Posts tagged with “Constant Gardener”

Your garden in March

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For many gardeners, March is their favourite month. As signs of spring start to creep in, there's the opportunity to get back out into the garden, with the lighter evenings and warmer temperatures affording us a little more time in the great outdoors.

That said, gardening in March is very much led by the weather, which at this time of year can be unpredictable at best. So, while there's plenty to be done in the garden, choose smaller tasks to begin with, which take less time - that way if snow and storms do interfere (not unheard of in March!) you'll still be able to make some progress in the garden.

Container Care

There are many benefits to growing plants in containers. Not only do they help to brighten up dull corners and empty spots in the garden, they're also relatively easy to care for, once you've got everything in place.

Now is the ideal time to plant up containers, as it gives time for the roots to become established. The essential things plants in containers need are plenty of water, and a good quality compost to ensure the plant gets the ideal balance of air and water. Top dressing your containers with a compost that provides good drainage and keeps the roots from being too saturated is ideal.

Bin Benefits

Creating your own compost is easy to do, and there’s no better time to start than at the beginning of spring, so that you have the whole season ahead of you to collect that precious waste and start reaping the benefits. To get started, you need the right balance of nitrogen rich materials such as grass clippings and tree foliage, and carbon materials like wood cuttings and cardboard. Then, you’ll need somewhere to store it, so consider making your own compost bin to keep your matter tidy.

Lawn and order

It might be a while since you showed your lawn any love, but as spring arrives, it’s time to turn your attention to your turf. The beginning of spring is the ideal time to give your lawn a boost - put in the work now and it’ll thank you later.

One way you can boost your lawn is by aerating it, which helps to avoid waterlogging. Use a garden fork to spike the ground, and aim to leave around 15cm gaps between the incisions. It’s also worth using a good fertiliser on your grass - this will provide your lawn with the nutrients it needs throughout the season.

Summer shades

If we're afforded a mild March, then you can make a start on planting out some summer bulbs. Lilies and Dahlias are both good options and will bring plenty of colour to your garden come summertime.

Dahlias are not frost hardy, so you'll want to plant these about 6 weeks before the last frost - they take about this long to make an appearance, by which time hopefully weather conditions will be milder and the dahlias can thrive.

Lilies can be planted out in pots and will grow well in sheltered areas, or you could place them in the greenhouse until they're established.

Border control

No, it's not the most exciting of tasks, but the sooner you start weeding your borders, the less you'll have to do later down the line. Set aside five or ten minutes a week and get out in the garden to do a quick weed removal session. How you get rid of them is up to you - some people prefer to use a hoe or trowel, others prefer to pull them out by hand. Once you've tackled the worst of the weeds, mulch your borders with compost to keep them at bay.

The art of slow gardening

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Every once in a while, a buzzword comes along. There was hygge (the Danish concept of enjoying a cosy lifestyle), KonMari (living a less cluttered life by following Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo’s advice), clean living (where we were only expected to eat nuts and berries) and now, there’s another concept - slow gardening. With more of us than ever becoming green-fingered ( thanks in part to several lockdowns), this approach to gardening brings opportunities for amateurs and professionals alike to take stock and embrace a new pace.

What is slow gardening?

The concept of slow gardening subscribes to the idea that we need to take a more ‘hands off’ approach to gardening, and to a certain extent, let nature do its thing. Rather than spending lots of time outside raking, weeding, pruning and chopping, with slow gardening you take a step back and see what happens. So, rather than immediately reaching for the plant spray at the first sign of disease, you would see whether the plant could fight off disease without intervention.

The good news is slow gardening is less about perfection and more about letting nature take its course. Essentially, gardening should feel enjoyable, rather than like a chore, and getting outside should be more about what you want to do, rather than what needs to be done.

Slow gardening is also heavily centered around connection with nature and the natural world, including enjoying the gratification that comes with growing your own food, rather than buying it, or being able to pick flowers from your own garden and appreciate the time they took to grow, instead of buying a ready prepared bouquet.

Sounds great, but how do I actually do it?

Disappointingly, slow gardening isn’t an opportunity to be lazy. While it does promote an unhurried and less deliberate approach to gardening, it’s more about working with the seasons and following your own rules than it is lying on a lounger with a book in hand.

Slow gardening encourages you to fall back in love with your garden, by only focusing on the aspects you enjoy, and removing those that you don’t. If you find weeding tedious, then consider taking a more freehand approach to your borders and allowing some of the plants to grow. Hate mowing? Lose some of the lawn and grow wildflowers instead.

Forgoing the use of power tools in favour of manual tools is another way to embrace slow gardening. Yes, the tasks may take longer, but as you complete them you’ll be getting to know your garden in a whole new way - and you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment, too.

What do I need to get started?

A garden does help, and other than that you mostly just need patience. The slow gardening ethos is all about things taking their time, so if you’re the type of gardener who usually spends every weekend outside hacking, pruning and planting, then you may need to take a deep breath and step away from the secateurs. Spend time walking around outside, observing the space and the season, and think about a few things you’d like to achieve and how you’ll get there, rather than frantically working your way through a list.

While slow gardening isn’t about buying a huge amount, there are a few things you may want to invest in - a good quality soil conditioner to help anything you grow to thrive, fruit and vegetable bulbs, seeds or plants, to help you grow your own produce, and some new hand tools that are sharp and ready to tackle anything you throw at them - the gardening might be slower-paced but it doesn’t need to be done with a blunt instrument!

What should the outcome be?

The beauty of slow gardening is that there isn’t really an end point. Think of it as a lifestyle rather than a project - from season to season there’ll be new things to do in the garden, but ultimately the outcome is your wellbeing and a renewed appreciation for your outside space.

Your Garden in February

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The cold February weather often leavesa lot to be desired when it comes to getting out in the garden. It’s the time of year when very little is growing, and everything can look a little lacklustre. But, it’s also the month when you can get things going in the garden, and start looking forward to spring. While you won’t want to spend hours outside unless a heatwave arrives, there are still some tasks you can do that won’t take too long and will really help to make that garden glorious in the months to come…

Raise your game

If you’re keen to start seeing progress in the garden (and let’s face it, who isn’t when it’s cold and bleak?), then creating raised beds could be a game changer. These will give you a head-start in the garden because the soil warms up faster due to better drainage, meaning you’ll see signs of spring a little earlier than you would planting directly into the ground. Drainage will also see trickier soils such as clay become a little easier to work with in a raised bed. As for what to plant once you’ve created your bed - almost anything goes. Herbaceous perennials, ericaceous plants, vegetables and soft fruits will all benefit from the new home you’ve lovingly crafted for them.

Spud starter

Now is the time to get your potato growing underway if you’re hoping to enjoy homegrown mash, chips and jackets later in the year. You can begin by chitting them, which just means encouraging them to begin sprouting before you plant them. The best way to chit potatoes is to use an egg carton or seed tray, and stand the potatoes so that the area with the most eyes is at the top. Keep them in an area that’s cool but light, and then wait for shoots to appear. This process can take up to six weeks, but they should be ready to plant out in March.

Feathered feeding

Spare a thought for our feathered friends at this time of year; harsh winter temperatures can make it difficult for birds to find food and water, so give them a little helping hand if you can. Keep bird baths topped up with water and make sure they’re not frozen over, and consider hanging fat balls in the garden for them to feed off. You can make your own using old yoghurt pots, suet or lard and a combination of nuts, seeds and grains - although you can also pop some leftovers in too, like breadcrumbs. They won’t be using it just yet, but you could also set about making a nest box for the birds, so that they have somewhere safe to lay their eggs come spring.

Cut back

While there might not be a lot of planting going on in February, there’s plenty of shrubs looking to have a trim ahead of spring. Clematis, Wisteria, Hydrangea, Buddleia, Cornus and Mahonia can all be pruned this month.

Some plants are trickier to prune than others, so make sure you’ve got all the information before you make the cut. Clematis falls into several categories, and only some will need pruning now - avoid pruning a Clematis Group 1 (flowers in early spring and is evergreen), prune Clematis Group 2 (flowers in late spring) carefully, cutting shoots back to just above a strong bud, and with Clematis Group 3 (flowers summer to early autumn), you can be a little more insouciant with your pruning.

Let it snow

Snowdrops make a lovely addition to the garden in winter time, and if you don’t currently have any in your garden, now’s the time to plant them. They grow well in soil with grit, which aids drainage.

If however, you do have snowdrops but would like a few more, then February is also the time to divide them, so that they’ll multiply and carpet your garden with flowers next winter. Snowdrops aren’t natural pollinators due to them being winter-flowering when insects are dormant, but instead, they will split and then grow new flowers.

To divide them, carefully dig up the bulbs in clumps of three or four, lift them out, and then replant at around their original depth.

Your 2022 gardening resolutions

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With the start of a new year comes a pursuit of virtuosity; it’s the time when new skills are acquired and new goals are set. For some of you, it might finally be the year you learn French, for others, a gym membership might be calling. But, while internal, personal growth is prevalent at this time of year, take a moment to consider outside growth, too. That is, growth in the great outdoors. January is a great time to set yourself some garden goals, get into good habits and really turn over a new leaf (or get the rake out and turn over several…)

Here are five gardening resolutions to take you into 2022 and beyond…

The need to weed

Nobody likes weeding - it’s a bit like putting away clean washing or emptying the dishwasher; a laborious task that isn’t very appealing, but actually doesn’t take you that long once you get started. If you’re the kind of gardener who usually goes on a weeding war, spending hours in one go plucking and pulling, then this year consider a different approach. You’ll probably find weeding much less loathsome if you adopt a little and often process. Sometimes, just five minutes is all you need to make a difference and stop those little blighters returning so quickly. Try weeding at regular intervals - maybe once a week - and your garden will be much easier to keep on top of, especially in the spring and summer months when you’ve already quite literally done your groundwork.

Mix it up

If, until now you’ve been adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your growing media, then perhaps this year consider a specialist soil perfectly tailored to your needs. If you often find yourself compensating for your soil type, by opting for a mix, you’ll really notice a difference in how your plants grow throughout the year because they’ll be able to thrive in their ideal environment, whether that’s somewhere more acidic, sandy or with added fertiliser. Explore our specialist mixes to find the one that’s right for you.

Create your own compost

There are lots of benefits to making your own compost in the garden. For one, you can use it to improve your soil quality, but it also provides a handy home for wildlife too.

Making your own is simple to do - you just need the right balance of nitrogen rich materials such as grass clippings and tree foliage, and carbon materials like wood cuttings and cardboard. Ideally you want a pretty even mix of the two, otherwise you’ll be left with a mess! Too much nitrogen and the materials will go sludgy, or go too heavy on the carbon and it’ll be a very long time before you see any compost, as these materials will take a long time to break down. If you’re looking for a way to contain your compost, our pallet compost bins are perfect.

Planting Progress

Sometimes, it can be hard to step back and admire your hard work in the garden, which is why taking photos of your progress is really beneficial. This year, make it your mission to capture your before and after moments, as well as lots in between. Before digging out beds and borders, planting perennials or taming your trees, take plenty of photos. It’s useful to look back on them and see how far you’ve come, but having the evidence of what you’ve planted where can also be very handy when things start to spring up and your memory of planting is hazy.

Mulch to do

If you’re not already a seasoned mulcher, then make this the year you invest some time in making mulch a part of your gardening routine. Mulch protects your soil and plants, and can also keep weeds and bay and stave off some diseases. Bark makes an excellent mulch and looks good too - or a good quality compost will also do the trick. The mulch will help save you time on weeding and watering - time you can invest elsewhere in the garden this year, or use enjoying some well-earned leisure time.

Your garden in January

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Often the coldest month of the year, January can leave little to be desired when it comes to tackling the garden tasks. But, if one of your resolutions was to be more green-fingered in 2022, then there’s plenty of simple ways to get started this month, from sowing seeds (one you can do from the warmth of your kitchen) to helping the winter wildlife. Read on to find out what to do in your garden this January…

Plant the seed

Just because it's cold and wet outside, doesn't mean you can't get a headstart on your seed sowing - just do it indoors instead. Before you begin, it's worth being aware that the low light levels and central heating can cause issues with the growth of your seedlings, causing 'damping off', where they become diseased. To avoid this, ensure you use a good peat free compost.

When it comes to choosing what to plant, you have plenty of options. For edible produce, chillies usually fare well when planted in January, and now's also a good time to plant basil.

For flowers, take your pick - geraniums, sweet peas, begonias, petunias, delphiniums and dahlias can all be planted from seed now. Use seed compost in your seed trays for optimal growth.

Get moving

With many plants now dormant for the winter, it's a good time to identify any that could benefit from a better spot in the garden, and rehome them.

The process of moving your trees and shrubs takes a bit of planning and groundwork before moving day itself - you’ll want to prepare the new spot, making sure it’s big enough for the roots and future growth. Mix in some good quality compost, too. Then, the day before moving day, set aside some time to water the soil where your plant will be relocated to. Your plants will need a little TLC once they’ve been moved and replanted, too. Adding mulch in the form of bark will keep the weeds at bay and the moisture locked in, but be sure to water regularly, too - even in colder spells for evergreens. (Avoid watering during particularly frosty weather though).

Watch out for wildlife

While many species will be hibernating at this time of year, spare a thought for the birds, who’ll still be visiting your garden, hoping to find food and water.

You can help them out, by ensuring bird baths are ice free and clean, that bird feeders are kept topped up with nuts and seeds, and that your bird boxes are secure and free from debris like last years’ nests.

Helping out the birds is also a great excuse not to cut back too much in your garden - give them somewhere to go, and you’ll save two birds with one stone - they’ll have somewhere to visit in your garden, and you’ll have a genuine excuse for not spending too long outside trying to cut hedgerows and trees back on chilly January days.

Break the mould

You might have purchased your bulbs for next spring well in advance, but you’ll need to make sure they don’t rot, or you won't be left with much to work with when it comes to planting them up next season.

Bulbs and tubers are particularly susceptible so do keep checking them and ensure they’re being stored correctly - ideally in a paper bag or cardboard box, and in a cool, dark room or outbuilding.

Continue Christmas

Christmas might be over for another year, but you can help it to live on, by planting your tree in the garden. If you had a tree with roots in a pot, you’ll want to move this outside as soon as possible post-Christmas, so that it doesn’t become too acclimatised to the warmth of your house, which could hamper its efforts in growing in the colder outdoors.

If you’d like to bring your tree back in again next Christmas, don’t plant it into the ground, and instead grow it in a container, moving to larger ones as needed. Keep it in a sunny spot, and make sure it has a good amount of water - but not so much that it becomes waterlogged.

If you’re not planning to bring the tree back inside again next year, then it can be planted out into the garden. Fir trees like cool, moist areas, away from the heat of the sun (not a problem right now, but might be, come the summer!)

Trees planted out into the garden don’t have their roots restricted by pot size, and therefore can grow pretty tall - in 20 years you could be looking at a tree measuring 20m in height. Something to consider before you get planting!

If you didn’t have a potted Christmas tree, but still want a way to reuse it, consider shredding it for mulch to use around the garden. Or, if you’d like to give the wildlife a helping hand, remove the branches of your tree and tie them together in bundles to make wildlife habitats.