Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, Guest Posts, Insects, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell, Pest Control

Here’s hoping for a pavement-cracking Indian Summer, where the weather causes us to sleep in the garden around mountainous flowers of every colour and aroma. We need a good rest in the garden after that summer, and are we going to get one? Probably not! Besides, there is plenty to do in the garden in September, and plenty to admire too.

For a start, our lilies are finally going to explode into bloom. It seems they have held themselves back over the last few weeks, staying in bed I suppose, and who can blame them?
Lily about to burst into flower
I always wait with bated breath for them to open, because they are so beautiful – even though I don’t like the smell. They are perfect in form, and I spend the whole summer protecting them from the rain and the lily beetle.

I find the best way to deal with the lily beetle, which nibbles its way through flowers and leaves and causes a mess, is by hand – looking out for them. But you have to be careful! One touch and the bright red beetles fall over on to their backs, leaving nothing but a jet black underside which is almost impossible to see.

When the flowers have finished it will be time to divide up the bulbs for next year. I grow my lilies in pots, and every third year I take them out and divide them up by simply pulling them apart. It’s an easy job – the new bulbs simply pull away from the old. You can either wrap them in newspaper and keep them in a frost-free place until spring, or pop them into new compost in new pots.

If you are growing them in pots, as with all plants really, you need to be sure they are not waterlogged in winter, and kept protected from frost. A pot is not so good an insulator as the rest of the garden, and a plant will not survive the same. I take mine into an unheated greenhouse, and maybe, if the temperature is minus 18 again as it was over the last two years, I might give them a little heat, just to keep the plants around 1 degree or so.

September is also a good time to attempt structural changes around the garden when the weather is still warm enough to get into the soil and there is not much chance of freezing to death out there. (That said, I bet we have snow! It was snowing on my birthday in 1957 at the end of September!)

I have finally sorted the huge holly bush that was taking away so much light, and threatening the roof of the house and the telephone line. If you are going to try to take large branches out of the garden, the thing to do is to tie them with stout rope to the next branch, or something sturdy. That way, when you have sawn through it, the branch will not fall onto something.

This whole area was covered in holly - soon to be an English cottage garden
This whole area was covered in holly – soon to be an English cottage garden

Never, ever saw at something whilst on a ladder, and if there is the tiniest amount of doubt you can do the job safely, get the professionals in to do it. The cost is well worth avoiding injury.

I now have a great space, vacated by the holly bush, in which I am going to plan an English cottage garden, but this takes time. So I will make up the beds – once I have cleared it of roots and stock it with winter bedding.

I am in a mind for delphiniums, agapanthus, flowering alliums and a few dahlias. Actually, it was a toss up between a cottage garden and an old fashioned dahlia garden, and I would love to hear from anyone who still grows dahlias in the traditional way. You can contact me via my Ask the Expert page.
Verbena - magical in the rain
September should be time for lawn maintenance, but this year, because of all the rain and therefore all the moss, I am hanging out a bit. If you scrape all the moss away in September, and this goes for this year only, you will only get more moss by the time spring comes along. So this year I am going to give the lawn a good cut (if it’s not too wet) and then a good spiking with a garden fork. Make holes half an inch in diameter and about six inches deep. This will improve air getting to choked up grass roots.

In the spring, give the lawn a good scrape with the grass rake, and over sow!

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is involved in an inner city program in Manchester which aims to encourage people to grow their own food whether they have a garden, an allotment, or even a balcony, as well as leading a co-operative initiative to train city dwellers to keep bees on allotments and gardens

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden.

Decoration, Guest Posts, Lou C

Nosy Neighbours

Now maybe it’s just me, but I do like a certain amount of privacy in the garden. Having established that we are somewhat of a novelty in the locality (after all, we love to garden), we know that many of our antics create a certain amount of curtain twitching and more than a few passing comments — not least the regular return trips from the garden centre with the car packed to the rafters with yet more plants.

There have also been certain garden mishaps I’d rather forget, like the time I tumbled down our (then grassy) slope after losing my balance whilst trying to insert a solar light spike in our rock-hard clay soil or when I suffered from pins and needles in both feet after too much crouching down as I weeded. Let’s just say that John Cleese and his Ministry of Silly Walks had nothing on me for nearly five minutes.
The newly painted fence in the garden
As part of a new build development, we are overlooked on all sides, and all sides are not more than a good stone’s throw from us (not that I’ve ever checked in practice of course!). It doesn’t help that our garden is on an incline and our patio (well, that’s what we like to call it, although I think that I might find a photo of it under the dictionary definition of a handkerchief) sits at the top, for all to see.

Maybe I’m just kidding myself – after all, are neighbours really that nosy and am I really that interesting (silly walks and roly polys aside of course)? I’m sure neither is the case but this does nothing to dampen my desire for a little more privacy, particularly when my next door neighbour (unassuming, friendly and not allergic to a few plants herself) combats her slope by having her garden landscaped into levels. This means that when she stands on her patio, she is now waist height with the top of our fence, in manner of the Jolly Green Giant and it now feels like Lilliput on this side of the fence.  In fairness, she does try and announce her presence with a well placed “ahem” or “knock, knock”, should she want our attention, which is usually quite rare. However, it can be a little disconcerting to know that the view from her conservatory window and garden leads straight over the fence into our patio and garden room!
Pergola with hanging baskets in the garden
Building a pergola attached to the house has helped a little and has created a little more privacy overhead, but this still doesn’t solve the whole problem. After a lot of negotiating (read: begging), my husband agreed to a trellis screen carefully placed at the top of the rockery which solved the problem of the neighbours to the back of us having a direct view of the patio. However, this still leaves the issue of my next door neighbour’s view.
A garden trellis
Not one to be deterred, I have taken the opportunity to purchase several more well placed clematis and once they are settled (and not slug food) they may hopefully blur the boundaries a little. However, they will not reach the dizzy heights needed to screen my neighbour’s view without something to attach themselves to and it seems a little extreme to use even more trellis screening, even if it is attached to the fence. We have for now decided that we are on good enough terms with our neighbour to leave things as they are.
Neighbour's red setter dog
Unfortunately the red-headed lodger who has recently moved in has none of the tact and diplomacy of her landlady. In fact, she loves nothing better than spending the greater part of a day peering over the fence into our garden and she’s not discreet about it! Even catching her on camera didn’t seem to deter her enthusiasm although it soon became clear that she was particularly enamoured with our furry five.
Red setter dog looking over fence
It does at first feel quite disconcerting, knowing we are being watched but it is quite a novelty knowing that it is by a rather large red setter and it certainly adds to the Lilliputian effect! I just hope the fence holds because I’ve seen the devastation she has wreaked on her side of the fence and there’s a lot more to play with here.

The whole business has left me wondering though, how do other people deal with privacy in an overlooked garden, and how much does it matter?

Lou C

Gardening, Gill, Greenhouses, Guest Posts

Hi,

Things are getting really exciting now as my ‘new greenhouse dream’ is actually happening. Last weekend my husband and I emptied the old greenhouse and took all the glass out, only smashing one pane! We moved the frame onto a flat surface which we are going to eventually cover with a sheet of clear polythene so I can continue to protect my new seedlings and reasonably established tomato plants which are at the moment cluttering the windowsills in the house.
Both water butts that were attached to the greenhouse had to be moved. We emptied the first one into a smaller butt and numerous receptacles and moved it to a safe place then filled it back up. We did the same with the second butt so feel happy now that we have not wasted any precious water.

The builders came and dug out the foundations which have now been filled with concrete. Now waiting for the weather to improve so the brick wall can be built ready for the greenhouse to be installed. Can’t wait.

Gill

Gardening, Hiring Help in the Garden

And just little Topsy, it grew.

The work has now expanded and is transforming ¾ of the garden; transforming in a good way.  It’s just that, although relatively inexpensive, in terms of labour, the whole job has still cost a small fortune. It’s one of those buying things you sometimes do in Ikea or a pound shop where all the things are such good value for money that you end up buying them all, get to the till, and then faint. I really would never have dreamed of putting this amount of money into the garden.

And I am also not going to feel even more uncomfortable about having done it by adding up all the expenditures to know EXACTLY how much it has cost. I want to be able to just get to the bit where I buy the plants, the delicious bit, without really knowing. After all, I have already got to the squirming stage without the real pleasure, to offset it… And it will be wonderful, like a new garden again after 30 years, I will have fun out there, breakfast, parties, padding pools, I will lounge, sunbathe and, and……no, I will just enjoy working in it like I always do. I will look at it and drink in the beauty of it, you just can’t put a price on that. Perhaps this is not so exciting a stage anyway as it is all the hard landscaping of wall and path preparation, all mud and cement.

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