George Irvine's Blog

Local gardening expert George Irvine presents handy information and tips to ensure your garden is in perfect condition all year.

To contact George directly please call 01475 633422. If you wish to contact George by email his address is irvinegd@aol.com

George Irvine

 

March 28th

Spring Forward into Summer.

At long last winter has finally gone for yet another year. This weekend we all welcome the advent of British Summer Time, so do not forget to put your clocks forward by one hour when you go to bed tomorrow night.

Apart from losing one hour of sleep tonight, we should all wake up tomorrow full of the joys of spring and looking forward to longer days and hopefully a bit more sunshine as the temperature begins to gradually rise. It will be a bit lighter in the evenings which will trigger that enthusiasm to get out into the garden for an hour or two each evening.

Already the daffodils are providing a great show in our gardens and the parks and open spaces all around us. Indeed, those large yellow trumpet flowers and their nice green stems and leaves certainly are an inspiration to everyone at this time of year and it is understandable that they prompted William Wordsworth to pen the works of his famour poem.

Daffodils will continue to add colour to our gardens for another month at least, but many readers might ask the question 'What do we do once they wither and die?'

Once the daffodils fade you should nip off the spent flowers taking great care to also nip off the large green seed pod immediately behind the flower. Removing this pod will halt the daffodil from producing seed and will let the bulb build up strength for producing next year's flowers.

Additionally, do not cut back these luscious green leaves. Leave them on the plant and let them rot down on their own. You can even give the leaves a feed with a liquid fertiliser such as Phostrogen or Miracle-Gro.  Again, the purpose of doing this is to allow nutrients to flow back into the bulb for next year's flower.  If you have 'daffies' growing among your lawns, then leave the daffodils intact when you cut the grass. Let the leaves die off naturally, otherwise the daffodils will not flower next year.

Gardeners Question Time.

Inverkip, Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie  branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution are hosting a Gardeners Question Time which will take place in Inverkip Church Hall on Wednesday 9th April.

The panel of experts will be chaired by Theresa Talbot of BBC Radio Scotland's Beechgrove Potting Shed and will include Brian Young of Holmes Farm, Drybridge and yours truly.

Tickets cost £ 6.50 and are obtainable from Largs & Millport Information Office, 88 Main Street Largs, Wemyss Bay Pharmacy and the Medical hall, Skelmorlie or from committee members Mrs Jones (522351) or Mrs Benson(520975)

The event begins at 7pm and includes refreshments and nibbles and there will be a souvenir stall, raffle and prize draw as well as the sale of plants.

All proceeds are in aid of the RNLI.  Come along and bring your questions.

Touch of Colour for Mother's Day.

If you are looking for that last minute present for Mother's Day tomorrow why not consider giving her a gift of a house plant.  As a surprise, a nice house plant - which will last for quite a long time - is the ideal present.

Browsing round the Cardwell garden Centre just the other day, I was really impressed by the large array of colourful plants all adorned in attractive pots and bags and are all good value for money. There are some plants which can be bought for less than £5 while other such as Orchids cost a wee bit more. 

Some of the lower priced items are ideal for children looking for a gift for their Mum.

Why not take a look at what is on offer, and you can always treat your Mum to a meal in the Patio Restaurant on Sunday.

They Are Berry Good for You.

Soft fruits are ideal to grow in your own garden and they do not take up a lot of space or require a lot of continual hard work. 

For instance, a few Blackcurrant bushes, Blackberries , Gooseberries and even Blueberries will give you a long lasting plant and will yield a good harvest of fruit for many years to come.

The health -giving properties of the dark or black varieties are really worth growing as the fruits are really high in antioxidants which are beneficial to your diet.

The Blueberry bushes are easily grown in a large pot - filled with ericaceous compost -  and do not take too much work in terms of care and attention.  Indeed, even the other soft fruits can also be grown in large containers.

A wide selection of pot-grown fruits are available for planting over the next few weeks so why not take a trip along to Cardwell Garden Centre and have a look.

Starting Begonia Tubers

The large flowers of tuberous Begonias make a sensational display in any garden, whether they are grown as a central feature of a mixed container or trough or simply grown as a delightful pot plant. Some are also ideal as a central feature in a hanging basket, while the pendulous varieties, with their cascading blooms, are also great in a basket or hanging pot.

Now is the ideal time to start the tubers into growth. Place the tubers, with the concave -or dimpled side upwards into a tray of moist peat or peat-based compost. Keep the trays in a well - lit position away from frost and with some gentle heat. You will soon see the new shoots emerging from the 'eyes' on the tuber. Once they have achieved a bit a growth you can then pot them into large pot and grow them on in the greenhouse.

Look Out the Lawn Mower.

Although many lawns are still quite soggy after the winter rains and I would suggest that you refrain from walking over the grass for a week or two yet, now is the time to look out the mower and check it over. You will need it by mid April to start giving your grass it's first cut of the season.

 

March 21st

Sowing Sweet Peas for Summer Colour and Fragrance.

Sweet peas are delightful flowers to have growing in your garden during the height of the summer. With so many colours to choose from - with many sunning pastel shades - as well as the more vibrant hues, you will have plenty of nice flowers to pick and bring into the house to create a touch of summer. Indeed, sweet peas are also famed for the delicate fragrance.

Before you even start to sow the seeds you need to prepare a deep trench in the garden where you want them to grow. Dig a trench one spade deep and at least one spade wide, take out the soil and fill the trench with well-rotted manure. Then replace the soil that you removed and gently tap it down on top of the manure.

The seeds of sweet peas are fairly large and have a hard coating, and because of this the seed can do with a little help from you before you sow them. It is best to chip the seed  using a sharp knife and many gardeners often opt to soften the outer coating by soaking the seeds in water for a few hours before starting to plant the seed. Use a sharp knife to chip away a little of the hard coating - a cut on the smooth surface at the opposite side from the 'eye' on the seed.

Because sweet peas need a deep root system, it is best to sow the seeds in deep root trainers which you can obtain from any good garden centre. Alternatively, fill a tall cardboard tube - for example, from a toilet roll - and sow into these.

It is best to use a peat-based  multi-purpose compost or John Innes No.1 compost and sow two or three seeds in each planting them about ¾ inches deep in the compost and water well after sowing.

Place the tubes or root trainers in place where they will get plenty of light and protect them from frost.  Once the seed have germinated keep the seedling watered and pinch out the growing tip to encourage the plant to bush out.

Once the plants are large enough they can be planted outside into the prepared trench, but they will need to be supported with canes.  In a later article I will give some more tips on growing sweet peas.

Getting to Know Your Onions.

As the weather improves and the days lengthen you can start to think about planting onion sets. Onion sets are really small onion bulbs that have been given a treatment to to get the onions off to a flying start.

Begin by preparing the bed where you are going to grow them. Dig over and then rake to a fine tilth and firm the soil. When doing this I would advise that you incorporate a general fertiliser - bone meal or chicken pellets, or even some 'Growmore' into the soil.

Always add fertilisers at the rate given on the instructions on the container and don't be tempted to over-apply. Too much can be worse than too little.

Using your finger, or a large dibber, make a hole and place one onion set into each hole, planting about six inches apart. Leave a couple of feet between rows. Make sure that you plant the set deep enough so that just the tip of the set is above the soil. Once planted water each row.  Go back and inspect the rows every few days and re-plant any sets that have been picked out of the soil by the birds.

When The Flowers Fade.

Having seen both the recent spring flower shows in the last couple of weeks, I have been really bowled over by the magnificent displays of Amaryllis bedecking the benches.  I also know that quite a lot of readers probably have one growing in their homes as a result of having received one as a gift at Christmas.

However, once these marvellous flowers have faded, many people ask me what they should do next. All you need to do is to snip off the spent flower but leave the stem and the plant as it is. The leaves often start to grow after the flower, so they may still be growing. It will do no harm to give the plants a feed with a fertiliser such as Phostrogen or Miracle-Gro every few weeks, as this lets the bulb build up it's strength for next year.

Leave the plant until the stem shrivels up in a few months time..

Creating an Edible Garden.

There is nothing better than growing your own crops of vegetables and herbs and so the time is ripe for starting to sow your seeds for this year's crop.

Cabbages are great to grow if you like your 'greens' and there are so many varieties to choose from. You can plump for the convention green cabbage and there are summer and winter types to choose from. Another member of the cabbage family worth growing is Savoy which is mainly a winter variety, although you can now get a Savoy which matures in late summer. Red cabbage is also becoming more and more popular.

For salads, lettuce is perhaps best known, but other green-leafed kinds include Rocket and a few other types. It is best to sow just small amounts of salad greens at regular intervals rather than sow a lot at the one time.

Other useful vegetables include leeks, cauliflower and kale and among the root vegetables you can include turnips, carrots and beetroot.

So why not get busy sowing your seeds but if you do not need a lot of plants you can wait a few months and buy 'ready for planting' plants from a garden centre. In the meantime, I will continue to offer more tips on growing herbs and vegetables each week. 

An Old Folk Lore On Seed Sowing.

Ever been disappointed when all your seeds don't germinate? Well, this old tale might put your mind at rest. It goes- One for the Rook and one for the Crow, one to die and one to grow. 

Maybe it's best just to sow generously. 

 

March 1st Sunshine & Flowers Said it all at Gourock Flower Show.

Gourock Horticultural Society's Spring Flower Show on Saturday 1st March was a roaring success. 

With almost seven hundred entries in the show, bench space was filled to capacity with all the pots of spring bulbs, plants and vases of shrubs creating a colourful and fragrant atmosphere in the Gamble Halls.

An awe-inspiring stage decoration created by Cardwell Garden Centre showcased an array of seasonal plants and shrubs providing a colourful backdrop to the show, and this brought many admiring comments from the many visitors. 

However, it was the many exhibits from the children of local nursery groups, primary schools and youth organisations which provided much interest from a host of visitors during the afternoon. Indeed, the children's exhibits revealed a fantastic amount of skill and innovation with their varied works of art and all are to be congratulated for their imaginative creations.

Paintings and hand-made cards bedecked the main staircase up to the large hall while their pots of bulbs crammed the tables in the hall. In the craft section, wide variety of various exhibits by both adults and children was very commendable and all showed great skill and dexterity. A delicate sewn Christening gown submitted by Mary Griffin won the   best entry in crafts while hand-sewn pictures and cross-stitch articles were greatly admired, as was items of hand-knitting and sewing.

Top prize for the Best Exhibit in the show went to Evelyn Blair's pot of stunning Amaryllis, while Jean Campbell gained trophies for highest points in the adult bulb classes and the best exhibit in senior citizen classes.

A class where children were asked to create something  new from something old showed many innovative skills, especially the group exhibit from the children of the Gaelic Nursery at Whinhill School who created a  selection a cars, a fire-engine and a road   with a pedestrian crossing all made from various spent containers. A stand-up picture of each child involved featured on the pedestrian crossing. Another child made a little handbag out of an old pair of trousers - indeed, a wonderful effort.

Six-year old Lachlan Carroll struck gold with his little bowl of near perfect Crocus to win the coveted Gwyneth Martin Trophy for the best exhibit of live plant material in the Childrens classes.

 

Prune Roses this Month

March is the ideal time to get out the secateurs and prune your rose bushes. Before you begin make sure that your secateurs are clean, and above all make sure they are sharp, in order to get a nice clean cut. If you are in any doubt about the state of your secateurs, I would recommend that you invest in a new pair.

Start by cutting out any broken or damages branches, then move on to cut each stem to an outward-facing bud. Remove any stems which are growing towards the centre of the bush. You can prune roses quite hard, down to just a few inches above the ground.

It is important that you pick up all the prunings and any old leaves that might be lying on the soil. Leaving these lying on top of the soil will only serve to encourage diseases like black spot and rust, both of which can form spores in the soil. If this happens, rain can cause the soil to splash back up onto the bush during the growing season and re-contaminate your bush.

Once pruning is complete give each bush a spray with 'Rose Clear' to guard against black spot and rust.  Also give each bush a feed with a granular rose fertiliser - or even a handful of bone meal- to encourage   new growth. Remember, roses are quite fast growing and are greedy feeders. 

Give Marshmallow Plants the Chop.

Perennial Lavatera - or marshmallow plants - as they are commonly known, need to be cut down to just about eight or nine inches above the ground during this month.

Once you have chopped them back, remove all the cuttings from the soil and rake in a granular fertiliser around the base of the plant. 'Growmore' or bone meal will suffice, applied at about four ounces per square yard.

 

Lots of Bulbs Light-Up Port Glasgow.

Port Glasgow Town Hall was turned into a blaze of colour when Inverclyde Council staged their annual bulb show.  With lots of entries expected from local schools, nursery groups and other community groups, visitors can expect a really colourful display.

Doors open at 12 noon and there will be entertainment during the day by the dancers of         the May Hughes School of Dancing. In addition, there will be a number of stalls from various community groups offering a wide spectrum of goods. Entry is free and there will be a tearoom for those who wish a nice 'cuppa'

Which Tomatoes do you Wish to Grow.

There is nothing better than the taste of your own home-grown tomatoes, and now is the time to start your crops for this year.

There are now a wide range of different varieties on offer from seed companies. Along with the old favourites such as Moneymaker, Ailsa Craig and Alicante, there are many new varieties becoming more and more popular with gardeners. Some of these include various cheery-sized fruits and you can also opt for the large beef-sized types which are good for creating culinary options such as stuffed tomatoes. Next week I will offer advice on growing various selections of this popular salad accompaniment.

 

Tip of the Month.

Remember to keep putting out fresh food and water for our feathered friends as food from natural sources is scarce at this time of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2014 Getting ready for Sowing Seeds and planting Plug Plants.

It's now the time to buy your summer bulbs such as Begonia corms, Dahlia tubers and Lilies. Indeed, the latter can be planted in tubs any time now. It is also the ideal time to get seed potatoes and onion sets in readiness for planting late March or April.

Cardwell has a massive range of plug plants available to buy and now is the best time to start planting them. 

During February and March most gardeners will be getting down to the business of sowing seeds for their summer plants and vegetables and here are just a few hints to help you on your way and ensure you get the best results.

Firstly, just what is a seed?  A seed is a ripened, fertilised ovule containing a dormant embryo, capable of developing into an adult plant. Each seed contains sufficient nutrients to sustain the young seedling during the course of germination.

When we proceed to sow the seed, it is best to use specially prepared seed compost like Levington Seed and Cutting compost. This is formulated to provide enough drainage to prevent the seed from rotting should the compost become too wet. Equally, seed compost is low in nutrients so that the emerging seedling is not damaged by strong fertilisers. It is important that you do not add fertiliser to your seeds until they are well established. Too much fertiliser will kill you seeds before they get a chance to grow.

It is also important that seed trays are clean before you start in order to prevent disease affecting your seeds. A good cleansing agent is Armillatox or Jeyes fluid. There are other detergents available, but please make sure they are formulated for the task. Many household detergents will leave a residue which can kill young plants.

The seeds of different plants will require different temperatures for germination, and also the time taken for seeds to germinate will vary between different varieties. Propagators are convenient for a good harvest of seeds and if you plan to have a large harvest a heated propagator will speed things up enormously!

Some seed may need light to germinate, so you should not cover the seed with compost or vermiculite, while other seeds require darkness in order for germination to occur.

It is very important to read all the instructions on the seed packet before you begin, since all the relevant information is usually given by the seed producer. 

If after you have read the instructions on the seed packet and are still unsure, please do not hesitate to ask the garden centre staff for help with any aspect of seed germination, or any part of your garden. The staff at the garden centre will be happy to offer unbiased advice which can save you a lot of time and maybe even some money! Everyone is a beginner at first, but a few hints and tips can make the process enjoyable, rather than a chore. This whole process can seem quite daunting if you have never done it before, so I have compiled a brief glossary of some of the more common terms below.

Seed:  The ripened, fertilised ovule containing a dormant embryo, capable of developing into an adult plant.

Seedling: A young plant that has developed from a seed.

Germination: The physical and chemical changes that take place as a seed starts to grow and develop into a plant.

Cotyledon: A seed leaf.  The first leaf or leaves to emerge from a seed after germination, often markedly different from the mature leaves.

Annual: A plant that completes it's life cycle, ie.germination-flowering- seeding - dying- in one growing season.

Hardy: A plant that is able to withstand year-round climatic conditions, including frost, without protection.

Half-Hardy ;. A plant that will not tolerate frost, or relatively cooler conditions.

Biennial: A plant that flowers and dies in the second growing season, after germination.

Perennial: Any plant living at least three seasons. Eg. Herbaceous plants and woody plants. ( trees and shrubs)

Hardening-Off.: Gradually acclimatizing plants that have been raised under cover, to cooler, outdoor conditions.

10th May 2013

Branching Out with Brassicas in the Vegetable Plot.

Vegetables of the Brassica family include such succulent species such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts. Brassica plants are extremely hardy plants and many can survive in the soil well into winter, making them very useful crops for the kitchen to last for many months.

Before you embark on growing these vegetables it is best to consider what ones you will really want to use in the kitchen and often it is best to grow a small number of different varieties. Take cabbage, for example, there are summer varieties and winter types such as Savoy which will keep you supplied with plenty of green vegetables over a long period of time. There is even a red variety of cabbage which can be pickled or even used as a delightful change to your normal culinary skills. It is worth planting maybe just a dozen of each variety rather than plant dozens of the one kind.

Broccoli and Kale will stand very well right through the winter months and you can harvest them just when required. Brussel sprouts is another crop which has a long growing cycle and they taste much sweeter once they have had a touch of frost before harvesting - ideal for picking for  your Christmas dinner. 

Brassicas can be grown from seed, but if you only require smaller quantities you can buy plants which are ready for planting out in the garden just now. Cardwell Garden Centre now have quite a range of these vegetable plants in stock, just ready for planting out now.

Vegetables of the brassica family grow best in a neutral or slightly alkaline soil. If you are in any doubt about the pH of your soil, you can buy an inexpensive soil testing kit from our garden centre and a simple test will let you know the state of acidity or alkalinity in your soil.

It is usually best to increase alkalinity of the soil using lime - two or three ounces per square yard - as this also prevents club root. Brassicas do not like dry soil, so water regularly especiallyin dry spells of weather. Over the coming weeks, I will give more detailed hints on vegetable growing.

 

More Lessons on Lawncare.

Over the past few weeks quite a number of readers have remarked to me that they have followed my articles on removing moss and have been really surprised at the amount of dead moss they have raked out from their lawn. Indeed, most of them are now tackling the restoration of the bare patches by sowing grass seed over them. When reseeding your lawn it advisable to use a slightly higher quantity than the packet suggests as some of the seed may be eaten by wild birds or rodents.

Many lawns will benefit from a tidy up of the edges, and indeed nicely trimmed edges certainly enhance the look of your lawn, Do this using a half-moon edging tool rather than using a spade, since many spades have slightly curved edges. Use a straight edge to guide you, along with the half-moon edging tool, and you will certainly make your lawn look really amazing.

 

Avoiding the Perils of Pricking Out.

Gardeners who opt for raising their plants from seed find themselves faced with the task of pricking out the young seedlings and planting these into small pots or cell trays to grow on.

This job needs some tender care, especially when handling the tender young plants. Handle them by their leaves and not the stem, as this can cause bruising and other damage to the plants.  When planting into pots or modular cell trays ensure that you plant deep enough so that the leaves are just above the level of the soil. Doing this will ensure good strong plants rather than have them growing weak and straggly. Water them using tap water which has been acclimatised to the temperature of the greenhouse. Avoid using rainwater to water your plants at this stage of growth.

 

Give Established Hedges a Treat.

Many hedges are looking just a tad sad after the ravages of winter, and given the high rainfall last year, many hedges might be in need of a little bit of nutrition. If you feel your hedge is looking a little bit under the weather, rake in some bone meal around the base of the hedge. This should provide a bit of feeding to last the hedge over the next couple of years.

 

Frost Protection is Vital.

Over the next week or two summer bedding plants will be making their appearance in many retail outlets and garden centres. It is worth noting that summer bedding plants are not frost hardy and therefore should be protected from frost until late May or early June in this area.Frost protection fleece is ideal for this and can easily put on at night. It should be removed in the morning so as to avoid an unwanted build up of moisture which can lead to fungal growth on your plants.

 

May is a Time of Great Growth in the Garden.

As we embark on the month of May it is important period for making those final preparations for summer. However, there is a need for some caution as there is still frost about during the night and early morning. For instance, just last Saturday, I had to use de-icer on my car windscreen to remove a film of ice just after 8 o'clock. Summer bedding plants are not frost hardy, and hence will need protection from the occasional snap of frost. Keep an eye on the weather forecast until the end of the month, when the threat of frost has passed. It's a good idea to have some frost protection fleece handy in case you need to protect your plants. Only use the fleece overnight and remove it in the morning to avoid a build up of moisture.

The same applies to hanging baskets, they can be planted up just now but keep them inside for the next few weeks.

Tall growing perennials will need support as they start to grow in order to keep them straight and upright. Clematis needs to be tied to control their climbing habit in the direction you would like them to grow. Try and tie rambling roses as horizontal as possible as this will restrict the flow of sap and increase the number of side shoots resulting in more flowers.

 

Growing Cauliflowers.

Many gardeners find that Cauliflowers can be just a tad difficult to grow successfully in their gardens. However, the following tips should help you to get some good results.

Firstly, spacing is important. Cauliflowers need a minimum distance between plants of  about 16 inches but give a bit more space to late season varieties. Allow at least 2 feet between rows.

When planting out. Dig a hole about 4 to six inches deep and put a heaped tablespoonful of lime into the hole.  Scatter about the same amount round each plant after planting. Put down slug pellets after planting. Water when necessary but when the plants begin to bulk up and the developing curds are around four inches round, increase the watering to every other day and give half-gallon to each plant.

When the curds are near to maturity, ties the leaves up over the curds with string in order to keep the curd shaded and as white as possible.

 

Don't Forget Your Pond.

If you have a pond in your garden, pond weed needs to be dealt with regularly before it becomes too troublesome and harmful to pond life. Make sure you leave any weeds you remove by the side of the pond for a good while in case any pond life is harbouring among the pond weed. This allows them to make their way back into the pond. Make sure any new aquatic plants are well established first before you attempt to begin stocking the pond with fish.

 

22nd March 2013

Water With Care

When potting up young plug plants into cell trays or small pots ,watering will be essential to keep these plants - and indeed,- any young seedlings growing strong over the next few months.

While water is vital for growth, too much water will be detrimental to the plants. It is important not to over-water them as this can cause the roots to rot. Just keep the compost moist - not soaking wet.

When you water young seedlings it is best not to use the garden hose. The high pressure of a hose pipe may be damage tender and fragile young plants. Additionally, the mains water will be quite cold at this time of year, and the sudden cold shower is sure to shock the tender young seedlings. The best approach to watering is to use a watering can with a very fine rose on the end of it. Also keep the watering can - filled with water- in the greenhouse so that the temperature of the water will match that of the plants.

12th March 2013

A Great additive for Seed Sowing

When you are sowing seeds, the instructions on some seed packets will tell you that some seeds need to be covered over with seed compost before germination will take place. However, rather than use seed compost for this task you can opt to use vermiculite, and indeed it's use has many advantages.

But what is Vermiculite?  Vermiculite is a mineralogical name given to hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminium-iron silicate and it resembles mica in appearance. It also has insulating properties, and it is sterile and hence free from pests and diseases. Covering your seeds to the required depth with vermiculite is worth considering, and you can also add it to the compost when pricking out young seedlings. It will help improve drainage but yet hold moisture and allow air to reach the roots..

 

Caring for Acers.

Many gardeners simply love Acers in their garden and these small trees, which are actually Japanese Maples, provide a bit of welcome architecture to any garden with the added bonus of lovely coloured leaves. Many are also grown for their shape too and this also will enhance your garden. 

One of the many questions I am asked is about when and if they should be pruned. The answer is that generally Acers do not need to be pruned at all. By nature they are slow growing, and hence pruning is not usually necessary. However, sometimes you do need to lightly prune them just to retain their shape or to remove damaged branches. 

If you do have to lightly prune, you must do it soon before the sap starts to rise, otherwise   new cuts will tend to bleed.  You can give a light feed in early spring but do watch out for black fly.

 

Growing from Plug Plants.

With the plug plant season now about to start  in earnest I want to feature on the steps needed to be taken to successfully grow these little plants on until ready for planting out in the garden by early summer. With any plug plants, it is vitally important that you don't let them dry out. You also need to pot these on into small pots or cell trays. The latter are available in various sizes and are obtainable in Cardwell Garden Centre.

Use new fresh multi-purpose compost when potting-up these small plants. Don't be tempted to use old compost which you have had lying about since last year, as this could have decomposed, creating toxins which could be harmful to your new plants. Gently ease, or pull the plug plant from it's original tray and replant into cell trays or 3 inch pots containing fresh compost. I often find it useful to use a little bit a split cane to push the plug from it's original tray. Gently firm the plant into the compost in it's new abode and then water each plant carefully. Keep the plants in a light but frost-free location - such as an unheated greenhouse, but do not let the overnight temperature fall below 42 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Keep a Look-Out for Frost.

Over the next couple of months we can still get some severe frosts during the night and early morning. My advice is  to watch the weather forecasts and if heavy frosts are on the horizon make sure you cover  tender young plants with garden fleece , or even a few layers of old newspaper. Keep off lawns if they are covered with frost, otherwise you can damage the grass.

 

Trimming Winter Heather.

Most of the winter heather which has given a bit of colour to the garden over the dull dark days of winter, will be starting to fade now. As with most heather, they do need to be trimmed after flowering and now is the time to do this. Lightly trim off all the old flowers, taking care not to cut into old dark wood. Perhaps the best way to trim off the old flower spikes is to use your garden shears. Remember, just a light trim is all that is   needed to remove the old flowers. 

 

Get the Secatuers Out.

Perennial Lavatera - or the marshmallow plant as it is often known - should be pruned back to about nine inches above the ground during this month. After pruning, rake some general fertiliser such as bone meal or 'Growmore' around the base of the plants.

Hydrangea - the Mop Head varieties- should have all the old flower heads trimmed off  now but do not be tempted to prune these bushes down, because, you will prevent any flowers from appearing for the next three  years. Should your bushes become too cumbersome, remove only one third of the stems taking them down to ground level, selecting  only those that flowered last year.  Otherwise, leave your bushes untouched.

 

1st February 2013

Getting ready for Sowing Seeds.

During February and March most gardeners will be getting down to the business of sowing seeds for their summer plants and vegetables and here are just a few hints to help you on your way and ensure you get the best results.

Firstly, just what is a seed?  A seed is a ripened, fertilised ovule containing a dormant embryo, capable of developing into an adult plant. Each seed contains sufficient nutrients to sustain the young seedling during the course of germination.

When we proceed to sow the seed, it is best to use specially prepared seed compost like Levington Seed and Cutting compost. This is formulated to provide enough drainage to prevent the seed from rotting should the compost become too wet. Equally, seed compost is low in nutrients so that the emerging seedling is not damaged by strong fertilisers. It is important that you do not add fertiliser to your seeds until they are well established. Too much fertiliser will kill you seeds before they get a chance to grow.

It is also important that seed trays are clean before you start in order to prevent disease affecting your seeds. A good cleansing agent is Armillatox or Jeyes fluid. There are other detergents available, but please make sure they are formulated for the task. Many household detergents will leave a residue which can kill young plants.

The seeds of different plants will require different temperatures for germination, and also the time taken for seeds to germinate will vary between different varieties. Propagators are convenient for a good harvest of seeds and if you plan to have a large harvest a heated propagator will speed things up enormously!

Some seed may need light to germinate, sow you should not cover the seed with compost or vermiculite, while other seeds require darkness in order for germination to occur.

It is very important to read all the instructions on the seed packet before you begin, since all the relevant information is usually given by the seed producer. 

If after you have read the instructions on the seed packet and are still unsure, please do not hesitate to ask the garden centre staff for help with any aspect of seed germination, or any part of your garden. The staff at the garden centre will be happy to offer unbiased advice which can save you a lot of time and maybe even some money! Everyone is a beginner at first, but a few hints and tips can make the process enjoyable, rather than a chore. This whole process can seem quite daunting if you have never done it before, so I have compiled a brief glossary of some of the more common terms below.

Seed:  The ripened, fertilised ovule containing a dormant embryo, capable of developing into an adult plant.

Seedling: A young plant that has developed from a seed.

Germination: The physical and chemical changes that take place as a seed starts to grow and develop into a plant.

Cotyledon: A seed leaf.  The first leaf or leaves to emerge from a seed after germination, often markedly different from the mature leaves.

Annual: A plant that completes it's life cycle, ie.germination-flowering- seeding - dying- in one growing season.

Hardy: A plant that is able to withstand year-round climatic conditions, including frost, without protection.

Half-Hardy ;. A plant that will not tolerate frost, or relatively cooler conditions.

Biennial: A plant that flowers and dies in the second growing season, after germination.

Perennial: Any plant living at least three seasons. Eg. Herbaceous plants and woody plants. ( trees and shrubs)

Hardening-Off.: Gradually acclimatizing plants that have been raised under cover, to cooler, outdoor conditions.

30th January 2013

Countdown to Spring.

Members of Gourock Horticultural Society host the annual spring Flower Show in the Gamble Halls on Saturday 23rd February with support from Cardwell Garden Centre. Show schedules are now available from committee members or can be obtained from Linda at Woolcraft, in Shore Street, Gourock.

With classes for various spring bulbs and pot plants plus a host of exhibits from the children of local nursery groups, primary schools and youth organisations. In addition there will be sections to exhibit handcrafted items from both adults and children and a section featuring Floral Art. 

Currently, members will be busy preparing their pots of bulbs and forcing them into flower for the end of February. Even if you haven't entered a flower show before, why not make a point of doing so this year as we've included some handy tips below on how to plant and take care of bulbs. 

Bulbs planted earlier in the year, should have been removed from their cold dark domain and introduced into a light but cool environment to green-up for about a week. Bulbs for the show can now be forced into flower by bringing them indoors to the warmth. Keep an eye on them to ensure they do not come on too fast. Just when they are in bud and about to flower, the bulbs can be put back into a cool place such as an unheated greenhouse until the show date.

For a full range of bulbs and seeds please visit Cardwell Garden Centre where you will find one of our experts who can answer any queries that you may have.

For further information call 633422.

 

 

31st October 2012

Give Autumn Attention to Roses.

With winter fast approaching it is time to give some thought to your rose bushes. It is best to prune all your bushes back by half their height at this time of the year. Autumn pruning will stop winter winds rocking the bushes and loosening up the root ball, which can cause the bush to die over the winter, or become infected by a number of diseases. Addionally, you will prevent stems from becoming broken during winter gales. It is also important to check the ties on climbing and rambling roses and ensure all the branches are securely fixed to their supports. Young shoots can be easily damaged during winter gales and high winds.

Look after your garden hoses..

If you have an outside tap to connect to your garden hose, it is advisable to turn the water off at the stopcock now to prevent damage by freezing over the winter. When you turn the water off make sure that you drain the hose too. Water lying in the hose-pipe can freeze and cause the hose to split or rupture. This also applies to any water features and fountains you have in the garden. Drain both the pump and the water bowls to avoid any frost damage. Covers are available for water features to help protect over the winter.

Planting time for Spring Colour.

Over the next week or two make time to plant out spring bedding plants such as Wallflower, Sweet William, Primroses and Polyanthus. These, together with winter Pansies and spring bulbs will bring a welcome splash of colour to your garden early next year. Most of these plants are now available at Cardwell Garden Centre and are ready for planting.

Get the Lawn Mower Ready to Mothball.

Now that the grass cutting season is past, it is time to consign your lawn mower and strimmers to the garden shed for the winter season. Before you put them into winter storage, however, take time to remove all grass sticking to the undersides, using a wire brush. Include the grass box too in this cleaning operation. Finish by applying a spray of light oil or WD40 to the blades and other metal parts. Remove fuel from petrol driven mowers.

Caring for Containers.

If you have plants or shrubs growing in containers, do take the time to raise the container a few inches off the ground using  proprietary plant feet or even a couple of bricks. This will allow winter rains to drain easily from the compost within the container and prevent freezing during a cold snap. Freezing can cause ceramic pots to crack during winter.

November is Tulip Planting time.

There are many varieties of tulips available - ranging from the dwarf rockery types, to the tall growing varieties. Available in single and double flowering blooms, and in many colours too, tulips can bring loads of colour to your garden from March through to late May, depending on the varieties you choose.

All bulbs can be planted over the next couple of weeks.

 

 

3rd October 2012

Useful Hints on growing Crocus

Last week I wrote about planting crocus bulbs for a colourful display during late winter and early spring, and I know that some gardeners experience disaster due to the small bulbs being eaten by field mice and squirrels.
Indeed, these small rodents can cause a lot of despair to many gardeners, but one safe way to deter them from feasting on your bulbs is to cover the soil - or compost, if growing in containers- is to sprinkle grated soap over the surface where you have planted the bulbs.
Plan to Move Delicate Plants to a Sheltered Location.
Now that we are into October, it will not be long until the first frosts start to appear around our gardens. Although everyone hopes heavy frosts and ice are a bit distant, a drop in overnight temperatures can do untold damage to tender plants.

Rather than wait until damage occurs, it is better to start and move your tender plants indoors or relocate them to a sheltered spot on the garden. Indoor plants that you have had outside during the summer should be taken inside again. For plants which you cannot move, think about mulching the soil around them and cover them with garden fleece - obtainable from garden centres- to give extra protection.

Jobs to keep you busy in the garden.

Over the next few weeks there are plenty of tasks to keep you occupied in the garden.
It's time to harvest all your summer crops of cabbage, cauliflower and potatoes and keep cutting flowers from your borders
Don't give up on the slugs and snails, or they will bury under your soil and lay more and more eggs which will hatch out next year and cause even more devastation in your garden.

 

24th August 2012

Getting Hyacinths in Bloom for Christmas.

 

Hyacinths, with their stunning colours and fragrance, make a welcome presence in the home during the festive season.

 However, to be sure of success you have to start planting these bulbs during the first half of September. Begin by taking a trip along to the garden centre and look for 'Prepared Bulbs'. These bulbs have been specially prepared for flowering at Christmas, and are available in the popular shades of blue and purple as well as lovely pink and yellow hues or white.

 These bulbs can be grown in either bowls or pots - and if you choose the former- you are best to plant them using bulb fibre. For growing in pots, you can use any good quality multi-purpose compost, preferably peat-based.

 Plant the bulbs so that the neck of the bulb is just above the surface of the compost. After planting, give the compost a light spray of water, before placing the pots or bowls into a cool dark place and keep them there for a period of 8 to 10 weeks.

 When the shoots are around two inches above the compost, move the pots and bowls into a cool but light position for a week at least keeping the compost moist, before moving into a warmer environment.

 Hyacinths can cause a skin irritation in some people so if you are susceptible to this, you should use gloves when handling them. Gloves are available in the garden centre.

 

 Gourock Flower Show.

 

Gourock Horticultural Society Autumn Flower Show takes place in the Gamble Halls, Shore Street, Gourock on Saturday & Sunday 8th and 9th September. Doors are open from 2pm until 5pm on both days.

Attractions include exhibits of Cut Flowers, Vegetables and Pot Plants as well as displays of Floral Art, Handicrafts. The kitchencraft section will include home baking, jams and jellies and even homemade vegetable soup. A host of entries from the children of local schools , pre-school groups and youth organisations  are also expected. During the afternoon, visitors can enjoy a welcome cup of tea and home baking in the ever-popular tearoom or try their luck in the raffle held each day. There will also be a plant stall.

The show will be opened on Saturday afternoon by Eric Gallagher of Cardwell  Garden Centre who are kindly supplying the stage decoration at the show.

13th August 2012

Protecting your blooms from nocturnal nibblers.

Earwigs attack a wide range of different flowers but are particularly partial to Dahlias and Chrysanthemums and Delphiniums and Clematis among a host of others.
Most of the damage caused by earwigs result in ragged holes appearing on the petals of the flowers, thus causing distressing disfigurement to the blooms.
Earwigs tend to hide within the damaged flowers during the day, but the feed mainly at night. Indeed, leaves and buds can also be damaged and often young buds are killed off.
There are not a lot of chemicals that are effective and easy to use to rid your garden of these nocturnal nibblers, although if you can locate a crowd of them, a puffer application of a general insecticide can be useful.
By far the easiest and most effective solution is to trap the earwigs by placing an upturned plant pot on a cane and placing these around your flower beds. Fill the upturned flower pot with straw- or better still - crumpled up newspaper. The ear wigs will take refuge in the paper or straw during the day and you can remove and discard the paper each day, replacing with new paper. Doing this daily will certainly protect your beloved blooms and get rid of the earwigs.

Tomato Care.

Tomatoes seem to be slow in ripening this year according to many gardeners I have spoken to over the past few weeks.

Once your plants have reached five trusses high, pinch out the growing tip. It is also beneficial to remove the lower leaves below the first truss to allow air and light to reach the fruit and encourage ripening to take place.

War on Weeds.

Weeds just seem to growing like mad this year, so do try and keep on top of them by regularly hoeing and hand weeding. If you do resort to using weed-killer, make sure you pick a calm day to spray, as even a light wind can cause the weed-killer to drift on to your crops. Always read the directions carefully when using any weed-killer and wear gloves and other protective clothing as required.

Many weed-killers such as 'Round up' are now available in ready to use spray containers avoiding the need for you to dilute before applying.

 

 

14th May 2012

Keeping Your Greenhouse Free of Aphids.

 At this time of year, flying insects such as whitefly, greenfly and blackfly - not to mention thrips and midges can cause great havoc in the greenhouse. Rather than reach for the chemical sprays, you can hang a few yellow sticky traps just above your plants.

Greenhouse pests find the yellow colour irresistible, while the double-sided strong adhesive coating makes the strips inescapable to the insects.

The glue is safe and non-toxic and the entire product contains absolutely no pesticides, thus making them totally environmentally friendly. You can buy the insect traps at Cardwell Garden Centre.

 

Keep an Eye out for Gooseberry Sawfly.

 Warm and damp weather provides the ideal conditions for pests to attack various crops in our gardens, and this time of year seems just right for the gooseberry sawfly to feast on the leaves of our gooseberry bushes.

The sawfly, which looks very much like tiny caterpillars, can usually be found on the underside of the leaves of the bushes. Left unnoticed, the sawfly will devastate a bush in literally hours, so it is important to take a close look at your bushes every other day. If spotted on the leaves, spray your bushes immediately with an insecticide such as 'Bug Clear' or 'Provado'. Even dousing your bushes with soapy water will help.

 

Oh Deer!

Over the past few weeks I have been approached by gardeners asking for a way to prevent deer from scoffing their treasured plants. Although there are a number of plants which are reputed to be 'deer proof' there is nothing totally immune to the taste buds of these animals.

Deer usually appear in your garden quite early in the morning, and several usually appear together - yes, maw, paw and the kids- love to visit.

One of the best deterrents is to use a product called' Grazers' which will deter both deer and rabbits form your plants. The product is non-toxic - so it will not kill them - and it is also beneficial to your plants too.  'Grazers' is available at Cardwell Garden Centre.

 

Don't Forget the Stakes.

 Now is the time to plant out Dahlias and Chrysanthemums in your garden, and these tall growing plants are ideal for use as cut flowers later in the summer. Gladioli also fall into this category. Being tall growing, all of these will need staking as they grow taller in the coming months, so it is advisable to put place tall canes or stakes as you plant them. This will avoid disturbing the root system later.

 

Moss on Hard Surfaces.

 To remove moss from paths, walls and other hard surfaces, drench the affected areas at a rate of 1 part Algon to 3 parts water, or 1 part Brinton's Patio Magic to 4 parts water. Both of these treatments are safe to use on hard surfaces like paving or decking. We always recommend trying a small area that is out of the way first to make sure that your surface is not stained, before treating the whole area.

 These treatments are not suitable for use in/around plants or on lawns. If you have moss problems in these areas please ask a member of our trained staff for advice on how to treat them.

14th May 2012

Planting Summer Bedding

Now is the time when many gardeners will be getting ready to plant out their summer bedding plants to give a brilliant riot of colour to their gardens during summer.

Here are a few simple tips to help you get the best results from your plants.

Having purchased all your favourite plants, next comes the planting of these into their final flowering positions.

If your plants have been purchased in cell trays, just push each plant out of the tray by pushing up from the underside of the tray. Then carefully tease out the roots before making a planting hole with your trowel. Place the new plant into the planting hole and gently firm it into the soil with your fingers.

Water each plant well, to help it become established into it's new flowering position, before scattering some slug pellets around the new plants.

Don't let your plants dry out - keep watering them -especially during the first few weeks after planting. Even with the amount of rain we get in the west of Scotland you need to check your bedding plants daily for watering. Sometimes when it rains the water will only wet the top centimetre or two, whilst lower in the soil, where the plants roots are, is completely dry. This is even more relevant in hanging baskets and planted tubs.

Your bedding plants will need fed every two weeks or so with whatever food you prefer. For bedding plants we recommend a soluble fertiliser which is fact acting, such as Miracle Gro or Phostrogen. Slow release fertilisers can be also be used, but these should be added to your soil or compost before planting.

Remove any flowers from your bedding plants when they are past their best to encourage new growth.

As always, if you have any questions relating to your garden please ask our trained staff for advice.

 

2nd May 2012

The Perils of Frost.

Over the past few weeks quite a number of gardeners have been concerned that the tips and top buds of some shrubs have turned brown as well as some of the leaves.

The good news is that this is not some kind of disease, but is simply due to early morning frosts.  Let me explain this just a little further. March was an abnormally warm month and many plants put on a bit of new growth a bit earlier than normal. Along came April and the weather turned a bit colder with quite low temperatures - for example 4 degrees and below, and this is what caused the damage to shrubs such as Pieris, Rhododendrons, Hydrangea and even Mahonia to name but a few.

However, nothing needs to be done. Just a week or so of warmth and sunshine and everything will come all right.

While on the subject of frost, please remember that summer bedding plants - perhaps with the exception of Pansies and Violas etc - need to be protected from frost for the next few weeks.  Keep your plants in the greenhouse or a cold frame at night, or if you have planted them out, try and protect them with frost protection fleece or cloches.

 

Look out for Garden Pests.

 By far, one of the worst pests around the garden at this time of year is the dreaded slugs and snails. If you are planting out any new tender plants over the coming weeks, take the precaution of scattering some slug pellets around these young plants. Slugs and snails just love to feast on young plants and they particularly love French Marigolds.

 Believe it or not, slugs have over 20,000 teeth, so they can munch their way through your plants fairly rapidly.

Going on a nightly slug patrol is a sure way to reduce the population of these 'slimy monsters' but don't be tempted to pick one up and throw it over the garden wall. They have a built-in homing device and hence will so find their way back again.

Other pests which are causing havoc in gardens just now are the vine weevil and greenfly. The vine weevil grub - or larvae - works away quietly under the soil and feeds on the roots of your plants. They are easily spotted, being a white coloured grub in the shape of a small letter c. As soon as you spot this, drench the soil or compost with Bayer 'Provado' and repeat this a few days later.

Greenfly can attack plants both in the greenhouse and outdoors too. Look out for the clusters of these tiny green insects and spray immediately with a general insecticide, repeating the dose over a couple of weeks. The application must be repeated to counter any larvae that will hatch after the initial spray. Greenfly not only weakens your plants but they can also spread disease from plant to plant.

 

Around the Garden in May.

Plant perennials any time this month to fill in gaps in your borders.

Feed your lawn if you haven't already done so. Ideally apply Evergreen Complete which will feed the grass, kill moss and weeds all in the one application.

Plant out vegetables such as Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale and main crop Potatoes. Why not plant a few herbs too.

Gladioli corms can also be planted into your flower borders to give a fantastic display of these tall colourful summer  flowers.

As always, please ask the staff at Cardwell for advice if you are unsure of anything and follow sensible precautions when using any chemicals in your garden.

When potting up young plug plants into cell trays or small pots ,watering will be essential to keep these plants - and indeed,- any young seedlings growing strong over the next few months.