Archive | Garden Equipment Tips

Garden Bonfires for Gardeners

Once a regular weekend event, Garden Bonfires are now fewer and further between since recycling, reusing and composting got to the top of the green agenda.
There are still occasions when a fire is the right way to go and I use one of these dustbin burners. The holes at the bottom provide air flow and the chimney restricts the amount of flying debris.
I collect the none compostable (often diseased) wood and brash in the bin until I have a load then set fire to it. After 4-5 years the bin bottom burns through and I need a new bin.
For large chunks of wood I used to have a November 5th fire but now with chimineas and Council recycling they have gone the way of Guy Fawkes.

Burning Tips

  • Avoid excessive smoke by burning dry material not soggy wet compostable stuff.
  • Do not burn plastic, foam, paint, rubber or household rubbish.
  • Be safe by not using oil, methylated spirits, or petrol to light or encourage a fire.
  • Avoid lighting fires in unsuitable weather conditions such as damp, still days or when the wind will blow smoke over roads or into neighbours gardens
  • Try to avoid bonfires when people want to enjoy their gardens such as weekends or Bank Holidays.
  • Wood ash contains potassium and is good for root crops bulbs etc.
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Tips to Increase Greenhouse Capacity

Grow with the flow and in early spring that flow is in the greenhouse

Greenhouse

Acclimatised to Global Warming?
Easter snow flurries and April frosts have hampered planting so far this year, but gardeners will be hoping that the May bank holiday weekend offers some respite from the unseasonable cold and rain. Gardens will catch up from the colder than average start to spring. In fact we have been getting ahead of ourselves in recent years with earlier and earlier starts to the year and warmer than average spells in May and June.

To coin or corrupt an old phrase ‘Ne’re plant out till May is out’. Or if in doubt protect young seedlings from cold and frosty weather. I am referring to the month of May not May blossom the flower of the Hawthorn (Crataegus Monogyna) which is often used to celebrate May Day.

Temporary Greenhouse Capacity

Greenhouses will be full to bursting before it is safe to plant out so consider other temporary protection. First though make sure you use staging and shelves to optimise your main greenhouse. Don’t forget to water plants left under staging. You can hang some plants from the roof of many greenhouses.

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Materials for a Compost Heap

Lots of materials are suitable for a compost heap. Pile in a mix of green and brown organic materials to help them heat up, when biological activity will then be at the highest.
Organic material includes plants and most items that have been growing. Avoid droppings from carnivores such as dogs but other manures are fine.
Type of Material

Ashes from untreated wood potash – use small amounts, it can make the pile too alkaline
Bird & Chicken droppings are high in nitrogen, beware seeds.
Cardboard and manila envelopes tear or shred and dampen
Bio-activator applied as a liquid or activator like Garrotta
Coffee grounds tea bags and filters
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Help on Planting Technique

Kew 332

Have a plan in mind and think about the plants you are going to grow.
Fruit, trees and shrubs will be long term investments and mature over time.
Bedding and vegetables may need different treatment, location, maintenance and nutrients.
Special gardens and collections of plants are even more complex. You almost get out of a garden what you are prepared to put into it!

Prepare Your Soil

  • Eradicate nasty perennial weeds such as Dandelions, Bindweed, Couch grass and Ground Elder.
  • Cover with thick black polythene for at least a year to smother the weeds or use a Glyphosphate based weedkiller like Roundup.
  • Dig the soil 2 spits deep (2 spade depths or 20″). If the sub soil is very poor go one spit deep and create a raised bed to lift the height.
  • Incorporate as much organic matter as you can. Use garden compost, rotted manure, spent mushroom compost and even council recycled and composted waste.
  • Do not worry about a few stones but remove builders debris.

Good Fertilizers

  • Dress the soil with a general purpose fertilizer that releases nutrients slowly. Rake into the top 4″ a week or so before planting.
  • Growmore, fish blood and bone or just bone meal may increase overall fertility.
  • Remember NPK stands for Nitrogen to help green leaf growth. Phosphor for strong roots and bulbs, and K for Potassium for fruit and flowers.
  • Proprietary feeds can be expensive and I would only use them once the plants are growing in situ.

Planting and the Hole

  • You may have heard about a £10 hole for a £5 plant. Well, dig a good size hole, break up the soil in the bottom, place the plant in the hole at the same level it was grown at and firm the soil around the root ball or roots.
  • Stamp around the plant to firm it in again and use a cane or stake as needed for support and protection from wind rock.
  • Plant into moist soil, soak container grown plants before planting and water in after planting.
  • Mulch around the plant (but not touching the stem) to conserve moisture.

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Foul Fungus -Damping Off

from Thompson Morgan

Solve the problem of seedlings ‘damping off’ by watering your compost before sowing seeds with Cheshunts Compound a soluble fungicide. Damping Off is a fungal disease that attacks seedlings causing them to suddenly wilt, keel over and die. Damping Off is a particular problem when sowing seed indoors or under glass.

Damping Off can affect most seedlings, particularly under levels of high humidity, poor air circulation, low light and temperature that makes seedlings grow slowly and if seed is sown to thick.

Preventing Damping Off

* Raise seedlings in commercial growing compost, which is usually free of the key fungi.
* Ideally, use new pots and trays whenever raising seedlings. If they must be re-used, wash them thoroughly and treat them with a disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid.
* Never reuse pots and trays in which damping off has been a problem.
* Sow seedlings thinly to avoid crowding.
* Use mains water when irrigating seedlings grown in pots and trays. If using rainwater, ensure that the water butt is covered to prevent the entry of leaves and other organic debris that could harbour some of the damping off fungi.
* Keep seedlings well ventilated to reduce humidity. Do not over-water.

Cheshunts Compound

* Can be used on all seedlings whether edible or non-edible.
* Easy to use, dilute and water the solution onto compost before sowing and repeat after the emergence of the seedlings.
* For transplanting, water seedlings with the solution before and after the transplanting.
* Suitable for organic gardening.
* Cheshunts Compound uses inorganic salts copper sulphate and ammonium carbonate so it is the same type of copper-based fungicide as Bordeaux mixture.

Available from Thompson Morgan
See also Verticillium Wilt

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Berry Fruit Cages

You have grown some bush fruit in an organic garden and as the berries ripen all the birds you have fed through winter decide to feast on your well grown crops. What a good job you protected them in a fruit cage!

red currant

If you do not have a fruit cage yet, you can buy a Two Wests Standard 6′ High Fruit Cage 6′ x 12′ Cage from Amazon.

Blackcurrant and Jostaberry
Blackcurrants prefer a cool, clay-loam soil which is not too acidic pH 6.5.
They are gross feeders and like a rich fertile soil.
Blackcurrants are shallow rooting and require irrigation or good watering when dry.
Protection from frost may be needed for early flowering varieties.

Redcurrant and Whitecurrant

A potash rich, moist, well drained soil with a pH 6.0 is optimum. Continue Reading →

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Lawn Games for Summer

Book Cover

The top ten garden games need a Lawn and a gardener who bites their tongue occasionally.

French Cricket the game where the feet must stay still and together and the ball is bowled at the feet from wherever it lands. Hitting the ball into another garden or favourite bush is 6 and out except there is no scoring anyway.

Tip it and Run is a short version of cricket with an L shaped pitch where the bowler bowls at the wicket as soon as they have the ball and a batter has to run at right angles a defined distance and back if he tips or hits the ball anywhere.

Croquet need some equipment similar to that show which can be bought from a sports or toy shop or from Amazon.

Carpet Bowls or even bowls if your lawn is large enough. The fun is in the bias that makes the ball roll in a curved line. Unless the grass is very wet it is unlikely to damage the lawn.

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Garden & Allotment Safety

This allotment goes someway towards safety for the gardener, the allotment and the plants.

For personal safety the canes can poke out your eyes so the upturned bottles offer ugly protection. In a garden you can buy designer cane tops and if you spend a lot on the garden this may be a worthwhile finishing touch.

The trailing hose pipe could cause a trip but at least these paths are clearly marked out with the tanalised boards that also raise soil levels. Good well maintained none-slip paths are a must in the garden. Poor paths reflect on the plants, no matter how good they may be and paths are visible all year.

Most things and activities can be dangerous if used incorrectly but a bit of garden common sense particularly with sharp objects can save a lot of pain.

Get an upto date tetanus injjection just incase to prevent wound infection leading to lock jaw.

Bend the knees not the back when lifting and do not strain by over reaching.

For crop safety the mesh netting is keeping the birds off the strawberries underneath. The sun and rain can still get through and this type of fruit cageing is popular for all soft fruit.

The support for Sweet Peas is essential to help them get off the ground and support them whilst growing. They would not be safe from slugs, twisted flower stems and a poor crop yield without some protection.

Beware of communally supplied animal compost it may contain chemicals you do not want on your crops. Hormones and selective weed killers used by farmers and stables are often present in manure.

The site protection has linked fencing, barbed wire along the top and numerous fences and barriers. A bit over done for a garden but essential for an allotment that is unmanned and often out of sight.

Take valuable tools home and have a strong lock up at the allotment and or home. An old rickety shed wont stop the determined.

Valuable features like sculptures and fountains may need to be firmly fixed into the ground using special fittings to frustrate the thieves.

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Collecting Containers – Tips for Garden Pots

052

This fine collection of sundry containers were getting a soaking in our summer rain. The wheel at the back only contains fresh air but could become a feature for a ‘Herb Wheel’ if laid on poor soil.

Tips for Containers

  • Small clay feet in threes or fours lift the container off these Yorkshire stone flags. This aids drainage and prevents the base of the container freezing onto a path and then loosing the base when moved.
  • Mulch and decoration on the surface of a pot can be organic with bark or inorganic with a variety of pebbles and stones. Mulch helps prevent moss and keeps the wind & sun off the soil surface.
  • Bear in mind a small pot will constrain the roots and a large tree will become a bit like a bonsai. That can be quite desirable but remember to freshen the compost by replacing the top 2″ annually and fertilizing regularly.
  • Pots can bake in summer and roots become distressed. Black and plastic pots are the worst whilst evaporation through terracotta cools a bit. If in doubt keep moist and shaded.
  • Pots can freeze but bubble wrapping your pots can help hardy plants through winter.
  • Pots located together look better than pepper-potted around. They also help maintain a humidity level in a micro climate (not too important in this wet garden)

Unusual Containers

Long Toms

  • A bog garden can be created in an old galvanised basin without drainage holes. Miniature water lilies are now available for small ponds so give it a try.
  • Long Tom or old Chimney pots are ideal for tall statuesque displays. Try some airy grasses at the back near a wall.

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Successful Watering in your Garden

Watering can be the key to  success in the garden and with your houseplants. Not surprisingly plants without water die !  Plants can drown with too much H²O so watering is a skill worth learning.
It sounds so easy when you are told to ‘water your plants’. Well so it is but there is many a slip twixt watering can and lip. Remember you are watering the soil not the leaves.

Conserving Water in the Garden

  • Dig in bulky organic matter to increase the water carrying capacity of your soil.
  • Keep the surface mulched to avoid evaporation.
  • Keep soil weed free. Weeds compete for moisture and evaporate through their leaves.
  • Wind increases evaporation so build wind breaks.
  • On sloping land sow across the slope reducing run off and soil errosion problems.
  • Plant water hungry plants together where rainfall will be highest. Do not bother to water lawns they will recover from most drought conditions when it rains.

freesia-in-the-rain

I was taken with the though of best tips for watering a garden after a chance discussion. Last night at the Bridge club (or the pub afterward) I was asked about the different growth rates of apparently identical plants. Mike and I put it down to water so here are my top tips

Watering Tips

  • God’s own water is best! If we could arrange a steady drizzel from dusk to dawn through summer our gardens would be lush and our crops juicy and large. A slow steady rain (rather than a thunderstorm) will build up moisture in the soil without water logging or running off too quickly.
  • God’s own water is second best as well. By that I mean rain water caught in a bucket or barrel to be watered in by can or sprayer when needed. I collect rain water off the greenhouse roof (as it may dissolve more chemicals off an asphalt surface). Either way the rain water is softer and more balanced than tap water and is at surrounding temperature when used.
  • I try not to use water from the barrel on seedlings to minimise damping off (rotting caused by microbes).
  • Sprinklers or hose pipes need to be given chance to provide a good soaking so I believe in the longer and slower method so the water can really penetrate the top 4 inches or so of soil. A quick splash can do more harm than good bringing roots to the surface.
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