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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Growing Roses

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses

Roses enjoy a rich well fertilised soil. They have deep roots, but, in dry weather they may need a heavy watering to avoid drying out – especially when in flowering season.

Roses are prone to a variety of diseases such as black spot and more serious fungal diseases. The most common cause of disease is infestation by greenfly or black fly. To keep roses clear of disease it is important to tackle any greenfly problems.

Blackspot is a common problem, you can diminish this problem by picking off leaves and keeping area free of any fallen leaves.

Before Planting Roses

Before planting roses it is important to prepare the soil with a good organic mulch. This will feed the soil and improve water retention.

Roses need to be planted at the right depth. Make sure the hole is big enjoy so that the crown of the plant is above the soil level. In colder climates it is advised to plant roses a little deeper than usual

After Planting

  • In the first few weeks make sure they are well watered to help them bed in.
  • Feed with bonemeal.
  • Roses like full sun or at least sun for part of the day. So choose a spot which is not too crowded or shaded by overhanging branches.
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Combinations of Plants

plant-combinations

Some plants look right together because the gardener planned it that way. In my case happy accidents are often the cause of plant combinations that work well. In yet other gardens it is the growing conditions that are the over riding factor that create the overall effect.

The Flag Iris above are in the process of being colonised by the small Euphorbia which spreads rapidly by creeping roots. In spring I am happy that the red shoots contrast with the lime-green, sword shaped leaves of the Iris so I plan to leave them until the Iris flower. By then the dark blue flowers will not need a red leaved under planting so they may have to come out. These Iris also need to be split as the rhizomes are old and each piece only produces one stem. I will do this splitting a few weeks after flowering and plant pieces of root and throw away the old woody center.

Continue Reading →

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Roses in Summer

source

dog-rose

Is it too early to think about your Roses in ‘Flamming June’ and the rest of summer? I think not as boy scouts say ‘be prepared’ and here are a couple of preparations to consider.

Tips for Summer Roses

  • Roses are heavy feeders so provide a granular fertiliser before flowering and a foliar feed before buds open. Specially formulated foliar feeds are available to give nurishment through the leaves. This can be very useful if the soil’s lime content restricts the uptake of all the nutrients needed.
  • Plan irrigation perhaps by burying a pipe to get water down to the tap roots. Do not encourage surface roots by just wetting the top soil, water needs to get deep down to do any good.
  • Pest and disease control will probably be necessary so stock up with the right products.
  • If you are planning Exhibition roses then you may want to disbud your flowers to channel all the energy into fewer larger blooms. Clear away any imperfections if you can and take off the thorns so the foliage isn’t ripped in transit.

Book Cover

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Vegetables for a Drought

Book Cover

When you plan your crops you have no idea what the weather will be in summer when your vegetables need water the most. Herbs, plants from the Mediterranean and grey leaved plants tend to withstand drought conditions better than most. Some vegetables once established can be more tolerant than others and if you expect low rainfall this summer give them a try.

Drought Tolerant Vegetables

  • Leeks need to be ‘puddled in’ when planting in a hole but from then on  they will send down strong roots in search of moisture. Earthing up for blanching by drawing soil around stems helps preserve some moisture.
  • Root vegetables like Parsnip and Carrot can survive dry conditions as long as they get well established
  • Onions  will tolerate low rainfall but I find it encourages sets to run to seed. 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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Iris Reticulata and Histroides Species

Flowers

Whilst these Iris bulbs are grown in a gravel topped bed Reticulata make great pot plants for an alpine house. Flowering in February many varieties have deep purple or violet flowers with conspicuous yellow blotches on lower petals or falls.

  • If you have relatives called Joyce, Gordon, Natasha, Pauline, George or Katherine Hodgkin there is an Iris bulb named after them.
  • Iris Reticulata Cantab is a cobalt blue with a small orange tongue and a most striking colour worthy of close inspection. Whilst Iris Histroides Katherine Hodgkin is a light blue with distinctive marking.
  • Gently force batches of early bulbs by bringing pots of them into a cool greenhouse. When the flower buds begin to colour up, you can bring the bowls into the house.

related

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Frogspawn Tips and Hints


From me’nthedogs on flickr

Spawn
Frogs can be very useful in the garden eating more than their share of slugs. On a warm day from February onward frogs and toads will emerge from hibernation, mate and lay eggs as spawn. Do not worry about too much spawns as one frog will lay up to 2000 eggs of which only half a dozen become adult frogs. If you get far too much spawn so that it is chocking the top of the pond you can transfer some to a bowl so you can watch the tadpoles develop over the next 6 weeks or so. Transferring spawn to another pond may transfer disease or unwanted plants. Toadspawn is formed in long strings rather than the clumped or bunched frogspawn. Newts put there spawn on the underside of leaves.

Continue Reading →

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Garden Sculpture from Found Materials

council-flower-bed

This council maintained flower bed claims a wooden sculpture which looks to me like 4 poles stuck in the ground at angles. It meets the specification of a sculpture in that it acts as a focal point, creates a new dimension with the extra height and becomes a topic of discussion.

Found materials can be any surplus matierial discovered in the wider garden or on your travels. If you have an artistic eye they can arranged in the garden to create a special feature. Old roots can be used to form a stumpery and old sea washed tree trunks can become a seat or decorative piece. I like natural wood as it harmonises in the garden without effort. Other wooden features include bird houses and tables, so much more pleasing than the rusty metal efforts.

Tips for Choosing Garden Sculpture

  • Select items that are in proportion to the space and surroundings. Too small and the sculpture will be lost. Too large and it may dominate a natural setting to the exclusion of the natural garden environment.
  • Plan why you want a sculpture and how it will integrate into your garden and the chosen site. Do not leave these items to chance or serendipity. Consider maintenance from the outset some items will tire rapidly.
  • Unless you have a particular reason do not copy similar sculptures in neighboring gardens. If everyone bought the same stone sculpture from the same garden centre there would be no frisson of interest. Why not try to find a unique item that achiever the same end.
  • Repeat a theme or stick to standard. It can be untidy having a glass,stone and wood sculpture in close proximity. Aim for harmony in the items you choose.
  • Even well selected rocks can be sculptural features and I have many rocks in the garden that I have collected as small sculptures.
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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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