Monthly Archives: May 2018

  • May - Gardening Blog

    MAY sits on that lovely cusp between spring and early summer. As the whole garden comes to life, you should be able to see the results of your hard work earlier in the year in that beautiful green centrepiece. And as we’re now well into the mowing season, I’m going to focus mostly on that this month – for some mowing means a gentle stroll up and down the garden daydreaming about everything and nothing, but good mowing requires more concentration – and is well worth the effort.

    weeds in a lawn
    MOWING: Most grass looks good just after mowing but yours will look superb after all the remedial work you’ve been doing (and if you didn’t get round to it, make a note for next winter and spring). But good mowing isn’t just about making the lawn look good; it’s a critical pruning technique, and like any technique, it requires a little bit of skill and knowledge:

    1. Height: Different grasses actually prefer to be cut to different lengths, but for a general lawn there’s a simple rule of thumb that we can borrow from the professionals - cut no more than a 1/3 of the leaf blade in one go.  So, for example, if you like your grass to be 2”, then leave it first to reach 3” before cutting.
    2. Frequency: Once a week is enough when growth is good. However, twice a week, removing half as much each time, will not in fact take twice as long but will give you twice the benefit.
    3. Direction: Mow in different patterns to ensure the lawn doesn’t produce ‘grain’.
    4. Blade: Always keep your lawn mower blade sharp. Ideally a rotary mower blade should be given a ‘new’ edge each time you mow. Sounds like hard work? It’s actually really easy if you keep a spare blade – you can switch it in a moment, and sharpen the blunt one when you have a spare moment.
    5. Clean your mower! After every mow remember to clean the underside of the mower. Hard, stuck clumps of dried grass will interfere with its ‘collecting’ performance and drop onto your lawn.

    FEEDING: If you have renovated a couple of months ago in March, you could apply a nice feed now to ensure the optimum health of the lawn.  It’s best never to let the lawn get too hungry, and while feeds can last for up to 12 weeks, things like heavy rainfall can flush it through the lawn and cut this down to as little as a month.

    LAST MINUTE RENOVATION: Both scarification and aeration can still be carried out. However, as we head closer towards mid-summer, you may need to water the lawn to prevent stress; it’s a good idea to look at some weather forecasts to see if nature’s clouds can lend a hand.

    WEEDS: If you have weeds they’ll be doing really well by now! However, my advice remains the same; don’t drown the lawn in herbicide unless you really have to. Spot treatment works just as well even on stubborn weeds, and is much better for the garden.

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    One final tip – the warmer temperatures will really help germination, so if you have small areas to repair, now’s a good time.

  • Get a buzz by helping our bees!

    For six weeks this May and June, thousands of people across the UK will be on the look-out for bees.

    The 2018 Great British Bee Count takes place from 17 May to 30 June and is organised by the environment charity, Friends of the Earth.
    Bees
    Image by Domink Scythe (Unsplash)
    In last year’s count, participants spotted almost a third of a million bees, from the Shetland Islands in the north to the Isles of Scilly in the south.

    The findings are passed on to the National Biodiversity Network Atlas and help scientists get a better understanding of how the nation’s bees are coping – or not – with the threats that have already decimated their numbers.

    Around 270 bee species have been recorded in the UK – but our buzzy friends are in trouble, threatened by habitat loss, pesticides, intensive farming, disease and climate change. Thirteen British species are now extinct, and another 35 species are heading that way.

    Sadly, the countryside isn’t such a bee-friendly haven as it used to be. In the past 60 years, 97% of wildflower-rich meadows have been lost, which is why our gardens have become so important for bees.

    Here are 5 ways you can help them by providing their three necessities: Food (nectar and pollen), water and shelter.

    1 – Bees need a nice variety of food during all four seasons, so plant flowers, shrubs, veg, fruit trees and herbs that are bee-friendly and which between them, are available across the year. Pussy willow, lavender, apple and pear trees, hawthorn, honeysuckle, abelia, sunflower, clematis, mahonia, crocus, phacelia, perennial wallflower, snowdrops, chives, marjoram, sage, rosemary, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, kale, runner/broad bean and ivy are all recommended. The Royal Horticultural Society’s website has full lists of bee-friendly flowers and plants that you can download. But before buying your plants, check with staff whether pesticides have been used.

    2 – Create a mini-meadow. Get a bag with a nice mix of native wildflower seeds and sow in a section of a grassy area in your garden. Plant in the autumn for flowering in early and high summer, and in the spring for flowering in late summer and early autumn. Not only great for wildlife, but a stunning looker!

    3 – Stating the obvious, but don’t use bee-harming pesticides in your garden.

    4 – Provide a source of water for bees – but be careful not to use a container that might cause them to drown. There are lots of tips online on how to provide a safe drink for bees.

    5 – Finally, give bees a shelter. You don’t even have to go to the trouble of making a bee ‘house’, they’re available in garden centres. Place them in a south or south-east facing spot, at least a metre off the ground. Keep the entrance clear of any vegetation or other obstruction and ensure it stays dry, to prevent mould. In winter (Oct-Feb), this might require bringing the shelter into an unheated garage or shed to keep nesting bees safe and sound.

    The Friends of the Earth website has information on how to take part in the Great British Bee Count, using their free app. It also has a bee species identifier, so you know which type of bee you’ve spotted.

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