April 2021 Garden Tips

Garden Notes for April 2021.

I know that all the gardener advice is to cover over a patch of ground to warm up the soil and I should have done it a lot more than I have in the past. This season I did remember and have used a cheap polythene cloche that extends for about 10 metres. You can tell when the soil is warm enough when all the weeds start sprouting under it. As well as warming the soil it has also stopped it getting sodden with rain. The result is that I can really start salad crops like lettuce, radish and carrots this month, after getting rid of the weeds under the cloche.

Clematis varieties are popular. They are members of the Ranunculae, which are named after ‘Rana’ (the frog) and demand a cool moist root run. When planting remember that they need shade at the base so it is a good idea to put a piece of stone or paving over the top after you have planted them out.

April is the time to plant late flowering herbaceous plants such as kniphofias and michelmas daisies (Aster novi-belgii). Old clumps of taller rudbekias, helianthuses, monardas and heleniums will benefit from being split up in April since this will revitalise them, especially if they have been producing smaller flowers and losing their lower leaves in the previous season.

Plant onion sets and keep up a succession of salad crop sowings as the weather warms up towards the end of the month. April is the time to sow late summer cauliflower. If frost is forecast, cover up any potato foliage that might be showing. Make sowings of winter cabbage, purple-sprouting and spring-heading broccoli.

Don’t forget herbs. You can sow dill, fennel, hyssop, marjoram, rue and thyme. Parsley should be sown, allow time for it to germinate. Old fashioned gardeners used to keep a little bit of seed in a waistcoat pocket with a hole so it fell out as they gardened! (So they tell me).

If you have sweet peas they should be planted out now. If you are going to try and grow the larger specimens as cordons, start restricting growth by removing all tendrils and side shoots and remember to support them otherwise the slugs and snails will have a feast.

Towards the end of the month, if we have had dry weather, start to thin out salad crops like carrot. One tip is to water the row the night before so that it is easier to pull the roots out the next day.

Camellias will benefit from a top dressing of leaf mould. Remember to prune early flowering shrubs like berberis, forsythia, and spiraea immediately after flowering.

Do remember that early morning frosts are a real danger all through April and May, it is not until June, (and even then it can be a bit dicey for the first week!) that it is safe to put out any vulnerable plants – unless you can protect them at night.

Chris

YET MORE CANCELLATIONS ………………. OUR SUMMER SHOW

Most disappointingly, after numerous Committee Meetings, the decision has been taken not to run the Capel Show again until August 2022. Despite the government’s plan to lift all restrictions from 21 June, the uncertainty of both future government policy and the very nature of the path COVID takes really left little alternative. Of paramount importance is the safety and well being of all those involved with the show as well as our villagers and visitors from further afield. Whilst we are desperate to bring some normality back to the life of our community, we feel it prudent to wait a while longer.

Do keep growing your splendid fruit, flowers and vegetables. Even if they cannot be exhibited at the show they will certainly be enjoyed at the table or in the garden. Take a few minutes to read Sally Griffin’s gardening column in the Capel Magazine and keep an eye on this website, especially for Chris’s Tips – a monthly guide to what to do in the garden. We may also be able to arrange some talks later in the year and details will, in due course, be found here.

COVID Cancellations

We are truly saddened to advise that this year there will be no Spring Show or Plant Sale. We have debated long and hard the possibility of running these events in a different format and come to the conclusion that we can neither do so safely or within the bounds of the law. Looking ahead to 2022 we fully intend to return to organising these popular village occasions.

Capel Crocuses

Over the past years the Society has planted daffodils on the verges throughout the village. Last autumn members got together and planted crocuses on the green opposite The Old Forge Surgery. We hope everybody is enjoying the results in the spring sunshine.

What a load of Rubbish!!

The Horticultural Society organised their Spring Litter Pick – socially distanced of course – last weekend. On Saturday 6 March around 20 stalwarts turned out equipped with gloves, sturdy footwear, some hi-vis clothing and litter pickers. Working through the village and surrounding roadsides they collected nearly 40 bags of litter and rubbish, not to mention a few abandoned road signs along the way.

Thank you to all who helped make the village look a better place. Each time we organise a litter pick we hope there will be no need for any more – sadly not the case.

March 2021 Garden Tips

Garden notes for March 2021

After all the rain we have been having this winter and the consequences of the lockdown due to the pandemic I am hoping that we will all be able to get outside and start to garden in March. The miracle of all the early plants coming up, the crocuses, the daffodils, and primulas will all have started and continue to give us colour in the garden and eternal hope for the future.

Snowdrops that have stopped blooming should be lifted and divided as soon as possible. Unlike other bulbs they should be multiplied whilst their leaves are still green. It is a good idea to do this at least once every 3 or 4 years as the bulbs may become too closely packed together to give a good show the following year if it is not done.

In order to give the best germination of any seeds that you want to start, make sure that the soil, or seed compost, you use is as warm as possible. So put out cloches over the area in the garden where you intend to start early crops. Do this at least a week or so before sowing in order to warm the ground. Equally, if you are using a seed compost, bring it in to a shed or greenhouse before making up the pots or seed trays so that it has been thoroughly warmed through. Most seeds need a soil temperature of at least 10ºC (50ºF), and do better if it is about 15ºC. This is a very general rule of thumb, and there are many differences for different species, but it is true for a lot of the plants we grow.

Look out for drying winds and sunny days of March and try to get on the garden as soon as possible after that, because it is almost certain that rain will follow and you will not be able to do anything. It is all very well to give this advice for those who are able to follow the weather, but very difficult for the weekend gardener! Our clay is a very fertile medium if you can manage it properly. Over time the addition of humus from garden compost, farmyard manure and so on will help but it is a long term and continuing process.

Towards the middle or end of March, depending on the temperature, you should prune roses. If you want large blooms, prune severely, cutting all strong young growths back to 3 or 4 buds from where growth started last spring. For general garden purposes leave 5 or 6 buds. This allows for re-growth should any late frosts nip off the earliest growth.

Make sure that your garden mowing equipment is serviced and ready for use as the weather improves and the grass starts to get back to growing.

Sweet peas that have been growing in pots should be hardened off for planting out in April.

Dahlia tubers should be started off in gentle heat to get the shoots that will form the plants for growing on.

Good Friday (April 2nd this year) is traditionally the day that potatoes are planted out. If there is good weather a week or so before Good Friday, there is no reason why it can’t be done earlier. Put in First Earlies and be sure to earth them up as they push their leaves up through the soil.

Chris

February 2021 Garden Tips

Garden Notes for February 2021

In the middle of January as I write these notes, spring and plant growth seems a long way off. When we had the first lockdown last year the weather was remarkably good. This winter is not the same and does not encourage much gardening activity with frequent showers and cold nights, but this will change soon, hopefully. More and more people are discovering the benefits of growing crops in containers, since these will provide shelter and warm up the soil quicker than in the garden. In addition there are increasing numbers of crops being developed specifically for growing on the patio.

In February, if you have well sheltered places why not try some early broad beans, spaced at 20 cm. Young carrots are one of the joys of the garden, try sowing some ‘Early Nantes’ or ‘Amsterdam Forcing’. All the big seed-houses do packs of salad leaves, and these can be grown after starting under glass, since they need a bit more heat than the other crops I have mentioned. Mini-lettuces like ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Tom Thumb’ may also be started and planted out at 15cm spacing when the plants have developed a bit more.

All these seedlings will need to be protected from frosts – use garden fleece as required, but always allow plenty of air to circulate to stop fungal attack such as botrytis which will cause damping off.

Think about getting seed potatoes in February. There is a wide range to choose from. First earlies like ‘Lady Christie’ do well here, although to get the fuller flavour of second earlies is always nice – try ‘Nadine’ or one I particularly like ‘Charlotte’. When you get them put them in a cool frost free place with lights. Use the large egg tray to get the seed potatoes ‘chitted’ – where the potato ‘eye’ starts to get green and gives it a good start when they can be planted in the soil.

Towards the end of February, start of March, bush roses should be pruned. Use sharp secateurs. Cuts should not be more than 5mm above a bud, and should slope away from it. Prune die-back to healthy wood. Remove all dead, diseased stems and burn them. Trace suckers back to the roots from which they are growing and pull them away. Always wear protective gloves, the scratches from rose thorns can be nasty. Other pruning to do this month include raspberry canes. It’s your last chance to cut autumn-fruiting raspberry cans to the ground which will stimulate new canes to fruit in the autumn. On the other hand leave plum, cherry and apricot trees until the summer as pruning in the cold months is likely to make them susceptible to Silver Leaf disease

That reminds me, everyone, but especially all gardeners, should make sure that they keep their tetanus inoculation up-to-date. It should be done at least once every 10 years. It is available on the NHS and it really is important to be safe rather than sorry.

Lawns will start growing soon, so make sure that your garden machinery has been serviced and is ready to go when you are. On a wet day check your garden tools are clean and ready for use.

Chris

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