Archive for June, 2010
June 29th, 2010
Yes, folks they are all mini missions at the moment! It is cold and wet outside, so you don’t want to be out there longer than you need to be! Well, some days anyway! I set myself up for those days when you don’t have very much time, back in January with a beautiful, romantic basket full of things you might need for that quick mini gardening session. This basket has had to give way to a more practical, for winter at least, bucket!
The basket worked well all summer, but it is true that as the seasons change, the contents of your 5 minute garden basket needs to change. Gone is the water saving crystals, there seems to be plenty of water out there now! Now it contains secateurs; gardening gloves; my trusty hook and little chop stick [for loosening soil in and around pot plants and for planting cuttings]. Also, a little winter addition of some plastic bottles with their bottoms chopped off! Chopping the bottoms off can be a little hobby for indoors! What, you might ask, do I use these plastic bottles for? Well, when Jack Frost is about, they can come in very handy to put over small tender plants that might be harmed by nasty ol’ Jack!
In fact, part of the 5 minute garden time, late in the day is to head outside and put these covers on, then the next day, while letting out the ducks, I take them off again. Of such exciting chores is my day made up! This morning, a little snail had climbed to the top of one of these bottles, much to the ducks delight! I poked him out with my trusty chop stick and called the girls over, ‘First one to get here gets the prize!’ I said.
Mulching your plants with spoiled hay or straw or autumn leaves helps to protect your plants from frost also. It is a bit like tucking them up in their little beds, it helps to keep them nice and warm.
June 23rd, 2010
It is Winter now. Cold and Grey. But early in Autumn a small bulb, called Hyacinth was cradled neatly given a cool drink and a kiss for luck, then tucked away in a cool dark cupboard. Time moved on as it always does. Blossom thought she had been abandoned! Poor wee little thing.
The weeks past, and it was true that she had been forgotton. But then….What is this? Could it be a little green leaf? Wonder of Wonders…Blossom had been found again. ‘Out of the cupboard with you’, a voice cried. And out she came. She stood close to a window and grew and stretched towards the sun.
She began to shoot up a blue flower. Yes, she was blue! Indeed, she was a proud blue Hyacinthas, called Blossom, much loved and admired by all who passed her way. Stop, she seemed to say, to anyone who would listen. ‘Come close enjoy my fragrance’. And that is just what we do! Isn’t she lovely? And becomming more lovely as each day passes.
Blossom brightens up my winter days!
June 18th, 2010
Clivia lilies are excellent plants for shady spots. I love them because they are hardy and evergreen with lovely strappy leaves. They will flower well in quite deep shade. My Clivia is flowering now and it is a welcome patch of colour on a dark gloomy winter day! In Spring the Clivia will flower again, it is a busy little bee! After the flowers are finished there often follows dark red berries. They will grow in almost any soil, as long as it is moderately well drained. They seem to be quite happy during the long hot summer too. Honestly, what more could you ask of a little plant.
June 13th, 2010
Of course, shade is a comparative term. I have learned that some areas are more shady than others and have divided my garden into areas of full shade, where there is no direct light at all during the growing season, semi shade, where sunlight is received for part of the day and light shade, this is the area beneath trees with lighter foliage where little plants get dappled sunlight most of the day.
In the deep shade plants need to be tough and adaptable. Ferns will grow here and the tough Clivia, or Kaffir Lily. Little spider plants can brighten up the dark shade and they are one of the toughest little plants you can find. Helleborus, Hosta and the pretty little impatiens or busy Lizzies are a good choice for that dark spot also. Once you have Impatiens in your garden you will never again be without it. For, as the name Busy Lizzie suggests they grow very easily and you can plant small cuttings which take very readly.
For the semi shade you can’t go past the beautiful Japanese Anemone, the Windflower these are beautiful old-fashioned flowers which grace any garden. Begonias too will thrive in the semi-shade; then there is of course the hydrangea, there is nothing like a white hydrangea flowering to brighten up the darkest corner.
In the light shade, you can’t go past an azalea or two or a Camellia. For perfume in a garden nothing can surpass Daphne flowers, particulary in winter. The Daphne tolerates semi to full shade, although I think it does best where it can get a little morning sunshine in the winter months.
So, gardening in the shade, while sometimes being a challenge is also very rewarding!
June 10th, 2010
It is June in Melbourne, Australia and baby it is cold outside! The ducks, Waddles and Hazel are beside themselves with excitement with all the wonderful puddles! Can’t seem to contain their excitement and have taken to looking under fallen leaves for little tasty duck treats like snails & slugs. You need fingerless gloves working at the weeding now and I must admit it is not as appealling getting on out there as it was a week or two ago.
At this time of the year you can buy and plant bare-rooted deciduous trees and shrubs. Last year I indulged in one of these – a fig tree. It was quite exciting, and yes it did survive and got leaves and even some figs, not that I got to eat any, but the possum enjoyed them. She is always ready to try something new, even if it is not quite ripe yet! Now my little fig once again looks like a dead twig, but at least I know that the leaves will come back, that is if it doesn’t drown! Because the rain has come at last and we are awash in my backyard! Much to the ducks’ delight!
My little task for this month, aside from pushing myself to just get outside, is to prune back my hydrangeas. I quite enjoy this little task! I love those plump buds you see on the canes. I aways prune back to a pair of juicy ones! I prune right down to the base all wood that is over 3 seasons old to give the plant more room to send up new shoots. But I don’t cut back the shoots that have not flowered, I just tip-prune these to encourage more flower heads. After it is done I pop some nice rich compost around the roots this makes the garden bed look all neat and tidy and I feel quite proud of myself!
Hardwood cuttings can be taken now, and I have my little list! Fuchsias are on the list and – hydrangeas! So after cutting back the hydrangeas I might have a little go at making a brand new plant! Always heaps of fun! I have indulged in some hormone powder this year but over past years I used honey. What I do is, I take the cuttings approximately 20 to 25 centimetres long from last season’s growth. If you are using cuttings taken from the pruning it is very important to remember which way up the plant was growing, trust me, they wont grow if planted upside down. Fussy, aren’t they? So, when I prune my hydrangeas I put some likely cuttings aside with the bottoms all together, so I don’t forget and stuff them in the wrong way up. Having found the bottom of your cutting you make a slanting cut just below a node (swelling).
A slanting cut gives a greater rooting area. Cut the top off straight, this helps to avoid confusion, something I seem to be quite good at, when planting. Moisten the slanting end then dip it into hormone powder. Then it is a simple matter to plant it to one-third its length in moist propagating mix or perhaps a sheltered part of the garden.
June 7th, 2010
If a garden has healthy soil it makes all the difference to the end result. Healthy soil is pure magic with a fragrance and texture I learned to love early in my gardening life. I find that the plants growing in healthy soil will grow stronger, faster and might I say happier? Compost is a good way to feed the earth the lazy way! It helps to build good soil and then your garden rewards you with great plants – and it doesn’t cost a great deal either! A beautiful abundant soil is not only the foundation of a great garden, but the foundation of my gardening philosophy.
Gardeners of the past dug everything diligently and it took many years to resist the temptation to follow their lead, but I have now reduced my compulsion for turning the soil to a minimum. The truth is that worms don’t like having their little tunnels destroyed, or being flung into the cruel light of day on the end of a garden fork. I have found that if I need to create a new garden bed the best way is to use newspaper as a mulch with organic material spread on top. I learned to put down enough paper to smother the grass and weeds, about 6 to 8 sheets does the job. This seems to be enough to smother the weeds, but not so much that the worms give up and go elsewhere. I want to attract them with lush manure, hay and other organic things that they are fond of. They are my greatest allies after all. It is, of course tempting to bring in topsoil, but I couldn’t afford it, and this method works so well!
There are probably as many variations on compost making as there are compost makers! My method doesn’t involve turning heaps over, and takes time, but in the end there is year-round compost. I have two bins and I rotate them every 6 months or so. This means that while one is being filled up with weeds, duck poo and other soil yummies the other is emptied onto beds as needed. This allows loads of worm-laden soil food to be available through all seasons. My drums are bottomless so worms, natural soil microbes and their many friends and associates can come and join the party. From time to time I will throw in some compost worms and the odd sack of soil and of course at this time of the year the leaf litter.
Some ingredients that I throw in include: garden waste, spent crops and weeds, grass clippings, autumn leaves, kitchen compost, wood ash, duck poo and hay from their pen. Throwing in a sprinkling of lime or wood ash over the layers every so often helps sweeten and moderate the pH. My bins have lids, but you could use a tarp or flattened cardboard. The covers stop the compost from drying out and shade it from the heat in summer. Worms like the dark. To aerate the mix I shove a stake or crowbar down a few times and wiggle it about, I do this when I feel the need for letting off a little steam! Garden Therapy in action! But I find that mycompost doesn’t need much air as the bins are wide and shallow, allowing it to naturally ventilate.
June 2nd, 2010
The second day of winter and three months left to prepare the garden for spring. One of the wonderful things abut living in Southern Australia is the changing seasons. There are special things about each and every season to look forward to with delight and anticipation.
For me, winter is a time to plan and dream. It is a time to take stock and decide which things need to be cut back and which mulched down against the cold. It is a quiet time when a lot of the garden is dormant, so you can make some little changes. Plants are easier to move during the dormant season. It must be quite startling for a plant to go to sleep in my garden during winter and wake in spring somewhere quite different!
One of the best things about gardening is that nothing is constant, you can always make changes. For me, in an ageing garden with my trees getting taller shade is a real challenge and I am thinking of seeking out the services of a good tree surgeon, who could come in and prune some of my large trees to give them more vigour and to allow more light to come onto the flowerbeds beneath them.
New roses come into the nurseries this month, so I might just take the chance to review the rose situation in my garden and make sure that there really is a place to plant more roses before I find myself, once again in the nursery succumbing to the temptation once again.
The ducks are laying once again. So, that means cakes are on the menu once again. Pancakes too. In fact, the ducks are much more happy now there is more mud about.
The bulbs I planted last month are beginning to pop up all over the garden. Very exciting! The only down side to this time of the year is that some days don’t always look inviting to get on out there. But I find that once I am out in the garden, maybe with an extra jumper and wooly hat it is just the best place to be!