Don’t let the pests grind you down

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DON’T be complacent when it comes to pests is my lesson of the year, mainly because my crops have suffered due to my sacklessness.

Two of the things to really perform well are the black and scarlet kale.

Unfortunately, I never did quite get round to netting them. There just didn’t seem to be many cabbage white butterflies around, but they’ve arrived in force during the last fortnight.

One day the leaves were OK, the next like Belgian lace.

It may seem like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted but pick off any caterpillars you find, give established plants a blast with the hose to remove any hidden ones, then net them.

Brassicas like kale, cabbages and calabrese are going to be in the ground until spring, so they’ve time to regrow unmarked leaves.

The net will keep the pigeons off over winter – and don’t forget to keep checking for caterpillars!

l Now’s a great time to get some bargains. Mail order catalogues want rid of unsold stock and garden centres concentrate on bulbs and autumn bedding.

Look for herbaceous perennials and grasses that look a bit raggy after being in pots all summer.

If they’ve got a solid crown and aren’t bone dry, chances are they’ll be fine next spring.

See if they’ll divide. Most perennials such as hostas or delphiniums will chop up nicely into several pieces.

I’ve done this with new heuchera Marmalade, quite costly at £7.99 each (purple leaves underneath, mottled gold in top).

The plant divided naturally into two, which I put straight into the garden.

Several plantlets came away without roots, but these are rooting on the windowsill in nothing more exotic than water.

l Sadly, I always seem to plan next year’s seeds really early (like now) but one thing you do need to order is autumn-planted garlic, shallots and Japanese onions.

All the major seed companies are dispatching them from now until early November, so don’t miss out on any offers.

PLANT OF THE WEEK

I bought a tree lily bulb collection last summer and they’ve just started to flower, much later than expected.

This variety is Starburst and hasn’t yet hit the promised 8ft height of the specimens in the brochure – it’s about 5ft tall.

The positives are that it doesn’t need staking and has managed to bloom in a quite shady corner next to the hedge.

I’ll give it a good feed to build the bulbs up for a more impressive show next year.