Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Cucumbers – grow your own

September 9, 2017

Cucumbers

There is no doubt about it, a salad just isn’t a salad without cucumber, whether sliced, diced or even lightly pickled in advance by a few hours in a nice French vinaigrette dressing. Most people are used to shop-bought cucumber have almost forgotten how fabulous a cucumber can taste when it is brought still warm from the sun and eaten with a touch of salt, some nice crumbly cheese and a piece of crusty bread. Cucumbers don’t need complicated preparation – slice, season and eat. Delicious.

 

Another thing that many people don’t know is how many different varieties of Vegetable Cucumber seeds there are and how amazingly easy they are to grow. If you plant just a few seeds of any type of cucumber, either a greenhouse variety such as Femspot or an outdoor sort (sometimes called ‘ridge’) such as Marketmore, you will soon become the most popular person in town, because you will have plenty to share with your friends and neighbours. Cucumber seeds grow into plants that are usually very heavy croppers and most varieties now are resistant to the moulds and mildews which used to be such a problem when growing this kind of very succulent vegetable.

 

Cucumbers are not just for salads of course. Children often love to just eat them like fruit and there are a couple of varieties which have this in mind. Crystal Lemon cucumbers are great fun for a lunchbox. They don’t grow very big and are round with yellow skins (hence the name) and the flesh is very sweet and juicy so you can eat them just like an apple. A mini-cucumber which has a more standard look is little Pony Cucumber, which fits fine in any packed lunch. Both of these cucumbers will happily grow outside in warmer areas or with a little protection if the climate is a little colder, so they are a perfect choice for a child to grow themselves and as we all know, all children eat their five a day far more readily if they have grown them themselves.

 

If you are into doing your own pickling, why not start from scratch and grow your own gherkins. This way, you can pick them really tiny or let them get a bit bigger and pickle them in brine. Polish dill pickles, ogórki kiszone, take only around 20 minutes to make (although the five week fermentation is a long time to wait if you really love them) and cost a fraction of what you would pay in a shop. Just one packet of seeds will give you enough fruits to put in pickles for the whole year and cost less than one jar.

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Winter Hanging Baskets

August 15, 2017

It is believed that the hanging basket was originally designed to remind a princess of home, some also believe the idea came from the hanging gardens of Babylon, it is with the wonderful versatility of this idea that we can design our own little piece of heaven from our doorstep right through to our garden. However, casting our minds back to the long, cold winter we experienced not so long ago it is probable that most of us may be reluctant to consider planning how to add warmth to our otherwise dreary doorways and garden during the late season. Despite this, in order to avoid even the slightest, sparse period it is vital to plan ahead when it comes to complimenting any garden displays throughout the seasons. When it comes to winter hanging baskets a mixture of upright and tumbling plants can have the best effect. Shrubs like Box,  heathers and carex (ornamental grass) can provide height while trailing plants like ivy not only add warmth but can also hide the edges of the basket. Bedding plants such as primroses, violas, cyclamen and polyanthus will contribute colour with winter pansies great for filling in any gaps and can be grown from seeds.

Regardless of space or the size of your doorway, choose no smaller than a 14-inch basket. Cover the inside of the basket with a coconut fibre liner, followed by a plastic disc to use as a saucer in the bottom of the hanging basket to help retain water. Using soil based compost, particularly if growing shrubs put a one-inch layer into the base of the basket. Make three small cuts across the sides of the liner or fibre. These small holes can be used to secure the plants in place, preventing damage to the root ball of each plant. Add another layer of compost followed by more plants. Once everything has been added fill the basket with compost but leave an approximate two-inch gap from the top. Pack the compost and the plants in tightly, filling any gaps with smaller flowers and compost.

During the winter months, the rugged flowers of heather are superb at filling out an arrangement and surrounding them with trailing plants such as ivy or creeping thyme will soften the edges. With preparation remaining key, why not add a few dwarf daffodil, narcissus, tulips or iris bulbs to extend the display well into spring. Once quality plants and shrubs are chosen, maintain your winter hanging basket by not letting it dry out and dead heading flowers as soon as they show any signs of fading. If weather conditions become harsh, boost your plants with a weekly liquid feed.

Sowing seeds for colour next year

August 6, 2017

It is common belief that once summer comes we can relax and enjoy our garden, avoiding anything more taxing than watering and the odd bit of weeding and dead heading. The thoughts of sowing seeds may be the last thing on our minds, taking comfort in the seasonal routine of frantically planning what to grow as spring approaches. This however, can be easily avoided. Sowing perennial and biennial flower seeds now (late summer into Autumn) will not only prove less stressful next year but means that what you do sow will flower earlier and last for longer in your garden, creating the most vibrant of flower borders and hanging baskets well ahead of the rest.

 

Although a colourful garden may be the desired effect it is wise to put some thought into which colours to choose. Opting for primary colours can be a safe bet to create a plenitude of shades but seeing as there is plenty of planning time why not analyse the specific colours needed to get the most out of your outdoor space. Blue and white flowers will create a sense of distance, while pastel colours are best suited to low light conditions. Orange and red can be perfect to warm up an otherwise cool corner. Advanced thought can give your garden that je ne sais quoi with only matching furniture and lighting to worry about come spring. Calendula seeds come in a variety of eye-catching colours. Some of the varieties Kablouana and Snow Princess can be sown September, kept in a cold frame and their stunning double flowers will complement the dullest of borders early next year. With violas offering a magnificent choice of colours from red with blotch to sky blue they are a perfect choice to sow now. Other species to sow late summer are Lupins, Hardy Geraniums, Hollyhocks, Aquilegia and Verbascum. And if a Victorian cottage garden is your desired look don’t hesitate to sow some biennials seeds and overwinter until spring.  Sow outdoors Ammi Majus, Poppies, Nigella and Delphiniums to name but a few.

 

Whatever your preference, all the seeds can be sown in the same way. Half fill a tray with good quality, peat based compost. Avoid using potting compost when sowing seeds as it contains high levels of fertiliser that can damage young roots. Clean all pots and containers thoroughly as old compost can harbour diseases. Sow the seeds in rows, cover lightly with compost and water gently. Pots containing very small seeds should be surface sown and should be watered from the bottom by being left to soak only until the surface is evenly wet and then removed and allowed to drain. You may wish to cover the tray with a transparent cover for the initial stages of germination and if sowing during the summer months store the seeds in a cold frame. You may even be able to find some seeds in your current garden that have been blown from the flowers ready for harvesting. If these are gathered be sure to hang them in paper bags to dry out completely and then store them in manila envelopes until you are ready to use them. Avoid too much handling of these young seeds and maintain the key standard of hygiene when sowing.

Secrets of a Lovely Lawn

June 20, 2017

As with anything planted from seed preparation and maintenance is key in producing a beautiful lawn. Sowing lawn seed is not only more cost effective than turf but it also offers a wide variety of mixtures. From woodland grass seed for heavy shaded areas to Formal lawn and greens for the more delicate plots you are sure to find a mixture to suit your needs. Choose a lawn mixture such as back lawn for family spaces. The rye grass in the mixture will help it grow in more hardwearing areas. Growing lawn seed will also allow you to cover small spaces in your garden to make sure areas such as corners and slopes are evenly spread with lush grass.

Grass seed and lawn seed mixtures

Front lawn seed

Sow grass seed anytime from late summer to mid autumn. Skim and level the soil making sure it is free from weeds and stones. Walk on the soil to firm it down and then rake it again to a fine level finish before lightly raking in a granular fertilizer. Wait 2 – 3 days before sowing the grass seed into marked areas. Shake the box of lawn seed before scattering the seeds in one direction and then the opposite direction to make sure all areas are covered. Once covered with lawn seed, lightly rake over the area and water well. It is important to stretch some netting over the top to protect the lawn seed from birds and be sure not to let the new lawn dry out. Keep any weeds away and when the new grass had grown about 2 inches high cut it with a mower. Rake up the clippings after the first few cuts but there is no need to continue, as the clippings will recycle nutrients into the soil.

To maintain your new lawn and help defend it against weeds, disease and any unwanted insects it is vital to keep it watered, fed and regularly mowed. If using sprinklers during the summer months it is important to use them regularly as inconsistent watering can cause your lawn to become stressed and damaged. Water your lawn early in the morning to allow the grass to dry during the day. Water deeply to encourage root growth and leave an empty jar within reach of the sprinklers to measure the amount of water used. When an inch of water is collected it is time to turn off the water. Feed a lawn twice a year with a lawn fertilizer high in nitrogen and mow it little and often to help it to maintain moisture throughout the year. Try not to cut your grass seed too short and repair mowers regularly as dull blades can damage grass. Rather than treating the whole lawn with weed killer, treat weeds directly.

As your lawn matures it will become more accustomed to its location and surroundings and will flourish. Maintaining each simple step discussed will mean you can enjoy your garden with pride, knowing you have enriched the soil, sown the lawn seed and maintained your lovely lawn to produce grass that is always greener on your side of the fence.

Sowing Grass seed – How to sow a lawn from seed

September 9, 2016

Preparing and Sowing a Lawn

LAWN & GRASS SEED MIXTURES

Seeding a lawn – A basic guide to preparing the ground, sowing the grass seed and looking after your lawn in the following years.

Prepare the ground by removing all rubbish, stones, bricks, weeds and plants. Improve drainage wherever possible, deep digging will help. The finer the prepared seed bed the better the lawn will be.
For lawns on a heavy soil incorporate more sand while digging this will help improve drainage. On light and sandy soil incorporating a good amount of peat into the soil will prevent drying out and loss of nutrients.
Level the site taking care not to remove too much topsoil from any one area. If possible the digging of the ground should be done in the autumn and left to stand for the witer, where the rain and frost will break down the large lumps and leave it crumbly. As the soil starts to dry out in the spring is the best time to prepare the fine seedbed. Roll or rake the ground, or tread and rake it in both directions, keep working it until you achieve a firm level seedbed. It is a good idea to rake in a pre-seeding fertiliser, this helps promote root growth and provide the essential early feed for your lawn.

Sowing grass seed into heavy soil / covering seed
Should you need to mix the soil due to it being too heavy to sow the seed into, it is recommended that you use peat to break it down, or to sow the seed into as it retains more moisture and nutrients to enable seed germination.

Sowing grass seed
Seed can be sown from mid March until early October, as long as during dry periods the seedbed is kept constantly moist until the lawn is approx 5cm high. Water the seed bed with a fine spray to prevent the seeds or seedlings being displaced. During periods of drought it may be necessary to water continually to aid germination and avoid the young seedlings being scorched and killed off.
A general rule of thumb to get a good established lawn is 50 grams of seed per square metre, allowing a little extra for filling in or patching at a later date. A small area can be sown to be used as patching turf if required for any repair work later.
To sow the seed it is best to divide the area into easily manageable sections, then divide the seed accordingly. Sow half the seed for one section from left to right of the section, the other half of the seed over the first sowing but from front to back of the section. This will ensure an even spread of the types of seed over the section.

Mowing the Lawn
The first mowing’s are very important for good establishment of the lawn. When the lawn is 5-8cm it should be cut for the first time. Trim the lawn lightly and gradually lower the blades to the recommended mowing height of the lawn seed mixture used. Mow regularly but try not to remove more than a third of the growth at any one cutting. Do not mow the lawn when it is damp. After the first cut the lawn may be rolled, this encourages lateral growth and makes a closely knit turf.
A lawn is best mown little and often, that way you do not remove more than a third of the growth. Towards the end of the season gradually raise the cutting height of the blades. Always remove the cuttings.

Nicky’s seeds


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