Saturday, 20 October 2018

RENOVATE LAWNS


RENOVATE LAWNS

The end of October was traditionally the time to give the lawn its last cut, but with the prevalence of milder winters the grass often continues to grow till the end of November. If your lawn is firm enough to take the mower without causing any damage then continue to cut the grass. However for these later cuttings raise the blades to leave the grass a bit higher to help it through the winter. Local authorities have the same problem, but as they
Raking out moss and thatch
use large heavy ride on mowers the weight can do serious damage to the surface so they are more likely to stop cutting earlier if the surface is too wet.
A couple of weeks after the grass has recovered from cutting the autumn renovation works can proceed to put back good health into the grass sward.
When the grass is dormant we can carry out some serious repair and renovation works. Lawn edges often break down but can be repaired easily, with a wee bit of hard work. Bare areas (dog and cat damage) can either be returfed or prepared for a spring sowing. Moss control can now be tackled and surface aeration can be given to help drainage. Any weed problem will have to wait till spring as most chemical weed killers require the weeds to be actively growing to absorb the weed killer and translocate the chemical to all parts, especially the roots. Always read the labels when buying lawn weed killers as most broad leaved weeds respond quite well to chemical eradication, but clover is a lot tougher and needs chemicals especially formulated to act on these weeds.
Surface renovations in autumn
Where ever there is poor surface drainage often after a lot of compaction if the lawn is used a lot, moss can take hold and grow rapidly. This can also weaken the grass especially in winter as the moss continues to grow and smother the grass.
Spiking the lawn for surface aeration
This is another good reason to leave the grass higher than normal after the last cut. This is where the springbok rake is used to rake out as much moss as possible from the surface as well as thatch built up over the year. The debris raked up can go on the compost heap. If you have a large lawn you can hire or bring in lawn specialists with machines to scarify the surface. It is faster and more efficient than the springbok rake.
This is usually followed by spiking or hollow tining the lawn. You can buy a hollow tining hand tool or on a small scale use the garden fork, but for the folk with large lawns a machine will carry out this work fast and effortless. Hollow tining removes a complete core, whereas the garden fork creates a hole without removal of soil. Cores left on the surface need to be brushed off and again added to the compost heap. These holes require filling with a lawn autumn top dressing of sand, sterilised soil and a slow release lawn fertiliser which often has a moss killer added, (usually sulphate of iron). Brush this in until it all disappears. These lawn top dressings can be purchased already made up to assist drainage, feed the lawn and control moss.
Small bare patches can be scarified and top dressed with compost or sterilised soil, but do not sow fresh grass seed till early spring.
Attention can now be turned to edges, if any damage has occurred over the year. Repair edges by cutting a turf one foot by one foot and one inch or so deep in from the damaged edge and lift and turn the turf around so the new straight cut is on the edge. Firm it down and make sure it is level.
Now the lawn is sorted turn attention to the mower. Winter is the time for cleaning, repairs and maintenance to make sure the blades are sharp and the rollers the correct height for the next year.

Wee jobs to do this week
Cleaning and sorting the Bramley apples
Although the Bramley apple tree had a massive crop of huge apples a lot came down prematurely in the September gales. However these windfalls and the rest of the crop need cleaning and sorting for storage in a cool airy shed or garage. Fruit that is only slightly damaged can be kept separate for immediate use, or it can be cored and sliced after removing bruised or damaged bits, then rinsed in salty water to stop browning, washed again, then bagged for the freezer. Undamaged fruit will store well into next March if kept in a dark, cold but frost free and airy shed or garage. Lay them singly in flat boxes lined with clean newspaper.
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Sunday, 14 October 2018

AUTUMN IN THE GARDEN


AUTUMN IN THE GARDEN

The garden has now gone into its autumn phase. Long hot summer days are now a pleasant memory still widely under discussion, but cooler nights and more frequent showers are normal. Autumn tints are seen on numerous trees. In my garden the
Anna prepares apples for storage
Japanese maple Acer Sangokaku has turned a brilliant orange scarlet and many others are on the turn. The fruit bushes of saskatoons, chokeberries and blueberries have all put on their autumn tints as well as deciduous azaleas.
Japanese maple
Trees and shrubs grown for their berries such as the rowans and cotoneaster have been very prolific, although the recent gales in September have brought a lot down and shredded many leaves of plants all over the garden. A trip out in the country foraging for my elderberries for a good home brew of elderberry wine was a waste of time as the gales not only blew all the fruit off it also shrivelled up all the foliage. Birds which need a good supply of berries to take them into winter will be in short supply this autumn. Even the cotoneasters have lost a lot of their berries.
Cotoneaster exburiensis
Back home on the allotment autumn raspberry Polka and Autumn Bliss both suffered badly, ruining the crop which still had to ripen, and my grape Phoenix broke in half, but a quick repair job might just work to last a couple of more weeks before harvest. Other outdoor grapes were well tied in, so did not suffer, but they still need a few more weeks for the grapes to sweeten up.
Mahonia mainly grown for an evergreen ground cover and spring scented yellow flowers also fruits very well and this year they seem to be just fine. However my Fuchsia Mrs Popple which normally fruits so prolifically that in some years I have gathered up enough berries for liquidizing into a healthy sweet fruit drink. This year the hot dry summer was not in its favour and I have not seen a single berry from over six large bushes.
Calluna H E Beale
French Marigolds
Flowering plants in October have to be tough, so geraniums which started off with numerous huge flowers in late spring slowly gave up flowering with lack of any vigorous growth in the hot summer sun. They are now bouncing back with good growth and plenty of flowers. Begonias were at their best when the gales arrived blowing off the flowers and shredding a lot of leaves. However French marigolds and Calendula are having an autumn burst of colour, and Calluna H. E. Beale is now in full flower and a gorgeous site. Definitely one of the best heathers for flowers,
Mahonia berries
though once the frosty nights prevail it is the golden foliage of Calluna Goldsworth Crimson that catches your eye. Nerine bowdenii is slowly losing its leaves as the flowers will soon open up with a bright splash of pink. Roses have mostly gone over, but there is always some that flower well into winter.
Apples, pears and plums are now mostly harvested, cleaned up and boxed for storing. However there were too many lost from damage as the gales brought large quantities down. Many bruised and with only slight damage are retained for immediate use in the kitchen as well as prepared for the freezer. Bramley still has half the crop on the tree and Red Falstaff on a dwarf rootstock has survived the gales. They should start to colour up and be ready to pick by mid October.
Dave growing Shark Fin Melons
Autumn leaves will soon be falling. Now is a good time for the final session of weed killing while there is still some warm sunshine, so we go into winter with clean ground. I pick off any big annual weeds for the compost heap then hoe the rest, but on paths I use a spray of glyphosate while it is still legal. It is the only chemical weedkiller left but is under threat so for chemical free gardeners, I’m afraid it is back to the hoe; but just think of the benefits of all that exercise.

Wee jobs to do this week

Shark skin melons have had a great season up at City Road allotments. Someone had bought some seeds and passed the plants around as a trial. They are very vigorous and tend to run riot expanding over the soil at speed unless some pruning is done. They have enjoyed the summer and are now ready for harvesting. It will be very interesting to see who can come up with the best recipe for using the new Shark Skin Melons which are more savoury than sweet.

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Monday, 8 October 2018

THE AUTUMN HARVEST CONTINUES


THE AUTUMN HARVEST CONTINUES

There are definite signs around that autumn has arrived. First it was the return of Strictly, then followed by The Apprentice, and then after
Pumpkins ripening up
the cool wet end to our tropical summer the sun returned as it always does for the tatty picking season. I hope this is a one off period of weird weather, though it would be nice to have a bit more of those long hot summer days. Garden plants are quite bewildered. Just when everything was coming
A few windfalls after the storm
along perfectly, and we made up the three weeks lost when spring never arrived, they had really enjoyed the great summer, especially as John, the head gardener was always around with the hose to prevent anyone drying out. Harvesting held great promise with first crops giving high yields, then in came the storms with severe gales. Autumn raspberries got shredded, berries were blown off the plants and apples and pears got such a fright that they just about dropped all their fruit. Even the late maturing Red Devil landed on the ground.
Good crop of beetroot
Pears on Beth all came off, but Concord held on. Christie and Beurre Hardy got picked the day before the storms arrived, but only to find more than half suffered extreme deformity as well as codlin moth damage. The deformity could be down to the dry summer or it could be the dreaded stony pit virus, which would mean the trees would have to be dug out. I will have to wait till next year to see how they perform. Heritage apple varieties Pearl and Park Farm Pippin all got blown off the trees so not sure how much crop I have for each of them.
Apple Pearl
Dahlias and Cosmos both had to be dug out as neither seemed to have any intention of flowering. Cosmos grew huge at well over four feet tall and spreading but not a flower bud in sight. Chrysanthemums fared a bit better, though again some early varieties have still to flower.
Pears ready to pick
Potatoes were all lifted earlier than usual. First early Casablanca gave a good crop but only as they were well irrigated. Main crop Setanta lost all its leaves through drought by end of August so lifting got underway early September. Crop was light with very few large potatoes.
Carrot crops were a complete disaster. Even those hiding between
Swedes
rows of onions and leeks were found by the carrot fly. Not even one for the table and my experiment with a row of salsify never produced a single usable root as every one had forked. However a row of parsnips is looking great with loads of strong foliage, but I will wait till the first frosts before I start to dig them up.
Swedes and leeks have both loved the summer and should keep me well supplied with fresh vegetables in winter, supplemented with kale, sprouts and cabbages which have all grown superbly. Beetroot are another success story as the first thinnings of baby
Codlin moth damage on pears
beet were plentiful and large roots of both the round Detroit and longer roots of Cylindra have given very high yields.
Pumpkins have never been better, but ripened well ahead of their normal season, then lost all their leaves to a devastating attack of mildew.
Figs just keep coming. Picked over 140 so far, starting at the end of July and with more to come.
Grape Phoenix
Grape Black Hamburg under glass is looking great with numerous bunches of large grapes which should be ready by early October. Outdoors, Regent, Rondo and Brant are all having a fantastic year with great potential and hopefully sweet enough grapes for wine brewing without the need for adding sugar. However Phoenix was so heavily laden down with crop that when the storms arrived the support could not withstand the winds, so it broke and the vine main stem split in half. It has now been tied back into place and I will just have to wait to see how the crop is affected.

Wee jobs to do this week
Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) and geraniums can now be propagated from cuttings taken from outdoor
Rooted geranium cuttings
plants in tubs, baskets and borders. Impatiens cuttings need to be taken soon as the plants die down quickly as soon as the weather turns colder. I take shoots about four inches long and put four together in a small glass jar filled with water. Place it on a light north facing windowsill. The cuttings will root within a month. Geranium cuttings are best with the top four inches of shoots snapped off just above a leaf joint and placed in compost on a light windowsill. Keep them growing till late winter then pot up.

END

Monday, 1 October 2018

PLAN NEXT SPRING’S FLOWERS


PLAN NEXT SPRING’S FLOWERS

As summer draws to a close the display of bedding plants begins to look a bit tired. Now is the time to look forward to next year’s spring flowers.
Allotment flower border
The spring this year was wet cool and lacked sun, but this allowed spring flowers to last a long time, giving us the chance to review the show and make plans for the next year. At the moment my tubs are still flowering as tuberous begonias and geraniums continue to flower well into autumn, but hanging baskets
Drift of Aconites
with petunias, impatiens and lobelia are finished. These will be the first to get planted up with spring flowers, and most likely with pansies. I had some terrific colours in my mixed pansies so I saved the seed and sowed it in August. I now have well over a hundred strong plants in cellular trays ready for planting out. Each hanging basket takes about a dozen plants with six for the top and six inserted around the sides as I hope to achieve a round ball of greenery covered in flowers. The rest of the pansies can go in other tubs and flower borders as well as areas of spare land where shrubs have been removed. One
Mixed tulips in rose bed
Ceanothus was fine for nearly twenty years, but then started to die off so it got removed. The pansies will give us flowers while we decide what to replace it with.
Last year we bought some really good polyanthus which got lined out once their spring display finished, and now they can be replanted back into some tubs. I also have a good batch of wallflower grown from seed on my allotment for planting in larger tubs and underplanted with tall tulips. My favourite tulips are the Darwin Hybrids Apeldoorn (red) and Golden Apeldoorn (yellow) but another border above a wall will get the tall
Mixed Fosteriana tulips
Fosteriana tulips Red Emperor and the white scented Purissima. This border is also planted with tall scented Oriental Lilies flowering in mid summer. We keep the soil bare, remove the old tulip leaves six weeks after flowering then sow some fast growing annuals such as Candytuft, Cornflower, Godetia to grow underneath the taller lilies.
More lilies are also planned for a summer display of large scented blooms amongst the Cornus in my coloured stem winter border. This border is attractive from autumn till the end of March when I then cut back all the shrubs to ground level. This gives the drifts of crocus space to flower followed by tulips before the Cornus starts to grow again. However there is a lack of interest in summer so a batch of the tall Oriental Lilies will get planted in this border.
Narcissus Dick wilden
Up on my allotment I keep a flower border at the front to add colour and impact and detract the eye from the rest of the plot just in case there may be an odd weed that has escaped my attention. This has been known to happen from time to time. Last spring there was a brilliant display of tulips, but very few white ones so I will buy some of the Fosteriana Purissima and plant these into the border. This border starts with snowdrops, then the yellow aconites and some narcissus ahead of the main tulip display. This year I will plant up the border with my spare pansy seedling plants to accompany the tulips to give two levels of flowering plants.
Over the years I have added Crocus all over the garden and allotment front border, so no need for any more, but they are perfect amongst tubs of pansies and polyanthus. Then after flowering I can always manage to find a spot to plant them out for future spring
Narcissus Replete
flowers. The herbaceous border is always a favourite for spare bulbs as the permanent plants are slow to grow by which time the dwarf bulbs have flowered, produced their leaves before the herbaceous plants need more space.
Drifts of daffodils and narcissus make a great show amongst deciduous trees and shrubs and although the garden is not short of these, you always find another variety well worth trying out. Growers can always breed something different to catch your eye. Last year it was Westward, Sir Winston Churchill, Dick Wilden and Replete, and this year it is White Lion, My Story and Decoy.

Wee jobs to do this week
Plant strawberry plants from runners taken from older but healthy
Strawberry runners of Flamenco
beds. As they will be down for three years dig over the soil before planting and incorporate compost to feed the growing crop. Space plants out at a foot apart in rows three feet apart to allow for easy picking and give new runners a chance to grow along the row as these young plants will give extra crops.

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