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Blog posts tagged with 'jobs'

Spring - playing catch up!

 

Believe it or not Spring is just around the corner. In Sussex the earliest date recorded to celebrate this most vibrant of months is Feb 22nd, but I have researched the history of the seasons and find the Celts used to celebrate Feb 1st as the first day of Spring.  If you want to know more about our seasonal year, you can go to http://guydeakinsgardening.com/blog/seasons/  for more info.

All that said, we are not quite there yet and there is much to do! As I always say to my clients, we have 12 months in a year, 4 months of that you can actually get things done in the garden with no issue. The rest of the year you are playing catch up. (With this mild winter in Sussex, I am still playing catch up).

At this time of year, I always try to clean the greenhouse from top to bottom. A power washer set on wide spray is ideal for the task of cleaning the glass, however, many of you will have a glasshouse on the allotment so this is sometimes impractical. The best method therefore is to buy a soft broom and a large bucket. If you are organic, fill the bucket with a safe mix of water, detergent and malt vinegar and scrub away – remembering to wear some waterproofs and a face mask as you will undoubtedly get wet. If you don’t follow organic codes, you can also use a single mix of Jeyes fluid or biocide and water.  Remember : Always read the label when using chemicals.

Once the glass has been done, turn your attention to the rest of the area. If you have a hard floor, scrub this. If you have bare soil, turn the soil, adding a slow release fertilizer such as Vitax Q4 and a small amount of slug bait, or set some beer traps. Now your beds are ready for the addition of fresh compost and plants when the air warms sufficiently.

If you like to reuse pots, now is the time to soak them, using the water mixture in the large bucket you used for the glass. Once they have been soaked, use a small stiff hand brush to scrub off any residual dirt or plant material.  Use the same process to clean your spades, forks and any other tool you have been using recently to dig over the wet ground to aerate it. If they have wooden handles a small amount of wood oil, rubbed in with a cloth will not do any harm and extend the life of your prized possession.

Now to your secateurs and other cutting implements. If you have neoprene gloves or similar, put them on. Carefully take the secateurs apart using a screwdriver or spanner, making note of how it went together. Using an old toothbrush, carefully clean the surface of the blades and gently scrub any areas where dirt or plant material could collect (this includes the bolts and springs). If you have a sharpening stone, now is the time to hone the edge to perfection then using a soft cloth, wipe a small amount of oil onto the whole blade. When you are satisfied the tool is clean and primed, put it back together and oil the joint.

If you have machinery, I always try to service mine in November, but if you have not had the chance for whatever reason, then now is the time to get them down to the local mechanic – before the mad rush at Easter fills their books out for weeks! 

September is harvest time

 

1. It is time to lift the main carrot crop before the cold weather sets in. Cut off the leaves and store in sand or dry soil in a shed Keep the carrots well spaced.

2. Plant out pot grown rooted strawberry runners.

3. Rake out dead grass from your lawn with a spring-tine rake and aerate the lawn.

4. If you have grown more marrows than you can eat, then pick the best ones and gently cradle them in cloth and hang in a dry place where the temperature will not fall below 45 degrees F. They should keep you going until February.

5. Lift and dry onions and hang in nets in a cool, dry place.

6. Lift your celeriac when the bulbous stems are blanched. Remove leaves and store in the same way as for carrots.

7. September is the best month for sowing grass seed and repairing dead turf.

8. In order to have a continuous supply of vegetables and salads during autumn and winter, I think the large cloches are ideal. I have ones with four panes of glass with wire supports which are ideal for growing winter radish, lettuce and parsley.

9. Root cuttings of anchusa can be taken now.

10. Clear asparagus beds when the leaves turn yellow. Cut the stems to within a few inches of the ground.

11. If you’re left with any unripened tomatoes, pick them and wrap them in brown packing paper and they’ll soon turn their colour, or alternatively green tomatoes can be pickled or used to make chutney.

12. If you’d like to collect seeds from ripened tomatoes for next season, cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the pulp and seeds in to an earthenware bowl and leave for two days. After two days wash and strain through a sieve and clear the pulp way. Spread the seeds out onto a sheet of glass and leave to dry. Once dry, store in paper bags. A dry cupboard is the best place to store seeds.

13. Your maincrops of potato can all be harvested this month, as well as cauliflowers, leeks, broccoli, turnips, celery and beetroot.

14. When gladiolus leaves turn colour, lift and bring them under cover for a week, then remove the soil, cut off the stems about a half inch above the corms. Take off the old corm below the new and save the small offset corms to plant in boxes of peat in spring. Store in paper bags in a cool, frost proof place with a little dry sand over them and keep until planting time.

15. Clear away tired annuals.

16. Take cuttings of roses.

17. Transplant seedling wallflowers.

18. Order fruit trees and bushes.

19. Prune blackcurrant, raspberry, peach and nectarines.

20. Plant violets in a frame.

-- Rob Amey

Autumn is upon us

Well folks, September has arrived. Odd that, seeing as our summer hardly got going before the first signs of autumn crept into our early morning bones.


As I am sure I have said before, I love this time of year most of all. The weather is still mild, yet things in the garden seemed to have slowed. The last of the summer vegetable harvest is ready to be picked and the apples are sitting heavy on the boughs. I have already pencilled in my visit to Sheffield Park, the garden designed for autumn colour in the heart of Sussex and all is good in the world.

Time to sit back in the deck chair for one last warm snooze, whilst the light is still good? Not on your nelly! Now is the time, not so much of our discontent, but most definitely of much anticipated activity in the garden following the rather dull and monotonous tending of the garden in the previous months. Cutting back all those perennials that are rapidly passing their best is the first chore which must be done, not forgetting to leave some seed heads for the birds.

Pruning the climbing roses is another, as I described at this time last year in this very spot (check the archives if you don’t believe me). If your lawns have had a hard wear this summer, then now is the time to patch those glaring holes. The final sowing of winter green manure Phacelia is also a must for all those that want to return some goodness and compost to the soil later in the winter, not forgetting mulching is of vital importance too - trap the last of the warmth in the soil now and pay dividends later.

Sowings of winter and spring crops can still be made, such as cresses, carrot, turnips, mooli and endive; not forgetting onions sown now for spring. Now is also the time for taking cuttings from your favourite pelargoniums and verbenas. Under glass it is also time to prune you apricot, peach and nectarine trees, removing all laterals, tying in all those shoots that are required for next years fruit.

Finally, in that oh so special place we all have secreted in the vast expanse of the average urban garden, ‘The Pinery’; keep a genial atmosphere of between 70° and 83° among your fruiting plants. Water them with clear manure water, refraining from syringing those in fruit or flower. Not forgetting that pineapples are thought to grow better from fermenting rotting material beneath than from the use of hot water.

So, lots to do, before you clean your tools and shut up shop for winter, reverting to your welcoming armchairs besides the hearth. Just one last thing mind you. Don’t forget, above all other things, the second spring is coming. That curious moment offered by Mother Nature when all plants burn off the last of their stored food, producing a burst of growth reminiscent of early spring. So perhaps don’t down tools just yet.

-- Guy Deakins

Top 20 Tasks for the Garden in July

 

 
RHS Rose Gloves by Town & Country


Despite the weather, there are plenty of tasks to be done this month. The rainy weather is an ideal time to be budding roses to propagate, whilst the sap is running freely. Don’t forget to wear rose protective gloves which are thorn resistant from Town & Country.

1. When shallot stalks have turned yellow no further growth develops. Scrape soil from around the bulbs and bend tops over to assist ripening. When this has taken place, ease them out with a fork. Dry well for two days by hanging them in the sun or if the rain doesn’t stop, spread them on a shelf in a dry, airy shed.

2. A warm March combined with a cool April has now resulted in early bumper crops of sweet strawberries, full of flavour. With all this rain, you may want to protect your strawberries by moving them under cover. This month is a good time to layer your strawberries. Choose the best runners and using the first plantlet only on each runner, cut off beyond this and peg it down close to the joint or node. Layer into pots of sand to facilitate moving when rooted. When the runner plant is well rooted, usually after around 3 weeks, sever the running stalk.

3. Slugs love this wet weather and can cause damage to plants. Sprinkle lime soot around seedlings, frequently renewing.

4. Sow hollyhock, snapdragon, foxglove, gaillardia and anchus on borders.

5. Summer prune apples and pear trees.

6. Prune raspberries. All old canes which fruited should be cut down near to the ground level and burned, leaving only strong canes of this year’s growth.

7. If you’re going on holiday, place ferns, palms and other pot plants if well rooted in a large container in which the water reaches half way up the pots. Place the container in a shady spot. House plants will be better outside where they will be exposed to rainfall.

8. Clip all hedges and evergreen shrubs and trees.

9. Cut off all dead or dying flowers and untidy shoots from bedding plants.

10. Mow the lawn thoroughly.

11. Hoe the soil well in beds and borders.

12. If you planted potatoes in March, these will be ready to harvest.

13. Its also the time this month to order second cropping potatoes to be planted in August for harvesting in December.

14. Plant out leek seedlings in July.

15. Enjoy a selection of herbs in your salads and harvest garlic bulbs. Dry herbs or freeze in ice cubes to drop in soups.

16. Check your seed packets to see what else is left to sow. You can continue sowing lettuce 2 weeks apart throughout July.

17. Sow winter salad crops and pak choi.

18. Sow freesia seed thinly for flowering in spring.

19. Sow turnip seed to provide roots in autumn.

20. Carry out the main sowing of spring cabbages, radishes and parsley this month.

-- Rob Amey

Jobs to do in June!

1. Uproot the suckers growing at bases of lilac
2. Prune early blooming shrubs
3. Take measures to destroy pests on roses, trap ants and spray against aphid on fruit trees
4. Plant out dahlias
5. Sow hardy plants on a reserve border
6. Restrict sweet peas to one or two stems.
7. Don’t allow fruit trees against walls to become dry. Shorten their side shoots to within six leaves of current year’s growth.
8. Make a final sowing of peas and French beans
9. Plant out brussels sprouts and celery
10. Keep your greenhouse ventilated, shade roof glass and moisten floors and walls.
11. Take cutting of pansies and violas if you have a greenhouse
12. Rid your lawn of daisies and plantains
13. Pick off seed-pods of rhododendrons and azaleas
14. Reduce the number of fruits on clusters on trees bearing heavy crops
15. In the greenhouse, you can place dormant bulbs in pots on their sides in a frame.
16. As the weather gets warmer pond weed can get of control. Remove this with a kitchen sieve or small net.
17. Direct sow brassicas and leeks for winter harvest
18. Deadhead flowers this month to gain a second flowering.
19. Propagate hydrangeas
20. Hoe soil to keep down weeds or pull them by hand.

-- Rob Amey

Round the garden in April
    1. Encourage hedgehogs, frogs, toads and thrushes into your garden to keep snails and slugs at bay. Bird baths are good to attract thrushes. A small garden pond will encourage frogs and toads. Attract hedgehogs by ensuring you have a safe place for them to nest, such as compost heaps, pile of leaves and twigs to nest in. Leave food out for hedgehogs at sunset, don’t put out any earlier or you’ll attract flies laying eggs and always collect anything uneaten in the morning. Hedgehogs like cat and dog food, chopped peanuts, crunchy peanut butter, muesli and any leftover cooked or raw meat.
    2. Check anything growing under cloches to ensure it is not too dry and check if they need watering. Air your greenhouse on warm sunny days and open the vents mid-morning and close after lunch.
    3. Enjoy your vegetable and salad garden this year, by sowing direct this month carrots, peas, spinach, chard and beetroot. Sow quick growing half-hardy annuals like basil, French beans, sweet corn, squash and pumpkins. April is the month for planting potatoes too.
    4. You can get going this month with some salad by sowing undercover or in your greenhouse or conservatory – rocket, spring onions, radish, chard and lots of different variety of lettuces. Keep growing further batches of lettuce, beetroot, peas, spinach, spring onions and radish every 2 weeks so you have a regular supply over the summer.
    5. Deadhead larger bulbs such as Tulips, Narcissus, and Hyacinths. Be sure not to cut the foliage! This will encourage bulb development and better flowers next spring.
  1. April is the month to get on with planting trees, shrubs, roses, strawberries and perennials. Also get dahlia tubers potted up.
  2. Keep on top of weeding. Use hand tools and get down on your knees to pull out the weeds, rather than using chemicals. Aim to get rid of perennial weeds early whilst they are young and their roots can easily be removed before they set to seed. Wearing Town and Country kneepads makes this task comfortable and easy.
  3. Containerised plants need plenty of fertiliser and frequent watering, especially during warm weather.
  4. After the last chance of frost, (around mid-April but can vary) you can start planting hardier annuals. Start growing your own flowers this month – Marigolds, honeywort and poppies are favourites for me. Seeds can be directly sown outside and any seedlings you’ve been nurturing indoors can be planted out.
  5. Tie down roses so that they keep growing healthily and produce good flowers in the summer. Bend over upright stems, this will produce more flowers. If you don’t bend uprights over, you’ll only have a flower at the end. Tie them in so they lie horizontal.
  6. Directly sow herbs under cover. Favourites are dill, fennel, coriander, chives and chervil.
  7. Give your lavender plants a haircut this month – short back and sides and shape them into domes. It helps them from looking sparse. Don’t prune hard into old wood.
  8. Plan for possible water shortages by installing water butts and adding mulch to borders to conserve soil moisture.

-- Rob Amey

Round the Garden in Spring


Spring is finally here, shrubs and trees are in bud and all my bulbs are starting to bloom. This month I have cleared up herbaceous rubbish, burnt woody cuttings and put the resultant (cooled!) ashes around my fruit trees and roses. Last month I planted bare root plants and a couple of trees, so had to make sure all were well watered, firmed in and staked against the roaring March weather. My children have planted sunflower, salad and herb seeds in pots (these sprout quite quickly so are good for the kids) and whilst occupied, enabled me to have a last good prune, aerating shrubs. Evergreen plants are entering their dormant phase so its ok to prune them now. If the morning frosts are over, risk planting out perennials and other herbaceous plants. Fill out your gaps with medium height plants, leaving room for them to stretch and flourish and loll over walls and pathways.

If you’ve got the space, why not start making your own compost bin / heap? Put in peelings, newspapers, cuttings and cover with an old curtain / polythene sheet. You can buy compost bins or wormery from Garden Centres, Hardware Shops and many DIY stores or build a rectangular box, split down the middle out of slatted timber. Try not to put too much woody stuff as this won’t compost (decompose) down. Do not put anything cooked or egg shells into your compost, unless you want to help increase the rat population.

A good tip this time of year is to look at all the bulbs varieties around in flower and make a note of the names of ones you like so you know what to order in the Autumn.

-- Rob Amey

Round the Garden in March

There's plenty of jobs to be getting on with now spring has sprung!

  1. Prune your repeat-flowering roses and remove dead or frost damaged wood. Prune apple and pear trees before the blossom comes out.
  2. Prune hardy fuchsias, hydrangea, machonia, spiraea japonica, roses, sambucus and santolina. Prune ornamental grasses. If you need to lift and divide, March is the best month.
  3. If the weather is mild, plant out hardy seedlings and new plants. This is a good time to start moving and dividing existing garden plants.
  4. There’s still time to sow sweet peas. I use toilet rolls to grow the seeds.
  5. Remove the remains of any winter veg plants and tidy up beds and check anything that needs repairing such as fruit cages.
  6. Rhubarb stems can be pulled in March for the first fruit of the season.
  7. Dead-head any bulbs as they fade and feed with a good slow acting feed to build up the bulbs for next year.
  8. If you want to sow French beans, wait until the end of March. Beetroot, radishes, peas, carrots and lettuces can all be sowed direct into prepared raised beds or in patio containers this month.
  9. Give the garden a complete weeding and general digging-over where needed. Apply a mulch to help conserve ground moisture.
  10. Prepare a seed bed for herbs and sow as soon as possible.

-- Rob Amey

Round the Garden in February
 

If you fancy spending a bit of time in the garden this month then there’s plenty of tasks you can busy away doing whilst you’re outdoors.

  1. If you didn’t get time to plant bulbs last year, then now’s the time to visit a garden centre or DIY store. You’ll instantly transform your garden into an array of Spring colour with tulips, crocuses and hyacinths.
  2. Cut back overgrown hedges towards the end of the month.
  3. Check on any winter container plants you have. Remove dead heads and check if they need some water.
  4. Any bare-rooted plants can be planted now, such as roses or hedging plants, but remember to soak roots for an hour before planting.
  5. Clean down your paths and driveway and clear any moss.
  6. February is a good month to dress beds for your annuals. I use a fish and bone mix for a natural slow release feed.
  7. This month you can sow half-hardy annuals indoors and peas and beans in propagator trays on your window sill. You can plant them outdoors, but protect them from slugs and snails with pellets. Chillies are also ideal for sowing from mid-February.
  8. This month is perfect for buying potato seeds and starting the chitting process.
  9. Alpine and rockery plants often come out in spring, so do a bit of tidy up now and any weeding and removal of debris.
  10. February is good for pruning rose bushes by reducing stems to approximately half in length. Always cut to an outward facing bud.

-- Rob Amey

Things to do in the Garden in December


1. Keep the winter blues at bay by heading into the garden and feel the fresh air and listen to the birds. Don’t forget to plant your tulip bulbs this month for a lovely array of colour in the spring. Order your seeds if you haven’t already.

2. This is the time of year to find your shrubs for free after the leaves have fallen, by taking cuttings from hydrangeas, cornus albas, salix and buddleja of young, strong and healthy looking stems. Insert lengths around 20cm into pots. To take the cutting, cut at an angle just above a bud. Ensure about about 14cm of the cutting length is buried in the soil. They will root and be ready for planting next autumn.

3. Ensure your brussel sprouts are supported with cane and harvest from the bottom when they are 2cm in diameter. If you want to save having to go to your allotment or garden each time you want some sprouts, you can pick the whole stem of the plant and put outside your kitchen door in a bucket of water, so that the water just covers the roots. This will be fine for 1 week so you can always have a week’s supply of sprouts.

4. If you have any fruit or onions stored away, have a quick look through and pull out any rotting ones to save the rest of your crop from contamination. Watch out for any slugs.

5. This time of year, clear all your weeds. A good tip for paths is to ensure all the weeds are pulled out from the root and to prevent them from returning, water the cracks with salty water. They will never return.

6. Sow onion seeds thinly in seed compost trays from late December until mid February. These need to be kept around 15 degrees centigrade so a kitchen windowsill is ideal. When the seedlings have looped after germination, transfer to single cells in a cooler place but ensure it is frost free, so that you are gradually building them up for the outdoors in the late spring. When you plant outdoors keep 30cm between each plant. Onions will be ready in August for picking.

7. Keep your compost covered to avoid excess rain destroying all the nutrients

8. Fit boxes for birds, bats, butterflies and bees. Apples, nuts, cake and cooked pasta are all good for feeding the birds. Wooden Hanging bird feeders are available in purple, red, blue or white at just £9.99 from Town and Country.



9. Piles of leaves, a compost heap, piles of twigs and long grass are great habitats for hedgehogs, earthworms and other creatures.

10. Protect tender plants from the wind and frost.

-- Rob Amey