Protect those delicate plants from frosts

When the temperature plummets and frosts are common, gardeners need to have taken steps to protect non-hardy plants growing in their gardens but how cold is too cold for plants?

Different plants are affected by frost and can fail at different temperatures. That is why most plants are given a hardiness rating. It is not widely known that some plants produce special hormones that keep them from freezing, and these plants can survive colder weather than plants which produce less of this hormone. Although a plant may lose all its foliage during a freeze, and some can regrow from the stems or even the roots. So, while the leaves cannot survive freezing temperatures, other parts of the plant can.

So, what is the most effective way of protecting those less-hardy plants in our gardens? If you are only expecting a light freeze, you may be able to protect plants in a freeze by simply covering them with a sheet or a blanket. This acts as insulation, keeping warm air from the ground around the plant. The warmth may be enough to keep a plant from freezing during a short cold snap. For added protection when you protect plants in a freeze, you can place plastic over the sheets or blankets to help keep warmth in.

Festive winter hanging baskets

Have you ever thought about having winter hanging baskets as part of your Christmas outdoor decorations this year? It is not too late to get them planted as most of the plants will be evergreen and winter hardy. Variegated sedge and bronze and purple-leafed ajuga will look amazing in a winter hanging basket and will last throughout the winter months as will variegated ivy.

A common problem in winter is for the hanging baskets to become waterlogged. To help with this issue use a porous liner such as a green fibrous synthetic one or several layers of plastic netting along with an open textured peat free compost or bark chippings.

When ready for planting it is best to pack the plants in closely so that their root balls are touching which will give a much better display as the plants grow. Sprayed fir cones mounted on wire can be added to the baskets to make them look more festive and artificial flowers such as poinsettia can also be added if desired. A really lovely way to add a touch of Christmas to the hanging baskets is to wrap some timed battery lights around the plants so that as it gets dark the lights will illuminate the plants.

Don’t let aches and pains spoil your gardening interest

Gardening at this time of the year can be quite strenuous as plants that have finished flowering may need to be pruned back, borders dug over and trees and hedges trimmed so are there are tips for making looking after your garden easier?

Trying to maintain good posture when gardening is vitally important as this will prevent back problems later on. Using a padded kneeler when weeding borders and pots or planting bulbs is a good idea and helps to protect knees from harm. Always remember to keep your back straight rather than hunching over when doing this task.

Digging garden beds allows the winter frost to break up the soil thus improving its structure, so it is a necessity for any avid gardener. Good quality garden tools which are ergonomically designed can take pressure off joints and when used with the correct posture should help to avoid injury to the back, shoulder and legs. Sharp tools work better so make sure that shears, spades and secateurs are sharpened regularly.

If there are any landscaping tasks that need attention such as moving large items around, replacing and renewing fencing or slabbing it is wise to tackle these tasks over a period of time not all in one go or ask someone to assist you making the task much more manageable.

Enjoy the relaxing sound of running water in your garden

If you are sitting in the garden relaxing it is lovely to be able to hear the sound of running water and so many people install some type of water feature even if they have a small outdoor space.

Choosing the right water feature for your garden will depend a lot on the position it can be in and the size of the garden. You may want your water feature to be the focal point in the garden or be a more subtle feature such as a small waterfall.

Water features can vary in price by a considerable amount so you will need to think carefully about the effect you want to achieve in your garden so that you buy the one that is most suitable. Most water features will need a pump of some sort which will be need an electrical connection. You will need somewhere to plug the feature in so an outdoor socket may be needed. It is not a safe option to use extension leads and have the pump plugged in inside the house and so you may need to get an electrician to fit an outside electrical socket for you so that your water feature is safe to use.

Save money on plants for your garden

Buying plants for the garden can cost a fortune but whether you want to fill up the pots and planters in your garden or install ornamental shrubs there are a few ways that you can reduce the costs and bag a variety of plants for free.

Joining a local horticultural group if there is one in your area is a good first step as like-minded gardeners will probably be interested in swapping plants and seeds. You may also gain knowledge about propagating new plants successfully from other people. Another way of getting new plants is by taking cuttings from plants that you like, with the owners’ permission of course.

Collecting seeds from plants that have gone to seed and storing them in a cool dry place ready for next year is another very good way to grow new plants. Seeds can even be collected from fruit and salad items that are past their best and dried ready to produce a new crop for the following year.

Plants in your garden that have become too big for the space they are in can be divided and given away or sold. Car boot sales often have plant stalls and bargain plants can be found to suit all tastes.

Delightful water lilies without a pond

Maintaining a garden pond can be quite a commitment especially if there are fish to be cared for but some of the joys of having a pond can be experienced with a garden water feature instead.

Pond owners often associate the summer months with the opening of the water lilies in their ponds as the sight of the impressive blooms is beautiful and worth waiting for however water lilies can be grown successfully in a barrel water feature which requires much less ongoing maintenance than a pond.

Each of the water lily blooms only lasts for three or four days and they actually close at night and open again when the sun is shining directly on the flower so the position of your water barrel will need to be considered if you want the lilies to flower regularly.

Water lilies do not come cheap, but it is best to buy them from a water garden specialist to ensure that they are suitable for your water feature and will thrive in a smaller space. One variety that grows well in smaller containers is the red-flowered James Brydon however an expert at your local garden centre will be able to advise you on alternative water lilies to buy if this variety is unavailable.

How easy is it to grow bamboo?

Bamboo makes a great statement plant in any garden and as long as the variety is one that grows in clumps rather than the species that spreads it can be grown in a sunny spot in large and small gardens alike.

Bamboo thrives best in soil that is rich in organic matter, so a good quality compost or better still homemade compost is necessary to ensure a healthy plant that will produce lots of canes. Patience is needed initially then after a year or two the colour of the bamboo canes begins to develop. Although the traditional yellow and golden cane variety is popular the more recently cultivated black bamboo will provide a dramatic backdrop in the garden or create a stunning feature in a corner of the outdoor space.

Bamboo varieties can be grown in large tubs if you want the flexibility to move the plant to different areas of the garden space and although it will be quite heavy to move it is possible with a wheeled pot base or a few strong people.

Ongoing maintenance of the bamboo is quite straightforward and by simply pruning out the oldest canes as the colour fades the plant will stay looking impressive for years to come.

No more fence painting for me

Any homeowner who has fencing around their garden will know that the regular painting or treating of the fence panels is a nightmare. Even using a paint sprayer does not make the job any easier as the paint ends up on the concrete fence posts unless they are covered over beforehand. Painting or treating both sides of the panels is advised but is sometimes difficult to organise so, you will be pleased to find out that there is now an alternative on the market that will make life much easier when it comes to maintaining the fencing around the garden and that these products are usually guaranteed for more than twenty years.

This type of fencing is made from a type of metal that can be manufactured in a range of attractive colours to suit all tastes. It can be made in different styles, with or without trellising. The beauty of this type of fencing is that it will not warp or shrink and so will be unlikely to be affected by strong winds a problem that besets many homeowners and that can be costly to sort out.

Negotiating with neighbours about installing this maintenance-free fencing option may result in being able to share the cost which would make it an affordable option for many people.

Easy ways to keep on top of a large garden

If you are fortunate enough to have a large garden then you will be aware of the need to keep up with the maintenance of it in terms of mowing the lawn, weeding the flowerbeds and other general tasks required in a garden. This can be a time-consuming job and unless you can afford to employ someone to do these menial tasks for you and can mean that every weekend will need to be spent in the garden. So, are there any easy ways to make keeping on top of a large garden more manageable?

Well firstly is it possible to convert some of the outdoor space into low maintenance areas for instance install one or two slabbed patio areas? This will cut down on the mowing and provide a seating area for guests.

Planters and pots are a good way to contain plants instead of having large flower beds and take far less time to maintain.

It is a popular idea to leave some areas of the garden to grow wild as this provides food and habitats for wildlife and will encourage birds of different species to visit your garden so leaving some areas to get back to nature benefits both you and the environment.

Are certain plants taking over your garden?

When it comes to gardening you do not need to be an expert to do the basics. Things like cutting the lawns, pulling out weeds and watering the grass or plants are all very easy steps you can take to help maintain your garden.

Certain plants and shrubs can grow very fast and can quickly start to take over. Plants such as Ivy can grow up fences and walls and spread at a reasonable pace. When it starts to grow it will often weave in and out of fence panels and become intwined in brick. You need to take care when removing this to ensure that you do not cause any damage to the thing that it has wrapped itself around.

Some plants like to wrap around others and basically strangle them. You might find that nothing else can grow in that area. If this happens you need to remove the culprit or face it spreading further and killing off all other plants that you have growing.

If you are unsure of what or how to do it then you may want to enlist the help if a gardener. They will have all the correct tools and knowledge to remove it properly and quickly. When getting rid of any plant or shrub, it is important that you remove the route too. If you leave the root in place then it is likely that it will just grow back again.

If you like the plant then you may decide not to get rid of it but instead to contain it. You could buy a trellis that it could climb up and keep cutting it back to ensure it doesn’t grow beyond a certain size that is manageable. If you find maintaining flower beds hard work then why not grass the area instead or even put down bark / gravel. This will ensure that it is lower maintenance. You can then add in flower pots filled with brightly coloured flowers to liven the area up. It is a lit easier to look after flower pots than to have to weed large flower beds. You can even just throw away the plants if they have died off and plant new ones next year. Gardening doesn’t have to be really hard work you just need to ensure that you adapt your garden to work for you and to only need as much time and attention as you can give it.