Archive for the ‘Essential Tricks’ Category


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.

August Gardening Tips – Riotous Colour


Well, August already, where does the time go. August can feel a bit depressing as it’s a sign that autumn is on the way and all those darker evenings aren’t far behind. Combine harvesters come out, herbaceous perennials are starting to die back and leaves are starting to loose their lovely verdant green colour. But don’t despair we can still get a lot of out of our gardens, the Michelmas daisies are looking at their best and Echinaceas, Agapanthus, Verbena, Achillea, Dahlias and chrysanths are all still bursting with colour. Here are a few jobs to think about.

1. August is a good month to summer prune wisterias. We normally trim back the wispy spurs by about a third or to about 5 or 6 buds from the main stem. To help flowering next year feed with tomato feed to give it a boast. The main pruning time for wisterias is the middle of winter (Jan / Feb) when you trim the spurs back to 2 or 3 buds from the main stem.
2. Continue to deadhead roses and other perennials to prolong flowering.
3. If you want to save seed from your perennials for growing on next year, now is a good time to do so. Cut heads of hardy geraniums, aquilegias and poppys for drying out. Collect the seed in paper bags or envelopes and keep somewhere cool and dry.
4. Identify and mark gaps in your borders now for planting of autumn bulbs before the perennials die down.
5. Once this year’s raspberry canes have finished fruiting cut canes down to the ground and tie in the new canes. Pin strawberry runners into pots of compost to create new plants.
6. Put stakes around autumn flowering perennials such as dahlias, chrysanthemums and michaelmas daisys to keep them supported.
7. As soon as lavender has finished flowering take the shears to it and reduce it back to about ½ inch into the new growth but no lower. Keep the seed heads for their fragrance and use indoors.
8. Continue to feed and water tubs and baskets.
9. Make sure houseplants aren’t left on windowsills in the summer sunshine as they can scorch in direct sunlight.
10. Trim back leggy annuals to give them a new lease of life such as petunias, nicotianas and nemesia.

June Gardening Tips 2016 – Jubilant June


HERE we are looking forward to a promising summer and a jubilant June. Our gardens are looking fabulous, Wisterias, lilacs, laburnum are just going over but there’s so much more to come. The recent hot weather has certainly stimulated the plants into rapid growth and if it keeps up the top job this month has got to be watering, watering and oh yes watering.

Here’s a few other jobs to think about:

1. Pull up your dead daffodil, tulip and bluebell foliage now that they have died down enough.
2. Now is a good time to plant up your hanging baskets and containers if you haven’t already done so. Remember that they will need watering twice a day and feeding once a fortnight. If you can it’s a good idea to use special hanging basket compost as it tends to have water retaining granules to reduce the need for watering.
3. Now that the birds have flown their nests now is a good time to get your hedges cut and trimmed. We always try to resist the temptation to do it earlier so we don’t disturb them.
4. It’s also a good time of year to trim your box hedging into shape. Traditionally, people say Derby Day is the time to do it. Make sure you choose a cloudy day so that the tender shoots don’t get scorched by the sun.
5. Prune back Forsythia, lilacs and Choisyas now that they have finished flowering. You can also trim back Kerria, and towards the end of the month ceanothus and Spirea arguta.
6. Keep an eye out for pests.
7. As blooms start to fade towards the end of the month keep dead heading (roses, Scabious etc.) to prolong flowering.
8. Cut back oriental poppies once they have finished flowering, they will produce new green growth which will look more attractive than dying leaves. Also cut Geranium phaem and Geranium sylvaticum right back; they will re-shoot in no time and you will get some more flowers if you are lucky. You can do the same with Brunneras.
9. Continue to sow out your veg including tomatoes, runner beans, sweetcorn and courgettes. If grown in pots remember to keep them well watered especially runner beans. Thin out earlier sowings so they have plenty of room to develop.
10. Some early potatoes should be ready for lifting this month. Wait until the first flowers start to open and then do a test dig to see if they are ready.
11. Support larger herbaceous perennials such as paeonies, so that they don’t flop when in rains. I use hawthorn or hazel twigs as they look more natural than plastic or bamboo canes.
12. Feed tomatoes and bedding plants once a week with tomato feed to keep them happy.
13. It’s a good time of year to take softwood cuttings on shrubs such as Hydrangea, Deutzia, Philadelphus and Spirea. (see propagation tips).
14. Keep mowing your lawn regularly, at least 5-7 days (or less), if you want it to look neat and you can cut a bit lower now. Remember to get the sprinkler out if it starts to dry out.
15. Keep on top of the weeds.
16. If you do have gaps in your border fill them with colourful bedding plants– think geraniums, dianthus and petunias for sun and busy lizzies and begonias for shade.

May Gardening Tips 2016 – Marvellous May!


May is truly magnificent. It’s our favourite month in the garden. Plants are growing so quickly that you can almost see them and hear them. Add to that the special fresh ‘May smell’ in the air, a mixture of heady scents from lilacs, wildflowers and grass clippings and you get something truly spectacular. Top of our list of jobs to do this month is to go and see a bluebell wood; a real natural wonder of the world. The first bank holiday weekend in May is normally perfect. Leave it until the end of the month and they will be going over.

Other jobs we should be thinking about;

1. Plant the last of your potatoes if you haven’t already done so and start to earth up when the growth gets to about 15cm. This will stop greening.
2. Continue to keep an eye out for pests. Check for the red lily beetles, aphids and slugs and dispose of them. Viburnum beetle can be a pain on Viburnum tinus, V.opulus and V.lantana. As can sawfly on Soloman’s Seal. Nip them in the bud before they spread with a good systemic insecticide.
3. With any luck the frost threat is over so start to think about planting out some summer bedding from the end of the month. All the garden centres are awash with fabulous bedding for your pots and hanging baskets. Now is the time to plug any gaps that have appeared in your borders.
4. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts. In the unlikely event of late frosts, be prepared to cover your tender plants with a double layer of horticultural fleece. The weather does seem a bit changeable and the forecast (for our part of Hertfordshire at least) for the first part of May is a bit disappointing, cooler temperatures again until the middle of the month; thought it was a bit good to be true.
5. Pull up or hoe off weeds. Don’t forget on a cool day when the soil is wet some weeds can re-root once hoed off so either remember to put them straight onto the compost heap or hoe on a sunny dry day so that the weeds desiccate and quickly die.
6. You can sow runner beans, squashes, pumpkins and courgettes directly into prepared soil from the end of May.
7. Start mowing your lawn weekly now.
8. Dead head tulips and daffodils and trim back Pulmonarias and Doronicums to encourage new verdant growth once the flowers have gone over. Don’t be tempted to cut down your daffs just yet. You should wait 6 weeks after flowering to make sure all the goodness goes back into the bulb to ensure a good flower display next year.
9. Brussels sprouts can be transplanted from their seed bed into their final positions and spacings at the end of May.
10. Continue to keep your pots and hanging baskets well watered to ensure that they don’t dry out.
11. Prune out any frost affected shoots of evergreen shrubs.
12. Prune back camellias after flowering. They do respond well to quite severe pruning if required.
13. Take softwood cutting of deciduous shrubs such as Forsythia, Hydrangea, Fuchsia, Spiraea and Philadelphus. (See propagation section for advice on how to do it).
14. Towards the end of the month think about introducing certain houseplants into the garden such as Christmas cacti, potted azaleas and orchids. All will enjoy a summer holiday but take them out gradually and don’t put them into direct sunlight straight away or they will scorch. In fact, the Victorians used to plant up flower beds for the summer using rubber plants, palms and mother-in-laws tongue.
15. Support your perennials now so that they don’t flop later on.
16. Remember to take time to sit and enjoy your garden. Get a glass of wine or a gin and tonic and really take in the beauty of the plants around you. After all that’s why we do it!

June Gardening Tips 2015 – Summer’s here

Beautiful wild dog rose flowering in the hedgerows

WELCOME to summer. Plants in the garden continue to grow apace this month due to the increases in day length and the rising temperatures. It’s been a dry start to the month here in Hertfordshire and in some places plants are already showing signs of drought stress so a heavy downpour would be most welcome. We have also had something of a novelty over the last week or so; and that’s warm evenings so we have been able to sit out and enjoy a glass of wine after work. The long term weather forecast looks reasonable so maybe it’s the start of a decent summer for once.

1. Pull up your dead daffodil, tulip and bluebell foliage if you haven’t already done so now they have died down enough. (Remember leave at least 6 weeks after flowering)
2. Now that the birds have flown their nests now is a good time to get your hedges cut and trimmed. We always try to resist the temptation to do it earlier so we don’t disturb them.
3. Trim back Forsythia, lilacs and Choisyas now that they have finished flowering.
4. Keep an eye out for pests. Thankfully, dreaded lily beetle seems to have disappeared this year but slugs and snails are still around. Try organic slug pellets (based on ferric phosphate) as an alternative to the chemical ones as they are kinder to wildlife.
5. Keep dead heading (roses, Scabious etc.) to prolong flowering.
6. Cut back oriental poppies once they have finished flowering, they will produce new green growth which will look more attractive than dying leaves. Also cut Geranium phaem and Geranium sylvaticum right back; they will re-shoot in no time and you will get some more flowers if you are lucky. You can do the same with Brunneras.
7. Continue to sow out your veg including tomatoes, runner beans, sweetcorn and courgettes. If grown in pots remember to keep them well watered especially runner beans. Thin out earlier sowings so they have plenty of room to develop.
8. Some early potatoes should be ready for lifting this month. Wait until the first flowers start to open and then do a test dig to see if they are ready.
9. Support larger herbaceous perennials such as paeonies, so that they don’t flop when in rains. I use hawthorn or hazel twigs as they look more natural than plastic or bamboo canes.
10.  Feed tomatoes and bedding plants once a week with tomato feed to keep them happy.
11. It’s a good time of year to take softwood cuttings from shrubs such as Deutzia, Philadelphus and Spirea. (see propagation tips).
12. Keep mowing your lawn regularly, at least 5-7 days (or less), if you want it to look neat and you can cut a bit lower now. Remember to get the sprinkler out if it starts to dry out.
13. Keep on top of the weeds.

If you do have gaps in your border fill them with colourful bedding plants– think geraniums, dianthus and petunias for sun and busy lizzies and begonias for shade.

March Gardening Tips 2015

Polyanthus 'Cheshire Life'

HERE we are at the start of March and at last you can see the signs of spring. The blackthorn blossom is out in the hedgerows, as are the primroses, the snowdrops are still flowering their socks off, the dazzling daffodils are shining through the gloom and the birds are happily chirping away as they build their nests. But before we get too giddy with spring fever remember that it’s not too late to get a covering of snow, so tread carefully in the garden.

  1. Prune your roses. Now’s the time to prune your rose bushes if you haven’t already done so. Don’t get too stressed about the technical side. What you should do is prune back to an outward facing bud, taking the bush down to about half to a third of its height. You should also prune away any dead or diseased stems and burn them and prune away any stems that cross each other. You are aiming for a good open bush. This isn’t something to worry about too much – I know of at least one rose grower who does his rose pruning with a hedge trimmer and it doesn’t affect the flowering one bit.
  2. Tidy up frost  damaged plants. Prune out the dead bits from tender shrubs and climbers such as choisyas and solanums. Cut out bent leaves from phormiums and take out the dead brown leaves. Ceanothus have been particularly hit badly with the cold; be patient although they are looking brown now, they should come back.
  3. Prune buddleias and dogwoods. Ideal time for cutting back Buddleia davidii to encourage flowering. Some plants that have got out of hand may need to have quite a bit taken off. Cut back the colourful stemmed dogwoods such as the red Cornus Alba. If you cut the stems back almost to the ground (15cm) it will ensure a new lot of colourful stems for next winter.
  4. Trim your grasses. We always give our ornamental grasses a haircut this time of year, ready for the new verdant growth to push through. Don’t cut too low only down to about 15cm. Good time for trimming back pampas grasses; we take a hedge trimmer to it or if you are in an appropriate location set light to it to take it to take off the dead bits and encourage new growth.
  5. Lift and shift your perennials. Good time for dividing and moving herbaceous perennials such as Phlox, Asters, Rudbeckia and Alchemila
  6. If you want to transplant snowdrops, a good time to do this is after they have flowered when they are still ‘in the green’.
  7. Get out and dig over your bare soil when it’s dry enough to do so. For most vegetables you want to aim for a consistancy of coarse breadcrumbs before you sow.
  8. Start to sow some veg seed outside such as lettuce, raddish and cabbage
  9. Onion sets can be planted out now.
  10. Chitting Potatoes – To get your potatoes growing away better, you should chit them to encourage sprouting. To do this place in a tray or egg box and keep somewhere bright and cool for a couple of weeks. Put them ‘rose-end’ up (The end with the dormant eyes upwards). Earlies you can think about planting out at the end of the month
  11. Get the mower out and make sure it works. You may also want to think about a spring lawn treatment for next month.
  12. Plant lily bulbs ready for the summer.

 

February gardening tips 2015 – It’s chilly!

Frost on Nandina Domestica

It’s a cold start to the month with a covering of snow here in North East Herts with more on the way. Thankfully, in this part of the country we haven’t yet had the really punishing temperatures (lowest so far this year -4 C in Bishop’s Stortford) that can cause major plant casualties. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t get any worse. If you have got snow settling on your shrubs give them a shake to make sure that the branches don’t break under the weight.

Frost on Uncinia rubra

As far as gardening jobs for February, there’s not an awful lot to do that won’t wait until March. Unless we get some good sunny days and it dries out enough for you to get stuck in, keep warm and dry and stay inside.

  1. Remember to feed the birds. Nuts and fat are better than bread. Putting out bread just encourages rats. Remember to clean your feeders regularly to stop any build up of bacteria.
  2. Give your roses a boost with a specialist rose feed to encourage more flowers and get some manure on the beds
  3. Cut back perennials to keep them tidy
  4. If the weather does take a turn for the worst remember to fleece any tender plants or bring them inside if you can.

    Plant bare root roses

  5. Continue planting bare-rooted roses, trees, shrubs and hedging plants. A much more economical way of buying plants. Especially good time of year to plant a native hedge. You can get some great deals either online or at your local garden centre. Great for bringing wildlife into the garden.
  6. Start thinking about which varieties of potato you are going to grow this year. You can soon start chitting them (encouraging them to grow shoots). Put them in a warm light spot inside and they will soon sprout allowing them a better start when you do plant them outside.
  7. Service your petrol lawn mowers and check your other tools are all in working order.
  8. General hygiene – Clean out your greenhouse (if you are not using it) and give any pots or seed trays a good clean and disinfect if you are going you reuse them
  9. Get ahead of yourself now by digging over any bare soil and breaking-up any clods to give you a fine crumbly seed bed in preparation for sowing.
  10. It’s still too early to sow most things outside but you could have a go at planting a few radishes, leeks or parsnips if you are really keen. Inside, you can start sowing a few tomatoes on your window sills to get an early start.
  11. Get some instant colour into your borders with primroses or hellebores. Hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ is a real beauty!
  12. Think about sowing sweet peas under glass
  13. Still a good time to move plants in the garden before they wake up for spring.
  14. If you want to cheer yourself up, pop into your local garden centre as they’ve got a huge array of summer flowering bulbs, tubers and corms. Everything from gladioli to sparaxis and begonias to dahlias and of course a wonderful range of lilies. Personally, we recommend buying lilies loose; large firm bulbs, the bigger the bulb the bolder the flower! Dont forget you can always start off your dahlia tubers now in a warm greenhouse and take basal root cuttings in a month or so. (These are the shoots that come from the base of the old stem).
  15. Towards the end of the month think about putting black bins over your rhubarb to force an early crop.
Jobs for September – Autumn arrives

Traditionally, autumn has always been the start of the gardening year and this year it begins with some fabulous temperatures and some much needed sunshine. Here’s some reasons to celebrate an amazing autumn.

1. 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.

2. Lift and shift. Towards the end of the month you can lift those perennials, divide them and then move them somewhere else.

3. 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.

4. 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.

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

6. 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. If your summer baskets have gone over, now is a great time to start your autumn/winter baskets so pick up a pansy!

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Keep on top of the leaves, rake them up as they fall or even better use a leaf blower / vacuum, and put them on the compost heap. Alternatively, bag them up in bin liners and leave to rot for 3 or 4 months and then put them back on the garden as leaf mould, a great natural fertiliser.

10. Start trimming down your lavender once its finished flowering. A good tip is to wait until the bees have stopped landing on the flowers. Trim back to just below where the flower stems emerge from the main shrub but don’t go further than an inch into the new growth.

January Tip – Boxing Clever

Add evergreens to add interest to your borders now that all the herbaceous perennials have died down.