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Category: Gardening

General gardening tips and hints

Deter Club Root with This Tip

Deter Club Root with This Tip

Club root is a fungal infection of brassicas that causes distorted, swollen roots and stunted growth. Your cabbage seedlings and Broccoli, Cauliflower, Calabrese Sprouts and Kale can all be prone to club root but especially your cabbages.

Club Root Tip

Start plants off in larger than normal pots say 4-5 inches. This gives plants a good  head start and they can be planted out surrounded by safe uncontaminated compost. Line the planting hole with a rhubarb leaf to improve the effectiveness of this method. That seems counter intuitive when you would lime the soil as a normal safeguard and the rhubarb leaf in acidic in nature but it works.

More on Club Root

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Weed Free or So I Thought

Weed Free or So I Thought

I bet you spotted my weed as soon as you looked at the picture. ‘Where’s Wally’ you may ask, well he is the gardener that not only let the dandelion flower but seed as well. Back to gardening school. Depending how you look at it there has been a great profusion of dandelions this year but you just wait until next year. The ‘clocks’ have been distributed far and wide since the beginning of May, the breezes were light, the conditions just right and the air and ponds filled with seeds so dandelions are not going to be a threatened species anytime soon!

One dandelion may be excusable but what about your sweetpea zone you may be asking? My excuse for all the self sown seedlings  from last years dark purple poppies include that I found the poppy so entrancing. I fully expected to transplant them into a suitable area but tempus fugit (a good name for a weed). I have other excuses on request.

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Lush Time in the Garden

Lush Time in the Garden

Where has all the rain gone? In winter there were floods aplenty so I was predicting water rationing by summer. Now it is mid May and the ground is parched and rock hard.

I was struggling to plant my dahlias when I heard my neighbor having even more trouble getting his spade in deep enough. I said I was worried about my next water bill and low and behold there it was on the doormat by lunch time.

Lush is as Lush Does

  1. To me green is the lush colour for all seasons. Other colours supplement or provide great highlights but the framework is green.
  2. Evergreens are therefore a mainstay of my garden particularly the 50 plus evergreen conifers that look lush through the year.
  3. It seems sad to eulogise dying foliage but this year the daffodils and blubells have clung on to the strappy leaves and provided some ground cover until I can get some annuals ready.
  4. The water table and morning dew has been enough to keep the grass green and I am resisting the temptation to cut too close.
  5. Two water barrels are not enough to allow me to water lavishly and 2 outdoor taps are a temptation. I and the garden will survive the rest of the year even though I predict summer floods.
Plant Viruses and Viral Infections

Plant Viruses and Viral Infections

Plants in your garden can suffer from infections caused by many different viruses. Once a plant is infected there is no chemical treatment that will destroy the virus without also killing the plant.

Signs of Virus Infection

  1. Irregular white or yellow mottling on normally green leaves such as rings, mosaic patterns or other mottling.
  2. Distorted leaves with curling and or crinkling
  3. Malformed flowers, damaged fruit and early leaf fall.
  4. Once a plant is infected the plant may be stunted and unable to produce flower or fruit.
  5. Some plants are just carriers and do not demonstrate symptoms other suffer from wilt disease.

More About Viruses on Plants

  1. Viral infections are generally transmitted from plant to plant by insects such as aphids, thrips, whitefly, eelworms, and some beetles.
  2. Some control can be provided by keeping these pests at bay.
  3. Viruses can be prevalent and long lasting in soil.
  4. Each virus is plant species specific and some varieties are more prone than others. Potato blight decimates crops, tomato mosaic virus damages fruit, cucumbers suffer as do many flowering plants e.g. carnations, roses and chrysanthemum.
  5. Plum pox potyvirus  the variants of which causes Sharka the viral disease of stone fruit crops.

Other Plant Health Problems

  1. Fungus and fungal infections
  2. Virus and Viral diseases
  3. Bacterial diseases
  4. Pests
Rhodo labels & Records

Rhodo labels & Records


Kenneth Cox at Glendoick   Offers some of the best advice on rhododendron identification and recording. …..Using GPS handheld devices would allow reasonably accurate mapping to made by taking positional readings in each area of the garden and recording what is planted there. If you want  you can then allow garden visitors to access these records on their own devices. There is no limit to the interactive potential if you are prepared to invest time and money…..

The three best examples of private (as opposed to botanic garden) record keeping I have seen outside the major botanic gardens are Philip de Spoelberch’s collections at Herkenrod in Belgium, Lord Howick’s collection in Northumberland and the late James Russell’s plantings at Ray Wood, Castle Howard, Yorkshire. All of these gardeners believe passionately in the value of accurate and detailed records……

Rhododendron Golden Eagle Label at YSP


  1. To a gardener a label should be easily seen unobtrusive, legible, long lasting and easilt fixed so that it is not broken off by wind or clumsy gardener. To a plant seller the label is designed for one purpose, to relieve you of your cash.
  2. I am still seeking the ideal label and hate those little white plastic sticks that become too brittle.
  3. The longest lasting labels are embossed metal labels I have some thin copper labels to scratch the details into but they are hard to see. Glendoick recommend aluminium labels written on with a soft pencil tend to last well
  4. Beware of label death, where a branch or stem is girdled metal, by the failure to loosen a label as the plant grows.
  5. Dymo labels are surprisingly long lasting
  6. Most botanic gardens use expensive engraved labelled on UV stabilised plastic or modified acrylic laminate.
The Mother of Inventions

The Mother of Inventions

Rust Bucket Barrow

Last autumn I realised I needed a new wheel barrow but thought I would defer the purchase until spring 2020. In February I found a galvanised builders barrow that I coveted and resolved to purchase one. At the first attempt I discovered my wives car wasn’t big enough to take it home. A bit later, low and behold, I’d missed the boat or more accurately caught the over 70’s travel restrictions and subsequent social distancing rules.

So along came the mother of all inventions (or nearly) in the form of a simple mat to cover the rusty hole. It wont last long and can’t hold heavy loads but I am making do by mending.

In addition I made a contraption that isn’t a riddle or sieve but my own sifter shown below. It is made from plastic coated chicken wire and to prevent large particles escaping I doubled it over. It is surprisingly easy to lift the detritus and put it into another compost bin.

Home Made Sifter

Time now for a ‘garden o’clock snifter.

Big Up Your Garden Compost

Big Up Your Garden Compost

Goodnews, I have 3 good sized compost bins. The bad news is I am filling them very quickly which if they rot down soon enough will become more good news. The black bin heats up quicker but contains less material and is hardest to get at to turn the waste so I guess that is a scoring draw (using football pools terms).

New Discoveries

  1. I should have known all along that hay rots into a soggy lump and isn’t great for garden compost making. It probably contains far more seeds that I or the garden can cope with.
  2. I should have known all along that forgotten tools may turn up in heaps as they do not rot but rust even my spare pair of Felcos had some rust.
  3. I should have known all along that rats like a warm friendly space to live and breed. A neighbor has had to call out the pest control twice during the lock down and I’ve discovered an unusual depression and hole in one of my heaps. I hope my early action will work.
  4. I should have known all along that I would get better compost if I sieve out the tougher bits.  A full bin has realised 50% fine sieved parts with the rest going back to restart the new bin. I also found fruit labels and sundry bits of plastic.

Roses for Good Hips

Roses for Good Hips

Some gardeners say the best hips are produced by species roses. Here are some Hips Tips that I have discovered over the years.

  1. Rugarosa for big juicy spherical hips
  2. Birds adore the red, egg-shaped hips of the wild dog rose Rosa canina which are also good for cooking.
  3. Masses of orange-red hips adorn the rampant rambler Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’. It needs a large tree or building to grow over  as does Rambling Rector.
  4. Rosa ‘Madame Grégoire Staechelin’ is a glorious climber with huge hips that turn from yellow to pinkish-red.
  5. The Scotch rose, Rosa spinosissima is a  very prickly species rose with purplish-black hips
  6. Bristly, urn-shaped, dark red hips hang on the arching stems of Rosa setipoda, make a striking autumn feature.
  7. Hips vary in shape and colour with Rosa moyesii Evesbatch having long elongated hips and Rosa pimpinellifolia round black hips.
  8. Rosa villosa has gooseberry like hips whilst for small, orange-red hips try Rosa ‘Fru Dagmnar Hastrup’ that look like cherry tomatoes.
  9. The fatter and juicier the hip the better they make rose hip syrup.
  10. As a child we used to break open the hip and push seed down the back of friends shirts to cause itching. I haven’t tried that for 60 years or so! but I still get the itch.

A few  older shrub roses that are recommended by the RHS:

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I’m Potty About Watering My Pots

I’m Potty About Watering My Pots

I have 35 good ceramic pots and numerous plastic pots and containers dotted around the garden. There is a 3 foot wide path all around the house that hosts many of these pots on a permanent or seasonally temporary basis. I enjoy ringing the changes about location and container content. What I don’t enjoy is watering the pots! Since the floods early in the year we have had scarcely any rain in Yorkshire and the ground is now dry and cracking up. Looking at the forecast April looks like being a shower free zone never mind a good soaker.

A plant pot that needs more water

Why Pots get Dry

  1. Too little soil or compost to retain enough moisture often because the pot is too small
  2. Compost too free draining eg sandy or gritty soil. Compost need some ‘heart’ to retain water.
  3. Porous terracotta pots that allow water to be sucked out through the sides
  4. Pots in too much sunshine with no shade
  5. Pots placed in windy or draughty conditions
  6. Plants with lush leaves that transpire readily and need copious amounts to drink.
  7. Root bound pots or those filled with roots leaving no room for water soaked compost.

Excess roots and weed cover restricting water content

Watering Pots

  • These comment apply to varying degrees to most ceramic, clay, terracotta and plastic pots, containers, hanging baskets plus similar plant containers.
  • You may notice pure peat or coir is very difficult to get evenly  wet. Commercial composts have a wetting agent added during packing so this problem is initially  circumvented
  • If pots get dried out the compost is very hard to re-wet. A deep soak for 12 hours is probably the best way to totally rehydrate the soil but that is not always possible. Damp compost will take up more water. Very dry soil sheds the water or lets it run right through. I start with a light wetting or dampner on the surface then 10 minutes later water properly.
  • Special care is very important specifically if the compost has shrunk away from the sides of the pot.
  • The problem of hanging baskets being difficult to re-water once they get a bit dry has a simple solution which is to use a wetting agent or a small dash of washing up liquid in the water .
  • Preventing  drying out in the first place is as  better step.
  • Drip or electronic controlled watering would be a top end solution.
  • A saucer under the pot would be a cheapo solution.
  • A community of pots to create a micro climate and increase surrounding humidity can help.
  • Placing the pot on soil or capillary matting would allow some leaching from the surrounding area.
  • I use a wick system for pots in the greenhouse with a  strip of capillary fabric or matting trailing from the middle of the pot surrounded in compost with the end trailing out of a drainage hole into a sump of water.