Posts tagged with “Gardening”

Planting Ahead

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Want a glorious spring garden, vibrant summer colours or some winter wonders? Whatever the season, bulb planting is an easy way to liven up your borders. Requiring minimal effort, this simple garden task can elevate your outdoor space and make even the most novice of gardeners feel like green-fingered wizards. Here, we take a look at what to plant and when, so that your garden is filled with flowers all year round.

The benefits of bulbs

Not only are bulbs easy to grow, they’re also quite forgiving if you happen to miss the perfect window for their planting season - as long as they haven’t rotted, you can usually get away with planting them even if they’ve started to sprout. Generally, bulbs are a fairly inexpensive way to add some interest to your garden, and the results can be very rewarding - head to many significant properties such as castles, stately homes and National Trust landmarks and you’ll find their gardens adorned with flower displays created by mixing and matching bulbs.

Many people associate bulbs with spring, but they can be planted in all seasons - that golden carpet of daffodils needs planning and planting in autumn, and if you want some festive flowers in the garden come Christmas, you’ll want to be bedding in those bulbs in the springtime. Just when you thought you might get a break from the gardening tasks, along come the bulbs to keep you busy…

Spring flowering bulbs

Daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, bluebells and alliums are just some of the spring flowering bulbs you can plant to really bring your garden to life in the early months of the year.

Autumn is the season you’ll want to get them planted - daffodils, crocus and hyacinths are all best planted in early autumn, so aim for September, while tulips can be left a little later and are best planted in November.

Summer flowering bulbs

Begonias, freesias, dahlias, crocosmias and gladioli are bulbs to look out for if you want bursts of colour in your borders in the summer months. Some bulbs, especially if they’re hardy flowering, will be best planted in September or October, whereas the likes of gladioli can be left until early spring to be planted.

Autumn flowering bulbs

In autumn, the focus can often be on the changing colours of the trees, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add some colour to the ground, too. Cyclamen, nerines, sternbergias, autumn crocuses and colchicums will all add some floral decoration to your borders and bring with them a mix of colours to break up the reds, browns and golden hues typically associated with this season. Most autumn flowering bulbs will need to be planted by late summer to get the most of the warmth and sun.

Winter flowering bulbs

The bleak midwinter needn’t apply here - even in colder temperatures, your garden can sport pops of floral brightness. Winter cyclamen, snowdrops and aconite will all bring your garden to life in the winter months, while there are also plenty of bulbs that can be ‘forced’ in winter too if you choose to grow them indoors.

Planting your bulbs

Where, when and how to plant your bulbs does depend on the individual flower (some are much fussier than others!) but as general guidance, most bulbs can be planted in the garden in sunny areas with good drainage. If you live in an area where soil drainage is an issue, then you might want to consider giving your plants a helping hand by adding a planting mix to aid drainage.

If you’re planting in borders, group your bulbs together in multiples of around six. Aim to plant each bulb at the bottom of a hole two to three times the height of the bulb, and plant with the shoot facing upwards. In the spring and summer you’ll want to water the ground after planting, but if you’re planting in autumn then the ground is likely moist enough not to need watering.

You can also plant your bulbs into containers rather than directly in the ground, although they’ll need a little more TLC, such as adding a grit mix, and using a high potassium fertiliser to ensure they really thrive.

Your Garden in October

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For many, October is their favourite month when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors - the vibrant colours on the trees, the slight chill in the air...while we might not be able to relax in the sun quite as much (although one could argue we didn’t get much of a chance of that this summer anyway), it’s still a beautiful time to spend outdoors getting creative in the garden.

From those pesky maintenance jobs that need completing before winter, to ways to bring some simple colour to your outside space in anticipation of the bleaker months ahead, here’s some tasks, tricks and even a few treats to keep your garden looking tip-top this October.

Give your lawn an autumn advantage

Much like our skin after a little too much sun exposure during the warmer months, your grass can be left a little parched. In the same way that our skin might need a little TLC in the form of a rich moisturiser, so does the grass. Opt for an autumn lawn feed which is high in the macro-nutrients Phosphorus and Potassium which aid disease resistance and cold hardiness as well as improving drought tolerance. Best applied when the ground is damp, sprinkle all over the lawn to promote continued healthy growth.

To give your lawn a little autumn facelift, mow less often and use a longer blade when you do. Rake often to revive your lawn, and to avoid waterlogging over winter, spike your lawn with a fork all over the surface - anywhere between 8cm- 15cm should suffice.

Your lawn will soon be looking spring-fresh! We can’t recommend using these methods for your skin however, perhaps best to stick to the moisturiser…

Replenish your wood reserves

This time of year can throw us when it comes to the weather. On those warm, sunny days it’s hard to imagine a time when we’ll be huddled inside wearing thick layers again, but then as the first frost arrives, the reality of colder months ahead starts to set in.

If you have a wood-burning stove inside, then now’s the time to think about replenishing those wood reserves, so that you’re not caught short if a cold snap does arrive! Logs and kindling that you’ve been seasoning over the summer should now be ready, providing the wood doesn’t contain more than 20% moisture. You can check by looking at the colour, which should be pale, the weight, which should be much lighter than when the logs were first cut, and the sound - knock two logs together and they should make a clear sound as they touch, rather than a dull thud. If your logs and kindling aren’t quite seasoned, then just ensure they’re still being kept in a protected environment away from the elements, are correctly stacked, and also that the pieces of wood aren’t too big - the larger they are, the longer they’ll take to season. We have seasoned logs and kindling readily available to buy too, so that you can ensure you’ll be cosy when the autumnal air hits!

Pick up your patch

One surefire sign that it’s October, is the sight of pumpkins and squash adorning fields and perhaps even your own garden. While their vibrant colours make for a pretty festive affair, if you want to enjoy the fruits of your labour (and preserve your lawn in the process too), then you’ll want to raise your pumpkins and squash fruits up onto bricks or sleepers to give them the best chance of fully ripening and to keep them dry so they don’t turn your lovely lawn into a squashed stew. Need some inspiration for using other garden fruits? Check out our tips.

Focus on roses

The careful care of roses can feel like a full time job sometimes - it doesn’t matter which month it is, something always needs to be done to keep them happy and healthy. This month the task is to prune your rambling and climbing roses once they’ve finished flowering, and to avoid any damage caused by winds, it’s a good idea to tie in the stems too.

If you have roses that have produced good rosehips, then these can be left to develop - just snip off the dead flowers around them. Planting new roses might not have been high on your adenda, but this can also be done this month, before the winter sets in. Buy as a container-grown plant, and plant the roots directly into the ground. The new plants should establish quickly due to the moist soil, and come spring you’ll have some extra floral treats in your garden, and will probably be thankful that you put in the work now!

Pot prepping

Now’s a great time to think about adding a little colour to your garden over the colder months, in the form of winter pots and baskets. These small additions can make a big difference to your outside space when the weather gets a bit bleaker - you’ll be glad you added some brighter hues for the darker days!

As for what to plant, there are so many options to choose from, so let your creativity run wild. Pansies, cyclamen, heathers, polyanthus, violas and skimmia are all great options for plants that’ll give you plenty to smile about until springtime arrives, or if simple succulents are more your style, houseleeks (sempervivum) are hardy, look beautiful in pots and will add some splashes of colour and greenery to your garden all year round. Plant them and then top-dress with gravel.

Harvest Festival

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Now’s the time to turn your attention to the fruits of your labour

For most of the year, whether in our own gardens or out and about, we probably pay little attention to the fruit trees and shrubs. When there’s roses to prune and lawns to mow, these plants are pushed to the back of our minds, and, save for revelling in a little blossom in the springtime, seem to stay that way. That is, until autumn kicks in. When the calendar flips from August to September there’s usually a noticeable shift in these trees and shrubs in the form of the produce you’ll discover. Suddenly, you’ll spot apples, pears, plums and blackberries galore in gardens, fields and hedgerows. And, the good news is, they’re yours for the picking (with permission, of course!)

Read on to find out how to make the most of the fruits you find during this harvest season

Pick your apples and pears

September is the start of the apple and pear picking season, so if you have trees bearing these fruits on your land, you’ll want to get out and check on their progress. Depending on the type of apples and pears you’ve grown depends on when the fruits will be ready to be harvested. Early ripening varieties are best left to ripen on the tree and should be picked selectively, depending on how ripe they are, whereas varieties that ripen later can be picked in a larger quantity for storing.

It can be tricky to know when to pick your fruit, but you want to get there before the gusty autumn days beat you to it and you lose it to the ground. Try gently holding the fruit in your hand and twisting slightly. If it comes away with ease then it’s ready to be picked; if it’s a little more stubborn then it might need a few more days of ripening. The optimal temperature for storage is around 10 degrees celsius, so rather than popping the fruit in the fridge, choose somewhere like a cellar, or a brick shed or outbuilding. Wooden sheds vary greatly in temperature, so won’t be ideal for keeping your fruit fresh!

The best way to store apples is to wrap each fruit in newspaper and then keep them stored in boxes. Pears on the other hand prefer to remain unwrapped, and they can be stored in boxes too.

If storage isn’t an option and you want to tuck in now, then there are lots of delicious ways you can enjoy your apples and pears, from warming crumbles to garnishing cocktails. To keep your fruit trees thriving, use a tree mix, which will help in promoting long term tree health.

Plant blueberry bushes

Blueberries aren’t just a superfruit and tasty breakfast accompaniment, they’re also great additions to the garden - in the autumn the shrub’s leaves will turn a gorgeous vibrant red, and in the springtime it’ll produce pretty white flowers. Then, come summer, you’ll have the juicy berries to enjoy!

The shrubs are best planted in autumn, and they’re ideal for smaller gardens, growing to around 1 metre in height. But, the key thing to be aware of before popping your plant in the soil and hoping for the best, is that blueberries are fussy creatures - they need to be grown in acidic soil and like to be watered with rainwater. They also need to be grown in a sunny spot. Not asking for much, at all… We have a specially formulated blueberry mix, which is an ericaceous compost, blending fine and coarse peat with pine bark to create a low pH, free draining growing media. Add this to a pot, or to the ground before planting your blueberry bush.

Turn your damsons into dessert

Damsons are often a fruit that get ignored and left hanging on trees because unlike their much sweeter plum cousins, they’re much sharper and therefore harder to eat. But, they aren’t just destined for damson jam recipes - they actually taste delicious in a crumble, adding the same level of tartness you’d expect from rhubarb. We’d recommend combining damsons with apples to bring down the sharpness - and if you’re able to pick the apples from your own garden, even better!

Here’s our recipe to try:

Damson and apple crumble - serves 6

Ingredients:

For the fruit layer:

● 700g damsons (remove the stones)

● Three apples, peeled, cored and sliced

● 60g soft light brown sugar

● Knob of butter

● 50ml port (optional)

For the crumble topping:

● 250g plain flour

● 150g unsalted butter

● 150g demerara sugar

● 50g ground almonds

● 50g chopped walnuts (optional)

Method:

● Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

● Add all of the fruit to a saucepan and heat on the hob over a medium heat until the fruit starts to soften and the damsons start to release their juices. Add in your port, or if you’d prefer, you can just add a couple of tablespoons of water. Once the fruit is done, place in a dish and set aside.

● To make your crumble mix, rub your butter and flour together until the consistency is like breadcrumbs, but not as dry. Then, add your sugar and nuts, stirring gently to avoid clumping.

● Once your topping is mixed, sprinkle it evenly over your fruit.

● Place in the oven and bake for around 35 minutes until the topping is golden. Tip - you may want to place a baking tray under your dish so if any juices decide to escape, they don’t stick to the bottom of your oven...nothing ruins the crumble experience like having to clean the oven afterwards!

● Leave to cool for a few minutes, then serve with custard, cream or ice cream - the choice is yours!

Get ahead with gifting

The other great thing about having a glut of fruit, is you can use it to make homemade gifts for Christmas and beyond. You could try making damson gin or vodka, which is just three ingredients - the fruit, the alcohol and some sugar! Plum wine is another gift you could make, especially for those who are lovers of the Japanese version. It’s a little trickier than just adding the plums to alcohol and does require some fermentation, but will surely delight the recipients.

Fruit can also be turned into a multitude of sweet and savoury preserves - jams, chutneys, jellies and pickles are all ways to use up those excess fruits, and not only will they make excellent personal gifts, they’ll also taste great served with your Christmas dinner.

Your Garden in September

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September isn’t just the beginning of the new school year, it also marks the start of a new term for your garden too. It might feel as though it’s time to start winding things down for the winter, but - sorry to break it to you - September is actually a busy month for the garden, getting it prepped and ready for autumn, winter and even spring.

While you won’t need a new pencil case or lunch box in order to get outside and spruce your space, purchases of new tools, pots and gloves will all be forgiven - after all, what’s a fresh start without some fresh new kit?

Keeping house

If your house plants have been living the al fresco life over the past few months, now’s the time to bring them back inside before the cooler weather arrives. You’ve also probably been giving your house plants inside a little more TLC of late with the warmer temperatures, but you can start to scale back on the regularity of watering them now to prepare them for autumn temperatures.

Grass tasks

It wasn’t the scorching summer we dreamed about, but nevertheless, the likelihood is over the summer months you won’t have needed to mow the lawn as frequently as you did in the spring. You may also have consciously left some of your lawn long to encourage wildlife - but as we head into September it’s time to consider treating your lawn to a fresh new shorter style. If you’re experiencing any bare or less-healthy looking patches, or the lawn just needs a little pampering, use an autumn fertiliser to bring back some of its lustre.

Set your sights on spring

The warm, September soil provides the perfect environment for your spring bulbs to get a great head start. And, in planting them it gives you an excuse to start dreaming about warmer days again. Crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, bluebells and snake’s head fritillaries will all be suitable for planting now, either in pots and borders. Hold off on the tulips though, as they prefer slightly cooler temperatures, so you’d be better off waiting until November or December to plant these.

Harvest festival

All the hard work you’ve put into tending to your vegetables will come into fruition this month, because it’s finally time to harvest them and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Dig up any remaining potatoes, pick fruits such as apples, pears and plums before they fall to the ground, collect any late raspberries, dig up courgettes, pick tomatoes and harvest your onions. The next challenge is finding a recipe to incorporate all of your newfound ingredients...

Get swept away

It’s best to start tackling the falling leaves earlier rather than later, in a bid to avoid them quickly taking over - you’d be surprised how fast they drop when they all start to go, and all it takes is a couple of blustery days to give your garden a whole new carpet of brown. If you can, sweep them after a few dry days to avoid making too much of a mess with mulchy leaves. Or, if you have one in your possession, grab the leaf blower to do the hard work for you.

Wondering what to do with those leaves once you’ve gathered them all? Once they’ve decomposed the leafmould will make a great addition to compost, so collect them in a hessian sack or large bag, make sure there are some holes in the bag, and then keep them for up to two years before using them as compost.

Bedding in for winter

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We know, we know, we hate to say it, but (and without sounding like a Game of Thrones cliché), winter is coming. And, much like Christmas shopping and bringing the heavier tog duvet out of hibernation are part of the winter preparations, so too is the act of preparing your flower borders for the colder months.

If you act now before the autumn arrives, you’ll be in the best position to keep those beds thriving throughout the next few months and into spring next year. Here’s some ways to prepare your beds for winter and the 2022 season.

Weed ahead of winter

It’s one of the more arduous tasks, but come spring you’ll be thankful you tackled the weeds ahead of winter. If bindweed is being a pest then you’ll want to get rid of it as soon as possible to avoid it strangling your other plants - but this can take a bit of time, so make sure you’ve boiled the kettle and got a good playlist to keep you motivated.

The best way to approach removing the bindweed is to untangle it until you get to the ground, then chase the roots through the soil. Avoid breaking them so they don’t just grow again! If you’ve got raised beds that are carpeted with weeds, lay down tarpaulin to kill them off over winter.

Choose winter bedding plants

It might sound obvious, but to keep your beds looking vibrant in winter, you’ll want to select plants that are naturally acclimatised to the cooler weather. Bear in mind that during the winter, growth is slow, so make sure you give your beds a head start by using plants that are already fairly established. Hardy flowers worth planting include winter-flowering pansies, cyclamen and primula. These will mostly flower in the spring, but you may get flowering during the winter too if the weather is mild.

Go green

Another way to keep those beds looking lively even on the bleakest of days is to invest in some evergreen shrubs and plant these up now. Foliage is also another good option for keeping the garden looking green - try ornamental cabbage which looks lovely in winter and will survive moderate frosts, too.

Keep conditioning

Adding compost to your beds now will ensure the soil is full of nutrients and ready to help those flowers flourish come spring. For raised beds, consider something containing loam, which will help maintain a good volume of material in your plant bed, as well as encouraging good plant growth.

Mulch and maintain

Adding mulch to your soil can be a great way to protect your plants from frost, keep weeds at bay and ensure your beds are kept healthy over the winter months. Autumn is a good time to add mulch around newly planted shrubs and herbaceous perennials, and then come winter you’ll want to mulch the entire bed to trap in moisture.