December 2013 Newsletter

December Newsletter

Well it’s December - long nights, short dark days, frost, rain and snow - and I’m a real bundle of joy until March when the lighter nights start to kick in! I’m afraid I’m really not a winter person, having said that on a crisp and frosty sunny winter day a nice long walk in the fresh air can blow even my cobwebs away!

If it isn’t a bright sunny day you can always sit back and browse the catalogue and try to decide what you would like to grow next year, there are some great new varieties to try. Check out the website too we have some inspirational gardening and home gift ideas to tempt you.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year and look forward to a great growing year for 2014.

If you are at a bit of a loss for gift ideas – I will now try to inspire you! Check out the website and choose from a great range of Christmas gifts. For an instant Christmas feel how about Silver or Gold Dipped Amaryllis bulbs, these large bulbs need no water and will send up two, sometimes three flower stems! For an extra special gift Potted Bay trees add a touch of designer chic to a porch or conservatory and they come ready gift wrapped too.
The Aged Metal Bird Feeder will give a whimsical touch to any garden it’s pretty and very practical too. Speaking of practical I’m hoping someone will buy me the Cast Iron Bootjack and Scraper - the strong bristles should make short work of my muddy boots and the curved heel rest will help ease my boots off at the end of a hard day in the garden - it’s just what I need outside the back door!

You will find gifts to encourage Wildlife, plus plenty to inspire novice gardeners to get involved. In fact there’s something for everyone this Christmas so enjoy browsing our selection of Gardening Gifts - we've certainly had fun choosing them.

Damp, cold and wet weather also causes an unattractive build up of algae on patios, paving and fences which can soon become slippery. EcoSure Green-Off is a safe and environmentally friendly way of removing algae from all garden surfaces. This biological control contains natural enzymes and cultures which effectively remove algae and the results last for months. It’s easy to use, simply mix the desired amount and spray over the desired area and leave it to work its magic! It will remove algae from decking, stone paths, patios, steps and drives, greenhouse glass, pots and urns, wooden sheds and fencing.

Citrox Garden and Greenhouse Cleaner is a powerful concentrated organic citrus extract disinfectant for cleaning greenhouses, pots, staging, tools and seed trays. It can safely be used to clean bird feeders and bird baths – I use it to clean my chicken feeders.  A diluted solution can be added to water butts to keep water sweet and free from disease.

Protect brassicas and any other vulnerable crops from pigeons as they will be on the lookout for food right now, and your Cabbages, Cauliflower and Kale plants will make a suitably tasty winter meal! Grazers is an effective and easy solution to prevent damage caused by grazing rabbits, pigeons and deer. It is nutrient based, so it can be sprayed safely on Ornamentals, Shrubs, Bedding, Fruit or Vegetables and Lawns and acts by making the plant unpalatable to most grazing animals. It is odourless to the human nose, and safe for pets. Alternatively Net your Brassicas to keep them well away. If you use Insect Netting it will also give a bit of extra protection from the worst of the weather and help keep them free from any early spring pests too. Don’t leave any heavy snow on the top of the netting though otherwise it could collapse onto your plants with the weight.

If you really love the fresh taste of the very earliest crop of delicious New Potatoes and you have a greenhouse our Potato Grow Kit with the earliest maturing potato, Swift, will give you just that. Plant it up in a greenhouse in January and you’ll get a tasty crop of First Earlies almost before you’ve planted any outdoors! And don’t forget if you’ve already got your Gro-Sacks you can buy 15 tuber refill packs of Charlotte, Swift and Hunter Seed Potatoes. Don’t forget to get your order in so you can plant early.

Make sure tree guards are intact around the base of young Apple, Pear and other Fruit Trees. Rabbits can wreak havoc at this time of year and they love a bit of tender bark to nibble on! Remove any mummified fruit, from Fruit Bushes and Fruit Trees to reduce any risk of infection. Check any stored Top Fruit regularly and remove any that are beginning to go mouldy or rotten - you can add these to your bird table, the birds will be very grateful! If there has been a heavy fall of snow, take a bit of time to knock the snow from the branches of Fruit Trees and Bushes to prevent them breaking under the weight.



Tips for the garden...

Remove any yellow leaves from over wintering brassicas to avoid any spread of disease and get rid of any pests that may be hiding in the old foliage. Clear away the remains of any other old crops in the veg garden and add to the compost heap. Slugs in particular can still be a threat and they love to hide under fallen leaves and plant debris. Stake or earth up Brussels Sprouts to prevent wind rock and keep harvesting Leeks, Parsnips, Celery, Kale and Winter Lettuce.  Avoid putting Asparagus tops on the compost heap in case there are any overwintering Asparagus beetles hiding in the dead foliage destroy by burning the old stems if possible. If you do have a problem with Asparagus Beetle try Plant Rescue Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, it is effective on a whole range of pests.

Lift and divide established clumps of Rhubarb to keep the plants healthy and vigorous. Lift the congested plant and split into three or four crowns with a sharp spade, making sure each piece has at least one good bud or ‘eye’ which will develop the next crop. The outer parts of the crown will be better than the centres and any old or decayed parts of the crown can be discarded. Replant your Rhubarb crowns immediately with the growing point at, or just below the soil surface, spacing them 1m (3ft) apart. If you don’t yet have Rhubarb in your garden order your plants now, they can be planted any time between January and March.

If you have a greenhouse and are over-wintering tender plants such as Geraniums or Fuchsias strip all remaining leaves and reduce the stems by two thirds. Remove all debris to reduce risk of fungal diseases. Try to keep plenty of air flowing around the plants. Wrapping pots with Fleece Tubes or Fleece will to help prevent roots  freezing and cover completely with Fleece during very cold spells.  If appropriate line your greenhouse with bubble-wrap to help protect vulnerable plants.

You might even think seriously about a Greenhouse Heater, they are thermostatically controlled and automatically activate at temperatures below 5°C. There is a heater to suit all sizes of greenhouse.

If you don’t have greenhouse but would still like to try to keep some of your tender plants over winter, group the pots together in a sheltered corner of the garden wrapping each pot and plant in Fleece or Fleece Tubes and then cover the whole group with several more layers of Fleece tucking it under the pots to give them as much protection as possible. Tender plants will often recover from frost damaged stems by shooting from the base, but are unlikely to regenerate if the roots have been frozen so protect these too. They can often be rejuvenated by hard pruning in early spring.

To encourage more wildlife into your garden don’t be in too much of a rush to cut everything back. Leave seed heads and berries on plants for animals and birds to eat and insects such as ladybirds and lacewings to hibernate in. Hardy Fuchsias and perennials such as Penstemons and Verbena Bonariensis will benefit from having the stems left on over winter to give some protection to the crown of the plant. Cut these stems hard back in early spring once you see the first new buds breaking from the base of the plants. Plants with decorative seed heads such as Love in a Mist, Echinacea or Fennel look really attractive during winter and help feed the birds too and many grasses look spectacular when it’s frosty, especially the taller varieties. A small stack of old logs in a quiet corner can provide shelter for frogs, toads and lots of other wildlife.