The Importance of Observation in the GardenDecember 29th, 2014
One vital error we all make in our gardens, whether you’re a novice or an expert, is to forget to observe our plants all year round. Good observation is the key to a successful garden.
Boxing Day this year I spent locked in my greenhouse (heater on!) checking over my plants for pests, diseases and debris. Not surprisingly I discovered a small family of overwintering caterpillars, a trail of botrytis on my Pelargoniums and fungal rot on a small selection of bulbs.
All of these issues were easily dealt with – the caterpillars were fed to my very grateful chickens, the botrytis removed leaf by leaf and the infected bulbs destroyed and pots cleaned of all residue.
However if I had decided to stay in my warm pyjamas and finish off the Christmas leftovers I may not have ventured into the garden until New Year when the botrytis may have spread and killed my prize Pelargoniums and the caterpillars may have indulged in their own midnight feast!
We are always quick to blame other factors for failures in the garden, the weather perhaps, the soil, pests or the plants themselves but the truth is if we open our eyes and spend the time with our plants we may find that untimely deaths and diseases can be prevented.
Successful gardening is not a part time hobby, fungal diseases can emerge and spread within days, vine weevil can attack overnight and severe blight can wipe out an entire crop. Of course we don’t all have the time to inspect the garden everyday, but if we don’t we can’t always expect it to run smoothly. Take an hour especially in the winter to turn your soil, let the birds feast on the snail eggs – clean and air your greenhouse. Repot stale plants, and gently water where necessary. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean plants don’t require water.
Look for tell tale signs of pests and diseases and have a good book handy to identify and deal with them. Now is the perfect time of year for pruning certain shrubs to ensure strong growth and flowering in the spring. Remove the dead, diseased and damaged material first before -considering reshaping or resizing.
Most of all – enjoy your garden in the winter, it can be as rewarding as any other time of year.