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August 2008
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October 2008

September 2008

Mud piles on the lawn

September is the worst time of the year for muddy patches on the lawn caused by worms.  The worm casts are the deposits that they leave when feeding on decaying vegetation in the soil.  They are at their most active when the soil is warm and wet, so this week they've been having a great time.  Although the worms are good for the soil, aerating it and incorporation organic matter into it, the muddy casts that are left behind are often the perfect breeding ground for weed seeds, and if they are squashed into the lawn by feet or lawnmowers, they can often kill the grass beheath the mounds, leaving patches in spring.

To lessen the problem, remove worm casts whenever it is dry with a broom (a besom broom is the suggested method) onto the borders as the soil is great for plant growth. Also don't walk on the grass when there is still dew on it, to prevent casts being squashed in. There are no longer any chemical controls for gardeners to use, so just think of the benefits of having lots of worms in your soil. When the weather gets colder, the worms will go further underground, so don't wish them away just yet!

Bulbs, - what should I be looking for?

At this time of year, there are bulbs for sale in every garden centre, DIY "shed" and Supermarket, - but what are the differences and what should you be looking for

Garden Centres
These will have at least one of the big Bulb growers ranges, - Taylors bulbs, Winchester Growers, Kapityn or Walkers.  Most will name individual varieties of the bulbs, e.g Tulip Red Riding Hood, or Narcissus Tete a Tete, and have selections of different colours.  Most of the bulbs are very high grade, and will be of a large size so that flowering in the first season is guarenteed

The Sheds
The DIY stores (B&Q and Homebase mainly) have a very good offering this year with excellent quality and pricing, however their usually own branded bulbs are not always sold as named varieties, so you may find Red Tulips and Yellow Daffodils, rather than any names,- this is no problem, if you are just looking to fill a gap.

The Supermarkets
The Supermarkets usually have the bulbs at an aisle end, or with the Houseplants, - they usually offer collections of bulbs, so you have a mixture of white and blue or red and yellow, and these are good selections for pots, but beware, they are usually sold in sealed boxes, so you can't check the quality of the bulbs.

To buy healthy floriferous bulbs, you are looking for
The biggest bulbs that are available
The bulbs need to be firm to pressure, any squishy ones are no good
No mould on the bulbs, - bulbs tend to "bloom" and get a grey mould on them if they are stored too long,/ in the wrong humidity. this can be wiped off if it in just on the surface, but it quickly causes the bulbs to go mouldy if left

If you are not ready to plant your bulbs when you've bought them, store them off the ground in a shed or garage, so that they are dry but not too hot.

Let me know of any bulb bargains that you find, - i've got a whole new garden to fill!

Planting through landscaping matting

Most of my clients are very busy people, and I get asked frequently for "low maintenance". One of the things that you can use to prevent most weed growth when planting a new border is landscaping matting, frequently known by the trade name of Mypex, - so is this an option for you?

You can only grow shrubs through mypex, - these need to have a single stem, and not be prone to major suckering as this will split the matting.

The whole border will need to be covered in matting and any joins will need to be overlapped by about 30 cm to prevent weeds finding their way through gaps, - this means it is not a good option if you already have established plants in the border.

Any perennials are not able to bulk up, because of the matting restricting them, and short leaved perennials are not able to seed themselves into the soil and so will die out after a couple of seasons. Likewise Bulbs would need a slit cut for each bulb, rendering the matting useless.

The matting itself is usually black and ugly, - which means it needs to be covered with bark chippings, or stones, which are usually quite costly as they need a reasonable thick layer to completely hide the black.

However on the plus side, Rain will pass through the mypex, but water is less likely to evaporate fast under its matting and cover mulch, meaning plants are less likely to dry out in the summer.

Weed removal is easier as any weeds tend to be wind blown annuals which are easier to pull out

These pictures show a before and after of a Mypex border, - before is March 2006, After is October 07
Mypex border beforemar08          Mypex border after oct07

If you'd like to know more about whether this is the right option for your new border planting, please contact me for a chat.

Passionflower - fabulous climber or a thug?

Passiflora caerulaand leaf Passiflora Caerula, is one of my favourite flowers, and the other varieties of passionflower that grow in England are very pretty too, but all too often, the flowers get forgotten because the foliage takes over, and without control the hardy passionflowers can become a pest.
its fast growing woody stems need to be shaped to a framework, rather like a vine, which then enables you to prune back to that framework each year, at the end of the summer after flowering, and in Spring.
It can be pruned harder, for plants that have got out of control, and i have known plants cut down to just a couple of stems left, which have been smothering buildings again within 2 years, - but this will reduce its flowering ability and what's the point of the passionflower without its flower? - If you are planning to plant this as a climber, - don't be put off, but you may like to choose a variety that doesn't grow quite as fast, like Lavender Lady or White Lightning. and make sure that they are put in a space that can take a glossy evergreen that loves to climb

Fruit for free

Over the last couple of weeks, I have done 3 times, something I havn't done since a teenager - Blackberry picking.  The footpaths and alleyways near to me have lots of brambles, and for the rest of the year, I walk past ignoring them unless they've grown into my way, - but for the last couple of weeks i've been walking with renewed vigour and with a pot in my pocket.  i've made 2 Apple and Blackberry Charlottes, Blackberry smoothies and stewed Blackberry and Apple.  William has also had more than his fair share of raw blackberries, and loved them.  i'm going out again tomorrow to start filling the freezer. So if you live somewhere where not all the road and alley side plant growth is tidy and cultivated, - don't forget to put a bag in your pocket to collect the spoils!