Charlotte, Gardening, Guest Posts, How To

Operation Dandelion

Our next guest blogger is Charlotte, telling us about her struggle with everyone’s favourite little yellow nuisance…

I’m ashamed to reveal that my lawn contains a higher proportion of moss and daisies than grass. However, I can live with this; in fact I find the happy faces of the little daisies smiling at me rather pleasing as I wander down the garden path. Daisies and Dandelions on the lawn

It’s their dandelion companions that bother me. Despite my best efforts to eradicate the yellow menaces, every day when I open the curtains more have appeared overnight. Unable to tackle the problem alone I’ve enlisted the support of my sons with the invention of a new game – Operation Dandelion. With buckets in hand we each, on the count of 3, race around the garden, battling to pick the most yellow heads until the lawn is rid of them. We then count them out to determine the winner. Rather disconcertingly in the last game we each filled our buckets with over 100 flowers! And in spite of our determination the next day more had raised their heads as if to taunt us.Dandelion

The key to obliterating this weed seems to lie in removal of the entire plant. It has a long deep tap root which can be difficult to extract in its entirety and often snaps unless it is first loosened. It’s crucial that the whole root is removed otherwise the plant may regenerate.

A fluffy dandelion clock
Dandelions are one of our most common and recognisable weeds, largely due to their incredible method of seed dispersal. What child can resist blowing the beautiful seed head or ‘dandelion clock’ and watching as the seeds float away in the breeze? Even I cannot fail to smile at my toddler’s joy upon finding a stray flower which has survived ‘operation dandelion’ long enough to go to seed. I join in his pleasure as he gently holds the stem and blows, dispersing the tiny seeds across the lawn. All the while I try not to imagine them settling between the blades of grass ready to produce next year’s carpet of yellow.

Blowing dandelion puffs
However irritating, I can nonetheless appreciate that to many, the dandelion is considered a delicious and versatile plant. My guinea pigs certainly seem to enjoy munching them and I myself am partial to a cup of dandelion tea to cleanse the system. In fact I think that rather than fretting about their spread I should instead relax with a cuppa and enjoy the many apparent health benefits dandelions can offer.

Charlotte

Primrose also has a wide variety of weed control options, if ‘operation dandelion’ proves unsuccessful!

Gardening, Guest Posts, Lou C

Mission Almost Impossible: Montana Clematis

Here’s a guest post by Lou C, on her adventures wrangling her Montana Clematis plants earlier this month.

Lou C's Clematis Montana
May bank holiday — A time when gardeners traditionally overexert themselves in the garden and bedding plants come out to play. Suddenly everyone is a gardener and the neighbourhood battles of the baskets commence. Unfortunately, this May everyone is a little behind with things and for one reason alone– Rain has stopped the play. I can now imagine how Noah must have felt.

The forecast for the bank holiday weekend is for showers rather than torrential rain. Promising. Since the start of April we have lived with a half painted fence that is begging to be finished. Initially we planned to allow our two (yes, two) Montana clematis that are clothing said fence to finish flowering but the rain seems to have put them all behind as well.

We have a montaña to climb and we’re going to need the best in the business. Undaunted, I contact the Impossible Missions Force, also known as my mother. The challenge, should she choose to accept it, is to help us remove the clematis from the fence so we can paint it and put the clematis back a) before it rains and b) by sacrificing as little of it as possible.

Lou C's Montana Clematis
We plump for Sunday – predicted as the better day. The Force arrives, all 73 years and 5 ft 2 of her. She’s bought a packed lunch so she really means business. Before I can ask if she wants a cuppa, the first Montana hits the floor and my mother is nimbly scampering up my rockery incline to the second with no thought to the possible hip replacement that might be necessitated by a nasty fall. The second Montana proves slightly trickier as it has also wound its way through a trellis planter and we have some serious untangling (not to mention a little sacrificing) to do. But not to be beaten, less than half an hour later the first part of the mission is accomplished. Sadly it takes a lot longer than this to finish the fence. In the meantime, the Force makes herself at home with a bag of potting compost and a queue of plants.

Lou C's Clematis Montana on a trellis
A lot later and we set about resurrecting both Montanas. The fence is dry, we have only had to dodge one shower and most of my planting has been completed, just not by me! As they are trained onto new wires I stand back to admire their new svelte physique. Yes, there is less of them, and yes, I could have waited until flowering was over, but flowers they still have and they will grow back very quickly if the number of new stems is anything to go by. They stand out beautifully against my new “seagrass” fence and I cross fingers and hope that I will not be greeted by a mass of wilted stems in days to come.

Mission accomplished and no one disavowed. The Force will be suitably rewarded with a trip to her favourite garden centre. May the force be with you, too.

Lou C

Gardening, Greenhouses, Guest Posts, Peter

Peter’s Garden: On Cold Frames and Greenhouses

Welcome to the first in a new series of guest posts! We will be having gardeners from all over the country tell us about their gardening experiences. Our first guest blogger is Peter.

Plants in cold frame

After that warm March we had, everything seems to have ground to a halt. I have picked out quite a few of the bedding plants to put into the greenhouse, which is now pretty full. I must clear the other bench of some of the stuff – pots, seed trays, etc. – that has accumulated.  I have a good size cold frame, and the bedding plants that I have put there seem to be doing as well as the ones in the greenhouse, so I guess I can put more in there. My greenhouse is unheated, excepted for a thermostatically controlled electric heater that is set very low against frost. It never comes on when I am in there, so hopefully it does not cost too much.

Peter's Greenhouse

On the vegetable front, the leeks in the seed bed outside are just appearing, but the spinach beet and turnips are noticeable for their absence. Perhaps the seed was too old, but last year it seemed crazy to plan to grow 1500 turnips, so I had quite a lot of seed left over – still do, so there’s a chance for another sowing.

Peter's seedlings

Spent some time digging out some of those perennials that people have given us that get infested with weeds to give space for the bedding plants. Geraniums are one culprit (not the pelargonium geraniums).
Hazel bushes
Must cut some more hazel for the climbing French bean, grown for the first time last year with great success. So much more productive than dwarf French beans, easier to pick and out of reach of the slugs! Must cut the hazel this weekend before it comes into leaf. Too much to do, not enough time!

–Peter

Gardening, How To

Winter Planting

The winter may seem an unlikely time for gardening, but provided you can withstand the cold for a short while, there are many plants that are best started in the colder months in preparation for spring. Tulips and crocuses are great ones to start off with. If you’re more into fruit and veg than flowers, why not try growing your own rhubarb? And since the ground may be quite solid, it never hurts to have a spare planter or grow bed lying around.

If the thought of labouring outside in the cold does not appeal to you, you can still continue to enjoy gardening within the comfort of your home. Window boxes and trough planters are slim lined and fit neatly on any window ledge, allowing you to continue to propagate your bulbs and seeds indoors, rather than relying on whatever the local florist can provide. Herbs in particular are great for indoor gardening and you can often find handy and affordable herb growing kits which will also sit on your window sill and are ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.

At this time of year, protecting your more fragile plants and flowers from the frost and cold is a big priority. If you are anxious about leaving them open to the weather outside, it’s best to store them inside a greenhouse. However, if indoor space is an issue, do not despair! Fleecy plant covers are just the ticket to keep your garden plants protected from frost. Cheap, effective and easy to use, they just slip over the plant and keep it safe from the harsh winter weather while still allowing moisture and light to penetrate through to the plant

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