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April 2009
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June 2009

May 2009

Watering the garden - when? and how often?

Little boy watering After the hottest weekend of the year so far, i'm very glad that my waterbutts were full from last week, but when should you water your plants?, with what? and how much??.

What doesn't need watering - most importantly the thing not to waste water on is a lawn, unless you are establishing a new lawn, here in the uk, even in the driest summers the roots of the lawn will stay alive, and when you get rain again it will green up.

Borders, - as long as your plants have been established more than a year, very few border plants will need watering unless we have a prolonged period of dry weather (more than 2 weeks).  Save your bath water to spot water hydrangeas, roses, clematis and fruit trees.

Vegetables & fruit, - this is where to use all your waterbutt water on, water each plant or row of seedlings by using a gentle stream from a can nozzle to the soil at the base of the plant, - gentle so as not to wash away the soil from the roots and slowly so as to ensure that water goes deeply down to the root system of each plant rather than soaking away on the surface.

It is better to water deeply once every 3 days than with a sprinkling of water every day.  Early evening is a great time to water, as less water will be lost in evaporation

Plants in pots, - these will rely on you for water and how often they need water depends on the size of the pot, the type of compost and whether they are standing on a tray- at this tiime of year get everything potted up into as big a pot as possible and use watergel for your hanging baskets and pots.

It's commonly believed that you shouldn't water during the day if it is sunny, however if a plant needs water, don't ignore it to the evening, - it is ok to water during the day, but not ideal -don't get water on the leaves, as that may cause scorching.

Harvesting rainwater to improve your garden

We've had a water meter installed in the last week. We opted for it as we're sure that our water bill will be less, but it does focus the mind on not wasting water.  This week i've installed another 2 waterbutts, and there are 2 more on the way.

i've always used water butts, - even on my 6' x 4' shed at the last house, we managed to fit guttering to fill a space saver waterbutt from one side. However this morning crystalized how much water we can harvest, - my 200 litre plastic water butt, bought as a buy one get one half price deal and delivered and installed on Sunday is now full to overflowing with one nights rainfall falling on our porch roof.  This is plenty to water all my front garden plants for the next week or so, and it means that I need to think about a larger tank there, or connecting several in tandom.

Some water companies are currently doing very good deals, or even giving basic butts away for free, - if you'd like something a bit more stylish, there are plenty of oak barrels or italiante urns available, - my advice would be to buy online, - delivery is almost always included.

Most plants prefer rainwater rather than tap water, because it doesn't include any chlorine or limescale additives, - Most of Surrey has hard water, so limescale can also cause white marks on plant leaves, -

I just need to buy a couple more watering cans now, (that don't have handles on the back so that they fit under the tap, so that one can be filling while i'm watering with the other. This summer i'm going to save my hosepipe, and use my butt!

Sowing Runner bean seeds on a wigwam

This post is especially for Jasmin, and all other budding gardeners that are willing to help their parents in the Vegetable garden.  Now is the time to be planting out your Runner beans.

Runnerbeans  If you planted seeds in modules on a window sill or in the greenhouse, or if you've bought plants from a garden centre, and you have small plants that have several true leaves, you should acclimatise them for a day or 2 before planting by leaving them in a shady place outdoors,

Or you can sow seeds from now until July.

First prepare your wigwam, - get 6 to 8 bamboo canes or hazel poles and stick them into the ground in a circle about 80cm in diameter to about 30cm depth.  Then gather the canes together at the top and tie together with string or raffia by weaving it in and out of the poles to fix them tightly together. (you may need a tall helper for this)

Now you have a stable wigwam, plant your bean either side of your poles so that they have support - Dig a hole, tip your bean plant out of its pot by holding your fingers either side of the seedling, turning on its side and tapping the bottom of the pot, - it should slide out easily but the roots should hold the soil in place. Place it in the hole backfilling the soil and pushing it down around the roots with your finger.

If you are planting seeds, - I hedge my bets with 3 seeds per bean pole, one either side of the pole and one inside it, - about 5 cm from base.  The seeds need to go in on their sides (so they look like a capital O,) and they need to be pushed down into the soil up to your knuckle (or slightly past, if you have little hands), - then cover them with soil and firm it down.

Next Water, with a watering can with a rose, soaking each plant/seed without washing away the soil.

Watch them grow, - by August, you'll be harvesting great beans.

Propagating plants to swap and sell

Tis the season of Plant sales, an ever popular way for local Horticultural societies and other organisations to raise money and a great way to get different plants for your garden, - normally varieties that are likely to do well as they come from gardens locally and obviously multiplied so that they could be given away.

So if you want to provide plants for a sale, what should you look for.

1) Have you sown any seeds this year that are surplus to requirements?, - this year as every year i've managed to germinate enough tomato and pepper plants to feed West Horsley, and I managed to get the cucumber seed packet wet and soggy, - so I had to plant all the seeds, - these have been nurtured, watered every day and turned towards the light a half turn every couple of days so that they are upright and not bent at an angle. - This is a great time to look at what you really need and give away all the others.

2) Didn't get round to sowing seeds? - did your garden plants do it for you? - over the last few weeks i've planted up seeds in clients gardens of Acer palmatum, Hellebores, Astrantia, Lychnis, Aqueligia, Verbena bonariensis and Erigeron karvinskianus, - have a look round your borders and see if any plants have done the propagation for you.

3) Have you got anything that can easily be split? - although May is later than the traditional border splitting season, a lot of plants can still be easily divided without harming them and you often won't be able to see that anything has been taken within a couple of weeks, - easy splitters include some Geraniums, Hostas, Mint, plus late flowering perennials such as Asters, Schizostylus and Heleniums.

When you've decided what to pot up, don't forget to wash your pots (so as not to pass on any fungal diseases), use a potting or multipurpose compst rather than garden soil and take as much plant and as little soil as you can to keep the roots intact, - this will ensure that there are no pieces of weed root clinging to your plants to pass on to another gardener.
When you've planted up your treasures to pass on, - don't forget to labels them, - even if you don't know the full latin name, any idea of when it flowers/ is in full foliage and what colour will help to ensure someone else take your plant away to treasure.

i've got to find 3 plants each for us as entry for the West Horsley Horticultural Society Show on Saturday, so i'm off to make sure my tomatoes are labelled.

Recommended links for Compost Heaven 2009 queries

I've just spent the morning at Guildford Borough Council's compost heaven event. - It was a fantastic 3 hour event, with all kinds of "green" activities, - sunflower seed planting and art and craft activities for the children, great Jazz music powered by a solar  generator, Secateur sharpening, Bee keeping and willow weaving demonstrations, - and I was in charge of answering questions about composting, bokashi and wormeries.  The queue for the free compost bins and compost was about 100m long for about 2 hours, and the interest in all types of composting from all ages was huge.
For those I talked to in the 3 hour event, - thanks for all your questions, - I hope I answered your queries, and here are my recommended suppliers of compost bins & Accessories

Bokashi bins, -
pack of 2 cream colour bins plus large bag of bran for £89 or single bins from £35 - Wiggly Wigglers
subsidised grey plastic bins, not so beautiful but a lot cheaper at £45 - Recyclenow, - put in your postcode

Wormeries - Black plastic layered bin= can o worms & starter pack, - £89.00, from Wiggly Wigglers- Wooden composters like Peter's beehive are hard to find, - nearest version is from The Gardening website, £197, - not including worms.

Plastic compost bins, - in all sizes from Recyclenow,

Wooden bins, and compost duvets from The recycle works

All links can be found from here

Could my compost bin attract rats?

This is a question that i'm asked often, and is used as an excuse for people not to set up a compost bin, - so here is my take on the subject

Rats want somewhere warm and dry to shelter, and they want to find food.  A compost bin may be warm but it shouldn't be dry enough for a rat, and the food that attracts rats i.e cooked or processed food, meat, fish or dairy products shouldn't be added unless they have been pickled in a bokashi bin first. so my top tips for composting to avoid making a comfortable home for rats are

1) Make sure that there are no sources of food in the garden that can attract rats -

leftover food on a birdtable, bird food bags left open in a shed, vegetables hung up to dry ( the Goods had the right idea using the spare bedroom in The Good Life), rubbish bags containing food scraps left outside

2) Be an active composter, - if you are disturbing their hiding place every day and walking past on your way to other parts of the garden, your compost bin will become an uncomfortable place to hide

3) Don't put your bin in a far away part of the garden, so that you can add things every day or so, and make sure there is space round it - no overgrown folilage for rodents to hide in

4) Rats like a dry environment, - a pile of leaves is perfect for them, a well balanced mix of vegetable peelings, grass clippings, shreddings, shredded newspaper and cardboard will give you a heap with the consistency of a wrung out sponge, and you can always water your compost heap if it is too dry

5) make sure the rats can't be tempted by using a closed heap, - a lid and a base, or a layer of plaster mesh underneath it.


It is always a good idea to wear gloves when handling compost, and if you do see any signs of Rats having been in your compost, - all is not lost as the compost can be used on the garden as worms will have helped the degradation process, or you can always put material back in the bin for a couple more months.

It is also worth knowing that Garden Organic have not had an increase in questions about vermin in compost over the last couple of years even though there has been a large increase in the numbers of people composting


How to solve a leaky pipe to get maximum water on your garden

It's at this time of year, when everything is growing at full pelt and we've had a couple of of weeks of dry weather, with the showers not properly wetting the ground and the waterbutts not filling, that we discover that the hosepipe gets more water on the patio, than out of the end of the hose on to your plants.  If this is a problem for you as well, see if these steps can help you get leak free watering.

Check any plastic fittings, - these have often cracked, particularly after our cold winter, and could be where the water is trying to escape. Hozelock are the market leader in hose pipe fitting, and their hose end fittings now have have an optional bendy end to help pipes move around corners without putting them under undue pressure - Hozelock Aqua stop connector 2055

Check that the hose is tightly gripped in the hose end connector, - the hoses tend to stretch over the space of a year, - so cut off several centimetres from the end of the hose and refit.

Clean out your lance or spray gun, - these may be leaking because they are blocked with mud, weeds or sorse... - slugs!

Look for any pin holes in the hose where water is escaping, - these can usually be fixed successfully for at least a year with electrical tape.

Hopefully checking all of these will get the water to your plants so that they can benefit, and keep you dry while you're giving them a drink.

English Bluebells or imposters

the last couple of weekends, we've taken a walk into Hatchlands park National trust property to see the Wix wood Bluebells.  Even William has enjoyed these walks as the back entrance of Hatchlands is only 10 minutes from our house, and there's animals in the field, stepping stones and gates to climb over to make it interesting for a 5 year old.  The Bluebells have been stunning, a carpet of purple blue spreading out under the trees, with a well roped off path making it easy to follow round, and several log benches to sit and take in the view.  This weekend there was even an afternoon scent to enjoy.  This wood is smothered in English Bluebells, - which have the latin name Hyacinthoides Non Scripta.  When we got home, William pointed out to me, - "mummy we've got bluebells too" but the blue flowered bulb growing in my garden, and now more commonly , the "bluebells" that are sold for our borders are spanish bluebells latin name Hyacinthoides Hispanica.  The main problem with this is that the Spanish bluebells have a lot stronger properties than the English, so if they cross pollinate the Spanish thicker leaves and upright stems will eventually dominate and take over our varieties. - for photos of the 2 types, look on this site the main difference being that the english bluebells have the flower "bells" along one side of the stem, causing it to bow over, the spanish bluebells have the bells all around the stem, and are usually very upright.