Gardening

Flowers in Balally Estate

Our members are a wealth of knowledge. One man in particular, who shall for now be known as Sam Johnson has lots of useful, quick and economical tips to share with us. Through this page, he will help us residents get the most from our gardens with regular tips, hints and updates.

Have you sighed and groaned at the appearance of dandelions springing up in all the pathways and flowerbeds? Sigh no more…

We’ll provide updates every few weeks to recommend what to do through the months and seasons going forward. We also welcome your feedback and any useful tips of your own that you wish to share on gardening with your neighbours.

September – Dandelions

This year (2013) the estate was plagued with dandelions in the spring. It was the worst year for many a year. Now in September 2013, I notice that a lot of dandelions are appearing in the grass verges and in some gardens. These dandelions will flower in September and will spread their seed which will appear in early spring 2014.
There is a very easy way to kill dandelions and weeds on the verges and in your garden.
Just sprinkle a little SALT in the centre of the dandelions and weeds and they will be dead in a few days.
Do not sprinkle SALT freely on grass or in your flowerbeds as it will kill your grass and flowers, so just aim the salt at the centre of the weeds. The Saxa Salt carton is ideal for this procedure as it has a little lip at the top.
If you have dandelions or weeds growing on your grass verge or weeds growing between verge and road, your committee would be overjoyed if you would sprinkle some salt on these too.
It would be a great help in keeping the estate weed free.
So, lets see you all out with your Saxa Salt and we will have a weed free spring.

Happy Gardening.

October – Busy Changeover

October is a busy time in the garden when the changeover is made from summer flowers to spring flowers. Flower beds should be cleared , any plants needed for next year such as geraniums should be potted and placed in a greenhouse. This does not apply to hardy annuals.
Clear beds, trim grass edges and dig soil in preparation for replanting with spring plants such as wallflowers, daffodils and iris bulbs and such like.
By mid October, lift any flowers that need protection from frost, like dahlias and trim back the stems to 6inches, clean and dry. Place in a box with sand in a cool dry place (greenhouse/shed) away from frost. Replant in May when weather permitting. Never leave dahlias in the ground over winter as they are a favourite food of slugs and the black slugs that live beneath the clay would eat the whole root of dahlia if they come across them in the winter.
Trim back any plants may have wandered too far in beds or rockery from their allotted places.
If you grow tomato plants, they should now be pulled up, the stems chopped and added to compost heap. Do not wait until the last fruits have ripened. The few green ones left can be brought into the house and ripened on the kitchen window.
If you have a greenhouse, give it a good wash on the inside to destroy bugs like slugs, snails or small pests that may have come in for shelter or to hibernate. Also in the garden these pests move to cracks and crannies in walls, under wood and large stones lying around.
With the greenhouse now cleaned out, plant some lettuce seed and you will have nice fresh lettuce through the winter.
Plant rose trees now and they will have time to settle in before winter arrives.
October is regarded as the best planting time. Be careful not to plant in too deep and make firm. Do not prune back hard, but only trim off dead ends of branches.
Use all the dead leaves and plant debris to make great compost, collecting them makes a tidy garden.
And remember…never let a weed flower – especially when it is a dandelion weed!
Happy Gardening,
Sam

November/December

November is a favourite month for planting deciduous trees and shrubs. There usually is still some warmth left in the soil and there is time for root growth to begin before the very hard weather starts. If planting, dig out a good round hole which will permit the roots to be spread out instead of being bunched. Always make sure the depth is the same as the plant is used to as indicated by the soil mark on its stem (same as when it was in the pot). During these months collect leaves and add them to the compost heap. Decayed leaves are of great value as a source of humus for the soil. In fact you can add all of your kitchen waste i.e. potato peelings, fruit and vegetable waste, tea leaves, grass and hedge cutting to the mix. The bonus here is you will have lots of compost for your flowerbeds or vegetable patch.
Going back to a pest I mentioned in the October piece “the little black slugs” that live beneath the ground. I think I will call them “the little black devil’s”. If you have carrots or kerr pink or roaster potatoes still in the ground it would be best to lift them now, as the little “black devil’s” will eat holes in these crops. Black slugs are attracted to coloured products. They rarely would attack parsnips or potatoes like the late crop of golden wonder potatoes which are both white in colour.
In December tomato seed may be sown in the greenhouse or in the house for spring crop.
Put 1 or 2 seeds in a small plastic flowerpot. Transplant in late March in the greenhouse or plant in garden in a sunny sheltered place in late May, weather permitting. In late December if you have nothing to do after Christmas and feel you want some exercise and your vegetable patch is empty, it is a good time to dig the soil. At this time, just turn over the spadefuls and leave in lumps without chopping. This will let air and frost into the ground and help destroy pests.
Tips:
1. If you are getting older like I am, don’t take too much at a spadeful. You don’t get on any faster, but merely make hard work of it.
2. Do not allow rubbish to accumulate except on the compost heap.

January/February

The first bloomer of the year are the snowdrops followed by the daffodils and crocuses. It gives one a lovely feeling to see them bloom as winter is coming to an end.
If you are keen to get into the garden, there are plenty of jobs to do at this time of year. Clean all around, brush down the fences and walls, rake out all dead leave and rubbish from underneath hedges. Most of what you collect can be put in the compost bin. Cleaning up will not only make the garden neater looking, it will remove as many unwelcome hibernating bugs as possible. To trim the grass, higher the blade on the lawnmower and give grass a cut. Weed the beds and rock garden. Watch for heavy rains that could wash the soil away from around the plants. Where this occurs, you can top dress the soil with a mix of and peat. ~In early February, the first pansies and wallflowers may now begin to show. You may wish to keep a notebook in which to record anything of interest seen in another garden that you may like to plant yourself. If you have tomato plants, remember to check them and bring them into the house if it is very cold. Now is a good time to plant some cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce seed in a greenhouse (if you have one) for planting outside in May. If you’ve never grown your own before then I definitely recommend it. Start with a small amount of lettuce, scallions, cabbage and tomatoes. The hardware Churchtown Stores (beside supervalue churchtown) stock good quality plants. Buy lettuce and scallions in seed packs and just follow the instructions. You can begin with a small 12 x 12 foot patch with 1 row for each vegetable. Once you taste home grown you will probably want to dig up the lawn in the back garden and venture further a field.
At this time of year, patches of moss may be seen in the lawn. This may be due to either faulty drainage or lack of nourishment. A sprinkling of either potash or sulphate of ammonia on the patches during rain will kill the moss. It also helps considerably in keeping the lawn in good condition. This may cause some scorching and any blank spaces left may need sowing of grass seed to fill them.

Before I sign off, my last tip to remember is: Roses are isolationists. They do not welcome other flowers in close proximity.

Soil is the basis of life, take care of it.

Happy Gardening to you all in 2014, Sam

March/April

If your are growing raspberries and gooseberries, raspberries should be supported (as should loganberries) by posts and horizontal wires. The young canes, which grew last year, should be tied into position shortening them at same them. If you prune your gooseberries , do them now. Complete the preparation of land for herbaceous perennials, annuals and shrubs. Do it well as scrappy preparation only leads to trouble. With permanent things like shrubs.

Clean and complete any replanting of existing herbaceous borders.

Gladioli should be planted now along with any new perennials. Don’t plant if the soil is very wet and sticky. Choose a dry day to plant and only plant things that are really worth growing. Avoid the rubbish.

Plant rose trees now. They like a sunny position and more effective when massed together. At the end of March, when frost danger over, prune existing rose trees. Hard pruning results in a small number of quality blooms, while moderate pruning produces a bigger crop of average flowers.

Vegetable plants to plant in March are parsnips, onions, spinach and early potatoes. Parsnips need a long season to become fully developed.

Parsley, thyme, sage and scallions can now be sown in patches as drifts or edgings to paths in back gardens.

In April, complete pruning of any shrubs and rose bushes now. Cut out dead wood and shorten straggling branches. Cut holly bushes, hedges into shape. Trim ivy. Overgrown hedges should be cut back very hard now. If not done in March, now is time to plant spinach, peas, onions cabbage and sprouts. Remember to sow these thinly.

Now when I was a young fella, April was always the month for planting vegetables and plants. You may have heard sometime in your life that lovely song “April Showers” by Pat Boone. Well back in the 1950’s and ’60’s we always got these downpours of rain, thunder and lightening for 10 minutes or so. Then a very warm sun would come out again. Great growing weather. Some days we could have 2 or 3 downpours per day. I don’t think we get such great growing weather in April as we did then.

Early April is good time for getting the lawn into good condition for summer months. Rake and sweep the lawn to clear off small stones, bits of wood and other debris. Higher the blade on your mower for the first cut of the year. Patches of moss may have established over the winter, a remedy for this can be seen in January/February piece below.

Gardening tip: Weeds up the goodness of the soil, regular hoeing prevents that.

May/June

The rock garden in May is really at the peak of its beauty. By one means or another you can have something in flower almost throughout the entire year. For sheer concentrated gardening pleasure, nothing can beat a rock garden. So much can be done in such a small area and the scope for individual expression is limitless. As bulbous plants finish flowering and begin to fade , so now is the time to sow suitable annuals amongst them. Tulips and daffodils, make a lovely show amongst wall flowers and forget-me-knots and as the beds or rockery come to be cleared, bend the green leaves over and tie down. Otherwise lift them and be careful not to break the stem from the bulb and put in a warm place. This will let the goodness in the leaves go back into bulbs. If you were to just break the green leaves off when the flower dies, then the bulb will die or weaken greatly and will not yield good flower next year.

Weeds should be removed from the flowerbed or rockery before they get too large and permanent as they can soon spoil the appearance of a drift of flowers. The soil between plants often gets bedded down and it is worthwhile breaking it up occasionally with a small hand fork. Any rampant growing plant you may have should be kept well within bounds. They have a habit of romping through or over other plants and smothering them. Restrict them to corners and keep them well clipped. Why not have a scented corner in your garden, Evening primrose, night stock, sweet pea, rosemary and lavender all have delightful scents which are particularly strong in the evening of a warm day.

In the vegetable garden all seeds and plants should be in the ground in early May as most need a few months to grow and enlarge. For people who feel it is too much like hard work, you could buy 6 tomato plants and 6 medium flowerpots (visit Churchtown Hardware Stores for their good ‘Money Maker’ big cropper variety). Place the pots in a sheltered place. Have a strong cane in each pot on which to train the plant, tie the plant to the cane when the plant starts to grow. Home grown tomatoes are very tasty and much nice than shop bought ones. Do not forget to sow some scallions in any part of the garden. The scallions take up very little ground space and taste great with home grown tomatoes.

In June, roses should be coming into full flower. They will benefit from a dressing of general fertilizer hoed in around them. Any suckers grown up from the briarroot should be cut out. If greenfly appear on the stems, spray with a pesticide or soapy water. For a more eco friendly approach click here. In June, the worst disease of roses appear namely Black Spot. The signs of this are distinct purple-coloured spots on the leaves caused by a fungus. The spot shows right through the leaf, which later begins to wither. All the leaves may fall off by August. It is a serious disease as it greatly reduces the vitality of the plant and consequently lessens its life. If only a few leaves are attacked, pick them off and burn them.

Garden tips: Always apply your fertilizer in a circle a short distance from the stem of the plant.

Happy Gardening & we look forward to seeing you out trimming and tidying verges in the estate to get Balally looking its best!

Curious to know Sam’s true identity? Sam is the pen name for our very own Noel Jordan.