Topical Tips


Tips on pruning your fruit trees or shrubs or roses are now given on:

Notes from John Effemy on Pruning

August 2010

Usually one of the hottest months of the year, –   so extra attention must be paid to watering and caring for your plants and trees. Try to use grey water (ie used water such as washing up water as long as it does not contain too much detergent) wherever possible, especially as water butts may be running low after the a dry summer we have had. This is one of the best months for sitting back and admiring your hard work! Also it is traditionally holiday-time, so the gardener can go on holiday provided he has mown the lawn, watered thoroughly     and enlisted the help of friends and family to look after the garden while you are away. As and incentive tell them to pick what ever fruit and vegetables are ready so that you do not to waste food and in part payment for their efforts. You never know you might encourage someone to start gardening as fresh fruit and vegetable do taste better

Some jobs to keep you busy

Summer prune Wisteria cutting new shoots back to 5 buds and tie in if required.

Plant Crocuses, Daffodils ,Scillas and Snowdrops as soon as the bulbs are available .Also plant hyacinths ,paper-white Narcissi and Freesias for flowering at Christmas.

Sow Anemones ,Hollyhocks and Gaillardias to flower next year.

Check the staking and tying in of Chrysanthemums and Dahlias.

Cut out the fruiting canes of Summer Raspberries and Black Currants when the last fruits have been picked.

Deadhead flowering plants regularly

Watering! Particularly containers, and new plants – preferably with grey recycled water or stored rainwater.

Remember to water Tomatoes regularly to avoid bottom end rot.

Harvest Garlic, Shallots and Onions once the stems are dry and brown.

Collect seed from favourite plants

Harvest sweetcorn and other vegetables as they become ready

Lift and pot up rooted strawberry runners

Keep ponds and water features topped up

Feed the soil with green manures

Remember to top up water put out for the birds and small mammals to drink or bathe in.

July 2010

July is often the warmest month of the year in the British Isles especially inland areas of East Anglia and the Southern England. It can also be the wettest summer month often with high humidity which can produce favourable conditions for the spread of plant diseases. It is a time when you can sit back for a moment and enjoy the fruits of your labours in the garden. While there are still other ongoing tasks to perform in the garden, your primary concern will be assuring an ample supply of water for your plants. If you’re looking for things to do, you can spend some time adding summer plants to the garden, lawn care and planting autumn and winter vegetables. This is the month that you begin enjoying the harvest of your homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs and enjoy the colour in your garden from the annuals, biennials and perennials that you have planted.

Some jobs to keep you busy.

  • Be water-wise, especially after the very dry June. The primary rule of summer watering is to water thoroughly and deeply each time and to allow the soil to dry out between watering. The best way to tell if your plants are receiving enough water is to take a trowel or shovel and dig down a few inches. The soil should be moist at least 3 or 4 inches deep to ensure that the water is reaching the root zone of the plants.
  • Push your finger into the soil in your container plantings at least once a day (more often on hot, dry days) to feel for moisture and be certain that plants are getting enough water. Apply water until it runs out of the drainage holes
  • Dead head fed and water bedding plants to keep them flowering well and tidy spreading plants.
  • Pinch out sideshoots on tomatoes as they appear
  • Hoe borders regularly to keep down weeds
  • Make sure that shading is adequate in the greenhouses to keep them cool
  • If you plan to plant a new lawn this autumn start preparing the ground as soon as you are able to.
  • Remember especially in the hot weather to put fresh water out daily for the birds to drink or bathe in. Also it is very useful for insects…bees etc to have a shallow container of water but make sure there is a way for them to get out ie.a floating piece of wood or a stone in case they fall in.
  • Thin out over crowded apples and pears for better quality and sized fruit.
  • Deadhead roses regularly to keep them flowering.
  • Fish may be at risk of oxygen starvation if water levels drop and in hot humid weather.

June 2010

The sun is at its strongest in June compared to any other time of the year and the longest day comes in this month on the 21st. The extra light and hopefully the warmth encourage the garden to put on an exuberant burst of growth. This also means weeds will sprout up from seemingly no where. So try and keep on top of them by hoeing regularly in dry conditions. The herbaceous borders are reaching their early summer peak and the kitchen garden is becoming productive. Pest and diseases must be checked at the first signs of infesting the garden: early action can do much to keep these enemies under control. On the whole, June can be the driest month of the year but in the afternoon cumulus clouds may develop to great heights inland, and thunderstorms are likely!

Some jobs to keep you busy.

  • Remember to keep the hoe going regularly to keep down weeds. Why not make a point of when you wander around the garden to take it with you.
  • Mow lawns regularly and lightly without the box in case of drought.
  • Plant out summer bedding plants if you have not already done so.
  • Stake tall or floppy plants with sticks, link canes or something similar before they really need it as then they can then may grow through and hide them.
  • Position summer hanging baskets and containers outside and remember to water them.
  • Prune many spring-flowering shrubs as the flowers fade.
  • I am sure you will remember to pick lettuce, radish, other salads crops and it may be worth seeing if you have any early potatoes to harvest!
  • Shade greenhouses to keep them cool and prevent scorch with something like  “Coolglass.”
  • Pinch out sideshoots on tomatoes
  • Try to be water-wise, especially if we should find ourselves in   drought-conditions. You can never have too many water butts!
  • Watch Roses for signs of greenfly or mildew.
  • If your Sweet Peas are flowering remember to pick them regularly to keep a ensure continuation of blooms.
  • Order Roses, Trees and Shrubs for autumn plantin
  • If time, remember to just sit in the garden, maybe with a drink, an enjoy it!

May 2010

May is one of the loveliest months of the year. The magic of spring peaks, and everywhere gardens rejoice in a surfeit of colour. The weather is still very unpredictable and can vary from hot dry times, frosts earlier in the month, hail, violent squally winds and thunderstorms! The middle of May can be one of the driest times of year, particularly in the south, and in East Anglia most gardens will begin to dry out. Initially, this is a benefit because the soil will reach an ideal consistency for seed sowing. However, as drying continues, there may be insufficient water to keep the seedlings going.  With the bulbs fading and the herbaceous border growing in leaps and bounds, it is now clear that summer is approaching. Sowing and planting out bedding can begin in this area from about the third week in the month It’s also time to get back into the lawn mowing regime, as the lawn will be loving the warmer temperatures that this month brings. ….Well you can not enjoy yourself all of the time!

Some jobs to keep you busy

  • Watch out for late frosts and protect tender plants
  • If you have any potatoes not planted do so promptly and continue earthing up these others as they appear.
  • Plant out summer bedding 3-4 week of the month but remember to harden then off first.
  • It is worth regularly hoeing off or hand forking up the weeds so they can not get hold.
  • Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days and consider what shading you are going to use i.e. blinds or shade paint to avoid large variations in temperature and scorching of plants.
  • Mow lawns weekly.
  • Before clipping hedges check that no bird is nesting in it.
  • Watch out for lily beetles and their grubs. The beetles are bright red and the grubs appear as a 1cm slime-covered orange grub. Crushing is the best way to deal with them
  • Sow the last of the hardy annuals and thin out any of the previous planted one if needed and sow Biennials for flowering next year.
  • Sow your Greens now either in seed trays or directly into a well prepared seed bed.
  • Sow Runner beans outside near the end of the month.
  • Harvest asparagus daily.
  • Sow beetroot, turnip, main  carrots, sweet corn outside and squashes and pumpkins indoors.

April 2010

April is a busy time of the year in the garden with probably not much time available. Spring should now be in evidence, with daffodils in flower and blossom adorning trees. With longer days and stronger sunshine, growing conditions are now improving rapidly but wet days can cause considerable hold-ups in the general work. It’s an exciting month, with indoor-sown seeds well into growth, and it’s also time to start sowing outdoors. The weather can still be very changeable with thunderstorms giving heavy rain sometimes with sleet ,hail and even snow! Also we can have very warm days possible up to 21 ºC giving us a taste of Summer but beware we can have severe ground frosts especially if the ground is dry. If a sudden cold spell is forecast, protect tender plants and new shoots with a double layer of horticultural fleece. Unfortunately, Magnolia flowers can often become browned, and Acer leaves scorched by April frosts with fruit blossom also being damaged!

Some jobs to keep you busy

  • If you are planning a new lawn this year, you should now prepare the ground for sowing seed or laying turf or repairing  bare patches
  • If you haven’t done it already, the lawn is likely to need its first mow of the year. Before cutting the grass, rake with a wire rake. This will raise any buttercup or    clover runners and reduce their spread. Use a weed and feed treatment on the lawn unless you are organic. Remember to keep the blades up high on the mower so   not to cut the grass too short!
  • Weed the flower beds and apply a mulch which will improve soil fertility and help to control the weeds.
  • Slugs and snails will start to make an appearance, so sprinkle grit or egg shells around vulnerable plants, which slugs don’t like crawling across. Careful use of slug pellets would also help, although bear in mind that some wildlife rely on slugs and snails for their food source, so keep this in mind. Hide slug pellets under stones so that other animals can’t eat them.
  • Plant summer flowering bulbs.
  • Plant your tomatoes in the greenhouse.
  • Plant out second early potatoes.
  • Complete the pruning, support and tie in climbers including climbing and rambling roses. Loosen or renew any tree ties that may be digging in to the bark. We forgot to do this last year and lost a dwarf apricot tree.
  • Strawberry plants can be planted.
  • Repot houseplants and increase the water given to them.
  • Protect fruit blossom from late frosts
  • Sow hardy annuals and herb seeds
  • Start to feed citrus plants
  • Feed hungry shrubs and roses
  • Prune fig trees
  • Divide bamboos and water lilies

March 2010

This month is usually considered the start of Spring and after such a cold, snowy long winter….well it seems like it, we are all in need of some warm sunny days to encourage us into the garden again. This month has the most pronounced variation from day to day and the widest variation from year to year. Frost is possible on most nights in March, because of clear skies associated with the north-westerly winds and the north easterly influence.   Take advantage of every dry spell to complete the spring cultivation but do not be misled into thinking that spring has Sprung and that the cold winter weather will not return!!!! If the soil is very cold seeds will not germinate, instead they will rot or be eaten. So go by the conditions and Not the date!

Some jobs to keep you busy

February 2010

February is the toughest and often the coldest month in the garden  but it  also means that winter is half over and subtle signs of spring are there if we really look for them.  They say that if the winds are in the East at the beginning of the month then winter is likely to remain for a further few weeks but if there are clouds and rain, then the winter is virtually over especially if the winds are from the West.  Well we can hope!

Some jobs to keep you busy

  • Remove slippery algae from paths by either brushing using a power washer on frost free days. We are not sure if we can recommend it but we use washing soda on paths and it removes the green algae really well. We also use it on moss on paths to great effect. If you chose to use it make sure that it does not affect plants.
  • Prune Roses.
  • Prune Autumn Fruiting Raspberries down to ground level.
  • Last chance to plant bare-rooted fruit trees, bushes and, roses.
  • Prune late flowering Clematis for example ‘Jackmanii’ or viticella.
  • Now is the time to buy begonia, canna and dahlia tubers, together with the huge variety of summer-flowering bulbs that are appearing in garden centres and nurseries.
  • Check any Dahlia or Canna tubers you are storing for rot.
  • Don’t forget to stock up on pots, compost, labels, twine and planting compost and all the other sundries you will need to get the best out of all your summer bulbs and tubers.
  • Buy the seeds you need for this year.
  • Buy seed potatoes and chit them up in egg boxes or seed trays, with the “eye” facing upwards to the light in a frost free place.
  • Hard prune Dogwood (Cornus) and Willow (Salix).
  • Prune Wisteria and Vines.
  • Begonias and dahlias can be started into growth with heat indoors now and the resulting shoots used for cuttings.
  • Remove leaves affected by grey mould on over wintering greenhouse plants.
  • Prune out old stems of Mahonia after flowering to encourage new basal growth, but watch out for the prickly leaves.
  • Now is a good time to add lime to the soil to reduce club root in Brassicas.
  • Also it is a good time to apply a general fertiliser of fish, blood, and bone to fruit trees and bushes.
  • Sow sweet peas if you did not do so in the autumn or if you want to extend the flowering season.

January 2010

This is usually  the coldest month of the year; often with the coldest nights coming at the end of the month and into the beginning of February, but there has already  been a   warning for very cold weather  to arrive  around New year… be warned.

The weather can vary from gales, rain, and short periods of sun shine to heavy snow lasting longer than in December. The days are starting to lengthen and the sun rays are starting to get stronger but do look out for severe frosts.

Some jobs to keep you busy.

  • Prune back Wisteria to 2-3 buds of the main stem.
  • Maintain tools by cleaning, repairing and oiling the blades.
  • Seed catalogues will be arriving. Make your selections, and order seeds early, don’t wait until late in the winter to order seed.
  • Check stakes, ties, fleeces and other supports for damage.
  • Consider moving plants to sunnier positions to maximize light and give maximum shelter.
  • Don’t forget to keep feeding the birds as food is scarce for them over winter.
  • Recycle your Christmas tree by shredding it for mulch.
  • Ventilate the greenhouse on sunny days.
  • Dig over any vacant plots that have not been dug already.
  • Repair and re-shape lawn edges.
  • Inspect stored tubers of DahliaBegonia and Canna for rots or drying out.
  • Start forcing rhubarb.
  • Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season.
  • Prepare a polythene shelter for outdoor peaches and nectarines, to protect them from peach leaf curl.
  • If you brought a living Christmas trees this is the time for it to go back outside. Put them in partial shade at first to harden them off and then move them into full sun in a week or two, rinse off foliage & water.
  • Start chitting early potatoes in a bright frost free place.
  • You can still aerate the lawn by spiking it with a fork or an aerator but remember to keep off if it is frosty!
  • Take advantage of favourable weather to repair fences, arches, paths etc.
  • Look and see what winter colour you have in your garden…..could you have more!
  • Plan your garden for next year .Why not try a few vegetables and salad crops .Also think what you can do to encourage or help wildlife.

December 2009

Usually there is little sunshine with gales and rain common, whilst fog and frosts are inevitable when pressure rises during an anticyclone with wind dropping.

If cold weather starts in early December it rarely persists for more than a week or two whereas if it comes at the end of the month it can presage a long hard winter which we do not seem to get so often now due to climate change!

Garden work can be difficult this month due to wet and freezing conditions but every effort should be made to get jobs completed when ever the weather is suitable.  Remember to stay off frozen grass!

  • Usually you should complete planting bare rooted roses, shrubs and trees in December but the weather has been so mild that you could extent this time provided that the ground is still warm and not frozen.
  • Finish pruning established fruit trees to let in more air and light.
  • Earth up Brussels Sprout plans to support them.
  • To force Rhubarb – for an earlier, sweeter crop cover them now with a forcer or a dark bucket.
  • Insulate garden taps and any pipe work from extremes of temperature.
  • Don’t let your hose pipe freeze and burst. Stretch it out with both ends open, to allow the water to drain completely. Coil it up and put it away.
  • Bring in Christmas bulbs for flowering .Keep cool to extend flowering life.
  • Check the petals and leaves of indoor plants for the early stages of botrytis and aphids.
  • Check Dahlia and Canna Tubers in store and remove decayed tubers.
  • Keep house plants in brighter places as light levels fall ….see article on “House Plant Care in winter”.
  • Take care of our feathered friends! Keep your bird feeder filled, especially when the ground is frozen or there is snow on it. Also remember to put out fresh water for them.
  • This year, consider purchasing a living Christmas tree for your home.
    They really aren’t that much more expensive than a cut tree.  Before bringing it into the house, water it thoroughly and it really   should not be kept in the house for any longer than 10 days if you plan to plant it in the garden….for next year.