Posts Tagged ‘ gardening ’

Planting Broad Beans Now


As broad beans are frost hardy, it’s easy to grow them through the winter, either outside or under the cover of a garden frame. So I’m giving it a go planting them now. I don’t have an enormous amount of space for them in the rather crowded vegetable bed – so I’m growing a dwarf variety.

MyGardenSchool's Broad Beans

My Broad Beans - Ready to Plant

Broad beans are actually one of the oldest vegetables grown by humans dating back to 6,500 BC, however up until recently broad beans were not grown as a vegetable but as a cattle food. Luckily that is no more, broad beans are such a fantastic tasting vegetable yet they are so incredibly easy to grow.

The seeds are large, they germinate fast, no special care or attention is required, they’re quickly ready for harvesting and a very easy vegetable to grow. You should dig the spot where you plan to grow broad beans incorporating well rotted manure or compost while digging. The spot should be in a sunny location in soil that is free draining. They will grow well in most soil types but for a larger crop better conditions are required.

Sow seeds 8 inches apart in rows that are twelve inches apart. You may wish to sow some extra seeds in a seedbed or containers indoors to fill the gaps where the seeds do not germinate successfully.

I’ll report back on how we get on with ours – maybe with a timelapse video so you can see how they’re fairing.

Happy Halloween! Check out this Pumpkin vid


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We like this pumpkin chaos. Frantic lesson in how to carve a pumpkin.

Pumpkin Carving 101
Depending on your local weather conditions during the month of October, an un-treated, carved pumpkin can have a life span any were of from a week to only a day.

The best way to make a carved pumpkin last longer is to slow down the dehydration process and deter the on-set of mold. When pumpkins shrivel up, it’s because they have lost moisture.

You can sometimes restore them back to their original condition by soaking them in water overnight.

One technique is to coat all cut surfaces of the pumpkin with Vaseline immediately after they have been carved. This includes a light coating of the entire inside of the pumpkin. If you can’t do the whole inside, at least try to coat the design that you’ve cut into the pumpkin.

The Vaseline acts as a barrier to seal in the pumpkins internal moisture to help slow down the dehydration process of the pumpkin. You can use a finger to coat the eyes, nose and mouth but you may want to use a paper towel with Vasoline on it to coat the inside. It’s less messy that way.

Because of the amount of pumpkins we carve for Halloween, we usually carve most, if not all the pumpkins one or two days before Halloween. Because temperature, particularly heat, it is important to move the pumpkins to a dry, shaded area during the day. This will help to extend there life. If you have a spare refrigerator, you can empty it out and keep them in it over night to slow down decomposition.

Top Ten Garden Tasks for Autumn


The Abbey Gardens, Dorchester

1. Tidy up!

Autumn is a great time for those who love wielding the clippers – all that summer growth will need a trim back now to keep the garden tidy. But many off-cuts will strike well in the humidity right now so think about planting some of your cuttings out into pots.

2. Dig out the debris

Remove plant debris and diseased leaves from flowers and vegetable patches. Dig up the annuals – plants that last only a season – and put them on the compost heap. Flowering perennials – plants that spring up year after year from their roots – should be cut back. Remove yellowing or dead leaves or flowers before rot develops and remove any weeds hidden under the plant foliage.

3. Start composting

Winter gives cuttings and leaves a chance to break down and produce nutrient-rich compost, which will be ready for boosting the garden in the new year. Now is also a really good time to turn your compost heap. It will heat up nicely and then gently rot over winter.

4. Embrace autumn colour

Deciduous trees, such as acers, will provide lovely autumn colours from foliage, bark and berries. Autumn flowers such as crocus and amaryllis add colour, too. Cyclamens come in white and a range of pink shades with glossy green leaves, and add a welcome dash of vibrancy.

5. Plant for the future

This is a good time of year to plant spring bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, and new perennials – the soil is still warm but moisture levels are increasing. There is still time for plants to establish themselves before the real cold sets in. This is also a good time of year to plant or move shrubs and trees to allow them to anchor down before the growing season. Reflect on what was and was not successful in this year’s planting scheme so that you can adapt your plans for next year.

6. Venture into the interior

Ventilate conservatories during the remaining warmer days to prevent soaring temperatures, but reduce ventilation once the cooler, windy autumn weather sets in. Use shading paint or blinds to help to keep them cool. However, as light levels fall, reduce the shading as well as the watering of any houseplants.

7. Love your lawn

For a lovely lawn next spring, start to mow less frequently and raise the height of the grass as the growth rate slows down. Scarify your lawn by raking out dead grass and moss that has built up over the summer. Follow this with applying an high-potassium autumn lawn feed, which will release the correct balance of nutrients throughout the winter.

8. Cover up the furniture

When there is no more need for garden furniture, store it in the shed or garage to protect it from the winter weather and allow it to dry out. If you can’t do this, cover it with a tough waterproof sheet securely fixed down, taking care to allow plenty of air to circulate so that the furniture is not damp all winter. Wooden items, such as benches or pergolas, may benefit from a treatment of chemical preservative.

9. Give wildlife a hand

Encourage birds into the garden by providing extra food. Place the feeder near a tall shrub, fence or mature tree to provide protection from predators. Plant berry-bearing plants for an extra source of food for birds and other wildlife. Firethorn, rowan and holly plants are recommended.

10. Protect your pond

Cover your pond with a net to stop falling leaves polluting the water, but make sure you clean it regularly to prevent the net from sinking into the pond. If it contains fish ensure that they can continue to breathe by preventing the water from freezing. Make sure the pond is at least 8ft deep because fish live in the deepest levels during the winter months.

Quirky gardening vid.


Gardyn
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At MyGardenSchool, as well as being the hotspot for learning everything about gardening online, we love to spot gardening related quirkiness. This one is nice. This is the creation of a chap called Pogo. You might (or might not!) remember Pogo from his video’s such as Alice or Upular, where he takes old Disney movies and creates songs from samples he takes. Not sure the middle of the music/gardening venn diagram is awfully well trafficked – so to the two of you who know what I’m on about – hoorah! To the rest of you, just feel all warm inside in the knowledge that gardens are inspiring places to make tunes! This is a music video where a guy has shot footage and taken sounds from his mother’s garden and used her voice to create this eclectic video called ‘Gardyn’.

What’s happening to our conker trees? The dying out of the horsechestnuts..


Has anyone noticed that all our conker trees are dying?  They are brown and crispy and aren’t producing the fat juicy conkers they used to when we were children.  A blight on the scale of Dutch Elm disease (responsible for annihilating the elm population of the UK in the 70s), has been devastating our horsechestnuts over the last few years.   And no-one seems to have a cure for it.   Will our future generations have to go without conkers and not benefit from the beauty of these majestic trees?

What’s happening is the trees are under threat from a lethal combination of pests, diseases and unfavourable climatic conditions attacking them simultaneously.  The leaf miner moth (Cameraria ohridella) and the fungus (Guignardia aesculi).  Not to mention the effects of drought.  And now there is another, greater threat to these stately trees – namely Bleeding Canker.

The first symptom is often an area of bark where a yellow / brown / red liquid seeps out. In the spring, this coloured fluid is usually transparent but in warmer weather it may become cloudy. When it is dry and hot, the flow may dry up – leaving a dark crust on the bark. However, the bleeding may start up again in the autumn. These observations have lead to the suggestion that the pathogen is most active when conditions are mild and moist (i.e. in spring and autumn).

Where the pathogen has been active, bark, cambial tissue and the phloem (the sugar conducting tissue) are destroyed. If this damage spreads around the trunk then more general effects will be seen, namely yellowing of the leaves, early leaf fall, failure to set fruit (no conkers!) and damage to the crown of the tree; branches may be weakened and fall.

Dr Jean Webber, the Principal Pathologist at Forest Research, the scientific arm of the Forestry Commission, said that bleeding canker has been spreading quickly across Britain since 2001, having been confined to the south of England since the 1960s.

She said Forest Research believes its increased prevalence has been caused by a newly detected Indian-born bacterium, Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi, replacing Phytophthora, a plant-destroying fungus, as its main cause. This may have been aided by mild winters and wet springs in recent years.

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Dr Webber said: “There’s nothing much you can do about it if your tree displays the symptoms. Our advice is: if you can do, leave the trees well alone, unless they become so damaged that they create a safety hazard.  “Disturbing the trees, by pruning them or making other attempts to clear the infection, may result in the bacteria being spread even further.”

It’s both sad and surprising how little publicity there has been about the plight of the horse chestnuts.  I hope something can be done so future generations get to enjoy these majestic trees and their beautiful conkers.  Once you become aware of it – you’ll be surprised at how many horse chestnuts there are in the UK – most British villages and parks would have a significantly different  look and feel if we imagine a world without them.

Natural Pest Control – LadyBird Love!


Did you know the collective noun for a group of ladybirds is a ‘Loveliness’!?   Quite appropriate I think.    Though we just tend to think of our little friendly orange ones with black spots in the UK – the ‘7 spots’, there are others too joining us, which aren’t so friendly.  So you need to be sure to get the right chaps if you’re using them as natural pest control.

Ladybirds belong to the scientific family Coccinellidae. In Britain, some 46 species belong to this family, although only 26 of these are recognisably ladybirds.The invasion of the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) threatens our native populations. (If you want to know more about this species in particular, or want to record sightings, take a look at the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website.)

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Leaving aside whether or not ladybirds are good or bad, there is no arguing that they are pretty little insects, and bring a sense of magic and fun when you come across them.   There is quite a variance in colour amongst the small beasties, ranging from an ‘orange’ ladybird, Halyzia sedecimguttata, and several other pale pinky ones.

Also worth noting is that  the common 7-spot and 2-spot ladybirds are pale straw yellow or orange when they emerge from the pupa and change as they grow. It takes hours for the deep red colour to appear and they get darker for several days.  The seven-spot ladybird is the most common in Britain. This bright red ladybird has seven spots and is thought to have inspired the name ladybird: “Lady” referring to the Virgin Mary (Our lady) who in early paintings is seen wearing a red cloak; the seven spots are symbolic of the seven joys and seven sorrows of Mary.

How do I use ladybirds as pest control?

Control Aphids outdoors by releasing Ladybirds and / orLacewing Larvae. Aphids (both greenfly and blackfly) are a big problem in gardens. Ladybirds and lacewings love to eat aphids, but they can be scarce. Help nature by introducing extra ladybirds (available as adults and larvae) and / or lacewing larvae into your garden from May onwards but which should I use?

  • For light infestations on a spread of garden plants simply place adult ladybirds around the garden to search out the pests.
  • For moderate infestations concentrated on a few plants use ladybird larvae placed directly onto the infected plants.
  • For a bit of both use the ladybird family
  • For heavier infestations use lacewing larvae or a gardeners friends pack (a pack of both lacewing larvae and adult ladybirds) placed directly onto the infected plants.

If you would like to buy some ladybirds as a natural pest control – check out www.greengardener.co.uk where you can buy a ladybird breeding kit!

A Magic Moss Garden


A beautiful bowl of moss.  But how is it surviving in this hot weather?

Well it’s surviving because it’s Scleranthus not moss!  A beautiful green substitute that looks great spilling over in tubs or bowls.

Scleranthus is a small genus in the Caryophyllaceae family, a family that includes the exotic Carnations. Of the ten known species of Scleranthus, four are endemic to eastern Australia, the remainder native to Europe, Africa and Asia.


Scleranthus biflorus
is widely distributed in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and New Zealand, from the coast to alpine areas.

distribution map