Tag Archive: plan

Carrot harvest via vegetables matter blogspotAs the heat (hopefully) builds, July’s the time to ease off and work smarter, not harder in the garden, and actually take time to enjoy it!

1. Food, glorious food…

  • Get a bumper vegetable harvest – now’s the time to reap a lot of what you’ve sown, but there’s still time to plant extra crops – like carrots
  • Pick courgettes before they become marrows
  • Sow chard for a winter crop
  • Summer prune redcurrants and gooseberries once the crop has been picked (or do it at the same time)
  • Keep an eye on the watering and try to do this early or late in the day to avoid evaporation during hot spells
  • Keep on top of the weeding in your food crops

2. Extend your flowering season

Now we’re in July your garden maybe just past its peak, so take some action to prolong the flowering value of some plants:

  • Cut back early-flowering perennials to the ground and they will send up fresh leaves and maybe even the bonus of some extra late-summer flowers (e.g Geraniums, Nepeta)
  • Give them a boost after pruning with a good soak of water and some tomato feed
  • Exploit plants’ desperate need to set seed by removing blooms as they fade. This will encourage them to produce more flowers to replace them
  • Remember that plants in containers are dependent on you for their water as they’ll get little benefit from any rain. Give them a good soak at least once a day in sunny weather

    Early flowerign perennila slike Oriental poppies can be cut back hard to encourage new foliage and some will also flower again

    Early flowering perennials like Oriental poppies can be cut back hard to encourage new foliage – and some will also flower again.

3.   Look after your pond

  • Look out for any yellowing leaves on water lilies and other water plants and remove them promptly- allowing them to fall off and rot in the water will decrease water quality and encourage algal ‘blooms’
  • Remove blanket weed with a net or rake to let oxygen into your pond. Remember to give aquatic life a chance to get back to the water by piling the weed next to the pond for a day. Add a football-sized net of straw to your pond (you can use old tights or stockings) to reduce the nitrogen levels if  blanket weed is a continuous problem
  • Top up water levels. Water can evaporate rapidly from water features and ponds in the height of summer, so top them up if the water level drops significantly. Fresh rainwater from a water butt is best – chemicals in tap water can affect the nutrient balance in the pond

    Water the greenhouse early or late in the day

    Water the greenhouse early or late in the day

4. Stay watchful in the greenhouse

  • Check plants daily, and once again, water first thing in the morning or in the evening to reduce water loss through evaporation
  • Harden off and plant out any plug plants that you have been growing on
  • Damp down your greenhouse on hot days to increase humidity and deter red spider mites; placing a bucket or watering can of water inside can help to maintain humidity
  • Open vents and doors daily to provide adequate ventilation
  • Use blinds or apply shade paint to prevent the greenhouse from over-heating in sunny weather

    Relax (note the old pallet turned into a stylish lounger) and plan ahead...

    Relax (note the old pallet turned into a stylish lounger) and plan ahead…

5. Relax in your Deck/armchair and…

  • Order catalogues for next year’s spring-flowering bulbs
  • Order perennial plants online now ready for autumn delivery
  • Think about which bulbs you would like for next spring – now is the time to order ready for autumn planting
  • Make a note of your garden’s pros and cons at this time of year to remind you of any changes that you need to make for next year – and take photos so that you can accurately see what it looks like once things have died down
  • Have a leisurely walk around the garden and use string of different colours tied to the stems of plants you are marking out for removal, division etc.
Encourage pest predators like hoverflies by attractive plantings and think about creating winter habitats now

Encourage pest predators like hoverflies by attractive plantings and think about creating winter homes for them now

6. Strengthen your alliance with nature for pest and disease control…

  • Look after your aphid eaters – ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings feast on greenfly and blackfly so it is worth protecting them by avoiding pesticides which will kill them as well as the pests. And why not take steps now to prepare suitable winter habitats for these and other ‘gardeners’ friends’ – e.g. bug hotels, timber piles, areas of long or rough grass or nettles etc.
  • Look for aphids on the underside of leaves – rub them off by hand or spray with an organic insecticide to prevent them multiplying
  • Keep an eye out for scarlet lily beetles on your lilies – remove and crush any you see. Also check for the sticky brown larvae on the underside of leaves
  • If your plants are wilting for no obvious reason then check for vine weevils by tipping your plants out of their pots and looking for ‘C’ shaped creamy maggots amongst the roots – treat with nematodes if vine weevils are spotted
  • Tidy up fallen leaves, flowers and compost – this will prevent potential pest and disease problems

7. Stop plants drying out

  • For recently planted large shrubs or trees, leave a hose trickling around the base for an hour. The same goes for established plants in very dry periods – pay particular attention to camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas which will abort next season’s flowers if they get too dry. Mulch around the roots when moist to help avoid this.
  • Recently planted hedges are best watered with a trickle hose (a length of old hose punctured with little holes) left running for an hour or so

8. Give houseplants a summer holiday

  • Many indoor plants benefit from being placed outside for the summer. Moving many plants out of the conservatory will save them from baking under glass, and lessen some pest and disease problems, such as red spider mite
  • Ventilate and shade sunrooms and conservatories to prevent scorch damage to remaining plants
  • Water houseplants freely when in growth, and feed as necessary (often weekly or fortnightly)

9. Paint your wagon…

  • Give woodwork like sheds, fences, pergolas etc. a lick of paint or preserver, while the weather is dry
Give your shed and other garden woodwork a fresh new look when the weather's dry.

Give your shed and other garden woodwork a fresh new look when the weather’s dry

10. Gimme shelter

  • Slow down and give yourself and your plants a rest from the heat; fix temporary awnings to provide shade in the hottest part of the day – for you and your tenderest plants!

Old School Gardener

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school gdn headerIn part one of this series of posts I outlined a few tips on getting your School Garden project up and running. If you’ve got the key people on board, identified what the overall aims and objectives of the project are and hopefully secured some start-up funding and promises of help, it’s time to get serious about the design of your Garden. Here are seven ideas to help you…

1. Who will be using your space and what are their needs? It’s important to think about the range of users and why they’ll want to use your garden. Yes, children, but what numbers and ages? During the school day or afterwards? Will parents or the wider community want to get involved? And just what sorts of activities will your garden need to support: growing food, outdoor play, studying nature, formal lessons (in some sort of shelter?) etc.? It’s important to list these and start to see what they suggest in terms of the overall layout of different areas, spaces, structures etc

2. Survey and appraise your site– you may have your area already defined by walls, fences, hedges etc. or perhaps you’re confined to an area of the playgrround. In any event it’s important to accurately measure out the plot. From these measurements you can create a scale drawing (say 1cm = 1 metre) and any key features that are likely to remain – e.g water taps; significant slopes; trees; hedges; types of soil (you can see if it needs improving and what the pH is by using a simple test kit); the way the site lies (in relation to sun, wind, prevailing rainfall etc.) and how the site is accessed. It’s also worth checking on the current maintenance regime and who’s responsible for this (e.g. if you’re thinking of taking over an area of sports field that is regularly mown).

A gathering place like this shelter is probably important

A gathering place like this shelter is probably important

3. Think about basic needs:

  • Sunlight- ideally you’ll have a space which is open to sun at most times of the day, but use your survey information to identify the sunniest and shadiest spots and start to think about what to place in these
  • Shelter – from strong, cold winds and midday sun – look at boundaries and think about growing hedges , using fences (ideally with gaps to allow slowed wind to pass through) or putting in wind breaks of mesh material. Do you need some trees or an awning to provide a sun shade?
  • Water – either from a tap or through adequate outdoor harvesting of rainwater from sheds, glasshouses, or possibly school buildings
  • Pathways –  to get around the various areas. These need to be wide enough and of a surface and gradient that a wheelchair – user can negotiate without too much effort
  • Good soil – if you’re removing asphalt, the soil underneath is likely to need radical improvement or possibly overlain with imported topsoil. In most situations you’ll need to get organic matter – compost, manure, leafmould– to improve it over time
  • Fencing or another suitable boundary – to keep younger children in and intruders out . You could grow a hedge and whilst this gets established, on one side try a chain link or similar fence which in due course can be removed leaving you the wonderful sight and wildlife value of the hedge
  • Plants– what are you intending to grow? Each type will have different needs – are you envisaging growing under glass/polythene, if so space for a glasshouse/polytunnel will be needed. Do you envisage some sort of wildlife pond, if so this will need a suitable range of plants and may need a secure boundary
  • A gathering area – where groups/classes can be instructed or shown a task. This can be outside and informal (e.g. getting an annual supply of straw bales is a good cheap way of providing seating)  or enclosed within a shelter
  • Storage– a good tool shed, which if large enough can possibly double up for seed sowing/potting up, or alternatively a separate shelter/structure for this if that’s something you envisage doing in your garden
  • Tools and equipment – these will vary according to what you are growing and the size of your plot (and your children), but here’s a guide. Tools:  gloves– enough for everyone who’s gardening at any one time; trowels and hand forks or hand cultivators (enough for half a full class – say 15) ; a mix of adult and child – sized spades, digging/border forks, rakes, hoes (3 or 4 of each); wheelbarrows (probably at least 3); Secateurs, loppers, pruning saws, brooms (1 or 2 of each); watering cans – a couple should do, you can make home made ‘plant showers’ out of plastic tubs with holes in the bottom. Equipment: clipboards (one each for a full class); stationery supplies – paper, pencils, crayons, markers, glue, string, tape, scissors and a First Aid Kit! Also, if you plan to sow and grow your own plants you’ll need a range of other equipment like seed trays etc.
Get some child -sized tools

Get some child -sized tools

4. Get the children involved (and your wider support group) – you will by now have a good idea about what could be in the garden and you need to share these ideas and discuss others with the children who’ll be using the space and those key adults (teachers, parents etc.) who will also want to feel the project is theirs. You can devise some fun ways of engaging these people, perhaps involving n a loose outline drawing of the plot and your first ideas in pictorial form (e.g photos cut out from magazines), from where children can be asked to draw/write/otherwise think about and convey their ideas and wants for their garden (I can guarantee someone will want a swimming pool!). This will generate interest and ownership of the project.

Raised beds, narrow enough to allow access to the centre without walking on the soil

Raised beds, narrow enough to allow access to the centre without walking on the soil



5. Options for planting –  depending on what you want to grow and the space you have available I guess you’ll either be planting in containers (pots, planters and all sorts of quirky planters too), open beds (which have their edges cut into the surrounding ground, often grass) or raised beds– these are edged with boards or other timber and so help to define the growing areas (especially for food crops). If the sides are about 20cms high they can be used to contain additions of manure/compost from year to year as you build up the soil’s goodness and structure. Raised beds can be to varying heights to cater for different ages of children, but ideally they need to be narrow enough to be tilled from the surrounding pathways so that feet don’t trample and compress the growing areas.  Rectangular beds are probably the most efficient shape. These beds can be constructed using pressure – treated timber or alternatively there are several places where ‘ready to assemble’ kits can be purchased. If you want to avoid too much digging of the soil (this can be detrimental to its structure) you can just lay a covering of organic material over the beds each year (taking note of the requirements of different groups of plant if growing food) and lightly fork this top-dressing in as you begin the growing season.

How about a plastic bottle greenhouse?

How about a plastic bottle greenhouse?

6. Go beyond basic needs– it’s important to focus on basic needs in developing your designs, but if we just stick to the functional requirements, we will miss an important opportunity to make the School Garden exciting, fun and an experience for all the senses!  So, think about growing herbs and other plants which have differing fragrances, leaf textures, colours and are in other ways interesting – tall grasses that catch the sunlight and bend in the wind for example, or Stachys (‘Lambs’ Ears’), which has wonderful velvety leaves, Lavender for that midsummer heady smell! Likewise Sunflowers are a wonderful example of the power of nature as they shoot up to enormous heights and beauty starting from little seeds that the children can sow themselves. Similarly, children can get involved in producing signs for different parts of the garden, another way to make them feel that this is their garden and make it look funky too!

A simple scale model heps to convey your design

A simple scale model helps to convey your design

7. Consult on an outline plan – once you’ve taken all of the above into account you can firm up your plans on paper and maybe even produce a simple 3D cardboard/ scrap model of how your garden could look! Models are especially useful for getting children (and adults) to imagine just what features there are and what the layout will look like.  This could go on display at the School for a week or two and you can invite people to put their views on sticky notes nearby so that everyone can see who’s saying what. Gather these up and then  with your committee/support team work out those which should be incorporated into the scheme.

By the end of this process you should have a clear, accurate design plan on paper that everyone is signed up to and which is ready to rock!

In Part 3 of this series I’ll share some thoughts on constructing your School Garden and especially the day you ‘ground break’.

Sources & Further information:

How to grow a School Garden’ – Arden Bucklin-Spooner and Rachel Kathleen Pringle, Timber Press Books

School Gardening Club- ideas

Budding Gardeners- lots of advice and info

Garden planner tool

Planning your school garden

Food & Agriculture Organisation School Garden Planner

California School Garden Network Guide to School Gardening

School Gardening Wizard

Old School Gardener

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