Stop those pests ruining your greenhouse plants

Growing plants in a greenhouse can be a great way to grow fruit and vegetables throughout the spring, summer and autumn months especially if it is heated as plants are protected from frosts but some garden pests take advantage of the conditions in a greenhouse and make it their home whilst feasting on the produce you are growing.

The most common garden pests tend to be aphids, slugs and fungus gnats and if these inhabit your greenhouse it is difficult to get rid of them, so prevention is better than cure. The first step to take is to keep the greenhouse clean and weed free. Every year the interior of the greenhouse should be washed down with soapy water and any dead plants should be removed. Shop bought compost should ideally be used as this is sterilised and so should be free of bugs and disease.

Checking the plants that are growing in the greenhouse regularly for pests means that you have the opportunity to act quickly to treat any possible infestation before it gets to be a problem. Insecticides can be used, or more eco-friendly solutions are usually available if preferred.

Finally, after the growing season allow the greenhouse to become cold by leaving doors and windows open as this will help to eliminate some pests that thrive in a warm environment.

Simple screening to ensure privacy in your garden

For many people, the garden becomes an extension of their indoor living space and so just as they do not want bystanders looking into their living room, they want to make their garden a private space too. Most modern houses are overlooked by other properties so the best way to achieve this is to plant screening around the garden, but which plants are best, and which will simply take over the garden in years to come?

 Bamboo is a popular choice for garden screening as it grows quickly but it is very invasive and can grow through walls, drains and floors if not properly contained. There are other plants that can provide screening that are not as invasive such as the climbing hydrangea. This plant can be trained to grow up a trellis attached to a fence, or a wall and its beautiful flowers will light up any shady spot.

If you want a deterrent for burglars as well as screening then pyracantha is a good shrub to choose. This evergreen produces fragrant white flowers in summer and gorgeous orange berries in winter which attracts hungry birds, but it has long, sharp thorns on its branches providing an impenetrable barrier around your property.

How to look after your new grass

There may come a time when you need to either lay down some grass seed or buy new turf to cover an area in the garden. Whether using grass seeds or turf you need to look after the grass especially well in the first few months to ensure that it lasts and takes root.

Before buying any grass seed, you need to ensure that it is good quality. You will usually notice on the box of the grass seed it will say what sort of areas it is for. For example, it may say for shaded areas or for areas with a high footfall. It is important to check this and choose the right one for your garden.  If the soil is not very good quality, then you need to buy some top soil and mix it in to the dirt before laying new turf or adding the seeds. If adding seeds, you may need to add some sort of netting over the top that stops the birds from eating them.

With both seeds and turfs, watering is vital. You need to ensure that you keep the ground wet and for the first couple of weeks water it twice a day. Do not be temped to walk on it until it has fully rooted into the ground which may take a good few weeks but avoid heavy traffic for about three months to give it the best chance.

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.