Tag: gardener

July Tips from the Head Gardener

Summer’s progressing 

Our sense of time is a bit out of alignment these days –  lockdown has meant that many of us have been looking inwards and at our gardens. We’ve been noticing change and growth perhaps more acutely than ever before. But even so .. we lockdown and the beginning of spring and now summer is well on its way… how did that happen?

Here in the garden at the start of the month we are busy finishing the summer bedding displays. Risk of frost is surely passed and the summer plants that went in a few weeks ago have established and are flowering. It is really important though to water these temporary residents if rainfall is lacking. They won’t put on their best show if they are struggling to survive and desperately thirsty.

We have all rediscovered our love of hanging baskets this year. All kinds of improvised and hand nurtured baskets and containers are seen around peoples front  doors and on balconies. Now, just because you can go out, don’t neglect their love and care. Any reserves of goodness in the compost, or within the plants themselves, are being used up for growing and flowering. A regular feed with some water soluble fertiliser will ensure your baskets keep looking vibrant. You’ll  need to water your baskets everyday by now as the sun dries out the compost very quickly. So feeding them while watering is no extra work for you.

‘Dead heading’

Flowers, just like bird song, are not there to please our eyes – or ears. The plant produces flowers as part of its main job – to reproduce itself for next year. It is merely a happy side effect that we humans like the look of flowers. So, armed with that knowledge we can intervene and try to help the plant produce more flowers for our benefit.. Once a plant has flowered and set seed it’s job is complete, so will relax …and die back. The answer for us humans is to fool the plant by removing all the old flower heads and it will keep on trying to reproduce by pushing out lots more lovely flowers.

A time of plenty in the Veg. plot

In the vegetable patch you can now start to reap the benefits of all the extra time you’ve been able to put in over the last few months by harvesting some of the crops you have been caring for.

Items such as salad leaves, peas and beans should be ready to eat and weeding around the vegetables becomes easier. With the heat of the sun any small weeds can be hoed off and will frazzle and die. Happy eating and keep growing your own food… Hyper local is good!

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Gardening Tips for May

Gardener’s Tips for May

It is now time to give your borders some attention. All the sunshine and showers means the garden should now be at its vibrant best. Remove any faded spring bedding at the end of the month, it’s served you well but it’s time for a change and old bedding can be put in the compost bin to go back on the garden next year as mulch.

Once the risk of frost has passed (what do you think?), plant out summer bedding and ensure it is kept well watered so it can establish.

Ensure any perennial weeds are swiftly removed and hoe off any annual weeds , don’t let them get the chance to flower and seed as this will greatly increase your workload. Tie in any shoots of climbing  plants in your border. Plants like clematis are easier to manage when offshoots are short and young, if you allow them to get too long it’s almost impossible to prise them away from other plants they get tangled up in without snapping.

Hanging baskets

If you want hanging baskets plant them up now and allow them to establish for a few weeks in a frost free space make sure that when you put them out you keep them well watered, pick off the dead flowers and give them a liquid fertiliser feed every few weeks this should keep your hanging baskets flowering throughout the summer. 

Veggy times

You can start to harvest rhubarb this month, twist the stem at the base of the plant but ensure you leave a few stems on each crown.

Don’t strip it bare as the plant needs to be able to feed its own crown.  Continuing with this  theme on the vegetable plot, if you have asparagus ensure that you stop cutting to leave some spears to grow at the end of the month. They produce a lovely ferny foliage which is

needed by the asparagus crown to capture sunlight to replenish its crown for next year. Potatoes that were planted in April  (oh yes they were!) can now be earthed up, by drawing up mounds of soil up around the plant this will help the potatoes create more tubers from the buried stems and increase your crop.

You may have been mowing for a few months now, but it’s time to establish a regular routine. Mowing weekly will ensure you get a denser turf. A denser turf means a better looking lawn and less opportunity for weeds to establish – No don’t be tempted to do it too often because your ‘just want to get out there!’  

For further tips follow the link to view the RHS Gardening Tips for #nationalgardeningweek https://www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/national-gardening-week/

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Gardener’s Tips for April

A few hints and tips from our excellent Gardener’s for the month of April:

Things should be moving along pretty quickly now the highlight at the start of the month has to be tulips and with April’s sunshine and showers plants are growing at pace but there are a few things that you can do at the start of the month to reduce your workload later on. 

Applying a layer of mulch around trees and perennials before the warmer weather arrives not only will keep the moisture locked in but it will stop a lot of weeds from emerging saving you valuable time later on in the season that can be spent doing other important garden jobs .  

Give your plants a feed, trees shrubs and hedges will benefit from a slow release fertiliser. Roses are especially greedy plants feeding will aid flowering in June. You can buy specialist rose fertiliser but any fertiliser that contains a mix of potassium nitrogen and phosphorus will be beneficial. 

Sow any hardy annuals now in their final positions these fast growing plants are a cheap way to fill a border with colour during the summer plants such as pot marigolds, Californian poppies and cornflowers are good choices. Those annuals that are a little more tender and don’t like the cold can be sown undercover now in pots and placed out once the risk of frost has passed. 

In the vegetable garden it’s time to plant out your potatoes, early crops can be planted at the start of the month and main crops at the end of the month. Courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins can now be sown individually in 5cm pots undercover and tomatoes, aubergines chillies and sweetcorn should now be sown undercover as they need a long growing season to produce their fruits. Don’t forget to thin out any seedlings that were sown in March, in order to reach their full potential plants need space as well as sunshine and showers. 

It’s a good time to completely empty any compost bins for mulching. Hibernating animals should now have woken and moved on, but still be careful as you don’t want to spear any frogs or hedgehogs with a garden fork. 

Stay safe all, and hope to see you again soon. The next Gardener’s tips will be posted at the beginning of May  CBHGT x

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#wegrowtogether: a guide to companion planting

There’s a lot of wisdom out there amongst professional and amateur gardeners. Much folklore and science knowledge handed down from generation to generation. 

In the post second world war  ‘nuke everything with a chemical’ era, a lot of native knowledge about what grew well with what, was lost and indeed strongly poo-poohed as ‘magic’ and superstition.

Thankfully since then, largely due to the Organic Gardening lobby, a more rational approach and some good scientific studies have been instrumental in making the practice of ‘companion planting’ an accepted practice amongst mainstream gardeners.

In our veg. and herb garden (the Batty Langley), we tend to mix some pre-18th century practices with some modern wisdom. We don’t use chemicals and plant calendula, nasturtiums, borage, comfrey etc plants amongst the vegetables to encourage beneficial insects.

On the Schools plot we have also experimented with ‘Three Sisters’ planting. This is a techniques used primarily by native north american peoples and combines three main agricultural crops winter squash, maize (corn), and climbing beans.

“The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to        climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other  plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a “living mulch”, creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and all eight essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)

There is quite a lot of information out there on the web but we thought we would share a guide made by one of our helpful commercial partners, FirstTunnels.

Click here to be taken to their very comprehensive site

https://www.firsttunnels.co.uk/page/Companion-Planting-Guide

 

 

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The Strawberry Tree

  The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is a easy tree or shrub to identify, having both flowers and fruit present at the same time. The strawberry (or I think more like lychee) like fruit take up to a year to ripen, so as last year’s fruits turn red, the flowers that will form next year’s fruit start to appear. The fruit is said to be edible, although not very tasty, which may be hinted at in it’s Latin name ‘unedo‘; coming from unum edo ‘I eat one’ – meaning after you have eaten one you wouldn’t want another one? Having not yet tried one I couldn’t say! Which is good news for the birds, leaving plenty of fruit for them to feast on during the colder months.

A member of the Ericaceae family of plants, most commonly known as heather, the flowers bear a strong resemblance to those of heathers, with bell-like downward facing flowers in small clusters.

You may have also seen this plant in a well known Morris & Co. design, used in fabrics and wallpapers where you can clearly see the red fruits and white flowers.

Have a wander down to the Lower Wilderness to have a closer look at these interesting plants..

 

 

 

 

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Kale

This week I planted out 40 Kale plants in the Batty Langley vegetable garden that have been quietly growing along in the greenhouse since September. We are trying three varieties, ‘Red Russian’, ‘Cavolo Nero’ and ‘Borecole – Green Curled Dwarf’.

Kale does well over the colder months, so will hopefully add some interest in the garden over the following darker months. As pigeons take a fancy to stripping the foliage off plants in the Brassica family, the precaution of placing net over the kale plants has been necessary to stop them becoming just tattered stems!

I have used two beds to grow the kale in, with 20 plants in each one, and to create a neat formal look the use of a tape measure was implemented to ensure even spacing.

The botanical name for kale is Brassica oleracea var. acephala, ‘Brassica’ being the genus consisting of cabbages, ‘oleracea’ meaning that the plant can be used as a vegetable and ‘acephala’ meaning ‘without a head’, i.e that the plant is loose leafed rather than with a head as many cultivated cabbages have. Kale has a long history as a food crop, being one of the most important green vegetables in Europe up until the end of the Middle Ages.

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New plants from old

At this time of year a lot of plants are starting to go to seed, so it is a good time to go around and collect some of them so we can grow new plants for next year. Some can be sown straight away (as we are doing so in the greenhouses), others can be stored to be sown in the spring. We are also taking cuttings of some of the plants in the garden, and hopefully by next spring we will have lots of lovely plants to sell or plant back out in the garden.

We are trying seeds collected from plants including Alcea (hollyhock), Lychnis (rose campion), Lupin, Astrantia, Galega (Goat’s Rue), Poppy and Phlomis. Some, such as Lychnis, have already germinated, others we are still eagerly awaiting for signs of life! The interesting thing about seeds is the genetic variation that can occur, so often the resulting plants will show some variation from the parent, especially in the case of the hollyhocks, where the colour of the flowers on each plant will be a surprise!

Cuttings taken include Lavender, Rosemary, Jasmine and Philadelphus. These are all semi-ripe cuttings taken from this year’s growth, so the base is firm but with soft growth still on the tips. They are put in pots together, and then when roots start to show at the base of the pot, they will be separated and given their own pot to grow on. Unlike seeds, cuttings create clones of the parent plant, so you know exactly what you are going to get.

We look forward to seeing how our seeds and cuttings do, and in the meantime they have a trusty guardian to keep an eye on them!

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Cyclamen hederifolium

If you take a walk along the top of the Upper Wilderness to the far end and gaze underneath the large Yew tree, you will see the tiny but perfectly formed Cyclamen hederifolium coming into flower. A mixture of pink and white, the tiny flowers appear before the foliage, which as its name suggests is ivy-shaped (‘hederifolium’ coming from the Latin ‘Hedera’ for ivy, ‘folium’ refering to the leave shape). The common name ‘ivy-leaved cyclamen’ is self-explanatory, but its other common name ‘sowbread’ intrigued me. A bit of research concluded that it comes from the fact that ‘The root resembled a loaf and pigs were believed to enjoy eating it’.1  

Cyclamen coils

This plant originates in the Mediterranean, and was introduced into Britain around 1596, so would have been available in the early 18th century when the gardens were at their peak.

After the flowers have been pollinated, the stem coils around to take the seed heads closer to the ground, forming interesting little corkscrews underneath the flowers that you can see if you look closely. The reason they do this is not clear, but a possible theory is that ants may distribute the seeds further from the parent plant. All in all, a very interesting plant that is worth a closer look!

1. Campbell-Culver, M. 2001. Origins of plants: the people and the plants that shaped Britain. London: Headline Book Publishing.

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De Wit de woooo!

De Wit make garden tools – of consummate beauty

Two members of the amazingly talented garden toolmakers, de Wit, made a flying and unexpected visit to the Gardens today.

My, we’re all of aglitter and aglow!

Sietse and Derk-klass de Wit had just flown in to be part of the GLEE garden show at the NEC, but instead of hanging around their stall they hopped into a taxi for a quick whizz round our Gardens.

dewit-logoDe Wit are a family firm based in the Netherlands, but their exquisite hand forged garden tools are known and revered worldwide. See their stunning site here The Garden Tool Factory. If you follow our facebook page you will see many shared photos by their brother Derk de Wit who takes the most inspiring photographs of gardens.

Special affinity

Dutch born Captain William Winde, cousin to the Bridgeman family, heavily influenced the design of our gardens in the late 17th century, so, Dutch style and quality is a long term companion for us.sietse-de-wit-and-glynis

We sell a small selection of the carbon steel and ash handled tools in our shop,  they are not cheap but they do literally last a lifetime and acquire a handsome patina with use. If there is a serious gardener in your life, here is where you will find that special gift.

To top the day for me, Sietse also offered to support our volunteer gardeners by supplying them with some tools too. Our cup runneth o’er.

 

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hallmoor students celebrate the harvest

Harvest for Hallmoor pupils

First visit of term for Hallmoor school pupils

We were pleased to welcome back Hallmoor school pupils today. A class of pupils comes every Friday to learn gardening skills, cultivate their patch of land and grow vegetables.

Before the summer break they had planted, hoe’d and weeded the plot….and today they saw it had all played off. A bumper crop of beans, onions and pumpkins and more to come.

Well done kids…next stop, planting the winter veg

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