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Native bluebells 

May 1st, 2017 · No Comments

There are two species of bluebell found in the UK. Native or British bluebell and non-native Spanish bluebell. Cross-breeding between the two species means you may spot flowers which combine traits from both.
The easiest way to tell the difference between native and non-native bluebells is to look at the colour of the pollen. If it is creamy-white then the bluebell is native. If it is any other colour such as pale green or blue then it’s not native.
These other characteristics will also help you to tell the difference.

Native Hyacinthoides non-scripta
native bluebells

Native bluebells

Pollen cream-white colour

Deep violet-blue. A genetic mutation occasionally causes white flowers

Flower stem droops or nods distinctly to one side

Almost all flowers are on one side of the stem, hanging down to one side

Flowers are a narrow, straight-sided bell with parallel sides

Petal tips are reflexed (curl back)

Flowers have a strong, sweet scent

Spanish Hyacinthoides hispanica 

Spanish bluebells

Spanish bluebells

Pollen green or blue

Pale to mid-blue, often also white or pink

Flower stem is stiff and upright

Flowers are usually all the way round the stem, with the flowers sticking out

Flowers are a wide open, almost cone shaped bell

Petal tips flare slightly outwards

Flowers have little or no scent at all

Why are non-native bluebells a threat?

Spanish bluebell is a threat to our native species because they readily cross-breed resulting in the fertile hybrid Hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta.

This is a problem because crossbreeding dilutes the unique characteristics of our native Bluebell, changing future generations forever.

Most bluebells in urban areas are now thought to be hybrids and a study by Plantlife found that one in six broadleaved woodlands contained the hybrid or Spanish bluebell.

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Mulching your garden borders

April 28th, 2017 · No Comments

One of the keys to creating a low maintenance gardening is to use mulches to suppress the weeds and reduce the need for weeding. 
In areas that are predominantly trees and shrubs you can use a weed sheeting covering my bark chips or wood chip mulches. On areas that contain perennial plants it’s best to use either spent mushroom compost or well rotted horse/farmyard manure making sure the material does not contain weeds initially.
These mulches will be incorporated into the soil over a period of time by the soil bacteria and by earthworms helping to improving the texture and water holding capacities of the soil.
One important point to remember with all mulches is that as they breakdown they remove nutrients from the soil as the bacteria uses the nutrients to help to break down the mulches so it’s important when you apply a mulch to add some fertiliser to the soil first we normally recommend a handful of Growmore fertiliser per square metre.
Spent mushroom compost is ideal for most soils and most plants however if you need to lower the pH in the soil or if you have plants that prefer acid soil conditions well rotted horse manure or farmyard manure is a better option as it is slightly acid. 

Spent mushroom compost contains high levels of lime making it unsuitable for acid loving plants. 
After the initial application of the mulch you will need to top it up every year and any more persistent weeds that grow through the mulch will need removing by hand or spot treating with Round up weedkiller. 

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When To Prune A Passion Flower.

March 26th, 2017 · No Comments

Prune your passion flower is spring, when danger of the most severe frosts have passed.It is good to leave as much growth on during the winter to protect it from the weather even though it looks quite messy.Its hard to prune to any set format just follow the existing main stems and prune back to these.Once pruned a liquid feed of a fertilizer containing a high potash content is ideal i.e. liquid tomato feed is ideal.

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Bay Tree Damaged By Frost.

February 5th, 2017 · No Comments

With regards to your question on your bay tree damaged by frost over the winter months.
The damaged leaves will not recover and are best removed by hand.Once they have been removed feed them with a liquid plant food,for bay trees the best one is one high in phosphate such as a liquid tomato feed available from most garden centres.After about 6 weeks you should find that new leaves start to grow from the bare stems and by the end of the summer the plant should have fully recovered. For More information:
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Renovating an old allotment and removing difficult weeds

February 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

It’s not very often you get to take over an old allotments or an allotment from a previous owner where it is completely weed free normally taking over an allotment can be a bit of a nightmare as its often overgrown with grass and brambles.

As you are going to grow vegetables in your allotment using a chemical weed killer is not really on option a more organic method is needed. Firstly remove all the rubbish on our allotment, next strim or cut down the brambles, weeds and long grass. Plus if the allotment is uneven try to level it as best you can.

With the allotment level you can now lay a black plastic covering to exclude the light. Ideally this plastic covering should be of a woven construction which is stronger than a more plastic sheeting.
The plastic sheeting will need to be pegged to the ground to stop it moving in the wind etc.
The GardenAdvice team us a Mypex ground cover sheeting.

With the plastic sheeting in place you can still grow a number of crops such as potatoes and tomatoes, runner beans etc. These can be planted through the sheeting as tubers or young plants by making small cross cuts in the plastic sheeting. Potatoes have the added advantage of cleaning up the soil and creating a very easy to work soil once the plastic is removed.
Before planting crops through the plastic were the allotment has been overgrown you might have to wait a few months for the weeds under the plastic sheeting to die down.

If you are intending to grow crops through the sheeting its a good idea before the sheeting is laid to install a drip irrigation or leaky hose system under the sheeting which will make the task of watering much easier.

Ideally the plastic needs to be in place for a full 12 months or over the winter months to produce a fairly weed free and workable soil once the plastic is removed it’s not going to remove 100% of the weeds but the ones that remain will be controllable if you continue to work on soil and work the allotment.

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Renovating a lawn containing builders rubble

January 20th, 2017 · No Comments

If you buy a new house with a lawn full of builders rubble then you best bet is to start again as in the long run this will save a lot of time and money.

To start it’s often best to kill the existing lawn a few weeks before with round up weed killer applying it with a watering can on a dry day about 10 days before you start. The reason for this is that it will make the cultivation of the existing lawn a lot easier.

Next after about 10 days after the application of the weed killer you can start to dig over the existing lawn removing all the rubble ideally over 50 to 75 mm. If the soil is very hard often it a good idea to use a spade and mattock spade that’s similar to a pick axe with flattened ends.

At this stage if your soil is a wet heavy clay it’s a good idea as you dig it over work in one 25 kg of grit sand per 3 metre square area. This will help break up the soil ( if the builders merchant is not sure about the type of sand just tell them it’s the type of sand used for rendering)

With the area of the lawn worked over now it’s time to create a general level with a rake and walking over the area as you start to work the soil down.
At this stage you can decide if you need to import topsoil. If the soil still contains a lot of rubble or is hard to level and still lumpy it’s often better to import some screened soil and lay the additional topsoil over the area to a depth of 50mm to 75mm.

If you decide to use some imported soil this is best delivered with the turf as it should be reasonable dry and easy to work . If left in a pile for a week or so it might become unworkable if it rains.

If you decide to seed the area it’s best to spread and level the imported topsoil and leave if for a few weeks before you sow the grass seed to allow any weed seeds to germinate first do they can be removed before you sow the grass seed.

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Ceanothus Damaged By Frost.

January 15th, 2017 · No Comments

We have noticed and indeed have had loads of questions this year about ceanothus being damaged by the frost and the bad weather. Our advice is to wait for a time to see if they re-shoots from the lower branches and then cut back to these green shoots.The shoot might take up until the end of May to start to come through.To check the plant is not died lightly scratch the lower stems and see if you can see some green colour just under the branches surface,this will indicate that the plant is still alive and more than likely recover.

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Plants Damaged By Frost.

January 15th, 2017 · No Comments

With this winter being on of the hardest of recent years now at the start of April its a good time to give your plants a helping hand.Many of the softer plants have been damaged such as ceanothus and fatsia japonica together with the slightly more exotic plants such as the bottle brush shrub.
In most cases its worth removing damaged growing tips by simply removing them, this should encourage new shoots to grow later in the spring.In the case of plants that look to be dead its worth waiting a few weeks to see is they shoot from the bare stems.A good example of this is ceanothus which in hard weather often gets its leaves burned by frost and snow,then later in the year new shoots start to grow on the older bare stems.At this point you can prune back the dead and damaged wood and the plant over a couple of seasons regrows.

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Mimosa Damaged By Frost.

January 10th, 2017 · No Comments

Mimosa damaged by frost. It may possibly resprout from live wood so I would be inclined to wait before doing anything drastic.A way of telling whether there is still green wood is to use your finger nail to scrape away some of the bark.If it is still green underneath then you are in with a good chance of it surviving.It may be that it has not been killed right down to its roots so may well regrow from the base.My advice is wait and see and don’t do anything with it until high summer.

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Winder Damage To Olive Plants.

January 10th, 2017 · No Comments

Olive plants although quite hardy are often damaged by winter winds and frosts which burn the leaves.This can be avoided by placing a horticultural fleece over the olive plants on the coldest days and nights or bring them inside if they are in containers.If your plants have been damaged they should recover in the spring and to aid the recover you should feed them with a high nitrogen plant food and remove the very badly damaged leaves.

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Frost Damage On Pyracantha.

January 5th, 2017 · No Comments

Frost damage on Pyracantha – This will happen only in the hardest of winters or in a very exposed position.Normally resulting in leaf burn and leaf drop in the early spring.If the stems are still alive, you can tell this by lightly scratching a stem to see if its pith is still green underneath it should recover.However it might take until the start of June before the new shoots appear.
As always with any weather damaged plant a course of liquid feeding in the spring helps in the plants recovery.

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Winter Damage To Bottle Bush.

January 5th, 2017 · No Comments

Over the last few years most bottle brush plants have got away without much damage.However in the UK this past winter has seen then suffer a considerable amount of damage.Bottle brush plants are not fully hardy in the UK and on the more frosty nights require to be covered by a horticultural fleece to add some additional protection.If you have a bottle brush plant damaged by the winter the best course of action is to leave it until the start of May then cut back the damaged areas and apply a liquid plant food high in potash to add the recovery.

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Bay Tree Winter Damage.

January 5th, 2017 · No Comments

Bay trees although fully hardy are often damaged by winter winds and frosts which burn the leaves.This can be avoided by placing a horticultural fleece over the bay plants on the coldest days and nights.If your plants have been damaged they should recover in the spring and to aid the recover you should feed them with a high nitrogen plant food and remove the very badly damaged leaves.

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Potato cyst eelworms?

December 4th, 2016 · No Comments


Potato cyst eelworms?
Eelworms also known as nematodes are a phylum of worm-like animals. There are more than 25, 000 described species although it is thought there could be more than a million. Most are microscopic, less than 1mm in length although some species reach 5cm or more. They are very abundant animals in almost every habitat. Nematodes feed on a range of materials, some are predatory on bacteria whilst some are plant or animal parasitic.

The two species of potato cyst eelworm that commonly occur in Britain – golden or yellow cyst eelworm (Globodera rostochiensis) and white cyst eelworm (G. pallida) – feed in the roots of potatoes and can cause the crop to fail.

They can be distinguished by the colour of the developing cysts which are just under 1mm in diameter. The golden or yellow cyst eelworm passes through a prolonged pale yellow phase, which can be seen if the roots are examined between mid-June and July. White cyst eelworm changes rapidly from creamy-white to brown and intermediate colours are not often seen. Golden cyst eelworm is the more common species in the southern half of Britain while the white cyst eelworm predominates north of Yorkshire and Lancashire, and also in much of Lincolnshire.

Affected potato are stunted and the leaves yellow, turn brown and hang down. These symptoms develop from the ground upwards.

If an affected plant is lifted carefully, it should be possible to see many pin head-sized spherical objects, known as cysts, on the roots. Eelworm cysts are the dead bodies of females which can contain up to 600 eggs each. The cysts may be white, yellow or chestnut brown in colour and can be seen more readily with the aid of a hand lens.

Heavily infested plants die prematurely and yield a poor crop of under-sized tubers. When an area is first infected by potato cyst eelworm only a small part of it may be affected but in successive years the infested area will enlarge until it becomes impossible to grow worthwhile potatoes.

The eggs contained within the cysts can remain viable for many years as they hatch at a slow rate in the absence of host plants. When potatoes or tomatoes are grown in infested soil the eggs are stimulated to hatch in large numbers by chemicals exuding from the roots. The immature eelworms are microscopic worm-like creatures which enter the roots and feed internally on the cell contents. During their development the eelworms disrupt the uptake of water and nutrients, causing stunted growth and poor leaf colour. When almost mature, the female eelworms become globular in shape and burst through the root wall and are then fertilised by males. There is one generation a year on outdoor crops but two generations may be possible on glasshouse tomatoes.

Wild plants of the Solanaceae family are rarely attacked and are of no importance as host plants in the UK although some, such as the weed black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), will induce egg hatching from the cysts.

There are no pesticides available to amateur gardeners which will control potato cyst eelworms, and so cultural methods should be used to avoid spreading the pest and to reduce infestations.

A high population of cysts may soon develop if potatoes or tomatoes are grown frequently in the same piece of soil. This can be avoided by adopting as long a rotation as possible. Self-set or ‘volunteer’ potatoes can maintain an infestation and so weed them out in early summer before eelworms can complete their development. Eelworm eggs can survive for up to ten years in some soils and so very long rotations are needed to starve out the pest completely. This process can be speeded up by sowing a half-hardy annual, Solanum sisymbriifolium. This plant’s roots induce egg hatching but eelworms cannot develop in the roots.

A worthwhile crop of early potatoes can usually be grown in infested ground after a break of five or six years. The increase in cyst numbers can be limited by lifting the crop as soon as the tubers are ready and not allowing the plants to continue growing beyond that point. Once soil becomes infested with cysts it is difficult to prevent them being spread around the garden, but steps should be taken to prevent this occurring on a large scale. Plants grown in infested soil should not be transplanted to cyst-free areas, and the roots, including those of weeds, should not be put on the compost heap.

There are some potato cultivars that have resistance to the golden cyst eelworm. These include ‘Accent’, ‘Lady Christl’, ‘Pentland Javelin’, ‘Premiere’, ‘Rocket’, ‘Swift’, ‘Winston’ (earlies); ‘Blue Danube’, ‘Kestrel’, ‘Nadine’, ‘Saxon’, (second earlies); ‘Amour’, ‘Cara’, ‘Harmony’, ‘Lady Balfour’, ‘Maris Piper’, ‘Maxine’, ‘Nicola’, ‘Picasso’, ‘Sante’, ‘Spey’, ‘Stemster’, ‘Valor’ (maincrop). The root exudates produced by these cultivars still induce egg hatching and the roots are attacked in the usual way. Females, however, are unable to develop inside the roots and only males are produced, thus reducing the number of eggs in the soil. White cyst eelworms can reproduce normally on these varieties. Crop rotation is still important, even in areas where the golden cyst eelworm predominates, as there is a danger that the other species may also be present and will increase in numbers if potatoes are grown too frequently.

Some cultivars also have some tolerance of white cyst eelworm, in addition to resistance to golden cyst eelworm. These include ‘Harmony’, ‘Kestrel’, ‘Lady Balfour’, ‘Maxine’, ‘Sante’, ‘Spey’ and ‘Valor’. The white cyst eelworm is able to complete its normal life cycle and reproduce in the roots of these varieties, but they are nevertheless able to produce a worthwhile crop, provided the soil is not heavily infested.

Soil that has grown potatoes should never be used in the greenhouse for growing tomatoes. If greenhouse beds become infested, the problem can be overcome by complete re-soiling, or by growing tomatoes in growbags or other systems, such as ring culture or straw bales, which reduce root contact with the infested soil.

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Tips On Growing Camellias.

November 30th, 2016 · No Comments

Camellias need to be in a position in your garden that does not receive the sun before mid morning.The reason for this that the flower buds can drop if they thaw to quickly in the early spring frosts.Placing them in a position that allows them to be heated up by air temperature before the sun hits them means that they thaw at a slower rate.

In addition to this they like a open soil,slightly on the acid side.In the summer months its worth feeding with liquid tomato food as this contains magnesium and potash both key to flowering for Camellias .

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Pruning clematis montana rubens

November 30th, 2016 · No Comments


Pruning clematis montana rubens 

They tend to be quite robust with regards to pruning so no need to worry about pruning it too hard. In the first season the pruning should be more about training tieing in shoot to get the plant to grow in the direction and areas you wish it to grow. Then in the 3 or 4th season you will need to prune it back to this framework you have created as montana rubens tend to become very woody. Hoever the good news it that if pruned back to bare stems they shoot quickly from dormant buds and if pruned in the winter or early spring they will flower on this new growth.

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Pruning climbing honeysuckle

November 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

Over the winter months you can prepare your honeysuckle for new growth and new flowers in the coming spring.
First prune removing all the dead diseased and damaged stems cut back some of the new shoots that were created in last years growing season.
Once all the leaves have fallen off in December or January it’s also a good idea to give the plant and winter wash to remove all the overwintering pests and diseases.
Finally in the early spring provide the honeysuckle with a couple of handfuls of Growmore fertiliser just to ensure some strong new growth and new flowers which in most cases will be formed on the new season growth.

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Autumn leaves on the lawn

November 21st, 2016 · No Comments

It’s best to clear autumn leaves from the lawn regularly through the autumn and early winter period as if left they become damp and wet and can cause course fungal diseases in the grass.
The leaves can be composited in your garden compost heap or can be placed in black bin liners with a handful of garden fertilizer and handful of garden lime. Then in 12 months as long as you need the compost heap or leaves bin bags damp you should have composted leaves you can apply back to your borders or vegetable growing area.

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Getting your compost heap ready for winter

November 21st, 2016 · No Comments

Now is a great time we getting your compost heap ready for the onset of winter.
If you have an existing compost heap that has been started in the summer now is a good time to remove some of the compost from the base and spread it on your garden borders and vegetable areas.
Ideally you need to leave some of the older composted material in the compost heap to maintain the bacteria and fungal elements to help generate the heat in the fresh composting material you will add over the winter months.
As always the key to composting is moisture, air, heat and nutrients for the bacteria and other organisms that help to break down the freshly composted material.
So you need to make sure your compost heap is damp and fairly open, if your composting material does not have an open structure for example if you’ve been adding a lot of grass clippings you can add some straw and mix the straw into the composted material, this will help create an open structuring in your compost heap and allow air to circulate. Nutrients can be introduced with a few handfuls of growmore or a liquid plant food applied directly into the compost heap.
Finally you need to keep your compost heap warm in the winter by wrap it in some horticultural fleece or better still some old carpet this will maintaining temperature in the winter and make your compost heap more productive over the winter months.

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Mushrooms in your lawn

November 21st, 2016 · No Comments

Mushrooms in lawns are quite natural they are the fruiting bodies from mycelium that forms beneficial symbiotic relationship with the grass plants in the lawn helping them to uptake water and nutrients.
The mycelium in your lawn helps to break down the organic matter in the lawns such as old pieces of wood or dead grass.
As a result of this action in the autumn or in damp conditions mushrooms form which are the fruiting bodies from the mycelium.
To prevent the mushrooms from forming you should cut your grass and box off the grass clippings feed your lawn regularly and carry out spring and autumn maintenance with scarification and spiking to prevent the buildup of dead grass.
If your lawn produces mushrooms will be fairly short lived and should disappear within a few weeks.

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