Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Box and Derby Day

Box hedges only need cutting once a year.  If you have any fussy shaped topiary you could be snipping at it non-stop to keep it tightly trimmed.  The downside to that is that if you keep cutting into 'trees' they are weakened by it and become more susceptible to infection from bugs and diseases.

The traditional day to cut any box hedge has always been Derby Day which is the first week in June and the 'rule' is they should always be cut by July.  This is so the new wood gets a chance to harden before the autumn and therefore survive the winter frosts better.

Sometimes it is good to break rules.

My hedge is not being cut at all this year.  Thanks to its over-cut last year by the gardener I had at that time, it took a bit of a beating.  It is not the healthiest specimen in the first place as it stands with its feet, pretty much, in concrete.  Our patio was haunched up with upended slabs set in large amounts of concrete.  It looked pretty ugly and the hedge is specifically there to hide that.

So, as I said, in a ton of concrete and with its back to a slab of concrete which must fry it in hot weather and then attacked with a chain saw.  It needs a good long break and a chance to put on new growth unhindered, so that's what it will get this year.

It will always look very lopsided on the garden side because our garden slopes by two feet across its diagonal and the hedge is cut to be a foot or so above the patio and looking level on that side.  The patio has now become the conservatory but the hedge and the principal remains.

Monday, 29 June 2015

In my garden yesterday

potential olives? - presume they are flower buds but don't seem to be opening

primula capitata covered in farina (white powder) just as it should be

only a few not very impressive foxgloves this year, had a six footer last summer

I love astrantia - this is minor - I didn't notice the hover(?) fly

poppies always aim for perfection

like this corner now the knautia is coming out (the dark pink blobs on long stems)

never show you the utility area

iris - spuria, I think

love this colour mix - nice basket this one

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Noel Terry's Garden, York

The last couple of years I don't seem to have been visiting gardens at all - it tailed off when I got stuck into another hobby.  We hope to visit a few (Yellow Book) gardens this summer.  However we did get a bit of a start by walking around the garden at Noel Terry's house in York a few weeks ago.

He was the Terry of the Terry's chocolate family and sensibly built his Arts and Crafts House in sight of the race course at York and within a few hundred yards of his factory.

The gardens at Goddards are four acres, designed by George Dillistone.  It has garden rooms, with the traditional 'walls' of yew hedging.  Besides the formal parterre-type garden near the house, there is also a bowling green, wild areas, growing area and more to go at.  It is in the process of being restored to its former glory so be a little patient.  It is still worth a visit and tea in the loggia or on the terrace couldn't be bettered.

NB don't confuse it if you are Googling it with Goddards in Surrey - also an Arts and Crafts House by Lutyens and a garden by Gertrude Jekyll.  Noel Terry's might be the 'poorer' version but it is a lovely place to visit with a real feeling of home.

The Burrs

This is intended to be very much a 'local' centred blog so I hope there are folk reading this that know and care about Burrs Country Park.

With the cutbacks from the local council they are very much becoming dependent on volunteer help.  If you fancy doing any bits of gardening however much or however little please get in touch with me here or by email and I will introduce you to the Friends of the Burrs who, I am sure will be happy to find something you might want to do.  Perhaps you could be responsible for one little area, maybe with someone else if you like gardening with company.  As I said whatever you want to do to help will be very, very appreciated.

My husband and myself and two others spent a couple of hours there clearing out the weeds from the four sensory beds.  Moderately hard work for an old fogy like me, but nice to be in the sun and doing something useful and look what a difference it makes.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Lotty update

The Grow Your Own Project is still limping along.  We went round to pick some rhubarb and to see if there were any strawberries ready yet.  My sister is picking a ton of them in Vancouver!  It is hard to imagine we are colder than there!  None ready for us yet.

Two or three beds had been cleared out which was nice to see.  The down side is that they had filled my compost bin with grass which is about to seed everywhere.

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As always my rhubarb and strawberry bed was choking

..........but it doesn't take long to give it some breathing space.

The mixed veg bed is truly that this year.  I have a load of potatoes appearing from last year because we didn't clear it out properly so my salad crops are tucked in here and there and just growing around them, but it is working OK.

mixed bed

spinach and cress among the potatoes

some mixed salad leaves

rogue potatoes look good and healthy

In the same sort of way I have dwarf beans planted with the raspberries.  The raspberries will make a lot of runners this summer and probably fill the bed but until they do I may as well use the space.  They look promising as they are loaded with potential berries.

dwarf beans and raspberries

the beans look just fine

half a dozen bean plants

While we were there I got Ken to shove in some supports for the raspberries - not sure what that achieves....

Friday, 26 June 2015

Greenhouse v. outside

I have started off some plants in the greenhouse and then some went in a pot outside and the other s remained in the greenhouse.  I am surprised to see that the outside ones seemed to be doing much better.  I expected the tomatoes in the warm greenhouse to be romping away.

two tomatoes and one cucumber in a bin outside

two tomatoes and one cucumber in greenhouse

The aubergine finally has flowers - my daughter's, in Edinburgh (this came from her), have been miles ahead of mine.

flowers at last again in greenhouse
The peppers also remain puny.  I am beginning to think my garden is in a cold dark place!

sweet peppers in greenhouse

here are my leftovers waiting to find a home - all doing well outside!

sunflowers, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Compost v. soil

Proper gardeners will tell you to use different mixes for different things and, decidedly, if you grow something in a pot which says it needs ericaceous compost then it truly does if you want it to flourish. ( azaleas, heathers, blueberries, camellias spring to mind)

You should use different mixes for seeds and shrubs and so on.  In truth I don't bother. For growing almost everything that I grow in a pot I just use the cheapest bags of compost I can find.  They are generally the ones from B & Q when they do five bags for five pounds or whatever: but keep your eyes open for cheaper, this year Aldi did a better price.

If you just want to step it up a notch then it is more sensible to pot up anything shrubby or perrenial with a good top soil mix, especially as it will be outside for probably, several years. Top soil is richer in nutrients, holds water better and gives weight to the pot so it won't blow over.  Sadly, I have to confess to not ever bothering.

This year is the first year since 'forever' that I have bought in top soil.  My gardener (Clean and Green) got me some at a good price - £3 a bag.  He said they are 25 litres but they look like more than that to me.  

left: top soil, right: compost
As I have had a 'bad' time with gardeners (and weeds) the last couple of years half the soil in my borders has found its way to a bin and the borders really need making up again.  I can't afford to do this large scale but can add in here and there as I go along.

I will be mixing these bag for bag with cheap compost and filling in the major dips.  If there is anything left it will make a great top dressing for all round the garden, mixed with a couple of handfuls of 7-7-7.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

In my garden today -24th June

astrantia major
its third year,  gift from a friend, don't know what it is

pink oriental poppy, Princess Victoria Louise

Astrantia minor comes out later than major


second year so doing OK, Clematis, Warsaw Nike

pleased with this, filling out nicely

Good old Golden showers doing its thing

the day lily, nice small one

Monday, 22 June 2015

Killing the little blighters

I am not fond of killing every bug in sight.  It is common sense that most things are here for a reason and if you kill something in enough numbers in your garden you will break the 'chain'.  Birds and other bugs and other critters need each other for food and should be left well alone to get on with it.

If you live with the maxim of planting one for the birds, one for bugs and one for you that will probably be the truth of it.

Now having done all that fuzzy, huggy stuff, let me say I take great pleasure in killing slugs and snails!  Yes, they do eat all the rotting debris and there are nice ones and nasty ones and pellets don't distinguish BUT, believe me, my garden is overrun with them even after mass slaughter.

friendly pellets

These are everything-friendly pellets unless you are a slug or snail.  They are organic, do not harm fish, fowl, pets or children and are for use on veggie plots.  They cost only a very few pence more than the nasty ones.  Doesn't have to be this particular one - again go for cheapest but just check it is not a pellet containing metaldehyde and that they say they are food safe etc.

If I understand it correctly any slug pellet will only reduce your slug population by about 10% they are no where near as efficient as they claim to be BUT if you are very, very good and keep going at it (every week,rain permitting) you will see a difference.

Ordinary pellets contain metaldehyde and are to be avoided as it isn't something which breaks down easily and the poisoned slugs can go on to poison birds or frogs etc.  It is also pretty useless if wet, so with the joys of British weather, again the organic ones do better.

The organic ones contain Iron (Ferric) Phosphate and will break down safely in soil.

Neither should be used in massive quantities; indeed they do a worse job if there is a load of them.  They are 'bait' and most of the pellet is slug food (yeast etc) to attract the slug who would normally avoid the poison component of the bait but can't smell it surround by a ton of food.  If you chuck a load down they can then 'smell' the poison and won't take them.  I know it sounds daft but I was told one of those little blue pellets every six inches is fine - you are trying to attract them with food not bombard them to death.

Begin on Valentine's Day - nice easy date to remember - Hearts and Slugs.  (Hole in the greetings card market?)  Carry on each week until end of October. You can then have three months off.

In the main other than slug pellets I don't use bug killer.  I did, however get an attack of the dreaded red lily beetle a couple of years ago - they eat a lot more than lilies!!  This is my all round killer of choice.


This time, sadly, you have to pay proper money for it but it probably saves in the long run if you end up buying tons of different cheaper things trying to find a solution to a problem.  Pretty much if it creeps or crawls this will nobble it.

It works systemically - that means it is taken into the plant and when things eat the plant they die.  That is much more efficient than trying to hit a bug with spray which some fly sprays and greenfly sprays depend on.  Often in your garden you will never see the critter that is doing the most damage to your plants.  Also, it works for about six weeks.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Keeping from year to year

This wasn't a deliberate move on my part but this year, before I got a chance to empty and refill my three herb pots they had already sprung into growth from last year.


For the amount I use chives these will do me fine for the two of us.  


Mint is sparser than I would like - I do like a load in mint sauce - but early days and I am sure it will do.  Must take some cuttings from it later in the summer for a fresh pot next year.


Mmmm... this is a bit sad looking; not much parsley sauce there and because it is fighting for its life it is trying to flower every five minutes: this is nature's way of ensuring its survival to the next generation.

Incidentally never bother with just washing and chopping a tiddly bit of something each time - what a mess and faff - do a decent amount and just freeze the rest as it is and break off a lump when needed.  No its not as good as fresh but not significantly different.

Another sort of food

I am so used to having this stuff around I forgot to mention it when I was talking about feeding gardens.


You might think this looks like the 7-7-7 I showed you before but it doesn't.  It isn't perfectly granular like that is; it is just a mix of various degrees of  gritty 'powder'.  It is what it says it is - ground up animal bones - mostly beef.  It is then steamed at a high temperature to kill any pathogens.  In the main I think of it as promoting root growth.

So, the previous feeding instructions I gave you were for everything above ground, this is for below:

instructions on the lid so I don't forget

I chuck a small handful in with the soil when I am planting something - especially woody plants like trees and shrubs and perennials.  Also, as it says on the lid at the back end of the season I stroll all round the garden strewing it here there and everywhere to encourage root growth before the winter sets in.  This time a more generous handful than the 7-7-7 feeding routine is needed.