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Monday
Sep262011

Planting Spring flowering bulbs

Spring flowering bulbs can offer a brilliant display of colour, as long as they’re grown in the right area and in well prepared soil. The simple trick of the trade when it comes to growing large and healthy bulbs is providing them with rich and well drained soil, along with a balanced pH level. Having the right pH will feed the underground bulb, which will promote growth and an abundance of flowers.

Preparing your soil

Organic matter is a preference many bulbs share, so before you plant your spring flowering bulbs, make sure to dig in some compost. To ensure your bulbs grow to become healthy plants, good drainage is essential.

Tip: Digging in organic compost is essential if you have clay like soil.

Where to plant

Make sure you choose a site with good drainage or add sand or grit to the soil. The majority of hardy bulbs originate from the Mediterranean and so thrive in sunny positions with freely draining soil. When buying your spring flowering bulbs choose them according to location and soil type that best describes your garden.

Herbaceous borders

Planting bulbs such as daffodils, winter aconites, tulips and fritillarias in a herbaceous border will help to fill in gaps and provide colour and interest before early spring plants begin to grow.

Tip: Mix different varieties for a striking array of bright colours.

Formal planting

Spring flowering bulbs can make a valuable contribution to formal bedding displays when planted in a large group.  It’s best to plant large varieties in a formal position as this can create a wow factor in the garden.

Tip: Grow groups of early flowering tulips in a bed, which will be occupied by annuals later in the summer.

Bulbs in pots

Large, showy flowers such as tulips, lilies and alliums are ideal for growing in containers and have a wondrous effect when planning a spring patio.

•    Plant your bulbs in a container that is made up of three parts multi-purpose compost and one part grit.
•    Plant three times their depth and one bulb width apart.
•    Water bulbs regularly when in active growth.
•    Reduce watering once the leaves start to die down and then through the dormant season. However, do keep checking your pots throughout winter, ensuring they don’t die of drought.
•    Feed bulbs as soon as the shoots appear every seven to ten days with a fertiliser like liquid tomato feed.

Gardener’s Notes

Plant the label: Simply placing the bulb’s label in the ground will help you know what bulbs you have planted and where. This will ensure you don’t disturb your bulbs by planting another variety in the same spot.

Dividing your bulbs: Many bulbs spread during the growing season, so to ensure they’re never over crowded, it’s best to divide or move them when they enter their dormant period. This is usually just after the foliage completely dies back.

Spring Care: Cut back your bulbs once they’ve finished flowering. Don’t be scared, take the stems back to just above ground level and they’ll soon replace themselves. Resist the temptation to cut it back while still green, but floppy.

Notcutts


Friday
Sep232011

A great time for planting shrubs

HydrangeaShrubs are the essential building blocks of planning a garden and are a basic plant to use when filling out borders and empty spaces in an existing garden. They can easily provide structure and substance to a garden, but thoughtful planning and careful plant selection is essential when ensuring the success of new shrubs.

Autumn is the best time to start planting your shrubs due to the temperature of the soil below ground. The temperature will have dropped, but the heat from the summer months would still remain in the soil, which is beneficial to root growth. When planting during the fall season, the shrub will become dormant above ground, but the roots will have several months to grow and engage with their new home. When spring arrives, the plants have already established themselves and so will produce strong leaves, new top growth and plenty of flowers.  

Planting shrubs is not a difficult job and when it’s done right you’re sure to have a garden full of colour and fragrance.

Preparing the soil

Before commencing any planting it’s best to ensure you have the right pH levels for your chosen shrubs. With few exceptions, most shrubs prefer a soil pH to be between 5.8 and 6.5 – it’s important to know what the preferred level is to ensure your plants get all the nutrients that they need.

Tip: Soil testing kits can be found in most garden centres

Prepare the soil with adequate drainage as many shrubs won’t thrive in either poorly drained clay soil or exceedingly sandy soil.

Planting Shrubs

After ensuring your soil is well prepared there are six simple stages to complete when planting your shrubs:

1.    Fork over the soil and incorporate compost into the ground.
2.    Dig a hole, twice as wide as the diameter of the shrub’s root spread and with enough depth to ensure that the top of the roots are level with ground surface.
3.    Separate the shrub roots and place in the centre of your planting hole.
4.    Backfill the hole, covering all the roots and firm using your boot to remove any air pockets.
5.    Water in well and spread a thick layer of compost around the shrub.
6.    Water weekly.

Some shrubs you can plant this September include:

ARBUTUS UNEDO E. Pendent, ivory coloured flowers.
COLUTEA ARBORESCENS. Bright yellow, pea-shaped flowers all summer.
DABOECIA CANTABRICA ‘ALBA’. 45-80cm. Pure white flowers.
ELAEAGNUS EBBINGEI E. Small, fragrant, silvery flowers on mature plants.
PUNGENS ‘MACULATA’ E. Small, fragrant, silvery flowers on mature plants.
ERICA CINEREA ‘ALBA MINOR’ E. White flowers. July/October.
HYPERICUM ‘HIDCOTE’ E. Shallow saucer-shaped, golden yellow flowers.
VAGANS ‘VALERIE PROUDLEY’ E. Good white heather.
VULGARIS ‘BEOLEY GOLD’ E. 45cm. Golden foliage, white flowers.
 ‘COUNTY WICKLOW’ E. 30cm. Double shell, pink flowers. August/October
 ‘DARK BEAUTY’ E. 25cm. Blood red, semi-double flowers.
 ‘ROBERT CHAPMAN’ E. 45cm. Soft purple flowers. Gold foliage in spring.
‘KINLOCHRUEL’ E. 20cm. Double white flowers.
ESCALLONIA ‘IVEYI’ E. Panicles of white flowers, very dark leaves.
FATSIA JAPONICA E. Milky white flowers in globular heads. Late September/October.
HIBISCUS ‘DOROTHY CRANE’. Large white/crimson flowers.
HYDRANGEA ARBORESCENS ‘ANNABELLE’. Heads of white sterile flowers.
‘MADAME E. MOUILLIERE’ (MOPHEAD). White with pink shading.
QUERCIFOLIA. Pyramidal panicles, white, ageing purplish.
LIGUSTRUM JAPONICUM E. Pyramidal panicles of white flowers.
LUCIDUM AND FORMS E. White flowers in handsome terminal panicles.
OSMANTHUS HETEROPHYLLUS E. Small, fragrant, white flowers in clusters.
POTENTILLA FRUTICOSA ‘ABBOTSWOOD’. White flowers, greyish foliage.
ROSES. Shrub, bush and climbing roses give colourful displays.
ROMNEYA COULTERI ‘WHITE CLOUD’. Sweetly scented, white, “Poppy” flowers.
SPIRAEA JAPONICA ‘ANTHONY WATERER’. Flat heads of carmine flowers, purple in bud.
‘LITTLE PRINCESS’. Pink heads. July/September. Small dark leaves.
TAMARIX GALLICA. “TAMARISK”. Pink flowers in plumes. Sea green foliage.

Notcutts


Thursday
Sep222011

Jobs to do in September

September marks the beginning of a new season; leaves turn from luscious greens to shades of amber and burgundy, layers of moss develop on fallen leaves and plants begin to settle in. Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year and as the season begins to change, a new wave of gardening tasks await us.

Autumn is one of the best planting seasons; the heat from the summer sun remains in the ground and as the rain falls, moisture also seeps into the soil, giving plants all they need to survive the winter months. However, when it comes to your lawn, you may want to incorporate an autumn feed.

Now is the time to start planting your evergreens, tender Mediterranean plants such as rosemary and lavender and spring flowering bulbs. It’s important to plant evergreens this month or next to give their roots time to engage with their new surroundings before the winter months. If the roots are not engaged and are unable to draw water, they’re more liable to die of drought.

With bulbs, separate the woodlanders (for example, anemone and dog tooth violet) from the dry varieties. Prioritise the planting of woodlanders and leave the dry bulbs, such as tulips and narcissus in a dry and airy place before planting.

September is a great time to get your hands dirty planting a variety of perennials, climbers and shrubs. To find out more, we here at Notcutts have an extensive list of plants you can incorporate into the garden in our September and October Monthly Calendar.

Allotment

Allocate as much time on the allotment as you can as September can prove to be an extremely busy month. Now is the time to start sowing spring lettuces, salad leaves, winter spinach, pak choi and turnips and planting spring cabbage and autumn onion sets.

Harvesting is also a big job this month, so start digging up your:

Salad leaves, lettuces, radishes, potatoes, globe artichokes, Spinach, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers, Runner beans, beetroot, leaf beet, spring onions, Bulb onions (from store), carrots, parsnips, peas, Squashes, marrows and courgettes.

As the chillier months are descending upon us, September is the best time to begin protecting and enriching the soil. Simply sow green manures; doing so will help retain the nutrients in the soil instead of them being washed away by the winter rain. These plants not only provide a covering over the soil, generating a protective shield, but they also absorb nutrients such as nitrogen, locking them up to be released once the plants are dug back into the soil in spring.

Notcutts


Thursday
Sep152011

Mad About Chickens

As the trend of becoming self sufficient increases, many are taking up the spade and fork to grow vegetables and fruit Why not take a step further and raise a few chickens? The benefits you’ll receive are unparalleled to anything else; free range and organic eggs to feast on at breakfast, organic poultry (if you choose), a healthier diet and free lessons to children, not to mention they also do wonders for your garden.

Did you know that eggs collected from garden chickens provide a lot more nutrients than factory farmed eggs? Home raised chickens produce eggs that have:

•    25% more Vitamin E
•    A third more Vitamin A
•    75% more beta carotene
•    Significantly more Omega-3 fatty acids

This makes them the perfect breakfast or lunch for growing kids and those looking to change their diets. The same can be said for the chickens themselves. In comparison to factory farmed chickens, ones that are raised with a healthy diet and are free to hunt and peck for bugs have more nutritious value.

It’s a marvellous idea to raise a few chickens when you have children as well. It can teach them responsibility as the chickens will need to be fed daily as well as provided with fresh water every day, the coop must be cleaned regularly and the chickens inspected from time to time. Every child would love to have a pet and chickens are no exception; plus children are sure to enjoy collecting their breakfast every morning.

You will also see positive effects in your garden too. Did you know having chickens hunting and pecking at bugs will not only reduce the amount of pests in your garden, it will also help aerate your lawn?

Keeping your chickens safe and secure

Keeping chickens in urban areas is on the increase and so ensuring their safety is a top priority. Having a chicken hutch or house with a secure run is one of the best ways to guarantee your brood are always kept safe.

Not only is security a priority when keeping chickens, providing warmth during the colder months and supplying them with a space to run around is also imperative. All of this can be provided with one of our houses, which have been specially designed for your brood’s requirements and well being.

A lot of joy can be given when raising your own chickens, why not find out for yourself?

Notcutts

Wednesday
Sep142011

Be Green Go Peat Free

If peat-based composts had to have warning labels, like cigarettes, more people would think twice about buying them - having something in your trolley labelled "Harvesting this peat destroyed a valuable wildlife habitat" would become as much of a social faux pas as dolphin-unfriendly tuna.

But peat composts don't have to be labelled as such, and so it's up to gardeners to look for composts that are 'peat-free' if they want to be green. It's easy enough to forget in the spur of the moment, but perhaps if we knew a little bit more about peat then it would be easier to remember.

Peat is a special kind of soil, formed when sphagnum moss (for the main part) rots down very slowly in acid, waterlogged conditions. It therefore only occurs in peat bogs and fens, which are rich wildlife habitats that support a variety of plants and animals that only thrive in these circumstances.

Peat bogs form at the rate of about one millimetre every year, which is roughly the thickness of a paper clip. If you dig down a metre you're digging into a thousand years of history, and peat bogs often preserve archaeological treasures.

Although peat bogs only cover around 3% of Earth's surface, they store as much carbon (in the decayed moss) as all of the world's forests put together. When the peat is dug up, dried out and processed into compost, all of that carbon is released. If we stopped using peat in our gardens we could keep all that carbon in the ground, and be well on the way to reducing our carbon emissions to manageable levels and preventing the worst effects of climate change.

Peat has only really been used in gardening since the 50s, when everything was standardized and mechanized and people came to expect every bag of potting compost to be exactly the same. The advantages of peat here are that it is sterile and stable, but it is very low in nutrients, and so those have to be added to the potting compost.

In recent times there has been a lot of investment in peat-free composts. Many of these are made from waste products (bark, or even garden waste that has been collected), and are far more environmentally-friendly that peat-based composts. It's true that some are better than others for particular purposes, so if you have tried one and found that you didn't get good results then try another brand.

While you're getting used to peat-free compost you'll need to keep an eye on your feeding and watering regime, as peat-free composts hold water and nutrients differently to peat-based composts. But once you've got the hang of that, your green fingers will really be green!

Emma Cooper is a freelance garden writer, based in Oxfordshire. She's been gardening without peat for over ten years, and if you'd like to know more about avoiding the use of peat in the garden you can read her new book 'The Peat-Free Diet' online at http://emmacooper.org/peat-free-diet.

At Notcutts we are supportive of the Government target for amateur growing media products to be peat free by 2020 and are playing an active role towards this.

By doing so we have proudly achieved ‘Full Member’ status of the Growing Media Initiative (GMI) following a recent audit of the bagged growing media we sell to the public.