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Blog posts tagged with 'pruning'

Mid-Summer

Seeing as we are now, annually speaking, over the hill - having witnessed last week the `Mid-Summer` solstice- I am sure you are wondering what is left to do in the garden whilst we await patiently for the first signs of Autumn and the inevitable Christmas adverts on TV?

Well, there is a lot.

Despite the fact that somewhere our societal calendar has stepped away from tradition and now follows the schools, the garden believe it or not has much to offer.

Your lawns, I am sure could do with a good feed, but instead of running out to the shops and buying some ecologically damaging chemical or other, try a light dressing of something called 7X. If you are not sure what I am talking about, it is a bag of well rotted manure-cum-compost (not an Australian beer), available at the garden centre, high in the vital nutrient nitrogen and perfect for summer feed. It doesn`t smell either and can be walked on immediately unlike the chemicals.

Also, as I am sure the lawn has already seen a fair amount of use, despite the mixed weather, it may be an idea to spike your lawn, offering the roots some air and reducing compaction damage. This can be done with a fork.

Another job for the diligent is the dead-heading of flowering shrubs and roses. Whilst you may extend the flowering season, you are also helping the plant divert its resources from producing off-spring to the vital role of keeping itself healthy.

Indeed, as shrubs finish flowering, it is a good idea to prune them to shape, or perhaps a little harder in order that they still have a chance to grow back into shape and to grow the buds for next year’s flower. Plants like Kolkwitzia, Philadelphus and Deutzia appreciate this treatment more than a general tidy at the end of this year’s play. In fact, it is directly after flowering that these shrubs do well to have the old wood cut out entirely - letting in more air and light and ultimately producing a better plant.

Another great job for the meticulous is weeding. Many see the task as a frustrating chore, to be bemoaned and avoided, but I myself find the exercise very Zen if that is possible for Englishman. I can let my thoughts wander to ideas of what it is to be a seedling or perhaps an ant, whilst the majority of my frontal lobe is in a well-trained auto-pilot discerning unintentional from the intentional. If during this experience, my mind goes blank, even momentarily, I have become one with the garden and Nirvana reached.

Or that`s what I`m told.

Time for a cuppa I think.

 

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.

Blackthorn Winter
 
Well, we are at the end of the blackthorn winter. If you are not sure what the blackthorn winter is, I shall endeavour to educate. In old country lore, there is a plant called the blackthorn, or if you prefer scientifically it is the Prunus spinosa. Anyway, it is said, when in flower, there is always a second winter. If you are unsure of what you are looking for, it is the bush with the horrendous thorns, the beautiful white cherry-like blossom and the incredibly tart fruit known as a sloe.  So now you know.

 

I must say, before the cold weather set in, I was enjoying the display of Magnolia flower. Many of you may be interested to know it is the very first example of an insect attracting flower, so thus it is the oldest flower design discovered in the fossil record.

 

In the garden, you may just about get away with still planting bare-rooted shrubs such as roses and raspberries, provided you give them a copious amount of food and a healthy watering.

 

Now is the time to prune some of the winter flowering plants such as Jasminum nudiflorum, Viburnum x bodnantense, Viburnum farreri and Viburnum Fragrans which should be at the end of their flowering. This early clip will allow them to grow new shoots for next year’s display, without the plant growing beyond the size you want.  This is quite an important tip for all those gardeners who want to know proper husbandry. Don’t just prune in summer or autumn randomly – try to prune the right plant at the right time, to improve the life of the plant and to improve flowering.

 

Another key plant that is in flower now is the Camellia.  All that flowering is going to leave it a little short on food, so now is the time to give it a good boost with azalea food. This will not only help it for this year, but also next. Remember, prune a Camellia just after it has flowered to give it a chance to grow next year’s buds.
Can I speak honestly?
With all this wet weather we have had I have never been so glad to have a sturdy and trustworthy pair of wellies. If you are after the very basic but practical or like to have a little more comfort, Town and Country have yet to let me down. I can’t remember another winter where I have virtually stayed in my boots and they have certainly come in handy!
 
 
 
A major chore this year has been to clean out all the drainage gullies on the large gardens and estates I look after so my feet were in contact with water for most of December and January. Thankfully, I remained warm and dry throughout.
 
To be honest and I am sure you know by now, there isn’t anywhere left for the rainwater to go, as the rivers are full and the ground is full (and hopefully the reservoirs too.) So what to do in the garden?
 
The best course of action now is to stay clear of the lawn altogether. If it was spiked in January as suggested, all you can do now is watch and wait. There is nothing else for it.
 
As for other jobs, we are in an interesting position. Apple trees need pruning in order to stop becoming biennial with fruiting. However, the level of stress they are under at the moment, I hesitate to do anything which may add disease to the mix as fungus loves this kind of weather.  A fork amongst the roots with some dry compost and sand may help aerate and alleviate issues. The same can be done with all your shrubs.
 

 

I would suggest a little known law is quite important to remember now. Any large tree or shrubs that are within ten feet of public access or your garden boundary is now, more than ever in need of inspection as it is your responsibility to make sure it is safe. The wind and rain will have seriously weakened root systems. Given that you are responsible for the safety of others near your tree, this I would suggest is of utmost importance as you may not like the surprise of a hefty insurance bill if something were to happen. A general walk-by inspection is required every year to look for any damage or danger, but once every five years it is suggested  a professional undertakes a survey.
 
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

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

Adventures in the Garden - January 2012

Happy 2012!
Well, what a year it's going to be! Britain is hosting the Olympics, the Queen is having something of a celebration, and Cambridge will win the boat race - dragging us from the embers of financial meltdown. Let us not forget a new species of tree shall be discovered (according to my tea leaves). Fully hardy, with orange leaves, purple fruit and blue bark, and having an abundance of highly scented yellow flowers all year round, it never outgrows the space it is given!



So what am I doing to brace myself for this wonderful future?
Well, having put my sharp border fork through my last pair of wellies, I am trying my new T&C pair out. Lined with the fantastic Town and Country boot socks which my wife purchased as a Christmas present, I am warm and dry.



The garden or rather the gardens I tend are looking and smelling great. The grass is green, the trees are, perhaps less so, but they are still alive which can't be bad. This month I will be pruning the apples and pear trees. I always like to leave this little chore till after Christmas as then I can be sure they are asleep and not forgetting that January is the Wassailing month - although I don't think jumping around naked at this time of year is a good idea; never mind how much cider is drunk.

There are many ways you can prune an apple, and there are many books which suggest ways it should be done. However, I recently had a meeting with a man who grows about 50 or so acres and he gave me this tip. Prune out the dead, diseased and damaged. Then prune out all the crossing branches and vertical shoots above the height you want the tree to be. Leave all the other fruiting branches that are younger than 3 years old. Oh, and another thing remember the rule, “vertical is growth, horizontal is flower.” so if you want more fruit, weigh a few branches down, or if against a wall, train them. You can't go wrong with simple instruction. Unless you've been at the cider...

-- Guy Deakins

Pruning Climbing Roses

So we find ourselves in September, the first month of Autumn and a fantastic month for many reasons. The leaves begin to turn, the Michaelmas Daisies and grasses give the garden that last flush of textural colour and let’s not forget the ‘Second or Indian Summer’- which gives plants that final burst of energy before they go into winter slumber. As Rose G. Kingsley says in ‘The Autumn Garden’, 1905 : "In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November."

September is also the month for pruning climbing roses - a task I shall find myself repeating for the coming month before leaf duty is under way.
Like shrub roses, certain rules have to be followed.


  1. Wear good gloves. (I thoroughly recommend the Town and Country Ultimax. Excellent gloves with huge versatility and finger protection.)
  2. Make sure your secateurs are sharp. Blunt blades will damage and tear the plant.
  3. Put up the training wire first. This must be at least 2mm wire to be of adequate strength. Try to use vine eyes or ‘screw-in’ eyes, rather than any old nail - when those winter storms come, you will be happy to follow this advice. Tension the wire as best as you can.
  4. Always tie the rose to the wire. Never use the tensioned wire as the tie.
  5. Always work out how you want the rose to grow before beginning to prune.
  6. First cut out the 3 Ds: The dead, diseased and damaged.
  7. Always prune just above a bud. Not too close or too far, about 1cm is adequate.
  8. Try to prune to a bud that is facing the way you want future growth remembering to cut out any stems growing in the direction of the wall.
  9. Do not worry if you think you have pruned too hard. The rose will come back if well fed.
  10. If your rose suffers from Black Spot, sweep up all the old leaves and burn. This is a genetic problem so do not be disheartened by any apparent resilience to treatments in future. It just means your rose has the ‘Persian Yellow’ rose as part of its pedigree.
  11. Feed the rose with a good root feed and mulch with well-rotted manure.


One more tip, if you are worried about cuts to your arms, a wise old head gardener I served under gave me this tip. Find an old pair of wellington boots and cut off the feet, then use the ‘ankles’ as arm guards.

-- Guy Deakins