New year new start
We have just exited the first month of the year, after a few cold snaps the weather has now progressed to be little milder, unfortunately wetter too.
The daffodils, crocus and bluebells are peeking above the ground testing the conditions while the familiar snowdrops are beginning to burst forth with their familiar drooping white petals, a welcome sign that spring isn't to far away, whoo hoo.
Now is a good time to survey your garden to do some tidying and maintenance before the spring growth starts appearing.
When dry, wooden fences and sheds near to flower borders will need a coat of preservative, if this is done before the new growth appears it will save walking on the young shoots and possibly killing them off if preservative should drip onto them when applied to the shed or fence.
Coming soon to a garden near you!
Soon when the warmer weather will appear our friends:
ladybirds(Coccinella 7-punctata) will appear known as ladybugs in the U.S.A.
Approximately 6mms long and found throughout the U.K, there are 46 varieties.
They can be seen between March to October and help rid the garden of aphids.
Can be found in Fields, parks, woods and gardens
Ladybirds are insects of the beetle family. People don't much like insects, and beetles are generally even less popular. For this reason the rather likeable ladybird beetles are simply called ladybirds. Gardeners love them because they eat all the pests which damage plants and flowers.
Harlequin ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis)
Similar in size to our native ladybird approx 6 to 8mm
They are seen mainly from April to October and
found mainly in the southern half of the UK but spreading rapidly northwards.
They have a life span of approx 1 year, can be found in most places, from parks, gardens and anywhere food can be found. Hibernates in buildings.
Native 7 spot ladybird
Harlequin ladybug import
Another welcome visitor to our gardens is the humble bumble bee.
There are around 275 species of bumblebee in the world, and most of these are found in the northern hemisphere, although South America has a few native species, and New Zealand has some which were introduced from Britain.
In the UK there are 25 species of bumblebee but only eight are commonly found in most places. Bumblebees are found in a variety of habitats and most people should be able to attract them to their gardens if they have the right kinds of flowering plants.
Some species are less common and are only found in a few locations. For example, the Great yellow bumblebee is now only found on the north coast and some islands of Scotland. This species previously had a wide distribution throughout the UK, but habitat degradation has seen its numbers decline dramatically in most places
Only female bumblebees can sting and they will only do so if they feel very threatened. Importantly, bumblebees will never interrupt your picnic! Bumblebees play a vitally important role which we shouldn’t take for granted. They pollinate the crops that provide us with food to eat and the colourful flowers in our landscape. Without their ‘free bee’ service, many wildflowers could disappear.
Because of the diminishing landscape that is suitable for our bees their decline needs to be stopped, we can all help by planting flowers that attract them.
Flowers that attract bees in different seasons:
Angelica, aster, buddleja, cardoon, cornflower (Centaurea), dahlia (single-flowered), eryngium (sea holly), fuchsia, globe thistle (Echinops), heather, ivy, lavender, penstemon, scabious, sedum, Verbena bonariensis.
An area dedicated with wild flowers is of great benefit and looks good too.
Flowers for all seasons
It's vital you provide flowers throughout the bumblebee's life-cycle, from March to September. It's also a good idea to have at least two nectar- or pollen-rich plants in flower at any one time during this period. The nectar feeds the adult bee, while the pollen is collected to feed the young. Of course, the more flowers you have, the more attractive your garden is to bees, so you can never have too many!
New Year 2019
Now the winter of 2018 seems to be a distant memory(hopefully), the days seem almost spring like, sunny, blue skies and warm air brings the bees about and stimulates bird song.
Crocus are abundant as are the snowdrops, my rhubarb is looking healthy too.
Most of the winter clearance in the garden should be completed in readiness for the coming year. One of my first jobs in the garden is to empty my compost bins and distribute the compost around my raspberry and blackcurrant bushes followed by my rhubarb patch, plenty of free nutrients courtesy of the compost worms and bacteria, all achieved using food peelings, fruit skins and food left overs.
Rhubarb is a plant that can be left alone in one spot for several years. Once it stops growing vigorously it is time to divide and replant. It does best in shady locations as full sun can dry the soil out too quickly. February and March are the best months to divide rhubarb. Use a spade to gently lift and divide large clumps ensuring that each clump has buds attached to the roots. Replant these pieces about 3 feet apart in ground that is deeply dug with manured soil. Cover the tops with approximately 3 inches of soil.
By now you should be seeing several spring bulbs flowering in your garden as spring begins to take hold. Daffodils should be blooming in abundance, brightening up their surroundings.
As the days begin to lengthen slightly, you are now able to spend a little more time out in the garden. With the sun shining stronger, its warmth can be felt and the plants respond according; sadly so too do the weeds so you need to make sure that you remove them before they take hold.
Some seeds of summer bedding plants can be sown now. Some will benefit from first being started off in pots or trays in a greenhouse, whereas, others can be sown directly into the open ground.
Planting of fruit trees should also be completed during March.
Also during April turn your attention to the lawn, sow a new lawn or patch damaged areas.
Rake established lawns to remove old plant debris, raking at this time of year removes last years leaves and helps to remove thatch which is debris that builds up on the surface.
To achieve a healthy lawn removal of thatch is necessary, it aids the absorption of nutrients and air leading to a thicker healthier lawn.
Weeding is a top priority, depending on the ground remaining frost free, weeds will be a challenge from now.
Preventing any weeds from going to seed will pay dividends later on.
Prepare the soil with fertilizer or compost from the compost bin before planting any seedlings out, this will help ensure any seedling have a good start.
You can sow the following plants now the weather is warmer and dryer:
Mow your lawn regularly and in different directions. If it is dry make sure you water newly turfed and seeded areas.
Wall-trained fruit trees should be given plenty of water, as should bush and cane fruit. When you can see that the fruit is swelling give the trees a light feed.
You should be on the look out for gooseberry sawfly and spray if it appears. You should place straw or other material around strawberries.
If you have a greenhouse keep a close watch on ventilation and humidity. You should remove side-shoots from tomatoes and train cucumbers and melons, removing surplus growth and stopping where necessary.
The greenhouse should be fumigated at regular intervals to control pests and you may need to provide shading for some plants.
If you have a vegetable patch continue to make sowings of peas, beans, carrots and lettuce. You can also plant out Brussels sprouts towards the end of the month.
Make sure you protect early potatoes from late frosts and stake peas and beans as required. Pinch out the growing points of early sown broad beans after flowering and plant out tomatoes, marrows and melons.
With summer upon us most gardens will be bursting into life. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden make the most of it, if you haven’t, remember just how much colour, pleasure and food you can get from pots, containers and growbags.
It’s now time to complete the planting out of all bedding and half-hardy plants. Gaps in flower borders can be filled up with quick-growing annuals such as such as sweet peas and morning glory. In hanging baskets use pansies, petunias and black-eyed Susan for an instant splash of colour.
If you get tiny pests such as aphids on your plants, it’s best to avoid spraying, as pesticides will also kill ladybirds and other helpful insects. Many birds will eat insect pests and if you are fortunate you will see them out in the evening gathering food for their fledglings. Greenfly or aphids can be washed off with a dilute solution of washing-up liquid.
Flowering shrubs such as lilac and forsythia should be pruned as soon as they finish flowering to encourage late flush of flower and you should also be removing seedpods from rhododendrons and azalea. While you are at it, spread compost or shredded bark around trees, shrubs and roses when the soil is moist to help contain valuable moisture during the hot weather. Clip your hedges and topiary and feed them well.
Vegetable gardeners should hopefully be harvesting early summer cabbages and cauliflower this month.
Now’s the time to sow vegetable crops, such as a lettuce mix, or courgettes directly into the soil and don’t forget you can grow a range of tasty vegetables in large pots and growbags.
Most lettuces can be planted from until the end of September or October. Spinach, beans, rocket, and courgettes all take minimal effort to grow and are great beginners' plants.
By now your garden should be full of colour and your summer bedding should be at its best, so while looking after your garden also take some time to sit back and enjoy your garden!
In the hot weather your plants will be needing plenty of water so make sure that you are saving all your ‘grey’ water (old wash water etc.) and water either early in the morning or evening to ensure that the plants receive as much of the water as possible without it evaporating.
Ideally you should be mowing your lawn at least once a week, however with the dry weather it is advisable to leave your lawn a little longer than usual to enable it to retain moisture from the dew.
All fruit trees should be pruned and fruit should be protected from birds using netting, however, check regularly to make sure no birds get trapped.
If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse make sure you keep an eye out for pests and diseases such as whitefly, fumigate or spray the greenhouse. Continue to feed flowering pot plants. You should take cuttings of fuchias, abutilions and heliotropes. In preparation for spring you should sow cinerarias and calceolarias.
For those with vegetable patches you should lift shallots and autumn-sown onions and complete the planting of broccoli and autumn and winter cabbage. Spring cabbage, spinach beet, lettuce and Chinese cabbage should be sown now.
Don’t forget to order your bulbs for Autumn planting!
Now August is here you should be able to take some time to relax in your garden, as there is less to do than in previous months. You should still be weeding and deadheading regularly and make sure your plants receive plenty of water while remembering to be water wise.
If you have planted any new trees and shrubs this year it is particularly important that they get sufficient water because if their roots fail to take hold they will die. If you break up some of the earth around the base of the tree this will allow water to break through the soil where it may have become hard.
Plant colchicums this month that will then flower in autumn. Spring flowering bulbs can also be planted along with lilies and it’s also time to start sowing biennial seeds. If you have rambler roses make sure you prune them back this month. More vegetables can also be sown now including spinach, beetroot, carrots, lettuces, turnips, late cauliflowers, Japanese onions, winter cabbages and leeks.
You can start preparing plants indoors ready for spring. Spring flowering plants such as cyclamen should be potted into final pots. The greenhouses in Holland Park have plenty potted up ready to be distributed later in the year around the parks and open spaces in the borough.
Cuttings can be taken of herbs such as sage and rosemary, remove their lower leaves and root them in a half peat/half sand mixture and put in a cold frame (mini greenhouse) over winter. By the following spring they should have taken hold and produced a strong 60 centimetres plant.
With September the relaxing summer period drawing to a close and the kids all back at school there’s a lot to be done in the garden. Having enjoyed wonderful summer blooms for the past few months your summer bedding will no doubt be looking past its best. It’s time to complete the pruning of summer shrubs and remember to continue to deadhead roses. As with last month, give more thought to spring bedding.
Winter and spring flowering bulbs such as snowdrops, bluebells, daffodils, tulips, crocuses and anemones should be planted.
Biennials and perennials sown earlier can also be transplanted and sweet peas and hardy annuals can be sown in pots. Make sure that the beds are thoroughly dug and fertilised before you plant.
Your lawns should be thoroughly raked with a springbok (wire) rake to remove any thatch. They should also be spiked, fertilised and re-seeded if necessary. If you have any damaged areas you should cut out the offending area and loosen off the soil beneath it. Fill the hole with sieved soil, pressing gently to firm it as you go, and sow 30 to 40 grams of seed per square meter. Then sift a mixture of soil and peat over the seeded area and make sure you protect the area from birds by criss-crossing black cotton between short pegs.
Harvest any fruit and vegetables as and when they become ripe. Prune existing fruit trees and begin to prepare sections for the planting of new trees.
Don’t forget about houseplants that you may have had outside during the summer months. Make sure you bring them inside when the evenings get cool to avoid the first frost, which, depending on the weather could be later on this month.
Here we are again, not knowing whether to wear our sunglasses or our rain macs. Yes, you have got it, it’s October. As the weather changes, your gardens will change too.
As the rain situation is improving now is the best time to start planting new trees. It is important that there is sufficient water in the ground for the trees to take hold.
Herbaceous perennials such as delphiniums, hostas, lupins and primroses should be lifted, divided and replanted.
Summer bedding should now be removed, in order to plant winter and spring bedding before severe weather begins.
Winter hanging baskets and window boxes should also be planted now using plants such as pansies, heathers, primroses, dwarf conifers and dwarf hebes.
For those of you that have ponds in your gardens, it is recommended that you place a net over the pond to catch any falling leaves. Clear the leaves from rock plants and lawns and place them in a compost bin if you have one.
As we have been experiencing mild weather winter protection around vulnerable boarders has not yet been needed, however, you should make sure you are prepared for when the colder weather comes.
November is often one of the wettest months of the year, but like the previous month, it often relents slightly for a few days to give us the last glance of the summer sunshine. The general weather in November is similar to that in October, but the shorter days and weaker sun result in lower temperatures.
Good gardening days are rare this month, so full advantage should be taken of the few dry days we have. This is the best time to tidy up your gardens. Any fallen leaves should be removed and diseased leaves should be burned, to prevent an outbreak in the summer.
Geraniums, Fuchsias and Begonias should be lifted and taken inside, and the empty spaces should be left rough for the frost to break down. Any areas where the soil is heavy should be covered in lime (1/2 lb of lime per square yard), this will help the breaking down process.
Plants and trees arriving from nurseries should be planted, however if the weather is not fit for planting, heel them in. Herbaceous plants should be cut down to18 inches above soil level.
Dwarf shrubs, especially conifers, can be used with good effect. However, they should be carefully chosen as they could grow to be too large. The smaller the bed or garden, the more care is needed.
Here are a few things to remember:
Plan ahead; make a list of materials required.
Continue making compost heaps (detailed in October's column).
Carry on with winter digging.
With Christmas celebrations just around the corner, and New Year shortly after, the garden can sometimes be forgotten about. The shorter days also make it more difficult for gardening as the daylight hours are limited.
The weekends are usually the only time when it is possible to truly get some gardening done, and even these may be hindered by the onset of severe winter weather.
Now is the time to prune back rose bushes by about half. You should remove any cross cutting branches to create a vase shape bush and cut back all stems to approximately 15cm from the base, cut at a 45 degree angle. You may need a saw to cut off thicker branches. Finally cut out any diseased wood and remember to disinfect the blade after use.
Ideally you should have already planted your spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, however, if you still have some left to plant they should go in now before the first frost.
Hardwood cuttings should be taken from a wide range of shrubs, including deutzia, wisteria, dogwood and Virginia creeper.
Take winter hanging baskets undercover before they get exposed to severe winter frosts. Either put them under the porch or in the greenhouse if you have one.
Plants kept in a greenhouse should be watered sparingly, as with the temperature drop less water is needed. You should also make sure that the inside of your greenhouse is insulated to conserve heat and save energy.
Don’t forget to order or buy seeds of plants that should be sown mid to late winter.