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Category: Tips Hints and Ideas

Help for the new and not so new gardener

Lawn Edge Trimmers

Lawn Edge Trimmers

Cloche Crop Protection

Cloche Crop Protection

Octagonal cloche

A cloche is used as a protective covering to shield plants, usually vegetables from the undesirable effects of cold, wind, and predator damage.

  • Cloches may be just smaller poly-tunnels used to protect a small number or individual plants.
  • Cloches made from plastic are much lighter than glass making them easier to move around. The advantages of glass is that the temperature within a glass cloche will be slightly warmer, they are less likely to be blown around and look better.
  • A home made cloche can be made from a cut down plastic pop bottle.
  • There are attractive bell shaped cloches available and various shapes like the one above.

How to Use a Cloche

  • Put the cloches in place a month before sowing to help warm the soil.
  • Sow seeds or plant out under the cloche for protection.
  • Cloches can be used in September to protect late crops of Lettuce.
  • Consider ventilation and watering when buying a cloche. The roof of this cloche can be lifted off.
  • I use a cloche to keep mice away from germinating peas and beans.

A Floating Cloche can be made from sheets of polypropylene fleece which are placed over the seed bed – when the seedlings emerge, the polypropylene is light enough to float up as the plants grow. I like this method for Broad beans peas and early potatoes.

A floating cloche is cheap, easy to put in place and protects the seedlings from three or four degrees of frost. Water permeates the fleece.

Poly Tunnels are another alternative.

Poly tunnel’s supporting hoops should be no more than 2½ feet apart. If spaced further apart the plastic sheeting will droop over the crops and may damage them in rainy or snow conditions.
Make sure the height is adequate for the crops you want to protect.

Related

Garden Frost Protection

Rhodo labels & Records

Rhodo labels & Records

Widgeon

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

Labels

  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.

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:

Read More Read More

Special Seed Sowing Survey

Special Seed Sowing Survey

I thought I would just list some special tactics to try increase successful sowing activities.  After all ‘Tis the season for sowing summer annuals and so on’.

Pulsatilla or Pasque Flower

Special Seed Sowing

  1. To chit, nick or sandpaper your sweet pea seeds, that is the question? I often settle for a pre-soak to get through the hard coating and swell the hard seeds. The RHS video recommends nicking with a pen knive but each to their own. I did well last back end just planting ‘cupid’ in compost without any preparation.
  2. Seeds with a long awn such as Pasque flowers germinate better if they are individually speared into compost not sown flat. With warmth and wet the awns twist the seed deeper into the soil.
  3. Flat seeds like lilies have a papery wing covering the fertile grain. The germination will improve if the seed is inserted edge ways and not flat.
  4. Many seeds like to be sown as soon as they are ripe, after all that is natures way. Primula, Lewisia, Ranunculus and gentians are best sown from ‘pod to pan’.
  5. Cyclamen seeds are covered in a sticky substance to reward ants that move them from the host plant. Germination may be better if this glue is washed off before sowing.
  6. Pollinated Orchids can take up to a year for the ovary to swell and ripen. Then the fun starts as your harvested seed is best sent to a seed laboratory for germination and return as pricked out seedlings. It can also take a further 5 years to reach the flowering stage dependent on the variety.
  7. Many seeds that can’t be sown immediately can be stored in a dry container in the fridge. Some benefit from a good chill as this replicates winter conditions.
  8. I message to myself – SOW SEEDS THINLY
Planning for Next Year

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).

 

Take a Close Look

Take a Close Look

We tend to see gardens in the round and I seldom inspect individual plants. I often think I am missing something by not paying close attention. This obviously casual approach doesn’t work for those who specialise in a species or collect special examples of plants.

Careful Looking

  • Patterns and repetitions can be fascinating. Not all are immediately obvious. There is a repetition of colour in the flowers, stems and hairs on the stems of this Geranium maderensis.
  • Seed heads and capsules have their own shape and attraction. They also give good clues as to the species or family of the plant. You could guess this was a part of the geranium family.
  • Plant explorers often took magnifying glasses to get to the crux of a plant.
  • Insect life is not always visible to a casual observer and on the dahlia below the second fly could be missed. No big deal may be but for come the extra attention would be worthwhile.

Diverse Use of Hostas

Diverse Use of Hostas

Hostas can be used for in a variety of situations due to their diversity as a species. As basically known as foliage plants they prosper in the shade but have other uses.

Use of Hostas

  • Available to the gardener as foliage plants from spring to the first frosts, hostas only miss out without a winter display.
  • Used as pot plants they can be moved around the garden and the right pot complements the colouring or leaf shape.
  • Pots can be grown indoors and even cultivated during winter.
  • Different varieties offer colour, size, shape, texture and form. This can be used to create architectural effects, ground cover  or lush tropical effects.
  • Add to this the flowers, the reverse colours and bicolours and you have some great design opportunities.
  • You can even grow your hostas in a window box.
  • Hostas combine well with water locations and as companion planting.
  • Hosta collecting can be an interesting pastime.
  • Flower arranging using hostas is very popular in Japan where many plants originate.

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January Rose Pruning

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.