YDGS
Yateley and District Gardening Society

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Topical Tips.


Seasonal Reminders

Spring bulbs should be planted from October through to December, commencing with daffodils and narcissi, whereas tulips are better planted in November and December. Make sure bulbs are planted at the right depth. Daffodils and narcissi need to be 3 inches below the soil, whilst tulips need to go down at least 6 inches. A container planted with a mixture of bulbs at different depths will extend the flowering period for several weeks. Tulips and wallflowers can make ideal companions often flowering about the same time. Wallflower plants are available from garden centres and market stalls and should be planted by the end of October, space them wide enough apart for tulips to be planted in between them later on. Winter pansies and primulas can also be planted this month. They can survive the coldest of winters and make an attractive addition to containers and borders. If containers with pansies and primulas are overwintered under glass in an un-heated greenhouse or frame they will flower sooner in the spring.

Once they have died back herbaceous perennials can be divided and replanted into their new positions. To give the best start plant them in well dug soil enriched with plenty of compost and a handful of bonemeal. The first frosts of winter take effect in October and can turn a colourful display of dahlias into a brown and sorry sight overnight. The stems should be cut back to just above ground level and provided they do not become waterlogged and frozen they may survive in place over the winter to flower another year. But to play safe they are better dug up and stored in a frost-free place over the winter, preferably in a container of moist compost to prevent them from drying out completely. Next spring they can be started off in trays of compost to produce shoots from which cuttings may be taken or they can be planted out directly in their flowering positions.

Give evergreen hedges their last trim of the year, but be careful to avoid cutting into the brown parts as they will struggle to come green again next year. Give rose bushes a trim to protect them from strong winds loosening their roots, but do not cut back completely as this should be done next spring.

In the vegetable garden tidy up the remains of summer crops such as runner beans, marrows and courgettes which give up once the nights turn cold. Consign as much waste to the compost heap or bin as possible and encourage the rotting process by covering with plastic sheeting or an old carpet to conserve heat and moisture. Ideally have at least two or more compost bins or heaps on the go so that the contents of one can be aerated by transferring from one to the other. In that way more heat will be generated that will hasten the composting process. Anyone doing this will soon discover that it is not only the compost that gets warm in the process!

Plant garlic and red onion sets in October and sow Aquadulce/Claudia broad beans in late November/early December as they are very hardy and will emerge in the Winter months unaffected by severe frosts, whereas other varieties are not recommended for autumn sowing.

As the days begin to lengthen and hopefully become warmer life returns to the garden so that by April the snowdrops and crocuses will have given way to the daffodils with the promise of tulips to follow later in the month and during early May. But this not the time to sit back and enjoy the splendours of Spring if the garden is to remain colourful and productive in the coming months. April and May are possibly the busiest months of the year in the garden but one does not garden by the calendar alone, until the soil has warmed up seeds and plants will struggle to germinate and flourish. So most of the following advice needs to be applied as and when the weather permits.



Lawns


Most lawns have accumulated moss over the winter and are also in need of feeding. So begin by raking out as much moss as possible (which can be saved in plastic bags to line hanging baskets) and apply some general purpose fertiliser or lawn feed. Some products also contain sulphate of iron to control moss. Wait until later in the spring before applying any selective weed-killers if you cannot live with daisies and dandelions. When mowing the lawn for the first time adjust the mower so as not to cut too closely.


Flowering borders


For an inexpensive and quick way of achieving colour later in the summer try sowing a selection of flowering annuals directly into the soil where they are intended to flower. Broadcast the seed into finely raked soil, rake the seed in and water during dry periods. Sow taller varieties to the back of the border and shorter ones to the front. Any of the following are suitable and will not require transplanting, though some thinning-out may be required - calendulas, cornflowers, clarkia, coreopsis, godetia, helichrysum (straw daisies),lavatera (annual mallow) and nigella (love-in-a-mist). For those who prefer to buy established plants the YDGS will have its usual stall with a range of bedding and vegetable plants for sale at the May Fayre. To add height to summer borders try growing lilies and gladioli in pots and containers. Plant them in compost and water with a liquid tomato feed to encourage flowering. They can be moved into position as they come into flower. Dahlia tubers are best planted directly into the border or started off in containers for planting out once they have produced some shoots. Both dahlias and delphiniums rank as gourmet food for slugs so surround them with wood ash, grit or broken egg-shells to deter these voracious pests as tender shoots emerge through the soil.


Shrubs


Wait until June before discarding any shrubs that may have succumbed during the winter, as they may appear dead in April and May before springing back to life again. Feed all shrubs with fertiliser and apply a mulch of compost or wood bark to help suppress weeds and retain moisture. Shrubs can also be planted in early spring, preferably in a large hole filled with a mixture of soil and compost to which some bonemeal should be added. Keep watering in dry conditions to help the roots to get established in the first year after planting.


Vegetable plot


Once the soil has warmed up make sowings of carrots, parsnips, beetroot, spinach, peas and broad beans during April and early May. Runner beans and French beans can be sown outdoors in May and June; for an earlier crop sow some seeds in pots indoors during April for planting out in late May once the danger of frosts has passed. Make sowings of winter vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cabbages and purple/white sprouting broccoli for planting out in June.


In the greenhouse


Sow courgettes and cucumbers one seed to a pot for planting out in May, then cover plants at night with fleece or large pots at night to protect from late frosts. In unheated greenhouses tomato plants can be planted during May. It is possible to grow from seed by sowing in April, but if you enjoy a mixture of different types it can be cheaper and less arduous to buy plants than several different varieties of seed.

By July and August most of the important jobs have been done and it is a time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labours from earlier in the year. It is largely a time for maintenance to ensure the garden looks its best well into autumn. By late September it is time to start preparing for next year by planting spring bulbs.


Flowers

Plants in containers and baskets must not be allowed to dry out so keep watering and feeding. Keep picking sweet peas to ensure lots more flowers. Sow wallflowers in July for planting out in the autumn. Trim lavender in August to remove old flower spikes and encourage bushy growth next year. Cut back any perennials that have finished flowering to prevent them from collapsing and smothering other plants still in their prime. Give support to dahlias and other late flowering plants, dead-head them to prolong flowering. In September take cuttings of tender perennials including geraniums and fuchsias to over-winter under glass, protected from frosts.


Shrubs

Thin and shorten rambler roses after they have finished flowering. . Feed roses with potash rich fertiliser in early July and keep dead-heading to encourage a second flush of flowers. Keep hydrangeas well watered, especially if grown in containers.


In the greenhouse

Give tomatoes support by training up canes or string, pinch out side-shoots and feed weekly with a liquid feed once the first truss has set fruit. Keep the greenhouse well ventilated and apply shading if it gets hot. Dampen down the floor every morning and evening to discourage red spider. Plants are best watered in the evening using water that has been left in the can all day to warm up so the roots are not chilled.


Vegetable plot

Keep sowing salad crops, such as lettuce and radish to ensure a succession into the autumn. Finish planting out winter vegetables such as leeks, cabbages, sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflowers. Protect carrots from carrot root fly using horticultural fleece after thinning and harvesting. In August let onions die back and dry off before harvesting, then store in net bags in a dry well ventilated place. Spray runner bean flowers with water to encourage them to set in hot dry weather. In September sow winter lettuce (Winter Density) and spinach.


Fruit

In early summer protect developing and ripening soft fruit from birds with netting, pigeons are particularly fond of blackcurrants. In August cut back fruited canes of summer fruiting raspberries to ground level. Refrain from picking all the rhubarb stems, by allowing some to die back in late summer to feed the crown. In September plant out new strawberry plants made from rooted runners potted up earlier in the summer.

September/October

As the days draw shorter and the nights become cooler the garden begins to take on an Autumnal appearance and may appear less inviting. Yet there is still much to be done outdoors to tidy up and ensure the garden is full of colour next Spring. In the flower garden dahlias will remain in blossom until the first frosts, then one morning a brown and bedraggled display will greet the eye. The time will have come to cut the stems back to ground level and gently prise the tubers out of the soil so they can be stored in a frost -free place over Winter. In recent mild Winters they have survived left in place, so if you are prepared to risk it then they may emerge unscathed next Spring. But to be on the safe side they are best lifted, laid out in a frost free place for a few days for any excess soil to fall away, then stored over Winter in paper sacks or mesh bags to ensure the free circulation of air so they can properly dry off. Never store them in plastic bags as they will rot.

Falling leaves not only look untidy but if allowed to remain on lawns will damage the grass so they are best collected and turned into compost. Unlike green garden waste, leaves rot down more slowly and are best contained in a wire mesh enclosure where they can get wet and air can penetrate. Even so, it can take 12-18 months for them to be transformed into friable leaf-mould, a superb and environmentally friendly substitute for peat when planting or making potting composts. They can be added to the compost heap provided they are well mixed in with green material, lawn mowings are ideal, which provides the nitrogen to ensure they rot down more quickly. By spring they will be ready to enrich the borders as a mulch to suppress the weeds or dig in to the vegetable plot.

Looking into next year now is the time to propagate strawberry plants growing in hanging baskets using the runners that begin to show tiny roots, often as mere bumps. Cut off the runners, trim them tidily then place them in a deep saucer of water for a week for the roots to begin to grow. Once they are underway pot up into small pots and leave them in a sheltered spot outdoors over winter, ensuring they do not become water-logged. In the Spring they can be planted in hanging baskets, given a liquid feed high in potash (tomato feed will do) and allowed to flourish in a sunny spot to ensure a supply of delicious fruit. Just think how much you have saved by not needing to buy new plants!

From now until the end of November is the time to plants bulbs, daffodils and narcissi need to go in early, whereas tulips can be planted up to the end of November. Planting at the right depth is important. As a general rule the base of the bulb for narcissi needs to be 3 inches below the soil, whereas tulips need to go down at least 6 inches. Always check the planting instructions when buying new bulbs. This provides an opportunity to plant containers with layers of different bulbs for a mixed display that can last for weeks. Ensure containers have a drainage hole so they do not get water-logged.


November

Autumn-sown broad beans are often the first to crop and can be more resistant to black fly attack. Not all varieties are suited to Autumn sowing but Aquadulce and Claudia are very hardy and will emerge in the Winter months unaffected by severe frosts and snow covering. Sow about 1½ inches deep in double rows, spacing seeds about 6 inches apart, sow a few extras at the end of the row to transplant if there are any gaps when they emerge.

Sweet peas can also be sown in an unheated greenhouse or cold-frame this month. Try sowing them individually in toilet rolls filled with compost standing in a seed tray of compost to keep them upright and to provide the roots with extra space. Sow about 1 inch deep, keep watered and protect from mice which find the seeds a Winter delicacy. By January the seedlings will have emerged, keep them under glass in a sunny place to prevent them going lanky. When they have produced two sets of leaves the growing tips can be pinched out to encourage side shoots, but not all agree that this is necessary.


December

Even on the coldest of days there are jobs to be done outdoors. Check that plant supports remain in place to prevent wind damage to roots, compost the last of the fallen leaves, dig over the vegetable plot, dig up, divide and replant herbaceous perennials such as phlox, Michaelmas daises (Asters), astrantias, and rudbeckias Harvest evergreen stems with berries for indoor decoration. Get inspired by seed catalogues for next year.

Responding to the vagaries of our unpredictable climate is an ever constant challenge for gardeners with the Winter months being particularly challenging. What may be possible in mid-February one year may not be sensible until late March the next so the timing of some of these recommendations may well need adjusting!


January


Composting

On even the coldest days some jobs can still be tackled such as turning the compost and applying it to the surface of flower beds and vegetable plots. The secret of making well rotted compost is to aerate it by turning it. Ideally a minimum of two compost bins are needed so that as one of them is applied to the garden the contents of the other one are transferred into empty one. That way it all gets mixed up and air introduced. When applied as a mulch to flower beds it suppresses weeds and helps to keep the soil warm in Winter. It can also be dug into the vegetable plot in readiness for hungry crops such as potatoes that will be planted in the Spring.


In the greenhouse

The Winter months are an ideal time to clear the greenhouse of plant debris from last year and to apply disinfectant in order to reduce the chance of pests and diseases becoming a problem. All surfaces including the glass (inside and out) should first be washed to remove dirt, then disinfected using Jeyes Fluid (available from most garden centres). The removal of dirt and algae from the glass is especially important so that as much light as possible can penetrate during the Winter months when light levels are low.


Shrubs

Resist the temptation to cut back shrubs such as buddleia and hydrangeas during the winter months. The dead flowers on buddleia contain seeds for the birds and these stems are best left until the spring when they can be then cut back to a main stem. Flowers will be produced on the new growth later in the Summer. In contrast, hydrangeas produce their flowers on growth made the previous year so only remove the weak or bent stems. Stems bearing old flowers should be cut back to a strong pair of buds.


February


Vegetable plot

Towards the end of the month plastic sheeting can be placed over the soil where it is planned to make early sowings of vegetable such as lettuce, carrots, beetroot and parsnips. This will help the soil to warm up and also divert excess rain from the seedbed.


Fruit trees

Complete pruning of apples and pears and plant new trees with a supporting stake.



March


Vegetables

Early potato varieties such as Arran Pilot, Epicure and Ulster Chieftan can be started off by placing the seed tubers in a tray in a cool, light, frost-free place in order to encourage the production of shoots (a process known as ‘chitting’). Once they have produced shoots about 1-2 cm they can be planted. For an early crop try growing them in large pots under glass or in a sheltered position where they can be protected from frost.

Sow early varieties of carrot, such as Amsterdam Forcing, in large pots/containers placed in a greenhouse or directly into the soil under glass. Sow the seeds thinly in rows or preferably broadcast when in containers. Later in the month sow directly outdoors along with parsnips, lettuce, broad beans and peas once the soil has warmed up.