Gardening with Dave Allan: Here comes the rain again bringing lots of weeds and pests

The recent change in the weather has saved our poor drought-stricken plants. But this vital rain has presented different problems.

Some of our unwelcome plants have begun exploiting the damp soil, slithery pests have set about their business, and soft-skinned fruit like plums have split and given armies of flies a tasty meal.

I thought I had weeding under control. Mulched beds were obviously fine with no weeds or cracked soil but beds with roots and the likes of onions and celeriac hadn’t been mulched.

When weeding chard the other day, I was met by a forest of groundsel and chickweed and even Alchemilla mollis, lady’s mantle, was set on colonising some new ground.

Although groundsel can’t surge to a mighty summer height and disperse hundreds of seed, it must still be consigned to the compost heap.

Fastidious gardeners might be tempted to snip off and bin any flower and seed heads but that’s beyond me.

Even dandelions lurking in some paths recovered from drought-induced powdery mildew and have thrown up a mass of pristine leaves till felled by a patio knife.

Although ground that’s been spasmodically watered has soaked up the moisture, there still hasn’t been enough rain to tackle cracks in the ground caused by weeks of drought.

So when weeding there, use a hand fork to break up the fissure.

The edges will have loosened a little and levelling the soil will help it soak up later rain.

One of the great benefits of a long dry summer has been the lack of slugs, but they’ve emerged from deep in the soil and started about their business now.

So I’ve recharged the beer traps and scattered organic slug pellets in vulnerable places.

During wet weather this will have to be repeated quite frequently.

Splitting fruit is maddening, and may have to be harvested prematurely.

I’ve cleared the greengages and although Marjory’s Seedling is a late plum, the crop had to be rescued from clouds of flies and Red Admiral butterflies the other day.

But all is not doom and gloom. The grass, even in brown dead-looking patches, has started growing vigorously and needs cutting.

This is invaluable for the compost bin as it blends well with woodier autumn clearings.

And grass is a great mulch for any recently cleared plots.

You can prevent any weed germination by laying cardboard on the soil before covering with grass clippings.

Plant of the week

Michaelmas daisy ’Samoa’ grows to 60 cm and has bright purple/blue flowers with yellow centres. Being only semi-double they are great for late flying insects and the strong colour gives real impact in a border. Michaelmas daisies are now mostly known as Symphyotrichum, ’Samoa’ is S. novi-belgii ‘Samoa’ if you are looking for it online.

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