October 20, 2021

Gardening Tips from ‘The English Lady’ for August, ‘The Sunday of Summer’

There is beauty all around us in the garden in August. Photo by Joshua J. Cotton on Unsplash.

August has always been one of my least favorite months in the garden; but plentiful spring rain this year 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. Your gardens are a constantly 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. Then you can venture into your borders and transplant some specimens out so that 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, as you probably noticed they are not blooming so profusely. I am sure you have fellow gardeners who will be thrilled to receive some of the divisions.

Keeping Your Garden Fresh:

Keep up with your dead-heading 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.

Flowering borders need plenty of water in August. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Soaker hoses in the borders 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 with this method, you also prevent water from landing on the foliage, which can result in disease and mildew.

When you cut back tired-looking annuals, you will soon see a new flush of bloom. If on closer inspection, you notice your borders are looking somewhat weary and need a bright boost of some new specimens to perk things up, you are in luck as right now garden centers are offering late season bargains.

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

Roses:

It is important to stop feeding roses now in August. Roses require at least nine weeks without using their energy, this is important as to produce new bloom roses need 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 b Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Every couple of weeks give your containers a little extra composted manure when watering, which will keep these miniature gardens bright and cheerful into early fall. Add the manure on top of the natural brown mulch as both manure and mulch help retain moisture and help to retard weeds.

In the morning, if 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.

Powdery Mildew:

With the high heat and humidity which we have been experiencing recently, 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, combined together equal 160.

Vegetables:

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 in among the vegetables; these odors help to keep furry marauders away.

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.

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, 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.

Gardening Tips for July from ‘The English Lady’; The Month of ‘Hollyhocks and Hammocks’

Photo by meriç tuna on Unsplash.

If I had my way, I’d remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead. (Roald Dahl)

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, but it is still 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.

Watering is so important in July. Photo by Irene Dávila on Unsplash.

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. These 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, help to retain a good amount of moisture. Manure used as mulch for the vegetable garden adds more nutrition, manure as mulch does not cap or form a hard crust, as do other mulches, so that water goes directly to the roots.

LAWNS & SOIL

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

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 in 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 flourish beautifully with the addition of composted manure and mulch applied on the soil about two feet away from the base of the plant and require 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 into a slow dormancy through late summer and early fall, a natural part of their growth cycle.

If you are a first-time rose grower or adding to your rose collection, consider David Austin English roses — they are my personal preference.  The David Austin nursery is only 21 miles from my hometown in Shropshire in England; 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 that enhance our senses with delicious fragrances.

Some of my favorite David Austin roses are:

  • A Shropshire Lad (my home country in England) a peachy pink
  • Abraham Darby, shades of apricot and yellow
  • Evelyn (my favorite) with giant apricot hued flowers
  • Fair Bianca a pure white rose
  • Heritage a soft blush pink
  • Carding Mill Valley 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 because 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 good sunshine, the foliage and bloom of the hydrangeas are performing well. Watch out for powdery mildew and spray with the following powdery mildew recipe 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 at home, spray only in the morning when there is no wind and when the temperature and humidity added together 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 September, 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.

GARDEN ANTIBIOTICS: Garlic & Hot Pepper

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 in early fall, plant plenty of garlic, if you do not already have some in the garden.

Garlic plants after harvest. Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash.

Plant garlic:

  • around mildew-prone plants to prevent mildew on  such plants as summer phlox and bee balm
  • around strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries to avoid fungal diseases
  • under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease
  • next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae or pour garlic water into the water to deter adult mosquitoes.

When you notice marauders where either insects or animals have been munching, make a garlic spray to apply on the plants including vegetables.

Garlic spray recipe

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

Put all ingredients in 2 cups of hot water in the blender, blend, then leave overnight. Then put the mixture in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray in the early morning when there is no wind, observing the rule of 180.  Observing the rule of 180  is when the temperature and humidity added together do not go above 180.

Hot Pepper spray

To deter squirrels and chipmunks, try a hot pepper spray using either 4 hot chilies or one cup of cayenne pepper in 2 cups of hot water, in the blender, blend and leave overnight 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, deer as well as dogs and cats that may be leaving their deposits in the garden.

HANDS:

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

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 soft and smooth as can be.

Wear gloves, when working in soil that contains manure or when 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 garden 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 this recipe.

Choose 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. 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, the moles and voles eat it then die of dehydration.

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 

Summer phlox always put on a show. Photo by Steph Cruz on Unsplash.

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 Hydrangea, are also prone to be affected by powdery mildew, and this is 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 by 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 spend blossoms.

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

CONTAINERS

Containers need watering daily during hot summer months.

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.

Finally, 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.

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, 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.

Gardening Tips from ‘The English Lady’ for June, Which ‘God Invented [Because] Spring is a Tough Act to Follow’

“Cast ne’er a clout till May is out” is the medieval English saying 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 sleeping 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.

Peonies by Jessica Fadel on Unsplash.

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 just one of those symbiotic relationships — the friendly partnership between ants and peonies.  

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 attract 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 it 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 apply just the light dose of fertilizer — to reiterate apply the fertilizer after blooming.  

Now, in June, I pinch off the side-buds on my large stand of peonies, thus ensuring big blooms on the rest of the plant.  

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.

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 nest and then 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:

An ‘Evelyn’ rose by David Austin, the author’s favorite.

June is the month when Roses begin to bloom. I prefer David Austin roses that I find are the most trouble free roses, are 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. My absolute favorite is Evelyn, pictured at right, 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 am, just above a five leaf cluster and place stems in a container of lukewarm water.  Inside the house recut 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, I have found this practice reduces their indoor life by as much as three days.  

HYDRANGEAS:

These 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), also organic aged manure, good ventilation, organic fertilizer and full sun.

Wisteria in full bloom is always a sight to behold. Photo by Alyssa Strohman on Unsplash.

WISTERIA:

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

CLEMATIS:

If you have a wilt problem with 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:

If you have room for one pot, you have room for a number — placed close together in different shapes and sizes, they can 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, which, even if it has a wheel missing, will present an unusual angle as a planter. Or you may come across a large chipped ceramic jar — I, in fact, 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, less food for the moles.  

POWDERY MILDEW:

Keep an eye open for powdery mildew, especially after a rain and 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, like 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 in the garden or on my website next month.

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, 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.

Gardening Tips for May from ‘The English Lady’: A Feast of Color Highlights the Merry Month of May

May brings ‘darling buds’ and ‘blooms on bulbs and trees.’“ 

OLD LYME — 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.  

Rhododendrons create a blaze of color.

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 — it 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.   

I wrote about the carbon component in my April tips but wanted to emphasize its importance by stating it again. 

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 go online to Scientific American.com/article/Weed-Whacking Herbicide 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. 

A yellow burst of color is offered by Forsythia in May.

Forsythia is in bloom with 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 graceful dogwood can be enjoyed in many locations this month.

 

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

May borders are often a delight to behold.

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 ft. x 24 ft. 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. 

These vegetable beds are a work in progress.

I prefer 6 ft. 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-borne 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 providing 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 are becoming increasingly popular and are often, “a sight to behold.”

Peonies need plenty of water to produce flower buds. I have a 30 ft. 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.

Hydrangeas 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. 

Blue hydrangeas start to develop their blooms for the following year in September of the current year. Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash.

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, on Mother’s Day weekend, 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, sprinkle an y left-over tea on the bugs, as they do not like the smell of mint.  

Mint spreads vigorously if left to its own devices so always plant this herb in a container. Photo by Eleanor Chen on Unsplash.

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, but rather 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 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. 

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, 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.

Gardening Tips for April from The English Lady:

You may consider the dandelion (pictured above) a weed but, in fact, its young foliage is delicious in salads Photo by Jan Ledermann on Unsplash.

Those April showers that come our way
They bring the flowers that bloom in May
And when it’s raining, lets not forget,
It isn’t raining rain at all, its raining violets

April is the month of activity in the garden, and our old nemesis, the weeds, are beginning to rear their heads, so before we actually begin to extract the little devils before they get too large or strong, I feel that I must point out the benefits of many weeds.

Nettle, for example, are food for butterflies, clover extracts nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil and oil from jewel weed soothes poison ivy rash. Whilst the young foliage of dandelions is great in salads and when cooked tastes like spinach and is healthy as it contains many nutrients.  Not to forget to mention that our songbirds and other wildlife depend on weed seeds as a food source.

But let us return to the actual weed-pulling, weeds must be pulled gently so the weed and roots do not break for when this happens thousands of weed seeds will reseed and you will find yourself with an endless cycle of unnecessary weeding. When careful weeding has been accomplished I suggest applying an organic weed pre-emergent, with a corn gluten base by Bradfield organics.

ROSES

Photo by Bailey Chenevey on Unsplash.

Plant bare root roses at the end of April and container roses in mid May.  Add manure with a fine bark mulch about one foot from the base of the roses not now but in the middle of May. Check my March tips to refresh yourself on pruning roses.

Be careful clearing winter debris from around rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas, these evergreens have shallow roots and you do not want to chance the roots being exposed. If the winter weather did indeed erode soil around any roots, add a few inches of soil to cover the exposed roots, at the same time resettle the plant in place and apply manure and fine bark mulch as well as some peat, which evergreens enjoy at the beginning of May.

In late April, plant gladioli corms at two-week intervals so that you will get a succession of bloom.  Planting the corms eight inches down; the extra depth helps keep the heavy blooms erect.

The Red Lily beetle is rearing its ugly head therefore I suggest applying organic Neem oil on the Lilies when they are about four inches above ground to help prevent and deal with this infestation.

SOIL SOLARIZATION

This is an effective way to control many soil borne problems, specifically the tomato blight that causes fruit rot. Covering the soil with clear plastic at the end of April, for one to two months can generate high enough temperatures in the top six to 12 inches of soil to kill pests, nematodes, weed seeds and many disease organisms like the tomato blight.  This process has proved invaluable for home gardeners and the beneficial effects seem to last for several seasons.

To solarize, dig a trench several inches deep around the bed, and spread a thin, clear plastic film (1-4mils) over the bed.  Press the plastic into close contact with the soil and seal the edges by filling the trench with soil.

MAINTAINING AN ORGANIC GARDEN

I urge you to throw away any pesticides and herbicides; they have the same effect as second hand smoke on you, your children and pets.  I am covering the state with my lecture on Garden Earth to reconnect people’s hearts, hands and minds with the nourishing energy of Mother Nature’s Life giving gardens. 

I am teaching people how to create a beautiful landscape but more important how to maintain it organically. That has always been the philosophy of my family’s heritage in landscaping and the same modus operandii is carried through in our company. Check ‘what to use in the garden ‘ on this website for all organic product sources.  

Manure all the borders with composted manure in bags from the garden center or aged manure from the bottom of the farmer’s pile. Mulch with a fine brown hardwood mulch, and in the vegetable garden when it comes time to mulch, mulch with manure which will not ‘cap’, meaning it does not form a crust like other mulches and therefore air and water can get through to the roots of the plants where it is needed.      

If you did not apply an organic grub control on the grass in March, apply now to keep the grubs down and cut down on the mole population.    

The soil is the most important component of the growing business; compost, organic manure and peat amend the soil to rebuild its structure. The ratio is one part compost to three parts manure and applies peat to the planting mix in the ratio of one part peat to three parts manure when planting evergreens. 

Good soil structure assists with drainage, prevents compaction, and the rich nutrients that is the result as these amendments break down encourage the soil animals beneath the surface to work at full capacity. In a light soil such as sand, humus binds the sand particles together and in heavy soil such as clay it keeps the clay particles apart making room for air and drainage.  Other humus forming materials are leaves and seaweed tea which we will have for sale in the two few weeks has a root growth hormone, which assists plants to form a strong root system.   

Conditions in April are very favorable for new plant-root development, so with this in mind, transplant evergreen shrubs and new evergreens can be planted at the end of April.  With the organic manure and peat with the topsoil in the planting hole in the ratios I mentioned above. Give the roots a work out before planting to release them and open them up so the roots will reach into the surrounding soil for nutrients and water and will not dry out in the heat of summer.    

Organic fertilizer contains blood meal, bone meal, seaweed, poultry litter and natural grains. The bulky organic amendments mentioned above must be incorporated into the soil to improve soil texture and structure and many of the necessary nutrients to plants. 

Before and a month after you have applied the bulky amendments of manure and compost, test the soil to see if there are still some nutrient deficiencies, particularly in clay soil and correct these with some organic fertilizers. Its always better to under fertilize so go sparingly but do not be cheap with the bulk amendments.

When I moved into my farmhouse on the shore 14 years ago, I found soil that was sandy, which is good for drainage but without nutrients.  I began adding a few inches of manure to all planted borders in April, July and October and today when I put a spade in the ground to check the color of the soil in spring, it’s ‘black gold’. 

If you have used chemical fertilizers in the past, many of the soil organisms that play such an important role in maintaining natural fertility will have died off.        

The major plant nutrients are nitrogen (N), which promotes healthy leaf growth, phosphorus (P) for healthy root growth, and potassium for flower development and ripening wood. Other important nutrients are required such as sulphur, magnesium, calcium, boron and iron, but in lesser amounts.  The organic fertilizer provides all the important nutrients listed above.  When buying the products read the labels — if there is a word you cannot pronounce; it’s a chemical so do not buy it.  

The amendments and organic fertilizers are of plant and animal origin so gloves should be worn when using them as bacteria is present in them.  These bacteria are great for the plants and the soil but not good for your health.  These products tend to be slow acting; gradually making the nutrients available to the plant and the rewards are infinite.

Organic fertilizers are applied in spring around mid to late May when the plant has about six inches of growth; this allows for the fertilizer to become active when the plant is growing most rapidly.  Avoid applying fertilizers after the end of July as new growth may not go dormant before winter and the plant could suffer damage.  

As well as the amendments of organic aged manure, peat and/or compost you can incorporate an organic root development enhancer like the seaweed tea by soaking the top four inches of the soil around the base of the trunk when planting trees and shrubs.  Top dressing organic fertilizers are scattered over the soil surface and around the base of the plant, avoiding the foliage. 

Organic soil enhancers like manure and seaweed tea, when applied to the soil, are most quickly absorbed by plants and are especially useful for container planting and these teas are excellent for feeding throughout the growing season. Foliar (aka leaf) feeds with the teas are a quick-acting tonic and are useful in supplying nutrients to plants especially in the heat and humidity of mid summer.  

April is the time to tackle a new lawn or patch seed, use only good quality seed and organic fertilizers.   

DAFFODILS

The daffodils will soon be in bloom and when the bloom has past, do not cut the leaves of any of your spring flowering bulbs, the leaves send down energy into the bulbs to store for next season’s nutrition. 

WHEN TO PLANT ANNUALS

Do not be lulled into complacency with a few back-to-back warm days; we can still get a frost and I caution you not to plant annuals until Memorial weekend.  Do not cultivate around the perennials in the borders until mid May. Do not panic if you were not able to get the April tasks done until May, your garden will wait for you and the constancy that is Mother Nature will continue to keep your patch of earth flourishing. 

Enjoy the pleasure of being outdoors in warmer temperatures, inhaling the pungency of awakening soil and experience the connection with growing things. Do not overdo it; warm up the body before the garden labor and stay well hydrated with lots of water. We are inexorably entwined with the earth and know that even the smallest gesture of a garden has positive rewards and the effects not only on you but our planet. 

I’ll see you in your garden in May.

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, 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.

Gardening Tips for March from The English Lady: Spring is in the Air, Making it a Busy Month in the Garden

Spring has sprung! Let Maureen Haseley-Jones guide you through your many tasks in the garden during March.

March is a month of ‘wait and see’ as we anticipate walking around our gardens. This morning I walked outside, into a southwesterly breeze and a pleasantly warm sun. I took a deep breath and as I did, I caught the rich fragrance of the soil beginning to awaken.

All of us are itching to get into the garden and I believe that foray will be earlier than last year owing to our mild winter and the fact that frost did not penetrate deep into the ground.

The sodden soil will dry out in the next few weeks however, I urge you to tread gently as you tend our precious commodity of Mother Nature – soil. In that regard I am asking that you do not till the soil as tilling damages soil structure and can break friable root systems.

I am asking you to be patient right now and I know it’s not easy after being house-bound for so long with the pandemic. However, patience is what is necessary for ‘dyed in the wool’ gardeners for the next few weeks as all of us are chafing at the bit to get hands into the soil.

In the meantime, I suggest you go full steam ahead with planning for the upcoming season. Planning means organizing, which prevents gardening mistakes that can occur later in the season if you do not plan.

TREES

For example, let’s look at your trees – check the trees in your garden to evaluate any work that needs to be accomplished. It is less expensive for arborists to do tree work before the foliage appears and when the branches and the overall shape of the trees can be seen more clearly, the labor goes quickly and is less expensive with less strain on your budget.

What to look for:

  • Are there broken or dead limbs?
  • What branches require cabling?
  • If a tree appears to be 50% dead or unhealthy looking then it should be removed.

Also, think about whether

  • To change a medium shade area into a dappled shade area, allowing more sunlight in by thinning out the upper tree branches or tree canopy.
  • To remove a tree to transform a shade area into a sunny spot, which allows for a larger choice of plants available to you.

I always hesitate to remove a healthy tree but sometimes a tree may have been planted too close to the house and consequently the roots have undermined your home’s foundation and the shading over the roof has resulted in mold and mildew. If you need any of the above work to be done, please contact a licensed arborist.

There is an art to tree work knowing how, when and why to cut. Tree work  should to be carried out by a professional so that at the completion of the work, the effect is both practical and aesthetically pleasing.

An experienced arborist will also take into consideration the health of the trees. Having the work done by an arborist also avoids injury to yourself from falling from ladders or perhaps tree branches or trees falling on you.

PRUNING TASKS THAT YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH NOW

March is the month to prune evergreens before the new growth appears.

Hedges can be sheared for shape, so that any stubby ends will be concealed by new spring growth.  Please keep to the natural shape of the shrub – no round balls.

Prune Spirea to six inches from the ground.

In April, prune Lavender to three inches.

In late March, prune Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra), cutting out the oldest branches.

Lilac – Prune back all old branches to various lengths before leaf growth begins, from two to five feet, retaining a natural shape. Sprinkle lime around the base of the Lilac and add manure in May.  Lilacs enjoy alkaline soil benefitting from lime.

Prune Butterfly Bush to two feet from the ground and in May apply composted manure around the base.

Prune Forsythia (pictured above) after it has bloomed, pruning out sparse flowering old wood.

Prune roses when the forsythia blooms.  If the roses have only been in the ground for one year, do not prune, wait until October.

Do not remove the protective mulch from around the base of the roses, wait until mid May, and then apply a dressing of manure and fine bark mulch.

You may be asking, ‘Why wait until May to apply manure’ The answer is that the soil needs to warm up to 55 degrees otherwise the nutrient benefits of the manure bacteria working with plant roots and soil organisms are not activated. I suggest you invest in an inexpensive soil thermometer to check the soil temperature. At soil temperature of 55 degrees apply a three- to four- inch layer of composted manure.

When April arrives, carefully begin to clear away winter debris, treading carefully on the soil to avoid damaging soil structure and friable root systems. When you have carefully cleared away the debris, make a clean edge to the borders with a sharp spade; this makes a pleasing effect on the look of your garden.

The best tool to use is a sharpened lawn edger, the blade is a half circle 9 inches wide and 4.5 inches deep with a flat top – this tool creates a deep edge. Face the bed and thrust the edger down to its full depth and push the cut soil into the bed. Continue along and then remove the spade and surplus clumps of soil and grass.

Edging was one of the first lessons I was taught at our family nursery in England; my great- grandfather was a strict taskmaster standing over me for quite a few days until I got the edging correct.

If you are contemplating the location of a new planting bed or expanding an existing one, here are some tips:

  • Think in terms of where you spend your leisure time outdoors where you can sit in close proximity to the new bed in order to enjoy the bloom, fragrance and structure of your plantings.
  • From indoors are you able to view and enjoy the new border?
  • Is it an area where there will not be drainage problems, erosion concerns or water pooling?
  • Is it convenient to tend and enjoy where you can place a bench or chair?
  • Will you be abler to water it with relative ease?

For an informal garden I prefer a curved bed – a curved line gives grace and fluidity. I lay out a garden hose in the desired shape and size of bed, adjust the hose until you are satisfied with the gentle curves.

As previously mentioned, the best tool to use to edge or cut out a new bed is a sharpened lawn edger, the blade is a half circle 9 inches wide and 4.5 inches deep with a flat top – this tool creates a deep edge. Face the bed and thrust the edger down to its full depth and push the cut soil into the bed. Continue along and then remove the hose and surplus clumps of soil and grass.

Manure – do not apply manure until the soil temperature has reached 55 degrees which is usually in May, but with a soil thermometer you can check earlier. Many of you who have been my radio listeners and lecture audiences know how I feel about that wonderful natural product.

Manure is not a fertilizer – it builds soil structure, aids in drainage and its bacteria encourages the millions of soil animals below the surface to come alive and work with the manure bacteria to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants.

TYPES OF MANURE:

Poultry manure – I know the odor can be rather objectionable, however, this manure contains about 2% nitrogen, one of the highest levels in any manure. If you have access to poultry manure, allow it to age for two months and then add it to the garden.

Horse manure is about 0.5 % nitrogen. If you obtain horse manure from a stable, which has sawdust on its floors – it should be pretty weed free. What I have done in the past is obtain horse and cow manure from stables and farms in April.  When you get it home, spread manure out in a flat area (not in a planting bed) then cover it with a tarp for a month.  This method will suffocate the weed seeds and encourage the manures to continue to decompose. A week before using horse and cow manure remove the tarp to allow the sun to further decompose it.

Cow manure is 0.25 % nitrogen and is the most available manure.  If you get horse and cow manure from the farm, ask the farmer to give you manure from the bottom of the pile so that it is already partially decomposed.

Compost pile:

If you do not have a compost pile, maybe it could go on your list for this season. Vegetable waste from the kitchen plus grass clippings, and wood pruning can be added to the pile. The high temperature in the compost kills the weed seed and cooks all those other necessary ingredients.  The ratio of compost and manure for your garden is 1 part compost to 3 parts manure – but if you do not have compost – manure will do the trick

**DO NOT apply fresh manure to the garden, as it will burn the plants.  If you do not have a source of manures from a farm, purchase composted manure in bags from the garden center.

To produce the best-planting environment, resulting in a soil that is ‘black gold’ apply 3 inches of composted manure to all planted areas in May, July and October.

Natural fine bark Mulch can be added later in May. Do not use buckwheat mulch as it flies everywhere. Do not, I repeat do no use cocoa mulch, which is poisonous to dogs and cats and please do not use the chemically colored red mulch.  The benefits of natural fine bark mulch is that mulch helps to retain the beneficial moisture in the soil and also aids to retard weeds as does Bradfield organics, a corn gluten based weed pre emergent.

THE HUMUS COMPONENT:

I know I have written about the importance of the Humus component for the soil but I feel I must continue to stress this fact.

In 1937 Franklin D Roosevelt told us ‘that the nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.’

Unfortunately, America has not heeded that warning. Precious soils in this country and around the world are being destroyed by dangerous practices used in industrialized agriculture as well as poisonous chemicals, which completely disrupts our eco system and poisons all living things.

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 into your soil you need to build the humus component.

HOW TO BUILD THE HUMUS COMPONENT:

Do not till soil – tilling breaks up soil structure.

First step – Add composted manure three times – in spring when the soil has reached a temperature of 55 degrees.  If the soil has not reached that temperature, the soil organisms are not able to work with the bacteria in the manure to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants.

This year, as we have not experienced deep frost therefore, the soil temperature may reach 55 degrees by the end of April or early May.  Add the manure again in July to continue to nourish your growing plants and again in October to protect and nourish your plants and roots through winter.    Manure is not a fertilizer; it builds soil structure and works with all the soil animals to keep a healthy disease- free growing environment.

Second step – Add wood chips in the form of brown fine bark mulch or wood chips that you produce from your garden;  these are aged wood chips combined with leaves, twigs and branches.

These two major steps build the humus component. If you do this in your own garden – not only will you be  helping to heal the planet but also produce the healthiest of gardens.

A question I am often asked is ‘can I put manure over mulch for example in my July garden’? The answer is ‘yes’ – the manure together with nature’s moisture and your own irrigation enables the manure to find its way easily into the soil and the roots of your plants.

WHAT EXACTLY DOES HUMUS DO?

Humus acts like a sponge and can hold 90% of its weight in water.

Because of its negative charge – plant nutrients stick to humus for nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and minerals, which prevents these from washing away and acts as nature’s slow release fertilizer throughout the year.

Humus improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plants to root in this soil to get better access to nutrients, water and oxygen.

Humus also helps’ filter’ toxic chemicals from the soil, mulch like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.

We are not able to control industrialized agricultural practices – but in your own garden you can make a difference. Feed the soil and it will feed the plants.

Once again, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. So back to a cloudy day at the end of March, at this time you can gradually begin to remove protective covering from shrubs and small trees. In exposed garden areas, where wind is a problem, leave the covering on until mid April. Cold wind is more damaging and drying to plants than extreme cold and frost.

FROST HEAVE:
If some perennials, trees and shrubs have heaved out of the ground, cover the roots with fresh topsoil or mulch until mid May when they can be settled back in place.

I just walked around the corner of my house to check on my trellis on the chimney where I have roses and clematis planted together. Roses and clematis are a delightful combination in a companion planting.

A companion  planting means the rose and the clematis planted together have the same growing needs, ‘feet in the shade and heads in the sun’. Each month beginning in May, add manure and mulch around the base of both. Discontinue feeding roses and clematis in mid August; this enables both plants to go into a necessary slow dormancy.

BACKSCRATCH:

When the lawn has dried out in April, rake lightly and remove excess debris such as leaves and dead twigs.  Raking gently raises the mat of the lawn, which enables the emerging grass to breathe again.

Aerating machines are useful to develop a healthy lawn.  Puncture holes with the aerator and pull out plugs of soil every four to six inches; following this treatment, root development takes off and thatch is reduced.  Do not use the large thatching machines, as these machines damage the grass.

GRASS FERTILIZER:

In April apply an organic fertilizer and organic grub control before the grass begins to grow.

Reseed bare or sparse spots after gently loosening the soil, liming and fertilizing, then cover the seed with salt hay to keep the seed warm and to prevent wind from blowing the seed away.  Water the seed for the first three weeks. Do not blast the area with water, which will scatter the seeds. As with lilacs, grass enjoys alkaline soil which is why we use lime for this purpose.

MOLES:
To keep the mole population at a minimum in your garden; apply organic grub control once a month from March for two months; less grubs, less food for the moles. When you see signs of moles, find the mole holes and insert Exlax which contains Senna, an organic herb. The moles eat the exlax, become dehydrated from defecation and die.  Apply organic Pre-emergent crabgrass killers in March and April.

VOLES:
Spread castor oil around the base of plants and keep mulch away from the base of the plants so that voles, which are canny little creatures are not able to hide there and gnaw on plants and roots.

DEADHEADING:
Do not cut off the leaves of the crocus as they bloom; the leaves make food for the bulbs for next season’s bloom.

DAFFODILS:
When the green shoots emerge; spread composted manure around the plants.

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

CUTTING  DAFFODILS FOR DISPLAY INDOORS:
The stems release a sap like “goop” that harms other flowers.  Before adding Daffodils to an arrangement, cut the stems at an angle, and leave them in a vase half filled with lukewarm water for a couple of hours.  Discard that water and add the Daffodils to the other flowers.  If you recut the stems you will need to repeat the process. Change the water in the vase often.

PERENNIALS:
When perennials are about four inches above soil level, in May when soil is 55 degrees, apply composted manure around them to further encourage healthy growth.

DIVIDING PLANTS:
At the end of April or beginning of May, you can divide late blooming perennials that have been in the ground for four years or more; these divisions encourage stronger bloom.

Discard the older, inner parts of the clumps and plant the new outside portions.  Do not plant the new divisions any deeper than they were originally in the ground.

When dividing irises, barely cover the root system so they do not fall over – if Irises are planted too deep they will not bloom.

Pansies: pick the flowers regularly to encourage more bloom.

March is the time to plant the following seeds indoors: gaillardia, salvia, marigold, zinnia, petunia, snapdragon, stock and verbena. Before planting these seeds, soak seeds in warm water and plant them in sphagnum moss or coir. Coir is the outer shell or fiber of the Coconut, either of these two mediums prevents a disease called “damping off”, which can cause seeds to rot before germination.

Cover pots and seed trays with plastic wrap, which creates a mini-greenhouse, which provides moisture that seeds need to germinate.

Note: Remove the plastic once the seeds have germinated, as the soil needs to drain and needs air circulation around the emerging stems.

If you are going away on business, or on vacation reapply the plastic wrap over the pots and trays and prop some sticks or skewers in the corners. While you are away the seedlings will stay moist, make sure the seedlings do not come in contact with the plastic.

Start tuberous begonias, and caladiums indoors.

DORMANT SPRING SPRAYING of fruit trees, flowering cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash and lilac can be done before the leaf buds open.

Call in a professional company and request that they use only organic products.

Houseplants – repot them if they need repotting in April.

GERANIUMS:

The plants that you brought indoors at the end of last season check them and when the new side shoots appear, cut them back to four inches and repot them in clean pots about and inch and a half larger with fresh potting soil.

Well, fellow gardeners I know you are getting excited to be in your gardens this season and I hope that these tips have given you plenty to think about to keep you busy for a while. Enjoy photo of lovely gardens that my son Ian and I have designed on Facebook and if you wish I suggest you contact Ian for a consultation and enjoy the photos on his website LlandscapesbyIan.co.

Enjoy being outdoors in spring sunshine and I look forward to seeing  you in your garden in April!

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, 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.

Gardening Tips for February from ‘The English Lady’: So Much to Decide, So Much to Do This Month

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash.

This winter, as in other winters, when I need a blossom boost, I have enjoyed the fragrance of paper white narcissus that I planted in tall glass vases.

I surrounded the bulbs with seashells from White Sand Beach here in Old Lyme and kept them in a dark cool area keeping them moist as the roots developed.  When the bulb foliage reached about six inches, I introduced the bulbs to indirect light.

The fragrance of this plant is so inviting and each morning on entering my lounge I inhaled their fragrance – so refreshing and uplifting. I keep extra bulbs in a brown paper bag in the vegetable keeper in the refrigerator and these bulbs, I am about to plant as the first blooms have gone by. With this method, I have a succession of bloom and fragrance in my home well into spring.

The Groundhog told us the other day that we have six more weeks of winter and there is much to decide and plan for in our gardens. The warmer refreshing breath of Spring will be here before you know it and we are filled with the anticipation that lives within all gardeners of getting outdoors and hands into the soil.

Lots to look forward to and I am asking respectfully that you garden organically.

In this country and around the world, one can clearly the results of pollution and climate change. And for gardeners, what this crisis is doing to Mother Nature and your own health in the form of poisonous pesticides and herbicides. The main producers of these poisons are Monsanto and other biological monsters who have been decimating our world for profit together with pollution and neglect that is destroying our planet.

We have been able to observe a result of the global warming in the colossal melting of the glaciers and how that has affected polar bears, causing their demise in great numbers through starvation and disease.

Bees, were killed in the millions when the EPA  sprayed over 14 million acres of land during the Trump administration, with these poisonous chemicals. Bees pollinate 70 percent of the world’s food and their demise is our demise. I feel confident that the new  administration will make changes to these practices to keep alive all living creatures on the planet.

Photo by Jenna Lee on Unsplash.

Last year was recorded as the hottest year on record for our planet.  In this country, the drought in the west, that resulted in dry tinder conditions, caused devastating fires that brought death and destruction to many in California, Oregon and Colorado. Extreme weather patterns also caused tornadoes, deadly hurricanes, earthquakes and recorded below zero temperatures this winter, together with heavy snow.

As gardeners our diligence is essential to help counteract these negative changes by using only organic methods of gardening on your own plot of land; what we do is in our garden is an important element in the quest to heal the planet. Through 20 years on my radio show WRCH 100.5 FM and through my Garden Earth lectures, I have received commitments from numerous people to discard all poisonous herbicides and pesticides, and to garden organically. The response had been tremendously positive towards producing healthy gardens grown in healthy soil.

It begins by what you put into the soil for the growth of the plants,  accomplished by adding liberal doses of my favorite stuff –aged manure. Manure either from the farm or in bags from the garden center.

In 1937 Franklin D Roosevelt said 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.

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. And to attract carbon from the atmosphere into your soil you need to build the humus component. 

HOW TO BUILD THE HUMUS COMPONENT

Step One:

Do not till soil – tilling breaks up soil structure. Add composted manure three times – beginning in spring when the soil has reached a temperature of 50 degrees.  If the soil has not reached that temperature, the soil organisms are not able to work with the bacteria in the manure to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants.  Purchase a soil thermometer to check the soil’s temperature. 

This year, as we have not experienced deep frost therefore the soil temperature may reach 45 degrees by the end of April to early May.  Add the manure again in July to continue to nourish your growing plants and again in October to protect and nourish your plants through the winter.  Manure is not a fertilizer; it builds soil structure and works with all the soil animals to keep a healthy disease-free growing environment.  

Step Two:

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

These two major steps build the humus component. If you do this in your garden – not only will you helping to heal the planet but also produce the healthiest of gardens. 

A question I am often asked is, ‘Can I put manure over mulch for example in my July garden?’ The answer is ‘yes’ – the manure together with nature’s moisture and your own irrigation enables the manure to find its way easily into the soil and the roots of your plants.     

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

WHAT EXACTLY DOES HUMUS DO?

Humus acts like a sponge and can hold 90 percent of its weight in water.

Because of its negative charge – plant nutrients stick to humus for nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and others, which prevents these from washing away – it acts as nature’s slow-release fertilizer throughout the year.

Humus improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plant root in this soil environment better access to nutrients, water and oxygen.

Humus also helps ‘filter’ toxic chemicals from the soil, much 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. Feed the soil and it will feed the plants. 

PLANTING SEEDS

This week I spoke with my friend Ann, who lives in Cheshire, in England, which is next door to my home county of Shropshire. Ann is an avid gardener and she told me that her daffodils are well above the soil and a week ago she started seeds in the greenhouse.

Feb. 20 to March 20 is the time for serious indoor seed planting here. I suggest that you check which garden centers are stocking organic seeds, or go online for the seeds  – one company that I use is “Botanical Interests.”  Do not go overboard when buying packs of seeds as there are about 500 seeds in each packet.

If you do purchase too many, have a remote seed-sharing party with gardening friends and ask them to receive or drop off seeds at your homes while keeping a social distance.

Equipment to have on hand when prepping for seeding

Cheap envelopes, fresh sterilized potting soil mix, and sphagnum moss. Also seed trays, or egg cartons also cardboard milk containers that are cut down work well.  All containers must be scrupulously clean.

Sphagnum moss works well as a planting medium; the moss can prevent a soil-borne fungus that causes “damping off,” which causes seeds to rot before germination.  I have, together with many gardening friends, used this method for years and have lost no seeds due to “damping off.”

For tiny seeds, I use the moss as the planting mix and for larger seeds, I install a topsoil base and a layer of the moss on top of the soil. I mix fine seeds with sand before I sow; this method helps to loosen them up. Soak the seeds overnight before planting and just before planting spray them with warm water, never cold as cold water can delay germination. When they have germinated, water gently.

The best method of watering seedlings is to water from the bottom. But, if you feel you must top water, just mist with a fine sprayer, otherwise you will drown the delicate seeds, washing them out of the planting mix.

Use new sterilized soil when seeding and do not save any leftover soil, add it to houseplants or put it in the garden. Left-over soil from the previous year can develop disease, which can ruin future seedling crops.  If you are growing seedlings on a windowsill, place them on a south- or west-facing sill; seedlings need light and not heat to thrive.

WINTER CARE OF HOUSEPLANTS

Photo by Alena Ganzhela on Unsplash.

My houseplants lift my spirits, even more so in winter when the landscape is rather monochromatic. I talk to my plants enjoying the blooming variety and the different foliage varieties and thank them for cleaning the air in a stuffy home environment.

Keep your houseplants away from draughts and direct heat. If you are able, have humidifiers and air purifiers in the rooms, which will benefit not only the plants but also your own health. Place pebble trays under the plants and keep the pebbles moist for additional humidity.

Spray houseplants every few days with lukewarm water and once every couple of weeks, put the plants in a sink or bathtub and allow water to run freely over the plant to remove dust from the leaves and clean salt residue from the soil. The exception to the spray or soak rule is African violets; violets do not like wet leaves.

Aphids and white fly thrive indoors in winter and an organic sulphur solution called Safer works well to clean the soil of the insect eggs and from the foliage. Perhaps you are fortunate like me to have ladybugs in your home in winter; if so, allow these useful creatures to roam freely; the ladybug menu is aphids and white flies.

The best time to repot houseplants is from April through June but if a plant has become root bound with no visible soil, then you can repot them in February. Water the plant to loosen the roots from the soil, turn it sideways on a newspaper and gently slide it from the pot.

Cut away any dead roots and repot in fresh potting soil in a clean pot that is only two inches larger than the original.  With the plant firmly in place and the soil one inch from the rim, water it gently and do not fertilize with an organic fertilizer until April.  Plants need this dormant period to recharge.

A few suggestions for trouble-free foliage plants in the home are: Rubber plants, Spider plants, Ivy, Philodendron, Monstera and Spaphyllum. If you have a sunny window Aloes, Succulents and Cacti do great and offer enjoyable variety.

Blooming plants sitting side by side with foliage plants, enjoying one another’s company, give one an impression of a miniature garden.

A few suggestions of bloomers are Cyclamen, African Violets, Kalanchoe, Primulas and Paper white narcissus. To prevent pets from chewing on the plants, add some cayenne pepper to the water when watering.  I enjoy using my herbal plants, which sit in a sunny window. My favorites are Rosemary, Basil and Parsley which are great additions to any dish.

POWER TOOLS

Check any power tools that require maintenance or repair. February or March is the time to get them into the repair shop, because as soon as the weather breaks the shops get busy and you may not get your lawn mower back until August.

Check all tools and implements in the garage or shed. If you did not clean them off at the end of last season, plunge the shovels and spades into a bucket of sand; sand is an abrasive and will clean off any leftover soil and manure residue.

Oil the wooden handles of tools with Linseed oil or some inexpensive vegetable oil; oil feeds the wood and keeps the handles splinter free. At the same time, check your hoses and fittings that may have sprung leaks since last year.

Make a shopping list of new tools that are needed – there are lots of sales in late winter for you to get a good deal.  However, I suggest that you buy only quality tools and hoses; the old adage always applies, “You get what you pay for.” Also check that there is enough twine, bamboo rods, and wire ties or nails, bags of manure and peat on hand.

BUYING MANURE

In March or early April when soil and manure are available, purchase bags of composted manure from the garden center or if you have a farm close by that will sell you aged manure, use a small  truck and get a load.  If you decide on that route, ask the farmer for manure from the bottom of the pile – aged stuff.  Manure needs to be at least six months old, as fresh manure will burn your plants.

PAINTING FENCES & MORE

Photo by duong chung on Unsplash.

Check the paintwork on your wooden fences, arbors, decks and any other outdoor wooden structures. Then purchase, paint supplies so that on a dry day in March when you are able to paint, everything will be on hand.

Don’t forget to put paintbrushes on your list – I have a feeling you forgot to clean your old brushes last season, which means they are ‘stiff as a poker’, that being said, remember sandpaper, brush cleaner and whenever possible buy eco-conscious paint.  If you are painting benches and garden seats on a dry day, put them under cover before sundown.

White walls in the greenhouse reflect light so any areas that need retouching, paint with white paint. It’s a great feeling to see how much lighter and brighter the greenhouse is after a touch of paint and the glass cleaned.

However meticulously clean and tidy your greenhouse, you may find that white fly, greenfly and scale insects have found their way inside the greenhouse for warmth, therefore it will be necessary to spray with an organic spray. I mix an organic spray of orange peels in white vinegar and allow it to sit for two weeks before spraying – this works well and is very economical.

TAKE A WALK AROUND THE GARDEN

Walking around a garden that looks good and feels good in mid-winter is a real pick-me-up. Patterns emerge created by paths, walls and hedges. As you walk, enjoy the shapes of shrubs, the shadows of evergreens and the strong silhouettes of tree trunks, enjoying their shape and bark without foliage.

FEED THE BIRDS … AND SQUIRRELS!

Photo by elvis bueno on Unsplash.

Keep the bird feeders full; I love to watch the birds in their quick flights across the garden to alight on the feeders, and their sudden bursts of song when the sun peaks through. It is so much fun to watch the “pecking” order and see the blue jays, who are apt to be bullies and the red cardinals, who, like the blue jays, can be rather territorial, leading the pack. Bring up the rear come the finches and house sparrows. Sometimes a bird appears arrives that I do not recognize and out comes my binoculars and Peterson bird book.

If you notice squirrels swarming the bird feeders, add some cayenne pepper to the birdseed and if that happens, do not be concerned as the heat from the cayenne does not affect birds.  Choose a spot away from the feeders to sprinkle cayenne-free birdseed on the ground so the squirrels can also enjoy a meal.

THE SCENTS OF WINTER

Winter has its own distinctive fragrance, the fog, in the morning when the air is very heavy, thick and damp – a damp even more bone chilling than rain.  I can deal with that now and know in about six weeks I will be inhaling the healthy nose-clearing fragrance of the soil, rich and brown, well-manured or covered with wood mulch, shredded leaves or salt hay.

Winter’s smells are a potpourri, one moment sharp and cold like the north wind, and spring’s flavors are light and sweet.

If you find you have spent year after year throwing good money after bad, it may be time to get a professional design. If that is so, don’t hesitate; if you want work to begin in the spring, a design takes time to complete. You may want to contact my son Ian, whose company LandscapesByIan.com show his creations and who will work with you and your budget.

Have a great month and I’ll see you in your garden in March.

If you have any gardening questions, feel free to email me at MaureenHaseleyJones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, 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

Gardening Tips for January by The English Lady: New Year, New Chapter, New Opportunities

Paper-white narcissi have a beautiful fragrance. Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash.

Happy New Year everyone!

Recently on Dec. 21,  we experienced the Winter Solstice and turned the corner so that with each day, we move gradually from the dark into the light to a longer, brighter day.

A few weeks ago, I planted my Paper-white Narcissus on pebbles, with just enough pebbles to anchor the bulbs in place or you may use potting soil. I use tall glass vases and it is most important keep the pebbles moist with enough water to cover the bottom of each bulb.

I brought my Rosemary plant indoors in September, Rosemary are not hardy outdoors in our zone six and. I spray the plant twice weekly with water and run a cold-water humidifier and two germ guardian air cleaners with UV lights for personal health and the health of my plants.  

After planting the Paper White Narcissus, I placed them in a dark cool closet until the foliage is about four inches tall. Today I moved them from the dark closet to a cool room with indirect light and where the temperature remains at about 65 degrees. When the buds are almost ready to open, I will place them in a brighter area to be enjoyed, not only for their bloom but also the heady fragrance. which permeates the house.   

The new bloom gets me out of the winter doldrums, which is particularly heavy this year with the pandemic, and anything I can do to lift my spirits is welcome. I know that the severe changes that are occurring with global warming combined with pollution in the air, water and the earth, are severely damaging our planet and I know this year, our new government will begin in earnest to heal our planet for ourselves and the future for our children.    

Your personal contribution to saving our planet is to organically tend the soil with compost, manure and natural brown mulch, which builds the humus component in your soil. Your plants and vegetables will thrive, as will you.  Throughout the year allow your garden to anchor you, connecting heart, body, mind and spirit to Mother Nature’s lifegiving bountiful gifts and spiritual energy.  

The harsh winds of January and February extract moisture from trees and shrubs, especially the evergreens. Winter winds are more harmful to plants than cold temperatures, not only causing plant breakage but also soil erosion. For that reason, it’s helpful to have a few bags of topsoil and mulch in the garage. With these items on hand, any roots can be covered when they become exposed by wind or frost heave. 

Roots exposed to the elements for any length of time can kill the plant, so when you notice exposed roots quickly cover exposed areas with soil and mulch. When spring arrives, and the earth warms up, the plant can be resettled in place together with composted manure and the natural brown mulch to provide protection and nutrition.

On a sunny day in January, take a walk round the garden to breathe in the fresh air and as you walk, make some notes and decide what worked for you last year and what you will never try again. 

Later when back indoors, sitting in your armchair, browse through the catalogues that began arriving a few months ago. You have already begun making lists of plants that you are thinking of buying. However, a word of caution when gazing at the photos, which are meant to tempt you with their lovely but “doctored up” pictures of plants that you feel certain will make your garden sensational this year.   

Don’t be fooled, instead try to make 2021 the year for realistic and organized change. Please do not allow your imagination to go haywire and be caught up in the fantasy of the brightly colored, high maintenance garden pictures shown in the catalogues.  Suit your garden to your lifestyle that will work within your time frame and physical abilities.  If you follow that construct, you will have the time to sit, relax and smell the roses, without being overwhelmed or disappointed.    

As you sit and plan for the coming season, it’s important to keep your budget in mind. It’s hard to believe as you look outside at the uninspiring landscape that in a few months, early spring sunshine and pleasant breezes will warm the soil. When the soil is dry enough to tread on, winter debris may carefully be cleared away. Then with a clean palette you can add that lovely layer of manure and compost (the ratio being three parts manure to onepart compost).

Following those tasks, I find it personally satisfying to make a clean edge on the borders, this simple task makes such a difference to the look of any garden.  With all that prep done, April showers will arrive, the sun shines and you are ready for the fun stuff, the placing and planting!  

For those of you who are vegetable gardeners and look forward to a bountiful year with fruits and vegetables and with rain, extra irrigation and sunshine to produce this delicious bounty. As we advance into spring, we can expect the invasion of the good and bad insects, moles, voles and other critters, which can be dealt with naturally.

Your memory of your garden from last season may be lost in the enthusiasm of a new season, so I am asking you to be kind to yourself, for last year you became overwhelmed with too much gardening, and not enough time to relax and smell the roses. 

Here are some suggestions you might follow to avoid that problem:

  • Send some of your borders back to grass.
  • Make some of the high maintenance perennial borders, into mixed shrub borders. To accomplish this, take out some of the high maintenance perennials and donate them to a worthy cause.
  • Plant small and medium size evergreen shrubs; some green, some blue and some of the lovely evergreen gold variety, amongst the perennials.  To these, add small flowering deciduous trees and shrubs that will begin flowering in April and successively through June. The Carlesii viburnum, also known as Korean Spice is a favorite small shrub of mine, with its white buds that open to a pale pink and that has the most delightful fragrance.
  • Add a Ben Franklin tree with its white cup like blooms and gold center that flowers in August through September.
  • Nestle three Blue Mist shrubs in the mixed border; this plant will delight with purple blooms and fragrant leaves into September.
  • On a fence or trellis, plant white autumn clematis.
  • Add a groundcover as an evergreen framework – my favorite is Myrtle with its glossy leaves and miniature blue flowers that emerge in April.

Do garden fairies live here? Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash.

It is never too soon to introduce your children and grandchildren to the wonders of the garden and as an extra enticement, introduce them to the garden fairies.  Through the years I asked children to draw a picture of the garden fairy and make a list of questions to ask the fairies who live in the wild patch.  We all have a wild patch in the garden; and at this point you are probably saying, “Maureen, my garden is one large ‘wild patch’.

In the interim, the children became so excited and enthused about their lists and pictures of the fairies, for what you have shown them is the transformation of science into magic. These days we seem to have forgotten about fairy tales, dreams and magic; it’s way past time to bring those wonderful energies back into our lives and into the lives of our children.  

In spring and on into summer I would find my children or their friends impatiently checking the garden wanting to see their planting efforts come into bloom. In the vegetable garden they gathered to check what was ready to eat from the produce they had planted.  I have found that this introduction to the garden has inspired these children to enthusiastically plant and tend gardens of their own as adults. 

My son Ian is a great example of this as he has partnered with me through the years in the garden – and thus the old adage that ‘the student is better than the teacher’ has certainly proved to be correct. Ian is a designer par excellence and I invite you to check his website LandscapesbyIan.com and his Facebook page for lovely examples of his work. 

In my March gardening tips, I’ll offer you some suggestions of ornamental trees, shrubs and long blooming perennials. With that list in hand, it is preferable to obtain your plants from local garden centers that carry tried and true plants that will flourish in zone six.   

On the other hand, if you feel that over the years, you have been throwing good money after bad in your garden and despair when you feel that your garden never looks right, get in touch with a landscape company (like my son’s!) who will keep your budget in mind whether you want to do your own work, or wish for a design to install yourself.  

On the other hand, when you are planning your garden for this coming season there are important facts to keep in mind:  

  • What are the plants requirements for sun, shade, soil, and water?
  • Will they survive in this zone, Zone 6?
  • What are the growth patterns of the plants?  Do they grow fast or slow?

Rhododendron Catawbiense is a stunning addition to any garden.

You do not want a 50 ft. tree up against the house with tremendous roots that will play havoc with your house foundation.  Or do you want that lovely but very large, Catawbiense Rhododendron, all 10 ft. of it, climbing through your dining room window in five years? 

To find those facts, either check the plants in a book, on the Internet or read the labels attached to the plants in the nursery. 

Check every aspect of the plant before you buy.  The red or green Lace leaf Japanese maple looks lovely in spring but is it something you can enjoy, without its leaves in the winter?  Personally, I not only enjoy the foliage of plants and trees but also the shape and bark of trees without foliage in winter.  

For those of you just beginning a garden, let us be honest and dispense with the myth that gardening is a relaxing hobby. At the end of that first day of digging, lugging soil, manure and fertilizer, and planting everything at the proper depth; you will feel that you are going to keel over.  

Then you remember that you still need to water the newly-installed plants as you drag your tired body to switch on the hose. Thank goodness, the mulching can wait until tomorrow or next weekend, right? Right!   

Watering by the way can be meditative. Imagine that the hose is your umbilical cord so that as you nourish the earth and the plants, the earth can nourish you. 

By now the sun has gone down, and you trudge indoors muttering to yourself, “What the heck did I get myself into?”  To this comment I say, “You did not have to tackle all of the garden in one day”.  

In gardening, there is always tomorrow, or next week, and even though the label says to plant it by the end of May or June, believe me folks, a few weeks later does not matter, the garden will wait for you.  

You may be saying to yourself at this point, “Maureen are you trying to put us off gardening”? No folks, but I would remiss, as someone who has gardening in my blood (as well as manure) for over 400 years to tell you, however reluctantly, not only the pleasures, but some of the aches and pains.

The idea is not to bite off more than you can chew.  For first time gardeners, don’t scatter your energies all over the garden, tackle and complete one area at a time. That area should be priority one until it is complete.  

If you have a new home with no landscaping, some hardscape may be required.  Hardscape is walls, walkways, patios, ponds, decks and so on. The sound and look of a water feature in the garden is delightful, it need not be elaborate, a fountain is fine – the reflection of water is Mother Nature’s mirror.

If you are not able to do this construction yourself, get in touch with a landscape contractor now, so that a plan can be done now, installed and ready by spring.  I say to connect now as Ian tells me that many landscape products are short on supply this year.   

All of these endeavors mean you getting yourself in shape physically, so get off that couch, put away the catalogues and your plant lists, stretch, then wrap yourself up in warm gear and take that walk.   

As you walk, look at the trees in winter, the elegant shape of them, the lichen on the stonewalls, and the moss tucked in cracks and crevices.  Clear your mind and allow nature’s spirit to surround you.  As you walk, look at a garden or two in your neighborhood; gardens which you have admired when they were in bloom and see what they look like in winter.  

I remember one of my professors when I studied at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew saying, “In winter you can tell a really good landscape by its bones, without the flesh of flora and foliage.” In spring, get in touch with those neighbors whose gardens you admired and ask them some of the secrets of their garden. They will be happy to talk with you not only of their successes but their failures – true gardeners are realists when they speak about their gardens and love to share.  

Well everyone, I’ve given you plenty to think about right now so enjoy your daydreaming of the season to come and I’ll see you next month in your garden.

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, 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

Gardening Tips from ‘The English Lady’ for November — ‘The Month of Last Red Berries, First White Snows’

The final leaves of fall. Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

We have been fortunate here in New England to have the pleasure of a lovely summer – not too hot with adequate rain. Followed by a warm fall with more than enough rain into November to encourage healthy root growth for a vibrant spring next year.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that this weather foretells a mild winter – we can only hope, but then again this is New England.

Planting bulbs

This year, due to the warm fall, the soil is still soft and warm for digging, which brings to mind, spring bulbs. Wear gloves when planting Daffodil bulbs, as these bulbs cause an irritation called a ‘lily rash’. Make sure you plant the bulb at a depth of at least three times the size of the bulb with the pointed end up and add composted manure around the planting holes.  Daffodil bulbs need to be at least nine inches into the soil below the frost line for optimum bloom. 

Dig a trench for the bulbs and scatter them in the trench.  Bulbs can touch one another without a problem and by planting this way you will produce full dramatic show in spring. 

Tulip bulbs should be planted twelve inches down to get them out of harm’s way as tulips are the caviar of the rodent family. I offer a suggestion to avoid this problem before planting by soaking them in an organic deer repellent then allowing them to dry in the sun. This will deter critters from eating them.

Another protection is to line the planting hole with gravel.

In the spring when the bulb foliage is about four inches tall, sprinkle more composted manure around all the bulbs you planted. 

Other tasks for November

I hear you saying, “Okay Maureen, I’m ready to plant the bulbs but what else is there to do in the garden”? Folks, there are a number of things to get you out in the garden this fall. 

The most important task is to apply a few inches of composted manure on all planted borders with a light layer of natural brown mulch on top. By doing this you will continue to build the humus component in the soil.

Before the snow flies, any construction projects that you have in mind can be accomplished. This includes stonework and carpentry, building decks, and mending fences. Building dry laid stonewalls, walkways, patios and digging ponds. This is definitely labor-intensive work, but at this time of year you won’t be uncomfortably hot. Make sure to stretch, take breaks and drink lots of water.  

When the weather is inclement, work under a construction tent when building walls, decks or digging ponds.  Or build trellises, pergolas, and arbors and fences in a shed or garage. The added advantage to the hard labor is that it keeps one in shape, especially with those fattening holiday meals looming on the horizon.  

If you are not able or do not want to do the work yourself, now is the time to call in a professional to do the work so that the project is completed before you plant in spring. 

Each year, harsh winter wind damages much of the foliage of broadleaf evergreens. Rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas are particularly vulnerable as cold wind drains them of much-needed moisture. Broadleaf evergreens with their shallow root system need a good store of water going into the winter. We have had reasonable rain but need more this fall; the rain helps the broadleaves survive, as they will continue to lose water vapor through the cold months.  

Many of you have said that you notice the harsh winds of the past two winters caused the foliage on many rhododendrons to become brown and brittle. This happens when the soil freezes so that plant roots, cannot take up water to make up for moisture lost from water vapor. Dehydration is the result causing brown or wind burnt foliage.  

I do not go overboard with wrapping evergreens with burlap in winter. My white pines, Colorado blue spruce and Fraser firs are at least 50 years old and well-established so no worries about damage. However, there are exceptions, with plants that require a burlap wrap. Among those are evergreens planted in September. Among those is the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, so prone to wind burn.

The Albertas should be covered with one layer of burlap, loosely wrapped.  

If the evergreens are planted close to a road and exposed to salt spray from the snow trucks and ploughs, burlap three feet up from the base may help.

The best idea  however, is not to plant them close to the road or plant salt-tolerant species like Juniper.

At the base of all evergreens, spread a three-inch layer of leaves or fine bark mulch, composted manure and peat around the base of the trunk.  Following a heavy snowstorm when evergreen branches are weighed down with snow gently brush the snow off with a broom.   

The leaves of the deciduous trees fell fast this fall due to the recent storms. Either you or a nimble person should climb a ladder and remove leaves from gutters and drainpipes. Water from clogged gutters and pipes falling onto foundation plantings causes damage to the plants below.  

Peonies and Perennials … and Vegetable Gardens

Now in November, following the first hard frost, cut Peonies down to within six inches from the ground, adding just a small amount of composted manure around the base.

I leave up my spent perennials until next April. The soft grays browns and yellows compliment the muted hues of a winter landscape and our feathered friends enjoy the seed heads. 

Any leftover vegetables in the vegetable garden should have been turned into the soil.  Add a light application of manure to the vegetable garden and plant a cover crop of buckwheat, alfalfa or white clover, to minimize erosion. In spring, turn the cover crop into the soil as green manure.     

Power Tools, Irrigation Systems & More

Take any of your power tools that require repair or sharpening into the shop now.  The repair shops are less busy now than in the spring.  Clean your tools off in a bucket of sand, the roughness of the sand will help clean off soil and debris, then oil and grease wooden handles to preserve them and prevent splinters. Hang them neatly on hooks in the garage or shed and not just “higgledy-piggledy” in a pile   

If you have an inground irrigation system, blow out the lines or have this done professionally. Also coil your hoses and store in shed or garage, and shut off outdoor faucets.

Put a bag of potting soil in the corner of the garage or basement, it will come in handy for repotting houseplants, bulb forcing or starting seeds in the spring.  A supply of peat, composted manure, sand and vermiculite is also useful.  Also put a bag of topsoil and some mulch under cover so that you can cover the shallow roots of evergreens if they push above soil surface due to frost heave.  

Houseplants

The best time to transplant houseplants is during the growing season beginning in April. However, if you need to repot some houseplants that have outgrown their container, transplant to a clean pot only two inches larger than the original as plants like to be compact; add new potting soil and water.  

Container geraniums and begonias brought indoors should be placed in a sunny window to be enjoyed. In February, cut the plants down to about six inches from the soil surface and water them. 

Water houseplants, early in the day; not in the evening, as plants do not like to have wet feet at night.  Water them only when the top four inches of soil is dry to the touch. Once a month stand them in the bathtub or sink and spray the leaves with lukewarm water to remove any dust, dirt, white fly or aphids.  Do not get allow water to get on the leaves of African violets.  

Bulbs for forcing

Paper white Narcissus bulbs are great for forcing. I force these bulbs in pebbles, but you may use potting soil if you wish and keep the pebbles or soil moist. Put the Narcissus bulbs in tall containers. I use tall clear glass vases, which help support the stems. I anchor the bulbs with pebbles, keep the pebbles moist and place the containers in a cool dark place. As soon as you see root growth and some leaf growth, which is in about a month, bring the bowls into medium light, keeping the pebbles or soil moist at all times. 

I force about a dozen bulbs at a time and the remainder I store in the vegetable keeper in the refrigerator in a brown paper bag away from food. I bring them out and pot them up a few at a time so that I have a succession of fragrant bloom throughout the winter.  

Herbs

Grow pots of parsley, dill, basil and other herbs in a sunny window, delicious fresh herbs for cooking and salads through winter. 

Roses

Remove any dead or diseased leaves from Roses and pick up any Rose debris off the ground.  If you notice disease like black spot in the debris, do not put it in your compost pile; throw it away in the garbage.  Mound soil, composted manure and mulch around the base of the Roses. The mounding helps maintain a constant temperature around the Rose. 

If the Roses are grown in an exposed area, which makes them vulnerable to drying winter winds, cover the plant with one loose layer of burlap or use a rose cone.  Make sure all climbers Roses and other Vines are securely fastened to the fence or trellis.  

Bird feeders

Set up your bird feeders where you are able to enjoy seeing the birds. Preferably place the feeders near to some low shrubs or small trees sheltered from the wind; birds like to flit from these protected spots to the feeder. Offer a varied menu for different birds.  Birds enjoy a recipe I received from my stepmother in England; a lump of suet embedded with peanuts or hollowed out pinecones filled with peanut butter.  

To prevent squirrels from raiding the feeders, set up a baffle and sprinkle cayenne pepper in the birdseed and on the suet feeders; the heat does not bother the birds and squirrels will stay clear.  I am aware that hungry squirrels can jump vertically five feet; but don’t worry if you happen to be a squirrel lover; they always manage to get food from some feeder.

This is the time of year when we gardeners can pause and with the previous season still fresh in your mind, say, “this worked,” and “that I will never try again.”  It is worthwhile to take a leisurely stroll around the garden before the snow flies in the next few weeks.

Look at the garden, squarely and soberly, making notes as you go to plan for next season. Plan as you stroll, writing down your impressions, making sketches and lists, and saving them for your winter armchair gardening. 

Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and I’ll see you in your garden next month.

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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