The grass can always be greener!

 

In September, lawn growth slows so we have time to prepare it for winter to ensure the best condition for next year.  Here’s how;

 

 

 

1. Remove thatch and moss

 

Grass clippings, dead grass and debris form “thatch” on the lawn surface.  This can inhibit growth – use a spring rake to remove it.  Raking also removes moss, although if a real problem, use a moss treatment before raking.

 

 

2. Spiking / Aerating

Improve areas of lawn left compacted from a summer of fun by spiking to a depth of 6” with a garden fork.  This will also aerate and improve drainage.

 

 

 

 

3. Feeding

 An autumn feed will give the lawn a boost if it has had a busy summer, by promoting strong root growth.  Don’t use leftover spring / summer feed – it is not good for your lawn at this time of year.

 

 

 

4. Weeding

Single weeds can be removed by hand or with a spot on weed killer.  If weeds are a widespread problem, use a combined autumn weed and feed product.

 

 

 

5. Keep it Clean

Don’t let fallen leaves and other debris lie for long as it will cause yellow patches.

 

 

 

By following these basic tasks, you should have a lush, happy lawn next year!

Pond Life

Now is a great time to introduce new plants to your pond, with garden and aquatic centres receiving fresh new stock.  Getting plants introduced early means you have the full season of enjoyment from them.

Here are our 7 key pointers to help you make the best of your new purchases;

  1. Check the plant you are buying is well rooted in its basket.
  2. Always check the label for growth size.  Some pond plants can get very large and are no good for smaller ponds.
  3. Check for unwanted plants in with the plant you are buying – duck weed can often be found on pond plants and if accidentally introduced to a pond it can take over and is very difficult to get rid of.
  4. Transplant into a larger basket.  Although plants come in a basket they will very quickly outgrow it and become unstable in the pond.
  5. When replanting always use aquatic soil (never compost) as it is safe for fish and wildlife.
  6. Top the baskets off with pebbles to stop fish from digging out the soil.
  7. Soak baskets before putting them into the pond to settle the soil and stop it from clouding the water.

Once you have followed these 7 steps, your new pond plants will be safely settled in their new environment for all to enjoy!

The Root to Success

It is essential to make a good job of planting a tree, to ensure it can quickly establish.  Making sure the roots are secure in the ground and they never lack moisture are,  I believe, the two key components.  Most trees are available pot grown and can generally be planted all year round.  Bare root trees are also available at this time of year and this is the best time to plant them as one of the key components is taken care of already (it’s not often we get a dry winter / spring!).

Our 6-point plan to planting a tree successfully;

1.       Location, location, location!

Give the tree room to grow.  Don’t just look at its size now – look at the label and check its size 15-20 years down the line – there’ll be quite a difference!

2.  Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Dig the ground over well, breaking up any large lumps of soil with the back of the spade.  Remove any weeds and debris from the area.  Dig your hole a little deeper than the root ball (approx. 1 ½”).  Mix excavated soil with compost and set aside to use later.  Fork some compost into the bottom of the hole.

3.       Stake it!

If the tree is over 5’, stake it.  Knock the tree stake into the prevailing wind side of the hole – this is to ensure he tree will be blown away from the stake and not rub.  The stake should be knocked down until it doesn’t rock.

4.       Fill your hole.

Place your tree into the hole, with the root ball hard against the stake.  Back fill with your earlier prepared soil.  Firm around the root ball as you go.

5.       Strapping.

Strap your tree to the sake.  You could use rope or string but we always recommend a tree strap (available from your local garden centre) as it is easily adjusted as the tree grows. Use a strap 15cm from the bottom of the stake, and one near the top.

6.       Time for a drink!

After a tipple of your choice, give the tree a drink too.  Water the tree regularly for the next year at least.

 

 

Useful links

Royal Horticultural Society: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=630

Woodland Trust: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/learn/british-trees/

O Christmas Tree!

It’s that time again already!  Every year we are asked how to choose and care for Christmas trees, so this year we decided to share a handy guide with you so you are prepared.  The three main varieties of Christmas tree are;

Norway spruce (the original Christmas tree)

These trees are cheap, generally have good shape and have that wonderful smell we all associate with the festive holidays.  On the downside though, the Norway spruce does tend to lose its needles quickly therefore you should delay putting this type of tree up so you can see it at its best over Christmas.

 

Scots pine (the first tree known for holding its needles)

These trees are far better at holding their needles (known as non-drop) and they can be bought with cones, which make a beautiful addition to the look.  It can be difficult to dress this type of tree as the shape is not always as reliable.  Scots pine also tend not to be as readily available.

 

Nordmann fir (our tree of choice)

Also known as a non-drop tree, the Nordmann fir can also hold on to its needles for longer than the Norway spruce and tends to have great full bodied shape.  Unfortunately however, because it is generally a longer lasting, easily dressed tree, the Nordmann fir comes at a price!

 

Looking after your Christmas tree

“Don’t we just put it in a stand and throw lights and baubles at it?” In a word, NO!

Most trees tend to be cut around the same time, so get your tree early, take it home and stand it in a bucket of water (outside) until you need it.

We use a spray on our tree that helps to block the pores on the tree to help reduce moisture loss.  Spray the tree outside and leave for 24 hours.

If your tree has been netted, let it rest in its stand (preferably in situ) for 24 hours before dressing it.  Make sure you choose a stand that is the right size for the tree to ensure it is stable (we don’t want it knocked over by pets or small children!) – if in doubt, choose the larger stand.

All Christmas trees mentioned above will lose their needles, some sooner than others.  This can be minimised though by taking 2” off the base of the trunk when you get it home, then watering it regularly just as you would a bunch of flowers.  This situation is also helped by choosing a spot away from a radiator (or turning off the radiator it is next to).

Now be off with you – go and choose a tree that is way too big for your house and have a wonderful Christmas!  

 

Autumn’s approaching – 3 gardening jobs for September

We had a great summer, but it’s starting to cool down now.  Time to tackle a few jobs in preparation for the cooler months.  A couple of hours spent now will ensure you and your garden are prepared for autumn and winter.

 

Pond Netting

Avoid a pond clean next year by netting it before the autumn leaves begin to fall.  As well as keeping your pond clean, this will reduce the risk of a build-up of bad bacteria and gases in the water.  This will ensure fish and other pond life have a healthy environment over the winter.

 

 Spring Bulbs

We often don’t think about planting spring bulbs until the first snowdrops and crocuses appear, by which time, it’s too late!  September is the start of the planting window for spring bulbs, with a great selection to choose from.  I like to see bulbs planted in clumps in the garden as this gives great blocks of colour.  Remember to adhere to the planting depth instructions on the packets.

 

Greenhouse

Towards the end of September, most greenhouse crops, such as tomatoes, will be coming to an end.  It’s easy to be caught out by an early cold snap with nowhere to put the tender plants.  When cleaning out the greenhouse, remove all plant debris and clean it top to bottom with a good disinfectant.  Remember – a greenhouse won’t just shelter plants over winter, it will also shelter pests and disease which could lead to a disastrous start to the next season.

These three gardening tasks, although arduous, will pay dividends when the cooler weather does arrive.

4 Step Guide To Fabulous Summer Bedding

“You only get out what you put in” – this term was coined with planting in mind!  It’s a popular subject so we’ve decided to share our 4 step plan for planting and caring for summer bedding in pots and baskets (the basic principles can also be applied to bedding planted into the ground).

1.  Container.  This should be large enough to contain plenty of growing compost – the smaller the pot / basket, the more often you’ll need to water it!

2.  Compost.  A good quality compost is essential – ensure you choose one with both wetting agents (aid water absorption) and water retention additives (help to hold water in the compost).

 

3.  Plants.  Choose good quality bedding plants from your local garden centre. Have a colour scheme and growth size / shape in mind when you visit.  If you are in doubt, ask for help – staff will be happy to advise you.

 

4.  Feed.  Good quality soluble feed will help you get the very best from your new bedding.  Follow manufacturer’s guidelines which are usually approximately 7-14 day intervals.

 

It’s not rocket science but it works!  The key point to take away is quality, which doesn’t always mean expensive, but will result in a beautiful, colourful summer bedding display that you can be proud of all summer long!

Little and often

 

Summer is here! (well, on and off!)

It’s time to reap the benefits of your hard work over the last few months.  The time for spending hours planting, potting and digging has passed.

The main challenge we face over the summer is keeping our outdoor space looking its very best.  Whatever the demands on your time, you will find the following tips useful – each designed to take minimal time and effort but provide maximum impact upon your garden.  The key? Little and often..

Lawn Care

The best way to keep your lawn looking green is to raise the cutting height of your mower by approximately 1cm above your normal height.  Very short grass will show signs of drought more quickly.

 

Containers and Hanging Baskets

Dead head annuals every couple of days to encourage the plants to produce more flowers.  Water morning and evening during the hottest weather.  Avoid watering during the day as the combination of sunlight and water can scorch foliage.

 

Feeding

By now, bedding plants will have used up any nutrients in the compost used to plant them up.  Plants now need fuel for their increased growth and flowering.  With many different plants in the garden needing feed, it is wise to choose a feed that will provide nutrients for everything in the garden.  It is amazing the results gained from summer bedding by feeding it with liquid tomato feed!

 

Holidays

Don’t let your hard work go to waste when you take a holiday.  Agree with neighbours, friends or family to care for your pots, baskets and greenhouse while you are away.  Remember – teenage kids often have a knack of forgetting to water!

 

Borders

Use a hoe to control annual weeds, don’t let them take hold.  A quick buzz around the garden once a week is better than spending hours on your hands and knees if left for a few weeks at a time.  Choose a warm day to hoe so weeds wither and die quickly after being hoed off.  Dig out perennial weeds to get the whole root to prevent re-growth.

 

Greenhouse

Ensure your greenhouse is well ventilated to avoid Botrytis.  Keep a sharp eye out for pests and diseases – treat at first sight – don’t allow your greenhouse to become infested.  Water and feed in the evening to avoid potential foliage damage to plants.

 

Other jobs for August

  1. Prune Philadelphus and Wisteria.
  2. Plant autumn flowering bulbs.
  3. Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ready.
  4. Cut, then dry or freeze herbs.
  5. ‘Stop’ outdoor tomatoes.
  6. Prune summer soft fruits after harvesting.

 

Plant of the Month

Cistus x pulverulentus ‘Sunset’

Sage green leaves with an abundance of magenta pink flowers.

 

 

Enjoy your garden; you’ve worked hard to create it! 

 

 

Commanding the Clematis

Does your clematis look bare at the base and flower well above where you’d like it to?  Have you ever gone to the local garden centre to look for a clematis and been baffled by the group number on the label?  A correctly maintained clematis is a joy to behold and will bring vibrancy to your garden, be it large or small.  Today we will demystify the art of keeping your clematis and arm you with knowledge for your next shopping trip!

Clematis are allocated to one of three groups, which refer to the time of year and the manner in which the plant needs to be pruned.  Below is some guidance for getting the best from each group;

Start as you mean to go on with your new clematis (applies to all groups)

When the first spring after planting your new plant arrives, cut it back to approximately 30cm above ground level, just above a strong bud or stem.  By doing this, you will encourage new stems to grow which will in turn produce more flowers.  The common mistake is to leave a new clematis to it’s own devices, which often results in long stems which only flower on the ends, making the plant eventually look woody and messy.  During the spring and summer, secure new growth, making sure it is kept evenly spread across the space you have.  By intervening early-on, you will ensure you get the very best from your new plant.

Group 1

Flowers:  Early, from the shoots that grew last season.

Examples:  ‘Pamela Jackman’, ‘Ruby’ and ‘Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’.

How to tame your existing group one clematis.

Cut back branches that are too long and dead or damaged shoots to a strong bud or stem.  If your plant looks a mess, it may be worthwhile to “renovate” it.  This should not be done more than once every three years, but generally, if your plant is looking messy, this gives it a new lease of life.  Cut all stems back to approximately 15cm above the base, straight after flowering, then introduce mulch and a general fertiliser.  Water in dry weather.  Note: Clematis armandii does not respond well to this type of hard pruning, so it’s best to start properly with this one!

Group 2

Flowers:  May to June on last year’s growth.  Some then go on to flower a second time in late summer on the current year’s growth.

Examples:  ‘Belle of Woking’, ‘Nelly Moser’, ‘Jackmanaii Alba’ and ‘Snow Queen’.

How to tame your existing group two clematis.

This work needs to be done in late winter to early spring.  Don’t prune your plant too harshly as you may lose flowering ability.  Prune each stem individually (it’s a labour of love!), taking each back to a healthy bud or stem, removing any dead or damaged growth.  After you’ve enjoyed the first flush of flowers, it’s time to prune again – this way, you give your plant the best chance of producing another wonderful flush of flowers.  Remove finished flowers, taking growth back to a strong bud or stem as you do so.  Alternatively, if your plant has got out of hand, reduce overall size to approximately 90cm, to the nearest strong bud or stem.  This will rejuvenate the plant but will more than likely affect next year’s flowering.  Don’t worry though, your plant will continue to flower as usual in the seasons to follow.

There are a few Clematis that can be treated as group two or three for pruning, whichever suits your preferences – some examples of these are; ‘Gipsy Queen’, ‘Jackmanaii’, ‘Rouge Cardinal’.

Group 3

Flowers:  Late summer, on the current year’s growth.

Examples:  ‘Abundance’, ‘Lady Betty Balfour’, ‘Princess Diana’ and ‘Gravetye Beauty’.

How to care for your existing group 3 clematis.

Cut back all old stems to the lowest strong bud or stem in February / March to approximately 15-30cm above soil level.  Clematis with small flowers (e.g. Clematis tangutica) can just be cut back to the main branches, leaving the seed heads visible as they are rather pretty!  Be warned, if this group of clematis is left to its own devices, it will keep growing from where it left off last season, so you risk ending up with a bare looking woody based plant with lots of straggly stems which only flowers at the top.

This guide should set you away so whether you are starting from scratch with a new plant, or are determined to tame your existing clematis, you have a great place to start.  If you prefer the practical learning approach, we offer pruning lessons.  We will teach you how to prune your plant effectively, then you can care for it yourself going forwards.  Remember, your garden is there for you to enjoy – put the work in and you will be rewarded tenfold :)

If you want to learn more, we like:

British Clematis Society: www.britishclematis.org.uk

International Clematis Society: www.clematisinternational.com