Archive | Gardening

General gardening tips and hints

Fuchsia from Autumn Cuttings

Louise

Fuchsias root very easily and it a simple matter to take cuttings both to increase your stock of plants and to protect them from winter losses.

Cuttings in September & October from Semi-hardwood.

  • I think this is the best method for those without a heated greenhouse.
  • Cuttings are taken late in the season when the bark has started to harden and ripen.
  • Select side shoots 6-10″ long and pull them off with a heel. A heel is a bit of the main stem attached to the base of the cutting.
  • Insert the cutting with 4-5 others in a 4″ pot
  • If growing several pots of cuttings plunge the pots into a tray of sand to keep them evenly moist and frost free.

Summer Cuttings from Green Tips

  • Select cuttings 3″ long with two or three pairs of leaves.
  • Cut the shoot just below the point where the lowest leaves join the stem. Trim off the 2 lower leaves and pot 2″ apart.
  • If taken in July, pot on the rooted cutting before winter. Do not worry if they loose there leaves in winter they will regrow from February.

Spring Green Tip Cuttings

  • Similar to summer cuttings they should be treated in the same way.
  • Pot on as soon as rooted in about 2-4 weeks.
  • Keep in gentle heat, shade from sun and gradually ventilate.
  • Stop the plants at 4 pairs of leaves to get bushy growth and flowers from June and the rest of summer.

Short Tip Cuttings in Heat January – March

  • This is the method used by our local nursery.
  • Overwintered plants are pruned by removing all green shoots. Then syringed with tepid water once a day to induce dormant buds on the old wood to shoot.
  • When new shoots have 3 pairs of leaves take the cutting leaving one pair of leaves behind.
  • Pot in a 3″ pot with 2-3 other cuttings and place in a propagator.
  • After rooting 10-14 days very gradually allow air to circulate.

London 2000

More Fuchsia Cutting Tips

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Successful Upgrade to My Compost Bins

You can see photographs of my former compost bins in an  old 2014 post

I just updated the introduction as follows ‘5 years ago our council  provided a brown bin for garden waste. Shortly after they introduced a charge to have the bin emptied.  Larger branches, gnarled roots and diseased wood  now goes in this bin’.

Improved Bins for Better Compost

  • Keeping the heat of decomposition within the pile speeds up my composting.
  • A large bin helps me keep the garden tidier.
  • I am encouraged to make more compost and tip far less.
  • Green household waste also goes in the new bins.
  • The bins content tends to get a bit dry despite the rain drops you see. So I add water and comfrey leaves/juice.
  • The lower openings intended for shoveling out the compost tend to get a bit clogged and thus I empty by opening the whole side.
  • The black bin is smaller and was bought for slow to rot rubbish and composting/rotting down leaves. This years luxuriant growth has taken over and the more I spread compost the more compost I generate (Thanks Les Barker)

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Insect Heaven for Your Garden

Virtually no flies on your car windscreen, sterile fields with no hedgerows and a multi-million pound insecticide industry not much heaven for insects. The hope for bugs, flies and little creatures may rest in your garden.

We hear about the need to protect bees due to there essential role in pollination. The contribution plus the complexity and interdependence of all creatures is not fully understood. We should all take care not to cause damage with our ecological footprint.

Insect house

Options For Helping Nature

  • Gardens need insects and bugs so why not treat them to a snug insect house.
  • You can build a multipurpose house from wood, stones and old pipes similar to the one above. Fill gaps with twigs, straw and rotting wood which will provide some food. The insects will make a home in the cracks and crevices that provide winter shelter.
  • A pile of old logs in a quite part of the garden can provide a haven for fungus and beetles.
  • Try growing butterfly friendly nettles and other plants that can act as breeding grounds.
  • Do not be too keen to clean and tidy up – tolerate a bit of leaf litter.
  • The charity Buglife has a guide that shows which plants help which insects and how to grow a mini meadow.
  • Insects around the world are facing an apocalypse as a result of toxins we humans put into the environmentso think about the effect you are going to have and spare a thought for bugs.

Book CoverBee nesting boxes will cater for bees and ladybirds.
Place on a south facing wall for optimum sunlight to help bees and for ladybirds place the nester in a sheltered area near tree branches and vegetation such as nettles.

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Why are Everyone’s Weeds Better than Mine

What is the collective noun for a group of dandelions?   A drift or adrift in my garden!

With so many potential ‘clocks’ ticking away to dispersal I wonder at the number of flowers on this fine weed. (Dandelion makes a wine but I am not so sure that it is quite so ‘fine’.)

Bindweed

Bindweed can be deceptively attractive except when flowering in my garden. I would call their group noun a ‘knot’ or a pestilence of convolvulous. Heaven forbid that they should become a congregation!

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Soil and Healthy Grass

Grass Land, Meadows & Lawns

  • Getting to the grass root of the problem grass is the  largest irrigated crop in the USA.
  • Like other crops grass depends on the health of the soil in which it grows.
  • Moisture and nutrient retention is crucial to keeping your soil in good shape.
  • Clover is good news not bad news at least in moderation. I bit less attractive but a force for good with grass. Nodules on the clover store and deliver nitrogen more effectively than synthetic fertilisers.
  • Home chemical applications tend to be significantly over done compared to agriculture. Less not more is far better.
  • Water wisely in early morning. Evening watering can encourage some disease.
  • Allow clippings to fall back on the grass and rot down to keep the soil in good heart.
  • Higher cutting blades and grass helps prevent weeds and helps retain moisture.

Other Methods for Healthy Grass Lawns

  1. Scarifying – rake out the dead leaves and detritus
  2. Aerating  – spike the soil to allow air in and de-compact the ground
  3. Feeding – nitrogen rich food is the grass’s choice
  4. Top Dressing  – a bit of sand and soil brushed in helps new roots
  5. Moss Control – get rid of moss in spring
  6. Weed control – selective chemical weed killer
  7. Damage Repair – even the best lawns can get damaged – patches reseeding or just turning the edge of a turf around can help
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A Quick Spruce Up

I am not thinking of a Spruce conifer but an early smarten up and tidy of your garden. Here are some instant and relatively easy wins.

  1.  Initially focus on areas you can see from your windows and main viewing points. Then tidy, trim and weed even if it is still wintery.
  2. Turf out any old pots, hanging baskets or unsightly remnants that will never look as good again.
  3. Give borders a 10 minute make over to remove the worst looking offenders.
  4. Brush paths and tidy hard landscapes.
  5. If time and weather permits cut your lawns on a high setting for the first time this year
  6. Renovate and fill any bird feeders.
  7. Paint or clean garden furniture

Other quick improvements to your gardening enjoyment include:

  1. Treat yourself and garden to some seasonal gap filling plants such as bulbs or primulas.
  2. Plan or start a new project to give a bit of style to an area in your garden.
  3. Put some peat around ericaceous plants like rhododendrons and camellias and reapply bark chippings to improve appearances.
  4. Start your spring shopping with seeds or seedlings if you can protect them from frost.
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January Rose Pruning

I was reading an old book by Adam the Gardener the Sunday Express tipster and looking at his suggestions for January.

Rose Pruning In January

  • In January your roses should be dormant and some pruning has advantages.
  • Winter pruning can therefore be done lightly leaving harder pruning to be completed in march or april when you can see how the tree is responding.
  • This pruning reduces wind rock that can lead to frost getting down to the roots from loose soil.
  • Start pruning by removing dead wood and growth that crosses and crowds the center.
  • Standards and wispy growth should be pruned harder. Floribunda varieties need more top growth for a mass display
  • Tools should be really sharp to prevent bleeding and branch damage.
  • Do not prune during hard frosts.

I have been astonished how many rose trees I have growing in the garden. It was only when I embarked on the January prune/trim that they became visible and obvious.  The rugsa roses that I cut back in autumn were treated to a bag of horse manure to set them on their way in spring.

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Grass for a New Gardeners Lawn

A well maintained green sward with stripes from a lawnmower is the epitome of a British garden. It could be something to do with the amount of rain we get but it also depends on the type and care of the grass.

  1. High quality grass (HQG) seed mixtures containing fine bent grass and fine fescue grass seed are for top class grass but can be high maintenance.
  2. General purpose grass seed contain a mixture in  varying proportions of HQG seed plus smooth stalked meadow grass and timothy.
  3. Hard wearing grass similar to that used for football pitches and children heavy use grass also include quick growing perennial ryegrass.
  4. In new gardens I have often resorted to buying turves. Turf is best laid in autumn. Stagger the turf like a brick wall and stand on a plank as you lay the turf.
  5. The secret of a great lawn is in the preparation. Dig over, remove weeds, firm down with your heels, rake over and firm down again, collect any stones and rake to get a fine tilth into which you can sow your seed. Trim the edges and keep them that way for a tidy appearance.

Book CoverDo not think of yourself as a gardening dummy – you will learn most by experience

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Stopping or Pinching Out for New Gardeners

Some plants want to grow their own way without human intervention. It is a gardeners job to try get the best result by growing for crop quality, size of floral display. Knowing what you aim for will help you decide how to train your plants to do what you want not what nature will allow to happen.

  1. A good example is a tomato plant that will continue to grow taller and produce more leaf and less tomatoes if left to its own devices. So tomato plants are ‘stopped’ when the plant has 5 – 7 flower trusses so the energy goes in to producing fruit not leaves. Nip out the growing tip two leaves above the last flowering truss.
  2. As tomatoes try to throw side shoots at every opportunity these also need ‘pinching out’ before they sap energy. This is similar to stopping but nipping the side growth with finger and thumb. Bush tomatoes can carry more side shoots but I still constrain mine and it is fatal to allow cordon varieties to run amok.
  3. Many ornamental plants benefit from restricting the number of flowers by pinching our excess buds. HT Roses, Chrysanthemums and Dahlias that have groups of buds together are among those I dis-bud.
  4. Dis-budding works well on apples and fruit trees as well. Instead of a clutch of small fruitlets take off all but one of a cluster and let the remainder grow larger.
  5. Deadheading plants will often encourage another flush of flowers. Once plants set seed they think it is all over but cutting off old flowers delays reproduction of seed. Try this on sweet peas.

 

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Getting Starter Plants For New Gardeners

New gardeners are keen to get going and it may be painful to wait for several months to grow your own from seed or cuttings. Fortunately there are several ways to shortcut the process by buying starter plants.

  1. Plug plants are available from mail order seed merchants and local garden centers. These plugs are plants grown for gardeners to ‘grow on’ (ie allow to develop in a bigger pot for a while) or to harden off and plant out. Check the instructions that generally come with the plugs.
  2. Jumbo plugs are what they say in the name. More compost and bigger plants at a bigger price but I buy these for special perennials or quicker colour displays.
  3. Early in the spring you can find small individual seeded pots sown densely then germinated so the seedlings can be pricking out and grown on.
  4. Bigger seeds are often available in a nest of 4,6 or more black plastic pots. I buy special tomato varieties and some vegetables this way.
  5. Local market stalls and nurseries will sell plants in individual pots. This can give you a quick start but take care. Plants should look right ( not be drawn and thin) and pots should be an appropriate size  for the plant with no roots growing out of the holes in the base or weeds on the surface.

Sweet pea seedlings from a local grower

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