January 2021 Garden Tips

Garden Notes for January 2021.

This is the time of year when houseplants are most appreciated. Azaleas, cineraria and cyclamen will all help to cheer things up. Do not over water, and most of these plants like cool conditions.

January is a good time to order gladioli corms from reputable suppliers. Sweet peas can be germinated under glass with some heat. Plan spring planting programme for flowers. Complete digging beds and borders to be used for annuals when the weather is suitable. Do not disturb soil when it is frosty.

When your seeds arrive from the supplier keep them in a cool dry place until required. Protect pea seeds in particular because mice love them, and they have already got into our garden shed where they have started on anything that they can reach. Remember paper is no barrier to sharp teeth, and makes lovely nesting material.
Rhubarb can be forced using an upturned bucket or tub. This should be covered with garden fleece to keep off any frost.

It is wise to get your seed potatoes now when there is a plentiful supply, but popular varieties soon get sold fast with the result that you end up with the less well known types. When the seed potatoes arrive, keep them in a frost-free place and stand the tubers, eye-end uppermost, in shallow boxes. If you can get large egg trays these are ideal for keeping the tubers upright and just separated to prevent any infection spreading.

You may want to think of biological pest control. There have been huge developments and you can get natural solutions to pests such as vine weevil and whitefly. In fact there are over 10 different pests and diseases that can be controlled in this way.

Start the first sowings of onion seeds this month. Also give a good dressing of wood ash on the site of the bed that you will use, since they really like potash. If the weather is suitable, shallots can be planted on well drained soil, or plant them individually in 3 inch pots.

Chris

December 2020 Garden Tips

Garden Notes for December 2020.

What a wonderful autumn display of colours by the trees in November! Better than any firework display, in my view. Of course it is all down to the weather we have had previously. Now the plants have their winter ‘sleep’, and it is probably best to let them lie in peace. However there are a number of things you can do, as ever – a Gardener’s work is never done.

Large flowered clematis, like Clematis jackmanii and the many hybrids from it, should be pruned towards the end of the month. They can be cut back quite severely. Prune back to good, well developed buds.

Seeds of helleborus, hosta and primula can be sown in December and January. Use John Innes No.1 compost (or similar) covering the seed with a thin layer of compost. After watering them in, place the seed container against a North wall or in a cold frame making sure that they are protected from mice. Leave them there until the spring. Then bring them into a greenhouse, on a well lit, but not sunny place, and germination should then take place.

If you are planning to sow hardy annuals in the spring, they will benefit from giving the soil in the place they will go to an early preparation. So long as the soil is in reasonably good heart it is best not to put any fertiliser, since annuals do best in a soil that is not too rich.

When picking Brussels sprouts keep the tops, and only use the best when all the sprouts have been harvested. Some of the winter broccoli may be starting to form their curds. Turn in the leaves to protect the curd from frost, and cut regularly as once they have reached their full development the curds soon begin to open and will spoil.

In order to have some early shoots of mint, now is the time to lift a few roots and put them in a fairly deep seed box and cover with potting soil. Put it in a frame or the greenhouse, and you will have nice shoots in a few weeks, when everything else is still asleep in the garden.

If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse vine, they should be pruned towards the end of the month. All side-growths should be cut back to two buds. The spurs carrying these shortened growths should be well spaced apart, at least 40 to 50 cm apart on the main rod so that overcrowding in summer is minimised.

Good gardening!
Chris

Litter Pick

Thank you to all those who chose to take their daily exercise litter picking last Saturday! Our regular army of litter pickers turned out and filled just 18 bags with rubbish. This was a vast improvement on the 40+ bags collected in September. Here’s hoping this trend continues downwards.

Litter Pick

Do please come and join the team for another village litter pick 10.30 Saturday 7th November gathering in Capel Memorial Hall car park. Remember to wear suitable footwear and gloves. We aim to finish by noon.

AGM

Our Annual General Meeting, scheduled for 10th November, will not now be taking place. The relevant reports can be viewed by clicking here. Should you have any comments or queries please contact our Chairman, preferably by email. Thank you.

October 2020 Garden Tips

Garden notes for October 2020.

One of the great satisfactions of gardening is the ability to make your own plants from propagation. With autumn drawing on, make sure you get your cuttings sorted out earlier on in the month. Plants like fuchsias, geraniums and so on should be potted up and put somewhere safe before the frosts begin. Cuttings of alpines that have been done earlier should either be planted out where they are to grow, or potted on and kept in a frame until the spring. If you are keeping them in pots, it is best to plunge the pots to their rims in sand, ashes or soil. (Don’t forget to protect them from slug and snail predation!)

Lettuce seedlings can be planted in cold frames to give winter supplies. The frames should be ventilated freely when the weather is mild as they are prone to mildew attack.

It is always tempting to hang on to the summer flowering plants ‘for a few more days’, but if you want your spring flowers to bloom you really need to chuck out the old and put in the new. The reason for this is that spring bedding plants need to have time to get established before the winter weather sets in, otherwise they will not do as well.

If you are going to plant new fruit trees and shrubs, the best time is in November, but October is the time to prepare the site. The soil should be well dug and manured, this will be much more difficult in November.

Towards the end of the month strawberry beds should be tidied up. Remove all dead, diseased or damaged foliage, as well as the weeds.

The herbaceous border should be tidied up. Some people say that it should be left alone as the old stems protect the new growth, forgetting that they also harbour all the pests and diseases as well. I think it is better to cut back the top growth, and clean up the borders. It also allows the soil round the clumps to be lightly forked over. In addition the more vigorous plants can be lifted and divided to make room for other plants as well as helping others start their borders with the left overs.

When frost has browned the tops dahlias, cut them down to 9″ above the soil. Tie a label to identify the variety, then lift the tubers carefully and dry them off in a greenhouse for a few days before finally storing them in a cool frost proof place.

It is not often that I come across a garden tool that I had not heard of before. Recently I discovered the “Hori-Hori” which when translated from the Japanese means ‘dig-dig’. Essentially it is a steel blade with one sharp edge and the other with a shorter or serrated edge. It is fantastic for doing precision weeding, planting out, cutting back or just for killing slugs! There are a couple of suppliers (apart from Amazon, of course). I got mine from a company that has its UK base in Dorset and is called Niwaki. It is something to consider as an unusual Christmas or birthday present for a keen gardener.

Good gardening!
Chris

September 2020 Garden Tips

Garden Notes for September 2020.

As John Keats so famously wrote about autumn being the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/ close bosom-friend of the maturing sun”, September sees the time when crops are harvested and stored for the winter months that are to come. Carrots should be lifted and stored before the roots start to split, which they will do very quickly once the heavy autumn rains begin. For the same reason, beetroot are better lifted and stored this month. Looking forward to next year, spring cabbage should be planted now. Remember to firm the soil around each plant after planting. Lettuce can also be sown now in a cold frame, or greenhouse. Varieties to choose include ‘Winter Density’, ‘All the Year Round’ and ‘May Queen’.

Watering plants is always a good topic of discussion. It is either too dry, or it’s too wet. The essential thing is to try to get the right balance. When it is dry the closable leaf pores on plants (technically called ‘stomata’) shut down and slow down the process of photosynthesis. When there is enough water the stomata open, transpiration takes place, allowing the air containing carbon dioxide to go into the plant, which, together with sunlight, powers the reaction of water and carbon dioxide to make the sugars that are the plant’s energy source and building blocks. Watering keeps the stomata open in dry spells. As a rule of thumb one square metre of vegetation draws the equivalent of an inch of rainfall every day. Growth of plants in the summer normally requires additional irrigation. There are now numerous automatic systems that can be put in – especially for containers and hanging baskets.

The start of autumn means that many plants are producing seed heads, which we normally ‘dead head’ to keep the succession of flowers going. With the cost of seed increasing year on year (the average cost is now over £3 per packet, and can be a lot more) it might be worthwhile considering saving some seed head for sowing. Flowers like Sweet William, Love-in-Mist (Nigella), Cosmos, or vegetables like Runner Beans, can be harvested just before the seed-pod has fully dried. Use brown paper bags to hang the seed head upside down and store in a dry place. Remember to label the variety, and then when it is all nice and brown shake out the seed and you have saved yourself pounds for a few minutes work. Unfortunately the lovely hybrids that abound now will not breed true and you will have to rely on the expertise of the professional for that, but if you don’t mind a variety of colour in your Sweet William and so on it is fine. One tip is to look out for Garden Centres having a seed sale, there are bargains to be had, with cuts up to 75%, when they are sufficiently desperate to make room for the new stock.

The growth of rampant climbers like some of the clematis (remember to check) wisteria and climbing roses can be cut back in the middle of September.

Regards
Chris

Lockdown Flower Show

We are pleased to announce the results of our Lockdown Flower Show. Many thanks to all who participated and congratulations to our winners in the following categories:

Mixed Herbaceous bed or border: 1st Barbara Gowlland; 2nd Alison Jermyn

Kitchen garden, bed or equivalent: Joint 1st Judy Cranham and Alison Jermyn; 2nd Paul Styles

Patio garden: 1st Belinda Hood; 2nd Paul Styles

Secret garden or area: 1st Paul Styles; 2nd Joey Hopkins

Wildlife garden or area: 1st Dot Thorp

Greenhouse: 1st Rosemary Goddard; 2nd Dot Thorp

Children’s garden: Great marrow growing and den building!

Photos of the Winning entries are available to view here

Record Breaking Potato Crop

Whilst, sadly, Capel Show took a year off, the Horticultural Society did manage to run their annual Potatoes in a Bag Competition judged on the recreation ground last Saturday 15 August. Congratulations to Chris Coke who not only grew the heaviest crop in the history of the competition (3.73k) but also the heaviest single potato weighing in at 540g. Judy Watts was the runner up with a crop weighing 1.52k.

Well done to all who participated.

More photos in the Gallery