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Blog posts tagged with 'rob amey'

New Year, New Garden

As much as I long for sunny days, winter is a great time to make structural changes in your garden and get some key jobs done. I’ve been repairing the rabbit fencing, putting in the foundations for a new shed and generally getting myself sorted in time for spring. I’ve also put up my new clock. There’s a good range available at Town and Country.



Practical advantages of winter work include the fact that you can transplant even large shrubs this time of year without damage. Any changes won’t mean newly planted flowers drying out before they’ve had chance to establish.

Pen out any design ideas you have for your garden. Large borders with generous soft landscaping cost less than lots of hard landscape. You may wish to introduce new materials or new plants into your garden. Or perhaps you want to go all out this year with a water feature, hot tub or swimming pool!

Many people consider their garden to be a place to relax and socialise, so a comfortable, low-maintenance environment is popular. A patio or timber deck is ideal. You can keep costs down by choosing decking over paving. A more affordable option still is to lay an aggregate material such as gravel or chipped wood for a patio. This is a much easier option for the DIY-er.

Once you’ve chosen a location, ideally somewhere sunny and not too overlooked by neighbours, clear the sites completely of weeds and debris. Remove as many of the weeds as possible, then lay a layer of good-quality geotextile membrane, overlapping any edges by 500mm. You’ll need a raised edge to retain the aggregate, but simple timber boards supported by stakes should do the trick. Lastly, spread your chosen material evenly with a rake to a depth of 50mm. After a couple of weeks it will have compacted so top it up as necessary.

-- Rob Amey

Don’t forget the birds this winter

 



If you want to help birds over the winter months, then a few careful considerations on planting will do just the trick. To encourage birds into the garden, plant a mixed hedgerow of native species plus some standard edible trees, bushes and berry-bearing vines. This can include rowan, holly, whitebeam, spindle, dog rose, guilder rose, elder, hawthorn, honeysuckle and ivy. Cotoneaster, pyracantha and berberis are especially good forage for a wide range of birds. Pyracantha makes a lovely show of red berries which are only palatable after hard frosts.

Winter is a good time to plant trees, shrubs and hedgerow plants. Nest boxes put up in time for spring may be used by birds as a warm refuge in colder weather.   I also put feeders out full of high energy seed mixes and peanuts. Fat balls made from lard and seeds provide a valuable energy supply too. Keep your bird baths ice free too, so that birds can still take a drink. Activity in your garden will soon pick up and wildlife will become more visible as winter’s grip gets looser and the shoots of spring start to show through.


-- Rob Amey

Good Garden-keeping



Here’s some general good habits for gardeners to keep...

1. Keep all your tools clean and in good condition. Rub sandpaper over rusty tools to clear the rust away.

2. Store your garden equipment in a dry shed. Hang on walls if possible to keep off damp floors.

3. Keep your electrical equipment indoors.

4. Keep shears sharpened.

5. Always wash flower pots before and after use.

6. See a weed, remove it directly!

7. Always keep deadheading to keep flowers going for longer.

8. Always do planting in the morning or evening, never in the heat of the day.

9. Always keep your eye out for pests and deal with them straight away.

10. Always stake fruit trees and plants well so that the wind doesn’t take them away.

11. Keep your soil well hoed and weed free.

12. Keep your greenhouse glass clean in the winter.

13. Pick off suckers directly they appear.

14. Water cacti and greenhouse plants around the sides of the pots and never over them.

15. For tubs, pots and flower baskets, push your finger an inch or two into the soil to be sure there is adequate moisture below throughout the root area.

16. Protect plants especially tender ones from sustained cold and frost.

17. Keep paths and driveways clean to keep them free of mosses and lichens.

18. Pick fruit and vegetables as soon as they are ripe – they need to be eaten when they are at their best.

19. Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ready for maximum flavour.

20. To care for your houseplants, clean dust from the leaves with a damp cloth, control pests, deadhead as necessary, water as required. Keep away from heat.

-- Rob Amey

Top 20 Tasks for August in the garden

 


1. Weed strawberry beds and cut off old leaves from your strawberry plants to keep plants healthy. You need to replace your strawberry plants every year, so plant out pot grown rooted runners in a new bed next month.

2. The end of August is the ideal time to sow grass seed and repair any bare patches

3. This month, store all apples, pears and plums

4. August is a good time to get ahead by planting hardy annuals instead of waiting for the spring. They can easily be transplanted in the spring. You may lose a few during the winter, but those that do survive will be stronger than those sown in spring. Choose cornflowers, Nigella, larkspur, scabious, eschscholtzia and Shirley poppies.

5. Prune rambler roses shortly after the blooms have faded. Detach shoots from their supports. You can use these as cuttings to form roots in jars of water.

6. Clip hedges

7. Plant early flowering bulbs – crocus, squill, winter aconite, chionodoxa and snowdrops.

8. After the last crop of broad beans, cut down the stems to a few inches of the ground, fork the surface around them and water thoroughly. A fresh crop of new shoots will shortly appear producing a second crop of small beans which should be harvested regularly.

9. Boil rhubarb leaves. Use the water as a spray against aphids.

10. Bend onion leaves over at the neck to check further growth and encourage ripening.

11. Harvest spring onions and sow onions for next year’s crop.

12. Sow winter spinach.

13. Pot bulbs of hyacinth, narcissus and early daffodils.

14. Take cuttings of lavender, berberis, aucubas and ceanothus and keep in a cold frame where they will soon root.

15. Clean and paint your greenhouse.

16. Deadhead regularly to encourage flowering to go on longer.

17. Continue hoeing to keep the weeds down.

18. Check fencing and trellis are secure for the winter months.

19. Keep alpine plants tidy by cutting back the stems.

20. Give scruffy bedding plants, such as nemesia and lobelia a trim to keep them producing more flowers by cutting back the plants with secateurs to about half their height.

-- Rob Amey

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

What’s orange and boring and lives at the bottom of the garden…?

Answer...a garden shed! When we moved house four years ago I needed one to store my tools and do a bit of potting while I transformed the wilderness that accompanied our new home. I built the shed equivalent of Dale Winton. Why do all commercially bought sheds look as if they’ve been ‘tangoed’?

My previous shed had been tucked away under a huge lilac tree. Fragrant roses and honeysuckle scrambled over it and mature shrubs almost hid it from view. It was my little sanctuary, a den to which I could flee and where, while transplanting seedlings and potting up bulbs, I could forget the stresses of the day. My new shed was the only vertical feature on an otherwise bleak landscape of stony soil. I couldn’t live with it but how could I disguise it? Shrubs would take a few years to establish, as would climbing roses. In the meantime it leered ‘orangely’ at me and looked...hideous.

I applied logic and a large gin and tonic to the problem. If I had already had mature shrubs I could simply have painted it black or very dark green so it would have blended with the shadows. No such luck. There was nothing for it, I’d have to make a feature of it. I hit the garden centre to check out colours. I was amazed. Timber preservative manufacturers now produce a vast range of beautiful tints. I could have painted my shed almost any shade I chose.



I toyed with a jolly red and white striped beach hut idea for a while, then spotted a jaunty yellow which I thought might be a laugh. There was also a gorgeous blue. For every colour I could imagine choosing plants to complement or contrast. In the end I settled on a soft sage green, to complement the silver leaved plants which I knew would do well in our dry, stony soil. I also indulged myself by painting the inside a light cream, which is so much brighter on overcast days.

Four years on, the heavily scented, pale pink rose New Dawn scrambles up the trellis attached to the side. The shrubs I planted to the front are beginning to provide cover and the nearby Eucalyptus provides a bit of height. My mother was inspired to paint her shed after seeing mine. Her garden is so tiny that disguise wasn’t an option. She went for vivid blue with a stained glass window! It looks stunning surrounded by vibrant pots and hanging baskets.

Why not get creative this month? Say no to orange and yes to red, blue, yellow, grey and lilac!

-- 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

The Dry Garden

Water is becoming an increasingly precious commodity. What’s a gardener to do? We want our patch to look beautiful yet we can’t rely on our hosepipe. It’s a dilemma. But if we think of it in terms of a challenge, a puzzle to be solved, the whole concept of gardening with minimal water can be a delight...honest.


A sunny patch with poor soil is the perfect place to start gardening with plants that don’t mind dry, sun-baked earth. Mediterranean plants are the ones to seek out. They include lavenders, rosemary and curry plants.

First enrich the soil with organic matter so that plants can hold on to moisture during dry spells. Well rotted compost or bagged planting mixture from a garden centre are best. You could also use spent mushroom compost. You’ll need around one bucket per square metre. Once this is dug in you can start planting. Don’t forget to include a few upright plants such as towering verbascum for contrast and interest.

Once planted, water everything thoroughly. Then cover the soil surface with a 2 inch / 5cm thick layer of small gravel. This acts as a mulch, sealing in moisture and suppressing weeds. It also acts as a canvas, showing the plants off to their best advantage. During the first year the plants will be establishing so you will need to water them when the weather is dry. After that they should be pretty self sufficient. It is possible to have a beautiful garden and save water. It just takes a little imagination.

My guru for gardening in dry conditions is Beth Chatto. Her books ‘The Dry Garden’, and ‘Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden’ are full of helpful information. They’re available at garden centres and good bookshops.

Plants which thrive in hot, dry conditions
· Allium
· Cistus - Rock Rose
· Curry Plant
· Euphorbia
· Helianthemum - Sun Rose
· Lavender
· Phlomis
· Rosemary
· Salvia Argentea
· Santolina
· Sedum
· Senecio
· Thyme
· Teucrium
· Verbascum

-- Rob Amey

Hanging Baskets

 


Want to know the secret of beautiful hanging baskets? Read on...

Properly planted hanging baskets are a glorious sight, so it’s a pity that all too often they end up looking like abandoned bird’s nests. A fabulous basket can be yours with a little preparation and lots of easy aftercare.

Plant a basket at the beginning of May to give it a fortnight or so to thicken up before hanging it in place. It can be left in a porch or a cold greenhouse or even in a sheltered spot protected with polythene.

To plant…
• Balance the basket on a large flowerpot or bucket
• Line it with a fibrous liner
• Make sure all the chosen plants are well watered in their trays or pots
• To retain moisture, place a circular piece of polythene in the base of the basket on top of the liner
• Use a soil-less multipurpose compost and mix with water retaining granules
• Put a little compost in the base of the basket
• Take each of the plants which are to form the first layer, tip it from its container and squeeze the rootball to make it small enough to fit through the basket mesh and liner - you’ll need to push a hole through the liner with your fingers first. Never feed the foliage from inside to outside, always feed roots in from the outside as the plant will suffer less damage.
• Space the plants between 10cm / 4inches and 15cm / 6inches apart around the edge of the basket
• Build up layers of compost and plants
• When the basket is filled to within 2.5cm / 1inch of the top, plant up the top with bushy plants.
• Water the basket well and make sure it never dries out. Lack of water is the biggest cause of failure. Once hung in place water every single day!
• Feed with dilute liquid tomato fertilizer once a week to keep it flowering well

NOTE: Don’t forget to check your brackets and chains before hanging. You don’t want all your hard work unceremoniously dumped in a heap on the path below!

And some plant suggestions...
Trusty Trailing Plants
These bedding plants come in beautiful trailing varieties.
- Lobelia Bidens
- Ivy-leaf pelargonium
- Lysimachia
- Fuchsia

Brilliant Bushy Basket Toppers
These cast their stems out sideways making them suitable basket toppers.
- Verbena
- Petunia
- Begonia
- Pelargonium
- Fuchsia

-- Rob Amey

April Garden Projects

April is the month when our thoughts turn towards the garden. It’s easy to be overwhelmed at the size of the task ahead but the simple solution is here...

What you need is a project, one which can be achieved in a morning or an afternoon and which improves a few square metres. You’ll feel you’ve achieved something wonderful and if you break the whole garden into a series of small projects it suddenly appears more manageable. Here are three to get you started...



Strawberry Pots
You don’t need a huge patch to enjoy growing strawberries. Plant a few in pots as a treat. Buy young, rich green plants certified virus free. Plant 3-4 to a 12 inch (30cm) clay pot. The crowns (where shoots meet roots) should be level with the compost surface. Water them in and stand in the shelter of a house wall. If you have a greenhouse or a cold frame they will establish more quickly and fruit earlier. Pinch off any runners (slender, horizontal stems) which form.


Seating
Don’t forget an all-weather seat so you can sit and contemplate all your hard work over a cup of tea or a nip of something stronger. Teak from renewable resources is fantastic but cast iron or aluminium is good though you’ll need a cushion to protect your posterior on cold days! Position it in a sunny area. Buy a few flowering daffodils, tulips and pansies and plant them in a pretty pot next to the bench...lovely.

Grass
Lawns always look bedraggled after the winter. Remove dead grass by raking the surface with a wire toothed rake. Improve drainage on heavy soil by spiking it with a garden fork every 6 inches (15cm) or so to a depth of about 4 inches (10cm). Give the fork a good wiggle each time. Sweep sharp sand into the holes with a broom. Then mow the lawn with the blades set on high and remove the clippings. Two weeks later apply a combined weed killer and fertilizer. If you’re lucky it will rain within 24 hours. If not just water it in. Mow weekly to keep the lawn thick and healthy.