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Gardening Tips Week Ending 5th August 2014.

Hello Folks
I did send an article in to the Talking Newspaper for July, but it had to go by Email and I donít think it was received. Anyway, here we go for this month; -
All shrubs should be clipped by now to give the ends time to heal before the Winter starts. Large leaved bushes like Laurel should be cut with Secateurs to save leaving ugly cut leaves showing, whereas small leaved hedges can be done with hedge trimmers.

Some of the garden Centres have packets of seeds left which they are selling at half price. Most seeds of flowers like marigolds and other bedding type plants will germinate well next year as will most vegetables, so it can be a cheap way of buying your seeds for next year.

Early fruiting Raspberries should be cut down as soon as the fruit have finished. Cut the old stems back to ground level and then new canes will grow ready for next year which should be tied in to support wires for the Winter. After the flowers of Lupins, Delphiniums, Red Hot Pokers and most other strong growing, perennial, or hebaceous plants have died, or been harvested, cut the stems right down and you should get another flower spike. It may be a bit smaller than normal, but is a good bonus. Lavender flowers will be faded now so they should be cut back to just above the old wood to keep the plants bushy. Do not cut in to old wood though as it rarely shoots again. I like to cut small bunches of Lavender to stand in a little glass vase. It smells lovely - especially if the room has been closed up all night. It is a good smell to wake up to for breakfast. Alan brought back from the Allotment a lovely bunch of Monarda today. They are a perennial and if grown from seed this year will flower next year. They are not very pretty with the flowers spread out on the plants, but the flowers look much nicer when cut and pushed together in a vase in the house and they also smell Minty. So, we have Lavender smells in the Dining Room and Mint in the Lounge. This year we didnít grow annual Sweet Peas that are another smelly flower, but we did put in some perennial ones that seem to be a bit of a flop, so far. If they do come up next year maybe they will be better.

Alan is busy on his allotment clearing the ground of the Potatoes and getting winter plants in. He is also supplying us with Beetroot, some lovely French Beans and Courgettes at present. We like Courgette sliced about one inch thick and done on a flat tin in the oven. Then at the last minute a thin slice of cheese should be just melted on the top, or the Courgette slices can be just roasted in the juices round the meat.

We have had a marvellous crop of Hazel nuts off our own tree. Alan has picked them still green and in their husks as otherwise the Squirrels would get them if they are allowed to ripen on the tree, but we do leave a few nuts on for them.

Our small Apricot tree that is on an East-facing wall had some full sized Apricots this year that were a lovely treat and the Mulberry bush had a nice crop of berries for the first time. The Mulberries are quite an unusual taste and texture, but rather nice. It reminded me of the song we used to sing at school while trying to warm up after a cold and frosty walk, but I never expected to be able to see one actually growing and eat the Mulberries!
Well Thatís All For Now. Cheerio. Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips Week Ending
August 3rd 2013.

Hello Folks
If you have grown Onions and the tops are starting to turn down and die off it is time to take them up and lay them out in the sun to dry up for a few days. Then you can gently pull the tops off them. They keep better if completely dry like Garlic that can also be taken up about now and dried in the same way. When the bulbs are properly dry put them into nets and hang them up to store them so that the air can get round them and they donít go mouldy. I use fruit nets saved from packs of fruit, old stockings, or even the legs of tights.

Early Potatoes are ready for lifting as well now. When they have been lifted brush off the soil and store them in paper, or Hessian bags - not plastic, or they will sweat and rot. Then keep them in a dark place to stop them going green and where they will be away from Mice. For Potatoes that are going to be stored into the Winter they also need to be kept frost free.
We are starting on many of the vegetables now, but the Runner Beans are not doing very well as it was too dry for them earlier on. On the other hand the Geraniums loved the hot dry weather so should be good for cuttings this year. Again the Sweat Peas were late starting into growth with the cold, windy start to the season before they then found it too hot and they are already going to seed. There is now a perennial Sweet Pea about, but they are fairly expensive, although they come up from seed easily enough. There is also a perennial Wallflower that has a lovely scent and you could take cuttings from it in the Spring to bulk up your numbers.

Generally the fruit has done well this year. We had such a lot of large, juicy, Strawberries we gave a lot away as we had too many to eat and I have experimented by freezing a lot. I open froze them on trays before putting them in freezer bags. I know they will go mushy when thawed, but hopefully they will add sweetness when they go in crumbles in the Winter. Alan has picked me 12 lb of Gooseberries which I have topped and tailed, washed and frozen. We have also had a lot of Black, White and Red Currants so we shall do well for crumbles this winter, although the Rhubarb didnít do so well as it was dry earlier on. There have been no Plums on our tree and the Apricots all dropped as are many of the little Apples, but the trees have so many apples still on they needed thinning anyway. This ďJune Drop,Ē is rather late this year with our crazy seasons. The Cherry tree has produced its first real crop and we have already picked over 4 lbs with some still to ripen and some left at the top of the tree for the birds! I did stone a few cherries and put them in the freezer for something different. At the moment the big old Fig tree is covered in fruit, but I suppose I shouldnít tempt fate! Hope I havenít made your mouths water too much!

Back down to earth and the garden centres normally start to reduce seeds about now that havenít sold to make room for the bulbs that are coming in for Spring flowering next year, so it is a good idea to plan what you want to sow in the Spring and take advantage of the cheap seeds. Donít worry about the dates on the packets too much as most seeds will keep well after their sow by dates and you normally get so many seeds in a packet it doesnít really matter if a few donít germinate.

Well thatís all for now. Frances Hartley.


Gardening Tips August 5th 2012.

Hello Folks
            The fruit is ripening now and so far I have frozen some Rhubarb and 2 Ĺ lb of Black currants, but there will soon be some more Black and Red Currants, as well as Apples that are all useful to make ďCrumbles,Ē in the Winter. While talking about fruit I must remind you to put a handful of Potash round each fruit tree and bush, twice a year, to feed them and help them to produce flowers and fruit. We have also picked our first Cherries and that reminds me that ďStoned,Ē fruit which include Plums, Peaches and Apricots as well, also want a bit of Lime around them to help them form the ďStones.Ē Our Peach and Fig trees are covered in fruits this year that are swelling nicely and our first Apricots are almost ready for eating, so I wonít have to eat anymore dried Apricots for breakfast for a while. When cooking Alanís lovely Red Cabbage from his allotment, I normally like to add a few Sultanas, but one-day, I hadnít got any, so instead I chopped up 3 or 4 dried Apricots and put those in which was quite tasty

The Tomatoes in the greenhouse seem very late fruiting this year and will need feeding regularly as soon as the tomatoes are as big as marbles. Most people donít bother feeding outdoor Tomatoes, but they will benefit from a feed as well. Tomatoes must have air round them to prevent Botrytis which will cause the plants to start to wilt and gradually die, so leave the top window of the greenhouse open a bit at night to let the damp air escape on our hot Summer nights! If you leave the door open instead, you may get cats, foxes and even hedgehogs rooting around in your greenhouse upsetting pots and damaging plants.

Sweet Peas donít seem to last long in the house, but they do smell lovely as they are one of the few flowers that havenít had their smell bred out of them. I took a bunch up to our local luncheon club and put them in a little pot in some water on the table and every time some one went past they would stop for a sniff. Donít forget you must keep cutting the flowers, even if you donít want them! If you donít they will quickly go to seed and stop flowering altogether.

If you hoe round the plants in your borders when the weather is dry it is a lot easier on your back than digging weeds out. You can leave the weeds on the ground in the sun and they will quickly shrivel up and die. Deeper rooted weeds such as Dandelions, Docks or Nettles do need to be dug out though.

All the rain, earlier in the Summer dashed down many of the flowers, but the Geraniums are still really lovely in spite of it all. If you have any special ones, but are not good with cuttings, look out for seedpods when they have flowered. They are very thin, funny looking things, about half an inch long and cigar shaped. Carefully pick them off and dry them to get the seeds out. I find the best place is on a saucer on a window ledge. I will explain about growing them next time.

Thatís all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips For Week Ending August 5th 2011

Hello folks
Summer time is quickly going and my how the years seem to fly by. Some garden centres are now selling this seasons stocks of seeds off cheaply. As most vegetable and flower seeds will keep quite well from one year to the next, it is a cheap way to stock up on seeds early for next year. Tomato seeds, which can be expensive, give a good germination after 5 or 6 years if the packets are re-sealed after taking some out, but I have found Lobelia and Nemesia donít germinate so well the next year. All seeds should be stored in a dry and cool, but frost free place. I use an old biscuit tin with a tight fitting lid kept in the garage. Next years bulbs will soon be on sale and if there are any special ones that I want, I like to get them early and put them in nets that I have saved off packs of fruit or onions, or sometimes I even use old stockings, and then hang them in the garage out of the way of the mice. If I want any of the more common, ordinary bulbs to fill up borders, I usually wait until the end of the season when they are clearing them out and they have been reduced.

The ďWinter,Ē or ďUniversal Pansies,Ē will soon be on sale again, but mine from last year were planted in tubs on a very sunny patio and they are still flowering. However I expect they will soon exhaust themselves and need replacing.

If you like Wallflowers there are several different coloured perennial ones which can be cut down fairly low after flowering and then left in ready for the next year like any other herbaceous plant.

When Buddleias have finished flowering they can be cut back to stop the plants from rocking and loosening their roots in high winds and then a proper pruning can be done at the end of February next year when they should be cut down quite hard.

Allium seed heads can be cut down and kept to dry for Winter decorations as can many other seed heads from things like Teasels. I shall try spraying some with gold and silver paint for Xmas this year.

Herbs that are going to be saved for Winter use should be cut and hung up to dry now. We have planted a lot of herbs round our new currant bed this year and one unusual one that I found recently, is a Ginger Mint that has bright yellow foliage. I donít know if it is hardy or not, so by taking some cuttings now I can put one in the greenhouse to make sure a bit of it will survive next Winter. I have only found it at one small garden centre so I want to make absolutely sure I donít lose it. Being a different flavour I chopped 2 or 3 leaves and put them in some Ratatouille instead of Garlic and it was quite a change. I did get another plant for someone else and they put some leaves on a stew which they said was good. Speaking about Garlic, when the tops start to go pale or wilt, lift the bulbs and dry them off in the sun before hanging them in nets, or tights the same as you would onions. Then they can be used later, when needed. I like to split a few cloves of Garlic off the main bulb, put them round a roast in the oven for about 15 minutes and eat them as they are. There is a particular type of garlic called Elephant Garlic that is much milder and even better for eating whole like this.
Well thatís all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending August 6th 2010.

Hello Folks

                    Hope you have some bright gardens full of flowers, or productive vegetable patches now. Seed catalogues will be sent around in the post anytime now and after the very hot dry spell we have just had, it is time to look round, see what has survived well and then decide what to grow next year. Some plants which have done well that come to mind are, Lavender, of which there are several different colours, various Sages, Thymes, Sedums and Dianthus. Instead of growing from seed you may want to try taking some cuttings from your existing plants.  Lavender cuttings can be taken by carefully pulling off new side shoots with a heel. Then trim off tidily and push about 6 or 7 cuttings in round the edge of a 1 litre, or 5 inch pot, filled with a gritty compost. Water the pot lightly and put it in a plastic bag with a short thin cane supporting the bag to make it look like a tent. Then keep it in a cool place and when the cuttings are rooted pot them separately until they are growing well enough to go out in the garden. With Thyme you just take off small shoots, but without the heel and otherwise treat the same. I put three Dianthus plants in a fairly shallow Terra Cotta bowl last Summer and they looked very bright making a brilliant splash of colour. After they had been left out all Winter and Spring came, they suddenly seemed to spring into life again and flowered as well as before. They had been left close to the house wall for shelter though. They have just had their dead flowers cut off and we are now waiting to see if more flowers will come.

Geraniums, or should I say Zonal Pelargoniums, have really been very bright this year. I usually give mine a good drink in an evening as this is the best time for watering them, not during the daytime. Geranium cuttings can be taken once again, but do not use rooting powder when trying to root them and keep them almost dry throughout the Winter. They will root more easily in the house than in the greenhouse as the cold damp Winter air of an unheated greenhouse can be too humid for them and can cause leaf rot.

Any large leaves on Tomato plants can be cut off now to let the sun and light in to ripen the fruit. My soft fruit is doing well this year even though it has been dry, with some going in the freezer and some in fresh fruit salads. We picked lots of Blackcurrants and even had our first few berries on our Josta Berry bush, but the Gooseberries didnít do so well. The fruit on one of the Blueberry bushes has already ripened, but the other one is a different variety that will follow on. In the Winter my son dug up and divided the Yellow Raspberry canes which have now filled out and we already picking some berries although they are supposed to be Autumn fruiting.

When we were out one day we came across some small Peaches for sale that we had not seen before which looked like a Doughnut ring in shape, but with their centres filled in. We have not tried them yet, but does anyone know where they come from?

Well thatís all for now.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips For Week Ending 9th August 2009

Hello Folks

                    It doesnít seem long since we were putting the clocks forward and with the longest day now gone the nights are drawing in already, but everything in the garden is still looking bright and cheerful in spite of all the dull weather and heavy soaking it has been getting.

The Tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing well and I must make a special note of the name of them, as some of the trusses are 17-18 inches long with tomatoes from top to bottom. They are a new variety of Tomato that produces ďpop in the mouth size onesĒ and it is strange how one will always find itís way into ones mouth when picking them!

Runner Beans are flowering, but the bees seem to have gone on holiday, as they are not setting very well. Gooseberries and Black Currents have done well this year, but the wet has spoilt some of the Raspberries. The wet has prevented me from doing much in the garden, but I have at least managed to get the Forsythias cut back although it was a bit late. They will catch up, as will the Phlomis Fruiticosa that I have cut back severely now it has flowered. Phlomis make a large shrub and are very showy, with soft, furry, silvery grey leaves and fairly large, bright, yellow flowers that the bees love. We have three Buddleias that are beginning to flower now, a very dark blue one, a white one and a yellow one.

The food, in the compost, in baskets, tubs and window boxes will all have been taken up now by the plants, so you should feed them each week.

The Hazelnut bush I grew from a nut bought at the greengrocers about 6 years ago has now made a large bush that had some lovely catkins on in the Spring and yes, this year we will soon be picking our own nuts! Fortunately I have not seen any squirrels round where we live yet.

Amaryllis bulbs from previous years should either, be in flower, or coming into flower, so gentle watering should be done, then, when the leaves start growing, start feeding them. My red one, which has flowered each year for about 5 years and a pink and white one for about 3 years, are now both in flower yet again.

Lavender has been lovely this year, but do remember that when the flowers have all dropped the plants should be cut down to just above the old wood, but not into the old wood as that will not shoot again.
Well thatís all for now.
Frances Hartley


Gardening Tips Week Ending August 7th.

Hello folks

                    Sunshine has come at last so lets hope we have it for a while now so that it helps to dry up the floods and bring the bees out to pollinate the runner beans etc. My beans are flowering quite well but not setting at present.

A gentleman at the coffee morning passed me a leaflet about an insect that is attacking the Allium family which includes Onions, Leeks, Garlic and the ďornamentalĒ Alliums, so keep a look out for them.

Tomatoes are doing well in the greenhouses, but if the leaves start to go yellow give them a drink of Epsom Salts, (a teaspoonful dissolved in a pint of water) as this is a sign that the plants are getting short of magnesium. Water the solution round the roots or in the pots but not on the leaves. Large leaves can be taken off to allow the sun to get through to ripen the tomatoes better.

 The soft fruit has come a cropper this year because of the wet and could well give a very poor harvest, but the later fruit such as late Raspberries may be all right if it dries up and stays sunny for a while.

If you have the lovely lilies growing in pots or in the garden, take the seed pods off when you see them forming after the flowers have finished, or they will weaken the bulb which wonít flower so well next year. Lilies can be grown from seed, so if you want to try them leave just one pod on the plant to ripen. If you have more than one colour the seedlings may be mixed through pollination. They are fairly big seeds and when they are growing keep them in a frost free place through the winter but keep them damp. They will flower after 2 years. Some lilies form tiny bulbs in the leaf axils on the stem of the plant. These can be carefully taken off, potted and grown on. Again they will take a while to reach maturity before they will flower.

Well that's all for now

Have fun with your plants. Cheerio

Frances Hartley  

Gardening Tips week Ending August 9th 2008

Hello folks

                   While writing this, the sun is brilliant. It is nice to have some warm weather especially as it will help to ripen the tomatoes. If the temperature is building up in the greenhouse it is a good idea to throw a bucket of water down on the floor as this will create humidity and keep red spider mite away. A moist atmosphere is particularly important if you are growing cucumbers, as they love a high humidity. If you grow cabbage or lettuce watch out for the cabbage white butterflies as there seem to be a lot about this year. I have draped some loose netting over the Curly Kale as they were making for it 2 or 3 days ago. I did pick some semi outer leaves although the heart is usually used the other day. I chopped them, cooked them in as little water as possible and mixed them in the mashed potatoes. Kale is said to be good for the eyesight.

Even if you put slow release fertilizer in baskets and pots the plants will still appreciate a liquid feed about once a week. If slow release fertilizer is sprinkled round Dahlias and Lilies it will build up the Dahlia Tubers and Lily bulbs for next year. Runner Beans will want plenty of water now. If the tops have gone down on your Garlic it may be ready for taking up about now. Dig them up and put the bulbs in a sunny dry place. When the tops come off easily and the bulbs are dry store them in a frost free place in netting. The nets of fruit packs such as Oranges or old tights are good for storing bulbs.

There are some lovely varieties of Sweet Peas about these days, but it is the old fashioned ones that seem to have the most scent. It is important to keep cutting the flowers, because the more you cut the more you will get. If they are allowed to start forming seedpods they will think that they have done their job for the year and will stop flowering.

The Oenothera or Evening Primrose, seem to be very good this year, with their bright yellow flowers about 3 feet tall. They are supposed to open in the evening, but seem to be open most of the day, especially when it is dull.

Well I think thatís all for now. Cheerio.

Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips 20/8/06

Hello Folks

Here are a few more tips for you. Geranium cuttings can still be taken but do not be tempted to use rooting powder. I find it best to sprinkle silver sand on top of the compost so that when you push your cuttings into the compost the sand goes in with them. This will help prevent the end of the cutting from rotting but do keep them fairly dry throughout the winter.


There have been some lovely new impatiens or Bizzy Lizzies about this year and cuttings can be taken off them. Remove most of the leaves from the cutting that should be about 2-3 inches long and using compost and silver sand, or compost and perlite, place in an unheated propagator, or put the pot in a polythene bag and tie the top leaving some air in. They will not need heat. When the cuttings are rooted pot them up and keep damp and frost free.


Shrub cuttings can still be taken using semi ripe wood which are stems that are still flexible and have not toughened up.


I have found that ground cover plants such as Saxifrages have not done very well at all this year due to the dry spells, so I am going to put more Thymes and Sage in for next year. There are now some very pretty ones and they also smell nice when touched. Gold, silver and variegated thymes and variegated Sage can all be found. These will all stand hot dry spells. A lot of plant retailers have been selling succulent plants for the gardens which are ideal for hot dry places, but beware because they are not all hardy. Most do not like a wet Winter and a lot will not stand the cold Winter frosts. Some of the big American Agaves are almost hardy in a dry sheltered spot but things like Stappelias will just die when winter comes. Carpobratus or Mesembryanthemums may survive as well if kept dry and given some protection. Sempervivums or House Leeks are one that will and will grow just about anywhere. Phormiums and Cordylines will also stand the hot dry weather and give a Mediterranean feel to the garden, but be warned they do grow quite big.


There is a very big range of bulbs in the garden centres now ready for planting, but don't rush because it is still very early.

Well that's all for now. Cheerio Frances Hartley