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!
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.
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.
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/
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
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
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..