Gardening

Plant for summer colour now – and a special treat for you!

Nasturtiums Running Riot

All the wonderful weather we have experienced recently has meant we have been able to eat out in the garden almost every night – a rarity in England!

My after-dinner ‘treat’ is to look through my gardening books pondering what to plant.

Today, I’m off to a local plant fair to purchase some colourful bedding plants, and one of the definites on my list is nasturtiums – they are the easiest and prettiest little flowers and not only do they bring a riot of colour to the garden, they also brighten up your salad!

In this little project from our book Seasonal Garden Ideas, we show you how to plant herbs with nasturtiums for a mass of colour.

Enjoy the bank holiday everyone!

 


 

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Nasturtiums Running Riot

In this combination a permanent shrubby perennial – catmint – is planted with a foreground of brightly coloured annual nasturtiums. The two together make an interesting summer partnership.

Plant the catmint in autumn or mid spring and the nasturtiums in late spring. Both will flower in summer. The time it takes to plant the nasturtiums depends on the size of bed or border you have got.

 

What you need

Plants
Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’)
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus varieties).

Equipment
Fork, spade and trowel.

 

Instructions

1 The catmint is a permanent planting, so needs to go in first. Neither it nor the nasturtium require rich soil – but they do both like a sunny site. Dig over the planting area, removing weeds, roots and stones.

2 One catmint can reach a height and spread of 90cm (3ft) or more, so allow it plenty of room. Dig a hole large enough to take the rootball comfortably, set the plant in and firm up. Fill in with more soil and firm in again. Water well.

3 Buy the nasturtiums as bedding strips and plant them as close together as you can for best effect – no more than 15cm (6in) apart. Plant them all around the catmint to form a colourful carpet – they will reach about 30cm (12in) in height. Water in well.

Tip
Nasturtiums flower best on poor sandy soils – if the ground is too rich they will produce leaf at the expense of flowers. Incorporate some sharp sand or grit into the planting area if you think your soil is too rich or heavy.

Notes
Catmint has been given its common name for a good reason – most cats absolutely love it. This affection can take the form of a few surreptitious nibbles from time to time, through pulling or biting away whole stems to full-scale rolling around all over the plant. Keep an eye on your feline if necessary – or take pity on the poor creature and sew it a little sachet stuffed with fresh or dried catmint to play with.

Aftercare
Watch out for and remove any caterpillars you see on the nasturtium leaves – they can eat the leaves down to skeletons if left. Treat blackfly infestation with a systemic insecticide. Cut away any dead or damaged leaves. Water well in dry weather. Clear away the nasturtiums in autumn and dig over the ground ready for spring planting the following year. The catmint looks after itself for most of the year, but benefits from being cut back almost to ground level in spring.

Project is taken from Seasonal Garden Ideas

 

 

 

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Win £200 to spend in your garden

Win £200 to spend in your garden

WIN a National Garden Centre Voucher worth £200!

It’s May and everything is beginning to bloom. It’s the perfect time to get out in the garden and give it some va va voom! (Apologies for the dubious poetry.)

This week, I have a SUPER
special competition for you.

For a fabulous £200 to spend on plants, tools……. whatever you choose, enter our prize draw to win National Garden Centre Vouchers. Just click below.

Good luck!

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Fragrant garden pot – perfect for foodies

 Bay, Thyme and Lavender

 

This fabulous project, taken from our book Seasonal Garden Ideas smells divine and provides you with fresh herbs year-round.

 

Bay, Thyme & Lavender

Three strongly aromatic plants combine here to make an enticingly scented corner. A  standard bay in a large ceramic pot is circled by a medley of low-growing thymes, with lavender surrounding the base.

Plant in spring.
All of these plants have a year-long presence – bay and thyme are evergreen, while lavender, which flowers in summer, retains its grey leaves throughout winter.

Allow a couple of hours to complete this container and the surrounding bed.


What you need

Plants

  • One bay tree (Laurus nobilis), trained to standard shape and clipped to a ball.
  • Eight thymes (Thymus serpyllum and Thymus citriodorus varieties – here golden leaved, variegated and grey-leaved forms as well as the more usual dark green).
  • Eight lavenders (Lavandula variety, such as ‘Munstead’).

Equipment

  • Large ceramic container (or any other pot large enough to take the bay tree).
  • Soil-based potting compost with added grit or sharp sand for drainage.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Trowel.

Instructions

  1. Position your pot where it is to stand – it will be too heavy to move once planted. Here the pot is surrounded by a narrow bed of lavender which will need about 45cm (18in) of planting space all around the pot.
  2. Line the container with broken crocks for drainage, then half-fill with compost. Check the level of the bay’s rootball by placing it in its original pot on the compost. Adjust the level as necessary to get the rootball to the same depth it was in before, then plant the bay, placing it centrally in the pot. Firm in.
  3. Top up the container with more compost – the thymes will have much shallower rootballs than the bay. Plant the thymes in a circle around the bay, firm in, then top up again with more compost to within 2.5cm (1in) of the rim. Water thoroughly.
  4. Work some of the compost/grit mix into the soil around the pot, then plant the lavenders all round. Water thoroughly.

Tips
If you wish, choose a dry, sunny day and cut some of the lavender flowers when they are at their peak. Leave them to dry in bunches, then use them in a vase or a potpourri, or make little sachets and stuff them with the lavender flowerheads – place in linen drawers or hang in clothes cupboards to keep the clothes smelling fresh and sweet.

Note
Both the bay and the thymes are culinary herbs, so use them freely in your cooking.

Aftercare
All these plants do best in full sun and need light, well-drained soil. Keep the bay in shape by trimming any straggly shoots in summer; remove any frost-damaged leaves/shoots in spring. Remove faded lavender flowers in autumn, then prune in April – but do not cut into old wood. Clip the thyme, removing dead flowerheads and straggly shoots in spring.


 

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5 ways to attract birds to your garden

Garden Bird Feeders

We’re currently trying – and failing – to attract birds to our garden.

One of my children is an avid wildlife fan and was very excited to receive a bird feeder for Christmas.

However, being in a new-build with a garden devoid of plants, we’ve only managed to attract a couple of robins and not much else. Time to consult our trusty Favourite Garden Birds book.

This lovely book is packed full of charming photographs and
illustrations, avian quotes from literature, and fascinating facts
about the birds that could visit your garden.

Its chapter on helping birds should be just what we need to attract feathered friends to our plot.

 


 

And here’s the advice it imparts:

 

1 Provide water

Birds need fresh water more than ever in winter. They must keep their feathers clean if they are to stay warm because dirty feathers do not provide good insulation. If you do not have a pond, provide a bird-bath or wide shallow dish for them to wash in and drink from. Prevent ice from forming by floating a ball on the top, or use hot water to melt the ice each morning.

 

2 Put out food

Some birds are seed-eaters, others insect-eaters and some eat both. Put out a variety of foodstuffs to suit a range of species: bird seed, suet, bacon rind and other cooked meat, live mealworms, grated cheese, apples, pears and bananas.

 

Greenfinch eating peanuts3 In the right place

Some birds prefer to eat from a bird-table, others like pecking at crumbs on the ground, while others like hanging feeders. Make sure that the birds can feed away from prevailing winds and from predators. The best site is out in the open but near to a bush or tree so that they can hide, if needs be. Make sure you clean where they feed on a regular basis.

 

4 Plant for wild winter fare

There are several plants and trees that will give birds food from autumn to spring; just be sure to leave seed-heads on and any windfalls lying beneath the trees. Include some of these in your planting scheme: apple, beech, cotoneaster, hawthorn, holly, ivy, nigella, pear and viburnum.

 

5 Give them a place to nest

If you do not have suitable trees and shrubs in your garden consider a nest box. Fix it facing north so that it won’t become too hot in the summer. You could also put out nesting material, such as wool to give busy parents a head start. Clean thoroughly at the end of each nesting season.

 


 

Favourite Garden BirdsFor MUCH more information on birds, you can purchase Favourite Garden Birds from our online shop for just £7.99.

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Plant now for a glorious spring display

Plants bulbs now for a spring display

Plant now for a gorgeous flowering display in spring

Not only does our lovely 2018 Dairy Diary give you 56 fabulous recipes, but it also is packed with interesting articles, such as Blooming Bulbs, which gives lots of tips on flowering bulbs.

And it’s now time to plant for a gorgeous flowering display in spring. There is a myriad of stunning blooms to choose from including crocuses, narcissi, grape hyacinths (my favourite!), tulips, anemones, dog’s tooth violets and lily-of-the-valley.

In general, bulbs don’t take too much effort
to plant but the results can be spectacular,
providing a welcome ‘surprise’ in spring.

Planting

Planting spring bulbsIn the ground:
Prepare a hole, or a trench if you’re mass planting, to a depth of two or three times the height of the bulbs (three or four times for tulips – always the odd ones out!). Sit each one on its rough underside, so that the narrow end points upwards (a dip or buds for corms, which are flatter than true bulbs). Space them at least an extra bulb’s width apart. For tubers and rhizomes, it’s fine to lay them sideways. Replace the soil and gently firm down.

In containers:
The RHS recommends three parts John Innes No.2 to one part grit if you plan to leave the bulbs in situ for more than one season. Otherwise, using multi-purpose compost instead of John Innes is fine. Put some broken crocks or stones at the bottom of the pot to aid drainage and plant as before, but not quite so widely spaced. Water regularly.

Planting snowdropsIn grass:
Scatter handfuls of bulbs around the area and plant them where they land, either individually or in groups, replacing soil and grass clumps when you have excavated the hole and popped in the bulbs. To save time and too much hard work, you could invest in a bulb planter, a tool specially designed for the job. Several kinds are available, including ones with long handles. It’s best not to cut the grass until the bulbs’ leaves have died back, several weeks after flowering, so this may dictate where you want to cultivate the natural look.

Squirrels love bulbs!
They seem to be especially fond of crocuses and tulips, so if this is likely to be a problem, try netting the area or spreading some sharp gravel on the surface. Failing that, they are, apparently, not too keen on chilli flakes, so you could try sprinkling some of that around.

 

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#springbulbs

Make mowing a breeze! How-to-do brick border edging

Brick Border Edging

Brick Border Edging

One of the projects that I (when I say I, I actually mean my far more practical other half) want to tackle this summer is the edge between the lawn and the borders. 

Our strimmer seems to run out of strimming
line roughly every two minutes and I end up
on my hands and knees using our blunt garden
shears to hack at the edge of the lawn.

With sunken bricks, you can just mow straight over them and the borders look tidy and stay contained. Overall, this gives a really neat finish to the garden.

 


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Instructions

You can put in brick edging at any time of year, but it’s better to choose a dry day for it.

The time it takes will depend on the length of run.

Equipment

  • Engineering bricks.
  • Sand.
  • Ready-mixed mortar.
  • Spade and bricklayer’s trowel.
  • Watering can or bucket for water.
  • Wheelbarrow or board for mixing mortar.

1 The bricks can be laid on a 12.5cm (5in) footing of sand. Assuming your bricks are 7.5cm (3in) thick, you need to dig a trench 20cm (8in) deep. Start by digging the trench along the full length of the border, making it slightly wider than the length of brick you are using.

2 Line the entire length of the trench with a 12.5cm (5in) deep layer of sand, tamping it down very firmly.

3 Make up the mortar according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using either a wheelbarrow or a board for mixing. Lay a stretch of mortar on the sand at the start of the trench and set the first bricks into it, mortaring neatly between each brick.

4 Continue in this way for the length of the trench, allowing for any curvature along the way by inserting a slightly wider band of mortar between the bricks on the lawn side of the edging. The brick edging should be flush with the grass edge or very slightly below it.

5 Leave the mortar to dry and set before running a mower across the edging.

Tip
Check that all the bricks you use are sound and whole – the wheels of a mower going over them can give quite a battering, which will soon destroy a damaged brick.

Notes
If you prefer you can use concrete instead of sand for the footing – it will be even stronger. Use ready-mixed concrete and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for its use.

Aftercare
Lever up and replace any cracked or broken bricks as soon as you can after spotting them. Once there is a break in one brick, those adjacent to it will also start to crumble and disintegrate. Brush dirt, leaves and debris off the brick edging to keep it looking good.

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