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December 2008
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February 2009

January 2009

Wisteria Pruning

Wisteriaon wall
Mid Winter is the right time for pruning Wisteria, and I have several to prune over the next few days.   They need to be cut back twice a year, in July and January, and are one of several climbers that flower much better if they are rigorously spur pruned. The winter pruning needs to be quite drastic to take away all the late summer wispy growth, and to train in the main branches (spurs), which the plump flower buds will shoot off from.  They are vigorous climbers, so make sure that you give them enough room to spread themselves, and you will be rewarded with pendent racemes of white blue and purple, that mean that spring is fully here.

Cordylines have copped it

The freezing weather of the week before last has caused some fatalities here in Horsley, with Cordylines, particularly the purple varieties being frosted and turning brown and floppy.  I've also noticed Ceanothus that have been affected, although they will hopefully grow new leaves in the spring, the frost will have checked their growth for this year. If you have borderline hardy plants in your garden, check on them this week, Olives, Acacia, and Astelias are also likely to have been affected. Let me know if you find any frost failures.

Growing Veg, - part three, What to start with

To start off with, you are likely to be a lot more motivated if you manage to get some crops from the garden to your plate quickly.

Start with seeds that don’t take long to grow, and crops that are easy to use

My recommendations for the first things to try are

Perpetual Spinach, Radishes, Cut and come again lettuce leaves, and French beans, with Peas, Runner beans, Beetroot and Courgettes, next on the list

Keep in mind that no vegetable will grow in full, dense shade. but with three hours plus of sun, or fairly constant dappled shade, per day, you can get crops of all but the courgettes and runner beans suggested above.

Slightly harder to get growing (but easier to get as young plants from garden centres) are Tomatoes and Peppers.  Carrots are easy to grow, but in first year ground, I’d suggest trying a golfball type carrot then you won’t be disappointed when they don’t come out straight.


Unless you have a large size plot, I wouldn’t suggest starting with Cabbages, Cauliflower, Squash or Brussell Sprouts as these need large amounts of space, light, watering and pest protection.

Mucky Manure

I'd just like to draw your attention to a problem that may get worse before it gets better, - no not the credit crunch/recession, but the mucky issue of Weedkiller in composted manure.  Since the autumn, reports have been building of crops and plants being badly affected across the country by manure contaminated by aminopyralid. This is a weedkiller used a couple of years ago on farm land, which has got into the food chain, and is now "on the loose" in manures.  Because of the bad growing season last summer, a lot of people had put their crop failures down to other reasons, but are now realising that their symptoms of ferny foliage and shrivelled leaves, particularly in tomatos, potatoes, beans, but also Roses and some herbaceous plants is down to a chemical. Having read quite a lot on blogs and websites in the last week, I have to say that my usual advice to condition soil and mulch hungry plants with a country natural organic manure, will be changed this year, and top soil and home made compost will be a lot more important. to read the RHS advicce sheet put on the internet recently click here

Growing Veg, - part two Where?

Most Vegetables will need sun for some if not all the day.  Find a spot in your garden where it will get between 4 and 8 hours sunshine in the summer (when we get the sun!) and don't forget that 6ft panel fences will cast a shade all day in some gardens.

Ideal soil for vegetables is described as a fine tilthe, which is  well broken particles of soil so that moisture and nutrients can get in. don't worry if your soil isn't there yet, -either clay clods, or fine sand, when you use your leftover vegetables on your compost heap, you'll soon get a homemade soil conditioner perfect for augmenting any soil type.

Vegetable beds
An ideal sized vegetable bed can be reached from either side, so that they soil is not compacted between rows of crops.  If you have a large area for vegetables (lucky you) then divide it into areas, - 1.2 metres wide is ideal.

Raised beds,
I love raised beds, and have used them quite a lot in both my garden and clients gardens, - they can be used either to just define where the growing area is, or they can be made higher so that they are at an easier level to garden at if bending is difficult or if you need to protect from animals.  There are lots of types on the market now, in plastic and wood, and they are almost cheaper than making your own.

When you've looked round your garden and found the ideal place, marked out where you're going to plant, then you're ready to start your plot. - Ready, Steady, Grow.

Wiggly Save

I think that you can tell how good a retail company is by not only how good their products are, but by how they cope when there is a complaint.

I wrote on this blog a few weeks ago that i'd asked for goat socks for Christmas.  My Sister acting on my advice, ordered them online from Wiggly wrigglers.  She then had a computer crash crisis in the week before christmas, and only realised on the 23rd Dec that they hadn't actually arrived, she phoned and was told that they had been dispatched the week before, and hopefully would be with her in the morning, and if they didn't arrive, to please get back to them. - Well Christmas eve came and went without goat socks, so i didn't get a present to open (although William would have had to open them for me anyway!) Louise got back to them by email on the Saturday after new year to confirm that they hadn't arrived, On Monday she received an apologetic email, and the socks were resent, - directly to me this time, and they arrived on Wednesday. So unfortunatly 4 weeks after being ordered, I do have goat socks and  I've been very grateful for the extra warmth this week. Even in my wellies, kneeling down weeding, my feet were just cold, not blocks of ice, and when i've been walking around in my regular boots, my feet have been toastie, i've found that they work best worn as normal socks next to the skin, not as an over socks like hiking socks.
Thanks Lou.

Recycling Christmas Trees

I've started the New Year with a flourish of Reduce Reuse and Recycle. Shredded Christmas trees smell lovely, and make great fodder for you compost bin, particularly as there has probably been a surfeit of leftover food scraps and veg peelings and not much else going in over the last few weeks, but if you don't have a compost bin to put it in and you don't have council green bags to chop it into for it to be recycled, then the next best thing is to take it to one of the places that will recycle it for you.

In Horsley you can take them to
East Horsley Village Hall, Kingston Avenue
West Horsley Squires Garden Centre, Epsom Road

for the full list of where else to take them click here and they'll be accepted up until the 18th January

After Christmas Houseplant care.


Did you buy yourself, or get given a Poinsettia or Cyclamen to decorate the house during the festive season? 
Poinsettias and Cyclamen actually like opposite conditions, so the first way to keep them looking better for longer is to split them up.
Cyclamen like it cool and dry, - a kitchen window sill or a porch is good for them, and don't water them from the top as that could cause botrytis on the flower and leaf stems. Deadhead them regularly, and then when they have finally finished flowering, leave them to dry out.  Over the summer you can ignore them (just don't let them shrivel up in the sun) and then you can plant them up again in late August/September and start watering them just as the temperatures start to cool, - they are fairly easy to get to flower again, but the plants won't be as tidy as the first year.
for more care instuctions click here

Poinsettias like it hot and humid, - so a living room standing over a saucer of water is a good place for these.  Poinsettias are from jungle conditions, and grow to be tree size in their natural habitat, - they are given growth inhibitors when propagated here, and the method to get them to recolour next year is difficult and requires altering light conditions, so my suggestion is to compost your Poinsettia, and enjoy another one next year, - for instructions for recolouring click here