Archive for the ‘Seasonal Tips’ Category


Gardening Jobs for November 2016

“November’s sky is chill and drear,
November’s leaf is red and sear”

-Sir Walter Scott

Well autumn has certainly arrived. The temperatures have started to fall and with them finally the leaves. Although we still haven’t had as much rain as we need we are starting to get the odd wet day. Here’s a few jobs to get stuck into if you want to get back out into the garden.

1. Keep on top of the leaves. It’s a laborious job but it is worth while. Keep raking them up, especially if they are on your grass or on your patio and paths; wet leaves on hard surfaces can be dangerous, but don’t worry too much on your herbaceous borders as they will eventually rot down and improve the soil (Unless they are trapped around plants as they can be a hiding place for slugs).
Diseased leaves such as black spot infected rose leaves should be disposed of by burning to prevent carry over of infection. The rest stick on the compost heap.
2. Keep cutting back herbaceous perennials once they go over and turn yellow.
3. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts. If frost is predicted, bring in any tender plants or wrap them in several layers of fleece.
4. Take hardwood cuttings (shrubs and trees such as Forsythia, Buddleia and Photinia) and root cuttings (Oriental poppies, Chaenomoles, Acanthus, Crambe, Dicentra, Eryngium). See Propagation section for instructions on how to do it.
5. Not too late to plant bulbs. November is ideal for planting tulips and not too late for daffodils.
6. Plant wallflowers and other winter bedding
7. Depending on where you are in the country, you may need to lift your dahlias and store them over winter. If you are in a mild area just leave them in and mulch the crown to protect it. If not, cut the stem right down to just above ground level, dig up the tuber and wash off the soil. Let it dry and then store in sand, newspaper or dry compost. Keep them cool and dry but frost free.
8. Raise your pots up off the ground by using pot feet. This will prevent water logging and encourage good drainage.
9. Good time to winter prune your roses to prevent wind rock – don’t worry too much about how you do it as it won’t make a difference this time of year, just cut back by about a third.
10. Start thinking about planting bare root hedging.
11. Normally, we would expect to put the lawn mower away at this time of year, but if it continues to stay mild you might get another grass cut before Christmas especially if it’s dry. Don’t forget grass can still grow even at 5 degrees. If you are finished with it, give it a good clean before you put it away.
12. If you are really bored and looking for something to do, you can always clean and oil your hand tools such as spades, hoes and forks – not my favourite job I must say.
13. Take a few moments to do a bit of garden planning. Look back at your gardening successes and gardening failures and start to plan next year’s projects. There may be beds to dig over or new areas to plant.
14. In the veg plot, clear away any dead or dying plants such as tomatoes and runner beans, dig over any bare areas and mulch with manure.

Jobs for October 2016


Thanks to a nice bit of high pressure over our part of the country, the start of October looks like it’s going to remain dry and sunny, at least for the moment. Cool nights and sunny, blue-sky days are great conditions for showing off the autumnal leaf colours at their best. There’s still lots of interest in the garden and still plenty to do. Here are a few jobs to get you thinking;

1. Continue to cut back any dead growth or flower spikes from perennials such as sedums, you might be able to see signs of new growth at the base.

2. Now is a good time to start thinking about giving your lawns some TLC with an autumn lawn treatment. Rake out any thatch of dead brown grass and improve drainage by spiking or aerating. On heavy soils brush sand into the holes to improve drainage and on light sandy soils brush in compost or top soil to improve the moisture retention. If the weather permits you can keep mowing for a few weeks to keep the lawns sharp.

3. Try to keep on top of the leaves if you can, especially if they are on the lawn as they can turn the grass yellow if left to rot. Don’t get too worried about leaves on your flower beds as these will eventually rot down or you can dig them in giving extra nutrients. Diseased leaves should be burnt to stop any infection from carrying over to next year.

4. We try to give roses a light autumn prune, just to put them to bed before Christmas. If you prune down by a third it will stop wind rock which can reduce the rigour of the plant. Rake up and burn old rose leaves, especially if infected with black spot.

5. Tidy up Buddleias now that they have finished flowering. Cut back by a third, just above a pair of leaves. You can cut them back hard in March.

6. Keep lifting and dividing perennials such as Michaelmas Daisies, Alchemila, Campanula and Phlox if required.

7. As deciduous trees are now becoming dormant you can start planting new fruit trees and ornamentals. Peaches and nectarines always do better if planted in the early autumn when the soil is still reasonably warm, apples and pears aren’t so fussy.

8. Now for the ‘f’ word. If frosts have destroyed the last of the summer bedding or you are just fed up with them, pull them up and get rid of them. Think about planting autumn / winter bedding such as Violas and pansies, Bellis, Cyclamen and wall flowers. Pansies and Violas always do better if planted early autumn and I always prefer Violas to pansies as they flower better, look neater and don’t need so much dead heading.

9. Raise your pots up with pot feet to stop them sitting in water over the winter and give some of your more tender plants a bit of protection. If we get some harsh frosts remember that you need to properly fleece your plants; one layer of fleece is not enough you need several layers and cover the pot itself as well.

10. Keep planting spring bulbs, especially daffodils, they always do better when planted Sept / Oct. Tulips can wait until November.

11. Order bare-root plants such as roses, hedging plants and trees for autumn planting. You’ll save money compared to container grown.

12. In the veg garden, harvest your pumpkins and squashes. Once cut you will help storage if you leave them in the sun for a couple of days to let the skins harden before storing somewhere cool, dark and dry.

13. If your tomatoes are still refusing to turn red, try pulling them up and hanging them upside down in the greenhouse or somewhere bright. It should help them to ripen.

Gardening Jobs for September – 2016

Still looking good. Top - Lavender, Ceratostigma willmottianum Bottom; Perovskia and Agapanthus

1. Continue to trim back lavender once its finished flowering.  Once the bees have stopped visiting the flowers, that’s the perfect time. Trim back flower stalks to about an inch into the main plant. This will prevent the plant from getting too leggy.

2. Plan ahead. Make some notes on the position of your herbaceous perennials in your borders. Now is a good time to think about where to move them to later on in the autumn if you are not happy with their current position or height in the border etc. It is always a good idea to mark them with a stick as they die down so that you don’t dig them up by accident in the spring.

3. Lift and shift. Towards the end of the month you can lift herbaceous perennials such as Michaelmas daisies, Alchemilla etc. divide them and then move them somewhere else.

4. Start thinking about buying and planting spring bulbs. Daffodills are pest planted towards the end of the month and tulips are best planted in November.

5. Cut summer fruiting raspberry canes down to the ground once they have finished fruiting if you didn’t do so last month. The new canes which will still be green will provide fruit for next year so leave these and tie in for next year. Pick autumn flowering raspberries.

6. Continue to collect seed from perennials and annuals once the seed pods have dried out to either give to friends or re-sow yourself.

7. Don’t be tempted to forget about your hanging baskets and pots; keep watering, feeding and deadheading to prolong flowering. Most will flower quite happily until the first frosts.

8. If you are thinking about re-turfing your garden or re-seeding your lawn, now is a good time to do it as the soil is still reasonably warm and there tends to be more rainfall.

9. Continue to harvest your veg, potatoes, sweetcorn, runner beans and tomatoes. If, god forbid, there are any light frosts at the end of the month, cover your outdoor tomatoes with fleece for protection and don’t forget to keep feeding them with tomato feed. Don’t forget keep picking runner beans, ideally when they are young and not stringy, to keep encouraging continued cropping.

10. Net your ponds to ensure they don’t get smothered in leaves when they do start to fall

11. Great time to start planting shrubs and trees as the soil is warm and moist so they should grow away quickly.


Designing YOUR Dream Garden


As we are coming towards the end of the season and autumn is approaching now is a perfect time to think about planning your dream garden. Maybe you’re fed up with how your garden looks and want a complete overhaul or perhaps you just want to change something small or replant a new border. Here’s a few tips to get you started.

1. Think about what you want and what you like. Do you like contemporary or traditional gardens? To some extent this will depend on the type of house you have. A cottage garden may look out of place next to an ultra modern house and a contemporary, conceptural garden could look wrong in an old property.

2. Who will use the garden, children, pets etc? Do you want a big lawn for playing with the kids, a large patio for entertaining or somewhere to grow your own veggies? Maybe consider raised beds

3 Think about how much time you have to look after it and what your budget is.

4. Measure up the garden as accurately as possible, to scale if you can using graph paper. This helps you to get things in proportion and helps you organise what you have.

5. Play around with shapes and features on the paper. Maybe increasing the size of a flower bed, adding a new gravel path or a different shaped lawn. Generally, gardens are designed using a combination of rectangles and squares or circles and curves as a theme. If you already have a very angular house then a formal design based on interlocking squares of different sizes might work. If you have a house in a rural setting then informal curves might look better. Go with your gut instinct.

6. Use shapes to deceive the eye into thinking the garden is bigger then it actually is. Curves, zigzags or diagonal paths can make the garden appear longer or wider. Horizontal lines make a garden look wider, whilst vertical lines make a garden look longer. If for example you have a long narrow garden, then plan a curved or zigzag path, a straight path down the middle will make your garden look longer and narrower.

7. You will need to follow a few plant rules such as aspect (sun and shade) and soil type (light and free-draining or heavy clay) and pH. But other than that grow whatever you want to grow; it’s your garden so you have what you want.

8. If you have a small garden, don’t include too many varieties of plants. It can look over fussy. Group a number of the same variety of plants together (this includes bulbs) and try to have the same colour scheme in a particular border. We try to plant in groups of 1,3,5,7 and 9. Single plants of mixed colours can confuse the eye. But don’t get too worked up about colours clashing in the garden, remember they don’t clash in nature.

9. When choosing your plants remember that red and oranges can make the garden look smaller whereas softer colours such as blues and whites can make the garden look longer.

10. Give the garden different views with trees, benches or statues. This will provide a focal point and give the impression that the garden is larger than it actually is and give you plenty of interest.

11. Don’t forget wildlife and ensure there is room for bird, butterflies, bees and insects.

12. You’ll also need to make sure there is room for a utility area. That bit of the garden that isn’t that pretty but is functional, like where you put the wheelie bins or compost heap or the shed.

13. Use reclaimed materials such as old bricks or paving they have more character and has a good feel. Try to use natural stone if you can and if your budget allows for it. It looks fabulous wet, which is most of the time in our British climate.

14 Keep your design simple. Over-designed complicated designs can look too fussy. Don’t get put off, everybody is capable of designing a garden, you just need passion and enthusiasm. The more you put into your garden the more it will suit you and the more soul it will have. A garden should be felt not just seen.

Gardening Tips for January 2016

New year, new garden!

Daffs in flower in January – BONKERS!

Here we are at the start of a brand new year and what an amazing start it is. After the warmest December in history (and wettest in some parts of the country) who knows what unseasonal weather January will bring. In our part of the country, snowdrops and daffodils are already out and we’ve even seen bearded irises in flower. With just a couple of slight frosts so far (and none forecast for the near future) our gardens just haven’t gone to sleep and what’s more the grass is still growing!

He’s some tips to get you started:

1. Trim back any dead or dying perennials that you didn’t get time to do before Christmas. Things like peonies, valerian and asters

2. If it’s dry enough you can still cut your grass to vacuum up any last leaves and keep it looking sharp. Re-shape the edges.

3. Wisterias can now have their main prune. Prune back the whippy spurs to 2 -3 buds from the main stem. It will promote better flowering on the Spring.

4. Jet wash your paving and patio ready for spring.

5. Prune apple and pear trees.

6. Dig over any bare soil ready for spring planting.

7. Keep the fleece ready so that when we do get a cold snap (and we will, but possibly not until February) you can protect your tender plants.

8. Keep putting food out for the birds.

9. Plan your vegetable rotations so that you grow different crops in different areas

10. Remove any last debris from the vegetable plot, such as old runner bean stems, potato haulms, peas etc. If it’s diseased burn, bury or bin it rather than stick it on the compost heap to keep the plot clear and clean.

Gardening Tips for December 2015

One of our favourite horticultural jobs at this time of year must be choosing our Christmas tree. Real trees don’t suit everyone but for the people who do want one, you generally have a choice of Spruces (such as the traditional Norway Spruce) or Firs (such as the Nordman Fir or Douglas Fir). They each have their own pros and cons; the spruces tend to be cheaper but the firs don’t drop their needles so readily. What ever you go for, just remember to treat the tree like a cut flower, cut the bottom couple of inches off and make sure it has plenty of water. Don’t put it next to a radiator and keep it outside in a bucket of water until you are ready to bring it in.

1. Clear the remainder of the leaves, most would have come down already. Last to come down are normally weeping willow leaves followed by the alders.
2. As with last month make sure your tender plants are protected, either fleeced or brought indoors.
3. You shouldn’t need to do any hoeing but if you do get the urge be careful not to hoe off any emerging bulbs. It’s easily done, I did it twice last week !
4. Continue planting deciduous trees and shrubs. It’s a good time for planting both fruit trees and fruit bushes. You can still just about get away with planting any bulbs if you didn’t get time last month.
5. This time of year is traditionally the best time to prune your apples and pears. Cut off any dead or diseased branches and any crossing branches to keep an open shape. With apple trees I was always told that they should be nice and open so that a pigeon could fly right throw the tree without knocking into any branches. Remember don’t prune cherries, plums and peaches until the spring/ early summer.
6. Don’t be tempted to feed your plants at this time of year. Most are not actively growing so they don’t need it. Any soft growth that may be promoted could get hammered by the cooler temperatures.
7. Give your compost heap a good stir to ensure that it gets mixed thoroughly.
8. Caring for Poinsettias. If you get a poinsettia for Christmas, make sure you keep it well lit, away from draughts and don’t let the temperatures fall below 13 degrees. Don’t over water and let the compost dry out between waterings. To get it to colour up again for next Christmas, cut the stems back to about 10cm in the early spring and then re-pot and water in May. At the start of October cover the plant from the early evening so that it gets 14 hours of darkness. Do this for 8 weeks and then the bracts should turn red. Remember, the key is 14 hours of darkness for 8 weeks.
9. Clear away any dead anuuals, runner beans, bedding, sweet peas etc.
10. Dig over vacant areas; the winter frosts should help to break down the soil ready for working in the spring.

To mow or not to mow…..

When do I stop mowing my grass? The recent, unseasonably high temperatures for November have meant that the grass has continued to grow and has needed regular cutting. This is grass we cut today in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.You can keep cutting your grass as long as you can get on it and if it’s not frozen or waterlogged. A mow now can ‘hoover’ up the last few leaves and keep the lawn looking sharp, just don’t cut it too short. As a general rule grass will slow down and stop growing at about 4 or 5 degrees C so this weekends cold temperatures should knock it on the head.

Jobs for November 2015 – Leaf clearing continues

1. Keep on top of the leaves. It’s a laborious job but it is worth while. Keep raking them up, especially if they are on your grass or on your patio and paths; wet leaves on hard surfaces can be dangerous, but don’t worry too much on your herbaceous borders as they will eventually rot down and improve the soil (Unless they are trapped around plants as they can be a hiding place for slugs).
Diseased leaves such as black spot infected rose leaves should be disposed of by burning to prevent carry over of infection. The rest stick on the compost heap.
2. Keep cutting back herbaceous perennials once they go over and turn yellow.
3. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts. If frost is predicted, bring in any tender plants or wrap them in several layers of fleece.
4. Take hardwood cuttings (shrubs and trees such as Forsythia, Buddleia and Photinia) and root cuttings (Oriental poppies, Chaenomoles, Acanthus, Crambe, Dicentra, Eryngium). See Propagation section for instructions on how to do it.
5. Not too late to plant bulbs. November is ideal for planting tulips.
6. Depending on where you are in the country, you may need to lift your dahlias and store them over winter. If you are in a mild area just leave them in and mulch the crown to protect it. If not, cut the stem right down to just above ground level, dig up the tuber and wash off the soil. Let it dry and then store in sand, newspaper or dry compost. Keep them cool and dry but frost free.
7. Normally, we would expect to put the lawn mower away at this time of year, but if it continues to stay mild you might get another grass cut before Christmas especially if it’s dry. Don’t forget grass can still grow even at 5 degrees. If you are finished with it, give it a good clean before you put it away.
8. If you are really bored and looking for something to do, you can always clean and oil your hand tools such as spades, hoes and forks – not my favourite job I must say.
9. Take a few moments to do a bit of garden planning. Look back at your gardening successes and gardening failures and start to plan next year’s projects. There may be beds to dig over or new areas to plant.
10. In the veg plot, clear away any dead or dying plants such as tomatoes and runner beans, dig over any bare areas and mulch with manure.

Hurray for Halloween – It’s Pumpkin time

Pumpkins are one of our most colourful autumnal fruits and at this time of year the supermarkets are full of them. For some growers in certain parts of the country this year has been poor for pumpkins with cold weather and cold winds in the summer resulting in slow growth and small fruit. Fortunately, for most growers (especially squash growers) it’s been a good year.





Part of the cucurbit family, which also includes cucumbers and squashes, pumpkins are really easy to grow yourself.

For best results sow from seed indoors in mid-late April. Sow the seeds on their side 1-2cm deep in small pots into moist compost and then when they have started to grow and put on roots plant them outside into their final position once the daytime temperatures warm up in June. Alternatively, you can also sow the seed direct outdoors in late May – early June. If you don’t fancy growing from seed you can just buy ready–grown seedlings from garden centres in the spring. Pumpkins need a sunny position, away from cold winds and a moisture retentive soil and once planted you mustn’t let them dry out. Space the plants about 1-2metres apart, depending on the variety, to allow enough room for them to grow. You can also grow them in a grow bags, one plant per grow bag. As they are pollinated by insects, pumpkins can suffer in a cool summer when insect activity is reduced but they usually bounce back when it warms up again.

When the fruit starts to swell it’s a good idea to feed with tomato feed every 2 weeks to give them a boost. You’ll find that most pumpkins and squashes develop powdery mildew towards the end of the summer and early autumn but generally it isn’t worth controlling as it doesn’t affect the fruit. Remove any leaves that are overshadowing the fruit so that it gets as much light as possible.

Harvest from September to October and store somewhere cool and dry. In a warm, wet autumn, it’s sometimes a good idea to wipe them with a mild disinfectant  or steriliser (such as Milton fluid) to stop them from rotting too quickly once picked.

Great varieties to try:
‘Atlantic Giant’ – A very large ‘American-style’ pumpkin with pale orange flesh, a great choice for allotments and for showing.
‘Jack of all Trades’– a reliable choice which produces classic, medium-sized, bright orange pumpkins ideal for carving and great for soups.
‘Munchkin’ – a small ornamental bright orange pumpkin. Climbs well if supported.

Favourite squash varieties:
‘Crown Prince’ – a steely blue fruit (see photo above) with a bright orange flesh. Good for soup
‘Kabocha’ – a medium size green pumpkin (see photo above) which has the best chestnut taste. Great for roasting and making soups.

October’s plant of the month

Liriope muscari – Common name lilyturf

A handy evergreen, grass-like perennial with beautiful spikes of purple flowers from September – November. Totally hardy and happy in shade and in any soil. This one is in our north facing garden. Lovely little plant and well worth a place in the garden