Wednesday, February 23, 2011

GARDENING Do you need help growing veggies?

Going to be planting a vegetable garden in the spring? Then attend a free Fort Bend Master Gardeners program set for Feb. 17. It will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Bud O'Shieles Community Center, 1330 Band Road, Rosenberg.
Come and visit community garden
Visit the Fort Bend Master Gardeners four acres of Demonstration Gardens and talk to the volunteers who design and maintain them on Saturday, Feb. 5.
Park in front of the Agriculture Center, 1402 Band Road in Rosenberg. Gardens are in the back and are open from 9 to 11 a.m.
Learn how to grow vegetables all year long
Learn about year-round vegetable gardening at a Master Gardener program on Thursday, Feb. 10.
It will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at Parkway United Methodist Church, 5801 New Territory Blvd., near Sugar Land.
Want to buy a fruit tree for your back yard?
Fort Bend Master Gardeners will hold its annual fruit and citrus tree sale on Saturday, Feb. 12.
It will be held in Building D of the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds, 4310 Texas 36 S. in Rosenberg.
An overview of plants at the sale will be given at 8 a.m. The sale will open at 9 a.m. and will run until 1 p.m. or until sold out.

Stainless steel tools

Topiary shears from Burgon & Ball are not just for topiary as they are, in my view, an invaluable tool between the secateurs and hand shears. Originally made to cut the wool off the back of sheep, these shears are brilliant for dead heading flowers, giving a conifer a bit of a trim or tidying up a bay or box tree.
A great stocking filler and a very personal gift is our own-brand Cleeve Nursery Hand Cream. This is made for us by a small company and is still the best gardener's hand cream on the market. The recent cold weather has been a great testament to the effectiveness of the cream. It has been thoroughly put to the test again by our team handling frozen plants and spiky Christmas trees!
If you are really stumped for ideas, but know that the recipient is in to gardening, then there are two easy solutions. The first is of course the National Garden Gift Voucher. This is widely available and widely accepted throughout the country. The second is to make the gift of membership of our premier garden society the Royal Horticultural Society. Membership gives exclusive benefits that include; one to one garden advice from RHS experts, free entry to the four RHS gardens (our local is Rosemoor, near Barnstaple), access to over 140 RHS recommended gardens (masses in the West), discounted tickets or privileged access to RHS shows [including world famous Chelsea] and, in my view, the best gardening magazine you can get delivered to your door ~ 'The Garden' monthly magazine.
I have only scratched the surface and I'm sure that a visit to your local garden centre or nursery will solve many of those last-minute gift purchases.
I know that it will be a good deal less stressful!
'Stainless steel tools are a delight to use, and will last a lifetime'

Think 'easy' for last minute Christmas gardening gifts

A week today it's Christmas Day so that leaves less than a week to get those last minute gifts! Fortunately, there are still places to shop where you won't get your shins kicked or your toes stood on and come back to find that you have a parking ticket on the windscreen!
Garden centres are generally much calmer places than the shopping centre or many high streets and there is an amazing array of original gifts on sale there too!
With time running short, and so much to do before the big day, I thought you might like a few last minute gift ideas for gardeners.
There has, as we all know, been a massive growth in growing your own food and this has brought many new comers to gardening. Fortunately, there are sure-fire products and varieties that deliver the all-important success that any first-timer craves! A collection of easy to grow and long season cropping vegetable seeds would be a good choice. I would especially recommend runner beans, tomatoes, courgettes, mixed salad leaves, parsley and courgettes. Strawberry runners, or better still raspberry canes, would make a great gift and both can be grown successfully on the patio in containers. Where there is more space, perhaps a self fertile dwarf plum, pear or apple tree is the answer? Of course, whether we are buying for first time gardeners or old hands, stainless steel tools are a delight to use and, if looked after well, may last a lifetime too. Similarly good quality watering cans, such as the excellent Haws range, make great gifts but can be a bit difficult to wrap!
Keen gardeners will always value sharp cutting tools. They are a pleasure to handle. Felco, the professional's choice of secateurs, will definitely last a lifetime and more. They may seem expensive but not when compared to the number of cheaper ones that are required to last the same period of time.
A blunt knife is far more likely to lead to injury than a sharp one. Why? A blunt one requires more pressure and is more difficult to control and that can lead to slips. So a knife that keeps a good edge is a safer knife! Victorinox make excellent knives for cutting, pruning, grafting or even budding plants. Forget all the gadgets that are attached to pocket knifes, it is the main blade and the quality of the steel that counts!

GARDENING. SURVIVAL of the strongest

ot much can escape a cyclone, but there are some plants that just don't cut it in the tropics, writes KIM MORRIS
Just when you thought your garden was the way it should be, all of a sudden it is besieged by cyclonic winds that either demolish the substance of the landscape or at very least cause superficialdamage.
Cyclones are one part of gardening we tend to overlook unless we are cleaning up after it.
Mind you, gardens should not be exclusively designed and built for a cyclone, but there are certain uses and applications of some plants that are worth looking at in terms of how they hold up (or not) to strong winds and cyclonic storms.
Having said that, few gardens would stand the direct onslaught of a category 5 cyclone in any case.
Tabebuias (trumpet trees) have not fared well again in this cyclone. This is one tree group that fits smaller spaces and is a showy exotic, but snaps and twists inwind.
The same can be said of figs as the root system reveals when toppled on their side there is little of it as the superstructure becomes too heavy with foliage and water.
Seeds of african tulip that have been allowed to grow in some cases to large trees (20-30m tall) are a hazard and need to be removed if they haven't already been culled by nature. They snap branches and are generally a pest near a house.
Similarly, gums or eucalypts have a dangerous habit of a thing called "sudden limb drop syndrome" at any normal time, but during high winds their thin skinny branches are likespears.
Shrubs that have been tipped over in wind will be OK. But prune them back by half their size. Add a stake and tie if required. Likewise palms that have a distinct tilt can be pushed back to the upright and guy roped. See if you can remove some of the bottom fronds to lighten the load. After straightening shrubs and tilted palms and small trees, drench the soil in Seasol or a fishemulsion.
Be ready for an enormous flush of growth as cyclones and large storms that precede the event bring huge amounts of nitrogen in the air created by lightening. So this accounts for the idea that everything grows really well afterrain.
Finally, looking at the bright side, think of the enormous amounts of compost you can make with garden foliage waste rather than dump it in the street.
In a month, you won't recognise your garden as it will look just terrific.

Gardening Techniques

With rising prices, people are growing their own vegetables. They are finding or rediscovering that vegetables harvested from their own garden at their peak of quality are more nutritious and tastier than those in grocery stores.
With today's lifestyle, Las Vegas homeowners have only a limited amount of space and time available to garden compared to the more traditional sprawling country gardens. In fact, there are some want-to-be gardeners that don't have any garden space at all. As a result, garden plots are springing up in backyards and front yards, on balconies in containers and on rental plots. You can produce an amazing amount of vegetables using intensive gardening techniques.
Right now, seed catalogs are flooding my mailbox daily and nursery seed racks are loaded with a fresh supply of seeds and transplants.
Intensive gardening doesn't demand much time. So once soil preparation is done, you can grow just as many vegetables in half the space, using half the amount of water with very little weeding and still have a bountiful harvest.
Begin by building raised beds. Divide the space you want to plant vegetables into beds about 4 feet wide with paths about 2 feet wide. Because our soils are hard, shallow, salty and - in many cases - loaded with caliche, fill those beds with a manufactured soil sold by your nursery. This comes with generous amounts of organic matter in it and all the essential nutrients added in.
I like raised beds because I do all my work sitting on the bed's edges to save my back, and I won't compact the soil. You want to keep it open and friable so plants can produce high-quality vegetables.
When planting, forget about the distances between rows. Plant the seeds or transplants in blocks. If the vegetable needs 10 inches between plants in a row, plant it 10 inches from any other plant in the bed. Think of it like putting cookie dough on a cookie-baking sheet; get as many into the space as you can without crowding them.
Here are four planting practices that will guarantee an abundant harvest, even from a miniature garden. They are all designed to use your space efficiently. Be sure to keep your crop rotation scheme in mind as you apply them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gardening problems that never go away

AS 2011 gets underway, the gardening problems do not seem to have vanished. I suspect that, by the time we reach mid-summer, there will be as many gardening issues for this year as there have been since gardening started in ancient Palestine some 8000 years ago, apparently.
Mr and Mrs Charlesworth from Emley have been nurturing a peach tree on a warm south facing wall for some years now and have been able to pick one or two delicious fruits in the better summers. However, the tree is badly affected by the disfiguring fungus, peach leaf curl, every spring and early summer and they want to know what I might recommend to help reduce the problem.
The fungus, Taphrina deformans, affects peaches, almonds and nectarines grown outdoors and the spores are brought in by wind and rain during the winter onto the bare stems.
Therefore the most effective technique is to erect a cover over the tree from early January until the end of May to stop the spores from landing on the stems.
At the same time you can spray the tree with a copper based fungicide to kill off any spores although this should stop before the tree comes into flower.
Any further evidence of the disease on emerging foliage in spring should be removed and burnt to rid your garden of the spores.
Feeding and watering of the tree will help to ensure that the tree can fight the disease and put on healthy growth after any infestation.
North facing, cold, shady border - this must seem to be the worst aspect in any garden and Mr Hirst of Fixby thinks he has the worst in Huddersfield. Well, you will be pleased to know that almost every garden will have one part of the garden that will have this problem, to a greater or lesser degree. However, Mr Hirst wants to know what he can do with it, other than concreting it over - a little over the top but we all sympathise!
On a north facing wall you can grow any Hedera helix hybrids you like providing that the ground does not become water-logged at any time.
The winter flowering jasmine, jasminum nudiflorum, performs well as does the climbing hydrangea petiolaris and on a larger wall, all three can work in combination to give all year round interest.
Underplanting with herbaceous plants to fill the border is not a problem - include helleborus hybrids, epimediums, primulas, pulmonarias, hostas, ferns, arums, heucheras and symphytums as well as spring bulbs such as bluebells, scillas, wood anemones and snowdrops. We look forward to receiving a picture when it is all planted up and in full spring colour. How long do woody herbs last? This question has been posed by Mrs Copeland from Dalton - she has had sage, thyme and rosemary outdoors in a sunny location for the last seven years and harvests the herbs fresh during the summer as well as harvesting some towards the end of summer for freezing. Over the last two years the plants have slowly declined and the rosemary is now completely dead. Three conditions ensure the survival of these woody Mediterranean herbs - sunshine, free draining soil and low nutrient levels. Take any one of these away to any extent and the plants will suffer at the first sign of any adverse weather - cold, frozen ground being one of the worst! Start again in spring with new plants and then take some cuttings in late summer to overwinter in a cold glasshouse or porch just in case.
If you have any questions or queries that you want help with or gardening related subjects that you would like to discuss, why not write to me at Graham's Gardening Questions, Features Office, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Queen Street South, Huddersfield, HD1 3DU.

Gardening school has full programme

The new Bath Gardening School has this week launched its first spring to summer calendar of events offering a series of one day courses for both amateur and experienced gardeners.
The school is being run by Emma Bond of Bath Garden Design and Landscaping which is based in Old Orchard, Walcot Street, Bath. The courses themselves begin in April and will be held at the Botanical Gardens, Bath.
Emma said: "This school is unique to Bath as we are offering inspiring one day courses for beginners and people interested in gardening in a non-stuffy and stimulating environment, with an emphasis for this summer on growing vegetables and other edibles.
"We have some really great speakers coming to teach the various days including James Alexander Sinclair from Gardener''s World and Mark Diacono, head gardener at River Cottage.
The aim of the new Bath Gardening School is to offer gardeners of all ages and experience the opportunity to learn new skills in a sociable environment over the course of a day.
Courses for the spring-summer programme include the English Country Garden, Planning a Kitchen Garden for Beginners, Garden Photography and A Beginners Guide to Beekeeping.
All the courses have been designed to be informal and interactive, so that whatever your level of experience, you will learn something new, enjoy the day and be able to share ideas with like-minded people.
Professional gardeners who are experts in their field teach the courses. Teachers include high profile gardeners such as Gardeners' World James Alexander-Sinclair, author Anne Wareham and Mark Diacono, head gardener at River Cottage, and local faces such as Louis Hodgkin of the Bath Beekeeping Association and no-dig advocate Charles Dowding.
Landscape designer Emma explains: "Last year, I realised that there are no outlets for people to learn about gardening in a friendly and relaxing environment in Bath. I really believe that gardening should be fun and accessible - and most of all, it should be easy. The courses will show people the many different things they can do in their garden, whether it's turning it into a beautiful as well as productive kitchen garden or introducing people to beekeeping for the first time."

Raised Beds

Over the next four years, while Peter painted, Jean set about turning what was a field running down to the sea into a vegetable garden. By 2004, she was working as garden manager at nearby Creagh Gardens, and her own garden was on the West Cork Garden Trail.
"At that point, I decided to put all my energy into the garden and starting a cafe[currency] seemed a logical step," she said. From serving coffees, the cafe[currency] has expanded into a restaurant with seasonal menus based on produce from the garden and the local area.
In 2008, Gillian Hegarty, a talented young chef from the River Cafe[currency] in London, was recruited and today it's a family affair with daughters Tessa and Joanna working as daytime chefs, Kez handling front of house and Jean giving all her time to the gardens and her winter gardening courses.
When it comes to growing edibles, Perry's advice is to grow in raised beds.
"Since we've done that we've stopped digging, which is great for a woman: there's none of that backbreaking labour every year," she said. I favour deep digging, but Perry makes a convincing argument for her method.
"I believe there is so much beneficial life under the soil, bacteria and nematodes that work in a symbiosis," she said. "What we do is mulch all the time on the top of the bed, and that gets drawn in by the life under the soil.
"The more worms you have, the better. But every time you dig, you are breaking up their life systems. Think of nature: it never has bare soil, there is always something growing."
Perry's method of growing potatoes begins in autumn when she clears the ground of all weeds: couch grass, dock, nettles and dandelions.
"I then make a layered duvet of materials that will break down into the soil, garden compost, seaweed, and straw," she said. "If you don't have access to seaweed, you could use l awn mowing s or even shredded cardboard.
"Come spring, I'm ready to plant," she said. "I pull the duvet aside, make a hole with a trowel, drop in my potato, cover over with a bit of earth and replace the mulch again.
Once the shoots start to peep through I then add a layer of grass mowings that dry out and form a crust. The idea is that the mulch is heavy enough to stop the light getting to the potatoes."
This year, her yield from two beds measuring 7 foot by 14 foot was four sacks of potatoes which were on the restaurant menu by July.
Perry also believes in planting by the phases of the moon, but that's a topic that deserves a column all to itself.

Natural fertilizers, pesticides and herbicide

More and more manufacturers are bringing alternative products to the marketplace. Fertilizers with seaweed and hen manure or lawn applications with corn gluten to inhibit weed growth are all on the rise.
Biodegradable, reusable and quality gardening products
We're thinking twice before tossing things, choosing rather to reuse, repurpose, buy quality or return our efforts naturally to the earth.
Community gardens
Did you know that there are more than two dozen community gardens in Calgary, including a demonstration garden from the Calgary Horticultural Society? They link in to a strong history of gardening in this city.
Go to calhort.orgto find the plot nearest you.
Reclaiming unwanted land for ornamental gardens
Amid shrinking government coffers and few willing to take up their cause, gardens in public spaces are often left to languish. But there are signs that this is shifting.
With the help of passionate advocates and funded with the help of a business plan that promised profitability, New York's impressive new promenade, called the High Line, opened in 2009 (and is being extended in 2011) on an abandoned railroad platform nine metres above the streets in west Manhattan.
Read about its history and be inspired at
Green/living roofs and walls
Green roof technology has actually been around in Canada for many years, but it has only recently been catching on for residential applications. There are certain important considerations (i. e. roof pitch, load-bearing capacity and maintenance provisions) but there are many energy, ecological and beautifying benefits.
To get started, visit Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (
Creating and managing backyard systems
We are increasingly resisting sanitizing our gardens. The result is that the vibrant cycle of life encompassing good and bad bugs, disease, visiting creatures and unpredictable weather is teaching us valuable lessons about backyard ecology and life.