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Gardening Hints - July

my1GdLgDoesn’t gardening take time – that’s if you do it properly? The more crops you grow the longer it takes to get round the garden to do the jobs. Vegetables rely on thorough soil preparation, constant care with weeding, feeding and keeping the birds off. My three rows of strawberries had a layer of chipping put round them at the beginning of the season keeping down weeds and retain moisture. It made a soft bed for the fruit to lie on and prevented soil splash on the fruit. We’ve managed to keep the slugs and snails at bay with carefully timed slug pellets. Nets can’t keep determined birds out. Baby birds in particular are able to get through the small mesh and I am trying very hard to protect those four blueberry bushes.

How do they do it? All that talk of CD’s suspended above the vegetable bed is a criterion that with me doesn’t work. We try to encourage bird life in the garden but it is frustrating when the complete crop of peas disappears! I blamed it on the pigeons first, then the slugs and then discovered non emergent peas. It appears you have to sow seed for bird feed as well as the crop! Those wee ‘blackies’ are devils!

Of course the simplest way of gardening is – Yes! – keep it simple. We have a lawn area, 11 X 8 yards lawn at the side of the house overlooked by the bedrooms. A large Magnolia (soulangeana), 35 years old sits in the centre with a bed of blue lavender beneath to match the white lavender strip under the windows. Grass cutting is saved by a strip of tulips on one side and ‘bluebells’ and ‘daffs’ on the other. The sumac (Rhus typhina) in the corner shadows the stone seat and extends the interest season with its beautiful autumn colour. Quick to wiz round with the mower, edge up and   occasionally pull an offending weed!

I’m already looking into the future when the old bones start to creak and the aches and pains start in. Cut down the work. Keep going with the mulching to reduce weeds. Finesse the composting techniques and make careful selections of shrubs. No herbaceous plants for me and the bedding we’ll keep to the absolute minimum. The beech and box hedges need little attention during the season, that’s if you catch the new growths early enough with the first cut and keep fertilizers to the minimum.

Trouble is I’m a sucker for a new plant and the market is just teaming with new varieties with Roy Lancaster diving off to China every 5 minutes or the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden coming up with another exotic.

Giving a talk with a Horticultural Society the other evening I went through a visual palate of shrubs and climbers. They were able to tick their matching list of plants. You could tell by the “oo’s” and “aah’s”; their ball point pens were busy. The red Hydrangea mycrophylla ‘Tellers Red’ and Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki looked set for a few orders. Yes, pride in your garden is easily raised; a maelstrom area for ideas and can create plenty of added value when it comes to a house sale! Roll on retirement!!

 

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