Archive | Tips Hints and Ideas

Help for the new and not so new gardener

Honesty Seedheads & Flowers

everlasting-flower

Honesty also called Lunaria annua has beautiful purple flowers in April and May that are one of the few early nectar attractions for butterflies. In spite of it’s Latin name, Honesty is actually a biennial putting down a long tap root in it’s first year. This is why you seldom see it for sale in garden centres.

Gardeners Tips Growing Honesty

  • Honesty will also grow in shade and the seed heads make a great Autumn and Winter attraction as the coin shaped seed heads shed an outer skin and become luminous white moon shapes like tracing paper.
  • The growth is stiff and entirely self-supporting, a central stem branching out freely and bearing abundance of small flowers like Wallflowers.
  • Honesty should be massed with say a dozen plants in a group to give the best effect. The white variety is well worth growing, the colour being very pure and luminous in quality but purple is the main colour.
  • Honesty self sows quite freely and young seedlings can be transplanted with care being take of the tap root. Collect the seeds in October as the husks are shed but leave the papery head.
  • Seed heads can be cut, hung to dry in Autumn and used as dried flowers in floral arrangements. They look good with Christmas arrangements.
  • Most are anything but nondescript, and there are some strains with richly coloured flowers of a vibrant deep purple with a hint of magenta.
  • Lunaria annua is a biennial belonging to the brassica  family and will grow in most soil, if it looks unhappy try a bit of lime. When it is happy, which is most of the time since it generally chooses for itself where to live, it can develop into a robust, branching plant, 2ft tall and 1.5ft across.
  • Unfortunately it has no scent. Although a biennial, with each plant living only two years, when it is established it will go on forever, becoming a feature of the late spring garden. When left to its own devices it often turns up in unexpected places.
  • There is a perennial honesty Lunaria rediviva that is an exceptionally beautiful plant. It has a simple grace with yard-high stems clothed in similar fresh green heart-shaped leaves. Its cross-shaped flowers are pale lavender and sweetly scented.
  • Honesty develops thick storage roots, almost like tubers, and, in common with other brassicas, has deep tap roots.
  • Avoid overfeeding and do not use manure Honesty does best without pampering.

Read Honesty is the best policy

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Simple Gardening Tips for Spring

Foliar Feeding

  • Plants can take up food through their green leaves and stems. Dilute liquid feed by twice the recommended volume of water to avoid burning the leaves. Spray a good quantity on to  the leaves later in the afternoon is more effective. Bulbs like Crocus and Daffodills benefit as they are building up reserves for next year. Stressed and weak plants will probably pick up after a foliar feed  but thick leaved plants are less receptive to feeding this way.

Frost Damage

  • Hardy shrubs that have had the leaves browned off by frost damage will recover all being well. My hydrangeas have been frosted despite leaving the old mopheads on for a bit of winter protection. I will trim the brown very lightly to avoid damage to the buds. Other shrubs can be trimmed back to the healthy shoots or leaves but if another heavy frost is likely I would leave the trimming job or protect with horticultural fleece. My Pieris japonica have been damaged but the new red leaves should still perform.
  • It is still too early to sow half-hardy annuals as even cold weather will kill them off. Hardy annuals should be acclimatised to cold and wind gradually. This gardeners call  ‘hardening off’ and is done by bringing plants into exposed areas during the day and moving them indoors or protecting them at night.

Staking and Supporting Continue Reading →

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Great Garden Chrysanthus Crocus

crocus

Hocus pocus this Crocus is out of Focus but it illustrates my main theme. Your 2010 garden depends on decisions you take now and I think it is worth recording every plant you aspire to grow. I record things in picture and notebook form and am not as well organised as I claim to be. However I am building a list of plants and designs features that I want to try for next year (it also doubles as a present list family take note). High on my list is the early flowering Chrysanthus Zwanenburg Bronze shown above.

Chrysanthus Crocus Species.

  • The flowers are smaller than the blousy, large flowered crocus of public parks and gardens fame.
  • The colour range is more varied with several varieties having purple outer petals and white or yellow insides. Eye Catcher, Prince Claus, Herald and this example Zwanenburg Bronze.
  • Lighter colours amongst the creams are Jeannine, Snowbunting, Romance and Cream Beauty.
  • Chrysanthus flower a little earlier than large crocus but are less robust when naturalising though grass.
  • Bought in bulk from 3p each the corms look good value for a range of pot grown applications including growing your own presents and gifts.
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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose in the Garden

reuse

Now part of this garden is down to crazy paving the Qualcast grass box is needed less and can be put to a different use.  It looks like a ‘unibarrow’  has got in on the act to make a feature planter for these pansies.

Being green is second nature to Gardeners because we are so near to nature so reuse, reduce and recycle is part of our DNA.

Tips to help you reuse old tools

  • Sharpen blades, even on old spades, with a whet stone – angle the blade at 5-10° and push and pull across the stone – 5 times should be enough
  • Bind the handles of old tools with bright insulating tape so you can find them easily.
  • Look at car boots and secondhand sales for special tools that you will only use occasionally. I got an Onion hoe this way.
  • Put on a new handle or repurpose a tool so it can do an easier task. An old hand fork can be given a long handle for light digging without bending.
  • Go to a hire shop and reuse their tools
  • Old tools are often very well made and it is worth the effort of having them repaired professionally. If they have lasted a long time it is a sign they are fit for purpose.
  • Remember the 70 year old spade that had 10 new handles and 3 new blades.

Other Re-Tips

  • I get most of my many gardening books from charity shops and I recycle them there too.
  • I reuse garden center pots for seedlings and growing-on but would prefer more compostable materials to be used by suppliers.
  • Good gardeners recycle old plants via cuttings, seed collecting and splitting of clumps.
  • Buy locally grown plants as they will suit the local conditions and don’t come with exotic airmiles

What to Reduce in the Garden

  • Make low maintenance areas and reduce the labour you need.
  • With the right plant selection you will also reduce the amount of chemicals required.
  • Reduce the need for water by clever garden design
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. Grow dense hedges and trees to capture carbon.

Recycled greenhouse

Credit
Recycled greenhouse by scrappy annie CC BY-NC 2.0 ‘A greenhouse spotted in Stropkov, Slovakia a few years ago.
It was made from recycled plastic bottles, strung on to wires. A brilliant idea….’

Book Cover

Cooking Green: The Essential Guide to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen by Kate Heyhoe

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Tips for Tomatoes in September

I am picking more and more Cherry Tomatoes as the days get longer. I still have a lot of other vines in the greenhouse with fruit to pick and if they won’t ripen I will try some of these tips. Let me know if you have other methods.

Encourage late ripening

  • If you haven’t taken the greenhouse shading off, do so and clean all the glass.
  • Bunny Guinness suggests you cover plants with horticultural fleece or perforated plastic.
  • Stop pinching out as it is too late and excess water can be transpired through the new leaves to help avoid splitting.
  • Reduce the plants work load by selecting the fruit you want to ripen and take the rest off.
  • If you pick green tomatoes hang vines in a dark dry place to ripen.
  • Wrap a tomato in newspaper and put in a drawer  or cardboard box. Tomatoes ripen best in the dark and sunlight will make the skins get tough.
  • Put a banana in with green tomatoes will speed up the ripening/decay process
  • Pick green tomatoes as they start to change colour. Hard, dark green tomatoes get to a point where they won’t ripen and are only good for Chutney.
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