25 February 2014

February 2014 meeting.

This months meeting was a huge success, the speaker was  Steve Bradly, a Broadcaster on Radio Kent and Radio Essex. He also is a journalist for The Sun newspaper. Steve is a mine of garden information, his subject this evening was   Spring in the Garden –you can  hear Steve on Radio Kent on Sunday Mornings at 8am-11am. He illustrated his talk with photos

Steve with Peter.
He gave us numerous tips, the most memorable being, before doing the first cut of the lawn after the really soggy winter we have had, go over the lawn with a heavy garden broom, this makes the job easier. He discussed moss treatments, too, and said it is really important not to rake the dead moss up until it is straw coloured, otherwise the spores will just be spread, making the problem worse.  Still on the subject of lawns, there is help for dog owners whose dogs urinate on the grass, causing dead patches due to the acidity of the urine. There is a product from Australia, called Australian Rock, which is put into the dogs drinking water and causes it to be more alkaline, thereby stopping the burn. If the owners have no control over where the dog drinks, for example if it drinks from a pond or puddles, adding tomato puree to his food can have the same effect.
If re-seeding any patches are necessary, that needs to be done when the soil warms up, not now. The soil needs to be raked over before adding the seed. The re-seeded  patches can also be covered by fleece or hessian, but must be removed AS SOON AS THE SEEDS GERMINATE. A good tip he gave us was to Seed Prime, this is where the seeds are germinated in a bucket of compost in a warm place & then sprinkled over the lawn. This speeds up the process considerably.
He advised us on cutting back hard of various plants, especially Mahonia and fuchsias, ensuring the secateurs are sharp to prevent bruising, which can lead to infection entering a cut.
A point which was especially pertinent to me was how to control the growth of a tree which is becoming too big. This is done by a process called Barkering. A piece of bark is removed from the tree, but a small "bridge" is left. A "bandage" is applied to stop any infection entering it, this can be just a piece of electricians tape wound around the tree. This is repeated every two years, in a different part of the bark each time. This is effective in slowing the growth, rather than just cutting it back, as this will encourage it to grow larger. I shall be trying this on the large Pyrocanther in my front garden. When I last tried to climb a ladder to cut the top , I missed my footing on the last step and cracked my ribs on a planter, which rather put me off! The next time I got a "professional tree surgeon" to do it, but he nearly massacred it with a chain saw.
Numerous helpful tips were given, especially the use of empty plastic water bottles, these can be used to protect vulnerable plants from weed killer when spraying nearby, also, a hole can be cut in it about half way down so the spray doesn't have to be tipped up so much, making  more use of the fluid inside. It can also protect small plants from frost. The leaves should not touch the plastic though.
Container plants do not necessarily have to be moved into larger pots each year, if the top 3 or 4 inches of compost is scraped off and replaced with new. This will also remove any Vine Weavel grubs.  If a layer of grit is put over the top, it will discourage the adult Vine Weavel from laying its' eggs. Water well after renewing the compost.
Bulbs should be fed after flowering, not before. They should be dead-headed and if in pots, a tomato fertiliser added. If in the borders, Sulphate of Potash used.
If squirrels are a problem and they keep digging up the bulbs, a good idea is to grate some perfumed soap over them, that should deter them.
If planting peonies, DON'T plant  too deeply, the sun needs to be on the top of the corm in order for flowers to be formed.
Mint can be contained by planting in a drainage pipe, or similar deep container, to stop it taking over the area it is planted in.
Lastly, he advised not to put potted herbs from the supermarket near to indoor plants. Apparently, biological controls are used to control spidermite in them. Due to temperature changes they can become active again, going on to infect the house plants. I have moved my pot of parsley well away from the orchid I had for my birthday!
During the interval the raffle was called as usual. Steve had donated a lot of colourful spring flowers to add to it.
It was a most informative and enjoyable evening. I hope we can see more of Steve in future.