GREENGRASS – North Cyprus Forum
Gardening Tips for February
We are pleased to be able to bring to our readers an article that has been published in the North Cyprus Forum and now shared with us for your enjoyment.
Pruning bougainvillea should be on the top of your list of jobs this month.
Dealing with this rampant climber is like fighting a cat in a bag! Be prepared by having long sleeves, sturdy gloves and eye protection for the whippy branches with the nasty thorns hidden away, as you cut out the dead or dying stems. Prune the tips of the vertical branches and take the horizontal branches back to two or three growths.
Many shrubs and climbers like plumbago and tecomaria flower on new growth so cut back the old stems to near the base and before long new shoots will start to appear. Always feed after pruning with an all round fertiliser. Rose bushes need some attention now.
Banksia roses only ever need the dead and dying branches removed and then a feed of rose fertiliser. Damascena roses make a lot of old wood during the summer so try to take out about a third each year. Cut the remaining stems down to about 60 cms and feed. Hybrid Tea roses should be pruned to an outward facing shoot. Remove inward facing shoots as they will clutter up the centre of the bush and you don’t want that.
If you look around you will see lots of olive trees being massacred! Maybe the owners are desperate for firewood but I sometimes wonder if the trees will survive the onslaught! I don’t recommend pruning as severely as that, but some gentle cutting – enough to let the swallows fly through the tree – should be sufficient. Now that a lot of the citrus fruit has been picked it’s time to prune them too. Each season they put on a lot of growth but if they grow too high then you will not be able to crop the fruits easily.
The same pruning maxim applies to all fruit trees, not just citrus – remove any dead or dying branches and reduce last year’s growth by a half to two thirds. February is the time to feed all the fruit and nut trees.
It is recommended to use 20.0.0 fertiliser at this time of year but it is increasingly difficult to obtain, so you may want to use 20.10.10 instead in the usual dosage of 900 gms for mature trees and 300 gms for young trees. Spread the fertiliser around the base of the tree but not immediately in the area of the trunk, as there are no fibrous roots .
If you can get your hands on some Rhubarb now is the time to plant this perennial in Cyprus the stems (‘sticks’) grown as vegetable but used mainly as a dessert. It crops over a long period, is completely hardy and grows in any garden soil, for the first few weeks after planting water every other day and keep covered with an up turned black bin. the rhubarb shown has been planted for three weeks here in North Cyprus.
Preparing the soil
Although the large foliage can help smother weeds, the ground should be free from perennial weeds before planting. Dig in one to two bucketfuls of well-rotted organic matter such as manure, before planting. ( I used potting compost)
Plant crowns in December/ early February in Cyprus. If necessary, planting can continue up to the beginning of March but before the ground has dried out. Buy named cultivars or choose a division from a strong, healthy-looking plant.
Plant the crown with the growing point at, or just below, the soil surface. On wetter soils planting with the buds just raised out of the soil may help prevent rotting.
In hot summers like we have here in North Cyprus, if the ground becomes dry, growth will slow down and even stop. A spring mulch of well rotted organic matter 7cm (2 1/2in) deep will help to retain moisture but do not bury the crowns. Plants will also respond to watering during prolonged dry periods in summer. Apply a general fertiliser such as Growmore in spring or summer at 70g per sq m (2oz per square yard). It is important to keep the ground as moist as possible ( leave a hose the on drip if at all feasible.
Allow the foliage to die back naturally in autumn then cut away the old leaves to expose the growing points to winter cold. There is no harm in adding these leaves to the compost heap as the poisonous oxalic acid contained in them breaks down during decomposition.
Do not harvest in the first season after planting and harvest only lightly in the second season to avoid weakening the crowns. From seedling plants, harvest in the second season after planting or in the first season after division.
Stems should be pulled rather than cut to prevent rotting of the remaining stump. Pull stems when they are between 23-30cm (9-12in) long, holding them at the base and pulling gently outwards. Take no more than half the total stems at any one time.
The last harvest is usually in late summer, though growth may have stopped before this if the weather is very hot. Concern is sometimes expressed over the concentrations of oxalic acid building up as the season progresses. However, this build-up is mostly in the leaves which are not eaten and the amount in the stems is not sufficient to have a toxic effect.
For an early harvest of tender and pink rhubarb cover the crowns in December or January with a layer of straw or bracken and cover over with an upturned bucket or a traditional clay rhubarb pot to exclude light. Stems will be ready to pull two to three weeks earlier than uncovered crowns.
For an even earlier harvest, lift some roots in November. Ideally leave the lifted roots outside for up to two weeks prior to potting to expose them to more cold – this is needed to overcome dormancy. Then pot up with compost and bring into a cool room or greenhouse at a temperature of between 7-16ºC (45-60ºF). Exclude light with buckets or black polythene over crates. Keep the roots damp but not wet.
Stems can usually be harvested in five weeks. Crowns forced in this manner are usually much weakened and therefore discarded after harvest”
Source: North Cyprus Forum