Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Importance of Garden HedgesThe new fashion for planting hedgerows is reversing a trend which has been witnessed over the last few decades.

Hedgerows are ancient structures originating in the Bronze Age. The Romans planted hedgerows to create enclosures for stock and the practice continued to some degree through the centuries that followed.

During the century between 1750 and 1850, The Enclosures Act triggered frenzied hedge planting to mark property boundaries. The character of the English countryside was totally changed. But many of these hedges were lost during the Napoleonic Wars and later in World War II as Britain strived to become as self-sufficient in food production as possible.

The mass removal of hedges from the landscape has had an adverse affect on wildlife. Hedgerows play an important role in feeding, protecting and housing animals, birds and insects. They create much-needed resources to support a rural ecosystem.

But city and suburban gardens too can offer a huge opportunity to create a network of havens. Hedgerows that support wildlife do not have to be exclusively rural; gardeners can play an enormously important role in providing similar habitats.

The planting of hedgerows will create wildlife corridors. These act to link habitats and enable migration. Animals and insects will travel, meet and breed. The wildlife that lives as a satellite population cannot be self-sustaining over the long term.

Bees will in a day, typically travel up to two miles or more away from the hive to feed. But when the food supply is difficult to find, more energy has to be expended in order to collect the pollen and nectar they need to remain well-fed and, therefore, healthy. These insects play an enormously important role in pollinating our food crops.

Most of our ancient woodlands have regrettably disappeared and a lot of the animals that inhabited them now use hedgerows as their last refuge. Hedges accommodate a huge percentage of our birds and small mammals. These in turn can be beneficial to gardeners as they eat pests like greenfly and slugs.

Not everyone has the space to plant a hedge. But planting any plant that supports wildlife is enormously important; creating a service station that will become part of a wildlife corridor facilitating wildlife movement. These wildlife service stations in gardens can be large or small, mainly native trees or bushes and shrubs. They can also be ponds for frogs or banks of nectar-rich flowers like lavender. Plants such as hawthorn or blackthorn provide flowers for insects and berries for birds. These three mentioned plants can be used to create garden hedges.

Lavender is a good choice for a short, uniform hedge and escallonia for a tall one; they can both live for many years and are loved by bees.

Hedges provide permeable barriers that can diffuse airflow but still offer total privacy. They are preferable to solid walls which can draw winds down onto flowerbeds to cause damage. In some exposed places creating a garden without hedge boundaries would not even be possible.

What you ultimately choose to plant will depend on the space you have to fill, the amount of light available, your microclimate and soil type. All have to be considered to give any new hedge, tree or flower garden the best chance of thriving. It is also important to remember that most newly-planted trees and hedges need extra watering in their first season.

Other good plants to choose for wildlife would be: buddleia, cotoneaster, crab apple, dogwood, holly, honeysuckle, hornbeam, ivy, old man's beard, bryony, wild rose and spindle.

In order to create the wildlife corridors needed to sustain a healthy ecosystem, lots of people making small additions to their gardens would make a huge difference.

And if a homeowner is looking for extra security for their boundaries, then a berberis hedge is so full of sharp thorns no intruder would be able to scale it.

The investment of a hedge can pay dividends in many different ways.

How to Irrigate a GardenMost outdoor plants do well with only occasional watering unless they are situated in very poor, free-draining soil or are struck by drought conditions, but those under cover need more attention. Plants can only thrive if they have a good supply of moisture to their roots.

The plants that need the most watering are container-grown or newly-planted. Plants that have just been put in the soil are prone to drying out because their roots are not yet established.

Always water the garden in the evening or early morning because in the intense heat of the Sun not only does water evaporate quickly, it can scorch leaves.

A way of reducing evaporation is to add a thick layer of mulch to the ground when it is moist. Aim to make the layer about 10cm or so. The layer should be organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure or alternatively you could use a membrane designed for the purpose.

When using a watering can or garden hose, try to direct the flow of water to the base of the plant so that the roots can benefit. Keep the flow gentle so that the pressure of the water does not erode the soil leaving any roots exposed. Soil needs to be soaked well otherwise the water will just sit at the top of the ground rather than sink down to where it is needed.

Embedding tubes or reservoirs next to a plant can help get the water from a can to roots quickly thus using water in an efficient way. Home-made reservoirs can be made from cut-down soft drink bottles. Water-retaining crystals are good to use in pots and hanging baskets; add them to the compost when you are planting up.

Garden hoses can be wound onto a reel to keep them neatly tidied away. Make sure you buy one long enough to reach the end of your garden.

Using a seep hose can save a lot of time, especially if you have a large area given over to growing vegetables or flowers. This is a long pipe with a perforated surface that leaks water along its entire length. Seep hoses can be laid along the top of the soil or buried beneath it. They are especially useful in low tunnels where plants are sheltered from the rain and access to them is difficult.

There are also greenhouse irrigation systems that can be connected to a mains water tap or water butt. A timer controls the supply of water to drip feeders. These systems are especially useful for people who work long hours during the week or need to be away from home for many days at a time.

Collecting water in butts from gutters is easy to do. The more roof surface area that can be employed, the more water you will collect. This water is a free resource for your garden and will be especially useful at times when water companies start to ration supplies. A thin layer of oil on the surface of the water will stop insects breeding in your reserves and a lid or grill will stop small animals such as cats or squirrels from falling into the butt and not being able to scramble up the steep sides to freedom.

A lack of water can cause your plants and crops to have problems such as calcium deficiency, mildew or stunted growth and development, so adequate watering is an essential part of their care.

Gardening Tasks for SummerWith June almost over, now is the time to prepare for the gardening tasks which face us this summer - and whilst you may think a lot of the hard work in terms of planting and preparation has already been done during Spring, you'll be surprised at how much there is still to do in the summer.

June:

    • If your decking or patio is looking a little grubby, is suffering from algae or moss - remove it without the need for extensive elbow grease. Instead, turn to your pressure washer and give it a thorough blast, before scrubbing any remaining dirt away with a hard bristled brush.
    • Now is a great time to enjoy the flurry of flowers and colour which blooms throughout your garden. But it isn't just flowers which are likely to be growing throughout your flowerbeds - weeds will be too. One of the best ways to tackle this, without the need for chemical products, is to use a hoe to lift the weeds out of the ground, before leaving them on the surface to wither and die in the sun.
    • Unfortunately, as much as we'd like them to - flowers won't last all season in our garden, so it's important to deadhead them. Once the flowers have become spent, we recommend you deadhead them at the earliest opportunity, as this will help divert energy from producing seeds into producing new flowers. For those taller flowers, make sure they're staked so they are adequately protected against any wind or adverse weather we may experience.
    • Key to helping promote healthy growth in your garden is to water the flowerbeds, pots and lawn regularly. When watering your garden, it's equally important to remain water wise - which is why we recommend reusing dish water (as long as it isn't too greasy) or rain water which has been stored in a water butt.
  • All your hard work in the garden can be undone by Mother Nature, so throughout June make sure you're keeping an eye out for any pests which could feast on your flowers or make your garden look unkempt.

If it's the neighbour's cat which is causing a nuisance in your garden, consider adding cat repeller rods in your flowerbeds. To protect any fruit plants from birds it's recommended to place light netting over the plants.

You should also make sure you are regularly checking your rose bushes for mildew, aphid, black-spot and other diseases. If they appear, tackle the issue immediately using a dedicated chemical treatment. [source: The Garden Helper]

    • Your lawn will require a lot of TLC, including being treated with a complete lawn fertiliser to promote healthy growth, whilst you should also cut it on at least a weekly basis. As a rule of thumb, we recommend cutting a little off your lawn on a regular basis, although take care to only add a thin layer of grass cuttings to your compost bin. Adding too much grass cutting can result in a wet soggy mess rather than compost. [source: RHS]
  • Shade your greenhouse to help keep it cool during the hot spells this summer. Providing adequate shading for your greenhouse will also help to prevent any scorching to the plants which you're growing in it.

July:

    • As June rolls into July, much of the gardening work will roll over too - including the deadheading of bedding plants and repeat-flowering perennials. By continuing to deadhead plants in July, you'll help to ensure continuous flowering to provide your garden with a wall of colour.
    • Prune summer blooming shrubs, once they've stopped flowering, making sure to remove any dead or diseased branches. Carrying out such a task will help to ensure the shrubs maintain a healthy growth as the year progresses. [source: The Garden Helper]
    • It isn't just jobs which have rolled over which will need to be carried out in the garden during July, you should also be using the month to plant autumn flowering bulbs to ensure come the new season your garden is greeted with new colour.
  • Provide woodwork in your garden with a fresh coat of paint. Not only can this help protect the woodwork from the elements, but it will also add a new lease of life and additional colour to your garden - with minimal work being required. [source: RHS]

August:

    • Check your mulch hasn't decomposed, if it has add more and continue to check throughout the month to ensure you keep on top of it. [source: About.com]
    • Collect seeds from your favourite plants, ready to start growing them during autumn and winter so you can enjoy them again next summer.
    • If you've been growing fruit in your garden (or at an allotment) August is the time to prune restricted fruits, cut out old fruited canes on raspberries and lift / pop-up rooted strawberry runners.
    • With August traditionally being one of the hottest months of the year, when cutting the lawn you'll need to take extra care. It's recommended to check your mower's blade for any imperfections - and sharpen / replace your lawnmower blade if necessary. You should also raise the height of the blade so you're only taking a little off the grass with each cut, this will help protect your lawn from drought damage.
    • Continue to tackle weeds throughout your flowerbeds, patios and pathways. By tackling these little and often you'll be able to help your garden remain in top condition. However, it's recommended to avoid using chemical weed killers as these can have an adverse effect on your plants, shrubs and lawn. [source: Wyevale Garden Centres]
  • During the month you'll need to make sure you're regularly watering and feeding your plants, especially those in hanging baskets and pots. If you're taking your annual summer holiday during August don't neglect your garden -ask a friend / neighbour to water it whilst you're away.

Keeping on top of your garden throughout the summer and carrying out the tasks mentioned above little and often, will help to ensure your garden continues to bloom and provides you with an oasis to relax and unwind in.

 

Starting A Garden In Extreme SummerIf you are a person living in any part of the globe except Antarctica and your area faces drought and scarcity of water, you would baulk at the idea of starting a garden at this time. The extreme heat in climate and shortage of water had even the authorities wondering whether the plants in government-laid gardens would survive. Now, that is the crux of this article? How to save water and start a new garden? It is possible - some sacrifices and smart actions, when made, will help us to start a garden in our home.

However, there are some points that always have to be remembered. Expert gardeners have clearly specified that more plants are lost or become dead as a result of overwatering than by providing the required amount of water or underwatering. The points given below can assist if you are a fresher in gardening:

Every gardener, with a common sense, can easily know that water poured on soil can evaporate easily. You can dig a small area around the plant, cover with stones and rocks where water can percolate down easily to prevent evaporation.

You can also test in the soil moisture the same way. You can poke a stick in the soil around the plant to see if there is moisture. You should water only if there is dryness on the surface.

You can water only near the root tips. Note, that plants do not catch water flowing around and absorb water only near their root tips. The rest of water all around the plant is wasted.

You can put 'mulch' near the plant roots to prevent water from evaporation. Mulch can be prepared from any layer, such as dry leaves, compost, brick pieces, hay to provide moisture near the stem of the plant at its lower part. All the plants, benefit from mulching. However, the mulch has to be changed or moved up and down to prevent infections by fungus and worms.

A grass lawn may be soothing to the eye, but they require water in plenty. Now, we come to the most important part in the article - selecting plants which need less water.

Choose drought resistant plants in the garden. These plants do not need much care, and can thrive in the ordinary garden soil and in the full sun. The best examples are oleander plants. Another plant, if given the natural weather conditions, is Bougainvilleas. They love the heat, and their flowers are bright when there is less water.

There are also other types of plants such as bromeliads, bog plants and water lilies. However, seek the services of a gardener before you start the process.

Water Conservation Lifestyle

Make water conservation part of your lifestyle.

Turn off the taps while you are brushing vessels, or putting soap on your hands and face.

All the rinsed water, without chemicals can be fed to the garden plants.

Fix leaking taps as soon as possible.