Tag Archive: harvesting


Make your own Christmas Wreath?

Make your own Christmas Wreath?

December’s key gardening tasks may seem a little like November’s (and January’s too). But it’s important to be determined and to keep on top of some routine jobs, especially leaf raking (and leaf mould making), and clearing away spent stems and leaves from areas where, if left, they will encourage pests and diseases (but don’t be too tidy). On the other hand, the pace of activity has definitely slowed, so you can afford to take it a bit easier this month (well I  suppose that should read transferring your energies from gardening to christmas shopping, putting up christmas decorations etc.).

Here are a few ideas to help you stay connected to your garden during the onset of winter.

1. Digging (and mulching)

Continue to dig over beds and borders and incorporate as much organic matter as you can (spade work in heavier soils, or border forks in lighter soils like that in Old School Garden). This will not only help to prepare the soil for next year, it will reduce some pests by exposing them to hungry birds. If conditions are too wet or the ground frozen, avoid digging and instead spread a good layer of organic mulch- and let the worms do the work for you over the winter.

2. Clearing

It’s important to clear away old plant debris to prevent slugs and snails setting up home in the warm and damp conditions layers of leaves and stems can create.  Take special care to remove leaves around alpines – they will die if covered up in damp material. It’s also worth covering bare patches around these plants with a top up of gritty compost to aid new growth. But don’t be too tidy as you’ll remove valuable cover and shelter for hibernating animals and insects.

3. Planting

From now through until March is a great time to plant deciduous hedging (bare – rooted whips can be bought from nurseries). Some varieties – Beech and Hornbeam for example –  will retain their old leaves over the winter, and provide good screens. Hawthorn is good for a traditional country hedge and provides a natural, dense barrier (you can add in dogwoods, maple, dog rose and guelder rose to increase the wildlife value). To plant hedging first dig a trench a week or two before planting. This will allow the soil to settle. Then plant out your whips when the ground is moist (but not waterlogged or frozen). If the right conditions are a little while coming either ‘heel in’ your plants somewhere temporarily or keep them in compost in containers. Other trees and shrubs can also be planted – but again, wait for the right conditions.

It’s also a good time to take cuttings from rhododendrons, azaleas, and other evergreen shrubs. New growing tips should be cut to about 10-15 cms long, just below a leaf node, strip off most of the lower leaves and place the cuttings in pots of gritty compost in bright light, keep them moist and at a temperature of around 21 degrees C.

Hedeg planting- now's the time to get started

Hedge planting- now’s the time to get started

4. Protecting

Mulch Hellebores with wood chips to protect their flowers from rain splashes and remove any black spotted leaves (a fungal disease).

Lift any Dahlias in potentially cold and wet positions and store them in a gritty compost or vermiculite somewhere dry, cool but frost-free for the winter. It’s best to leave these (and any begonias you want to keep) in the ground for as long as possible to fatten their tubers- lift after the foliage has been blackened by frost.

Keep an eye on temperatures and if there’s a sudden drop forecast, then erect a temporary cover for tender flowering plants like Rhododendrons, Camellias, Azaleas and Daphne. A few stakes driven into the soil around the plant and a covering of fleece or a sheet should do the job. But make sure the material doesn’t touch the plant and remove the cover as soon as the temperature rises.

Avoid your hose freezing and splitting by stretching it out with both ends open, so allowing water to drain completely. It can then be coiled up and put away somewhere frost free. Likewise make sure any outside taps are covered to protect them from freezing.

Prevent your compost bin from getting too wet or frozen (and so slowing the decomposition process), by covering it with old carpet or plastic sheeting.

5. Decorating

Why not cut some shoots and branches for Christmas decorations and maybe make your own wreaths? Add in cones, dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and broad, wired ribbon.

If you normally have an artificial or cut Christmas tree, why not consider buying a rooted one this year? They don’t cost that much more and can be planted out to add a feature to your garden as well as saving a living tree! Make sure that you water a living tree well before bringing it inside and limit the tree’s ‘indoor holiday’ to no more than 10 days, making sure you keep it watered and ideally not in a warm room. Here’s a link to advice on caring for your tree.

A living Christmas Tree this year? In some places you can rent them!

A living Christmas Tree this year? In some places you can rent them!

6. Feeding

Now’s when birds start to go short of natural food, so provide good quality bird food and fat or suet balls, ensuring that feeders are out of the reach of cats. And make sure clean water is available and remains unfrozen.

7. Pruning- or not

Have a quick whisk round trees and shrubs and cut out dead, diseased or dying branches. The spurs on smaller fruit trees can be thinned out, and new horizontal tiered branches on Espaliers can be tied in. Apples, pears, quinces and medlars can be pruned. Cut down the canes of Autumn fruiting raspberries (or leave these in place until February if they are in an exposed position) and prune gooseberries, red and white currants.

Now is the time for coppicing native trees and shrubs. This technique is good for limiting the size of trees in small gardens, turning a tree into a multi-stemmed shrub. It will also provide shelter for wildlife and a breeding ground for butterflies, and lets more light through to the surrounding plants that would otherwise be shaded out by a bigger tree. This opens up the possibility of planting bulbs and ground cover plants around the tree.  Pollarding involves pruning to create a single main trunk, with cutting back of higher level stems. If you are growing shrubs for winter stem colour- e.g Cornus, then wait until spring to cut back the stems to the base.

Avoid cutting back all your perennials as they can provide food and shelter for wildlife in the winter. Anyway, many perennials (e.g. Agapanthus and Rudbeckia) have attractive seed heads and so add a little interest to the winter garden. I particularly like to leave the bleached stems of deciduous grasses in Old School Garden.

8. Harvesting

If you have them, these crops should all be ready for harvesting:

  • Beetroot

  • Turnips

  • Parsnips (best left until the weather has been frosty)

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Celery

  • Swedes

  • Cabbages

  • Leeks

9. Watering

Rain or snow might tempt you to think you don’t need to water your plants, but those which are growing underneath large evergreens or the eaves of the house or in other ‘rain shadows’, may become very dry. A lack of water in winter can be the death knell for these plants.

10. Winter projects

The weather may be good enough for you to complete a special project to enhance your garden:

  • Add a few native trees and shrubs into your borders and more exotic plantings

  • Build a compost heap – use old pallets to get the cheapest, most effective and sturdiest result

  • Feed hedgehogs with tinned dog food (but not bread and milk)

  • ‘Create’ a pile of sticks and logs to make a wonderful ‘des res’ for hibernating hedgehogs and the like

  • Make a leaf container out of chicken wire and posts to make leaf mould out of fallen leaves (it normally takes about 1 – 2 years to rot down). Alternatively they can be stored wet in large black plastic sacks pierced with a fork to make holes

  • Dig a wildlife pond

Oh, and finally, stay off frozen grass!!!

Old School Gardener

Advertisements

WP_20160721_11_48_42_ProThe Walled Garden is really moving into overdrive and looks fantastic. My latest session- a short one- at Blickling was another warm day.

I began the session an hour earlier than usual, and it was a good plan, because by midday the heat was pretty oppressive. Digging over an area next to the runner beans saw some serious weeds removed and I followed this up with some hoeing around the beans themselves.

WP_20160721_11_55_22_ProMy fellow volunteers were also involved in weeding and one or two were harvesting- there’s plenty of stuff for use in the restaurant and some will be packed up for offering to visitors, in return for a donation. My ‘pea tunnel’ created last week seems to have survived, though the peas themselves are not looking so good.

The rest of the gardens are also in full splendour and I chatted to Assistant Head Gardener, Steve about the hours of work he put into the parterre garden removing bindweed earlier in the season- he told me it was the equivalent of ‘triple digging’! The double borders and White Garden are also looking vibrant in the sunshine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Elsewhere, Norfolk Peter was working with a colleague from a local firm to weld together the arches that will sit across the main path in the walled garden and eventually provide a wonderful ‘tunnel of fruit’.

I finished off my morning with some serious hoeing around the dahlias that are just about to flower alongside the east wall of the Walled Garden (see picture below). Next week will, I hope, see them in their full glory, and I’ll try to capture them in my next post.

WP_20160721_11_45_39_ProFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

WP_20150826_19_04_46_ProTo Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Another month and little to report as far as Old School Garden is concerned! As you know we’ve spent around 10 days away in Portugal (more posts on this to follow in the next few days), and once more we seem to have found some lovely and interesting places to visit. Fortunately my neighbours and good friends Steve and Joan were able to get in to water while we were away.

There seems to have been a good harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers and soft fruit while we’ve been abroad, and this is continuing ,though starting to tail off a little (apart from the prolific blackberries and promise of many apples to come). The new watering/feeding system for the greenhouse tomatoes seems to be going well, though it seems many others have had a good crop of tomatoes this year too, so we must hold fire on any final conclusions about its advantages over other systems- but having the reservoirs does make watering less of an issue while you’re away.

Almost the first thing I noticed when looking round the garden was a new rash of mole hills and tunnels, so the mole man’s achievement of catching two, has paled as we seem to ave around four or five new and probably young moles at work! I swear they were waiting in the borders for us to go away before they came out into the grass! As we are about to go away again (to Scotland and Northumberland, isn’t retirement tiring?) I’ll hold off on any further action until we return-  as I have a couple of traps I might have a go myself.

Sweet William seedlings in a nursery bed, just avoiding being smothered by the squashes!

Sweet William seedlings in a nursery bed, just avoiding being smothered by the squashes!

You know I’ve been puzzled about my raspberries – you might remember that for a few years now the second half of the autumn fruiting variety has not produced any flowers or fruit? Well, I noticed one summer type- fruit on one of the canes the other day and that got me thinking. Maybe these canes are summer varieties and therefore I’ve been pruning them wrongly! I shall leave the canes that have grown this year and treat them like summer varieties and we’ll see if they produce anything next year.

The garden is looking very full and flouncy and its a pleasure just wandering around it or sitting on the terrace, though recent weather seems to have announced autumn rather than the expected dry warmth of late summer! Thankfully most of my house decorating is now done, so I can turn my hands to the garden more seriously upon our return from the north. I’m keen to press on with my pond project and I’m gathering lots of ideas for this as I look round gardens and parks on our travels. Also, as my old potting shed is now reaching the end of its life, I’m thinking about creating a new one using the floorboards taken up during our refurbishment works. This will probably be a spring project.

WP_20150826_19_05_21_ProWell, old friend, once more to the joys of packing cases for another trip, hopefully to include some beautiful landscapes and interesting places (we’re also taking our bikes!), as well as seeing our old circle of college pals for our annual ‘road trip’…

Good gardening!

Old School Gardener

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and join others by signing up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?

Cosmos looking good at Old School Garden

Cosmos looking good at Old School Garden

 

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Sorry for the delay in this month’s letter. Having been away for a couple of weeks, I find myself playing ‘catch up’ in the garden and in many other respects too! The past month in the garden has been a relatively quiet one. The continued dry, hot weather has had a marked impact on the state of the plants, and not having been here for a fortnight has also left its mark, though I’m blessed with some very kind, helpful neighbours who have at least kept most of the vulnerable things watered – more on that later.

It was a joy seeing you and Lise at the beginning of the month, and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit and what you saw in the garden. That new crop protection netting I was telling you about arrived just before I went on holiday and this meant I was able to get it set up over a wooden and twine  frame to cover my recently – planted Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese. You remember this has a smaller mesh than the previous one I’d been using and is supposed to prevent Cabbage White butterflies getting at the brassicas? Well, it came just in time (or so I thought), as the beginning of August saw an explosion in these pretty but annoying pests that lay their eggs on the undersides of Brassica leaves leaving a legacy of a host of hungry caterpillars that destroy your best Brassica efforts!

As we departed on holiday (I’ll be doing a few posts about the various gardens we visited whilst in Devon and Cornwall), the Agapanthus was coming into flower and I had hopes that my Tithonia (‘Mexican Hat flower’) and Cleome (‘Violet Queen’) were finally putting on flower buds. The late Spring seems to have delayed their development somewhat.

What it is to have good neighbours!  Our next door neighbours Rob and Wendy were happy to water the containers and greenhouse etc. whilst we were away, though they were themselves due to go on holiday a couple of days before our return, so I was a little concerned that things might just wilt before I could get to them. I had no need to worry, for on my return – in fact the very evening I went round and started watering things – I stumbled across our next to next door neighbour, Norman, who had just finished watering the containers in the Courtyard! He had apparently been tasked by Wendy to carry on with the watering in their absence! I thanked him for this kindness and remarked on my pleasant surprise at the healthy look of most of the plants.

On closer inspection, and looking beyond the containers, greenhouse, cold frame etc., I discovered that the pests had been at play while we had been away! Moles had decided the time was right to dig up various spots in the lawn (their activity might have been prompted by one day of heavy rain) and when I inspected the brassicas I found not very much left of the Cauliflowers, Calabrese and Broccoll previously mentioned! In fact the caterpillars had been busy and stripped every last leaf! The Red Cabbages looked reasonably OK, though even here there was clear evidence of caterpillars starting to munch their way through the tightly drawn heads. So a quick harvest of those was in order (and the 4 heads i salvaged are being cut up and cooked for storage as I write). So, i can only guess that the little varmints (in egg form) had somehow been deposited on the plants before my new ‘butterfly proof’ netting was in place! Oh well, it’ll be different next year… I might just try one last sowing of Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese, to get us some home-grown greenery in the winter months. We’ve also been harvesting courgettes (some interesting ‘patty pan’ ones  included), and the tomatoes and cucumbers as well as autumn raspberries and blackberries are looking great. The apple and plum harvest to come is also looking very promising and I’ve even found a first pear on one of the ‘super column’ fruit trees I planted a year or two ago. This year looks like a good one for fruit, as everyone is saying.

The flower garden is hanging in there. The Tithonia and Cleome have fulfilled their promise and are adding some bright colour (along with cosmos, Achillea, Phlox, Helianthus, etc.) to the late summer borders, once again complemented by the burnished stems and seed heads of the various grasses that intermingle in the main borders. I’m especially pleased with the mix of Verbena bonariensis and Nicotiana that underscores the view to St. Peter’s church. The Nicotiana’s perfume of vanilla is wonderful too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Having had the late ‘bank holiday’ my mind definitely turns to autumn and so the coming month will be very much about managing a mix of harvesting (especially fruit), dead – heading and coaxing the last flowers as well as gradually clearing up those plants that have finsihed flowering and whose foliage won’t add anything to the winter garden in terms of structure or wildlife value.

Further afield I popped into Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum (where you know I’m a garden volunteer). The gardens here seem to be surviving the hot dry weather pretty well. However, the sweet peas and container plants are obviously struggling with lack of water (though I was told that the Museum had had some pretty heavy showers at the weekend). I spent a couple of hours watering, dead heading and weeding and also helped contribute to a new film being produced for the museum website . This is going to ‘cameo’ some of the many volunteers here in order to provide some information for anyone thinking of joining the volunteer team. I had to say a few words about my time as a volunteer, how I’d helped to redesign and renovate some of the gardens and my time as a Heritage Gardening trainee last year. This all seemed to go well, but a few hours afterwards I received an email from one of the film crew saying that because the sun had glinted on my glasses, that this had somehow affected the focus of the whole sequence – hence the need for a rerun next week- at least I’ll have had practice at my lines!

Its back to school here next week, and so Deborah is gearing herself for the return to our local primary school. I will no doubt also be having some discussions with the Outdoor Learning Coordinator about the year ahead in the School Garden, Hopefully we can build on the progress we’ve made this year and ensure the children all get a chance to work, learn and enjoy the garden through the different seasons.

That’s about all the news from here at present. Hopefully you and Lise are enjoying  the late summer sun, as we are. It somehow seems easier to sit and view (and snooze) in the garden at this time of year, occasionally harvesting some produce, pulling up the odd weed or cutting the lawn, rather than the more frantic, continuous activity needed to cope with the surge in growth that is spring and early summer – an altogether more relaxing time!

Old School Gardener

Other posts in this series:

Dear Walter…. letter from Old School Garden 22nd July 2013

Dear Walter…. letter from Old School Garden 21st June 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 20th May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 18th April May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 11th March 2013

Dear Walter… letter from Old School Garden: 15th February 2013

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and join others by signing up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?

Strange Days

Life and more!

Rambling in the Garden

.....and nurturing my soul

The Interpretation Game

Cultural Heritage and the Digital Economy

pbmGarden

Sense of place, purpose, rejuvenation and joy

SISSINGHURST GARDEN

Notes from the Gardeners...

Deep Green Permaculture

Connecting People to Nature, Empowering People to Live Sustainably

BloominBootiful

A girl and her garden :)

gwenniesworld

ABOUT MY GARDEN, MY TRAVELS AND ART

Salt of Portugal

all that is glorious about Portugal

The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl

Cooking, gardening, fishing, living, laughing.

aristonorganic

"The Best of the Best"

PetalPushin

Thoughts from a professional Petal Pusher

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

An idea exchange for kids' education

GarryRogers Nature Conservation

Wild Plants & Animals Advocate

Focused Moments

Photography by RACHAEL TALIBART

Lightning Droplets

Little flecks of inspiration and creativity

crabandfish garden

This WordPress.com site is our garden, cats, chickens and travel musings

breathofgreenair

mindfulness, relaxation, thought provoking images and poems

%d bloggers like this: