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May 2012

April 2012

The worst weed - Japanese Knotweed & what to do if you find it

Before the rain got too heavy to do anything, - i've been spending this week weeding a large border ready for planting.

This was one of those borders that have been looked after by "gardeners" - (note the inverted commas) of the type that David Cameron knows about, - e.g the unskilled ones. - (Sorry, not usually political, nuff said, don't get me riled about Garden Janitors, or those who don't know what real gardeners do)

Anyway, I knew that this border had a huge amount of Ground Elder, and Bindweed through it, which would mean we needed to take out all the perennials and get the weed roots out of their rootballs. What I hadn't counted on though was this


Now those of you who have just said oooh, while sucking in air through their teeth, will know that this is not good news. Those of you who have read the title of this blog, and can guess that it's bad will be waiting to hear how bad, and those of you who have never heard of Japanese knotweed will be thinking that's a pretty plant, - will it fill up my border and flower?

I managed to find Japanese Knotweed in the garden of the 3rd client I ever did a consultation for. A huge stand of it, which in the January I found it looked like burnt bamboo. I went on a huge learning curve of finding out about it, and if you really want to know lots more then the RHS website and the environment agency website are the places to go.

That was why when I moved to my current house 4 years ago and this lovely plant grew in the back border, I found it easy to identify


Normally when you find a nasty weed, you dig it out, and get rid of it, or at least cut it back regularly to weaken it (a la marestail) but this one is so easily able to grow from the tiniest piece of root, that it is classified as controlled waste, which means you can't just throw it in the rubbish bin, or put it out with the green bags.

That's probably how the stuff gets into gardens, by people who don't know what it is managing to propagate it by mistake by digging it up

If you've got a large amount, then you call in the contractors. - Grace and Flavour our community garden had a huge amount of the stuff, and a local company called EnvironetUK used a fantastic machine to get it out of the ground, and the rhizomes were then burnt,

In a garden, and certainly for this border that i've found it in, We'll leave it alone and use Chemical warfare, and not plant near it (yes i'm usually an organic person, but this is different).

I know that this is the best option because we no longer have the knotweed in our garden, - 2 treatments were all that were needed,


So Japanese Knotweed, although it was introduced as an ornamental plant in 1825 is not great for gardens, and will spread rapidly from even the smallest root. if you find it in large amounts then you'll need professional help to get rid of it, otherwise, get out the Glyphosate.

Wish me luck, - i'm hoping this lot can be got rid of as thougroughly as mine and Grace and Flavour's

Update - After posting this, I had several conversations with tweeters about the fact that the stem is edible, and tastes (and can be cooked) in the same way as Rhubarb.- I replied that there wasn't big enough pieces for eating, and then - lightning struck twice, and I went to do a new garden consultation at the weekend and found


yes, this stem does look rhubarb like, - but that's not good for the house owners (who also have regular gardeners who've missed it!) - It's also growing onto the neighbouring golf course, so they are liasing with them about treatment and removal - i'll keep you updated



Gardening Club - 2 years on.

So it's official, - i've been running Gardening club for 2 years now.

On April 23rd 2010 I took this shot of the Patch behind the gym.


I'd read Dominic Murphy's The playground potting shed from cover to cover. - I'd asked advice from those I'd found on Twitter running gardening clubs (don't worry about the mess being the best piece of advice ever). I'd planned at least one if not 2 tasks for each session that term, and i'd begged borrowed or stolen plants, tools, pots and props.

I started off with 2 groups, - one of 7 year one and twos, (6 & 7 yr olds) and one of 4 yr three and fours (8 & 9 yr olds), plus I had a volunteer mum helping me with the little ones.

That first Summer, we just cleared the ground and planted seeds and a few plants that i'd grown in my greenhouse. Of course they were all so eager, that those 2 tasks per week lasted about 15 minutes, and I had 40 minutes to fill, but I became adept at finding 3 different types of tasks for each group to carry out, and then there was always hole digging to practise.


I discovered that the older children knew no more than the younger ones. That most of the children actually need to be given permission to get dirty (go on kneel down and use your hands, has become an oft repeated refrain)  That all of them were willing to taste things they hadn't before (Peer pressure?) and that Radish is obviously not a childrens favourite salad no matter how easy they are to grow.

We were sent the most amazing pack of free seeds to get us started (Thank you sooo much Seed Parade, Suttons and RHS Schools), which was just as well, because we've had to fight against Slugs, Ducks (yes it's right next to a pond) rabbits, mice, as well as blight. On top of School holidays falling exactly when you really need to be planting, watering or picking crops

The School vouchers from the supermarkets were put to good use to get us gloves, tools, and a grow house, and i'm indebted to all my clients who've put up with me filching anything they've finished with or don't want, or have too many of.

By Last summer, we'd added a seed sown lawn. (By now I had a group of year 7 lads, very willing to help me with lawn mowing) Some flowers, and we'd actually marked off some planting beds with decking boards, so they didn't get walked on.

During the Summer Holidays, Our Fab parents Association funded a Polytunnel, and I came back to school to find it erected and waiting to be filled.


We also came back to find that the rain had helped our Sunflowers


But that our Tomatoes and Potatoes had succombed to blight and the slugs had eaten most of what was left.

Undettered  (well not much) We've pressed on, and I now have 3 groups of intrepid gardeners each week. i've even got a waiting list as I'm only taking 10 at a time maximum.


I'm selling mixed bags of Salads and herbs to the parents after school each Friday, and this year we plan to create a full cut flower garden as well in the place of a horrid big Prunus laurecerasus bush. I've had 56 different Children do gardening club for at least one term (i've got several who are on their 4th, but usually they tell me that they know it all after 3 terms!)

I'm a lot more tired at the end of three 40 minute sessions and a bit of weeding on a Friday afternoon than I am after a full day of planting, -but the sense of satisfaction when they all try Chard, or rocket, and can tell me that it's mint because it tastes like toothpaste is worth it all.




Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 2012

ok, - so I missed the 15th, - but the sun is shining this morning, so i've been out in my garden where there is loads flowering.


This Kerria is usually only just coming into bud at this time, - but this year, it's been flowering its socks off for weeks. I'm often asked to design borders without the colour yellow, - but I love this splash of spring cheer.

i've got loads of Tulips in flower, - but they're in their 3rd year, so not as good as they have been in the past

The primroses though have increased in size, and this one looked great with the morning sun on it. (next to a Heuchera)


A lot of my daffodils are already over, - but these Thalia, look great paired with the blue flowers and silver variagated foliage of the Brunnera Jack frost

The white and pink Dicentras (bleeding hearts) are doing well, - although they'd have benefitted from a bit more rain over the winter


The only flower i'm slightly worried about is my Pot grown Minarette Apple Tree, - which is looking wonderful in bud, but is way ahead of the other apple trees in mine and my neighbours gardens, so I may have to do a bee impression again.


Thanks as always to Carol at May dream gardens for hosting this tour of what's blooming in different places in the world.- Here's to more April flowers.


Water restrictions - bad for your garden?

so we're nearly at the Witching hour,- midnight on the 4th April 2012 when the use of hose pipes in the most densly populated parts of England are banned until further notice.


i'm in the Veolia Central water area, and their list of restrictions is available here

it's a pain, of course, - the first thing I do when i've planted a border is give it a long soak with a hosepipe, but actually the truth is, that they havn't banned hosepipes, - just those connected to a supply of drinking (potable ) water.

It's not the first time it's happened, and for me i'm not as worried as a lot of people, - mostly because the last time there was a hosepipe ban, my garden thrived.

You see plants love rainwater, and most plants will work well with grey water ( the stuff that comes from your bath or shower)

i've got a great gadget, that siphons water out of the bath to my waiting Butt, or watering can, - to keep my ornamental borders looking great.


i've also invested in a Solar powered water butt pump to ensure that I can pump water from my water butts to my vegetable patch (i'll give you a full review in a couple of weeks)

If you're getting het up about your garden at the moment, - relax, - forget about your lawn, it will go back to green when we next get plenty of rain. - concentrate on making sure you're catching rainwater from every downpipe from your house (you are aren't you!) and think about the gardening professionals that have just been consigned to a summer of walking from the tap or water butt with two watering cans (unless their clients were clever enough get a water butt pump to connect to their hose or they'd given up on planting at all!)