NOVEMBER TIPS 2013
(note Previous month’s tips are below these)
Well here we are in November. I don’t about you but one minute I’m wearing my woolies and the next changing into a tee shirt. Not complaining and am enjoying these few days of fifties and a few sixties.
Early to mid November with the soil still soft for digging is the best time to plant spring bulbs with composted manure in the planting holes. Make sure you plant the bulb at least three times the depth of the size of the bulb with the pointed end up. Daffodil bulbs need to be at least nine inches down below the frost line for optimum bloom and wear gloves, as bulbs cause an irritation called a ‘lily rash’.
Dig a trench for the bulbs and scatter an odd number of bulbs in the trench and they can touch, even though the literature says otherwise. Do not plant in straight lines; plants in nature do not grow in straight lines.
Tulip bulbs are the caviar of the rodent family, so a trick I have found useful is to soak them in an organic deer repellent before planting, then allow them to dry in the sun, making them less likely to become a rodent food. Also add gravel in the planting hole as an extra precaution to foil the rodents. In the spring when the bulb foliage is about four inches tall, sprinkle more composted manure around them.
I hear you saying okay Maureen I’m ready to plant the bulbs but what else is there to do in the garden”? Folks, I can think of a number of things to get you out in the garden on a reasonably mild day. If you did not put a few inches of composted manure on all planted borders in October, I suggest you do it now to rebuild soil structure after all its hard work this season, this will produce a rich growing environment next spring.
Before the snow flies, another task for fall and winter, are construction projects, rather than waiting until spring, when you will want to be planting.
By construction projects I mean, stonework and carpentry. Building decks, mending fences, building dry laid stonewalls, walkways, patios and ponds. Definitely labor-intensive work, but at this time of year you won’t be uncomfortably hot. Make sure to take breaks and drink lots of water.
When the weather is inclement, work under a construction tent when building walls, decks or digging ponds. Or build trellises, pergolas, and arbors and fences in a shed or garage. The added advantage to the hard labor is that it keeps one in shape, especially with those fattening holiday meals around the corner.
I hope that we do not get heavy snow this year like last year but then again it is New England. Each year, drying winter wind damages so many broadleaf evergreens particularly the rhododendrons and mountain laurel, draining them of much needed moisture. Broadleaf evergreens need a good store of water going into the winter. Luckily we have experienced a wetter than normal year which will help the broadleaves as they continue to lose water vapor through the cold months.
Many have commented that after the harsh winds of the past two winters, many leaves on rhododendrons turned brown and brittle. This happens when the soil freezes and plant roots, cannot take up water to make up for moisture lost from water vapor. Dehydration is the result causing brown or wind burnt foliage.
I don’t go overboard with wrapping evergreens with burlap in winter. My white pines, Colorado blue spruce and Fraser firs are at least 50 years old and well established so I have no worries on that score. I love the look of the different evergreen hues that make the landscape so attractive in winter.
There are however, exceptions, of plants that require a burlap wrap. Among those is the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, so prone to wind burn. The Albertas should be covered with one layer of burlap, loosely wrapped, particularly advisable for any evergreens planted this September.
Also if the evergreens are close to a road and exposed to salt spray from
The snow trucks and ploughs, burlap may help if the plants are not too large. Of course the best idea is not to plant them close to the road or plant salt-tolerant species like Juniper.
Broadleaves such as rhododendrons, Andromeda and mountain laurel may be sprayed with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-pruf, a natural product made from the resin of the pine tree.
At the base of evergreens spread a three-inch layer of leaves or fine bark mulch, composted manure and peat around the base of the trunk. Following a heavy snowstorm, evergreen branches are weighed down with snow so brush the snow off gently, with a broom.
The leaves are just about all fallen from the deciduous trees. If you have not already done or ask someone else who is nimble to get on a ladder and remove leaves from gutters and drain pipes. Water from clogged gutters and pipes falling onto foundation plantings can cause damage to the plants.
This month cut Peonies down to within six inches from the ground, adding just a small amount of manure around the base.
As I mentioned in the October tips I leave up spent perennials until next April. The soft grays browns and yellows compliment the muted hues of a winter landscape. Our feathered friends enjoy the seed heads.
Any leftover vegetables in the vegetable garden should have been turned into the soil. Add one part compost to three parts manure to the vegetable garden and plant a cover crop of buckwheat, alfalfa or white clover, to minimize erosion. In spring turn the cover crop into the soil as green manure.
Take any of your power tools that require repair or sharpening into the shop now. The repair shops are less busy now than in the spring. Clean your tools off in a bucket of sand, the roughness of the sand will help clean off soil and debris, then oil and grease them the wooden handles to preserve them and prevent splinters. Hang them neatly on hooks in the garage or shed and not just “higgledy piggledy” in a pile
If you have an in ground irrigation system blow out the lines or have this done professionally if you have not already done so. Also coil your hoses and store under cover, and shut off out outdoor faucets.
Put a bag of potting soil in the corner of the garage or basement, it will come in handy for repotting houseplants, bulb forcing or starting seeds in the spring. A supply of peat, composted manure, sand and vermiculite is also useful. Also put a bag of topsoil and some mulch under cover so that you can cover the shallow roots of evergreens if they heave out of the ground as a result of hard frosts.
Houseplants: If you need to repot some houseplants that have outgrown their container then transplant to a clean pot with new potting soil only about two inches larger.
Container geraniums and begonias brought indoors should be placed in a sunny window to be enjoyed. In February, cut the geraniums down to about six inches from the soil surface and water them.
Water houseplants, early in the day. Do not water in the evening, as they do not like to have wet feet at night. Water them only when the soil is dry to the touch. Once a month stand them in the bathtub or sink and spray the leaves with lukewarm water to remove any dust, dirt, white fly or aphids. Do not get water on the leaves of African violets.
The best time to transplant houseplants is during the growing season beginning in April but if a plant is completely root bound then transplant, then plant in clean potting soil and water with our Manure tea to prevent transplant shock.
Paper white Narcissus are great for forcing in pebbles. Put the bulbs in tall containers. I use tall clear glass vases, which help support the stems. Anchor them with pebbles, keep the pebbles moist and place the containers in a cool dark place. I force my bulbs in our Manure tea, which encourages faster growth. As soon as you see root growth and the beginnings of leaf growth in about a month, bring the bowls into medium light, keeping the pebbles moist at all times.
In another month you will have the first bloom. I force about a dozen at a time and the rest I keep in the vegetable keeper in the refrigerator in a brown paper bag away from food. I bring them out and pot them up a few at a time so that I have a succession of fragrant bloom throughout the winter.
Grow pots of parsley, dill, basil and other herbs in a sunny window, so that you can have fresh herbs for cooking, salads etc. through the winter.
It is important to remove any dead or diseased leaves from Roses and pick up any Rose debris off the ground. If the debris is diseased i.e. has black spot, do not put it in your compost pile, but throw it away in the garbage. Mound soil, composted manure and mulch around the base of the Roses. The mounding helps maintain a constant temperature around the Rose.
If the Roses grow in an exposed area therefore vulnerable to drying winter winds, cover the plant with one layer of burlap, not tied tightly or use a rose cone. Make sure all climbers Roses or other Vines are securely fastened to the fence or trellis.
Set up your bird feeders where you are able to enjoy the birds. Preferably place the feeders near to some low shrubs or small trees sheltered from the wind; birds like to flit from these protected spots to the feeder. Offer a varied menu for different birds. Birds enjoy a recipe I received from my stepmother in England; it is a lump of suet embedded with peanuts. Another are hollowed out pinecones filled with peanut butter.
To prevent pesky squirrels from raiding the feeders, set up a baffle. Also sprinkle cayenne pepper in the birdseed and sprinkle cayenne pepper on regular suet, the heat does not bother the birds and squirrels will stay clear. I am aware that hungry squirrels can jump vertically five feet; but don’t worry if you happen to be a squirrel lover; they always manage to get food from some feeder.
This is the time of year when we gardeners can pause and with the previous season still fresh in your mind, say, “this worked”, and “that I will never try again”. It is really worthwhile to take a leisurely stroll around the garden in the next few weeks, before the snow flies. Look at the garden, squarely and soberly, making notes as you go to plan for next season.
In winter you are not tempted by rows of colorful plants beckoning to you in the garden center. Plan as you stroll, writing down your impressions, making sketches and lists and saving them for your winter armchair gardening.
Get in touch with us as you make your holiday shopping list to purchase
Some Manure tea, design consultations, all much appreciated gifts for gardeners, clients, in-laws and outlaws. Give the gift of a garden this holiday season. Check the website www.TheEnglishLady.com for monthly gardening tips and upcoming garden talks.
Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and I’ll see you in your garden next month.
OCTOBER TIPS 2013
(note Previous month’s tips are below these)
I noticed as I walked down by my stream this morning, with a lovely southwest wind blowing and the temperature at 70 degrees – what lovely weather we are enjoying for October. The moss was a soft carpet under my feet and the concord grapes from an old grape vine was scattered hither and yon. After having spent a few minutes, inhaling the rich fall fragrances of earth and water I climbed up the bank towards my house and into the vegetable garden.
THE VEGETABLE GARDEN AND COVER CROPS – In a couple of weeks I will turn the left over finished crops into the soil. My choice for a cover crop this year is white clover, the seeds of which I will spread, and then cover the seeds with composted manure and compost. The ratio is one part compost to three parts manure. There are many cover crops to choose from and I use vetch and buckwheat in alternate years. In spring when the earth is workable not too wet or cold, the cover crop is turned into the earth as ‘green manure’.
I hope you have already ordered your spring bulbs, to obtain the best selection. However, if you have not got around to it yet; now is the time to do so. When ordering or buying at the local garden center choose early, mid season and late blooming Daffodils, which will give you a succession of bloom. When choosing the bulbs at the garden center, make sure they are firm to the touch, dry and free of mold. When the catalogue order bulbs arrive, check them immediately for the same reasons. In this particularly warm fall I suggest you do not plant the bulbs until the end of October that being said
Store the bulbs in a cool dark dry place such as a basement or garage.
The general rule is to plant bulbs about three times as deep as the bulb is tall, this goes for most bulbs although tulips should go about twelve inches down if you want to have bloom for a second year. Daffodils should go about nine inches down, which is below the frost line. Don’t plant the bulbs singly – plant in groups of odd numbers, 5,7 or 9 bulbs (odd numbers are harmonious in nature). Dig a trench and line the trench with composted manure.
Small bulbs like crocus, can be tossed gently into a shallower trench, about three inches deep and plant them where they land, pointed side up. For larger bulbs like tulips and daffodils dig a trench about nine inches deep and three or four feet long and scatter larger bulbs in the trench, also with the pointed end of the bulb faces up!
Even if the instructions tell you to plant them six inches apart; it is just fine to have them touching, this arrangement will produce a full display of color.
This year, be adventurous and plant a drift of tulips in one bright color, a bold red or soft peach swath gives wonderful impact. Observe Mother Nature, and you will notice that plants in nature growing in gentle curves connect harmoniously with the earth.
Personally, I treat Tulips as annuals because their first year’s bloom is the best, after that first year the bloom is never as strong; the only exception to this is the parrot tulip. Also be aware that tulips are the ‘caviar’ of the bulb family; so the best way to keep them rodent free is to soak them in an organic deer repellent and allow them to dry before planting. The repellent will stop rodents munching. Remember to wear gloves when planting bulbs; many contain skin irritants that can cause a rash.
Planting plants in fall – The soil will stay warm enough for planting through October and this year even into mid November. When planting a tree or shrub, dig la hole at least one and a half times as wide, not deep, as the root ball. However, evergreens because of their shallow root system cannot be planted after September so wait until next spring to plant evergreens.
Another cardinal rule: Do not plant the tree or shrub any deeper than it is in the container or balled burlap- Planting too deep can be the death of plants. If you are unable to dig to any depth for your plant in the case of ledge in your garden, berm up the soil on the ledge and plant so that part of the root ball is above the soil grade, mounding soil around it.
Handle your tree or shrub by its root ball, not by the trunk or branches. Amend the soil in the planting hole with three parts manure and, one part compost, if you have compost, if not manure is just great. Water deeply, slowly and thoroughly when planting and at least twice a week through the fall until the first hard frost, which in this part of New England is usually about the second week of November.
I do not cut down my spent perennials. I leave them up through the winter, enjoying the browns, grays, and yellows and faded greens, which blend gently with winter’s muted landscape. The seed heads of the perennials are wonderful snacks for the birds and it’s a joy to see their antics through the cold weather. What better sight than a red cardinal on the Winterberry bush in the snow.
Don’t put away the tools just yet. You still have time over the next few weeks to divide summer blooming perennials, which have been in the ground for three years or more. If you wish to purchase some of The English Lady’s Manure tea, which you use when watering gives an extra boost to the plants to establish well before winter descends. Dividing perennials gives them a new lease on life and encourages greater bloom for next season.
Also wait until next April to cut down ornamental grasses; their sweeping foliage is so pleasant to look at with the icicles on them, shining in the pale winter sun.
Early spring blooming perennials such as Iris can be divided up to the second week of October; the soil should still be quite warm and with adequate moisture there will be enough root growth to anchor these divisions before frost heave becomes a problem. When dividing Iris cover the horizontal root divisions (the rhizomes) with just enough soil so they do not topple over, any deeper and they will not flower, of course add composted manure to the planting mix and mulch carefully around them.
Any spent perennials that show disease should be cut down; the diseased material cleaned up and discarded it in the garbage not in the compost. Clean up any fallen plant debris from the soil and ONLY if it is disease and weed free, can it be added to the compost pile.
Peonies – Cut down peonies to within six inches from the ground after first hard frost – November.
Add an inch or two of composted manure to all the cultivated areas of the garden. The soil has been working hard all season and manure (which is not a fertilizer) is the best of Nature’s waste bi products to rebuild soil structure, and provides a rich planting environment for the following season by encouraging the millions of soil animals down below to manufacture nutrients which dissolve in water for the plants.
Mulch with one inch of fine bark mulch, after the ground begins to cool in late October, this will keep warmth and moisture in the soil and protect the roots of your plants (particularly the newly planted ones) through the winter. Mulch is particularly important for any newly planted broadleaf evergreens installed in September. As mentioned previously, evergreens are shallow rooted, and can heave above ground in hard frosts. I suggest that you store a few bags of topsoil and mulch in the shed or garage. When you see exposed roots cover them with the soil and mulch until the plant can be replanted next spring.
SIGNS OF FROST – You can foretell a hard frost when you notice the afternoon temperature falling fast under a clear sky. At that time, assess the wind, by taking a long strip of plastic, like a shopping bag from the supermarket, and hang it from a tree branch, as long as it flutters about a foot in either direction, you do not have to worry about frost, but if it blows vigorously then frost is on the way. If you still have plants in the garden that are of concern and you know that frost is on the way, cover them with salt hay, newspapers or light weight old quilts and put a brown paper bag from the grocery store over smaller plants like herbs, anchored down with rocks.
Your houseplants should be indoors by now. Following their summer sojourn outdoors, change the soil for fresh potting soil and wash the pots. Wash the leaves with an organic Safer solution. If the plant has outgrown its pot, transplant it to the next size, only one and a half inches larger, and give it a dilute solution of The English Lady’s manure tea.
Enjoy the mild days of fall and I’ll see you in your garden next month.
September Tips 2013
A gardener’s works is never done but in September take a break to sit, inhaling the garden fragrances and allow Mother Nature to anchor and relax you. As you contemplate your landscape, think on the past season, what worked for you and what you will never try again. Just leave the weeds for a while and enjoy the peace, and joy that your garden brings.
By this time of year, my gardening chores do not overwhelm me unlike spring when there is much to get done in our rather short New England season. The warm autumn sunshine is pleasantly warm on my face and the breeze cool on this Labor Day weekend. In the early morning I sat on my patio near the herb garden, looking at my basil, making a note to make the pesto in the next few days. The basil looks like a small shrub, it has grown so well with the help of my Manure tea.
Now is the opportunity to re-think your gardens as
The garden’s pre-winter grooming will wait for a few weeks.
If you feel you want a professional design, contact someone you trust to work with you to create a plan which can be phased in and stay budget conscious.
All the rain we have been having has done the garden proud all is lush including the weeds. However, I have been able to keep the weeds down a bit with the use of Bradfield Organics corn gluten based weed pre-emergent.
As I walked around the border on the south side of the farmhouse, the mint had taken over this bed around my Franklinia tree, which is about to bloom with its saucer shaped white blossoms and yellow center. It is such a pleasure to have a tree bloom at the end of the season.
However, back to the mint, I wish I had noticed when my friend Roz, kindly lending a hand to set up the garden many years ago had planted mint in one of my containers. By the time I got around to noticing, it was too late. For all of you who are not aware – mint is extremely invasive and should only be planted in containers where its wayward habits can be restricted.
In a few weeks I will begin to see touches of autumn color in the wetlands behind my stream. The brilliant autumn finery is so beautiful, the last hurrah, before winter sets in.
Autumn crocus, asters, sedum and the autumn clematis on my milk shed are taking their curtain calls. I see that we will be getting even more rain this month so I suggest that you cut back on watering the garden. Plants that remain in active growth late into the season may be damaged by an unexpected cold snap if the ground is too wet.
Add a few more inches of composted manure to the borders either now or in October and a one-inch layer of fine bark mulch for winter protection to all newly planted perennials and shrubs.
I always leave the spent perennials up with their ripened seed heads; these are a delicious treat for the birds in the cold months ahead and you can enjoy the softer subtle colors of gray, brown and yellow that blend so easily with the muted winter landscape.
Fall is a great time for planting; the soil is still warm; I find it so refreshing to be in the garden on these cooler mornings. The benefits of fall planting are endless; many trees, shrubs and perennials can be planted to mid October, which gives them a head start with root development over those planted in the spring. This is especially so if we have a late spring as we did this year and you are not able to plant until later. The cooler temperatures and still warm soil through October in New England, directs the plant to put their energy into producing strong roots. If you add The English Lady Seaweed Tea, with its root growth hormone, which attaches to the rhizospheres on the roots, the plants will be even stronger.
However, if you are adding any evergreens they must be planted this month, September. Evergreens are shallow rooted and need time to establish before the ground freezes.
Root growth will continue in fall as long as soil temperature is above 40 degrees, which is about the second week of November here.
Plant the evergreens with peat and composted manure in the planting mix, and water until the ground freezes in November. Evergreens lose water quickly when exposed to cold winter wind. Add The English Lady Manure Tea, which encourages all the soil organisms to produce nutrients so essential for new plants. Add a layer of fine bark mulch around the base of the evergreens and keep the mulch about six inches away from the trunks so that rodents do not take up residence and gnaw on the bark.
Many have told me of damage to broadleaf evergreens after the bitter blasts of our coldest season. Smaller evergreens can be protected loosely covered with burlap. Cold wind is drying and more damaging than cold temperatures.
These trees are not good candidates for fall planting:
Birches, Larches, Gingko, Oaks, Magnolia, in fact all flowering fruit and flowering trees as well as the Eastern Red Cedar. These trees have fleshy root systems and their feeder roots are not large when young and take time to establish, therefore are susceptible to frost heave.
Also some perennials that do not like to be planted in fall are Artemisia, Lambs Ears, Foxglove, Penstemon, Anemone, Campanula, Kniphofia, Lupines, Scabiosa, Ferns and Grasses.
BARGAINS – this is a good time to pick up end of season plant bargains. Most nurseries and garden centers reduce their prices to sell off plants so they do not have to winter them over. However, stay vigilant and keep your eyes open for the following problem plants:
POTBOUND PLANTS – check the bottom of the pot to see if the roots are growing through the holes. If not, gently tap the plant out of the container to see if it has a network of overlapping roots that encompass the root ball. It is possible to salvage a root bound plant, which is suffering from water and nutrient deficiencies over the summer, but it will be slow to root. Before you plant this one in your garden, cut the encircling roots – the roots will now be shorter but will take root easier.
DISEASED PLANTS – plants that have been in containers all summer and have been fed high nitrogen fertilizers are easy targets for pests and diseases. Check for spots on the foliage, wilted or curling leaves, discolored roots. As well as visible signs of pest damage and infestation such as webbing or sticky residue on foliage. Not only would these plants do poorly in the garden but could infect your other plants and the soil. Soil born diseases are the most difficult to deal with.
BADLY SHAPED PLANTS – Badly shaped plants are the Charlie Brown Christmas trees of the plant world, the unwanted orphans that have been passed over year after year, the runts of the litter! Do not set yourself up for disappointment looking at an ugly tree or shrub -a plant that you will have to live with for years, just to save a few dollars.
MISLABLED PLANTS – At the end of the season many plant tags have been lost or mixed up, which means you are likely to get a perennial with flowers that are not the color you expected. Or you may buy a deciduous tree or shrub when you were looking for an evergreen variety. Stick to the plants that are part of large displays of identically labeled plants or with labels so firmly attached that look like they have been there for a while.
With any and all above mentioned plants – always add composted manure to the planting hole and do not plant any deeper than it is in its pot or burlap wrapping. Always wear gloves when working with manure; there is bacteria in the manure – great for the soil but not healthy for you.
PEONIES – Plant or transplant Peonies ONLY in September and make sure the pink “eyes” of the root system are peaking just above the level of the soil, with just a little composted manure in the planting mix. Cut down your existing peonies to about six inches from the ground just after the first hard frost in November and add some mulch for protection.
NEW LAWN OR PATCH SEEDING – September is an excellent time to plant new grass, the young grass plants will have the advantage over weeds. Do not buy cheap seed, you reap what you sow! Soak the seeds overnight in our Seaweed tea with its root growth hormone – the grass will take off much quicker and stronger.
Gently de-thatch the areas that you wish to overseed or patch. Do not use the large thatching machines, which can damage existing grass. Add some composted manure to the area, broadcast the seed and cover the newly seeded grass area with salt hay (free from weed seed). Do not allow the soil surface to dry out, keep it moist. Do not saturate or the seed will wash away. Apply a weekly application of our Manure tea until the ground freezes.
When the grass appears, stay off it, do not mow and leave the salt hay to rot. Next spring, a healthy lawn will emerge and if there are a few bare patches you can fill them in, in April.
I hope your spring bulb orders are in by now. This season, be adventurous and go for masses of a single color for the greatest impact. No matter how small your planting area – it is the intensity that counts, with two or three dozen red Tulips or a hundred Daffodils planted on your woodland edge.
Buying daffodils in large numbers is less expensive, the bulbs are usually smaller -this is not a problem as daffodil bulbs grow in size each year. Even though many say the spacing between these larger bulbs should be six inches, there is no reason they cannot touch. Put some composted manure or bulb food in the hole and make sure you plant the Daffodils eight inches below the frost line, with the pointed end up. Wear gloves when you plant bulbs as they have a skin irritant, which may cause a rash.
If you cannot plant your bulbs immediately when you receive them, keep them in a cool, dry place. The best time to plant spring bulbs in the Northeast is the end of October to the middle of November.
Lily of the Valley can be transplanted this month but wear gloves because there is toxicity in this plant.
Dig up your gladioli corms, Calla bulbs, Elephant ear bulbs and Dahlia tubers when the foliage turns yellow. Lay them in the sun to “cure” and store them in a cool, dry dark place. When you dig the Dahlia tubers, do not pull them, pulling can break the tubers.
In early September take your houseplants indoors after their summer sojourn and wash the foliage gently and repot with new potting soil. Repot those plants that have outgrown their pots to a clean container that is only one size larger.
Fall and early winter is a great time to do stonework – dry laid paths, walls and patios. As well as repairing fences, arbors and pergolas and build decks. Painting wooden outdoor furniture with eco conscious paint before putting them undercover for winter. In October I will tell you more about how to go about stonework.
September is a gardener’s paradise; the air is cooler, the soil easy to work and you will not overheat with the effort. Stay awhile in your garden; enjoy the comforting fragrance of fall.
August Tips 2013
To many people, August garden is the middle month of the Dog Days of summer, when humanity and all living creatures becomes slow and lazy. The legend from ancient Rome tells us that the Dog Star ‘Sirius’ the largest star seems to add its heat to the sun and we should gather our canine friends and keep them in the cool. Well I don’t know about you but that heat wave the other week certainly put paid to any of my strenuous efforts especially in the garden. It was all I could do to turn on the irrigation in the morning and around seven in the evening, and give the vegetables a twice-weekly dose of our Manure tea.
A word to the wise, do not plant, transplant or divide any plants until mid September. Hot weather stresses them enough without stressing them to send out new roots.
I was so pleased when the high heat passed by at least for a while and so in the interim the other day I rounded the corner onto the south side of my farmhouse and was greeted by the deep purple bloom of the Butterfly bush. Further along that border I marvel every day with the prolific bloom on the hydrangeas due to a good dose of composted manure and plenty of rain. Did you know that hydrangeas are a wetland plant and need plenty of water to flourish?
We have such a short blooming and growing season here in New England that a good-looking mixed border is a pleasure to behold especially as bloom begins to wane in late summer. Looking out of my study window, I can see the Serviceberry tree anchoring the corner of the house and the evergreen Andromeda with grasses nestling alongside, a lovely subtle backdrop to the perennials and ornamental grasses. Next to the small pond on the North side, the smoke bush is showing it pink bloom and the beautiful peach bark of the coral bark maple anchors a path to the front door.
I prefer a mixed border for year round interest. A mixed border combines perennials, evergreen and deciduous shrubs, small ornamental trees which either bloom in some part of the spring or have interesting bark or sometimes both. A mixed border with year round interest is how, my son Ian, a wonderful designer who learnt this craft from yours truly designs a garden. There are always a few gaps to fill in, but that can be remedied with annuals or some later blooming perennials. A trip to the garden center in early September for late season sales is worth the effort.
Plantings that looked good last year may be oversized and have not bloomed so well. These plants are in need of division, so on a cooler day in September, divide early flowering perennials and transplant them with composted manure in the planting hole and planted no deeper than it was in the ground originally. Make sure you keep the transplants watered and a dose of our seaweed tea, which has a root growth hormone, will help tremendously. Every plant needs space to flourish and another round of composted manure in September. The soil needs this constant rebuilding and replenishing – it has been doing a lot of work since spring.
Add a layer of natural fine bark mulch around the transplants to retain moisture. As I said plants need space so do not cram the plants close together; they need ventilation so that diseases like powdery mildew and others do not take hold.
Soaker hoses in the borders are the efficient method of irrigation as the water goes straight to the roots and keeps water off the foliage, an added deterrent against disease. I know a hose is needed for some tasks in the garden but you do lose 40% of the moisture with the use of a hose. Soaker hoses are the way to go in all borders including the vegetable garden.
Keep up deadheading and that way your garden remains fresh and perky. Cut back the spent annuals for a new flush of bloom. When Coreopsis, Spirea and Salvia has finished blooming, shear off the dead bloom and a new flush will appear; you can do this a few times in a season for repeat flowering.
Stop feeding roses in the middle of the month; roses require at least nine weeks to go into a slow dormancy, before the first frost arrives. Composted manure and mulch and our Manure tea in your containers will keep the plants within healthy and vibrant. If you do not have time to water the containers before you go out in the a.m. empty your ice trays into the containers until you can add water in the cooler temp of the evening.
A thorough watering in the morning is always the best time as night time watering can encourage powdery mildew especially on Summer phlox, Monarda and Hydrangeas. If you see this problem spray with my remedy of one gallon of water in a spray container adding one tablespoon of baking soda, a squirt of mild dish soap and a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Spray only in the early morning before the temperature and humidity go above 160.
In the vegetable garden to deter critters from munching put an old sneaker or a piece of carpet that your dog had lain on for a while amongst the vegetable plants – the doggy odor will help to prevent the animals from feasting on the vegetables.
Personally I mulch my vegetable garden with manure, as manure does not ‘cap’ or form a crust, so that air and water can penetrate to the roots of the plants.
Pest control –
Slugs – bury an expired plain yogurt in the ground, up to rim, this attracts slugs, in they tumble and the rest is history.
Another trick for Slugs – dry dog food – take out an amount for that evening, add water to make it mushy like mud pies, put the mushy piles where slugs congregate, then go outside an hour later, armed with a garbage bag and you will discover the slugs are so full of food, they cannot slink away, they have had their ‘last supper’. Scoop them up with a shovel, into the garbage bag and throw it away.
Place a rock or a log in the garden where the ground beetle can hide, their menu is very varied and they can even climb trees to deal with the tent caterpillar and other tree climbers.
Repel with smell – plant marigolds, mints (only in containers, as this plant is extremely invasive) basil. Basil planted near or among tomato plants repels tomato hornworms. Lavender, nepeta, honeysuckle, cosmos, roses and summer phlox and other plants with fragrance send insects packing ‘Repel with smell’.
Nasturtiums deter white fly and squash beetles, and the flowers and foliage are great to eat in salads, nasturtium flowers are delicious, a slight peppery taste on top of ice cream.
Attract lacewings by planting marigolds and sunflowers – they eat aphids. Insects do not like fragrance.
If you do not have any of fragrant plants in the garden this season – there is always next year.
Place a few slices of cucumber in an aluminum pie plate. The chemicals in cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent, undetectable by humans but the scent drives garden pests crazy and makes them flee.
Vacuum the varmints! – Use a hand held rechargeable vacuum, like a dust buster, to suck up whitefly, Japanese beetles, Colorado potato beetles and cucumber beetles
Hold the vacuum in one hand and move lightly over the top of the plants. Support foliage with other hand to lessen damage to tender leaves and shoots. Limit vacuuming to upper leaves of plants to avoid sucking up fragile beneficial wasps. The vacuumed insects will be stunned but not killed. Open vacuum away from the plant afterwards and dump the pests into soapy water.
Place your orders for Peonies now so they can be delivered in time for September planting. Plant, transplant or divide Peonies only in September.
Begin compiling your list of spring bulbs to send in early so that you can have the best choice. Enjoy your garden and I’ll see you next month.
JULY TIPS 2013
Well folks, welcome to summer, which arrived with a blast the last week of June. Following a long cool spring with abundant nourishing rain, our plants are performing well and so are the weeds. At least we don’t have to worry about a drought at least for now.
WATERING is so important during these growing months, particularly if you have recently planted trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Plants in New England need at least an inch of water per week. Soaker hoses in your borders are the best method of watering, using this method of watering the moisture goes directly to the roots where it is needed and water is kept off the foliage, which causes disease such as black spot and powdery mildew.
A regular hose loses 40% in evaporation. It is necessary however; to use the hose is when a plant first goes into the ground and watered well. Containers need watering, probably daily in the summer and annual vegetables require a lot of water. However, if you added composted manure to the containers and copious amounts to the vegetable garden the manure will retain a good amount of moisture.
Roses with manure and mulch around the base require a deep watering at least once a week, keeping the water off the foliage. If you do not have manure in your soil as yet, our Manure Tea will help boost the soil with its bacteria, which works with the soil animals to produce nutrients for the plants. Our Seaweed tea has a root growth hormone and is a prime source of micronutrients, iron, copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt for healthy plant growth and development.
Water the lawn only when the green glow begins to fade. An established lawn will always bounce back even after hot dry spells.
June and July are the months when roses are at their best and they need loving care to keep them that way. With manure and mulch around the base to keep the roots cool and moist, fed monthly with our Manure tea to keep them healthy also to deter disease and bugs. If you are a first time rose grower or adding to your rose collection, David Austin English roses are my personal preference. These roses are more trouble free than many others, are repeat bloomers, have beautiful colors and have the added bonus of lovely fragrances.
Some of my favorite David Austin roses are:
A Shropshire Lad (my home country in England) a peachy pink
Abraham Darby, shades of apricot and yellow
Evelyn (my favorite) with giant apricot colored flowers
Fair Bianca a pure white rose
Heritage a soft blush pink
Carding Mill begins as a peachy orange double flower, becoming an apricot-pink
A lovely combination is climbing roses and clematis planted together as both enjoy the same planting environment, their heads in the sun and their feet (roots) cool, with manure and mulch. This combination looks great climbing together over a fence, wall or arbor.
Stop feeding your roses in the middle of August so they can go into a slow dormancy, necessary to keep them healthy through winter.
If you mulch, apply a fine brown bark mulch and manure all borders; applying one inch of this wonderful natural bi product spring, summer, now in July and fall. Soil is not an inert medium that merely holds the plants erect, it is a living organism. Manure is not a fertilizer it builds soil structure and encourages the millions of microbes below the surface to produce nutrients for the plants.
HYDRANGEAS: Plant Hydrangeas in sun if near the coast and in part sun away from the coast. Plant them in organically rich soil with manure, and give them plenty of water and extra manure around the base in June and July. Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and require plenty of water. With all the spring rain we have had I am seeing more blooms on my hydrangeas, than ever before. Watch out for powdery mildew and spray with an organic sulfur solution called Safer that you can buy from the garden center or a natural remedy you can mix yourself is the following:
Two tablespoons baking soda, one tablespoon of vegetable oil, a squirt of dish soap with a gallon of water in a sprayer.
The rule of 160 applies when using a sprayer, which means spray early in the a.m. when it is cool, when the temperature is below 80 and the humidity is below 80, when there is little to no wind.
If you have an alkaline soil (sweet) which is unlikely in our area, but if you do and want the deep blue color for your Hydrangeas add some peat or aged oak tree bark for acidity and the extra manure around the base of the plant.
PRUNING HYDRANGEAS – IF YOU WANT BLOOM EACH YEAR, ONLY PRUNE IN LATE SUMMER AS SOON AS THE FLOWERS ARE FADING, AND PRUNE BY ONE THIRD. CUT OUT OR SHORTEN SOME OF THE OLDEST BRANCHES, THEN IF THE BUSH IS STILL RATHER DENSE, THIN OUT THE WEAKEST OF THE NEW SHOOTS. ALWAYS CUT JUST ABOVE A STRONG SIDE BRANCH. BY REMOVING THE WOOD THAT HAS BORNE BLOSSOMS, YOU WILL KEEP THE YOUNG SHOOTS STRONG.
HANDS: Gardener’s hands are their tools of the trade so it’s important to look after them. My hands stay feeling and looking good as I give them a hot cream treatment once a week in the evening– using Calendula, honey and lavender cream heated in my microwave oven and then put on white cotton gloves and when I wake up my hands are soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Also when working in soil that contains manure or spreading manure, Manure is an organic product that contains bacteria, wear garden gloves, the bacteria is good for the soil and the plants but not good for you. I prefer the leather farmer’s gloves that are washable.
FLAVORED OILS – Many herbs are at their peak right now and are ideal for using in flavored oils. The oil I use is olive oil. I harvest basil, parsley, sage, tarragon and oregano in a morning, rinse them well, pat them dry with a paper towel and then do my recipe: 1 cup of one of the herbs, to 2 cups of oil. With thyme and lavender, I use the flowers and use one cup of oil and a handful of blossoms. Puree this mixture in a blender and store in a wide mouthed jar for three days (covered of course) shake at least three times a day for the first two days and on the third day let the mixture settle to the bottom, then strain the mixture through a paper coffee filter into a clean jar. You will now have a tinted but clear mixture.
Refrigerate the oil and use within two to three weeks. I have tried these tasty combinations: lavender, lemon, garlic, shallots and basil with olive oil as the base – these are my favorites and are great brushed on vegetables and meats for grilling. The lavender oil is great with desserts. Rosemary, lemon oil taste excellent on salads.
MOLES: I know I have given you a few mole remedies in the past; but I know I have not given you the exlax method for a while and I can attest to the fact that I have used this method as have many garden colleagues for years and it worked – put exlax into the mole holes, the moles and voles eat it then die of dehydration.
In March of next year, apply organic grub control, which means less grubs for the moles to feed on, and without their supply the moles will go elsewhere, although they do enjoy the earthworms. However, now that many of you are committed to gardening without chemicals the earthworm population is now increasing rapidly, so we will once again have a balance in the soil.
SUMMER PHLOX – I just love my summer phlox and keep the mildew problems down with the natural mix I mentioned above. Although I have found that my white Phlox Miss Lingard is more resistant to mildew. However, in order to get a second bloom top off ten to twenty inches from the flower stems just after the flowers have gone by and within a few or so you will get miraculous new growth.
Deadhead all annuals and perennials for a second bloom and clean up all spend blossoms. KEEP YOUR GARDEN CLEAN – a healthy garden is a clean garden.
When Coreopsis and Spirea have bloomed, shear off dead flowers and they too will rebloom.
Feed all containers and hanging baskets with our Manure tea once a week.
Containers dry out quickly and need to be watered and fed daily in hot weather. Mulch the containers with a brown fine bark mulch or manure to help retain the moisture. If you do not have time in a morning empty your ice cube trays on the containers, slow release watering until you can get to them later. Enjoy your garden this month and a Happy July 4th.
JUNE TIPS 2013
The fullness of bloom came late this year, with cool weather and rain.
Now, we need sun for the garden to flourish whether for flora, foliage or our vegetable gardens. The heady fragrance of dwarf lilacs, the wild roses just beginning to open and my lush peonies in the field on the west side of the farmhouse will soon waft through the open windows. I cannot remember seeing, for such abundant growth and I know it’s a result of the rain, nourishing the soil as well as the manure I have added through the years.
However, heat and humidity is on the horizon and between the high temperatures and drying winds, the soil will dry quickly and the plants can shrivel and burn, therefore, counter measures are required. An excellent counter measure is a good layer of the composted manure that I put on my garden but I’m sure most of you have put down; the manure keeps moisture in the earth as it builds soil structure, encouraging the millions of micro organisms to produce valuable nutrients for the plants – the layer of manure also retards weeds.
For many years, in our nursery in England my family and I in my own garden prefer to use composted manure as mulch, as unlike other mulches, manure will not crust, so that water and air can penetrate to the roots of the plants where it is needed.
Through my window I can see that I will have hundreds of blooms on the peonies as well as armies of ants. It is fascinating to witness the symbiotic partnership between ants and peonies. A question I am often asked is “Maureen, should I worry about ants on my peonies?” The answer is “ a lot of ants on the peonies just demonstrates that you have healthy plants with big buds producing a lot of nectar which attract the ants”.
Peonies need plenty of water for good bloom, and in early fall give a light application of composted manure and check the soils PH, it should be between 6.5 and 7.0. At the end of May, I pinched off the side buds on the peonies, which ensures large terminal blooms. In mentioning ants; if you see them “let them live”; more often than not their presence indicates that we have aphids present and these useful ants feed off aphids.
By the way, do not plant or transplant peonies until September and when you do plant or transplant, make sure that the pink eyes on the roots of the plant are only just covered with soil – just enough so they are secure and do not topple over.
Another very useful creature in the war on pests is the lowly toad. In my garden I have toad houses, which I placed in a shady, quiet spot. There is no reason to buy commercial toad houses. Unearth an old clay pot in the garage or shed, that is cracked, making sure that the crack is two to three inches wide for the doorway to this ‘toad house’ where the toad can enter. Also put a small saucer as a floor under the pot with some rocks, and keep the rocks damp, then your friendly bad bug eater will set up residence and eat about two hundred bad bugs each week. .
I just love garlic to use in my recipes but did you know that garlic is the anti-biotic of the garden. Plant it everywhere; it acts as an anti-fungal element. Try the following:
To avoid fungal diseases, plant garlic with strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries.
Plant garlic with mildew-prone plants.
Plant garlic under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease.
Plant garlic next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae, or pour garlic oil into the water.
Where you notice marauders either insect or animal are munching make a garlic spray to apply on the plants:
4 large crushed garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 squirt of mild dish detergent
Put all ingredients into a gallon of hot water and leave overnight
Then put in a gallon sprayer and spray in the cooler early morning or in the evening.
To deter squirrels and chipmunks try a hot pepper spray using either 4 hot chilies or cayenne pepper in a gallon of water, leave overnight then put in a sprayer and spray in the early morning or evening where you see these critters having a go at your plants.
Most important- keep the garden clean; a clean garden is a healthy garden!
MULCH: mulch your gardens with a fine bark mulch, not the red dyed stuff and certainly not the cocoa mulch which has been found to be POISONOUS AND HAS CAUSED DEATH IN A NUMBER OF DOGS AND CATS WHICH ARE ATTRACTED TO THE CHOCOLATE SMELL, THE SYMPTOMS ARE SEIZURES AND DEATH WITHIN HOURS).
When you mulch do not get the mulch any closer than four inches from the trunks of trees and shrubs, as any closer encourages rodents to come and gnaw on the wood. The garden as a whole can be mulched to a depth of one inch.
June is the month for Roses and personally I find that David Austin roses are the most trouble free, these repeat bloomers, have beautiful colors and wonderful fragrances.
Some of my favorites, which I have in my garden, are:
A Shropshire Lad, (Shropshire is my home county in England), this rose is a soft peachy pink with a fruity fragrance.
Abraham Darby with blooms in apricot to yellow, coupled with a rich fruity fragrance and spice.
Fair Bianca, a pure white, with a strong scent that is overlaid with an unusual heliotrope note.
Heritage, a soft clear pink and my favorite with overtones of fruit, honey and carnation on a myrrh background.
Evelyn, which has giant apricot flowers in a saucer shape, the fragrance is a luscious fruity tone, reminding me of fresh peaches and apricots.
Make sure you have manure in the soil and mulch around the roses. It is not necessary if you have manure around the roses to feed the roses with an organic rose food. However, if you feel you must, do so, once a month until mid August, and then stop feeding so they can go into a slow dormancy. Japanese beetles are very attracted to roses; so any Japanese beetle traps should be placed far away from your borders on the perimeter of the property. I find the English Lady Manure tea sprayed on the foliage keeps away black spot and other fungal diseases.
A tip for keeping cut roses fresh: cut the roses in the morning, just above a five-leaf cluster and place stems in a container of lukewarm water. Inside the house cut the stems again under luke warm running water, forming a one and a half inch angular cut, and then place in a vase filled with luke warm water. Do not remove the thorns on cut roses, I have found that by removing the thorns reduces their indoor life by as much as three days.
Hydrangeas: need plenty of water. In the fields they were originally found close to water in the wetlands, before they were introduced into our gardens. Hydrangeas perform best in full sun to light dappled shade. Also add manure around the base and make sure there is good ventilation, which means space between plants to prevent powdery mildew. If you notice powdery mildew, spray with Manure tea.
Wisteria: regular pruning through late spring and summer is the main factor to help this arrogant vine to flower. Prune the new growth every two weeks cutting into the plant at least nine inches on each stem.
Clematis wilt: if you have this problem it will be noticeable early because the shoots wilt and die. Unfortunately this disease, which is soil born, is impossible to cure, therefore you cannot plant another clematis of that species in that area.
You can, however, plant the Viticella clematis selection, which are vigorous, free flowering blooms and are not susceptible to wilt. Some good choices in this variety are Blue Belle, Etoile Violette, both are purple and Huldine, which is a white, Roses and Clematis make a great combination grown together as they enjoy the same growing environment of heads in the sun and feet in the shade with plenty of manure and mulch to keep the roots cool.
CONTAINER GARDENS: If you have room for one pot you have room for a number; placed close together in different shapes and sizes, creates your own miniature cottage garden. As well as regular pots, the most unexpected objects make really interesting containers.
Check in your basement, shed or barn, as I did, two years ago when I found an old wooden wheelbarrow, with a wheel missing, which I painted periwinkle blue with organic paint, a bit of whimsy, among four others. Or you may come across a large chipped ceramic jar like the old two foot tall ceramic vinegar container, from my basement, replete with a hole where the vinegar tap was inserted, ideal for drainage, and which will look great on my painted periwinkle blue bench next to the red milk shed and barn. Periwinkle blue was my color for certain structures in the garden that year and I think this year the color will be lemon yellow; the paint I use is eco-conscious.
Plant the containers with a variety of ornamental grasses, large leafed plants like Cannas and Elephant Ears and perennials; remove perennials when they have finished blooming, plant them in the garden and add some others from the garden. Tuck in some annuals as needed.
LAWN CARE: Keep an eye out for moles and if you see evidence put exlax down the holes. Exlax is made of Senna, an organic herb and the moles eat the exlax, get dehydrated and the rest is history.
POWDERY MILDEW: keep an eye open for powdery mildew, especially after a rain and the humidity returns. Spray with Manure tea or make a mixture in a sprayer, mix two teaspoons of baking soda, two teaspoons of vegetable or horticultural oil in a gallon of water and spray the mildew. Summer phlox is particularly afflicted by mildew; I recommend Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David, white ones of the species, these are the most mildew resistant. Monarda, commonly known as Bee balm, is also affected by mildew. Be careful when introducing Monarda into the garden; this plant, like Purple Loosestrife and Evening Primrose are extremely invasive and can take over your entire border.
On the subject of invasive plants; if you plant mint; plant it only in containers, as mint too will spread throughout your borders.
When spraying with Manure tea or any other organic spray always observe the rule of “160” which means if the temperature is 80 degrees and the humidity is 80 then its too hot to spray, I find that early morning is the best time.
I know there is always much work to be accomplished in the garden but make time to sit and relax to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s so important to take the time to recharge and to have balance in your life and what better place to do this than in the garden.
May Tips 2013
“The darling buds of May”; such an apt phrase for one of the most enchanting months now that I can say that spring is finally here.
In the garden, you are carefully removing winter debris, pruning broken branches, re-edging borders and most important of all putting down that rich layer of composted manure, followed by the organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics. Don’t forget to put some manure around your blooming daffodils so that the soil animals can produce nutrients for the bulbs and next year’s bloom. Apply the manure now, then again in July and when putting the garden to bed in October.
Forsythia is in full bloom and if you notice that the bloom on your shrub is not as prolific then after blooming, prune out the old sparse wood. The Serviceberry tree, native to New England stands tall outside my study window and is about to bloom, two weeks later than usual, but worth the wait for the white panicles. The bloom to be followed by bright green leaves and within weeks the red fruit, a great addition to the menu of our feathered friends. Throughout my town, the Magnolias, Cherries and Eastern Redbud tumble over one another to make an appearance.
Outside near the barn, the Carlesii viburnum (also known as Korean Spice) is showing pink buds, which open to white flowers, I am anticipating the lovely fragrance as I walk by. Covering the barn wall and up to the barn roof is my climbing hydrangea – I can see it will be laden with blossoms this summer.
Soon tulips, creeping phlox, forget-me-nots, primroses and candytuft will bring much needed color to borders and rock gardens. Around your pruned roses apply manure about three inches up the trunk of the plant. Pull back the mulch you put around them for the winter and reapply mulch in about three weeks. Apply lime and manure around the lilacs, they like sweeter or alkaline soil, thus the lime.
If you are making an organic vegetable garden this year; a garden measuring 16 x 24 can feed a family of four for a year. Don’t work the soil if it is too wet or too dry. Double digging is the best way to go; it takes time and effort but its well worth it – dig down about one foot and remove the top soil, put to one side, then dig down and loosen the next foot of soil and add about three inches of manure then put back the top soil and add another three to four inches of manure. Do not rototill, as this will badly compromise the soil structure. The gently loosened, aerated fertile soil will give excellent yield of fruits and vegetables in the garden. I prefer 6 x 4ft beds rather than rows, which produces a larger crop, yield, makes for ease of weeding and harvesting with narrow compacted soil paths in-between.
The vegetable garden should be situated on the south or southwest side of the property for maximum sun exposure. Make sure you remove as many weeds as possible, by hand before you even begin digging. You will of course need a water source close by, vegetable gardens require lots of water, particularly the annual fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, which are hydroponics (mostly water).
In the loosened soil, plant the vegetables plants so that they are touching, this forms a natural canopy to shade out weeds and helps retain moisture.
I prefer to mulch the vegetable garden with manure, manure, as mulch does not cap, capping is when mulch forms a crust, which does not allow water or air to penetrate the soil.
Fence in the garden with a tall fence to keep out critters and at the base of the fence install eight inches of fine mesh chicken wire above ground and eight inches below ground to keep out the digging and burrowing animals.
Organic insect control – plant fragrant plants like marigolds, nasturtium, lavender, nepeta and honeysuckle – insects do not like fragrance.
Encourage lacewings, which feed on aphids by planting marigolds and sunflowers,
Attract ground beetles, which feed on slugs by laying a log or a rock on the earth, under which they can hide.
Foliar spray all the vegetables through the summer with our manure and seaweed tea – find out more about this 400 year old family on our website www.TheEnglishLady.com and get in touch with us to purchase the teas.
The grass is now a vibrant shade of green. When mowing keep the blades of grass at about three inches; the taller blades attracts sunlight, to promote a healthier lawn. The blades also shade weeds and help retain moisture in the grass.
If you are still procrastinating about lawn care; apply organic grub control, less food for the moles. If you have a few bare spots, spot seed them now and use only good quality seed and use our Seaweed tea, which contains a root growth hormone and water the newly seeded area with our Manure tea.
When mowing leave the clippings on the lawn, the clippings are a natural source of nitrogen and if you have clover, this is an added benefit, clover takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil for the plant growth.
After flowering, prune flowering shrubs by 25% each season, do this before new buds set for next year.
On a rainy day go shopping for any garden supplies you may need, so that when the weather is right, you can be outdoors doing what you love and not indoors shopping. Buy good hoses, cheap ones will bend and crack.
Our growing season is rather short, here in New England, and when the soil has warmed up in the next few weeks spread a fine bark mulch (this can be spread over the old mulch) but do not mulch right up against the base of the plants, as this encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the plants.
Peonies need plenty of water to produce flower buds. I have a thirty foot long stand of Peonies in my field that have been in the ground for over forty years; they are a sight to behold when in bloom. I give them lots of loving care with a light dressing of aged manure, in May. In a few weeks I will pinch off the side buds while they are still small, leaving the terminal flower bud on each stalk to develop into a good-sized bloom.
Hydrangeas also require plenty of water during the season as they are a wetland plant. Also plenty of manure and mulch around the base.
My maternal grandmother’s favorite bloom, the Lily of the Valley which soon will bloom tucked under the boxwood hedge on the east side of the farmhouse under my kitchen window. I love the delicate white flowers and fresh unique fragrance. When the lilacs have finished blooming, remove the withered flower clusters, do the same on the mountain laurel in late June and rhododendrons to ensure good blossoms next year.
This month apply manure, a light application of peat and mulch around the evergreens; rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas; these plants are shallow rooted and the mulch will keep the roots protected, warm and moist.
Annual seeds can be planted outside in mid May are:
Calendula, Coreopsis, Marigold, Nasturtium, Nicotiana and Zinnia.
Flats of many different and wonderful kinds of annuals are beginning to arrive in the garden centers; these plants, of course, will bear flowers earlier than the seeds you plant outdoors this month, although I find it really satisfying to bring certain things up from seed. If you purchase annuals, which most of us do around Mother’s Day, put them in a sheltered spot on the south side of your home and plant them no earlier than Memorial weekend.
Tuberous-rooted begonias, caladiums, cannas and elephant ears can be moved from porch or cold frame to a part shade area as the weather becomes warmer.
If you staked trees, planted last year, cut the stakes off at ground level do not pull them out of the roots or you could damage the root system.
Aphid tip: squish a few in your hand; dead aphids release a chemical that causes other aphids to drop off the plants. Another ants and aphids tip – if you drink mint tea, any leftover sprinkle on these bugs and others, which do not like the odor of mint. However, a word of caution – do not plant mint except in containers, as it is tremendously invasive and can take over your garden.
Watch out for a dry spell that often occurs in May, and make sure you water all newly planted deciduous trees, shrubs and evergreens.
Houseplants can be moved outdoors for their summer sojourn at the end of the month. However, do not put your African violets outdoors but move them to a porch that is covered and shaded, or keep them indoors in a window that does not receive direct rays from the sun.
Wait until the soil warms up at the end of May to set out Dahlia tubers.
Roses are not the troublesome creatures you have been led to believe. I like David Austin roses; these shrub roses are repeat bloomers with lovely fragrances. Roses need at least four hours of sun per day, good air circulation, and excellent drainage. During their growing period from the beginning of June to mid August; they are heavy feeders (they like the same conditions as Clematis, which look great mixed with roses). Add manure and compost to the planting mix and mulch around the base of the plant in mid May. When planting new roses add our Seaweed tea to the planting mix (found on this website), which promotes root growth. Before you top up the soil around the roses, add water and see if the soil drains, roses need good drainage. Deep watering is recommended at least once a week with our Manure tea, which is wonderful for foliar spraying on the roses during summer’s heat; this keeps the plant healthy and free from disease.
Plenty of stuff to keep you hopping folks and remember to keep your eye out for any pest trouble and when you spot it get on the ball immediately to avoid further problems. Throw away all herbicides and pesticides; these poisons have the same effect as second hand smoke. Come to one of my “Garden Earth” lectures; check the lecture schedule on www.TheEnglishLady.com to reconnect your hands, mind and heart to the loving nourishment of Mother Nature. In stressful times, the garden offers an anchor for peace and quiet enjoyment. Enjoy the warmth, the gentle breeze, the earth’s fragrance and bloom and please remember to breathe.
April tips 2013
Those April showers that come our way
They bring the flowers that bloom in May
And when it’s raining, lets not forget,
It isn’t raining rain at all, its raining violets
Popular ballad sang during World War II by Dame Vera Lynn in England
Well finally, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed when I say that spring is here. From my study window I can see the Daffodils above ground, the Iris showing foliage, as are the Daylilies. On Easter Saturday I picked up branches from the grass that had been broken and blown during the winter. I pruned back my Van Houttei Spirea, which was encroaching on the patio in my herb garden. The sun was shining and my table and chairs will be set up there. Ian and I tended to The English Lady Manure tea and The English Lady Seaweed tea, those potent brews that are ready to be poured into containers.
I consider April to be a month of awakening activity. It is a time when so many gardeners experience new energy and boundless enthusiasm for the season ahead. Already we can see new growth, buds on boughs and foliage unfurling. Our old nemesis, weeds are beginning to rear their heads. I suggest you get busy and pull them up before they get ahead of you.
Did you know that all our cultivated plants began as weeds and at some point humans decided which ones were found to be we wanted in our gardens. Some of the ones we discarded have turned out to be beneficial weeds, like nettles, which are food for butterflies, clover takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil and oil from jewelweed soothes poison ivy rash. On that subject, Comfrey which is not a weed and for centuries has been cultivated as a medicinal plant soothes the rash from poison ivy when added to bath water or used as a tea.
Young Dandelion foliage is nutritious and tasty in salads. Soon they will appear in my field on the west side and my mouth is watering in anticipation. Some beneficial weeds encourage songbirds and other wildlife to linger in the garden; the weed seeds are an important food source for them.
In your borders, when the newly emerging problem weeds have been pulled, apply an organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics. This product will keep weeds at bay for quite a few weeks. However, do not use this product on lawns, as it will prevent grass seed germinating.
I checked on my David Austin roses on Saturday and pruned any stems that were broken in the winter. In a few weeks I will remove the mulch from around the base and add more composted manure and mulch. I prefer David Austin roses; these roses are trouble free, repeat bloomers, fragrant and have beautiful colors. Plant bare root roses at the end of April and container roses in mid May. Add manure to the planting mix and fill the hole about half full of soil then add water and wait a few minutes to ensure the roses have good drainage. Do not fertilize at this time, but if you want to add a systemic organic rose food add when buds appear in early June. However if you have added manure to our your borders, in the planting mix and around the plant, you really do not need the fertilizer. To give new roses a boost, add our Seaweed tea, which is found on the website, this tea has a root growth hormone with many nutrients ensuring strong, healthy growth. Check my March gardening tips on tips on roses.
Be careful clearing winter debris from around rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas, these evergreens are shallow rooted exposing roots to the air can cause damage. If the winter weather has eroded soil around any roots, add a few inches of soil and composted manure. In late April add more top soil and resettle the evergreens with a layer of mulch and peat moss, which nourishes the plant, keeps in moisture and the roots cool in summer.
In late April plant Gladioli corms at two-week intervals, by doing so
You will get a succession of bloom. Plant the corms eight inches below the soil surface with composted manure; the extra depth helps prevent the heavy blooms of the gladioli from toppling over.
The Red Lily will soon be rearing its ugly head soon; the solution to this problem is organic Neem oil.
Soil solarization – is an effective way to control many soil borne problems, especially tomato blight that results in fruit rot. This blight has been much in evidence in the last few years.
In early April cover the soil with clear plastic. Dig a trench several inches deep around the bed, and spread the thin, clear plastic film (1-4mils) over the bed. Press the plastic into close contact with the soil and seal the edges by filling the trench with soil. Leave the plastic in place for two months and during this period a high enough temperature will be generated by the sun in the top six to 12 inches of soil to kill pests, nematodes, weed seeds and many disease organisms like the tomato blight.
This process has proved invaluable for gardeners and farmers for years and the beneficial effects last through several seasons.
Discard any pesticides and herbicides that you may have used in the past. They have the same effect as second hand smoke on you, your children and pets. My Garden Earth lecture, presented to thousands of people throughout New England in a mission to garden organically, which reconnects people’s hearts, hands and minds with the nourishing energy of Mother Nature’s Life giving gardens. I am showing people how to create and maintain a beautiful organic garden. Organic farming and gardening has been my family’s philosophy on tending the earth for over four hundred years.
Manure all the borders with composted manure, which can be purchased in bags from the garden center, or aged manure from the bottom of the pile at a farm. Then mulch with fine brown hardwood mulch.
In the vegetable garden, I suggest you mulch with composted manure, which will not ‘cap’, which means that it does not form a crust like other mulches, therefore air and water can get through to the roots of the plants where it is needed.
If you did not apply an organic grub control on the grass in March, apply now and again in May to keep the grubs down and cut down on the mole population.
The soil is the most important component of the growing business, compost, organic manure and peat for evergreens; amend the soil to rebuild its structure. The ratio is one part compost to three parts manure.
Good soil structure is the result of adding composted manure, which assists with drainage, keeps in moisture and prevents compaction. This organic amendment breaks down and in the process encourages the millions of soil animals beneath the surface to produce nutrients for the plants. In a light sandy soil, humus in the form of compost and manure binds the sand particles together and in heavy soil such as clay the more compost and manure helps to break up the clumps.
Conditions in April are very favorable for new plant-root development. In April evergreen shrubs may be transplanted and new evergreens planted. In the planting hole add composted manure and peat and soak the soil with our seaweed tea. As previously mentioned, seaweed has a root growth hormone to enable plants to establish quickly. Give the roots a work out before planting to release them and open them up so the roots will reach into the surrounding soil for nutrients and water and will not dry out in the heat of summer.
When I moved into my farmhouse on the shore fifteen years ago, the soil in my garden was sandy – good for drainage but without nutrients. I began adding a few inches of manure to all planted borders in April, July and October and within a short time and today when I put a spade in the ground to check the color of the soil in spring its ‘black gold’.
If you decide to use organic fertilizers – go very lightly with them, over fertilizing is not in the best interest of the plants. The major nutrients that plants need are nitrogen (N), which promotes healthy leaf growth, phosphorus (P) for healthy root growth, and potassium for flower development and ripening wood. When buying the products read the labels, if there is a word you cannot pronounce; it’s a chemical so do not buy it.
When working with composted manure in the garden, gloves should be worn as bacteria is present in this animal bi-product. The bacteria are great for the plants and the soil but not good for your health. When Daffodil foliage is about six inches tall add composted manure around the plants and again when the foliage has gone yellow, add the manure, which will fortify the bulbs for next season.
If you apply organic fertilizers in addition to the composted manure, do so in mid to late May, this allows the fertilizer to become active when the plant is growing most rapidly. Avoid applying organic fertilizers after the end of July as new growth may not go dormant before winter and the plant could suffer damage.
As well as the amendments of organic aged manure, peat and/or compost you can incorporate an organic root development enhancer like our seaweed tea by soaking the top four inches of the soil around the base of all trees, shrubs and perennials. Organic soil enhancers like our manure and seaweed tea when applied throughout the season to the soil, dissolve in water and are most quickly absorbed by plants and are especially useful for container planting.
Foliar (aka leaf) feeds with the teas are a quick acting tonic and are useful in supplying nutrients to plants, like roses, especially in the heat and humidity of mid summer.
The Daffodils will soon be in bloom and when the bloom has past do not cut the leaves of any of your spring flowering bulbs, the leaves send down energy into the bulbs to store for next season’s nutrition.
April is the time to tackle a new lawn or patch seed, use only good quality seed and organic fertilizers.
The soil is still damp and wet and we can still experience a frost, I can hear you groan, me too! Keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Do not panic if you are not able to get the April tasks done until May, your garden will wait for you and the constancy that is Mother Nature will continue to keep your patch of earth flourishing.
Enjoy the pleasure of being outdoors now, inhaling the pungency of awakening soil and experience the connection with growing things. Do not overdo it; warm up the body before the garden labor and stay well hydrated with lots of water. We are inexorably entwined with the earth and know that even the smallest gesture of a garden has positive rewards and the effects not only on you but our planet. I’ll see you next time in your garden.
MARCH TIPS 2013
March, unlike other months in our calendar year, can be rather unpredictable. It’s a month of ‘wait and see’ after a winter that found us holding our collective breathes in New England. First Hurricane Sandy pummeled us, causing terrible damage and hardship, physically, financially and emotionally for so many. Then heavy snow with blizzard conditions arrived, and personally on the shore, I found myself thigh deep in the stuff. At night I heard the howling wind and hoped the roof stayed put and my power remained on. I was one of the lucky ones as I only lost power briefly.
In the last week of February the torrential rain washed most of the snow away and on checking the forecast for the first week of this month, saw that the temperatures were beginning to mediate. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will continue on the upward track.
All of us are itching to get out into the garden but it pays to be cautious.
It is important, not to work the soil if it is wet, soaking wet is the case at the moment. Working wet soil can damage friable root systems and soil structure.
Be patient and wait a few weeks to clear winter debris. In the meantime, you can ‘unearth’ a sharp spade from the shed and cut a clean edge on the borders, which makes such a difference to the look of the garden. Consider this a first step to getting back in shape after winter’s hibernation.
In April APPLY A TOP DRESSING OF MANURE – you all know how I feel how that wonderful natural product. Manure is not a fertilizer – it builds soil structure, aids in drainage and encourages the millions of soil animals below the surface to come alive and produce nutrients that are natural fertilizers, essential nourishment for an ideal planting environment.
Poultry manure – I know the odor can be a bit objectionable that is why in some areas, burying poultry manure is encouraged. However, for our purpose, allow it to age for two months and then add it to the garden – poultry manure contains about 2% nitrogen, one of the highest levels of all manures.
Horse manure is about .5% nitrogen, if you obtain from a stable, which has sawdust on its floors – it should be pretty weed free.
Cow manure, is .25 % nitrogen and is the most available manure. If you get horse and cow manure from the farm ask the farmer to give you manure from the bottom of the pile well decomposed.
I know the complaint with manures from the farms is weed seed. I find the
Best way of killing weed seed in the manure is to add it to the compost pile. If you do not have a compost pile, maybe it could go on your list for this season. All of the vegetable waste from the kitchen plus grass clippings, and wood prunings can be added to the pile. The high temperature in the compost would kill the weed seed and cook all those other necessary ingredients.
Besides using composts in the borders together with the manure – by the way the ratio is 1 part compost to 3 parts manure. I do find that mulching with a fine bark mulch in spring and adding an organic weed prevention by Bradfield Organics, the base of which is corn gluten prevents many weeds from taking hold.
Do not use organic weed prevention on a newly seeded lawn, as it will prevent germination.
DO NOT apply fresh from the farm manure to the garden, as it will burn the plants. If you do not have a source of manure from a farm, purchase manure in bags from the garden center.
IN ORDER TO HAVE THE BEST PLANTING ENVIRONMENT RESULTING IN A SOIL THAT IS ‘BLACK GOLD’ Apply 3 inches of composted manure to all planted areas in April, July and October.
The English Lady Manure Tea and The English Lady Seaweed Tea, four hundred year old recipes, are excellent for soaking seeds overnight before planting in March. The Seaweed tea in particular has a root growth hormone and many trace elements, which encourages the seeds to root and germinate fast. Check the February Gardening tips on the website on seed planting information. The optimum time for seeding is February 20th to March 20th. The Manure Tea and Seaweed teas have multiple uses through the season and are documented on the website.
ON A CLOUDY DAY – Gradually remove protective covering from shrubs and small trees. In exposed garden areas, however, where wind is a problem, leave the covering on until mid April. Cold wind is more damaging and drying to plants than extreme cold and frost.
FROST HEAVE: If some perennials, trees and shrubs have heaved out of the ground, cover the roots with fresh topsoil or mulch until mid May when they can be settled back in place.
Butterfly bush to two feet from the ground and apply manure around the base in late March.
Prune Forsythia after it has bloomed, pruning out sparse flowering old wood.
Prune roses when the forsythia blooms. If the roses have only been in the ground for one year, do not prune them wait until October.
Do not remove the protective mulch from around the base of the roses, wait until early May, and then apply a dressing of manure and mulch.
Delightful combinations that I enjoy are roses growing together with clematis, which have the same growing needs. At the beginning of May, add a systemic organic rose food as well as the manure. During the season spray the foliage with our Manure tea to prevent disease. Discontinue feeding roses and clematis in mid August, to enable them to go into a slow dormancy.
In March hedges can be sheared for shape, so that any stubby ends will be concealed by new spring growth.
Prune Spirea down to six inches from the ground.
Prune Lavender in April
Prune Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra), cutting out the oldest branches in late March
Lilac – Prune back all old branches to various lengths before leaf growth begins, from two to five feet, keeping a good shape of the bush in mind. Sprinkle lime around the base and add manure.
BACKSCRATCH: When the lawn has dried out, rake lightly and remove excess debris such as leaves and dead twigs. Raking gently will also raise the mat up so the lawn can breathe again. Aerating machines are useful to develop a healthy lawn. Puncture holes with the aerator and pull out plugs of soil every four to six inches; following this treatment, root development takes off and thatch is reduced. Do not use the large thatching machines, which damage the grass.
GRASS Fertilizer: Apply an organic fertilizer and organic grub control before the grass begins to grow. Our Seaweed tea is great for strong roots and the Manure tea will rebuild the soil in the lawns.
Reseed bare or sparse spots in April after loosening the soil, liming and fertilizing, then cover the seed with salt hay to keep the seed warm and to prevent wind from blowing the seed away. Water the seed for the first three weeks. Do not blast the area with water, which will scatter the seeds.
MOLES: to keep down the mole population in your garden; apply organic grub control once a month from March for three months; less grubs, less food for the moles. Apply organic Pre-emergent crabgrass killers in March and April.
DEADHEAD: the crocuses when they start to look a mess; do not cut off the leaves; the leaves make food for the bulbs for next season’s bloom.
DAFFODILS: When the green shoots emerge, spread an organic bulb food or manure around the plants and water in well.
DAFFODILS FOR INDOORS: the stems release a sap like “goop” that harms other flowers. Before adding Daffodils to an arrangement, cut the stems at an angle, and leave them in a vase half filled with lukewarm water for a couple of hours. Discard that water and add the Daffodils to the other flowers. If you recut the stems you will need to repeat the process.
Perennials – when they are about four inches above soil level, about the second or third week of April, depending on the weather, you may apply an organic fertilizer, but if you put down manure you will not need the fertilizer.
At the end of April DIVIDE late blooming perennials that have become too large or did not flower well last season. This happens to many perennials
After about four years. Discard the older, inner parts of the clumps and plant the new outside portions. Do not plant the new divisions any deeper than they were originally in the ground.
Dividing Irises; when replanting barely cover the root system so they do not fall over – if Irises are planted too deep they will not bloom.
Pansies: pick the flowers regularly to encourage more bloom.
Now is the time to plant the seeds of gaillardia, salvia, marigold, zinnia, petunia, snapdragon, stock and verbena. Before planting these seeds indoors, soak seeds in our Seaweed tea, and then plant them in sphagnum moss to prevent a disease called “damping off”, which can cause them to rot before germination.
Cover pots and seed trays with plastic wrap creating a mini-greenhouse, which provides the moisture the seeds need to germinate.
NOTE: Remove the plastic once the seeds have germinated, the soil needs to drain and air circulation is needed around the stems.
If you are going away on business, or vacation reapply the plastic wrap
on the pots and trays and prop some sticks or skewers in the corners; they will stay moist, ensure that the seedlings do not come in contact with the plastic.
START tuberous begonias, and caladiums indoors.
DORMANT SPRAYING of fruit trees, flowering cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash and lilac can be done before the leaf buds open. Spray with The English Lady Seaweed . The spraying encourages fruiting but if you notice any problems on the trees, call in a professional company. Ask the company is they use organic products; you do not want chemical pollutants in the garden.
HOUSEPLANTS: see February tips on repotting and care of houseplants.
GERANIUMS: When the new side shoots appear on those plants that you brought in at the end of last season, cut them back if you have not already done so and repot them in pots about and inch and a half larger.
Well I think that’s given you plenty to think about at the moment to keep you busy for a while. Enjoy your garden indoors and out. I’ll see you next time in your garden.
FEBRUARY TIPS 2013
My home county of Shropshire in England has been having similar weather to us in New England this year, which is rather unusual. The climate in Shropshire is temperate and they are usually a month ahead of us with winter into spring temperatures. But then again our weather in general is unusual – an unsettling thought as it is due, at least as far as I can surmise, to climate change. So let’s do our level best to heal the planet by treating our soil and our plants garden organically – with my favorite stuff –manure. Discard all herbicides and pesticides.
According to my eighty nine year old stepmother Joan, the weather in Shropshire has ‘bucked up’. The daffodils are well above the soil and two weeks she started her seeds in the greenhouse. She soaked the seeds overnight in our four hundred year old recipe of seaweed tea. My ancestors have known the root building properties of the seaweed tea for centuries. Recently scientists have ‘discovered’ what farmers and gardeners have known for centuries that seaweed has a naturally occurring root growth hormone and is a bio-stimulant with more than sixty different types of nutrients. Now that the seeds are germinating she is also watering them with the seaweed tea.
February 20th to March 20th is the time to begin serious indoor seed planting here. Check out which garden centers are stocking organic seeds, or go online for them – one of which is “Botanical Interests”. Don’t go overboard buying too many packs of seeds; remember there are about 500 in a packet that could seed your whole neighborhood. If you do overbuy – have a seed sharing party with gardening friends.
Have inexpensive envelopes on hand, soil mix, sphagnum moss and seed trays (egg cartons and cut off cardboard milk containers work well and need be scrupulously clean). I mention sphagnum moss as a planting medium as there is a soil born fungus that causes “damping off’ and seeds to rot before germination. I find that having clean containers in which to plant in milled sphagnum moss, helps prevent this problem. By using this method through the years, neither my stepmother nor I have lost seeds to this disease.
For tiny seeds use the moss as the planting mix and for larger seeds have a layer of moss on top of topsoil base. Mixing fine seeds with sand before you sow helps to loosen them up. Soak the seeds overnight before planting in our Seaweed or Manure tea and just before planting spray them with warm water, never cold as cold water can delay germination. When they have germinated, water with Manure or Seaweed tea.
The best method of watering seedlings is from the bottom. But, if you feel you must top water then just mist with a fine sprayer, so you don’t drown the delicate seeds or wash them out of the planting mix. Use sterilized soil when seeding but do not save any left over soil, add it to houseplants or put it in the garden. Left over soil can develop disease and wipe out future seedling crops. If you are growing seedlings on a windowsill, place them on a south-facing sill, seedlings do not need heat to thrive, they need light.
Houseplants, which keep us cheerful through winter, require extra care. Keep the plants away from draughts and direct heat. If possible have humidifiers and air purifiers in the rooms, which will benefit not only the plants but also your own health. Place pebble trays under the plants and keep the pebbles moist for additional humidity. Spray houseplants every few days with lukewarm water and once every couple of weeks, put the plants in a sink or bathtub and allow water to run freely over the plant to remove dust from the leaves and through the soil to clean away salt residue.
The exception to the spray or soak rule is African violets, these plants do not like wet leaves. Aphids and white fly in particular are present indoors in winter, for that reason; clean the soil and the plant with an organic sulphur solution called Safer. If you are fortunate to have ladybugs in your home, let them roam freely as their menu is aphids and white flies.
As a general rule, the best time to repot houseplants is during the growing season in spring and summer, but if a plant has become root bound with no visible soil, then its time to repot now. Water the plant to loosen the roots from the soil, turn it sideways on a newspaper and gently slide it from the pot. Repot in fresh potting soil in a clean pot only two inches larger than the original. With the plant firmly in place and the soil one inch from the rim, water it either with a dilute application of organic fertilizer or our seaweed tea, which lessens the shock of repotting.
Some trouble free foliage plants to enjoy in the house are: Rubber plants, Spider plants, Ivy, Philodendron, Monstera and Spaphyllum. If you have a sunny window Aloes, Succulents and Cacti.
Blooming plants to sit side by side with foliage plants as they enjoy one another’s company are: Cyclamen, African Violets, Kalanchoe, Primula and Paper white narcissus.
So prevent pets from chewing on the plats, add some cayenne pepper to the water when watering.
Check any power tools that require maintenance or repair. Now is the time to get them into the shop, because as soon as the weather breaks the shop gets busy and you may not get your lawn mower back until August. By that time, as a neighbor of mine found out, you could sell your grass to the farmer up the road as hay for his cows.
Check other tools in the garage or shed and if you did not clean them off at the end of last season, plunge the shovels and spades into a bucket of sand, which acts like sand paper and then clean any residue off with sand paper. Oil the wooden handles of tools with Linseed oil or some inexpensive vegetable oil, which feeds the wood and smoothens it so you do not get splinters. Also check your hoses and fittings, which may have sprung leaks since last year.
Make a shopping list of new tools that are needed. Sales abound at this time of year, to pick up bargains. However, buy only quality tools and hoses; the old adage always applies “you get what you pay for”. Also check that you have enough twine, bamboo rods, wire ties or nails, organic fertilizers and Seaweed and Manure teas on this website.
Get bags of composted manure; or if you have a farm close by that will sell you aged manure, take a pick up truck and get a load. If you are going that route ask the farmer for manure from the bottom of the pile – aged stuff. Manure needs to be at least six months old, as fresh manure will burn your plants.
Check the paintwork on your wooden fences, arbors, decks and any other outdoor wooden structures. Then purchase, paint supplies so that on a dry day when you are able to paint, everything will be on hand. Don’t forget to put paintbrushes on your list – I have a feeling you forgot to clean your old ones last year, which means they are now ‘stiff as a poker, that being said, remember sand paper and brush cleaner. If you are painting benches and garden seats on a dry day, put them under cover before sundown.
White walls in the greenhouse reflect light so any areas that need retouching, paint with white paint. It gives me pleasure to see
How much lighter the greenhouse is after a touch of paint and cleaning the glass. However meticulously clean and tidy your greenhouse, white fly, greenfly and scale insects seem to find their way in so spray with an organic spray.
Walking around a garden, which not only looks good but also feels good in mid-winter lifts ones spirits. You can see patterns created by paths, walls and hedges. The shapes of its shrubs, the shadows of its evergreens and the strong silhouettes of tree trunks, without foliage cover, truly stands out in winter.
Keep the bird feeders full, as nothing is so enjoyable as watching the birds in their quick flights across the garden to alight on the feeders, their forays among the rose hips and sudden bursts of song when the sun shines. I love to watch the “pecking” order the blue jays, the bullies I call them, then finches, house sparrows and among the brown, the brilliant red of the cardinal. Sometimes a bird appears that I do not recognize and out comes the bird book and my binoculars.
Winter has its own distinctive fragrance. Fog for example, on a morning when the air is very heavy, thick and damp – a damp even more bone chilling than rain. But what I love best is the smell of the soil, rich and brown, well manured or covered with wood mulch, leaf mold or salt hay. Winter’s smells are a potpourri, one moment fresh like the east wind, next dense and sweet.
If you have spent year after year throwing good money after bad it may be time to get a professional design, but do not hesitate as a design takes time and you want it ready for the growing season.
If you are thinking of attending the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show at the Convention center on Saturday February 23rd, I hope you will come to my lecture at 12.30 PM, I would love to meet you and I know you would enjoy my talk on ‘Garden Earth’. I’ll see you next time in your garden.