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

 

July 4th 2015

Beannie-Hoppers 

A few days ago I took a stroll along to the Binnie Street Childrens Centre in Gourock to take a quick glimpse at their garden. Fortunately, for everybody it was dry when I arrived and many of the children were already out in the garden and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves in the fresh air.

Maria Lamb - Early Years Education and Child Care Officer- is the member of staff with the 'green-fingers' and although members of staff are also involved with supervising the children in their garden exploits, Maria is totally dedicated to making sure garden is well tended by the children.

Soon the children were taking me on a guided tour round their vegetable patch and pointing out all the various vegetables to me and showing me how they look after all the plants. What a wonderful crop of Rhubarb they have in a corner of the garden and they have already pulled some of crop and one of members of staff made rhubarb crumble which they all enjoyed eating.

Now it time to show me their Broad Beans - and the plants all looked very healthy -thanks to the regular attention they get from these young gardeners. They decided to grow broad beans after they had undertaken a project and lessons about Jack & the Beanstalk.

These young 3 to 5 year olds are also growing potatoes and carrots plus they have fruit trees which they planted just last year. The kids also have lots of old tyres which they are painting and will use for planting flowers in and in a small corner of the garden they have created a wild-life garden complete with a little pond in which they have tadpoles surrounded with plants that attract butterflies. Recently, the kids watched over some caterpillars and nurtured them until the  Butterflies hatched out after which they released some painted ladies into the environment.

The children love to dig around the garden and unearth worms and other little insects which they point out to their teachers. I was intrigued that all the children could identify all the plants that they were growing without any of the plants being labelled. This is certainly a great centre for early years learning - or should that be early years gardening learning! Well done to them all.

 

Nabbing the Nibblers.

With all the wet weather over the past few months slugs and snails are having a field day in all our gardens. Indeed, they  are really attracted  the shoots of the nice tender young plants that you have just recently planted into your bedding displays and in the vegetable patch, and will make short work of devouring all your plants.

If you want to protect your plants then you have to take fast action to deter these slimy monsters using whatever means appeals to you most. You can scatter slug pellets around all your new plants and the most common slug pellets contain metaldehyde as the active ingredient. These pellets are usually coloured blue and the colour deters the birds from eating them. However, some gardeners are reluctant to use these - especially if they have pets roaming around the garden - but there are slug pellets which are formulated with Ferrous Sulphate as the active ingredient and these are much safer. Both types of pellets are available fromCardwell garden centre. 

Alternative methods for keeping slugs and snails at bay, is to use little beer traps while other folk use upturned grapefruit skins or scatter egg shells around their plants. However, one sure way to get rid of these troublesome blighters is to do a nightly 'slug patrol' round the garden. Take a torch to help you see them and then lift them and pop them into an old plastic bag. Do this every night and the population of these offenders will soon decline.

Whatever you do, do not pick up slugs and snails and throw them over the fence. These clever little pests have a built-in natural homing instinct and will very soon find their way back into your garden.

To protect plants growing in pots or large containers, apply some copper tape around the rim of the pot or container. Slugs will not venture over the tape as the copper gives them a little electric shock.

 

Going On Holiday Soon?

With the holiday season upon us, many gardeners will be departing off to enjoy the sun in the coming weeks leaving their gardens behind to look after their selves. However, there are one or two things that you can do before your departure which will ensure that your beloved garden does not suffer too much in your absence.

Ask a family member, friend or neighbour to keep an eye on the garden while you are away. If there is a prolonged period without rain, ask them to water all your plants. Greenhouse crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers will need daily attention , so arrange for someone to carry out the essential duties for you. Before you go away, go over all the plants with whoever is going to look after things for you so that they know what to do and where everything they need is located.

Lastly, check that all your tools and gardening equipment is safely locked away in your shed or garage and that these are secured by strong locks and padlocks. Cover windows in sheds and other outbuildings to stop prying eyes from looking in Above all, remember that thieves do not take holidays!

 

Better Late than Never

With all the poor weather during the last two months a lot of gardeners are saying that they are quite a bit behind with planting out their summer bedding plants and some have still not bought their usual favourite plants. Do not despair, there are still loads of bedding plants available at Cardwell garden centre and these can be planted out any time now to give a riot of colour around the garden in the coming months.

Favourites such as both French and African Marigolds are available and can settle in quite quickly along with pansies and calendula to name but a few. There are plenty of  plants suitable for hanging baskets and remember baskets can be planted up quickly and will bring lots a colour all around the garden for months to come. My advice to you is to take a trip along to Cardwell Garden Centre this weekend. 

 

July 11th 2015

Find Some Time to Relax and Enjoy Your Garden.

 Now that mostly everything in the garden has suddenly burst into flower and the vegetable crops are doing well, it's time to take a few moments to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your efforts. As always, there are still a few jobs you can be getting on with but for the moment you can return you spade and fork to the shed and take out the secateurs instead. Make a point of keeping on top of removing spent and faded flowers by snipping them off. This will encourage the plants to produce more flowers over the next few months as well as keeping your displays looking smart and tidy.

Rose bushes should not be overlooked either, so remove any faded flowers regularly and check the bushes for signs of black spot and spray if necessary.  Rambling roses can often get quite a bit out of control, so use your secateurs to prune back any wayward branches. 

Sweet peas will be flowering profusely very shortly, so keep cutting the blooms and take them indoors, putting them in a vase and enjoy the colour and fragrance. The secret with sweet peas is to keep cutting the flowers so that more will follow on. Indeed, the more you cut the more flowers you will get. Why not give a bunch to your friends and neighbours.

Greenhouses can become exceptionally warm, especially on sunny days, and while warmth is good for most plants, excessive heat can cause plants a lot of harm. It is often best to apply some shading to the glass of the greenhouse to prevent scorching heat and you can get suitable shading solutions at Cardwell garden centre. Also make a point of damping down the greenhouse at this time of year by soaking the floor with water, or by regular misting with water. Increasing the humidity will help to deter red spider mite which thrive in hot dry conditions red spider mite can cause damage to your greenhouse plants.

Lastly, enjoy some al fresco drinks or a meal in the garden or maybe even have a barbecue party with some friends.

 

Learning About Lavender.

Lavender is a classic perennial garden plant, often grown for it's much loved scent and basically there are three common hardy types - French Lavender, English Lavender and Dutch Lavender.

By carefully choosing the types that you grow you can have lavender blooming for weeks on end. The earliest flowering is French Lavender and this is usually followed by the English varieties with the Dutch lavender being the last to flower.

Lavenders need plenty of sun and they thrive best on alkaline soil which is well drained. French lavender will, however, tolerate slightly acidic soil. Once the plants are well established they are drought resistant, although if you are growing them in pots or tubs, young plants will need to be well watered.

After flowering, lavender needs to be trimmed by snipping off all the faded flowers just above the woody growth. Failure to do this will result in the plants becoming quite woody and they will not flower so well.

 

Dealing With Dazzling Dahlias.

Dahlias are perhaps one of the most exotic plants that we grow in our gardens and the large tuberous varieties come in a vast variety of colours, forms and sizes, as opposed to the small bedding varieties. Dahlias can grow quite tall so they need to be supported on a strong robust cane and gently tied to their support.

In addition to this Dahlias are quite hungry plants and they benefit from regular feeding if you want to get the best from them. However, at this time of the year try and avoid giving them a fertiliser which is rich in nitrogen, as this will encourage soft growth and the flowers will not last too long when you cut them. It is much better to occasionally rake some fish, blood and bone meal into the soil around each plant. As well as doing this, you can apply a liquid feed - high in potash - such as a tomato feed.

Bear in mind that these plants are also fairly thirsty, so they need regular watering during spells of dry weather.

 

Install the Barriers to Fight the Carrot fly.

The carrot fly is often about at this time of year and there is now no available chemical method to combat this troublesome pest which can also attach other plants such as parsley. The only successful solution is a barrier of an environmental mesh or fleece which is obtainable from Cardwell garden centres. Place this around your plants making sure you anchor it to the ground.

 

July 18th 2015 

Control Weeds and Preserve Water at the Same Time.

Now that we are in the middle of July all our crops should be growing well, both in our floral displays and, particularly in the vegetable garden, there is nothing more annoying than weeds growing fast and furiously. Not only are weeds unsightly, but they also compete with our crops and flowers for water, so by removing the weeds we can give our crops a much better chance to grow profusely. However ,with nice warm weather, together with plenty of rain, keeping the garden weed-free can be a never ending task. 

One way to sort out this problem is to mulch around your vegetable plants such as cabbage and other Brassica species to name but a few. Mulch can also be applied to the shrub border. Mulching will help suppress weeds and conserve water by reducing evaporation and you can use well-rotted manure, garden compost or even composted bark. You need to apply the mulch to a depth of about four inches around all your plants, but make sure you remove most of the weeds first and water the soil well before applying the mulch.

 

Dealing with the Enemies.

There are lots of little pests that simply love to roam around the garden at this time of year causing problems for gardeners. Today, I will try and deal with a selection of these and offer some solution to combat them.

If you are growing broad beans, Blackfly can be a real menace and they usually appear in July just as the beans are setting pods. They usually settle at the growing tip and then they reproduce at a fantastic rate, often then moving down the plant. It is best to nip off the growing tip - with the  blackfly attached and dispose of it - but do keep a wary eye on the lower leafs of the plant for a while. If you spot any more blackfly, either spray the plant with a soft soap spray or flush them off with a powerful jet of water.

Aphids can also be problem on fruit trees - particularly plums - and on many other crops and plants in the greenhouse. Greenfly can not only be unsightly, but they can dwell on the sap of many plants. More importantly, they can spread disease as they flit from plant to plant and the same applies to white fly. In the greenhouse, you can hang up a couple of yellow sticky panels (available from your local garden centre) to trap them or alternatively spray the plants with 'Provado' Bug Clear. For infestations on trees I suggest spraying with an insecticide.

Rabbits and pigeons can also wreak havoc in the garden, and I know quite a few gardeners who have had their flowers and other crops really damaged beyond repair with these invaders. Pigeons seem quite partial to eating your peas while rabbits can devastate your bedding plants in little or no time.

One of best known deterrents for rabbits and pigeons id a product called 'Grazers' which is quite effective but you may have to repeat spraying after about six weeks. 'Grazers' can be obtained from Cardwell Garden Centre.

 

Don't Neglect Your Tomatoes.

At this time of year tomato plants should be starting to grow quite big and you should have flowers appearing on the first truss and even some on the upper trusses, if you are lucky.  Once the first trusses have set - that is when you see a little green pea-sized fruit appearing- them it is time to start and feed the plant with a  potash-rich feed  such as 'Tomarite' or other tomato feed.

Regular feeding is important and I would even suggest that you feed daily - at a reduced strength - to get the best results. Remember, tomatoes are greedy feeders. Regular feeding also means that the fruits will form at a uniform rate, making for more regular-sized tomatoes.

But most important is watering. Try to water your plants at regular intervals, so that the plants do not go try for any length of time. Do not over-water, otherwise you may get split skins Also, if you let the compost dry out between watering you might well end up with bottom end rot.  Check plants daily and remove any lateral side shoots.

 

Keep up the Watering.

Crops such as runner beans need a constant supply of water, as they prefer a moist soil, otherwise they may abort their flowers or produce a poor crop. Give a really good watering every couple of days. Once the plants reach the top of their support cane pinch out the growing tip.

Plants such as courgettes will also welcome lots of water, particularly as the fruits swell and they       will also benefit from a feed containing a high amount of potash. Keep picking courgettes when the plants are young - they taste even better at this stage.

 

Growth Spurts as Weather Improves. 

Despite poor growing conditions during the past couple of months, many plants in our gardens have responded well to the warmer weather and some welcome bursts of sunshine.

Many of our summer bedding plants which seemed as if they were never going to give a display of colour, now appear to be thriving and are making new leaf-growth and sprouting plenty of flower buds. In the vegetable plots, crops are beginning to bulk up in size and if the good weather continues, vegetables should produce a good yield come harvesting time. 

While all this looks promising for gardeners, we must remember that while our flowers, fruit and vegetables are about to make up for lost time after a poor start, the same also applies to the weeds -  which after all - are just unwanted plants growing in the wrong places.

Now that we are into July, there will be lots of jobs just waiting to be done in the garden, and one the most important of these is to tackle the weeds. Use the hoe to tackle the weeds in your beds and borders and even in the vegetable patch, although it is best to hand weed among your onions to prevent damaging the growing onions. Try to choose a nice dry day to tackle the weeds.

 

Top and Bottom Protection Needed for Strawberries.

Summer time is with us again, and one of the best soft fruit crops to grow is Strawberries. They are very much associated with the height of summer and they are absolutely delicious eaten with clotted cream, ice cream or even sprinkled with sugar.

However, it is vital that you place some straw underneath the plants to prevent the fruits trailing onto the soil and getting rotted - or even eaten by slugs and snails.   Additionally, the birds love strawberries just as much as you do, so once you see the fruits begin to swell and begin to turn red, it is advisable to cover the plants with some netting or garden fleece. Even if you are growing your strawberries above ground in tubs or containers, it is still best to cover with netting or fleece to prevent blackbirds and pigeons feasting on your berries. 

Once all your berries have been harvested, give the plants a light feed and keep them watered during really dry spells of weather. They will soon produce runners and these can be rooted and grown on to produce more new plants for next year, but more about this in coming weeks.

 

Feeding With Liquid Fertilisers.

Fertilisers are used to improve plant growth by supplementing the nutrients in the soil or in the compost in the case of plants being grown in pots or containers. In many cases, fertilisers in a solid form can be added to the soil at an early stage, often before you plant your chosen plants. Examples of such are - adding bone meal or a balanced fertiliser such as 'Growmore' as you prepare the ground prior to planting. However, once your plants are growing it is convenient to use liquid fertilisers and feeds but we really have to give some thought to what we use and how we use it.

The three important ingredients in liquid fertilisers are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium - or NPK as they are known. Nitrogen (N) is important for promoting leaf growth and can be invaluable at pre-flowering stage. Phosphorus is usually beneficial for good root formation and can be expressed in two forms, viz. P or   sometimes expressed as the oxide P2O5 (phosphorus pentoxide). Potassium - or Potash as it is commonly known in garden circles - is best for fruit and flower formation.

The analysis will be listed on the packaging of the feed stuff and it is important that you read this before starting to use the product. You may want to start using a high potash fertiliser as your crops begin to mature, especially if you are growing fruit and vegetables.. However, you may want to use a low-nitrogen at the same time so that your plants do not grow big bushy leaves instead of fruit or flowers. Most fertilisers also contain trace elements which are instrumental in promoting strong healthy crops and flowers.

Whatever you do, take time to read the instructions on the packaging before you begin to use it and always read them again the next time you use the product.

It is vital that you adhere to the dose rate stated on the instructions and do not attempt to feed at higher concentrations thinking that you will get better results. Overfeeding or feeding at a higher concentration can have the opposite effect and is worse than not feeding at all.  Indeed, over feeding can kill your plants or lead to poor cropping. 

 

Watch Out for the Sawfly.

At this time of year the sawfly can do quite a bit of damage to gooseberries and currants - both red and white. The sawfly tends to hide on the underside of leaves and can decimate the leaves of the plants in little or no time. They look like tiny little green caterpillars and it is best to spray with a contact insecticide immediately you spot them. Alternatively, you can drench the bushes with soapy water.

 

June 15th 2015

Planting Colourful Containers

Many gardeners choose to grow lots of flowers in containers can bring loads of colour to their patios, decking and other places around their garden. Containers can be in any shape or form, ranging from large tubs, troughs and even Grecian urns and can be made from a great variety of materials. Again, the size of container can be of your choosing.

For example, you can opt for a large earthenware pot that will last you for many years to come, or you can be attracted to use a cheaper plastic-type container and they now come in many different colours to add to the colour-scheme of your choosing. Wooden barrels, stoneware receptacles or even metal pots can be utilised to offer something a bit different for your garden scene.

No matter which type of container you choose, the rudimentary essential is to make sure that there are adequate drainage holes in the bottom of the vessel. In some plastic containers, you may have to drill a few holes in the bottom before you think about planting anything in them.

Once you are happy that there are adequate drainage holes, the next step is to add few inches of  'crock' to the base of the vessel to enhance drainage. This can be small stones or pebbles or even some polystyrene broken up into small pieces. 

Following this, you have to think about the compost you will use, and   this very much depends on what you intend growing in the container. Plants such as Azaleas, heathers and many other lime-hating plants will require ericaceous compost which is readily available at Cardwell garden centre.

If you are intending to plant larger shrub-type plants, I would suggest that you use John Innes No.3 compost which is more gritty and heavier and has lots of nutrients to sustain your plants for a considerable period of time. If you are just intending to plant summer bedding plants then any good quality multi-purpose compost will suffice.  

And now some ideas for plants to grow in containers. It is a good idea to have as a centre-piece, something tall to give something of an architectural feature, such as a Cordyline or even a colourful Senetti. Around the sides, trailing plants such as lobelia, bacopa, millions bells or even Ivy will cascade over the sides to enhance your display.

Once you have planted your container, keep it watered and feed regularly. Plants in containers are totally dependent on you - the gardener - for all their water and nutrients so do not let them go thirsty or starve them.

 

June is Planting Time for Leeks

Leeks are quite an easy crop to grow in the vegetable patch and young plants put into the soil now, will give you a great crop to keep you going right through the winter. Young leek plants are now available from Cardwell and, once planted, they do not need too much attention. 

Begin by trimming the roots slightly using your scissors and then snip about half an inch off the top. Using a broom shaft or crow bar make a deep hole in the  soil and place a leek plant into each hole which should be spaced about six inches apart. Now place a leek seedling into each the hole so that the tip of the plant protrudes just about an inch or two above the ground.  The next step is to fill the hole with water and then refill the hole with water again the following day. Thereafter, the hole will fill with soil naturally.

 

Dealing With Tender Vegetables

The last month has been quite cold and because of this, the soil has not really had the chance to warm up, but hopefully, this should be behind us in the coming weeks. Some relatively tender vegetables such as courgettes and sweetcorn require the soil to be warm to help the plants to get off to a good start.

Courgettes do best in a rich, moisture retentive soil and therefore it is best to work in plenty of home-made garden compost or manure to the soil before planting. When you are preparing the site add some general fertiliser such as bone meal or fish, blood and bone meal, before planting. Take care not to damage the roots when you are planting, and if the plants tend to be a bit leggy, plant them a little deeper into the soil. Once planted, give the surrounding soil plenty of water. The same procedure should be applied when planting marrows and squashes.

When planting sweetcorn, remember that the plants should be planted in a square and not in a row because sweetcorn is air pollinated.

 

Some Timely Tips

Keep drawing soil up round your potato crops and keep first early crops watered to swell the tubers which you will be due to harvest in about four or five weeks time. Keep an eye on your tomato plants and make sure they are not allowed to dry out. Even watering is very important. It is also important to keep removing lateral shoots which appear between the main stem and the leaf joints. Make it your daily routine to give each plant a little gentle shake to aid pollination. Do not start to feed until the first truss has set, and then it is best to feed daily with a half-strength solution.

Keep on top of weeds during this month. Get the hoe out and use it to remove weeds both in the vegetable plot and in the borders too.  Hand weed around onions so that you do not accidentally damage the bulbs with the hoe.

Keep paths and drives free of weeds by using a systemic weedkiller such as 'Round-Up'

Feed your roses and spray against black spot.

 

June 9th 2015

Stake When You Plant

Now that flaming June has arrived and hopefully all the danger of frost should be gone, it is now time to plant Dahlias and Gladioli and other tall growing flowers.

Before you plant these in their final flowering positions over the next couple of weeks make sure that your plants have been fully hardened off.  Because of the cold weather during May, I would advocate that you cover the soil for a few days to allow the soil to warm up a little bit before planting so that the plants do not suffer any check to their growth.

Prepare your planting holes in advance and add a little sharp sand to the bottom of the planting hole   just to improve drainage. It will also pay dividends to work in some bone meal or 'growmore' to the planting hole.

However, as these plants are all quite tall growing they will need stakes support them and keep them upright. It is important to incorporate the support canes in the soil before you add the plant. Doing this will prevent you trying to push in the stakes once the plant starts to grow and remove the danger that often happens when your stake cuts into the tuber or corm causing damage to tuber and subsequent flowering.

Once planted, firm the soil around each plant and water well. During dry spells of weather make sure keep the plants watered.

 

Love The Plot You've Got

Among the ten show gardens at Garden Scotland, the one garden which, in my opinion, really stood out was the Love the Plot You've Got.  Promoted by the Horticultural Trades Association and at the recent George Square roadshow it featured a display area from Cardwell Garden Centre, the display featured five different types of garden where visitors could gain lot's of inspiration and handy tips for their own little gardens back at home.

Unlike all those show gardens at Chelsea Flower Show, which are great if you have a large 16 acre garden to accommodate the designs being offered by the top garden designers plus mega-bucks to pay for it, Love the Plot You've Got offers great ideas which you can expand upon depending on the    size of your own garden. More importantly, they offer affordable ways to improve that tired and neglected outdoor living space which you might have.

The balcony garden showed how even very small spaces can be turned into a colourful haven for your enjoyment. The natural garden portrayed wildflower turf just perfect as a habitat for wild-life and pollinators. Their edible garden used both vegetables and edible flowers to create an attractive garden plot that is lovely to look at and yet provides tasty and nutritious crops for the kitchen.

Utilising a container garden can be fun too with the advantage that it is portable and therefore can be moved around or taken with if you move house. Such a garden can support vegetables, flowers and shrubs.

Lastly, the entertainment garden where with just a little imagination you can create a nice calm oasis where you can chill out and even entertain your friends. There is loads of scope to develop your own garden at affordable prices. More information on these gardens can be obtained on line at www.loveyourplot.com

 

June 3rd 2015

Ideal Plants for Creating Air Purification in the Home

Did you know that you can purify the air within your home by having certain plants growing in pots around the house?

One of the most popular plants to use for this purpose is the Peace Lily - or Spathiphyllum - as it is botanically called. The Peace Lily can be kept in a room out of direct sunlight but needs to kept warm in winter and kept out of cold draughts. The pot should be surrounded with moist peat or stood on a tray of pebbles. Keep the compost moist at all times - although you should reduce the amount of water during winter. The plant should be re-potted each year and you can divide the plants when doing this to give you more plants. Relatively easy to care for, the plant will reward you by taking toxins out of the air.

Another very useful plant for removing toxins from the air is Calathea which with it's striking large leaves with lots of decorative tracery likes a warm humid spot with very little or filtered light. It is an ideal plant to have in a bathroom and it will certainly keep the air pure and free from toxins.

The Kentia Palm - a popular and really graceful member of the Palm family - releases copious amounts of moisture into the air and it also removes many chemical toxins from the air around the house.

These are just a few of the small number of air purifying plants to have the house and all are available from Cardwell Garden Centre.

 

Planting Time is Not Too Far Off

As we reach the end of May, it will soon be time to plant all those summer bedding plants into their final growing sites. However, do keep a wary eye on the weather forecasts because we have still had early morning frosts locally during the past few weeks. If you plant bedding plants too early you must be prepared to give them some protection from frost on nights that temperatures below 4 degrees Celsius are forecast. Cover the plants with some garden fleece at night but take it off in the morning.

When you plant our your bedding plants, knock the plants out of their cell trays and gently tease out the roots of each plant before you plant it into the border. Doing this will help the plant to get established into it's new growing location quickly. As you do this, watch out for any little grubs of the vine weevil and remove these as you plant. The vine weevil grub looks like a greyish/whitish little grub in the shape of the letter 'C'

Once you have planted all your bedding plants, firm each plant firmly into the soil and then water     well. It also pays dividends to scatter some slug pellets around your plants.

If you want to really enhance flowering during the summer months, I would also advocate that you remove any flowers which appear on your plants as you plant them. Doing this will encourage the plant to produce more and better flowers in the months to come.

 

The Great Outdoors Beckons

With flaming June now here many gardeners will be setting their sights on enjoying the summer by sitting out in the sun and maybe enjoying entertaining their family and friends with some al fresco food cooked on the barbecue or maybe just enjoying an afternoon cup of tea or a cool glass of wine.

With all this in mind, it is time to look out the tables and chairs - not forgetting the parasols - and getting them ready for all those al fresco parties. Take a good look at your outdoor furniture - Is it getting a bit tatty looking? If so, now is a good time to take a trip along to Cardwell and see the huge range of new garden furniture on offer. Everything from tables and chairs to sun loungers are on display together with various types of garden seats and benches. The latter are available made from various types of wood and other materials and there's something to suit all budgets.

Growing Your Own Vegetables 

Over the coming weeks, is the time to make sure you get all your vegetable plants planted out in their final planting areas in the vegetable plot. Even if you have not managed to bring on your own vegetable plants, you can buy ready to plant vegetables from Cardwell garden centre. 

Among some of the favourites are cabbage, leeks, cauliflower, kale and broccoli. Peas and beans are also popular. Additionally, various salad plants such as lettuce and beetroot can be planted in succession to yield a continuous supply of fresh greens to last you over the summer months. Over the coming weeks, Courgettes can also be added to the vegetable plot together with their larger relatives - marrows and pumpkins.

Over the past few years, more gardeners have been opting to grow sweetcorn, but one important piece of advice - plant them in a square rather than in a row - this is because sweetcorn is wind pollinated and this cannot be achieved easily when grown in a straight line.

Finally, hoe between rows of vegetables regularly to loosen annual weeds. Choose a dry day so that     they will not re-root.

 

Busy Time in School Gardens

Over the past week, I have spoken to a number of teachers from local schools and nurseries, and it appears that the children are all busy getting their school gardens in order before they go off on their annual summer holidays. From what I hear, there is going to be some really  good school gardens around Inverclyde this year as these young gardeners seem to coming up with some great ideas. Watch this space over the coming months as I highlight some of these gardens.

 

March 11th 2015

Start Your Growing Season with Plug Plants.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the first of the season's starter and plug plants are now on sale at Cardwell Garden Centre.

A few days ago I took myself along to have a look at what was on offer and I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the variety, price and quality of what I saw. First of all, there are the starter plants of some of the popular summer bedding plants which are ideal for growing in the borders and for decorating a container or large planter. Some examples of these are Petunias, Verbena, Geraniums, Fuchsias and lastly, one of my favourites - Bacopa.

All of the above are available as large starter plants in individual small mesh pots and cost only £1.29 each - or any 8 for £9 which I think is a pretty good price for these good quality plants.

In addition to these individual plants there are small cell trays containing 20 little plug plants in each tray with a range of popular plants such as Begonias, Lobelia, petunias and Geraniums and to name but a few and three trays of any variety will cost only £12.

Turning our attention to vegetables, there are little four cell trays of various tomato plants, hot peppers, chillies and sweet peppers.

One great advantage of buying your plug plants at a local garden centre is that you see the quality and condition of what you are buying, which is something that you do not achieve when purchasing plants by mail-order. Moreover, there is no costly carriage charge involved and there is no chance of your precious little plants getting damaged in transit.

It is important, however, that once you buy these little plants, you need to start growing them on, by potting them up into larger pots or multi-cell trays and continue the growth until the time is ripe to plant the more mature plants out into the garden. To do this you will need to have a heated greenhouse or some other place that is frost-free and has plenty of light. The little plugs cannot be left in the little trays for too long otherwise their growth will cease.

When potting up your small plants use fresh, good quality compost and make sure all your pots and trays are clean. It is also a good idea to take the bags of compost into the greenhouse for a few days before you begin, so that the compost gets to reach the same temperature as the greenhouse. Similarly, do the same with water in your watering can.

It's Time to Prune Your Roses.

Now that we are in the month of March, it is time to get out the secateurs and give your rose bushes their Spring prune. Roses are quite vigorous growers and benefit from some hard pruning at this time of year. Begin by cutting out any damaged branches and also prune out any stems which are growing inwards. Ideally, what you want to achieve is a nice open bush which is not congested in the centre.

Cut down to near ground level and prune to an outward facing bud. Once you have finished pruning, do take time to gather up all your cut stems and fallen leaves and remove them from the soil. Failure to do this will result in spores of black spot getting into the soil and then splashing back up onto the leaves when it rains heavily.

leaves when it rains heavily.

Finish off this task by rakes in some granular rose fertiliser - or even a handful of bone meal - around the base of each bush. As each bush starts to grow make a point of spraying the bushes with some  'Rose Clear' to prevent - or minimise - the formation of black spot and rust.

Getting a Head Start with Dahlias.

If you have dahlia tubers that you lifted in the autumn and over wintered in a frost-free location, then now is the ideal time to start them off into growth for the coming summer. Begin by checking each tuber and discard any that are showing signs of decay. You can also trim any fine roots that appear to be too fragile, but do not cut away any that seem nice and healthy.

The tubers can then be spaced out on a tray containing fresh compost or peat which has been previously watered. Alternatively, you can place the tubers into individual pots containing moist compost and then place them in a warm place on greenhouse bench and keep them in good light. The same procedure can be adopted if you are buying new dahlia tubers.

Once growth begins you will notice small green shoots starting to appear from the various little 'eyes' on the tuber. Once the shoots are a couple of inches long, you can cut these off with a nice sharp knife and then root each cutting in a pot containing cutting compost. Once the cuttings have rooted, these can be potted up into small pots and grown on until ready to plant outdoors in early June. Not only do you get more plants, but you will also get better flowers.

 

March 1st 2015

Combat the Chill.

Now that March has dawned this month will see us all getting more and more involved in raising our new plants and crops for the coming summer months and here are just a few tips to help you on your journey towards success.

It is best to take all your bags of compost into the greenhouse, or  move them into your garden shed to avoid the compost getting chilled. In many cases seeds can fail to germinate because the compost is too cold, so it is better to let it warm up a little in the shed or greenhouse before you start. 

Another useful item to make sure you have to hand is garden fleece. You can use this to cover young plants and seedling at night when the temperature might fall quite low. My advice is to keep an eye on the weather forecast and if the forecast predicts that the mercury might fall to four degrees or lower, cover all your plants and remove the fleece in the morning. If really cold temperatures are forecast simply double the fleece over to provide an extra layer. Garden fleece can be obtained at Cardwell where a wide range is available.

The corms can be started into growth now by placing the tuber or corm into a tray of moist compost, making sure that you place the corm with the concave side - uppermost and facing you. Keep the tray in a warm place with some light available and you will soon see new shoots sprouting from the eyes on the corm. Once these have grown an inch or so you can move the tuber into an individual pot.

Understanding Your Soil.

One of important factors in successfully growing plants in your garden lies in the state of your garden soil and over the next few blogs I intend to devote some attention to this vital aspect of gardening. In the meantime, if you have not yet dug your borders or vegetable plot my advice is do not dig the soil if it is soaking wet. Wait until the soil has dried and the task will not only be easier but you will not compact the soil leading you to many other problems. Be patient!

 

Begin Begonias this month.

If you want some really exotic flowers for your planters and containers there is nothing to beat tuberous begonias.

These magnificent plants come in an array of colours and you can buy new corms - or tubers - at Cardwell Garden Centre just now. I would suggest that you take stroll along to Lunderston Bay over the next couple of weeks choose the ones that take your fancy.

Some Little Tasks to Keep You Busy During March.

The beginning of March is the ideal time to sow seeds of Sweet Peas. Start by sowing two or three seeds each in small pots, as directed on the seeds packet. Once the seeds have germinated you can transplant the young seedlings into deep pots or root-trainers as sweet peas need a deep root system to grow well. Keep the plants growing and pinch out the growing points to encourage the plant to bush out. 

 

February 6th 2015

First Early Potatoes are First for Flavour.

In my previous blog I wrote about seed potatoes which are now appearing on the shelves at Cardwell and this week I want to deal with some of the popular varieties in the 'First early' group of these staple vegetables. Potatoes are quite easy to grow and you do not even have to have a large vegetable plot to grow a nice crop of tasty 'tatties'.

First Early potatoes are usually planted into the soil around the beginning of April but a lot depends on the weather at that time. However, you can also grow these varieties in bags and containers and still get excellent results. Indeed, some really keen gardeners will set out to plant their seed potatoes even earlier by either planting them in containers or bags and keeping them in the greenhouse or growing them in a polytunnel.

If you have never grown potatoes in bag before, I can tell you that special bags can be obtained at Cardwell which will last you for several years. They even come with Velcro flaps which make harvesting a dawdle and also lets you have a sly look at how the tubers are coming on if you are really either anxious or nosy. You can also grow your own crop in a large tub - making sure there are drainage holes in it- or even a black bin bag with the corners cut away.

Some of popular varieties of early potatoes include well -known names such as Rocket and Arran Pilot along with Red Duke of York and Sharpe's Express. First Earlies should be ready for harvesting around the end of June and these first new potatoes are very delicious when lifted, washed under the tap and boiled for a short time eaten with your meal. Rocket is well suited to growing in bags and containers while Arran Pilot is a great salad potato. Red Duke of York, which is a strain of the original Duke of York is an oval red-skinned potato with  moist, yellow flesh with a superb flavour It is a good all-rounder but is excellent for roasting. Epicure is another very popular potato being white-skinned and having white flesh, and is the traditional Ayrshire 'tattie'. It is especially good for growing in this part of the country and is frost hardy too. It has a lovely floury texture. Lastly, the variety called Winston is a popular exhibition variety in white potato classes.  

I hope you will find a potato to suit your needs, but do get along and buy your chosen varieties as soon as possible before they all get sold out. Keep your seed potatoes in a frost free place for a few weeks before you need to start and chit them. I will write more about 'chitting' in the coming weeks.

 

Take a Look at Stored Tubers

If you have Dahlia tubers and Begonia corms over-wintering in a frost-free place, I would suggest that you take a look at them if you have not already done so. Look out for ant tubers that have become shrivelled up and dried out. If you find any such items, give them a misting with a fine spray of water and return them to their hibernating abode for the next few weeks. Similarly, if you find any corms or tubers that have signs of rot, try and cut off the rotted part and discard it. In another month you can start them into growth, but meanwhile take action to stop any rot. 

 

Wisteria Needs Pruning 

Wisteria is one of those climbers that you just cannot leave to do it's own thing and expect to get good results from it. Pruning at this time of the year is vital to keep the climber in shape, otherwise it is sure to become a tangled mess. All the shoots that produced last year's growth can be easily identified as the thinnest growth on the plant and these shoots need to be cut back to just two or three buds from their source. Wisteria can cope with quite drastic pruning but try and only remove branches which are growing outward or are growing in the wrong direction.

 

Tips to Combat the Frost 

Now that we appear to be in the middle of the cold bleak mid-winter, do take care of any plants that you may have over-wintering in an unheated greenhouse. On cold nights when the temperature is forecast to drop into the minus range, cover your plants with a double layer of garden fleece which is obtainable at Cardwell. This can be removed the next day unless the weather men think the temperature will remain below zero.

  

January 30th 2015

Winter Pruning of Fruit Trees

Many plants and trees benefit from winter pruning and this task should be undertaken during the first two months of the year. The reason for doing this during January and February is that the sap has not begun to rise within the tree.

Assuming that the weather is not too terrible, pruning can be carried out on days when it is dry and relatively mild. But one word of warning - before you start to run amok with the secateurs - trees and bushes that were planted just within the last two years probably do not need to be pruned this year.

Let's start with some of the soft fruit bushes such as Blackcurrant, Gooseberry and Raspberry and their near relatives. Raspberry canes which have borne fruit last year should be cut down to soil level if this has not already been done. New cane will soon start to grow and should be tied in as they grow.

Blackcurrant bushes need to have all the old wood which bore last year's crop cut down to near soil level. This old wood will be quite dark in colour. Also remove any damaged or dead wood along with any weak or diseased wood. 

Gooseberries, and red currants also need to have any broken or dead growth removed. Cut all the side shoots back to about one to three buds from the base and then shorten lateral branch tips by about a quarter, cutting back to an outward-facing bud.

It is also important to clear away all the cuttings from the soil and it will do no harm to rake in some fertiliser such as bone meal or 'Growmore'

Now let's move on to tackle hard fruit such as apples and pears. Begin by removing any broken branches including any that appear weak or dead. I would also advocate removing any main branches that have started to grow inwards towards the centre of the tree. The next move is to shorten growth on the main branches by about a third to an outward facing bud.

Once again, there is no harm in raking in some fertiliser and you should also consider giving the trees a winter wash using a proprietary tree wash obtainable from Cardwell. If you have not already done so, you would be well advised to place grease bands round the lower part of the trunk to deter winter moths.

 

In the Aftermath of the Storms

In January we have experienced some really high gale-force winds which have probably played havoc in your garden and there was really not much we could do about it. However, once the winds have abated a bit, it is best to take a stroll round the garden and check if any stakes which were supporting tall plants and shrubs have become loose. Should you find any, make sure that you re-secure them. It is also advisable to take a look at any fencing you have in the garden and check for signs of damage. Even if you cannot carry out a repair at present you can take some action to temporarily secure the fence until you can carry out a more permanent repair

Remember, there may be more stormy weather to come...

 

You Can Be an Undercover Gardener Just Now.

With us still being in the middle of the cold bleak mid-winter there is very little that we can do outdoors, but you can still get to work indoors by starting planting some useful vegetables. Indeed, some vegetables such as shallots and garlic can be started into growth by planting into modular cell trays over the next few weeks.. Modular cells trays are available in a variety of sizes from Cardwell and with a little care can be re-used. 

Shallots can be planted individually into each cell in the modular tray using fresh good quality multi-purpose compost. Keep the trays in a cold greenhouse or a cold-frame or even at a porch window and by the time their roots fill the cell, it will be near time to plant them outdoors.  Similarly, garlic can be planted in the same way. It is best to buy a couple of garlic bulbs from the massive range of vegetable bulbs available from Cardwell and then split these up into individual cloves. Plant each clove into an individual cell in the modular tray, again using fresh good quality multi-purpose compost. Keep the compost moist and water only when required.

 

Let's Think About Potatoes.

Although it is far too early to be thinking about planting 'tatties' outdoors just now, it is important to begin to look at what varieties of potatoes you will want to grow this year. Many gardeners will no doubt opt for the few well-known varieties that have been around for many years, but there are many more types of potatoes that are equally as good - or even better- for flavour and cropping.

You do not even have to have a vegetable plot to grow some nice tasty 'tatties' as they will grow well in bags on the patio or in large tubs and half-barrels. With just a little planning you can enjoy eating your very own home-grown potatoes for quite a few months of the year. Potatoes are available in various groupings such as 'First Earlies', 'Second Earlies' and "Main Crop" which means that you can enjoy eating them from late June through to September and beyond. In the coming weeks, I will write a lot more about the various varieties and how to grow them, but one bit of advice - don't delay deciding what you want to grow - and make sure you buy your seed potatoes early!

 

Don't Neglect Your House Plants.

No doubt some readers may have been lucky enough to have received a gift of a house plant over the festive season and I'm sure you will want to cherish that plant for quite a long time. The important point is not to over-water any house plant especially at this time of year. Just keep the compost moist and water about once a week. In fact, make a day and a time each week when you will water your plants. That way, you will not forget if you have watered your plants

Also, on cold nights, remove any plants you have sitting against the window so they don't get chilled.

 

 

December 10th

Are You Planning on Having a Real Christmas Tree This Year?

Although there are many really nice artificial Christmas trees around, there is something really good about celebrating Christmas with a real natural tree. A real tree can form the focal point of all your Christmas decorations both within your home or when placed outdoors

When used within the house, the main drawback is the fact that a real tree will tend to drop all it's needles causing quite a mess on the floor, but this does not have to be the case. With just a little bit  of care and attention this can be avoided.

When choosing a real Christmas tree, aim to buy a cut tree or a pot-grown tree. Avoid buying a containerised tree because these trees are actually cut trees which have been put into a pot. This means that the root loss they suffer when being dug up means they will never survive. A pot grown tree is defined as a tree that has spent all it's life growing in a pot.

By far the best and most common kind of Christmas tree is one that is sold as a cut tree and there are a number of types to choose from.

The traditional Christmas, tree is the Norwegian Spruce but there are others which are much better and do not shed their leaves so freely. For example, the Fraser Fir and the Lodge pole Pine are two kinds of tree that are great to have in the home and are not prone to needle drop as much as the Spruce trees.  However, the crème-de-la crème of Christmas trees is the Nordman Fir and all of the trees mentioned here are available locally at Cardwell Garden Centre. All the trees stocked at Cardwell are come from a Scottish grower who often supplies trees to Downing Street and some of the top London hotels.

When you buy a cut tree, take it home and then cut1 inchoff the bottom of the trunk. Place the tree on a 'Tree stand' (you can get one at Cardwell) which has a built in reservoir, but take care not to place your tree beside a radiator or other source of heat.

Christmas trees are very thirsty and need to be topped up with water every other day, but take care to have electrical wires or lights clear of any danger of getting wet. Keep the tree watered and it will last for a good few weeks.

If you need any further advice about your tree just ask the specially trained staff at Cardwell Garden Centre when you are purchasing your tree.

 

Poinsettia - Queen of the Christmas Plants.

Christmas would not be Christmas without having a Poinsettia to enhance your Festive display indoors. Indeed, the Poinsettia is often known as the plant of the Holy Night, and it really brings a lovely splash of Christmas colour at this time of year.

Traditionally, Poinsettias have lovely scarlet red flower-heads, but you can also get varieties which are coloured pink and some which sport nice cream or white flower-heads.

There are many Poinsettia plants available just now and as well as buying one for yourself, they also make great presents to give to your friends and relatives for Christmas.

If you really want to get one of the best plants available, I can tell you that you cannot do better than buy one which has been grown   in Scotland and there are lots of lovely Scottish grown plants available at Cardwell Garden Centre.

Poinsettias grow to a height of between 12 and 18inches tall and with just a little tender loving care they will flower from two months up to six months - or even longer. The flowers - which are really what are termed bracts - display the nice scarlet red, or pink or creamy/white depending on the kind you choose, but the true flowers are tiny yellow and appear in the centre of the flowerhead. When choosing a plant try and get one where these tiny flowers in the centre are unopened.

Poinsettias do not like colddraftsor cold wind, so when you are buying one make sure that the plant and the pot are enclosed in a nice cellophane sleeve. Also, do not scrimp on paying 5p for a carrier bag as the carrier will help to protect tour purchase even more. If you put the plant in the boot of your car, do not forget to take it out when you reach home

Once you get home place the plant in a place where it will get plenty of light and keep it away from draughts.  Meanwhile, take a trip along to Cardwell Garden Centre and see those marvellous Scottish Grown Poinsettias for yourself. 

 

In the Quest for Christmas Presents.

I mentioned to Santa what he thought would make ideal Christmas presents for a gardening friend or relative and he  told me some ideas which I passed on to readers last week. Well he did promise me that he would be back again this week with more suggestions and I just managed to bump into him a few days ago as he was returning from feeding his reindeers.

Well, the Big Man himself asked to tell readers that maybe they could opt to buy a friend a nice bird table or a bird bath and he said that his many feathered friends would simply love something like that. If you put one in your garden you can be assured that all the little birds are sure to come along and entertain you every day.

Santa also said that you could help these little feathered friends survive the cold and harsh winter months by buying your gardener friends lots of nuts and bird seed and maybe some nice fat balls  too. Yes, the birdies will love them. 

 

Cut Holly Now.

If you want some holly to add some festive decoration in the home, I would advise that you cut some sprigs now rather than later. If you delay cutting a few sprigs laden with nice red berries you might find the birds get there before you and the berries will be gone.

 

 

 

May 19th

Creating a Container Garden with Tubs, Troughs and Large Planters.

With patios and hard landscaping becoming more and more popular, many gardeners are opting to grow their plants in containers of various kinds. Indeed, you can create a stunning display with just a little thought.

However, one word of warning.- Plants growing in containers are fully dependant on you, the gardener, for all their requirements for water and feeding. Even if it has been raining, it may be that all the water has not reached into the compost and watering will still be needed to keep the plants healthy.

Let's start at the beginning. The container you choose must have drainage holes in the bottom so that excess water can drain out freely from the container. If the compost becomes water-logged the roots of the plants could rot and in the winter months, water-logged compost will freeze during periods of sub zero temperatures and this may lead to ceramic pots cracking.

Once you have chosen your container and ensured that there are adequate drainage holes in the bottom, the next step is to add a layer of 'crock' to the bottom of the vessel. The term 'crock'is used to cover such materials as stone chips or pebbles, but broken up pieces of polystyrene can be used instead and you will need a layer of at least a couple of inches of 'crock' on the bottom of your tub, trough or planter

Having got these two important factors sorted out, the next stage is to think about the compost you will use in your container.  The choice of compost really depends on what plants you intend growing in the pot. If you are thinking of growing a large shrub in a container, then it can be assumed that the plant will be in the container for quite a long time - several years, in some cases. Because of this, you will need compost, designed to support the plant for a fair length of time and I would suggest that you opt to use John Innes No.3 compost. This has added grit to enhance drainage and allow sufficient air around the roots of the plant and also contains a reasonable amount of feeding too..

However, if you intend to plant shrubs such as Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Acers or any other acid- loving plant, it is very important that you use ericaceous compost.

On the other hand, if you simply wish to grow a medley of summer bedding plants in a container - and you can create some stunning displays with these- then you can probably get away with using any good quality multi-purpose compost. When choosing the brand you want to use, bear in mind that cheaper composts may not always   give you the best results. You get what you pay for, as the old saying goes.

Next week, I will give some further advice on growing in containers.

 

Time is Ripe to Buy your Bedding Plants, Shrubs and Vegetable Plants.

It is Mid-May and over the coming weeks many gardeners will be thinking about purchasing their bedding plants and maybe a few new shrubs or perennial plants to grace their borders and beds fro the coming summer months.

Local gardeners are extremely fortunate in that one of the largest supplies of these new plants lies right on their doorstep at Cardwell Garden Centre down at Lunderston Bay.

Not only do Cardwell Garden Centre have the biggest selection of plants in the West of Scotland  but most of these plants are grown  in Scotland - with a large number grown in their own nursery,- and they are fully hardy for our local climate.

As well as bedding plants, Cardwell boast an excellent array of vegetable plants, herbs, fruit trees and bushes together with a wide variety of accessories such as composts, chemicals and garden tools. There is also a wide variety of garden furniture, barbecues and all you need to make your garden come alive for the summer season.

My advice to all our readers is simply this, take a trip along to Cardwell and see for yourself. You will be amazed at the quality of what is on offer and most items are moderately priced too.  The expert and friendly staff are always prepared to help you find what you are looking for. All you have to do, is ask them.

Why Not Grow Some Herbs.

Herbs are becoming more and more popular in our culinary exploits and indeed, the medical profession are always telling us to cut down in the amount of salt that we use in our food. Adding herbs not only enhances the flavour of our food, but it is the healthier option. One of the easy ways to get your herbs is to grow your own, rather than but them at the supermarket. Next week, I will give you some advice on growing some the popular herbs which are easy  to grow and do not need a lot of space in your garden. 

 

May12th

A Shrub to Bring Gardens Ablaze With Colour.

After a touch of sunshine a few weeks ago, many gardens have become alive with colour thanks to Pieris which is blooming away like mad with masses of bright red and orange bloom.

Indeed, Pieris is a splendid shrub which will succeed in almost any garden where the soil is acidic. With evergreen foliage which is dense all year round the plant comes alive with long sprays of bloom during May which looks similar to Lily of the Valley but the new growth is usually bright red.

This slow growing shrub needs little attention during the year but benefit from a mulch with peat every spring.

Among the popular varieties are Forest Flame and you can also get varieties which have variegated foliage.  Pieris Katsura is another type which has deep pink flowers and the new leaves are deep wine in colour but later turn green.. Another variety worth growing is Little Heath which sports cream coloured variegated leaves  and bronze-red coloured foliage when young.

Generally, Pieris does not need any pruning but remove dead flowers at the end of May each year.  Shading from morning sun is often beneficial but not absolutely necessary.

Add plenty of peat to the soil when planting.

 

Composting All Your Garden Waste is Easy.

As this is International Compost Awareness Week, it is appropriate to think about some of the advantages of turning your waste products into something useful for your garden.

You can do this by using,or obtaining a compost bin but if you do not have one, you can easily construct a compost heap outdoors by simple making a frame and some wire mesh.

Some local authorities actually give away compost free of charge to gardeners, but before you get carried away, bear in mind that this is not the same material as the compost you buy in garden centre for raising your own plants and potting up plants in containers.

Home made compost is only really suitable as a soil conditioner - particularly in clay soils - where you have to dig it well into the soil. It can also be good to use as a mulch around shrubs and plants to suppress weeds and prevent water loss due to evaporation.

To make your own compost you can use kitchen waste such as vegetable peelings and you can also add grass cuttings and annual weeds and used container and gro-bag compost. Hedge trimmings are also good and you can also add shredded paper and cardboard and old egg boxes.

Do not add, on any account, cooked food or food scraps as this will encourage rats and other vermin. Also avoid adding roots of perennial weeds or plants affected by disease, or weeds that have flowered and set seed. If you have treated you lawn with a selective weed-killer, refrain from composting the first grass cuttings, as the active ingredients   of the weed-killer are not always broken down in the composting process.

Leave all the materials in your compost bin to rot down over a long period - the longer the better - but you can add a compost accelerator which you can obtain from any garden centre- to speed up the process.

You can site your compost bin - which has no base - on any piece of ground, but I find that putting it on a slab or concrete base will certainly prevent vermin from getting into the bin. It is also beneficial to turn over the contents of your compost bin from time to time to allow the waste products to compost better.

Make sure that all the waste has been well composted and rotted down before you apply the material to your garden as a mulch or soil conditioner. If the compost has not fully broken down, it will use up Nitrogen - which is essential fro plant growth - to help complete the composting process. In such cases, your plants will suffer.

 

Don't Forget the Weeds.

As the weather warms up, weeds are starting to make their presence noticeable in our borders and vegetable patches, Now is the best time to get rid of them before you start planting out your new plants. The young annual weeds can be removed easily with the hoe, but larger weeds can be killed off by treating the with a weed-killer containing Glyphosate. Round-Up is a well known product containing Glyphosate which is a systemic weed-killer which means it is absorbed by the leaves and travels right through the weed to the roots and kills them. Round-up is then rendered safe in the soil and does not damage any other plants. 

 

April 12th

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.

 

April 5th

Gardens are Springing into to Growth

There is little doubt that there is signs of plenty of new growth in our gardens over the past few weeks.. Hedges are sprouting nice new green shoots and I have noticed Cotoneasters are beginning to flower.

With extra hours of daylight since the clocks moved forward a couple of weeks ago and the daytime temperatures starting to increase it is little wonder that things are coming alive in our beloved borders. Of course, the copious amounts of rain are also helping things along, albeit that the rain is keeping gardeners indoors on more than just a few days.

With all this happening before our very eyes, the grass is really starting to grow - sufficient to beckon us to get the lawnmower out from it's winter storage.. However, the  lawns are still quite soggy, so it is best to use a bit of caution before jumping  in too quickly and creating more problems in the garden.

When giving the grass it's first cut of the year, try to choose a day when there has not been too much rain beforehand and raise the blades of the lawnmower to their highest setting, so that you don't cut too short. After all the  winter's rain there is  sure to  be plenty of moss covering the lawn and this often results in the grass being killed off as the moss takes over. Indeed, moss needs to be removed to allow the grass to flourish.

Moss occurs because of one of two problems. Poor drainage is often the major cause but also the acidity of the underlying soil can often contribute to an epidemic of moss forming on the lawn. Spiking over the lawn with a hollow-tined tool - or even a garden fork - will certainly improve the drainage problem. Once you have done this, brush some fine grit or sharp sand into the holes and this will help enormously. It is also beneficial to extract a few cores of soil from the lawn and test the pH of the underlying soil. If it is too acid you can solve this by applying some garden lime.

Over the coming weeks I will continue to deal with lawn problems and offer ideas to get your grass looking good for the summer.

It's Wake Up Time for Houseplants.

Most of your house plants which you have been over-wintering indoors are ready to wake up from their dormancy at this time of year. This means that they will be starting to produce new growth and therefore they will need a little bit more water to support the fresh leaves, stems and flowers soon to emerge. 

It is often recommended that you scrape off a couple of inches of compost from the top of the pot and add some new fresh compost.  They will also benefit from some feeding at this time of the year.

It is important that you do not over-water your pot plants, In fact more plants die from too much water than from too little. They will not need watering everyday, so the best routine is to set aside one day per week for watering you indoor plants. Lift the pot in your hand before you water and if it feels light then it probably needs some water. If the pot feels heavy, it may not need any further water.

Take a look at the bottom of the pot and see if roots are starting to appear out of the pot. If so your plant may need to be re-potted. Move up just one size of pot - for example- from a four inch to a five inch. Use fresh compost when re-potting.

Growing in Raised Beds.

The modern trend being adopted by many gardeners is to grow in raised beds. Indeed, this has many advantages and you can grow quite a variety of vegetables as well as flowers this way. One major benefit is that you can control the type of soil or compost that is best for what you are growing.

Raised beds can be constructed from various materials including wood, metal or even stone slabs.  If you are using wood it is important that you opt for treated timber to minimise the danger of the wood rotting over time. Even so, I know one gentleman who erected some raised beds using treated timber a few years ago and now finds they are rotting away and will need to be replaced.

An alternative to timber is to use 'Link-a Bord' which is a British product manufactured from 98% recycled UPVC which will not rot. For further info visit www.linkabord.co.uk 

Give Gladioli a Head Start 

Corms of those tall striking blooms can be kick started now by planting one corm into a series of 3 inch pots or large modules. Grow these on in the greenhouse or even a cold-frame over the next month or so and then plant them outdoors at the beginning of June when all danger of frost is passed. If you want to ensure a succession of lovely blooms, you can plant some corms into pots each couple of weeks from now until June and keep a few corms for planting straight into the ground after you plant out the indoor-raised plants.

 

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.