At last the weather has improved and the sun has some real warmth to it, its great to be outside breathing the warm air scented with the smells of spring. Shame about the endless drone of the lawnmowers but hey, you win some you lose some.
What Should We Be Doing?
Its a busy time and there’s plenty to do so in no particular order of importance:
Go over your lawn looking for daisies and dandelions that are beginning to grow and dig them out.
Check your composting bin – if you have one – we want to recycle as much of the garden and kitchen waste as possible.
Plant out any container grown roses and shrubs.
Tie-up new growth of any climbing plants.
Fork compost into your flower beds to prepare them for summer bedding.
Sow seeds of the following: beetroot, lettuce, salad leaves, watercress and rocket.
Open up the greenhouse and ensure the temperature controls are working. Bring your strawberries in there while you are at it.
So that little lot should keep you out in the fresh air for a while, more to come later in the month, until then; have fun out there.
Today the hours of daylight will exceed the hours of darkness prompting the awakening of our gardens. You can dust off the lawnmower and oil the trusty wheelbarrow, and get back in the garden!
Where to start?
Grass seed sowed last month on bare patches in the lawn and sowed again a fortnight ago has still not germinated. Don’t sit bare buttocked on the ground to determine if it’s warm enough – just watch the weeds, if they don’t grow don’t sow.
However established grass is growing, probably time for the first or in some cases second cut of the season.
To Mulch or Not to Mulch?
One priority is to order some bark to mulch borders primarily planted with shrubs and trees. Ground cover that doesn’t need cutting every week is what you are aiming for coupled with all year round interest! Plants themselves may not be big enough to provide cover, hence mulching is vital. Bare soil is bad – except in winter when it has been freshly dug over and left to ‘weather’, which is a natural conditioning process.
Most winter flowering shrubs are gone or going now, replaced by masses of daffodils, violets and red dead nettles. Double daffodils, green in bud and when first opened turning golden yellow, are less valuable for wildlife but as they don’t set seed they consequently bloom for longer. If you have any, multiply and plant out for next year.
There are several basic principles for cutting lawns.
- Remember the 1/3 rule do not cut more than this off the grass and leave at least 48 hours between cuts to reduce the height
- Mow in different directions either everytime or at least once a month
- Overlap each cut by at least 1” for roller mowers and 2” for wheeled mowers.
- To get a dead straight line across a large lawn pick a non movable object, like a tree, pylon etc. preferably 200 yrds away or further and walk straight towards it.
- When turning round do it a different distance from the edge so visit one three stripes around outside, visit two five stripes around outside, visit three four stripes around outside. This avoids soil compaction on the edges, and change direction of the stripes as for item 2.
- If you have to mow when lawns are really wet it is good to use a twitch or hose to remove excess moisture, and if possible do this on arrival and then cut the grass at the end of the visit. Slow down with the mower but try not to reduce blade speed.
- If the lawn has a slightly silvery look when cut, the blade probably needs sharpening.
- Look at the lawn as you mow, remove molehills and other debris, and look for weeds, moss and other signs of an unhealthy lawn.
- Do not cut a lawn if a frost is imminent and do not walk on a frozen lawn if possible.
Having survived Christmas the next challenge was to survive the big freeze! As always the good old UK was paralysed by at least 100mm of snow that lasted for almost a week. The Canadians were laughing all the way to their ski slopes.
What is it about us, every year we seem to have snow and every year all the schools close and the traffic slithers to a halt. Even the trains can’t run. What’s that about? The London Underground was badly affected, how does that happen? Underground snow?
You may well be asking what’s this got to do with gardening – and you’re right; nothing! Just wanted to get it off my chest, now back to the garden or not given that it’s water logged and partially frozen. So what should we be doing right now?
Well you can start by staying off your lawn if possible as it’ll be vulnerable having just come out from under all that snow and it’s probably be pretty soft too. Check the insulation on your cold frames and garden shed to ensure that all is in order.
Apart from clearing the paths of leaves and moss, if you can get to them, that’s about all at this time. Generally keeping the garden free of leaves is a good idea as it allows the soil and plants to benefit from any rise in temperature no mater how small. Until next time keep warm and happy days.
Welcome 2013, welcome reader(s). Its over – survived another Christmas, more than be said for the turkey!
With the festivities out of the way we can now turn our attention to other things including the garden.
Front page news on today’s Daily Telegraph is the forecast of the end of the home owner’s “bowling green” lawn. Various professors and experts tell us that the climate has it in for our poor old grass. Its ability to withstand the constant changeable weather and deluges is compromised by being cut short a la the bowling green.
The Odd Daisy and Buttercup
So their advice – leave your grass longer in the summer. Learn to put up with the odd daisy and buttercup because time spent in pursuit of the ideal lawn is not rewarded, and your grass suffers as a result.
Frequency and Height
As our regular reader(s) know the height at which you cut your grass is something that we have discussed before. One size does not fit all – so the home owner that has the lawnmower set at one height – come spring or autumn is not doing it properly. Likewise the frequency of mowing and the cutting height are linked. If you want our guidance you will find it here.
What a wet, dull and cold snap we are having. Absolutely no enthusiasm for pottering in the frozen wasteland that was once the garden! So instead been browsing the interweb and come across a few more tips for December. Its amazing how much good information there is available via Google and the sites it throws-up.
Anyway the tips:
- Refirm the roots of any shrubs that may have been lifted by frost.
- After all the windy weather check fence posts and panels and repair if they have become loose or damaged.
- Make sure that the shed roof is still water tight.
- Dig over beds not only prepares the soil for next year, it helps reduce pests by exposing them to hungry birds.
- Check out Garden Swap Shop, where you can swap your excess seeds and plants with other website members
- If fallen leaves are a problem in your garden try to remove them from the lawn as regularly as possible. If you wait until all the leaves have dropped, your grass will be fighting for survival under a cold damp blanket of moist, rotting vegetation.
- While its quiet in the garden take the opportunity to do any hard landscaping work.
- Clear ivy from around windows and cut back any loose stems on other clinging climbers such as Hydrangea petiolaris, Pileostegia, Schizophragma and Parthenocissus before the winds peel them back further.
Only 10 more shopping days until Christmas so got to go! Urghhh
As December is here and everyone’s thoughts are turning to Christmas – love it or not, thought we’d pen some general tips for activity in your garden. Get you away from presents and wrapping if you so desire!
Not in any particular order of importance, just a random collection.
Would welcome any additional tips/thoughts/anecdotes:
- Minimize traffic on a frozen lawn to reduce winter damage
- Drain the fuel tank of the lawn mower before putting the machine away for the winter
- Make a composting trench to enrich soil
- Dig over vacant areas
- Mow your lawn on a dry day with the blades set high
- Wrap outside taps with insulation material to prevent them freezing and turn off the water supply inside your house
- Place a floating heater or a ball in ponds to stop ice completely covering the surface
- Move tender or valuable houseplants away from cold window sills every evening
- Carry on digging over beds and borders and incorporate as much organic matter as you can
- Keep raking leaves to keep your garden clear over the winter
- Take care not to let leaves accumulate around alpines – they will die if left damp for long
That’s it for now – more thoughts as we go through the month. Stay warm and dry if you can.
Jobs to be done in the Garden
Lawns have had a hard time this year and we would recommend a little TLC for the lawns, hollow tining, weed and feed, and if moss is a problem a treatment and a light scarify, this maybe better left for the Spring, but why not book it in now?
Garden furniture needs to be moved undercover and if it is wood this needs to be a dry store if at all possible. We offer a collection, clean and return service for all types of garden furniture.
Winter Pruning, this is a great time to cut back borders that have become overgrown or just cutting back a few unruly shrubs that have taken over and are hiding other shrubs, obviously leaving things like the Buddleia until the Spring is much nearer.
Paths and Pavement
Pressure washing of paved areas and paths to remove lichens and algae’s that can make them very slippery.
Servicing of lawn mowers, strimmers, hedge cutters, secateurs, garden shears etc are all things that we have been doing for all our tools and we also offer this service to our Regular Clients. We have workshop space available in December and early 2013.