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Gardening in May 2009
by Pam Pickard
Welcome to this column, it is designed to help to encourage and inspire you in your gardening endeavours.
Now that we’re getting more sunny days, make sure that you take the opportunity to keep on top of those jobs to do in the garden such as weeding. Keep an eye on watering and be careful of late frosts if you’re planting up tender annuals. This is the ideal time to work on the lawn; just follow the steps in the guide to the perfect lawn. Look forward to the summer by introducing herbs in the border and get the best from your hanging baskets from tips to planting hanging baskets.
It’s the ideal time to visit gardens that show late spring flowering shrubs and trees at their best like Rhododendron, Azalea, Camelia, Magnolia and Lilac; places to go gives you some ideas.
In the greenhouse be aware of changing temperatures; shade with white shading paint and ensure air is circulated during the warm weather. Thin out seedlings to reduce competition and to produce best-sized crops.
The vegetable plot should be bustling with activity. Earth up potatoes to prevent tubers near the surface turning green. Remove excess raspberry suckers and net soft fruit to stop becoming bird food when fruit ripens. At the end of the month tender vegetables such as tomatoes and courgettes can be planted outdoors.
Vegetables to grow outdoors;
Guide to the perfect lawn
There does seem to be a national obsession with lawns. However simple growing a section of grass appears to be, the lawn brings gardeners more problems than the rest of the average garden in total! Here we look at common problems and solutions. Putting effort into your lawn now will reap rewards in the future.
Aerating helps to reduce the compaction resulting from daily use of the lawn. By punching holes with a garden fork at regular intervals; air is let into the roots. Leave the soil to expand into the holes or fill the holes with a top dressing.
Mowing regularly at least once a week in summer will keep the grass thick and deter weeds in spring. Remove lawn clippings which help weeds to spread.
The case against lawns: ‘green’ gardeners are concerned about the amount of chemicals used to keep golf greens and football pitches in perfect condition. Lawns require frequent watering and mowing lawns can contribute to CO2 emissions through using electric and petrol mowers. Well kept lawns are also not wildlife friendly.
Used at the back of the border lofty herbs such as Angelica reaches up to 2m in its second year. In winter its skeleton continues to provide a focal point. Fennel grows up to 1.5m and has a see through habit with feathery foliage. Bronze fennel has a brown-purple filigree form is a good mixer. A formal centrepiece for a border could be Laurus nobilis or Bay, to provide an evergreen focus.
Medium-sized shrubby herbs make useful border fillers; Sage, Salvia officinalis, has soft grey foliage with blue-purple lipped flowers in summer; a favourite with bees. Lavender and Rosemary also fit nicely in this middle of the border, shrubby set. As well as the usual blue, rosemary comes in pink; ‘Majorca Pink’, and white R. officinalis var. albiflorus. Lavender, a commonly used border plant, comes in a variety of colours from deep purple to pinks and white.
The curry plant, Helchrysum italicum, ia a useful source if finely cut, grey foliage and forms a solid year-round mass with yellow flowers in summer. Hyssop has the same delicate foliage in dark green and grows to around 60cm. This semi-evergreen, shrubby herb has a pungent minty flavour. The common variety has blue flowers but white or pink varieties are available. Annual herbs such as Basil and Dill are also worth adding totheborder.
At the edge of the border plant herbs that can be easily picked for cooking. Curly-leafed Parsley adds a refreshing, bright green edging to set off colourful bedding plants. Chives look very effectives under purple-leafed shrubs and can cope with a small degree of shade. By contrast a edging of Thyme will be happiest in poor, dry soil. Upright forms are best used in the border rather than creeping forms which get lost easily. Oregano or Marjoram can also be used to fill the same front-row niche, golden-leafed forms are just as good in the kitchen as green forms and some have blue flowers.
Places to go
Gardens to visit to see spring flowering shrubs and trees;
Gresgarth Hall, Caton 01424 770313
Gardens to visit for the use of herbs;
Pendle Heritage Centre
Holker Garden Festival – 29-31 May www.holker.co.uk – 015395 58838
Plant Hunters Fairs:
25 May 10:00am – 4:00pm
31 May 12:00pm – 4:00pm
All items mentioned are available in most garden centres or look on the Internet. Information provided accurate at time of writing. Photographs are taken by Pam Pickard
© Pam Pickard 09.05.09
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