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May 2013 Newsletter

Plant summer bedding
It’s been a slow start but May is certain to be a month full of gardening activity.
Bedding plants are arriving in the post ready to transform beds and containers. But if you haven’t bought yours yet there’s still just enough time to order them! Browse online and in our catalogue for plenty of inspiration and great prices, but be quick!
Even if you’re super-organised, containers and baskets soon fill up with plants and however many plants and containers you have there’s always room for more.
I know I’ve waxed lyrical about them before but Million Kisses Begonias are splendid basket and container plants, shrugging off windy or dull weather.

Plant up baskets and containers with hardy plants that are happy outside and the plants will settle in and bulk up fast. But don’t put the half hardy and tender plants outside until all risk of frost has passed, probably not until the end of May in some parts of the UK. Acclimatise these half hardy and tender plants gradually to outside temperatures; with the long days and warmer weather they’ll soon be ready for the great outdoors!

Follow our Top tips for planting bedding displays:

  • If you are planting a lot of bedding along an edge put down a string line to keep the plants straight.
  • Position the plants on top of the soil before you plant, that way you’ll see if there are any shortfalls and rearrange or respace your scheme accordingly.
  • Rather than measuring you can use your trowel as a rough guide to spacing; position each plant at a distance of roughly a trowel blade apart.

 

Create extra growing space
Because of the cold, late spring many of the spring bulbs and early flowers are still going strong and taking up space in the garden or in containers, which means we are looking for ways of creating extra growing space in the garden.
One way to get more valuable room in the garden is to use Hazel Patio Planter Kits. They are versatile, reusable and practical, the hazel surrounds look really attractive and are a perfect solution to create extra space both for ornamentals or cut flowers such as dahlias, chrysanthemums and home grown vegetables. Because the ultra strong and sturdy, Grow Beds fit inside the hazel surrounds you can create a mini garden almost anywhere; on a patio or even a balcony. Filled with tall airy plants such as cosmos or verbena they make an attractive screen.

For a fabulous ready made ‘potager’ garden arrange four or six Hazel Patio Planters in a square or rectangle and surround with gravel. Put a standard willow in a pot where the paths cross and you have a complete formal garden without lifting a spade!
I have some that I use in the garden and the greenhouse: the strong, woven fabric Greenhouse Grow Beds are in the greenhouse filled with peppers and tomatoes while the hazel surrounds are in the veg plot used as a semi permanent raised bed filled with strawberries and to ‘fence’ off a block of sweetcorn.

 

Spice up hanging baskets.

Even if you’re a big fan of traditional basket displays there are some superb new and unusual plants around and plenty of ways to give your hanging baskets a brilliant new twist. Some of the most spectacular are perennials such as clematis and Hanging Basket Roses. These dainty, softly cascading Drift roses are a breeding breakthrough. They are free flowering, disease resistant and lightly scented; combining all the vigour of a groundcover rose with the charm of a miniature. They are easy to care for too, a quick deadhead and a light prune in spring will keep them flowering throughout the summer.
We are used to seeing clematis clambering up supports but compact Hanging Basket Clematis are equally charming with masses of flowering stems that spill out of hanging baskets.
Clematis plants are happiest with their feet in the shade and their heads in the sun- making them the perfect choice for a hanging basket in a semi-shaded position
Unlike traditional basket plants these are long-lived perennials that won’t be discarded at the end of the season so plant them into good, soil-based compost and keep the plants well fed and watered throughout the growing season.

Keep on top of weeds!
Weeds are real opportunists; left to spread they can soon take over, robbing ornamental plants of light, air, water and nutrients so it’s important to deal with them swiftly.
Weed killers are most effective when weeds are growing strongly and weather is dry so this month is the ideal time to use it. Perennial weeds such as dandelions, nettles and docks and annual weeds such as chickweed, shepherd’s purse and bitter cress seem to thrive whatever the weather so stop them in their tracks as soon as possible! Luckily there are plenty of ways to combat them.
 Resolva Lawn Weed killer targets the broadleaf weeds but leaves the grass unharmed.
Apply all weed killers on a still, dry day and make sure the whole surface of the leaves is covered.

Modern weed killers are formulated to target different areas so you can tackle weeds in the border and get rid of weeds in the lawn very efficiently. Glyphosate is completely inactive once it hits the soil so there’s no residue carried into the ground. Glyphosate weed killers are really effective and most weeds only need one application.

For large areas you can cover the weeds with weed suppressing fabric this starves weeds of light and air and it’s an ideal method of clearing areas of bare ground. It also warms up the soil and you can plant through slits made in the fabric. If chemical weed killer isn’t for you, weeding by hand is good exercise, totally organic and it works! If you are hand weeding there are plenty of tools to make the job easier.
Narrow bladed hoeing tools are great for weeding between rows. Keep hoes sharp to slice through weed stems and use a hand weeder to get all the roots out if you’re digging up dandelions or other deep-rooted perennial weeds.
Hoeing and hand weeding are ongoing tasks and the old gardeners’ saying of “one year’s seed equals seven years weed!” still holds true.

 

 

Tips for the garden...

‘Three sisters’.
This year how about trying the ‘three sisters’ method of growing vegetables? It’s a Native American method of growing sweetcorn, beans and squash together. 
The sweetcorn is grown at the back of the bed where it provides some shade and also supports the beans. The beans are grown in spaces in front of the sweetcorn and provide nitrogen to the soil, and the squash keeps the ground in front weed free!
If you fancy copying the idea buy the sweetcorn, beans and squash as young veg plants or sow seed early in the month ready to plant out at the end of the month.
Sweetcorn is an ideal crop for a sunny position and because it is wind pollinated it’s most successful when grown in a block rather than a row.

Native Americans planted beans that were destined for drying so you could use Borlotti beans or climbing French beans and dry them to use as haricot beans if you want to but I plan to grow two superb self pollinating runner beans: white-flowered Stardust and red-flowered Firestorm.
Traditional varieties of runner bean used to be very dependent on the weather but with the new self pollinating runner beans you’re guaranteed a great crop of succulent runner beans whatever the weather is doing!
I’ll grow squash but you could substitute the squash for courgettes or marrows or even melons if you have a warm sheltered spot.
Water these crops well throughout the season and harvest the sweetcorn in August and September but leave the stems intact to support the runner beans.  Harvest the squash in autumn as you clear the plot.

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Tackle pests.
Look out for pests such as lily beetles and vine weevil.
Nematodes are brilliant for controlling pests such as vine weevils; water the nematodes in to warm moist soil. All in one pest killers can also rid you of vine weevils and other pests such as lily beetles and aphids.  For an organic, but admittedly less effective solution, squash pests as you see them!

Vine weevils are drab and brown, far less showy than brilliant red lily beetles but just as destructive because they have an ongoing cycle of procreation. At any one time there can be eggs, grubs and adult beetles all in the same patch of soil. That’s a lot of potential for damage!
The give away signs of vine weevil infestation are notched leaves caused by the adults feeding on the foliage. Plants may suddenly droop and die; when you dig them up you find there are hardly any roots left, eaten away by the horrid, maggoty looking grubs.
Be careful when you tip out old compost from pots and containers, rummage through it and search for the grubs, they are easy to spot with their pale brown heads and C-shaped cream coloured bodies.
You can easily infest a whole border by unwittingly introducing them to the soil in spent compost.

Brilliant scarlet Lily Beetles are already on the move, I’ve spotted them on a stand of Crown Imperials (Fritillaria imperialis) and there were even some on a clump of Calamagrostis. Grass isn’t normally infested so it was a bit of a shock to see the distinctive red lily beetle climbing a stem. Lily beetles leave a black slimy mess that covers their young and the grubs chomp away at stems and foliage quickly disfiguring the plants. Lily Beetles are very hard to squash because the moment they spot danger they tumble to the ground and hide.

 


Reseed the lawn.
A lush velvety expanse of green lawn is top of the wish list for most gardeners; it may take a bit of extra care but nothing sets off flowerbeds better.
As grass begins to grow again in response to warmer temperatures it’s easy to see where there are patches of wear. Whether it’s just normal wear and tear, irregular growth or damage left by animals; one of the easiest ways to bring the grass back to standard is to reseed the lawn.
Choosing a nutrient coated seed such as EcoSure Grass Seed ensures fast germination.  It’s a durable blend of grasses that includes dwarf varieties so once established the grass will need less mowing.
May is a good time to do this job, while soil is warm and rainfall is likely to be high.

 


Clean up ponds.
With the prospect of a long hot summer a pond takes on a special quality; somewhere to relax and enjoy sparkling, crystal clear water, healthy plants and the flash of dragonflies’ wings. But if this doesn’t quite mirror the reality of your pond just yet, give it a little attention now and it can be!  May is the month to get to grips with clearing the pond.
Getting rid of algae and blanket weed turns a murky pond into a mirror glass and a tranquil place that’s a haven for wildlife.  While you’re cleaning the water, why not plant it up with some new pond plants; they’ll keep the oxygen balance right while looking spectacular.  Plant up the margins with moisture loving plants and add some water plants to the pond. A few water lilies floating on the surface of the water can transform even the tiniest pond into a magical place.

 

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