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Blog posts tagged with 'mulch'

Spring has sprung

April is an interesting month. It is the real divider in the year between the warm South of the UK and the still cold Northern counties. You may not be aware but April 14th is First Cuckoo Day - the traditional first day of Summer in West Sussex. I am sure there are those in Scotland or Northumbria who would think this mad and will certainly not be celebrating, but there you go. You can’t homogenise the seasons to suit all. That said, the swallows have arrived back so it can’t be too bad!

Here in the South we have enjoyed warm days and clear nights but at 5am you may still notice the ever so delicate kiss of Jack Frost on the car window or on the grass. If you are unsure what this means to the garden, it represents a couple of things. The older generation will be busy putting down a ‘Spring’ mulch about now, because that is what they have always done. Don’t copy them. Break the cycle of mismanagement and learn the science. If you mulch now you are creating a layer of insulation – so effectively you are creating a refrigerated bed which will take longer to warm up. My tip is to put your elbow on the soil and if it feels warm (just like you would  a baby’s bath water), mulch. If not, leave it. Wait until the soil feels warm, water it, then add a mulch. Your plants will love you more and so will the worms.

The cool night-time temps also mean that the delicate plants should not yet be put outside to ‘harden off’. Some tender plants such as the orchid Cymbidium may need a cool night or two to help propel it into flowering, but if there is any sign of a heavy frost repair them back the glasshouse quick smart! If you are looking at planting out your French beans hold off for a just a few more weeks. Whilst talking of veg, don’t forget, successional planting will create a succession of vegetables throughout the year. For example Broad beans planted now, again in a month and then again in June will give you crops up until September if you are canny.

As an update to my exploits with the Town and Country Charnwood Boots, they are still going strong and still excellent. I have worn them at work on most days for the past 5 months and they really are excellent. Still waterproof. Still warm. Still doing the job they were designed for! I can honestly say, I am very pleased with them and will be ordering another pair.

Winter Gardening

I am looking forward to winter in the garden.

The truth be told, last winter was so mild, I psychologically missed the hard frosts and snow. I know that sounds odd, but they have a very useful role in the garden. If you dig over your vegetable areas now - leaving the soil in large lumps - not only will mother nature help break the soil up properly, but the pests like slugs, wire worms and soil living aphids will be killed.

Last winter was so mild for many of us that all these pests continued to multiply causing headaches for us all spring and summer.

I am also looking forward to winter, because I am confident my feet and hands will be warm. The T & C premium suede gloves have never let my fingers down, (when combined with latex gloves for really cold days) and to top it off, I have purchased the Town and Country ‘Charnwood Boots’. Combined with a pair of boot socks, I will be warm and dry for the foreseeable future!

                                            

In the garden things are just slowing down so now is the time to start cutting back the perennials that need it – remember, some need the foliage for protection so look at your guidance notes. In the cool greenhouse,  you can also look at planting some sweet peas in pots for a good display next year. There are some lovely old varieties. On the veg plot, now is the time to sow broad beans and if you are so inclined, winter hardy peas. I am told that those that over-winter have less black-fly, but I have never truly found that to be the case. Either way, the plants get a head start and if the winter is another mild one, you will have a crop of broad beans in April as I did this year. You can always keep sowing from Spring all the way to June to get a succession of crops until September!

If you like tulips, now is also the time to plant them. Last year I must admit was a disaster as many bulbs rotted off or were eaten by the marauding slugs as they pushed up through the spring soil. If this is a recurring problem for you, I suggest you try a different area where the soil is not so wet. Tulips are beautiful, but not necessarily as hardy as narcissi.

Finally, add manure or other mulch to your borders. You will help the plants survive the worst of the weather by supplying the roots with a nice covering. Never apply mulch in Spring as you will keep the cold trapped in the ground for longer.

Easy mulching

 


Something I love about Autumn is when all the leaves fall to the ground. When they are dry, the brown, red and caramel shades look gorgeous amongst the green grass. However when they are wet, they are slippery and dangerous!

Now that your garden is beginning the process of dying down for the Autumn and Winter ahead, it’s time to think ahead to next years garden. Collect all your leaves., dry or wet. Put them in a mulch bin or a bin liner. Pierce a few holes into the bag around the sides, lightly water the leaves and then tie the top of the bag. Leave somewhere shaded and leave it to naturally mulch down. Leave it till spring/summer for a mulch or leave it a whole year for a great compost.

-- Gemma Dray

Autumn Leaf Mulch


With the onset of autumn, many will be sweeping leaves from their lawns and paths. The big question is what to do with them?

Rather than burning, which seems to be the preferred tradition in the UK, leaves are a valuable source of structure and basic nutrient. Creating a leaf mould pit is a good way of recycling nature's bounty and gives you a source of soil improvement, a rich mulch for the borders and reduces the need for watering.

There are several ways to make a leaf mould area depending on the size of your plot;
• For a big plot, you can build a large leaf pit, from pallets or wood.
• For the smaller garden, buy the purpose made string/plastic bags and fill them accordingly.
• Make a small area for leaves decomposition using plastic or metal mesh.

The key to any leaf mould is composting time. Good leaf mould should be left for at least a year, perhaps two if the leaves are of high tanic value (such as oak leaves). If it dries out, water it. Over the period of a year turn it at least once, letting in air and stopping any possible anaerobic activity. The final leaf mould should be a crumbly texture.

Some tips:
• If you collect the leaves on the lawn with your mower, the leaves will have been shredded making decomposition quicker.
• A small amount of leaves can be put into the household compost using the layering method.
• Burn any Horse Chestnut leaves as they are host for the leaf miner moth.

-- Guy Deakins