots – it is worth applying a fertilizer dressing this month, after scarifying, aerating and spiking, but before top-dressing.

The purpose of an autumn lawn fertilizer is to encourage root growth, not leaf growth. It should therefore have only a low nitrogen content but a good level of phosphate and potash.

A suitable formula (all parts by weight) is: 25 parts superphosphate; 50 parts fine bonemeal; 15 parts sulphate of potash; 10 parts sandy soil.

Mix well, then apply at 60 g per sq m (2 ozper sq yd).


Mowing With the speed of growth slowing down, set the mower to its winter height and continue mowing as necessary.

Ideally, and an hour or two before mowing, remove the early morning dew with a supple bamboo cane or switch and leave the grass to dry.

Routine jobs During fine weather, remove the dew daily, if possible, as this lessens the likelihood of disease. For the same reason, remove fallen leaves regularly.

Scarify, spike and top-dress if you were unable to do so in September, preferably early in the month.

Kill worms with chlordane if the casts become troublesome.

New lawns Although it is now past the best time for sowing a new lawn, the turf-laying season is just beginning. It continues, subject to weather and soil conditions, until about the end of February. Buying turf Turves are a relatively expensive means of creating a lawn, so try to examine them before ordering and again when they are delivered. Sub-standard turves may be difficult to lay and may also contain both weeds and unsuitable grasses.

The most important points to look for are the quality of the area.

Grass, the soil and the roots. The grass should have a uniform appearance, with no broad-bladed, coarser types present. It should have been mown, for long, shaggy grass may hide defects.

The soil should be loamy, not light and sandy nor a heavy clay. A clay soil, in particular, could adversely affect the lawn later on.

The turves should have a good root system, with a reasonable level of dark, fibrous, organic matter. If there is too little organic matter, the turf may break up when handled. On the other hand, too high a level may result in poor rooting, leading to later problems.

The turves should be weed-free, or virtually so. If there are many weeds present, it indicates that the turves have been poorly managed. They will usually break apart when handled, and, once laid, weeds will be an immediate problem.

The final point to check is that the size and thickness of the turves is uniform. They may be 30 cm (1 ft) square, 45 cm x 3ocm (iV2 X 1 ft) or 90 cm X 30 cm (3 ft X 1 ft). The smallest size is the simplest to lay. For preference, the turves should be 2.5-4 cm (1-1.5 in) thick. Thinner turf will establish satisfactorily if of good quality, with well-developed roots, but more care is needed both when laying and while the lawn becomes established.

If the turf is thicker or irregular, it will have to be trimmed to an even and satisfactory thickness. To do this, lay each turf grass-side down in an open-ended box of appropriate depth. Then, using a long-bladed knife-preferably one with two handles – shave off the excess soil.

A fairly recent development in the production of turf is the flotation or roll-down method. The turf is raised rapidly by sowing seeds on floating beds of soil-less rooting medium. The resultant product, sold in small rolls, is quite easy to lay, but site preparation must be to a high standard. A level, fine-particle surface is needed to ensure rapid rooting into the soil. This type of turf is more prone to drying out while becoming established, so check frequently in dry periods, watering thoroughly as necessary. Laying turf Mark out the site in advance, using a tautly-stretched line to mark the base-line and sides. Allow an extra 2.5-5 cm (I_ 2 in) all round so that the established turf can eventually be given a true and accurate edge with a half-moon turf cutter or a sharp spade.

Keep some sandy loam handy for packing under any thinner turves. You will also need a rake to make minor adjustments to the level of the bed as laying proceeds, and planks on which to stand.

Check the turves when they arrive, rejecting any that are of poor quality. If the weather prevents an immediate start, the turves may be left for two or three days – rolled, folded, or stacked three or four deep – out of the sun. If there is likely to be a longer delay, lay them flat, singly, in the shade and keep them well watered.

Start laying from the most accessible side, facing the unturfed area. Do not walk on the prepared bed at any time while turfing.

Set each turf as closely as possible to its neighbour, bonding them row by row, like bricks in a wall. This will mean staggering successive rows of turves, and using half-turves to complete each alternate row.

From the second row onwards, work from planks placed on the newly-laid turf. This will spread your weight and avoid damage.

When you have finished, gently firm with a light roller or a homemade turfing board – a piece of thick board measuring about 23 X 38 cm (9X15 in), with a broomstick handle attached vertically. It is not advisable to firm by pounding with the back of a spade.

The final step is to apply a light overall dressing of sandy loam, working this well into any spaces between the turves with the back of a rake.

Irrigate thoroughly and regularly during any dry periods. When the grass begins to grow in spring, top it lightly at first before getting into the normal mowing routine. If possible, avoid using the lawn until early summer.


Mowing A final cut may be needed, but do not attempt this during frosty weather or when the surface is wet after rain. Brush off the dew first.. NEW LAWNS Turves may be laid whenever weather and soil conditions allow. If you plan to sow lawn seed next spring, dig the soil now and leave it in rough clods for the frost to crumble. Routine jobs Rake up fallen leaves and stack them to form leaf-mould. Some rotary grasscutters make efficient leaf collectors.


New LAWNS Turves may be laid whenever weather and soil conditions allow. If you plan to sow lawn seed next spring, and have not already dug the site, do this now so that it will be exposed to frost action during the winter. Routine jobs Rake up leaves and stack to form leaf-mould.

Dwarf Conifers

Choose dwarf conifers carefully, making sure that your selected plants will not grow above a given size in a given time.

The ones described here are suitable for rock gardens, raised beds, screes and small gardens, but they can be planted elsewhere if desired. They constitute the backbone of any alpine and small-garden planting, providing evergreen forms in different hues of green, blue-green and bronze.

Some are upright, others spreading, but most tend to be rounded or bun-shaped, with a neat habit. Try to plant them, and also dwarf shrubs, before other plants, to give form to the site.

Use the taller kinds near the base of a rock garden or scree, with the more spreading types towards the top, or else in a raised bed. The plants listed will normally grow no more than about 75 cm (1.5 ft) high or wide during their first ten years, but they will continue to grow after this time and you should be prepared to take them out if they get too large.

The majority of the plants described are readily available, and specialist nurseries should be able to supply more rare forms.

Selected dwarf conifers

The sizes given in this list will be attained Abiespinsapo ‘Horstmann’s Nana’. C.l.

‘Gimbornii’. H and S 60 cm (2 ft). The in about ten years under normal H 50 cm (20 in), S 70 cm (28 in). Bright, shape is rounded, and wider near the top conditions. H refers to height, S to spread. Blue-green, medium-sized needles are- than the base. The foliage has a blue-green

Abies balsamea ‘Globosa’. H and S 60 cm arranged neatly on this irregularly-shaped tinge. (2 ft). A strange-looking plant, having a plant. It is more heavily branched at the C.l.

‘Gnome’. H 20 cm (8 in), S 30 cm flattish top, yet with upright, rounded top than at the base. (12 in). For a form of this species, the growth. Tha large needles are dark green, Abiesprocera ‘Glauca Nobel’. H 30 cm foliage is uncharacteristically tiny and tinged with yellow. (1 ft), S 60 cm (2 ft). Small needles of an dark green. The habit is squat, with loose


‘Hudsonia’. H 30 cm (12 in), S 50 cm intense blue are carried on loose, top growth. (20 in). This form has dark green, flattish, spreading branches. The winter colour is C.l.

‘Green Globe’. H and S 30 cm (1 ft).

Broad needles, white underneath, and a excellent. The small, medium-green foliage is tinged compact and rounded habit..Cedrus libani ‘Sargentii’. S 75 cm (2.5 ft). with blue. It is carried in tight balls, with

Abies eepbalonica ‘Nana’. H 40 cm This spreading, ground-hugging plant is slightly spiky tips. (16 in), S 70 cm (28 in). The silvery ideal for growing over rocks. There is C.l.

‘Minima Aurca’. H 60 cm (2 ft), S 50 undersides of the shiny, dark green some yellowing of the ends of the blue- cm (20 in). Small, bright, golden foliage is needles show up well, standing green needles, especially in winter. Carried on a compact, rounded pyramid.

Upright on horizontally spreading Chamaecyparis lawsoniana’ Aurea C.l.

‘Minima Glauca’. H and S 60 cm branches. Densa’. H 50 cm (20 in), S 30 cm (12 in). (2 ft). This form makes a sea-green globe;

Abies koreana ‘Brevifolia’. H and S 75 cm Dense, small, golden-yellow foliage the almost-flat sprays are compact. (2.5 ft). Shiny, broad, dark green leaves covers this rounded bush, which has a C.l.

‘Pygmaea Arecntea’. H 30 cm (12 in), are arranged neatly around stiff stems, pointed top. The colour is exceptional S 40 cm (16 in). The habit is squat and which have a spreading habit. The needles throughout the year. Rounded, the foliage dark green with have prominent white undersides. C.l.

‘Ellwood’s Pillar’. H 75 cm (2.5 ft), silvery tips.

Abies nordmanniana ‘Golden Spreader’. S 30 cm (1 ft). The growth forms a squat Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Aurea’. H

H 30 cm (12 in), S 50 cm (20 in). Golden, column, with a loosely-rounded top of and S 75 cm (llA ft). This plant has a loose broad foliage and a stiff, bushy habit. This feathery, darkish-green foliage. This has a shape, with green or golden-green foliage cultivar should be protected from intense touch of bronze-yellow during the carried on slightly drooping sunlight when young. Winter. Sprays.

Selected dwarf conifers (cont.) Co.

‘Nana Lutea’. H 50 cm (20 in), S 30 cm (12 in). Golden sprays of shell-shaped foliage are carried like droplets, the plant being slightly pointed at the top. Co. Tonia’. H and S 40 cm (16 in). The shell-shaped sprays of bright green foliage are tipped with white and borne on a loosely-rounded pyramid. The white tips may not appear until the plant is mature. Chamaecyparispisifera ‘Sungold’. H and S 60 cm (2 ft). Bright golden, feathery foliage, and a loose, weeping habit, forms a ball-shaped plant. Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Andclyensis Nana’. H 60 cm (24 in), S 20 cm (8 in). The habit is columnar, the foliage an intense, soft bronze-blue, especially in winter. Ct.

‘Ericoides’. H 6c cm (2 ft), S 30 cm (1 ft). The bronze-green foliage is tinged with mauve in winter. The habit is conical, with soft growths.


‘Rubicon’. H 60 cm (24 in), S 20 cm (8 in). The intense bronze-green foliage becomes fully bronze in winter. Growth is upright, with soft needles.

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Spiralis’. H and S 60 cm (2 ft). Twisted in spirals, the stems have bright green leaves arranged tightly round them. The plant has a slightly drooping habit, especially when older. Cj.

‘Vilmoriniana’. H and S 40 cm (16 in). With a rounded habit, the plant carries light-green foliage that turns an attractive bronze in winter.

Junipcrus communis ‘Compressa’. H 45 cm (1.5 ft), S 15 cm (6 in). A perfectly shaped spire of blue-green needles, closely packed like a clipped hedge. Juniperus recurva ‘Densa’. H 30 cm (1 ft), S 60 cm (2 ft). Bright green the year round, the dense foliage is carried close to the stems. The habit is spreading and irregular.

Junipcrus squamata ‘Pygmaea’. H and S 40 cm (16 in). Blue-green, medium-sized needles are borne on ascending shoots that weep at the tips.

Picea abics ‘Clanbrassilliana’. H 20 cm (8 in), S 30 cm (12 in). A miniature, squat Christmas tree with a pyramidal habit. The medium-green needles are closely packed.


‘Gregoryana’. H and S 20 cm (8 in). A tiny spruce with a rounded habit and long, bright green needles.


‘Little Gem’. H 25 cm (io in), S 35 cm (14 in). Tiny, medium-green needles form a compact, broad mound. P.a.

‘Nidiformis’. H 30 cm (12 in), S 50 cm (20 in). Dark-green needles cover horizontally held branches on this flat-topped, spreading plant. Piceaglauca ‘Alberta Globe’. H 50 cm (20 in), S 40 cm (16 in). Medium-green needles are tightly packed over this neat, pyramidal plant, which has a pointed top. P.g.

‘Laurin’. H 25 cm (10 in), S 10 cm (4 in). A very tight, upright conifer with medium-green needles. Picea mariana ‘Ericoides’. H 40 cm (16 in), S 60 cm (24 in). The hazy, green-blue needles, large tor the size of plant, are softer to the touch than other spruces. It has a squat habit, with horizontal branches.


‘Nana’. H 20 cm (8 in), S 30 cm (12 in). A tighter form of P.m.

‘Ericoides’, with smaller foliage, and a much slower growth rate.

Piceapiuigens ‘Globosa’. H and S 50 cm (20 in). A globular, pointed-topped plant with attractive, intense blue needles of medium size.

PINUS mugo ‘Humpy’. H 30 cm (12 in),

S 40 cm (16 in). Small, medium-green needles on a plant that has a rounded appearance, and looks tighter with age.


‘iMops’. H 40 cm (16 in), S 60 cm (24 in). With an overall rounded, gently spreading appearance, the medium-sized matt-green needles grow on tightly-clad upright growths.


‘Ophir’. H 40 cm (16 in), S 60 cm (24 in). The medium-sized needles are green at the base but golden above on this plant of neatly rounded, spreading habit.

Pinus syhestris Doonc Valley’. H 40 cm (16 in), S 30 cm (12 in). Matt-blue, medium-sized needles are carried on upright growths. The habit is rounded, spreading with age, and the plant bears small cones.

P. s.

‘Gold Coin’. H and S 60 cm (24 in).

With pyramidal growth, this plant has a looser appearance than most dwarf conifers. It bears small cones, and large, bright and golden needles.

Taxus baccata ‘Adpressa Aurea’. H 60 cm (24 in), S 50 cm (20 in). Small, dark green leaves are topped by bright, golden foliage on stiff, irregular branches that spread with age.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Danica’. H 45 cm (18 in), S 60 cm (24 in). The vertical, flattened sprays of green foliage are tipped with bronze in winter, and the plant has a neat, rounded habit.


‘Recurva Nana’. H 30 cm (12 in),

S 50 cm (20 in). The green foliage is carried in crimpled sprays on a flat-topped bush; the branches recurve at the tips.

Tsuga canadensis ‘Jeddeloh’. H 40 cm (16 in), S 60 cm (24 in). The dark green leaves, with silvery undersides, show up well on a plant that weeps readily even when young. 3’

Colour Variegations

Colour variegations can occur in most types of garden plants, including annuals, hardy perennials, shrubs, trees and alpines, as well as in house plants. It takes the form of spotting, streaking or some other distinctive marking of the leaves or petals, often giving a most attractive effect.

It may come about in a number of ways. For instance, leaves may develop red or yellow margins, or suffer from a form of chlorosis, when certain nutrients are lacking in the soil. Such variegations have little or no ornamental value, but they at least provide a useful pointer to nutrient deficiencies.

Most variegations, however, are due to failure of the plant to produce sufficient chlorophyll – the green colouring matter in leaves. As a result, the plant cells do not form in the normal way, the type of variegation depending on the manner in which the cells are arranged.

It may take the form of variously striped formations, leaves with varying degrees of green or yellow, or others where the two sides of a leaf have different colours. Sometimes, parts of a plant will revert to their normal green colouring, and such shoots should be removed by pruning.

Although variegated plants are not to everyone’s taste, they are becoming increasingly popular, especially among flower arrangers. There is even a Variegated Plant Contact Group, set up with the aim of producing a register of all variegated forms.

Earlier reservations about such plants owed something to the belief that all forms of variegation were caused by virus diseases, and better destroyed. This has proved to be untrue, for only about three per cent of such plants show positive signs of virus disease.

One of the advantages of these plants is that they provide interest for long periods -throughout the year in the case of evergreens. With some, the intensity of the colour seems to increase during the dull, drab days of winter.

Although a few variegated plants can be raised from seed, most must be propagated vegetatively.

Following are some of the many variegated plants available. All are reasonably easy to obtain and grow.

Conservatory and house plants

Coleus blumei. A popular pot and bedding plant, with many and varied leaf colourings. Grown solely for its foliage, any flowers should be removed in order to help maintain leaf colour. Though it can be grown from seed, only cuttings will produce plants identical to the parent. Hypoestes sanguinolenta. The dark green leaves have pink spots. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ (mother-in-law’s tongue). The sword- shaped leaves of this plant, some 60-75 cm (2-2 1/2 ft) long, have yellow margins. Tradescantia albiflora ‘Albovittata’ (wandering jew). Easy to grow and propagate (from cuttings), this widely-grown house plant has yellow and cream striped leaves.

Zebrinapendula, syn. Tradescantia zebrina. The silvery-green leaves of this trailing plant have reddish-purple margins.

Apbelandra sqitarrosa ‘Louisae’. One of many species in this genus, it is particularly striking for the intense silver stripe along and across each leaf-also for the four-sided spurs of yellow flowers. Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’. Dark blotches on each side of the central leaf vein are a feature of this dwarf plant. Peperomia metallica. The leaves, carried on reddish-brown stems, are dark green with a metallic lustre and have white stripes along their mid-ribs. PILEA cadierei (aluminium plant). The leaves of this easily-grown species, which grows to only about 30 cm (1 ft), have irregular, silvery-white variegations.


Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ (dogwood). This deciduous species has variegated silvery foliage, with red stems in winter. Prune hard in March to promote new growth.

Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’. The gold-splashed leaves of this vigorous evergreen shrub will brighten any winter’s day. Fuchsia magellanica ‘Gracilis Variegata’. Edged with creamy-yellow, the leaves are flushed with pink. It flowers until the frosts, and will grow from the base again even if the foliage is cut down by cold weather.

Shrubs (cont.)

Philadelphia corotiarius ‘Variegatus’ (mock orange). Leaves with creamy-white variegations, somewhat irregular, are a feature of this bushy, deciduous shrub. Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’. The silver-variegated form of this evergreen shrub is comparatively slow-growing. It does best in acid soil, sheltered from the wind and full sun.


Actinidia kolomikta. Preferring a sunny wall, this vigorous, deciduous climber, which carries white flowers in early summer, has white and pink variegation on its leaves.

Hedera canariensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’. A fast-growing climber, with large leaves that have silvery-white margins. H. colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’, large leaves with light yellow edges. H. helix ‘Goldheart’, fairly small, dark green leaves with bright yellow centres. It looks brilliant on a winter’s day. Lonicera japonica ‘Aureoreticulata’ (Japanese honeysuckle). An evergreen climber with leaves that are netted with gold.


Ligustritm ovalifolium ‘Aureum’ (golden privet). So much more attractive than the plain green type, the leaves have yellow edges.

Prunus lusitanica ‘Variegata’ (Portugal laurel). The silvery variegations of the leaves make this an attractive hedging plant.

Ground cover

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’. A trailing, evergreen species, with silver-variegated leaves. The young foliage of E.f.

‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ is a bright gold. Both benefit from an occasional light trimming.

Lamium galeobdolon ‘Variegatum’ is very rampant; the evergreen silvery leaves turn bronze in the autumn. It has yellow flowers in May and June. Pachysandra terminalis ‘Variegata’. An evergreen with white-edged leaves that grows best in semi-shade. Vinca major ‘Variegata’ (greater periwinkle). The leaves of this popular ground-cover plant, which thrives in dry shade, are blotched and edged with creamy-white. It has bright blue flowers in late spring. The leaves of V. minor ‘Aureo Variegata’ are yellow and green. More compact than V. major, with blue or white flowers.


Acer negundo ‘Variegatum’ (box elder). The leaves of this medium-sized deciduous tree, growing to about 6 m (2c ft), have white margins. Suitable for small gardens.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentco Marginata’ (holly). Both male and female forms have silver-edged foliage; the female bears berries in abundance. Can be grown as a tree or a large bush.


Abutilon striatum ‘Thompsonii’. Although strictly a greenhouse plant, cuttings taken in August can be planted among annuals the following season. The leaves have mottled yellow variegations. Humulus japonicus ‘Variegatus’. With its green and white foliage, this quick-growing plant will soon cover a screen or fence.

Ornamental cabbage. These plants are increasingly grown in flower borders, because of their curled and fringed, creamy-white and rose-coloured leaves. Pelargonium. The boldly-zoned foliage of many cultivars complements the beauty of the flowers. Although perennial it is used for bedding.

Herbaceous plants

Hosta fortunei ‘Albopicta’. The leaves have pale green edges and bright yellow centres. Best grown in a moist, shady spot; there are many other variegated cultivars.

Phormium tenax ‘Maori Chief’ (New Zealand flax). This plant has sword-shaped leaves, striped pink and bronze, but there are many other cultivars with different variegations. Not hardy enough for cold areas but will survive most winters in the south and west of Britain. Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs Moon’ or P.s.

‘Bowles Red’. Both have marbled white foliage and will grow in sun or shade. The pink and blue flowers come in April or May.


Ajuga reptans ‘Variegata’ (bugle). It makes a carpet of light green and buff foliage, with blue flowers in late spring. Aubrieta deltoidca ‘Variegata’. The purple flowers, from April to May, stem from a carpet of green and gold leaves. Thymus x citriodorus (lemon-scented thyme). There are a number of cultivars with silver-margined leaves, including ‘Silver Posie’ and ‘Silver Queen’. Pale-lilac flowers are borne during the summer.

Coastal Gardening

The hostile elements of wind, salt and sand present a real challenge to coastal gardeners. The exact nature of that challenge depends on whether one has to cope with cold, blustery winds from the north; penetrating and drying east winds; persistent, rain-bearing winds from the west; or the warmer, sometimes balmy, winds of southern coasts.

Salt-laden winds from the sea are damaging enough, but those carrying whipped-up sand have an abrasive effect on stems and leaves. Some plants have become adapted to cope with such conditions, developing needle-shaped leaves or tough, leathery surfaces, while others have a protective covering of hairs.

Ideal specimen

Some plants, such as Armcria maritima, advertise their preference for location. Also known as sea pink, this attractive dwarf perennial has linear, strap-like leaves and bears heads of pink flowers from late spring.

Mild coastal areas Although the coast is not as prone to frost as inland areas, winter is still a testing time for plants. Those that can be grown with reasonable confidence include Eryngium maritimiirn, Bud die ia cohillei and Grevillca rosmarinifolia.

Important though such plants are, they offer only a small selection compared to those available to the inland gardener. However, the range of suitable plants increases dramatically if the garden can be given some protection. Indeed, the low incidence of frost in gardens on southern and some western coasts allows, with suitable protection, a range of plants to be grown that are difficult, or even impossible, to cultivate in inland gardens.

Nevertheless, it must be recognized that, sooner or later, severe weather will strike even these favoured areas. When this happens, as it does at least once in most decades, one’s treasured, carefully nurtured plants may be lost.

Protective screening can be formed by living materials, such as a hedge, or by a man-made structure, such as wattle fencing. On an exposed site the latter comes first, enabling a second line of defence – a living windbreak- to gain a hold.

The fact to keep in mind is that the purpose of a screen is to filter the wind rather than to attempt to stop it dead. On the leeward side of a solid wall there are eddies and damaging turbulence, whereas trellis, slatted panels or wattle hurdles achieve their object by robbing the wind of its initial force.

Plastic windbreaks, sold in rolls of varying heights and grades, are particularly effective. Supported by stout poles, they are not especially attractive but they will have served their purpose once the living screen planted in their lee has become established.

Two plants especially suitable for screening are Cupressus macrocarpa and x Cupressocyparis Icylandii. Hedges that, once established, make admirable windbreaks include Aucubajaponica; Elaeagnus x ebbingei; Escallonia ‘Crimson Spire’; Griselinia littoralis (not fully frost-hardy); Hippopbae rbamnoides (sea buckthorn); Lonkera ledebourii; Querciis ilex (evergreen oak); Ribes alpinitm; Senecio rotun-dijolius; Vlex europacus (common gorse) and U.e.

‘Flore Pleno’, the double form.

Arundinaria japonica (bamboo) makes an effective filter. It is a rather untidy, somewhat invasive plant, however, and a lot of work is involved if, at a later stage, you should wish to get rid of it.

Plants with specific and common names that tell of their association with the sea are Armeria maritima (sea pink); Crarnbe maritirna (sea kale); Eryngium maritimum (sea holly); Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) and Limonium vulgare (sea lavender). These, and that favourite coastal plant, Tamarix anglica (tamarisk) are reliable choices. So also are Senecio cineraria, syn. S. maritimus (sea ragwort) and, except in very cold areas, S. laxifolius.

In the warmer south, where there is less chance of frost damage, plants that can be grown with reasonable confidence include the charming Grevillea rosmarinifolia, the large-flowered hebes and pittosporums. For a sunny, well-sheltered spot, try the handsome Buddleia colvillei.

Of course, not all coastal gardens are exposed to the full force of wind, salt and sand. A little further inland, perhaps sheltered by houses or other gardens, much better conditions can prevail. Here, climbers and wall plants that are at risk on even a ‘warm’ wall inland may be planted with greater confidence. Among these are Campsis radicans (trumpet vine) and the larger-flowered C. grandijlora, with their deep orange-scarlet, trumpet-shaped blooms. Passiflora caerulea (passion flower) will stand a better chance of ripening its fruit. Solly a heterophylla is worth growing for its sky-blue flowers. Trachelospermum jasminoides is a Chinese plant with a delightful scent. The flowers of Clianthus puniceus are crimson, and shaped to warrant its common names of lobster-claw or parrot’s bill. Fremon-todcndron californicum has felted leaves and lovely yellow flowers.

A mild, coastal climate has a marked effect on some plants. Species normally considered herbaceous may prove to be evergreen. Half-hardy perennials may survive the winter outdoors. In the west, especially, growth and foliage benefit from the moist atmosphere and lawns grow particularly well.

Trees must be well supported and it would be wise to concentrate on the shorter kinds. Where wind remains a problem, in spite of shelter, it would be better to avoid plants with brittle stems and shoots. The taller dahlias and other large-flowered plants are particularly at risk.

Hardy perennials worth considering are Achillea species and hybrids, forms of Chrysanthemum maximum, Iris unguicul-aris, Kniphofia species and hybrids, Sedum spectahile and Veronica spicata.

Rock garden plants attuned to seaside conditions include Aethionema species and hybrids, forms of Aubrieta deltoidea, Di-anthus species and hybrids, Hypericum olympicum, forms of Iris pumila, Polygonum a/fine, Silene schafta and Zauschneria species.

A s a rule, keen gardeners are very aware of the soil quality when choosing a new property. Rhododendron-lovers, for instance, will go to great lengths to ensure that the land is suitably acid. However, it is not always possible to get exactly what you want, and a limy or chalky soil need not be limiting when it comes to choosing interesting and beautiful plants.

All the plants listed here are hardy and perennial, their main need being good drainage, especially during their resting time. Colour, foliage and form have been taken into consideration with a view to providing continuing, year-round interest.

Most of the plants mentioned will be found at larger garden centres. For others, it may be necessary to track down specialist nurserymen.

Foliage plants

Astrantia ‘Sunningdale Variegated’. Height 25 cm (10 in). Perennial. Divided leaves, variegated yellow and cream, which look their best in spring. Aubrieta deltoidea ‘Aureovariegata’. Height 5 cm (2 in). Evergreen. Compact gold and green rosettes, with light purple flowers in spring.

Daphne cneorum ‘Variegata’ (garland flower). Height 15 cm (6 in). Prostrate shrub. Evergreen leaves with yellow margins. Pink, fragrant flowers in May. Euryops acraeus. Height 30 cm (1 ft). Evergreen shrub. Intense silvery leaves; bright yellow, daisy-like flowers in May.

Hebe oebracea ‘James Stirling’. Height 45 cm (1.5 ft). Shrub. The foilage has an old gold colour. Occasional white flowers. Mertensia asiatica. Trailing. Herbaceous. Bluish-grey leaves, with drooping, tubular, blue flowers in June. Ribes alpinum ‘Aureum’. Height 38 cm (15 in). Deciduous shrub. The young leaves are a soft yellow. Attractive leaf-buds in winter.

Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Weston’ (cotton lavender). Height 38 cm (15 in). Evergreen shrub. Annual pruning of this grey-leaved bushlet serves to intensify the colour.

Saxifraga mosebata ‘Cloth of Gold’. Height 5 cm (2 in). Evergreen perennial. Bright yellow ‘mossy’ rosettes, with white flowers in April or May. Grow in light shade.

Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’. Height 20 cm (8 in). Herbaceous. Dusky pink flower-heads, in late summer, over fleshy, glaucous-purple leaves. Spiraea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’. Height 60-90 cm (2-3 ft). Deciduous shrub. The new leaves are a glowing orange-red, becoming golden later. Regular priming produces dense growth with fine colouring.

Veronica incana. Height 23 cm (9 in). Herbaceous. A mat-forming plant with silver-grey leaves. Spikes of blue flowers during June.

Dwarf shrubs

Berberis thunbergii ‘Bagatelle’. Height 38 cm (15 in). Deciduous. A real pygmy with coppery-red leaves. Annual growth is about 2.5 cm (1 in). Hebe cupressoides ‘Boughton Dome’. Height 45 cm (1.5 ft). Evergreen. A conifer-like, slow-growing shrub. Jasminum parkeri. Height 30 cm (1 ft). Evergreen. This jasmine is sprinkled with tubular yellow flowers in June, followed by black berries.

Penstemon newberyi. Height 30 cm (1 ft). Sub-shrub. Spreading stems and narrow leaves. The flowers, in June, are ruby-red and tubular.

Prunus tenella ‘Firehill’. Height 90 cm (3 ft). Deciduous. A slow suckering almond, with erect, slender stems. Deep pink flowers on bare stems in April. Salix helvetica. Height 90 cm (3 ft). Deciduous. The new leaves on this attractive bushy willow are intensely silver-grey, with a downy texture. Good catkins in March.

Syringa afghanica. Height 90 cm (3 ft). Deciduous. This dwarf lilac is grown principally for its dissected foliage. Typical lilac flowers in May. Verbascum ‘Letitia’. Height 30 cm (1 ft). Shrubby. Upright woody stems with grey-green leaves. Clear yellow mullein flowers over a long period in summer.

Alpine beds

Aethionemapiilchellum. Height 23 cm (9 in). Evergreen perennial. A low bush of steel-blue leaves. Rounded, sugar-pink flower-heads from May to July. Campanula ‘Elizabeth Oliver’. Height 8 cm (3 in). Herbaceous. Completely double flowers of a curious silvery-blue in July. Modest spreading habit. Daphne retusa. Height to 60 cm (2 ft). An evergreen shrub with glossy leaves and sweetly-scented, rose-purple flowers in May.

Diascia ‘Ruby Field’. Height 23 cm (9 in). Herbaceous. Produces a summer-long succession of glowing pink flowers.

Dicentra ‘Stuart Boothman’. Height 23 cm (9 in). Herbaceous. A vigorous plant for sun or shade. Finely cut blue-grey leaves, and pink flowers in April. Gentiana asclepiadea. Height 60 cm (2 ft). Herbaceous. A plant for light shade. A blue, trumpet-shaped flower emerges from each leaf axil in late summer. Geranium farreri. Height 10 cm (4 in). Herbaceous. Crinkled leaves, followed by soft pink, black-anthered flowers throughout the summer. Hacquetia epipactis. Height 8 cm (3 in). Herbaceous. Low tufts of trifoliate leaves and apple-green bracts, on which sit yellow flowers in February. Leucanthemum hosmariense (syn. Chrysanthemum hosmariense). Height 30 cm (1 ft). Shrub. Snow-white, golden-eyed daisies are borne in March over cut, silver-green leaves. A mild winter will produce a ‘bonus’ crop of flowers. Lithodora oleifolia. Height 15 cm (6 in). Sub-shrub. Silvery-green leaves; pendent blue flowers throughout summer. Increases by underground runners. Oenothera glaber. Height 30 cm (1 ft). Herbaceous. Woody stems clothed with mahogany-coloured leaves. Clustered, rich yellow flowers in early summer. Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’. Height 1 j cm (6 in). Herbaceous. Short stems carry papery, apple-green and pink bracts. Tubular pink flowers during late summer. Penstemon heterophylltis ‘Blue Spire’. Height 38 cm (15 in). Deciduous shrub. Clear blue, tubular flowers, with just a hint of pink, in June and July. Phlox ‘Daniel’s Cushion’. Height 5 cm (2 in). Herbaceous. A good mat-forming plant, with enormous rose-pink flowers in May.

‘Russet’ has coloured foliage during the winter.

Polygonatum hookeri. Height 8 cm (3 in). Herbaceous. Masses of pointed leaves. Starry-pink flowers in May.

Polygonum tenuicaule. Height 10 cm (4 in). Herbaceous. A shade-loving plant producing dense spikes of white flowers over dark green leaves in early spring. Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Alba Superba’. Height 23 cm (9 in). Herbaceous. Pure white, almost tubular, flowers during April and May. Fresh green leaves soon follow. Ranunculus calandrinoides. Height 1 5 cm (6 in). Herbaceous. A summer dormancy precedes the long, grey-green leaves that appear in September and October. They are followed by clear pink buttercups, some 5 cm (2 in) across, throughout mild winters, and in spring. Roscoea cautleoides ‘Grandiflora’. Height 23 cm (9 in). Herbaceous. This plant does not emerge until the end of May. The orchid-like flowers, soft yellow in colour, open in June and July. Satureja montana var. subspicata. Height 23 cm (9 in). Sub-shrub. This aromatic-leaved plant has lavender-coloured flowers in late summer. Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’. Height 8 cm (3 in). Herbaceous. Gold and green leaves. Yellow flower-heads, ageing to crimson, in late summer. Sisyrinchium helium ‘Album’. Height 10 cm (4 in). Herbaceous and clump-forming. Small iris-like leaves, and large white flowers over a long period during the summer.

Zauschneria californica ‘Dublin’ (Californian fuchsia). Height up to 30 cm (1 ft). Herbaceous. A bushlct with narrow, grey-green leaves. Vivid, orange-red tubular flowers as autumn approaches.

House Plants

Though most house plants are not difficult to grow, they will remain healthy and attractive only if given the correct care. The way they are displayed is important, too, including their grouping, the choice of pot holders, regular cleaning, and the neat staking and tying of climbing plants.

House plants fall into two main categories. The first consists of pot plants, grown on a seasonal basis, that are either discarded after they have flowered or else moved to the garden or greenhouse. The ones for discarding include Calceolaria, Celosia, Cineraria and Solarium. Those for moving elsewhere comprise such plants as azaleas, primroses and bulbs. The second category is made up of flowering or foliage plants that provide a more or less continuous display. The aim should be to have a combination of both types.


When choosing and positioning plants, the most important points to note are their particular needs in terms of light, temperature and humidity. Having attended to these, it is vital to water them correctly. POSITIONING Photosynthesis is the process by which plants acquire the energy to grow and flower. Light is an essential factor, but

THIS is severely reduced in most rooms. Fortunately, the light requirements of individual plants vary considerably and there are species for most places, except where there is no light at all.

Most of the pot plants in the first, seasonal category need cool, light conditions in order to flower well for a long time. In a dark corner of a hot, dry living room, the flowers will almost certainly fade and not be replaced by new ones. An azalea in this position would soon begin to drop its leaves and die.

House plants that remain indoors permanently will mostly manage with less light, many having their origins in tropical forests. Some of these plants, adapted to shade, will flower indoors in a relatively-dull position. Most climbing plants, however, need some direct light in order to flower, for in their natural surroundings they would attain a position at the tops of TREES where the sun would initiate THE flower buds.

In addition, other house plants are derived from species that grow on open grass plains, in Mediterranean coastal areas or in deserts. Naturally, these need some direct light if their foliage is not to become pale and drawn.

Where light comes from one direction only – from a nearby window, for instance – the plant should be turned regularly so that growth does not lean to one side. Bear in mind, too, that plants with variegated or brightly-coloured leaves need an extra share of light in order to show to best advantage.

HUMIDITY House plants from the tropics do best in warm, moist conditions, but the average living room provides a hot, dry environment. The following steps will increase humidity:

I. Syringe plants regularly, dispersing a fine, mist-like spray over the leaves. 2. Stand the pots in larger containers, with moistened pebbles under and around them, so that water can evaporate around the plants without the pots becoming unduly wet. 3. Alternatively, use a large, tall contain er and pack around the pot with moist sphagnum moss.

Group several pot plants in a container of moist peat, plunging the pots to their rims.

If the air is particularly dry, keep small plants in bottle gardens or terraria to provide a moist micro-environment.

If even these steps prove inadequate, move moisture-lovers to a steamy bathroom or kitchen.

Watering It is inadvisable to water plants only from beneath, and better to water carefully from the top, giving sufficient to soak right through the pot.

In either case, the most important thing is to make sure that plants do not stand in water for any length of time. Their roots, as well as the visible parts of the plant, need to breathe, and to make this possible the soil must dry out sufficiently between waterings for air to get into the tiny spaces around the roots. In soil that is continually waterlogged, pot plants are liable to wilt, as if they were dry, because the roots are dying and can no longer take up water.

The best rule is to wait until the top inch of soil starts to become dry and crumbly before watering the plant again, and it should then be given a good soak. Judge by touching the compost with your fingers and feeling the weight of the pot. Avoid watering little and often.

If plants become bone dry, plunge them into a deep container, submerging the pot until it is thoroughly soaked. Generally, but particularly with cuttings and seedlings, use water at room temperature.

There are some plants that dislike tap-water, especially in hard-water areas. Noted for this are ericas, azaleas and carnivorous plants. Try to save rainwater, which contains no lime, for such plants.

Holiday times give rise to the biggest watering problems, especially in the absence of helpful neighbours. If plants have to be left unattended for a week or two, move them away from windows and direct sunlight. Although contrary to normal practice, leave plenty of water in the containers, perhaps standing several plants in a bath of shallow water. Various ‘automatic’ watering systems involving a reservoir, tubes and capillary matting can be bought, but none is really fail-safe.

A simple method, though reliable only with plastic pots, is to fill the kitchen sink and place one end of a piece of wet capillary matting in the water, with the remainder lying on the draining board. If clay pots are used, insert short wicks of matting through the drainage holes. Place the plants on the matting, making sure that they are well watered, and draw the curtains half way across the window.

If you are likely to be away for long periods it would be wise to stick to cacti, succulents and such plants as Sansevieria (mother-in-law’s-tongue) or Dracaena, which can survive for long periods without water.

The alternative would be to make use of hydroponics. The equipment can be bought as sets, the containers having a sightglass and an indicator to show when the water reservoir needs topping up. This should be required only every few weeks, and fertilizer is added to the system every six months.

Feeding Most pot plants in active growth will need feeding when their roots have filled the pots and taken up all the fertilizer in the compost. This is done by means of a liquid feed, a foliar feed, a slow-release fertilizer or a top dressing. Feeding is needed after about six weeks for soil-less composts, two or three months for John Innes composts.

When buying fertilizer you should be able to find on the label a breakdown of the ratio of N (Nitrogen) to P (Phosphorous) to K (Potassium), and a list of trace elements. This is useful, for there are times when you may wish to vary the ratios given. In summer, for instance, when much leafy growth is desirable, a feed rich in nitrogen is preferable. In contrast, the application of a fertilizer with abundant potassium (potash) will give a better flowering performance. Tomato fertilizers are suitable for this.

Liquid feed is mixed with water and applied during a routine watering, though plants that are either very dry or very wet should not be fed. In the former case, the fertilizer may be too strong for the roots; in the latter, the fertilizer will not be taken up by the saturated soil.

Potting on When a house plant’s compost is full of root, it is time to pot it on. This should be done when the plant is in active growth. Take care never to move a plant into a pot that is too large.

Moistened pebbles Humidity can be increased locally by standing the plant pot on a bed of moistened pebbles or gravel.


Foliar feed is applied as a spray to the plants’ leaves, which will absorb it. Some liquid feeds have foliar properties, also, and can be taken up by the plant in both ways.

Slow-release fertilizers are added to the soil as tablets or sticks which release their contents into the soil gradually as the plant requires it.

Top dressing is the addition of compost and fertilizer to the surface of a large pot. The fertilizer may be instantly available or of a slow-release type, and the method is particularly useful with large plants that are too big to be potted on further. Loosen and scrape off the surface of the old soil before adding a couple of inches of fresh compost and fertilizer.

Plants which are resting during the winter, such as cacti or Bougainville a, do not require feeding. Neither will flowering specimens of such plants as Cineraria, because they are at the end of their lives.


Both peat-based and loam-based composts are suitable for house plants, but there are a number of points to be made about each. Most proprietary peat-based composts contain some fine sand and fertilizers as well as the peat. They are very light and fine and, although ideal for many plants -especially the more permanent kinds – they do have some disadvantages. Being light, if the plant is very tall or one-sided the pot may become unstable. Also, when dry it is often difficult to soak the compost again.

A good compost can be made by mixing the following ingredients thoroughly: 3 parts fine, moist peat. I part sharp sand or grit. A well-balanced fertilizer with trace elements, preferably one with slow-release properties. (Follow the manufacturer’s instructions as to quantity.) Some ground chalk, the quantity of which will be indicated with the fertilizer instructions. Omit this for acid-loving plants. Note that sharp sand or grit is used in this mixture instead of fine sand. It gives more stability, and assists the passage of water through the soil.

The most widely-available loam-based compost is John Innes, which is sold in three different grades, I to 3. The numbers denote different fertilizer contents, the amount rising with the number. This compost was developed at the John Innes Institute and, when made correctly WITH good quality ingredients, is excellent. In practice, quality does vary with the supplier. The supply of nutrients in John Innes compost lasts longer than with peat-based composts, while the compost’s weight provides a more secure anchor for plants.

One of the reasons for variable quality is the loam itself. Ideally, it should be made by cutting turves and stacking them, grass side down, until well rotted. The sieved results of this provide a good, fibrous ingredient. However, most of the loam now used is really just top soil, which can vary a great deal, depending on its origins.

If a reliable source of compost is available, with the product feeling fibrous, not sticky, and smelling fresh, then use it. The best safeguard is to look on the bag for the seal of approval of the John Innes Manufacturers’ Association. Otherwise, switch to a peat-based mix as these are always of dependable quality.

POTTING When potting plants, there are a few basic rules to observe: Never pot a plant into a pot that is too large for it. Generally, a small cutting or seedling, depending on size, should go into a 6 cm, 8 cm or 9 cm (2.5 in, 3 in, or 3.5 in) pot. Once that pot is full of root, then a plant in an 8 cm (3 in) pot would be potted on to an 11 cm (4.5 in) pot, a 9 cm (3.5 in) to a 13 cm (5 in) pot, and so on. The amount of roots and the need for repotting can be checked by inverting the plant and pot, supporting the soil ball with one hand while the pot is removed with the other.

It is better not to repot a plant which has been dormant, or while the temperature is low. Wait until it shows signs of active growth, with new shoots and leaves forming, before potting. 3. Either clay or plastic pots may be used. Those made of plastic are lighter and easier to handle, but being less porous there is a greater risk of over-watering. Plants in clay pots dry out faster.

Always use a clean pot. If old soil is clinging to the sides it will be hard to knock the plant out cleanly when the time comes to pot it on again. There is also a risk of spreading pests and diseases. If fungus diseases have been a problem, it is worth sterilizing the pots as well.

Never pot on a dry plant, and always water a fresh-potted house plant immediately. For this, use a can with a rose to settle the compost around the roots.

If the plant is very pot-bound, so that the roots are packed around the side, tease out a few roots to aid their penetration into the new compost.

Try to keep the plant at its original level in the new pot.

When potting with a peat-based mix, avoid firming the compost too thoroughly around the old root ball. It will become firm enough when watered in. However, always pot firmly when using a loam-based MIX.


House plant growers seem loath to take up their secateurs to prune their plants. Nevertheless, correct pruning keeps plants compact and bushy and promotes greater vigour. Make pruning cuts above a node (the positions on the stem from which leaves arise) because a shoot will then develop from the bud in the axil of the leaf.

Pruning also encourages the production of strong new shoots for propagation by cuttings, especially with old, woody plants where the material for cuttings would otherwise be very hard and much slower to root. Some climbing plants in the house need regular pruning if they are to do well over a long period.

The following common house plants all benefit from pruning: Allamanda catbartica (golden trumpet). A golden-flowered climber, this plant should be cut back by about two thirds in February and trained over a frame or trellis. Retain several long main shoots, shortening these to the top of the frame.

Younger growths arising from the main stems should be spurred back to within one or two buds. The plant will subsequently flower on growths arising from the cuts.

Aphelandra (zebra plant). Cut the plant down to within 5-8 cm (2-3 in) of the soil after the yellow flowers and bracts have faded. The shoots that result will grow and flower again, or they can be used as cuttings.

Ardisia crenata (coral berry). An upright, leathery-leaved plant which bears masses of red, long-lasting berries. After several years the plant will become very tall and, although continuing to flower and berry, will have a long woody stem.

When it becomes unattractive, cut it down to within a few inches of the soil, making the cut above a node, as usual. Fresh shoots will arise to grow and produce berries. Shoots from the top of the old plant may be used as cuttings, and seeds from old berries may be sown.

Bougainvillea. Cut hard back in February after a resting period during the colder months. During this time, keep the plants in a cool room, though with the temperature above freezing, and also very dry. Most of the leaves will drop off.

After their first year when grown from a cutting, make the cut about 2.5 cm (1 in) from the surface of the soil, leaving at least two buds on the stem. After another year’s growth, during which time the buds will have produced strong shoots and flowers, cut the shoots back to within a bud of the older wood, leaving small spurs. In this way the plants can be kept small and tidy.

The flowering wood can be staked and tied easily. If desired, a few long shoots may be retained, and growths arising from them spurred back to within one or two buds to allow the plant to climb over a larger area.

Citrus. These plants may become rather unruly if not pruned every year, so shorten the shoots by about two thirds in spring. If an old plant is very untidy it is quite safe to cut it back harder into relatively old wood. Always cut above a node and water very carefully until new growth resumes.

Clerodendmm thomsoniae. A rest period is needed during the winter, when the plant must be kept cooler and drier than normal. After this period, and as it begins to produce new shoots, prune it back by half of the previous year’s growth.

Columned. Whether they are grown in pots or hanging baskets, trim these trailing plants after flowering or else they will become very old and woody. Trim the growths back to a point around the rim of the pot or basket. Keep the plants a little drier than usual until new shoots develop.

Dieffenbdchid (dumb cane). After a while, these plants become very tall, with the leaves at the base turning yellow and dropping off. When they become unattractive, cut the succulent stem down to within a few inches of the soil above a node. Watered moderately, without allowing the soil to dry out completely, new shoots will grow to make a fresh plant.

Note that the sap is poisonous, causing the mouth and tongue to become swollen and painful if brought into contact with the sap.

Euphorbia puleberrimd (poinsettia). Generally known by its common name, the brightly-coloured bracts of this plant are prominent in the shops at Christmas time. It can be brought on for a further year by the following means.

After the bracts have faded, allow the compost to become almost dry. If the plant is kept in a cool place, most of the leaves will fall. In April, prune it back to within about 8 cm (3 in) of the base and water well. Place the plant in a warmer position and water it carefully until new growth begins. If you wish, some of the resulting growths may be used as cuttings.

Bear in mind that, with natural lighting, poinsettias will produce colourful bracts for Christmas. However, if they are kept in artificial light, make sure that the plants are in total, uninterrupted darkness for fourteen hours each day over an eight-week period.

Hibiscus. If not pruned regularly, these plants will grow into large, woody shrubs. In spring, cut back all the growths to within about 15 cm (6 in) of the base.

Hypoestes sdngninolentd (polka dot plant). The many shoots of this plant have spotted leaves, but after a season’s growth the foliage becomes dull and tangled. Wait until new shoots appear at the base under the old leaves, then cut away all the old growth and let the new take over.

Jdsminum polydnthum. When the plant becomes woody and unattractive, do not hesitate to prune all the shoots back by at least two thirds to encourage new growth. Do this after flowering, about June.

Mdndevilla splendens. Flowering on the current year’s growth, most of this needs to be cut away during the autumn when flowering is nearly over. Keep the plant drier and cooler during the winter, then gradually increase the watering in spring to promote the new season’s shoots and flowers.

If the plant is trained as a climber, it can be left unpruned until it starts to exceed its boundaries.

Monstera deliciosd. There is a tendency for these plants to take over whole rooms, so do not hesitate to cut back very hard to within three or four nodes of the base if necessary. Shoots will either be there waiting, or will be readily produced to replace the old ones.

It does not damage the plant to trim off its aerial roots either. However, the best way to grow them is by providing a moss pole for the plant to cling to. If the moss is kept moist by syringing, the aerial roots will cling to it.

Nerium ok’dnder. Often grown as a reminder of Mediterranean holidays, neriums will become very large if not pruned. Plenty of flowers can be produced by quite small but manageable plants.

After a plant raised from a cutting has grown and flowered, cut it hard back to within 15-30 cm (6-12 in) of the soil. New shoots will produce a much more branched plant. After every flowering season, shorten the shoots by at least half.

Paebystachys luted. Their bright yellow bracts have helped these plants to become very popular in the home. Kept in bright, but not direct, light and in reasonable warmth, they will flower almost continuously, but eventually will become rather tall and woody.

At this point, cut them back by a good two-thirds, then give them a short rest period of cooler, drier conditions before bringing them on again. Time this renewal to coincide with spring so that they may benefit from the increased light. 33°

Passiflora caerulea. This is the most commonly grown passion flower, but the same information applies to other species. Strong, young, established plants should be cut down to within about 15 cm (6 in) of the soil in spring, and main shoots pruned thereafter to keep them within the bounds of their trellis or frame. Prune side branches to 5-8 cm (2-3 in). Old, very tangly plants can be cut hard back quite safely to promote a complete replacement by new growth.

Philodendron. Prune as for Monstera.

Tradescantia. When they become straggly and unattractive, trim them right back to the top of the pot. A mass of new stems will result very quickly. This also applies to related plants, such as Callisia and Zebrina.


In the home, it is difficult but by no means impossible to provide the light, warmth and humidity necessary for most methods of propagation. The purchase of a small propagating unit, with controlled heating, will help, and will allow a larger range of plants and methods to be tried.

Hormone rooting compounds applied to cut surfaces will promote root development. Many of the powders contain a fungicide to reduce the risk of disease. Since these compounds lose their effectiveness if they are stored for too long a period, buy them in small quantities and use while fresh.

Propagation is either vegetative or by seed, the simplest form of vegetative propagation being by division.


This method is used to increase plants, such as Aspidistra, Maranta and Spatbipbyllum, which form clumps of growths in their pots. It is usually done when the original plant has grown too large for its pot.

Knock the plant out and prise the old clump apart into several smaller ones. Frequently, this is hard to do as the old root-ball is virtually solid. In this case, take the plant outside and use two forks back to back to prise the clump apart, in much the same way as when dividing herbaceous plants. On a small scale, use handforks.

With this stage completed, pot the resulting plants in good compost and water them in. Allow the surface of the soil to become dry before watering again, for it is critical not to allow the soil to become waterlogged at this point. Wet soil discourages root development. OFFSETS Frequently, plants such as Sanse-vieria and bromeliads produce offsets. To make use of them, take the original plant out of its pot, separate the offsets and sever them from the parent with a sharp knife. The offsets can then be potted up.

If they have a few roots, John Innes potting compost No. 1 may be used. However, if there are no roots it is better to use a cuttings compost.


This technique also is carried out while the parent plant is out of the pot. Plants suitable for this method of propagation usually have thread-like roots, which should be detached and cut into sections measuring 1.3-2.5 cm (V2-1 in). Lay these on the surface of some cuttings compost and cover with at least 13 mm (0.5 in) of the mixture. Water them in and keep moist.

After a few weeks, shoots will grow up from the roots. Plumbago indica and Phyllanthus nivosus can be propagated in this way.

TOES If you examine the base of the root-ball of an Aspidistra or Cordyline it is possible to find fleshy knobs instead of the normal fibrous root growth. These may be detached, about 1.3-5 cm (V2-2 in) long, depending on the thickness, and potted about 2.5 cm (1 in) below the surface of a good potting compost. SHOOT CUTTINGS

These are what most people think of as ‘ordinary’ cuttings. Select strong, healthy shoots, and, if the plant is variegated, choose those showing good, balanced variegation.

Make a clean cut beneath a node, and trim away the bottom leaves of the cutting to make insertion into the cuttings mix easier. It is important not to make the cutting too long, an average length being 8 cm (3 in). The extra leaves on long cuttings result in excessive loss of moisture which cannot be replaced. 33i

If the cuttings have very long leaves, trim these shorter so that the cuttings are not top-heavy and so that five or six of average size can be placed around the edge of an 8-10 cm (3-4 in) pot. Rooting is always better if the pot is full of cuttings.


This should consist of 50% peat, together with 50% grit, sharp sand, Perlite or a mixture of these. The peat should be quite fine, and well-moistened before use. The drainage ingredient is a matter of personal choice and availability, but one or other of those listed is vital to ensure that water runs through the compost, as opposed to clogging it. Mix the ingredients well.

Most cuttings need more humidity than is available in a normal room. Water is continuously leaving the plant through the leaves, and there is as yet no root system to replace it fast enough. This IS another reason why only sufficient leaves are left on the cutting to provide food for growth.

If you do not have a propagating case, place a polythene bag over the pot. Alternatively, a plastic top for an individual pot can be made by screwing the lid back onto an empty plastic squash bottle and cutting off the top 18 cm (7 in) or so.

Most cuttings should be kept as warm and moist as possible. However, there are a few that do not require humidity to root. Pelargoniums will rot if covered, and should be left open in good light. Cacti and succulents, too, prefer a dry environment. It is quite possible to root a wide range of cuttings in water, Tradescantia and Impa-tiens being particularly well known for this. Other cuttings which seem more than happy in water have been exploited as aquarium plants and, given good lighting, they survive in aquaria for long periods. Examples include Alternanthera, Fittonia, Pilea and Syngonium.


Stem sections of plants such as Dieffenbaebia and Dracaena, each containing two to three nodes, will provide cuttings. No leaves are required on them. Stems are either laid on the compost horizontally or inserted upright to half their length. In each case, water them in and keep them warm and humid until roots and shoots appear.

X Fatsbedera can be propagated by means of sections of stem containing two nodes, with cuts below the bottom one and above the top one. The top leaf is left on, the bottom one removed, and the cuttings inserted in the normal way.

Apbelandra can be propagated by making a cut above and below one node, with the leaf left on. Push this leaf-bud cutting into the cuttings mix so that the roots will grow down and the shoot will grow out from the leaf axil. If stock is scarce, slit the stem lengthways to obtain two cuttings.


With all types, choose leaves that are strong and healthy.

Saintpaulia and Peperomia root from the leaf stalk or petiole, so cut them from the parent plant with 2.5 cm (1 in) of stalk attached and insert them almost up to the leaf in cuttings mix.

Keep the cuttings warm and humid, waiting until small plantlets appear before disturbing them. Saintpaulias also root quite readily in water.

Begonia rex and B. masoniana leaves may be used entire. Cut the prominent veins in several places and place the leaf flat on the surface of a tray of cuttings mix. Hold it in place with pebbles.

Alternatively, leaves can be cut into sections the size of large postage stamps. Each should contain a main vein and be placed flat on the cuttings mix.

The place where the strongest roots occur is the area of thick veins where the leaf stalk is attached. Triangular cuttings, each containing a section of this vein, are possible. Insert upright in the compost.

With the first two methods it is essential to water the cuttings mix first. With all three methods the cuttings should be watered afterwards.

Streptocarpus leaves may be used for cuttings, too. Either cut a whole leaf into sections, each 4 cm (1.5 in) long and inserted upright, or else cut the leaf lengthways down the vein. The vein is discarded, leaving two long strips of leaf. Insert each of these about 13 mm (0.5 in) deep, with the cut edges of the veins downwards. When the small plantlets that arise at the ends of the veins are large enough to handle, separate them and pot into small pots.


This method is used for propagating large plants with thick, woody stems that are too mature to root easily as ordinary cuttings. Ficus bengalensis, F. benjamina and F. elastica (rubber plant) may be propagated in this way.

Cut two rings around the stem, 13 mm (0.5 in) apart, and peel the bark away. Brush hormone rooting powder gently onto the cut surface.

Tie one end of a piece of sheet plastic below the cut, fill with moist sphagnum moss, packing it around the cut, then tie the other end tightly around the top above the cut to seal the area filled with moist moss. When roots become visible, cut off and pot the rooted cutting.


Plants such as Saxifraga stoloni-fera and Chloropbytum, that produce plantlets, can be propagated by removing these little growths and pushing them firmly into a cuttings mix, watering them and providing a warm, but not too humid environment until they have rooted and begun to grow on their own.

Alternatively, the plantlets can be rooted while still on the parent, severing the runner after roots have formed.

Some grow plantlets on their leaves or fronds, which may be similarly detached and rooted. Examples include Tolmiea menziesii (pick-a-back plant) Asplenium bulbiferum and Bryophyllum daigremon-tianum syn. Kalanchoe daigremontiana (Mexican hat plant).


Some plants form underground tubers, which are used for propagation. Many species in the family Gesneriaceae, such as Achimenes, Sinningia and Kohleria, have this characteristic, as do members of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. The Aroids, such as large and small species and varieties of Zantedesebia, Caladium and Alocasia, also form tubers.

Most of these plants die down in the autumn, and remain dormant during the winter, when they should be kept almost completely dry in their pots before being lifted out in February. At this stage they are completely dormant and need replanting in fresh potting compost either about 4 cm (1.5 in) deep, as in the case of Achimenesy or with the top of the tuber just showing, as for the Aroids. They are then watered in thoroughly, and thereafter very carefully, until growth appears.


It is possible to germinate seeds indoors, but light is the determining factor. The seedlings, once germinated, must be given as much light as possible without scorching them.


Though pests are not usually a major problem with house plants a constant watch must be kept as it is so much easier to control them before they become established in large numbers. Watch for leaf discoloration and for sticky deposits.

Having identified the pest, if necessary with the aid of a magnifying glass, obtain the necessary pesticide to control the infestation. Do not vary the recommended dilution rate. Unless the pesticide is provided in an aerosol, a small sprayer will be needed. Take the plants outside before spraying.

The pests most liable to attack house plants include: aphids, whitefly, mealy bugs, root mealy bugs, scale insects, red spider mites, tarsonemid mites, leaf miners and vine weevils.

All except the tarsonemid mite and vine weevil are easily controlled. If either of these is diagnosed it will probably be best to get rid of the plant.


The most common disease affecting house plants is mildew, which often attacks members of the Begonia family. It is easy to control if spotted early enough and treated with the appropriate fungicide.



Aechmea L Asparagus D Aspidistra D Asplenium D BiUbergiaD Clivia L Dracaena D Ficus D Hibiscus L Hippeastrum L Hoy ah Palms D Philodendron D Pilea L Sansevieria D Streptocarpus L Yucca D

COLD ROOM WITH ONLY OCCASIONAL HEAT Azalea L Begonia L Bulbs L Calceolaria L Cineraria L Cyclamen L x Fatsbedera D FatsiaD Ferns D Hedera D Jasminum L Primula L SUNNY WINDOWSILL


Cacti and succulents








Anthurium D Bromeliads D Fittonia L Ferns D Maranta D Peperomia D Philodendron D Stephanotis L


Aspidistra x Fatsbedera Fatsia Some ferns Hedera Sansevieria


All too often relegated to some dreary, dark area of the garden where ‘nothing else will grow’, ferns tend to be underrated in today’s gardens. Yet many of them are most useful and attractive plants that will enhance any suitable site. Being rather primitive plants, with no flowers, their beauty comes entirely from the remarkable variation in the shapes and colours of their leaves (generally called fronds).

Ferns can form an attractive feature in their own right, but they also provide a beautiful foil for more flamboyant flowering plants. Although too often associated with dark, dank corners, they will grow well in most situations that are not too dry or sunny. They may be used on their own to form a fernery, but are more often planted in a mixed fern border, together with other plants in order to promote contrast and interest.

Many woodland herbaceous plants associate well with ferns. Examples are willow gentians, hostas, alchemillas, epimediums, wood anemones and periwinkles, which all blend well and introduce some variation in colour.

Some ferns are completely deciduous, but the fronds of many others remain green throughout the winter. Both sorts are of value, and many of the former colour up well during the autumn.


In their natural habitat, most ferns are woodland plants. In the garden, too, they are best suited to positions in light shade, with a neutral or slightly acid soil that is humus-rich, moist but reasonably well-drained.

They may be planted at any time of the year, except during severe frost or drought. Early spring and late summer are particularly good times, since the soil then is warm enough to stimulate root growth and help them become established.

To prepare a site for planting, dig it over, remove any perennial weeds and mix in some well-rotted leaf-mould or coarse peat, together with a sprinkling of bone meal. After firming the area with your feet it will be ready for planting.

Tease out, just a little, the root-balls of pot-grown ferns, then firm the soil round the roots. The crowns of tufted ferns should be just above ground level; the rhizomes of creeping species should be only thinly buried.

Water newly-planted ferns freely and regularly during their first spring and summer.


Since ferns are not flowering plants, they do not produce seeds. In the wild they reproduce by spores, by the creeping rhizomes that are typical of certain species or by the production of offsets from the main rosette. These same methods may be used in the garden to increase your stock.

Dividing ferns The easiest means of increasing a stock of ferns is by division. This is done in autumn or spring, in much the same way as for herbaceous plants.

Ferns with creeping rhizomes quickly cover a substantial area, and it is a simple matter to remove a well-rooted portion of the patch. Most of the more garden-worthy ferns, however, are clump-forming, producing shuttlecock-like tufts or crowns of fronds.

With ferns of this type it is easy to see whether a clump is composed of several crowns, and therefore ready to be divided. They are best kept to a single crown to promote a good slope.

To divide such a plant, first lift the whole clump. The roots will be tightly intertwined, so insert a pair of hand-forks or border-forks back to back between the crowns to help ease them apart.

With large and old clumps, most of the blackish fibrous roots will be dead, the live roots being mostly hidden under the bases of the old leaf-stalks. It is therefore a good idea to pull off some of these lower stalk bases carefully before replanting the separated crowns in suitably prepared soil. Small offsets can be potted up for growing on for a year or so.

How to sow spores Raising ferns from spores is perhaps less easy than growing other plants from seeds, but it does provide a means of raising large numbers of plants. Most ferns produce their spores in small heaps or lines, on the undersides of the mature fronds, during the summer. Osmunda regalis (royal fern) is a notable exception in that it bears its spores conspicuously on the modified ends of the fronds. When ripe, the spore heaps of most ferns are a deep brown or black, only becoming a pale rusty-brown colour when the spores have fallen.

To collect spores, remove a small piece of spore-bearing frond and place it immediately in a paper envelope. If this is left in a living room for a day or so, and then opened carefully, any spores present will have settled in the bottom of the packet as a dust-like brown powder. The spores may then be sown in pots prepared in the following way:

Fill an 8 cm (3 in) plastic pot to within 13 mm (!/2 in) of the top with either John Innes seed compost or John Innes No. 1 potting compost. Place a disc of newspaper on the compost and gently pour boiling water on to it from a kettle. When the water coming out from the bottom of the pot is really hot, any stray fungus or moss spores on the surface should have been killed.

Cover the pot with a piece of glass or plastic until it is cold, then remove the glass and the disc of paper and sprinkle the spores very thinly over the surface of the compost. Immediately cover the pot with a piece of clear polythene and tie it in place with string.

Write the fern’s name on the pot with a permanent, waterproof marker pen, or attach a waterproof label. Leave the pot undisturbed in a lightly-shaded cold frame, a cool greenhouse or on a cool windowsill. Do not remove the top until the young sporelings are large enough to be pricked out easily.

After a period, which may be a month or as long as several months, a green film will be visible through the cover, on the soil surface. This will gradually resolve itself into distinct filmy green structures, the prothalli.

Later still, the first, tiny true fronds will appear from these and, when two or three such fronds are visible, the sporelings may be pricked out into new pots of sterilized potting compost and grown on in similar conditions.

In two or three years, with careful attention, the young ferns will be large enough to plant out in the garden.

Propagating ferns Sowing fern spores requires patience, since it may take as long as three years before ferns are ready for planting out in the garden. You can, however, increase your stock dramatically using this technique. 1 Remove some ripe spore-bearing frond and leave it in a dry envelope for a day, or until spores have settled to the bottom. 2 Kill fungus or moss spores with boiling water before sowing. 3 When compost is cold, sow fern spores thinly over the soil. 4 Identify the fern. Cover the pot with polythene. 5 Leave in a shaded cold frame or greenhouse. 6 Leave undisturbed until thesporlings can be pricked out. 7 Place sporlings in individual pots of compost and cover. 8 Grow on young tern plants in new pots of sterilized compost.

Fern bulbils

Some ferns produce bulbils along the midrib of the fronds. Peg the frond down, and in about one year the plants will have rooted and be ready for detaching and growing on.

Unusual ferns

Not all ferns are delicate and lacy. Osmunda regalis is large and bold; and Adiantum candatum has rounded leaves to its fronds. Phylitis scolupendrium has undivided, strap-like fronds.

A few ferns, mainly cultivars of Poly-stichum setiferum (soft shield fern) develop small bulbils along the midrib of the frond. If such a frond is pegged down on to the soil, the bulbils will eventually root into it. After a year or so the young plants will be large enough to be detached and grown on. A selection of ferns Many hardy ferns are best suited to the slightly shady, cool conditions that resemble their natural woodland habitats. Probably the most handsome are the larger clump-forming types, which produce shuttlecocks between 45 cm-1.2 m (1.5-4 ft) high.

Some of these are deciduous, their foliage dying down in winter, and among these is, Athyrium filix-jemina (lady fern), a beautiful species that has given rise to numerous cultivars. These vary in size and in the lace-like dissection of their fronds.

Osmunda regalis (royal fern) can exceed 1.8 m (6 ft) in ideal conditions and has the added virtue of fine autumn colour as the foliage dies down. This species will form magnificent clumps when planted beside water and its fronds are much bolder in form than the delicate lacy growth of the lady fern.

Dryopteris jilix-mas (common male fern) can appear rather coarse, but it is suitable for a wild-garden setting and also has some pleasant cultivars.

Two striking species, well worth a place in the fernery, are Dryopteris affinis, syn. D. borreri or D. pseudomas, (golden-scaled male fern) and D. austriaca, syn. D. dilatata, (broad buckler fern). The fronds of both, though deciduous, remain green in winter.

D. affinis derives its common name from the abundant scales on the midrib, which are most conspicuous as the fronds unfurl in the spring. A related fern from Japan is D. erythrosora, often notable for a pink tinge in the young foliage and for its bright red spore heaps.

D. oreopteris, syn. Thelypteris limbos-perma (mountain fern) grows wild on wet stream banks in moorland areas and does not always persist in the garden. It is intolerant of limy soils, but has fragrant, almost lemon-scented fronds.

Matteuccia struthiopteris (shuttlecock fern) forms extensive colonies of erect tufts that die down at the first touch of frost. A great beauty for a sheltered site is Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern) which is native to Japan and western North America.

Another Japanese species that is highly desirable is Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pic-tum’, syn. A. goeringianum ‘Pictum’. This cultivar is most distinct in the colouring of its fronds, which are a light greyish-green, with a paler zone either side of the dull crimson midrib.

Perhaps more attractive still are those species with fronds that remain green through the winter. Polystichum setiferum and P. aculeatum (both shield ferns) are very variable in form, some of their culti-vars being amongst the finest hardy species. The Plumosum and Divisilobum groups of P. setiferum, especially, produce the most elegant fronds which are, in some cultivars, of outstanding laciness.

In complete contrast, Asplenium sco-lopendrium, syn. Phyllitis scolopendrium, (hart’s-tongue) has undivided, strap-like fronds. These are a familiar sight in the lanes of the West Country, where they may reach 60 cm (2 ft) in length. Like many of the British species of ferns, the hart’s-tongue has produced many curious and often attractive forms that are now named as cultivars.

A smaller, evergreen species of compact growth is Blechnum spicant (hard fern). This demands acid or neutral conditions, in which it forms a neat rosette of dark green, pinnate leaves, with ladder-like, erect, fertile fronds.

Some ferns have a questing, branching rhizome from which the fronds arise singly, and by means of which they may colonize a considerable area. Pteridium aquilinum (bracken) is the best known species, but it is a rampant grower, difficult to eradicate and unsuitable for ordinary gardens. More restrained species with this type of rhizome can be useful ground-cover plants, and may be a particularly effective underplanting for taller flowering plants, such as lilies and hostas.

The evergreen Blechnum chilense, syn. B. tabulare, has dark green upright fronds which, in suitably damp conditions, can reach 90 cm (3 ft) in height. On the other hand, Polypodium vulgare and its varieties seldom exceed 30 cm (1 ft), slowly spreading to produce a mat of light, olive-green fronds.

Deciduous creeping species include Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern) with broad, rather pale fronds quite unlike those of other ferns. As its name suggests, the fronds are killed by the first frost.

Gymnocarpium dryopteris (oak fern) and Phegopteris connectilis (beech fern) are two gems for leafy, acid soils, the former having 15 cm (6 in) triangular fronds of delicate texture, on long, thin stalks. Beech fern has pale, slightly hairy fronds of a similar size, but narrower.

Dennstaedtia punctilobula and

Hypolepis ?nillcfolia, although quite low-growing, are capable of spreading extensively and are therefore better suited to a large, shady bed than to, say, a shaded part of the rock garden.

In their natural habitat, several ferns are confined to screes, rock crevices and walls, and these species can be a charming feature of a rock garden or peat wall, or even of a trough planted with alpines. Several evergreen spleenworts, such as Asplenium trichomanes, A. adiantum-nigrum and A. ceteraeb (rusty-back fern), will grow well in these situations.

Another attractive evergreen species is Blechnum penna-marina, from New Zealand. It grows slowly into a mat of fronds 8-15 cm (3-6 in) high, the young ones being tinted with bronze.

The deciduous bladder ferns (species of Cystopteris) are also good crevice plants, looking well with rock garden plants. C. fragdis and C. dickieana seldom exceed 15-20 cm (6-8 in), but the North American C. bulbifera has narrow, erect fronds 30-45 cm (1-1.5 ft) high.

Small, pea-like bulbils are produced on the undersides of the fronds of this species, providing an easy means of raising new plants. Another hardy fern, the Himalayan maidenhair, Adiantum venustum, forms mounds of pretty foliage from its slowly-spreading rhizomes.

Although moisture-loving, most ferns require a well-drained soil; some larger species, however, thrive on the margins of ponds or streams. Apart from the royal fern, Bleebnum chilense and Onoclea sensibilis make bold waterside features. Thelypteris palustris (marsh fern) has a thong-like rhizome from which deciduous fronds, 60 cm (2 ft) high, are produced.

Most of the ferns mentioned here are native to Europe, but many species from North America and north-east Asia are equally hardy and attractive. It is worthwhile finding sources for these rarer plants because a fern border, large or small, can form a feature of great beauty and interest and requires relatively little maintenance.

Common fern

Although rather coarse in appearance, Dryopteris filix-mas (common male fern) is hardy and looks excellent, for example, growing from a rock crevice in a wild garden.

Evergreen fern

The evergreen spleen-wort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum makes a fine plant for the rock garden, peat wall or alpine trough.


Even accomplished house plant growers may be put off orchids by their reputation for being expensive and difficult. However, the cost of a plant is being reduced by modern micro propagation techniques, while a considerable number can be kept at quite low temperatures – about y°C (45°F) – in spite of the tropical origin of some species. Though it is a challenge to have orchids flowering well each year, they are by no means difficult and certainly merit a place among other indoor plants.

UNDERSTANDING ORCHIDS Before getting closely involved, one should have a basic understanding of this intriguing family of plants. Obviously, they will be easier to grow if one knows something about the natural conditions to which they have adapted.

The first overwhelming fact is their sheer abundance and diversity, for there are thousands of known species and thousands more hybrids. Some orchids are terrestial, meaning that they grow normally in the ground; many others, however, are-epiphytic, which means that they use supports, such as trees, rocks or even telegraph poles, on which to live.

This latter group usually grow in very humid conditions and have roots which either cling to the support or hang in the AIR. Note that they are not parasitic, for they do not take any nourishment from their support. They obtain everything they need from the moisture in the air and from any nearby decaying matter.

Many orchids have storage structures known as pseudobulbs, which are swellings at the base of the leaves. Their purpose is to store sufficient food and moisture to get the plant into growth and, often, to flower at the end of a dry period. Orchids with these structures generally require a rest period at some stage during their growing cycle, when little or no water and nourishment should be given. It is unlikely that continued growth would kill the plant, but it might prevent it from flowering.

All orchids have interesting flowers. Some are extremely beautiful; others are small and delicate, or merely curious. Their primary purpose is to assist in pollination of the plant, and some flowers actually resemble the bees or butterflies that are attracted to them.

Composts As most orchids are epiphytic, or grow in very light soils, they require an open, free-draining compost that will allow as much air to the roots as possible. Few will grow well in ordinary potting compost, whether based on loam or peat. Ready-mixed composts are available, or you can prepare your own from the following – a mixture that will suit most orchids:

Bark chippings (orchid grade) 4 parts

Charcoal 2 parts

Perlite 1 part

Orchids need repotting whenever the compost begins to break down and lose its openness, or when the plants become too large and roots escape from the pot. GROWING ON SUPPORTS An alternative to planting epiphytic orchids in pots is to grow them on a support, much as they would naturally. This can be either a dead tree branch, some cork bark or a piece of osmunda fibre. The method is to secure the main part of the plant with a large staple, then, using thin wire or nylon fishing line, to attach the remainder of the plant.

Watering can be a problem it orchids are grown in the home on such supports. They have to be sprayed regularly, up to twice a day, which means moving the plants each time or else growing them where moisture will not harm the furnishings – not necessarily the best place for the plants. Things are easier in a greenhouse or conservatory, however, where attractive arrangements of epiphytic orchids on trees can be made, along with other compatible plants. Watering There is no simple guide as to how often orchids should be watered. When in active growth, the plants should not be allowed to dry out completely, but the compost should always have begun to dry before more water is added. Particularly with the epiphytic species, it is essential for the roots to have air around them and not to be waterlogged.

As the compost is so open and full of bark it is impossible to gauge its water content by examining the surface. The only sure way is to feel the weight of the pot, and to water only when it becomes very light. Use soft water, if possible. Feeding As there is no nutrient in the recommended compost, a well-balanced liquid fertilizer must be applied weekly. This should contain trace elements, vital for plant growth though needed only in very small amounts. If the fertilizer also acts as a foliar feed, so much the better. Occasionally, especially when coming into flower, a high-potash feed should be given.

One feed in four should be omitted, and water given instead, to ensure that there is no build-up of harmful salts in the compost. When the plants are resting, give no more feeds until growth resumes. General care As with other plants, observation is one of the keys to success with orchids. Look over all the plants regularly, checking for pests and diseases, new growths, flower buds or any sign that the plant is becoming dormant.

If a plant has gone into a decline it will probably be due to overwatering, so do not hesitate to get it out of its pot. Trim off any dead roots and pot it into some fresh compost. Very careful watering will probably then encourage new root growth and the plant should survive.

Orchids as houseplants It is possible to grow quite a wide range of orchids in the home, provided the right combination of temperature and light can be found. Following are a few easily-obtained orchids which are suitable for beginners to try:

Qymbidium. After flowering in winter, keep the plants at a temperature of 10°C (50°F) in good, but not direct, light. Shoots will form at this stage and the plants continue in active growth. In the spring, if the plant is large or the compost is becoming very broken down, repot into the recommended compost. Any old, dead pseudobulbs should be cut off, but the growing part of the plant should be backed up by two or three green pseudobulbs.

If the plant is very large, it can be split at this time and potted firmly. During the hottest months of summer, cymbidiums will benefit from being placed in the garden in a position of good, but not direct, sunlight. An open cold frame, with slats that can be drawn over during the brightest days, is ideal. This will have the effect of ‘ripening’ the plant, which will encourage it to flower later on. Keeping the plant slightly drier during August and September will also aid the future development of flower spikes.

Make sure that the plant is brought back inside again well before the cold weather starts. If a minimum temperature of 10°C (50°F) is maintained, flower spikes will begin to appear during the winter. When flowering starts, change the liquid feed to one with a high-potash content.

Cymbidium citerum This winter-flowering orchid requires a temperature of at least10°C(50°F) before flower spikes will appear. Apart from routine care, it is an easy plant for beginners to try.

Exotic forms

Despite the fact that the needs of orchids tend to be a little more precise than those of other plants, the beauty of their exotic forms makes them worth persevering with.


There are many different species of this epiphytic genus, some deciduous, some evergreen. Small ones are easily grown in pots but some of the larger ones will either become very top-heavy or will trail and pull the pot over. They are ideal orchids to grow on bark in the bathroom or kitchen, where humidity is not a problem.

Most dendrobiums require a resting period of several months, from about November, during which they need only infrequent watering. After the dormant stage they will produce new shoots, and leaves will grow and stems swell until finally a terminal leaf appears on the shoot, with no signs of any growth beyond it.

Now is the time to stop watering. Failure to impose a drought on these orchids will not kill them, but they will produce offsets instead of flowers.

Masdevallia. Mostly terrestial orchids, the flowers are curious rather than beautiful. Provided they are given reasonable light and ventilation, a minimum temperature of 10°C (50°F), and watered carefully, they should flower regularly.

Paphiopedilum. These require a minimum of 13°C(55°F) to do well, and should stay indoors all the year round in a position where the light is good but not direct. The plants do not require a resting period, but they need very careful watering as they cannot stand being waterlogged.

Phalaenopsis. Requiring a minimum of 16°C (60°F) to do well, these orchids do not undergo a dormant phase but need water and feed all the year round. They are suitable for growing in pots or on bark, though in pots the roots do have a tendency to climb over the top.

Do not cut off the flower stalk after the flower has died, for fresh buds will appear until the stalk dies naturally. Growing under glass A landscaped epiphytic display, using trees and bark, can be most attractive, but during the summer it may be difficult to maintain a sufficiently humid atmosphere. An orchid grown on bark, with its roots in the air, may need damping down as many as four times on a really hot day.

Displays of orchids can also be grown in pots on staging. Ideally, the staging should be of slats over a gravel tray, which will keep the air round the plants humid.

Shading is most important, for orchids are very prone to scorch. Provide some light shading as soon as the sun begins to brighten in spring, and add to this as the sun’s strength increases. This can be done with a proprietary shading paint, a shading material, or both. All parts of the greenhouse or conservatory should be shaded -the sides, doors and vents, as well as the roof. Remove it gradually as the light fades in autumn. Plenty of ventilation is needed in summer to prevent extremes of temperature. When choosing a house for orchid growing, make sure that there is ample ventilation space in the sides as well as at ridge level.



Every gardener wages an on-going battle against the often invisible enemies that distort leaves and shoots, spoil flowers and fruit, and sometimes cause the death of favourite plants. Healthy, strong-growing plants withstand pest and disease attacks far better than sickly specimens, and good cultural care can do much to minimize the need for chemical sprays. Such maintenance also includes the suppression of weeds which compete with cultivated plants for water, nutrients, air circulation and light.

Plant names and gardening parlance have their own special terminology. A short compendium lists the technical terms the gardener will most often encounter and explains the logic behind the botanical nomenclature that distinguishes one species – and one cultivar -from another.

Finally, a quick at-a-glance guide summarizes the tasks that are part of the pleasures of the gardening year.

A wide range of pests feed on cultivated plants, although not all cause sufficient damage to require control measures. In all cases, sound methods of cultivation will produce strong plants that are better able to withstand attacks. However, timely use of an insecticide may also be needed to deal with the more important sorts, such as those that reduce the yield and quality of fruits and vegetables or spoil ornamental plants.


Ants Forming large underground nests in lawns and flower borders, ants are a nuisance rather than a pest. They feed mainly on other insects, and on sweet substances, such as honeydew, collected from aphids. Their nest-building activities can cause indirect damage to plants by loosening soil from the roots, and low-growing plants may suffer from partial burial by excavated soil.

Eradication of ants is rarely possible, so confine control measures to nests that are causing actual harm to plants. The nest area should be drenched or dusted with either HCH, carbaryl or pirimiphos-methyl.


These are mainly lawn pests, although they also eat the roots of vegetables and ornamental plants. Leatherjackets are the more widespread and troublesome, causing yellowish-brown patches in lawns in mid-summer. They are greyish-brown, legless maggots up to 4 cm (il/2 in) long.

Chafer grubs occur mainly in sandy soils and are plump white grubs, curved like a letter C, with brown heads and three pairs of legs. Chafer damage occurs in the autumn, when magpies and crows may be seen ripping up the turf in order to feed on the grubs.

HCH or carbaryl will control these pests, although they need to be used while the grubs are small if damage is to be avoided. For leatherjackets, early October is the correct time, while early June and early August are the times to treat chafers.


BOTH of these pests are found most frequently in newly-dug ground or neglected, weedy plots. After the soil has been cultivated for several years these pests will become much less abundant.

Cutworms are the soil-dwelling caterpillars of various moths and they either sever roots or gnaw away the outer tissues from the base of stems. This causes sudden wilting and death especially of lettuces, asters and other annuals.

Wireworms are thin, stiff-bodied, light brown larvae up to 2.5 cm (I in) long which bore into potato tubers and the roots of many other plants. Where damage occurs, some reduction in these pests can be achieved by mixing diazinon, bromophos or phoxim granules into the soil.


DECAYING plant tissues form most of the diet of these common inhabitants of the soil. They are numerous in compost heaps or where dead leaves have accumulated, and in these situations they are of some benefit in assisting the process of recycling nutrients. Their weak mouthparts cannot make much impression on established plants, but they can damage seedlings and soft shoot tips. They also enlarge damage started by slugs. VEGETABLE ROOT FLIES

CARROT FLY maggots bore into the tap roots of carrots, parsley and parsnips, causing rusty-brown tunnels beneath the skin. Young plants may be killed or stunted, and tunnelled parts of the root develop an unpleasant taste.

Brassicas, including turnips and swedes, and onions are attacked during the summer by several generations of other species of root fly. The larvae are white, legless maggots up to 8 mm (V3 in) long. They destroy the roots, and damage varies from a slowing of growth to wilting and dying.

With each of these pests, young plants in seed-beds and any recently transplanted are the ones most susceptible to damage. Protect during the early stages of growth by treating seed rows and the soil around transplants with diazinon, bromophos or phoxim granules. Attacks by later generations on established plants can be checked by watering with spray-strength pirimiphos-methyl. Vine weevil The adult beetles eat irregular notches at night from the leaves of rhododendrons and other shrubs. Their larvae live in the soil, where they eat the roots and corms of many plants. They damage garden plants, including strawberries, primulas and sedums, but are most frequently found among the roots of house plants and other plants grown in pots, tubs and windowboxes.

The legless, slightly curved grubs, up to 12 mm (0.5 in) long, are white with light brown heads. Damage occurs mainly during the autumn and spring, and often the first indication of the grubs’ presence is when a cherished plant collapses and dies. Examination of the soil may reveal a dozen or more larvae where the roots used to be.

The older larvae are tolerant of pesticides, so it is best to water susceptible plants during July and August with HCH or permethrin in order to kill the young larvae. These insecticides can also be sprayed at dusk during the summer if the adults are causing significant damage to shrubs.


These have needle-like mouthparts that are inserted into the vascular tissues of leaves or stems. Some pests that feed on sap, especially aphids, whiteflies, scales and mealybugs, excrete a sweet, sticky liquid known as honeydew.

Ants are attracted by this honeydew, which coats the upper leaf surfaces, and allows the growth of a non-parasitic sooty mould. This unsightly fungus is difficult to remove without sponging individual leaves, so it is advisable to control the pest causing the problem. Aphids Also known as greenfly and blackfly, aphids are among the most troublesome of the common garden pests. Over 500 species occur in Britain, so few plants escape their attentions.

Dense colonies can develop, particularly on young leaves, shoot tips and flower buds. Some species, such as the woolly aphids on apple and beech, disguise themselves by secreting fluffy white fibres from their bodies. Heavy infestations often result in curled foliage and distorted growth.

Some virus diseases of soft fruits and ornamentals are spread by the mouthparts of aphids when they transfer from diseased to healthy plants. Early treatment, before heavy infestations develop, is necessary if damage is to be avoided.

Overwintering eggs of aphids on fruit trees and bushes can be destroyed by thorough spraying with tar oil while the plants are fully dormant. Many pesticides will control aphids, but systemic compounds, such as dimethoate or heptenophos, are particularly suitable as they penetrate into the sap. In this way they reach aphids hidden under curled leaves that contact pesticides would miss.

Pirimicarb is partly systemic and is a selective insecticide that kills aphids while leaving bees and many aphid predators unharmed.

Spray fruit trees and bushes shortly before the blossom period – except for pears and peaches, which should be sprayed shortly after petal fall. Inspect vegetables and ornamentals regularly and treat when necessary. Capsid bugs These are pale green or brown agile insects up to 6 mm (0.25 in) long that suck sap from young leaves and flower buds. They have a toxic saliva that causes some plant cells to die. When the leaves expand to their full size, the dead areas tear into many small holes, making the foliage tattered and distorted.

Flower buds of dahlias and chrysanthemums develop unevenly into flowers where not all the petals expand; those of hardy fuchsias abort. Other plants likely to show foliage damage include bush fruits, roses, hydrangeas, caryopteris and clematis.

Capsids are active from May until late summer and control is not easy, since by the time obvious symptoms develop the pest may have moved on. Sprays based on HCH, dimethoate or permethrin should be applied at the first sign of damage. Hydrangeas are scorched by most insecticides, so it is best to tolerate capsids on this plant.

Mealybugs Cacti and succulents are the main host plants, but mealybugs also infest many other indoor plants. They are soft-bodied, pinkish-grey insects up to 3 mm (V% in) long, but may be difficult to see as they cluster in leaf axils and other inaccessible parts of the plant. This helps protect them from insecticides, as does their habit of secreting a fluffy white, waxy substance over themselves and their eggs.

Thorough spraying with malathion will control them, as will the old remedy of dabbing the mealybugs with methylated spirits. This latter method is best for succulents, such as species of Crassula, which are damaged by insecticides.

Red spider mites The fruit tree red spider mite found on apples and plums, and the glasshouse red spider mite are the most troublesome examples of this group. The latter attacks most greenhouse plants and, in hot summers, many outdoor plants as well. Both mites are only just visible to the naked eye. Despite their name, they are yellow-green, with darker markings during the summer.

Both species live underneath leaves and cause a fine, mottled discoloration of the upper surface. Heavy infestations cause leaves to turn yellow and fall off, and a fine silk webbing is spun over the plant. Hot, dry conditions encourage red spider mites to breed rapidly.

Neither pest is easy to control, but thorough spraying with malathion, pirimiphos-methyl or dimethoate before heavy infestations have developed may work. Three applications at seven-day intervals are advisable. However, strains of mite resistant to pesticides do occur.

An alternative means of controlling glasshouse red spider is to use biological control by introducing a predatory mite called Phytoseiulus persimilis on to the plants. Further details are available from suppliers such as Natural Pest Control, Yapton Road, Barnham, Bognor Regis, Sussex, and Bunting and Sons, The Nurseries, Great Horkesley, Colchester, Essex.

Scale insects Various species of scale insects attack both greenhouse and outdoor plants. They vary in size, shape and colour, but are all relatively immobile and covered by a scale. They sometimes resemble miniature shellfish.

The two species most commonly encountered are soft scale and brown scale. The former is a flat, oval, yellowish-brown scale up to 3 mm (Vs in) long, which occurs on the undersides of leaves next to the larger veins. Bay, ivy, camellias, citrus, ferns and many house plants are attacked, and soiled with honeydew and sooty mould. Brown scale is a dark brown, convex scale up to 6 mm (XA in) long, and is found on the stems of greenhouse vines and peaches, and on many outdoor shrubs.

Spraying with malathion is effective, especially if timed to coincide with the hatching of the scales’ eggs. Outdoors, this will be in early or late June, depending on species. Under glass, it may be at any time of year. Infestations on deciduous trees and shrubs can be controlled by using tar oil in December.

Wbiteflies The main problem is glasshouse whitefly, which attacks tomatoes, cucumbers and many indoor ornamentals. Another species, the cabbage whitefly, occurs on brassicas throughout the year.

The tiny white adult insects fly up from beneath the leaves when disturbed. Their immobile, scalelike nymphs and pupae also feed on the lower leaf surface. Honeydew is excreted, and both foliage and fruits become soiled with sooty mould.

Early treatment is necessary for good control, using permethrin, pirimiphos-methyl or pyrethrum on two or more occasions at seven-day intervals. Pesticide resistance may arise with glasshouse whitefly and, as an alternative, use biological control by the parasitic WASP ENCARSIA FORMOSA. SUPPLIERS are listed under Red Spider Mites. Leaf-eating pests Beetles Seedlings of brassicas, turnips, swedes and radishes are damaged by adult flea beetles. They scallop small holes in the leaves, and seedlings may be killed in heavy attacks, especially if growth is delayed by drought or cold weather.

Flea beetles are 2 mm (V12 in) long and metallic-blue or black with a yellow stripe on their wing cases. They can be controlled with HCH seed dressings or by dusting the seedlings with HCH, derris or pirimiphos-methyl.

Asparagus may be defoliated between May and September by the adults and larvae of the asparagus beetle. The adults are coloured red, yellow and black and are 6 mm (V4 in) long. The larvae are greyish-black grubs, and there are two or three generations during the summer. Damaged plants become yellowish-white where the stems and leaves have been gnawed.

Closely related is the scarlet lily beetle, which is confined mainly to the Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire areas. The bright red beetles are 9 mm (Vs in) long, and present from late March until October. Their grubs are orange-red and covered by a slimy black excreta. Lilies and fritillaries can be severely defoliated.

Control lily and asparagus beetles by spraying with permethrin, HCH or fenitrothion. Caterpillars Many species can attack garden plants. Brassicas are the host plants of the large and small cab- bage white butterflies and cabbage moth. Early treatment is necessary, otherwise caterpillars bore into the heart leaves, where they are beyond the reach of pesticides.

Fruit trees and many deciduous trees and shrubs are attacked during the spring by the pale green looper caterpillars of winter moths. They are the principal cause of holed leaves on such plants during the summer.

Larvae of the carnation tortrix moth feed on many house plants by binding two leaves together with silk webbing and then grazing away the inner surfaces.

Caterpillars can be controlled by spraying with permethrin, fenitrothion, pirimiphos-methyl or derris. Some reduction in winter moth attacks can be achieved by putting sticky grease bands round tree trunks in late October. This stops some of the emerging flightless females from climbing the trunk to lay eggs. Earwigs These pests feed at night on the young leaves and flowers of clematis, dahlias, chrysanthemums and other plants. HCH, fenitrothion or permethrin sprayed at dusk on warm evenings will control them, but several applications may be required during the summer.

Leaf miners A distinctive type of damage is caused by the larvae of certain flies, moths, beetles and sawflies. They tunnel within leaves, causing white or brown lines, circles or irregular blotches as the damaged tissues dry up. Chrysanthemum leaf mining fly causes sinuous narrow mines, while a related species causes irregular blotches on holly leaves.

Celery, parsnip and lovage also have a leaf mining fly that causes large areas of the leaves to turn brown and become shrivelled. A leaf mining moth attacks lilac and privet, causing brown blotch mines and rolling of the leaf tips.

These and other leaf miners can be dealt with by spraying with HCH or pirimiphos-methyl (not on celery) or malathion. Sawflies The larvae of sawflies closely resemble moth caterpillars, but the adults belong to the same order of insects as ants, bees and wasps. Gooseberries, currants, willows, aquilegias, geums, Aruncus dioicus and Solomon’s seal all attract sawfly larvae that eat the leaves, often to the extent of the plants being completely defoliated.

They are relatively easy to control, provided they are spotted before the damage is too far advanced. They are killed by most contact insecticides, including derris, pyrethrum, permethrin and malathion.

The rose leaf-rolling sawfly is less easily dealt with as the larvae are hidden inside rolled leaves. The leaf curling is caused by chemicals injected into leaves by the females as they lay eggs in May or June. Light infestations can be checked by removing affected leaflets; otherwise spray forcibly with pirimiphos-methyl or feni-trothion.

Slugs and snails Most plants are at risk, but especially seedlings and soft young shoots. They can be protected with pellets or sprays based on either metaldehyde or methiocarb. The latter is the more effective under damp conditions, when slug and snail activity is greatest.

Some slugs live underground, where they tunnel into bulbs and root vegetables, especially main-crop potato tubers. Early lifting helps to limit damage.

Potato varieties vary in their susceptibility to slugs.

‘Pentland Dell’ and ‘Pentland Ivory’ are less vulnerable, while ‘Maris Piper’, ‘Cara’ and ‘Pentland Crown’ may be badly damaged. Soil-dwelling slugs come on to the surface on warm days after heavy rain, and methiocarb pellets used at such times will reduce their numbers.


These abnormal growths are produced by plants in response to attacks by pests or diseases. Oak trees are affected by many species of gall wasps that gall the leaves, buds, catkins and acorns. None causes serious damage, and control measures are unnecessary.

Other trees, such as Acer and lime, are affected by gall mites that cause red, raised structures on the leaves. These are harmless and should be tolerated. Some gall mites do, however, adversely affect their host plant.

One causes big bud of black currant, affected buds fail to open in the spring. Another galls the Cytisus buds, converting them into cauliflower-like structures.

Gall mites are little affected by insecticides available to the amateur, but the fungicide be-nomyl may check them if applied on three occasions at two-week intervals, starting in early April. Pick off and burn galled buds; replace with new plants if infestations become too bad.


Black currant big bud mite Big bud is caused by microscopic gall mites which feed inside the buds, causing them to become swollen and rounded. Such buds often fail to develop in spring and the mites can further reduce plant vigour by spreading reversion disease.

No insecticides available to amateurs give good control of big bud. Picking off and burning the rounded buds in winter will limit light infestations. Spraying with the fungicide benomyl when the flowers first open, with two furth- er treatments at two-week intervals, will also help. Heavily infested plants that are cropping poorly should be scrapped. Codling moth The larvae of this moth are the cause of maggoty apples in late summer. Thorough spraying with permethrin or fenit-rothion in mid-June, and again three weeks later, will kill the recently-hatched larvae. PEA moth This lays its eggs on peas which are in flower, so late or early sowings that flower outside the moth’s flight period of late June to August escape damage.

The pest can be controlled by spraying vulnerable peas with permethrin or fenitrothion when in full flower and again ten days later.

Pear midge These tiny flies lay eggs in the flower buds. The larvae are whitish-orange maggots, up to 2 mm (’/i2 in) long, which feed inside the young fruitlets. These soon turn black and drop.

In gardens where pear midge has occurred in the previous year, spray with HCH or fenitrothion at the white bud stage. Raspberry beetle The small, brownish-white grubs of this beetle damage the stalk ends of raspberry, loganberry and blackberry fruits, causing them to dry up. Damage can be prevented by spraying thoroughly at dusk with derris, malathion or fenitrothion.

Raspberries are sprayed at first pink fruit stage and again two weeks later; loganberries at eighty per cent petal fall and two weeks later; blackberries as the first flowers open.

Wasps In some years, wasps damage many fruits of plums, apples, pears and grapes. Protect fruit by enclosing the trusses in bags made from old nylon tights or muslin.

Destroy wasp nests by putting carbaryl dust in the entrance.

Plant Diseases

Diseases of plants are caused by various types of parasitic organisms, the most important being fungi, bacteria and viruses. Their effect is to spoil the appearance of ornamental plants and to reduce both the yields and quality of fruit and vegetable crops.

Plant diseases can be classified either by the type of organism causing the trouble or by the symptoms produced, as described here. Though the active ingredients of fungicides are mentioned, rates of application are omitted as they must be applied according to manufacturers’ instructions. Nor are any proprietary names given as they go out-of-date at regular intervals.


Although these fungi are not very obvious, they cause serious diseases on some types of plants. A greyish-white or purplish bloom of spores may show on the lower leaf surfaces, but the more obvious symptoms are discoloured foliage of seedling brassicas, severe distortion of wallflowers and rotting of lettuces. Affected onion leaves wither and fall over.

As downy mildews are really troublesome only where the seedlings are overcrowded and aeration is poor, they can usually be prevented by sowing thinly on a fresh site each year, in well-drained soil where the tilth is good. At the first signs of trouble, remove and burn diseased tissues and spray plants with an appropriate fungicide -either Bordeaux mixture or mancozeb.

POWDERY mildews

In most cases these diseases are easily recognized, for they show as a white powdery coating on the leaves, stems, flowers and fruits of many types of plants, especially apples, gooseberries, begonias, roses and also Michaelmas daisies. Rhododendron powdery mildew is an exception to this rule, however. For though it may cause severe discoloration of the plant’s leaves, followed by premature leaf-fall, the fungus, which is found on the undersides of the leaves, can barely be seen with the naked eye. Inspect suspect plants carefully.

Some powdery mildews of herbaceous plants may attack a wide range of plants, including weeds, whereas others are specific to only one type of plant – begonias, for example. The fungi flourish where the atmosphere is moist, and in greenhouses can be checked by careful ventilation to reduce humidity. On trees and shrubs, pruning regularly to keep the centres open will help to improve the circulation of air, which reduces humidity.

Remove and burn diseased shoots of fruit crops as the first symptoms appear, and as most powdery mildew fungi overwinter in buds or on shoots, destroy infected shoots at the end of the season.

Plants are more susceptible to infection when they are dry at the roots, so mulching and watering, especially of plants grown on walls, should help to prevent infection.

When a powdery mildew appears, spray with benomyl, carbendazim, propiconazole, thiophanate-methyl or triforine with bupirimate. Pyrazophos may be used to treat these diseases on pot plants. And copper or sulphur sprays are the most effective treatment on herbaceous plants and on shrubby plants in hedges.


Amateurs use the terms ‘mildews’ and ‘moulds’ rather loosely, but the only true mildews that affect plants are the powdery and downy types that have been mentioned already.

However, there are many fungi which can be classified as moulds that do infect plants, the commonest being:

Grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) This disease is most familiar on strawberries, but it can also be troublesome on greenhouse plants, particularly tomatoes, grapes, chrysanthemums and cyclamen. Lettuces are also very susceptible to grey mould infection; the affected plants will wilt at ground level.

The fungus causes tissues to rot, showing on them as a greyish-brown mould or, occasionally, as small, roundish, hard, black structures, which are its resting bodies (sclerotia).

The fungus can also cause die-back of woody shoots which have been injured, especially on roses, acers, lilacs, magnolias and ceanothus. Spores of the fungus, which are always present in the air, infect plants through wounds and damaged or dying tissues, including the stamens and petals of flowers of soft fruit crops. Infection can also occur, however, by contact between diseased and healthy tissues.

Remove and burn all diseased or dying parts, cutting back to clean, living tissues. No further treatment is required on woody plants. As the fungus is encouraged by a humid atmosphere, it is important to ventilate greenhouses well and, in addition, fumigate them with tecnazene smokes.

Benomyl, carbendazim and thiophanate-methyl can be used to control grey mould once it has appeared, but too-regular use of these fungicides, which are related, could lead to the build-up of strains of the fungus which are resistant to them. Thiram can also 35° be used, except on fruit to be preserved.

Spray soft fruit crops before the disease is seen – that is, as first flowers open. Repeat two or three times at fortnightly intervals. Other Botrytis species Several other Botrytis species can attack plants, especially bulbous crops. Most are specific to one type of host plant. For example, Botrytis elliptica and B. paeoniae cause lily disease and peony wilt, respectively. These diseases show as brown blotches on the leaves, followed by collapse of the stems. This is due to rotting of the tissues, which may become covered with a greyish-brown mould. Small, roundish, black resting bodies of the fungus may then develop.

Remove all diseased parts and dust the crowns of plants with dry Bordeaux powder. Spray the developing leaves and shoots with a copper fungicide. Benomyl, car-bendazim or thiophanate-methyl may be used effectively on occasion.

Other moulds Tomato and potato blights cause a blackish blotching of leaves, shoots, fruit and tubers, which rot rapidly in wet weather. Prevent infection with a copper fungicide, mancozeb, maneb or zineb, spraying maincrop potatoes before the haulms meet in the rows, and tomatoes in July (in the west) or August (in the east). However, control may be impossible in wet seasons and, in this case, destroy all rotting parts.

Tomato leaf mould affects the foliage of tomatoes in cold, humid greenhouses. It shows as yellow blotches, with a greenish mould on the undersides of leaves. As a precaution, grow Cladosporium-resistant cultivars and ventilate freely. Spraying with one of the fungicides recommended for blight may check the disease.


Although gardeners may refer to any brown blotch as ‘rust’, true rust diseases are caused by fungi, which usually affect the leaves but can also attack the shoots, flowers and fruits. Yellow, orange, brown or black powdery masses of spores are produced, either scattered or in small pustules that are often arranged in concentric rings. The colour depends on the rust, the host and the season, as most rust fungi produce more than one type of spore during the year.

Weak plum trees, birches, willows and other trees may be affected by rusts in late summer, resulting in premature defoliation. However, such rusts can usually be prevented by mulching, watering and feeding the trees. Rake up and burn diseased leaves, no matter what the host.

Most rusts are difficult to control, but rose rust and, possibly, antirrhinum rust, can be partially controlled by spraying with thir-am, zineb or propiconazole. These fungicides can also be used to control pelargonium and fuchsia rusts (though growth of some fuchsia cultivars may be retarded by propiconazole), provided the greenhouse is well ventilated to reduce humidity.

Raise new hollyhock plants every second year; do not grow sweet williams too soft; burn over mint beds at the end of the season, or cut off all old shoots, to reduce infection. No other control measures are satisfactory on these troublesome hosts. LEAF SPOTS Most types of plant can be affected by a leaf spot fungus, but, as a rule, the fungi are troublesome only on plants lacking in vigour due to incorrect planting, unsuitable soil conditions or malnutrition. This applies even to the rose black spot fungus, which causes roundish black blotches, without definite margins, and finally premature leaf-fall, the symptoms being worse on weak bushes. This fungus attacks only roses, and most leaf-spotting fungi are specific to certain hosts.

Some leaf spots do not have definite margins, because the fungus grows out as fine threads over the leaf surface, as in black spots. Some spots are large and spread outwards in concentric circles -hellebore leaf blotch, for example – but others are very small, as in weeping willow anthracnose. The fruiting bodies of some fungi show as pin-head sized, black structures on the leaf spots, as in chrysanthemum leaf blotch.

To control leaf spot diseases spray with benomyl, carbenda-zim, mancozeb or thiophanate-methyl, repeating as necessary. In severe cases spray also with a foliar feed to encourage vigour.

As most leaf-spotting fungi overwinter on fallen leaves, they should be raked up and burned. Winter treatments against black spot have not proved effective so start spraying roses and other plants which have suffered from leaf spot as soon as the new leaves develop in the spring.


Peach leaf curl and azalea gall both cause distortion of leaves. In these diseases the leaves become very swollen and distorted, at first pinkish in colour, later covered with a white bloom of spores, then finally becoming brown. Diseased peach, nectarine and almond leaves fall prematurely.

Remove and burn diseased leaves before they turn white. After removal, spray indoor azaleas with copper or mancozeb, but spray outdoor shrubs the following spring-as the new leaves appear. Spray peaches and related 35* plants with copper in January or early February, repeating a fortnight later and just before leaf-fall. Trees grown against walls can be protected against peach leaf curl with a polythene covering, open at both ends. This allows good aeration while keeping away moisture needed by the fungal spores.


The most troublesome disease of this type is apple canker, which affects the branches. The inner tissues are exposed by deep cankers, which cause die-back if the stem is girdled. Cut out and burn all dying branches and diseased tissues and paint the wounds with a canker paint containing thiophanate-methyl.

The fungus can enter through wounds caused by other diseases and pests, so control these as well. Spray severely diseased trees with a copper fungicide just before leaf-fall, half-way through leaf-fall, and with thiophanate-methyl at bud burst.

So many small cankers are produced by willow anthracnose that it is impossible to remove cankered shoots. Some control may be achieved by spraying with a copper fungicide or thiophanate-methyl at bud burst, repeating two or three times at fortnightly intervals. Diseased leaves should be raked up and burnt, and this is the only treatment possible for large trees, apart from trying to encourage greater vigour by cultural methods.

Cane diseases All cane fruits can be affected by cane blight and, more importantly, by spur blight, but raspberries are the most susceptible to infection. Spur blight causes the death of buds or die-back of shoots, but cane blight kills complete canes, causing them to become so brittle that they snap at ground level.

Cut off diseased canes below soil level. Spray with benomyl, carbendazim, copper or thiophanate-methyl as new canes develop, repeating at fortnightly intervals until flowering ceases.

OTHER FRUIT diseases

A rapid decay of top fruits on trees and in store is caused by brown rot, which shows as cushions of white fungus spores on the brown, rotting tissues. Diseased fruits dry up, and the fungus overwinters on the mummified fruits on the tree or ground and also on small shoot cankers.

Destroy all rotten or withered fruits and cut out dead shoots. No other measures are effective.


Many types of woody plants, including roses, rhododendrons and, very commonly, plums, are susceptible to infection by the silver leaf fungus. This causes silvering of the foliage on an infected branch, followed by progressive die-back of the tree or shrub.

Coral spot fungus is also a troublesome wound parasite, being most common on acers, elaeagnus, figs and red currants. Considerable die-back, even the complete death of plants, may occur after infection, and the fungus develops on the dead shoots as coral-red pustules of spores.

Cut out affected branches to a point at least 10 cm (4 in) below the apparently diseased tissues. In the case of silver leaf, a stain is visible in the wood. Paint wounds with a paint containing thiophanate-methyl. Destroy all woody debris on which the fungi can live as saprophytes.


The most common and troublesome root parasite is the honey fungus, which causes the rapid death of woody plants. The fungus develops beneath the bark of the roots and the main stem of the plant at and just above ground level. It shows there as a white growth, often fan-shaped, but it also produces brownish-black, root-like structures, known as rhi-zomorphs, which grow out through the soil and cause new infections. Honey-coloured toadstools may appear in autumn at the base of a dying plant.

Dig out dead and dying plants, together with as many of the roots as possible. Then treat the soil with a proprietary phenolic emulsion, or change it completely before replanting.

The two latter treatments are the only effective measures that can be taken against the root disease of woody plants caused by the fungus Phytophthora cinna-momi. Well-known for causing heather wilt, it has a wide host range. Diseased plants die back as a result of a rot at ground level, but no fungal growth develops.

Beans, peas, tomatoes, sweet peas, pansies, petunias, polyanthus and China asters are also susceptible to infection by soil-borne fungi which attack the roots and cause the plants to wilt. Prevent such troubles by growing bedding plants, as well as vegetables, on a rotation system. As the fungi produce resting spores which remain viable in the soil for many years, soil sterilization is the only effective control measure.

Sowing seed thinly and the use of sterile compost and clean water will prevent damping-off. This disease causes the collapse of seedlings at ground level, particularly where they are overcrowded.

Club root of brassicas and wallflowers occurs where susceptible crops are grown on the same site year after year in acid soils. Plant wilt or collapse due to swelling and distortion of the roots.

This is a difficult disease to control, but rotation of crops, the liming of soil and the use of a benomyl or thiophanate-methyl dip will help to prevent infection of healthy plants which have been raised in sterile compost.


Soil-borne diseases also affect bulbous plants of all types. Tulip fire is probably the most troublesome, as it causes rotting of leaves, shoots and flowers on which a grey mould may develop. No shoots emerge, however, if tulip and hyacinth bulbs are affected by grey bulb rot, because they rot in the soil.

Narcissus bulbs infected with basal rot may rot in the soil or in store. Storage rots of gladiolus corms are also common, and the foliage turns yellow or collapses completely when they are affected by soil-borne diseases during the growing season.

Lift unhealthy plants and examine the bulbs or corms, and also examine them regularly in store. Destroy any which are rotting or bear fungal resting bodies, the latter showing as small, hard, black structures on or between the scales. Dip bulbs and corms within 24 hours of lifting in a solution of benomyl, carbendazim or thiophanate-methyl. Dry off and store in an airy, cool but frost-free place. Replant on a fresh site the following season. TURF DISEASES Several fungal diseases can cause browning or even death of turf. In general, they can be controlled by applying benomyl, carbendazim, thiophanate-methyl or a proprietary turf fungicide. However, red thread and snow mould are encouraged by completely opposite cultural conditions, so specialist advice should be sought if there is any doubt as to the exact cause of the trouble. BACTERIAL DISEASES The most im- portant bacterial plant diseases can be divided broadly into three main groups, according to the type of tissues affected and the effects produced.

A soft rot, which is usually wet and foul-smelling, occurs when the fleshy tissues of celery, carrots, potatoes, rhizomes, bulbs, and even the crowns of plants are attacked. Such bacterial rots are usually secondary and follow injury by frost, diseases such as potato blight or by pests such as slugs. Prevent soft rot, therefore, by growing crops well, avoiding injuries by pests, diseases or mechanical damage and by the correct storage of root crops and bulbs.

There is usually no cure for soft rot, so destroy badly affected vegetables and plants. However, in the case of irises affected by rhizome rot, cut out diseased tissues and dust the cut surfaces and healthy clumps with dry Bor-v deaux powder. This fungicide may also save cucumbers affected by stem canker, which is similar.

A canker is the most common symptom when woody tissues are affected by bacteria. Bacterial canker of Prunus species, including plums and cherries, shows as flattening of the branches, which bear exudations of gum and which finally die back. Cut out all dying branches and spray with a copper fungicide in mid-August, September and October.

Fireblight looks similar to bacterial canker but is found only on pears, apples and related ornamentals such as Crataegus, Cotoneaster and Sorbus. As the infected shoots die back progressively, the brown and withered leaves remain.

This is a notifiable disease, and the owner of a suspect tree or shrub is obliged by law to notify the local Ministry of Agriculture office. In most cases, instructions will be given to cut out affected branches 60 cm (2 ft) below the apparently diseased tissues, disinfecting the pruning implement between each cut, and to burn the diseased wood.

Tumours or galls are formed when the outermost layers of dividing cells are infected, as they are stimulated to reproduce abnormally. Crown gall, which is not considered to be a serious disease, shows as one large gall or a chain of smaller galls on the roots of many woody plants or on the shoots of roses, cane fruits and daphnes.

Leafy gall is a much more troublesome disease as it affects herbaceous plants, such as chrysanthemums, sweet peas, pelargoniums and dahlias. It results in the production of a mass of abortive, leafy shoots at ground level. Destroy any galled plant.


These organisms affect all types of plants, but the most susceptible to infection are marrows, tomatoes, sweet peas, lilies, strawberries and raspberries. The main symptoms are stunting, distortion, mottling or striping of leaves, deformation of flowers (which may show white or dark stripes) and poor cropping.

Destroy poorly growing plants showing any of these symptoms. Control aphids, as these pests frequently transmit viruses – especially cucumber mosaic virus, which has an enormous host range. Also, destroy weeds, as many of these harbour viruses.

When planting soft fruit, use only plants which are certified to be free from virus infection. Grow them on a fresh site, but bear in mind that they, too, could become infected within a year or so.


Plants are very sensitive to their environment. For a plant to reach its maximum potential, the light must be of the right intensity and duration, the temperature, atmosphere and water supply must be correct, and all food materials must be supplied throughout its life. If any of these conditions are abnormal, a physiological disorder will occur.

In general, affected plants show discoloration of foliage, lack of growth, poor cropping and even die-back. However, certain specific disorders are associated with cultural conditions that are definitely unsuitable.


Thin, weak, drawn and colourless plants, which may fail to flower and which are known as etiolated, develop where the light is of low intensity. Such conditions are likely to occur among seedlings where the seed was sown too thickly; also in overcrowded greenhouses where the plants do not receive much sunlight, particularly during long, dark winters. Given more light, affected plants should recover.


HIGH TEMPERATURES SCORCHING OF leaves, which shows as pale brown blotches, can be caused by hot sun striking through glass on to moist foliage. If the shoulders of tomato fruits are injured in this way, the tissues become hard and stay green, the trouble being known as greenback. Such problems can be prevented by adequate shading and ventilation of greenhouses, and in the case of tomatoes by growing resistant cultivars.

Leaf scorch can also occur on house plants growing close to glass which is faceted, as in a porch or bathroom, or where there is a flaw in the window glass. In both cases the distorted glass acts as a lens, intensifying the sun’s rays.

Where this type of scorching occurs, the discoloured patches, either pale brown or, occasionally, creamy-coloured – depending on the type of plant – usually form a pattern of stripes across the injured leaves. This type of damage can be avoided by moving the plant away from the glass or by turning it around a little way each day so that the same leaf is not exposed continually to the sun.

During hot summers, scalding of fruits – particularly of gooseberries, plums and apples -can occur, causing creamy, sunken blotches on the skin. There is no method of preventing scald on outdoor fruits. However, careful ventilation should prevent it on greenhouse grapes, where scald shows as sunken, discoloured patches.

Bulbs stored or forced at too high temperatures may be completely blind the following spring or produce withered flowers.


FROST DAMAGE results in symptoms of various types. When young fruits, particularly apples, are injured, russeting of the skin occurs. This is visible as discoloured, roughened patches on the fruits, especially around the eyes.

Evergreen leaves become distorted and often show parallel rows of small holes on either side of the main vein. Leaves injured in the bud or when very young become more and more distorted as they grow. In the case of deciduous leaves, especially of apple, quince and chrysanthemums, those affected curl, while the lower leaf surfaces lift so that they can be peeled off easily.

Frost can also cause longitudinal splitting of the bark on stems which, in severe cases, will die back. If seen early enough it may be possible to save an affected shoot by binding it with grafting tape. This must be removed once the wound has healed.

Tender plants should not be grown in frost pockets. Small plants can be protected when frost is forecast, but half-hardy perennials need protection throughout the winter – for instance, by using a cover made by packing bracken between wire netting.

It should also be remembered that container-grown bulbs or plants can be killed in a very severe winter if the soil ball is frozen solid. During a hard spell, keep them where the temperature will not drop very far below freezing point.

When there are great extremes between day and night temperatures, the leaves may become white, as in Ipomoea, silvered or purple as in the case of tomatoes, or yellow as with the young, soft foliage of magnolias. The affected discoloured leaves will never turn dark green.

Cold, drying winds can cause scorching of the young leaves of beech, Acer species and variegated trees and shrubs.

Little can be done to prevent weather damage on outdoor plants, but where severe symptoms occur again every year it is better to move them to a less exposed position. As weak plants suffer most, encourage vigour in all types of plants by suitable cultural treatment. Injured plants will usually benefit from applications of a foliar feed. Atmosphere

High humidity Apart from encouraging many diseases, such as grey mould and tomato leaf mould, a very humid atmosphere under glass may cause oedema or dropsy, which shows as raised, corky patches on the undersur-faces of leaves, particularly those of ivy-leaved pelargoniums, and on the shoots and fruits of vines.

Do not remove affected leaves, as this will only make matters worse. Ventilate greenhouses well and water, syringe or spray early so that plant tissues can dry off before night.

Low humidity Poor growth, bud drop and leaf browning can be caused by too dry an atmosphere in greenhouses and dwelling houses. Any plants that need humid conditions should be syringed daily in hot weather. In centrally-heated houses, stand pot plants in larger containers which can be packed with moist peat or moss, or stand them on pebbles in water.


Growing plants need a continuous supply of water, but the amounts required for different stages of growth may vary. Troubles arise when the water supply is deficient, irregular or in excess of the plants’ requirements.

Water deficient – sudden drought A sudden and acute deficiency of water, likely to occur on a hot day, results in wilting. An affected plant usually recovers its turgidity by morning and no further trouble should occur if the plant is watered. However, if the leaves of a large-leaved tree, such as Catalpa or Aesculus, wilt it indicates that many of the roots have been injured and that recovery will be slow. The tree may not be restored to its former vigour until the following season. Water deficient – long drought A chronic lack of water results in the stunting of plants, and the leaves may show ‘autumn’ tints of yellow, red or brown. Such leaves fall prematurely and crop yields are greatly reduced.

Lack of water at critical times Drought when flower buds are beginning to develop can result in bud drop at flowering time. Thus, camellias affected by a lack of water in August or September may lose all their flower buds the following spring. Flower drop of tomatoes, withering of cucumber fruits and split stone of peaches may also be due to drought conditions and the sudden drying out of the soil.

When bulbous plants are affected by drought in early spring, they may suffer from blindness, with the flower buds withering without opening. This trouble occurs most frequently in double narcissi.

Sporadic water supply If the soil is watered sporadically, but is allowed to dry out in between, fruits and root crops may split and the latter, particularly potatoes, may have hollow centres or develop strange shapes. Tomatoes affected in this way develop blossom end rot, which shows as a brownish sunken blemish at the blossom end of the fruits.

Plants in growing bags are particularly susceptible to this trouble, as on very hot days it may be necessary to water as often as five times in order to keep the compost moist. There should be no need for the fruit on later trusses to be affected once watering is attended to, providing the plants have well-developed root systems.

Prevent all the above troubles by mulching plants well with peat, leaf-mould or other organic materials to conserve moisture. Water in dry periods before the soil dries out completely – even in cold weather if there are drying winds. This is particularly important for plants growing against walls, as the soil in such situations can remain dry even in periods of heavy rain if the prevailing wind is not in the right direction. Water in excess Waterlogging of soil kills the roots, due to lack of oxygen. They show a bluish-black discoloration, sometimes accompanied by peeling of the outer tissues, leaving just the central cores. Affected plants may show a variety of symptoms, such as oedema or yellowing between the veins on yew and pot plant foliage.

Shoots of waterlogged plants occasionally show corky patches due to bursting of the lenticels (breathing pores), or knobbly, gall-like structures due to the development of clusters of incipient roots. Peeling of the bark, which becomes papery, may also occur. In severe cases a general discoloration of foliage and die-back of shoots, or even complete death, may occur.

It is not always possible to prevent waterlogging during prolonged or heavy rain, even on light soils. Where waterlogging occurs regularly, however, incorporate some system of drainage if possible. Alternatively, grow plants on beds raised to a height of about 15 cm (6 in).

Improve the texture of heavy soils over a wide area and not just in planting holes, otherwise these will act as sumps into which water from the surrounding, heavier soil will flow. Dig out planting holes with a fork, not a spade or trowel, to prevent compaction of the sides, through which the roots may not be able to penetrate.

Plants affected by waterlogging may possibly be saved by spraying with a foliar feed throughout the growing season. Remove all dead and dying shoots.


Most plants require feeding at some stage of their growth, but perennial plants, including trees, ornamental shrubs and fruit crops, should be fed at least once a year, according to their requirements. Though many food materials are required, few are likely to become deficient, except when plants grown in soil-less composts are not fed correctly. In gardens, specific deficiencies of the major nutrients – nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus – are less likely to occur than is general malnutrition caused by neglect.

Plants which have been neglected show discoloured foliage, premature leaf-fall, die-back and poor cropping. When specific nutrients are deficient, however, certain symptoms are produced, though they are not necessarily as clear-cut as described here. Except where specific treatment is recommended, the following deficiencies can be corrected by applying appropriate fertilizers, the rate of application depending on the type of plant affected.

Nitrogen deficiency This trouble occurs mainly on plants growing in light soils lacking organic matter, and it may also show on pot-bound plants. Affected plants are spindly and upright, with short and thin shoots. The leaves are at first small and pale yellow but later become highly-coloured, with tints of yellow, orange, red or purple. Fruits are also small and highly-coloured, and there is a great reduction in the yields of fruits and vegetables. Phosphorus deficiency The symptoms are somewhat similar to those caused by nitrogen deficiency and are therefore not easily distinguished. However, the leaf colour is dull bluish-green, with purpling rather than yellowing or reddening. In black currants it shows as a dull bronzing, with purple or brown spots. In pota- toes, the leaf margins are scorched.

Affected trees produce fruits with soft flesh, acid in flavour and of poor keeping quality; the skin is green but may be highly flushed. These symptoms occur most frequently in high-rainfall districts of the west and north, and on clay soils.

Potassium deficiency Some crops require a lot of potassium, especially tomatoes, chrysanthemums, potatoes, beans and fruit crops. On these, deficiency symptoms may occur on plants growing in clay soils but more frequently the trouble arises on light, sandy, peat or chalk soils.

Affected plants are stunted and bear dull, bluish-green leaves which may show browning as small spots around the margins or at the tips. The leaves may also curl down towards the under-surface. Poor flowering and/or poor berrying of ornamental plants is often due to a deficiency of potassium.

Magnesium deficiency This is probably the most common deficiency, occurring on all types of plants, as magnesium is easily leached from the soil during periods of heavy rain. Plants such as tomatoes and chrysanthemums that are grown in soil containing a lot of bonfire ash or are fed with high-potash fertilizers frequently show the symptoms, as excess potassium in the soil makes magnesium unavailable.

Chlorosis (yellowing) between the veins is the commonest symptom, but brilliant orange, red, purple or brown tints may also develop. The symptoms appear first on the older leaves and spread upwards progressively, the discoloured leaves falling prematurely. Affected apple, black currant and gooseberry fruits are small, immature and woody.

The quickest method of overcoming this trouble is to spray with a solution of magnesium sulphate at the rate of 250 gr in 11 litres of water (V2 lb in 1.5 gal), to which is added a wetter and spreader, such as soft soap or a few drops of a mild liquid detergent. Spray tomatoes at the first signs of trouble and repeat this at ten to fourteen-day intervals.

Even with this treatment some discoloration may persist on tomatoes which are fed correctly, but they will produce good crops of high-quality fruits. Other types of plants should also be sprayed as the first symptoms appear, repeating two or three times at fortnightly intervals. Petal fall is the time to spray top fruits.

Manganese deficiency Soils which are generally deficient in manganese are sands, fen peats or alluvial silts and clays, when these have a pH of over 6.5 and are high in organic matter. Manganese may, indeed, be present but be made unavailable to plants in soils having a very high pH (over 7.5), so that the trouble is frequently linked with a deficiency of iron.

It can also be made unavailable if the soil is very wet, so deficiency symptoms may appear after a spell of heavy rain.

In general, the symptoms are similar to those caused by magnesium deficiency – that is, inter-veinal chlorosis, but without the additional tints. The terminal leaves on a shoot are less chlorotic or remain green.

Among fruit crops, cherries, apples and raspberries are affected most frequently. In peas, the most common symptom is seen only if the seeds are split open, when they show a dark, rusty-red spot or cavity in the centre, the trouble being known as marsh spot.

Beetroot and related crops are also affected by a specific disorder known as speckled yellows, in which the leaves become triangular in outline. They show yellow blotches between the veins and have a tendency to roll inwards at their edges. In severe cases, whole leaves become pale yellow.

When the trouble is diagnosed, spray with 60 g of manganese sulphate in 11 litres of water (2 oz in 2.5 gal), plus a spreader, such as soft soap, or a few drops of a mild liquid detergent. Repeat once or twice at fortnightly intervals, as necessary, to restore the green colour to the foliage. A chelated compound or fritted trace elements could be used as an alternative method of treatment. Iron deficiency This trouble, which shows on the leaves as yellowing between the veins, is almost always induced by very alkaline conditions, in which the pH is 7.5 or over. The condition is often known as lime-induced chlorosis. The youngest leaves are always the most severely affected. Scorching of the leaf margins and tips occurs in extreme cases, on leaves which may be almost white.

Plants which frequently show severe symptoms, where the pH is about 7.5, are peaches, raspberries, hydrangeas, Ceanothus and Chaenomeles, but almost any type of plant may be affected if the pH is 8.0, especially if it is lacking in vigour due to some other adverse factor. Acid-loving plants, such as rhododendrons, camellias and most heathers, will show lime-induced chlorosis when growing in soil having a pH above 7.0; between 5.5 and 7.0 they will probably merely look poorly.

As it can be difficult to distinguish between iron, manganese and magnesium deficiencies, it is essential, if a plant shows chlorotic foliage, to determine the pH of the soil so that the correct treatment can be given. If the pH is found to be too high, try to reduce it by digging in pulverized bark, peat or crushed bracken.

Around growing plants, flowers of sulphur can be used on sandy loams at 130 g per sq m (4 oz per sq yd) and twice this rate on heavy loams. However, it is better to apply just a small quantity at first, test for pH after a few months and repeat the application as necessary until the pH of the surrounding soil is reduced to the required level.

On vacant ground, aluminium sulphate or ferrous sulphate can be applied at 130 g to 250 g per sq m (4-8 oz per sq yd). Rake the chemical in well and water in dry weather. Test for pH after two or three weeks and, if it has not fallen by the desired amount, repeat the process until the right pH is obtained. Note that phosphate may be made unavailable to plants through the use of either of these two chemicals.

Even with these treatments it is unlikely that it will be possible to reduce a pH of over 7.5 to as low as 5.5, as required by acid-loving plants, so an annual application of a proprietary product containing chelated compounds or fritted trace elements will be required. It is also unlikely that regular use of these latter materials alone, without some soil treatment, will restore the green colour to the foliage of chlorotic plants. Calcium deficiency Calcium is unlikely to be deficient in gardens, even in areas that have acid soils. It may be short, however, in very acid, peat-based composts of the type used in growing bags, and blossom end rot of tomatoes may then occur. Even then, it can be overcome by avoiding sporadic watering.

A localised deficiency of calcium within the fruits of apples, but not in the soil, and induced by a shortage of water at a critical time when there are wide fluctuations in rainfall and temperature, results in the disorder known as bitter pit. Slightly sunken pits develop on the surface of the skin of the fruit, with small brown areas of tissue immediately beneath them and scattered throughout the flesh.

Some fruits may be affected while still on the tree, but most symptoms develop in storage. Brown patches near the skin can be removed by peeling, but in severely affected apples the flesh has a bitter taste, making them inedible.

Bitter pit can be prevented to a certain extent by mulching well to conserve moisture (though the use of straw will aggravate the trouble), and by watering during dry periods. Its incidence can be reduced considerably by applying sprays of hydrated calcium nitrate, used at the rate of 30 g in 9 litres of water (1 oz in 2 gal) in mid-June. Repeat this ten days later. After a further ten days treat with a double strength solution (60 g in 9 litres, or 2 oz in 2 gal) of hydrated calcium nitrate, repeating the treatment at least three times at ten-day intervals.

Alternatively, give a first spray of 12 5 g in 18 litres (4 oz in 5 gal) in mid-June. Spray again three weeks later at 250 g in 18 litres (8 oz in 5 gal), and repeat twice at this rate at three-weekly intervals. Boron deficiency Boron may be leached out of sandy or chalk soils in heavy rain or can be made unavailable by over-liming normally acid soils. Boron deficiency affects pear trees, causing the bark to have a roughened and pimpled appearance and leading to the die-back of some shoots, while on others the leaves are small and mis-shapen. The fruits on most branches are distorted and have brown spots in the flesh.

Where this is a recurrent problem, spray at petal-fall with 70 g borax (sodium tetraborate) in 18 litres of water (2.5 oz in 5 gal), adding a spreader such as soft soap or a few drops of a mild liquid detergent.

Vegetables may also suffer from a deficiency of boron. In celery, for instance, brown horizontal cracks develop across the stalks, leading to poor growth, with yellowing and death of the leaves.

Swedes and turnips are affected by a disorder known as brown heart. This shows only when affected roots are cut across, the flesh in the lower part of the root showing clearly-defined greyish or brownish discoloured areas, often in concentric rings. Affected plants show no other symptoms, and the roots do not rot but become hard, stringy and tasteless in cooking.

Heart rot of beet, also due to boron deficiency, shows as browning of the inner tissues of the root, which sometimes turns black, and also at the crown, where the tissues may become sunken. Most of the leaves die and only small deformed leaves remain. In severe cases, rotting of the outer tissues of the root may occur, causing cankers.

Where boron deficiency symptoms occur in vegetables every year, rake borax (sodium tetraborate) into the soil before sowing, applying it at the rate of 30 g to about 17 sq m (1 oz for every 20 sq yds). The borax should be well mixed with a large quantity of light sand before it is spread over the soil, to ensure that the chemical is evenly distributed.


THIS DEFICIENCY, which occurs only occasionally in acid soils, affects only brassicas, causing the disorder known as whiptail. The leaves of broccoli and cauliflowers become ruffled, thin and strap-like, while the curds of affected plants are poor or fail to develop.

Where this trouble is known to occur, apply a solution of sodium molybdate to the soil, using 30 g in 9 litres of water per 8 sq m (1 oz in 2 gal per 10 sq yds).


As already indicated, many troubles produce similar symptoms, and it is sometimes difficult to determine the exact cause of a disorder that is affecting a plant. Furthermore, one unsuitable cultural condition can result in other troubles, so that plants may suffer from a combination of adverse factors.

Thus, faulty root action may be due to injury to the roots caused by too wet or too dry soil conditions but, because the injured roots are unable to take in food materials, the damaged plant will also be affected by malnutrition.

Poor planting- that is, failure to spread the roots out well in all directions, or too-deep planting -will also result in an inefficient root system. As a consequence, the plant will be unable to take in sufficient water and nourishment.

Bitter pit of apples and blossom end rot of tomatoes, both already described, are really due to a combination of adverse factors. Similarly, shanking of grapes is due to overcropping of a vine, the root system of which is functioning inadequately. The stalk of the berry shrivels gradually until it is completely girdled. As the grapes ripen, odd berries or groups of berries fail to colour normally, those on white cultivars remaining translucent while those on black varieties turn red. The grapes do not swell and are watery and sour.

When shanking occurs early in the season, cut out the withered bunches, spray with a foliar feed and improve cultural conditions as necessary. Reduce the crop for a year or two until the vine has regained its vigour.

Peach split stone can also be due to one or more adverse factors. Affected fruits have a deeper suture than normal and are cracked at the stalk end, the hole sometimes being big enough to allow the entry of earwigs. The stone of such a fruit is split in two and the kernel, if formed, rots.

Peaches with this disorder fail to ripen normally, and rot as a result of infection by the brown rot fungus or other secondary organisms. Split stone can be caused by lack of water at a critical stage of growth, but it can also be due to poor pollination, so pollinate the flowers by hand when possible.

A lack of lime may also cause the stone to split. Therefore, lime acid soils in autumn to raise the pH to 6.7-7.0. General malnutrition or excess feeding after stoning may also result in peach split stone disorder.


Some fungicides that can be used with safety on most types of plants may nevertheless cause damage on sensitive plants. Thus, sulphur sprays can cause russeting of the fruit on some apples, defoliation of some gooseberry cultivars and brown blotches on black currant leaves. The leaves of weak rose bushes and of rhododendrons may be scorched by copper sprays.

Chemicals which cause such injuries to sensitive plants are said to be phytotoxic. Several insecti- cides of this type can also cause discoloured foliage or leaf-fall. Sensitive plants are usually listed on proprietary packs of chemicals, so always read the label before using an insecticide or fungicide to make quite sure that it can be used with safety on a particular plant.

Most chemical injury to plants occurs as a result of the mis-use of weedkillers. Damage can be caused by the drifting of a herbicide used on a windy day, but plants can also be injured as a result of using a badly-rinsed watering can or sprayer which is contaminated with a weedkiller. Keep special apparatus for applying herbicides and do not wash it out in a water butt or tank used for irrigation.

Hormone weedkillers, such as 2,4-D and mecoprop, cause most damage to plants, especially to roses, vines and tomatoes. The symptoms caused by this type of herbicide are twisting and distortion of the shoots, and leaves which may become very narrow and cup-shaped. In severe cases, small nodules may appear on the shoots of shrubs and herbaceous plants, such as chrysanthemums, and also on tomatoes. This is due to the development of incipient roots.

These symptoms occur most frequently as a result of drifting, or the storage of herbicides in a greenhouse. They can arise, however, on a plant that has been mulched with compost containing cuttings from a lawn treated with a hormone weedkiller, so do not put the first mowings after treatment on to a compost heap nor use them as a mulch.

Fortunately, plants affected by the hormone weedkillers available to amateur gardeners usually grow out of the symptoms in due course, and the crops will be edible, though in the case of tomatoes they may prove to be hollow and plum-shaped.

However, brassicas affected by a hormone weedkiller do not recover, and they should be destroyed. They do not show the typical distortion of the leaves, but large, gall-like outgrowths develop on the stems. Although these may occur near ground level, they should not be confused with the distortion caused by club root, which affects only the roots.

Other weedkillers can also damage plants. Aminotriazole and simazine can cause yellow blotches or chlorosis between the veins, especially on the leaves of certain trees and shrubs.

A mixture of paraquat and di-quat can cause complete yellowing of the leaves of bulbous plants during the season following treatment. This occurs if weedkiller is • applied around the plants before the foliage has died down completely and the necks of the bulbs are still open. In order to prevent this trouble the bulbs should be covered with soil before treating the area with weedkiller.

Glyphosate can seriously injure roses, raspberries and other woody plants if taken in by suckers. The affected plants do not produce normal leaves, but at each node a small cluster of abortive shoots, like a small witches’ broom, will develop, and these will soon die.

Use all weedkillers with care and follow the makers’ instructions at all times, particularly with regard to the types of plants which may be injured by chemicals. If in doubt, seek professional advice before use.


Heavy snow can break branches, so remove deposits of snow from evergreens as frequently as possible. Little can be done to prevent wind damage, however, which can also break branches and tatter large leaves, such as those of the horse chestnut. And weather damage from hail, which can cause small pits in fruit or holes in leaves, cannot be prevented.

Most man-made injuries are obvious, as when plants are damaged by hoeing or trees are accidentally hit by lawn mowers. Clean up any large wound on a woody plant so that no ragged tissues are left, and take care not to leave snags when pruning.

Wounds which are easily overlooked, however, are those made by tight ties, which can result in die-back of woody shoots. Keep a careful watch on any ties and labels as the plants grow, because you may need to loosen them so that they do not become embedded in the tissues, thus strangling the shoots.

If the growing point of a plant is injured early, whether by frost, hoeing, slugs or an early insect attack, the resulting growth, whether a shoot or flower stalk, may be flattened. This condition, known as fasciation, is seen most frequently on forsythia, Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ and some herbaceous plants.

Once flattening occurs, the affected part will continue to grow in a flattened manner. Though a shoot may branch, it will still produce leaves and flowers on the fasciated area.

With forsythia and Prunus, the only treatment necessary for this condition is to cut off the affected shoot a short distance below the point at which the fasciation starts. No treatment is necessary for fasciated herbaceous plants as these will probably grow normally the following year unless the garden is in a frost pocket.

Raising plants from seed

The seeds of many wild plants – weeds, to the gardener – are carried by the wind into gardens or deposited there by birds. Many are brought to the surface, ready to germinate, during digging operations. Small but viable sections of such plants may be imported in loads of manure or topsoil, or among the roots of plants acquired from friends. For all these reasons, weed control is a never-ending problem.

There are two basic ways of dealing with weeds – cultural and chemical. In a small garden devoted largely to flower borders and a lawn, there may be little need for weedkillers other than on the lawn and for localised spot treatments. Hoeing and hand-weeding, especially in conjunction with mulching, will keep things under control. In larger gardens, however, sensible use of weedkillers on paths, in the fruit garden and in other troublesome areas can reduce substantially the time spent on maintenance.


A well-fed and regularly-mown lawn is more resistant to weeds than one that is neglected, and the same principle applies to planted areas of the garden.

Always remove perennial weeds before planting or sowing. Buy only healthy, well-rooted plants as these are better able to compete with weeds. Plant or sow at suitable spacings so that there are no wide gaps between plants. Maintain healthy growth by regular feeding, mulching and pruning, and by spraying to control pests and diseases.

Organic mulches are effective in promoting weed control, as well as helping to conserve moisture. They provide a cooler root run for plants and may also supply nutrients and trace elements as the materials decompose.

Deep mulches of well-rotted farm manure, leaf-mould or moist peat will bury small weed seeds to a depth at which they will not germinate. Wind-borne or bird-carried seeds germinating in the loose material can easily be dislodged with a hoe.

Processed tree bark is another suitable material. It is stable, long-lasting and attractive to look at.

Black polythene laid around newly-planted ornamental and fruiting trees and shrubs is very effective in controlling weeds. Sheets 90 cm (3 ft) wide are suitable for row crops; 90 cm (3 ft) squares may be placed around individual trees or bushes, digging in the edges so as to anchor them in the soil. This method also makes for rapid root establishment and vigorous growth.


Hoeing and hand-weeding are perfectly valid methods of weed control, but both have their drawbacks.

When hand-weeding around young plants there is a danger of disturbing their roots. Also, weed seeds may be brought near the surface, where they can germinate.

Hoeing relies upon fine, dry weather to kill the weeds. Many may become re-established if the use of the hoe is followed by wet weather. Also, hoeing is only partly effective against perennial weeds, as their roots will generate fresh growth. There is, too, a risk that the sharp blade may damage the roots of plants. For all these reasons, hand-weeding has the advantage. The roots of perennial weeds are removed completely, with minimal damage to plants.

When weedkillers are used, the soil is not disturbed at all. As a result, plants generally grow bet- ter than after either hoeing or hand-weeding.


Weeds can be particularly troublesome in beds or vegetable plots that have been neglected for a time, during which weeds have been allowed to grow and seed freely. There will be numerous weed seeds in the soil, some of which will be brought close to the surface and will germinate each time the soil is disturbed. Within a few days of sowing or planting flowers or vegetables, the earth may be a green carpet of weeds, smothering the crop seedlings.

Where this seems likely, try the stale seedbed method. Given suitable soil and weather conditions, prepare the seedbed (or planting bed) ten to fourteen days before the planned sowing or planting date, raking it to a fine tilth.

The weed seedlings that will appear after a few days can be killed by spraying with a weedkiller that contains paraquat as its active ingredient, or else by hoeing very lightly with a well-sharpened hoe. Paraquat leaves no residue harmful to seeds sown subsequently. Sowing or planting may go ahead when the weeds are dead.

To avoid bringing more weed seeds close to the surface, disturb the seedbed as little as possible when spraying and sowing. If possible, work from a board so as to avoid walking on the seedbed.


Weedkillers may enter weeds (or garden plants) through their roots, stems or leaves. Although they kill in different ways they do not all have the same effect. Some destroy all plant growth, above and below ground, others, such as some leaf-acting weedkillers, kill green plant matter but are neutralized on contact with the soil. Leaf-acting weedkillers can be further divided into contact-acting and translocated types.

A few are more complex, killing through the soil and also to a lesser extent through the leaves, or vice-versa. Some are selective, killing some plants by disrupting vital processes – daisies in a lawn, without damaging the turf, for instance – while other plants remain unaffected. Others are selective because, at low dosage rates, they penetrate the soil for only an inch or two, killing germinating weed seeds and shallow-rooting weeds, but not coming into contact with most of the root systems of deeper-rooting plants.

Following are some examples from each category, the kinds mentioned being readily available to amateur gardeners:


These weedkillers are absorbed by the roots and transmitted to the above-ground parts of plants. Apply them in the early stages of growth or during the growing season, not while the weeds are dormant.

SOIL-ACTING, NON-SELECTIVE WEEDKILLERS Ammonium sulphamate is applied as a spray and is effective against woody weeds and many herbaceous perennials. It remains active for up to twelve weeks. It corrodes metal, so use plastic sprayers or cans. Do not use on cultivated land.

Sodium chlorate, too, is applied as a spray, and is active for up to twelve months or more. It is corrosive to metal. This chemical is moderately soluble, and, like ammonium sulphamate, should not be used in areas where there are underlying tree and shrub roots. Both chemicals are useful for unplanted areas and waste ground.

Dichlobenil and simazine are both non-selective when used at full strength and they persist for several months. Dichlobenil, a granular formulation, is particularly useful for spot treatment, such as weeds in crevices or in crazy paving.

SOIL-ACTING, SELECTIVE /WEEDKILLERS Propachlor is a low-strength weedkiller and stays active for a few weeks only. It is useful for controlling annual weeds at seed-germination stage among bulbs, certain vegetable crops and after planting out bedding plants like wallflowers.

Simazine is non-selective at full strength, but at low dosage rates can be used amongst various plants, including asparagus, to kill almost all weed seeds as they germinate. It is supplied as a soluble powder and persists for several months.

Dichlobenil is non-selective at full strength, but at low dosage rates can be used amongst some woody plants to kill weed seeds as they germinate, to control established annual and shallow-rooted perennial weeds, and also to check deeper-rooting perennials. It persists for several months and is applied as granules. Dichlobenil should not be used around tolerant woody plants until these have been established for two years.

With both dichlobenil and simazine there is more risk of damage on light, sandy and silty soils and where the organic content is low.


Weedkillers in this category destroy only the green parts – foliage and stems -with which they come into contact. Annual weeds are killed if the spray coverage is thorough. The foliage of perennial weeds is also destroyed but, as there is little or no effect on their roots, re-growth soon occurs.

An example of. This type of weedkiller is paraquat with diquat, available to gardeners as soluble granules in measured dose sachets.

Paraquat with diquat is nonselective, and quickly kills green plant tissue it comes into contact with. It rapidly becomes inactive on contact with the soil and therefore does not harm the roots of plants. Application can be made at any time of year.

It can be used to kill annual weeds which appear in the time between site preparation and planting. Seeds may be sown immediately after treatment, but planting should not be carried out until twenty-four hours have elapsed.

TRANSLOCATED, FOLIAGE-APPLIED WEEDKILLERS Weedkillers of this type are absorbed through leaves and green stems, then transferred to underground roots and rhizomes. Weeds are usually killed in two or three weeks after treatment, most products causing the weeds to become contorted before they die.

Some, such as 2,4-D, mecoprop and dichlorprop, are selective, killing broadleaved lawn weeds without harming grasses -although grasses may occasionally be scorched.

They are most effectively used during the spring and summer, when lawn weeds are in strong, vigorous growth. Do not spray in hot or windy conditions as spray drift or vapour may harm nearby garden plants.

Other types are non-selective. One of them, glyphosate, is effective against many perennial plants and has the added advantage of being inactivated on contact with the soil. Glyphosate is most effective from the onset of flowering, when food reserves in the roots are low, and in late summer when weeds are rebuilding food reserves in their roots.


Many different weedkillers are used in agriculture and commercial horticulture. Only a few of these eventually reach the amateur market, having been cleared for safe use in the garden under the Pesticides Safety Precautions Scheme after considerable commercial experience and thorough assessment of safety and environmental factors. The agreed precautions take into account the safety of the person applying the weedkiller, and of domestic animals, pets and wild life. Also the safety of consumers is considered where use of the weedkiller is approved on food crops.

Safety is, to a large extent, based on common sense, but in addition to following the precautions printed on the product label one should remember to keep all weedkillers away from children, preferably in a locked cabinet. Do not mix indoors, and do not leave part-used containers or bottles within reach of children while spraying. Never transfer one chemical to another container, or obtain small quantities of commercial, and possibly dangerous, formulations from farmers.

Do not spray in windy weather or when weeds in flower are being visited by bees. Wear rubber gloves when mixing and applying weedkillers. Thoroughly wash out all equipment after use.


Most weedkillers available to gardeners are in the form of a liquid, a soluble powder or granules. Liquids and powders are applied either with a pressure sprayer or with a suitably adapted watering can. A wheeled distributor is best for applying granules to a large area. For small areas, make holes in the lid of a screw-top jar, fill with sufficient weedkiller for 1-2 sq m (or yds), then shake evenly over the carefully measured area. Other means of applying weedkiller include aerosols and wax solids, both useful for the spot treatment of isolated lawn-weeds. When applying weedkillers close to garden plants, either cover individual plants or else use a portable screen, such as a piece of hard-board attached to a broom handle.



Do not use selective lawn weedkillers, such as 2,4-D or mecoprop, during the first six months after germination of a seeded lawn. Similarly, do not use them on newly-turfed lawns sooner than six months after laying, by which time the turf should be well established.

If broad-leaved weed seedlings appear in a newly-seeded lawn they can be kept in check by regular mowing until it is safe to begin using weedkillers. If coarse-grass weeds appear, then hand-weed.

Established lawns There are two basic groups of broad-leaved lawn weeds: those with a rosette-forming habit, such as plantain, and those with a creeping habit. There are also grassy-leaved weeds, such as annual meadow grass; coarse-leaved grasses, such as Yorkshire fog and field woodrush; and mosses.

Apply lawn weedkillers during good growing weather and when rain is not anticipated for several hours. The best time is when both grass and weeds are responding to a spring-applied lawn fertilizer. As the weeds die, the grasses will recolonize the weedy areas, though re-seeding may be needed if there are large bare patches.

Lawn weedkillers are usually selective in action, killing broad-leaved weeds without harming the grasses. However, in lawn sands ferrous sulphate is contact in action, and can be used to check the growth of persistent weeds as well as moss.

Most lawn weedkillers contain two, sometimes three, active ingredients, providing control of a wider range of weeds than would be possible with a single ingredient. Daisies, dandelions and plantains are most effectively controlled by products containing 2,4-D, but clovers, yarrow and pearlwort are better treated with products containing mecoprop, dicamba or dichlorprop.

If a lawn has various kinds of weeds, use mixtures which combine 2,4-D with either mecoprop, dicamba, dichlorprop or fenoprop.

If some weeds are not killed by a single application, repeat after a month or six weeks. If some survive even a second application, try to identify them. It may then be found that they are more susceptible to a particular weedkiller mixture, or that some cultural measure will help to weaken the weed. Occasionally, weed is resistant to lawn weedkillers and must be removed by hand.

Speedwells are resistant to lawn weedkillers. However, repeated use of lawn sands can gradually reduce severity of infestation. Tar oil (phenols) applied in late winter to individual patches will often kill or severely check infestations, though grasses may be temporarily scorched. Use 142 ml. (5 fl. oz.) in 9 litres (2 gallons) water, applied to 6 sq. m. (20 sq. yds.).

Soleirolia soleirolii (Helxine, or Mind-your-own-business) is similarly resistant. Lawn sands or tar oil can be used. Small areas are best returved.

Field woodrush usually occurs in very acid soil, often where there is a build-up of thatch. Scarifying to remove the thatch is the first step, followed by a winter dressing of ground chalk or limestone if the soil is acid. Repeated spraying with mecoprop may check the weed, but is unlikely to give control unless cultural steps are also carried out. Moss in lawns A number of different mosses may occur in lawns -cushion-forming, soft trailing types, and others that are short, bristly and matted. Large amounts of moss suggest that the grass itself is in poor condition.

Moss can be given a temporary check by applying moss-killers or lawn sands based on chelated iron or ferrous sulphate. There are also lawn moss killers combined with fertilizer (which should not be used during the autumn) or dich-lorophen. With the exception mentioned, apply during fine weather at any time of the year, though preferably in autumn or early spring.

For complete, long-term control, encourage healthy, vigorous turf by attending, as necessary, to drainage, aeration, liming (if very acid), or a reduction in shade. Also, feed and irrigate the turf throughout the active growing season, and do not mow too closely.


Simazine applied at a low dosage rate to clean, moist soil in late winter will control almost all germinating weeds for several months.

With some widely-grown trees and shrubs, however, such as Choisya, Forsythia and Kolkwit-zia, there is a significant risk of damage. To a lesser extent this may also occur with others, such as Cotoneaster, Diervilla, Prunus,

Spiraea and Viburnum. It is therefore essential to check manufacturers’ recommendations very carefully before use. If any susceptible plants are killed, replace with simazine-tolerant species or revert to hand-weeding.

Dichlobenil may safely be used, at low dosage rates, around many trees and shrubs to control weeds at the seed germination stage; also to kill established annual weeds and to kill or check many perennial types. However, as with simazine, some trees and shrubs are susceptible, though not the same ones. Forsythia and Spiraea, for example, are tolerant of dichlobenil.

Apply the granules in late autumn or in winter, before growth buds show signs of life and also while plants are dry, so that granules do not lodge against buds or in leaf axils. Trees and shrubs should have been established for at least two years before using dichlobenil.

Propachlor may be applied in early spring to control some annual weeds as they germinate. The effect is short-term, but the treatment can be repeated.

Alloxydim-sodium, applied as an overall spray, will give selective control of couch grass and other perennial grasses that appear among growing shrubby plants, such as heathers.

Paraquat with diquat will kill annual weeds at any time of the year, but the spray must be directed with care.

Glyphosate is suitable for very careful spot treatment of a range of perennial weeds, including couch grass.


Roses that are kept well mulched should remain fairly free from weeds. Even so, occasional hand-weeding or disturbance of the mulch with a hoe may be needed to remove developing weed seedlings, usually before renewing the mulch in spring. Never hoe or fork deeply, for suckers may develop at the point where the rose roots are damaged.

If mulching is not part of your routine, remove over-wintering annual weeds in late winter, either by hand-weeding or by applying paraquat/diquat carefully with a dribble-bar. Follow either treatment with an overall, low-dosage spray of simazine. Repeat this procedure annually.

If perennial weeds become established, apply dichlobenil at a low dosage rate in late winter. Repeat annually until the weeds are controlled, then resume treatment with simazine. If there are only couch or other perennial grasses, and no other perennial weeds, apply simazine in late winter, then alloxydim-sodium when the grasses are growing strongly. Note that alloxydim-sodium will not control annual meadow grass.



As a basic annual programme, apply simazine to clean, moist soil in February or March. This will control nearly all weeds at the germinating stage, though any over-wintering annuals should first be killed with paraquat/diquat. Although paraquat will not penetrate mature bark, it is important to avoid spray contact with stems that are less than three years old.

Alternatively, if perennial weeds become established, apply dichlobenil in March, distributing the granules evenly over the soil surface. Do not apply under trees within two years of planting.

If couch grass or other perennial grasses become troublesome, spot-treat in autumn or early spring with alloxydim-sodium or apply dalapon as a directed spray. Do not use dalapon among trees established for less than four years, and avoid excessive run-off into the soil. If broad-leaved weeds, such as docks or bindweed, become troublesome, it is best to spot-treat very carefully with glyphosate.


BOTH OF THESE fruits are intolerant of simazine and dichlobenil, but propachlor will give short-term control of germinating annual weeds. Paraquat or alloxydim-sodium may be used, as for apples and pears. BUSH fruits Use simazine, as for apples and pears; also paraquat/ diquat. Dichlobenil may be used, too, but not within two years of planting or within one year of being cut down. Dalapon may be used to control grass weeds, including the perennial couch grass, between leaf-fall and the end of December.

Cane fruits Annually, apply simazine to clean, moist soil in February or March to kill germinating weeds. Any over-wintering annual weeds should be killed first with paraquat/diquat. Dichlobenil is suitable, too, but not within two years of planting. Apply it before the buds begin to show signs of life and before the emergence of suckers. Strawberries Simazine may be applied in December to clean, moist, firm soil as an overall spray on plants that have been established for at least four months. Do not use on sandy soils. Repeat the treatment after the harvest, in July or August, following defoliation and a general clean-up of weeds and runners.

Apply paraquat/diquat, to kill annual weeds and unwanted runners, by careful application with a dribble-bar between the rows. Do this between the end of picking and the start of flowering times.

With this crop, in particular, it is important to follow precisely the manufacturers’ recommendations regarding application rates and timing.


Regular cultivations, as when preparing for planting or when lifting root crops, will usually clear perennial weeds from a new vegetable plot reasonably quickly, and thereafter keep it free from such weeds.

Annual weeds can be very troublesome, however. Some, such as shepherd’s purse, mature rapidly and produce large numbers of seeds, which may remain viable in the soil for years. Each time the soil is cultivated, fresh seeds are brought close to the surface, where they may germinate.

Where a site is known to be heavily infested with annual weeds, try the stale seedbed method of weed control. Prepare the sowing or planting bed carefully, but some ten or fourteen days before the planned sowing dates. This allows time for weed seeds to germinate, and the seedlings can then be killed by light hoeing or by spraying with paraquat/diquat.

When sowing or planting the plot, work from a board, if possible, to avoid disturbing the soil and so bringing more weed seeds to the surface.

Paraquat/diquat, which acts by contact, may also be used following the sowing of slow-germinating vegetable seeds, such as carrot and parsley, where a lot of weed seedlings appear shortly after sowing. This method must be used with great care, however. If the weedkiller is applied just before the appearance of the vegetable crop, the seedlings, too, may be damaged, particularly if they are sown in light soil.

Propachlor, which is soil-acting and persists for only a few weeks, may be used following the sowing or planting of a number of crops, including shallots, onions and brassicas.


Apply simazine to weed-free gravel paths, in late winter. If over-wintering annuals and perennial weeds are present, use a proprietary path-weedkiller containing simazine and aminot-riazole. Spot-treat perennials, where necessary, with dichlobenil granules or glyphosate. Where there are path-side hedges, check their tolerance to simazine and dichlobenil.


There are a number of weeds that may prove very difficult to eradicate, owing to their deep roots or their easily-fragmented rootstocks. Such problem plants include bracken, creeping thistle, field bindweed and large bindweed (bellbind), horsetail and Japanese knotweed, as well as the bulbil-forming oxalis.

Where it can be used with safety, dichlobenil may check such weeds to a useful degree. Additionally, apply glyphosate as localised or spot treatments when weeds are growing strongly, repeating the treatment if re-growth occurs. If necessary, continue these treatments in subsequent seasons.

Plant naming systems

Plants are generally referred by their scientific, or botanical, names. Common names in general use in Britain are given also, although, they apply to only a limited number of plants. It is also true that so-called common names have many disadvantages, in spite of the supposed difficulty of using Latin names.


Because they do not conform to any agreed rules, common names are frequently ambiguous, and their use is often local. For instance, some plants have one name in England and quite a different one in Scotland, and there are many examples of even more local usage.

A further drawback to common names is that they are often misleading. For example, it may come as a surprise to learn that the so-called evening primrose is in no way related to the ordinary primrose that we all know and love so well.


In contrast to common names, botanical names are relatively stable, are internationally understood without any ambiguity, and they also give a clear and pecise indication of the relationships between plants. Instead of being fored arbitrarily, they have clear and precise meanings which are often helpful in describing some notable plant feature or association.

Many plant names, for example, describe the flower colour, habit of growth or origin of the plant, while others may bear the name of the plant’s discoverer or some other notable person.

The giant water lily, Victoria amazonica, was named in honour of Queen Victoria, while its name also indicates that it was originally found growing wild in the Amazon region.

The common snowdrop is called Galanthus nivalis. Galanthus means ‘milk flower’, in reference to the milky-white flowers, while the word nivalis means snowy, presumably alluding to its winter-flowering habit.


The term ‘plant’ covers primitive horsetails and ferns no less than the relatively more advanced flowering types. Over the two centuries since the Swedish botanist, Linnaues, began the scientific study of plants and their classification, botanists have come to perceive certain similarities and relationships between different species, and this has enabled them to work out a scheme of classification to encompass all plants.

This scheme attempts to reflect the natural relationships between different species, so that plants considered to have evolved from a common ancestor are placed together in groups. Three of these groups – species, genus and family – are of direct significance to gardeners.

When we talk of a particular plant in precise terms – for example, a cowslip or a primrose – we are usually referring to a species (a word that can be either plural or singular). Some groups of species, while clearly distinguishable as distinct entities, have certain characters in common. These are therefore placed together in the same genus (the plural is ‘genera’). Cowslips, oxlips, primroses and drumstick primulas are classified together in the genus Primula.

Likewise, similarities in flower structure, fruits or other characters allow related genera to be placed together within a larger group, the family. This hierarchy of divisions within the plant kingdom has several other, broader categories, but these three – family, genus and species – are the ones that are of most importance to gardeners.


The foregoing are all botanical categories, dealing primarily with wild plants. But a further category, most important in the horticultural world, is the cultivar. This term is used for plants that differ from the typical (wild) form in some way that is horticulturally different, and sometimes desirable. Cultivars may arise by chance, in the wild or in gardens, or they may be the result of deliberate breeding or selection. A cultivar may be a single clone (that is, a number of identical, vegetatively reproduced individuals), or a group of clones of similar appearance. The main characteristic of cultivars, regardless of their origin, is that they persist, and are propagated, only by the intervention of man.

Calluna vulgaris, the common heather or ling, has produced many seedling variants and ‘sports’ of garden value, showing variations in flower colour, or shape, or foliage colour. Many of these have been introduced into cultivation and given cultivar names. For example, Calluna vulgaris ‘Robert Chapman’ is distinct in its reddish foliage; ‘County Wicklow’ in its compactness and double pink flowers; and ‘Silver Queen’ in its greyish, hairy foliage.


Linnaeus developed a ‘binomial’ (two-named) system for naming plants – the basis of that in use today – in which each plant is known by a two-word name. The first word is the name of the genus (the generic name) and is normally a noun. The second, which is usually an adjective describing some attribute of the plant, indicates the species and is known as the specific epithet.

As an example, the botanical name for the primrose is Primula vulgaris – Primula being the genus and vulgaris the specific epithet. Clearly, although a quite distinct plant, the cowslip is closely allied to the primrose, and it is therefore regarded as a separate species of Primula – P. veris. Primulas, cyclamen and loosestrifes share certain similarities of structure, and for this reason they are placed together in the same family, Primulaceae.

Some species are rather variable, either in the wild state or in cultivation, and it is then necessary to subdivide the species. Although, in Britain, wild primroses are invariably yellow, a pink form occurs regularly in parts of the Balkan area and Turkey. This is distinguished as Primula vulgaris subsp. Sibthorpii – a wild variant.

Such variations within a species may be considered to be of greater or lesser significance, and the category used for them – ‘ssp.’ (subspecies), ‘var.’ (varietas or variety), or ‘f.’ (forma or form) -reflects this. In general, a minor difference, often in a single character such as an albino variant, will be treated as a forma. In contrast, both ssp. And var. are usually distinguished by a combination of several characters.

Species normally remain quite distinct in the wild state. Occasionally, however, natural hybrids occur and these sometimes receive species-like names, but distinguished by a multiplication sign. Thus, the natural hybrid between Geum urbanum (wood avens) and C. rivale (water avens) is called Geum x intermedium.


The names of species, varieties and cultivars are not given in an un- controlled way, but are governed by internationally accepted rules-the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature and the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants.

The first of these sets of rules applies to the names of wild plants. It details the method for publishing valid new botanical names and the correct style of usage. These are almost invariably in Latin form, as in the examples given above, and they follow the rules of Latin grammar in that the endings of the generic and specific names must agree in gender.

Similarly, the Cultivated Code provides a clear set of rules for the formation and use of cultivar names. One of the most important of these states that new cultivar names must not be in Latin form, but must be in a modern language.

While the names of species are generally printed in italics, cultivar names are always printed in Roman type, with a capital initial letter, and they are enclosed within single quotation marks – for instance, Calluna vulgaris ‘Robert Chapman’.


One aspect of scientific plant names that many people find quite infuriating is the occasional instance of a well-known name being replaced of an unfamiliar one. There are many examples of this, but such changes are seldom made without good reason.

Plant names are usually changed either for taxonomic reasons (those concerned with reassessments of the relationships between plants) or for nomenclatural reasons (those necessitated by the application of the rules of nomenclature).

A rule common to both Codes, for example, is that (in most cases) the correct name for a plant is the earliest one published for it. It sometimes occurs that in the course of researching a group of plants, a student will find a correctly published name for a particular species that predates the more well-known name. Generally, the familiar name will be ousted in favour of the earlier one.

Sowing and growing juicy melons

Set out the plants in cloches or frames, each on a slight mound so that water drains away freely from the stems. This helps to avoid most of the stem rots that may affect melons if water lays around the base of the stems for too long.

When planting, dig out a hole about 30 cm (1 ft) square and the depth of a spade blade, filling this with well-rotted manure or garden compost. On top of this place the soil that was removed, thus forming a mound.

When the plants have established themselves, pinch out the growing point at two true leaves -that is, excluding the seed leaves.

From these, two shoots will grow, which must be stopped at seven leaves. Sub-laterals will grow out of the leaf axils and these, in turn, must be stopped at five leaves. From these will come the fruiting laterals.

When both male and female flowers are present, open up the cloche or frames to let bees and other pollinating insects in. They will do the pollinating much better than attempts by hand.

At this stage keep the plants dry by withholding water for a while. When the fruits are set and about the size of a walnut, stop the shoots two leaves beyond the fruit and restrict the fruits to four per plant.

How to sow and grow sweetcorn

Sow sweetcorn outdoors towards the end of the month, setting two or three seeds at each station and thinning to the strongest plant as soon as they are large enough to handle.

The female flowers, or ‘silks’ as they are called, have to be pollinated in order to produce a well-filled cob. As successful pollination depends on the wind, sow in a block of not less than twelve stations, spacing these 38 cm (15 in) each way and sowing the seeds about 5 cm (2 in) deep.

For successional sowing, ‘Ear-liking’, ‘Kelvedon Sweetheart’ and ‘Sundance’ are reliable cultivars. For early and mid-season crops, choose ‘Kelvedon Glory’, ‘Northern Belle’ or ‘Seneca Beauty’; for late crops, ‘Jubilee’ and ‘October Gold’ are good choices.

When the plants are about 30 cm (1 ft) high, draw soil around the stems – 15 cm (6 in) is ideal – as this encourages the plants to form ‘buttress’ roots and so prevent them from rocking in the wind. Water freely when the plants are in flower and while the cobs are forming. It is a sign that the cobs are ripening when the ‘silks’ turn brown.


Continue with successional sowings of beetroot, radishes, spinach, carrots, main-crop peas and broad beans. There is still time to sow parsnips if this was not done last month.

Lettuces: This is an ideal month to sow lettuces of the curly, crisp type, often referred to as Iceberg. These stand the dry, hot conditions often met with in June and July and rarely run to seed. Recommended cultivars are ‘Great Lakes’, ‘Manner’ and ‘Windermere’.

Onions: Early in the month is the time to plant onion sets – immature onion bulbs about 12 mm (’/> in) in diameter. If planted too early they are more likely to produce a seedhead than a bulb.

Proven cultivars are ‘All-Rounder’, ‘Giant Fen Globe’ and ‘Sturon’.

Plant the sets in a drill 2.5 cm (1 in) deep, with the sets 15 cm (6 in) apart and the rows spaced 30 cm (1 ft) apart. Cover them completely. This deters the birds, particularly blackbirds, for if the tips are left showing they will pull them out and toss them on one side in their search for food.

Salad onions sown now in shallow drills, 15 cm (6 in) wide, will germinate quickly, and be ready for the salad bowl in the warm days to come.

Seakale beet: Seakale beet, also known as silver beet and Swiss chard, provides a welcome change from the ordinary run of vegetables. When ready to harvest, the leaves are stripped from the stalks and cooked in the same way as spinach. The stalks or midribs can be cooked separately, as for seakale.

Sow the seeds in drills 2.5 cm (1 in) deep, with the rows 45 cm (1.5 ft) apart. Sown now or in May, the crop will be ready in late summer or early winter. A further sowing can be made in July, which will give lower yields but will last throughout the winter until the following summer. With all sowings, thin the seedlings to stand 30 cm (1 ft) apart.

Of the few cultivars, ‘Ford-hook’ crops well and is also very hardy.

Winter brassicas: The end of April is about the right time to sow a seedbed of winter brassicas for planting out later in the spring. Savoy CABBAGES: ‘Aquarius’, ‘Ice Queen’, ‘Winter King’, ‘Wivoy’. KALE: ‘Dwarf Green Curled’, ‘Frosty’, ‘Tall Green Scotch Curled’.

WINTER cauliflowers: ‘May Queen’, ‘Saint George’, ‘Saint Keverne’.



Tomatoes: To raise plants for growing outdoors, sow the seeds in the middle of the month, using 8 cm (3 in) pots or shallow trays. Sow the seeds thinly, pricking them out singly into 8 cm (3 in) pots containing John Innes potting compost No. 2.

Well-tried cultivars, suitable for growing under glass or outdoors, are ‘Alicante’, ‘Ronaclave’ and ‘Sweet 1 oo’. Reliable bush cultivars developed specifically for outdoor culture are ‘Pixie’, ‘Red Alert’ and ‘Sleaford Abundance’.

Herbs: Sow anise outdoors, thinning to 23 cm (9 in). Other outdoor sowings include good king henry, thinning to 30 cm (1 ft); coriander, thinning to 30 cm (1 ft); dill, thinning to 23 cm (9 in); summer savory, thinning to 23 cm (9 in); basil, thinning to 30 cm (1 ft). Also sow nasturtiums, placing two seeds at 30 cm (1 ft) intervals and removing one seedling if both germinate.

Grow your own fresh beans

French beans

These delicious beans are tender, half-hardy annuals and require an open but sheltered position as they are vulnerable to wind damage. They need soil that has been deeply dug and, although they do not require such generous feeding as runner beans, they do best on ground that has been dressed with farmyard manure or compost during the autumn or winter.

Most failures with French beans occur from sowing too early, in cold soil. The seeds will not germinate satisfactorily if the soil temperature is below 10°C (50°F), which often means about early May in the southern part of the country. Sow the seeds about the second week of the month.

Runner beans: The middle to the end of the month is a good time to sow runner beans, the wigwam method of staking being preferable to the continuous row method of planting.

Each wigwam consists of four 2.4 m (8 ft) canes spaced 60 cm (2 ft) apart and tied together at the top. Two beans are sown in a short drill 5 cm (2 in) deep on the inside of each cane, and no thinning is necessary.

With this type of staking, bees have easier access to the flowers and pollination is more certain. You can expect to harvest from 4-5 kg (9-11 lb) of beans from each wigwam.

If birds cause a problem by pecking the flowers from red-flowered cultivars, try sowing one of the excellent white-flowered runner beans. Birds seem to find these less attractive. Some good white-flowered cultivars are ‘Emcrgo’, ‘Desiree’ and also ‘Mergoles’. Recommended red-flowered cultivars are ‘Achievement’, ‘Enorma’, ‘Prize Winner’ and ‘Red Knight’.

Supporting runner beans

Where space is limited, grow runner beans against a wigwam of 4-6 tall bamboo canes tied together at the top. Sow z seeds inside each cane.

Save money by growing your own broccoli

Tender, fresh young broccoli gathered from the garden is a delicious vegetable. Closely related to the cauliflower, it was introduced into Britain from Italy. The best Italian broccoli is the green, sprouting kind called calabrese, which comes from Calabria in the sunny south. There are some excellent cultivars from which to choose.

The modern hybrids produce bumper crops on dwarf plants, which are generally ready to harvest in August or September. Any surplus can be frozen ready for later use.

Choose one or more from the special dwarf hybrids ‘Corvet’, ‘Green Comet’, ‘Green Duke’ and ‘Mercedes’. Each produces a central green head, like a cauliflower, with numerous side-shoots or spears.

‘Green Comet’ alone produces a single head weighing up to 1.5 kg (3 lb), which can easily be broken into spears.

Sow the seeds in shallow drills in April or May. When the seedlings are about 10 cm (4 in) high, transplant them to their final positions in the garden. Calabrese does best in a sunny spot in rich soil with plenty of organic matter worked into it, plus a dressing of general fertilizer at the rate of 150 g (5 oz) per sq m (sq yd), well hoed into the top 10 cm (4 in).

Space the plants 45 cm (1.5 ft) apart each way, planting them firmly. Cut the central head before any signs of yellow flowers appear, and the side-shoots when they are about 10 cm (4 in) long.

Growing your own Melons and cucumbers

Melon seeds can be sown now, ready for planting, in June, when temperatures generally will be above 13°C (55°F) even at night. The best for frame or cloche culture are the small kind, called Cantaloupes, most of which have pink or orange flesh.

The easiest to grow, and probably the best cultivars, are ‘Early Sweet’, ‘Ogen’ and ‘Sweetheart’.

Sow each seed 12 mm (0.5 in) deep in an 8 cm (3 in) pot, using a moist, peat-based compost, and cover each pot with cling-film to retain moisture. Place in the airing cuphoard, where the temperature is usually over 21 °C (70°F).

The seeds will germinate in three to five days, so it is important to check the pots frequently. At the first sign of growth, take them into the light and remove the cling-film, placing them on a sunny window-sill until June. By then, the plants should have at least four true leaves and will be ready to plant out in their fruiting quarters.

Raise ridge cucumbers in the same way as melons, and plant them out in late May or early June. Reliable cultivars are ‘Amslic’ and ‘Burpee Tasty Green’.

What to plant in the vegetable patch in March

Lettuce: Make small sowings of lettuces in the open. For preference, choose one of the Butter-head types, round, smooth-leaved lettuces that offer a wide choice of cultivars. Sow them in shallow drills, 2 cm (3/4 in) deep, with 30 cm (1 ft) between the rows.

Ten weeks from sowing is the earliest one can produce lettuces from an outdoor sowing. It is good practice to sow little and often for continuous supplies.

Reliable cultivars for sowing now include ‘Fortune’ and ‘Unrivalled’. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them to 23 cm (9 in), transplanting some of the thinnings for succes-sional harvesting.

Broad beans: It is now safe to sow broad beans in well-manured, fertile soil. For best results, sow in double drills, 23 cm (9 in) apart and 5 cm (2 in) deep, with the beans placed alternately and 23 cm (9 in) apart. This minimizes the need for staking.

Excellent long-pod cultivars are ‘Hylon’, ‘Imperial Longpod’ and ‘Relon’. If space is limited, the dwarf-growing cultivar ‘The Sutton’ is a good choice.

During a dry spell, water once the beans start to flower, continuing throughout the pod-forming period. When at least four trusses of flowers have set, pinch out the tips of the plants as this helps the pods to form and also discourages blackfly.

Pick the pods regularly for continuous cropping. Broad beans are often the first fresh vegetables of the season.

Seedbed sowings: The end of this month is a good time to start a seedbed for brassicas and leeks. Wait until the wind and sundry the soil, enabling you to create a fine tilth. Sow the seeds in shallow drills.

Brussels sprouts (Early): ‘Peer Gynt’, ‘Top Score’. (Mid-season): ‘Perfect Line’, ‘Welland’. (Late): ‘Citadel’, ‘Sigmund’. Red cabbage: ‘Langedijk Red’, ‘Ruby Ball’.

Storable cabbage: ‘Hidena’, ‘Minicole’, ‘Winter White’. Summer cabbage: ‘Derby Day’, ‘Quickstep’, ‘Stonehead’. Calabrese: ‘Corvet’, ‘Green Comet’, ‘Green Duke’. Summer cauliflower: ‘Dominant’, ‘Snowball’, ‘Snow Crown’. Leeks: ‘Blue Solaise’, ‘Winter Crop’.

Parsnips: Parsnips sown now will germinate much quicker than those sown a month earlier, as often advised. They may have slightly smaller roots but they will be less prone to canker.

Cultivars that have some resistance to canker are ‘Avon Resister’ and ‘White Gem’. Other worthwhile sorts are ‘Cobham Marrow’, ‘Hollow Crown’, ‘Lisbonais’ and ‘Tender and True’.

Heavy rain will sometimes expose the shoulders of the roots. If this occurs, cover them with soil from between the rows, mounding it up slightly with a draw hoe. This will minimize the incidence of canker, which can render the crop unusable.


Self-blanching celery sown this month should be ready for planting out in early June. Sow the seeds thinly in a pot and place them in full light in a warm spot in a greenhouse. Prick the seedlings out when they are large enough to handle and keep them moist at all times.

Recommended cultivars are ‘Avonpearl’, ‘Golden Self-Blanching’ and ‘Lathom Self-Blanching’, the latter having good resistance against running to seed.


Although one of the easiest crops to grow, radishes can cause problems if they are sown too thickly, too deeply or kept short of water. Any of these conditions will cause plants to produce excessive top growth and small roots.

Sow the seeds in a broad drill, 15 cm (6 in) wide and try to space them 12-20 mm (½-A in) apart. Radishes may be sown in the open from March until August.

Some recommended cultivars are ‘Cherry Belle’, ‘French Breakfast’, ‘Saxa’ and ‘Sparkler’. Harvest the roots while they are quite young, as they become tough and woody if left too long.

Early potatoes: It is worth taking a chance and planting a few early potatoes, as very few vegetables can rival them for flavour when they are freshly-dug. Set the tubers 30 cm (1 ft) apart in a drill 15 cm (6 in) deep. If you are growing more than one row, allow about 60 cm (2 ft) between them.

For the earliest crops, ‘Dun-luce’, ‘Foremost’ and ‘Maris Bard’ are suitable cultivars.

When the plants are breaking through the soil, keep a watchful eye on the weather. If frost threatens, draw a little soil over the plants or cover them with some light material, such as plastic or newspapers.

Water is best applied at flowering time. The tubers will then be about the size of marbles and it is at this stage that they most need water for maximum cropping.


Spinach grows best in the cool conditions of spring and autumn, and in very fertile soil. It will tolerate light shade but must always be kept moist. If allowed to dry out, the plants will go to seed prematurely.

Recommended cultivars are ‘Bloomsdale’, ‘Long Standing’ and ‘Sigmaleaf’.

Sow in drills 2 cm (V4 in) deep and 30 cm (1 ft) apart. The crop should be ready to harvest ten to twelve weeks after sowing. With summer spinach, individual leaves can be picked or else the whole plant can be cut about 2.5 cm (1 in) above ground level, leaving it to re-sprout.

Herbs: Sow basil under glass near the end of the month. A minimum temperature of 13°C (5S°F) is needed. Prick out into a tray. After hardening off, plant out 30 cm (1 ft) apart when the risk of frost is over.

Sow parsley seeds, in drills or broadcast, where the plants are to grow. Subsequently, thin the seedlings to 25 cm (ioin)spacings.

Set out purchased plants of sage.

Learn how to grow your own garden peas

Garden peas do best in deeply-dug, well-drained soil, with plenty of organic matter worked into the top. They do not grow well when the soil is compacted or waterlogged. Peas have root nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria, so they can make some of the nitrogen they need. As garden soils usually have plenty of phosphate and potash left over from previous crops, additional fertilizer may be unnecessary, unless the ground is very poor.

Peas grow well in spring and during cool, moist summers. They can even stand slight frosts.

‘Round’ or ‘wrinkled’ are terms frequently used to describe peas -self-explanatory names when you see the different sorts. Round peas, which are the hardiest, are used for the earliest pickings, sometimes being sown in the autumn. They are not as sweet as wrinkled peas, which are more widely grown.

Although wrinkled peas are slightly less reliable for early sowings, they have a much better flavour than round-seeded peas. The cultivars are divided into early and maincrop types.

Round-seeded, hardy cultivars include ‘Douce Provence’, ‘Fel-tham First’ and ‘Meteor’, all about 60 cm (2 ft) high or less.

Early wrinkled-seeded peas, all growing to about 60 cm (2 ft) are ‘Early Onward’, ‘Hurst Beagle’ and ‘Kelvedon Wonder’. For the maincrop, ‘Hurst Greenshaft’, ‘JoP, ‘Onward’ and ‘Sweetness’ will give continuity of supply.

Grow your own tasty Turnips

This vegetable belongs to the cabbage family and in a rotation of crops should be on the same plot as other brassicas. It is grown chiefly for its roots, but the tops, which make excellent spring greens, may also be used.

Turnips do best in cool, moist conditions and they will tolerate light shade. They do well on land that has been manured for a previous crop but, failing this, give a top-dressing of a general fertilizer ten days before sowing. If grown well, turnips will be ready to harvest about ten or twelve weeks after sowing.

Make the drills 25 cm (1 in) deep, spacing the rows 30 cm (1 ft) apart. Sow thinly, thinning the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle. Turnips grow rapidly so prompt thinning is essential, leaving them 15 cm (6 in) apart in the row.

Turnips grown for their tops are sown in August or early September. They are best broadcast in a small batch as this will give them a certain amount of protection through the winter. They will make rapid growth in spring and will be ready to harvest when fresh greens are scarce.

Cultivars suitable for spring sowings are ‘Purple Milan’, ‘Snow Ball’, ‘Tokio Cross’ and ‘White’. Hardy cultivars for root crops are ‘Golden Ball’, ‘Green Top Stone’ and ‘Manchester Market’. Sowings under glass Several vegetables may be sown under glass this month.