Moles Problems in Your Garden

Moles in your lawn are unfortunate not to say annoying particularly as they are difficult to remove without killing them. Their main diet is earthworms, but, removing these valuable garden creatures is hardly worth while. They are more likely in sandy soils, but, can appear anywhere – especially in more rural areas.

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Symptoms of the Problem

  • Heaps of soil are thrown up as the mole digs underground. It is unsightly and damages the grass.
  • Tunnels close to the surface can cause ridges in the grass.
  • One mole can produce many molehills.
  • Tunneling can disturb seedlings and other plants

Treatment and Cure for Mole Problems

There are some things that are said to help remove moles, but, they are not guaranteed to work permanently.

You can try these items placed in mole holes or tunnels (But they probably wont work)

  • Burning Wood,
  • Disinfectant in holes
  • Creosote.
  • Moth Balls
  • Mole smokes are now unavailable

The best method to remove moles is by using a trap. Pictures of trap setting in the above book are very helpful, as it’s easy to get this wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Mole hills are unsightly but at least moles don’t do any real damage to plants, they are more a nuisance value than anything. If you really want to get rid of them, you may be best of employing the services of a professional mole catcher / killer. However, if you live in a   rural environment you may have your work cut out as moles are likely to keep returning.


Plants for Hanging Baskets


A simple single colour Petunia gives a good effect.

The typical plants seen in hanging baskets include Lobelia, Petunia, Begonia, Marigolds, Fuchsias and Pelagoniums. The F1 varieties of these plants have a long flowering season making them ideal for summer hanging baskets.

Obviously in any hanging basket, trailing plants add an extra interest. For example a variegated ivy helps to offset and provide a balance to the more colourful varieties.

Plants for the Spring / Autumn Hanging Basket

Try Primulas, Violas, pansies, miniature conifers, ornamental cabbage and cyclamen. All can offer a good season of winter colour at a time when it is most appreciated.

Continue Reading →


Repotting Shrubs and Pot Plants

Hols spain 543

When a plants roots fill the pot then it is time to think about repotting. Compost breaks down overtime, becomes prone to waterlogging and is less aerated. Plants in John Innes No.3 compost will last a bit longer but repotting every couple of years may still be needed to retain vigour.

 Why Repot

  • Repotting helps consistency of watering. You are less likely to get waterlogging or dry compacted roots that are hard to water.
  • New compost and nutrient is made available to your plants.
  • Cramped roots will stunt the plants ability to perform above ground.
  • Tip for bulbs like Eucomis- Pot up in black plastic pots, then place inside a decorative pot in summer.

How to Repot

  • Early spring is a good time to do your repotting.
  • Gently ease out the root ball whilst supporting the plant.
  • Tease out some compost (upto a third) from the top and bottom and free any roots that are growing round and round the pot edges.
  • Lightly trim the roots from around the edges. If they are very tightly packed slice off a good sliver from one side.
  • Select a slightly larger pot, place the plant in the centre at the same depth and fill in the sides with fresh compost. Push compost down to avoid air pockets.
  • Add some slow release fertiliser granules as you repot and push some into the old root ball.
  • In years when you do not repot, top dress the pot with fresh compost by scraping away the top 2″ and adding fresh compost.
  • An over-potted plant will focus on root growth at the expense of new foliage and flowers.
  • Water the repotted plant and if the compost sinks top up or add gravel as a top mulch.

Root Pruning

  • Lay plants on a plastic sheet and tease out the roots removing a few inches of the compost from around the rootball.
  • Avoid damage to the main root and check for pests.
  • Lightly trim the fine hairy roots to restrict excess growth after repotting.

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  • After repotting drench the rootball and soil.
  • Allow the soil to start drying before watering again
  • Subsequently water little and often feeding regularly when the plant is in active growth.
  • When new growth starts and the plant is re-established in the pot pinch back new shoots or trim as appropriate

Repotting House Plants

  • The process is very similar to other repotting.
  • It may be obvious that a plant needs repotting when roots grow out of the hole in the bottom of the pot.
  • Water the plant before you take it out of its current pot and let it stand for a couple of hours.
  • Once repotted do not feed for 6-8 weeks as the compost should provide new nutrients.
  • Keep your tools and pots clean and sterile particularly for Orchids.
  • Use appropriate special purpose composts for Citrus trees, bonsai, African Violets, Orchids etc.



Potbound Problems and Cures

The root of the problem Project 365(2) Day 111

What is a Potbound Plant

  • A plant that has been in a pot or container long enough to fill the pot with roots can be said to be potbound.
  • Roots often twist around the outer edge of the pot and form a knotty clump of roots.
  • The roots may be so tight that a plastic pot bulges and has to be cut away with secateurs to get the plant out.
  • A terracotta pot that has become pot bound may need to be broken to access the plant.
  • Houseplants that can’t take up water, have roots coming out of drainage holes and a hard impenetrable surface are likely to be pot bound

Problems Caused by being Potbound

  • The compost and nutrient is all consumed and used up.
  • It is almost impossible to water and get the centre of the root ball damp. The roots may be trapped in dry compost
  • Top growth and general health will be restricted where a plant suffers from being potbound.

Cures for Potbound Problems

  • You can surgically remove some of the twisted roots on many potbound plants including shrubs and herbaceous plants.
  • One third of the roots can be removed comfortably. The old thick, brown and damaged roots should go first.
  • Aim to create space for new roots to develop.
  • Fleshy rooted plants and those that dislike root disturbance such as Alstroemeria and Peonies should have their roots left whole.
  • Open up roots by gently tweaking the edges and shaking out some compost to open up the root ball.
  • Allow the root ball to soak for at least an hour
  • If planting out dig a large hole and lay the tweaked out roots as widely as possible. Do not leave the root as a ball or the they will never spread into the surrounding ground as you intend.
  • If repotting your plant shake off as much old compost as possible, plant in a larger container and do not leave it too long to repot in the future.

Opposite of Potbound

  • Some garden centres put plants in larger pots for sale so they can charge more for them.
  • Without time for the plant to develop roots in the new pot it may be immature and quite unsuitable.
  • This may mean the ball of compost falls away when you get the plant ready for its new home. I think this is just sharp practice.
  • Over potting is putting a plant in a pot far too large. At the most use a pot that is double the size of the existing pot for even distribution of nutrient and moisture.

Attribution ‘The root of the problem Project 365(2) Day 111’ by Keith Williamson, on Flickr Creative Commons License Deed Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Roots by billy liar, on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


Best Plants for Damp Shade


Fritilliary in damp shade

Previously we looked at plants for shady areas. Damp shade is another more specific problem area. In nature, we are likely to get damp shade in a woodland setting, with a combination of shady tree growth and a peaty soil.There is a combination of low light and potentially wet surfaces. Nevertheless, even if you have some damp shade, the following plants should work quite well.

Japanese Maple – Acer Palmatum. Japanese maples can offer excellent colour in autumn. They also make an excellent small tree / shrub for the small garden. Benefits from some mulch in winter to protect from heavy frosts.

Astilbe – False Goat’s Beard. An easy plant to grow. After flowering it’s deadseed heads are also quite attractive

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Bleeding Heart – Dicentra Spectabilis. A lovely plant with delicate shaped flowers in Spring. Dies back in mid summer. Don’t forget where you planted it. Dicentra Spectabilis

Clematis  ‘Kasmu’ Ideal for planting at the base of a shrub of tree. This clematis will grow up through the shrub offering wonderful flowers from July onwards.

Clematis Montana – likes to keep its roots cool, so damp shade helps here.Use a good Foliar feed every 7-10 days and a good root drenching weekly.

Lilly of the Valley – A lovely delicate white carpet flower. The main thing is it likes permanently moist soil

Fritilliary. The fritilliary is another flower which likes and needs a damp soil. Will flower fine in shade. Important it never dries out.

Hydrangea Serrata – a lovely compact Hydrangea

Cowslips / Primulas. Primulas do well in cool damp conditions, flowering in spring and also later in autumn. E.g. Primula viallii is a great plant for damp shade with wonderful purple flowers.



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Herbaceous Propagation

Divide and rule is the motto for those who wish to be king of the herbaceous garden. More plants for some little effort.

Primula denticula

Offsets and Crowns

One of my favourite jobs is growing more primroses, primulas and polyanthus. Probably more than my garden wants or needs but as I have said before I am a quantity man not necessarily a quality gardener.
After flowering, primulas produce baby plants as a means of propagating the species in addition to seeding. Virtually each of the flowers on this primula denticula has its own new plantlet.
On a damp day I dig up clumps of Primula and tease away the roots from each new crown. Sometimes the original plant has become old and frail but more often than not it can go back into the ground refreshed and renewed to grow again for next year.

Runners and Stolon

Strawberry plants produce growths that resemble floppy stalks with leaves growing at regular intervals. These stalks lay on the ground and the leaves are tempted into rooting – several on each length. Pot these rooted runners or encourage permanent residence in the strawberry bed by planting the roots and severing them from the main plant at the same time. The best plants will be on the part of the runner nearest the host plant and you only want to take 3/4 plantlets from each host.
To protect a young strawberry plant in the first couple of season cut off the runners as soon as they appear to allow strength to be built up.
Mint and Bergenia are among other plants that can be propagated by stolon which are similar to strawberry runners.

Clump Division

Many herbaceous plants form progressively larger clumps of root.
Older Hostas can have a solid root and crown mass that can best be divided by chopping into parts with a spade.
The slice with a spade method is how I deal with Day Lilies. The only thing to worry about is ensuring several buds or eyes are left on eack resultant cutting (or should it be clumping).
Ornamental grasses and bamboos lend themselves to root division in early spring. For Pampas grass you may need a spade or even a saw but most can be pulled apart.

Roots and stolons

More Herbaceous Propagation

Adventurous roots are those that wander off above or below soil level. They can often be used to grow new plants.
Several plants such as delphiniums and oriental poppies can be propagated from pieces of root as root cuttings.
Simple stem cuttings can be potted up in September when cutting back your plants. Often this will result in lots more plants.
Offsets are similar to runners and are often found on Sempervivum house leeks.
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Houseplant Propagation

Leaf cuttings are a popular way of propagating African violets and Streptocarpus
Offsets are able to root and make new plants from Aloe and Agave

Photo credits
P1030686 by jessicareeder CC BY 2.0


Hedgerows Worth Watching

Hedgerow flowers

January started the year quite well with a few early snowdrops and the remnants of primulas. February will be even better snow permitting. Leap forward to June which is a spectacular month for flowering hedgerows and particularly in the under-storey.

Identifying plants whilst out walking as a child, was my first introduction to the environment and natural gardening. There is still a buzz seeing a plant growing in the wild that some careful gardeners has subsequently developed for the garden or nursery trade.

Why not under-plant your garden hedges with native species of hedgerow flowers. The trick is to leave them undisturbed, unfed and untreated with chemicals. I would bank up the soil to start your hedge’s lower storey.

Hedgerows by County

  • I nominate Somerset as my favourite hedgerow county but I would like to know what other UK counties can lay claim to be hedgerow county 2010.
  • Cornish hedgerows have a soil banking (so that helps the smaller plants) with a rocky top and shrubs.
  • Devon hedges are similar to Cornwall but with turf on and at the top of the banking.
  • The Yorkshire Dales tends to have dry stone walls rather than hedges but the understorey plants can still be attractive.
  • In Perth, near Blairgowrie, is the tallest and longest hedge on earth. Meikleour Beech Hedge, planted in 1745, is 98 ft in height and nearly half a mile long. (I wouldn’t want to trim it).

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‘Hedgerows, moors, meadows and woods – these hold a veritable feast for the forager.’ and all is laid bear in the River Cottage Handbook. Book link

The English Hedgerow Trust provided this apposite quote from Shakespeare.

I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite canopied over with luscious woodbine
With sweet muskroses and with eglantine.

For a bit of fun read Copper Beech Hedges
Green Garden Habitats


Primula, Primroses and Polyanthus

‘Kinlough Beauty’ is an exceptionally hardy Primrose from the Primula family. . To maintain vigour divide ‘Kinlough Beauty’ every couple of years or so after blooming. This is when your free plants arise. I have just got nine new healthy plants from one clump. Other primroses can be divided in a similar manner.


Gardeners Tips

To divide a primrose separate new crowns with some roots from the old root. Pull apart or prise loose with two forks back to back.

Alternatively take divisions with a trowel whilst plants are still in the ground for more reliable performance.

Do not split into too many divisions as they take longer to establish.

Plant firmly in soil and keep moist as new roots are established.

Kinlough Beauty is a hardy evergreen or semi-evergreen Juliana cultivar with deep green, oval leaves 6 inches long. Plants produce loose clusters of wine red to rose-pink yellow eyed flowers held above a mound of foliage.


Plant labeling of primrose family can be a bit hit and miss. Continue Reading →


Gardeners Year for Organic Fruit and Veg

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‘Organic Fruit and Vegetable Gardeners Year, The A Seasonal Guide to Growing What You Eat’ by Graham Clarke

Yesterdays Gardeners Question Time on radio 4 featured many questions on this subject. The main advice that appealed to me was to concentrate on growing more fruit. (We all more likely to take the advice we want to hear.)

Gardeners Tips on Organic Fruit Growing

Organic Principles
Organics should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animals and humans as one.
Organic growing is based on ecological systems and cycles that are worked with and sustained.
Organic gardening should be done in a precautionary manner to protect the health and well being of current and future generations.
Organics promotes the concept of fairness with regard to common environment and life opportunities.

Soil Fertility

Chemical fertility is the availability in the soil of all the elements, nutrients, ions,   traces and inorganic chemicals that plants need to grow.
Biological fertility includes micro organisms that help nutrient recycling’ including fungi, bacteria and protozoa that clean up bacteria. It also covers macro organisms such as arthropods that break down organic matter in the early stages of decomposition, worms that help drainage and aeration and nematodes that help in various ways but   occasionally act as pests.
Physical fertility is the mix of sand, silt and clay that makes up the soil and determines texture, ability to hold water and sustain life.

Weed Management Continue Reading →


Best Garden Colour – Yellow?

Is yellow your favourite garden shade or colour. Certainly it is present is so many plants if only as pollen or as straw as old grass dies and colour fades away. At it’s brash best Yellow is stunning well able to stand on its own aor as support to other plants. With some plants such as Choysia even the leaves can be yellow.


For traffic stopping colour in your garden then you need blocks of the same plant all flowering at the same time. These primula are in a near-by garden in a long row against a wall. It catches early morning sun and is protected from wind and the worst of the frost. The colouring is stronger than the primrose or many other primulas and even one or two plants whould look good but massed together they are stunning. Continue Reading →


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