Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Children get to grips with gardening tips

PUPILS have come up smelling of roses during a gardening masterclass at a DIY store.

Green-fingered youngsters from Brynhyfryd Junior School, Swansea, were put through their paces at B&Q's Morfa outlet.

The event was part of the home improvement chain's community work as well as the Morfa store's recent refurbishment.

Store worker Kath Sillitoe said: "The children had a great time and we were pleased for them to take part in the sessions. They did really well with the gardening, which might come in handy for their mums and dads as well as for their science classes."

Store to offer gardening tips

AN outdoors store is hosting an event next week for allotment holders and Bristol's green-fingered residents.

SCATS in Eastgate Road is holding the event on February 12 where people can meet representatives from Sutton Seed, Westland Horticulture and Proctors Fertilisers who will be on hand to give advice and answer any questions.

Drink and nibbles will be on offer as well as the chance to win Pounds 50 in SCATS vouchers.

There will also be a ten per cent discount on certain products for people shopping on the night.

RIVER OAKS Landscape designers to give tips on gardening Jan. 20 event is free and open to the public

"Our goal is to get the public interested and involved in gardening," said River Oaks Garden Club member Stephanie Fox, who is co-chairing the event with fellow member Mary Gregory. "We'll be learning how, as a city, we can create beautiful public spaces for people to experience and enjoy."

Fox, a landscape designer who lives in the Museum District, said the River Oaks Garden Club has been beautifying along Post Oak Boulevard, around Buffalo Bayou and in Memorial Park.

"A lot of organizations in Houston do the same thing to some extent," Fox said. "It's great because that way we're generating even more enthusiasm."

River Oaks Garden Club, 2503 Westheimer, was established in 1927, but you don't have to live in River Oaks to be a member. Memorial resident Mary Gregory said the club's 400-plus members are from all over the city.

"Maybe not everybody digs in the dirt," said Gregory, who joined in 2005, "but everybody loves the aspect of beautification using flowers."

River Oaks Garden Club is a member of the Garden Club of America, a nonprofit organization made up of 18,000 individuals and 199 member clubs.

West Houston resident Sadie Gwin Blackburn served as president of the Garden Club of America from 1989-1991.

The same year her presidency ended, River Oaks Garden Club launched its Sadie Gwin Blackburn Environmental Seminar series.

"It's a continuing effort to forward gardening traditions we highly value," said Blackburn, who joined River Oaks Garden Club in 1969. A native Texan, Blackburn graduated as valedictorian from Lamar High School in 1941.

She eventually went on to earn a master of arts degree in history from Rice University, and co-authored a book titled Houston's Forgotten Heritage: 1822-1914, published by Rice University Press in 1991.

Obviously Blackburn was interested in studying history, but gardening comes easily.

"I have always loved the outdoors," Blackburn said. "My grandmother was an avid gardener, so it comes down rather naturally."

Now Blackburn has a lengthy history in gardening, has participated in numerous lectures, written several articles for gardening publications, and is a frequent recipient of gardening awards.

"The study of plants is fascinating," Blackburn said. "I've traveled extensively and seen a tremendous variety of plants and garden design."

Workshop offers tips on gardening during cold weather

From the gardening novice to the natural green thumb, every gardener found a little something at CAC Beardsley Community Farm on Saturday.

The farm along with Knox Heritage held a workshop for gardeners looking for ways to keep their crops growing during the cold seasons.

"We are just trying to teach other gardeners how to extend their season," said Khann Chov, manager of CAC Beardsley Community Farm.

More than 20 gardeners of various skill levels attended the workshop. Liz Moniz, a volunteer at the farm and organizer of the workshop, detailed the methods for cold-weather gardening, ranging from cold frames to high tunnels.

"None of it is an exact science," said Moniz. "The main thing is to try to repurpose as many materials as you can."

Repurposing materials is the foundation of the relationship between the farm and Knox Heritage. Although the main goal of Knox Heritage is to save historic structures, the organization has been getting more involved with restoring natural spaces, said Beth Meadows, head of salvage sales for Knox Heritage.

The Knox Heritage program allows people to donate their unused or salvaged building materials, and then Knox Heritage is able to sell these items to be repurposed. CAC Beardsley Community Farm, located off Western Avenue, was able to find use in some old windows, creating cold frames that helped extend the season for their greens.

Although the event started as a lesson in cold-weather gardening, it turned into a question-and-answer session among the fellow gardeners. The more experienced gardeners were able to give the beginners tips on how to better maintain their gardens, while also exchanging general insight on their gardens.

"Gardening can be tricky," said Chov. "So we're just trying to help make it easier."

Gardening tips

A few months ago I bought a couple of Skimmia japonicas to add colourful berries but none have grown. Why?

You need a female and male plant if you want fruit, which are formed mid-autumn on female plants. Find your plant a couple of mates or buy the variety Simmia reevesiana, which is bisexual, so one plant will bear fruit alone.

My new allotment is covered in weeds like ground elder and nettles. Must I resort to chemicals?

No, you could cover the area with a black polythene sheet for a year or more. Without light, the plants will die.

For a quick fix, wait until spring then zap the weeds with a glyphosate weed killer such as Roundup.

Which mulch do you recommend?

Cocoa bark is superb for keeping down weeds but you should avoid it if you have a dog as it makes them sick if they eat it.

Aggregates are worth considering but steer clear of gravel if you have young children, as they usually love to throw it around.

Garden buildings

Garden buildings can be designed and built to suit all your gardening and storage needs as well as give a place to sit, work or play.

Modern greenhouses: These come with aluminium or cedar wood frames and in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can also build your own on solid foundations, copying a traditional lean-to style with brick base walls.

Expert tip: A normal greenhouse will not usually require planning permission but a lean-to may be counted as part of an extension. Contact your local planning department.

How much? Classic greenhouses cost from approximately pounds 259.

Open shelter/ gazebo: These simple structures are made from smooth timber or rustic in style, they are best suited to lush planting and woodland gardens.

Expert tip: Lightweight pop-up gazebos, which are large enough for a table and chairs, can be temporarily used during summer for al-fresco dining and entertaining.

How much? Costs vary from DIY centres.

Slim-fi t sheds or storage cupboards: These can be squeezed into the tightest corner to house all your gardening tools and accessories.

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'