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Gardening Tips Week Ending December 5th 2014.

Hello Folks
This will be the last ďGardening Tips,Ē for 2014.
Lets hope the weather will settle down soon, but ours hasnít been as bad as some. They have had some really bad snowfalls in America and we have barely had any frost as yet. I think the trees have put on a lovely show this year with the mild and wet Autumn. The leaves have had some brilliant colours and taken a long time to fall. Alan has been busy on the Allotments finishing the weeding, making sure the fruit tree ties are secure and putting the Chrysanthemums to bed. Chrysanthemums will stand some cold, but donít like the snow and too much wet. Some roots will be heeled in, in his new cold frame that he has just had made and some left in the ground, but covered with horticultural fleece. The soil is very light and well drained so they should be fine. He has been bringing home great armfuls of flowers at a time. At the time of writing this I have 4 large vases and 4 small scattered round the house, but that is the last of them now.
There are plenty of Cyclamen in the garden centres now that have some lovely colours. Most of the large and small ones will not permanently go outside, but instead like a cool room and should be watered from the bottom. However there are some fully hard ones about as well, so check the labels.
Hellebore Niger, the White Christmas Rose, are out on sale now and I love them, but unfortunately they donít like my garden. I have planted them in different places and so has Alan, but they just die off, but the purple ones seem to grow and flower well in the shade. 

The garden centres all seem to have cut down on the Christmas scenes this year and we have not come across a single one with a Nativity Scene yet which is very disappointing as children are forgetting what Christmas is all about. They think it is just a good time for getting the most presents. As children we used to enjoy making our own presents for family and friends by doing sewing and knitting for girls and woodwork for boys and card making for both. We hung up stockings at the side of the fireplace and would wake to find there was usually an old penny, an apple, a few nuts and a small present inside it on Christmas morning. Everybody was satisfied, but children get far too much now and as for pocket money we had to do little jobs to get any. There were far less sweets about than there are now and no crisps, but we sometimes made our own for a change. I know I have wandered off gardening, but there is not much to do now - only tidy up. Even the TV gardeners have finished for the Winter! I shall be making my Holly ring for the front door soon though. We have two lovely, variegated, Hollies in the garden, a silver one that is prickly and a gold one that is not very prickly. They look so bright and cheerful that I always use them. By the way, I must remind you to make sure that if you buy Poinsettias - do have them completely wrapped as they do not like the cold on them.

Best wishes to you all.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips For Week Ending December 6th 2013.

Hello Folks
We have nearly reached the end of yet another year and they all seem to be flying by. When Autumn came the trees seemed to be changing colour, very early, at first, but the trees seem to have suddenly come to a standstill now, hanging on to their leaves and giving us a bit longer with some beautiful colours.

When the leaves eventually all fall they can be left lying on your borders as they will do good because the worms will drag them into the soil where they will turn into compost. However, you must make sure they are not lying thickly on top of any herbaceous plants including things like Primroses as they will cause the crowns of the plants to rot. In this case the leaves should be gathered up and composted and obviously you donít want your lawn, or path covered in a thick carpet of leaves either. They do take a lot longer than most compost material to rot properly and are really best composted separately in a bag, but if they have been lying for some time the worms will have already found them and putting these wet leaves full of worms into your compost is still a very good thing to do.

It is getting a bit late to plant Spring flowering bulbs, but there will probably be many still on sale at reduced prices everywhere you go, so why not risk it and plant some bargains. The bulbs will still flower as the flower will already be developed in the bulb, but they may well be a bit later than usual. The one bulb that really is not worth trying unless they are fresh , is the Snowdrop. These are best if they already growing in pots and then carefully transferred into the ground, becaeus they can be a bit temperamental from dry bulbs. Hyacinths that have been started in the dark for Xmas flowering should have their flower heads well up now, but not opening. These can be put in a cool and light place now. Any flower heads you want dried for Xmas decoration should be hung up in a cool place now to dry out completely. Especially good for this are things like Alliums, Lunaria, or Honesty and some of the larger leaves from things like Aspidistras, Hostas, or Loquats, look quite good as well, when dried and sprayed. 

Alan has a small Medlar tree in the garden that has produced a lot of fruit this year. Nearly 200, rock hard, over grown crab apple sized, fruits. They are one of the last fruits in the garden to be picked as you donít normally pick them until the end of November. Then, they are just beginning to ripen, but you donít eat them until the fruit is going rotten, or over ripe and is soft enough to be eaten with a spoon. Medlar fruits have to be ďBletted,Ē by storing them for a few weeks after picking in somewhere cool, but frost free until they have turned brown and are evenly soft all over. If you try ripening them in a warm room the fruits will dry out and be unpleasant to eat and if they get frosted the flesh around the pips will start to go mouldy. Alan is quite fond of them and Iíll eat them, but I donít really like them. I will tolerate the soft, brown, mushy flesh of the fruit if a little is mixed in with a fruit salad to hide it.

Well thatís all for now. Best Wishes. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley

 

Gardening Tips Week Ending December 7th 2012.

     Hello Folks
                  Yes itís me again, last one Ďtill the Spring, but I must give one final warning about Poinsettias. They will have come from a warm nursery and the trolley they were delivered on would have been wrapped round with polythene to keep them wind free. So do please have them properly wrapped when you buy them, or take a big bag with you to put them in. A few days after getting them home they should still look fine in your house, unless a cold wind caught them at the shop and then they will gradually wilt and die. 

Our weather is so changeable and with the dull days we have had I think the birds couldnít make up their minds whether it was breakfast, or teatime. It has been so dark just lately some days it has almost seemed like twilight all day. 

Alan came back from Oak Tree Farm this morning where he enjoys doing Saturday morning voluntary work. One thing he had been doing was cutting some Holly with berries on ready for them to start making Christmas Wreaths next Monday. It reminded me of when I made some wreaths and they were all ready for sale with lots of berries on. I carefully put them where I thought they would be safe from peoples feet, but the next morning when I opened the Nursery up I looked at the wreaths and saw all the berries had gone. The Mice had had a midnight feast, so rather than re-do them all again, I used substitute berries that were plentiful on the Pyracantha and then the wreaths were hung up away from the furry little Mice.

We have been enjoying some early maturing Parsnips from Alanís allotment that have been quite large, with no core and very tasty, but unfortunately are nearly all gone. We still have a lot of Jerusalem Artichokes left in the ground though, which make a nice change from ordinary vegetables. Those are the ones with tubers and not the thistle like flowers.

Alan also has lots of Leeks coming on and some Broad Bean seeds in as well as Purple Cabbages for the Spring.

I still have vases full of lovely Chrysanthemums all round the house, but the plants have just about finished now so have all been dug up and roughly potted. They will stay under the staging in the greenhouse over Winter and be kept almost dry Ďtill the new shoots come in the new year. The shoots will then be taken off about the end of February, before the Spring really gets under way and the old plants started all over again. Any extra young plants can be given to family and friends. That is how gardeners used to obtain plants before Nurseries and Garden Centres were started. They used to give surplus plants away and also swap them with anybody they could to increase the variety in their gardens. Gradually, a few shops selling corn and animal feed started selling lettuce, cabbage and other vegetable plants for the farmers gardens and a few smaller packets of seeds as well instead of commercial sized quantities. The idea spread and shops like Hardware and florists joined in and then everybody was selling seeds, compost and all sorts of things. Finally, in the 1960ís garden centres started to boom and spread everywhere. 

Well thatís all for now. Best wishes and a happy Christmas to you all.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending 4rth December 2011.

  Hello Folks
          Shops seem to be busy, but whether it is window-shopping I donít know, however the bulbs at some places are definitely reduced to clear them out, so if you want a few more it is a good time to get some.

At most places now, there are lots of Poinsettias for sale, but donít forget they must be wrapped before you take them out of the warm shops and Garden Centres. The small Cyclamen on sale look very bright and cheerful, but unless they are labelled Hardy like ďNeopolitan,Ē etc, they will not stand the frost. If you want to brighten tubs, there are Winter flowering Pansies and also Ornamental Cabbages. (Sometimes labelled Kale) I know slugs like them, but if they are in tubs you can stick Copper Tape round the tub and they will not crawl over it. It is sold in a roll, so you stick it about half way up the tub, unwinding it as you go. It is a bit sticky to handle, but well worth it and I found it lasted for about 2 or 3 years.

On the subject of slugs, when we cleaned out all the old Tomato plants from the greenhouse, we gave it a good general clean up to remove all the slugs, their eggs and all the other pests that would have been hiding in the spilt compost, dead leaves and other assorted rubbish.

If you havenít lined the greenhouse yet it is a worthwhile job even if you only do the roof, but before you do it, it is a good idea to clean the glass to make the most of the Winter sun. When you put up the polythene, drawing pins can be used in wooden framed greenhouses to secure it and for metal-framed ones there are special clips that push into the grooves and twist to lock in place and hold it. Bubble polythene sheeting is quite expensive, so we save ours each year and the bubble polythene we have just used to line our greenhouse is at least 3 or 4 years old already. When we take it down it is folded and tied up before going back in the garage rafters ready for the next Winter. If you have to make any joins when you put it up, parcel tape sticks better than cello tape which soon peels off in the sun and the damp. Another worthwhile thing to do is to fill any big gaps in the framework, where it has moved, with scraps of fleece, capillary matting, old cloths, etc before putting up the polythene.

With Winter coming, Olive bushes, small Figs and many other tender plants outside can be wrapped with horticultural fleece to protect them. The fleece should be loosely tied with string to make them look like a snowman!

A little reminder that as leaves are still falling, they should not be left on Herbaceous plants or they will start to rot and kill them. The leaves of many other plants can be gathered and used as a mulch between plants, or they can go on the compost heap to rot. It is probably better to rot them in a dark plastic bag with a few drainage holes punched in it, as leaves will take about 1 Ĺ to 2 years to rot properly, but they make lovely compost.
Well thatís all for now and a happy Xmas.
Cheerio Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending December 3rd 2010

  Hello Folks

                    The few frosty nights and cold days we had in the middle of November finished all the bedding plants although some seemed to last very well. With winter on us the last of the tender perennials should be protected. If you have grown Dahlias and have light sandy soil you can leave the tubers in the ground if you like, but do cover them with bark chips, leaves or extra soil to keep hard frosts off the crowns. If you take them up remove all the soil and dust with flowers of sulphur powder, then store in a frost-free place in the dark. Nearly all the summer flowers have gone now, but the Roses have lasted particularly well, and if you have any flowers that have not been frosted and would like to keep a few for Xmas, cut long stems and stand them in water in the cool for 24 hours. Dry the flower stems ends and then dip them in melted candle wax. When the wax has cooled and reset, store the roses in a box in a dry place and when you want them for your arrangement cut the waxed stem end off and use. By the way, if your roses have had Black Spot on the leaves, pick off any remaining leaves from the plants and make sure there are no leaves left on the soil around them as the spores will stay on the soil and infect the plants next year. An old fashioned remedy for Black Spot is to get a bit of soot from a chimney, mix it in water and spray the bare bushes and soil with it.

If you have a Fig tree you will find many small fruit left on it now the leaves have fallen. All of these undeveloped fruit are best taken off and discarded as they will do no good now and only spoil your fruit crop next year. Many reference works say that these will develop in the next season, but this is not true, only the tiny fruit bud eyes will develop. Every year we regularly remove half a bucket of these undeveloped fruit as the winter comes from our own tree and put them on the compost heap.

We also have a Medlar that has done very well and produced itís first real crop. My son picked about 60 fruit and has put them in the cool garage in a large plastic crate to slowly ripen. The crate is suspended on large nails away from any mice who may shelter in there and take a fancy to the fruit.

Now is a good time to buy all sorts of trees to plant, but if you donít have a large garden always find out if any fruit trees are grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock. If not, or if in doubt, there are some new large bag pots that you put the tree in and then bury in the ground. They are said to keep the trees roots in check, but allow it to naturally take the water from the surrounding soil. This in effect Bonsais the tree and makes it fruit at a smaller size. One special sort of pot was featured on one of the gardening programs, but after my son looked on the Internet he found that there are several manufacturers offering many similar products. They vary in price and size from about £5 to £15 and are available by mail order or over the Internet.

Hyacinths that have already been started in pots for Christmas flowering should be put in a light, cool place now with the flower buds well up, but not open yet.
Well thatís all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips Week Ending December 3rd 2009

Another year has nearly gone again, my how the years go by. The gardens are starting to slow down now for Winter, but there is still some colour about on my Penstemenons, a blue Hebe is still flowering well and the Rudbeckias are still going mad. I cut quite a good bunch again to day as they make good cut flowers for small vases.

Bulbs such as Daffodils, Narcissi, Tulips and the small bulbs such as, crocuses, can still be planted if the ground is not too soggy after all the heavy rain. We have one patch in the lawn that never seems to dry out and gets very slippery as it is walked on a lot. I didnít want to lose any more grass and have lots of slabs in the lawn, so with such a wet year we found some hard rubber mats with plenty of holes in, from a D.I.Y. shop and used them like they do for re-enforcing field entrances on agricultural show sites. My son took a thin layer of grass out and laid the mats down level with the lawn so that the grass grows through the holes, the mower goes over them and no more slipping. They have done the job so if you walk across one little patch of grass regularly to, say a clothesline, in the lawn, this might be a good idea for you.

If your ground is not too soggy to get on and there is no frost about, it is a good time for general planting. Bare root shrubs and roses come cheaper than potted ones and can only be planted at this time, but not many places still sell them. We have seen one garden centre though, that sells loose, bare root, hedging plants, but it is proper plant nurseries that have traditionally sold bare root plants.

Herbaceous plants are dying off now, but it is still a god time to buy as they have probably been reduced. They can often be divided and have a chance to get established ready to start shooting in the Spring.

Christmas Cacti should not be bought when they are in full flower, or their flowers will drop, when the plants are moved. If they are in tight bud they will be alright, but donít move them about after the flowers start to open, not even in the same room. It is a good excuse for not dusting. Poinsettias should not be taken out in the cold at all, but if you really must, when you buy them for instance, they should be well wrapped or else they will get chilled and wilt after a day or two.

I donít know if we are in for a very bad Winter, but the Hollies, Cotoneaster and Rowans are covered in berries this year and they do say that is a sign of a hard Winter to come.

Well thatís all for now and I will wish you all a happy Christmas as there wonít be another gardening article before then. Cheerio. Frances Hartley

 

Gardening Tips Wk Ending Dec 5th 2008

Hello Folks

                    Hope you are all managing to keep warm with this changeable weather, it certainly seems to be confusing the plants in the garden as the Iris bulbs are well up, the Primroses are coming out and my son said he even thought some Daffodils were trying to poke their noses through. The plants donít know where they are this year, but I suppose they will sort themselves out eventually.

Garden Centres and shops have a lot of their Christmas plants in now, but be warned that if you buy Poinsettias or Crotons which have pretty coloured and variegated leaves do not take them out in the cold unless they have been properly wrapped and donít buy them from open outdoor stalls at all. The plants will have come from heated nurseries in insulated vans into the heated Garden Centres and shops so will not appreciate the cold, especially the winds we have had lately.

You can still plant bulbs if the ground is not frozen and why not put some in pots to bring into the house after Christmas especially as most places have started selling them off cheap now. Winter Pansies and Primroses can still be planted too. There is still plenty of colour in the garden with the Golden Holly, Silver Holly, red Rose hips and other berries, and even the Cotinus or Smoke Bush still has most of its lovely red leaves on. Sedum Spectabilis flower heads have turned a lovely bright red and make a splash of ground cover. The Ornamental Sage has grown well this year and its variegated leaves are very pretty, but remember that the Sage likes well drained soil. Our Medlar tree had quite a few fruits on this year although it is only the first season since it was bought in a pot and planted. Alan has eaten most of the fruit which is best left on the tree till they are really ripe. They look something like a small apple, but when you peel them the soft flesh can only be described as looking like one thing that is often trodden in on pavements! They are definitely different, but I didnít like the texture of the flesh so I will stick to my Figs which do very well against our south facing fence.

Not much to do in the garden now only keep the birds fed and fill their water dishes. Well that's all for now till after Christmas so all the best to everyone.

From Frances Hartley

Garden Tips Weekending December 15th

Hello Folks

                    This will be the last tips for this year.

If you like Poinsettias there are various colours in them now, but I prefer the traditional red ones. Please can I point out that it is not wise to buy them from open stands at outdoor markets and the like, as they may look fine, but if they have been exposed to the wind, a few days after being brought in the warm again they will start to wilt and nothing will save them. It is very important then, when buying, to make sure they are wrapped properly before taking them outside. Chrysanthemums, Cyclamen, most bulbs and Azaleas are a bit tougher though and donít need so much molly coddling, even though they have all come from a warm nursery originally as well. Cyclamen donít like a lot of water but Azaleas are thirsty plants and must never be allowed to dry out. When Azaleas have finished flowering and need potting on they must go into ericaceous (Lime Free) compost.

The days have certainly been dark and short lately, but with very little frost and no snow, thank goodness. In a few weeks we can look forward to the Spring bulbs pushing their noses out of the ground, followed by their beautiful, bright flowers.

My purple Christmas Roses (Helleborus Niger Purpurea) are flowering now in the garden and I expect they will continue Ďtill after Christmas. There is also a Cotoneaster full of bright red berries and the leaves have gone bright red. The leaves will all drop soon, but it does look a picture at the moment. It seems to be a variety whose berries the birds donít like. On the other hand, the birds strip the evergreen one in no time at all.

I noticed some of the Hebe plants are still producing a few flowers, especially the pale blue ones.

One job less to do now is lawn cutting and then edging, so the mowers can be put away and we can rest a little now Ďtill the Spring.

Well that's all for now. I wish everyone a peaceful Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.

Bye for now. Frances Hartley.

December Tips

Hello Folks

                    Itís not much like gardening weather now, but we do have the Spring bulbs to look forward to. If you are buying indoor plants for Christmas, do not buy Poinsettias, indoor Azaleas or Crotons that have been standing outside on open market stalls because they will almost certainly have come from heated nurseries and will usually have been transported in heated or insulated vans.  Standing them outside in the cold like this after being raised in the warm will kill them and a day or two after you have bought them they will wilt for no apparent reason.

Re-cycling places have complained about shredded paper clogging their machinery and are asking people not to put it in with other paper for re-cycling. I have a small paper shredder and scatter the shredded paper from receipts, old bank statements and such on the compost heap amongst the grass cuttings, or it can be put in small quantities in the bottom of  pots when re-potting plants or bulbs. Some can be scattered with a little soil on in the garden to act as a mulch. If wet it will not blow about and soon rots down when the worms have pulled it into the soil.

I keep a book in which I write notes of what plants have done well in different parts of the garden in our changeable weather and then go through seed catalogues with the aid of my strong magnifying glass to see whatís new and suitable for the next year.

I think I have mentioned before that if you receive a planted bowl for Christmas with a Cyclamen in it is better to take it out and re-pot it in a separate pot, as they prefer a cool place, unlike some of the other plants, such as the Poinsettias that they are likely to be potted with. Also Cyclamen donít like water on their corm, so they are best watered from the bottom and then only occasionally. Cyclamen should never be allowed to stand in water but Azaleas on the other hand should never be allowed to dry out as they are thirsty plants and will drop all their leaves if they do.

This will be the last article before Christmas so best wishes to everyone. By for now.

                             Frances Hartley

A Few Tips Now On House Plants In December

There are some really lovely Cyclamen about now, but they donít like central heating which most of us have. It is the dry air that is the main trouble, so stand the pot, the plant is in, on some gravel, broken pots or small stones in another container and keep the stones wet, though not so much water that the plant is standing in water. Cyclamen donít like water on the corm, but with these precautions they should stay in flower for at least 3 months.

Azaleas like plenty of water so give them a good soak each day by standing them in water until the pot feels heavy, then, let it drain and stand the pot in another container with wet gravel etc in the bottom. This keeps the humidity round the plants and indeed you will find that most house-plants prefer this type of care. This does not apply to Cacti and other succulents which like dry air. If you like the Xmas cacti you should buy them in tight bud if you can and after putting them in the house donít keep moving them round as they might drop their buds. Just dust around them without disturbing them.

African Violets donít like water on their leaves so when the pot feels light just stand it in water for a few minutes, leave it to drain and then put it in a holder or on a saucer.

                    Hope these tips are useful to you.

                             All for now.

          Frances Hartley