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Gardening Tips Week Ending 5th June 2014.

Hello Folks
Summer time is here at last. All the bedding plants are in, or at least should be and baskets can be hung out. Out door Tomatoes should be hardened off by now and be ready for going outside. Itís not too late to plant everything though and if you like Sweet Corn that can still go in. I have grown plants in tubs successfully before now, but you need a very large tub - big enough to take 4 plants to ensure good pollination. Cobs will be a bit on the small side, but they make an extra tasty vegetable. Plants can still be bought in trays ready to grow on. Turnip seed can go in later than most vegetables and indeed are a good crop to grow on after the Potatoes are harvested. Just fork over the ground well after harvesting and sow the Turnip seed. You may get a lot of small ones, but they are tasty in stews, or casseroles on a cold Winters day. Although all the Summer vegetables should really be in now it is time we should be thinking about planting vegetables for the Winter like Sprouts, Kale, Leeks, Spring Cabbage, Spinach and Swiss Chard. These can all be started in what are called 6 packs that are a plastic tray with 6 cells in. You can get these cell trays with all sorts of combinations of the number of cells in, but they all make planting out easier and the fewer the cells the bigger they are and the more growing room they have for the young plants.

Strawberries will soon be ready for picking and if we do as well as last year I shall open freeze some again, so that when they are frozen they can be tipped into bags and will still be loose instead of making a solid lump of Strawberry ice. We found last year that when 4, or 5 Strawberries are put in and into a fruit crumble it sweetens it enough, so that you donít need to use Sugar at all - even with Rhubarb, Gooseberry, or Apple. The taste of the Strawberries comes through strongly though, so donít put too many in, or else you will over power all the other tastes.

The Grass is growing so well that Alan seems to be cutting it every 3 or 4 days. Grass cuttings make an ideal mulch round all sorts of Bean plants and any scattered amongst fruit and vegetables like Squashes, or Courgettes will help to keep the weeds down and moisture in. Another use for grass cuttings is to help to warm the compost heap up. Donít put them in too thickly though Ė just scatter them in and they will help turn your garden rubbish into good garden compost. Done properly a compost heap does not smell as some people think it might and it does not encourage Rats as long as no waste food goes into it.

Winter flowering Heathers should be clipped over lightly now to tidy them up and encourage new growth, but there isnít much other pruning to be done at the moment. Wisteria is one thing that will need a little pruning soon and you can lightly prune some of your fruit trees just to keep them in shape, but make sure that you donít cut off the branches with fruit on although, it is time to thin out heavily fruiting trees. Alan has just lightly trimmed up our Grape Vine to remove some of the excess bunches and encourage those left to grow a little bigger.

Well that all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley


Gardening Tips Week Ending 2nd June 2103.

If, like us, you invested in water tubs before the Winter, you should check they arenít split as you will need them now. If they are, they will of course be empty, but you may be able to get them replaced under guarantee, as they were obviously not up to the job they were sold for. If they have been full over Winter there will probably be lots of debris in the bottom such as rotting leaves that will need cleaning out. A tight fitting, custom made, lid will stop this, keep the water clean, will prevent midges and may stop some evaporation if we get any hot weather. If you can get a piece of wood cut roughly to cover the tank instead, this will help.

Tomatoes should be growing well by now, but if they are producing side shoots it is better to take these off at this early stage, so that you will have a stronger plant. If you feel you have room for another plant, the side shoots will often root and make good plants. (This is what some professional Tomato growers do to get an early start with plants that they have over Wintered) 

Some garden centres still have a lot of Onions left on show and may be reducing them. Even now it is worth getting them planted, although, they will probably be small, but still worth having. There are also still plenty of packs of young vegetables on sale out there, that are ready to be planted and it is not too late for most.

There donít seem to be many Bees about, so if you are growing Runner Beans it might be a good idea to plant a few Nasturtiums, or other heavy pollen bearing plants, close by to encourage any bees to come and help pollinate your beans. The wise gardener also gives the Bean canes a gentle tap occasionally that helps to manually pollinate the flowers.

Alan and I have just been to a well-known garden centre and seen a long bench outside full of 6 packs of young chrysanthemum plants. The last couple of years we have started to get more interested in growing Chrysanthemums for cut flowers for the house and it is usually difficult to find much of a selection, so it was most unusual to see such a display. Chrysanthemums are very easy to grow and last a long time in water if you crush the ends of their stalks before putting them in the vase full of water. They are not too fussy about where they grow and are ideal for filling in gaps in the garden. They start to flower when most of the bedding plants are looking tired and need their old flower stems cut down. If you do this, many of them will then produce another flush of flowers.

Another thing that we havenít seen before is 6 packs of Potatoes started into growth. At first the idea seemed ridiculous, but I suppose they are ideal for one person, or someone who wants to grow just a few in a big tub in the greenhouse. A normal pack of seed potatoes would have far too many in for them.

There are still a lot of packs of Spring and Summer bulbs on sale and if the prices have been cut they are worth a try as the flowers are already formed in the bulbs and are waiting to burst forth. It may well be that the bulbs flower a little later than they should, but they will flower at the normal time next year if you keep them. However, donít buy any bulbs that are shrivelled and look dried up as they may well not grow at all.

Well thatís all for now.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips For Week Ending June 8th 2012

Hello Folks
                    Sorry this is a little late, but the weeks have simply flown by. The planted tubs, which are on the slabbed areas at the front and back of the house, are filling out nicely. Alan waters them each evening as he wonít let me carry heavy cans of water now. We have some Alliums out in flower now and planted in a group they certainly make a splash of colour. When they have completely finished flowering the seed heads can be dried for winter decoration instead of cut flowers.

It should be safe to plant out everything now, but with our mixed up weather you never know. The old saying was ďNeíer cast a clout Ďtill May is out,Ē that means when the Hawthorn is in flower there will be no more frosts, so keep your fingers crossed and hope that it is correct. Some of the hedges seem to be covered over with white flowers and a few red Hawthorn trees dotted that are about look lovely as well.

Trees and shrubs are best planted when they are dormant in the cold months of the year, but when planting them in the Summer, it is a good idea to stand them in a bucket of water for an hour or two before planting. Then make your hole ready and add a good amount of water before putting in your tree or shrub while the ground is still wet. By soaking the deeper soil this way it encourages the roots to go down for water instead of just growing at the surface. After filling in the hole, especially if it is hot, dry weather, water again and use some home made compost, bark chippings, or even spent compost, as a mulch to keep the soil damp.

When hot weather comes, a lot of people water their lawns, but established lawns do not need watering. Even if they go a little brown they will soon recover with the first showers after a dry spell.

The green house is better having a good watering early in the morning, but do remember to keep the windows open at the top as heat rises and can then escape. Simply splashing a bucket of water on to the slabbed floor of a greenhouse when it is hot will help to cool it down. Glass whitening mixtures can be bought everywhere that will provide light shade for the greenhouse and also reduce the temperature. The whitening should be roughly painted over the roof every few weeks as it will wash off after a few heavy downpours!

My son has tried to grow some outdoor cucumbers this year, but they do best indoors and should be planted right away from doors or windows as they donít like a draught. A few years before I started to build the plant nursery, after taking my gardening course, we lived in one house that had a very large garden. My husband had 3 large greenhouses built in it, including a melon house. It was Ĺ underground with the glass top above the ground and I used to grow some lovely melons and cucumbers that were about 18 inches long. The melons liked a hot, humid atmosphere and when it was very hot, I used to throw a bucket of water down on the slabs that quickly evaporated, so we always said it would have made a good sauna!

Well thatís all for now. Cheerio, Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips For week Ending June 3rd 2011.†

You should have finished sowing all bedding plants in the greenhouse, but now the soil has warmed up, it is still not too late for some outdoor sowings. Things like Runner Beans, Chrysanthemums and Sweet Peas should be growing well and have been planted out. When planting Beans it is a good idea to plant something that flowers well, near to them, to attract the Bees to pollinate the flowers, or the beans will not set so well. My son replanted our Raspberry bed this Winter with various Currant bushes and put a lot of small flowering bulbs of all sorts round them which flowered early and attracted more insects to the bed to help set the fruit. As the bulbs have gone over he has now planted lots of small herbs like Parsley, Chives, Sage etc to make the most of the space.†

The warmer weather has started to bring out the Aphids and other pests, so I like to hang a couple of the sticky yellow cards in the greenhouse that are especially designed to catch Whitefly, Green fly and Black fly, but not Ladybirds. As we use these no sprays are needed in the Greenhouse and we also encourage birds in the garden because they clear plants of all Aphids, Ants and even Slugs outside, consequently, no chemicals or Slug pellets are needed at all, anywhere.†
It is nice to see plants that appeared to be dead after the winter slowly coming back to life. Some may have lost a few branches, or tips that will need cutting back. Even my large Fig Tree is waking up with a few leaves gradually unfurling. The ornamental trees have flowered early and have given some lovely displays in the gardens with the Hawthorns and wild fruit trees such as Cherries, Plums and Sloes, putting on lovely displays along the roadside.†

There seems to be a terrific amount of young vegetable plants for sale in the garden Centres that can all be planted now, as well as many herbs and unusual things like Sweet Corn. If you are tempted to grow some Sweet Corn they need to be planted in blocks, or in a double row to aid pollination. The tassels, which grow near the tips of each plant, will wind pollinate the lower buds that develop into the cobs. Sweet Corn cobs are lovely when picked fresh from the plant and used straight away. Having nowhere to grow any last year, I put 4 plants in a very large tub. The cobs were a bit small, but very tasty. This year we have an allotment so my son has put a few more seeds in to give them a proper try.†

The Daffodils and the other early flowering bulbs have finished now, so when all the foliage has died off, you can take the bulbs from any pots and lift them from the borders in your garden, to dry them off. Then they can be stored in the nets that bought fruit, or onions are often packed in. If you donít have any you can use some old tights, but do not store any bulbs in plastic bags or else the bulbs will sweat and go mouldy. The garage, or shed are ideal places as long as the nets are hung up out of the way of any mice. Some of the late Spring and early Summer bulbs are still making a good show now though, so leave those for a while yet.†

Well thatís all for now. Cheerio. Frances Hartley.

Gardening Article Week Ending June 5th 2010.

  Hello Folks

                    Everything in the garden is coming on nicely now, but we could do with some rain. Our five water tubs were empty by May 11th. Weíre never satisfied are we? The farmers in some areas will be getting their sprayers out soon to irrigate their crops. Just about all bedding plants should be planted out by now, although it is still worth putting in some of the later flowering types. Most vegetable plants should be growing well with Runner Beans climbing up their canes, but you need to keep an eye on some of them for water, especially things like onions and Shallots or they will pack up growing and run to seed.

I hope my Courgettes will fruit this year as last year they flowered well, but not a single fruit set as they produced only male flowers. I kept talking to them, but it made no difference they were still naughty! There is a good range of Herb plants on sale everywhere and if you are not normally in the habit of using herbs why not be adventurous and try some. They can be grown in pots individually, or several different ones can be grown in a fairly shallow tub together, but do not put Mint with them of course, or it will take over. We grew some Little Gem Lettuce in a box like crate that was only nine inches deep and they grew well. It was nice to pick and eat a lovely fresh lettuce whenever we wanted. Tomato, or fruit boxes, can often be had from the green grocers who are usually glad to get rid of them. Spring Onions and Radishes will grow in the same type of shallow container, so there is no need for a vegetable plot. There are some Tomatoes that are sold to grow inside a greenhouse in grow bags, but they will also grow out-doors in large pots, about 10 inches, or even in the garden, but of course they will need regular watering as they can be very thirsty when it is hot. We find Gardeners Delight, very good and tasty, even though they are only a small tomato.

The grass will often need cutting now and the cuttings will make good compost, but they must be spread out in thin layers otherwise they will make a thick smelly block. They can be mixed with vegetable peelings, broken egg shells, tea bags, dead cut flowers, small broken twigs and even vacuum cleaners bags if they are broken up. In fact almost anything can go on except glass, plastic and cooked food, such as meat, that might attract rats. About twice a year it is a good idea to sprinkle some garden lime on to the heap. If looked after properly there will be no smell at all. Another point to remember is do not put bits cut from Potatoes where the eyes were, or you will have potatoes growing in the compost!

With all this sunshine and dry weather donít forget that the birds need water, both to drink and wash in.

Well thatís all for now.
Frances Hartley.


Gardening Tips June 2009

Tomatoes should be growing well in the greenhouse now and starting to flower. If like me, you havenít seen many insects about to pollinate them, you can gently tap the canes each day to help to distribute the pollen. I may have mentioned before about what to do if the bottom leaves start to go yellow, but will remind you anyway. Yellowing of the leaves on Tomato plants and many other plants is usually a sign that they are getting short of Magnesium Sulphate. To cure this water round the roots of the tomato plants with some water containing a solution of Epsom Salts at about 1 teaspoonful to 1 pint of water.

There was a short article in the daily paper saying that plant nurseries generally and especially growers of large quantities of salad crops are importing Lady Birds to keep crops clear of Aphids. Using natures own natural little predators to keep pests at bay is very ďGreenĒ and environmentally friendly. You can buy little packs of eggs or larvae from specialist dealers to put in your own greenhouse, but they are quite expensive. Myself, I never use insecticides in the garden and certainly not in the greenhouse, but I do hang up the sticky yellow cards that you can buy. The cards are specially made for greenhouses and are not toxic. Aphids go for yellow and will get stuck on the cards as will many other insects such as flies, but Ladybirds, are not attracted by them so are perfectly safe.
You can also get Red Spider mite in the greenhouse when it is dry and very hot, but the simple cure for this is to throw a bucket of water over the floor to damp down occasionally. Plants like Cucumbers will love the increased humidity.  

It should be safe to put all bedding plants out now as well as vegetable plants such as Runner Beans, Courgettes, etc.

Aubergines need a little protection as they donít seem to like the wind on them, but are quite easy to grow in either a glass or polythene greenhouse.

We are trying Sugar Snap Peas, Okra and Radish Mooli in pots this year, so I will tell you how they do later on. Lets hope the Runner Beans do better this time as nobody I have spoken to seemed to do very well last year.

The Rhubarb has done really well this year with good stems and the leaves could almost be used as umbrellas. If you leave the stems too long before you pick them they can get very tough, so make sure you only pick the young ones to eat unless you cover the plant with something like a very large upturned plant pot to draw them up.

You might want to try growing a few vegetables in large pots as there are plenty of young plants for sale in the garden centres. It is easy to transplant young vegetable plants, but remember that root vegetables are best not disturbed after sowing as it can cause the roots to fork or divide. Sow things like Beetroot and Carrots directly where you want them and thin them out afterwards. If your vegetable plot is full you can easily grow Beetroot and Carrots in borders among bedding plants as they have rather attractive leaves.

Well thatís all for now.
Frances Hartley


Gardening Tips Week Ending June 1st

For my Birthday this year two of my sons took me to the ďDorothy Clive GardensĒ on the Nantwich road from Stone. The gardens are built in a quarry and are fairly steep, but the paths are gravelled and the few steps there are have rails at the side. The main attraction is the huge variety of Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Unfortunately they donít last for long, but are very colourful during their peak time in May. There are banks of white, yellow, orange, red, pink and mauve everywhere. A few Bluebells were still out as were the white and red Brooms and the lovely yellow cup shaped flowers of the Freemontedendron. We also saw a wooden pavilion tucked away with a white Wisteria trained along the front of it. Then we came across a long arch of covered in laburnum with itís racemes of yellow flowers hanging down. One of my sons is 6 foot and he had to duck once or twice to negotiate the path between the mass of hanging flowers, but it looked really good.

There is a restaurant and there are various grassy places with benches where one could have a rest or picnic. It was a beautiful day out and made a memorable birthday.

Well back to gardening and getting those tubs and baskets filled. The weather is so changeable, but it should be safe to put all those bedding plants out now and also Runner Bean plants. With Runner Beans I like to make a trench and spread a few sheets of newspaper in the bottom, not a thick layer though, or it wonít rot very well. If your vacuum cleaner bag needs to be emptied spread the contents of that along as well, then fill in with some good soil. I like to add some water retaining crystals and some slow release fertilizer mixed with soil before completely topping up. I also add some of the water crystals and slow release fertilizer to baskets and tubs.

Late Chrysanthemums should be ready for their last potting soon. If you have Tomatoes flowering in the greenhouse and havenít seen any bees to pollinate them, you can do it yourself. When watering the Tomatoes in the morning, give the canes supporting them, a gentle shake and this will make the pollen fly about and aid pollination.

Well thatís all for now.

                    Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips week Ending 6th June

Hello folks

We have had such a long dry windy spell the soil was so hard I couldnít put a fork in my garden, but it is gradually improving now with the addition of lots of home made compost. My 3 water tubs were all empty so I was glad to see some rain. The only problem is that the rain brings out the slugs and if you have trouble with slugs and snails crawling up planted tubs there is now something to stop them;- It is called ďSlug barrier copper tapeĒ and is easy to stick round tubs and troughs. I tried it last year with success and have put fresh on again this year. The tape can be bought from most garden centres and probably from all sorts of other garden shops. It comes in 4 metre rolls, (roughly 12 Ĺ foot) priced at £4.99.

The Rowan or Mountain Ash trees have been smothered in flowers this year so there should be plenty of berries for the birds later on in the Autumn and Winter. The trees are suitable for a small garden and the flowers are highly scented. Everybody knows of the red-berried variety, but I also have a yellow berried and white-berried one that has pale pink flowers. We have about a dozen Rowans growing down the length of our short road that I have grown from the berries since we moved in 14 years ago. The different coloured berries look attractive on the trees in the Autumn, but they are not only good for the birds to eat, because if they are boiled with apple they make a tasty jelly.

It should be all right to put hanging baskets out now and you can also get your tubs planted up because the danger of frost should have passed. Runner Beans, Lettuce, Courgettes and any other vegetables will be all right to plant out as well. I am trying Squash outside this year and have also put out some Golden Berry plants. In case they are not very well known the fruit is sold in small packets in supermarkets just labelled as Physallis. This is a bit misleading as the Chinese Lanterns are also called Physallis. They are all the same family but different varieties, with the ones you can eat called Physallis Edula. Some restaurants now put a few of the berries in with things like fruit salads and round the plates as a garnish with things like sliced melon. My family have been eating Physallis berries for years and they can be eaten fresh as a fruit but they can also be cooked and used in pies.

Well that's all for now

Frances Hartley.


Gardening Tips Week Ending June 24th.

Sweet Peas should be flowering well now, but to keep them so, they should not be allowed to set seed, or they will think, ďJob doneĒ and stop flowering. Also the more flowers you cut the more you will get. Tomatoes should be fruiting now. If so and you have baby ones on, start feeding the plants with a high potash feed such as Tomorite. If you give a Nitrogen feed you will get a lot of growth, but not much fruit. I have not seen many bees about yet to pollinate plants so when watering the tomatoes I like to give the support canes a little shake to disturb the pollen.

Any winter and Spring flowering shrubs should be pruned without delay if not already done. If you can get into garden Centres you will find most of them are clearing out Dahlias, Spring flowering bulbs and the big beautiful Lilies. They will all be reduced quite a lot now and will still flower as the flower will already be in the bulbs waiting for a good drink and a little T.L.C. but do check that the bulbs are not shrivelled.

If you are fond of Salads sow a few seeds of Lettuce at a time and a few more after a couple of weeks. If bending is a problem sow them in a trough stood on bricks. The cut and come again Lettuce, where you can pull a few leaves at a time, are quite good if you donít mind having small leaves. Scatter a few Radish seeds in between the lettuce as well if you like them because they will be ready at a different time.

If slugs and snails are a problem, Vaseline smeared round pots and tubs about 1 Ĺ -2 inches up from the bottom will stop them. I was fed up with them blocking the spout of my watering can so that was what I did and it worked.

                    All for now.   Cheerio

                                                Frances Hartley.