Gardening Wisdom

May 2020

“A man should never plant a garden larger than his wife can take care of “

T.H. Everett

The weather is mild and there’s often a good deal of sunshine. Spring blossom mingles with the early blooms of summer, and foliage still has a wonderful freshness. Gardeners should enjoy the last weeks of spring while they prepare for summer in what is always one of the year’s busiest times.

LATE SPRING TASKS

General:

  • Check for pests on plants and treat promptly.
  • Feed strong growing plants in borders and containers.
  • Treat perennial weeds with suitable herbicide.
  • Ornamental Garden
  • Plant up hanging baskets, window boxes and tubs.
  • Continue staking border plants.
  • Weed annual seedlings and then thin them as necessary.
  • Remove spring bedding plants, plant out summer bedding.
  • Plant dahlias.
  • Dead head narcissus (daffodils).
  • Water recently planted trees and shrubs if the weather is dry.
  • Trim evergreen hedges as necessary but check first for birds nesting.

Lawns.

  • Lower the height of the mower blades to give a closer cut. Tackle weeds with a spot of lawn weed killer.
  • Water Garden.
  • Construct and plant up new ponds.
  • In existing ponds divide deep-water aquatics and plant new varieties.
  • Watch for aphids on water lily leaves and submerge affective leaves to allow fish to eat them. ( do not use bug killer!)

Kitchen Garden.

  • Water as necessary, timing the water carefully for maximum crops.
  • Continue to make successional showings for continuity of supply.
  • Plant out hardened off runner and French beans once the risk of frost is over.
  • Sow runner beans and French beans outdoors.
  • Thin out seedlings in rows. Thin carrots and stake peas.
  • Plant vegetables in pots and growing bags.
  • Check plum trees for silver leaf disease. Treat by feeding with a general fertiliser and mulching, cutting back any wood with brown stains running through it.
  • Reduce codling moth damage with pheromone traps.
  • Place straw around strawberries and net the plants against birds.

THE SQUIRREL

Neighbours fall out over squirrels. To some people the grey squirrels romping on the lawn or leaping through the trees are the most likeable of all garden animals. They are tempted with tit bits to come to the back door and even feed from the hand…and they are treated like pets. You mustn’t try to keep a squirrel as a pet – you would be breaking the law. It has no friends in high places and is classed as a serious pest. So your neighbour who doesn’t like them is right to some extent, although in the average garden they do little harm. People who enjoy watching them remain in the majority and as there is no prolonged period of hibernation they can be seen during any month of the year. But the population of squirrels continues to increase, and soon we may have to regard them a little less kindly.

April 2020

Garden Wisdom of days gone by
(OR – Pre- Coronavirus).
“We should all grow our own food and do our own waste processing.
We really should.” Bill Gates.

People are turning to thoughts of “growing their own” in the face of the Coronavirus crisis, and are looking for advice on growing their own fruit and vegetables, and there has been a surge in the purchase of seeds, seed potatoes and herbs. So here are a few tips and reminders. Easy to grow vegetables and salad seeds and plants, from pots to plots, there are vegetables to suit every garden of every size, and growing your own isn’t complicated.

NOTE —You may find local garden centres are still operating on line.

Salad Leaves.

SOW: through the summer.
HARVEST: 3 weeks later.
Plant seeds in pots, keep well watered and cut leaves when required.
Plants produce leaves until late Autumn.

Radishes

SOW: 4 weeks after last frost and throughout the summer.
HARVEST: after a month.
A delicious, crunchy addition to any salad.
Sow directly into the ground for quick growing, colourful veg. Don’t
forget to regularly water your crop.

Potatoes

SOW: late February March.
HARVEST: July to September.
Grow in potato bags, bins or in the ground.
Cover shoots with more compost when they come up, this also helps to
avoid late frosts.
Keep well watered and rummage out your spuds when foliage dies
back.

Peas.

SOW: March to June
HARVEST: after 2-3 months.
Support with canes & chicken wire.
The more you pick the ripe pods, the more the plant will produce. The
tips of pea plants are a nice addition to the salad bowl.

Spring onions.

SOW: March to July
HARVEST: after 8 weeks.
Easy to grow in pots or in the ground.
Perfect for salads or stir fry.
Let them flower and they will self seed.

Broad Beans.

SOW: November to March.
HARVEST: June onwards.
Sow in small pots before planting out or sow directly into the ground.
Pinch out the top few leaves when they are about 3 inches tall to
encourage the plant to produce more pods.

Runner Beans. 

SOW: April to July
HARVEST: after 2 months.
Train these climbers onto a support frame and keep well watered and
fed.
When pods are ripe, keep picking them and the plant will keep
producing more.

Onions and Garlic

SOW: Spring
HARVEST: Late Autumn.
Plant into well drained soil and lift when foliage starts to die back.
Dry in sunshine before storing in a cool, dark well ventilated spot.

Tomatoes

SOW: February to April
HARVEST: July to October.
Sow in bags, pots or hanging baskets.
These fast growing plants are ideal for young gardeners to grow.
They just need plant food and water to give a tasty, juicy crop.
Remember, you can take cuttings to increase your harvest.

Beetroot.

SOW: March to July.
HARVEST: May to September.
Sow directly into moist soil and thin seedlings to about 5cm apart.
In a couple of months you will have colourful, succulent super foods for
salads, juices and more.
REMEMBER— There are plenty of other plants to grow in your garden,
such as cucumbers, courgettes, herbs, and even peppers, chillis, and
aubergines. There’s nothing as good and satisfying as growing, and,
eating, your own.

February 2020

Garden Wisdom of Days Gone By
“The gardening season officially begins on January 1st, and ends on 31st December.” Katherine S White.

“I grow plants for many reasons; To please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow”. David Hobson.

EARLY SPRING
Ever-lengthening days give us more time to spend in the garden and we need it because there is plenty to be done. Although the days are chilly, with overnight frost an ever-present danger, there will gradually be more sunshine to cheer things up, and a distinctly milder feeling in the air.

Early Spring tasks.
1. Prepare the soil for sowing when the weather allows.
2. Remove weeds and apply a moisture-retaining mulch.
Ornamental Garden.
3. Plant container-grown trees and shrubs, and plant and divide
herbaceous perennials.
4. Support border plants as soon as the shoots start to lengthen.
5. Sow hardy annuals and Lathyrus odoratus (sweet peas) outdoors.
6. Prune roses and shrubs such as buddleja, hydrangeas and dogwood.
7. Remove winter protection from plants.
8. Fertilise Spring-flowering bulbs, perennials and shrubs if not already done.
9. Mulch round alpine plants with fresh gravel.
10. Trim back winter flowering calluna (heathers).

Lawns.
11. Begin mowing regularly, continue to carry out repairs to turf.
Kitchen Garden.
12. Dig up the last of the over- wintered crops and sow early crops in their place.
13. Plant early potatoes, rhubarb and shallots.
14. Continue harvesting rhubarb and sea kale.
15. Stake autumn or early Spring sown broad beans and peas.
16. Protect early blossom on fruit trees, if possible.
17. Plant soft fruit bushes. Try Autumn- fruiting Raspberries for a late crop.
18. Check raspberry supports.

Check Plants for Pests
Garden pests of all sorts continue to thrive in the warm weather, and plants need to be checked regularly and pest infestations treated promptly. One of the most troublesome pests is the vine weevil. Greenhouse plants are most at risk, but the adult weevils spread outside as the weather becomes warmer. Outdoor weevil activity starts now, and peaks between early summer and mid-autumn. You may see leaves that have had characteristic notches bitten out of their margins by the adult weevil but it is the damage done by the grubs that is more serious; they feed on the roots and can completely destroy the root system. Suspect vine weevil grubs, where plants suddenly die for no apparent reason, especially plants in containers or pots.

A biological control containing nematodes can be applied now, provided there is a reasonable warm spell of weather. This will be effective against larvae that emerged from eggs laid last autumn. Alternatively you can use a liquid application such as Bug Free vine weevil killer,
available in most garden centres.

December 2019

“The gardening season officially begins on January 1st, and ends on 31st December”. Katherine S White.

EARLY WINTER
The weather is often entirely unpredictable now. Penetrating frosts and icy winds; continuous dull, depressing rain, or mild, calm, sunny days more like early autumn; anything is possible. It may not be the best time to be working outside but seize your opportunities when they arise.

GENERAL
• Continue winter digging on vegetable plots
• Make paths to avoid wear on lawns
• Cover compost heaps to keep dry.

ORNAMENTAL GARDEN
• Continue to plant containers for winter and spring interest.
• Firm newly planted trees and shrubs after windy weather.
• Protect the blooms of Helleborus Niger (Christmas Rose) with straw on the ground.
• Check trees and shrubs for root rock or lifting after frosts, refirming them in if necessary.
• Order flower seeds from catalogues, especially those needing an early start.
• Put up tree guards to protect young trees against rabbits.

LAWNS
Avoid walking over frosted grass. Turfing is still possible if mild.

WATER GARDENS.
Thaw holes in frozen ponds.

KITCHEN GARDENS
• Protect autumn-sown broad bean and sweet pea seedlings.
• Order seeds from catalogues.
• Prune fruit trees if required, including soft fruits such as black currant.

CHRISTMAS POINSETTIA.
• Poinsettias need bright but filtered light, away from strong sun and draughts. Temperature range ideally 55-65*f (13-17*c) min/max.
• Transporting your poinsettia home from the shop in the cold weather can damage the foliage, so make sure it is well wrapped top to bottom or use a plastic bag, for complete protection.
• Be wary of purchasing from outdoor markets and avoid buying from sites near shop doorways, for the above reason.
• Sometimes your plant may wilt soon after bringing home, through experiencing cold conditions prior to purchasing. Apart from trying to soak the compost in warm water for a while, there is little you can do to save the plant.
• Water sparingly as over watering can also cause your poinsettia to wilt as well as encouraging grey mould. Once a week is sufficient. Also flowering life is extended by regular misting to increase humidity.
• Under watering will cause leaves to yellow at the edges and encourage pests.
• A little feed with tomato food will benefit the plant in December and January.

October 2019

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year”. Chad Sugg.

Autumn.
Many autumn tasks involve clearing away the debris of the
summer season, but there’s also plenty of sowing and planting to do.
Some warm sunny days and an abundance of late flowering plants,
bright foliage and fruit make the melancholy job of clearing up more
enjoyable.

Autumn Tasks.
1. Remove fallen leaves and turn them into leaf mould.
2. Clear away all garden debris to avoid pests and diseases.
3. Protect vulnerable plants from rain and cold; beware of early frosts
4. Tidy herbaceous borders and divide border plants; apply bonemeal
to borders and around shrubs and trees.
5. Plant tulips and hyacinths; plant lily bulbs as they become available.
6. Remove and burn diseased leaves fallen from roses.
7. Plant bare-root trees and shrubs.
8. Lift and store dahlia roots when the leaves have blackened by frost.
9. Lift and store gladioli and tuberous begonias.
10. Finish planting spring bedding.
11. Protect newly planted shrubs from strong winds.
12. Continue to sweep up leaves and repair damaged areas of grass. Mow as necessary.
13. Prune blackcurrants, blackberries and hybrid berries.
14. Sow broad beans and hardy peas for overwintering.
15. AND! Don’t forget those pesky WEEDS! Don’t let them sit comfortably in your borders through the winter, get them out now!

August 2019

“Plant and your spouse plants with you, weed and you weed alone”. Jean Jaqueline Rousseau.

MIDSUMMER
Flowers are at their peak in most gardens now, and dead heading, watering, staking and harvesting will keep gardeners busy. Make the most of any good weather to enjoy your garden, and on warm nights make sure you stroll around after dusk to appreciate the night scented flowers.

1. Prune shrubs that have finished flowering as necessary; prune wisteria.
2. Continue trimming deciduous hedges, but take care of birds nesting.
3. Prick out perennials and biennials sown earlier.
4. Dead-head flowers and cut back rockery plants that are becoming untidy.
5. Start to take cuttings of shrubs.
6. Cut back early flowering border plants to encourage a second flush.
7. Deadhead, prune and water plants in containers. Don’t forget to feed also.
8. Stake firmly and tie dahlias; dis-bud them if large blooms are required.
9. Order spring bulbs.
10. Increase mowing height on lawns in very dry weather.
11. Pick herbs for drying, freezing and use.
12. Cut down summer fruiting raspberries canes after fruiting.

Gardening Gloves
I like to wear my gloves while gardening.
They surely stop my hands from hardening.
But has it occurred to you?
that a pack with two is one too few?
For a while my right is thin and worn.
My left is new and scarcely worn.
So, what about a spare pair left or right
to overcome this gardener’s plight?
or failing this I hope to find
a South Paw with the same in mind.
Shirley Earnest, “Plea”.

June 2019

“If your knees are not green at the end of the day, then you ought to re-examine your life.”  Bill Letterson.

EARLY SUMMER
The garden retains the freshness of spring while the floral bounty of summer starts to unfold. While there’s still plenty to do, the hectic spring rush is calming down, and we can enjoy the garden at a more leisurely pace, especially as the daylight hours stretch out into the evening now.

ORNAMENTAL GARDEN
1. Plant out tender bedding and sow biennials and perennials.
2. Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trim hedges. Check for birds still nesting beforehand.
3. Trim alpines after flowering.
4. Tie climbers to their supports, increase them by layering.
5. Tie in border plants and apply a liquid feed, dead head as appropriate.
6. Treat pests as they appear, check instructions carefully.
7. Feed and water plants in containers.
8. Spray roses against pests and diseases if needed. Remove suckers, feed regularly.
9. Lift and divide narcissus ( daffodils).
10. Mulch borders to keep down weeds, lawn cuttings can be used unless recently treated with lawn weedkiller.

LAWNS
1. Continue regular mowing and watering and feeding lawns as necessary.
2. Mow areas of naturalised bulbs.
3. Increase mower height during dry weather.

KITCHEN GARDEN
1. Continue weeding and watering as necessary.
2. Earth up potatoes and lift early varieties.
3. Sow late crops such as radishes, summer spinach, lettuces and turnips.
4. Continue planting out runner and French beans, leeks and winter brassicas.
~ 7 ~
5. Pinch out broad beans and harvest early peas.
6. Plant out tomatoes and peppers.
7. Control cabbage white caterpillars.
8. Remove runners from strawberries or save to start new plants.
9. Thin young tree fruits.
10. Summer – prune red currants, white currants and gooseberries, protect from birds with suitable netting.

April 2019

“If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need” Cicero

April is here and Spring has finally sprung! As the weather warms and early flowers start to bloom, suddenly there’s plenty to do in the garden again.

Top Tips:
1) Lift and divide perennials now to improve vigorous and create new plants. 2) Pinch out tips of fuchsias and sweet pea plants to encourage bushy plants. 3) This is a good time to move evergreen shrubs and trees, avoiding frosty weather and waterlogged soil.
4) Start feeding hedge, trees and shrubs with a balanced slow-release fertiliser by forking into the soil, don’t forget plants in containers too.
5). Tie in climbing roses and ramblers, after removing some of the older canes.
6). Finish cutting back dead foliage of perennials and grasses to make way for fresh growth.
7). Prune forsythias as soon as they have finished flowering.
8). Trim winter flowering heathers as the flowers disappear to prevent them from becoming too leggy.
9). Prepare vegetable seed beds by removing all weeds.
10). Feed raspberry canes, fruit bushes and fruit trees with slow-release fertiliser.
11). Mow your lawn regularly, as required, lowering the cut as the month progresses, also now is the time to feed, de-weed and repair your lawn.
12). Step up the war on weeds! Starting now!

Gardening Myths Debunked

Watering plants on a hot day will magnify the sun and burn leaves. No, leaves can’t get sunburn, the idea that water would act like a magnifying glass and scald a plant is simply not true. However, watering thirsty plants early in the morning or after the sun has gone down is generally a more efficient strategy, because less water will evaporate off.

Putting gravel in the bottom of a pot helps it drain. It’s generally accepted advice that popping gravel, stones or broken crock, at the bottom of a pot will help it drain and prevent water logged plants. In fact, the water will just sit in the soil above the stones and your plants roots will have less space in which to grow. If you want better drainage, blend stones or sand into the actual soil.

 A brown lawn is dead. After last summer’s heat wave there weren’t going to be many green patches of grass around, and if we have similar conditions again this year you will be pleased to hear that brown grass does not necessarily mean your lawn is dead- it is probably just dormant. Dormancy occurs when grass is exposed to intense heat and deprived of water and although it may look lifeless, there will be a “crown” inside each dry stalk that is still alive, most lawns can tolerate drought for 4-6 weeks. You should add sand to heavy clay soil. No! do this and you risk creating a substance that is more like concrete than earth. If you want to make clay soil easier to dig, you should turn some organic matter into it- like compost, sphagnum moss, manure or grass cuttings. This will help water in roots penetrate the soil and will add crucial nutrients too. Sealing Pruned branches will keep out disease. Incorrect!

Seal tree wounds. We are told that after pruning a tree branch, we should seal the wound with tar, paint or shellac to stop disease, decay or insect infestation, but trees have their own self-healing technique and will grow a callus at the site of the cut to keep pathogens at bay. Our actions to cover the cuts can actually prevent these calluses or scabs from forming. So, we have been barking up the wrong tree.

You should plant potatoes on Good Friday. When you consider the date for Easter moves each year by up to a month, you realise this one makes no sense at all. Rumour has it that 16th Century Irish Catholics were suspicious of potato plants, which were brought over from the Andes, but eased their concerns by dousing them with Holy water and sticking them in the ground on Good Friday. In truth it’s best to get potatoes in the soil once Spring has definitely sprung, and not before, to prevent frost damage.

February 2019

“If you have never experienced the joy of accomplishing more than you can imagine, plant a Garden” Robert Brault.

Preparing your garden for Spring.
1. Order summer flowering bulbs and seeds. Plant bulbs such as lilies, gladiolus and ranunculus in early spring for a colourful summer display.
2. Clear up flower beds and borders, have a general tidy up removing debris and leaves, cutting back old perennials. It’s a good time to dig well-rotted organic material into the soil too.
3. Clean your greenhouse. Before long, new plants, cuttings and seeds will arrive in your greenhouse, so wash out inside and out using hot water and a garden disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid. Same with pots and seed trays.
4. Sow seeds of plants that need a longer growing season such as geraniums, antirrhinums and peppers use a heated propagator if possible, or start off in a conservatory.
5. Remove hibernating pests now. Look closely at the crowns of perennials for snails, slugs and aphids sheltering for the winter. Last year’s pots of summer bedding may contain vine weevil grubs which eat plant roots and can be killed using chemical drenches or parasitic nematodes.
6. Install water butts, use them to collect seasonal rain, not just for the environment but to help ericaceous plants such as Camellias, Rhododendrons and blueberries, as tap water is slightly alkaline.
7. Fix fences, gates and trellis. Now is the time to mend broken structures before your plants start growing and the same time treat your wooden items with a coating of preservative.
8. Clean garden tools. Caring for your garden tools not only helps preserves them it avoids spreading disease. Sharpening will improve their performance and make them easier to use.
9. In the fruit garden. Prune apple and pear trees whilst still dormant, prune black currant, gooseberry and redcurrants to maintain a productive frame-work, also new bushes can be planted from now until the spring. Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or good quality compost.
10. From you armchair. Sort your seeds by sowing date. Plan your vegetable plot. Order your seeds and plugs now. Start chitting early potatoes. Prune summer flowering clematis at the end of Feb/March.

Fun facts about Plants
1. Asparagus is a member of the Lily family.
2. Peanuts are not nuts, they are related to beans and lentils.
3. The first potatoes were cultivated in Peru 7000 years ago.
4. The tears during cutting of onions is caused by sulphuric acid fumes.
5. The smell of newly-mown grass is a plant distress call.
6. Oak trees are struck by lightning more than any other tree.
7. Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world, some varieties growing more than 36 inches a day.
8. 90 percent of foods that humans eat come from 30 plants.
9. The juice from bluebell flowers was historically used to make glue.
10.The average number of seeds on a strawberry is 200, and it is the only fruit that bears seeds on the outside