Garden maintenance

Can I cut the heads off my hydrangeas?

When you mention pruning hydrangeas the first thing you’ll hear is “Don’t cut the heads off, the frost will kill them”. Well, as usual, it’s a bit more complicated than that. In fact some hydrangeas really appreciate a good prune in March, when you are not guaranteed frost free nights. These are Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens. These produce flower heads on the current year’s growth and can be thinned and cut down to about two feet. This will encourage growth and stop them from becoming too ‘leggy’. They are hardier than the more common ‘mop top’ hydrangeas and will not be damaged by late frosts Hydrangea macrophylla or the ‘mop heads’ Hydrangea macrophylla, commonly called the mop head hydrangeas, are n...

Getting Your Gardening Workout

The secret to exercise is finding something you love to do. However, for many people going to the gym and lifting iron doesn’t exactly inspire love — it’s more like loathing. Underneath the fluorescent lights and bass-heavy music, most of us would rather break free than break a sweat. For an effective gardening workout that connects you to the earth as well as your home, try gardening. This outdoor activity helps strengthen your body while contributing to the environment. An hour of gardening can burn up to 300 calories while relieving stress and increasing bone density. Here are some of the ways gardening acts as a super substitute for the gym. Build Your Core with Proper Bending When you’re working in the garden, you’ll find yourself hunched over from time to time. It’s important t...

How to avoid gardening accidents

With the Easter and May bank holidays upon us there are sure to be more strange attempts at gardening technique that will result in serious injury from gardening accidents. Here’s a few guidelines to help the more carefree gardeners avoid A&E this spring. High or awkward hedges are a great way of taking a nasty fall if you choose to improvise. Firstly, can you cut it from the ground if you had the right tools? There are plenty of long reach and extendable machines on the market that have multi attachments for a reasonable price. If you have to get off the ground to cut a high hedge, then try to avoid using a ladder and go for a platform instead. They are a good investment and there are numerous platform/stepladder combinations that offer good value. Remember, when you are cutting...

What shrubs can I prune in April?

Shrub pruning April Early spring flowering shrubs, such as lilac, forsythia, and rhododendron can be pruned after they have finished flowering. They flower on growth made the previous year, so they need to be cut back as soon as the flowers have finished to allow as much growth as possible during the year. The following spring they will produce flowers from this growth. When pruning, start by removing any dead or diseased looking wood. remove any crossing branches reduce the overall size of the shrub to fit your space  cut some of the older branches all the way to the ground to encourage new shoots

When should I prune my trees?

Winter Tree Prunung.General Rules Explained. The general rule of thumb is to work on dormant trees when the sap is down, and work on evergreens in the summer time. This reason to trim evergreens in the summer, is because their sap is still up ‘still growning’ and pruning can cause damage and weaken tree. Dormant or deciduous trees are best worked on when the sap is down, as this prevents the tree becoming weak and less susceptible to diseases. But these trees below need certain rules of thumb . Sycamores, maples, Limes, Horsechestnuts, Ashs, Hazels ie Most BroadLeaves to be worked on end of Autumn/Winter Start. At Sap Drop. Drupe Fruits, ie stone fruit. Plums, Almonds, Peaches, Nectarines etc prune after bud burst and no frosts to prevent silver leaf . Birches, Alders, elms, el...

Do daffodil bulbs spread from seed?

Do daffodil bulbs spread from seed? In short, yes they do. They also spread by dividing in to bulbils. If you want a good show of daffodils, you can grow them from seed, but they take at least five years before they will flower. The easiest way for a good show is to buy the bulbs from a garden centre or seed merchant. make sure that you plant them with the pointed end facing upwards and plant them at least 4 inches deep to prevent them dividing in to smaller non flowering bulbs. make sure that the spot you choose has at least three hours sun per day and avoid dark areas because the bulbs will not flower in full shade

How can I improve my clay soil?

Having a clay soil isn’t the end of the world, in fact, it’s very rich in ammonium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other elements. It can, however,  be a nightmare for drainage and difficult to work. One solution is to install some raised beds. It won’t improve the drainage much, but at least you can work the soil. If this doesn’t take your fancy, start by installing some drainage channels. These can be simple trenches filled with shingle leading to a soakaway. The soil texture can be improved over the years by the following steps How to improve the clay soil dig in some coarse grit add plenty of organic matter and dig well in. Well rotted manure or compost is best cover in a much of compost/organic matter to encourage earth worms and prevent the soil from drying...

Whats the best way to get rid of weeds in borders?

Hoeing There is no easy way to keep weeds out of your borders. It’s basically a case of tackling the problem little and often. Weeds will always eventually reappear in open ground so any measure is only temporary. By far the easy method is hoeing. Just chop off the weeds and drag them off of the top of the soil. There is no need to dig the roots out if you do it often enough. Tap root weeds will reappear in a fortnight but annual weeds will not reappear unless new weed seeds are present. This is why regular hoeing is essential-you must stop the weeds from flowering and producing more seeds. Digging  Much more effective than just hoeing at preventing weeds returning if you dig out the roots. The drawback is it takes so much longer to cover the area and it is back breaking work after a...

No respect

I had a new guy start working for me a few years ago and I mentioned to a customer that he was working in the garden next door. “Send him round to me, I’ll make him work” was the reply. This remark has stayed with me for years. It sort of summarised the underlying attititude of people to gardeners. The customer seemed to think that my new employee needed a hard labour punishment for becoming a gardener. The professional gardeners that I know take a lot of pride in their work. Imply that they are a bit expensive or that you dont like their uniforms and you’ll be ignored, but say that they are poor gardeners and you’ll get a swift and unfriendly response. Many gardeners are skilled with years spent learning techniques to keep a garden looking good all year, no m...

How many grass cuts per year?

So how many times do you cut your grass a year? Once a week or fortnightly? Most of our grass cutting contracts are one or the other with a minimum of 16 cuts. Any less than this and it’s a clearance cut on every visit. Could you get away with just 6 cuts per year? That’s between 5 and 6 weeks between cuts? Well Stevenage Borough Council seem to think so. For the last three years the verges have recieved just 6 cuts a year in order to save £ 30,000. The people of Stevenage have had to endure grass growing to heights in excess of 2ft during peak growing periods. When the grass is eventually cut they use a flail mower. This does not collect the grass but smashes it up and drives it back towards the ground in an attempt to lose the clippings mulching style. The problem is there is...

Is government waste policy a load of rubbish?

  When I first started my gardening business over 25 years ago one of the problems to overcome was what to do with green waste. Although most of my early customers had their own compost heaps, there were a few jobs where I ended up with a trailer load of grass to get rid of. I considered myself fortunate though, because my uncle had a sizeable farm two miles from my house. I came to an arrangement with him that I could have a corner of a very small field to compost my grass, not a problem for him as he was using the field to store horse manure from his stables. This arrangement went on for a few years, a cheap way to recycle my green waste well out in the countryside, and very environmentally friendly. Then came a knock at the door from a man from the environment agency. Apparently I ...

Is the Housing Association market closed to small businesses?

After 10 years of doing bigger and bigger private gardens, I decided to try and get in to subcontracting for councils. After a lot of letters I managed to get some small parish councils and my first Housing association contract. A recommendation from that contract gave me the opportunity to price for my first multi site contract of about 15 housing estates. When I won that contract I was on the path to being a fairly substantial local authority grounds maintenance contractor. Or so I thought. Sure, I had a good 10 years of growth, from then on, to the point where I had half a dozen guys, four vans and a rented industrial unit on a farm. It was stressful but it was a viable business and making me a decent living. The problem was the housing associations were growing as well. The small housi...

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