Thursday, 30 August 2012

Good Garden-keeping



Here’s some general good habits for gardeners to keep...

1. Keep all your tools clean and in good condition. Rub sandpaper over rusty tools to clear the rust away.

2. Store your garden equipment in a dry shed. Hang on walls if possible to keep off damp floors.

3. Keep your electrical equipment indoors.

4. Keep shears sharpened.

5. Always wash flower pots before and after use.

6. See a weed, remove it directly!

7. Always keep deadheading to keep flowers going for longer.

8. Always do planting in the morning or evening, never in the heat of the day.

9. Always keep your eye out for pests and deal with them straight away.

10. Always stake fruit trees and plants well so that the wind doesn’t take them away.

11. Keep your soil well hoed and weed free.

12. Keep your greenhouse glass clean in the winter.

13. Pick off suckers directly they appear.

14. Water cacti and greenhouse plants around the sides of the pots and never over them.

15. For tubs, pots and flower baskets, push your finger an inch or two into the soil to be sure there is adequate moisture below throughout the root area.

16. Protect plants especially tender ones from sustained cold and frost.

17. Keep paths and driveways clean to keep them free of mosses and lichens.

18. Pick fruit and vegetables as soon as they are ripe – they need to be eaten when they are at their best.

19. Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ready for maximum flavour.

20. To care for your houseplants, clean dust from the leaves with a damp cloth, control pests, deadhead as necessary, water as required. Keep away from heat.

-- Rob Amey

Friday, 17 August 2012

Meadow Gardens



I have to say, the wild-flower meadows are looking amazing this year. With all the early rain and then the sudden appearance of heat, the grasses, annuals and perennials have all done remarkably well.


At the Olympic site, they have used mixes that are easily available and perhaps the relatively new development of 'wild-flower matting', which you can buy from some of the bigger or specialised landscape companies. The result has been splendid. A few years ago I had the honour of looking about the garden writer and photographer Deni Bown's garden at Yaxham in Norfolk. She has a keen sense of adventure and was experimenting with various mixes of her own creation to see what was the most appealing. She had chosen American prairie plants and native plants as well as some other more exotic species and the result was marvellous.

Indeed many of the towns I visit these days have small spaces enlivened by the use of wild-flowers. Horsham and Reigate are two such councils which have used the idea well. But, how do you create a wild-flower meadow of your own?

There are some simple rules to follow:
1. Ask your self some important questions: How well do you know your climate and situation?Is the soil wet or dry? Sandy loam or clay? Do you have a rabbit or deer problem? Is it in heavy shade or full sun? How big is the plot? Will you want to cut it once a year or more and do you have the equipment to cut it?

2. Make sure the ground you are going to use is prepared well but not fed well. (This will not encourage the grasses from taking over and give your precious flowers a chance to thrive).

3. Once you have looked at and prepared the site, then decide on the flowers. The best thing to do is to ask the advice of a good wild-flower seedsman such as Emorsgate Seeds, or Boston seeds. They will be able to talk you through the process and recommend the best for you. If you want to go down the more expensive route of plants and mats, the internet is awash with companies, including meadowmat.com and wildflowerlawnsandmeadows.com.

4. How much patience do you have? – Because sometimes despite your best efforts, it may not work out the way you wanted. Be ready with that stiff upper lip!

5. Lastly, aim for good luck and good growing weather! If you are still confused, go to the excellent source of information at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/organic_meadow1.shtml

-- Guy Deakins

Monday, 13 August 2012

Top 20 Tasks for August in the garden



1. Weed strawberry beds and cut off old leaves from your strawberry plants to keep plants healthy. You need to replace your strawberry plants every year, so plant out pot grown rooted runners in a new bed next month.

2. The end of August is the ideal time to sow grass seed and repair any bare patches

3. This month, store all apples, pears and plums

4. August is a good time to get ahead by planting hardy annuals instead of waiting for the spring. They can easily be transplanted in the spring. You may lose a few during the winter, but those that do survive will be stronger than those sown in spring. Choose cornflowers, Nigella, larkspur, scabious, eschscholtzia and Shirley poppies.

5. Prune rambler roses shortly after the blooms have faded. Detach shoots from their supports. You can use these as cuttings to form roots in jars of water.

6. Clip hedges

7. Plant early flowering bulbs – crocus, squill, winter aconite, chionodoxa and snowdrops.

8. After the last crop of broad beans, cut down the stems to a few inches of the ground, fork the surface around them and water thoroughly. A fresh crop of new shoots will shortly appear producing a second crop of small beans which should be harvested regularly.

9. Boil rhubarb leaves. Use the water as a spray against aphids.

10. Bend onion leaves over at the neck to check further growth and encourage ripening.

11. Harvest spring onions and sow onions for next year’s crop.

12. Sow winter spinach.

13. Pot bulbs of hyacinth, narcissus and early daffodils.

14. Take cuttings of lavender, berberis, aucubas and ceanothus and keep in a cold frame where they will soon root.

15. Clean and paint your greenhouse.

16. Deadhead regularly to encourage flowering to go on longer.

17. Continue hoeing to keep the weeds down.

18. Check fencing and trellis are secure for the winter months.

19. Keep alpine plants tidy by cutting back the stems.

20. Give scruffy bedding plants, such as nemesia and lobelia a trim to keep them producing more flowers by cutting back the plants with secateurs to about half their height.

-- Rob Amey

Friday, 3 August 2012

Coping with a wet summer


Geranium spp.
  So, the English summer has sprung upon us like a damp octopus. Slimy, vaguely warm, uncomfortable and perhaps slightly menacing. If your garden is not now the village pond, then you are lucky indeed. I bet you're glad you bought those lovely T&C wellies now eh? Notwithstanding, I search for the positives – everywhere you must admit is beautifully verdant.

Astrantia spp.


Buddleja davidii.

The plants and trees- the very soul of our gardens- are undeniably happy, displaying their colours with gusto. And yet we cannot seem to ignore the problems. The slugs and snails have run amok, destroying vast swathes of my veg patch in their merciless quest for sustenance - slug pellets or beer traps being rapidly diminished by the sheer weight of water. As for the weeds, oh the weeds, even the panel of the illustrious BBC Gardeners Question Time have raised their hands to heaven. “You can't spray, you can't hoe, so what can you do?” As Adam Ant possibly sang all those years ago.

But there is hope yet for us hardy garden folk. If you have a lawn and are fearful of cutting it, as those books advise against; well, fear not, for as Vita Sackville-West was so fond of saying: Rebel!

Set your mower on the highest cut and cut away. If you have a hover mower this is a bit more complicated but not impossible. If the lawn is impossibly long. Strim it first. Remember electrics and water don't mix so try for a dry spell. After you have cut, spike the lawn, using a sharp border fork, sprinkling compost as you do. Not only will the lawn remain healthy, but you are adding to the nutrients and drainage potential! In the borders, add a good mulch of mushroom compost or if you have Azaleas and their ilk, try ericaceous compost and seaweed. With all the activity of the worms and the constant rain, leaching of nutrients has undoubtedly occurred, so mulch away! If all else fails just sit by the window and watch the swallows and martins scoot impossibly close to the ground in search of their supper. Wonderful. There, feel better? Now, where's that recipe for pan-fried octopus with chilli, coriander and garlic...

-- Guy Deakins