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Author: tejvan

Protect Your Garden from Wind

Protect Your Garden from Wind

windbreak

Specimen tree sheltered by High Hedge

A windbreak can make a big difference to a garden creating safety and an improved micro climate. After we reduced a large conifer by half many plants got flattened by the wind which was now able to flow over the shorter windbreak.

Top Windbreak Tips

  1. Hedges, gorse and natural planting will help break-up the flow of wind. Banked up soil with a hedge on top often features in large windswept gardens.
  2. Solid barriers such as walls can create eddies and vortex effects that cause more damage than they protect.  This was forcefully demonstrated to me with lost greenhouse window panes after a big blow.
  3. Plan a first line of defence to break the winds full force followed by a second line. Design both together to be complementary. I prefer natural breaks of trees as the prime windbreak but for ground level protection I use smaller shrubs.
  4. In really wind areas windbreak trees will grow lower or be stunted so bear this in mind when planning the number and proximity of plants needed.

Mixed Shrub Secondary Windbreak

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Best Trees for Small Gardens UK

Best Trees for Small Gardens UK

A common site in many town gardens are trees that have outgrown their space. Large native trees like Oaks, Copper Beach, Planes, Weeping Willow and horse chestnuts are wonderful, but to be really enjoyed they need suitable space, like in a park. If they are planted in the garden they will

  • Create too much shade
  • Create too much ‘water shade’ – their canopy can make a garden quite dry.
  • Planted too near the house, they can also undermine the foundations of a house as their roots spread deeply into the structure.

To remove these trees is a big job. But, it’s better to do now, rather than leaving until it is even higher. (Though you may have to be careful and check planning regulations before cutting old trees down – some may be protected)

However, though some trees are too big to enjoy, there are many excellent varieties which will be good for the small garden.

Best Trees For Small Gardens

Acers – There are a huge varieties of acers. They can be very attractive in the small garden. They are also ideally suited for the small garden.

acer

Acer Palmatum – a great tree for small gardens. They are very slow growing so stay nice and small. I’ve found they can be a bit tender in a cold windy winter. More on Acers

Birch – Betula Pendula

birch

Birches make excellent garden trees, there canopy is not too dense, providing a lovely dappled shade. There small delicate leaves and bark can also be quite attractive, especially the white barked silver birch.

Hawthorn Tree. Can be used in hedges or used as a specimen tree. Will not grow too tall and provides good blooms in May or June.

Laburnum


Laburnum

The Laburnum provides a wonderful display of yellow flowers in May / June. It shouldn’t grow too tall (though this tree from Italy has grown as tall as house. One important point is that its leaves and flowers and bark are all poisonous. If you have young children, it may not be suitable unless closely supervised.

The best variety is Laburnum wateri vossii’ which produces long blooms of flowers.

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A Late sowing of Kale

A Late sowing of Kale

kale

Here in Oxford, we tried sowing some Kale in the middle of August.

We sowed some directly into pots and as an after thought sowed some directly into the ground.

Going on holiday for two weeks after sowing seeds is always asking for trouble, and by the time we got back they had shriveled up and were only good for the compost heap. However, the seeds sown direct into the ground did quite well. A few got eaten by slugs but a couple grew fast enough to escape their clutches.

The location in the garden wasn’t the best, with shade from Conifer and other trees limited the amount of direct sun, as Autumn progressed, they were lucky to get one hour of sun per day. Yet, despite little direct sunlight, they kept growing and soon started to encroach on each other. We started picking some leaves from the bottom of the plants and got a few meals out of them.

As the nights shortened, growth slowed down almost to a stop and the Kale pests seemed to be taking out more than they were able to grow. I think later damage came from pigeons or the like, it doesn’t look like the work of slugs – too big and neat.

Anyway, they look OK, in the mostly empty border and were a good ground-cover as we await a new fence. The last few straggly plants will be harvested and will make the odd meal or two.

But, for late sowing, they didn’t get enough sunlight to really get going – even the richest soil can’t compensate for lack of light. But, next year, we’ll pick a better spot and hope that they really take off. We may also try a later sowing because Kale is a good plant for providing fresh veg through the winter months. However, we may have to take pest control a bit more seriously which will mean netting to stop both butterflies and pigeons – so maybe not in the flower border.

Here’s a useful post on growing organic Kale.

Related posts at Gardenerstips

Tips for Composting Leaves

Tips for Composting Leaves

Composting Broad-leaves

  • Broad leaved trees produce prodigious volumes of leaves in Autumn.
  • Their leaves should be composted or rotted separately to other garden waste. They can take upto 2 years to decompose properly.
  • It is worth persevering because they make an excellent soil conditioner.
  • The leaves will decompose in punctured plastic bags or a custom made leaf bin.
  • Often these custom made leaf composters are made with a simple wire mesh.
  • The advantage of using open bins is that they enable worms to enter and help the process of decomposition. It is important to have 2 bins / bags on the go at the same time, as they will not be ready in less than 1 year.

Accelerators for Composting Leaves.

  • It is possible to buy a special liquid which helps to speed up the process of decomposition. These accelerators are worth adding as they will speed up the process.
  • Basically, these accelerators help add nitrogen to the leaves.
  • If you have access to manure adding it to leaves will work very effectively.
  • Even accelerated decomposition will not increase the nutritional value.
  • Oak Chestnut and conifer leaves take far longer to rot down than others. I keep leaves as separate as is practical as my Acers rot quickly and can be used around my Rhododendrons to good effect.

See composting accelerators.

Digging in Half-composted Leaves.

If you don’t want to wait 2 years to decompose leaves, you can simply add them at the bottom of a trench and then add soil, they will naturally disintegrate over time.
Worms are crucial to the decomposition and are also good for your soil conditioning.
It is far better to collect the leaves than leave them on your lawn.

Tips on Making Leaf Mold Easily

  • Rake your leaves together into a pile. Bits of soil, grass and a variety of leaves are not a problem but make the pile predominantly leaves.
  • Put the leaves in a wire cage cover and leave to rot. alternatively put the leaves into a large plastic bag and puncture to allow air to enter.
  • Leaves should be damp and can be lightly watered but not left soggy. The rotting will not create heat like normal compost and decomposition will be slow.
  • The volume of leaf mold will be a tenth of the leaf pile you started with.
  • Conifers and evergreen leaves will take three years to compost and are best added in small quantities.
  • Shredding leaves or chopping with a lawnmower first helps to speed up composting.
  • Do not include nuts or tree seeds
  • Burn any diseased leaves and avoid honey fungus
Flowers for Mother’s Day

Flowers for Mother’s Day

Mother’s day in the UK is fast approaching. If you have a habit of forgetting until the last minute, you can always rely on a bunch of flowers to save the day. But, rather than just a standard bunch of daffodils from the petrol station, what else would make your mother really happy and inspired to bake you more cakes?

Speciality Narcissus
Narcissus tazetta

Narcissus Tazetta. A late flowering daffodil. Warm spring has brought it out down here in Oxford. A lovely delicate flower with lovely colour contrast.

Daffodil selection

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Plants for Hanging Baskets

Plants for Hanging Baskets

hangingbasket

A simple single colour Petunia gives a good effect.

The typical plants seen in hanging baskets include Lobelia, Petunia, Begonia, Marigolds, Fuchsias and Pelagoniums. The F1 varieties of these plants have a long flowering season making them ideal for summer hanging baskets.

Obviously in any hanging basket, trailing plants add an extra interest. For example a variegated ivy helps to offset and provide a balance to the more colourful varieties.

Plants for the Spring / Autumn Hanging Basket

Try Primulas, Violas, pansies, miniature conifers, ornamental cabbage and cyclamen. All can offer a good season of winter colour at a time when it is most appreciated.

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