April Gardening

April Gardening by Ewshot Gardener

After such a cold spell in February and the snow in March, it is reassuring to find that Spring flowers were not held back much and the slugs and snails were comatose for a bit longer!

April sees the best of tulips, wallflowers and polyanthus; elegant magnolias, lush camellias and cheerful rhododendrons put on their show to my delight.

Ornamental garden

  • The main risk of frost is past, so you can direct sow sweet peas and plant out Dahlias, Cannas, Gladioli, lilies and Nerines.
  • Prune Forsythia and Chaenomeles after flowering and, if you like the look of striking large leaves on your Cotinus (smoke bush), prune it hard back; you will not get any ‘smoke’ i.e. flowers though.
  • Trim back frost-damaged evergreen foliage and renovate broadleaved evergreens like Pittosporum, Photinia, Hebe, Fatsia and Mahonia
  • It is safe now to cut down the old stems of Gaura, Penstemon and Verbena bonariensis.
  • Remove old foliage from Pulmonaria (lung wort) at flowering time to make room for the new, more decorative leaves that will develop.
  • Direct sow sunflowers, poached egg plants, California poppies and pot marigolds.
  • Apply weed & feed to lawns on a day when the leaves are dry but rain is expected

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March Gardening Tips

We have reached March and spring flowers are at their stunning best to cheer us through, perhaps, the busiest part of the gardening year.

Euphorbias provide brilliant colour and texture from February throughout Spring but watch out for the sap, it can cause irritation!

Jobs to do

• All beds need a mulch both to retain moisture and to suppress those annoying annual weeds that need light to germinate.

• Remove the top 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of old compost from permanent pot plants and top-dress with fresh. The old compost could be used as mulch.

In the ornamental garden

• Cut back Cornus, grown for their coloured stems, to 2-3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) from the base because new growth has the best colour next winter.

• Prune bush and standard roses and feed

• Prune last season’s growth of Hydrangea panniculata to the lowest pair of strong buds – they flower on this year’s growth; but prune mop-head hydrangeas by removing dead heads back to the next pair of strong buds – they flower on last year’s growth; cut out a third of old growth at the base to encourage more stems to grow for next year’s flowers.

• Divide Hemerocallis, Astrantia, Hosta, Heuchera and Bergenia as new growth begins.

• Start mowing lawns, but keep the blades high to start with.

In the kitchen garden (more…)

February Gardening Tips

Now the days are noticeably longer and in my garden, I can see bulbs and autumn-sown broad beans putting on a growth spurt in response to the day-length change.  Shrubs and climbers are starting to grow new shoots, so now is the time to….

  • Thin out bamboo clumps by removing thin and overcrowded canes – they will be ready to act as supports for beans later. Remove low side branches to expose the decorative stems.  Limit spreading by digging to expose the rhizomes and sever with loppers below ground (not so easy in Crondall clay!)
  • Cut back Campsis and Wisteria last year’s growth to two or three buds and remove tangled old wood to a side branch or to ground level.
  • Prune late-flowering clematis to the lowest pair of strong buds about 30cm (1ft) from the ground.

    Euphorbias can provide brilliant colour and texture from February onwards

  • Prune back last year’s growth of Buddleja to a low framework of old wood.
  • Trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers fade.

In the kitchen garden

  • Cut autumn-fruiting raspberries to the ground and tie in early-fruiters’ canes.
  • Fertilise tree, bush and cane fruit. Use a high potash formula. I use weathered ash from my wood fire and compost for the raspberries.
  • Put seed potatoes to ‘chit’ in trays or eggboxes, eye-end up, somewhere cool and light. In this area earlies can be planted out in early April and main crop two weeks later.
  • Sow broad beans, tomatoes, leeks, peas and salad under cover; plant shallots and garlic in the ground outside.

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October Gardening

by Ewshot Gardener in association with Church Crookham Garden Society

Pumkins

Pumkins and Squash can  be stored in a shed once they sound hollow when you tap them

Here we are, at the beginning of Autumn, the roar of leaf blowers and the scratch of rakes filling the air. I do hope those leaves will be composted to make leaf mould!

Most of the harvesting is done: potatoes lifted and stored cool and dark in hessian sacks, apples stored in newspaper on trays, carrots and beetroot are more difficult, but will not stand frost – why not pickle the beetroot? Pumpkins and squash can be stored in a shed or garage once they sound hollow when you tap them.

Now let us start on next year’s produce by sowing broad beans, planting overwintering onions and shallots, and sowing sweet pea seeds in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. Plant Spring bulbs (except tulips, leave them until November to reduce the risk of ‘tulip fire’)

Now is the time to divide herbaceous perennials, move small shrubs and plant bare-rooted young trees (these will need firm support)
It is tempting to tidy all top growth of plants once they finish flowering:
DO rake up and dispose of diseased leaves from below roses and apple trees; DO cut out fruited branches of blackberries and their relations so you can tie in new growth; DO reduce the height of Buddleias, Lavatera and Sambuca to reduce wind rock and snow damage BUT LEAVE the main pruning until March. Most herbaceous plants can be cut own but some have seed heads useful to birds. DON’T cut down Penstemons, Gaura or hardy Fuchsias until late Spring to protect the plant from frost; similarly, leave Hydrangea flowers on the bush until March to protect next year’s flower buds.

Now you must drag dead foliage from your pond, my unfavourite job, but if you don’t, the pond will become too fertile for clear water and will eventually turn into dry land!
Frogs toads, newts, hedgehogs, slow worms and grass snakes are all great eaters of slugs so I would like them to stay in my garden. An untidy heap of sticks and leaves in a quiet corner will give them somewhere to hibernate. Do, please, remember this before lighting a bonfire!
The pigeons will be after your Brussels sprouts and broccoli so protect the plants with net. Enjoy the sight of squirrels, magpies and jays burying acorns, chestnuts and hazelnuts in your perfect lawn!

To keep that perfect lawn, maintenance continues with scarification, aeration and Autumn feed. I tend to leave the last mowings down to help the worms and the soil structure; it can look a bit messy though!
Autumn sunshine brings out the best in ornamental grass seed heads and maple and beech leaves before they fall. Spare some time to stand (or sit) and stare.

Gardens to visit this month
Chawton House Library open for NGS on 22nd October
Winkworth Arboretum for Autumn colour open for NGS on 1st October, open National Trust all year 10am-6pm, except Christmas.

September Gardening

by Ewshot Gardener in association with Church Crookham Garden Society

September is a good time to look around your garden, taking photographs to remind you of both the triumphs and the disasters; for example, the Crocosmias and Erigerons in my herbaceous border fell over in July and crushed all beneath, so I need to move them in October to somewhere less shady (or give more support!).

The year is far from over and chrysanthemums, asters and dahlias will go on flowering so long as you feed and dead-head them. Beans, sweetcorn and main potatoes can be harvested, but leave pumpkins and squashes on the plant to ripen.

Erigeron

Here is an Erigeron still standing. It is popular with the bees.

I grow Autumn raspberries which go on cropping into October and, of course, apples and pears can be harvested and stored somewhere cool and frost-free as soon as they pick easily when you lift and turn.

I am going to take cuttings of my favourite fuchsias, pelargoniums and penstemons to overwinter under cover. If I lifted the whole plants, there would be no room in the house or greenhouse! Collect seeds from other plants and dry them before storing in paper envelopes (or swapping with friends).
September is also a time to start planting – daffodils need to go in now but tulips can wait until November.
Onions and shallots can be planted for overwintering.
Don’t forget to protect Brassicas from pigeons!

If your lawn is your pride and joy, then give it an Autumn feed (low nitrogen reduces soft growth and strengthens roots), scarify and aerate. It has not been a good year for lawns in Ewshot, has it?

To give a tidy outline for the Winter, clip deciduous hedges and give a second clip to the soft growth of cypress and yew.

This is the time many gardeners net their ponds to prevent leaves getting in, although one needs to consider wildlife access when doing so.

Here are some 2017 dates of interest
• 10th September Bramdean House near Alresford is open on for the National Gardens Scheme.
• 16th September Church Crookham Garden Society Show at Crookham memorial Hall, Sandy Lane (free entry, for classes see www.ccgsoc.org.uk)
• 17th September Harvest Festival at Ewshot
• 7th October Harvest Supper at Crookham Memorial Hall (see ccgsoc.org.uk for details)

Here is an Erigeron still standing. It is popular with the bees.

January Gardening Tips

Reasons to be Cheerful

The shortest day has been and gone and the daily period of light has, almost imperceptibly, increased.  The infra-red wavelengths penetrate the soil and activate enzymes, via chemicals called phytochromes, that start seeds and dormant plants growing.

Witch hazel, Sarcococca, Daphne odora and mahonia are just some of the scented lowers you can enjoy now.  Wintergreen ferns give a wonderful textured foliage effect in sheltered shady spots, so do the leaves of Cyclamen hederafolia and Pulmonaria.  Cyclamen coum flowers in early spring and combines well with winter aconites or snowdrops. (The peak flowering time for most snowdrops is February, but varieties like Galanthus elwessii, G.nivalis and G.woronowii are earlier.)

Cyclamen

Jobs to do

Kitchen garden Prune gooseberries, red and white currants to maintain an open centred bush with 8 – 10 main branches – this avoids mildew. Prune last year’s growth by half.  Finish winter pruning of fruit trees (except plums and cherries).  Continue harvesting winter vegetables like parsnips and Brussels sprouts.

Ornamental garden Start pruning wisteria.  The current season’s growth, tamed in July, should be cut back to 2-3 buds from old wood.  If the old wood is tangled or overgrown, cut it back to a fork or side branch, maybe back to ground level.

Start cutting old leaves from ornamental grasses to make room for new growth. Also cut off old leaves on hellebores to expose the flowers, unless grown for foliage effect.

Prune winter jasmine when the flowers fade.

Iris unguiculata

Plant deciduous hedges like beech, hornbeam, blackthorn and hawthorn.

Indoors (more…)

December Gardening

December Gardening by Ewshot Gardener

Most leaves of deciduous trees have fallen by now and you tidy gardeners will have swept
them up and started the leaf mould process – you cannot buy leaf mould. Beech hedges will
retain their dead leaves until Spring. Oak trees will continue to lose leaves and you can
watch as ‘herds’ of leaves skitter like mice along paths to hide in corners throughout the
Winter.
This is the time of year when structure in the garden is important. Deciduous tree and
shrubs present skeletons of branches; you can improve their appearance by pruning out
crossing or crowded branches. If they are providing too much shade, then perhaps you
could lift the canopy.
All that hard work in the summer clipping evergreen shrubs and hedges into shape can be
appreciated now; the crisp green outlines you created look wonderful all the way to Spring
Not all colour has gone: stems of dogwoods, willows and some maples are colourful both
outside, and as part of your Christmas decorations indoors. (Something I found worked well,
in Spring, when you have to cut back dogwoods to get new colourful shoots, use the old
shoots as decorative plant supports.)
Birch bark can light up the winter garden on dark days. Some varieties are better than
others. Betula albo-sinensis has orange bark, B.papyrifera has white bark that peels off in
strips.
Mahonia, Hellebores, Daphne and Viburnum are good shrubs for winter colour and often
scent. The very early Iris unguicularis (stilosa) flowers in the dead of winter, clear blue
flowers that you can cut and admire in a vase.
Jobs to do
Kitchen garden
For fresh mint and chives, pot up some roots for the kitchen windowsill.
Cover rhubarb crowns with straw and cover with a bucket or clay rhubarb pot.
Prune grape vines and continue to prune apples, pears, currants and gooseberries. If you
have a neglected fruit tree, now is the time to renovate by removing some larger branches.
Be warned, though, that if you cut off more than a third, the roots and top will be unbalanced
and you will get vigorous ‘water shoots’ that look like witches’ broomsticks. Smaller fruit
trees can be sprayed with winter tree wash to reduce early aphid damage.
Ornamental garden
Dry mulch tender perennials such as agapanthus and phygelius to protect their crowns.
Prune Acer and Betula before mid-December to avoid sap bleeding.
Enjoy the patterned leaves of cyclamens; these will remain until Spring. I forgot to mention
holly, ivy and mistletoe!
Where there is heavy soil, avoid walking on your lawn when it is wet or frosty. This prevents
slipperiness and soil compaction.
Unless you have a cat, keep feeding the birds … except feeding pigeons or rabbits with your
winter greens (net them).
Last year, snow collected on my netting and crushed the broccoli, so a redesign is needed
using more rigid net and sturdier posts – you learn more through mistakes, I suppose.

This is Clematis tangutica. Seed heads can be decorative at this time of year

Indoors
Plant Amaryllis, Narcissi and Hyacinths for scent and colour.
I hope that you have a very happy, plant enriched, Christmas time.

Rose hips

November Gardening

November Gardening by Ewshot Gardener

The colour of trees in the garden and wider countryside turns to gold, red and bronze, quite lovely on a sunny day. The ground beneath looks gold plated.
I like to rustle through the colourful fallen leaves, so I am not fastidious about raking them up immediately – they will do no harm for several weeks and will provide food for worms. After too long, they will start to damage grass and provide slug heaven, so I will have to pick them up and make leaf mould!
Dead leaves in the pond should be removed with a rake or net, but leave some as a habitat for invertebrates. Put the extracted leaves near the pond for a day so that any creepy-crawlies can get back into the water.
At this time of year, the fruiting bodies of fungi (toadstools) are visible. It is worth remembering that leaves are broken down mainly by fungi, liberating nutrients. The vast network of tiny tubes (mycelium) from which the toadstools arise is of great importance to the health of trees and shrubs. They live in a mutually beneficial relationship with the roots, increasing surface area for the uptake of water and nutrients. More is being discovered all the time. Fungi mostly only colonise a plant that is already damaged or stressed.
Jobs to do
Greenhouse: clean the glass to maximise light. The RHS says to disinfect staging and pots, but, if you have biological control agents, e.g. Encarsia wasps for whitefly, this will wipe them out and you have to start them again.
Kitchen Garden: When the leaves are down then you can start pruning fruit trees except plums. Remove dead, diseased and crossing branches. I’m told a pigeon should be able to fly through the tree when you have finished! Cut side shoots back to two buds and leaders to six.
Currants should be pruned to give an open structure. Take cuttings from the prunings: push into soil to a depth of 6 inches (15cm)
Sow broad beans and plant garlic cloves now.
Ornamental garden: Prune Acers, put grit round alpine to stop rot, plant tulip bulbs. Raise pots on pot feet to prevent waterlogging. Leave ornamental seed heads as food and shelter for wildlife
For the child in you (or in your home)
Suspend a garlic clove over a jar of water using a cocktail stick. If the base is just touching the water, roots grow in a day or two…MAGIC! You can do the same with an avocado stone, but it takes longer for the root to grow.
Children may like to grow conkers, sweet chestnut, acorns, hazel nuts and walnuts. They need to be cold over Winter in order to germinate, so put in a pot in a cold frame, or in moss in a bag in the fridge.
Warning: they produce BIG trees eventually.

Gardens to visit this month
West Green House near Hartley Wintney open 11-4, 15th Nov to 20th Dec
Winkworth Arboretum for Autumn colour open for NGS on 1st October, open National Trust all year 10am-6pm, except Christmas.
Exbury Garden near Beaulieu, New Forest; expensive (£11.40), but magical. Open 20th Mar to 5th November. (www.exbury.co.uk)