Saturday, 13 February 2016

"You like getting your hands dirty"

Primula lifted and repotted
So, as I was discussing possible solutions to having vine weevil in some of my pots, and a funny (and accurate) remark was made about me 'sure you like getting your hands dirty, rooting through the compost and ensuring plants are in good order'.  

Of course I do, doesn't every one? Well apparently not. Hmmm ... people don't know what they're missing ...

The origins of the discussion began a couple of weeks ago. As I was inspecting my overwintering Fuchsia's, I noted that at the base of some of the plants, the compost looked a little like fine saw dust, and on inspection, there were little roots present. 

This only meant one thing ... vine weevil. 

These little guys, in adult form, do very little damage. However, their offspring, in the form of grubs, can devastate plants by eating away roots under the soil, over the winter months. To the uninitiated, it appears that your plants are healthy in the autumn, but they die the following spring. The main tell-tale sign is that you lift the plant out of its container, and there are little or no roots present. Sometimes when you root further into these containers you'll find little white grubs, like the on in the picture. In my case, I use very little chemicals against these guys, relying mostly on good practices to get rid of them. 

"Hmmm ... people don't know what they're missing ..."

But, when it comes to certain plants, I have used chemicals in the past, and with the losses I suffered last year with my Fuchsias, I was looking to see what was available. I did research and chatted to others about what can be purchased to use at this time of year. Fortunately (or unfortunately) most of the heavy weaponry has been banned, and rightly so due to the risk of cancer, ill-health, etc. This however still leaves one with the conundrum of what to do in the case of a suspected attack. Well, there is only one thing for it, out and get stuck into the soil and check the roots of container plants. 
With a collection of 25 to 30 Fuchsia, this is taking a little bit of time. The good news is, that because most of the compost I use is loam based, I have only found a few so far, and the root systems of the Fuchsia are in good order. Once I complete stripping and washing away the compost, I trim the plants back, both roots and shoots and repot them again using good quality top soil mixed with vermiculite, placing them into small pots. These are then placed in a bright warm area of the greenhouse, where they can come on through the spring. I don't want them growing too fast, as we are still in winter and there is a frost or two to come yet. 

Very early rhubarb
Another group of plants vine weevil seem to like a Primula. So when a couple of the primula plants finished flowering last spring, I transplanted them out of their containers and into the ground (they were actually tucked under the broccoli plants in the veg garden) As I was tidying my veg patch in January, I came across them again, and have now have lifted them, and placed them back onto containers for spring colour. They're three times the size of ones on sale in garden centres !

Many other container grown plants can be affected by vine weevil, however, I layer grit around many of my established plants in containers which inhibits the females laying eggs. I will write another blog at some point on vine weevil, with other tips and advice. 

Speaking of cleaning the veg garden, did I mention that the rhubarb is growing away, as the weather has been so mild. I am very tempted to harvest some, just a couple of shoots, to enjoy in a pie. There may be cold weather ahead, and if we get a series of frosts, and new shoots will be knocked back. 

Seeds for 2016
As for seed sowing, well, as tempted as I am, it's just too early. Although I have been reviewing the seed saved since last autumn and reading through catalogues to whet the appetite for this year, I'm better of spending my time cleaning and tidying the garden, washing pots, etc. in preparation for seed sowing in late February or early March. What seeds are you going to grow this year? Will you have a colour theme to the garden?  
Finally, if you have the opportunity, do get out to the garden and have a look around at what's happening, enjoy the emergence of bulbs for spring colour, and maybe plan  little on what the year ahad will bring. And if yu're inclined, stick you hands into the soil and get them alittle dirty.

Happy gardening. 

A little 'friend' munching on some leaves