Life Gardens

Monday 23 October 2017

What to do in the garden now

It's prime-time in the garden, and the sunny weather means a growth spurt. Gerry Daly has your to-do list.

Gerry Daly has your to-do list.
Gerry Daly has your to-do list.

Gerry Daly

It's prime-time in the garden, and the sunny weather means a growth spurt. Gerry Daly has your to-do list.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs

  • Plant out tender vegetables, such as sweetcorn, runner beans, courgettes, squash and pumpkins, in a spell of warm weather, ideally overcast.
  • Continue to sow vegetables such as lettuce, radish, carrots, peas, French beans, cauliflower and parsley.
  • Sow seeds of winter cabbage and cauliflower, and delicious purple-sprouting broccoli for spring, to have plants ready for planting in about six weeks.
  • Watch for greenfly on apple trees, but do not spray unless natural predators and parasites have lost the battle - and wait until the petals fall.
  • If the presence of codling moth grubs in apples has been a problem in recent years, spray with a caterpillar spray at the end of flowering and again two weeks later.
  • Strawberries may need netting against bird damage and slugs can be active in damp weather, especially if there are weeds present.
  • If there are long spells of wet weather, especially in warm conditions, apple and pear trees may need spraying against scab disease, if the disease has affected the fruit in recent years.

Trees, shrubs and roses

  • If it is necessary to reduce the size of shrubs because they are getting too big, prune them when they have gone out of flower, and this can include shrubs such as camellia and pieris.
  • Check that young trees and shrubs are securely staked, if necessary, and have not run short of water. They are not out of danger until they have made some new growth at the branch tips, and can struggle to get established all summer.
  • Check Japanese maples for greenflies on the young shoots, and also chestnut scale on the branches, and control these with a garden insecticide if large numbers are present, as both can cause severe dieback of branches.


  • Plant out summer bedding plants and plant up pots and other containers, except in the colder inland areas.
  • Watch for slug and snail damage immediately after planting out, and water shortage.
  • At 10 days to two weeks after planting out bedding, hoe the ground to knock out weed seedlings before they take hold, and hoe lightly every week or so until the flower plants are well grown.
  • In flower beds and borders with perennial flowers, carefully go through and remove any weeds. However, the plants will soon shade over seedling weeds and keep them down.


  • Mow the grass regularly during this period of rapid growth, a time when the grasses annually push out their flower stems.
  • It is essential to keep ahead of grass growth to have a good quality dense lawn of green grass. If too much growth is allowed before mowing, the lawn will look very pale and uneven when it is cut.
  • Poor growth indicates that feeding with high-nitrogen lawn fertiliser is needed and this replaces nutrients taken away in mowings. Do not feed a wild-flower lawn.
  • Control weeds before they get too advanced by using lawn weedkiller in a settled spell of good weather. If you want wildflowers, do not use weedkiller.

Greenhouse and house plants

  • Pot up some bedding plants, such as busy lizzies, begonias and petunias for greenhouse display. Pelargoniums are excellent in pots, tolerating drought very well.
  • Remove excess shoots of a grapevine every couple of weeks to keep it under control, and tie in new shoots that are needed for extension growth.
  • Plant out tomato, chilli and sweet peppers in a greenhouse, if not already done. Grow them on strongly with plenty of watering and feeding.
  • If a peach tree in a greenhouse has set too many fruits, it will not be able to swell them and all the fruit may be of poor flavour. One peach for each 15cm of branch length is plenty, averaged out over the whole tree.
  • Water all house plants regularly and feed every two weeks or so. Check for pests such as scale insects and red spider mites.

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