Slug Patrol – what works?

Eggshells & Hosta
Photo: www.gardenista.com

It’s no wonder that slugs and snails can be the scourge of the vegetable patch in summer because we want to grow what they want to eat. They love broad-leaved plants that are sweet-tasting and fast growing, so plants at risk include lettuces, peas and beans, potatoes and other tubers and in the flower garden dahlias, delphiniums, hostas, and sweet peas.

Prevention always being better than cure, it’s good to encourage wildlife that does the pest control for you such as birds, frogs, hedgehogs, slowworms and ground beetles. We all want to reduce our dependence on pesticides these days and there are many ‘home remedies’ that we can try to discourage these greedy gastropods.

Mulch barriers.
Encircling seedlings and young plants with grit or eggshells, or moisture-absorbent materials such as wool can discourage snails and slugs on the soil surface. Coffee grounds may also help.

Copper.
Slugs and snails do not like to cross copper (this works best with plants in pots).

Traps
filled with beer or bait. Sink a jar part-way into the ground (not all the way as beetles can fall in) and partially fill with beer.

Removing by hand.
Venture out at night with your torch and pick them off by hand.

For slugs that live under the soil you can either try regular cultivation to bring them and their eggs up to the surface where they can be eaten by predators, or biological controls – nematodes (microscopic parasitic worms) that are watered into the soil where they seek out slugs to infect.

Ferric phosphate pellets are certified as organic and are less toxic to wildlife than Methaldehyde pellets.

Researchers at the Royal Horticultural Society are going to scientifically test traditional remedies such as these to see if they are based on science or myth. The results will be available in the autumn.

Time to reconsider your Garden Tools?

A multi-tool can prove a good investment in your garden and for possibly an initial higher outlay, can prove cost saving in the longer term. It is worth considering the different tasks in hand in your garden and the respective garden tools you need such as hedge trimmer, strimmer, trimmer, chainsaw and think about a tool that comprises a main power body with all the necessary attachments.

Space efficient – Clearly for storage purposes housing one tool and its attachments takes up less space than having to store several other garden tools. Also consider this if you need to transport your tools anywhere. Freeing up space allows storage of other items in your shed or car boot.

Cost efficient – With just one engine to run and maintain the multi-tool can save money on fuel and servicing as you don’t have other machines to consider.

Key points to consider when purchasing a multi-tool

Power source – Petrol, Electric or Cordless? The decision on this will come down to budget, preference and the tasks you want the tool and attachments to cover:

  • Petrol multi-tools have the advantage of more power and also the ability to refuel and continue using. They will of course be noisier to use than electric or cordless.
  • Electric multi-tools may well be an option for smaller gardens and where noise considerations may be more appropriate. A good option if you don’t wish to store fuel and also better for the environment.
  • Cordless multi-tools have steadily increased in popularity as the advances in technology offer machines which rival the power of petrol. Many cordless machines now come with the latest lithium-ion battery power giving convenience, ease of use, power and versatility to your gardening tools.

Weight – Consider who might be using the multi-tool the most, for how long and for what purpose. Petrol powered multi-tools will be heavier but will offer the most power. The lighter in weight options for petrol powered multi-tools, the higher the cost. So literally weigh up your weight vs cost options!

The EGO range of cordless lithium-ion multi-tools come fully recommended by us at More Than Mowers. They may be slightly more expensive but in our opinion worth the investment as they offer quality cutting blades and superior batteries that don’t overheat.

New for 2018 is the EGO Power+ MHSC2002E 56V Cordless Multi Tool Kit for £690 (Multi-Tool Power Head shown)

EGO Power+ MHSC2002E 56V Cordless Multi Tool Kit
EGO Power+ MHSC2002E 56V Cordless Multi Tool Kit

This ultimate multi-tool set comprises of the power head with hedge trimmer, line trimmer and pole saw attachments together with a brush cutter blade and single strap shoulder harness.

Beautiful Berries

Blueberry Plants (Vaccinium corybosum)
Blueberry Plants (Vaccinium corybosum) . Image:www.gardeningexpress.co.uk

The pleasure of picking your own juicy berries from your garden on a sunny summer’s day is hard to beat, especially when you think about how expensive they are to buy, and how easy they are to grow at home.

And you don’t need masses of space to grow them.  There are a many compact cultivars suitable for small spaces and patio containers – and with the added benefit of no prickly thorns.

With all soft fruit it’s a good idea to plant different varieties to ensure a succession of fruit.  All fruit in pots requires regular watering, and feeding is crucial.  Incorporate a slow-release fertiliser and feed with an appropriate fertiliser throughout the season to maximise yields.

Birds enjoy berries just as much as people do, so protect the plants, getting the netting in place before the first fruits ripen.

Strawberries are ideally suited to containers and you can try growing them in window boxes and hanging baskets using a good multipurpose compost.  Try ‘Flamenco’, an everbearer (or perpetual),  which will crop steadily from late May until well into the autumn.  Strawberry mats, collars or straw around the plants will cushion the fruit and keep the berries clean.   If slugs and snails are a problem, try beer traps and crushed eggshells around the plants.

Little Red Princess is a Compact thornless raspberry which is perfect to grow in pots for a succession of berries from June to October. Some gardeners find autumn varieties easier to grow, being less susceptible to pests and with an easier pruning regime – canes are simply all cut down to ground level after harvesting.

Blueberries are the classic superfruit, packed with vitamins and minerals. Better yields are achieved when more than one variety is grown.  Plant in ericaceous compost, water with rainwater and use an appropriate ericaceous food containing sequestered iron.  Foliage turns attractive shades of fiery red in autumn, and some are evergreen or semi-evergreen. ‘Pink Sapphire’ is the first ever pink fruit providing year-ground colour and interest as well as deliciously sweet fruit.

Blackberry Black Cascade
Blackberry Black Cascade. Image: www.vanmeuwen.com

‘Little Black Prince’ is a thornless blackberry suitable for a large pot. Train plants up a trellis or wigwam.  ‘Black cascade’ is a compact hanging-basket plant, with arching trailing stems which will produce more than one crop a season, producing 2-3 lb of fruit per basket.

Creating a Wildlife-Friendly Garden

Honey Bee On Aster Flower
Honey Bee On Aster Flower. Image: www.mnn.com

Encouraging wildlife into your garden doesn’t have to be complicated. There are simple steps you can take to create a mini-wildlife sanctuary which will help to protect a whole host of creatures from bees to hedgehogs and make a real difference to their survival. Here are six ways to entice pollinators and pest-eaters into the garden this summer, and help them to help you.

  1. Choose plants with wildlife in mind.
    Allerton wild meadow.
    Allerton wild meadow. Image: www.greenearthlandscape.co.uk
    Select flowers, shrubs and trees that will provide food and shelter in every month of the year. Hellebores and apple blossom in Spring, honeysuckles, foxgloves, campanulas, lavender, campanulas, rosemary and thyme in Summer, dahlias in autumn and berry-bearing plants such as hawthorn and cotoneaster in Winter.
  2. Create living boundaries. Plant hedges rather than building walls and fences to provide shelter for birds and other wildlife.  Benefits to the gardener include absorbing road noise and reducing pollution, and they look much more attractive!
  3. Make room for meadow plants. Lawns and wildflowers create a rich habitat.  Consider leaving parts of your lawn uncut – long grass is great for small animals like grasshoppers and beetles and provides cover for small mammals to forage.
  4. Make space for water.
    Build a pond. Image: Daily Mail
    Build a pond
    Ponds (without fish) are a magnet for wildlife and can provide a habitat for frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies.  Design them with a shallow slope along one edge so that birds, hedgehogs and other creatures can drink and get in and out safely.  If you don’t have space for a pond a bird bath or pebble fountain provides drinking water.
  5. Grow climbing plants. Bare walls and fences can provide a vertical habitat for birds, insects and mammal, whilst adding privacy to your garden and hiding ugly features.
  6. Make compost. The compost heap provides a source of free soil conditioner and mulch, whilst providing year-round food for insects and shelter for hedgehogs and grass snakes. It also reduces the number of trips to the tip!

Plants to enjoy in June

All the summer flowers are starting to put in an appearance and if we’re lucky, June will be ‘flaming’. The weather is improving, so we can finally plant out tender plants if we didn’t at the end of May. There’s lots to keep on top of as perennials and shrubs start to cover the ground and hopefully smother the weeds. Make time to sit down and enjoy the view.

Rosa Charles de Mills.
Rosa Charles de Mills. Image:Crocus.co.uk

The spectacular shrub rose ‘Charles de Mills’ bears rosettes of deep crimson-magenta deliciously fragrant flowers in June and July. Growing to 1.5m x 1m, as with all roses it needs rich, fertile soil in full sun.

Hosta ‘Gold Standard’
Hosta ‘Gold Standard’. Image: bethchatto.co.uk

Hosta ‘Gold Standard’ has gold leaves with a dark green edge and, although it does bear lavender-blue flowers, the leaves are the main attraction. Hostas need moist soil and are best grown in light shade but sun is fine for all but the gold varieties. They are good for ground cover and good in pots, where they can be more easily protected from slugs.

Bearded Iris ‘Black Swan’
Bearded Iris ‘Black Swan’. Image: Crocus.co.uk

Bearded Irises have a short but fabulous season. Dwarf, intermediate and tall varieties are available, with the dwarf varieties flowering a little earlier in May. ‘Black Swan’ is a tall variety that bears deep purple, almost black, flowers above sword-shaped grey-green leaves. Plant in large swathes for maximum impact. For a dramatic effect, partner with silver foliage plants such as the pale silvery leaves of Artemisia. Needs sunny well-drained soil where the rhizomes are not overshadowed by surrounding plants.

How to choose between a Grass Trimmer, Line Trimmer, Strimmer or Brushcutter?

All of these terms can be quite confusing. It is easier to think of them broadly in two categories:

Grass Trimmers also called Garden Strimmers, Line Trimmers and String Strimmers are all essentially different terms for the same thing. These hand-held machines use some sort of line to cut grass, weeds etc.

They are used for lighter duty tasks such as trimming a lawn in places where your lawnmower can’t reach. They tend to be smaller and more lightweight than hand held brushcutters. If you are looking for a machine for tidying up a border, flower bed or lawn then a grass trimmer is probably what you are looking for.

Grass Trimmers are available in a number of different versions. Economical options are electric or battery cordless grass trimmers. These are ideal for smaller gardens with general lighter weight maintenance trimming jobs. These type of strimmers tend not to be as powerful as petrol options and may be all you need but if you have a larger area to tackle and more heavy-duty maintenance then consider purchasing a petrol-powered trimmer or brushcutter.

We recommend this powerful cordless strimmer kit from EGO.

Brushcutters are different to Grass Trimmers in that they are heavier duty, intended for cutting through heavier thicker weeds. They also use nylon line and work in the same way as a grass trimmer but sometimes have a blade option. These are more useful for clearing overgrown areas of brambles, undergrowth, and young saplings.

Hand held brushcutters can be heavy and tiring to use so need to be used with a harness for ease of use and comfort. If you need to clear a larger area then consider a wheeled trimmer mower. This is essentially a brushcutter on wheels, taking the strain off the user so that a harness is not required.

Take a look at the DR Wheeled Trimmer range for well-priced, robust and reliable wheeled trimmers.

DR Wheeled Trimmer
DR Wheeled Trimmer

View our range of grass trimmers, brushcutters and wheeled trimmers here or call us on 01380 828867 for friendly, no obligation, impartial advice.

Planting Hanging Baskets and Containers

Planter
Photo: Gardeners World

In May, we’ll be planting up our hanging baskets and containers – but keeping them protected, ready to harden off before placing in position after the danger of frosts has passed.

The secret to great containers is always to use a good quality compost and add some slow release fertiliser and water retaining crystals – they’ll make the containers so much easier to care for in summer.  Pick your colour scheme and choose plants with contrasting flower shapes and sizes and pack them in so the rootballs are touching – this is no time to economise on plants!  Always plant up around the sides of baskets to give more impact more quickly.  Finally, throughout the season, keep up with taking off the dead flowers and feeding and watering.

Photo: Round Barn Potting Co

Verbenas, lobelias, begonias, osteospermum and trailing geraniums are all reliable plants for hanging baskets in a sunny spot, and fuchsias, petunias and New Guinea busy lizzies will do well where there is some shade, but why not try some more unusual combinations to fill your baskets and containers this year? Cherry tomatoes make a colourful display with the added advantage of being deliciously edible, whilst thymes, oregano and marjoram will make a fragrant combination to keep within easy reach of the kitchen.

Natural Planter
Photo: Natural Living Ideas

There’s no need to restrict yourself to shop-bought baskets and pots – re-purposed containers can add character and quirkiness to your displays.  Watering cans, birdcages, kitchen equipment, old sinks and indeed old wellies can all be pressed into service!  Imagination is the key to your own unique display this summer.

Thinking of planting a new hedge?

Henchman Hi Step Senior Platform
Henchman Hi Step Senior Platform

As well as providing privacy and boundaries for our gardens, hedges are wildlife-friendly, offering food and shelter for many species. They are generally more attractive than fencing and last for many years, so it’s important to choose the right hedge for your garden. The traditional (and cheapest) way to make a hedge is to plant bare-rooted hedging plants between late autumn and early spring, but pot-grown plants can be planted at any time, although spring and autumn are best. One of the most important factors will be how tall you want it to be, and how much work it will take to keep it looking good. With a slow growing hedge you can get away with clipping it once a year (though preferably twice), but a fast-growing hedge will need clipping much more often. May is the right time to clip many varieties of hedge and whilst dwarf or medium hedges can be clipped from a standing position, anything taller will require a good ladder or a hedge cutting platform.

Purple Beech Hedge.
Purple Beech Hedge. Photo: best4hedging.co.uk

Do you prefer a smart formal look or an informal leafy hedge?  The evergreens yew and box are slow-growing and need clipping just once a year whilst the evergreen western red cedar will need clipping twice each year.  Beech and hornbeam are not evergreen but hold onto their brown leaves in winter and need clipping twice each year.  Privet is a semi-evergreen and will need clipping every six weeks between early May and mid-September. 

Eleagnus Hedge
Eleagnus Hedge. Photo: Hope Grove Nurseries

Less formally, Prunus ‘Otto Luyken’, laurel, spotted laurel and elaeagnus are evergreens and with all of these you can probably get away with clipping once a year.

Flowering hedges can make colourful garden dividers, but few keep their leaves in winter so they may not be the best choice for an external boundary.  Shrub roses, forsythia, escallonias and fuchsia are attractive options.

English Lavender hedge plants
English Lavender hedge plants. Photo: best4hedging.co.uk

Dwarf hedges are a long-lasting way of edging a path or bed.  Box is the classic evergreen option, but lavender and rosemary can also be clipped to 30cm or less.

More Than Mowers have a wide range of hedgetrimmers and hedgecutters to help the domestic user or landscaping professional to maintain their hedges quickly and efficiently. 

 

Plants to enjoy in May

Bluebells
Photo: National Trust

It’s not surprising that the bluebell is one of the nation’s best-loved wild flowers as it transforms our woodlands between mid-April and late May. Millions of bulbs may grow closely together in one wood forming a carpet of intense blue and one of nature’s most stunning displays.

A large proportion of the world’s bluebells grow here in the UK but our native species are under threat because they cross breed with more vigorous non-native varieties. Bluebells provide an important early source of nectar for bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects.

Find a bluebell wood to visit here.

Rhododendron 'Daviesii'
Rhododendron ‘Daviesii’. Photo: Crocus.co.uk

Rhododendrons flower mainly in May and range in size from large trees to tiny indoor azaleas, but many hardy hybrids and dwarf varieties are suitable for small gardens. See spectacular displays at the many rhododendron gardens open this month.

This compact deciduous azalea’s eventual height is only 1.5m so is perfect for a large container, ideally placed near a path or entrance in full sun or partial shade so you can appreciate its wonderful fragrance. It bears creamy-white funnel-shaped flowers with a yellow flare in May and June. It’s fully hardy but will need well-drained acid soil or ericaceous compost.

Laburnum
Laburnum

Sometimes known as the Golden Chain tree, Laburnums are light and graceful, casting dappled shade in which other plants can grow. The award-winning ‘Vossili’ is the variety used on laburnum arches as the yellow tassels are exceptionally long.

Laburnums prefer good drainage and lighter soils. They are often grown with purple aliums to create a stunning effect with both in both flower at the same time.

It’s important to note that all parts of the Laburnum are toxic – this would not be a tree to plant near a children’s play area.

Do I need a Tiller or a Cultivator? – What you need to know.

Ardisam Earthquake VECTOR Petrol Cultivator
Ardisam Earthquake VECTOR Petrol Cultivator

It’s the time of year when you may consider preparing the soil for general planting, sowing seed beds or preparing an area for growing vegetables. You will want to prepare the soil so that it is as fertile as possible to give roots the best chance to grow and spread and absorb all the nutrients and water they require to produce healthy plants.

If you are looking for a machine to help you prepare the soil, both a Tiller and Cultivator will do the same thing in that they dig up and turn over the soil. However, choosing which one you need really depends on the job in hand as there are differences between them.

Really the choice comes down to the size of plot that you are looking to dig and the purpose.

Tillers tend to be more powerful with more digging power than cultivators – they are better suited therefore to larger areas, with generally wider working widths than cultivators and bigger, heavier duty tines to turn over the soil at greater depth. If you want to dig up new ground they are a better option than a cultivator as they can dig deeper and tackle roots.

Areas up to 140 sq metres

Front-tine tillers have tines which help propel the machine forward and dig deep into the soil. These might be a suitable choice of machine for a small to medium sized garden of up to 140 sq metres. Perfect for weeding and general preparation of the soil and mixing in compost.

Areas over 140 sq metres

Rear-tine tillers tend to be a better option for larger planting areas. With forward rotating tines they are good for turning soil in existing beds, for weeding and helping in the addition of compost. If you want to break up new ground then consider a Rear-tine tiller with counter rotating tines as these turn in the opposite direction to the wheels. This gives the tiller the strength and torque it needs to dig deep into the soil.

 Cultivators are generally smaller than tillers and are best used for maintaining existing beds, for facilitating weeding and mixing in compost. Cultivators tend to be easier to handle and move around. They are ideal for weeding between rows in vegetable plots as they can have a tilling width of 12 inches.