Zena Robson, Woodborough Garden Centre - Suckers should be cut right out

Snapdragons will attract plenty of bees to your garden

Snapdragons will attract plenty of bees to your garden

First published in News

At this time of year you may be noticing suckers appearing on some plants, especially those that are grafted like roses and some trees such as contorted hazels and willows.

The suckers come from the rootstock and often occur when the plant is under stress for some reason – it may have been damaged around the root area or may need more water. Either way, the suckers are what you don’t want.

It’s easy to see them – they cluster around the base of the plant and are often a different shaped leaf or a different colour. They’ve got to go – if left to their own devices, they will take over the whole thing as the rootstock is always the stronger grower.

The trick is to take them out completely, right down to the ground and even below the soil surface if you can get to it. Just cutting them back and leaving a growth point simply encourages them to grow even more strongly.

You should have been tying in your cordon tomatoes as they have grown and the general advice is to take the tops out once you have got five to six trusses on the plant. You should also have been removing those side-shoots in the leaf joints, so the plant does not become a bushy mass of foliage with very few flowers and fruits. Make sure you feed once a week and water daily. Don’t be tempted to overfeed – this is as bad as not feeding at all!

It’s also time to clip any box plants to maintain their shape. Box blight is rearing its ugly head again. This is a fungal disease present in the soil and there is nothing you can do about it.

The first signs are browning of the leaves followed by dying out in clumps. You can have a go at cutting the lot down then feeding and nurturing, or take the infected plants out completely and burn them. Remove the soil in the area and replace with fresh topsoil. Make sure there is good drainage as too much wet at the roots encourages the disease. Replant if you must. If it’s all too horrible, look for an alternative that can be clipped in the same way such as the small honeysuckle Lonicera nitida.

Keep mowing the lawn regularly. If it is dry, raise the height of the cut so the grass has a better chance of surviving. If you are off on holiday, do not make the mistake of thinking a really close cut will see it through until you get back. Just cut it as normal and deal with it when you get back. Unless the lawn is new, do not waste water on it. Concentrate on the things that need it like pots, containers, fruit, summer vegetables and anything newly planted.

A final word on slugs. I told you about the didiscus in the pots being chomped. Well, I have resorted to good old-fashioned Antirrhinum – snapdragons, that is.

The slugs don’t go for them but the bees do. It is only the various species of bees that can get into them as they are heavy enough for the flower to open when they land on the launchpad. The stamens with the pollen on are in the top lip.

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