Home and Garden

Your Garden in May - by John Dunster

As I am writing this we are having our first rainfall since late March. The succession of frosts in April has caused a certain amount of damage to some plants that had responded to the warmer weather earlier by putting on new growth. Camelias and Magnolias have been especially beautiful this year, but were, unfortunately, scorched by the frost and many did not recover. It was also a reminder to us not to cut off the seed heads from Hydrangeas too early as they offer the developing flowering shoots protection from the frost. There has been one bonus however, because of the colder spell, spring bulbs have stayed in bloom much longer that usual.

To maintain the shape and promote new growth lower down now is the time to prune spring flowering shrubs after they have finished flowering. Spirea once it has finished flowering cut the tallest, oldest shoots to the base. Forsythia is a vigorous shrrub and can soon become unmanageable. Simply prune after the last flowers have faded, cutting out the oldest flowered stems aeach year to encourage strong new shoots from the base. Other spring flowering shrubs that can be treated this way are Deutzia, Flowering Currant, Philadelphus and Weigela.

Keep an eye on any shoots that may need tying in to their supports. Clematis Montana which are in bloom at the moment should be pruned when the flowers have faded as next years flowers will be formed on growth produced this year. These can be reduced by up to half or alternatively remove one in three stems down to 6-9in. Always water after pruning.

Prune Lilac when the flowers are over by removing 20% of growth, start by cutting back all the spent blossoms, remove any crossing branches and suckers from the base.

Greenhouse Shading
In summer. Sunlight shining into the greenhouse can create a dramatic build up of heat. Shading will help to keep the temperature down, this can be done in various ways. Integral blinds are most efficient but can be very costly, shade netting is an alternative but shade paint is the cheapest form of shading and works well.

Pants in pots need more attention than those in borders particularly for watering and feeding. Use a deep pot and choose a loam based compost making wure you can get to the container easily for watering each day and feeding once a week.

Plant Supports
Now is the time to stake and support plants before they need rescuing, when they never really fully recover. So it is important to check your borders from Mid- May and put in supports for all the plants that will need it over the coming weeks and months. Various metal supports are available as well as using canes (which may become unsightly) or hazel twigs.

Bulbs in Containers
If you wish to save bulbs that have been grown in containers for next year, keep the foliage watered and feed with a liquid fertiliser. When the foliage has died down tip them out, dry them off and store them for replanting again in the autumn. It is also important to label them.

By early May the soil should be warm enough to make sowings of beetroot, radish, carrots and parsnips. Runner beans and dwarf beans can be planted outdoors by the middle of the month otherwise they can be grown indoors for planting out later in the month hopefully after any late frost. On warm dry days keep on top of the weeding using a dutch hoe, cutting off weed seedlings just below the surface. Keep rhubarb well watered to prolong cropping.

Your Garden in April - by John Dunster

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Remove spent blooms from daffodils, so preventing them producing seed heads and give them a feed of liquid fertiliser or blood, fish and bone. Leave the foliage to die down naturally for at least six weeks, don't forget to water any bulbs you may have in containers.

Every few years hostas in containers need dividing and reinvigorating, also providing new plants at the same time. Take the plant out of the pot and cut into segments with a sharp knife or spade. Discard the woody centre and replant the remaining segments in a mixture of multi purpose compost and John Innes No3. Water them well and they will quickly establish into large plants.

Basal Cuttings
Cut away the strongest outer new leafy shoots of herbaceous clumps of phlox, delphiniums, lupins and campanulas to make cuttings for new plants. Press a knife into the soil where the shoot emerges and check they have a solid fleshy base. Prepare each cutting by trimming the bottom and snipping off the lower leaves. Firm the cuttings in around the edge of a pot, water and leave to root in a frame or sheltered spot.

Summer Flowering Bulbs
Plant summer flowering bulbs for example alliums, gladioli, oriental lilies, crocosmia and galtonias. Before planting check for the specific conditions they need, most like free draining soil and plenty of sun, planting depths will vary. Add a layer of grit to the surface to mark their position which will also help to repel attack from slugs and snails.

Rosemary (The plant)
Keep rosemary in good shape by lightly pruning from the start. Shorten last year's growth by two thirds and cut back short any that are ruining the shape of the plant. Pruning encourages the formation of new shoots as well as stimulating flowering shoots that will attract bees and other pollinating insects.

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Sowing Outdoors
When the soil has warmed by in mid April it will be time to make sowings of beetroot, carrots parsnips and lettuce. Parsnips can be difficult to germinate, so always use fresh seed and sow in clusters in the rows.

Keep an eye open for the larva of sawfly on currants and gooseberries. You can either remove them by hand or cut off leaves affected by colonies and destroy them.

Container Plants
Compost in containers loses its structure over time causing the plant to lose its vigour. Fast growing and newly established plants need repotting at least every one to three years, while mature trees and shrubs can grow well in the same pot for several years if well cared for. To get the best results in pots repot in early spring, select a pot just one or two sizes larger. Tease out compacted roots, cutting thick ones back by around one third. Use fresh compost when refilling, ideally a soil based compost with added grit. Plant at the same depth as before leaving o space at the top to allow for watering. With larger plants where repotting is no longer practical scrape away some of the top soil and replenish with a top dressing of fresh compost and controlled release fertiliser.

Plant Potatoes
Dig out a trench deep enough to cover the top of your tubers with at least 3" or 4" of soil. Sprinkle some general fertiliser along the base of the trench then stand the tubers 12" apart for earlies and 16" for maincrop, with rows 30" apart. Rake the soil back over the trench and when the leaves appear rake over more soil for protection against frost before finally earthing up.

Your Garden in March - by John Dunster

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Keep your daffodils flowering year after year by not allowing them to dry out especially those in containers. Next year's flower buds are already forming inside the bulb so it is important to keep the soil moist for at least six weeks after flowering also apply a high potassium feed such as tomato feed. Remove dead flower heads to prevent them using up energy producing seeds and allow the foliage to die down naturally, never tie the leaves up. If the bulbs are growing in grass delay mowing until June. It is helpful now the foliage has died back in the borders to mark or take photographs of empty spaces where bulbs can be planted for next year.

Herbaceous Perennials
Dividing perennials regularly every four to six years will ensure healthy vigorous plants. Divide summers flowering plants such as Hemerocallis, Geraniums, Hostas, Helianthus, Delphiniums, Agapanthus and Rudbeckii that have become congested but leave spring and early flowering plants until August or September. Lift the root ball and ,depending on the type of plant, divide fibrous rooted varieties pulling apart by hand, others may be divided by placing two forks back to back and prising apart or cutting up using a spade. Replant the divisions as soon as possible to the same depth in the soil and keep well watered. Any left over divisions can be potted up to produce new plants.

You can make more dahlia plants by encouraging the tubers to shoot and then take basal cuttings. Each dahlia tuber can produce up to five new plants all you need is somewhere bright and warm to keep the cuttings before the last frosts have passed. Firstly cover the base of a seed tray with multi purpose compost and place the tubers into the seed tray packing more compost around, but leaving the crown exposed. Thoroughly water the compost and place the tray in a propagator or somewhere bright and warm. When the new shoots reach about 4" long take cuttings using a sharp knife cutting as close as possible where the shoot emerges from the tuber. Remove the lower leaves so there is just one pair at the top, dip the base in rooting compound and insert into small pots or cell trays of multi purpose compost, water the cuttings thoroughly and place in a heated propagator or cover each pot with a polythene bag. Keep the cuttings moist and they should root in about two weeks. Plant out after the last of the frosts have passed. These will flower by mid July or early August, and by then have produced new tubers.

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Summer Flowering Bulbs
From Lilies to Gladioli summer flowering bulbs can add flair to a border or containers. As the majority of summer flowering bulbs(this also includes tubers, rhizomes and corms) come from sub-tropical climes they need sun, warmth and well drained soil. They can be planted in containers using loamy compost with added grit to improve drainage. Apply a high potash feed when flower buds begin to form. Here are a few suggestions you may like to try:- Ixiass, Galtonias, Crocosmias, Pineapple Lilies, Lilies of all types,and Gladioli (smaller varieties include the Nanus Group)

Vegetable Garden
Plant out broad beans and shallots that have been raised in modules or pots. Tidy up strawberry plants by removing dead and damaged or diseased leaves and old runners. When the soil has warmed up enough, this may not be until late March or early April, sow Brussel sprouts, carrots, parsnips, peas and salad crops. Wait a little longer before sowing beetroot or raise plants under glass for planting out later.

Now is the time to wash the glass in the greenhouse be starting to plant up. If you have an electricity supply to your greenhouse a heated propagator can be an advantage for speeding up germination and rooting cuttings. A ventilated cover is useful for a good airflow. The cover does reduce light getting to the plants, which is useful for cuttings, but seedlings must be moved into light as soon as possible after germination.

Your Garden in February - by John Dunster

Start off potatoes by chitting to encourage them to produce strong shoots before planting. Simply lay out the seed potatoes in an egg box or seed tray and put them somewhere light and frost free. The result will be for them to produce healthy knobbly, purple and dark green shoots, which will help to get them off to a good start when planted. If the seed potatoes are not exposed to the light they will produce long straggly shoots and the tubers will start to shrivel, this will result in a poorer crop.

Other Vegetables
Buddleia-pruning-2-.jpg - 14.4 KB Although it is too early for planting into the garden some vegetables will benefit from being started off indoors this month. Shallots and Onion Sets can be planted in modules or individual pots; Broad Beans can also be started off in modules or root trainers. By using root trainers they will produce a strong root system and suffer less disturbance when planting out. You can also sow Tomatoes this month but will need the additional warmth of a heated propagator.

For now with many plants leafless it's the ideal time to take stock of the shape of shrubs, climbers and trees and do some essential pruning before growth starts. Always use sharp secateurs and take a cut near but not too close to a dormant bud. Keep Buddleia Davidii in check by cutting all stems down to 20cm high. Cut back bush roses by thinning out shoots and pruning the rest back to three buds rom the base. If you have not already given Wisteria a second prune in January do so now by reducing all side shoots to three buds. Dogwoods which are grown for their colourful winter stems need pruning to just above ground level to stimulate a flush of new stems for colour next winter. I tend to leave 20% of the previous year's shorter growth rather than cutting back all the plant. Prune Clematis now before new growth gets tangled up in the old. Late flowering Clematis produce flowers on growth made this year, so all of last year's growth can be cut down completely, this group includes herbaceous clematis and viticellas. Group 2 clematis produce flowers in early summer and these need reducing to a strong pair of buds. They can also be cut back by half after flowering to encourage a second flush of blooms. Early and winter flowering varieties are classified as Group 1 and should be pruned after flowering by removing about a third of the oldest wood Before spring growth gets under way tidy up overwintering Fuchsias. Cut back old growth to ground level and transplant container grown plants into larger pots.
There are certain plants which should not be pruned now and these are any spring flowering shrubs, pruning now would remove the flowering shoots. These should be pruned after flowering has taken place

Updating your Garden - by Cathy Marjoram

It is time, I fear, to bid a temporary goodbye to my wild flower patch, in favour of extending my vegetable growing space. I have watched patiently as this carefully planted wild flower area has reliably yielded only the things I thought I'd dug out, with barely a whiff of plants coming true from my carefully harvested seeds or my indulgently shop bought ones. Wild flower meadows will have to remain a pipe dream for a few more years yet. They are, it seems, quite a tricky thing to cultivate, and harder still to entice back the following year.

With covid raging and the invisible wall of Brexit both threatening to head off our fresh fruit and vegetable supplies for the foreseeable future, I think it falls to those of us lucky enough to have gardens to make the most of them, allowing the fresh produce which does manage to come in, to be available to those who have not. Do not fear though that there will be any lack of wild flowers in my garden for the insects and birds. Mine is a very...relaxed garden, with everything growing everywhere...just not where I intended it to be!!

This laisez faire approach is not really conducive to productive vegetable growing either, I find. I am too soft hearted when it come to hoiking out what some might call 'weeds'. Aaaah a yarrow has found its way into my rocket patch, and some corn cockle and plantain... how lovely - I'll just leave them there. Surely this little nasturtium will do no harm..I mean five nasturtiums?! I have discovered over the past couple of years that the soil in my vegetable patch is made up of approximately 20% nasturtium seeds... a companion plant... or an invasion?!?

Doing vegetables successfully will mean being way stricter with myself... I have done it in the past, but by no means reliably. This year I really must get a bit more grown up about it.

The things I really need to do - pretty much starting now are these.. Finish weeding(!!). Find a good source for seeds... perhaps some heirloom ones for a change, as it means they should come true for next year's crop as well... and get some compost in quantity to feed my original and my new beds. I have been recommended getting some from the mushroom farm in Lower Langford via Woodland horticulture, if I can work out a way of getting a lorry load down our rather unforgivingly narrow road. A few years ago when I started to do no dig, my brother and I trekked down to get some from Viridor (where all our collected green waste goes), with a large trailer complete with hard hats and a flashing beacon for the roof... not something most people have access to I know, though they do deliver large quantities if you need so much. Although it was good and the vegetables did eventually grow well, I found it soon dried out with the hot weather and easily blew away. I had to water it a lot to stop my seedlings from dying. The compost is made at incredibly high temperatures. Big bulldozers work tirelessly shoving the steaming piles of stuff about, presumably partly to stop them from catching fire..it looks like a post-apocalyptic film set.

I'm hoping the mushroom compost might be rather more moisture retentive, but I've a feeling as well as my 'wild flowers' and annual 'companion plants' I may also, if I'm lucky, have some other uninvited mushroom guests into the mix...

Your Garden in January - by John Dunster

Seed Sowing
From mid January onwards is a good time to start planting seeds, these can be anything from vegetables to annual or perennial flowers. Whatever seeds you are sowing they will all need a good quality peat free multi- purpose or loam based compost, light, water heat and air. Always sow seeds thinly, as tightly packed seedlings are more susceptible to damping off. Fill your pots or trays with compost and tap them on your bench to settle the compost and firm gently with a presser board. The surface should end up just below the rim. Scatter the seeds on the surface and cover with a layer of fine grit. The best way to water is from below, stand the pots or trays in a shallow container of water until the surface becomes damp, then allow to drain. Place them in a bright well ventilated spot, a heated propagator will speed up germination, most seeds need a temperature of between 20degrees centigrade to 25 degrees centigrade to germinate. Once seedlings have their first true leaves prick them out into modules, always handle them by their leaves not the stem.

Sweet Peppers and Chillies need a long growing season so seeds should be sown in mid January, they will require a temperature of between 18 and 25 degrees centigrade to germinate which will take up to 10days. After germination they will need to be grown on in a warm greenhouse or windowsill. Prick them out into individual pots when the first true leaves appear which could take up to a month after germination.

Other vegetables that can be started off in the greenhouse during January are . Onion seeds and broad beans can be sown in root trainers and shallots in individual 9cm or 10cm pots.

Other jobs to do now
Cut back wisteria, start by removing any whippy growth, select and tie in branches that you need to make a framework and finally trim back all laterals to just two buds Remove last year's foliage from hellebores to reveal blooms to their best advantage and also control the spread of leaf spot.

If you have left the seed heads of perennials in the herbaceous borders over winter these may need cutting back now to reveal any bulbs which may be coming through, also at the same time tidy up the edges of the lawn.

Store seed potatoes in a light frost free environment, start chitting these towards the end of the month by placing them in egg cartons where they will produce short sturdy dark green shoots.

Early flowering camellias may need protection during frosty weather. The damage occurs where sun hits the frozen blooms first thing in the morning, so give them protection during frosty weather by covering the opening flowers with a piece of horticultural fleece.

Your Garden in December - by John Dunster

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There is a lot more to holly than a sprig on a Christmas card. There are hundreds of varieties with colourful foliage and not only red but orange and yellow berries. Most hollies have male and female flowers on different plants, so you need both to produce berries, however the variety 'Golden King' is only female and 'Silver Queen' is only male. We think of hollies as being evergreen but there are a few like Ilex verticillata which are deciduous. Another variety Ilex crenata 'convexa' has black fruits and is often used as a replacement for box. The variety Ilex aquilfolium 'ferox argentea' has white-edged green leaves and purple stems but no berries.

Hollies are happy in sun or shade and will grow well in almost any soil that isn't waterlogged or parched. They can be left to grow unchecked or pruned in late winter to restrict their growth.

Plant names
Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century was responsible for the system of naming plants. Each plant had a first name (the genus) and a second name (the specific epithet) which informs us of the plants use or where it grew. Take for example pulmonaria officinalis , this was named because the plant supposedly resembled lungs ( pulmonis is the Latin for lungs) and officinalis means it was used in medicine. The garden pea pisum saturum, saturum signifies it was grown for food. Any plant with foetidus in its name tells us that the plant has a nasty smell for example helleborus foetidus and iris foetidissima (stinking iris). Each genus also belongs to a family, aquilegias, buttercups, clematis, aconites and marsh mallows all belong to the family ranunculacae.

More sophisticated methods of plant identification have led to some plants being renamed, another reason being that the correct original name has been changed to what we have become to know, but this has now been changed back. An example of this some chrysanthemums were reclassified into dendranthema, but this change became so unpopular it was changed back. Some other examples of name changes are sedums which are now divided into rhodiola and hylotelephium. The bulbs we have always known as acidanthra are now gladiolus murielae; dicentra spectabilis is now lamprocapnos; schizostylis has changed to hesperantha; asters (some of which are known to us as Michaelmas daisies) are now divided into aster (Eurasian types), eurybia (North American, summer-flowering types), felicia (African/Arabian types), symphyotrichum (North American autumn-flowering types.

Caring for Hellebores and Poinsettia
Cut back the foliage from hellebore towards the end of the month. This will help to control hellebore leaf spot disease and also prevent the being obstructed. New foliage will emerge after flowering.

Poinsettias are one of the most favourite Christmas house plants but keeping them healthy does require certain care. When selecting a plant avoid one that has lost leaves or are turning yellow, also avoid any plants that have been displayed in the open air. When transporting the plant protect it from chills and damage. Poinsettias only need watering when the surface of the compost feels dry, wilting can be a sign of over watering. Position the plant where it has plenty of light and is away from draughts and direct heat. It will be happy in room temperature above (55F) 13C. Keep a look out for whitefly and thrips.

Best wishes for an enjoyable Christmas, while keeping safe, and a better year in 2021

Your Garden in November - by John Dunster

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Shrubs for Autumn Colour
Many shrubs not only provide colourful foliage and berries in autumn but also have blossom in the spring.

Fothergilla major Monticola group In spring there are fluffy, spherical catkins while in autumn the round hazel like leaves change to red, orange and amber height and spread 1.5m x 1.5m

Acer palmatum osakazuki This has the best colour of all the Japanese Acers, slowly turning from rich green to brilliant scarlet. Height and spread 4m x 4m Hydrangea quercifolia (Oak Leaved Hydrangea) has creamy white flowers in late summer with large oak shaped leaves producing russets, reds and oranges in autumn. Height and Spread 1.5m x 2.5m

Cotinus Grace (Smoke Bush) has large bronze-purple leaves throughout summer turning to red in autumn. In some years it will also produce heads of 'smoky' flowers. Height and Spread 8m x 4m

Viburnum Opulus (Water Elder) makes heads of white flowers in late spring followed by translucent red berries and finally deep crimson leaves. Height and Spread 4m x 4m

Cornus Sanquinea (Dogwood) The attraction of this plant is the bright red twigs in winter. Hard prune in the spring. Height and Spread 2.5m x 2.5m.

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Euonymus (Spindle Tree) The neon pink fruits of this plant split to reveal orange seeds that stay in place for weeks while the leaves turn red.

Pyracanthus (Fiery Cascade) bears good crops of red berries. Orange Glow scarlet tinted orange berries and Coccinea 'Red Cushion' bright orange red berries low growing and is useful at the base of walls. Although most pyacanthus will grow to 4m they can be contained by pruning, they are also useful for growing against walls and the berries are loved by blackbirds, thrushes and fieldfares.

Cotoneaster. Many cotoneasters are evergreen (Frigidus) tree like, if carefully trained with clusters of red berries there are also various selections and hybrids with red, cream and yellow fruit such as Cotoneaster 'Saint Monica' with red fruit hanging in huge bunches.

Planting Tulips
November is the best time to plant tulips, to reduce the risk of tulip disease. In borders and containers plant at a depth of at least three times the height of the bulb and deeper if possible. For planting in containers use an equal mixture of multi- purpose compost and John Innes No.2. Cover with compost and place in its flowering position and water.

Your Garden in October - by John Dunster

While we associate Autumn with bulb planting it is also a good time, while the soil is damp and still warm to plant for next year and also move plants that may be in the wrong place. It does require a certain of technique however and here are some helpful tips to hopefully guarantee success.

Although Autumn is an ideal time to plant there are some exceptions, exotics and frost tender plants, for instance, are best left until the spring.

When buying plants make sure they are healthy and not severely pot bound. Any roots protruding through the drain holes should be fibrous, white and fresh looking not woody. Not only will it save money buying smaller plants but generally speaking they will establish more easily.

Plant into well cultivated soil, compacted soil will need digging over. For trees dig a square hole three times the width but the same depth as the pot. Loosen the base of the soil but do not add any organic matter, keep it for mulching the surface.

You can speed up establishment of the roots by adding mycorrhizal fungi to the root ball.

Teasing out the roots of the plants that have become pot bound by either rubbing over the rootball with your hand or raking over the edges with a hand fork will help root development.

If there is a chance, when planting trees, they will suffer wind rock support them with a stake at an angle of 45 degrees and placed to allow the stem to flex in the wind but the rootball to stay stable.

Planting at the correct depth is essential as this can vary depending on the type of plant. With woody plants these should be planted at a depth where the first roots emerge from the stem, however clematis for instance should be planted deeper than they are in the container. The rule of thumb for planting bulbs is 2-3 times the depth of the bulb, but bulbs such as Crown Imperial need at least 30cm depth.

After planting trees or shrubs apply a layer of mulch to seal in the moisture and provide nutrients, keeping it away from the stem of the tree.

Never plant dry root balls, before planting any potted plant dunk it in a bucket of water for at least 10 minutes. Water after planting and during dry periods.

Your Garden in September - by John Dunster

The following long flowering perennials are well worth considering and will flower for two months or more up until October.

These are wonderful for adding late flowers to the border or in containers. Hardy varieties can be left in the ground over winter and cut back in early spring.

Salvias These are available in shades of pink, blue or red. Shrubby varieties can be cut down to a low framework in the spring to produce foliage down to the base.

Penstemons Breeding has helped to produce penstemons in many shades of red, blue and purple. Keep these healthy by cutting down to within 6ins. of the base in late March. Agastache produce spires of pale blue or white flowers from aromatic foliage and are also attractive to pollinators.

Dahlias Always a very popular choice for the border available in many colours, with regular dead heading will continue flowering until the early frost. In this part of the country applying a generous mulch over the tubers will allow you to keep them in the ground over winter.

Spring Flowering Bulbs
Bulbs can be used in many different ways, with perennials, in formal schemes, under trees and shrubs, and in wild life gardens. All bulbs should be planted now with the exception of tulips which need to be planted in November.

Always plant bulbs three times their own depth or even deeper. Did you make a note in the spring of those empty spaces in the border suitable for bulbs as it is now, very difficult to remember with the foliage cover. Try to plant the right way up, but if you are unsure plant them on their side and they will find their own way. Avoid leaving air gaps around the bulb and water well if the ground is dry. Choosing the right bulb for the right place is also important, in small spaces use dwarf varieties. Crocuses and scillas do well in grass, and under trees plant snowdrops, anemone blanda and blue bells. Tulips are often grown in a formal beds with wallflowers or forget me nots. Growing bulbs in containers is useful for patio displays where they can be moved around or placed in borders. Use a mixture of John Innes No2 and multi purpose compost with added grit Always plant at a good depth and closer together than you would in the ground.

Leaf Cutter Bees - by John Dunster

Hello everyone

I hope you are all keeping well and coping with the heat.. I thought you may find this interesting.

I made a bee box this year and within no time at all the leaf cutter bees found it and could not believe their luck with a rose bush right beside. They started making their nests using sections of leaves from the rose and gluing them together with a mixture of nectar and pollen. When they have gathered sufficient food they lay one single egg and cap the cell with a circular piece of leaf. This process is repeated until the nest may contain about 20 larva cells. The larva hatch and develop, pupating in autumn and hibernating over winter.

What amazes me is how they found the box so quickly. Also have you noticed how the horse chestnut trees are looking much better this year and leaves have not been affected so badly by the moth larva. Does anybody know the reason for this?

If you notice that some of the village tube are looking a bit tatty it is because they have been vandalised for the second time this year.

Best wishes

Your Garden in August - by John Dunster

Vegetable Garden
Making use of free space in your vegetable plot, seeds of many crops can be sown direct into the soil at this time of year, but does need to be done promptly. If the soil is dry water the drills before sowing. You can also sow seeds in modules earlier for planting out now, both seedlings and young plants need to be kept well watered. The following vegetables make good catch crops at this time of year lettuce, pak choi, spinach, chard and turnips. If you have any other spare ground sow green manure for digging into the soil in early spring.

If a quarter of the foliage on main crop potatoes show signs of blight cut down to ground level and destroy, do not add to the compost heap.

Plant strawberry beds with well rooted runners, enriching the soil with well rotted compost or manure.

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Pruning Wisteria
To keep wisteria flowering vigorously requires pruning now and again in January or February. Cut back all long whippy side shoots to leave them with only five or six leaves roughly to within 12in of the older wood. This will allow the wood to ripen on which next year's flowers are formed In January or February cut the same side shoots back further leaving two buds.

Camellias and Rhododendrons
Camellias and Rhododendrons especially in containers need to be kept well watered as they are producing flower buds for next year.

Pruning Rambling Roses
Most rambling roses flower just once in early summer, although some modern varieties repeat flower, so these don't need pruning until later. Thin out one in three of the oldest stems, tie in new shoots and shorten side shoots by a third.

Give hedges a final trim this month which will give time for evergreen hedges to produce some new growth for the winter.

Dead Heading
Removing faded blooms saves the plant from producing seed heads and often encourages more flowers. Dahlias, Rudbeckias, Heleniums, Roses and Pelargoniums all benefit from dead heading. Clip lavender back with shears, taking off the dead flower stems and a little of the current year's growth to keep the plant in shape. Those flowers which you should not dead head include roses that produce ornamental hips, sunflowers, hydrangeas, ornamental grasses and sedums.

Your Garden in July - by John Dunster

Most of the hard work in the garden has been done by now but there are still jobs that need doing and some thought given to how we can prepare and be ready in the future for anything the weather can throw at us at this time of year. To the uninitiated a lot of summer gardening may look like time wasting but pottering (as it is known by) is very necessary.

Deadheading is vital at this time of year to maintain a succession of flowers, instead of setting seed, which they will do faster than usual in dry hot conditions.

Don't cut the lawn extra short hoping it will last longer between cuts. It will turn brown in hot weather which allows weeds to invade, raise the mower blades slightly as longer grass acts as its own waterproof buffer keeping moisture in.

Whatever the weather you will still need to feed plants especially those in containers, hanging baskets and greenhouse. Plants in borders should be mulched with well rotted compost or farmyard manure, best done during the winter or early spring when the soil is moist. This not only feeds the soil but helps to conserve moisture and supress weeds.

When considering watering prioritise on containers hanging baskets and of course the greenhouse, which will need watering daily during the height of summer. Use a watering can wherever possible, concentrating on those plants in the border in flower or about to flower and are showing stress. Remember the golden rule water thoroughly at the base of the plant instead of just splashing it over the surface of the soil and foliage, where the moisture will evaporate without doing any good.

Keep pots as cool as possible by using pebbles to cover the surface of the compost, this protects shallow roots from overheating and also conserves moisture.

Postpone new planting at this time of year until the autumn or next spring when the plants will become established much better.

To stop hardy perennials from flopping over requires some forward thinking by providing supports earlier in the year for the plants to grow through.

Regularly pick vegetables such as beans and courgettes when they are at their best. Harvest early potatoes when they are about hen's egg size for the best flavour. Scratch away the earth around the plant first to check the development of the tubers.

Your Garden in June - by John Dunster

Biennials take two years to complete their life cycle, germinating in the first year and flowering in the second. So now is the time to sow seeds of the following to provide a display early next season, foxgloves, hollyhocks, wallflowers, sweet williams and forget-me-nots. These can be sown in pots and grown on for planting out in the autumn.

During the flowering season remove spent blooms from the flower heads of shrub roses by cutting off individual blooms until it has finished flowering and then cut off the stem to a healthy bud lower down, When the bush has finished flowering apply a feed of Rose Food, Chicken Manure pellets or Blood, Fish and Bone. Sprinkle around the base of the plant and mix into the soil and water. Don't however dead head roses that produce ornamental hips. Identify any suckers, which are shoots that grow from the rootstock of a grafted rose and remove.

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Lilac generally does not require pruning, only removing the dead flower heads as next year's flower buds are set on the shoots that extend soon after flowering, only remove any diseased wood and crossing branches.

Keep topiary in shape with regular trimming. Start by putting down a sheet around the base of the plant to collect the clippings. Use sharp shears and clip into the outer two thirds of the present year's growth, keeping the shears flat to the surface. Water and feed regularly any topiary in containers to maintain healthy plants.

Tomato plants are divided into two categories, bush type and cordon varieties. Bush types are left unpinched and only need to be loosely tied to a cane. Cordon varieties, also known as vine tomatoes need pinching out and training, tying into a cane. Remove any side shoots in the joints between the stem and leaves and tie in the stem to a cane at regular intervals. As soon as the first truss starts to form apply a feed following the instructions on the bottle or packet. Under glass cut off the top of the plant when 5 or 6 trusses have formed (3 to 4 outdoors).

Vegetable Garden
Remove runners from strawberries unless you need to increase your stock by pegging them down into pots filled with compost, for planting out later in the year. Continue sowing carrots, dwarf beans, beetroot and turnips.

Your Garden in May - by John Dunster

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In these challenging times we need our gardens to lift our spirits and keep active as we self isolate and exercise social distancing. Not only have we got the challenge of fighting Covid-19 virus, but also that of global warming. There are plenty of small ways in which we can adapt our gardening methods to collectively make a significant impact on the environment Many I know consciously garden with the environment in mind, but here are a few suggestions which may help to make that little extra difference.

There are thought to be 27 million gardens in the UK, if there was one extra tree planted in each that would be 27million more trees across the country. Not necessarily large trees, there are many trees suitable for smaller gardens for example:- Acer palmatum osakazuki, Malus x sumi Golden Hornet, Sorbis commixta Embley, Cornus kousa, Magnolia stellate, Cercis siliguastrum Bodnant, even topiary shapes Bay, Box, Yew.

Peat bogs store huge amounts of carbon, and by using peat free compost we can help to ensure peat bogs remain intact and carbon dioxide is not released into the atmosphere. This may necessitate a different watering regime but adding loam based John Ines will help to retain the moisture.

Adopt a No-Dig method of cultivation where it is possible to obtain adequate organic matter. This method not only prevents CO2, contained in the soil, being released into the atmosphere but also improves the soil structure.

Building a pond will increase the biodiversity and also store carbon in the sediment collected in the bottom.

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Pot-grown plants are usually grown in large nurseries where they are exposed to artificial light and heat, and then transported in lorries, many from abroad. By growing more plants ourselves from seed will help to reduce the carbon emissions.

Encourage pollinators of all types into the garden by growing plants such as hellebores, foxgloves, lavender, catmint, thyme, cow parsley family, honeysuckle, buddleia, michaelmas daisies, and sedums. Ivy is an excellent plant for providing pollen in the autumn and also protection for overwintering insects. The best plants for producing pollen are those with single flowers as many double flowers are sterile. In order to protect all the many beneficial insects needed to pollinate plants and especially fruit trees we must avoid the use of pesticides.

We can also help by making our own mulch, compost and fertiliser from comfrey.

Your Garden in April - by John Dunster

Root Pruning
Over time plants in containers become congested and deteriorate. Root trimming can be carried out when the plants need repotting and this will help to rejuvenate the plant. Tip the plant out of its container and either cut three or four 1in deep vertical slits in the sides of the rootball or if retaining the same pot cut a 1-2in slice from the side and also cut off a fifth to a third from the base. Place fresh compost in the base of the pot and if putting into a bigger pot fill in around the sides leaving a gap at the top for watering.

Pruning Evergreens
April is a good month to prune evergreen shrubs which can serve several purposes. Maintaining habit and shape, for example berberis, box, laurel, privet, lonicera, osmanthus, pyracantha, rosemary and viburnum. Do not use a hedgetrimmer if at all possible but cut to well placed shoots. To produce brightly coloured foliage such as photinia, nandina and pieris. These will require a light prune, but cuts into older wood will bring fresh colour. Pieris should be pruned after flowering. Shrubs with silver foliage such as brachyglottis, helichrysum, ozothamnus and santolina can become leggy. Regular pruning removing some of the previous years' growth will keep them compact and looking good. Evergreens grown for their flowers may need pruning to dead head and keep them within bounds. Plants in this group include camellias, ceanothus, cistus, hebe and rosemary. Pruning this group should be carried out after flowering, a light pruning may only be necessary as a hard prune is likely to produce more foliage and fewer flowers. Ceanothus should only be pruned lightly as it rarely regenerates if cut back too hard. Hebes and cistus may only need dead heading.

Harvesting Rhubarb
There is a knack to picking rhubarb without leaving a snapped off stem. Pick from the outside, holding the stem low down and twist firmly away from the clump. Continue picking through the season but leave some stems to give the plant energy. Mulch with nitrogen rich manure to encourage leaf growth and cut out any flowering stems.

Thin out bushy perennials
Some clump forming perennials such as sedum can produce many shoots, that when they flower flop to the ground. You can help to prevent this by pruning out some of the shoots and reducing others.

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Your Garden in March - by John Dunster

Care of daffodils
To make sure daffodils flower well year after year they need to have a good supply of water and nutrients. Next year's flowering buds are already developing in the bulb now, so prevent the soil drying out for at least six weeks after flowering. Apply a high-potassium feed such as tomato fertiliser to bulbs in containers and blood, fish and bone to those in borders. Remove flower heads as they fade and allow the foliage to die down naturally. If daffodils are growing in grass delay mowing until the leaves die away sometime in June.

Dividing Herbaceous Perennials
To maintain healthy plants most perennials need splitting up every four to six years. Many plants including hemerocallis, anemone, geraniums and helianthus benefit from being divided in March - April or September - October. Iris, bergenia and primulla are best divided in June- August. Plants with woody crowns such as helleborus or fleshy roots including delphinium are easier to divide with a spade. Large fibrous-rooted plants such as hemerocallis and agapanthus are best divided with two forks inserted back to back and prised apart. Some smaller fibrous rooted plants such as heuchera can be divided by hand. The plant divisions should be replanted immediately at the same depth in the soil or potted up individually and watered well.

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Pruning Shrubs
The first part of March is generally the best time to prune shrubs such as dogwoods, willows and white stemmed brambles which are grown for their coloured stems. By cutting well established plants back hard will induce them to produce strong new colourful growth. class">Buddleia also needs to be pruned hard so that it flowers at a level which can be appreciated. Always cut back to a bud or shoot close to the base of the plant. Give bush roses their final prune, for informal shrub roses thin out a few stems and lightly trim last year's growth. Hybrid tea roses, remove crossing and damaged stems, reduce remaining stems down to a short framework with outward facing buds. Sprinkle some fertiliser at the base of the plants.

Vegetable Garden
Do not sow vegetable seed until the soil has warmed up to 7degrees C, this may not be until April. When the conditions are suitable sow broad beans, brussel sprouts, lettuce, parsnips, peas and carrots for instance. Sow beetroot under glass and plant out later.

Your Garden in January - by John Dunster

Scented Winter Flowers
All flowers are valuable in the winter garden but especially so if scented when their perfume often lingers on the air on mild still days. Here are a few shrubs that not only have attractive flowers but are also scented. Lonicera fragrantissima, a semi deciduous shrubby honeysuckle with creamy-white spicy-sweet flowers throughout the winter. Likes any good soil and prefers being against a sunny wall. Daphne odora 'aureomarginata' . A reasonably hardy variegated evergreen shrub with scented pink flowers in late winter. Prefers slightly acid soil in light shade, and as with all daphnes hates drought, water logging and root disturbance. Sarcococca ruscifolia, var. chinensis 'Dragons Gate'. A small evergreen shrub to about 1.5m producing masses of scented white flowers in late winter, prefers a sheltered spot in part shade. Chimonanthus praecox. A deciduous shrub known as 'wintersweet' with translucent pale yellow flowers, happy in most soils but prefers a warm sunny position.

Cultivated elders which include varieties such as 'Black Lace' and 'Sutherland Gold' should be pruned back hard to a bony knuckle of established branches. This will encourage lots of fresh growth which will have the brightest and freshest foliage.

Indoor Cyclamen
To keep these Mediterranean cousins of our hardy garden cyclamen at their best, position them on a cool north or easterly windowsill and water them weekly soaking from the base. Deadhead flowers and leaves by pulling gently rather than cutting and leaving stubs.

Starting the tubers of early and second early potatoes into growth before planting them out in the spring will ensure they have a head start. Set the tubers in shallow trays with their narrow end uppermost. Put the tray in a cool frost free place with plenty of light to encourage slow steady development of the buds.

January is a good month to apply mulch to the vegetable garden and borders provided the ground is not frozen. This will improve the nutrient and structure of the soil and also prevent weed seeds from germinating, later in the year the organic matter will limit moisture evaporation from the ground. Mushroom compost, well- rotted farmyard manure or garden compost can be used and should be spread at least 5cm deep.

Your Garden in November - by John Dunster

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If your house plants are looking a bit tired, now is a good time to divide up and repot them. Knock the plant out of its pot and cut into sections making sure each section has several shoots and a good rootball. Place the plant in a pot that's a little larger than the rootball and top up with multi purpose compost. Water the plant and keep the leaves free of dust by washing off regularly. Here are some of the plants that can be treated in this way :- The Peace Lily, Aloe Vera, Moth Orchid, Spider Plant and Swiss Cheese Plant.

During the summer asparagus plants produce foliage known as fern, which by now has died back. This should be cut back to ground level and the hollow stubs removed to prevent the asparagus beetle using them as nesting places. Remove any weeds and clear the bed of all debris, then spread a thick layer of composted manure to protect the crowns, improve the soil and provide extra nutrients.

Hardwood Cuttings
Many ornamental shrubs and trees such as dogwood, willow, flowering currant, forsythia and roses can be propagated by this method, once the leaves have fallen. Choose vigorous one-year old stems around pencil thickness and make a cut just above a pair of buds at the top and below a bud at the bottom. Each cutting should measure 25 - 30cm long. Remember which are the top ends of your cuttings, make a slit trench in the soil and slip in the cuttings, alternatively if you are short of space root them in a large pot using cuttings compost, burying two thirds of each cutting in either case. Do not allow to dry out next summer and they should be ready for transplanting next winter.

The Greenhouse
Remove spent plants from the greenhouse and any debris from the floor. Don't forget to clean pots, propagators and seed trays ready for use again next year. Clean the glass inside and outside and insulate with bubble wrap to ensure it is kept frost free, this may also require the use of a greenhouse heater to protect tender plants. Keep plants disease free by regularly picking off dead or yellowing leaves, dead head old flowers and space the plants out as much as possible to improve air flow. Water sparingly and ventilate when temperatures allow.

Your Garden in October - by John Dunster

Herbaceous Borders
Resist the temptation to cut everything down in the herbaceous border, many plants are best left until Spring. Seed heads are beneficial to overwintering insects and also provide a food source for birds as well as being visually attractive. These are plants such as Echinacea, monarda and rudbeckia. Tender plants such as salvia and zantedeschia should also be left until the Spring as this will help to protect the crowns from frost. However any plants that are in a state of collapse should be cut back to ground level now including hostas, acanthus and day lilies.

Dahlia Tubers
Dahlia tubers can be left in the borders under a thick mulch, but if you prefer, to be on the safe side, they can be lifted after the first frost. Cut the stems back to 15cm and lift them, brushing off as much soil as possible. Put them in an airy place to dry off and then place the tubers in trays, covered loosely with dry compost and store in a frost free shed or garage.

The old canes of summer fruiting varieties should be cut down to ground level now. Select the strongest of the new greenish current season's canes, tying them in to horizontal wire supports. Autumn fruiting varieties fruit on the current season's growth so cut the old canes back to ground level in February. Double crops can be produced if instead of cutting back all the canes, select some and just prune off their shoot tips where fruit was previously produced.

Now is the time to pot up amaryllis bulbs. Loose bulbs are generally larger and better value than the boxed kits. Select a pot slightly larger than the bulb and part fill with multi purpose compost. Place the bulb on top and fill around the bulb with more compost. Leave the top of the bulb exposed and water it by either standing in a saucer of tepid water or soaking from above.

Routine tasks
Clean the glass in the greenhouse and fix a layer of bubble wrap to the inside this will help to insulate the greenhouse during the winter, but make sure the doors and vents still open. Cut back buddleia and tall roses by a half to prevent wind rock, a final pruning will take place in the spring. Make sure brassicas are staked and tied securely.

Your Garden in September - by John Dunster

Rejuvenate your lawn firstly use a spring tined rake to remove debris and moss which has built up over the summer. The lawn will look very ragged afterwards but it will soon recover. Secondly relieve problems caused by compaction by making holes in the lawn with either a fork or hollow tined aerator. After aerating spread a compost mix onto the surface and brush into the holes. Finally apply a low nitrogen feed.

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Evergreen Shrubs
Now is a good time to move any evergreen shrubs. Water your shrub thoroughly the day before, then use a spade to cut all the way round the shrub at least 30cm from the main stem. Lever the rootball out gently keeping plenty of soil around the roots. Replant immediately in a hole that is large enough to accommodate the entire rootball, firm in and give o good soaking.

Pyracantha (Firethorn)
Pyracantha trained against a wall or fence and wires will benefit from a late summer trim. Pyracantha flower and fruit on wood that is older than one year. Reduce any long outwardly growing stems of this year's growth to 2 or 3 leaves from the base, unless you need to tie them in for next year, also shorten skyward stems to the same length.

Although the garden may look glorious now, I can't help looking forward to the pleasure spring bulbs will provide. It is important to order bulbs early and choose what will look best in your garden and not necessarily what looks prettiest in the catalogue. When they arrive keep them in a cool place an d plant them as promptly as possible, other than tulips which should be planted in November. For maximum impact it is better to buy fewer varieties but in larger numbers. Bulbs should always be planted at least two or three times their own depth, or even deeper. Don't forget to label, it will save damaging them when digging around.

Routine tasks
Clear out spent crops from the greenhouse and remove shading from the glass, giving the glass inside and out a thorough wash.

New strawberry runners planted now will produce a decent crop next year and a bumper crop the following year.

Dig up and divide congested clumps of herbaceous perennials into smaller healthier plants. Fleshy plants such as Hosts and Red Hot Pokers are best left until the spring

Your Garden in August - by John Dunster

Be Water Wise
Even here in the UK water can at times be in short supply and should never be wasted. We are likely at some time to experience periods of drought, so what is the best practice.

water butt.jpg - 7.8 KB Our choice of plants can have a great impact when it comes to saving water. The stems of cacti and leaves of succulents have become thickened and act as water reservoirs. Mediterranean shrubs, such as lavender, rosemary and thyme can all deal with dry situations. Some more drought tolerant plants to consider are sea hollies, dianthus, sedums, echiums, verbascums, stachys and artemesia.

How to use less water
Collect rainwater in butts and keep using this water on your plants so there is always room for them to refill. Water plants individually with a watering can, directing it around the crown and roots, also be selective as to which plants really need watering and avoid using a hose pipe where much of the water can be wasted . Give priority to watering newly planted plants.

Mulching borders during early spring when the soil is damp will help to conserve moisture. By using a mixture of John Innes and Multi Purpose compost in containers will help to retain moisture. Finally resist the temptation to water lawns, grass is a very resilient plant and will recover from whatever nature throws at it.

Lavender maintenance
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Lavender needs a regular annual trim to keep the plants neat and fresh. This can be carried out in late summer or spring. For summer pruning using a sharp pair of secateurs take off the faded flowers along with 1-2in of current year's growth. Spring pruning is recommended in colder parts but can also be beneficial elsewhere. This method makes use of the old flowers and growth to protect against winter wet and cold. Cut stems back to the first vigorous bud on each branch usually in March or April, but avoid cutting into the old wood.

Routine jobs
Carry out a final trim of the year on evergreen hedges and shrubs such as box and conifers, giving yew a single cut this month or September.

Consider sowing green manure in empty beds, crimson clover or vetch will overwinter and add nutrients to the soil when dug in the spring.

Camellias and Rhododendrons start producing flower buds now so during dry spells will need regular watering.

Your Garden in July - by John Dunster

You may have noticed stems that have grown flattened rather than cylindrical or appeared to be composed of several fused shoots growing together, this is termed fasciation. There are several causes for this, insect damage, viral infection, frost damage and genetic mutation. Fasciation often occurs randomly and so does not necessarily repeat itself year to year, unless it is the result of genetic mutation. Celosia, some cacti, ferns and flower spikes of delphiniums are often affected.

Strawberry Runners
The runners produced by strawberry plants are an ideal method of propagation, but if you do not want more plants remove runners as they appear. If you do want more plants peg down runners into 9cm pots filled with compost and leave to become established, keep watered. Ensure the new plant has rooted before snipping it off from the parent plant. These new plants can be planted out in August.

Certain trees and shrubs are best pruned in summer rather than winter for all kinds of reason, not only to keep the plant in check - to stop them outgrowing their situation - but to prevent disease and to encourage flower and fruit production. Summer pruning also includes clipping hedges and topiary, resulting in hedges thickening up. Dead heading is also a form of pruning as this will encourage the plant to produce more flowers.

What to prune in Summer
Philadelphis, weigela and deutzia immediately after flowering each year cut out a few of the oldest stems and cut back by a third shoots that have carried flowers. Wisteria Cut back long whispy shoots to around 20cm, carry out a final pruning in winter. class">Espalier and class">Cordon Fruit Trees are best pruned in late August, shortening all side shoots to within 3 or 4 leaves of last years growth Red Currants and Gooseberries. Remove any new growth crowding the centre and cut back new shoots by a third Water well before and after pruning and avoid pruning when the plant is under stress. Always use sharp pruning tools and make cuts immediately above a bud or shoot.

Some jobs to do now
Cut back hardy geraniums after flowering, some will reflower others will grow back fresh foliage. Make sure containers and hanging baskets are well watered and given a weekly high potash feed. Remove the main shoot of cordon tomatoes a leaf or two above the seventh truss.

Your Garden in June - by John Dunster

Growing herbs in containers saves space and is a good way to restrain herbs that are to vigorous in borders such as mint and sage. Many herbs including thyme, marjoram and mint are perennials but annuals such as basil can be included. Use a loam based growing medium such as John Innes No2 adding up to a third of extra grit. Grow in porous unglazed terracotta pots. Traditional pots with side holes can look great. Many herbs will require dividing and repotting annually in early spring as they soon fill the pots with roots and lose their vigor. During the winter keep plants fairly dry and in cold spells move the pots under cover to a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.

Pot Bound Plants
Pot bound plants are those where the roots have totally filled the pot. When planting out in the garden or transferring to a larger container firstly submerge the pot in water until no more air bubbles appear, remove the plant from the pot and tease out the roots. Always water well after repotting or planting out. Roots sometimes appear through the bottom of the pot, this can be a sign that the roots have filled the pot or they have come through the bottom in search of water. Knock the plant out of the pot and examine the root ball, if there is still plenty of compost that has not been colonized by roots then they should be fine. Water well and give a liquid feed in the growing season.

Mature primulas and primroses can become congested clumps. Lift these plants by forking around the entire plant and dig up the roots well below the growing point. Divide up into individual plantlets and trim longer roots to 10cm before replanting.

To keep roses healthy they will require feeding each spring and again in mid-summer using a high potash feed. After feeding apply a mulch of well rotted manure or compost, leaving a 10cm gap between the stems and the mulch. Water well during dry spells. Keep up with the dead heading removing individual flowers initially and finally the whole flowering spike. This does not apply to old fashion shrub roses that only flower once and then develop autumn hips.

Routine Jobs
Regularly pinch out side shoots from cordon tomatoes. Keep hanging baskets well watered and feed weekly.

Your Garden in May - by John Dunster

greenhouse with netting.jpg - 6 KB Avoid unbearably high temperatures in the greenhouse by creating shade, this can be done in several ways. Shade paint can be applied directly to the glass, then washed off in autumn. Shade netting can be pinned and pegged inside while some greenhouses have integral blinds making it easy to react to daily weather conditions. Also help to increase the humidity and cool the atmosphere by damping down the floor in hot weather.

Newly planted trees and shrubs
It is important to give these the best possible start, to ensure the tree or shrubs overall and long term health and quality. Watering is a key element to getting the plant established. In the winter there is very little need to water but once the leaves begin to open it is best to water at least once a week and during very dry spells twice a week making sure the soil has been thoroughly wetted. Apply a mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Watering can be gradually reduced during years two and three.

Formal Hedges
Most hedges require clipping twice a year to produce a solid surface. Cut back new growth usually when it is 10 - 15cms long. Check for nesting birds before you start clipping as these should not be disturbed. Keep the top of the hedge level by using a line tied to canes pushed into the ground at intervals. Trim the top first and then the sides starting at the bottom.

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May is a good time to repot and divide very root-bound agapanthus. Although they must have constricted and restricted roots when you repot allow some room for the roots to grow. The solution is to plant three smaller plants in one pot so they are crowded but still have a little room to grow, then in about three years time they will need repotting again.

Routine tasks
Keep an eye open for lily beetles on lilies and fritillaria. Prevent them from falling onto the ground by placing your hand underneath them. Continue sowing parsnip, beetroot and carrot seed now the soil is warming up. Hoe off weed seedlings as they appear using a dutch hoe preferably in the morning on a dry day. Inspect gooseberries regularly for signs of sawfly larva, picking them off by hand. Pinch out the growing tip of broad beans to deter blackfly.

Your Garden in March - by John Dunster

Summer Flowering Bulbs
Summer flowering bulbs are not plants that you use instead of other perennials, they are an added extra that lifts a garden to new heights. As the majority of summers flowering bulbs ( this also includes tubers, rhizomes and corms) come from sub-tropical climes they need sun and warmth and well drained soil. They can also be planted in containers, using loamy compost with added grit to improve drainage, apply a high potash feed when flower buds begin to form. The following bulbs can be planted now :- galtonias, ixias, crocosmias, pineapple lilies, lilies of all types, gladioli (smaller varieties include the nanus group). Dahlias can be planted in containers and brought on in the greenhouse for planting out when the threat of frost has passed.

If you think of your garden as a 3Dspace how much of that area do we actually use. We concentrate on beds and broders and forget about taking advantage of the vertical space. This can be provided with fences, hedges, arches, pergolas and obelisks for growing perennials such as lonicera, jasminum officinale, clematis, wisteria and schisaandra rubiflora, also annual climbers sweet peas, impomoea lobate and rhodochiton alrosanguineus.

Plant Supports
Erect plant supports early to keep perennials looking their best. Tall perennials can be grown up through lattice frames, some plant supports link together to surround clumps or alternatively individual plants can be tied to stakes.

Asparagus crowns can be planted this month. Dig a trench and make a ridge down the middle 10cm below ground level, space the crowns 30cm apart with the roots straggling the ridge, backfill with soil so that the top of the crown is just covered, as new spears emerge build up the soil to ground level. Delay harvesting until next spring and then gradually extend the cropping seasons each year.

Routine tasks
Lift and divide snowdrops and late flowering perennials. Start planting vegetable seeds carrots, parsnips and potatoes when the soil conditions are suitable. Cut back hardy fuchsias hard to above a pair of healthy buds. Cutoff old flowerheads of mophead hydrangeas to the first pair of healthy buds, cut out any unwanted, weak or damaged stems to ground level. Regularly dead head spring bulbs to stop them wasting energy producing seedheads, leave foliage for at least six weeks. Mulch borders with organic matter but avoid covering the crowns of plants.

Your Garden in February - by John Dunster

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Without the foliage you can see the skeletons of shrubs and trees and their natural form. It is important when pruning to maintain the aesthetic shape of the plant. There are several reasons for pruning, to control the size of the plant, maintain its shape, remove dead or diseased wood and improve the plants vigour. If you are pruning flowering shrubs it is important to know when the flowers are produced. Plants that flower in the spring do so on wood produced the previous year, these should be pruned immediately after flowering. The opposite holds true for plants that flower in the second half of the year,as these produce buds on the current years growth.

The critical thing to remember about winter pruning is the harder you cut the more vigorous the regrowth. So if you prune an apple tree hard each winter it will make a mass of new growth and no flowers.

Group 1 which flower in winter or spring, should be pruned back to half their length after flowering, also thinning out a quarter of the old stems every two years. Group 2. These are made up of predominantly larged flowered hybrids and bloom in early summer. Prune back stems by a third to a pair of healthy buds, also after the first flowering prune some stems back to buds just below the spent blooms for further flowering. Group 3. These flower in late summer and autumn and are the easiest to prune, cutting back all the previous growth to the first or second pair of buds above ground level.

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Buddleja, Salix and Sambucus
These can all be cut back hard now, the harder they are cut back the more they will flower.

Which are grown for their colourful stems are best pruned in March. Established plants can be cut back hard or alternatively you can remove say 50% of stems, whichever you prefer.

There is no mystery to pruning roses as there is practically nothing you can do from which they will not recover. Firstly remove all damaged and crossing stems and those that are too weak to carry flowers. Shrub roses do not need any other pruning, but they can be reduced by a third by clipping evenly. Hybrid Teas, Floribundas and China Roses need to be pruned harder back to one or two buds.

Your Garden in January - by John Dunster

Some jobs to do in the garden during January

Chilles require a long growing season, so they can develop into strong plants by early summer. Start sowing chille seed at the end of the month, sprinkle the seed thinly on a seed tray of moist free draining compost and cover lightly with compost or vermiculite. Place the tray in a heated propagator or sunny window over a radiator as they require a temperature of 25 degrees centigrade to germinate. When they have developed two true leaves- which may take up to 8weeks prick them out into 7cm pots, keep them warm in as much light as possible.

Seed Potatoes
Start chitting seed potatoes by placing them somewhere protected from frost in good light. Chits are small shoots which appear from the tiny buds on the tuber. Place them in a tray or egg box with the shrivelled stalk at the base. By chitting potatoes they will get off to a good start when planting in late March.

Forcing Rhubarb
For an early crop of rhubarb cover the crowns with a layer of straw or bracken and cover with an upturned bucket, clay rhubarb pot or large flower pot, covering the holes to exclude light. By covering crowns they will be ready for harvesting two to three weeks earlier than those uncovered. Forcing does stress the plant so it is advisable to have more than one plant and force alternate years.

Taking Root Cuttings
Taking root cuttings is the best way to propagate certain herbaceous perennials and woody shrubs. When the plants are dormant root cuttings can be taken in two ways, firstly with plants of acanthus, oriental poppies and aralia cut the roots into sections 5 - 8cm long and push into deep pots of gritty compost. Alternatively with campanula, phlox and japanese anemonies cut into short segments and lay horizontally 1cm deep in trays of compost and cover with grit.

Wisteria should be hard pruned in January or February as it will be less of a check on the plant than pruning in active growth. On congested plants you may need to remove some of the older branches. If the plant has been pruned regularly in July or August the previous year cut back the spurs to two or three buds.

Your Garden in December - by John Dunster

Ornamental Garden
It is easy to neglect the garden at this time of the year after keeping it looking good through summer and autumn. Here are a few plants that will lift your spirits through the colder months.

Skimmia Japonica.jpg - 32.8 KBSmikkia Japonica
This will provide a seasonal treat and light up your garden with its glossy red berries.

Heathers (Erica carnea) These winter flowering heathers can be grown in a large sink or trough if they cannot be fitted into the garden.

Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)
This can be trained against a wall and the bare arching stems, during the coldest days are studded with starry bright yellow flowers.

Sweet Box (Sarcococca confusa)
This may be a most unspectacular plant but the white whiskey flowers provide an amazing scent.

Dogwwods (Cornus sanguinea)
These are grown for their colourful stems, in a variety of colours, red, amber and pink, and should be cut down in spring to encourage more new stems.

snowdrops.jpg - 10.9 KBSnowdrops
Snowdrops (Galanthus)
With their dainty nodding flowers these can light up a shady bed and can also be naturalized in grass, do leave the foliage intact for a few weeks after flowering.

Caring for Hellebores
These often develop unsightly grey or brown blotches on the foliage which can also be transmitted to the flowers. To control this fungal disease cut back all the foliage to ground level just as the flower stems start to emerge. This will also provide a clean display of flowers, new foliage will soon be produced.

House Plants (Poinsettia)
These make very popular presents at Christmas, here are a few tips to help keep your plant healthy. When buying your plant avoid selecting one that has lost any leaves or have any that are tuning yellow, also avoid buying plants from outside displays. Only water when the surface of the compost starts to feel dry, a wilting plant may not be dry it could indicate that the compost is saturated. Position where it can receive plenty of natural light, keep away from draughts and any form of direct heat.

Apples and Pears
Prune apples and pears, which are grown as bush or standard trees. Remove crossing, dead, diseased and damaged wood. Shorten the previous years growth on main branches by a third, leave sideshoots unpruned as they develop fruiting buds, remove shoots growing into the centre. Always use sharp secateurs or a pruning saw for larger branches.

Very best wishes for Christmas, good health and good gardening in 2019

Have you considered driving an electric car? - by Karin Haverson

Three years ago, after feeling totally cheated by the VW Diesel scandal, I took the plunge and decided to go electric. As I am a bit of a challenge freak, I went ahead all the way and considered a 100% electric car, a Nissan Leaf.

When I took it for a test drive, my first ignorant reaction was: 'Wow, it is automatic!'
The salesman was very tactful and didn't point out that all electric cars are automatic, they don't have pistons going up and down at a fixed rate, which need translating into variable speeds by gears and clutches. He just smiled knowingly!

My second reaction was: 'Wow! It accelerates so quickly and smoothly!'
I don't know what I had expected, maybe the old milk float image was in my mind? Anyway, yes, an electric car is very quick and smooth and responsive.

Nissan Leaf 1.jpg - 30.2 KB I then took it on some of my familiar runs and made a note of how much electricity it needed for those. I also plugged it in at home, charging just with a three pin plug, to see how long that took. But I also had a special charging point installed with the help of a government grant, which can charge twice as fast as a three pin plug. So I tested that as well.

All of this was very satisfactory, so I went ahead.

So what are the problems?
The first big hurdle is obviously the higher up front cost, especially for new cars. Second hand ones are very good value, because people are still very suspicious because they expect problems with older batteries. Experience has shown it is actually not a big problem any more. Battery technology has come on very rapidly, batteries last much longer than initially feared and can be replaced.

The second and up-most worry in people's minds is the much more limited range. That can absolutely be a problem for drivers who regularly drive long distances. But my average daily mileage is less than 30 miles a day, my longest regular weekly trip is 59 miles to Taunton and back, and that is absolutely fine, with another trip in the evening to Mark to play badminton. I only need a quick top up at home for this in the winter, I can still drive to my evening badminton session in Mark without an extra charge the same day in summer.

My car is now almost four years old, the newer models go much further than mine. I estimate I can do 90 miles on a full charge in summer and 65 in winter, I have heard that the latest model of my car will go more than half as far again. Many families with two cars just use one for the local school and shopping trips, so an electric car is ideal as a second car for almost everybody.

Nissan Leaf 2.jpg - 11.3 KB The most important ingredient for being a happy electric car driver is a mental switch, from thinking petrol station to thinking charge point at home. Therefore being able to charge at home, either in your garage or from a special charge point installed on your house wall, is a must. I probably charge half a dozen times away from home during a year, my petrol station is the electric socket in my garage.

If I want to go to Hatfield to visit relatives, I stop at Membury Services for 30 minutes, take the dog for a walk and have a cup of coffee. I stop again at Reading for a quick top up of about 10 minutes and that will get me there.

Every Motorway service station now has rapid charging points. Another problem can be that a charging point doesn't work. That has happened to me twice in the three years. But manufacturers have thought of that, too, Nissan provide a free breakdown service which either takes you to the nearest working charge point or all the way home, if the whole system is down. It worked very well for me, I didn't wait more than about 15 minutes to be picked up when this happened to me once in Leigh Delamare.

Locally, we are well endowed with charge points. Bristol has many, including two very rapid ones at IKEA and Cribbs Causeway, with many more slightly slower ones all over in car parks. Nissan garages let you use their rapid charger for free, there is one in Weston.

After three and a half years as an electric car driver, I will never go back to an ordinary car.

I love the smooth quiet ride, its rapid acceleration when needed and the fact that it saves me a massive amount on fuel costs.

I have estimated that driving electric costs less than 50% of petrol or Diesel costs if you charge with standard electricity, 20% if you use an Economy 7 night time tariff, and 10% if you also have solar panels and can use those to charge in the summer months.
As I am lucky enough to have the latter two, I have spent £120 on electricity to drive 9000 miles last year! It would have been at least £900 in my previous quite fuel efficient Diesel car.

And of course electric cars are still completely tax free, so another big saving of at least £165 a year. Currently, electric cars still qualify for a government grant of £3500, this brings down the up front costs considerably and the dealer will do all the paperwork for you. The government also gives grants of up to 75% towards the domestic rapid charging points, also very easy to access because the installer will do all the paperwork for you.

I am planning to organize an electric car owners demonstration session in Yatton next June, where drivers bring their own cars along and let people have a look and ride. I will keep you all informed!


Your Garden in November - by John Dunster

The November garden need not be dull but can be lit up with some of the following plants.

These have three outstanding features. In June they are covered by flat heads of small white flowers, and by September these will have matured into clusters of scarlet, orange or yellow berries and then during the winter provide valuable food for blackbirds, thrushes and fieldfares. Pyracanthas grow happily in any fertile soil in full sun or on a north or east facing wall or fence. No pruning is usually needed but if they are outgrowing their space shorten any long shoots that are not carrying berries.

This is a semi evergreen and deciduous schrub which bears white,pink, red or purple flowers in summer, but are grown mainly for their clusters of violet or dark lilac bead like fruits. They are best planted in sun or part shade in fertile and free draining soil and can be pruned if necessary in early spring.

Crab apples are versatile trees that provide interest in the garden from spring through to autumn. They produce abundant spring blossom followed by attractive mini fruit that will persist until late into winter.when they become a favourite feast for birds. Evereste is one of the favourite varieties with pink-white blossom and red-yellow fruit, and is also a good pollinator for fruiting apples. These do best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. Stake newly planted trees and water well in dry spells.

Rowans are ideal for the smaller garden. These produce frothy flowers in the spring, its foliage turning to red in the autumn with berries in a wide range of colours.

Amaryllis are known for their spectacular flowers. The bulbs take around seven weeks to flower so plant them now if you want them to flower for Christmas. Pot up in compost with two thirds of the bulb above the surface. Position in a warm light place, turning regularly and stake if necessary.

Some jobs to do this month
Prune blackcurrants by cutting out the fruited growth.
Clean out the greenhouse, wash down the glass and insulate with bubble wrap. Bring in any tender plants that are in containers
Reduce shrub roses by a third to prevent wind rock
Make sure brussels sprouts and tall brassicas are well staked.
Transplant any trees or shrubs that need moving.

Your Garden in September - by John Dunster

Stars of the border for this month are michaelmas daisies (asters), the final flourish of penstemons, various forms of miscannthus sinensis (ornamental grasses), rudbeckia, sedums, salvias, crocosmia, fuchsias and dahlias all adding late colour to the garden.

Spring Bulbs
Planting bulbs now will get them off to a good start before winter sets in. These can be planted in the borders, under trees, in grass and in containers where you can layer the bulbs to give a succession of colour. Firstly plant daffodils then tulips then crocuses and finally hyacinths. If you are using tulips on their own delay planting until November. Fill the container with a mix of two parts John Innes No2 with one part horticultural grit. Here are a few dos and don'ts when planting bulbs, plant at least two to three times their own depth and two widths apart, try to plant the right way up, if unsure plant on their side, firm soil around bulbs and water. Don't neglect potted bulbs they need more care than those planted in the soil, don't forget to dead head and don't cut back the foliage until at least six weeks after flowering.

Evergreen shrubs
These should be planted now while the soil is still warm and they have plenty of time to get established before winter. Now is also a good time to move any evergreen shrubs, water thoroughly the day before then us a spade to cut around the shrub at least 30cm from the main stem and lift with a good root ball. Replant into a hole large enough to fit the entire root ball, firm the soil and water well. Don't forget to water camellias and rhododendrons in containers

The ferny foliage of asparagus has been growing all the summer, helping to feed the crowns for next year's crop. As soon as the leaves turn yellow, cut down 2-3 cm above ground level. Lightly fork over the surrounding soil and add a generous mulch of garden compost.

Routine tasks
Continue harvesting crops from the vegetable garden and sow green manure on vacant soil. Keep up with dead heading flowers, especially dahlias, to extend the season as long as possible. Rejuvenate the lawn by removing moss, scarify, aerate, topdress and feed for an improved sward next year. Remove shading from the greenhouse, clear out plants that have finished fruiting and clean the glass.

Your Garden in August - by John Dunster

Colour in the garden this month
Rudbeckia_fulgida_Early_Bird_Gold_2_nbrcg_wi_2x3.jpg - 16.9 KBRudbeckia
There are many flowers which can provide colour in the borders this month. These include Rudbeckia, Kniphofia (Bressington Cornet), Echinacea, Verbena Bonariensis, Dahlias, Michaelmas Daisies, Salvias and Hardy Fuchsias.

Dead Heading
Removing faded blooms from plants not only refreshes the garden but prevents them producing seed and encourages more flowers. Roses are a priority for dead heading unless you want them to produce hips. With hrybrid teas and floribundas snip off each individual flower as the petals drop and then finally cut the whole cluster off back to a bud. Ideally dead head any plant that does not produce decorative seed heads. There are different methods of dead heading depending on the type of plant. Pelargoniums for instance have long stalks and these need to be nipped off at the base. With daylilies pinch off the dead flowers individually and finally cut the stem off at the base. Geraniums and alchemelia require different treatment again, these need shearing off to the ground. Dead head bedding plants using a sharp pair of kitchen scissors as secateurs can cause bruising to the stems. Certain plants such as shrub roses, sunflowers. Hydrangeas, ornamental grasses, sedums and clematis should be left and not deadheaded.

Without regular pruning lavender can become straggly, tired and woody, a regular annual trim can keep the plant neat and fresh. After the flowers have faded using a sharp pair of secateurs take off the dead flowers together with 1" - 2" of current years growth. Alternatively spring pruning can be carried out in March or April by cutting back the stems to the first vigorous bud on each branch The old flowers and growth will have helped to protect the plants against winter cold and wet

Green Manure
Green manure can be sown on any ground that becomes available in the vegetable garden. This can then be turned back into the soil in the spring to improve the humus content and maintain nutrients.

Routine Jobs
Start preparing your onions for harvesting, as the foliage begins to collapse they can be left for the outer skins to dry and ripen, also at this stage the roots can be loosened. Once all the summer fruiting raspberries have been harvested cut out the old canes to ground level and tie in the newly produced canes. Start potting up prepared hyacinth bulbs for winter colour.

Your Garden in July - by John Dunster

Star plants for July
lobelia_cardinalis_queen_victoria_001.jpg - 20.9 KBLobelia Cardinalis,"Queen Victoria"
Lobelia Cardinalis,"Queen Victoria", the red flowers are sort of carnelian mulbury with deep purple foliage, Achillea "Walther Funke" with golden flat topped flower heads. Helenium "Sahins Early Flowerer" has blooms in shades of orange and russety gold flowering over a long period. Echinacea purperea, this plant grows wild in the open grasslands of the USA, ideal for prairie planting.

Buxus (Box)
With the spread of box blight it is worth finding alternative plants for hedges and topiary. The following are suitable substitutes for up to 60cms tall :- Euonymus japonicus microphylus, Lonicera nitida, myrtus communis sbsp. Tarentina, and for taller growth, Osmanthus x burkwoodii, Pittosporum tenuifolium and Ligusttrum delavayanum (small leaved privet)

Orange Petunias
I was interested to read that more than a dozen orange petunia cultivars came on the market last year and as orange does not occur naturally in petunias it was discovered that the colouring was due to genetic modification. These orange petunias have now been taken off the market. Plant breeders push the boundaries and policing the presence of GM material in ornamental plants is becoming more difficult.

Bearded Irises
When bearded irises have finished flowering you can lift and divide congested clumps. Cut out the old flower stems and reduce the foliage to 6". With a sharp knife cut the rhizomes into firm healthy pieces. Replant the rhizomes on the surface of the soil, facing north to south and the roots will grow beneath.

Watering containers
Unlike garden plants those in containers have a limited volume of growing medium and a restricted reserve of water. Using the appropriate compost, placing the container in a suitable location can help with watering. Also the shape of the container helps, large tall pots have a better air to moisture balance, more moisture will evaporate from those with larger surface area. Plants will of course have different requirements, young plants need free draining compost and frequent smaller doses of water. Established plants in large containers need more moisture retentive growing medium and will require heavier less frequent waterings.

Jobs to do
Keep dead heading perennials and bedding plants. Cut sweet peas at least every other day, as once they set seed they will cease flowering. Cut out a few of the oldest stems from Pliladelphus, Weigela and Deutzia when they have finished flowering and reduce other shoots that have carried flowers by a third, finally feed and water.

Your Garden in June - by John Dunster

Hanging Baskets and Containers
The nutrients in the compost you used for planting will only last for about six weeks,so keeping up with the watering and feeding is essential to maintain a good display.

Sowing Biennials
Biennials are plants that take more than 12 months to complete their life cycle. Traditionally these would have been grown in nursery bedsand transplanted a couple of times before being planted in their final position. If space is a problem seeds can be sown in trays or modules using a loam based compost. The seedlings can then be transferred into single small pots before finally planting out in the autumn. A selection of biennials which can be sown now, include Canterbury bells, forget me nots, sweet williams, wallflowers, candelabra primulas and foxgloves. You can also collect seed from pulsatilla and hellebores for sowing now, hellebores however may be slow to germinate as they need a period of stratification. Pinching out the tips of sweet williams and wallflowers will help to produce bushier plants.

Daffodil Foliage
It is now time that daffodil foliage which has been allowed to die back can be cut or strimmed, also remove any unsightly dead foliage from borders.

The lawn may benefit from an application of liquid fertiliser at this time of year. It is also advisable to raise the cutting height of the mower giving a lighter trim more frequently.

Depending on the variety tomato plants either grow on a bush or a vine. Those grown as a single stemmed cordon need support and must be tied to a cane or wrapped around a secured string tie. Shoots emerging from the axil between the main stem and leaves must be removed regularly. Keep plants well watered while they are growing vigorously, this can be reduced later on, adding a dose of liquid tomato feed once a week. Fruit will ripen more evenly if plants are shaded from intense direct sunlight.

At this time of the year blanket weed can form on ponds, this can be removed using a net or by twisting it around a bamboo cane. During very hot weather water levels can drop especially in a small pond. This can be topped up with tap water if the level has only dropped slightly, topping up with lots of mains water can encourage algae to grow, so where possible use rainwater

Your Garden in May - by John Dunster

Vegetable Garden
Make outdoor sowings of runner and french beans, continue to sow carrots, parsnips, beetroot and salad crops. Control blackfly on broad beans by pinching out the tips of every plant. Earth up potatoes by drawing soil around developing plants using a draw hoe. Inspect gooseberries regularly for sawfly larvae, pick off by hand or apply an insecticide. Apply a mulch of straw to strawberries to protect the fruit from being splashes with soil.

Plants that are permanently growing in containers are in need of attention if they are to stay looking their best. Refresh the top 5cm of compost and mix in a handful of slow release fertiliser granules. Also spike the plants root ball with a fork to allow water and nutrients to soak into the centre.

Chelsea Chop
This is a method of pruning many summer and autumn flowering herbaceous perennials. It can help to delay or extend the flowering period and produce more flowering stems. The Chelsea chop involves cutting back stems by half or less vigorous species by a third. To achieve a naturalistic effect randomly prune half the stems leaving the rest untouched. Plants suitable for this treatment are campanula lactiflora, Echinacea purpurea, heleniium, monarda, phlox, rudbeckia and sedum telephium. The following plants however are not suitable :- acanthus, iris, hemerocallis and lupins.

Plug Plants
Plug plants are a halfway house between a seed and a mature plant and are most suitable for bedding plants. Many plants are available by mail order, these should be unwrapped immediately upon receipt and stood in a tray of shallow water, give them another good watering before planting on into trays of multi purpose compost about 5 - 8cm apart or into individual 8cm pots. Grow on in a cool greenhouse and when the plants are well developed. Harden off before planting out.

Now the soil is warming up weeds will start to grow, keep them in check by using a dutch hoe, preferably early morning on a dry day. Keep dead heading tulips preventing them from going to seed. Give formal hedges a trim now and also later in the summer, working from the bottom to the top and laying down a groundsheet to catch the clippings. Spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia, chaenomeles, weigela and philadelphus will need pruning now they have finished flowering, this will allow new stems to be produced for flower next spring.

Your Garden in April - by John Dunster

chitted potatoes.jpg - 15.9 KB Plant chitted potatoes starting with early varieties through to the maincrop later in the month. Sow vegetables direct into the soil including beetroot, carrots and parsnips. Towards the end of the month sow runner beans, French beans, courgettes and squashes indoors.

Young vegetable plants need regular potting on. Slip off their pots each week to check on root development. Once white roots can be seen on the outside of the compost repot into the next size up pot. Tomato plants should be repotted a little deeper each time to encourage root growth from the stems.

The Lawn
Aerate the soil to relieve compaction and promote root growth, this can be done with a fork or hollow tine aerator that will remove cores of soil into which sharp sand can be brushed. Recut edges using a 'half-moon iron' or spade and scarify the lawn using a wire tooth rake pulling out dead grass and moss. Apply a treatment of fertiliser such as blood, bone and fishmeal or a combined weedkiller and fertiliser at the recommended dosage.

Clematis Montana
The best time to prune these is straight after flowering so the plant has time to produce new shoots for flowering next spring. With really dense plants cut them hard back but be sure to leave some of the younger stems that have buds ready to grow, alternatively trim back just one portion of the shoots each year.

Lilies are one of the most glamorous of flowers combining their wondrous colours and scent with grace and elegance. These can be grown in open soil or are equally at home in containers. Most lilies like to have their roots in the shade but flowers in in the sun, however if you have shade choose martagon lilies. For planting in containers use terracotta pots and a mixture of good multi purpose compost and John Innes No3 , but ericaceous for Oriental acid lovers, once they have come into growth apply a high potash feed.

We shall soon be potting up containers and hanging baskets so it is important that we use a good quality compost. There are two types, soil based e.g. John Innes and soilless , whichever type you purchase make sure it is fresh, not compacted and has not been stored in the rain for long periods. Ideally use the compost in the same season and store in a cool dry place.

Your Garden in March - by John Dunster

The day length and light levels are increasing in March, although the winds may be cold. The soil can still remain cold and wet so don't rush into sowing seeds outdoors until conditions are favourable with the soil 7 degrees C or more.

Basal Cuttings
Taking basal cuttings at this time of the year is the quickest way to propagate herbaceous plants such as chrysanthemums, delphiniums, lupins, phlox, dahlias, and heleniums. Using a sharp knife cut down into a point at which shoots emerge from the root system. There must be some solid tissue at the base of the shoot you cut. Trim the base of the cutting by removing lower leaves. Plant the cuttings firmly into multi purpose compost and soak in water. Either place in an unheated propagator or cover with a polythene bag, untie the bag regularly to remove condensation. When rooted plant on into individual pots.

Bush Roses
Roses can be given their final prune this month. Shrub rose varieties just need some light trimming. Hybrid Tea bushes can be cut back to a strong low framework that has outward facing buds. To improve flowering on climbing roses tie long stems down to horizontal lines.

Dividing Perennials
Lifting and dividing perennials every three or four years is a way of rejuvenating these plants and increasing your stocks. Plants suitable this time of the year are late flowering varieties such as hemerocallis, aster, heleniiums, geraniums, monarda, rudbeckia and hostas. Split up clumps by using two forks back to back and prising apart. Before replanting enrich the soil with some organic matter and water regularly after planting.

Containers planted up with bulbs can quickly dry out at this time of the year when they are in full growth, so make sure they are well watered.

Regularly dead head daffodils but allow the foliage to die down naturally

Beetroot seed will germinate when the soil is 10 degrees C or more, the first sowings can be made in modules and brought on in an unheated greenhouse for planting out into the garden later. They will need protection from attack by birds.

Start mowing lawns this month when the ground is not too wet and the grass is dry. Raise the cutting height of the mower and gradually lower over time. Tidy up lawn edges with a half moon shaped tool. Tackle areas that have been compacted by spiking with a garden fork.

Your Garden in February - by John Dunster

This month we can really see that spring is on the way with the magic of snowdrops, hellebores, tete-a-tete ( the earliest of narcissi), crocus, cyclamen coum all brightening up our gardens, together with the perfume from daphne, hamamelis, sarcococca, viburnum x bodnantense and lonicera x purpusii.

The Ornamental Garden
Cut back the dead stems of herbaceous perennials and grasses which have been left over winter, to allow emerging bulbs to flourish. Do not however prune penstemon until later in March as they still need protection from frost. Now is the time to take photographs of the border to remind us where there are spaces for planting bulbs in the autumn as they will then be covered with foliage.

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Now is the time, while they are in the green, to plant snowdrops and split up congested clumps to increase numbers and also maintain their vigour.

Large flowered clematis hybrids can be lightly pruned now, cutting away any weak stems back to healthy buds. Avoid heavy pruning as this will remove the earliest flowering buds. Late flowering varieties should be cut back to about 15cms.

Cornus (Dogwoods)
Many Cornus are grown for their coloured stems during winter. Established plants should be cut back hard to a low woody framework, this will encourage vigorous young growth for next winters show.

Fuchsia and Buddleia
Cut back old fuchsia stems to ground level and hard prune buddleia stems back to a strong bud.

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Onions can be grown from seed or sets. Growing from seed will save money, but bear in mind they will need a long growing season. Start now by sowing in trays under glass at a temperature of 10-15 degrees centigrade using sieved multi purpose or John Innes seed compost. After germination grow on under cooler conditions, and as soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle prick out into small individual pots or modules for planting out in the spring.

Broad Beans
Sow broad beans under glass for planting out later. Ideally use deep pots or root trainers, filling these with multi purpose or seed compost using your finger to push the beans in on their edge at a depth of 5cm. Water thoroughly and place in a cool greenhouse Once the roots have filled the pots harden of by placing outside during the day before finally planting out into the garden.

Your Garden in January - by John Dunster

Wishing you a happy new year and welcome to 2018

Sow chillies in seed trays now as they need a long growing season. These can be slow to germinate and need some warmth either on a heated bench or windowsill above a radiator. Transfer from the seed tray to modules as soon as the true leaves have developed and plant on into their final terracotta pots in May. Chillies need plenty of water but will not tolerate being waterlogged, so use a free draining compost and never water after midday.

For an early crop of tender pink stems of rhubarb cover the crowns with a layer of straw and cover with a upturned bucket, clay rhubarb pot or large flower pot but cover the drainage hole to exclude light. It is best not to force all the crowns but to select one or two each year.

Making new shrubs
Taking hard wood cuttings is one of the easiest ways of increasing your stock of shrubby plants. There are a whole host of deciduous woody plants that can be increased by this method. These include cornus, roses, forsythia, willow, viburnham, ribes and lonicera fragrantissima. Select healthy strong plant material from this year's growth the width of a pencil. Cut it off cleanly above a node and then cut into 20cm long sections, cutting at an angle above the top bud and square below the bottom bud. Make a trench in the soil to the depth of a spade push it back to form a vee. Insert the cuttings, tapered end uppermost, approximately three quarters below the ground. Firm the soil and don't forget to water in dry weather. They should take easily and put on growth in the spring and be ready to lift and plant on in the autumn or next spring.

When the weather is favourable and the ground is not frozen or waterlogged add a layer of well rotted manure, leafmould or garden compost to borders, around roses, trees and shrubs. Apply a layer 10cm thick but keep away from the base of woody trees and shrubs and the crowns of herbaceous plants. There is no need to work this into the soil as worms will feed on it and pull it down into the soil.

Your Garden in December - by John Dunster

ChristmasCactus.jpg - 12.2 KB Houseplants are often given at this time of the year as Christmas presents and keeping them happy during the winter does require careful treatment as many of them come from brighter more humid climates. Most houseplants grow little during winter and therefore require very little watering, keep the compost just moist using tepid water. Water Cyclamen and Saintpaula from below but do not leave them sitting in water.

Move plants closer to windows as the light levels are much lower during the winter, on frosty nights however avoid leaving them behind curtains. Keep room temperatures as even as possible often plants such as Cyclmen, Azaleas, Cymbidiium Orchards and Christmas Cacti do better where the temperature is cooler around 55 - 59F (13 - 15C)

Group plants on trays of damp gravel or mist foliage periodically, as low humidity levels can often cause the edges of leaves to brown. Reduce or stop feeding unless the plants are in vigorous growth or flowering. Orchards such as Phalaenopsis and foliage plants such as Calathea and Poinsetta need 61 - 66F (16 - 19C) night minimums to avoid bud and leaf drop.

Vegetable Garden
Although traditionally we have dug over the vegetable garden and forked in farmyard manure or garden compost at this time of the year when the soil is dry enough and not frozen, there is at the moment various trials taking place comparing the results of no dig methods, and nearly all the crops in the no dig bed were ahead and better quality than their neighbours. Perhaps the traditional digging regime in the future may be modified and organic matter spread on the surface for worms to do the work. I can see that the no dig method can be of benefit on raised beds but I prefer the traditional method where ground has been compacted.

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Rhubarb is best planted in winter, this does well where it receives sun for at least half the day. Crowns are available now as potted specimens or bare roots. Add plenty of rotted compost to the soil and plant the crowns so that large growth buds are just under the surface.

Check that broccoli and brussels sprouts are tied securely to stakes.

After giving the lawn a final cut it is a good time to have the mower serviced ready for next year, it is worthwhile having this done during the winter as often a discount can be obtained on repairs.

Finally very best wishes for Christmas, good health and good gardening in 2018.

Your Garden in November - by John Dunster

When November arrives and the clocks have gone back we may well feel gardened out and need a break from the garden, but there are still some tasks that need to be carried out.

Lift dahlias after the first frost, cut the stems back to 15cm, clean off any soil from the tubers and stand them upside down to dry for a few days then pack them into crates with sand or potting compost. Store in a dark frost free shed. They should not be allowed to dry out completely so water lightly every few weeks.

Roses and Buddleia
If you have not already done so cut back shrub roses and buddleia by a third to protect them wind rock, a further final pruning can be carried out in the spring. In the case of climbing roses cut back thin weak growth to the main framework. Prune stronger side shoots by two thirds their length cutting just above an outward facing bud. Tie in any vigorous new main shoots that have grown from low down, bending them down to near horizontal.

November is the best month for planting tulips as they can be affected by tulip fire virus if planted too early. Consider adding them to the herbaceous border where there will be early season gaps.

Shrubs and Trees
Now is the time to plant bare root shrubs and trees. Here are a few suggestions for small gardens that will provide interest at different times of the year.

Corylus avellan 'Red Majestic'   Red leaves, corkscrew stems and purple catkins to 4m.
Hamamelis x intermermedia ' Orange Peel'   Spidery orange flowers on bare branches during late winter to 4m.
Mallus 'Indian Magic'   Small crab apple with orange-red fruits and spring blossom to 5m
Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin'   A shrub which can also be trained as a single- stem tree. Rich green evergreen foliage, bright red new growth in spring.
Sorbus helenae   Compact rowen pink winter buds, orange -scarlet autumn tones and white berries flushed pink to 3m.

Now is the time to insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap. Clean the glass thoroughly with disinfectant first and clean up all the debris from the floor. Bring in tender plants such as fuchsias, agapanthus and pelargoniums that are in containers. Water them sparingly over winter, just enough to prevent the compost drying out completely.

Your Garden in October - by John Dunster

Persicaria amplexicaulis.JPG - 15 KBPersicaria amplexicaulis
We can still enjoy some end of season colour in the garden provided by flowers of Persicaria amplexicaulis, Gaura, Schizostylis, Asters, Ceratostigma and Colchiums together with grasses of Molinia, Deschampsia and Carex, not forgetting of course the autumn tints of Acers, Cornus and Euonymus.

Tidying up Borders
Over the years there has been a change of attitude towards the autumn tidy up. We have become more relaxed in our approach to cutting everything back once it has finished flowering. As a general rule anything that is standing up especially those with seed heads can be left until the spring, but if plants like day lilies and hostas or anything that looks unsightly, cut it down. A major clean up can be carried out in the spring when bulbs are beginning to show through and a layer of mulch can be applied at the same time. Clear leaves from lawns but leave some in secluded places to provide shelter for hedgehogs and small mammals.

Planting Bulbs
Continue planting spring flowering bulbs. Daffodils for instance should be planted at a depth of 18cm, as a general rule the bulb should be planted at a depth of three times its height, but planting deeper will not be detrimental. It is always advisable to mark the position of bulbs to prevent digging them up or planting on top of them. Also plant wallflowers where summer bedding has been removed.

Dividing Herbaceous Perennials
This is the ideal time to divide up hardy herbaceous perennials or move any that are in the wrong place. Cut back any top growth and cut around the plant with a spade so that it can be lifted with a good rootball. Chop up the rootball into small sections each with roots and stems attached. Before replanting the divisions enrich the soil with manure or garden compost. Firm the soil around the plant and water well. Plants suitable for dividing at this time of the year are :- Lupins, Delphiniums, Astrantias, Geraniums, Hemerocallis, Phlox and Rudbeckia. Some of the late flowering perennials and hostas for instance can be divided up in the spring, if doing so will not disturb any plants or bulbs that may be emerging.

The Greenhouse
Bring tender plants into the greenhouse for overwintering. Giving the greenhouse a good clean out and washing down the glass is essential to prevent the build up of pests and diseases.

Your Garden in September - by John Dunster

The Ornamental Garden
Plant up containers for Autumn and Winter colour. Add slow release fertiliser granules to the compost, preferably a mixture of multi-purpose compost, John Innes No3 and grit. Suitable plants to provide colour and variation of foliage are heuchera, cyclamen, heathers, carex (bronze), violas and any small shrubs.

Planting bulbs now (other than tulips which are better planted in October or November) will ensure they become well established to give a glorious display in Spring. Remember that bare patches will appear in Spring where areas are now covered by foliage. Purchase bulbs as soon as they appear for sale as the longer they sit around in the shops the more they dry out. Examine them to make sure they are not soft or have white mould on the surface.

Keep dead heading perennials and bedding plants to prolong flowering for as long as possible.

Keep camellias and rhododendrons well watered to ensure good flower bud formation for next year.

Plant trees and shrubs while the soil is still warm. Now is a good time to move evergreen shrubs if necessary, they will have time to settle into their new homes and make good root growth. Water the day before moving and lift with a good rootball, the new hole should be large enough to accommodate the whole rootball, also water well after planting.

The Vegetable Garden
Garlic. Hard neck and elephant garlic are best planted this month. Soft neck varieties can wait until October or even December, but no harm will come by doing it all in September. Carefully break the garlic bulbs apart into separate cloves. Choose a sunny spot and add well rotted organic matter to the soil. Unlike shallots the cloves are planted with 2.5 to 5cm of soil above the pointy tip, keep moist.

Strawberry plants which have been propagated from runners earlier on should now be ready for planting out into their final position.

The Greenhouse
As the light levels drop remove any shading from the glass. Destroy any plants that have finished cropping and then clean up the floor. Reduce watering and feeding plants as they are growing more slowly at this time of the year.

The Lawn Scarify and aerate the lawn now this will reduce the build up of thatch and moss and will also relieve compaction and improve drainage. Follow up with an application of autumn lawn fertiliser which should be low in nitrogen.

Your Garden in August - by John Dunster

kniphofia_1511141c.jpg - 20.4 KBKniphofia Roopers
Most gardens reach their peak in June and July but with a bit of planning and plant selection your garden can look good until the first frosts. Dahlias can be planted singly in a border and often offer a contrast in foliage. Japanese anemonies also have attractive foliage and are available in white, piink and mauve, both doubles and singles. Kniphofias (red hot pokers) are a varied bunch of flowers from spring until autumn, Kniphofia Roopers is one of the best late bloomers. Shade loving Tricyrtis (toad lily) is not the boldest of flowers but on close inspection have most interesting star shaped white flowers spotted with maroon. Other plants to consider are asters (Michaelmas daisies) available in a number of varieties, many Penstemons will continue flowering well into autumn, also Sedums of pink flowers which also provide nectar for butterflies and bees, plant in the front or taller varieties in the middle of the border.

Lightly trim Hebes and Lavender cutting off flower stems and approx.. 1" - 2" of new growth, producing a lush, neat and tidy shrub.

The aim of pruning and training Wisteria is to create a framework of lateral branches. They should bear short spurs along their length that will carry two or three trusses of flowers. Select new stems to tie in horizontally as part of the framework. Prune current season's growth quite hard, cut back all whippy shoots to five or six leaves. Further pruning can be carried out in January or February

Give evergreen hedges such as holly, laurel and yew their final trim for the season. Yew for instance can be trimmed more than once during the season, every shoot cut back is replaced with a least twice as many short stems, thus thickening up the hedge.

Keep dead heading to prolong the flowering period of bedding and herbaceous planting, also prolong container displays by feeding regularly with a high potassium feed such as tomato feed.

Lift onions and shallots, and dry off under cover before storing. When a patch of soil becomes available it is a good idea to sow greenmanure. This will supress weeds and will add a nutrient boost when you dig it back in.

Continue to ventilate the greenhouse and damp down the floor. Remove the lower leaves form tomatoes to help ripen the fruit and improve air circulation.

Your Garden in July - by John Dunster

echinacea.jpg - 10.9 KBEchinacea
Echinacea could be called the star plant of the month and are excellent for attracting bees and butterflies. These plants are native to the USA and grow wild in the open grassland. They are used to very low temperatures but as the winters are much drier in the states do require free draining soil.

Blackcurrant bushes need pruning after all the fruit has been harvested. Without regular pruning their productivity will begin to decline. Remove the thickest oldest stems at the base reducing the bush by about a third, leaving a few of the younger fruited stems and the stronger new growth to produce fruit for next year

Redcurrants and Gooseberries should be treated differently to blackcurrants. After harvesting remove any new growth that is crowding the centre of the bush and cut back new shoots you wish to keep by about a third.

Raspberries. With the exception of autumn fruiting raspberries these can make strong vigorous growth in one year which go on to fruit the following year. Once the crop has been picked cut out the old canes to ground level and tie in the new canes. Autumn raspberries fruit on the current year's growth and should be cut down to ground level in the winter.

Propagate new strawberry plants by sinking runners into a 9cm pot of compost and secure with a wire hoop, keep well watered and once rooted sever from the parent plant. Grow on and plant out at the end of August.

Ornamental Garden
Keep cutting sweet peas regularly every few days, this will trick them into producing more flowers. Once they are allowed to go to seed they consider their purpose fulfilled and will stop producing new blooms. Keep well watered.

Dead head summer bedding, dahlias and repeat flowering perennials. Do not allow containers and hanging baskets to dry out, regular watering is essential also apply liquid tomato feed twice weekly.

Vegetable Garden
Check the shoot tips of runner and French beans for blackfly. Use your thumb and forefinger to wipe them off without bruising the plant. Purple sprouting and brussels sprout plants should need staking by the end of the month, this will prevent damage to the stems and root systems from wind rock.

The Lawn
During hot dry spells raise the cutting height of the lawn mower to prevent the grass becoming stressed.

Your Garden in June - by John Dunster

The Ornamental Garden
lilac-bush1.jpg - 9.7 KB Remove old flowers from lilac and rhododendrons to prevent them wasting energy by going to seed.

Regularly feed vegetables, fruit and ornamentals in growing bags, pots and hanging baskets with a high potash liquid fertiliser, as growing medium will soon be running out of nutrients. Keep up with the dead heading especially delphiniums and lupins to encourage a second flush of flowers also cutting oriental poppies and pulmonaria back to ground level for a fresh rosette of foliage.

Prune spring flowering shrubs such as deutzia, philadelphus and weigela. Cut out the oldest wood and reduce the remaining stems as necessary, bur retain the natural shape of the shrub. By pruning now the plant will produce new growth for next year's flowers. Late flowering shrubs should be pruned in the winter as flowers are borne on the current year's wood.

Propagating from heel cuttings
A heel cutting is taken by pulling away a small sideshoot from a woody plant so that it retains a heel (small sliver) of bark from the main stem. Ideally take cuttings from semi-ripe material which is hard at the base but still soft at the tip. Cuttings should be 2" - 3" long, remove the soft tip and lowest pair of leaves. With a sharp knife trim the heel to neaten its end. Insert the cutting into gritty compost and place in a propagator, cuttings will take 8 - 12 weeks to root after which pot on into 9cm pots and plant out next spring or autumn. Suitable species for this type of propagation are berberis, ceanothus, daphne,eleagnus, lonicera, pieris, skimmia and lavender.

The Vegetable Garden
Continue making sowings of salad crops and carrots. Also sow seeds of swede, turnip and spring cabbage. Harvest rhubarb up until the end of the month, when thereafter it will be time to give the plant a rest and plough back energy into the roots.

Keep on top of weeds by hoeing regularly with a dutch hoe on dry days, preferably in the mornings to give the weeds time to wilt during the day.

The Greenhouse
Keep the temperature of the greenhouse down by using maximum ventilation and damp down the floor which will also help to reduce the temperature and increase the humidity, this also helps to reduce spider mite.

Feed tomatoes regularly with a high potassium fertiliser. Remove side shoots on cordon varieties and tie into supports. Shaking the plant will help to improve pollination.

Your Garden in May - by John Dunster

astrantia-flower1.jpg - 6.7 KBAstrantia
Aquilegia_Tequila__3335402c.jpg - 4.8 KBAquilegia
As we get well into spring here are some of the star plants we shall see in May.

Astrantia A beautiful masterwort from central and eastern Europe with tall stems bearing rosettes of red,pink and white flowers.

Aquilegia Otherwise known as columbines these delicate flowers flutter like fairies.

Euphorbias These are known in the wild as woodspurge and are mostly recognised by their yellow flowers, although as a contrast fireglow produces brilliant orange bracts.

Iris There are various species of Iris that can be found in flower for up to 9 months of the year. However Iris Siberica and Flag Iris are at their best during May.

Perennial Wallflower A good stalwart plant is the perennial wallflower Bowles Mauve. This plant will continue producing its mauve flowers from now and throughout the summer.

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart). Above the fern like leaves rise the flower stems, bent over with the weight of the heart shaped rose, pink or white flowers.

Dicentra.jpg - 10.3 KBDicentra
Lilac and Weigela Two shrubs which are always at their best at this time of the year.

The Ornamental Garden
The Chelsea Chop This is a great way of extending the flowering season of perennials such as phlox, helenium, monarda, rudbeckia and sedum. This involves cutting back the stems by half in May usually at the time of The Chelsea Flower Show. If you have only a single clump, then cut back half the stems by half their height. Those left will flower first followed later by those you have cut back. If you have several identical plants you can cut back some clumps and leave others, extending the flowering season by up to a month.

Primroses May is a good time to split up primroses as they have finished flowering but their foliage is still growing well. Divide up every two to three years to rejuvenate them. Lift the entire clump, then pull it apart into several smaller sections, replant these smaller sections individually and water well.

Aubretia and Pulmonaria Cut these back tight after flowering to produce new growth for next year, always water well to enable the plant to recover. After flowering Pulmonaria suffers from attack by mildew, if the foliage is cut back to ground level new healthy growth will be produced.

Plant Supports The secret of supporting plants is to make sure you do it before the plant needs support. By doing it early the supports will soon be hidden by the new growth and secondly any plant that has been knocked or blown over will never look the same however carefully you prop it up. Twiggy prunings of hazel can be used but if these are not available purpose made supports can be used.

Lily Beetle Look out for these bright orange beetles as they can attack the leaves of lilies and fritillaria. Pick them off carefully as they have a habit of dropping off the plant and disappearing into the soil. Lily Beetles overwinter as adults, each female lays up to 300 orange eggs on the underside of leaves, the larva are usually covered in their slimy black excreta.

Pruning Prune Weigela, Forsythia and Philadelphus after flowering by taking out the oldest stems and reducing the remaining stems as required to produce new growth for next year's blooms.

Annual Bedding Harden off bedding plants over 5 or 6 days by bringing out during the day and back in over night. There is a great temptation to plant out summer annuals too early, delay this until after the middle of the month or even later when hopefully the weather will be warmer and they will establish much more quickly.

sawfly.JPG - 8.4 KBSawfly larvae
Hanging Baskets Plant up hanging baskets using a good quality compost with added slow release fertiliser granules and moisture retaining gel. Be generous with the planting and if you are using trailing plants there is no need to plant up the sides of the basket as these will soon be covered. After planting up water well and place in the greenhouse or conservatory until the plants have knitted together and the threat of frost has passed.

The Vegetable Garden
Thin out seedlings gradually, remove overcrowded seedlings by pulling out, taking care not to dislodge remaining ones. Make sowings of carrots, cauliflowers, french beans and runner beans. Keep on top of the weeds by hoeing regularly with a dutch hoe on dry days.

Broad Beans Pinch out the growing tips of broad beans which will help to prevent an infestation of black fly, each individual blackfly can turn into hundreds in just a few days. As soon as any do appear rub them off by hand.

Gooseberries Look out for the larvae of sawfly on the underside of the leaves. Remove these by hand before they have a chance to destroy the foliage completely.

Your Garden in April - by John Dunster

Herbaceous Border
Remove faded daffodil and tulip flowers, but leave the foliage to die back naturally as this will ensure that all the plant energy goes back into the bulb. Hyacinths that have been grown in containers can be planted out into the garden.

Now is the time to move any plants that are in the wrong position or need dividing, retaining a good root ball when lifting. New plants should be planted to enable them to become established before the summer. Always water well after planting.

Divide agapanthus that are in containers if flowering has declined, replant into fresh John Innes No2 with added grit.

Cut back Jasmine now that it has finished flowering to restrict its size and encourage it produce new shorter growth for next winter's flowering.

Pruning Evergreens
Evergreens give structure to the garden, and offer foliage interest at uncompromising times of the year, however broad leaved evergreens benefit from a regular pruning and tidy up at this time of the year for various reasons but mainly to limit their size.

When carrying out pruning, firstly remove any damaged, diseased or dead wood, and any leaves affected by fungal leaf spots. It is also important to maintain the shape and form of the shrub and not end up with what I call a supermarket car park manicured bush. This is why it is important in most cases to use secateurs and not shears, however plants such as lavender and thymes will benefit from a trim after flowering to maintain their size and shape.

To maintain the shrubs' habit and shape regularly prune those grown as hedges or as topiary, regular trimming from April to August will keep them bushy and compact. This would apply to berberis, box, laurel, privet, pyrcantha and viburnham.

Plants like photinia which are grown for their coloured foliage should be pruned during April and May to allow a whole growing season for new growth to develop. Pieris should be pruned after flowering, very often removing dead flower heads would be adequate.

Ceanothus can be a difficult shrub to prune as it becomes leggy and resents being cut back hard. It is therefore important not to allow it to get out of control by lightly pruning early on and each year afterwards.

Evergreens that are also grown for flowers as well as the foliage may need pruning to dead head and keep them within bounds. This would apply to camellias which should be lightly pruned after flowering, cutting back to well placed sideshoots, this will give them time to produce new flowering shoots for next year. Mahonia can become very tall with little growth lower down. This shrub will tolerate hard pruning, cutting out some of the older wood low down to a young shoot will stimulate new growth and maintain its shape.

The Vegetable Garden
Plant early potatoes at the beginning of the month and maincrop a little later. Make sowings of carrots, parsnips and summer cauliflower after thoroughly preparing the seed bed, raking off any stones that may impede the growth of the new seedlings.

Regularly keep weed seedlings under control by using a dutch hoe in the early morning when the weather is dry.

The Greenhouse
Pot on any cuttings from last year also repot any greenhouse plants that have outgrown their containers.

Sow seeds of cucumbers, marrows and squashes in pots, they will be ready for planting out in the garden during May, but will need protection against frost. Always plant the seeds on their edge and not flat to prevent them rotting.

Control the temperature in the greenhouse by opening vents and doors during the day, but close later in the afternoon when the temperature in the greenhouse falls to 20 degrees c. Pinch out the growing tips of sweet peas to make a bushy plants.

Pot on tomato plants regularly encouraging new roots by burying the stem up to the pair of seedling leaves, always water well after transplanting.

Lawn Care
Lawns will benefit from regular cutting now the grass has started to grow more rapidly. If the lawn has a major weed problem give an application of combined weedkiller and fertiliser.

Your Garden in March - by John Dunster

daffodils.jpg - 11.8 KB March brings a burst of spring colour to the garden as daffodils, hellebores and pulmonaria reach their peak and many shrubs come into blossom. These may be the stars but they have a backing cast of new spring growth, although green is the predominant colour there are other plants with colourful new foliage complimenting the daffodils and tulips. Aconitum (carmichaelii royal flush) has rich red new leaves. Phlox paniculata (prince of orange) whose shoots appear as if dipped in black ink. Corydalis temulifolia (chocolate star) really shines when wet. Fresh yellow comes from young leaves of Anthriscus sylvestris (going for gold) going well with the purple shoots of Iris x robusta (dark aura)

Ornamental Garden
Finally remove any dead foliage and now is the time to cut back penstemon to new shoots. Mulch borders with well rotted manure or garden compost taking care not to cover the crowns of emerging plants. Choose to do this when the soil is moist as it will help to conserve moisture as well as supressing weeds and also adding nutrients to the soil. Pot up dahlia tubers under glass, this will bring them into growth earlier ready for planting out when the risk of frost has passed.

March is the ideal time to lift and divide congested perennials and those which have outgrown their space. Hostas dislike root disturbance so only divide when they have outgrown their space, woody clumps should be chopped up into sections with a spade. Heucheras need dividing every three years as they become woody with growth only around the edges. Lift the plants and replant small strongly growing portions. Hemerocallis (day lilies) should be lifted with a fork to limit root damage. Split the clumps by using two forks back to back and prising apart. Other perennials that may be divided at this time of year are astrantia, rudbeckia, geranium and helenium.

snowdrops.jpg - 10.9 KB Lift and divide snowdrops now while they are in the green, they will establish much more readily when in active growth rather than from dry bulbs in the autumn. Use a trowel to dig down deeply and carefully lift the clump from the ground and tease out the bulbs using your hands. Either replant individual bulbs or small clumps deep enough to bury the bulbs and leave the top half of the foliage above the soil, firm well an water.

Another method of increasing plants is by propagating from basal cuttings. Phlox, dahlias, campanulas, asters delphiniums and helenium all lend themselves to this method. Use a sharp knife to cut down into the point at which shoots emerge from the root system. Trim the base of the cutting and if the rosette of leaves is very big reduce by half. Plant the cuttings in a multi purpose compost around the edge of a pot, water well and place the pot in a polythene bag or heated propagator

Cut back winter flowering jasmine after the blooms have faded, prune elderberry (sambucas nigra) and buddleja hard back to promote new growth.

Dead head daffodils and tulips regularly to prevent them from going to seed , leave foliage to die back naturally, this will feed energy back into the bulbs. Apply a liquid feed of tomato feed to help produce next years flowers.

The Vegetable Garden
lawn_1424726c.jpg - 7.8 KB If you have started off broadbeans and shallots in modules plant them out into the garden when they are ready. Make sowings of carrots, parsnips, onions, leeks and peas later in the month when the soil is dry enough and the temperatures are higher. Plant out early potatoes, after chitting, with shoots facing upwards, adding well rotted manure or fertiliser to the trench. Keep fleece handy to protect from frosts.

The Lawn
Once the weather has warmed up choose a dry day to start mowing the lawn. Raise the cutting height at first and gradually lower over the next few cuts. Tidy up the edges with a half moon tool. Improve the drainage where the lawn has become compacted, either by spiking with a fork or using a hollow tine aerator.

The Greenhouse
Continue cleaning the greenhouse to make sure it is hygienic for tender new plants. Sow tomato seed and half hardy annuals in modules or seed trays and place in a propagator at a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your Garden in February - by John Dunster

Although February is considered a winter month it really is an omen of spring. Snowdrops are magical at this time of year, where would we be without this wonderful flower to cheer us up on dreary days. Crocus, cyclamen coum, hellebores and early daffodils are all delightful at this time of year. Amazingly shrubs such as Witch Hazel (hamomelis) and Christmas Box (sarcococca) fill the air with their scent from such insignificant flowers.

The Ornamental Garden
Any congested clumps of snowdrops can be lifted now while they are still in the green and divided up. Replant them at their original depth.

If you have not already done so remove leaves from hellebores, cutting them back to ground level. This will not only expose the flowers to their best advantage but also reduce the risk of the flowers becoming infected with any fungal disease. New foliage will be produced soon after flowering.

Any dead foliage or flowering spikes can be cut back to ground level to allow bulbs to emerge and manifest themselves. The only plants I would leave at the moment are penstemon as they still need protection from frost.

Final pruning can be carried out during February while the bare branches reveal the structure of the plant and before new shoots start to emerge in March . Pruning enables you to maintain the shape of the plant and induce it to produce new more vigorous shoots. Do not attack it with a hedgetrimmer as this will destroy the natural form of the shrub and produce the type of plants associated with supermarket car parks. Plants suitable for pruning at this time of year are those that form their buds on new growth and flower in the second half of the year.

Clematis that flower in the first half of the year should be lightly pruned and those that flower later cut back to 15-30cm from the ground. After pruning apply a mulch of well rotted manure or garden compost.

Buddleja, Sambucus and Fuchsia can all be cut back hard now, the harder they are cut back the more they will flower.

Cornus which are grown for their coloured stems during winter can also be cut back hard although I find it better to only remove the older stems and reduce the plant by 25 percent.

There is no mystery to pruning roses, as there is little you can do from which they will not recover. Firstly remove all damaged and crossing stems, then cut back hard any stems which are too weak to carry flowers. Finally remove any old stems that are crowding the plant. Most shcrub roses do not need any other pruning but hey can be reduced by a third by clipping evenly. Hybrid Teas, Floribundas and China roses need to have all the remaining healthy shoots cut back by two thirds.

Apply a mulch of well rotted manure or garden compost to the borders, this will help to supress weeds and also conserve moisture as well as providing nutrients to the plants.

The Vegetable Garden
When the weather is favourable fork over any ground that is still vacant.

Broad Beans are easy to grow and one of the earliest crops to harvest. These can be sown directly into the ground in autumn or spring, but when conditions are not suitable they can be planted in modules or root trainers and placed in a cool greenhouse. These should germinate within 3 weeks and after 6 weeks placed outside to harden off before planting out.

Shallots can also be brought on by the same method.

By growing onions from seed, it is cheaper that purchasing onion sets and there are more varieties to choose from. The seed needs to be sown now and germinated with heat. Using cell trays, fill with fresh seed compost and soak with warm water. Using a dibber make holes in the centre of each cell and plant each seed in the hole and then push the compost over.

The Greenhouse
Using a propagator sow tomato seed in small pots, 6 seeds to a pot or alternatively sow individual seeds in cells, this will reduce root disturbance when planting out. Using seed compost plant 2mm deep at a temperature of 24c. After germination provide with as much light as possible and as they increase in size pot on into bigger pots. Sowing at this time of year is only suitable for growing plants in the greenhouse.

Peppers and chillies should also be sown now as they require a long growing season to ripen.

During drier spells do not forget to water containers as when the plants are beginning to grow they will require more moisture.

January Roots

Everyday food in January can be a delight and a comfort. There's no need to punish yourself for the excesses for Christmas and New Year. Hearty, satisfying and flavourful recipes using the best of the winter vegetables are the answer. Thank you Rob Andrews from the Riverford Field Kitchen for these wonderful ideas, which have been slightly adapted.

Shepherds pie with a difference: this can be cooked on top of the stove in a casserole, or in the oven

1 large onion, chopped finely
3 carrots , diced in 1cm chunks
1 can cooked butterbeans, borlotti, or kidney beans ( or 250g dry weight, cooked until soft)
2 oz pearl barley
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped,
2 anchovy fillets, tinned or salted (optional)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp red wine vinegar or cider vinegar,
Sprig of thyme leaves, stripped and chopped
Sprg of rosemary leaves, stripped and chopped
2 bay leaves
300 ml dark ale or stout, OR 2tbsp yeast extract dissolved in 280ml vegetable bouillon plus 2 extra tbsp vinegar
Half tsp ground allspice
Half tsp salt
Quarter tsp ground black pepper

For the topping: 600g swede, 400g carrots, (or potatoes/sweet potatoes/ squash), 100g yoghurt, nut milk, or butter, horseradish(optional), nutmeg, salt and pepper

  1. If using the oven, set temperature to 160 C 325 F gas mark 3.
  2. Fry onion, carrot in a little oil for 10 minutes until soft, then add garlic, anchovy fillets, tomato puree and vinegar until soft- 5 mins
  3. Add herbs, stout, allspice, canned beans, barley, salt, pepper, , add vegetable stock ( Marigold bouillon powder is easy and good) to cover, cook for 1and a half hours on top of stove or in oven, until tender. Check seasoning.
  4. Mash: steam ( or boil) 600g cubed swede, plus your choice of 400g carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes also cubed, until very tender. Mash with 1 tsp horseradish ( optional) yoghurt/nut milk/butter, grating of nutmeg, optional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Evenly spread the mash on the cooked vegetables, mark with fork, and brown under the grill for 10 minutes. Serve with finely shredded greens of choice.

Spicy vegetable patties , and dip
- serve with a simple green salad or green beans. Add plain boiled rice and a range of chutneys or relishes, for a filling supper. An excellent standby, as you can use whatever root vegetables you have to hand.

I large onion, finely sliced, 2 tbsp good cooking oil, eg rapeseed.
25g butter or rape seed oil
50g plain flour, sifted.
Half tsp turmeric, one and a hlf tsp garam masala, quarter tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk OR 100g silken tofu, beaten well
300g swede OR 300g parsnip OR 300g celeriac OR 300gany kind of squash, IN EACH CASE peeled and steamed in small cubes until very soft, then mashed. ( If using squash or parsnip, add half tsp ground cumin.)
Handful fresh coriander or parsley

For the dip:
3-4 tbsp plain yoghurt/soya yoghurt, mixed with 1 tbsp finely chopped lime pickle

  1. Fry the onion gently until very soft and golden, but not brown ( can add a little water if itdries up too quickly) for about 20 mins
  2. In a separate thick bottomed pan heat up 100ml vegetable stock (or bouillon powder and water), with the 25g g butter or rape seed oil, spices, salt and pepper. When it reaches simmering point, add the flour and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth and pulling away from the sides of the pan. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then beat in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, or slowly add the beaten tofu if you aren't using eggs, until you have a paste ( like choux pastry)
  3. Drain the onion mix, and add to the paste, with the mashed vegetable of your choice. Put in the fridge or a cool place to rest, covered, for a few hours if possible.
  4. Make the dip, adding the lime pickle paste to the yoghurt. ( if you are going to serve rice or green beans, now is the time to cook these as well )
  5. Put 50mm depth of good quality cooking oil in a pan, and heat to about 180C, ( frying point), but not smoking.
  6. Mix the parsley or coriander into the paste. Shape the paste into small egg-shapes using 2 tablespoons, and drop each soft patty into the oil very carefully straight from the spoon. Fry in batches of 4-5 at a time for 3-4 minutes, turning halfway through. Drain, and keep warm in a low oven until all are cooked.
  7. Serve warm, with the dip.

Your Garden in January - by John Dunster

It is very tempting to hunker down and not emerge until spring but there are still things that can be done in the garden at this time of year.

Pruning can be carried out during January and February while the plants are dormant. This includes apples and pears but avoid pruning plum and cherry trees to prevent them becoming infected with silver leaf fungus. Only remove up to 20 percent of the crown, the more you remove the more foliage will grow at the expense of fruit. Remove any dead or decaying wood and any branches that are crossing, cutting back to a joint. When removing large branches, do this in stages, cutting off all the twigs and branches to reduce the weight, remove the remaining stump of branch by first cutting upwards on the underside then sawing down from above to meet the cut with a sharp pruning saw. On gooseberries and redcurrants remove dead wood and low lying shoots. Shorten branch tips by one quarter, cutting to a suitable outward facing bud. Prune autumn fruiting raspberry canes, cutting them down to ground level.

Unless the ground is frozen or waterlogged, now is the time to plant bare root shrubs or trees. Roses, fruit trees, hedging and perennials can be purchased this way. It is important to plant these as soon as possible after they arrive. If this is not possible heel them in somewhere until this can be done.

Compact the soil around brassicas where it has been loosened by frost.

The Ornamental Garden
You can continue to tidy borders by removing decaying foliage, but leave some of the herbaceous skeletons which can still offer food to the birds and protection for insects. Cut off leaves on hellebores to ground level, this will expose the flowers and prevent the spread of any fungal disease. Also cut back foliage of Iris unquicularis to help reveal the blooms.

On milder dry days tidy up lawn edges with a half moon tool.

Propagation does not come to a halt either. Now is the time to propagate from root cuttings. This method is suitable for many herbaceous plants with fleshy roots such as sea holly, cat mint, oriental poppy, acanthus, anemone japonica and phlox. Lift the plant and wash the roots free of soil. Choose strong shoots and sever them close to the crown as possible. Cut each root into sections 2-4ins long making the thinner cuttings the longest. Cut the base of each cutting at an angle and the top of each with a straight cut. Prepare pots of standard cutting compost and water well, leave to drain. Using a dibber make holes as deep as the cuttings, insert them vertically, angled end down. The top of each cutting should be level with the compost. Spread a layer of grit over the surface and place in a greenhouse or cold frame, keep damp but do not overwater. When new top growth appears pot on into 3in pots. An alternative method is to place the root cuttings horizontally in a tray on standard cutting compost and cover with a quarter of an inch of compost.

Chickpea and Red Pepper Stew

Try this easy and delicious warming winter Chickpea and Red Pepper Stew. It's the fresh herbs that make all the difference:

  • 2 red onions (sliced)
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 sweet red peppers (sliced w/ seeds removed)
  • 3 courgettes (thinly sliced)
  • 1 large tomato (cut into chunks)
  • 1 can of chickpeas (drained)
  • A handful of fresh oregano
  • Half a handful of fresh thyme
  • Olive oil

How it's done:
  • Gently heat a little olive oil in a large pan.
  • Add the onions and garlic and cook gently for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the peppers and gently heat for a few more minutes before adding the courgettes & tomato.
  • Leave to cook over a medium heat, for 15 minutes - the pan will bubble away gently as the courgettes release their own natural juices.
  • Once the vegetables are softened, add the chickpeas, a little oregano & seasoning then simmer gently for a few minutes and divide between warmed bowls.
  • Before serving, sprinkle with a little fresh thyme and a drizzle of oil (serve with crusty bread or couscous). Enjoy.

Your Garden in December - by John Dunster

Ornamental Garden
December is a good month for propagating roses from hardwood cuttings. Choose 30 -60cm lengths of straight stem about a pencil thickness of this year's growth, divide this into 20cm lengths with a bud at both ends, cut straight across the bottom and at an angle at the top, so you will remember which way up to plant them. Strip off any remaining leaves. Bury two thirds of each cutting in a deep pot filled with very gritty compost, or plant outside in a narrow trench back filled with sand or grit. Water in the summer and leave them until next autumn when they will have made plants ready for potting up or planting out.

Check hellebores and remove any leaves that have past 45 degrees or have been affected by blight and have black patches on them. All the leaves can be removed later to expose the flowers.

Vegetable Garden
Prune autumn fruiting raspberries, cutting all the canes down to ground level, as new shoots will be produced next spring.

Continue digging the vegetable when weather permits avoid doing this when the ground is frozen or too wet.

House Plants
Christmas and the New Year are favourite periods for houseplants to be given as presents. Her are a few tips on how to get the best out of them and care for them after they have bloomed. Some plants prefer warm dry conditions and others prefer to be in a humid environment. The most popular plants at this time of the year Cyclamen, Miniature Roses, Christmas Cacti, poinsettia and Indoor Azalia

These prefer a cool position in bright but not sunny light. Water from below once the compost dries out and never leave the pot standing in water. Add houseplant fertiliser fortnightly and remove dead flower stalks and leaves. After flowering leave to dry out until new growth begins again in the autumn.

Miniature Roses
Poinsettia.jpg - 7.9 KB Miniature roses pictures. (5).jpg - 13.2 KB Miniature Roses are also a very popular present. These prefer a cool bright windowsill but unlike cyclamen the pot should be stood on wet gravel to maintain a high humidity. Snip off faded flowers and reduce the stems by half to a bud when they have finished flowering. These plants have been forced to induce flowering outside their natural period and should be repotted into a larger pot and fed weekly.

Christmas Cacti
These enjoy a semi shaded warm spot out of direct sunlight. Stand on a tray of wet gravel to replicate the humid jungle-like conditions that they originate from. Faded flowers will fall off and when flowering has finished rest the plant in a cool room and reduce watering for a couple of months. Move to a warmer position in spring and increase watering, a second drier period in autumn will encourage new flowers to form.

The require a minimum temperature of 14 degrees C .avoiding draughts and direct sources of heat in a bright but not sunny position. Do not saturate the compost and water sparingly when the compost feels dry, but mist frequently. Add tomato feed once a month. Cut back hard in April and repot, allow only 12 hours of light daily from early October to produce good winter colour.

Indoor Azalia
Keep the compost moist and stand in a saucer of moist gravel using rainwater rather than tap water. After flowering repot into a larger plastic pot using ericaceous compost, reduce watering and feed fortnightly until next winter. Plants prefer bright light in a cool room. Keep outside in summer.

Very best wishes for Christmas and good gardening in 2017

Your Garden in November - by John Dunster

Ornamental Garden
Continue planting tulips in containers and borders, these should be planted up to 6" deep.

Remove any rotting or dead foliage which may be harbouring slugs and snails, as I have mentioned before many plants will survive the winter better if the foliage is left until the spring, this may also provide a food source for birds and protection for insects.

Prune long stems of shrub roses and buddleia back by a third to reduce damage caused by wind rock, final pruning to take place in the spring.

Continue planting bare root shrubs,bushes and trees as soon as possible after purchase. Perennials planted in the autumn rather than the spring will develop better root systems during the winter and produce much larger plants for the summer, however if you have heavy water logged soils it may be preferable to delay planting until the spring. Enrich the soil with plenty of manure or garden compost and add sharp grit if the soil is on the heavy side. Ensure that pot bound plants get a good start by teasing out the roots in order that they spread out into the surrounding soil, you can be quite brutal, as its vital that the roots do not remain in a tight ball after planting. Support trees by securing to a low stake which will hold the rootball firm while also allowing the trunk and branches to flex.

Vegetable Garden
By the end of the month plant garlic cloves for the best sized bulbs next year. Continue staking brassicas such as purple sprouting and brussels sprouts also protect with netting from attack by pigeons.

Start harvesting parsnips and leeks, give strawberries a final tidy up by removing old runners, dead leaves and weeds.

Pot grown rhubarb plants are available for planting during late autumn, plant in a bright open sight, enriching the soil with plenty of garden compost. You should also lift and divide large established rhubarb clumps every four or five years, replanting the healthy young outer portions into improved soil, Mulch generously with manure and keep well watered.

Leaf Mould
Fallen leaves are freely available at this time of the year and are the sole ingredients of leaf mould. This makes a great soil improver and can also be added to compost for potting up. Use only deciduous leaves and after gathering up run through a rotary lawn mower, this will speed up decomposition. The handiest way to store the leaves is in a plastic bag, tied up with holes pierced in it. Store these out of sight and the leaf mould should be ready to use within 12 to 18 months.

The Greenhouse
Now is the time to insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap, this will keep the greenhouse 2 or 3 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Before doing so scrub the glass and staging with disinfectant and sweep up any debris from the floor. Bring in any tender plants such as fuchsias, and agapanthas which are in containers. Cannas should be lifted and put into pots. Dahlias can be lifted after the first frosts, dried off and stored in compost in a frost free environment. However in well drained soil these may well survive if left in the ground and covered with a good layer of compost.

Asian Hornet warning - please be on the alert for any signs of Asian Hornets in our area- they are distinctive, and they can kill the all bees in a hive within a few hours. Yet another challenge to our essential pollinating insects, but we can help by reporting any Asian Hornets we may notice- please see the article attached for further information.

Bees and other pollinating insects are in decline already- look around you, all our green pasture and flail-cut hedges are a green desert so far as pollen and nectar-providing flowers are concerned, and sadly few farmers or landowners in our area are leaving a strip of wildflower meadow to enable insects to survive, as happens elsewhere.

It's encouraging that so many people are consciously choosing to plant flowers and shrubs in their gardens which are insect-friendly, and perhaps we can have a chat with any farmer friends about the possibility of a wild-flower strip in their fields as well?

Click on the image for a closer look.

Your Garden in October - by John Dunster

Herbaceous Borders
It is very tempting at this time of the year, when the borders are not at their best to chop everything down in an effort to tidy up. Before you do that take stock, it may not be necessary to cut everything back and there might be several good reasons to keep some of the foliage.

Some plants like to have their foliage left over winter, it helps to protect them from frost and they can be cut back in March when they start producing new foliage. Penstemon, fuchsia and caryopteris need this sort of protection.

If you cut everything back you will be left with nothing in the borders. Artemisia, aster, caryopsis, heuchera can all be tidied up in the spring. Leave grasses until February or March then cut them back to the ground this will provide structure to the garden during the winter.

cobwebs.jpg - 11.7 KB A dusting of frost or cobwebs on teasels and alliums can look very attractive. Also think about the beauty of seed heads such as poppies, echinops, eryngium and Echinacea, these not only look good but provide a valuable source of food for birds and shelter for insects.

There are exceptions however such as decaying foliage which should be removed as this can harbour slugs.

Now is also a good time to move those plants that are in the wrong position, retain a good root ball when lifting and add a handful of bonemeal to the planting hole, water well. This will allow plenty of time for the roots to get established before the soil temperatures drop.

Divide up any congested early flowering perennials, discarding the woody central portion, later flowering plants prefer to be divided in the spring. Hostas for instance establish well at that time of year.

Fill any empty spaces with bulbs which should be planted as soon as possible, with the exception of tulips which should be left until November. Prune back hybrid tea and floribunda roses by a third to prevent wind rock, a final pruning can be carried out in March, this can also apply to buddleia.

It can also be beneficial to apply a mulch of compost or well rotted manure to the borders, a layer 3" deep is ideal. Empty out hanging baskets and containers which are now coming to the end of their flowering period and replant with autumn, winter and spring flowering plants, use fresh compost and add slow release fertiliser granules.

Kitchen Garden
Continue harvesting pumpkins, squashes and marrows before the first frosts. Lift any potatoes which are still in the ground to prevent attack by slugs. Keep weeds under control and inspect brassicas frequently for caterpillars which will survive well into the winter if the weather is warm enough.

Plant garlic on well prepared beds which have had plenty of organic matter incorporated. Unlike onions these need to be planted up to 4" deep on light soils and slightly shallower on heavy land.

Lawn Care
There is still time to apply an autumn feed but this needs to be done as soon as possible, when mowing choose a dry day and raise the cutting height of the mower.

Now is the time to remove any shading as light levels are dropping. Remove tomatoes and cucumbers that have finished fruiting, cleaning up any debris and wash the glass down. Think about fixing bubble wrap to the interior later in the month before the first frost, make sure doors and vents still open so that you can ventilate on warm days.

Your Garden in September - by John Dunster

Kitchen Garden
Harvest main crop potatoes as the haulm dies down.

Cut out raspberry canes to ground level which have fruited in the summer and tie in the new canes.

Support purple sprouting broccoli and brussels sprout plants with stakes to prevent wind rock during the winter.

Begin to add well rotted manure or garden compost to areas as they become vacant or alternatively plant green manure.

Establish new strawberry plants from runners on well prepared beds with plenty of organic matter incorporated.

The Ornamental Garden
Continue dead heading penstemons dahlias and any other late flowering perennials to prolong the flowering period. Keep feeding patio plants and hanging baskets with a high potassium feed such as tomato fertiliser.

Cut privet, yew and leylandii hedges for the last time, giving them chance to recover before winter sets in.

Keep camellias and rhododendrons well watered to ensure good flower bud formation for next year.

Plant bulbs other than tulips which should be planted late October or November in borders and containers. For a succession of spring colour plant several layers of different bulbs in a 40cm deep container, placing first daffodils in the bottom then tulips, crocuses and finally hyacinths.

The Greenhouse
Gradually reduce watering and feeding of plants . Remove shading to increase light levels and continue opening doors and vents on warm days. Remove crops such as aubergines and cucumbers as they stop producing fruit.

The Lawn
Spending time caring for your lawn now will pay dividends next spring. September is the perfect month to breathe new life into your lawn while warmth is still held in the soil and moisture is in the air. Before tackling any lawn repairs cut the grass to expose any areas of weak growth. Decide which jobs you need to do to the lawn and tackle them in a logical order. Begin by dealing with any mounds or low spots if necessary, then scarify, aerate, top dress, feed, kill weeds and moss and finally tidy up the edges.

Where mounds or dips are concerned , fix such areas by cutting an X across the area, lift the turf with a spade, fork over the exposed area and either remove or add soil as required. Replace the turf, firm well and water.

Scarifying is a process used to remove dead grass (thatch) which builds up beneath the green shoots of mown grass inhibiting the movement of air and water to the roots. This can either be carried out by hand with a metal spring tine rake or with a powered scarifier.

Lawns often become compacted and airless, and poorly drained. In compacted soil the roots have difficulty finding nutrients and moisture this can be addressed by aerating which in most cases can be carried out with a garden fork pushed into the grass 6ins deep and 6ins apart then wiggle the fork back and forth to loosen the earth. To improve drainage follow up by brushing sharp sand into the holes. Alternatively on soils prone to compaction an hollow tined aerator can be used which removes plugs of earth leaving larger holes for free draining top dressing to be brushed in. This can be purchased already mixed and applied at 2 - 3kg per square metre. When feeding the lawn in autumn use a fertiliser high in phosphates and potash this will help to promote strong roots and increase the health and hardiness of the grass.

Finally tidy up the edges with a half moon edger for a smart finish

Your Garden in August - by John Dunster

Ornamental Garden
The flower borders can be a blaze of colour in August, the star of the month being crocosmia in shades of yellow, orange and red. We probably associate this plant with mombretia which can be considered a bit of a thug. However the modern varieties are less invasive although they may require lifting and splitting up in the spring. Hemerocallis (daylilies) , helenium, rudbeckia, dahlias and lilies all come into their own at this time of the year. The blue of buddleji davidii nanho purple which has a compact nature combines beautifully with the orange and yellows. Grasses can also add another dimension to the border and extend the interest later in the year.

Dead Heading wisteria pruning.jpg - 30.6 KB Keep up with the dead heading, dahlias for instance require dead heading almost daily. It may be difficult to tell the difference between a bud and a spent flower, the easiest way is to look at the shape, an unopened bud is round while a spent flower is more or less conical. Always cut back to the next bud or leaf on the stem, otherwise you will be left with a bristle of dead stems.

Wisteria The first pruning of wisteria should take place in August followed by another prune in January/February when the shoots should be cut back to 2.5 to 5cm. This month however the thin short flower stalks which bore this years blooms should be removed. Cut back side shoots or lateral growth to 23cm from the main stem or where the shoot arises from and existing flowering spur. Continue working through the plant until all the side shoots have been pruned.

Bulbs Now is the time to order bulbs for spring flowering. Daffodils should be planted as soon as they arrive, enabling them to become well established, daffodils planted permanently will already be producing new roots and will in many cases flower earlier than newly planted bulbs. However delay planting tulips until late October or November.

Lavender Later in the month when the flowers have faded prune lavender to encourage hardy varieties to produce bushy new growth that will carry the flowers next year. Pruning will help to keep the plant compact, shorten shoots by cutting into the new growth that formed in the spring. Do not prune back into the old wood as new shoots will not develop here. Always leave 5cm or so of new leafy growth and finish off by giving the plant a good drench with liquid fertiliser.

Vegetable Garden
green manure.jpg - 13.5 KB Continue harvesting runner beans and start preparing onions for harvesting. When the foliage begins to collapse this can be folded down and roots loosened in the soil, if the summer is wet you run the risk of rot, so lift and place the onions under cover to dry before removing the foliage ready for storing.

Green Manure Green manure can be sown on any ground as it becomes vacant after crops have been removed. This can then be turned back into the soil to improve humus content and maintain nutrients. Pour the seed into a rigid container so you can control their flow when sowing onto moist and weed free soil. Slightly rake in and protect from birds.

Raspberries When all the summer fruiting raspberries have been picked, cut all the fruited canes down to ground level. Tie in the new canes spacing then 10 to 15cm apart along the row, remove any excess canes.

The Greenhouse
Continue ventilating the greenhouse by opening windows and doors. Remove the lower leaves of tomato plants as the trusses begin to ripen, this will improve the air flow and assist ripening. Remove shading at the end of the month as light levels begin to decrease.

Your Garden in July - by John Dunster

Propagating from cuttings
July is an ideal month for taking greenwood and semi hardwood cuttings, cuttings taken earlier in the year are known as softwood. Shrubs such as philadelphus, deutzia, hydrangea, honeysuckle and jasminum officinale can be propagated this month together with herbaceous perennials of aster, penstemon, lavender, fuchsia, thyme and pelargonium.

As an alternative to growing plants from seed taking cuttings is an option and as the cutting is part of the parent plant it will produce an identical new plant, whereas seedlings very often vary from their parents.. Time is of the essence when taking cuttings so prepare your pots before taking cuttings, which should be done in early morning. As soon as you remove the cutting from the parent plant it starts to loose moisture through the leaves so it is important to place the cuttings in a plastic bag with a little added water and prepare the cuttings without delay. After planting the cuttings they should be placed in a bright warm place but out of direct sunlight. Don't be tempted to remove the cuttings from the pot to soon, wait until white roots appear from the bottom.

When taking cuttings from the parent plant remove slightly more than you will need for the final cutting. To prevent rotting strip the leaves from the length of stem which will be planted under the compost. Unless the cutting has a heel make a clean cut across the stem at an angle beneath a leaf node. Nip out the growing tip, especially with asters, penstemons and salvias, to encourage the plant to bush out. Push 4 to 5 cuttings up to the first leaves around the edge of a 10cm pot filled with a gritty compost, cover the surface with a layer of grit. When they have become well rooted plant out into single pots and keep protected from frost during the winter.

The Flower Garden
Keep up with the dead heading to prolong the flowering period and cut sweet peas regularly as once they set seed they consider they have achieved their purpose and will stop flowering. Divide up bearded irises. Lift the congested plants and divide up selecting young portions of rhizomes with a fan of leaves. Trim the foliage to 6" and replant with roots just below soil level but exposing the rhizome then water well. Bearded irises do like to be baked by the sun so replant with the rhizomes facing form north to south.

Regularly water containers and hanging baskets at least once a day and feed weekly, these will also need dead heading.

Sow biennials such as sweet williams, brompton stocks and wall flowers. These can later be transferred to a nursery bed before finally planting out into their flowering position. During dry weather water clematis, rose, phlox and honeysuckle to discourage powdery mildew. This is easily recognised by a white powdery coating on the leaves. As well as being unsightly powdery mildew can reduce flowering. Regular watering and mulching reduces stress on the plant, making them less prone to infection, also growing them in sunny areas with good air circulation is an advantage. Spraying with a fungicide will also reduce the chances of infection.

Continue to keep an eye open for lily beetle, picking off and squashing the larvae and adults.

Kitchen Garden
Regularly hoe between plants to control weeds which should be done in the morning on a dry day. Look out for blight on potatoes and consider cutting back foliage if they become infected. Plant out winter and spring maturing brassicas. Soak roots thoroughly before planting into hole large enough to accommodate the roots. Push down at the base and firm the soil, protect from slugs and cabbage white butterflies.

Strawberry plants need replacing every three or four years as they become less productive and prone to disease. This does not mean buying new plants as they can be easily propagated from runners. This is best done by pegging down the runner next to the leafy tip on top of a 9cm pot filled with free draining compost. Leave the runner to establish, keeping the compost moist. After a few weeks when the plant has rooted cut off the runner from the parent plant. Transfer the runner into a larger pot and plant out in its new position in the autumn.

Lawn Care
During any drought we may get raise the cutting height of the mower, this will cause less stress to the grass and also prevent the establishment of weeds.

The Greenhouse
As the first and lowest fruit trusses of tomatoes begin to ripen remove the lower leaves. This will allow more light to fall on the ripening fruit and improve air circulation. Keep removing leaves up the stem as higher fruit trusses begin to ripen.

During hot days pour water over the floor, as it evaporates it will cool the air and increase the humidity.

Glyphosates- time to give them up for good?

A Sandford gardener writes: June is NOT the month to spray.

Well, it's here, flaming June, with rampant, gorgeous, blossom and flowers everywhere, and skyrocket grass. The buzzing of contented bees, and the amazing range of birdsong keep me company as I garden, and how I'd miss them if they didn't. Trying to keep the slugs from eating everything, particularly our delicious new vegetable plants, is always a challenge, and I admit I have been tempted to reach for the slug pellets (organic, as I love the birds). The most effective answer I've found however, to munched runner beans and brassicas, is sowing a sacrificial ring of lettuce, easy and cheap, (you can eat the ones the slugs missed) but you do have to remember to do this at the same time as sowing the beans. Spraying is in a different league however. I don't spray chemicals around in my garden or vegetable plot, and up until now, despite my serious misgivings about other people doing so, it seemed inescapable.

June is the month when it seems it's become normal for a lot of people people to spray weedkiller around to tidy their paths, or lawns, even those who don't really garden the rest of the year. How on earth did this happen? I think it's all those ads in the press and TV. We're told to scatter the pellets and spray the path or the lawn. We're told it's easy, you don't have to get your hands dirty, you can snooze in a deckchair while your neighbour sweats it out with a weeding fork, and the products are all there neatly lined up in the DIY or garden centre. Every June, I see the massive spraying machines being used in orchards, on the grass around the tree roots, and later they'll come back to spray the trees themselves. I see the large sprayguns being used in neighbours gardens. I see the the chemical spray literally wafting through the air towards me and my plants, even on a still day. I don't want it anywhere near my veg, it's what we eat, I certainly don't want it anywhere near my skin or lungs either. I think it's unfair other people's chemicals cross the dividing line into my garden, but working on the principle of 'Live and let live' I haven't made a fuss.

This year it's different. What's really tipped the balance now, for me ,and for many others I suspect, is the news that on the 6th June, in the European Court glyphosate weedkillers were refused a licence, on health grounds, throughout Europe. It's a massive step, against a massive, rich industry, who no doubt are even now working out how to fight back. It's been a massive wake-up call for me. In gardening circles, I find we are very polite about things (and so we should be) . Up until now we've been working on the assumption that it's a matter of individual choice, whether you use chemicals in your garden and allotment, or not, because they don't harm you. After all, weren't we told about this or that product: " it only kills the weeds, it doesn't stay in the soil, it doesn't harm children or animals" We're now finding out differently. Perhaps it's time for us gardeners, and homemakers, who perfectly reasonably don't want to eat or breathe toxic chemicals, or have our families do so as well, to ban glyphosates and other toxic chemicals from our homes, and to ask the authorities for a ban on their use by others, including food producers. Perhaps it's time to stand up for ourselves, and tell our local authorities we don't want public money spent on sprays containing glyphosates either .

Cresten Boase

Your Garden in June - by John Dunster

Vegetable Garden
Continue to make sowings of beetroot, lettuce and carrots, also sow seed of swedes, turnips, spring cabbage, purple sprouting and French beans.

Keep up with the weeding, cutting off young seedlings with a Dutch hoe, preferably in the morning on a dry day.

Harvest rhubarb up until the end of the month when thereafter it will be time to give the plants a rest. Look out for the larva of the sawfly on gooseberries as they can soon decimate the foliage, destroy them by picking off by hand.

Ornamental Garden
Cut aubrieta back hard after flowering, feed and water, this will encourage the plants to produce new growth and remain compact, also cut back foliage of pulmonaria , they will respond by producing fresh new growth free of mildew.

Lily Beetle
Watch out for the scarlet lily beetle, these may not only be found on lilies but also on frittillaria, pick them off, but place your other hand underneath as they have a habit of dropping down and disappearing into the soil. Also look out for the larvae on the underside of leaves,disguised by a black sticky deposit.

Propagate dianthus (pinks & carnations) from pipings which are the soft tips of unflowered shoots. Prepare the cuttings by trimming with a sharp knife just below a node, where a pair of leaves join the stem. Remove the lower pair of leaves. Fill a pot with seed and cutting compost, push in the cuttings 10mm deep around the edge of the pot. Water well with a fine rose and place in a unheated propagator out of direct sunlight. The cuttings will produce new growth after a time and this will indicate they have rooted, at this stage pot up into individual pots and pinch out the growing tips to produce bushy plants. These will need protection during the winter in a frost free greenhouse.

Hanging Baskets
Hanging baskets which were planted up earlier can now be hung outside. Choose a sheltered place where it is protected from the wind and within easy reach for watering. During hot weather it will be necessary to water at least once a day and possibly twice. The plants will soon use up the nutrients in the compost and will need feeding with a liquid fertiliser twice weekly. Cut off faded flower heads and pinch out vigorous shoot tips to encourage bushy growth.

Sow seeds of biennials such as sweet williams, foxgloves, wallflowers and canterbury bells. Wallflowers and sweet williams can be sown in drills direct into the soil. When the plants are large enough they can be planted out into nursery beds, pinch out the growing tips of wallflowers to produce strong bushy plants. Foxgloves and Canterbury bells should be grown in seed trays for pricking out later into individual pots.

Open Gardens
Many gardens will be open to the public during the summer under the National Garden Scheme which raised over £2.5m last year for various charities. Look for gardens near you in the yellow booklet published by the NGS or visit their website www.ngs.org.uk. If you are planning a visit to any of these gardens take a camera and note book, jot down ideas for your own garden. The owners are always willing to answer any questions or offer growing advice and tips on particular plants in their garden. Many gardens also offer plants for sale which they have propagated themselves from plants on display in the garden, and there is always delicious cakes and tea available.

The Greenhouse
Increase ventilation as the temperatures rises, open low level vents to improve air flow and damp down the floor which will also raise the humidity. Vine tomatoes which are grown as cordons on a single stem must be supported and tied securely to a cane. Remove side shoots which are produced in the leaf axils. Keep the plants watered regularly and evenly and as the first trusses begin to set feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser. Allow the plants to produce up to six trusses before cutting off the top.

Your Garden in May - by John Dunster

Vegetable Garden
sawfly.JPG - 8.4 KBSawfly Larvae
Everything starts to grow fast in May including weeds, so try and keep on top of them. Some plants such as onions and garlic are very sensitive to competition so regularly hoe off the weeds when they are very small with a dutch hoe, always hoe in the morning on a dry day, this will give time during the day for the weeds to die off.

Once the pods have started to form on broad beans pinch out the growing tip to deter black fly. Keep an eye on the plants and rub off any future infestation with your fingers. Plant dwarf French beans and runner beans in modules or root trainers indoors for planting out later when the threat of frost has passed.

Continue to make sowings of carrots, beetroot and salad plants.

Gooseberries are prone to attack by sawfly larvae. These are small pale green grubs which live on the underside of the leaves. Keep a close watch on the plants and at the first signs of any grubs remove them by hand.

The Ornamental Garden
Start planting out bedding plants after they have been hardened off and the threat of frost has passed. Prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia and philadelphus after they have finished flowering. They will then produce new wood on which the flowers are borne for next year.

Hanging Baskets
Now is the time to plant up hanging baskets. Keep the basket under cover in the greenhouse or conservatory until the plants have established and knitted together. To plant up rest the basket on a pot for stability. Use a liner to hold in the compost. Add the multi purpose compost with added slow release fertiliser and build up in layers. Soak thoroughly and water frequently.

auricula.jpg - 23.1 KBAuriculas
Make the most of auriculas, these are beautifully marked flowers and one of the charms of spring.

They need a cool airy spot, sheltered from rain and strong sunlight. Auriculas are prone to rotting so plant them in terracotta pots, in free draining soil, a mix of John Innes No2 and grit. They are best repotted and divided when they have three or more offsets after flowering, this will give them a long growing season to get established. Pull the plant apart so that each section has roots and a shoot, discard the old central part. Remove any dead leaves from the section and trim the fibrous roots. Replant into terracotta pots using a gritty compost, water well and put a layer of grit on the top of the compost.

The Chelsea Chop
The so called Chelsea Chop is a method of pruning many summer and autumn repeat flowering herbaceous perennials. You may well ask why is this necessary, it is an option which can be used to delay and extend the flowering period also shortening the plants (reducing supports) and inducing the plants to produce more flowering spikes. Certain plants such as Paeonia, Acanthus, Iris, Hemerocallis and Lupins are not suited to this method as they flower on a terminal shoot. Plants should be pruned at the end of May by cutting back the stems by one third. A more naturalistic effect can be achieved by randomly pruning half the stems. Plants that respond favourably to the Chelsea Chop include Campanula lactiflora, Echinacea, Eupatorium, Helenium, Helianthus, Monarda, Phlox and Rudbeckia.

The Greenhouse
The greenhouse can get extremely hot at this time of the year. Plants do not do well in wide extremes of temperature so it is vitally important to control ventilation during hot weather by opening the door and also having the use of roof vents and side vents low to the ground. When open the air is drawn in at the bottom and out through the roof. Shading is also important to prevent plants being scorched by direct sunlight.

Keep potting on young plants as soon as the roots fill their compost.

Your Garden in April - by John Dunster

The Ornamental Garden
Remove faded flower heads from daffodils and tulips at the top of the stems and allow the foliage to die back naturally, this will feed the bulbs underground so they will produce flowers for next year.

It may be tempting to buy bedding plants as the weather improves, but this should be delayed until early or mid May when the soil has warmed up and they will get off to a good start.

Plants in containers deteriorate over time as the roots become congested and the compost runs out of nutrients. Repot up into the next size container and prune the roots by cutting off the bottom of the rootball by a fifth, also cut 3 or 4 1" deep vertical slits in the sides with an old knife, using fresh compost with added slow release fertiliser granules transfer to the new container allowing a 1" lip for watering.

lily_leaf_285.jpg - 4.9 KB Place supports in herbaceous borders for plants to grow into.

Look out for lily beetles on fritillaries and solomon's seal. The bright red adults can be easily spotted and should be removed by hand. They do have a habit of dropping off and concealing themselves in the soil, so it is advisable to have something underneath ready to catch them if this happens.

There is still time to lift and divide congested clumps of astrantia, rudbeckias, hardy geraniums, Michaelmas daises and hostas. Cut up the root ball into fist sized sections which can be replanted into the border or smaller divisions can be potted up to provide new plants.

The Vegetable Garden
As the ground is still cold and waterlogged delay planting potatoes until it has warmed up, when they will get off to a good start, the same applies to smaller seeds for example carrots, parsnips and beetroot. The latter may benefit from being sown in modules in the greenhouse and planted out later. Transfer onion plants which have been brought on in the greenhouse to the garden as soon as they are large enough.

The Greenhouse
As the weather warms up remove insulation such as bubble wrap from the inside of the greenhouse and wash the glass so improving the light levels. On sunny days temperatures in the greenhouse can reach 35 degrees centigrade, this can scorch plants and dry out the compost quickly resulting in wilting. It is therefore essential to open doors and ventilators on such days but beware of creating a draft which can chill plants.

Continue potting up seedlings and plug plants also pot on any cuttings that were rooted last year.

The Lawn
half-moon edging tool.jpg - 7.4 KB April is a good time of the year to rejuvenate your lawn. Lawns have suffered this winter with all the rain, roots have become waterlogged and so will benefit by aerating the soil. This will improve the drainage and also allow oxygen into the soil. There are a few ways of doing this either mechanically or by hand using a fork spiking every 15cm or so or by using a hollow tine aerator which will remove plugs of soil allowing sharp sand to be brushed into the holes.

Tidy up the edges with a half moon edging tool. Edges can be curved or straight by using a line.

Remove dead grass and moss using a wire tooth rake or a powered scarifier. This may leave the lawn looking rather bare but it will soon recover. To aid recovery apply a dressing of blood, bone and fishmeal either by hand or with a wheeled distributor.

Your Garden in March - by John Dunster

Fresh foliage emerging this month provides a tapestry of colours and textures which can be an attractive background for flowering bulbs. Although green can be the prominent colour this can be tinged with purples, coppery-bronze and yellow by plants like phlox, coryadalis, and anthriscus sylvestris. Many narcissi, snowdrops, crocuses and iris reticulata have flowered early this year but we can still look forward to a flush of colour from narcissi, tulips, wallflowers, primroses and grape hyacinths which have been held back slightly by the recent colder weather.

The Ornamental Garden
With light levels and the day length increasing we shall begin to see the borders coming to life. By removing any dead foliage now will allow flowering bulbs to be shown off to their advantage, also remove the dead fonds of non-evergreen ferns. Cut back dead stalks of ornamental grasses being careful not to damage emerging shoots.

Remove any weeds and apply a mulch to the borders between the plants. Lift and divide any congested clumps of herbaceous perennials. Divide up into fist-sized chunks which can be used to fill gaps in the border or potted up to propagate more plants. Late flowering species such as japanese anemonies, monarda, geraniums, asters, hemerocallis, hostas, rudbeckia and helenium can be treated in this way.

Complete pruning of late-summer flowering clematis such as viticella, cutting back to just above ground level. Prune bush and standard roses, removing any dead or decayed wood and crossing branches cutting back the remaining branches to a bud 10" to 12" above ground level. Mulch with well rotted manure or garden compost. Cornus (dogwood) and salix (willow) which are grown for their winter stem colour should be pruned this month. Instead of cutting all the stems back to near ground level I prefer to leave most of the new shoots produced last year and remove totally the older wood. After pruning apply a feed of general purpose fertiliser. Buddleias are another shrub which should be hard pruned at this time of the year.

Don't forget to water containers which dry out very quickly this time of year when the plants are growing more vigorously and producing flowers.

The Vegetable Garden
Complete any digging which has not be done earlier if the ground was too wet.

Plant out broad beans and shallots which may have been brought on in modules. Later in the month when conditions are favourable sow carrots, onions, radishes and peas. Beetroot seed should be sown in open ground when soil temperature is regularly above 10 degrees centigrade also protect against birds as they are attracted to the new seedlings. As an alternative these can be sown in modules in the greenhouse, 2 to 3 seeds per module, reducing to one after germination. These can then be planted out later when weather conditions are more favourable, again protect from birds. This method is not successful with carrots or parsnips which have a tap root. Parsnips are notoriously difficult to germinate, to make this easier sow in clusters of five seeds 6 inches apart and then thin out to one plant.

Prepare trenches for runner beans using well rotted manure and then backfill.

The Greenhouse
Sow tomato seed at a temperature of 20 degrees centigrade in a propagator. After germination the plants can be grown on at 15 degrees centigrade. As soon as they have rooted through the containers pot on into the next size up. Allow plenty of space between containers to encourage strong growth. When potting on remove the tiny leaves below the first pair of true leaves and plant so that the true leaves are just above soil level. This will encourage the plant to produce roots from the base of the stem.

Pot up dahlias and cannas to start them into growth ready for planting out when the threat of frost has passed.

The Lawn
The first cut can be made this month when the grass is dry, raising the blades of the mower and gradually lowering on subsequent cuts. Neaten up and trim the edges to show off spring flowers to their best advantage.

Your Garden in February - by John Dunster

February is considered the last month of winter but having such a mild weather it seems more like the first month of spring. Already many daffodils are in flower, snowdrops are flowering profusely and crocuses are coming into their own. Do not let ourselves be carried away however there are certain things that we can control and that is the time of planting seeds which should be carried out at the usual time, as this is not only dependant on temperature but also light levels.

The Vegetable Garden
shallots.jpg - 6.3 KB Broad Beans By sowing broad beans now they will not only crop within four months but will be much stronger and more able to resist blackfly. These are best planted in modules or root trainers as seeds planted outside in cold wet soil are likely to rot. Plant in multi purpose compost 5-7 cm deep, water well and place in a frost free greenhouse. These will then be ready for planting out in March.
Shallots These can also be treated in the same way by bringing on in modules and planting out when conditions are more favourable.
Chitting Potatoes Place tubers on a tray in a single layer leaving the end with the most eyes or buds uppermost. Keep the tubers in a cool, frost free place and in good light, a unheated greenhouse is ideal. After about six weeks shoots 5cm (2in) should have formed. Chitting will lead to earlier tuber formation after planting and increased yields.
Autumn Fruiting Raspberries Any autumn fruiting raspberry canes which have not been cut back should be reduced to ground level, applying a mulch and feeding with a general purpose fertiliser.

The Ornamental Garden
snowdrops.jpg - 10.9 KB Snowdrops Now is the time to plant snowdrops and divide up any congested clumps while they are still in the green. This will allow time for them to establish and energy in the leaves be absorbed back into the bulbs.
Wysteria Final pruning should now be carried out, reducing shoots back to two or three buds.
Winter Flowering Heathers These should be trimmed back, removing faded flower heads, which will induce the plant to produce new growth and maintain its shape.
Clematis Any late flowering varieties should be hard pruned back to the lowest buds and earlier flowering species reduced back to a strong bud leaving 18" to 24" of growth.
Fuchsias Cut back last years growth to 6" above ground level. Deciduous ornamental grasses should be cut back as hard as possible but avoid damaging any new growth. Also tidy up any perennials which were not cut back in the autumn.
Hellebores These are flowering much earlier than usual, any old foliage should be removed to allow the flowers to be shown off to their advantage, new leaves will soon develop.

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The Greenhouse
Dahlia Tubers Plant up stored dahlia tubers into pots to bring them on for planting out in the garden when any threat of frost has passed, this will also help to extend their flowering period.
Tomatoes Sow tomato seed for early crops. These will need heat to germinate, so a propagator is required. Sow the seeds in small pots ( 6 seeds to a pot) for pricking out later or preferably in modules or root trainers where they can grow on without disturbance. Sow in seed compost to a depth of 2mm and place in the propagator at a temperature of 24c. After germination provide with as much light as possible. These early sowings will only be suitable for growing on in a greenhouse.

Be on the look out for greenfly which should be treated, also the leaves of any plants being overwintered in the greenhouse which are dead or suffering from botrytis should be removed to prevent in spreading to the whole plant.

Your Garden in January - by John Dunster

The exceptionally warm weather being experienced at the moment has fooled many plants into blooming much earlier than usual. Daffodils, hellebores, iris reticulate and even primroses are flowering at least two months early. Even lawns are being cut in December. If we do have a cold spell in January I wonder if this will bring things back into perspective and provide us with the usual burst of flowers in the spring.

The Vegetable Garden
Continue harvesting brussels sprouts and parsnips. Check the brussels sprouts plants and purple sprouting for wind rock, firm the ground and make sure they are secured to supporting stakes. Collect dead leaves from the ground and remove leaves that have gone yellow from the plants, place on the compost heap.

Begin forcing rhubarb by covering established crowns with terracotta forcing jars or large buckets. These exclude the light and provide a warmer environment which will encourage growth a few weeks earlier than in the open ground.

Apple and pear trees can be pruned this month. Avoid hard pruning as this will encourage the tree to produce a mass of water shoots, which will not produce any fruit the coming season. Remove 10 to 20 percent of the canopy, always cutting back to the main stem, but don't leave a stub. Remove half of any water shoots produced the previous year back to the main branch, cutting them at the base. During pruning step back from the tree and check that you are not removing too much and also maintaining the shape of the tree.

Sow onion seeds in modules, 2 or 3 seeds per module place in a propagator to aid germination and later thin out to one plant per module. Transfer to the garden in March. If you have purchased or received any seed potatoes these should be set out to chit. Choose somewhere frost free but cool, light and dry. Keep each variety separate and label.

The Ornamental Garden
Start to cut back deciduous grasses, taking care not to damage any emerging new growth. Carry out the final pruning of wisteria by cutting back to two or three buds.

Winter flowering heathers that have come to the end of their flowering period should be trimmed back to encourage new growth for next season.

Check on containers and borders that have winter flowering bedding such as pansies and polyanthus. Dead head the flowers regularly, remove any leaves showing signs of rot and clean up any autumn leaves and debris to allow the maximum amount of light penetration.

Prune winter flowering jasmine once the flowers have faded, thinning and reducing the shrub size.

The Greenhouse
Open the greenhouse vents and door on mild days, especially if you are keeping plants just frost free, this will reduce the humidity and fungal problems. Remove any leaves from plants affected by botrytis and when watering avoid wetting the leaves which will help to prevent any further infection.

With Christmas fast approaching, here are some tips for low-cost, healthy entertaining

  1. If you usually have a get-together with a group of friends or neighbours, why not agree to have a 'Bring food and drink to share' party, at home, or in the village hall or community centre?
  2. When entertaining at home, ready-made canape platters from supermarkets or delis are often tempting and may appear a bargain, but making your own 'cheatin' canapes' using ready-made filo or puff pastry with a variety of toppings, is easy and much much cheaper. There are lots of recipes for punch and gluhwein, or alcohol-free punch, online, offering a festive low-cost drinks alternatives to spirits and mixers.
  3. When planning the menu for Christmas week, don't just grit your teeth and decide on a large, expensive piece of meat for every meal. There are lots of easy, delicious low cost recipes which look and taste just as festive, and don't put a strain on your pocket or digestion. They say you can't go wrong with Delia Smith's vegetarian feasting recipes, free online, and you don't have those hours of roasting and basting either. Without cutting meat out entirely, in fact just by cutting down to 70g servings per person per day you will be helping family health. (Eating too much meat is linked to heart disease and bowel cancer). Also on the positive side, eating less meat means you and your family will be helping to cut carbon emissions and global warming, which are causing flooding and extreme weather.. Beef is responsible for far higher carbon emissions than chicken or pork, (Beef production means a lot of methane gas from the cattle, a lot of energy and transport use, production of artificial fertiliser for animal feed crops, and cutting down of forests for pasture).

Your Garden in December - by John Dunster

House Plants
Christmas and the New Year are favourite periods for houseplants to be given as presents. Here are a few tips on how to get the best out of them and care for them after they have bloomed. Some plants prefer warm dry conditions and others perhaps prefer to be in a humid environment. The most popular plants at this time of the year are Cyclamen, Miniature Roses, Christmas Cactus, Poinsettia and Indoor Azalea.

These prefer a cool position in bright but not sunny light. Water from below once the compost dries out and never leave the pot standing in water. Add houseplant fertiliser fortnightly and remove dead flower stalks and leaves. After flowering leave to dry out until new growth begins again in the autumn.

Miniature Roses
Miniature Roses are also a very popular present, these prefer a cool bright windowsill but unlike cyclamen the pot should be stood on wet gravel to maintain a high humidity. Snip off faded flowers and reduce the stems by half to bud when they have finished flowering. These plants have been forced to induce flowering outside their natural period, and should be repotted into a larger pot and fed weekly.

Christmas Cactus
Poinsettia.png - 111.2 KB These enjoy a semi shaded warm spot out of direct sunlight. Stand on a tray of wet gravel to replicate the humid jungle-like conditions that they originate from. Faded flowers will fall off and when flowering has finished rest the plant in a cool room and reduce watering for a couple of months. Move to a warmer position in spring and increase watering, a second drier period in autumn will encourage new flowers to form.

These require a minimum temperature of 14 degrees C, avoiding draughts and direct sources of heat in a bright but not sunny position. Do not saturate the compost and water sparingly when the compost feels dry, but mist frequently. Add tomato feed once a month. Cut back hard in April and repot, allow only 12 hours of light daily from early October to produce good winter colour.

Indoor Azalea
Keep the compost moist and stand in a saucer of moist gravel using rainwater rather than tap water. After flowering repot into a larger plastic pot using ericaceous compost, reduce watering and feed fortnightly until next winter. Plants prefer bright light in a cool room. Keep outside in summer.

The Ornamental Garden
Though hellebores are largely trouble free they can suffer from fungal diseases. The most common is leaf spot, leaves develop large brown or black blotches which can also be transferred to the flowers. Remove and destroy any infected leaves, those that are uninfected can be left until January when they should be removed to allow the flowers to be shown off at their best.

Reduce the foliage on shrub roses by a third to minimise wind rock, final pruning will take place in the spring. Remove any rotting foliage from herbaceous plants. There is still time to move any shrubs which may be in the wrong position and to plant new ones. This should not be done however if the ground is frozen.

The Greenhouse
The greenhouse should by now be clear of summer fruiting vegetables, the glass cleaned and bubble wrap installed. Bring tender plants in containers into the greenhouse, pot up any cannas for instance that are in the borders, and transfer to the greenhouse. Ventilate during mild days to prevent the spread of diseases such as botrytis. Reduce watering frequency as the plant growth slows down.

The mower is rarely needed in winter so there is an opportunity to give it a good clean. Turn the machine on its side and remove all debris which has built up under the hood. Soak packed on grass clippings and remove using a soft brush and plastic spatula. Spray oil over the clean blades and mechanism. If necessary remove and sharpen or replace the bladed.

Vegetable Garden
Continue harvesting parsnips as and when required.. Cut back autumn fruiting raspberry canes, fruiting will occur on new canes produced next year. Clear away any weeds and apply a mulch of compost or well rotted manure.

Very best wishes for Christmas and good gardening in 2016

Your Garden in November - by John Dunster

The Vegetable Garden
Brussels408.JPG - 18.5 KB Start harvesting parsnips, stake brassicas such as brussels sprouts, purple sprouting and kale to prevent damage by wind rock also firm the soil around the plants if necessary. Whenever the soil is dry enough dig over any vacant ground with a spade and leave rough for the frost to break down.

Plant garlic in soil which has been thoroughly dug and enriched with plenty of organic matter. Break the bulbs into individual cloves and plant 2.5 to 10cm deep (unlike onion sets) and spaced 7" apart.

Summer fruiting raspberry canes should be cut down by now and new shoots tied in.

Now is the time to prune blackcurrants, so instead of throwing away the stems make use of them to make new plants. Firstly prepare a site in a partly shaded spot by digging over and incorporating some organic matter. Make a slit trench by inserting a spade in the soil and pushing it forward so one side of the trench stays vertical. From this year's growth select healthy stems 40cm long and the thickness of a pencil. From the shoots make cuttings about 25cm long. Slope the top cut just above a bud and cut the base horizontal just below a leaf joint. Place the cuttings in the trench against the vertical wall with 2 or 3 buds above the ground. Backfill the soil and firm well, refirm the ground if necessary after frost. and water during dry spells during the summer. Rooting will take up to a year after which they can be planted out.

The Ornamental Garden
Continue planting bulbs, tulips are quite happy to be planted through to the end of the month but other bulbs need planting as soon as possible before the soil begins to cool down. Cut down dahlias after the first frost and lift the tubers and store in a cool dry frost free shed.

greenhouse1.jpg - 8.9 KB Alternatively in well drained light soils they can be left in the ground , protect them from severe frosts by covering with a layer of mulch. I have found this more successful than storing the tubers. Don't be in a hurry to cut down the foliage of herbaceous perennials, by leaving this until the spring will provide food for birds and also protection for overwintering insects and also protection for the plants during severe weather. Seed heads of sedums, rudbeckia and eryngium for instance can look very attractive when covered with frost and can add an extra dimension to the garden. However it is advisable to remove any material that is rotten or lying on the soil.

The Greenhouse
The greenhouse should now be cleared of all plant material which has finished fruiting and the glass thoroughly cleaned both inside and out, When this has been done insulate with a layer of bubble wrap which will help to raise the temperature by 1 or 2 degrees. Start bringing in tender plants grown in containers and also lift plants like canas that will not withstand frost. Pot up and bring into the greenhouse.

Animal Aid Chocolate Week Offer

For those of us that didn't kow it, (and for those of us for whom every week is Chocolate Week) this week is Chocolate Week. ( Who makes these things up?) Animal welffare group Animal Aid have a special offer to help celebrate:

Help us celebrate National Chocolate Week with a fabulous 10% discount off our entire range of delicious, vegan chocolates and confectionery, in addition to the usual members' discount!

Simply enter NCW15 in the discount code box during checkout from 12th-18th October to receive your 10% discount on all chocolate purchases.

We've added some delicious new Zesty Lemon and Tropical Pineapple Creams, to our huge selection of chocolate boxes, plus four scrummy Nakd Nibbles to our cereal bar range. So, why not have a chocolate spree and stock up now?

Save up to £200 a year on fuel!!

We're very pleased to post this money-saving contribution from a resident who is also an energy adviser at Weston Citizen's Advice Bureau:
EON and Green Star Energy are currently offering deals of up to £200 less than other suppliers for an average housefhold, EON unitl early November. Go to their websites, or the comparison site http://www.uswitch.com for more details For example,

Dual fuel paid by DD, using 3100 kWh elec & 12500 kWh gas
British Gas £1,086.97
E.ON uSwitch Fixed 1 Collective Oct 15 £855.87
Green Star Energy £888.95

Cucumber Soup Recipe

For the last of the summer cucumbers, try this cucumber soup recommended by Neil
Cucumber Soup.pdf

Your Garden in September - by John Dunster

The Vegetable Garden
Continue harvesting runner beans. Lift main crop potatoes when the foliage has died down, leave them on the ground for a short period to dry off before storing. Make use of any vacant areas to sow green manure which can be dug into the soil in the spring to provide valuable nutrients. Stake brussels sprout and purple sprouting plants to give them support and prevent damage caused by wind rock.

The Ornamental Garden
plant-bulbs-m.jpg - 40 KB Prolong interest in the flower garden by regularly deadheading. Plant spring bulbs as soon as possible to give them a good start but leave tulips until later in October or November. While the soil is still warm it is an ideal time to divide up congested perennials and move any plants or shrubs which may be in the wrong place. Always dig a large hole where you intend to move the plant and lift with as large a root ball as possible, although the soil may be wet it will benefit from a thorough watering.

If you intend revamping or making a new border do so with providing a habitat for wildlife in mind. You may immediately think of wild flower meadows but perennial borders can also provide a valuable habitat for wildlife as well as the benefit of a wonderful floral display. The basis of any gardening starts with the soil, within the soil a microscopic world of creatures exist, breaking down the remains of plants and giving it back in the form of nutrients. It is important therefore that we get the soil structure right and this can be achieved by either adding compost, well-rotted manure, mushroom compost or leaf mould to the surface rather than digging in which can destroy the soil structure. This will soon be subsumed into the soil . Different layers of plants provide habitat for different species. The first layer of plants are ground cover species, providing cover for woodlice, beetles, spiders where they can lay their eggs and feed their young. This also provides cover for amphibians whose diet consists of slugs and snails. Also bear in mind when tidying up in autumn to leave standing seed heads until the spring. This will not only provide cover for insects and seed for birds but protect the plant during severe weather. However some plants turn soggy spoiling the look of the border and providing little benefit to wildlife, this should be removed during the autumn.

If you are replanting or adding new plants to a border consider some of the following species which will provide pollen and nectar for most flying insects and also add life to the border. For spring camassia, leucojum, narcissi, tulips, primroses, hellebores, perennial wallflower and for summer alchemilla mollis, Michaelmas daisy, astrantia and veronicastrum. Shrubs and climbers also provide shelter, not only for insects but also nesting opportunities for birds and can also be a food source during winter. Consider incorporating some of the following species:- viburnum opulus, malus (crab apple), ivy, honeysuckle and rambling rose.

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Planting up Containers
Begin to plant up autumn containers using plants such as heuchera, cyclamen, heathers, violas, carex, leucothoe and euphorbia, underplanting with bulbs , to extend the display into spring.

The Greenhouse
Remove shading as the light levels are decreasing and temperatures begin to drop. At the end of the month it is unlikely that any more tomatoes will ripen, so it is probably advisable to harvest the remaining fruit and bring indoors to ripen, chop up the tomato plants and add to the compost heap, clean up any debris and wash down the glass.

The Lawn
September is still an ideal time to carry out any maintenance and remedial work to the lawn. Cooler moist conditions will allow time for the grass to respond to treatment before winter sets in. Not all tasks should be necessary every year but for the best results carry them out in the following order. Control moss with a proprietary moss killer and scarify two weeks later to remove the dead moss. Aerate. This relieves compaction, improves drainage and stimulates root growth. Spike with a garden fork or hollow tine aerator. Top dress with a mixture of sandy soil and organic matter. Work in with the back of a rake or broom. Repair damaged areas with new turf or reseed. Finally feed with a proprietary autumn lawn fertiliser.

Cucumber Pickle, also known as Bread and Butter pickle

This is an easy way to use up a glut of cucumbers of any variety, and is the kind of pickle which goes well with most foods. A mandoline is helpful, for the slicing. This quantity makes 4 lb of pickle, and the pickle can be eaten straightaway. It will keep for a year.

  • 3 lbs cucumbers, rind left on, thinly sliced into discs.
  • Half lb onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 1 litre cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1 lb soft light brown or white sugar
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp dill seeds.
Put the onion and cucumber, thinly sliced, into a large glass or ceramic bowl, mix the salt in well, and leave for 8 hours or overnight, covered by a plate weighted down quite heavily, with a cloth over the top. Drain off the liquid, then rinse the vegetables well , in very cold water, at least two changes of water. If the cucumber still tastes very salty, rinse again. Drain well, then pat the vegetables almost dry with a clean dishtowel.

Separately boil up the remaining ingredients for 10 minutes in a preserving pan. Add the well-drained vegetables, bring back to the boil, and boil for only 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, put the vegetables into sterilised jars to within an inch of the top. Boil up the remaining liquid for 10 minutes until slightly reduced, then top up the jars until completely full , and seal straightaway. Any leftover liquid can be bottled and used for subsequent pickling.

Courgette Feta and Herb patties

Serves 6. These should be packed with herbs, the more the merrier. You can also use grated raw carrot or leeks instead of courgette.

courgettes1.png - 137.6 KB
  • 3eggs
  • 3tbs plain flour
  • 2 firm courgettes , trimmed
  • 1 red onion cut into thin half moon pieces
  • 200g feta. Crumbled
  • 1 or 2 green or red chillies deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • Bunch flat leaved parsley coarsely chopped
  • Bunch dill fronds , coarsely chopped
  • Big bunch mint leaves coarsely chopped
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 or 2 lemons cut into wedges
In a big bowl, beat the eggs with the flour until smooth. Coarsely grate the courgettes, then squeeze out all the water with your hands. Add the courgettes to the bowl with the onion, feta, chillies, dried mint and fresh herbs. Season and mix well.

Heat just a little oil in a heavy based frying pan. Place 2 or3 spoonfuls of the courgette mixture into the pan and fry over a medium heat for about 2 mins each side pressing them down a little so that they are flat but quite thick, lightly browned and firm.

Cook in batches adding more oil when necessary, drain on paper towels keep cooked ones warm under foil or in a warm oven. Arrange the patties on a serving dish, garnish and serve with lemon wedges.

Your Garden in August - by John Dunster

August is the month when the herbaceous borders produce a riot of colour, it must be one of my favourite months of the year, with heleniums, crocosmia, solidago (golden rod), lobelia, hemerocallis, coreopsis and rudbeckia to mention a few. The colours are always at their best during the evening and early morning when the light levels are at their lowest.

Jobs to do this month:-
The flower garden
Trim lavender removing flower stalks and 1 inch of current years growth.
Water and feed camelias that are either in containers or open ground to encourage new buds to form for next years flowers.
Complete summer pruning of wisteria, cutting back whippy shoots to five or six leaves.
After flowering alchemilla mollis begins to look tatty, turning brown and often getting mildew. Cut off the spent flower stalks and old foliage, this will encourage the growth of new leaves and maybe a second flowering.

It is the last chance during August to trim conifers to avoid die back. Other evergreen hedges should also be trimmed this month.

Protect container grown plants from attack by vine- weevil with nematodes or proprietary chemical.

Order spring flowering bulbs, bearing in mind that narcissi and other bulbs (but not tulips) benefit from early planting to get a good start for next year.

The vegetable garden
It is now time to lift early and second early potatoes, main crop will not be ready until next month. Keep picking runner beans and don't forget to keep up with the watering. Loosen onions in the soil to encourage them to ripen and the foliage to die back, lift when ready and finally dry off under cover before preparing for storage.

As any areas in the vegetable garden become vacant sow with green manure which will provide useful nutrients to the soil when dug in in the spring.

Any strawberry runners which were placed in pots earlier on should now be ready for planting out after cutting off from the old plant. Prepare the new bed by digging thoroughly and incorporating plenty of organic matter. These should only be planted in soil which has not grown strawberries for at least three years, to avoid virus contamination.

Once the summer raspberries have finished fruiting cut all the fruited canes down to soil level. Tie in new canes, spacing them 10 -1 5 cm apart, pruning out any excess canes.

Any long season crops, for example brussels sprouts and purple sprouting plants will benefit from a top dressing of fertiliser.

The lawn
Raise the cutting height of the lawnmower to prevent areas becoming scorched and thus allowing weeds to set in. Feeding at this time of the year should be done with a fertiliser having a low nitrogen content.

While the soil is still warm it is an ideal time for sowing a new lawn. Prepare the soil thoroughly removing any perennial weeds and surface stones. Level the ground and firm the soil gently before giving it a final rake over. Sow the seed evenly, rake over lightly and keep well watered. A lawn laid at this time of year will be well established by next year and much more able to withstand any stress from heat and drought.

The Greenhouse
Continue damping down the floor an hot days and provide plenty of ventilation. Remove the leaves from tomatoes as the trusses begin to ripen, this will allow better air flow around the plant and also aid ripening. Look out for aphids and whitefly, the latter being found on the underside of leaves. Use a biocontrol or sticky traps to control the population.

Your Garden in July - by John Dunster

Ornamental Garden
Roses.jpg - 23 KB Roses have been particularly spectacular this year, the warm weather with just enough rain has suited them well. Dead head regularly and when they have finally finished flowering cut off the whole flowering head back to a strong shoot, this will encourage further blooms on repeat flowering varieties.

Lift and divide congested clumps of flag irises. Select healthy young rhizomes and reduce the foliage by half. Form a ridge in the soil with a trough either side, this should run from north to south in a sunny position. Plant the rhizome on top of the ridge facing south with the roots covered either side in the trough. Add bone meal to the soil and water well.

Keep up with the dead heading both perennials and bedding plants to encourage further flowering. Cut sweat peas regularly as once they have set seed they will stop producing flowers. Hydrangeas are particularly lovely at this time of the year, there are many new varieties now which are suitable for smaller spaces and even containers. Most are suitable for growing in shade or sun but do require watering during dry periods.

Take cuttings of penstemons to produce new plants for next year. Select healthy shoots and cut just above a leaf joint removing slightly more than you will need, immediately place in a plastic bag to reduce moisture loss. Trim just below a node to produce a cutting approx. 10cm. in length. Remove the lower leaves and nip out the growing tip. Insert the cuttings around the edge of 10cm pot filled with a mixture of John Innes Compost and sharp sand, water well and either cover with a plastic bag or place in a propagator out of direct sunlight. New growth will appear when the cuttings have rooted after about a month when they should be potted on into individual pots.

Vegetable garden
First early potatoes should soon be ready for lifting together with small carrots and beetroot. Later in the month loosen shallots in the soil when the foliage begins to show signs of dying down. These should be lifted later and dried off under cover. Sow spring cabbage seed and prepare the ground for purple sprouting and brussels sprouts which should now be ready for planting out, firming the soil around each plant.

Peg down strawberry runners onto the surface of 10cm pots filled with a free draining compost, when they have fully rooted cut off from the parent plant and transfer to bigger pot for planting out later.

Keep on top of the weeding with a hoe during dry weather.

The Greenhouse
Keep the greenhouse cool by using shading, providing maximum ventilation, and damping down the floor, this will increase the humidity and also help to prevent red spider mite. Remove the lower leaves on tomato plants now the first trusses have formed and gradually remove leaves further up as more trusses begin to ripen, this will improve air circulation around the plant, keep feeding now at every other watering.

Crops in containers and grow bags require feeding with a high potash fertiliser, this is best applied as a liquid feed. This also applies to hanging baskets and containers of bedding plants as any nutrients in compost would have been exhausted after 4 to 6 weeks.

Your Garden in June - by John Dunster

Everything in the garden has made steady progress during May but has now begun to fully flourish. Borders will be full of colour and the vegetable garden has started to yield its rewards.

The Flower Garden
clematis.jpg - 7.9 KB Alliums.jpg - 14.2 KB Lupins, paeonies, early hemerocallis, alliums, geraniums, alchemilla mollis, digitalis, flag iris, dianthus and clematis are all at their best this month. Keep dead heading to maintain flowering and cut back geraniums and aubrieta after flowering to keep compact and produce new growth for next year, water well and apply a liquid feed. Remove the dead flowering heads of lilac and rhododendron. Dead head roses, removing individual flowers and finally cut back entire clusters that have finished flowering by about a third to just above a healthy bud.

Clematis Montana that have become overgrown should be cut back after flowering, individual shoots should be cut back close to their base and any overgrown clematis can be cut back to 30 - 60cm from ground level. After any pruning water well and apply a liquid feed. Also prune early flowering shrubs for example philadelphus, forsythia and weigela immediately after flowering as next years flowers are borne on new wood produced this year. Cut out any diseased wood and old shoots to the base, reduce the flowered shoots to a strong bud always maintaining the shrubs natural form.

Fill any gaps in the border with summer bedding, planted in groups, then plan to fill these with permanent planting in the autumn.

The Greenhouse
Tomato plants an cucumbers should be well established by now. Pinch out any side shoots from cordon tomatoes and regularly tie in the main stem to a cane. As soon as the first trusses begin to set start applying a liquid feed at alternate waterings. If not already done so apply shading to the glass and ventilate during the day.

The Vegetable Garden
Continue successional sowings of beetroot, carrots and French beans. Keep up with the weeding with a dutch hoe during dry weather. Sow biennials such as sweet williams, wallflowers and foxgloves directly into the soil, when large enough prick out into nursery beds where they will produce strong healthy plants for finally planting out in their flowering position in the autumn.

Lawn Care
Mow regularly, raising the cutting height during any period of drought. Feeding at this time of the year will keep the lawn looking lush and green and also encourage the grass to thicken up. Keep the edges neat using a half moon edging tool, clipping regularly and removing any grass encroaching into flower beds.

Your Garden in May - by John Dunster

As the spring bulbs begin to fade they are being replaced with flowering shrubs:- prunus, viburnum , malus (crab apple), wisteria, berberis, ceanothis, syringe (lilac) and weigela to mention a few and in the broders, irises, alliums, aquilegia, geums and euphorbias.

The Flower Garden
The perennial borders will start to look after themselves with the aid of any weeding and dead heading. Place supports over plants before they get too big as they will then grow through the supports which can be raised as the plant matures. Feed spring bulbs with fish, blood and bone or chicken manure pellets to build them up for next year.

Delay planting out annual bedding and any dahlias which have been grown on in pots until the middle of the month but be prepared to protect them against any late frost.

Cut back and remove any dead wood from clematis Montana after flowering.

For those of us who grow auriculas these can be divided and potted up after flowering. Select any that have three or more offsets and pull the plant apart, being careful not to damage the roots. Remove any dead leaves and trim the smaller fibrous roots. Put each new plant in a small pot (preferably terracotta) with the stem covered using a mixture of John Innes No2 compost and grit. Water well and put a layer of grit on the compost, water again when the pot becomes dry. Place them in a cool spot away from strong sunlight and protected from rain and you will be rewarded next spring with their charming flowers.

The Vegetable Garden
Continue sowing carrot, parsnip and beetroot also sow dwarf and runner beans directly into the soil or in modules in the greenhouse for planting out later. When the first flowers begin to set on broad beans pinch out the growing tips just above the top set of flowers, this will reduce the chance of aphid attack. Protect any emerging potatoes from frost and earth up when they reach a height of 9". Keep down weeds by hoeing regularly with a dutch hoe.

The Greenhouse
Plant up hanging baskets with tender annuals, such as petunias, fuchsias and pelargoniums. To plant up the basket use a liner to hold the compost and make slits for inserting the plants. Place the basket on a pot and gradually fill with multi purpose compost with added slow release fertiliser. Water well and hang up in the greenhouse until the plants have become established. If you have not already done so add shading to the glass. Keep potting on chilles, sweet peppers and cucumbers as the roots fill their pots, using a pot one size bigger each time.

Your Garden in April - by John Dunster

Flower Garden
Prune forsythia that has finished flowering, remove any twiggy and dead growth and the oldest branches. Reduce the remaining woody stems by about half their height and any remaining tall stems by 30 - 40 cms, always cutting back to a stem or bud.

Hostas are now beginning to show signs of growth and any that have outgrown their space can now be divided. This will not only create space but will reinvigorate the plant. Dig up the hostas from the garden or remove them from their containers. These can then be divided with a knife or larger ones with a sharp spade or saw, each segment can then be replanted in the garden or in containers using John Innes No 3 compost and the soaking thoroughly.

Plant dahlia tubers and lilies in the garden where they are to bloom. There is still time to apply a mulch of compost or well rotted manure to the borders while the soil is still damp, avoid covering the crowns of any plants. This will conserve moisture and provide nutrients to the soil as well as supressing weeds.

Continue dead heading spring bulbs to prevent them producing unwanted seed heads, this applies to daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, but however where bulbs such as crocus, muscari, snakes head fritillary and snowdrops are being left to naturalise the seed heads should be left on.

Check roses for aphids and rub off also spray for black spot.

The Greenhouse
Check for aphids in the greenhouse. Slip the pots off vegetable and any other plants, check the root growth and if this is visible outside the compost pot on into the next size container and then water well.

New shoots can now be taken from fuchsias for cuttings. Cut a healthy shoots from the parent plant just above a bud. Trim the cutting leaving a node or bud at the base and remove the lower leaves. Using a dibber make a hole in the compost, insert the cutting and firm in. Place in a propagator or plastic bag on a warm windowsill after which rooting will take place within 4 - 6 weeks.

In December I advised planting amaryllis bulbs. These have now probably finished flowering, and if so remove the old flower stem but keep the leaves healthy by watering and feeding until mid-summer, when you should stop watering and allow the plant to die back before storing it somewhere cool and dry before bringing it back to life as early as September.

The Vegetable Garden
The soil has not yet warmed up sufficiently to allow sowing of many seeds although the broad beans and shallots I started off in modules in the greenhouse have now been planted out and have established well. Delay sowing carrot and parsnip seed until the middle of the month and beetroot seed until later in April. However beetroot (which has not got a tap root ) can be started off in modules in the greenhouse and planted out into the garden later. This is not possible with carrots or parsnips as they resent any root disturbance.

Plant those early potatoes which have been chitted in a shallow trench 4 - 6" deep and 12" apart, delay planting maincrop until the middle of the month.

Asparagus crowns should be planted this month in soil which has had plenty of organic matter incorporated and if necessary grit added where the soil is heavy or there is poor drainage.. Ridge up the soil in 3 rows 18" apart and plant the crowns on top of the ridge with the roots down each sided.

Cover with the soil from either side so that the crowns are 2" - 3" deep, this will give a raised bed again improving the drainage. Only start to cut in the third year

Meat-free week

Just in case you haven't seen all the publicity, we're all being encouraged to go meat-free this week to help the environment.

There are several reasons why people giving up eating meat, for a day or days in the week, to giving it up completely, from 'doctor's orders', or the politer 'health reasons': animal fats play a leading role in heart disease and bowel cancer, both afflictions of our less active lifestyles these days Others find modern farming methods unacceptable, where young animals are separated from their mothers at a very early age, and slaughtered after a very short and often bleak life. The call to go meat-free this week is because of the environmental impact of meat production: meat has a fairly high carbon footprint, and the idea of the campaign is to make us more aware of what we're eating and to cut back on meat . Food from animals is greenhouse gas intensive because animals aren't very efficient devices for producing food and, for example, beef and lamb come from ruminants who produce a lot of methane as well. I read recently that a 4x4 driving vegetarian has a lower footprint than a bicycle riding meat-eater (all other things being equal) which gives you some idea of the positive impact you could make by eating less meat.

To give you an idea of the carbon footprint of different meats, here are some details from the book 'How Bad are Bananas' by Mike Berners-Lee:

a 4oz beefsteak is about 2kg of CO2e - which has the same impact as 25 bananas.
a typical veggieburger has a footprint of about 1kg, and a 4oz cheeseburger 2.5kg.
a 2kg leg of lamb has a carbon footprint of 38kg CO2e, before being cooked.

However, it's not always that simple - vegetables or fruit that have been grown in a heated greenhouse or flown will have a large carbon footprint too: 1 kg of organic on the vine cherry tomatoes grown in the UK in March have a carbon footprint of 50kg CO2e. Waiting until the summer, the footprint of organic loose tomatoes will drop drammatically to 0.4kg CO2e. So, eating seasonal foods, grown in your veg garden, or from a local grower, makes very good sense.

(CO2e is carbon footprint equivalent)

George Monbiot's Talk, and Bristol's Festival of Ideas: for those of us who missed George Monbiot's talk back in February, here is the link to his presentation 'What a Green Government could do if it really tried' http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/events/george-monbiot/

Your Garden in March - by John Dunster

It is the time of year when the garden changes daily, plants are emerging from their winter sleep, daffodils , hellebores, primroses, pulmonaria and eranthis all light up the borders. Early tulips, varieties such as 'the first' and 'early harvest' are beginning to bloom.

Perennial Borders
PerennialBorder1.jpg - 84.6 KB Continue mulching between herbaceous perennials and flowering shrubs. This will provide nutrients for the plants and also supress weeds. Start to provide support for plants before they become too tall. Lattice frames on legs are ideal for this purpose and as the plants grow they can be raised higher. These may look unsightly at first but will soon be camouflaged by the foliage.

Any dead stems of herbaceous plants which have been left over the winter should now be removed, take care not to cut off any new shoots, this also applies to deciduous grasses. As daffodils begin to fade remove dead flower heads to prevent them going to seed and using up valuable energy which will be transferred to the bulbs by the leaves. This is why it is important to leave the foliage to die down naturally and please do not tie it in knots. As soon as snowdrops finish flowering lift any congested clumps and divide up while the foliage is still green it is also the time to plant new snowdrops.

Plant sweet peas in pots, 3 - 4 seeds in a 4" pot and pinch out the growing tip when they have produced 2 pairs of leaves, this will encourage them to produce more side shoots.

Any late summer flowering perennials including hostas, aster, helenium, monarda, flox and rudbeckia which have become congested should be lifted and divided up by prising apart with two forks back to back, however those with woody crowns will need cutting apart with a spade or strong knife. Before replanting prepare the soil by incorporating garden compost or well rotted manure. Any perennials which are in the wrong place can also be moved at this time of year.

Later in the month plant corms and bulbs of lilies,gladioli and crocosmia for colour later in the year.

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Vegetable Garden
It is important that any work done in the vegetable garden should carried out when the conditions are right that is when the soil is not waterlogged or too cold.

Now is the ideal time to plant onion sets, pushing the sets into the soil can damage the root plate, so dig a hole and plant so that the tip is just sticking out of the ground. Plant 10 - 15 cm apart depending on the variety. Making sowings of carrots and parsnips later in the month together with early potatoes when the soil temperature reaches at least 10 degrees centigrade.

The Greenhouse
The greenhouse comes into its own at this time of the year for bringing on tender plants. It is worth mentioning that as we shall be using bagged compost this should be kept under cover where it will be warmer. Don't be tempted to buy old stock at reduced prices as this will cause poor germination, always use fresh compost.

Start to sow bedding and half hardy annuals, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in a heated propagator. Plant cucumber seeds on their edge to a depth of about 1 cm, this will prevent water resting on them and in turn causing rot. Plant up dahlia tubers in pots in a frost free greenhouse and plant beetroot seed in modules to be planted out in the garden when temperatures are higher.

Begin to increase watering as the temperatures rise but avoid wetting the foliage as this will prevent fungal problems. Applying the correct amount of water is a balancing act, generally speaking the more vigorously a plant is growing the more water is required, it is better to under water than over water. On warm days open vents and doors to improve the air circulation.

Lawn Care
Take the first cut of grass this month but wait for a dry day and raise the cutting height of the lawnmower, tidy up the edges with a half moon hedging tool and apply a dressing of spring fertiliser when the soil is moist a rain is forecast.

Cheddar Valley Food Bank

Mrs Sue Albone, a former Mayoress of Axbridge writes....
Before Christmas, I came to talk to the Parish Council about Cheddar Valley Food Bank, based at Unit 4, Wessex Business Park, Cheddar, Somerset BS27 3EJ, Phone:01934 742500 or Mobiles: 07922309369 or07922308154. Currently there are weekly collections in Winscombe for the Healthy Living Centre Foodbank in Weston . Cheddar Valley Foodbank are reaching out to people closer to home, including food bank users from Winscombe and Sandford. Many people ask, " Do we have any food bank users here?"- Well, yes, we do, and Cheddar Food Bank would like to reach out to anyone else in the parish who might have need of emergency food. If that's you, or you know if anyone in need of emergency help of this kind, please contact the Food Bank, on a confidential basis, using the details above. Cheddar Valley Foodbank is also hoping to recruit some local volunteers to help with food parcel storage and distribution, and other services they offer.
They can be contacted on info@cheddarvalley.foodbank.org.uk

Your Garden in February - by John Dunster

Our garden will soon be responding to the longer days and increased light levels, these factors probably have more influence on plant growth than temperatures.

Snowdrops, narcissi, cyclamen coum, winter flowering heathers, skimmia (kew green), camellias, iris reticulata, crocus and hamamelis all provide colour in our garden at this time of year. Many bulbs are in flower early this year, this is the result of the warm and moist weather in November and December, speeding up their growth. Take photographs of the borders and make notes of any empty spaces which could be filled with bulbs, as these gaps will be obscured by foliage in the autumn. Increase snowdrops by lifting and dividing while the foliage is still green.

There is still time in early February to carry out pruning while plants are still dormant and trees and shrubs have bare branches. Without their leaves it is easy to see their structure and shape. When carrying out pruning it is important to maintain the plant's structure and not mutilate them as we see in supermarket car parks. Reducing the number of stems on a shrub will allow it to put more energy into the remaining ones and produce more stronger growth. The only shrubs to prune at this time of year are those that flower in the summer as the buds are formed on current years growth, unlike spring flowering varieties where flowers will be produced on the previous years growth - these should be pruned immediately after flowering. Pruning should be carried out every year to maintain the density of the shrub, if it is allowed to get too big and then pruned it will produce a mass of fresh growth rather than fewer stronger shoots.

Some plants that can be pruned now are:-

Clematis. Those that flower in the spring (montanas) need very little pruning, but if they do get out of hand can be cut back after flowering. I always cut those that flower before midsummer back to 2ft and the late flowering varieties hard back to 6'' to 8''.

Roses. The varieties that need pruning at this time of year are shrub roses which should be reduced by a third but with hybrid teas, floribundas and china roses remove any crossing and damaged stems and any that look too weak to produce any flowers. Reduce the remaining stems by two thirds to an outward facing bud.

Buddleja and Sambucus (elder) should be cut back hard.

Fruit Trees. Prune apples and pears by cutting out any rubbing or crossing branches and any that overlap or are straggly. Do not prune an apple tree hard as you will be removing the fruiting branches and these will be replaced by a mass of new growth that will not produce any fruit.

So remember the reason for pruning is to keep the plant healthy, maintain its natural form and to produce strong and healthy growth. Please do not use shears as these as these are for trimming hedges but a sharp pair of secateurs or loppers for bigger branches.

The Vegetable Garden
Sow broad beans in modules or root trainers and place in a greenhouse. Plant onion sets and shallots in modules and sow onion seed also placing in a greenhouse, these can then be planted out in the garden at a later date.
The Greenhouse
Keep the greenhouse ventilated whenever the temperature allows and open the door. Start to pot up dahlia tubers in compost. Cut back any stems of overwintering fuchsia to two buds, encouraging bushy new growth. Soil in the greenhouse where tomatoes have been grown should be replaced with fresh compost and well rotted manure.

A corner of old Somerset - Sidcot and Oakridge

An article by David Lister

Your Garden in January - by John Dunster

The Flower Garden
hellebores.jpg - 8.5 KB We can look forward to the days getting longer and the emergence of snowdrops, irises and crocuses to herald in the spring. Hellebores will soon be flowering and yes we can have clematis blooming at this time of year with varieties, for example clematis cirrhosa var. balearica - white petals with pink streaks on the inside- c. cirrrhosa 'freckles' - petals are nearly all pink, c. cirrhosa 'ourika valley' with all white flowers. These should be grown preferably on a west facing wall or fence, but in very sheltered areas will also do well facing north.

Many shrubs are in flower during January and these are nearly all scented, winter flowering honeysuckle (lonicera fragantissima), daphne viburnum x bodnantense 'dawn', witch hazel (hamamalis) , this however may be difficult to grow in our area as it does best in an acid soil, and finally mahonia.

Try propagating new shrubs for example:- cornus, roses, forsythia and viburnum from hardwood cuttings. Select healthy strong material from last years growth and cut cleanly above a node. Cut these into 20cm, 8in sections, cutting at an angle just above a the top bud and a straight cut just below the bottom bud. Make a slit in the soil with a spade and open it out, insert the cuttings in the trench with the angle cut at the top with approx. three quarters below the ground and firm in. Remember to keep them watered during the summer and they will be ready for planting out inthe autumn or next spring.

The Greenhouse
The greenhouse can soon be put to good use, towards the end of the month start sowing chillies (which require long season to be at their best) and onion seed. These can either be sown in seed trays or modules but will require heat from a propagator. Broad beans can be grown in pots for planting out later, also sow sweet peas for early flowering, successional sowings can be made in February and March to extent the flowering season. Check indoor plants and those in the greenhouse for aphids, scale insects, whitefly and mealy bugs - these produce the sticky honeydew which encourages the growth of sooty mould creating a black coating on the leaves. pruning apple trees.jpg - 36.2 KB Start chitting early potatoes later in the month in a cool frost free light greenhouse, this will encourage the growth of compact strong shoots ready for planting in Mid March onwards.

Apple and Pear trees should be pruned this month, cut out any dead wood and crossing branches, always cutting back to a main branch. Late flowering shrubs can be pruned now, but spring flowering varieties should be pruned immediately after flowering, as the flowers have already formed on the wood produced last year.

Best wishes for a happy new year and good gardening in 2015

Your Garden in December - by John Dunster

The Flower Garden
lilly beetle.jpg - 3.3 KB As you tidy up the flower border scrape away some of the soil beneath and in the vicinity of lilies. Check the soil for overwintering lily beetles. These are easily recognised by their shiny scarlet colouring. Lily beetles have become a serious pest in recent years and will soon devastate the foliage on lilies.

Remove any floppy foliage from slightly tender plants and protect with a covering of leaf mould, compost or wood chip. Check the soil is firm around roses and top up if necessary, if not already done so reduce the foliage slightly, final pruning will be done in the spring. Remove any leaves from hellebores which have black spots on the, this is caused by a fungal disease and can be transferred to the flowers, also apply a layer of mulch to smother any spores in the soil.

Any shrubs that you need to move should be done now before the soil becomes too cold and frost sets in. It is also a good time to plant new shrubs and fruit trees while they are dormant.

The Vegetable Garden
There are a few jobs that can still be done in the vegetable garden this month. Clear up any old crops and debris to prevent disease being carried over to next year and complete digging over any vacant soil. Cut down autumn fruiting raspberries to ground level and remove any weeds. Divide and replant rhubarb adding compost to the soil.

Gather leaves either with a rake or lawn mower with the cutting height raised. This will help them to rot down if you are putting them on the compost heap or using them to make leaf mould.

The Greenhouse
The greenhouse should by now be lined with bubble wrap to reduce heat loss and raise the temperature by 1 or 2 degrees. Bring in any tender plants that are in containers or have been potted up from the garden, reduce watering frequency as plants become dormant. Ventilate on days when there is no frost as this will improve the air circulation and reduce the risk of disease. Amaryllis.jpg - 7.7 KB

House Plants
Christmas and the new year are favourite periods for house plants to brighten up the winter months. Amaryllis or Hippeastrums are becoming very popular and will flower within six to eight weeks of planting. Select the best quality bulbs with a circumference of 12" to 14" ( 32 to 36 cm). Use a free draining multi purpose compost with plenty of organic matter. Plant the bulb with one third of the bulb above the compost in a deep pot with drainage holes and 2" (5 cm) larger in diameter than the bulb, water sparingly until growth begins. Keep the pot warm by placing on a shelf above a radiator and move to a cooler place when growth begins.

Apply a balanced liquid fertiliser at half strength while new growth and flower stems are forming and switch back to full strength once flowering has finished if the bulb is to be kept for the following year.

Very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year and good gardening in 2015.

Supporting those in real Crisis in our Communities

The Cheddar Valley Food Bank opened in December 2013 to support anyone in the Cheddar Valley area and our boundary communities of Winscombe and Sandford that find themselves in food crisis.
As we operate within the Trussell Trust organisation. We appoint agents throughout our geographic area who will evaluate the crisis situation and, if appropriate, will issue a special voucher which can supply an individual or family with three days food supply. Vouchers can be exchanged for food at our Food Bank Centre in Cheddar . Open 11am-12.30pm on Saturdays, Mondays & Wednesdays.

Cheddar Valley Food Bank
Unit 4,
Wessex Business Park
Wedmore Road
Cheddar BS27 3EJ
01934 742500.
07922309369 or 07922308154

Your Garden in November - by John Dunster

The Vegetable Garden
vegetable garden.jpg - 66.6 KB Now is an ideal time to tidy up the vegetable garden before winter sets in. Dig over any bare soil, removing any perennial weeds incorporating organic matter such as compost or well rotted farmyard manure in areas where potatoes, beans and peas are going to be grown next year.

Stake brassicas to prevent wind rock. Plant fruit trees, soft fruit and cane fruit and if any need to be moved do so this month.

The Flower Garden
Wait until after the first frost before lifting dahlias. Cut off the stems and compost them. Lift the tubers and place upside down in boxes to dry off. When the tubers are dry they should be covered with sulphur powder, a fungicide, to prevent rot. Then keep them in a frost free shed.

Alternatively I leave the roots in the ground and cover them with a thick layer of compost, which I have found to be more successful than lifting them. There is time while the soil is still warm to lift and divide congested perennials for example, hostas, geraniiums, rudbeckia, heleniums abd asters.

Protect tender plants with fleece over a tripod of bamboo canes. Any tender plants that can be lifted should be potted up and placed in the greenhouse, bring in under cover evergreen agapanthus, deciduous ones can be left outside.

Plant the last of the bulbs now to give them a good start for flowering in the spring. Lightly cut back roses to prevent damage from wind, the final pruning will take place in early spring.

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The Lawn
Regularly collect leaves from the lawn, this can be done with the lawn mower if you raise the cutting height. Don't put them in the green waste bags but add them to the compost heap or put them in black bin bags where they will decompose and provide useful leafmould in a couple of years.

Carry out any remedial action and tidy up the lawn edges.

The Greenhouse
Tomatoes and cucumbers etc should have been removed by now and a thorough cleaning taken place ready for insulating with bubble wrap. This will not only raise the temperature in the greenhouse by 1 or 2 degrees but will also cut down on heating costs. The windows or doors should be opened on days when there is no frost to provide ventilation and improve the air circulation.

Your Garden in October - by John Dunster

What a wonderful September, the flower borders are still full of colour, yellow rudbeckias, heleniums and crocosmia, pink nerines, sedums and schizostylis; blue and purple asters and ceratostigma. Many penstemon are flowering for the second time.

dahlia2.jpg - 60.1 KB The dahlias need regular dead heading to prolong their flowering until the first frosts. Don't be in a hurry to cut down perennials that have finished flowering, these can provide food for birds and cover for insects as well as providing interest during the winter months especially when covered with frost. However any really unsightly plants and foliage on day lilies for instance are best removed.

Keep planting bulbs, narcissi, crocus and alliums etc, but delay planting tulips until late October or November. Lift and divide any congested clumps of perennials for example bergania, delphiniiums, geraniiums, hemerocallis and sedum spectabile. Any surplus plants can be potted up and donated to the many plant sales which are held for charity in the spring.

Plant out wallflowers immediately after purchase to prevent the roots drying out, firm the soil around them and water well. Give hedges a final trim where they have produced extra growth.

Continue planting up tubs with bulbs, these can be layered starting with tulips, then narcissi and finally crocus. Use pansies or violas, grasses, phormiiums, heucheras and heathers to provide colour until the spring.

The Vegetable Garden.
Unlike the perennial borders the vegetable garden can do with a tidy up this month. Finish harvesting vegetables and after the last of the runner beans have been picked, remove the haulm and store the canes under cover. Garlic should be planted from now onwards. Divide up the bulbs into cloves and discard the very smallest. Unlike shallots these need to be planted 2 - 4" deep and 7" apart in a humus rich soil. Lift and divide rhubarb after the foliage has died down. Replant the young outer pieces into an improved soil. Existing clumps should be covered with mulch of compost or well rotted manure.

The Greenhouse.
Remove tomatoes and cucumbers after they have finished fruiting, making room for tender plants such as cannas, evergreen agapanthus, tender penstemon and fuchsias which can be potted up from the garden. Wash down the glass both outside and inside and clean staging ready for insulating with bubble wrap. Do not restrict vents or doors as these may need to be opened on warm days.

Your Garden in September - by John Dunster

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Your Lawn
Now is the time of year to rejuvenate the lawn. After killing off any moss with a proprietary moss killer scarify to remove the dead material. Then aerate the lawn with either a hollow tine corer or fork spacing the holes 4 - 6" apart and three inches deep. Apply a mixture of sand and John Innes compost, brushing into the holes to further aid drainage. Finally add a proprietary autumn lawn fertiliser which is low in nitrogen.

Herbaceous Border
Keep up with the dead heading to prolong flowering. Start planting bulbs in the border and containers but delay planting tulips until October or November. Can you remember where those empty spaces were in the spring? Lift and divide congested early flowering perennials. Cut down spent perennials which do not have seed heads, these can provide a food source for wild life and also protect the plants. Any rotting foliage should be removed.

Why not try propagating roses from cuttings. Choose healthy straight stems of new growth about pencil thickness. Cut stems into lengths about 45 cms long, slanting at the top and horizontal cut across the bottom. Remove all the leaves and plant in the garden, with an inch showing above the ground, water well and leave foe 12 months.

Vegetable Garden
Stake Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli to prevent wind rock. Remove old summer fruiting raspberry canes and tie in new growth. Continue harvesting vegetables.

The Greenhouse
Remove any shading now the light levels are dropping. Later in the month when the greenhouse starts to become vacant move out potted plants and thoroughly clean the glass ready for winter.

Everyday Eats in August - by Cresten


Courgettes.jpg - 50.4 KB The plants so carefully tended for months are now great mounds of leaf and tendril. Ignore them for a day or two , and they'll astonish you with an artfully concealed courgette zeppelin, or two or three. These recipes will help you rise to the challenge.

Apart from the ever-popular ratatouille, or veg stew, where courgette mingles wonderfully with olive oil, aubergine, onion, garlic and tomato, these are my favourites: Courgette Bake, and Courgette Cake.

Both cook at 180 C, for about half an hour.

(Note: A bonus is that you can cook both dishes at the same time in the oven, if you want to. You do have to assemble the courgette bake first, up to the point before you add the eggs. You then fully prepare the cake,separately add the eggs to the courgette bake, and then put both dishes into the oven. The courgette bake should go on the shelf above the cake, with a baking tray underneath it to catch any drips. )

Courgette Bake:
A good supper dish: this is generous for two. It can be served cold as well.

4 slices bread; 6 x 8 inch courgettes or equivalent; 200g (8 oz) Cheddar or Cheshire cheese;
2 onions; olive oil; 2 heaped tbsps chopped fresh parsley; 3 eggs; salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F; oil or butter a large deep bread tin or deep casserole dish.
Toast the bread and make into crumbs, using a grater, food processor, or rolling pin.
Grate the courgettes and cheese, but keep them separate.
Brown the onions, sliced, in olive oil, take off the stove, and mix in the parsley.
Layer one third of the breadcrumbs into the bread tin, then layer one third of the courgettes, one third of the onions, and then a third of the cheese, continue until ingredients are used, finishing with a cheese layer. Whisk the eggs until very frothy, season with salt and pepper, then pour the eggs over the mixture in the tin. Bake for 35 mins.
Serve with baked potato ( small to medium new potatoes, scrubbed and threaded onto a metal skewer, take the same time to cook in the oven) and baked tomatoes ( Pierce 6 large whole tomatoes, brush with olive oil, crushed garlic and cumin seed if liked, put into the bottom of the oven in an uncovered dish for the last 10-15 minutes)

Courgette Cake
I have topped this cake with a lime, ricotta and pistachio icing. I have also served it topped with chopped preserved clementines, with clementine syrup drizzled over the cake it, much easier and very good. If you have an excess of fruits preserved in syrup this is a good way of using them.

3 eggs; 125 ml sunflower oil; 150g caster sugar; 225g self-raising flour; half a tsp bicarbonate of soda; half a teaspoon baking powder; 250g grated courgette, 50 g rasins. ( Add grated zest of half a lime if choosing the lime topping)

Preheat oven to 180C, 350F; oil or butter 2 x 8" sandwich tins, or a 10"square baking tin ( line with greaseproof paper if not non-stick). Put the raisins in a mug or basin covered with boiling water, to plump up. Beat the eggs, oil and sugar together in a large bowl until thick and frothy, sift in the flour, bicarbonate and baking powder, stir in thoroughly, then addd the grated courgette and drained raisins. Stir the mixture until thoroughly combined, pour into the tin/s evenly, then bake for 30 mins. Test with a skewer to see if done. It will be a moist cake, but the mixture should leave the skewer clean when it's done. Leave in the tin 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Lime icing: 400g ricotta or cream cheese, 175g sifted icing sugar, juice of one small lime, grated zest of half a lime; 50g chopped pistachio nuts. ( Hazelnuts would also work well, or the nuts can be omitted)

Beat the cheese until smooth and fluffy, then add the rest of the ingredients except for the pistachio nuts, and stir well. Chill for 5-10 minutes before filling and topping the completely cooled cakes, or just topping a square cake. Sprinkle the pistachio nuts over the top.

This cake freezes well.

Everyday Eats in August - by Cresten

Cucumbers- another runaway crop!

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Cucumber Pickle, or Bread and Butter Pickle.
This is my favourite cucumber pickle recipe, very easy and quick to make, and very versatile.

In the US it's called 'bread and butter pickle', as the mild sweet and sour mild flavour, and crunchy cucumber texture, are appealing enough for the pickle to be eaten on its own on slices of bread and butter. The pickle also complements cheese of all kinds, smoked fish, and meats.

If using ridge cucumbers, or larger cucumbers with thick rinds, use a peeler to remove the rinds, leaving only thin strips of green, which help to colour the pickle without adding bitterness.

6 large ridge cucumbers, or equivalent
2 small white onions, or 4 shallots
1heaped tbsp salt
1 and a half cups cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar
I cup soft light brown sugar
4 tsp mixed pickling spice, (be sure to include white mustard seed and coriander seeds)
Half tsp turmeric powder

Sterilise 5 jamjars and lids and have these dried and ready for filling.
Thinly slice the cucumbers into rounds, using a mandolin or food processor, and thinly slice the onions. Mix them with the salt in a bowl, cover with a plate which fits on top of the cucumbers, put a heavy weight on the plate, (NB if using metal weights, be sure to put them in a plastic bowl) and leave for at least 12 hours .
Rinse the cucumber and onion in a colander, and dry thoroughly with a clean cloth. Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cucumber and onion, and bring the mixture back to the boil, then immediately reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes only. Do not overcook. Using a slotted spoon, fill the jars with cucumber and onion, to within an inch of the top of the jar.
Bring the remaining liquid back to the boil, boil for 3-5 minutes. The reduced liquid should be enough to fill the jars. Seal immediately and label when cool. The pickle can be eaten straightaway, but is best left for a week to mellow.
This pickle keeps very well. If the cucumber is not overcooked, it will still be crunchy over a year later.

Tzatziki, or cucumber and mint dip
This is another favourite, very quick and easy to make, and much nicer when homemade than from the supermarket. A bowl of tzatziki, and a simple salad made with sliced tomatoes, cubed feta or goat cheese, torn-up basil leaves and an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, with some good bread, perhaps some black olives, makes a very good summer lunch.

I large cucumber, (2 or 3 ridge cucumbers), (no need to peel them if fresh); 2 tbsp lemon juice, a handful of finely chopped mint, 1 garlic clove, salt and pepper, 225g Greek style yoghourt.

Grate the cucumbers and garlic, using the coarsest side of your grater, directly into a sieve placed over a medium sized bowl. Using the back of a soup ladle, or large wooden spoon if preferred, press down on the cucumber mix in the sieve until it is fairly dry. Discard the liquid in the bowl, then using the same bowl combine all the ingredients, stirring thoroughly. Decorate with a sprig of mint, refrigerate if not using straight away.

Your Garden in August - by John Dunster

The Flower Garden
In August most of the jobs in the flower garden are routine, keep deadheading dahlias and other perennials, cut sweet peas and water regularly to prolong their flowering. Trim lavender which has finished flowering, cutting off the dead flower heads and shortening this year's soft growth, but do not cut into the old wood. Water with a general liquid feed to produce new shoots which will have time to harden off before the winter.

Take cuttings of pelargoniums and fuchsias. Any flowers or shrubs which have been newly planted this year should be watered frequently to prevent the root ball drying out. Hanging baskets and containers dry out very quickly at this time of the year and should be given a thorough soaking daily, a liquid feed being applied weekly.

Order spring bulbs by the end of the month to ensure receiving them in time for planting, especially narcissi which should be planted in September.

In the Greenhouse
We should now be benefitting from our work in the greenhouse by harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Remove any old and yellow leaves from the tomatoes to allow air to circulate around the plant and aid ripening of the fruit. During this hot weather open all windows and doors and damp down the floor during the day to reduce the temperature and increase the humidity. As we get into September the light levels will begin to fall and it will be time to remove any shading.

The Vegetable Garden
Harvesting will now be the priority in the vegetable garden. Dig the last of the early potatoes and remove and destroy any foliage which shows signs of blight. Lift onions and shallots and dry off under cover. Keep picking runner beans and water, it is better to give a good soaking two or three times a week than a light watering every day. As vacant areas of soil become available try sowing seeds of green manure when the soil is damp. Green manure are a mixture of seed designed specifically to improve or assist with soil fertility. Winter mixtures can be sown from August to mid October ready for digging in from February to April. Before digging in it should be chopped finely with a strimmer or rotary mower and left on the surface for a few hours.

Lightly summer prune fruit trees and cut out old canes of summer fruiting raspberries, tying in the new growth. Now is the time to rejuvenate the strawberry beds. Strawberry plants generally need replacing after three years, as they loose their vigour and start to show signs of disease. In order to maintain a crop replace a third of the plants each year. Select and dig up healthy runners from your existing plants cutting off the largest leaves. Replant in a well prepared soil about 16" apart with the crown just above the surface.

Cycling in Winscombe and Sandford- Please complete our August survey

Bike2.jpg - 58.2 KB Bike1.jpg - 66 KB Do you cycle, or would you like to cycle, if conditions for cyclists in our area were better?

We all know that cycling is great exercise, cuts down on harmful traffic emissions, and saves a lot of money in travel costs. Cycling the Strawberry Line is enormously popular with cyclists here and from outside the parish, for obvious reasons, but it has to be said that otherwise our road system is very car-oriented, and it's a brave and experienced cyclist who doesn't feel challenged by conditions on the Sandford-Banwell route, and beyond to Weston.

Perhaps it's time we found out how many of us would like something done towards safer and more enjoyable cycling locally?

If you have the time, please complete the following survey and email to CyclingSurvey@winscombeandsandford.org.uk. We will print a summary of your answers in two months' time, and the results of the survey will be presented to our Parish Council and North Somerset Council.

  1. Your postcode (with name, contact telephone number and/or email if you are happy for us to contact you about the survey. )
  2. Your age group: (a) 5-12, (b) 13-19, (c)20-30, (d)30-40, (e)40-50, (f)50-70, (g)70 and over.
  3. Would you cycle, or cycle more, if there were more cycle lanes or road markings to help cyclists in WandS ?.
  4. Would you cycle, or cycle more, if there were bike parks with shelters where you could lock and leave your bike and shopping?
  5. If yes to 3 and 4, Where do you think these cycle lanes/road markings and covered bike parks should be?
  6. Is the lack of a good local cycle shop and availability of sales and servicing, and advice on new bikes including electric bikes, putting you off taking the next step towards getting a bike?
  7. Do you believe our children should have the right to a safe route to cycle, walk or scoot to school, and to have safe cycle routes to our sports and leisure facilities, with secure covered cycle parks?
  8. Do you cycle daily/weekly/monthly?
  9. Do you cycle to work?
  10. Would you use a Community Cycling Scheme, organising free or low cost repairs and loans of donated bicycles, and supporting cycling training and leisure cycling groups for all ages?.
Thank you

Food Bank provision for Winscombe and Sandford residents- an update

At the moment there is no collection point in our villages for those Winscombe and Sandford people who have need of Food Bank provision, the nearest being at Axbridge, with a delivery service in Banwell.

Food Bank food boxes are given out as an emergency measure only, after assessment by agencies like the Citizen's Advice Bureau, Social Services, the Strawberry Line Federation, the Children's Centre, and GP surgeries, who will then give you a Food Bank voucher. Anyone, or any family, who cannot afford to buy food in our villages can go to any one of these agencies for a food box voucher, on a confidential basis. At the moment the Winscombe GP surgery does not offer this service, although it's understood a presentation about Food Banks and the voucher scheme has been made to the practice, and that this is a service which may be offered in the future.

Matt, Project Manager for Cheddar Valley Plus who operate the Axbridge Food Bank, confirms that the Axbridge Food Bank, open on Wednesday mornings from 11 am to 12.30pm at the Methodist Hall Axbridge, has been giving out food boxes to Winscombe and Sandford residents as well as residents from the surrounding villages, since it opened at the start of the year. Matt confirms that low wages and rising living costs, leading to debt and an inability to pay for necessaries such as food are the main factors for 76% of the people needing emergency food boxes in the area.

Weston Food Bank operates in the same way, giving out food boxes against vouchers given out by the same referral agencies. Sarah their Manager confirms that there is a Banwell Food Box outreach service operating from Banwell Church, run by Weston Food Bank.

Winscombe and Sandford residents struggling with low wages and rising living costs can go for free and confidential advice on debt and benefits to any of our local Citizens Advice Bureaux, who are also able to give out a limited number of Food Bank vouchers. Most Citizens Advice Bureaux operate an appointment system and keep to limited opening hours, so it's best to find out about these by ringing in, before you make the journey. Find out more about Citizens Advice Bureaux online using our link, or through the library.

Photo competition for under 15s

Somerset Hedge Group are running a photo competition "Hedgerow Landscapes through the Seasons". The AONB is sponsoring the 1st prize of 60 in the junior category and will be assisting judging. For full details and an entry form follow the link. Entries by October 1st

Burglary and theft...It's school holiday time again...

and here are some bargain offers and good ideas to help keep your home and property secure while you're away ( for more click here- then article on home and garden page plase) Keep your home and property safe while you're away: Padlock alarms, 24-hour timers, even wall and fence spikes, you can find them all here at a special offer price: see the full list of offers below
  • Try to make your home look occupied even when it is not - using lights or a radio on a "talk" station set on a timer can help to make it look as though you are in;
  • Consider asking a neighbour to open and close curtains that are usually drawn on a daily basis;
  • If you are normally in the habit of parking a car on your driveway, when going away on holiday try to arrange for a neighbour to park their vehicle in its place;
  • Remember to cancel regular deliveries.
Click here for a list of security offers from Avon and Somerset Police.

Your Garden in July - by John Dunster

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The Vegetable Garden
After harvesting redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries give them a summer prune by removing any unwanted new growth in the centre of the bush and cut back any remaining new shoots you wish to keep by a third.

Blackcurrants however should be treated differently, these should be pruned back hard, removing about a third of the bush. Now we have finished harvesting rhubarb give it a boost for next year by feeding and mulching, water well in dry weather. We can now start to reaping our reward in the vegetable garden by picking beans and peas, do this while they are still tender. Early potatoes should be ready to lift and the first crop of runner beans will be available later in the month.

Towards the end of July shallots should be loosened in the ground, this should allow them to ripen after which lift and dry them off under cover.

The Flower Garden
sweet peas.jpg - 95.1 KB Cut sweet peas regularly to prevent them producing seed pods. Once they have set seed they have fulfilled their purpose and will stop producing more flowers. Not only do they look beautiful in a vase but they fill the room with their perfume. Dead head other plants regularly; not only will this encourage more blooms but will improve the plant's appearance. Cut back lupins and delphiniiums that have finished flowering and revive alchemillas ( lady's mantle) by cutting off leaves and flowers that have gone to seed.

Divide congested bearded irises now by lifting and splitting up. Select young rhizomes for replanting, reduce the foliage by half and replant at ground level in a sunny position. Apply a liquid feed and water well until they have established themselves. Many border perennials can be grown from seed this time of the year, these include delphiniums, hollyhocks, lupins and foxgloves. Keeping them in a cool place will aid germination.

With container grown plants it is possible to plant them at any time of the year, but if doing so now submerge the pots in water and wait until there are no more air bubbles visible. The soil should be watered previously and the plants watered regularly until they have become established. Any trees or shrubs that were planted earlier in the year will still require watering. greenhouse2.jpg - 109.6 KB With hanging baskets and containers any nutrients in the compost will have been exhausted by now so start to apply a liquid feed.

The Greenhouse.
It is important at this time of the year to ventilate the greenhouse by opening the windows and doors, damping down the floor in the morning will help to reduce the temperature and increase the humidity, this will also help to prevent red spider mite. Apply shading paint or netting to the south facing side of the greenhouse.

Tomatoes should be fed twice a week, once the fruit have started to set, also remove the lower leaves to improve air circulation and allow the plant to put more energy into producing fruit. Allow greenhouse plants to produce up to eight trusses before pinching out the growing tip.

The Lawn
Resist the danger of mowing lawns too tightly during the summer, this will cause stress to the grass and encourage weeds to grow.

Your Garden in June - by John Dunster

hydrangea.jpg - 89.1 KB The warm wet winter seems to have confused many plants, roses which are normally at their best in mid June are already in full bloom, even hydrangeas which usually flower in August are already in bloom. Could this be a trend for the future when accepted flowering times are thrown into disarray?

The flower borders are a joy to see at this time of the year, foliage is fresh and new flowers are opening every day. Keep up with the dead heading to encourage a second flush of flowers, lupins and delphiniums respond well to this treatment. Geraniums that have finished flowering can be cut hard back as is the case with aubrietia, water well and apply a liquid feed, this will encourage new growth. Prune spring flowering shrubs such as deutzia, philadelphus, weigela and winter jasmine after they have finished blossoming. This will stimulate new growth on which next years flowers will be born. Camelias can be lightly pruned to maintain their shape. Early flowering clematis which have become overgrown, such as Montana and alpine should be cut back hard.

Take soft wood cuttings of penstemons, fuchsia and hydrangea. Choose non-flowering stems or sideshoots, removing pieces about 20cm long placing in a plastic bag. Remove the lower leaves and cut just below a leaf node to leave a cutting 7 - 10cm long. Fill a small pot with a mixture of perlite and multi purpose compost and insert half a dozen cuttings around the outside, water well and cover the surface with grit. Place in a propagator in a shaded position and when the cuttings have rooted sufficiently pot up individually.
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Sow biennials such as wallflowers and foxgloves to flower nest spring.

Adult lily beetles are active now and should be removed and crushed but watch out they have a tendency to drop off and escape. The larvae can be found on the underside of leaves in a covering of black excrement.

Tidy up the edges of lawns next to flower beds using a half moon cutter, remove any grass that has strayed onto the beds.

In the vegetable garden continue sowing carrots, beetroot and swedes. Plant out cauliflower and autumn cabbage plants, also make successional sowings of French beans.

Having removed the spring bedding plants from the greenhouse, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are all making good progress. Regularly tie in cucumbers and tomatoes, also remove side shoots from cordon tomatoes. Monitor temperatures, ventilate and apply shading if needed also damp down the floor leaving it to evaporate.

Your Garden in May - by John Dunster

forget-me-not-flower-2.jpg - 5.3 KB Early May offers an opportunity to purchase bedding plants and herbaceous perennials from the many plant sales held locally by gardening clubs and various organisations. The plants on offer are of very good quality and often relatively inexpensive with the proceeds mainly going to charity or being used to fund the planting of village tubs.

Any bedding plants should be protected at night from frost and planted out in the borders later in the month. Perennials however should be planted straight away and watered in thoroughly, keep watering during the season until well established. Daffodils grown in containers can be transferred en bloc into the garden.

Plant out sweet peas into soil which has been enriched with plenty of organic matter, tie into their supports, water well and protect from slug damage. Delay planting out dahlias which have been started off under glass until the end of May when hopefully the threat of frost has passed.

It is important to support plants before they need it. This will allow the plants to grow through the supports, which will then become hidden. Any unsupported plants that become damaged will never look the same if they are propped up afterwards. turf.jpg - 142.6 KB Purpose made supports can be used or twigs which will give a more natural effect.

Clear clumps of forget-me-nots as if they are left to their own devices they will take over, leave a few to self seed if required. Cut back pulmonaria which have finished flowering, this will encourage the growth of fresh new foliage.

The vegetable garden is well up and running now. Runner beans have just been planted either direct into the soil or under cover for planting out later. Autumn cabbage and cauliflower seed should be planted also make successional sowings of carrots, beetroot and other salad crops. During dry weather take every opportunity to keep weeds in check.

Lay lawns from turf this month, prepare and level the soil removing any perennial weeds. Consolidate the ground and rake over. Start laying from an edge, working on boards to spread your weight, and tapping down the turfs well. Butt adjoining turfs tightly together and cut edges with a sharp knife, water in well with a sprinkler. Mow established lawns at least every week, do not set the cutting height too low as this will encourage the growth of weeds and moss. Keeping the edges trimmed will greatly improve the appearance of the lawn.

Litter Louts in Cars...the end is nigh

CarLitter.jpg - 10 KB (we hope, from next year) .Good news- we may at last see a stop to the roadside litter blight that keeps our litterpickers busy along Station Road and Greenhill Road in Sandford - it's particularly noticeable along the stretch from Banwell as you enter the 30mph limit and the pedestrian crossing by Mead Lane. Polysyrene cups with straws attached, fast food containers, drinks cans, sandwich and chocolate bar wrappers, you name it, they throw it out of their car window onto the verge.

Currently councils have to prove who threw litter from the vehicle, but from next year they will be able to issue a civil penalty to the registered owner after a successful conclusion to a six year campaign by CPRE.

Following former CPRE Chairman Lord Marlesford's Parliamentary speech on his proposed amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill in January,the Government responded by accepting that local councils need additional powers to deal with litter thrown from cars.

Of course, it's not just the main road in Sandford, Wherever you look in the parish, litter thrown by motorists is a blight we shouldn't have to deal with. From next year, we can take their number, and they can pay the price.

Our Parish litterpickers do a brilliant job. It's useful, it's good exercise, and we appreciate you. Why not pop into the Parish Office or send an email to winscombepcatlineone.net and volunteer? Free hygienic litterwand and reflective vest provided.

Join Our New Seed Sharing Scheme

Calling all gardeners!! Fruit, flowers, or veg, we all have our favourites. Perhaps you have a treasure in your garden which you've grown over the years, which you prize in particular for its beauty, reliability, or taste? If you have saved some seed, and have some seed to spare, why not bring it along to the Thursday Market to swop and share? Part-packets of commercially produced seed, in date, are also welcome.

With all this variable weather we're having, and a slow start to the growing season, I'm put in mind of that old gardeners saying ( old saying, not old gardeners- then again, possibly both): " If you want to keep a plant you must give it away".

The saying came true for me when I was presented with clump of beautiful tall pale yellow scabious one year, which I had particularly admired in a friend's herbaceous border. A few years later disaster struck, and Trish's own clump sickened and died off. Sad, but not fatal, as she was able to replant with stock from clumps she had so generously given away previously.

So, if you do have some spare seed, from a plant or even tree which does well in our growing area, why not share your success with other gardeners in this area, and try out someone else's successful plant as well? Seeds are expensive, and seeds saved from F1 hybrids will not grow true, but there are many older seed varieties which will grow true.

More and more people these days are interested in growing vegetables, and decorative vegetables such as chard, artichokes, peas and beans which do well in the border. For successful growing, it's well worth choosing seed which does well in our area.

If you just want to drop off some seed, leave some seed, or leave your name, contact details, and details of seeds you have or want, just pop into the Thursday market at the Winscombe Community Association between 8.30 and 11.30 am and look for the Seed Swap box.

Otherwise, seed swop details can be posted by you on the website, either seeds you are offering, or perhaps seeds you want.

For the Seed Swap Box, it's suggested that seeds are packaged in resealed recycled envelopes, clearly marked with date of saving, number of seeds ( 12?sugggested minimum) short description including whether annual or perennial, plus any cultural hints or special history if you have the time. We're just starting up, so please do join in.

Seeds currently on offer:
Squash Crown Prince- does very well in heavy clay, as long as it has plenty of manure ( or compost and chicken pellets) underneath. Large, decorative, good keeper.
Calendula officinalis- classic English marigold. Bright, easy, very hardy.

Your Garden in April - by John Dunster

daffodils.jpg - 17.1 KB With the clocks going forward, the days lengthening and light levels increasing something new is happening in the garden every day. Plants that have been dormant for months suddenly come to life, it is the most fascinating time of the year.. Bulbs are the traditional harbinger of spring, the majority of which are planted in the autumn. The garden at that time of the year is completely different from now and it is so difficult to remember where the empty spaces were. To help us to remember where to plant the bulbs make notes now or even take photographs because I can guarantee you will not be able to remember in the autumn when everything is filled with foliage. While on the subject of bulbs remove dead blooms from daffodils and tulips, preventing the plant putting all its energy into producing seeds. Leave the foliage to die back naturally allowing the goodness to be put back into the bulb. We can also help by applying a mulch of garden compost or well rotted manure.

Rejuvenate congested clumps of hostas which are either in the border or grown in containers, by lifting and dividing. Use a serrated kitchen knife to cut through the clump, make sure that each new piece has some fleshy roots as well as fibrous ones. Replant making sure the crown is at the surface, water well.

Pinch out the growing tip of sweet peas when they have two pairs of leaves, this will encourage them to bush out and produce stronger plants.

Prick out half hardy annual seedlings into modules. Tease out the seedlings with a dibber and always hold the plant by the leaves and not the stem as this can easily become damaged, Grow on in a green house and harden off before planting out in mid May when the danger of frost has passed. Do not be tempted by Garden Centres and DIY stores to buy bedding plants too early until temperatures have increased and the danger of frost has passed.

For those who have greenhouses hanging baskets can be planted up ready to be placed outside in 4 to 6 weeks time. Add slow release fertiliser granules to the compost, plant generously and pinch out the growing tips of petunias, fuchsias and trailing plants, water regularly.

Now jasmine has finished flowering it should be shortened back to produce new shoots for next years flowers.

The Kitchen Garden
Continue sowing vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and lettuce during the month but delay sowing beetroot until later in April or alternatively sow in a greenhouse in modules for planting out later. Any early potatoes should be planted together with main crop. Pull rhubarb as soon as it is ready and remove any flowering stalks to prevent loosing energy. Towards the end of the month sow runner beans in 9cm pots, one seed to a pot. These can then be planted out in the garden when the risk of frost has passed.

Lawn Care
After a very wet winter many lawns have a problem with moss. Apply a combined lawn weed and feed and moss killer. Rake out the dead moss and aerate with a fork.

Your Garden in March - by John Dunster

The Vegetable Plot - Wait Before You Walk!
After the wettest winter on record we will have to be patient and wait for the weather to improve before we can start to get out onto the garden. Walking on soil that is as wet as it is at the moment can damage the soil structure by compaction. Wait for the conditions to improve before planting seeds, the soil needs to be much drier and warmer for germination to take place.

Think back to last year when the ground was frozen in March, nothing could be planted until April but we still had one of the best vegetable crops for years, which just goes to show that it is better for the conditions to be right rather than pushing on too early.

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Try Modules
We can however bring on some vegetables in greenhouses for planting out later. Broad beans can be planted in modules and onions which require a long growing season can be treated in the same way. When the soil warms up sow carrot and parsnip seed, beetroot however does require higher temperatures to germinate and sowing should be delayed until April or early May. However earlier sowings can be made in modules in a heated greenhouse for planting out later. Any compost used for planting seeds should be kept under cover and allowed to warm up before use. Dig in green manure a month before the ground is required, cut down with shears and chop up before incorporating into the soil.
The Ornamental Garden
The perennial border.
Cut back any remaining dead foliage to ground level, being careful not to damage any new shoots. Dig up and divide congested clumps of late flowering perennials for example rudbeckia, heleniums, Michaelmas daisies, hostas and phlox. Buddleia-pruning-2-.jpg - 14.4 KB
Plant dahlia tubers in trays, completely cover with compost and place in the greenhouse. These can be increased by taking basal cuttings when the shoots are about 8cm long. Using a sharp knife cut just above the point where the shoot emerges from the tuber. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem, pinch out the growing tip and dip the base of the cutting into fresh hormone rooting compound. Insert each cutting into a small pot filled with potting compost, water well and cover with a plastic bag or place in a unheated propagator. When they have grown on into more substantial plants pot on further eventually planting out into the garden where they will flower this year and produce quite large tubers by the end of the summer. Basal cuttings can also be taken from dephiniums, phlox and sedums.
... And Prune
Prune buddleja to within two or three healthy buds also remove a third of the oldest wood to ground level from cornus which are grown for their colourful stems in winter.
Apply a mulch of compost or well rotted manure to the border, this will supress weeds, conserve moisture and provide nutrients for the plants.
Lawn Care
Improve aeration by pushing a garden fork 10 - 15cms into the soil and rock backwards and forwards to loosen the soil. When taking the first cut do so on a dry day and raise the cutting height of the mower

Everyday Eats - by Cresten

When it's cold and wet and grey, there's nothing like home-made soup for lunch. January can be a sluggish month, when even the dog isn't keen to walk far, and the garden hasn't got going again. This soup is substantial and warming, without being too filling. The Oriental braised mushrooms make a good supper dish. All these dishes are quick ( 30 mins or so) and easy to prepare.

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Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
If you have apples and butternut squash, or any other kind of squash in store, then the rest of the ingredients are from the store cupboard. This soup also freezes well. Put 1 tbsp oil, one thinly sliced onion in a heavy-bottomed casserole, and cook until the onion is soft.

Add half a teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and turmeric (or 1 tsp curry powder), and 2 peeled chopped eating apples, stir and cook for a few minutes. Add 1 medium butternut squash, or equivalent amount of other variety of squash, peeled, cored, and chopped in 2cm chunks, and combine. Put the lid on the pan, and allow the mix to sweat on low heat for 5 mins, stirring occasionally.

Add 1 litre water and 1 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder (Marigold, Knorr or Kallo), bring the mix to the boil, and simmer until the squash is tender. Liquidise, adjust seasoning. Serve with a good bread, oil or butter, perhaps some chopped coriander or parsley on top.

Oriental braised mushrooms with noodles
Fresh mushrooms are best, but I have to admit I do use the wonderful mixed frozen mushrooms sold by Waitrose. Keep a packet or two in the freezer, and you will always be able to rustle up a risotto, luxury omelette, or this delicious light meal. They go a long way as well, and you can use half the fresh quantity.

Otherwise, you need 4 oz each of shitake and oyster mushrooms, and 7 oz chestnut mushrooms, all thickly sliced. Get all the ingredients ready first, as the cooking is quick. This again is a good store cupboard meal. It does not freeze well.

Stir fry 2 chopped garlic cloves in 1 tbsp oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the mushrooms, stir-fry for another minute. Then add 1 tbsp each soy sauce, dry sherry, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp soft light brown sugar, 100 ml hot vegetable stock, and simmer for 4 minutes until the mushrooms are tender ( less if you are using frozen). Stir in 1 bunch spring onions, 200g bean sprouts, and 300g ready cooked noodles (OR you can cook the noodles separately as you start cooking the garlic). Combine and cook for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Pink rhubarb fool
This fool looks wonderful, but it does need the biscuits on the side I think. If you have some good quality cookies you would like to use instead of making the oat and cinnamon biscuits ( very easy! You can prepare them as the rhubarb cools), then this wonderful seasonal dessert only takes 20 minutes.

Cut 1 lb trimmed rhubarb into chunks, and put in a heavy-bottomed pan with the juice of 1 orange and I tbsp runny honey, cook gently until the rhubarb is soft. Leave to cool. Once cool, liquidise the pan contents with a 250g tub of Quark, or lowfat fromage frais. Pulse gently to mix, and divide between tall glasses or sundae dishes. Serve with oat and cinnamon biscuits, or a good cookie, warmed.

Oat and Cinnamon biscuits
Preheat oven to 180 C fan, 200C conventional oven.

Mix 50g each of SR flour, ground rice, porridge oats, with 25g brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, grated zest of one orange. Melt 65g butter or good quality cooking margarine, mix in the combined ingredients with a wooden spoon until you have a dough. Divide dough into 12, roll each part into a small ball, put each ball on a baking sheet. Press down on each ball with the back of a large fork, and cook in the oven for 12 mins until golden.

Your Garden in February - by John Dunster

Pruning Shrubs And Clematis
clematis.jpg - 15.3 KB This month is the ideal time to prune shrubs while they are still dormant. This needs to be done for several reasons, to keep the plant healthy, control its size and shape and improve flowering. Controlling its size and shape does not mean butchering it with a hedgetrimmer as we see in supermarket car parks. Firstly cut out any old or diseased wood and branches that are crossing, if reducing the length of branches cut back to a joint. Variegated shrubs sometimes revert back and any green shoots should also be removed.

Not all shrubs flower at the same time and in general those that flower in the spring for example forsythia, flowering currant, weigela, deutzia and philadelphus all produce flowers on the previous seasons wood and should be pruned immediately after flowering. However late flowering shrubs buddleja, lavatera, fuchsias, caryopteris and ceratostigma all flower on the current seasons wood and should be pruned later this month. These can be pruned back much harder as is the case with dogwoods and willows which are grown for their coloured winter stems

Clematis also need pruning this month. For the early large flowering varieties cut back to a fat pair of buds when they are clearly visible. The late flowering viticella flower on current seasons growth and should be cut back to 20cm - 30cm from the ground. In order to produce vigorous plants apply a mulch of organic matter and provide support with obelisk, trellis or netting and any loose shoots should be tied in. During the growing season keep well watered and apply a liquid feed monthly. The best time to plant clematis is during May and June. Dig a large enough hole to incorporate plenty of organic matter. Cut a length of water pipe and place in the hole so that it protrudes just above ground level. Water can be poured down the tube to reach the roots. Plant thee clematis 3 to 4in deeper than the container, water well and keep watered during the summer and again apply a mulch.

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Herbaceous Border Care
In the herbaceous border any remaining seed heads and dead foliage should be removed taking care not to damage any new shoots. Tidy up bergenias by removing dead leaves and cutting back damaged leaves.

The Vegetable Garden And Greenhouse
Very little can be done in the vegetable garden until the weather improves. Shallots can be planted when conditions improve. Towards the end of the month place seed potatoes in trays in a light, cool but frost free place to encourage the development of stubby shoots.

Work can now start in the greenhouse, sow seeds of salad plants, onions and broad beans. Start tomatoes and peppers in a heated propagator.

Don't be frightened- it's only a vegetable

JerusalemArtichoke2.jpg - 76.4 KB JerusalemArtichoke1.jpg - 98 KB What is it that makes perfectly ordinary, straightforward, even brave, vegetable- eating Brits pause, sometimes recoil a bit, when you offer them Jerusalem Artichoke? Someone must have suggested to them, at a vulnerable moment, that at this truly wonderful and versatile veg would do something peculiar to them if eaten. On the contrary. Jerusalem Artichoke is delicious and nutritious, and its availability throughout the winter months into the 'hungry gap' pushes it into the 'favoured veg' category for me, up there with parsnips and cauliflower.

Jerusalem Artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus, deserves a place in every garden. It's amazingly easy to grow. You just put a tuber in any reasonable soil in the spring, and come back in summer to find a very tall stem with a small sunflower head above a few tufty green leaves. If you've bothered to plant the tuber in clean compost, the many plump tubers you've grown will need hardly any cleaning, just a scrape. I got my big, only slightly knobbly tubers from Garden Organic, and am told that they are a doddle to prepare compared with the traditional variety. Also, for those who say darkly "Jerusalem fartichoke" ( how rude), the new tubers don't have that problem, or if you do think they might, just add half an onion or a piece of fennel (the cut off stalk will do) when cooking.

JerusalemArtichoke3.jpg - 53.9 KB As a plus, you can leave half a row of artichokes for harvesting as late as next April- the tall stem will wither and break, but the tubers will remain sound and plump beneath. Many gardeners these days are aiming for a veg plot with a reasonable proportion of perennial vegetables, and Jerusalem Artichokes are a great contender. They can go at the back of any border, and they make a handsome screen for the compost bin.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup: Scrape or peel as many tubers as you like, plus one floury potato. Cut into small cubes, and sweat these in a heavy covered pan with either butter or rapeseed oil ( smoky garlic rapeseed oil is my favourite) for a few minutes. Then add a pint or so of veg stock, or Marigold bouillon powder and water, simmer until tender. Blend or liquidise, check seasoning, add a generous grating of nutmeg, possibly a blob of Greek yoghourt. Wonderful...

Jerusalem Artichoke Vinaigrette: Scrape or peel then steam the smallest tubers until tender. Slice thinly onto torn green leaves or rocket, drizzle over with balsamic vinaigrette and oil dressing with chopped parsley.

Jerusalem Artichoke gratin: Steam tubers until tender, slice thickly into an oiled flat ovenproof dish, top with cheese sauce and extra grated cheese and breadcrumbs, grill until golden.

Jerusalem Artichoke mash: Peel and steam equal quantities of artichoke and potato until very soft. Mash, adding butter or oil and seasoning. A delicious change from plain mashed potatoes, and goes particularly well with roast butternut squash, or fish.

Toad Alert

Toad2.jpg - 67.7 KB Toad1.jpg - 60 KB The whole of Church Road up to Winscombe Hill, and particularly the part of Church Road from the junction with the Lynch up to Barton Road becomes a site of toad migration any time now, over the next few months, peaking in February and March. New 'Toad Patrol' signs will be put up to warn residents and passersby about the migration, and it is hoped that drivers, in particular during the evening when most toads are on the move, will slow down and try to avoid them.

Toad patrol teams will be out and about every evening once the start of the migration becomes obvious, trying to minimise the fatalities which sadly occur so often as these benign little amphibians are forced to cross roads to get to streams and ponds. One of the many risks they face is falling into road drains, along with other small creatures, not being able to get out, and drowning. The toad patrol teams managed to save over 800 of the little creatures from the drains last year, a really worthwhile achievement. Human activity takes such a terrible toll on our wildlife. So, if you are driving, cycling or walking along Church Road and Barton Road late at night, spare a thought for for the harmless and vulnerable toad, and if you see one in trouble, perhaps lift it gently to a place of safety.

The toad patrol teams welcome volunteers, so if you would like to help at this busy time, look out for the patrol during the evening and introduce yourself. Otherwse, send us a message and we will put you in touch.

Church Road isn't the only place you will see toad migration. Anywhere there is a brook or pond, and there are many such areas in Winscombe and Sandford, will see increased amphibious wildlife activity from the end of this month. Spare a thought for the wildlife making their way there across the lanes in the evenings, and we can all help keep the death toll down.

Your Garden in January - by John Dunster

As I am writing this it is blowing a gale and pouring with rain outside, it is hard to imagine before long snowdrops will appear together with iris George, crocus and early flowering narcissi. Any pruning of summer flowering shrubs should be completed this month also begin to tidy up the borders where spring bulbs need to be exposed.

Very little can be done in the vegetable garden but if conditions allow carry out any final digging In the greenhouse start planting broad beans and onion seed which may need heat to promote germination, Prick out into pots or cells when large enough ready for planting in the garden during March.

House plants are a favourite gift at Christmas, these are often treated like cut flowers and discarded once they have finished flowering. Here are a few tips on how to care for these plants and have them flowering from year to year.

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The most popular plants are cyclamen, poinsettia, orchids and Christmas cacti, all of which require different conditions.

Firstly cyclamen suffer stress from central heating and should be kept in a cool, light but frost free situation. Once they have finished flowering keep them growing for a further three months before placing the pot outdoors on its side allowing the compost to dry out. In early autumn repot with new compost, bring back indoors and start it back to growth.

Poinsettias on the other hand are sub-tropical plants and require very different conditions. They do best in a warm living room if kept watered. The coloured bracts will last until March but it can be difficult however to get them to colour up the following year. For this they require 12 hours of darkness each day, conditions similar to that from October to March. If you have not got a room without artificial lighting it may be necessary to cover the plant with a black plastic bag each night.

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Orchids are one of the top selling house plants, moth orchids (phalaenopsis) being the most popular. These are simple to care for and will reflower with minimal care. The roots do require light that is the reason for using clear pots which should be filled with chipped bark. An ideal situation is a window sill in a warm room away from direct sunlight. Do not leave the pots sitting in water and once the flowers have died cut the stem back by half.

Christmas cacti are easier to care for, they require less moisture and can be stood outside in summer, bringing them back indoors at the beginning of September.

Do keep feeding the birds and provide a supply of fresh water. Now is the time to put up bird boxes. Choose the right spot, a site in the shade of a tree or building is ideal but if not face the box north through to south east, out of prevailing winds , rain and sunshine. Position it 2 - 5m from the ground, ensure protection from predators, not too close to feeders as this can cause territorial disputes.

Very best wishes for the new year and good gardening in 2014.

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