HomeHome & GardenAction plan: Ciar Byrne's essential jobs for your garden this week

Action plan: Ciar Byrne’s essential jobs for your garden this week

Action plan: Ciar Byrne’s essential jobs for your garden this week

  • Ciar Byrne says now is a good time of year to plant deciduous hedges, like beech
  • Gardener adds they will have time to establish roots before spring and summer
  • She warns it might take three to five years for the hedge to provide thick barrier

PLANT OF THE WEEK: Iris Unguicularis (Algerian Iris)

In the depths of winter, this iris provides colour and fragrance with its sweetly scented flowers. Native to the Mediterranean, I. unguicularis prefers well-drained neutral-toalkaline soil. Plant in September in a sunny, sheltered spot. The best cultivars include dark purple Mary Barnard and pale blue Walter Butt. Note that it is toxic to dogs, cats and horses. 

HEDGE YOUR BETS RIGHT NOW

This is a good time of year to plant deciduous hedges, such as beech, hawthorn, and hornbeam — as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged. 

Or try mixed native hedging, which might include blackthorn, hazel and dog rose, bringing a touch of the countryside to your garden. 

If you put them in the ground now, while they are bare root and dormant, they will have plenty of time to establish roots before the spring and summer. 

Use a string tied between two sticks to mark a straight line where you want the hedge, then dig out a trench about 10 to 15cm deep. Break up the bottom with a fork and add humus-rich organic matter such as peatfree compost or well-rotted farmyard manure. You can also add bone meal fertiliser. 

Then place the individual plants into the opening, spaced 45 to 60cm apart until they are covered to a few centimetres above the roots. Replace the soil and firm it in with your boot. 

Hedging might not put on much growth in its first year, but within three to five years it will provide a thick barrier which helps to reduce flooding and pollution. It is great for wildlife, too. 

CUT BACK PERENNIALS 

As the weather alternates between torrential rain and freezing temperatures, gardens have taken a pummelling. I usually leave seedheads and grasses for as long as possible, but this year everything has turned to black mush. I plan to take advantage of this weekend’s dry forecast to cut remaining perennials down with a hand tool. This is also an opportunity to assess which plants might need lifting and dividing in the spring.

This is a good time of year to plant deciduous hedges, such as beech, hawthorn, and hornbeam ¿ as long as the ground isn¿t frozen or waterlogged

This is a good time of year to plant deciduous hedges, such as beech, hawthorn, and hornbeam — as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out in the garden over winter, but I find organising my tool shed gives me the kickstart I need. Choose a dry day to bring everything out of the shed and give it a good sweep. If you haven’t done so already, wash out old plant pots to reuse them. Sort through seeds and organise them in a recycled box or tin according to which month they need to be sown in. Dip larger tools in a bucket of warm water then wipe dry with an old towel. My top tip for cleaning secateurs and hand tools is use baby wipes — biodegradable ones, of course. 

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out in the garden over winter, but I find organising my tool shed gives me the kickstart I need

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out in the garden over winter, but I find organising my tool shed gives me the kickstart I need

READER’S QUESTION

I’VE grown raspberries but would like to try something new. Any recommendations? 

Mr T. Crowson, York. 

Try tayberry, a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, bred at the Scottish Crop Research Institute in the 1970s. They are a bit like loganberries, but hardier, with double the fruit. Rubus ‘Medana’ is the original tayberry, tolerating sun or shade and bearing heavy clusters of dark purple fruit between June and mid-August.

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