Tag Archive: gravel


rhs compostMulch- a layer of natural material spread thickly over the soil cuts down the need for watering, reduces weeding and protects and improves the soil. Mulch matting is also available from most nurseries and garden centres and can be an effective way to conserve moisture and prevent weeds.

Six types of loose mulch

  1. Bark chippings- attractive, but expensive (unless you have a supply from your own felled timber or know a friendly tree surgeon who will give you a load for free). Large chunks will last a long time and don’t blow around, though deep wood chips won’t rot quickly. Use chippings that are at least a year old as the early rotting process will ‘rob’ the soil of nitrogen.

  2. Cocoa shells- pricey but has more nutrients than most mulches. They bond together when wet so they won’t blow away.

  3. Garden compost, manure and leaf mould- free, but soon rots away. Can spread weeds unless well broken down. Compost and well-rotted manure add goodness to the soil as well as improving and protecting it, leaf mould acts as a protective layer and improves soil texture, but is less nutritious.

  4. Grass clippings- free, but turns yellow and can introduce weeds. In wet weather, they can become slimy.

  5. Composted bark- attractive, but can blow around and may support wind-borne weed seeds. Does not last as long as chipped bark.

  6. Gravel- attractive, and long -lasting, but does not add organic matter to the soil. Various grades available.

Oh, and straw can also be used around vegetables and of course strawberries (to conserve moisture and protect ground laying fruit), and if you can get hold of it, shredded paper also works!

Shredded paper mulch around dahlias

Shredded paper mulch around dahlias

No-Dig gardening, Sheet Mulching and Hugelkultur

Sheet mulching, No-dig gardens and Hugelkultur have a fair bit in common; basically using organic matter in large quantities to provide a rich growing medium without the need for digging. It depends what school of gardening you’re from as to what your preference is, coupled with your conditions.

No dig gardens rely on adding copious layers of organic material over the soil without digging it, allowing the mulch to break down and form a rich top soil, into which vegetables and fruit can be directly planted. You need lots of organic material.

Sheet mulching

Sheet mulching

Sheet mulching (or ‘lasgane gardening’) has a similar premise to no-dig. Smother the undesirable plants, mulch heavily, make a ‘lasagne’ of carbon and compost, and plant lots. A good initial burst of energy brings minimal labour further down the line!

Hugelkultur

Hugelkultur

Hugelkultur (‘hill culture’) are no-dig raised beds with a difference. They hold moisture, build fertility, maximise surface volume and are great spaces for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs.

Effective mulching

Apply at the right time- mulches need to be in place by mid spring when the soil is at its wettest but is no longer cold. There is no point applying a mulch in dry summer conditions because it will stop moisture from getting to the plants and they will require even more watering than usual. Applying compost or well-rotted manure to fruit bushes and trees in the autumn and early spring will give them a boost, and applying leaf mould to bare soil in Autumn can be an effective protective layer to reduce the leaching away of nutrients in the soil during wet winters.

Apply the right thickness- to ensure effective weed control, apply a minimum thickness of loose organic material or gravel of 5cm (ideally 7cm) straight onto the soil surface.

Feed and water plants- add fertiliser before applying a mulch in spring time. Lay a seep hose under mulch matting so that you can supply water easily if needed.

Mulch in rows- when planting vegetables or bedding plants in rows, lays strips of mulch matting along the bed between the plants rather than planting them through the matting.

Problems with Mulches

  • Some mulches can be unsightly or troublesome when scattered by foraging birds

  • All mulches provide refuge for slugs and some types are a refuge for snails

  • If mulches are laid in direct contact with tree stems they can cause it to soften, making it vulnerable to disease

  • A build up of mulch can produce a hard layer, which is difficult for water to penetrate. Avoid this by only replacing mulch when it has rotted away or fork the remaining mulch into the soil

The outcome of piling mulch up around tree stems- 'volcanoes'

The outcome of piling mulch up around tree stems- ‘volcanoes’

Sources and further information:

‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’- Reader’s Digest 1999

RHS- Mulches and mulching

RHS- Fruit Trees- feeding and mulching

Milkwood blog– S is for Sheet mulching

Permaculture – Hugelkultur

Proper mulching- no mulch volcanoes

Old School Gardener

Verbascum 'Kynaston'

Verbascum ‘Kynaston’

A genus of over 350 species, Verbascums are native to Europe, North Africa and Asia. Most of the species are biennial, though there are some annuals, perennials and sub shrubs and a few evergreens.

The perennials are often short-lived, dying after flowering, though they (like all species) are prolific self seeders. Verbascums mostly grow on open scrubland or dry hillsides, though some are found in open woodland. They like a sunny position with sharply drained soil.

Verbascums generally form a basal clump or rosette of leaves, these usually being large, soft and simple in shape, some with lobed or toothed edges. They produce one or a few spikes of flowers- these are densely packed and with saucer-shaped flowers. The flowers are individually short-lived, but are borne successively over along growing season. Flowers on hybrid cultivars are larger and showier.

Many Verbascums (or ‘mulleins’) grow quite tall (up to 3 metres) and need to be staked. Seedlings of named varieties will not grow true to their host, so these should be deadheaded before shedding their seed if you want to avoid a mixture of flower colours. The cultivars  ‘Gainsborough’, ‘Letitia and ‘Pink Domino’ have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Award of Garden Merit’. Since the year 2000, a number of new hybrid cultivars have come out that have increased flower size, shorter heights, and a tendency to be longer-lived plants and a number have colour ranges not typical of the species.

Larger species can be left to naturalise in gravel or wild gardens, where they make impressive architectural plants, and will benefit from the support of adjacent plants. Smaller types are good in rock gardens, screes, or even walls. All Mulleins can be prone to mildew.

Vita Sackville-West wrote in 1936 that her Verbascums looked as though “a colony of tiny buff butterflies had settled all over them”. She described the colourings as “dusty, fusty, musty”. Verbascums have not changed much since then. The Cotswold Group about which she was writing are still grown, and there are others – for example ‘Megan’s Mauve’, and the new variety, ‘June Johnson’ – in which purple and apricot have become interwoven.

Verbascums make good partners for old roses (which they succeed in flower); in groups of plants with rounded or vase-shaped form to provide a contrast; or (where they are white-flowered) placed in front of softly coloured Hydrangeas.

Apart from propagation by seed, replacement plants can easily be grown from root cuttings. In March, scrape soil away from the roots area, take a knife and sever two or three fat, strong roots. Cut these into 4cm lengths and set them upright, individually, in small pots of potting soil with plenty of perlite mixed in. After three months in a frame and kept watered, each will have grown into a new plant.

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

Verbascum.org

Growing Verbascums- Daily Telegraph

Plant guide- Fine Gardens

Rosy Hardy’s blogspot

Verbascum dumulosum- Kew Gardens

Old School Gardener

Maples (Acers) provide glorious autumn colour in this Japanese style garden

Maples (Acers) provide glorious autumn colour in this Japanese style garden

Today’s ‘snippet’ on different garden styles focuses on a very distinctive form, ‘Japanese Gardens’.

Japanese gardens have a balance which is achieved through the careful placing of objects and plants of various sizes, forms and textures. These are placed asymmetrically around the garden and are often used in contrast – rough and smooth, vertical and horizontal, hard and soft. These gardens often create miniature idealized landscapes, frequently in a highly abstract and stylised way. Pruning and garden layout are usually considered to be more important than the plants themselves which are used sparingly and with restricted use of both different species and colours.

Historically, there are four distinctive types of Japanese garden:

  1. Rock Gardens (karesansui) or Zen Gardens, which are meditation gardens where white sand replaces water

  2. Simple, rustic gardens (roji)  with tea houses where the Japanese Tea ceremony is conducted

  3. Promenade or Stroll Gardens (kaiyū-shiki-teien), where the visitor follows a path around the garden to see carefully composed landscapes

  4. Courtyard Gardens (tsubo-niwa)

Other key features of Japanese Gardens include:

  • Typical Japanese plants – e.g. Azalea, Camellia, Bamboo, Cherry (blossom), Chrysanthemum, Fatsia japonica, Irises, Japanese Quince and Plum, Maples, Lotus, Peony, Wisteria and moss, used as ground/stone cover

  • Water features and pools

  • Symbolic ornaments

  • Gravel and rocks

  • Bamboo fencing

  • Stepping stones

 

Bonsai- literally meaning ‘plantings in tray’ – is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower). Bonsai is not intended for food production, medicine, or for creating domestic or park-size gardens or landscapes, though some people display their bonsai specimens in garden settings, as this video shows.

Let me know what you think makes a Japanese style garden, and if you have some pictures I’d love to see them!

Further information:

Wikipedia – Japanese Gardens

Pictures of popular Japanese plants

Japanese plants

Japanese Garden Database

Japanese Garden history etc.

Wikipedia- Bonsai

Other posts in the series:

Country Gardens

Modernist Gardens

Formal Gardens

Mediterranean Gardens

Cottage gardens

Old School Gardener

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This is the second in a series of snippets of information and pictures that try to capture the essence of different garden styles.

Mediterranean style gardens have undefined pathways, often covered with loose material such as gravel, which is used as a mulch over planting areas- this serves to unify the different elements of the garden. Other key features of this style include:

  • shady seating areas – pergolas, arbours or under sun awnings
  • gravel or paved/tiled floors
  • rills and pools of water and the sound of flowing water
  • succulents, silver foliage and other drought loving plants
  • terracotta pots and tiles
  • mosaic wall/floor features
  • painted walls

Let me know what you think makes a Mediterranean style garden, and if you have some pictures I’d love to see them!

Old School Gardener

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Simple natural elements can make a garden special for younger children

Simple natural elements can make a garden special for younger children

Surveys show how playing in parks or their own garden come out tops for children when asked what their favourite activities are. And an expert warns that children are no longer ‘free range’.

Providing simple play pleasures won’t cost parents an arm and a leg either! Thinking about how to make your garden child-play friendly and then spending a little money on creating the right space will repay dividends over  many years.

Start with the idea that the garden for children (and for adults too for that matter) should be a multi-sensory space, with:

  • different surfaces and textures to touch – stones/ gravel/ bark/ brick and plants with interesting leaves such as Stachys byzantina  (‘Lambs’ Ears’),
  • varied smells – from different flowers and leaves,
  • tastes – growing and picking your own strawberries or fresh vegetables,
  • sounds – wind through grasses, chimes, water dripping into a child-proof pool
  • sights– break up the garden into different zones with their own character.
A children's food garden

A children’s food garden

Then talk about the ways you might create this in your garden with your children, focusing on the sorts of play activities they would like…and work up your ideas using these…

Seven tips for garden play:

  1. Natural resources– treat the outdoors differently to the indoors- its special, so create spaces and provide playthings which children can’t get inside; e.g a tree house or a tree for climbing if you have one big enough,  a pit or pile of sand, or if you’re feeling very brave- a mudpool…
  2. Growing children– give children a separate, personal garden where they can ‘grow their own’ food…
  3. Futureproof- think ahead and provide things which will engage children for several years or which can be easily adapted as they grow older – convert a sand pit to a growing area, a swing frame into a hammock frame…
  4. Small and simple– a few odd bits and pieces of wood, boxes, bricks, cloth, plastic pipe etc. can fuel children’s imaginations and creative play, though purchased play equipment does have a place too, if you have the space and cash…
  5. Doubling up– make the most of space – think about garden structures which can play a role in the ‘adult garden’ as well as  providing something for children; e.g wooden arches that can support a swing, sand pits concealed below trap doors in wooden decked terraces, a climbing frame that’s one side of a pergola, varied path surfaces with some in-built pattern (you can even get some with fossils imprinted on them)…
  6. Move the earth– don’t be afraid of creating (even small) hills and hollows in your otherwise flat garden (unless you have these already of course)- children love running up and down slopes and use these for all sorts of creative games. If you like, add in a few rocks and logs (fixed down) for them to clamber over…
  7. Get social– encourage your children to play with other children – invite their friends round and take them to friend’s gardens, play areas and other places where there’s a good chance of meeting other children…

    Play garden using simple materials
    Play garden using simple materials

    Even if your garden is small, you can use your imagination and create a unique and special place for your children.

Further information:

Growing food with children

A children’s food garden

Garden games

Old School Gardener

Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Alphabet Ravine

Lydia Rae Bush Poetry

TIME GENTS

Australian Pub Project

Vanha Talo Suomi

a harrowing journey of home improvement

How I Killed Betty!

The Diary and blog on How to Tackle Depression and Anxiety!

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Rambling in the Garden

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The Interpretation Game

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pbmGarden

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SISSINGHURST GARDEN

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BloominBootiful

A girl and her garden :)

gwenniesworld

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aristonorganic

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