You have no items in your shopping cart.
RSS

Blog posts tagged with 'soil'

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.

What a start to the New Year!

I doubt many would want to be out and about in the current weather, but spare a moment to think on your plants. You may think that they will be loving all this rain, but understanding that a plant needs air as well as water, you a chance to stop the rot, before you have to expensive replacements. If you garden is well and truly sodden, now is the time to get out there and address some immediate issues.



The lawn is still growing, given the mild air currents, but it will be sitting wet – something it hates. If your garden is on anything but sand, its roots will be struggling to breath and you will need to slit or aerate the lawn. First sweep away all the debris that has collected. Then, grab a fork. Starting at a corner where you will not have to walk over it twice, insert the fork at a 45 degree angle and lift the turf slightly. It needn’t be by much, just enough to allow an air pocket. Remove the fork and repeat. The best method is to create a zig-zag of forked columns or rows across the lawn. Once you have done this, a light dressing of compost would be welcome. Try not to walk on the lawn for a week or so, to let it settle.

Alternatively, you could just use the special shoes or aerating machinery that is available, but given the amount of water that has fallen, and given snow is approaching, I am not sure this will suffice.

If there are any areas in your garden, where shrubs sit wet, try to fork the roots to give them air. Some trees even – such as the Southern Beech (Nothofagus spp.) – will rot quite quickly if in wet soil leaving you with a dead plant and an expensive headache to replace.

Ants in your lawn

I was recently asked by a client how to get rid of ants in the lawn. I have to admit that this is a difficult subject to tackle. A plague of ants in the lawn can be uncomfortable at best and at worst will destroy the lawn by creating mounds of finely tilled earth that can kill the grass.

There are proprietary branded products on the market that are supposedly good at killing ants, but from experience they have no use in the lawn as the ants do not take them back to the nest, which is what needs to happen in order to stop this problem. An old wives tale states that boiling water poured onto the nest will do the trick, but to be honest if you want a scorched lawn and a more visible ant’s nest, then this is the path for you. The problem here is the nest will be deep underground so the trick is to upset the natural balance.

Personally, I have found that the best action is a multiple approach.

The first approach is to buy a besom or a Town and Country stiff brush and just brush the mounds away; making sure the soil is dry first of course. If the soil is wet, you get an ugly smear so best wait, or instead hose the mound away. The idea here is the ants do not like to be disturbed and you will give the local jays and robins some food into the bargain.


The second phase, given the British weather is usually damp, is to dress the nest with a mixture of Armillotox and water from a watering can (follow the instructions carefully). The scent will put the ants off the lawn altogether as they communicate by chemical smell, but this may take a summer of repeat treatment to work.

Finally, there is the ultimate solution. Buy borax powder from the hardware shop and mix it with a sugar solution, making sure it is not entirely dissolved. (A sugar solution is basically a cup of water mixed with two table spoons of sugar). Place the mixture next to the nests in a small open container. The worker ants will take the concoction deep into the nest and will unwittingly poison their sisters. If the sugar solution proves too hard, mix the borax with honey. Please be aware, when dealing with poisons, be sure to wear suitable clothing and to make sure it is safe from harming others - children and pets should be kept away from the areas.

If all goes well the ant problem will disappear never to return.

- Guy Deakins


Fertilise!

What a year 2013 is going to be in the garden!



With all the recent precipitation, your soil is by now pretty much devoid of air and more importantly the nutrients have been leached away to the nearest river or down the drain, so action must be taken. In this, the month of fervent garden catch-up, we can do many things in the garden to prepare for the coming burst of colour in just a few short months to come. The first thing to do unfortunately involves the outlay of money, which is never a welcome thing to do after the excesses of Christmas.

What you will need to do, depending on the size of your garden , is simple. For a small garden, say 30 feet by 30 feet, buy 3 large bags of compost, one bag of '6x Natural Fertilizer' (if you can't find '6X' try Vitax Q4) and a box of bonemeal. Find an area to mix all the ingredients together well and get your hands dirty. Enjoy the moment, feel the textures and learn to love the soil.



If you don't like your hands getting dirty, buy a pair of Town and Country light duty gloves such as those in the Aquasure or Weedmaster ranges.

When you are satisfied that you have mixed the ingredients thoroughly, walk through your plot sowing the bounty liberally, on your lawn and through your flower beds as if you were a medieval farmer, sowing his furrowed field. Once you have enjoyed yourself, go over your garden with the fork and a cultivator. Spike your lawn as you would every autumn, and lightly turn your borders with your cultivator, being careful to avoid the daffodils and other bulbs rising to the light. If it is very wet, push your fork into the bed and wiggle it lightly – after all a plant needs air as well as water to grow!

When you are satisfied that your garden has been tended, go back indoors, put the kettle on and sit back, smug in the knowledge that you got a march on 'Gardeners World', which doesn't start again for another few weeks. The amateurs!

-- Guy Deakins