Tips for blooming good gardens
03 May 2021
In case you missed our daily tips on social media during National Gardening Week, here’s a round-up of the advice given by Vineyard Garden Centre plant expert Jo Taylor and head of garden maintenance Anthony Stevens.
Don’t forget that we’re here all year round to answer your gardening questions and help you to get the most out of your green space.
The ideal time to lift and divide summer flowering perennials is autumn and spring, so this can be done now. Most perennials benefit from a division every few years to maintain healthy, vigorous growth and blooms, it is also a perfect way to create lots of extra plants at absolutely no cost! Lift the plant with a fork and rake away any excess soil. Some plants will divide easily just by pulling apart, whereas others require a bit more force using two forks to prise the roots apart or even a knife to cut through. Once divided, replant your new plants immediately if possible, or very soon after lifting, and water in well until the roots have established.
It is fair to say that some insects aren’t as popular as others. For those of us who suffer from the attention of midges and mosquitoes many a summer’s eve can be spoilt. Nature though has its own simple remedy. Calendula officinalis, the humble marigold, has a perfume that is repellent to mosquitoes and will also deter aphids, thrips and whitefly. Place them in borders at the edge of the patio or in pots to keep those voracious feeders at bay. This also applies to rosemary, sage, lavender, mint, basil and strong-smelling bulbs such as allium. A patio herb selection will do the trick and help you avoid those itchy bites.
Runner beans are a tender plant, so they are sown and planted out once the threat of frosts have gone. Sowing indoors can be done late April to early May. Once germinated, harden plants in a cold frame and plant out end of May/June. If sowing the seeds directly outside, then do so mid-May to late June once the ground has warmed and the frost risk has passed.
If you are passionate about wildlife, then leave seed heads and stems on your plants over winter into mid spring. Doing this enables insects in your garden to hibernate over winter in the seed heads and stems. Once spring temperatures are warming, ideally consistently above 10̊ C, it will be safe to cut down old stems as the insects will have emerged from their hibernation ready to play their important role in the ecosystem. An option to consider if you do want to cut earlier in colder temperatures is to bundle up cut stems and leave them somewhere safe where the insects can remain in the stems until they are ready to emerge.
Nettles are a very rich source of nitrogen, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, boron, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium. Making a home brew fertiliser tea is by far the best way to use them up. Place a good batch in the bottom of a large container. Fill up with water, cover with a fine netting or gauze to keep the mosquitoes out and leave for two weeks to marinate. If possible, stir every two days or so. Use neat on established plants either at the base or in a good spray bottle. As a natural insect repellent it can assist in reducing insect attacks and fungal infection. This form of tea works equally well with dandelion leaves and stalks, which are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium and calcium.
Spring is the time to cut deciduous ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus, so if you haven't done it already, get to it as new growth will be starting to show. Dead plant material can be cut back hard, but make sure to do it above the new growth as nipping the tops of the new growth will result in flat tips. Evergreen grasses can have dead growth removed by running your fingers through the plant, teasing and pulling away the old plant material.
Now is a great time to take softwood cuttings, another way to produce lots of plants with no expense. Fuchsias, hydrangeas, forsythia, buddleja, penstemon, just a few of many. Trim the stem of a 2"- 4" cutting which has been cut from the plant below a leaf node, remove lower leaves and pinch out the growing tip. Dip the end into a rooting compound and place the cutting in a pot filled with seed and cutting compost and with the first set of leaves sitting on top of the compost (several cuttings can be placed in one pot). Water in well. The pot of cuttings can then be placed in a warm greenhouse or covered in a clear polythene bag and placed somewhere warm and light, but not in direct hot sunlight which will scorch the new and soft growth of the cutting. For ventilation, the polythene bag should be removed a few times a week for several minutes each time. Maintain a moist compost until the cuttings have rooted.