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Blog posts tagged with 'cutting back'

Keep the winter chill at bay

 

Before the winter weather really sets in later this month, can I advise you to do yourself one big favour? Buy a pair of Charnwood Boots. I cannot recommend them enough to be honest. I have worn them for the past two months at work and at leisure and I cannot fault them. Perhaps, if I am honest buy yourself a set of sports insoles – I suffer from ‘over-pronation’ so need to enhance any footwear.

So far the boots have survived several longish walks (up to 10 miles) through mud, stone, sand and shingle. Through woods, over dales, across streams, up the North and South Downs and along the South Coast they have performed wonderfully. I can attest that they are fully waterproof (and cow-muck proof), sturdy and thankfully easily cleaned.

An extra bonus?

They are undoubtedly warm. At this time of year I always wear a couple of pairs of socks and still feel the cold, but these boots have taken the edge off any truly frosty morning. I will say here that they are not ‘safety boots’ so do not use them on building sites or in areas where you may need the steel toe, but they are nonetheless useful work boots. Ideal for horse stables too – unlike the similar competitors boots which are merely splash proof.

In the garden it may be an idea to start looking at your fruit trees. If you have a problem with frequent fruiting or disease it always a good idea to prune apples and pear trees on a yearly basis. However, last year I left them well alone as the wet winter was enough stress. Leave the Prunus varieties such as plum and cherry until spring or even mid-summer as they have a different physiology. Remove dead, diseased or damaged branches if that is all you are confident in doing. If you want to learn a  bit more, I have published online a pruning guide at my website pages: http://guydeakinsgardening.com/blog/herb-guide/

Try not to walk on the lawn during heavy frost or even the snow. Grass is easily stressed and susceptible to destructive slime mould at this time of year, so try and keep off it as much as possible. If you do see it waterlogged, using a board to walk on (and to spread your weight), spike it with a sharp garden fork or even better a hollow tine aerator to add air holes. Add a mixture of compost and sand to help drainage.

Trimming your hedges

 

Hedges are a major part of many of our gardens, but we rarely look at them with any discerning eye until they are either suffering from some malaise or have grown rampant and need immediate work.

Over the years I have always been surprised by the lack of interest in such a common garden structure because they are often what we first see. They either skirt the edges denoting a boundary, create privacy where you feel it is needed or are merely left over from a previous owner who must have had a vision but nobody can work out what it was.

The same goes for the treatment of them. Pruned badly, clipped tightly or left to do their own thing until they are difficult to manage. Little care is ever taken to actually work out what the hedge may need to survive and are sometimes expensive to replace.

In fact, hedges are a vital part of our man-made ‘natural’ flora today as many agricultural hedges have been grubbed out or pruned with a flail leaving them weak and thinned , with little value to wildlife.

In law many are protected, especially during the breeding season when hopefully small chicks and perhaps dormice are nesting. In winter the bases of hedges are also vital for hibernating mammals and insects, out of the way of the worst of the winter weather. That is why it is illegal to trim hedges during the spring and early summer and also now during the later months of the year unless you know it does not have any nesting animals ensconced amongst the branches or in the leaf litter.

If you are wanting to cut your hedge, now is the time to do it. However, first be aware of what type of hedge you have. Some hedges will not take a hard prune, (such as with some coniferous trees) – if you cut back to bare branches on some plants, they will not grow back. If you have a holly hedge, it will grow back slowly. A privet hedge on the other hand will continue to grow at a rapid rate once established. If your hedge is very leggy (i.e it has bare stems or trunk and lots of growth at the top), it will only grow leaves on the ‘legs’ if you cut it down closer to the ground and let it start again! However  be advised this only works with certain plants, as some plants don’t like being cut back hard at all. Also, if it flowers, is now the time to prune it if you want flowers again next year?

Now you see the nature of that one simple ‘green thing’ that has always been there may not be as simple as you thought. Best get the plant identification book out and think carefully about how you want to proceed.

Leave your seed heads for birds this Winter

December is an interesting month in the gardening calendar. Almost all the garden societies I am a member of are offering tips or even seminars on making those vital Christmas decorations – surely the children's show 'Blue Peter' is the best place for such things?

In the garden usually the frosts have bitten hard by this time, and lets not forget it is now not unusual to have had the first heavy snows. But the main question I ask myself is, should all the perennials and grasses be cut back hard, as so many gardeners are want to do? I suggest some should be kept tall. I have noticed plants such as Amaranthus, Helianthus, Michaelmas Daisies, Helenium and Rudbekia are excellent sources of food for the finches and sparrows. A client of mine is trying to structure their entire garden along the lines of William Robinson, that not-so-gentle Irishman who kick-started the cottage garden movement in the UK. It is an exciting place to work as the borders are always alive.


However, the winter aspect has been a little harsh - the previous gardener had been cutting everything hard in November, leaving nothing but short stumps and next years buds showing. This year, I have left some of the spent flowers and have noticed the large number of birds enjoying the bounty. With the decline in garden birds approaching worrying levels, I am always overjoyed to see Bullfinches or Yellowhammers -that little burst of colour on a wintry morning exciting the senses and making me realise in my centrally heated ivory tower, life is hard for those literally on the bread-line. So whilst gardening, I suggest you not only leave the now standard nuts and seeds, but leave the plants as well. It can only bring benefits.

-- Guy Deakins