Thursday 30 August 2012

Why Visit Gardens?

Open garden at Boundary Cottage September 9th

Just some of the many reasons why you might like to come to Open Day.
  • Our garden is at its best in September.
  • To buy plants (some of them rare).
  • To say ‘hello’ to our neighbour’s rheas.
  • To see the giant Gunnera.
  • To sit in the conservatory eating delicious homemade cakes.
  • To spend a pleasant couple of hours in the countryside.
  • To meet old gardening friends.
  • To see the village plot. It’s down in Seaton Ross village.
  • To support a very worthy charity.
  • To examine a no-dig garden. 
  • To discover new plants.
  • To meet an artist in the garden.
  • To criticise and compare with your own garden!
  • To see the garden that this blog’s all about!
You will be sure of a warm welcome at the gate as we take your money!
Criticise and compare - “He’s a primitive propagator”!
The giant Gunnera looks better when some of the lower leaves are pruned out
Plants potted-up for the day - it’s like going into a sweetshop

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Plant Of The Week

Opuntia engalmannii
Hardy opuntia

This prickly pear survived the double winter of 2010 without turning a hair. I think it is Opuntia engalmannii. The rocks and gravel cover ordinary garden soil. 

In recent years I have returned to my childhood passion of growing cacti: this time in the guise of growing them outside.

This completely hardy variety is
called ‘Smithwick’. I love that name!
Sometimes the birds peck off its pads
which then root in the ground. They get
quite a shock pecking these prickles!
Winter in Yorkshire is not a good time for cacti. The problem is not the cold, it’s the wet soil and high humidity. For any success, cacti must be planted in well drained, fertile soil and be in an open sunny position. I now have half a dozen cacti that are completely winter hardy and stay outside all year round. With the rest, I cheat. I lift them to my unheated glasshouse. There they stay, un-watered, from mid December to March. This short respite from the winter wet is enough for them to remain strong and healthy outside for the rest of the year. If it snows after March, they look great and are completely unharmed. In the UK, most cacti will not grow outside all year round, but if you search the net, you will find at least a dozen that do. Perhaps fifty more respond to my ‘bedding out’ system. Have a look at The Cactus Shop.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Why gardeners dig 3: to break up compaction

To break up compaction
  • On a building site all sorts of dreadful things happen when heavy vehicles work on wet soil.
  • When a gardener repeatedly rotavates, he creates a hard ‘pan’ of soil just below the depth of cultivation.
  • When a farmer ploughs to the same depth every year, he creates a plough pan.
  • When gardeners walk on a loose surface after heavy rain, they ruin soil structure. Worse, if they work the wet soil.
  • When children repeatedly cycle on a muddy path, they damage the soil.

This soil is compacted. It has been trampled
 on when wet by my neighbour's rheas.
It has no structure.
All the above are examples of compaction. It’s the condition when soil mineral particles are squashed together. All these are circumstances where digging may be justified: even double digging, if you want all the prizes in the vegetable show. Even the ‘nodiggardener’ might dig, just once and never again.

What do no-diggers say about all this?
  • They think wryly that one cultivation is needed to correct the harm done by another.
  • They point out that the way they garden does not create compaction.
  • They note that most gardeners default position is that a new garden needs digging. It usually doesn’t.

Compaction wrongly diagnosed

Where there is a firm, settled, cohesive surface amongst established plantings in a garden with a no dig policy, this is usually NOT compaction. I discuss this in my blog Reasons not to dig: 2

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