Saturday, 11 June 2016

Tickled pink

I thought it was worth sharing some photos from one of the beds in the back garden. A lot of plants in the pink to purple spectrum are looking great at the moment. 

Now I'd like to say this bed has been meticulously planned for this effect. However the truth is that this grouping reflects some of my favourites and a couple of random self sown seedlings that have sprung up in between ... Lol. 

The round headed Alliums were given as a present by my mum the first year we moved in. Planting them with plenty of good organic compost and fertiliser, as will as regular feeds has ensured they continue to flower year after year.

You can also see a Lupin seedling I brought on that has turned out to be pink, rather than the expected purple. You can also see the beautiful Clematis 'Warszawska Nike'. It's a bred variety that I'll write about again in the future.  And, you can see two varieties of herbaceous Geranium. One is a pink seedling to the foreground and the other is a blue, in the back ground. 

All this colour (and growth)?has only come on quite recently and, I have to say, it's been well worth waiting for.

Happy gardening 

And on the topic of slugs and snails ...

Its that time of year again, if you go to the local allotments, you'll spot a number of different torches bobbing up and down, as their owners thread gently through their plots, with torches and collecting vessels in hand, seeking out their prey. Yes, slug hunting and searching season has begun. 

You see the weather for this activity is perfect. After a cool late spring, and then some weeks of dry weather, we are now into the warm balmy moist nights that will see a lot of slugs and snails move about the garden, seeking luscious tasty foliage to munch on.  

Lesson learned ... 

And, let me tell you,  there's nothing worse than growing plants from seed, spending months caring for them through the spring frosts, cold and hail, only to have them decimated the day or two after you've finally planted them into their summer positions. Yes, I too have experienced the range of emotions involved when this catastrophe happens. I remember at one point carefully tending and studying a pot grown Delphinium, one of the first I grew, delighted with myself to bring it to life from seed collected, pricking it out, growing it on, to finally get it to flower bud stage. These were the days before social media, so I used to bore friends and neighbours to death about it. I clearly remember going to bed the night before I expected it to flower, with real anticipation of the first blooms of the year. The following morning I came down to check on it, and it was one of those moments of disbelief. Of the two flower stems that were ready to bloom, one had completely disappeared and the other had completely collapsed as it had been almost totally eaten through ...

Lesson learned! We are not the only one's interested in fresh foliage and bloom. On social media I see where people have planted items and the next morning their gone, eaten down to almost nothing. It's a common occurrence and one that is hard to mitigate against without being prepared to get into action. 

Since my Delphinium disaster, I have spent many nights wandering around my flower and veg gardens, torchlight in hand, searching and seeking slugs (and snails) in order to minimise the damage that occurs. I find it very satisfying to go out and collect as many as I can and dispose of them. You can see in the picture above their very active at this time of year and easy to harvest. 

I'm lucky there is a woodland area away from the house where I can dispose of them. If you throw them into a neighbours garden, or over a garden wall or fence, beware. Apparently these guys will travel a good distance to return to their grazing ground. 

Of course I employ other methods of slug hunting, including using beer traps, deliberately leaving boards near plants for them to crawl under and then pick them up the following morning, use sacrificial plants that I know will be targeted so these are the first I'll search in the evening and occasionally slug pellets (particularly the organic kind where there is food crops or animals). Although there are nematodes that can be purchased and watered on to the soil, which are effective during warm weather, I am a bit slow to try them as (it was pointed out to me) we don't know what else is affected by using them. Perhaps some readers will be able to recommend some research papers that can tell us a bit more about them. 

Finally, for those really precious plants, such as Hostas, it is well worth growing them in posts and using copper tape, which slugs or snails will not cross. Copper tape is available in many good garden stores and it is used around the pot to create an effective barrier. On this, I know my copper crafty dad has made a couple of copper pots recently for growing annuals. I'll check in with him to see how these are working out and maybe get a picture or two to share. 

In the meantime, if you've other techniques for minimising slug and snail damage, let me know and I'd be happy to share it with others through Twitter or perhaps leave your comments here.

Happy gardening. 

Friday, 10 June 2016

Puddles of love ... planting in dry weather

There's no doubt about it, the best time to plant many shrubs and trees is the autumn, when the soil is still warm and the grand is generally moist from seasonal rain. But what do  we do at this time of year, when we've had a spell of dry weather and yet we have bedding and other plants to put into the ground?

Well for me, I have to go back a couple of decades to when I was learning about this very question, without even realising. 

Let me tell you more. 

My parents front garden is north facing, with a corner bed that stretches along by the waist high garden wall. Before it was the masterpiece it is today, there used to be a grass area there, with some roses and small shrubbery area. My memory of my mum planting a shrub in this area is quite specific. She initially dug the hole about one and a half times the size of the root ball of the plant, added some compost to the base of the hole and the surrounding soil. Next she got yours truly to fill the hole with two large cans of water (for a ten or eleven year old this was as close to gardening as I wanted to get ... Lol) , and once this water soaked into the surrounding area she planted the shrub and gave it another watering to settle it in.

What I know now about this whole planting process, and that I didn't realise way back when, was that the shrub was being planted into soil that was quite dry. The idea of filling the hole with water is to ensure the surrounding area was moist to assist the plant establishing itself. Then once the shrub was planted, she gave it another drink, which I later learned is called 'puddling in'.

So now, as I go to plant my annuals, and other plants, where soil is dry, I follow the same process. 

Dig the hole, add compost, fill hole with water, allow to drain away, and plant. finish off by puddling it in. 

Do this, and it is likely any bedding will quickly establish itself and put on the strong growth and flowering that we look for at this time of year.  

Happy gardening.