- Check clematis for signs of clematis wilt.
- Place conservatory plants outside now that it is warm.
- Water tubs and new plants if dry, but be water wise.
- Deadhead bedding plants and repeat flowering perennials, to ensure continuous flowering.
- Pick courgettes before they become marrows, at this time of year just turn your back for a short while and that little courgette is worthy of entering into the Summer vegetable show as the largest marrow.
- Treat apple trees for apple scab.
- If you have a pond then now is the time to clear algae, blanket weed and debris from the pond and keep them topped up to maintain the water depth and oxygen levels.
- Give woodwork a lick of paint or preserver, whilst the weather is dry especially as most of us did not manage this last year due to the wet Summer.
- Give the lawn a quick acting summer feed, especially if a spring feed was not done this year due to the cold weather.
- Lastly order catalogues for next year’s Springs flowering bulbs.
Last time we discussed how to build a raised bed and which height would be best suited for your needs. So this time I would like to make a few suggestions about what to grow in it.
The beauty of having a raised bed is that the soil put into the bed can be better than you may have in your garden, here I am thinking cold wet clay can be changed for a much better open crumb structure.
For more details of the soil to place into the bed, please see here. With a raised bed you do not walk on it and so save soil compaction and the need for digging. If you need to be on top of the raised bed for picking soft fruit for example then I suggest placing a plank across the bed resting on the sides and then use that to get access to the plants.
Read on for suggestions on what to growContinued
- Still keep weeds under control as growth now should be rampant.
- Protect fruit blossom from late frosts.
- Tie in climbing and rambling roses.
- Sow hardy annuals and herb seed.
- Start to feed citrus plants.
- Increase the water given to houseplants.
- Feed hungry shrubs and roses.
- Sow new lawns or repair bare patches.
- If you have a small patch to replace try growing some lawn seed in a seed tray on compost and when the grass roots have knitted together and hold the compost, then it can be moved to its new position using the same techniques as for turfing.
- Prune fig trees.
- Divide bamboos and water lilies.
- You can now start sowing hardy annuals, herbs and wild flower seed in situ outdoors.
- Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes.
- Protect new spring shoots from slugs.
- Plant summer flowering bulbs.
- Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials.
- Top dress containers with fresh compost.
- Mow the lawn on dry days if needed.
- Cut back Cornus (Dogwood) and Salix (Willow) so that the colourful stems will be produced for next winter.
- Prune winter flowering Jasmine once the flowers have faded.
- Sorry but you will need to start weeding now and get on top of them before they get out of hand.
- Start feeding fish and using the pond fountain and remove pond heaters as the very hard frosts should be over by now but the less hard frosts will still be around for a bit, keep an eye on the weather forecasts to decide when to remove the pond heater.
- Open the greenhouse or conservatory doors and vents on warm days.
When the leaves start to fall in Autumn and covering our grass ans pathways, it is the time to
collect and put them to good use. As leaves rotting down can take a longer period of time than all the other vegetation which we place on our compost heap, it makes sense to compost them separately.
To do this you collect them up and place them in either hessian sacks or plastic sacks. If using plastic sacks then once you have filled them up to about three quarters full and tie the tops. You then need to pierce plastic sacks with a garden fork to allow the contents to breath and rot down without becoming a
If leaves are covering your lawn and you need to cut the grass then, if your lawn mower has a grass box you can just mow the lawn and put the mixed grass and trees leaves (which have been shredded by the mower) into the sacks as mentioned above. This mix of leaves and grass will rot down and still give you some good leaf mould to use in a year’s time as an additive to a planting hole or as a mulch around shrub or tree roots or as a general mulch for herbaceous perennials.
An Article By Colin Hewitt
If you want an attractive table centre-piece for the Easter period then winter around November / December is the time to start planting. I generally grow a single species for maximum impact in a pan. A pan being a plant pot which is wider than it is tall.
For a table centre-piece you would want a pan about 10 inches wide and 4 inches deep. On the market now are some which are painted on the outside or you could choose a more traditional terracotta pan, whichever you choose make sure you have a pot saucer or dish to stand it on when it comes to be placed
on the table, this prevents damage to any furniture.
To create this container follow the steps detailed below:
- Choose your variety of bulbs; I use Tete-a-Tete or Minnow variety of daffodil whilst say for a tulip bowl you would need tulip species such as Tulipa Albion Star (White with a hint of pink), Bakeri Lilac Wonder (Pink with yellow at the base of the petals) or Buddy (White with a vertical red stripe, very striking in a pot en-mass) all are about 6 inches tall so will be in proportion to the pan they are grown in.
- Prepare the compost mix before planting; you can use proprietary mixes such as a bulb booster or a tub and container mix, these have feed in already and some will feed your bulbs for up to 6 months, check the details on the compost bag of your choice. Before you add it to the container I always break up any lumps that have formed during packing so that the bulbs are planted into a loose and friable mix.
- Next get your container and make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom as a bulbs worse enemy is waterlogged compost. Then I add about half an inch of horticultural grit across the bottom of the pan for drainage. This is used instead of the usual ‘crocks’ to get an even cover across the container which ‘crocks’ don’t always achieve.
- Half fill the pan with the compost and then place the bulbs evenly across the surface making sure they are about an inch to one and a half inches apart. Then carefully cover the bulbs with the rest of the compost mix so that the surface is about one inch below the rim. Next gently firm the surface and cover with either more horticultural grit to about half an inch below the rim or cover with sphagnum moss. This acts as a mulch to retain the moisture in the compost and prevent it drying out too quickly and it also stops the growing plants getting splashed with compost when watering.
- Lastly place the planted pan in a frost free area such as in a frost proof greenhouse or conservatory until it is ready for displaying on your table. Once the bulbs are showing leaf growth check the pan to see if it needs watering every few days, it should only need frequent watering once the display has been brought into the warmth of the house.
When people say they would like a wildlife garden but do not want the garden to look alike scrubland, I reply that you do not need to have weeds and brambles etc running amok in your patch. You only need to make a few small changes to attract the wildlife into your plot.
Also with the chemical control methods now a thing of the past and with various government departments making it more difficult to use non-biological controls it make sense to attract insects and other wildlife into the garden to naturally take care of those pesky pests.
To get the balance right will take a bit of time but once achieved those swarms of greenfly etc will not become a problem. A few will be spotted from time to time but in such small numbers that no harm will be done to your prize plants. So how do we go about attracting the right sort of wildlife?
Choosing the right flowers:
Flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects that perform the vital task of fertilisation – seed and fruit production would drop dramatically without them.
Avoid too many highly-bred cultivars with big and blowsy or double flowers, most of which contain little or no pollen or nectar. Choose plants that provide pollen and nectar for as long a season as possible, from spring (Crocus and Mahonia for example) through to autumn (Michaelmas daisy, Sedumspectabile and ivy, which is particularly late to bloom and may provide food into early winter).
If you are unsure which plants will attract beneficial insect, most seed and plant catalogues these days indicate this by using the bee symbol. I do like the odd double flower such as the Hellebore ‘BressinghamWhite double’ but I make sure that there are plenty of single flowered plants in bloom at the same time to make up for the double not being insect friendly.
Look after mature trees:
If your garden has big trees then you are lucky and these specimens will host a large variety of insects and other wildlife. Large street trees also provide a vital habitat for a range of wildlife that may visit nearby gardens while foraging. Wildlife rarely respects garden boundaries: try to see your own plot as part of a wider web of interlinked gardens and green space.
Leave a pile of dead wood in a shady spot:
Decaying wood provides an ever-rarer habitat to a range of specialist wildlife that is growing increasingly uncommon in the countryside, such as stag and bark beetles and their grubs, and many species of fungi. It also provides cover and hibernation sites.
Any unstained or unpainted wood is suitable, although big, natural logs are best, ideally partly buried. Log piles can look quite architectural and rustic, though many people prefer to tuck them out of sight.
Compost, compost, compost:
Composting your garden waste helps all your garden plants and wildlife, as it speeds up the natural recycling of nutrients by harnessing native decomposer organisms, especially fungi and soil bacteria. My best compost activator is stinging nettle tops in the early spring. I have a small well controlled clump at the bottom of the garden behind my small greenhouse and next to the compost heap, when the nettle is showing light green shoots at the top of each stem I snip of at the top 2 leaf joints and mix in with the grass clippings. The stinging nettle plant is known as a ‘hotter rotter’ as it speeds up the initial stage of composting. Do not put older parts of the stinging nettle into the heap as these will take root and spread like wildfire through the heap.
Compost makes for healthy soil, which is good for everything living in it and growing on it. It is an excellent mulch and is free and easy to produce. Unlike organic matter imported from elsewhere, it comes without packaging or ‘fuel miles’ and hidden disease as you would not put diseased material into your own heap. Compost heaps also shelter many small creatures (and some larger ones, like slug-loving slowworms and grass snakes), which enjoy the heat released by decomposition.
Provide food and water for birds all year:
Garden birds are some of the most conspicuous of garden wildlife, and easy to attract with supplemental feeding.
Over the winter supplementary food can mean the difference between life and death for many, especially when winters are particularly cold. Ideally, offer a mix of food including peanuts, sunflower hearts, seeds, kitchen scraps and fat balls, or proprietary seed mixtures, to supplement natural food such as berries and seedheads. Don’t forgot that a supply of clean, unfrozen water is just as vital for feathered visitors – and ensure feeding tables are not accessible to cats.
Do not be too quick to tidy up those plants that have died in the winter as the seed heads or hollow stems can provide food or shelter through the colder months.
If you have some spare space that you do not know what to use it for then scatter wildflower seeds to create a meadowland. The area can be as small or as large as you like as even a small number of meadow flowers will attract insects. Meadows are simply mixtures of grasses and wildflowers. They are great for insects, they are low maintenance, and they make a good, more natural alternative to a labour-intensive lawn.
Annual meadows have a mix of annual wildflowers such as poppies, Nigella, corn marigolds and annualgrasses; they will succeed on fairly rich soils, too, but a suitable seed mix usually needs to be re-sown each year.
Perennial meadows have more permanent plants such as buttercups, ragged robin andLeucanthemum. They need relatively poor soil as this allows the wildflowers to compete with the grasses including yellow rattle, a native annual that is a partial parasite on grasses also helps level the playing field.
Top 10 jobs for June:
- Hoe borders and vegetable plots regularly to keep down weeds.
- Pinch out side-shoots on tomatoes. Now is the time to start harvesting lettuce, radish, other salads and early potatoes.
- Position summer hanging baskets and containers outside.
- Cut lawns at least once a week.
- Plant out summer bedding.
- Stake tall or floppy plants. And prune spring-flowering shrubs.
- Shade greenhouses to keep them cool and prevent scorch.
- Change the feed for pot-grown fruit to a high potassium liquid one.
- Thin pears, plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots. Apples should be thinned at the end of the month after the natural June drop of fruitlets if there are too many fruitlets in each clump along the branches.
- If you did not sow tomatoes, courgettes and pumpkins previously then towards the end of this month they can be sown outside in their final position.
Top 10 jobs for May:
- Watch out for late frosts and protect tender plants.
- Earth up potatoes, and promptly plant any still remaining.
- Plant out summer bedding at the end of the month and hopefully there will be no more frosts from then onwards.
- Regularly hoe off weeds.
- Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days.
- Mow lawns weekly. Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges.
- Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs.
- Harden off young plants after all risk of frost has passed this month, plant out tomatoes, courgettes and pumpkins that were previously sown under cover. Other young plants can be planted out once conditions are suitable, and once they’ve been hardened off as well.
- Pull off suckers appearing around the base of fruit trees then liquid feed any fruit trees growing in pots with a balanced feed every fortnight.
- On fan-trained trees remove any wayward shoots and tie in better placed ones. Wayward shoots are those that are growing outwards away from the fan shape.
Top ten jobs for February.
- Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover.
- Chit potato tubers.
- Still protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches.
- Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off.
- Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering.
- Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting ‘in the green’.
- Prune Wisteria
- Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges.
- Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter.
- Check your glasshouse insulation is still secure for the remainder of the cold weather.