May 2022 gardening Tips

This year, April and March seemed to swap places in terms of weather, so Magnolias and Camellias were in peak bloom and then ‘browned off’ by frost in my garden. The daffodils, primroses and hyacinths have been more resilient and given a very good show.

Everything else is later than usual – slower to germinate and leaves reluctant to expose themselves to frost.

By the time you read this, though, in May.  It will be greener and maybe warmer and you can get on with some of these tasks…

Kitchen garden

  • Earth up potatoes when the foliage reaches 23cm/9in to prevent green tubers or, if frost is expected, cover smaller sprouts with soil for protection.
  • Sow carrots, radishes, beetroot, lettuce and spring onions for successional harvesting.
  • Harden off courgette and squash plants that were started under glass and protect with cloches or fleece if cold nights are forecast
  • Start to harvest asparagus spears
  • Direct sow French beans and sweet corn.

Ornamental garden

  • Prune overgrown Camellia to young side shoots which will flower next year.
  • Prune Forsythia and Philadelphus as flowering finishes
  • Remove a third of old wood on Spiraea to open up the bush
  • Dead head Rhododendron to make room for new growth
  • Plant out Dahlias and Cannas
  • Dead head spring bulbs but LEAVE THE LEAVES to feed the bulbs until they die back. If daffodils did not flower well, lift and divide the clumps.
  • Take soft wood cuttings of Fuchsia, Anthemis, pelargonium and verbena.
  • Support tall and heavy-headed perennials with pea sticks or special supports
  • At the end of May, do the ‘Chelsea chop’ on late flowering herbaceous plants like sedum (Hylotelephium) that tend to flop outwards. The flowers may be later but they will be sturdier. Other suitable plants are Chrysanthemum, Helenium, Helianthus, Monarda, Phlox, Rudbeckia and VeronicastrumDo not chop lupins, irises, paeonies, acanthus or Hemoracallis

Open Gardens

Beechenwood Farm, Odiham RG29 1JA: open every Wednesday 30th March – 8th June (2-5) also Monday 2nd May (2-5)

Brick Kiln Cottage, Herriard RG25 2PR: open on Saturday 7th, Sunday 15th May (11.30 – 4.00)

‘Selborne’, East Worldham, Alton GU34 3AE: open 28th,29th May and again in July

 

April Hints and Tips

2022 – The beginning of April – cold and snow!  I’m wondering what the spring and summer will offer.  However, I can see buds fattening on apples, pears, azaleas and magnolias and the earliest Prunus trees and Camellias are in flower. The main show for Spring-flowering shrubs is usually in April and May and it is sometimes worth lifting their canopies to allow spring flowering bulbs to show off underneath them (Scillas, grape hyacinths, anemones, Narcissi, and Cyclamen coum are good candidates).

Still, it is the time to get the kitchen garden going, now the soil is warming up.

  • You can sow beans, carrots, chard, brassicas, beetroot and peas outside, and pumpkins, courgettes and sweetcorn under glass.
  • In preparation for the beans, dig a deep trench and line it with newspaper and fill it with compost to hold moisture. Then erect a bean frame of hazel poles or bamboos for support.  Twiggier pea sticks will help the peas.
  • At the beginning of April, plant early potatoes and work through to main crop by the end of the month.

Hellebore are nearly over – why not collect their seedlings?

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March Hints and Tips

2022
March is one of the busiest months for gardeners. The days are getting longer and the soil starts to warm, but you still have to watch out for frosts. Underground, the infra-red light that penetrates below the surface triggers growth and germination.

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 of old compost from permanent pot plants and top-dress with fresh. The old compost could be used as mulch.
  • Sow bedding plants under glass.


2022 Open Gardens

Open Gardens Poster pdf

Open Gardens Poster

Phyllis Tuckwell’s Open Gardens scheme is taking place this Summer? They are currently looking for more local residents who would consider opening their garden to support the hospice.

Why not open your garden to friends and family, or join their public 2022 Open Gardens campaign, and help raise money for local Hospice Care. Contact details are on the full size poster (click here) ready to print.


In the ornamental garden

  • Dead head spent daffodils – but leave the leaves to nourish the bulbs.
  • Cut back Cornus, grown for their coloured stems, to 2-3 inches from the base because new growth has the best colour next winter. If that makes you nervous, cut a third of last year’s growth back and leave the rest until next year.
  • Cut down perennial grasses to make room for new growth.
  • 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.
  • Prune Buddleia to a low framework; this will encourage the new growth that bears the flowers
  • Divide Hemerocallis, Astrantia, Hosta, Heuchera and Bergenia as new growth begins.
  • Start mowing lawns, but keep the blades high to start with.

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February Hints and Tips

Welcome to the start of the growing year, when seeds can be sown, potatoes prepared by chitting, and the first flowers: daffodils, snowdrops, primroses, winter aconites and pulmonarias show some colour.

February involves pruning many late flowering shrubs to encourage new flowering shoots, for example:

A useful tip for Wisteria – 7 & 2.  In the 7th month prune back new growth to 7 buds and in the 2nd month (now) prune these shoots back to 2 buds; you can also cut out some tangled old wood.

Winter jasmine can be cut back after flowers have faded to 5cm/2” from a main stem.

Late-flowering clematis can be cut down to a strong pair of buds about 30cm/12” from the ground. This will stimulate the new growth that bears the flowers.

Hydrangeas: leave mophead hydrangeas until March before dead-heading; they flower on last year’s growth, but prune Hydrangea paniculata to an open framework now because they flower on current season’s growth.

Bush roses can be encouraged by pruning back to outward facing buds late in the month.

Fuchsias should be cut hard back to 15cm/6” and Santolina and Lavatera to low, well-placed branches.

Buddleia can be cut back to a low framework at the end of the month (too early, and the new growth, thus encouraged,

Euphorbias give texture and colour this month

will be damaged by frost).

After pruning, a top-dressing of compost or general fertiliser should be applied.

Sowing seeds

Under cover, sow tomatoes, lettuce, sweet-peas, chillies and peppers.

Under cloches, broad beans, cabbages, parsnips, beetroot.

Plant shallot sets and garlic cloves, if you did not do so in the Autumn.

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January 2022 Gardening Tips

Liz Kirton writes :

On the last day of December 2021, on a quick stroll round my garden, I found that even in the ‘deep mid-winter’ there are flowers to appreciate:- witch hazels, both red and yellow unfurling their petals, Iris unguicularis adding their beautiful blue flowers, winter jasmine giving a lovely yellow sheen to the wall outside the front door, and, surprisingly, some left overs from Autumn – a honeysuckle and a rose!

Crocus and daffodil leaves are pushing through the soil and snowdrops are nearly in flower. All indications of life after apparent death!

Here are things to do this month…

  • Start pruning Wisteria: cut back the last season’s growth to 2-3 buds of the older wood
  • Hard prune bush roses since flowers are produced on the new season’s growth. Cut them back to a strong outward facing bud and remove dead and crossing branches.
  • Shake snow off evergreen shrubs to prevent damage to branches and ‘scorching’ of foliage.
  • Feed apple trees in late winter with ‘growmore’ or other suitable fertiliser, compost or manure by sprinkling over the area just beyond the branch canopy. Dessert apples need more potassium, cookers more nitrogen, I am told.
  • Once your Christmas hippeastrum/amaryllis has finished flowering, feed it fortnightly to build up the bulb. Cyclamen benefit from the same treatment.
  • Start chitting early potatoes in trays in a cool, light, frost-free location.
  • Sow begonia, lobelia, salvia and pelargonium in a heated propagator.
  • Enjoy witch-hazels, snowdrops, winter aconites, hellebores, and Iris unguicularis (stilosa) (pictured below). It is worth cutting back the foliage of the last two to see the flowers better.

 

Wishing you a happy and productive 2022.

December Gardening Tips

This is a difficult time for plants:  when water freezes in the ground, they cannot replace water lost from the leaves.  They have adapted by losing their leaves and becoming dormant, or by having waxy, waterproof leaves. The lance-like leaves of bulbs let snow slide off them.  You may have noticed this in the last week of November this year!

In December

  • Prune birches, Japanese maples and other deciduous trees, now they are dormant, removing crossing branches and reducing overall size.
  • Prune grapevines, apples, pears, currants and gooseberries. The aim is to achieve an open-centred tree or bush. Renovation pruning of neglected trees is a three-year job (search apples and pears: renovating old trees at rhs.org.uk)
  • Erect a rain shelter over wall-trained peaches and nectarines to protect against leaf curl until May.
  • Take hard wood cuttings from trees like mulberry, tamarix or euonymus: take the current season’s growth, cut into 10-20cm sections with about 4 buds. Cut below a node at the base and make a slanting cut away from a bud at the top. Insert into gritty compost and leave in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.
  • ‘Force’ rhubarb by covering with straw and a dark bucket or special forcer pot.
  • Forget the tinsel! Coloured stems from acers, cornus, willows and bamboos go well with holly, ivy and fir for your seasonal decorations.
  • Indoor plants need less water than you might think – only water them when the top of the soil is quite dry.  Azaleas, cyclamens and forced bulbs last longer in cool conditions, while poinsettias like warm, draught-free positions.

Have a very happy Christmas.

October Gardening tips

Now is the time to watch the wildlife plant nuts and other seeds in the lawn and flower beds for a new woodland to grow!

Now is a time for golden leaves and golden sunlight and a golden ground where the leaves have fallen.  Leave them until they turn muddy brown; this will encourage worms and other invertebrates.  BUT.. clear them out of ponds or you will end up with dry land.

Many trees are planted primarily for Autumn colour, like Acers, but others give wonderful colour as an extra benefit, like Witch hazels and deciduous azaleas.  If you do not have room for trees and large shrubs, then try a climber like Virginia creeper up a wall or fence.  Some grasses are decorative all winter and really ‘glow’ in a low sun’s light.

This is also the time to look forward and plant Narcissi or Hyacinths in bowls of compost; put them in the dark until nearly Christmas. Then they should bloom.

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September 2021 Gardening Tips

After 2020’s bumper harvest of apples, I have a very meagre crop this year, but the pears are looking hopeful.  The seasons have been later this year: wind and rain have taken a toll.

The rain has made hoeing weeds useless and, as a result, I have been hand weeding – the compost heaps are piled high! ….until last week when the drying north wind set in.

Here are some jobs you could do:

Pumkins

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

Harvest: Apples and pears, onions, main crop potatoes, sweetcorn, pumpkins and squashes. All apart from sweetcorn can be stored in a dark dry place. Sweetcorn cobs freeze well.

Autumn fruiting raspberries and beans will continue to need picking or they will stop producing more.

Collect seeds to share or keep for next year; store them in labelled paper bags or envelopes somewhere cool and dry. The garden Society runs a seed swap at their Spring Show and at the trading shed later.

Plant:  daffodils, crocus, hyacinth and Muscari (wait until November for tulips); start to plant overwintering onions and shallots

Divide:  herbaceous perennials that are overcrowded.

Take cuttings: of tender perennials like Fuchsia, Pelargonium, Salvias and penstemons and overwinter under cover.

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June Gardening Hints and Tips

We have had a late Spring this year (2021), with drought and frost holding plants back.  I note that last year, at this time, I remarked on the good set of apples and pears; whereas, this year, the apple blossom is barely out yet.  I did spot a woodpecker (spotted) tearing some blossom off…such a help; but I was pleased to see it, as they do not seem as common as they were!

There are still jobs that must be done in hope of kind weather continuing… here are some suggestions:

Ornamental garden

  • Gently remove spent flowers from Camellia and rhododendrons to make room for the leaf buds emerging behind. You can also trim back overgrown shoots to make the shrubs more compact, next year’s flower buds will form on the new growth of side shoots that this stimulates.
  • Divide bearded irises after flowering; plant with the rhizomes facing south.
  • Sow biennials like sweet William, viola and wallflowers
  • Divide spring-flowering bulbs.
  • Remove spent flower heads of Euphorbia by cutting flowered stems to ground level. Wear gloves for this, the sap causes skin irritation.

Lawns

  • Mow regularly but, if it is hot and dry, raise the cutting height.
  • Apply a high-nitrogen lawn feed (again not when dry)
  • Add clippings to the compost heap in small amounts; mix them with dry material to stop it all going slimy.

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April Gardening Tips

We wait, with keen anticipation, through January and February, the blooming of daffodils, the signals of Spring.  First, the dwarf varieties like Narcissus jonquilla and bulbocodium and then the full-sized plants.  All too soon, by April, we are dead- heading spent flowers and leaving the leaves to feed the bulbs for next year. Pheasant’s eye narcissi flower later, into April, and extend the season with their delicate, pale, scented blooms.

My favourite flowers this Winter have been irises; Iris unguiculata (shown below) has been flowering since November and will continue until April; February and March bring on the dwarf irises like I.reticulata.  In April, Dutch irises, bearded irises (shown at the end) and the tall elegant I.sibirica put on a show.  They all like a light soil and to be baked in the Summer sun. All except the dwarf varieties make good cut flowers and have a delicate scent.

 

It is the time to get the kitchen garden going, now the soil is warming up.

  • You can sow beans, carrots, chard, brassicas, beetroot and peas outside, and pumpkins, courgettes and sweetcorn under glass.
  • In preparation for the beans, dig a deep trench and line it with newspaper and fill it with compost to hold moisture. Then erect a bean frame of hazel poles or bamboos for support.  Twiggier pea sticks will help the peas.
  • At the beginning of April, plant early potatoes and work through to main crop by the end of the month. But watch the weather forecasts for frost warnings – my potatoes and beans were caught out last year!

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