About Mrs. Hartley
Special Articles
Ways Of Obtaining Plants
Fish Ponds
Gardening Quotes

Gardening Tip Week Ending 9th October 2014.

Hello Everybody
Autumn has arrived and the trees have started discarding some of their leaves already. There is no need to pick all the leaves up off the garden however, unless they are lying thickly on plants. If they are scattered around the worms will drag them in and they will rot and put their goodness back into the soil. If they are on the lawn simply put the mower over them to chop them and pick them up before then composting them. Chopping them like this will speed up the composting process as leaves normally take a long time. 

Even though Autumn is upon us there are still lots of flowers about. Alan has been cutting armfuls of Chrysanthemums, both from the garden and allotment. They are well worth growing and will last a lot longer than many of the imported flowers. Our own Nurseries put a lot of hours into growing plants and flowers like Chrysanthís for us with a lot of work done outside in all sorts of weather, but so many of us still buy imported flowers. We really ought to use our own home-grown flowers. You can keep chrysanthemum plants from one year to the next by keeping them fairly dry in your cold greenhouse over Winter. Alternatively keep them outside in the ground with a piece of Horticultural Fleece pegged down over the top to stop the snow lying on them. They really donít like to be too wet over winter, or indeed at any time.

We have had some really lovely Apples this year on our own small trees. We only have a little, modern garden, but make full use of all the fences and walls, by growing some fruit trees against them as Espaliers to take up less space. Apple trees can be very productive though on a Dwarfing Rootstock as well and a 4 foot high tree doesnít take up much room either. Apple trees need to have Grease Bands put on about now to prevent grubs getting into the next years fruit buds and spoiling next years apples. When putting Grease Bands on trees you will probably get some of the grease on your hands and it can be very difficult to remove, but Alan has found an easy way to remove it. Simply dusting your hands with talcum Powder before washing with ordinary soap and water will remove it like magic. We do use Grease Bands and non toxic Slug Pellets in the Greenhouse, but otherwise donít believe in using harmful sprays, or chemicals and none are used in our garden at all. Instead we encourage the birds who do a pretty good job of keeping our plants clear of all aphids and slugs.

There are quite a few vegetables that can be planted now and Garlic is one that is easy to grow. You can use the cloves bought from a vegetable shop that are ready for use in the kitchen, but it is not really advisable as they may grow diseased and you wonít have a clue as to what variety they are, or even if they are suitable for growing in the UK climate. It is better to buy them as you would things like Potatoes and Beans. All the popular seed firms sell Garlic cloves in packets and every Garden Centre will have them in stock now. To plant them split the Cloves apart and push them in the ground pointing upwards, about 4 inches apart with just a light covering of soil. They are quite hardy and will go though the winter outside as will Jerusalem Artichokes, Aqua Dulce Broad Beans and Japanese Onions.

Runner Beans will have just about finished by now, so cut all the tops off leaving the roots in as the nodules that form on them contain nitrogen that is good for the soil. It is better to roughly chop up the old stems before adding them to your compost heap, so they will rot down quicker and as long as you used soft green string, or natural twine to tie them in, there is no need to remove this as it will rot as well.

Well thatís all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending 4rth October 2013.

Hello Folks
The year is simply flying by and all the garden centres are already clearing spaces inside for their Christmas displays and also outside so they donít have to carry stock through the Winter. The centre near me has been clearing off shrubs that needed tidying up and potting on, for only £1 each - they are all properly labelled and worth looking at. They would make nice Christmas presents for a keen gardener!

Today we saw some packs of small Chrysanthemums 10 for £8. They were only little, but were in flower and obviously meant for instant colour, however if they were grown on in a cold greenhouse and over wintered they would make good plants for next year. Unfortunately they were all the same colour in one pack, but they would be a nice price if you shared a couple of packs of different colours with someone else and then they would work out very cheaply. We bought some last year and this year they are tall, majestic plants with lots of beautiful flowers. I have about 5 vases full of Chrysanthemums round the house and they last such a long time as cut flowers. We also gave someone a bunch this morning as she had bought a bunch of imported flowers from a local shop 2 days previously and they were already dying. Why buy imported flowers when we can grow such lovely flowers on our own nurseries?

There are packs of Winter vegetables out now that are ready for planting. I think the only vegetables we shall need to buy this winter are Carrots as the rest will come off Alanís allotments. We havenít done badly for home grown this Summer either.

Today for pudding we had a fruit crumble made with some windfall apples that had had the bad bits all cut out of them, some frozen Strawberries that had been harvested from Alanís allotment earlier and some wild Damsons picked by Alan at Oak Tree Farm yesterday. I had done my best to stone the Damsons and that meant that they had all been mashed about a bit, but that didnít matter as you didnít know when they were cooked. For our main course we had some little sausages from a part pack that was left, a part pack of left over bacon, a part tin of Sweet Corn, some split tomatoes from Alanís greenhouse, half a large onion and a thick slice of squash, chopped up, that had come from Alanís allotment, a little tomato puree and a few left over baked beans. They all went into a dish in the oven to make a lovely, tasty casserole. Some of the pieces of Squash cooked down to thicken the sauce and the Tomatoes floated on the top to make it look fancy. Nothing is ever wasted here. I also did some runner Beans and potatoes that also came from Alanís allotments. How about that for a cheap and tasty meal?

Incidentally, split Tomatoes are caused by irregular watering and can be avoided with a little more care and attention to the plants. When they split they soon go rotten and are not nice to eat, but before they get too bad simply use a very sharp knife to cut out the bad and put the rest in cooking for Stews, making sauces and the like, rather than waste them altogether.

Well thatís all for now. Good Gardening
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending October 5th 2012.

Hello Folks
Another dull, dark, few days, but there are still plenty of flowers in the garden. I have a big shrub called Viburnum Tynus growing in front of part of the greenhouse and it is in full flower now. There are several different Viburnums, but most are Summer flowering and deciduous such as Opulus, whereas Tynus is classed as late, or Winter flowering and it is also evergreen, so when I look through the window I can see the splashes of white amongst its dark green leaves which is quite cheery. The flowers are slightly scented and there is also an Abelia nearby that has pretty little pink flowers that I like for pressing as well, but they are so small I can only see them when I go out to feed the birds. Alan took me to a large garden centre that we hadnít been to for a long time and there seemed to be far more gift stuff, tools and books than plants. There was also one large section that had been cleared ready for their Christmas display although it was only September 20th when we went! They had already put about a dozen large artificial trees on a white base to start it off. I suppose all the garden centres will start soon.

Our tubs of, Geraniums etc at the back of the house, and Begonias and trailing Petunias at the front, are all still good and bright. We have 4, or 5 vases, around the house, full of beautiful Chrysanthemum flowers with some cut from our allotment and some from our garden, which are welcoming. Chrysanthemums are really worthwhile growing as all they need is some good, firm soil and a cane for a little support, and the flowers will last for weeks in water if the stems are gently split before arranging them. If you donít want, or canít dig up the old ďStools,Ē or roots, so that you can pot them and keep them over Winter inside in an unheated greenhouse, then instead try covering the roots outside with some bark chippings, straw, or old compost for extra protection. Remember though, that Chrysanthemums are not good over-wintering outside in wet soil, as they will rot! Donít dig Dahlias up until frost has turned the flowers and stems black.

If like me you have grown the large flowered begonias this year, it is a good idea when the basket or tubs are emptied, to try and save the corms as they are expensive. Dry them off, keep them in a cool place and next Spring, about April, place them on some damp compost, then lightly spray them about every other day and they should start into growth before flowering again.
There is a large range of bulbs for sale now, but if you want bulbs in flower for Christmas in the house, or as presents, they should go in pots now. I like to use a deep pot and put in a layer of compost at the bottom, then place a few bulbs onto it leaving a small space between them. Next I add another layer of compost and some more bulbs trying to remember where the noses of the previous ones were, but it is not vital as they will all flower, but the bottom ones may be a little slower coming up giving a longer display of flowers.

With the colder weather coming the Runner Beans are more or less finished, so cut the plants down to ground level, but donít dig the roots out as the nodules on the roots contain Nitrogen which will do the soil good as they gradually decompose.

Well thatís all for now. Cheerio. Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips For Week Ending October 7th 2011

Hello Folks
                 Alan said I am always going on about the bulbs in Autumn too much, but I just want to remind you that if you are handling Hyacinths do put some gloves on, or put your hand in a plastic bag to hold them, because the powder they are dusted with may make your hands itch. The bulbs have to be coated to stop Mildew taking over when they are in store. It is also time to start thinking about planting Wallflowers for the Spring and Winter flowering (Universal) Pansies. In a week or two, after the leaves have dropped, it will be the ideal time for planting new shrubs and trees as they will settle down better then, than if they are planted in the Summer when they are in full growth.

Most herbaceous perennial plants such as Delphiniums, Lupins and Red Hot Pokers (Knifophias) should have their flowering stems cut right down and have any loose, dead leaves cleared away, but many plants benefit from leaving a little dead growth left on them, around their base, to provide winter protection.

The Chrysanthemum cuttings I took off my old plants in early Spring this year have made good plants and have been in flower for a while now. I did buy one or two new young plants of colours I hadnít got though. All of them will be dug up so they can be potted and kept in a cold greenhouse ready for more cuttings early next year. The easiest cuttings to take are the ones coming from below the soil and not off the stem. If these are left until the Spring when the ďStoolsĒ are starting to shoot and carefully eased out, they will probably already have little roots on them. Normal Chrysanthemum cuttings taken in the early Spring, should be about 1 Ĺ to no more than 3 inches long and the leaves should be stripped off leaving only a few at the top. Push 4 or 5 cuttings, gently, into, and round the edge of, a 4 or 5 inch pot. Water them very lightly and keep them very cool or else they will either wilt, or rot. They do not need heat at all and mine stand in a tray under the greenhouse shelves. I donít use rooting powder, but you can if you like. Just a little point for those that donít know, when Chrysanthemum flowers are put in a vase in the house they should always, either, have the end of their stem split, or crushed gently, as the stems are hard and they will then get a better drink and last longer.

Alan has a small Orange, Lemon, Kumquat and also a Lime that has given us a few ripe fruits. This Summer we have plunged their pots in the borders to make it look as if they are growing naturally, but being in pots they can still be taken up for the Winter and can come into the house. I donít know where they will go, (I must be daft!) but I will have to find a space. The Lime has already been brought in as that is a little more tender and we have planted some replacement pots of bulbs to go in the garden and fill in the holes until late spring when the Citrus can go out again after the bulbs have finished flowering. Recently we bought a Banana plant that will need rather more Winter protection, but as it already has several ďPups,Ē on it, we should be able to take those off and individually pot them for the future. A Pomegranate, that is normally thought of as exotic, was planted in the ground before last Winter and will stay out again for this. Surprisingly, it came through last winter all right with only the minimum amount of die back!
Well Thatís All for Now. Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips Week Ending 8th October 2010

  Hello Again

                    Everyone seems to have done well with fruit this year. Farmers say they have had the best apple crop for years, so we have no reason to buy imported apples and for once we can buy English. It has been said that the branches of apple and pear trees are so heavy that some canít carry the weight and even the Rowan trees are covered in so many berries that the branches are bending under the weight of them! Our Fig tree normally produces about 40 Ė 50 ripe fruits each year, but this year we have picked over 160, ripe, fat, juicy, figs.

The weather men forecast an early frost a couple of weeks back, so we went out and picked all our Runner Beans, but of course we didnít get a frost that night! Consequently, we have taken our Runner Beans down now even though there were a few flowers left on. The bees seem to have all gone anyway, so they wouldnít have been pollinated. When taking Runner Beans down do not dig their roots up and only cut the tops off down to soil level as the nodules left on the roots are full of nitrogen goodness for the soil and are best left to rot in the ground.

When the weather men forecast the early frost we also panicked about our Tomatillo plants that are outside against the house wall as they are quite tender. We picked about another pound of fruit that was developed, but still green and left the smaller fruits to take their chances. Of course the frost didnít take those plants either which means we should get lots more fruit that may even ripen before we have to pick them later on.

Although we didnít get an early frost in the middle of last month, some of the leaves on the trees started to turn early with some Horse Chestnuts amongst the first to change colour. It has been very wet at times and they say that means we should get plenty of colour as the leaves dry out and get ready to drop.

There is still a wide selection of Sedums and Heucheras about which are very good for dry parts in the garden if you still have them, or they can be grown in bowls and troughs, but if you do you should add grit to the compost for drainage. Prepared Hyacinths can be potted now for Xmas flowering and it is better to keep to one colour in each pot as mixed colours donít flower at the same time. Do remember to wear gloves when you handle them though as the chemicals they are treated with can cause itching. After potting, keep the pots of bulbs in the dark until the flower shoots are well up. If you kept Poinsettias from last year you can try putting them in the dark now to get them coloured up and when watering keep them damp, but not too wet.

Winter flowering Pansies, that are also about, will flower until the coldest weather comes and then they will have a little rest. As soon as it warms up a little they will burst into flower again. Polyanths and Primroses can be planted out now, as well, ready for Spring.

There are some very nice pots of bulbs about which will make lovely Christmas presents. They are croc pots with a pattern round and contain compost, as well as the bulbs that need to be kept cool to prevent them from drying out or shooting. I have just put some in the garage on a shelf away from mice. Then, at the last minute, just before Christmas, gift-wrap them.

Well thatís all for now . Frances Hartley


Gardening Article Week Ending October 2nd 2009

  Hello Folks

                        The gardens are looking bright with annuals still flowering in the tubs and baskets, but I have some larger flowering Rudbeckias in my borders that are also out now. They are lovely for cutting as they last well in water and flower later in the season. You never see them in the shops as cut flowers, which is a pity as all our cut flowers seem to be imported and we have some good nurseries which should be encouraged to grow flowers like this. Most of the flowers of my Rudbeckias are about 5 inches across with bright orangey/yellow outer petals and dark brown mahogany centres. As with many flowering plants the more flowers you cut the more you get. If you want to grow some Rudbeckias they are easy from seed, but be aware that some are annuals and some of the garden centres sell hardy herbaceous varieties that you will be able to over-winter.

The later planting of Gladiola that I made are now showing colour, but I wonít cut the leaves off the early ones, that have finished flowering, as they will feed the corms for next year. It is said that the name came many years ago from some Galdiators, who found them growing wild by the road-side, and called them Gladiolus. They had very small flowers then, but have been improved over the years and hybridised to produce the beautiful colours and large flowers that we now have. The same thing has happened to most of our flowering plants with them being bred from wild specimens that originally did not look very special. This is especially true of things like Sweet Pea and Chrysanthemums to name but two.

If you want winter colour there are lots of Pansies in flower and on sale now, but if you want them to last into next year only buy the Winter flowering or Universal types. It should say on the labels what they are. I still have some Universal Pansies in flower from last year.

I have had mixed success with my vegetables this year and although the Tomatoes seem to be finishing early I think I have done better than most. Many people seem to have had trouble with blight and mildew, especially outside, because of the dull, wet weather. I put some Butternut Squash in, but the plants I gave a friend did much better than mine. The Squashes will keep if they are cut off the plants and stored in a cool but frost-free place. My son and I had some slices roasted round the meat today with Courgette sliced, but with the peel left on. I added a tiny sprinkle of spice and a spot of oil and they only took about 10 Ė 15 minutes in the oven.

There are some pretty coloured Heathers about now, but if you are tempted to buy them donít be fooled if the foliage comes green next year. This is because many of them have been dyed as they grew this year to give them their colour.
Well thatís all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley


Gardening Tips Week Ending October 11th 2008

Hello Folks

                    Autumn is here with heavy dews at night and misty mornings, but these have sometimes been followed by a few nice days. Now the leaves are falling they should be cleared off lawns and ground cover plants. Leaves will make good compost, but take a lot longer than other plant material to rot so are best put separately, over Winter, into a polythene sack with holes in to allow excess water to escape. It is most important to clear all the leaves and any other debris from pools and ponds as well because this will rot over the winter, pollute the pond and may kill the fish.

Rhubarb can be lifted and divided any time now in preparation for the new growth next year. You should discard the old centre pieces and keep the new crowns. It doesnít matter if the crowns gets frosted before replanting as it wonít hurt them. Winter pansies are about now and will look even lovelier next Spring if you inter mingle them with dwarf tulips or dwarf daffodils when planting them. There are some very pretty coloured Heathers about too, but beware as they have been artificially coloured and they will keep their colour as long as they last, but after the Winter if they survive, they will be the normal colour again next year.

Cuttings of Geraniums can still be taken before they go over, but none flowering shoots are best if you can find any. Cuttings about 2 to 3 inches long are ideal. You should strip off all the lower leaves and any very large ones, then put several cuttings to a pot, and round the edge of a clay pot is best as the clay will breathe, unlike plastic, which may make them sweat.

Some crops have done well this year and some are very poor due to the wet. For a few weeks the Raspberries cropped heavily, but suffered with mould on the berries. Rowan trees seem to be covered with berries this year and if you pick them they make lovely jelly with apples. I grew some baby Sweet Corn putting three or four plants to a very large pot. It was an experiment really, but they have done quite well. Experiment with different things and try anything within reason, thatís what I say.

Well all for now. Cheerio
Frances Hartley

8/10/ Gardening Hints And Tips

Hi folks it's me again.

I am afraid summer is coming to an end and it is getting dark earlier, but a colourful winter can still be had as there is a wide range of winter flowering Pansies, prices do vary though. There are also some very pretty little Violas. Miniature Cyclamen are often sold as outdoor plants but they do need protection from cold winds and frost. Cyclamen Neopolitan are a hardy variety though and will spread and flower early if you can get the corms of them.

If you saved Poinsettia plants from last year and they are growing well they must be put in complete dark now or they will not colour up for Xmas. Runner Beans will probably have finished now so cut them down to ground level but do not dig the roots out as the nodules that grow on the roots will put Nitrogen back in the soil as they rot.

Late fruiting raspberries are still ripening so do not cut them down till February. Wallflowers are of course ready for planting now. If you don't like planting each year there are some perennial ones that are a bit more expensive as they are single plants in pots. After flowering cut down fairly low then they will stay bushy.

Check on any Hyacinths that you have growing in the dark to see if they want a little water. Don't bring them in the light until the flower bud is about 2-3 inches tall or the flower will come out shorter than the leaves. They will look very pale, but when you bring them out into the light they will soon colour up again.

Cheerio For Now

Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips October 12th

Hello folks

                    Autumn is now here and some of the trees have already turned colour giving a beautiful display of reds and yellows. Other shrubs can still be seen in flower. I have just come inside after doing an hour in the garden and stopped to look at an Abelia that is practically evergreen and is smothered in tiny very pale pink trumpet like flowers giving the insects one last free source of nectar before the coming winter.

With the colder nights approaching Begonia corms should be taken in and dried off. Then, store them in a cool, but frost free place until next Spring. If you have light well drained soil Dahlias can usually be left in the garden. When the foliage has died down put a good layer of leaf mould or compost over the tubers. This will act as an overcoat and keep the worst of the weather off them. For most people the only way to keep them is to dig up the corms and dry them off. They should initially be stored upside down to drain all the moisture out of the stems before being placed in a cool frost free place for the winter.

The Geraniums have done very well after a poor start, but again with Winter coming they need to be prepared if you are going to keep them for next year. I normally dig them up and pot a few of the best ones, then keep them inside and nearly dry, in a cool room, starting them into growth about the end of January. Another way of keeping some of them for the next year is to take cuttings off the old plants in your baskets and borders before clearing out the displays. The cuttings should be put into pots as normal, but keep them fairly dry all winter, unlike normal cuttings. I like to take lots of cuttings of those with red and yellow flowers because those show up the best in the garden and being bright I can see them best. The scented varieties can be difficult to get from one year to the next so I always try to keep some cuttings from those as well.

Winter Pansies seem to be very advanced this year, but if you see Pansies that are very cheap and look as though they are being cleared out make sure they are not the Summer flowering ones. Winter pansies give a nice splash of colour until the Spring bulbs come through.

There are plenty of Winter vegí plants about now such as Cabbage, Sprouts, Chinese Greens, and Winter Lettuce ready for planting to give you fresh greens straight from the garden, or you could grow a few in large pots if you only have a yard.

If you have put Hyacinths in pots for Christmas flowering donít bring them into the light until the leaves are a few inches high and the flower buds are showing. Poinsettias are difficult to get to colour up a second year, but they should be kept in the dark for about 6 weeks.

Well I think thatís all for now, cheerio

Frances Hartley.  


Gardening Tips  31/10/05

High Folks

                    With dark early nights it is time to divide your perennials. Lift them if clumps are getting too big. If you have difficulty dividing them use two forks back to back pushed into the centre of the clump and then prise them apart. This wonít hurt them because the middle is usually the old part and can be thrown away saving the new shoots around it to replant. If like me you have poor eyesight and have difficulty distinguishing the new shoots in the Spring from weed shoots, put a small cane with a bright cane cap on, close to the plant at the time of planting.

Winter flowering Pansies and Primroses should go in now along with Spring bulbs. If you have heavy damp soil and still want to grow bulbs it helps if you put some gravel in the bottom of the hole so that the bulbs can sit on it for drainage. This is particularly important for Daffodils, Narcissi and Tulips because if they are too wet they will rot. An alternative is to pot the bulbs and place the pots amongst your other plants in the garden. If you have fairly deep pots a better show can be made by putting a layer of bulbs near the bottom of the pot and covering them with a layer of compost before putting another layer of bulbs on top. If you have difficulty getting them in tidily it doesnít matter because the bulbs will sort themselves out when they shoot.

                             Well Thatís All For Now

                                       Good Planting

                                                Frances Hartley