Try companion planting and reduce your use of pesticides

Try companion planting and reduce your use of pesticides

If you are looking to reduce your use of pesticides in the garden, then consider trying companion planting.  This ancient practice combines the growing of beneficial herbs and flowers amongst your vegetables to prevent damage from insects and improve pollination.

The smell of some plants can deter pests, steering them away from your vegetables.  Others are so appealing to pests, they act as ‘sacrificial plants’, bearing the brunt of the damage.  And others simply attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, into your greenhouse or vegetable plot, enhancing pollination and fruit set.

Here are four plants to try this year:

Mexican Tarragon (Tagetes lucida) – this is a hardy perennial herb with the dual benefit of attracting pollinators and repelling insects and nematodes.  It is also a tasty herb in its own right.  Grow alongside tomatoes to prevent aphid attack, near asparagus to repel asparagus beetles, and with peas and beans to keep bean weevils under control.  These plants may also repel rabbits.

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) – these pretty annuals attract caterpillars away from your cabbages and kale.  Plants will self-seed.

Peppermint ( Mentha  x piperita) – a perennial plant, useful in cooking, and also helpful in repelling aphids and white flies.  Best grown in containers as these are vigorous plants!

Borage (Borago officinalis) – an annual herb and appealing informal cut flower, enticing pollinators and keeping tomato hookworms and cabbage worms at bay.  The young leaves are good in salads.  Plants will self-seed.

Pesticides are harmful to many beneficial insects and can be harmful to human health, so anything we can do to reduce their use has to be a good thing. 

Created On  16 Jan 2020 17:30  -  Permalink

Looking for some Prairie planting inspiration?

Looking for some Prairie planting inspiration?

Prairie planting is naturalistic style of gardening that typically includes an appealing mix of grasses and perennials, planted in drifts or blocks of colour.   It takes inspiration from the Prairie grasslands of North America, and is featured in Monty Don's American Gardens TV series starting on 10th January 2020 on BBC2.

Many Prairie plants can be grown from seed, providing large numbers of plants that help you achieve the drifts that make this style so distinctive.  Echinaceas, Rudbeckias, Eryngium, Stipa and Anemanthele are a good plants to start with.  Follow these links for some inspiration.

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea ‘White Swan’ and Echinacea ‘Lustre Hybrids’)

Deam’s Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida v deamii)

Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)

Macedonian Scabious (Knautia macedonica ‘Red Knight’)

Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima ‘Pony Tails’)

Monarda citriodora

Pale Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)

Penstemon barbatus

Pheasant’s Tail Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana)

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’

Sea Holly (Eryngium planum)

Silver Mullein (Verbascum bombyciferum  ‘Polarsommer’)

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus ‘The Sun’)

Turkish Sage (Phlomis russeliana)

Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’)

These are just a few ideas to get you started.  Look for herbaceous perennials and grasses that appeal to you and meet the conditions in your garden.  In particular focus on those that have sufficient height and add movement to your border.

Created On  10 Jan 2020 18:49  -  Permalink

Good start to the year 2020

Good start to the year 2020After a very damp Autumn, we've had a really good start to the New Year 2020.  A lot of blue skies and a quick walk on our local Carne Beach inbetween packing and dispatching seeds.

Carne Beach, The Roseland, Cornwall - January 2020
Created On  10 Jan 2020 15:44  -  Permalink

Seed Sowing for the Nervous!

Seed Sowing for the Nervous!

Can’t do it! Can’t do it! I don’t believe seeds grow for me!

This post is for those of you who are nervous about sowing seeds.  Inside all of us are two sets of green fingers just waiting to emerge.    Early spring is approaching and now is the time to suck in your breath and give it a go!

Growing your own plants from seed is such a rewarding experience, and is not that difficult.  You just need to know how to get started, and with a little experience you will be amazed at what you can grow.   There is nothing like growing from seed to get to know your plants.  Don’t treat them like commodities – they are your friends – and they will reward you with years of flowers if you treat them right!

Here are some suggestions to overcome your doubts and get sowing with success.

Start easy

Start by sowing the seeds of annual plants.  These plants germinate, flower and die in the same season, and are often the easiest to grow from seed.   Start with something like Nasturtiums, as these large seeds are planted straight into the ground or into containers and grow with very little effort.  Toadflax is another great annual – just sow the seeds straight into gaps in your flower beds in spring – and they flower all summer right into late autumn.  Annual poppies are also easy.

 Nasturtium Seedlings

Make sure you know the difference between annual and perennial plants and start with the annuals.  Hardy annuals can withstand frost and are sown in autumn or spring.  Half hardy annuals don’t like frost and need to be sown in late spring, typically in May, or earlier if you can protect them indoors or in a greenhouse.

Perennials generally germinate and grow in the first season, flower from the second season and live for many years.   They often take more time to grow and need more care to reach flowering size.  Some perennials are also easy to grow from seed and a few flower in the first year if sown in early spring.  Try Coreopsis if you are ready to sow now!

Be clean

It is best to buy some basic seed trays with lids and a small bag of seed or multi-purpose compost in which to sow your seeds.  Bagged compost is sterile, and is free of weed seeds and most pests and diseases.  If you are re-using seed trays, then clean them first.  If you are a ‘dirty gardener’ (and you know if you are!) then clean up your equipment to improve your seed germination success.  Don’t be tempted to sow seeds in your own garden compost as you may have trouble separating your sown seed from weed seeds, which can be thugs.

Read instructions

Read the sowing instructions and be sure you are prepared to follow them if you want success.  If you are just starting, then perhaps avoid seeds that take months to germinate or need an environmental trigger to germinate, such as cold weather or fire.  In general, very small seeds are sown on the surface of seed compost and pressed into the compost.  Larger seeds are buried into the compost between 5-10mm deep.  Sow your seeds sparingly as young seedlings grow better with space around them.  Remember to label your seed trays.

Be attentive

Seeds need warmth, water and oxygen to germinate.  Keep seed trays warm and moist but not waterlogged.  Most seeds germinate well at room temperature but check the packet to see if you need a warmer windowsill or a cooler spot.   Some smaller seeds need light to germinate, and the seed packet will let you know not to bury them too deeply in the soil.  Put a lid or clear cover on your seed tray and remove it when the seeds have germinated.  Slugs and snails are very keen consumers of small seedlings – keep the seed trays on a bench or protected in some way. Expect to check your seed trays every day!

Be patient

Some seedlings emerge within days of sowing and some take weeks or even months.  The sowing instructions let you know what to expect.  Not all seeds in the same packet emerge at the same time so keep your seed trays going to get the most seeds to germinate.

Be gentle

Plants don’t like being handled – so hands off!  Seedlings emerge from the soil with either one leaf (such as grasses) or two leaves (most flowering plants).  The first pair of leaves do not always resemble the adult leaves – wait until the second pair of true leaves appear, and this is a good time to move the seedlings from the seed tray into small pots.  Handle the seedlings by their leaves to minimize damage, and ease them gently from the soil.  Some seedlings don’t like their roots to be disturbed and these plants are best grown in modules or sown directly into the garden.  This is typical of annual poppies.

Just do it

There is nothing like a tray of healthy seedlings to make you feel like a proper gardener.  So just do it!

Lets do it! Lets do it! Do it till the seeds come up!

Created On  16 Jan 2019 18:54  -  Permalink

Set Your New Year’s Resolution for a Garden Revolution!

Set Your New Year’s Resolution for a Garden Revolution!

Do you want a lovely garden but it never quite happens?  Then read on for some tips of how to make that garden dream a reality in 2019.   Learn about how to envision your goals, get stuck-in and grow the plants that thrive in your garden.

Envision your garden.   In your heart, you know what you want from your garden.  Is it the sun-filled patio, the rows of crispy veg, the bees buzzing amid the wildflowers, the chirping of birds or the flow of water?  Put your ideas on paper, invite a garden friend round and talk them through it.  It helps to share your ideas and cement your enthusiasm for the work ahead.  An experienced friend will give you some helpful feedback.

Then, get stuck in.  Now, in winter!  Unless you pay a landscaper and professional gardener to do the work, it will be done by you and anyone else who can be persuaded to help.  Although you have some goals in mind, the process of doing the work is very rewarding.  A garden is made by the time spent throughout the year.  Your garden will benefit from a little every day rather than a marathon in the spring.

Learn how to grow your plants.  If you are the type that buys that expensive plant in flower on an impulse and then ‘finds’ a place in the garden, then consider a change!  Grow your plants from seeds and cuttings.  Then you will know them well, know their pests and diseases and understand how to coax them into flower year after year.  Friends will share seeds and cuttings.  Ditch the plants that do not thrive in your garden or just need more attention that you think is worth it.  Consider growing much more in summer and autumn and the small plants that you nurture at this time become a glorious display the following summer.

Look around your local gardens and markets.  This will tell you what plants grow well in your area and connect you to local growers.  Local growers often supply plants that are adapted to your conditions and they have knowledge you can benefit from.  For example, in Cornwall, attend the Cornwall Garden Society Spring Flower Show in early April, the Hardy Plant Society Plant Fair in May in Truro and the Tregrehan Garden Rare Plant Fair in June.  There are often plant sellers at your local markets.

Don’t be put off by the cost.
  Yes, a large patio of Portland stone will set off the plants beautifully but other materials, such as gravel, are just are effective.   Be inventive and try new things.  If you can learn the skill of growing your own plants, this will also help contain the costs.

And finally, there is no perfection.  There is no perfect garden and most of us get the enjoyment from the doing as much as from the admiring.  Set new goals each year to keep your garden evolving.    

Created On  3 Jan 2019 16:03  -  Permalink

Behind the scenes - Growing Scarlet River Lilies

Sitting in our greenhouse are rows of small Scarlet River Lily plants waiting to flower next year.  They grow really well here in Cornwall but are also suitable for a sunny position in a wide range of damper soils.

Scarlet River Lilies are now known Hesperantha coccinea.  Most gardeners will know them as Schizostylis.  Their natural habitat is alongside streams and damp areas in the eastern side of Southern Africa.  They are well adapted to growing in the UK, but flower much later here from autumn into mid winter, where they flower in mid summer in Southern Africa  I suspect this is because they prefer to grow in damper soils and live in summer rainfall areas, so when the rains arrive in the UK in the autumn this prompts them into flower.  Although they prefer to live in damp soils, our clumps live in hot south and west facing borders and are surviving and spreading really well.  We do have a high water table here, which may help. 

These plants are no problem to sow from seed, although they take a little time to get going, typically 1-2 months to germinate, at 10-20 degrees Celcius.  Start them early in spring to allow plenty of growing time in the summer.  Starting later is fine, particularly if you have a greenhouse to keep them in over the first winter, but they may take a little longer to flower, typically two to three seasons of growth.   Plants grown from seed generally flower in red, but you will also see some in pink and white.  If you wish to grow more of the pink and white forms, grow the desired plants to mature size and then divide them in autumn/winter after the plants have flowered.  They have fleshy roots and are easy to divide.


                                      Seeds................................................................................Seedlings........................................................................Plants in full flower!

Plants look great if encouraged to form large clumps over time, with a stunning display of colour in late summer and early winter. Ours are still flowering In Cornwall in December as I write this.  They are good cut flowers.

More here on buying and growing Scarlet River Lilies from seed.

Created On  7 Dec 2018 17:55  -  Permalink