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Gardening Tips For June

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Amongst the 450 plus questions that came up at the prestigious Harrogate Spring Flower Show for us guys on the Institute of Horticulture stand was the one about rhubarb producing very thin stalks. It will do in two circumstances. Firstly when badly planted and secondly when old plants starts to “run out”. By that I mean the plant becomes overgrown and runs out of energy and lack of food. At this stage it is ready to be replanted. It is a hungry “vegetable” (not a fruit) and benefits from stacks of organic matter and feeding with a general fertilizer.

Prepare a month before planting in December by digging the soil to a depth of two feet incorporating plenty of farm yard manure or similar. The crowns can be lifted with a fork; quite a job but worry little about the damage. Protect the crown buds by discarding the centre of the clump and taking the outer buds with the fresh root, cutting them away with the spade. Plant with the crowns an inch below soil surface in the prepared location; firming them in. Three crowns is plenty for a family, leaving two and a half to three feet between plants. Mulch the crowns with stacks of organic matter leaving the soil over the crown buds exposed. This retains moisture and reduces weed growth. Dress with a couple of handfuls of National Growmore to each crown.

Do not harvest in the first year but allow the roots and crowns to build up resources. Even in the second year do not be too greedy and only take two stems always leaving five; or in subsequent years three or four stalks; leaving three are four stalks always on the plant. The cropping season is May to July. Select the biggest stalks; harvesting by pulling and twisting. Discard the poisonous green leaves to the compost heap. Continue to remove any flower heads as they develop, they use up considerable energy. Water in dry weather and dress with mulch and general fertilizer in February.

Forcing rhubarb needs a little more care for that early crop, ensuring there is a thick layer of mulch around the plant before covering with a dustbin, box or large pot as soon as the crowns start to develop in February. The mulch warming up and the heating affect of the container pulls the plants into growth, producing good pink stems and yellow leaves. When picking has finished or stalks outgrow the container it can be removed to allow the plant to recover and build up for next year. It will die down naturally helped along by the frosts which it needs to produce the best stalks!

The question “What can I put on my Rhubarb” doesn’t go by without someone saying “I usually put custard on mine” is an old chestnut but usually brings a smile to the lips!

Another question related to Eremurus and its failure to flower. This fabulous foxtail lily needs full sun, good drainage and like rhubarb a touch of frost during the winter. The crowns of that plant look like a very large spider and should be planted over a layer of sharp sand with the crown bud above the soil surface. The roots well buried and mulched with bark in winter will produce a fantastic display of strapped leaves and a spike of flower up to 8 or 9 feet in May. Unbelievable!

The Harrogate Autumn Show is not to be missed on the 14th to the 16th of September. This Spring Show’s quality was not dampened by the bad weather and regular visitors from the whole of the UK in their thousands saw an increased quality of show exhibitions. It is becoming an even more family event.

Yorkshire Landscape Gardens

T: 01977689858

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Gardening tips for May : by Dave Mitchell

wild flowersSilverlinker Dave Mitchell, a gardening and landscape expert sent us this tip for May concerning wild flowers. 

With Wild Flower Gardens all the rage at the moment I have reserved a space in the garden to encourage wild flowers and insects. It’s worthwhile no matter how small. Two recent programmes on the TV compared the traditional summer bedding with that of wild flowers. The public’s opinion was that wild flowers won by a long chalk! Not only was it their appearance but the high level of insects and butterflies that were attracted to the displays. With the hive bee population decimated in this country here was a way of redressing the balance and providing further supplies of nectar and pollen.

Spring bulbs; daffodils, tulips, bluebells and fritillaries and of course cowslips; even the humble dandelion assists the process of attracting insects. Those bedding plants bred for their size and colour never seem to have the high levels of nectar or pollen that wild flowers have; if any! I have now over-sown the area with a wild flower mix from ‘Boston Seeds’ Lincolnshire who have annual, perennial and even a mix to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. You could also try ‘Emorsgate Seeds’ of Kingslynn. Another company ‘Pictorial Meadows’, Sheffield produce a large range and is an offshoot of the University operation. Messrs Dunnett and Hinchmough mentioned in the TV programme who are involved with the landscape of the Olympic park in London carried out much of the research at Sheffield University and came up with a whole range of alternatives.

You can use part of your own lawn by stripping off the turf and cultivating the poorer soil underneath. Wild flowers favour impoverished soils another great advantage, if you garden on difficult ground.

Sow and rake in the seed at 2/3 grammes to the square metre. It is usually 100% wild flowers but you can get a grass seed mix with a percentage of wild flowers with it but this is never so successful because of the competition exerted by the grass. You can also over-sow an existing grass lawn but again grass competition keeps seed germination down.

Aftercare composes of allowing the plants to grow and produce flowers and then seed; cutting back in July or August and leaving the grass lying to dry and shed its seeds; increasing the number of flowers. Rake up and remove the hay and then cut and remove again in October to allow the light to the plants over the winter. When ordering your wild flower seed get a mix that suits your soil type. You will find that more flowers will survive after the first year.

Of course this process saves a lot of mowing so ‘you guys’ can put the mower away for a while. Many local authorities are turning to this type of cultivation and if you had visited Aberdeen in the 80’s and 90’s the Parks Director’ David Welch saved himself a fortune in maintenance costs with bulb planting, giving riotous displays of colour not only in the parks and open spaces but on the banks of the River Dee.

Mind you he was a bit of a character and raconteur and used horses for work in the parks. Not so crazy when you think of today with the cost of motoring, energy conservation and critical pollution levels!

By the way I have some Doronicum x excelsum ‘Harpur Crewe’ and gooseberry plants for sale. If you are interested; ring or email me.

Yorkshire Landscape Gardens

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Tel: 01977689858

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