First time Sunflower Success Diminishes

In 2008 a google search for sunflowers would have found gardeners tips in the top 3 results. Now it would be luck to be found in the top 3 million. We are number 115th for the more specific ‘sunflowers gardeners tips’ as Tips for Easy Sunflowers from 2015.

So why are the mighty fallen?

  • We have not kept up with search engine etiquette, metrics and optimisation techniques preferring to have our fun with with 2000+ somewhat random posts.
  • There are a great number of tipster sites and commercial businesses whose need for  traffic drives them to focus and stylise there offerings.
  • Google algorithms and analytics are far superior to those of 10 years ago.’
  • We were not mighty and do not claim mightyness yet but we hope to keep sowing, growing and gardening.

Sunflower Titan

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Disappointing but not Surprising Moss Problems

Yorkshire has suffered an exceptionally wet autumn culminating in disastrous floods at Fishlake and around the river Don. One plant that will thrive in these wet northerly conditions is our old friend Moss.  As this has been covered before I am just using this post to link you to other observations and tips about moss.

Gardeners Tips

Liverworts are a relative of moss as is the green lichen on theses trees.

Moss is a dense low growing mat of greenery that affects badly drained lawns. It is too short to be cut by a mower but a lawn that itself is cut too short can attract moss instead of grass. Feed the lawn with a weed and feed fertiliser or use lawn sand containing a moss killer. Scarify and improve drainage by forking over the lawn. Moss can absorb nitrogen dioxide and  fight against air pollution

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Autumn Leaves Shared with Others

It dawned on me that many tree leaves are shared in one form or another. Mine get blown over the wall on to the road and into neighbors gardens. The ones that are collected and bagged to make leaf mold are shared with worms and micro organisms in the circle of life. Those under hedges do more good than harm.

Municipal trees are planted in public spaces and a careful selection of species can produce wonderful autumn colours and vibrant spring shoots. Young children get an early hands on experience of nature if they collect fallen leaves. A bit of encouragement and sharing of adult knowledge may engender a life times interest.

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Fruit and Veg Airmiles – A Fruity Post

We need a rebellion against the extinction of the greengrocer but in the meantime it is a good time to use your garden productively. Late autumn in a great time to plant some fruit trees and canes. You can also use the cold months to plan and prepare your own vegetable crop production for the next year.

Recommended Crops

  • From the array on this fruit stall I would strongly recommend you increase the number of apples, pears and plums you plan to harvest. Better to have air yards from garden to kitchen than air mile from exotic countries.
  • The next on my wish list would be cane fruit and strawberries. By selecting appropriate varieties you can get good crops over a 4/5 month period and the taste will be fresh and wholesome.
  • I have skirmished with citrus fruit and exotics but have given myself a pass. Greenhouse space is to precious and crop levels are unreliable. I consider a grape vine worth cultivating if you can get the right conditions.
  • This fruit shop in Cardiff also had ‘imported’ sharon fruit, pomellos, lemons, melons, satsumas, pineapples, chinese chestnuts, pomegranates and persimmons. I don’t think I have tasted all those fruit types never mind trying to grow them

 

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The Iceman Cometh

Norwegian Iceman Sculpture Cardiff

As if all the heavy rain has not been bad enough the icy weather is just around the corner. Jack frost will be nipping into your garden this month and may stick around for 5/6 months or so. It is worth revisiting some of the issues and options gardeners face.

Early Preparations

  • Consider your water features including both still and moving. I start by lagging my outside taps and draining hosepipes.
  • Be prepared for frozen bird baths and ponds with means of breaking the ice.
  • I have cleared moss of the paths and hope to reduce icy slips.
  • Check out hessian wrapping and/or horticultural fleece stock. I always remember to buy it when the frost has bitten.

Plant Protection

  • Every gardeners tip says do not walk on frozen grass the stems become brittle and snap.
  • Give tender plants shelter in a greenhouse, cold frame, window ledge or under some cover.
  • Mulch well to protect roots.
  • Sweep snow falls off the leaves and branches to stop them being permanently damaged.
  • Wrap banana plants, tree ferns and exotics in sacking or other frost prevention measures.
  • Some plants, particularly alpines, suffer more damaged from water than frost . So maintain drainage and don’t panic in the frost
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Strulch does well in Pots

Widgeon

Strulch is an organic mulch made from straw with embedded minerals. I made use of a lot of Strulch this spring and it has done a good job in several ways most visibly on the plants grown in pots.

Pot Plants With Strulch

  • Strulch mulch reduces weed growth by up to 95% but as you see a couple of weeds poked through. However, they were easy to hand weed the recalcitrants.
  • In the hot dry spring the pots needed a lot of watering but the mulch  helped retain moisture around plants.
  • Enriching the soil and its structure as it slowly decomposes is not critical to pot plants but there are some benefits. I would have added some straw to my homemade compost if it was available.
  • Even with my thin layer it lasts up to two years saving water and fertiliser but next year I will make the layer a bit thicker.
  • As claimed there was no sign of Slugs and Snails so I will try to use it on my dwarf hostas next spring.
  • The light brown appearance was aesthetically pleasing and seemed neat and tidy.
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My Tips for Planting Bare Root Trees

Capture more carbon with some trees as a contribution to a better environment. Whips, trees, hedging and field grown saplings are available without the excess packaging of plastic pots and gaudy plastic labels. They are also great value.

Quick Tips

  • Bare root trees, as they ‘say on the tin’ (or not the plant pot) are loose and free of a soil ball.
  • Late autumn to early spring are the best time for planting trees that are supplied from free grown ground.
  • Select a suitable site bearing in mind sun/shade wind direction and visual expectations.
  • Prepare a hole larger than the full extent of the roots so they can be spread out.
  • Break up the soil at the bottom so no hard pan can form a sump for excess water.

More Tips

  • Soak the roots in a bucket of water for an hour then water well after planting.
  • Trim off any broken or damaged roots with a sharp knife
  • Prior to planting place a support stake in the hole and firm the soil around the tree progressively to avoid large pockets of air.
  • Mulch with organic matter and water regularly as the tree is established.
  • Try planting some fruit trees, ornamentals or extensive hedges using bare root stock.

Learn more by watching You Tube videos

 

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Planning for Next Year

I have made a list in my garden note book of what has performed successfully this summer. The multi-headed sunflowers have done exceptionally well and take up little space in proportion to the amount of flowers I obtained. I will definitely be growing them again despite trying to cut down on annuals from seed. The note book also records the failures of crops and in greater number my horticultural inadequacies. First and most distressing has been my tomato failures. Gardeners Delight and small cherry toms have produce in number but other varieties have let me down (or vice versus).

October Plans for a better 2020

  • Spread the rotted compost heaps to improve the soil texture and moisture retention around young shrubs, rhubarb and fruit trees.
  • Prune out and destroy fungally infected stems, twigs and wood as soon as leaves drop. Collect these leaves for destruction.
  • Label and store delicate tubers of begonia, dahlia etc.
  • Keep clean and tidy all around the garden, greenhouse and shed.
  • Keep to the plan of low, low maintenance gardening (as if).

 

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Crab Apples to make Your Knees Go To Jelly

Feeling grouchy and ill-tempered then perhaps you should plant a crab apple and that way you won’t feel crabby much longer.

Key Facts about Crab Apples.

  • Common apples and crab apples are related. They are both members of the malus genus.
  • They are grown for their lavish display of spring blossom.
  • After the blossom a copious amount of small fruit are generally produced suitable for jelly or jam making.
  • The right variety can make an ideal specimen tree for a small or medium sized garden.
  • Original European crab apples have short spines and can be found growing wild in hedgerows.
  • Horticulturally they are often used in orchards inter-planted with apples to assist pollination. They themselves are self fertile.
  • Fruit may be red, green or yellow.
  • Plant new trees grafted on to semi-dwarfing stock during winter.

AGM Varieties

RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) are designed to helps you choose the best crab apples to grow and include Butterball producing butter coloured fruit. Jelly King has large fruit and guess what they can be used for. Laura is a registered variety that is naturally dwarf yet a good all rounder. Red Sentinel and Sun Rival have upright and weeping shapes respectively. Other awarded crabs include Evereste, Comtesse de Paris, Admiration, Cardinal,  Malus transitoria, Scarlett and the Japanese Crab Malus floribunda.

Other pictures from Google

 

 

 

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Stepover Fruit to Save Space

Take a new step in your garden this autumn by planting some step-over fruit trees.

Growing Stepover Fruit Trees

  • These fruit trees are effectively one tier espaliers
  • They are kept low enough to step over when necessary. 18-25″ will normally suit.
  • Starting with a Y shape with two main shoots train them horizontally in opposite directions. Aim for a spread of 10 feet. Prune out the vertical leader
  • Support with low wire on a ‘gripple system’.

Benefits of Stepover Fruit Trees

  • Ideal for planting in front of ornamental borders
  • Form a low edging for vegetable plots.
  • Increases the yield from small spaces particularly in smaller gardens. Larger fruit and often less numerous on stepovers.
  • There are a growing number of species now available from specialist suppliers particularly of apples and pears. Select spur-fruited varieties on dwarf stock.
  • They can become attractive conversation pieces.
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