Archive | Gardening

General gardening tips and hints

Is Green a Colour?

The answer to the question is ‘of course green is a colour.’ Green is a mixture, a hybrid in gardening terms, as it is made from yellow and blue combined in varying quantities. But the emphasis is on the ‘made from’ of this answer.  The leaves above contain a higher proportion of blue whilst those below are more yellow in content.

Green is fixed in our minds when we are taught the colours of the rainbow. Mnemonics and acronyms includeed Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain, ROYGBIV,   Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo and Violet, Roy G. Biv,  and the song ‘Red and orange and yellow and green, blue and indigo violet too………….I can sing a rainbow’

Red is the complementary colour to green. They are opposite each other on the colour wheel.   A splash of red brings out the many contrasting green shades in this photograph.



There are many shades of green counted in the Irish  song ‘The 40 Shades of Green’. It is surprising how many of these shades use plants as a reference to the type of green colour such as; lime, pea, sage, olive, fern, juniper, shamrock, mint, moss, pine, seaweed and forest green (below with Lime) which all spring to mind.

Forgive this word play as here we have ‘Bowling Green’.

Frosted green has a blue hue as would most gardeners working in the cold.

The last Green picture is one of my favourite Hart’s Tongue Fern.

This post has been an excuse to use some of the many pictures of plant life that all rely on photosynthesis and chlorophyll to produce the greens we see.



Laid-back Lawns

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What Use is a Lawn

  • A patch of grass is an Englishman’s lawn just as his home is his castle.
  • A lawn can be used as a sanctuary to be cut and cossetted whilst escaping from life’s toils and troubles.
  • Aesthetically it may be the central feature of a modern garden design or a natural backdrop to a more avant garde garden
  • Lawns are for recreation including croquet,  children’s football, french cricket and golf with a plastic ball containing more holes than Hostas after a slug fest.
  • Lawns can become a valuable habitat for wildlife so go easy on the chemical treatments.
  • A place to stand admiring the rest of the garden or talking to the neighbors

Avoiding Lawn Labours

  • Not everyone wants to work of months on end to maintain a pristine lawn. It will take ages to get a billiard table lawn and then the weather will change.
  • Decide what sort of lawn and effort you are prepared to accept.
  • Lawns respond to TLC and if you can’t or don’t want to lavish your time on one then you can subcontract the work to a Green Finger expert .
  • If you pay a gardener make sure they trim the edges regularly, nothing sets off a lawn better than a short back and sides.
  • Left to grow a lawn will not become a floral meadow, more likely a weed infested jungle.
  • Greying your garden with concrete, paving or decking is a recent activity but think of all the uses you will have to forgo.
  • Ignore the roller above Grandads used one but you don’t need to risk a hernia unless you are a professional  groundsman.
  • Turf can provide an ‘instant lawn’  a bit expensive but less so than astroturf.
  • If you enjoy lawn maintenance set yourself up in business to help others!

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Blanching & Earthing Up

Blanching & Earthing Up Gardeners

  • Blanching seeks to make pale or white by excluding light.
  • Several vegetables need blanching to be made them tender and remove the green parts that cause bitterness.
  • Celery and leeks are blanched using the process of earthing up.
  • Seakale and rhubarb is blanched by excluding light by an upturned pot usually covered in leaf litter.
  • Endives can be blanched by covering with a slate or tile to exclude light for a few days.
  • Chicory and lettuce may blanch if the leaves are tied together.
  • Exclude light from potatoes by ‘earthing up’ or drawing mounds of soil  around the haulms (stems) to prevent tubers from growing near the surface and turning green.

Blanching Food Treatment

  • Blanch vegetable or fruit by scalding in boiling water and finally plunge into icy or very cold water.
  • Skin and outer shells are easier to remove on tomatoes and many nuts after quick blanching.
  • Fruit and vegetables are treated  to minimize the bacterial content often as a precursor to freezing.
  • Blanching helps to retain a green color with asparagus, greens, peas and beans. Par boiling is similar to blanching but without the last step of a quick chill in cold water.
  • Blanching food is now a recognised industrial process about which several learned views have been published.

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Bolting and Running to Seed

Early Flowing Rheum Rhubarb


said of plants that are making seed prematurely. A plants purpose in life is to produce offspring usually by seed. When stressed they will trigger the reproduction button and set seed.

  • Lettuce and salad crops are prone to bolt and ‘run to seed’. The heart of the lettuce is then useless and the plant only fit for the compost heap.
  • Rhubarb and rheums also throw seed stalks taking energy from the good parts of the rhubarb. You can and should brake-off the offending stalk as soon as it is seen. Water the plant and hope the rest of the crop is unaffected.
  • Other vegetables such as members of the onion family are affected in dry and stressful conditions. This is due to the plants keenness to reproduce before it succumbs.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower whose flowers open early are not truly bolting but the cause and effect is the same.
  • Flowers that turn quickly to seed will inhibit more flower production. That is why sweet peas and annuals, amongst others, should be deadheaded to prolong flower production.

‘……….there exist very little literature on the possibility of manipulating flowering for seed production’ but this book from amazon is an exception

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Stratification is putting your seeds in a moist material outside over the winter to allow the variations in temperature to act on them, so that they will germinate when conditions are warmer. Seed used to be put in layers (strata) of damp sand,


Seed Dispersal

How do Plants Spread their Seeds

To maintain the species plants have developed many strategies for dispersing their seed. They make flowers and fruit attractive so gardeners buy them in seed packets or propogate them to eat. More importantly they have evolved specific techniques:

Major Seed Dispersal Methods

  • Wind is an obvious method from weeds like dandelions and their seed clocks and willowherb to trees such as Sycamore with the helicopter twirly ‘double samaras’ which spin to the ground.
  • Cyclamen have an ingenious method to get the fresh seed away from the parent plant. In addition to the pod on a long twisting stem the seeds are coated in a  sticky substance that is attractive to ants. The ants then unwittingly move the seed  to the new location.
  • The gravity ‘dead drop’ of seed is fine for annuals and seeds that are happy to germinate near the old (now dead) parent.
  • Seeds that want to move a bit away from the parent such as Alliums and Aquilegia have a seed pod that progressively tightens around the maturing seed. The pod then spritzes or squeezes the seed as a cherry stone would when squashed between your finger and thumb. Pea pods pop open when ripe.
  • Bird Cherry is named for the creatures that eat the flesh and excrete the stone. There are other seeds that are spread after animals and birds have eaten the fruit but not digested the seed.
  • Animals also disperse thistles, teasels and burdocks via their fur after the seeds hooks or spines attach themselves.
  • Squirrels and some animals also bury or hide nuts and fruit and if forgotten they may germinate. Humans may throw an apple core away spreading the seed.
  • Plants growing by water such as Willow and Flag Iris can have the seed transported by the water.
  • A combination of dispersal methods may be used eg a seed blown by wind may be transported by water to somewhere else.

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No Chemical Pest Control

No Chemical Pest Control

The world is made up of chemicals and they are not all bad. Where would we be without oxygen for example. However chemical control to kill ‘pests’ is often harmful to the environment and other wildlife. Many persecuted pests are not actually harmful to gardens or can be effectively controlled using other measures:-

  • Encourage natural predators of  specific pests.  Ladybirds and lacewings love to eat aphids. Frogs and hedgehogs go for slugs and if you want birds they have to eat something.
  • Biological controls introduce one killer insect to predate another; Whitefly can be targeted by a parasitic wasps.
  • Hand picking problems like the red lily beetle may be time consuming and intensive but is therapeutic for the Lily and the gardener. Removing and squashing caterpillars from brassicas is an old remedy .
  • Water spraying with  a light soap solution has been used for some time to remove aphids. Add plant oils and other organic based substances like garlic to the water for an environment friendly solution solution!
  • For my Tomatoes I companion plan French marigolds to distract predatory insects from the tomatoes.
  • Barriers from rabbit & deer fences to slug traps are chemical free. Slugs do not like copper  or the sharp edges of eggshells.
  • Think on about appropriate garden practice and methods like raised beds, crop rotation and good soil conditioning.

Leave Well Alone

  • You do not need to remove the pest completely but are aiming to protect your plants and crops from serious damage. Many creatures we think of as pests are seen by some desirable creatures as food.
  • Encouraging more diversity within the garden will prove beneficial.
  • Ants are unsettling but benign and do not do much damage to flowers and crops.If possible leave the ants to carry on.
  • Consider the whole food chain and be cautious before using any chemical. Remember the song Ilkley Moor Baht’at, after we’ve buried thee, worms will eat thee up, then ducks will eat up worms, we will eat up ducks and then we shall all have etten thee!
  • Piles of rotting wood, nettle beds and nature zones are better than obsessive cleaning up.

Garden Sky and Colour Effects

What colour is the sky? A strange question too a gardener perhaps but there are good gardening reasons for asking.

  • The standard answer from a young child would probably blue and that is what we want in summer as a sign of good weather. In winter it may indicate a spell of sharp frosty days. The sky takes on a deeper blue hue that saturates colours from mid morning to late afternoon.
  • Harsh mid day light produces high contrast between light and shadow. This depend on weather condition, because on a cloudy day the light is diffused.
  • An overcast sky is a result of no direct sunlight moisture in the atmosphere or air pollution that causes haze and the sky to appears to be pale blue or even milky white.
  • In the early morning or at sunset your sky can be red, orange, purple and/or yellow  but where I live, too often it seems  to be grey. These colour  arise from the absorption or not of various parts of the  spectrum. This also has a profound effect on how you see the colour of flowers.
  • Blue and white colours are called cool temperatures that tend to recede in a picture. The warm colours of yellow through to red come forward to the viewer.
  • Clouds are seldom if ever white, have a very close look and you will see lots of shades. Grey may predominate but the variety of shades will be multitudinous.
  • Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins

Other Sky and Plant Pictures Continue Reading →


Rose Blindness

A disappointing display of flowers on rose bushes and climbers can be a result of ‘rose blindness’.  The term blindness in gardening terms refers to the failure to flower and is common in daffodils that become constricted (see below).

black-spot on rose tree

Reasons for Poor Flowering

  • Due to environmental conditions in some years roses flower badly despite the best efforts of gardeners.
  • An empty flower case can be caused by frost damage.
  • Poor fertility in the soil and lack of trace elements and nutrients
  • Excessive shade
  • A build up of old wood and weak growths
  • Infection such as this severe case of blackspot
  • Some varieties are just prone to intermittent blindness

Avoiding & Curing Rose Blindness

  • Careful positioning of your roses in the sun without too much competition from other plants.
  • Improve cultivation to relieve stress, add humus, water regularly, apply fertilisers and fungicide if needed.
  • Reduction in the amount of old wood to encorage new healthy shoots.
  • Cut back a blind shoot by half it’s length to stimulate further growth

Cure for blind bulbs

Daffodil Blindness

A better rose with a super scent that a blind person would appreciate.


Storage Rot of Tubers and Bulbs

Bulbs that are stored over winter can be susceptible to rot and fungus. To avoid problems check them regularly and remove and destroy any that are effected.

Ornamental bulbs, tubers and corms that may be affected include begonias, gladioli, tulips and dahlias. Edible crops that can be affected include potatoes, onions and garlic. You will know about rot when you smell some of these .

Onion Rots Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs

Types of Bulb Rot

  • Damp conditions help grey  botrytis or blue/green penicillium fungal rots.
  • Damaged items allow bacteria to enter the bulb and grow.
  • Post-harvest rots are also caused by fungi and bacteria from the soil or from infections in rotting leaves prior to harvesting.
  • Species specific fungal attacks can cause gladioli core rot, tulip fire, onion neck rot and others.

Storage Tips

  • Harvest carefully, damaged goods rot quickest.
  • Clean off soil and  dry off excess moisture. I then wrap some bulbs in newspaper.
  • Look for signs of black seed-like sclerotia of botrytis.
  • Discard any with signs of soft soggy tissue.
  • Store in dry cool conditions on clean storage trays. Leave space so bulbs do not touch and spread any disease.
  • Dust with a sulphur based inhibitor.

Sack rot and cart it off but not to your compost heap!


Trace Elements and Garden Chemicals

The main trace elements and micronutrients are molybdenum, manganese, zinc, iron, boron and copper plus calcium for tomatoes. These elements are best provided as water-soluble chelate salts rather than granules.

 Interesting Facts about Seaweed

  • In addition to the trace elements there are another 60 or so chemicals in seaweed.
  • Seaweed extract is a concentrated elixir to use as a foliar feed or root stimulant.
  • Seaweed is a organic fertiliser containing bio stimulants and iodine
  • Over time seaweed acidifies and slowly adds iron to the soil.
  • Seaweed in is already added to Doff tomato feed
  • Gardeners near the coast have used seaweed as a soil improver for centuries.
  • Seaweed contains plant hormones called cytokinins, mannitol and auxins.

Turning Flowers Blue

  • The litmus test for plant colourants is generally can they turn flowers from pink or red to a pleasing blue.
  • Hydrangea plants will be blue in acidic soil and pink or red in neutral or alkaline soil.
  • Colourant with aluminium and iron salts turns pale pink florets pale blue and red flowers purplish.
  • Soil acidifiers help make micronutients available
  • Fertilizers containing phosphate salts that typically convert  metal ions into insoluble solids  are of no nutritional value to the plants. A chelating agent that keeps these metal ions in a soluble form.

Other Garden Chemicals

  • Lime is used to increase the ph in the soil to help vegetable crops.
  • Sequestrine plant tonic is a soluble tonic for acid-loving ericaceous plants
  • Baby bio indoor fertiliser liquid has an organic content including  uric nitrogen.
  • Growth and root promoting hormones are now far more frequently found in a gardeners dispensary.
  • Bio- stimulants and flowering enhancers are used in commercial nurseries for plants sold through garden centers and supermarkets.





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