The Soil Is Now Warm Enough

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


The Soil Is Now Warm Enough


Whilst weeding the flower beds, a couple of passers-by advised me to let the dandelions flower as they were a good early source of nectar for pollinators. These pretty yellow flowers seem to turn into seed clocks in a matter of minutes, you would need to watch them like a hawk if you don’t want your garden covered in them by the end of the season. These broad-leaved weeds smother everything around them. Just try digging them up, it’s nearly impossible, especially when they get established. Your neighbours will not thank you for spreading these across their borders. A few years ago, the authorities dug up 12,000 sq. metres of verge around Wenvoe, where weeds (wildflowers) were in their element.

Slugs are out in force now so protect the young shoots of hostas, lupins and delphiniums. Some of the new shoots of delphiniums and lupins can be cut off at the base, then potted up and put in a plastic bag, these Basel cuttings root easily and are a great way of getting more plants at little cost. The new leaves of roses will benefit from a fungicide spray now to prevent black spot and rust, before it can get established. If you follow the advice given by tv gardeners to wait until April before cutting hydrangeas back, they will give a better display. Cut them back to a new shoot.

This month the people at Greenmoor nurseries will be planting up their hanging baskets. These will stay undercover until established. Don’t put these outside until late May at the earliest, or they will go back and not give their best. As with potted up plants they will need a regular feed and consistent watering throughout the season, along with deadheading to keep them flowering.

And so it begins, the annual fight at the allotments between man and beast. This spectacle goes on until the end of the season. The young plants have been nurtured by the growers then planted in the hope of providing produce. On the other side we have the foe – slugs, snails, mice, rabbits and birds all vying for their bit. Runner beans are one of the favourites of both man and beasts, we like them in a dish smothered in butter, but the pests love them as they come out of the soil. Onion sets planted in neat rows are scattered about by the birds looking to see what’s underneath. There is still time to plant more peas to make sure you get at least some to cook as the mice will have decimated the first planting. Carrots planted earlier to avoid the carrot root fly need to be thinned out, allowing those remaining to grow on so the rabbits can have their fill.

Remember don’t be greedy when planting potatoes, it’s tempting to cram them in. If you do there will be no air flow between the foliage, and they will be more susceptible to blight.

Next month the Tuckers Spring plant sale will take place at the Church Hall on 11th May so if you have some extra plants you’d like to sell, this would be a good opportunity. There will be a raffle with proceeds going to the Wenvoe Wildlife Group and homemade cakes sold by the slice to take away or enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee. See you there.

Take care and happy gardening

 

THE VILLAGE GARDENER

 



Let The Dandelions Flower

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


Let The Dandelions Flower


Whilst weeding the flower beds, a couple of passers-by advised me to let the dandelions flower as they were a good early source of nectar for pollinators. These pretty yellow flowers seem to turn into seed clocks in a matter of minutes, you would need to watch them like a hawk if you don’t want your garden covered in them by the end of the season. These broad-leaved weeds smother everything around them. Just try digging them up, it’s nearly impossible, especially when they get established. Your neighbours will not thank you for spreading these across their borders. A few years ago, the authorities dug up 12,000 sq. metres of verge around Wenvoe, where weeds (wildflowers) were in their element.

Slugs are out in force now so protect the young shoots of hostas, lupins and delphiniums. Some of the new shoots of delphiniums and lupins can be cut off at the base, then potted up and put in a plastic bag, these Basel cuttings root easily and are a great way of getting more plants at little cost. The new leaves of roses will benefit from a fungicide spray now to prevent black spot and rust, before it can get established. If you follow the advice given by tv gardeners to wait until April before cutting hydrangeas back, they will give a better display. Cut them back to a new shoot.

This month the people at Greenmoor nurseries will be planting up their hanging baskets. These will stay undercover until established. Don’t put these outside until late May at the earliest, or they will go back and not give their best. As with potted up plants they will need a regular feed and consistent watering throughout the season, along with deadheading to keep them flowering.

And so it begins, the annual fight at the allotments between man and beast. This spectacle goes on until the end of the season. The young plants have been nurtured by the growers then planted in the hope of providing produce. On the other side we have the foe – slugs, snails, mice, rabbits and birds all vying for their bit. Runner beans are one of the favourites of both man and beasts, we like them in a dish smothered in butter, but the pests love them as they come out of the soil. Onion sets planted in neat rows are scattered about by the birds looking to see what’s underneath. There is still time to plant more peas to make sure you get at least some to cook as the mice will have decimated the first planting. Carrots planted earlier to avoid the carrot root fly need to be thinned out, allowing those remaining to grow on so the rabbits can have their fill.

Remember don’t be greedy when planting potatoes, it’s tempting to cram them in. If you do there will be no air flow between the foliage, and they will be more susceptible to blight.

Next month the Tuckers Spring plant sale will take place at the Church Hall on 11th May so if you have some extra plants you’d like to sell, this would be a good opportunity. There will be a raffle with proceeds going to the Wenvoe Wildlife Group and homemade cakes sold by the slice to take away or enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee. See you there.

Take care and happy gardening

 

THE VILLAGE GARDENER

 



Don’t Be Fooled By A Couple Of Nice Days

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


Don’t Be Fooled By A Couple Of Nice Days


Let’s not be fooled by a couple of nice days tempting us to believe Spring is here. Things are starting to grow a bit now, but March can be cold and frosty on times so don’t be tempted to put anything tender outside. Plenty to do in the garden though, Winter flowering heathers will benefit from an ericaceous feed after they’ve had a trim.

Hydrangeas are an easy plant to propagate by layering, all you need to do is make a cut in a low-lying branch and pin it to the ground with the cut in the soil. Once it’s rooted snip it off from the mother plant. We still have time to split up large clumps of perennials, not only will you have more plants, but you will have healthier ones as they will have more growing space. Water these in well even if soil is moist. Now that we’re into March please leave hedge cutting until after the nesting season, birds and their songs are as much a part of a garden as the plants.

Local nature groups will be encouraging us to have a wildflower patch. If you’re going to try this, there are a couple of things to consider. The first thing is a weed and grass free space as wildflowers can’t compete. The poorer the soil the better; no need for any sort of feed, all they need is water and some sunshine.

I know I harp on about the quality of compost since they’ve stopped using peat in its makeup, which we know is the way forward. These firms are using recycled material but are not processing it properly and we end up with a lot of wastage. When sieving I have on average found 15% unusable for planting seeds or seedlings, where you need fine material. I have found coir blocks made from coconut husks to be the best material. You just add water to the block in a container leave it to soak then break it up. There is no wastage, it’s easy to keep moist and the plants do well in it.

Up at the allotments the folk there will be champing at the bit to get early crops such as beetroot, peas, early potatoes and salad crops into the ground. Don’t let a bit of sunshine tempt you to plant runner beans until at least the end of April, or they will perish. These allotments at Twyn Yr Odyn are for hardy souls who love their hobby of trying to get their crops to grow while being blown sideways by the wind or gasping for breath in the thin atmosphere at a height of 360 ft above sea level. All this and they still take home the winners’ certificates from the local village show with their produce.

Take care and happy gardening

 

 



Imagine Getting Back Onto The Garden

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


Imagine Getting Back Onto The Garden


With so many wet days in December and early January it was hard to imagine getting back onto the garden. The ground soon dried up after the deluge with high pressure in charge. Any exposed soil would have had a lot of nutrients washed away which will need replacing with fertiliser and compost when the growing season starts. The mild December weather saw daffodils out on the village green and snowdrops out in the church grounds. The cold spell in January will have held the Spring bulbs back now. This difficult start to the year weather wise will have an impact on nurseries. Plants that you order may be a bit late and will definitely be more expensive. Keep costs down by sowing some seeds, sunny windowsills make an ideal spot for cosmos, salvias and sweet peas in February. Kale is a real hardy plant but will need to be germinated inside before putting outside. Look out for damping off and don’t over water.

Mrs Betty James of Walston Road will have scrubbed all her empty pots and seed trays in readiness for the sowing season, she will then sieve a new bag of compost and add some perlite for drainage. By following the way Betty does things you will have a good success rate. Don’t worry if you think you’re behind as plants will soon catch up with more daylight hours. Spend a bit of time checking on the tubers and corms that you kept over Winter and discard any showing signs of rot before it spreads to the others.

The folk at the allotments will be preparing seed beds, weather permitting, and getting cloches cleaned up to put on the soil to allow it to warm up. Some seeds like broad beans are hardy enough to sow now. Some folk will have already picked some forced rhubarb by the time you’re reading this.

The Vale was hit hard last year by the box caterpillar, which decimated box hedging and shrubs. This pest has only been in the UK for about fifteen years, starting in the southeast of England. There are some chemicals which claim to be effective but the amount of re spraying needed per season makes it not cost effective. The caterpillar is hidden beneath a web and is difficult to get at. The young hide in webs between the leaves over winter and become active as the weather warms up. Then a second infestation starts in Summer. Some National Trust properties have taken any box hedging out as the situation got too difficult to manage.

The last decade has seen record rainfall over most of the UK. We are not immune to this in Wenvoe, properties in Grange Close, Old Port Road and Nant Isaf have had flood damage. We all need to think before we cover ground with concrete etc. We need to let the ground soak up the water and release it slowly and laws are coming to make sure we use permeable products when constructing new drives or hard standings. The driveway at the Old Rectory has been constructed using permeable blocks.

Take care and happy gardening



The Shortest Day Has Passed

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


Happy new year everyone


Now that the shortest day has passed we can think about the year ahead. The plans we make now may not come to fruition but will give us hope that we can put some of our ideas into action. We all have our own thoughts of what a garden should look like, whether its colour, structure, neat or wild. The one thing it has to be is interesting. Small or large, all gardens have room for different aspects, it’s all in the planning. Some of the best examples of interesting gardens belong to Joyce Hoy & Heulwen Davies; these two library volunteers love to talk about horticulture.

Trying to keep interest in the garden throughout the year can be very trying and expensive if you get carried away by the plants in garden centres. Just try to remember that these have been nurtured in heated greenhouses. As soon as you get the plants home they will deteriorate unless you provide them with what they have been used to. January doesn’t offer much in the way of colour but winter flowering jasmine is a ray of light on dull days. This will shortly be followed by primroses and crocuses pushing their way through the frosty ground followed by daffodils and then tulips and then, before we know it, Spring will be here.

The allotments are still mostly in hibernation, with a bit of digging being done by some brave souls and repairs done to broken structures. Upturned buckets or pots on plots will be covering rhubarb which is being forced to give an early crop which will be tender and sweet. Any free standing apple trees can be pruned now; start by taking out any diseased branches followed by any limbs rubbing together. Like most fruit trees apple needs an open aspect to allow air through the tree. This helps with disease prevention.

The walls around the allotments will, along with tubs and old baths etc, be harbouring the dormant snails who will be waiting for the first crops to emerge so that they can start their constant battle against the plot holders. You know where they are at present so let the hunt begin. Don’t throw them over the wall as they are guaranteed to be back in time for your harvest. New allotmenteers will be given a warm welcome and plenty of advice by the old guard of Colin, Bernard and the cantankerous Herbie.

 

Take care and happy gardening

Tips To Make More Of Your Garden

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


Tips to make more of your garden


By folk visiting the Wenvoe village show.

  1. Reuse your grow bags by taking the top off and growing late salad crops.
  2. After harvesting cabbage cut a cross in the remaining stump and, as if by magic, you will get another crop.
  3. If you want gardening gifts for Christmas, make sure you write a list, or you’ll get underpants.
  4. Never plant bulbs too shallow; the deeper the better.
  5. Old compost makes for a good mulch.
  6. Don’t bother taking a cuppa into the garden, it will without doubt be cold before you drink it.
  7. Get a mushroom kit; you can’t fail and you’ll have something to enter in the show next year.
  8. If your neighbour has a leaf blower, be prepared to do a lot of raking.
  9. Just had a tetanus jab at A&E; make sure you keep this jab up to date and a First Aid kit handy.
  10. £3 for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake and someone to talk to! When’s the next show?!

 

Thanks to Bernard’s chivvying, a lot of allotment folk entered the show and put their reputation on the line. Veg gardeners will be picking the last of their spring sown produce now and filling the compost bins with the waste. Any bare ground will have broad beans, onion sets and garlic planted and other bare patches will be covered to stop soil erosion and prevent weeds finding a good home. Another idea to think about is planting one of the many green manures you can buy. You just let them grow and then dig them in, sounds easy but it is a bit of work.

Trying to garden by reading the gardening magazines is so blooming difficult as there is a couple of weeks difference between the south and north of the country.

We had a friend who moved from Somerset to Aberdeen and could never grow a runner bean. As soon as it came into flower the first frosts got it. Down South we are tempted to plant early but it rarely works. A little more patience would save us a lot of wasted time and money. Like a fool I was tempted by the rows of delightful plants that had not sensed a breath of wind or cold until I got them home. Plants you buy now for the Autumn will need some protection from the elements before you plant out. They recommend at least 2 weeks of care before planting in their final position.

With cost a major factor in gardening, it is beneficial to try and store plants over winter. This is not easy as last winter proved, when pelargoniums perished in green houses even with bubble wrap insulation. You need to make sure there are no draughts. A friend recommended that begonia tubers should be thoroughly dried and then put in kiln dried sand to over Winter. This has worked for me over the past few years.

If you still have daffodil bulbs to plant, don’t delay as the sooner they go in the better.

Take care and happy gardening



Tips from Residents of the Old Rectory et al.

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


Tips from Residents of the Old Rectory et al.


Old Rectory

1. Plant garlic now, it’s supposed to increase the flavour by sowing in the Autumn.

2. Keep the lawns clear of leaves, tedious but necessary.

3. Be sure to open greenhouse door on nice days to increase air flow.

4. Ripen any green tomatoes by putting on a sunny windowsill.

5. Take extra care outside this time of year, as surfaces will be slippery.

Lawn care tips from Ray Darlington

  1. Aerate the lawn either by machine or just by forking over.
  2. Sweep up worm casts as they make perfect areas for weeds to settle.
  3. Raise the cutting height on mower if the grass still needs mowing.
  4. Tidy up the edging, it will make the garden look neater.
  5. If you’re considering adding a flower bed to the lawn, now is the time to start. Just turn the turf over so no grass is showing, and it will die off leaving a good base for Spring planting.

November can be an unforgiving month, which can seem worse with the garden devoid of bright colours except for some berries which will soon be eaten by the birds. Keeping things tidy in the garden can make things easier on the eye. There is always something to be done outside, whether it’s moving shrubs, cutting back or thinning out clumps of grasses. It can be be quite hard to get motivated but once outside the mood changes. A little effort now will make a big difference when Spring comes round.

It’s not often garden centres have bargains but at this time of year seed packets are on offer, just be sure you remember where you put them for safe keeping. The large garden centre in St Mellons has a dedicated area for cheap plants and there are some good offers, if you have room to look after them. Bare root shrubs are available from now until March online and there are big savings to be had compared to pot grown specimens.

Apologies if I’ve mentioned this before, we seem to be under the cosh from the box tree caterpillar. This pest has only been in the UK since 2007; it was first found in the southeast of England it has since spread across the UK. They are difficult to get rid of and can survive the winter months. This caterpillar will ruin box hedging and bushes if you don’t catch it early and treat throughout the year. Dyffryn Gardens has taken loads out and will not be replacing as it is so destructive. This pest is not going away so unless you are prepared to fight against it, don’t purchase.

Lighting a bonfire? Please check for hibernating hedgehogs, I’ve been told by some of the older residents that they’re nice roasted, but only in foil with seasoning.

Take care and happy gardening

 



THE GRANGE AVENUE GARDENERS

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


The Grange Avenue gardeners share some of their thoughts


Joyce Hoy

  1. Go to specialist nurseries where the owners are usually on hand to give advice about which plants will do well in your plot.
  2. Unusual plants will give you a different experience and create extra interest.
  3. A dense shrub next to the bird feeders will give protection against predators while the birds are waiting to feed.
  4. Putting bright tape on your hand tools will make them easier to find when left in borders.
  5. Take cuttings and collect seed, it is so satisfying to see the results.

Pat Davies

  1. Next Spring I will be heading to the supermarkets early to build up my bedding plants collection, the plants are usually healthy and reasonably priced.
  2. Growing bedding plants from seed hasn’t given me my greatest success but will help fill in the gaps when the shops run out.
  3. If you’re stuck on what would be the best way to get the most from your garden, just ask a gardener. They can’t wait to to tell you what you should be doing. You don’t have to take their advice though.
  4. For early Spring colour plant tête-à-tête. They have short, strong stems and don’t get bashed by strong winds.
  5. Each to their own but for me the garden needs to be full of colour for as long as possible, it’s a tonic.

September brings the bulb planting season upon us. The most important thing to remember when planting is to put them deep enough, especially tulips. They need to be at a depth of 3 times the height of the bulb. Daffodils and crocus will need to be put in this month. Tulips will perform better when planted in November. If you are placing bulbs in borders consider planting them up in plastic pots first and then digging them into the ground. This way you can remove them when flowering is over and put them aside for the foliage to die down, which will give you room for the summer bedding.

Speaking to a lot of gardeners this year, the consensus is that the cold start to Spring held the plants back and this was not helped by the fact that we are struggling to find good seed and cuttings compost. Since the use of peat has stopped the alternatives have not been good. There are numerous reasons for this. Firstly, when these companies produce compost it has to be heated to certain temperatures to decompose properly and to kill off pathogens that cause pest and diseases. If the temperatures are not reached this will increase the amount of damping off of seedlings and cuttings. This will also allow weed seeds to germinate amongst your plants which happened a lot this year. The R H S say that if this happens you must take it back to your supplier. If you buy seed compost it should be very fine and not have bits of debris visible, which has been the case with a lot of brands this year. Seed compost has to pass through a fine screen mesh which takes time. The composts are expensive and companies should produce a usable product. Buying sterilised soil to start your plants off especially in early spring will help but you will then need to feed them as they start to come on because the soil will have no nutrients.

Start off some sweet peas in a cold frame this month to give yourself some earlier flowers next year, once they’ve sprouted they will be quite happy outside in a sheltered spot. Take cuttings of your favourite shrubs, even if just a few take root it doesn’t cost anything to try.

Farmers and market gardeners have struggled to get good yields this year mainly because of the absence of rain in June. The Wenvoe allotment holders have the benefit of a constant water supply, albeit with buckets and cans, to have good crops. This takes quite a lot of effort to reap a good harvest but nothing tastes as good as growing your own. Even without an allotment, growing some veg in pots is so worthwhile. I’m sure we will see some of the fruits of our villagers labours at the village show on the 9th Sept.

Take care and happy gardening

 



LOOKING AFTER A LARGE BORDER ETC

THE VILLAGE GARDENER


LOOKING AFTER A LARGE BORDER


Angela Flynn, on LOOKING AFTER A LARGE BORDER.

  1. Dead head daily during the flowering season.
    2. Fill any gaps, so that most of the soil is covered, this helps keep weeds at bay.
    3. Don’t put up with plants you dislike.
    4. Keep any shrubs under control or they will merge into one mass.
    5. Take cuttings of your favourite tender perennials and propagate for next year.

Beryl Richards gets to the point.

  1. Don’t bother with no mow May, your lawn will provide for wildlife even when very short.
    2. Make your own compost, if at all possible, as most of what’s on offer wouldn’t grow weeds.
    3. If someone offers you a plant you don’t want, kindly decline, or they will keep checking that you still have it.
    4. Don’t be kidded into thinking those small tunnels just below the surface of your lawn are made by moles. They are rat runs which are mainly built over the winter.
    5. Probably best not to save those ice cream containers and yogurt pots, you’ll never use them.

If you don’t do much else this month, please make sure you water camellias and rhododendrons thoroughly to make sure next year’s buds develop. Time to trim the lavender after flowering (not the French plants they just need deadheading) but be careful not to cut into the old wood. Dahlias are coming into their own now and will need strong stakes and a feed. Roses will become more prone to black spot as the season goes on. Spraying is not what we want to be doing but for this disease I use rose clear. There must be some other remedies, but I have found this spray works well. Cut the seed heads off lilies before they set, this will give you bigger blooms on the parent plant next year. This month and next are the best times to spray perennial weeds especially ground elder and bindweed before they start to die back.

Using a high nitrogen feed on your lawn will have a detrimental effect, as it will encourage rapid green growth which has been proved to weaken the grass over the Autumn and Winter. Use a preparatory Autumn fertiliser. If you have leatherjackets in the lawn, then now is the time to start a nematode treatment.

Allotment old-timer Herbie will, on a good year, get a second crop from his broad beans by cutting them off to a leaf joint about 6 inches from the ground. They will then shoot and give a lighter crop. Harvesting beans, courgettes and salad will go on for quite a while as long as you keep picking. Tomato plants seem to need a lot of care to get the best out of them. We need to keep taking the top growth off and remove any leaf below the first truss as well as taking some of the leaves off the rest of the stem. We don’t want the plant putting any energy into growing greenery.

The Village Show on September 9th will hopefully encourage you to show off your produce and encourage others to take up gardening.

Take care and happy gardening

 

 

 


 

THE VILLAGE GARDENER

THE VILLAGE GARDENER

 

Two expats, Sean Connor and Penny Wise, give their thoughts on aspects of gardening.
Sean Connor
1. Consider turning a small area of your front garden into a veg patch, it will create interest and, if kept well, will be an asset.
2. Do not overdose when feeding plants, it’s a complete waste of money.
3. If you see totally green leaves on a variegated shrub, remove them or the plant will revert to type.
4. Pull suckers off from the base of roses or they will weaken the parent plant.
5. A battery powered hand pruner makes life so much easier in the garden.
Penny Wise, on how to negotiate a garden centre.
1. Do not buy small pots which are on offer, they are never big enough when you get them home.
2. The farm shop must be run by Fortnum & Mason
3. Check the limit on your Visa card before entering cafe.
4. Avert your eyes when passing the charismatic man selling conservatories that you can’t live without.
5. In July be careful driving in as the car park is full of lorries bringing in the Christmas stuff.
The gardens are in their second flush now after the Spring flowers have faded, so dead heading is a regular pastime. Peter Beale the rose grower advises that when taking faded blooms off roses you should cut back to a leaf joint but most just snap the the bloom off just below the spent flower. The recommended way to dead head delphiniums, foxgloves and Canterbury bells is to cut off the flower stalks just below the spent flowers but Sid & Lyn Cottle always take the individual flowers off and leave the spike and have good results. Plants like lady’s mantle and herbaceous geraniums can be cut back to the ground, they will recover well enough to give you another flush.
On allotments and veg patches the first crops will be ready to harvest. Beans, lettuces, spring onions and early potatoes will be waiting to be picked. The main problem at this time is the fact that most people take their annual leave and go away which leaves some gardens without someone to water, so be nice to your neighbours and they may assist.
Parsley is notoriously difficult to germinate outside but this month is known to have the highest success rate. They can then be potted up and brought indoors later in the year.
The village show in September will be your chance to show off your wares, to keep this event going we need plenty of entries. Anne Daniels might be in with a chance with her secret tomato food blend.
With a lot of May and a big part of June being really dry it is essential that we save as much dirty water as possible to use on the garden. Water butts don’t have to cost the earth any vessel that holds water will suffice. According to the people who know about these things we are going to have long spells of dry weather and when it does rain this will be prolonged so make use of the down pipes on houses and outbuildings. If you can cover these containers, it will stop evaporation. We are also going to have to consider which plants we grow if this is to be the norm. If you have unglazed or terracotta pots water will dissipate through these quickly, it is good practice to line the inside with plastic, bin bags will suffice, or paint the inside. Putting some weed fabric on the top around plants then some bark or stone will slow down the evaporation considerably.
Sadly, Trevor Case passed away at the end of May. Trevor wrote the gardening column in the What’s on for many years. He also led the environment team and was a driving force when Wenvoe competed in the best kept village competitions. A good man.
Take care and happy gardening

 


 

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