Archive | Tips Hints and Ideas

Help for the new and not so new gardener

Warm Your Soil

Late winter and unseasonal snow has left many garden soils cold and inhospitable.
Spring is the time for new root growth and annual plants and vegetables need the best start possible.
Vegetables and ornamental plants need a bit of warmth to get established and growing away.
Clay soils is traditionally slow to warm through as they hold a bulk of water.

runner bean

Warming Your Soil

I use several methods to warm the soil and control the amount of water.
A cloche will cover an unsown area until you are ready to plant. It will slow down heat loss at night, speeds germination and also offers protection to young plants – I have started off my onion sets under a plastic tunnel type of cloche this month.
Black absorbs the suns heat and white tends to reflect heat. You can lay black plastic on an area of soil to get some warmth but ensure a good contact between the two. Hoe off any weeds before planting out.
Horticultural fleece is best for protecting young crops from late frost and will only do a little to warm the soil.
Compacted soil is inhospitable and likely to be cold. Incorporate plenty of humus and dig over to get air into the soil.

More Tips for a Cold Soil

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Orchid Compost a Treat for Orchids

If you want to make your Orchids feel at home then use good Orchid compost and mimic natural conditions as best you can.
There are many proprietary brands available but you could do a lot worse than talk to an expert at a local Orchid show.

Orchids love humidity but hate wet feet so a free draining compost is preferred.
Some orchids are epiphytes that grow on other plants and trees and need to retain enough moisture when the opportunity arises.
All roots need air in greater or lesser proportions and some orchids have roots that grow out of pots into open air. That gives a clue as to what good Orchid compost will be like.
Orchids do not get any real food value from the free draining compost so need dilute feed in with the watering.
Orchids

Content of Orchid Compost

  • Bark chippings which come in differing sizes. For plants with thick roots choose a larger chips, if they are small and thin then choose small chippings.
  • Sphagnum moss, bark and  styrofoam mixed is good  for seedlings or very thinly rooted plants. It tends tol dry out quickly so watch the  watering.
  • Rock wool  mixed with a little perlite can seem dry on the surface   when very wet underneath and over time breaks down into a hard mass.
  • Lump peat and styrofoam is good for Phalaenopsis and those plants requiring a little more moisture retention.

Orchid Compost Tips

  • You can buy a proprietary Orchid compost at most garden centres
  • Compost breaks down and Orchids need repotting into fresh compost but only every couple of years.
  • Put some large crocks of foam at the bottom of the pot to aid drainage and retain air pockets
  • Repot just after flowering not whilst in flower.
  • Let bark compost soak in water overnight before repotting.
  • Thompson & Morgan Chempak orchid growth feed. It is a high nitrogen liquid fertiliser containing plant foods, magnesium and six trace elements to promote growth

Orchid compost is available from Amazon

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Gardeners Winter Vegetables

Get sowing for some winter greens and veg like Beetroot, Spring Cabbages, Lettuces, Spring Onions, Chicory, Fennel and Rocket.
cabbage

Unless you already have a well stocked allotment or vegetable garden you need to be thinking about next years winter vegetables. Settle down with a drink and some good seed catalogues and plan to enjoy the fruits (or veg) of your labours through to next Christmas.

The well named Tundra Cabbage will take all that winter can throw at you and still produce firm heads until April. Blue cabbage Aurtoro looks so good next to Autumn yellows and oranges and it can be planted in the flower garden. The heads are firm and the leaves tightly packed to make a vegetable that stands well. It will also help make a warming winter soup.

Cabbage Tips

Plant Spring cabbage 12in apart.
Earth up the soil around their stems to prevent rocking and help them against the cold.
In cold frost prone areas cover with fleece or cloches. Watch out for pigeons which may get deterred by netting.
Young plants can be thinned for spring greens and leave the rest to heart up.

Curly Kale with crinkly leaves is another vegetable that shouldn’t be restricted to the vegetable patch. Redbore a purple leaved variety grows on tall sturdy stems that look interesting through winter. Other varieties like January King 3, Red Winter or Westland Winter, a blue green, can add more variety to the garden and your winter grub. If you like the blistered crinkly leaved varieties go for Resolution or Traviata F1’s.

Parsnips are just ready to start lifting. They can be left in the ground until needed and I think a bit of frost does no harm to the flavour. Interceptor Carrots can be harvested through to March and reverting to the purple theme Purple Haze Carrots can be picked until Christmas.

Seasonal favourite Brussels Sprouts need that bit of frost to bring out the sweetness and take away some of the sulphur taste. Pick from the bottom of the stalk and then you can finish off eating the top of the stalk like a small cabbage. I find Maximus F1 have a long cropping season and a good flavour. Support the stalks if grown ina windy conditions.

Late Cauliflowers to consider are Haddin or Deakin F1’s that will hold until February if you don’t eat them first.

Autumn sown Spinach is a healthy crop containing iron and vitamins.
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Top Tips for Growing in Pots

Sedum bootimus-Don’t judge the results by the crop you harvest but by the seeds you sow

Ten Tips for Growing in Pots and Containers

  1. Terracotta is a sympathetic choice for containers in your garden. They are also porous and let in air and allow plant roots to cool through evaporation.
  2. Try several pots of the same size and or shape in a group (I like ‘long tom’ pots). Planted with Agrostis Cloud grass will create a real impact.
  3. Exotics like Banana plants look shapely and they can be moved, pot and all into shelter or wrapped for winter protection.
  4. Keep a sense of balance between the needs of your container plants. They need water, food and light but not an excess of any one feature. The pot is a micro environment that needs regular care such as watering / drainage, fertilizer and shelter.
  5. Trailing plants will benefit from a bit of training in  the right direction.  Pinch out rampant plants and those you want to branch. Pick off faded flowers.
  6. Constant watering can wash out nutrients so give a weekly liquid feed.
  7. Mix plants of different colours, textures, habits and heights. Variegated plants and scented plants often work well.
  8. Locate the pot carefully as the aesthetic of the base and pot combination can be important. A gravel or coloured chipping base can be very effective.
  9. Do not be too conventional with the container. In addition to the old gardeners boot (above) I have seen a wheel barrow planted with courgettes and fire buckets (with holes) used for displays. Use your artistic skills like many container on the top of barges that are brightly painted.
  10. Choose appropriate plants. Below is a second top ten of plants you may want to try in pots.

Top Ten Plants for Outdoor Pots

  1. Clematis cartmanii ‘Joe’ is a white, spring flowering trailer that can be tied to an upright. Try it with blue Crocus or Muscari.

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Streamside Gardens to Delight

fast-stream

If you are lucky enough to have a stream running through your garden you can plant many colourful plants at the side.

Plants for a Streamside

  • Primula Candelabra hybrids look special in spring and early summer. The flowers appear on the 18 inch stems in tiers of red, yellow and orange.
  • Many Iris varieties are at home by the side of water. The Siberian Iris sibirica can be yellow, white, purple or blue and the sword shaped leaves grow well in moist soil. Iris laevigata flowers purple and can grow right at the margins with its feet in 3-4 inches of water.
  • For soft greens, Alchemilla Mollis grows almost anywhere in my garden and Hostas also like a moist soil.
  • Astilbe can be a fine herbaceous plant with fern like foliage and plumes of frothy flowers.
  • For a bit of annual colour you could sow Mirabilis jalpa the Four o’clock flower growing to 3-4 feet tall with some Impatiens accent series for a lower grower.
  • Bugle is good for ground cover Ajuga reptans Burgundy Glow for blue flowers and tricolured leaves. Persicaria superba has pink flowers later in the year and spreads well.
  • For a tree in acid soil the Amelanchier is hard to beat with flowers, berries and coloured autumn leaves or the Spotted laurel and Black Pussy Willows both like a moist soil.

Other Tips for Gardening by a Stream

  • Plants that prefer dryer conditions should be planted higher up the banking.
  • Give plants enough space to develop, the moist and humid conditions will generally encourage lush growth.
  • Beware fast flowing streams and those likely to over flow there banks lest they wash away your prize plants.
  • Foliage and texture can be as important as colour but a bright splash (no pun intended) of yellow or bright white can be reflected by the water.

harlow-carrHarlow Carr Candelabra primula by the stream 2008.

Read more about Wild Iris on Gardeners Tips.

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Super Veg 2017 Ornamental Kale

 

Kale is the newly rediscovered easy to grow vegetable.

Many plants sold as “ornamental cabbage” are in fact kales. They are grown for the coloured and ornamental leaves which are brilliant white, red, pink, blue or violet in the interior or the rosette. Because they supply colour in winter Ornamental Kale is popular with some designers. The green kales (Borecole) can also be very ornamental. Keep tidy by pulling old outer leaves off


Ornamental kale is every bit as edible as any other variety, provided it has not been treated with pesticides. Special recipes

For more Tips and other Kales

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Growing Runner Bean – Scarlet Emperor

Tips for good Runner Bean crops

  • Prepare the soil to retain moisture by incorporating good compost and/or wet newspaper at the bottom of a trench in winter.
  • Rotate crops to a new patch every year on a three year cycle.
  • Do not feed with heavy nitrogen fertilisers or you will get leaf and less flower.
  • Flowers pollinate best if the air is humid so mist over if there is a dry spell.
  • Water plants well and regularly or stunted ‘C’ curved beans will disappoint
  • Support with a cane each or on a wigwam. I am trying an X shape this year so that the top half of the X encourages beans to hang down outside the plant and be easy to pick.
  • Harvest when beans are still young and have a snap in them
  • Try a variety know for its flavour like Kelvedon Marvel or Red Knight
  • Ruby moon has maroon pods that turn green when cooked and Painted lady has red and white bi-coloured flowers
  • Runner Beans can be grown for the bean inside or for the whole pod to be eaten

Tips for entering Runner Beans for a local show

  • Stick to the schedule for the show – if it says three runner beans submit three runner beans and label the variety correctly
  • Chose straight beans of equal length and form – size isn’t everything
  • If beans need a bit of straightening keep them in a wet towel overnight pressed straight.
  • Grow and take some spares to the show
  • Display as instructed or on black velvet to show off your specimen
  • Collect the seed of good plants for next year and develop your own strain or get good seed from a specialist
  • If you want a giant bean to become a world record you will be looking for bean in excess of 48 inches and it will be too woody to eat.
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Delphinium Spires to Aspire too

Flower spikes can reach over 6 foot and when massed together at the back of the border look really special. Delphinium are worth the effort to grow successfully and here are some tips to help.

  • Sow seed of Delphinium elatum types in preference to pacific hybrids or buy plant in spring prior to the showing the flowering stem.
  • Add plenty of compost and water well in spring and during flowering
  • Plant near walls or hedges to protect from wind but stake the plants as well to at least two thirds the eventual height tying in the flowers as they grow.
  • Snails and slugs like the jucy foliage so use your favourite slug protection system
  • On established plants remove less vigorous shoots to leave 4-6 strong stems. Use these as cuttings.
  • Feed with a slow release fertiliser such as bone meal
  • Cut flowers off as they fade under the lowest flower then when a new stalk is a foot tall cut out the old stalk and you may get a second autumn flowering
  • Mulch with ‘Strulch’ the organic straw based mulch

Delphinium range to try

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Astilibe Perennials for a Shady Border

Astilibes chinensis

Astilibes aka False Goats Beard

This summer flowering perennial has good disease and pest resistance. The plumes of flowers stand above fine foliage

Dependant on variety it grows from 12 inches to 4 foot tall with up to a 2 foot spread. The flowers vary from raspberry red (above A. pulmila ) and pinks A. Bressingham Beauty to cream and some clear whites with dark leaves like A. Deutchland.

Compact varieties like Perko, Inshriach Pink, William Buchanan and Sprite will grow less than a foot and are suitable for rockeries.

Tips on Growing Good Astilibes

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Watering Houseplants

This Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum) houseplant is being killed with kindness by the family waterer. Too much water kills quicker than too little.This plant likes humidity from a mister or being stood on a damp gravel base but doesn’t want to be flooded.

Watering Houseplants

  • Plants that transpire lots of water from large fleshy or soft leaves need more watering.
  • Plants with frail, rubbery or sticky leaves are generally conditioned to survive with less water. Look at the leaves to learn what works best.
  • Most cacti & succulents with juicy leaves are often able to survive dry spells.
  • Plants that are actively growing need more water and the converse is true in winter when growth is slow they need little or no water.
  • Try aim for evenly moist soil from top to bottom after watering
  • Good drainage in needed for the majority of houseplants so if in doubt err on the side of an open compost
  • Stagnant water is a no-no causing chills, decay and harbouring potential pests.
  • The tepid water with no chemicals is OK or try rain water.
  • Ailing plants should be given only little water and no fertilizer.
  • Gloxinia like other hairy leaved plants dislike water on the leaves as the sun’s heat can be magnified and damage the leaf.

Expert Watering

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