October 27, 2020

Gardening Tips from ‘The English Lady’ for October — a Month of Soft Sunshine, Consummate Color

The stunning colors of fall Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash.

Welcome to October everyone.

I love gentle breezes of all and soft sunshine and the foliage colors are breathtaking. The soil is still warm and you can plant until the first week of November.  In fact, early November is a great time to plant spring bulbs.

You also have time over the next few weeks to divide summer blooming perennials, which have been in the ground for three years or more. Dividing perennials gives them a new lease on life and encourages more prolific bloom next season. The rules on transplanting also cover dividing.

Fall planting with soil remaining above 40 degrees gives plants a head start on those planted in spring.  This is especially true, when we have a late, cold, wet spring, which has happened in recent years. However, evergreens will have to wait until next spring, as they cannot be planted after September; the reason being is they have shallow roots and need time to establish young roots before the heavy frosts.

Early spring blooming perennials such as Iris can be divided up to the second week of October; the soil should still be quite warm and with adequate moisture there will be enough root growth to anchor these divisions before frost heave becomes a problem.

When dividing Iris cover the horizontal root divisions (the rhizomes) with just enough soil so they do not topple over, any deeper and they will not flower, of course add composted manure around them when planted.

PLANTING AND TRANSPLANTING PLANTS

In fall the soil remains warm enough for planting through October and this year even into mid November. When planting a tree or shrub, dig la hole at least one and a half times as wide, not deep, as the root ball.

Another cardinal rule: Do not plant the tree or shrub any deeper than it is in the container or balled burlap. Or when transplanting any plant, tree, and shrub, perennial do not plant any deeper than it was originally in your garden as planting too deep can be the death of plants.

If you are unable to dig to any depth for your plant in the case of ledge in your garden, berm up the soil on the ledge and plant so that part of the root ball is above the soil grade, mounding soil around it.

Handle your tree or shrub by its root ball, not by the trunk or branches.  After planting and transplanting add composted manure and, one part compost to three parts manure. If you do not have compost, manure is excellent.  Water deeply, slowly and thoroughly when planting and at least twice a week through the fall until the first hard frost, which in this part of New England is usually about the second week of November.

The following trees are not good candidates for fall planting: Birches, Larches, Gingko, Oaks, Magnolia, and all flowering fruit and flowering trees as well as the Eastern Red Cedar.  These trees have fleshy root systems and their feeder roots are  not large when young and take time to establish, therefore are susceptible to frost heave.

Also some perennials that do not like to be planted in fall are Artemisia, Lambs Ears, Foxglove, Penstemon, Anemone, Campanula, Kniphofia, Lupines, Scabiosa, Ferns and Grasses.

Plant garlic! Photo by Lobo Studio on Unsplash.

Plant garlic this fall – garlic is the antibiotic of the garden. Plant it under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease, next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae or pour garlic water into ponds, bird baths and fountains to deter adult mosquitoes.

At this juncture I want to speak as to what Franklin D Roosevelt said in 1937 that,  ‘The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself’. America has not heeded that warning. Precious soils in this country and around the world are being destroyed by dangerous practices in industrialized agriculture and poisonous chemicals, which completely disrupts our eco system and poisoning all living things.

THE HUMUS COMPONENT

The Humus component – good news for organic gardeners – in your own garden you can build and retain a rich growing environment by building the Humus component. We are all carbon-based creatures as is all life on earth. Not only humans but also our soil microbes need carbon to flourish.  To attract carbon from the atmosphere needed to build the humus component.

To begin the process of humus – add composted manure three times throughout the year  – early May, July and October. Manure builds soil structure and provides a rich planting environment for the following season by encouraging the millions of soil animals down below to manufacture nutrients for the roots of the plants.

Plus add mulch in the form of natural brown fine bark mulch or wood chips that you produce from your garden – aged wood chips with a combo of leaves, twigs and branches.

With manure and fine bark mulch, you are building the humus component.  The manure and mulch attracts carbon from the air, which builds the richest organic planting environment – the humus component.

Mulching the garden and in particular any plants planted, divided or transplanted this fall with two inches of fine bark mulch, after the ground begins to cool in late October, will keep warmth and moisture in the soil and protect the roots of your plants through the winter.

You are probably asking what are the benefits of humus?

Firstly, humus acts like a sponge and holds 90 percent of its weight in water

Then, because of its negative charge, plant nutrients stick to humus with nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other elements, which prevents these from washing away, so humus acts as nature’s slow-release fertilizer.

Humus also improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plant root in the soil and makes for better access to nutrients, water and oxygen. It also helps’ filter’ toxic chemicals from the soil, mulch like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.

We cannot control industrialized agricultural practices – but in your own garden you can make a difference.   Grow the soil and the soil will grow the plants.

Mulch and peat, which provide the acidity, are particularly important for any newly planted broadleaf evergreens installed in September. As mentioned previously, evergreens are shallow rooted, and can heave above ground in hard frosts.  I suggest that you store a few bags of topsoil and mulch in the shed or garage.  When you see exposed roots from frost heave, cover them with the soil and mulch until the plant can be resettled next spring.

THE VEGETABLE GARDEN

Now let’s look at what should be done now in the vegetable garden focusing first on cover crops.  Next week I will cut down the finished crops and dig them lightly into the soil.

This year, my choice for a cover crop in one area of the vegetable garden, this year is Alfalfa, which has 3.4 percent nitrogen content, and on the opposite side of the garden, I will plant Buckwheat, which has 1.4 percent nitrogen content and also provides nectar for beneficial insects.

White clover is a good cover crop.

I will then cover the seeds with organic composted manure. There are many cover crops to choose from; I use white clover and rye grass in alternate years.  In spring when the earth is workable not too wet or cold, the cover crop is turned into the earth as ‘green manure’.

There is nothing better than your own homegrown organic vegetables – good for you and for the environment.

The less hectic pace of fall provides an opportunity to rethink your gardens. The garden’s pre-winter grooming can wait for a few weeks.  You may feel that you would like a professional design, having thrown good money after bad and nothing looks right.

If that is so then contact someone that you trust to work with you to create a plan in the fall and winter, which can be phased in beginning next spring.  Engage someone who will listen to your wants and stays within your budget.  My son, Ian of Landscapes by Ian, always says, ‘It is not what you do in the garden, but how it makes you feel’.

SPRING BULBS 

October is the time to plant daffodils.’ Photo by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash.

Daffodils – choose early, mid season and late blooming Daffodils, which will give you a succession of bloom.  Be adventurous this year and go for masses of a single color for the greatest impact. No matter how small your planting area, it is the intensity that counts, with two or three dozen red Tulips or a hundred Daffodils planted on your woodland edge.

Buying daffodils in large numbers in less expensive, it’s true the bulbs are usually smaller but that is not a problem because daffodil bulbs grow in size each year they are in the ground. Even though many say that the bulbs should be spaced six inches apart, there is no reason they cannot touch.

Apply some composted manure or bulbs food on the soil where bulbs are planted.  Wear gloves when you plant bulbs as they contain a skin irritant, which may cause a rash.

The general rule is to plant bulbs about three times as deep as the bulb is tall and with the pointed end up.  This method is appropriate for most bulbs although tulips should be planted about twelve inches down if you want to have bloom for a second year. Daffodils should be planted no less than nine inches down, which is below the frost line.  Don’t plant the bulbs singly for the most colorful impact– plant in groups of odd numbers, 5,7 or 9 bulbs (odd numbers are harmonious in nature).

Small bulbs like crocus, can be tossed gently into a shallow trench with composted manure on the bottom of the trench, about three inches deep and plant them where they land, pointed side up. For larger bulbs like tulips and daffodils dig a trench about nine inches deep and three or four feet long also of course with composted manure on the bottom and scatter these larger bulbs in the trench, also with the pointed end of the bulb faces up!

Personally, I treat tulips as annuals because their first year’s bloom is the best, after that first year the bloom is never as full and vibrant; the only exception to this is the parrot tulip, which flourish for years.

Tulips are the ‘caviar’ of the bulb family. The best method to prevent them from becoming a tasty item on the rodent’s menu is to soak them in an organic deer repellent, which also repels rodents. Allow the tulip bulbs to dry before planting.

If you are unable to plants your bulbs immediately when purchased, keep them in a cool, dry place in paper bags.  The best time to plant spring bulbs in the Northeast is in mid- November.

Observe Mother Nature; plants in nature do not grow in straight lines but in gentle curves that connect harmoniously with the earth.

TREE WORK

Choose a licensed arborist. This work is much less expensive to have done in the fall after the foliage has fallen, then the arborist is able to see more clearly what needs to be done and the work goes faster – meaning less labor time and less expensive.

Choose a licensed arborist to tend to your trees. Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash.

If you have deep shade and want more sunlight in an area, ask the arborist to thin out the tree’s canopy and prune lower branches to make for a sunnier area, this will give you more choice of plants, that grow in dappled rather than deep shade.

If you have a badly damaged tree, meaning over 50 percent damaged or diseased then have it removed, which allows for a sun garden or perhaps the vegetable garden you have always wanted.

PERENNIALS AND ORNAMENTAL GRASSES

I do not cut down my spent perennials in fall, leaving them up so that I can enjoy the browns, grays, and yellows and faded greens, which blend gently with winter’s muted landscape. Also the seed heads of the perennials are wonderful snacks for the birds. And in the dead of winter, what better sight than a red cardinal on the Winterberry bush in the snow.

Also wait until next April to cut down ornamental grasses; their graceful foliage is lovely to enjoy with the icicles on them shining in the pale winter sun.

Any spent perennials that show disease should be cut down but if the plant is more than one third diseased it should be dug up and discarded. The diseased material cleaned up and discarded it in the garbage not in the compost. Clean up any fallen plant debris from the soil and only if it is disease= and weed-free, can it be added to the compost pile.

SIGNS OF FROST

You can foretell a hard frost when you notice the afternoon temperature falling fast under a clear sky.  Assess the wind, by taking a long strip of plastic, like a shopping bag from the supermarket, and hang it from a tree branch. As long as the bag flutters about a foot in either direction, you do not have to worry about frost, but if it blows vigorously then frost is on the way.  If you still have plants in the garden that are of concern, cover them with salt hay, newspapers or light weight old quilts and put a brown paper bag from the grocery store over smaller plants like herbs, anchored down with rocks.

Your houseplants should be indoors by now. Following their summer sojourn outdoors. Wash the pots thoroughly and add fresh potting soil.  Then replant the plant at the same depth it was at originally and put in the sink or shower and allow water to wash the foliage and water the plant well.  If the plant has outgrown its pot, transplant it to the next size clean pot, only one and a half inches larger.

If you have any gardening questions, feel free to email me at MaureenHaseleyJones@gmail.com and I will see you in your garden in November.

Maureen Haseley-Jones

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

Share

Gardening with The English Lady: Tips for September, the Month of ‘Warmth, Depth and Color’ (Patience Strong)

‘Warmth, depth and color’ on show in this autumn garden. Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash.

Rain through August has been quite plentiful. The weeds continue to grow but I have been able to keep a handle on them with the use of natural Bradfield Organics corn gluten-based weed pre-emergent, which can be purchased at any reputable garden center.

Blue hydrangeas. Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash.

HYDRANGEAS … AND THEIR PRUNING

The reason that Hydrangeas do not bloom is that gardeners prune them at the wrong time.  If you feel that your Hydrangea macrophylla needs ventilation, as the growth has become too dense. then prune by the middle of September. The reason being, that Hydrangeas set their buds for next season by late September; consequently, later pruning will cut off those buds, which negates any chance of bloom for next season or even the following season.  

Now that September has arrived, prune any old woody stems that have not bloomed well and any weak new shoots.  After pruning, apply a few inches of composted manure and some peat followed by a top dressing of natural brown bark mulch.  The peat aids acidity in the soil, which is necessary as Hydrangeas may become chlorotic if the soil is too alkaline. By the way, chlorotic means abnormal reduction or loss of normal green coloration of the leaves of plants.

Hydrangeas also do not like to be transplanted; transplanting them can result in little to no bloom for many seasons. 

This fall, as you contemplate your landscape, think on the past season as to what worked for you and what you will never try again. 

Unfortunately, mint has taken over the border beneath my Franklinia tree. Many years ago my friend Roz, was kindly lending a hand in the garden and planted mint in the garden instead of a large container I located for that very purpose.  As I was busy with other garden chores at that moment, by the time I noticed the error, six months had gone by and the mint was rampant among the blue myrtle edging the borders. Please take note that mint is extremely invasive and should only be planted in containers where its wayward habits can be controlled.

‘A gardener’s work is never done’, with that being said, in September after all your hard labor in the growing season, take a break. Sit outside and inhale the late garden fragrances and allow Mother Nature to anchor and relax you. 

This month, gardening chores are not overwhelming so enjoy the autumn sunshine, pleasantly warm on the face with cool breezes that are so welcome.  

In the early morning, I like to sit on my patio near the herb garden, looking at my sage, making a note to cut some to take indoors for drying and in my recipes.  I will also gather sage and lavender, which will be tied with string into small bunches to hang in my closets; this helps to repel moths. I also insert small bunches of lavender in drawers to keep moths from devouring my woolens as insects do not like fragrance. 

In your vegetable garden, sow spinach for spring harvest and sow a cover crop like winter rye, which can be dug in next spring together with composted manure as green manure. Green manure gives a rich growing environment for next year’s vegetables. 

Now is the time to get your fall compost pile cooking with the last of the grass clippings, spent perennials, leaves and small woody twigs.  

It’s also the time to dig up, divide and replant overgrown perennials. Follow this method every three to four years to ensure vibrant bloom from these plants. Never plant or transplant any division or transplant deeper in the soil than it is now or any deeper than the plant sits in the pot.

In the less hectic pace of fall, early autumn is the time to re-think your gardens. The garden’s pre-winter grooming will wait for a few weeks.  You may feel that you would like to have a professional design as you have decided that your borders are not up to scratch.

If that is so, then contact someone that you trust to create a plan in the fall and winter, which can be phased in beginning next spring.  Engage someone who will listen to your thoughts and stay within your budget.  

Peonies in bloom. Photo by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash.

PEONIES 

September is the month to plant and transplant Peonies.  Do not plant them deeply or they will not bloom, that means only have enough soil to hold them erect with  the ‘pink eyes’ on the roots barely covered.  Plant them with a light application of composted manure around the plant.  Then in November, following the first hard frost, cut down the Peony foliage to about four inches from the ground. 

In a few weeks, the bright vibrancy of autumn color will appear on the maples. Fall’s brilliant autumn finery is the last hurrah, before winter sets in. Climbing up the red milk shed near the barn, the buds on the autumn clematis are beginning to unfurl and in the herb garden, autumn crocus, asters and sedum will take their curtain calls. 

In order for your soil to remain healthy, add a reasonable layer of composted manure to all the borders now or in early October, together with a two-inch layer of fine bark mulch around to all newly-planted and -transplanted perennials and shrubs.  With the application of the manure and mulch, you are continuing to build the humus component, which will ensure a rich growing environment for spring and protect the plants from winter’s harsh conditions.  

I do not cut down my spent perennials but leave them up for the birds, as the ripened seed heads are a delicious treat.  Following the vibrancy of summer bloom, I enjoy the softer subtle colors of gray, brown and yellow of spent perennials and grasses blending naturally with the muted winter landscape, which to me offers a resting of the senses. 

A TIME FOR PLANTING

Early- to mid-October is a great time to be planting. The benefits of fall planting for trees, shrubs and perennials include giving them a head-start with root development over those planted in the spring. This is especially so when we experience a late spring when planting cannot begin until late April. In New England’s fall, the cooler temperatures and still warm soil encourage the plants to direct their energy into producing strong roots.   

Any new evergreens you have acquired must be planted in early October. The reason being that evergreens are shallow rooted and need time to establish before the ground freezes. Root growth will continue in fall, as long as soil temperature is above 40 degrees, which here in Connecticut, is about the second week of November.

Plant the evergreens with peat and composted manure and natural brown mulch around the plants and water until the ground freezes in November. Keep the mulch about six inches away from the trunks so that rodents do not take up residence and gnaw on the bark. 

Evergreens lose water quickly when exposed to cold winter wind, especially for broad leaf evergreens like the rhododendrons. Natural additions of mulch around the plants help to keep them moist and protected from the damage of bitter windblasts.

Small evergreens can be protected by loosely covering with burlap. The same treatment can be given to rose bushes. Continue watering all newly-planted trees, shrubs and perennials until the ground freezes.

The following trees are not good candidates for fall planting: Birches, Larches, Gingko, Oaks, Magnolia, and all flowering fruit and flowering trees as well as the Eastern Red Cedar.  These trees have fleshy root systems and their feeder roots are not large when young and take time to establish; they therefore are susceptible to frost heave.

Also some perennials that do not like to be planted in fall are Artemisia, Lambs Ears, Foxglove, Penstemon, Anemone, Campanula, Kniphofia, Lupines, Scabiosa, Ferns and Grasses. 

Plant garlic this month for harvest next June – garlic is the antibiotic of the garden. Plant it under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease, next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae or pour garlic water into ponds, bird baths and fountains to deter adult mosquitoes. 

BARGAINS

This is a good time to pick up end of season plant bargains. Most nurseries and garden centers reduce their prices so they do not have to winter plants over in the nursery. However, keep your eyes open for the following problem plants:

POTBOUND PLANTS

Check the bottom of the pot to see if the roots are growing through the holes.  If not, gently tap the plant out of the container to see if it has a network of overlapping roots that wrap around the root ball.  It is possible to salvage a root-bound plant, which is suffering from water and nutrient deficiencies over the summer, but it will be slow to root. Before you plant this one in your garden, cut the encircling roots – the roots will now be shorter but will take root easier. 

DISEASED PLANTS 

Plants that have been in containers all summer and have been fed high nitrogen fertilizers are easy targets for pests and diseases. Check for spots on the foliage, wilted or curling leaves and discolored roots, as well as visible signs of pest damage and infestation such as webbing or sticky residue on foliage. Not only would these plants do poorly in the garden but could infect your other plants and the soil.  Soil-borne diseases are the most difficult to deal with.

BADLY-SHAPED PLANTS

Badly shaped plants are the ‘Charlie Brown’ Christmas trees of the plant world, the unwanted orphans that have been passed over year after year; these are the runts of the litter!  Do not set yourself up for disappointment looking at an ugly tree or shrub just to save a few dollars.

MISLABLED PLANTS

At the end of the season, many plant tags have been lost or mixed up, which means you are likely to get a perennial with flowers that are not the color you expected. Or you may buy a deciduous tree or shrub when you were looking for an evergreen variety. Stick to the plants that are part of large displays of identically-labeled plants or with labels so firmly attached that look like they have been there for a while.

With any and all above-mentioned plants – always add composted manure around the plant and do not plant any deeper than it is in its pot or burlap wrapping. Always wear gloves when working with manure; there is bacteria in the manure – great for the soil but not healthy for you. 

Please note that the bargain you get is often not worth the discount price. 

NEW LAWN OR PATCH SEEDING 

Photo by Chris Zhang on Unsplash.

September is an excellent time to plant new grass — the young grass plants will have the advantage over weeds. Do not buy cheap seed, you reap what you sow! 

Gently de-thatch the areas that you wish to overseed or patch. Do not use the large thatching machines, which can damage existing grass. Add some composted manure to the area, broadcast the seed and cover the newly-seeded grass area with salt hay (free from weed seed). Do not allow the soil surface to dry out, keep it moist. Do not saturate the area or the seed will wash away.  

When the grass appears, stay off it, do not mow and leave the salt hay to rot.  Next spring, a healthy lawn will emerge and if there are a few bare patches in April, you can fill in those spots. 

‘A host of golden daffodils.’ Photo by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash.

I hope your spring bulb orders are in by now. Be adventurous this year and go for masses of a single color for the greatest impact. No matter how small your planting area, it is the intensity that counts, with two or three dozen red Tulips or a hundred Daffodils planted on your woodland edge. 

Buying daffodils in large numbers is less expensive, although the bulbs are usually smaller – this is not a problem as daffodil bulbs grow larger each year. Even though many say the spacing between these larger bulbs should be six inches, there is no reason they cannot touch.  

Put some composted manure or bulb food on the soil where the bulbs are planted. Make sure you plant the Daffodils eight inches below the frost line, with the pointed end up. Wear gloves when you plant bulbs as they have a skin irritant, which may cause a rash.

If you cannot plant your bulbs when you receive them, store them in a cool, dry place in paper bags.  The best time to plant spring bulbs in the Northeast is the end of October to the middle of November.

Lily of the Valley can be transplanted this month, but wear gloves because there is toxicity in this plant.  

Dig up your gladioli corms, Calla bulbs, Elephant ear bulbs and Dahlia tubers when the foliage turns yellow.  Lay them in the sun to “cure” and store them in a cool, dry dark place. When you dig the Dahlia tubers, do not pull them, pulling can break the tubers. 

In early September after their summer sojourn outdoors, take your houseplants indoors and wash the foliage gently and repot with new potting soil into a clean container. Repot those plants that have outgrown their pots to a clean container that is only one size larger. 

Fall and early winter is a great time to do stonework – dry-laid paths, walls and patios, as well as repairing fences, arbors and pergolas, and building decks. Paint wooden outdoor furniture with eco-conscious paint before putting them undercover for winter. In October, I will tell you more about how to go about stonework.   

September is a gardener’s paradise; the air is cooler, the soil easy to work and you will not overheat with the effort.  Stay awhile in your garden; enjoy the comforting fragrance of fall.       

I’ll see you in your garden next month. Meanwhile, e-mail me with gardening questions at MaureenHaseleyJones@gmail.com

Maureen Haseley-Jones

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

Share

Gardening with ‘The English Lady’: Tips for August, “The Sunday of Summer”

Beautiful borders are a sure sign of summer. Photo by LandscapesbyIanLLC.com.

August has always been one of my least favorite months in the garden; but plentiful spring has resulted in bountiful fragrance, bloom and foliage. 

We have such a short blooming and growing season here in New England that any extra time to have a good-looking border is much appreciated. However, by this time in the season, there are always a few gaps to fill in with annuals or some later-blooming perennials as our gardens are a constant changing scene of beauty in motion.  

Plantings that looked good last year, may be oversized, and desperately in need of division or transplant. This task can be tackled in September when the weather is cooler, when you can venture into your borders and transplant some specimens out for every plant has its own space with plenty of air circulation and is able to perform with optimal health.

Divide those plants that have been in the soil for four years or more and which at this juncture you notice that they are not blooming so profusely. I am sure you have fellow gardeners who will be thrilled to receive some of the divisions. 

Keep up with your deadheading so that your garden will always appear fresh and perky. After the hot, dry days we have had of late watering is of major importance. Ensure your garden receives at least one inch of water a week with containers requiring a daily dose of water, in the early morning and early evening. 

Soaker hoses are a much more efficient method of watering as the water goes straight to the roots where it is needed. With soaker hoses you will not lose 40 percent of moisture to evaporation and will also prevent water from landing on the foliage, which can result in disease and mildew.

When you cut back tired-looking annuals, you will be pleasantly surprised to see a new flush of bloom in a short time.  If on closer inspection, you notice your borders are looking somewhat weary, then give them a boost of bright new plants to perk things up.  Do check around as garden centers are often offering late season bargains.

When the perennial Coreopsis and Spirea has finished blooming, cut off the dead blooms with the garden shears and anticipate the appearance of vibrant bright blooms shortly.  

Roses are always a delight to behold … but stop feeding them in August!

Roses

It is important to stop feeding roses now in August. Roses require at least nine weeks without using their energy on new bloom for them to gently retreat into a slow healthy dormancy before the first frost. In my September tips, I will give you suggestions on partially pruning roses in early fall, followed by a second pruning the following April. This double pruning method produces the healthiest and most prolific bloom. 

Containers

Photo by LandscapesbyIanLLC.com.

Give your containers a little extra composted manure every couple of weeks when watering to keep the look of the containers bright and cheerful. Add the manure on top of the natural brown mulch as both manure and mulch help retain moisture and helps retard weeds.

If in the morning you do not have time to water the containers before you go off to work or run errands, simply empty your ice trays into the containers, this will provide slow release watering until you are able to add more when you return home.   

With the heat and humidity which we have been experiencing in recent days, powdery mildew maybe appearing on certain species like summer phlox, Monarda and Hydrangeas.  If you notice this problem, I suggest you spray with my remedy of one gallon of water in a spray container adding one tablespoon of baking soda and a dash of vegetable oil.  Always spray in the morning before the temperature and humidity numbers, when added together equal 160.  

Continue adding more composted manure to vegetables each month, as vegetables — particularly annual vegetables — are heavy feeders. To prevent animals from munching on your precious bounty, place an old sneaker or a piece of carpet that your dog had lain on for a while, in among the vegetables; these odors help to keep furry marauders away. 

Peonies by Jessica Fadel on Unsplash.

Peonies

Place your orders for Peonies now so they can be delivered for September planting. September is the only month suitable to transplant, divide or plant new Peonies.

Following the first hard frost in November, cut any existing Peonies to six inches from the ground and add a little natural brown mulch around them to protect the pink-eyed roots, which are close to the soil surface. When planting Peonies or transplanting them, make sure that the ‘pink eyes’ on the roots are barely covered with soil — if planted any deeper, it is likely that you may not have bloom next year.  

Begin compiling your list of spring bulbs now for the best choice of bulbs to be available for you.

Please feel free to email me with any gardening questions to MaureenHaseleyJones@gmail.com. I look forward to seeing you in your garden in September, in the meantime enjoy being outdoors.

Maureen Haseley-Jones

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

Share

Gardening with ‘The English Lady’: Tips for July, a Month That Offers ‘A Blind Date With Summer’

A garden in July can be a riot of color.

“July is a blind date with summer,” says Hal Borland. Such a wonderful description of a beautiful month, so let’s take a walk in the garden!

WATERING

A sprinkler can be an effective watering method. Photo by Anthony Lee on Unsplash.

Watering is so important during the heat of summer. If you planted trees or shrubs this spring, particularly evergreens, these plants require extra moisture to establish a strong root system. We have had an abundant amount of rain this spring and into the summer, however it is important to keep an eye on the weather.

Here in New England, plants require at least an inch of water per week.  If you are using a regular hose, you lose 40 percent of moisture to evaporation. However, a hose is necessary for a deep first watering when a plant goes into the ground and for containers.

Soaker hoses in your borders are the best method of watering, attached to a house spigot with a timer. By using this method of irrigation, moisture goes to the roots of plants where it is needed and not on the foliage, which can cause disease such as black spot and powdery mildew. Soaker hoses attached to a timer can be used efficiently not only in the borders of the garden but also in the vegetable garden, where annual vegetables, in particular, require a lot of water to produce a good crop.

In addition, composted manure added to the containers and copious amounts to the vegetable garden, helps to retain a good amount of moisture. Manure used as mulch for the vegetable garden adds more nutrition and, as mulch, it does not cap or form a hard crust, as do other mulches, so that water goes directly to the roots.

Water the lawn only when the green glow begins to fade.  An established lawn will bounce back after dry hot spells.

SOIL AND SOIL HEALTH

I want to emphasize the importance of soil and soil health, which has been severely neglected and abused with poisonous chemicals for years. Soil is the most important element of plant growth; it is not an inert medium that merely holds the plants erect, it is a living organism that needs to be replenished with nutrients.

The nutrient is composted manure, manure builds soils structure and its bacteria partners with the millions of microbes below the surface to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants. If you have not already done so, I strongly suggest that you carefully discard all chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

The addition of composted manure to your soil in spring, early summer and early fall together with the addition of natural brown bark mulch, builds the carbon compound or humus component in the soil.  We are all carbon-based creatures, as is every living element, this is our lifeblood and the lifeblood of the soil in our gardens.

As we build the humus component by adding composted manure and fine bark mulch, we produce the healthiest possible growing environment and the strongest disease-resistant plants.  As we add the composted manure and natural fine bark mulch season after season, the humus component continues to build in the soil, continuously extracting carbon from the atmosphere into the soil.

ROSES

These beautiful plants flourish beautifully with the addition of composted manure and mulch applied on the soil about two feet away from the base of the plant; they need a deep watering at least once a week. Now, in July add another light layer of composted manure around the roses.

Manure is food for the roots of the roses and no other products are necessary for growth and bloom. Stop adding manure to the roses in mid-August, so that the roses can go into a slow dormancy through late summer and early fall, a natural part of their growth cycle.

An ‘Evelyn’ rose, the author’s favorite.

If you are a first-time rose-grower or adding to your rose collection, David Austin English roses are my personal preference.  The David Austin nursery is only 21 miles from my hometown in Shropshire in England and it was a fragrant pleasure to visit the nursery in June. David Austin roses are more trouble-free than many other roses and are repeat bloomers, with beautiful colors to enhance our senses with delicious fragrances.

Some of my favorite David Austin roses are:

A Shropshire Lad, a peachy pink
Abraham Darby, shades of apricot and yellow
Evelyn (my favorite) with giant apricot-colored flowers
Fair Bianca, a pure white rose
Heritage, a soft blush pink
Carding Mill begins as a peachy orange double flower, becoming an apricot-pink

A lovely combination to enjoy are climbing roses and clematis planted together as both enjoy the same planting environment with their heads in the sun and their feet (roots) cool, with manure and mulch. This combination looks great, climbing over a fence, wall or arbor.

Mulch  – do not use the artificially-colored red mulch, rubber mulch or cocoa mulch; use only natural brown bark mulch.  Do not mulch right up to the base of the plants, as this invites rodents to nest and gnaw on the stems or trunks of the plants.

Note: Do not use Cocoa mulch, produced by Hershey, this mulch has a Thorazine compound and other poisons, which are hazardous to pets who are attracted by the chocolate odor. Ingestion of this chocolate mulch can cause seizures and death within hours.

HYDRANGEAS

Blue hydrangeas. Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash.

Plant Hydrangeas in a sunny area if you live near the coast enjoying seas breezes and in part-sun away from the coast on the west or east aspect of the garden. Plant them in organically-rich soil with composted manure and add extra composted manure around the base now in July.

If you have the blue Hydrangea, add some peat or aged oak bark around the base — the acidity in the peat or oak bark encourages a deeper blue hue. Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and require plenty of water throughout the summer. We had a late spring and with all the spring and early summer rain and now good sunshine, the foliage and bloom of the hydrangeas is performing well. Watch out for powdery mildew and spray with the following recipe that you can mix yourself:

Two tablespoons baking soda, one tablespoon of vegetable oil, a squirt of dish soap with a gallon of water in a sprayer.  For any recipe spray you make, spray only in the morning when there is no wind and when the temperature and humidity combined do not go above 180.

Prune Hydrangeas immediately after they finish blooming in late August or early September but no later, as Hydrangeas set their buds for the next season by mid-September. If you prune after that time, you will lose next season’s bloom.   When you prune, cut out some of the old wood and the weakest of the new shoots.  In October, put more composted manure and brown mulch around the base to nourish and protect the roots through the winter.

Did you know that garlic is the antibiotic of the garden? I just love garlic to use in my recipes and it is an important anti-fungal element to protect your plants. I suggest that in early fall you should plant plenty of garlic if you do not already have some in the garden.

To avoid fungal diseases, plant garlic around strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries.

Plant garlic around mildew-prone plants to prevent mildew — such plants are summer phlox and bee balm.

Plant garlic under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease.

Plant garlic next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae, or pour garlic water into the water to deter adult mosquitoes.

Where you notice marauders where either insects or animals have been munching, make a garlic spray to apply on the plants:

Garlic spray recipe

4 large crushed garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 squirt of mild dish detergent

Put all ingredients in two cups of hot water in the blender, blend, then leave overnight.

Then put in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray in the early morning when there is no wind, observing the rule of 180 mentioned above.

Hot pepper spray recipe

To deter squirrels and chipmunks, try a hot pepper spray using either four hot chilies or one cup of cayenne pepper in two cups of hot water, mixed in the blender, leave overnight and then put in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray the problem areas in the early morning.

This pepper spray works well on squirrels, chipmunks, and deer, as well as dogs and cats that may be leaving their deposits in the garden.

HAND CARE

Gardener’s hands are their tools of the trade so it’s important to take care of them. My hands remain healthy by indulging in a hot cream treatment once a week before bed.

Maureen’s hot hand cream recipe:

Combine Calendula cream with honey and essential oil of lavender heated in the microwave, apply generously and put on white cotton gloves for sleep.

When I wake up, my hands are unbelievably soft and smooth.

Wear gloves, when working in soil that contains manure or spreading manure. Manure is an organic product that contains bacteria,  bacteria is great for the soil but like many bacteria not healthy for you. The gloves I prefer are the soft leather farmer’s gloves that are washable.

FLAVORED OILS

Many herbs are at their peak right now and are ideal for using in flavored oils.  The oil I use as a base is organic olive oil. I harvest basil, parsley, sage, tarragon and oregano in a morning, rinse them well, pat them dry with a paper towel and then make the recipe

Chose an herb and add to two cups of oil.

For thyme and lavender, I use only the flowers with one cup of oil to a handful of blossoms.

Puree the herb mixture in a blender and store covered in a wide mouthed jar for three days, shake at least three times a day for the first two days and on the third day let the mixture settle to the bottom, then strain it through a paper coffee filter or cheese cloth into a clean jar.  You will now have a tinted but clear mixture.

Refrigerate each mixture and use within two to three weeks.  The herb oils I make are lavender, lemon, garlic, shallots and basil with olive oil as the base – these are my favorites and are great brushed on vegetables and meats for grilling.  The lavender oil is great with desserts. Rosemary and lemon oil taste excellent on salads.

MOLES

I know I have given you a few mole remedies in the past; but I have not given you the Exlax method for a while and I can attest to the fact that I have used this method as have many garden colleagues for years, as it works.  Buy Exlax whose main ingredient is Senna, a natural herb. Insert Exlax into the mole holes, and the moles and voles will be gone.

If you have dogs and cats, do not use the chocolate Exlax, use only the plain Exlax as chocolate is dangerous to pets.

In early April of next year, apply organic grub control, which means less grubs for the moles to feed on, and without their supply of grubs, the moles will go elsewhere for food. In addition, the white grubs of Japanese beetles can be diminished with the grub control.

Japanese beetles love our plants and there is a method to deal with them naturally. In the early morning, the Japanese beetles are drowsy and can be captured.  Lay a drop cloth under the plant or plants where you see them and gently shake the plant; the drowsy beetles will drop onto the cloth, which you gather up and drop them in a garbage bag and discard.

Many of us are committed to organic gardening without chemicals, which has enabled the earthworm population to once again increase; earthworms are a great boon to the garden soil as their castings add 50 percent nutrition to the soil together with 11 trace minerals.

SUMMER PHLOX

I just love my summer phlox and to keep the mildew problems at bay, I use the natural baking soda mix I mentioned above.  I have found that white Phlox Miss Lingard or white Phlox David are more resistant to mildew that other summer phlox.  Monarda commonly known, as Bee Balm, and Hydrangeas are also prone to be affected by powdery mildew, and this where the baking soda once again can be used.

For a second bloom on the Summer Phlox, prune off 10 to 20 inches from the flower stems just after the flowers have gone and within a few weeks, you will experience new growth.

KEEP YOUR GARDEN CLEAN

A healthy garden is a clean garden. Do not put any diseased items into your compost.

Deadhead all annuals and perennials for a second bloom and clean up all spent blossoms.

When Coreopsis and Spirea have bloomed, shear off dead flowers and they too will rebloom.

CONTAINERS

Make sure you have composted manure and fine bark mulch applied on top of the soil in your containers and keep them watered as containers dry out quicker than garden soil. In hot weather the containers will need to be watered daily, morning and evening watering is the best.

If you do not have time in a morning before you leave for work or errands, empty your ice cube trays on the containers; this provides slow release watering until you can get to them later.

Enjoy being in the garden, stay hydrated, continue to stretch and take time to ‘smell the Roses’ and I’ll see you in your garden in August!

Maureen Haseley-Jones

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

Share

Gardening With ‘The English Lady’: Tips for June “When the World Smells of Roses”

June is such a pretty time of the year and Maureen Haseley-Jones’s tips will help you make the most of your yard and garden. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“Ne’er cast a clout ’til May is out,” is an old English saying that means do not put away your long johns until May is over —  well, we certainly have had a few very cool nights recently, which is just wonderful, allowing one to sleep with the windows open.

I cannot remember the last time we had a real spring like the one we are experiencing this year, with plenty of rain.  May is typically a dry month, although with the effects of global warming, no weather is typical these days.  However, this beneficial rain is wonderful for all the spring plant growth happening in the beginning of the growing season.

I am so in awe of the miracle of Mother Nature; the symbiotic relationship between plants and others of God’s creatures.  As I look out of my window into my field, I can see the buds opening on my long stand of peonies; which brings to mind one of those relationships — the friendly partnership between ants and peonies.

PEONIES & ANTS:

Peonies by Jessica Fadel on Unsplash.

I am often asked “Maureen, should I worry about ants on my peonies?” The answer is “That’s not a problem, lots of ants on the peonies just demonstrate that you have healthy plants with big buds producing more nectar and therefore attracting the ants.”

Make sure Peonies get plenty of water and after blooming, apply a light dose of organic 5-10-5 fertilizer and check the soils PH, which should be between 6.5 and 7.0.  It is hard to ruin a good peony border but you can err in the fertilizing process, so go easy on the organic aged manure (never thought I would say that) and just give a light dose of fertilizer, and to reiterate, apply the fertilizer after blooming.

At the beginning of June, I pinch off the side buds on my large stand of peonies, this ensures big blooms on the rest of the plant.

ANTS:

On the subject of ants; if you see them “let them live,” because often their presence indicates that we have aphids around and ants feed off aphids; they are very useful creatures.

Toad by Matthew T Radel on Unsplash.

TOADS:

Another very useful creature in the pest wars is the lowly toad so I always put out some toad houses (which you can purchase from the garden center) around and about in your borders.  You can also use an old clay pot that is cracked and make sure that the crack is two to three inches wide for the door so the toad can enter. Also put a small saucer as a floor under the pot with some rocks, which you keep damp, so that your friendly bad-bug eater has his or her ideal home environment.

MULCH:

Mulch your gardens in June; when the ground has warmed up to about 45 or 50 degrees.  When you mulch be careful mulching around trees; do not get the mulch any closer than four inches from the trunk, as any closer it can promote rot and disease in the tree itself.

Also trees that are mulched too deeply near the trunk invite mice and other rodents to come and nest and gnaw on the trunk.

The garden as a whole can be mulched to a depth of between two and three inches.  I prefer fine hardwood mulch in the dark brown color but no dyed red mulch please; keep the garden looking natural and not like a Disney theme park.

ROSES:

Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash

June is the month when roses begin to bloom.  I prefer David Austin roses that I find are the most trouble-free roses, repeat bloomers and have wonderful fragrances.

Some of my favorites are A Shropshire Lad, a soft peachy pink, Abraham Darby with blooms in apricot to yellow, Fair Bianca a pure white, Heritage, a soft clear pink and my favorite Evelyn, which has giant apricot flowers in a saucer shape and the fragrance is second to none with a luscious fruity tone, reminding me of fresh peaches and apricots.

Feed your roses with an organic rose food called Roses Alive, which you can obtain from Gardens Alive on the internet, feed them once a month until mid-August, then stop feeding so they can go into a slow dormancy.

Japanese beetles are very attracted to roses; so any Japanese beetle traps should be placed far away from your borders on the perimeter of the property. Or check TheEnglishLady.com on the Organic Products page for other solutions to the beetles and other unwanted pests.

A tip for keeping cut roses fresh: cut the roses in the morning before 10 a.m., just above a five leaf cluster and place stems in a container of lukewarm water. Inside the house, re-cut the stems under warm running water, forming a one and a half inch angular cut, then place in a vase filled with warm water.  Do not remove the thorns on cut roses, which I have found reduces their indoor life by as much as three days.

HYDRANGEAS:

Need plenty of water, (in the fields they were originally found close to water being a wetland plant before they were introduced into our gardens), organic aged manure, good ventilation, organic fertilizer and full sun.

WISTERIA:

Regular pruning through spring and summer is the main factor to help this arrogant vine to flower; by that I mean, several times during the season. Prune every two weeks at least six inches on each stem.

CLEMATIS WILT:

If you have this problem with a clematis, you notice it early because the shoots wilt and die.  Unfortunately this disease is impossible to cure, as it is soil-borne. Therefore you cannot plant another clematis of that species in that area but you can plant the Viticella clematis selection; these are vigorous, free-flowering blooms and are not susceptible to wilt. Some good choices in this variety are Blue Belle, Etoile Violette, both are purple and Huldine, which is a white,

CONTAINER GARDENS:

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you have room for one pot, you have room for a number; placed close together in different shapes and sizes, they create your own miniature garden.

Apart from regular pots, the most unexpected objects make really interesting containers.  A friend who cut down trees this past winter, left the stumps and hollowed them out to make containers, one large and two smaller stumps together, a really interesting combo.

At the same time, look in your basement, shed or barn to see if you have an old wheelbarrow, even if it has a wheel missing it will present an unusual angle as a planter.  Or you may come across a large chipped ceramic jar I–  have an old, two-foot-tall, ceramic vinegar container, replete with a hole where the vinegar tap was inserted (ideal for drainage), which will look great on my newly-painted blue bench next to my red milk shed!

LAWN CARE:

Do not forget to add organic grub control through July, so that you keep down the mole infestation; remember no grubs means less food for the moles.

POWDERY MILDEW:

Keep an eye open for powdery mildew, especially after rain when the humidity returns.

In a sprayer, mix two tablespoons of baking soda, two tablespoons of vegetable or horticultural oil in a gallon of water and spray the mildew.  Summer phlox is particularly prone to this affliction; I recommend Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David, white ones of the species, these are the most mildew-resistant.

Monarda, commonly known as Bee Balm, is also affected by the mildew; the one I have found to be the most resistant is Cambridge Scarlet. Do be careful when introducing Monarda into the garden; they, along with Purple Loosestrife and Evening Primrose, are extremely invasive and can take over your entire border.

On the subject of invasive plants; if you plant mint; plant it only in containers, otherwise mint  will spread throughout your borders.

I hope these tips are useful to you in this busy time of year in the garden and I’ll see you on LymeLine next month!

Share

Gardening With ‘The English Lady’: Tips for the Merry Month of May

May blossoms make for a truly enchanting month. Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash.

“The darling buds of May” is such an apt phrase for one of the most enchanting months, bloom on bulbs and trees and the fresh foliage on trees winking in the sun.  

By now, you have probably removed most of the winter debris, pruned broken branches and re-edged borders. Do not however, apply that spring layer of composted manure as the soil needs to warm up to 60 degrees for the soil organisms to accept the bacteria of the manure in order to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants.  When shopping for garden supplies, pick up a soil thermometer to check soil temperature and I am sure the right temperature will be reached in about two to three weeks. 

I am seeing our old nemesis — weeds — springing up everywhere.  Pull them up by hand and try to get weeds complete with roots.  I say by hand, as using a tool breaks up the weeds, the result being hundreds more weeds from the broken pieces.  Follow on the weeding with the organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics; this product will keep weeds away for quite a few weeks.   

When the soil warms to 60 degrees, apply composted manure around daffodils and other spring bulbs so that soil organisms will produce nutrients to feed the bulbs for next year’s bloom. Also do not cut down the daffodil foliage as the nutrition from the foliage goes into the bulb for bloom next spring. 

In a few weeks apply composted manure and a light layer of fine bark mulch  on all maintained areas of the garden now, then again in July and before putting the garden to bed in October.  The manure and mulch will begin to build the humus component.  

A note on mulch  – only use the natural brown mulch of natural non-colored wood; do not use the colored mulches, which contain chemicals, and do not use rubber mulch. 

A special word of caution on Cocoa Mulch. This product is highly toxic to dogs and cats.  This product is manufactured by Hershey and sold in many large garden centers.  It is made from the residue of chocolate products and others ingredients and contains a lethal ingredient that has resulted in the reported deaths of a number of cats and dogs that are attracted by the chocolate odor. It contains Theobromine, which is a Xanthine compound similar to the effects of caffeine and theophyliline.  The symptoms for the animals are seizures and death within hours.    

All living things including us are all carbon-based creatures. Humus brings carbon from the air into the soil.

Humus acts like a sponge and holds 90 percent of its weight in water. Because of its negative charge, plant nutrients stick to humus bringing nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other important elements to the plant, preventing these nutrients from washing away, acting like nature’s slow release fertilizer.

Humus improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plants to root in this environment with better access to nutrients, water and oxygen. Humus also helps to filter toxic chemicals from soil, much like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.

I recommend that you read this article in Scientific American to check out the dangers of Round Up. This is the most dangerous herbicide not only because of Glyphosate, which is on the list by the World Health Organization as a chelating agent that causes cancer but also because of the inert ingredients. I ask that you are not swayed by the word ‘inert’ as the ingredients are anything but inert and those ingredients combined with Glyphosate are deadly to human cells. 

Photo by Jonnelle Yankovich on Unsplash.

Forsythia, pictured above, is in bloom with its lovely fresh yellow blossoms.  If the bloom on your shrub is not as prolific as in previous years, prune out the old sparse wood after bloom ends.  

A favorite native tree is the Serviceberry tree, with its creamy panicle blooms, followed by small green leaves and within weeks, red fruit, and a delicious menu for our feathered friends. Before the birds eat all the fruit, pick some to make a delicious jelly for your morning toast.  

Here in my town of Old Lyme, the Magnolias, Cherries and Eastern Redbud are vying with one another to show their finery together with the graceful Dogwoods.  Following the recent rains many of these trees are blooming at the same time or within a few weeks of one another. Their bloom will soon be over then we can look forward to rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurel into June. 

The Carlesii viburnum (also known as Korean Spice) is showing pink buds, opening to white flowers and their delightful fragrance fills the air outside my kitchen door. 

Covering the barn wall and scrambling up to the barn roof is my climbing hydrangea – bright green leaves emerging with hundreds of buds indicating that this beautiful climber will be laden with blossoms in summer. 

Tulips (pictured left), creeping phlox, forget-me-nots, primroses and candytuft are bringing much needed color to borders and rock gardens. 

If you have not had time yet, for another week or two you can still prune your roses.  Pull back the old mulch from around the base of the roses and in two weeks apply manure about six inches from the trunk of the plant. Then a week later reapply a layer of the brown, natural mulch on top of the composted manure. As well as building the humus component, these layers keep the roots cool, keep weeds at bay and help retain moisture. Do not mulch right up against the base of any plants as this encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the plants. 

Beware of fungi that look like weird mushrooms in your mulch; this is a sign of Artillery fungus and can stick and invade the walls of your home and cause problems.  If you notice this fungus, you will need to remove all the mulch and get it off your property. 

Apply lime and manure around the lilacs, they like sweeter alkaline soil, thus the lime. By now, you may have already applied lime to the grass, which also enjoys sweeter soil and organic grub control to kill the Japanese beetle larvae – less food for moles. 

If you are making an organic vegetable garden this year, a garden measuring 16 x 24 can feed a family of four for a year, but keep the size within your needs and capability.  Don’t work the soil if it is too wet or too dry.  

Double-digging is the best way to go; it takes time and effort but its well worth it – dig down about one foot and remove the top soil, put to one side, then dig down and loosen the next six inches of soil and add about three inches of composted manure then put back the top soil and add another three to four inches of manure.  

Do not rototill, as this will destroy soil structure. The gently loosened, aerated fertile soil will give an excellent yield of fruits and vegetables in the garden. 

I prefer 6 x 4 ft. beds rather than rows; beds produce a larger yield of crops. In addition, beds make for ease of weeding and harvesting by having narrow compacted soil or grass paths (having removed lawn from the area) in-between the beds. 

The vegetable garden should be situated on the south or southwest side of the property for maximum sun exposure. 

Make sure you remove as many weeds as possible by hand, before you even begin digging.  

You need a water source close by as vegetables require lots of water, particularly annual fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, which are hydroponics which means they are (mostly water). 

Rotate crops, by that I mean, do not plant the same vegetables in the same place as the previous year.  With this method you are preventing any soil born diseases from occurring.     

In the loosened soil, plant the vegetables plants so that they are touching, this forms a natural canopy, shading out weeds and helps retain moisture. 

I prefer to mulch the vegetable garden with composted manure the reason being that manure, as mulch, does not cap. Capping is when mulch forms a crust, which does not allow water or air to penetrate to the roots of the plants.

Fence in the vegetable garden with a tall fence to keep animals out. At the base of the fence install eight inches of fine mesh chicken wire above ground and eight inches below ground to keep out the digging and burrowing animals. 

Organic insect control – Insects do not like fragrance so plant fragrant plants like marigolds, nasturtium, lavender, nepeta and honeysuckle and roses to name a few.  

Encourage lacewings, which feed on aphids by planting marigolds and sunflowers,

Attract ground beetles by laying a log or a rock on the earth, under which the beetles can hide. These useful insects are nocturnal and eat slug and snail eggs, cabbage maggots, cutworms and even climb trees to feed on armyworms and tent caterpillars.  

Grass is now a vibrant shade of green therefore when mowing keep the blades of grass at about three inches; the taller blades attracts sunlight, promoting a healthier lawn. The taller blades also shade out weeds and help to retain moisture in the grass.   

When mowing, leave grass clippings on the lawn, the clippings are a natural source of nitrogen. If you have clover in the grass, clover is an added benefit as clover takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil, additional nutrients for plant growth.

After flowering is over, prune flowering shrubs by 25 percent – do this task immediately before new buds set for next year. 

On a rainy day go shopping for any garden supplies that may be needed, then when the weather is dry, you can be outdoors doing what you love and not indoors shopping.  Buy good hoses, cheap ones will bend and crack.  

Peonies need plenty of water to produce flower buds.  I have a 30-foot-long stand of Peonies in my field. The Peonies have been in the ground for over 40 years and are a sight to behold when in bloom.  I give them lots of loving care with a light dressing of aged manure in early May.  In a few weeks I will pinch off the side buds while they are still small, leaving the terminal flower bud on each stalk, which will develop into a large main bloom.

Photo by Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash

Hydrangeas (pictured above) are a wetland plant and require plenty of water during the season, also applying manure and mulch around the base. If you have blue Hydrangeas and want a deeper color of blue, add some peat around the base of the plant the acidity in the peat produces the color.   

If you need to prune a Hydrangea, which has become too large, then prune it immediately after flowering, in EARLY SEPTEMBER by about one third of the old wood and the weakest shoots. DO NOT WAIT, as Hydrangeas begin to develop bloom buds for next year later in September.  If you wait to prune, you will not have bloom for next year. 

My maternal grandmother’s favorite plant, the Lily of the Valley soon will bloom tucked under the boxwood hedge on the north east side of the farmhouse near the front door. I love the delicate white flowers and fresh unique fragrance.  

When the lilacs have finished blooming, pinch off the withered flower clusters, do the same on the mountain laurel and rhododendrons in late June to ensure good blossoms next year. 

In mid May apply composted manure, a light application of peat and fine bark mulch around all evergreens and rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas; these plants are shallow rooted and the mulch will keep the roots nourished, protected, warm and moist. 

Some annual seeds that may be planted outside in mid May are: 

Calendula, Coreopsis, Marigold, Nasturtium, Nicotiana and Zinnia.  

If you purchase annuals, place them in a sheltered spot on the south side of your home. Plant them no earlier than Memorial weekend as we can still get a late frost. 

Tuberous-rooted begonias, caladiums, cannas and elephant ears can be moved from porch or cold frame to a part shade area as the weather becomes warmer and there is no sign of frost in the forecast.   

If you staked trees, when they were planted last year, cut the stakes off at ground level do not pull them out of the roots as you could tear and therefore damage the root system.

Aphid tip: squish a few in your hand; dead aphids release a chemical that causes other aphids to drop off the plants. 

Another ants and aphids tip – if you drink mint tea, any leftover tea sprinkle on the bugs, as they do not like the smell of mint.  

A word of caution on mint – plant mint only in containers, mint is tremendously invasive and can take over your garden.

When planting annuals, perennials, vegetables, trees, shrubs or evergreen, keep them watered but not drowned.   

Houseplants can be moved outdoors for their summer sojourn at the end of May.  However, do not put your African violets outdoors as they will burn, move them to a porch that is covered and shaded, or keep them indoors in a window that does not receive direct rays from the sun.

Wait until the soil warms up at the end of May to set out Dahlia tubers.  

Roses, pictured above, are not the troublesome creatures you have been led to believe.  I prefer  to plant David Austin roses; these shrub roses are repeat bloomers with lovely fragrances.  Roses need at least four hours of sun per day, good air circulation, and excellent drainage.  During their growing period from the beginning of June to mid August; add a little extra composted manure each month; it may be applied over the mulch.  Stop adding the manure in August so that the roses can go into a slow dormancy. 

Roses like the same growing conditions as Clematis and planted together in companionship planting, they flourish well together, with feet in the shade and head in the sun. Before you top up the soil around the roses, add water and check if the soil drains, roses need good drainage.  Deep watering is recommended at least once a week. 

Plenty of stuff to keep you hopping folks and remember to keep your eye out for any pest trouble and when you spot it get on the ball immediately to avoid further problems.   Carefully discard all herbicides and pesticides; these poisons have the same effect on your health as second-hand smoke.  

Your garden offers an anchor for peace and quiet enjoyment.  Enjoy the warmth, the gentle breeze, the earth’s fragrance and bloom and please remember to breathe. 

Maureen Haseley-Jones is “The English Lady.”

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

Share