Martin Fish, Director of Harrogate Flower Shows is this week sounding the alert over gooseberry sawflies and answering a Ripon reader’s question about hanging baskets.
Last week I was at the Great Yorkshire show chatting about growing gooseberries and the subject of pests arose. I mentioned that I had been lucky in the fact that the gooseberry bushes in my garden had so far escaped attack this year. When I got home that evening I went into the garden to pick a bowl of gooseberries for the following day only to discover that the bushes were being eaten by the tiny caterpillars of the Gooseberry sawfly. This is the main pest of gooseberries and although I have mentioned it before, I thought a timely reminder was due, especially as the pest is around at the moment.
The sawfly has several broods during the growing season and can start as early as May and when spotted it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. The flies lay eggs on the leaves in the centre of the bush and when they hatch, the small caterpillars immediately start to devour the foliage at an alarming rate.
When they have eaten enough, which is usually when the bush is bare of leaves, the caterpillars drop to the ground and pupate. Control, if spotted early enough is to simply find the caterpillars that tend to feed in groups and squash them. I often pick them off and throw them into my hen run as a special treat! Alternatively you can spray with an insecticide suitable for use on fruit and vegetables.
Fortunately I caught my infestation in time and have managed to deal with it before too much damage was done. If you haven’t already checked your gooseberries I suggest you do it sooner than later!
Jill from Ripon is growing a hanging basket for the first time and wants to know how often to water? She wants to make sure the plants have enough water, but is worried about over-watering.
How much water to give plants is always a tricky one because there are so many factors such as the temperature and position that need to be considered. With hanging baskets it also depends on the type of baskets. Some baskets have a built-in reservoir that keeps the plants watered for several days at a time, whereas traditional baskets lined with moss do not retain water for as long.
If you have a traditional basket I would check it daily in warm weather and feel the weight of the basket. If it is light, the compost will be dry so will need a thorough watering. Even if rain has fallen, still check baskets and containers because very often the rain misses plants close to a building. It is difficult to over-water a full basket of plants during the summer months as they drink large amounts each day to keep growing and flowering. It is also important to feed the baskets with a liquid fertiliser.
Jobs for the week.
Make sure vegetables such as sweet corn, courgettes and beans are kept watered in dry weather.
Now is the time to sow the seeds of biennials such as sweet williams and wallflowers for next year.
Dead head roses as the blooms fade to encourage more flower buds to develop.