June 2020

I can’t believe that it’s the sixth month of the year 2020! Wow time certainly seems to have flown past during this crazy lockdown period. I just hope that all of you wonderful Blackwood’s gardening enthusiasts are safe, well and spending time digging and planting. Thankfully all the Blackwood’s outlets have been open and trading albeit with restrictions since the 8 May. As of the 1 June trading times have largely returned to some semblance of normality. Please check on the actual opening hours for each store before making a visit.


I’ve spent much of May at Blackwood’s Assagay and it’s been a real pleasure seeing so many customers and familiar faces in the nursery environment. The retail coal face always leaves so many moments of truth and repeated questions indelibly stamped on your mind so I’d like to share a few of these with you this month.

It’s a standing joke in the gardening industry that the most repeated question of all is about ailing lemon trees. They always seem to have something wrong; aren’t growing well; no fruit yet; the list is seemingly endless. So, here are the 5 most important aspects of happy, healthy lemon trees.

  1. Buy a healthy, budded (vegetatively propagated) lemon tree from a reputable source.
  2. Plant the young tree into a well-prepared hole (at least 50cm square and as deep) with added compost, superphosphate or bone meal well mixed into the soil. If planting into a pot, the bigger the better. Full sun and free air movement is important.
  3. Look after the tree for the first year by watering regularly every 4 to 10 days depending on the weather. Make sure the soil surface around the tree is mulched with a layer of bark or compost and free of weeds or competing plant growth, especially lawn grass. Beware of weed eaters and lawn trimmers damaging the basal bark around the stem.
  4. Apply fertiliser at the recommended rate every 6 to 8 weeks. A 3:1:5 or 5:1:5 formulation is recommended. Apply LAN fertiliser in summer as a once off and repeat annually.
  5. Check regularly for insect pests and fungal diseases on the leaves and stem of the tree. Get the problems positively identified and treat immediately. Don’t wait until the plant looks half dead before reacting. Leaves should be lush, green and healthy. New growth often has a purplish hue.


Another common ask is regarding shaded gardens under mature trees. Customers invariably look for the impossible – something bright and colourful that flowers for most of the year and doesn’t need replacing. Well, quite honestly, if these magical plants existed life would be so much easier. There is a difference between dry shade and damp shade. In wet conditions, there is a myriad of different ferns and leafy perennials and shrubs that grow well. However, in dry conditions, especially where trees impoverish and suck the soil dry, the list of solutions is far shorter. Succulents that cope in shade are the only real solution.

Lastly, if the whole period of Covid 19 was to have a gardening name accorded, it would undoubtedly be the era of vegetable growing. Everybody is back to growing their own, healthy and rewarding to say the least. Long may it last.