Feeding Time

Spring is feeding time and it’s worth going around the borders with a bucket of fertiliser now, so plants start the season topped up with the nutrients they need.

In most cases there’s no need to buy separate fertilisers for different plants – an economy-sized bag of general purpose fertiliser will do.  Sprinkle a light dressing on soil around your shrubs, evergreens, roses, climbers and perennials and lightly fork it in (preferably before you mulch).  Treat areas where you plan to grow bedding plants in the same way.

The multitude of fertilisers available can be confusing, but are basically split into two types – inorganic and organic.  Inorganic fertilisers are synthetic, and are usually more concentrated and faster acting.  Organic fertilisers are derived from plant or animal sources and are usually slower acting.  Fish Blood & Bone, Bone meal, Seaweed, Hoof & Horn, Poultry Manure Pellets and Liquid Comfrey or Nettle feeds are all examples of organic fertilisers.

TurfMaster SB-4300RD 34Kg Broadcast Spreader
Photo: TurfMaster SB-4300RD 34Kg Broadcast Spreader

Lawns need a good feed to set them up for the summer as a healthy lawn helps to fight off weeds and moss.  Wait until early May if you live in a cold area or it’s a late spring with bad weather (you don’t want all that lush new growth clobbered by freezing weather).  Products that combine a fertiliser with a weed or moss treatment are time-saving, and choose one with slow-release nutrients for long lasting effect. Lawn products can be applied by hand or with a spreader.

Camellia Williamsii 'Anticipation' - Waitrose Garden
Photo: Camellia Williamsii ‘Anticipation’ – Waitrose Garden

Plants that do need a specialist feed are acid-lovers such as rhododendrons, camellias, pieris and azaleas, unless they’re being grown in acid soil.  In the fruit garden, blueberries also fall into this category.  Signs of nutrient deficiency are leaf-yellowing and discolouration.

As a general rule, the faster growing the plant the more they will benefit from fertilisers, so it’s important to feed your fruit and vegetables regularly. Plants in containers also need regular feeding as they rely solely on what you give them.

 

Getting your soil into shape

Good quality soil is fundamental to all we do in the garden.  There’s still time to get yours into shape and on the way to producing bigger flowers and heavier crops, with better resistance to pests and diseases this season.

Mulched bed
Photo: Mulched bed – Madingley Mulch
Alpina TI2648Li Cordless Cultivator
Alpina TI2648Li Cordless Cultivator

Soil should be cultivated regularly to allow air in to warm up the soil and speed up plant growth – it also aids drainage and makes weeding easier.  Winter frosts may have broken down large lumps, and repeated re-digging or forking will to help to get the crumbly texture mentioned in gardening books.  Many of us will use our trusty spades, forks and hoes to do this work, but depending on the size of your garden and the state of your back, a cultivator could be a worthwhile purchase. Dig in plenty of organic matter to add nutrients and improve the soil’s structure and fertility (garden compost, manure, leaf mould or composted bark) – about half a wheelbarrow load per square metre should do it.

Manure In Hand
Photo: Well-Rotted Manure – Riverside Quarry

Work through your beds and borders forking over the soil between plants to loosen it up, removing weeds and plant debris as well as slugs and snails as you go.   Work from the back of the bed to the front to avoid compacting the soil.

When it’s weed-free, spread a layer of mulch around plants.  Mulching will save you time and work for the rest of the season by suppressing weeds, reducing evaporation (so less watering) and encouraging worms to drag the organic matter down into the soil to improve the structure.

Spring blossoms

Brightening our lives in April are a huge variety of flowering cherry trees bedecked with delightful displays of flowers that range in colour from pure white to vivid pink.

It’s peak cherry blossom time but there are also some varieties that flower over winter, offering a very welcome burst of colour to a dormant winter garden.  The species includes weeping trees, compact varieties, large spreading trees and those with ornamental bark.

Prunus Pink Parasol
Photo: Prunus Pink Parasol – mailordertrees.co.uk

One of the most beautiful is Prunus Pink Parasol.  Its branches are covered in large pale-pink double flowers surrounding their green centres and hanging in long-stemmed clusters.  The leaves appear before the blossom and are initially a dark copper bronze, becoming green over the summer and turning yellow in autumn.  It has a spreading habit and its eventual height is up to five metres tall.

Pulmonaria Blue Ensign – Sarah Raven
Photo: Pulmonaria Blue Ensign – Sarah Raven

Pulmonaria is an old cottage perennial that is known by many other names, Lungwort, Soldiers & Sailors, Jerusalem Cowslip, Spotted Dog, Joseph & Mary, and Adam & Eve are some of its nicknames.  Most varieties have flowers that open pink and turn blue, and the leaves range from plain green, via sploshes of white, to silver.   An excellent ground cover plant, Pulmonaria flowers early, and being low-growing is a great partner for spring bulbs and hellebores.  To thrive they need cool moist growing conditions, preferably in dappled shade.

Viburnum Carlesii Aurora – RHS
Photo: Viburnum Carlesii Aurora – RHS

Large clusters of pink buds followed by pure white blossoms are reason enough to choose this Viburnum, but without doubt it’s outstanding characteristic is its wonderful fragrance.  The flowers are followed by small oval berries which ripen to black in autumn, whilst the foliage turns red.  Plant near the house so you can enjoy the perfume, or use it as a hedging plant.  It’s a large bush growing in time to 2.5m x 2m, and likes well-drained soil in sun or dappled shade.

Choosing A Walk Behind Lawn Mower

Choosing a walk behind lawnmower can be quite confusing when it comes to the different types of mower, your requirements, your type of garden and of course your budget. There are many types of mower available: rear-roller rotary, four-wheel rotary, hover mower, cylinder mower, and then the question of whether to choose petrol, electric or cordless.

For some people, the priority is to find the very best quality mower available for their garden and for others they will have a set budget and want to find the best value lawnmower for their money. All of these points are relevant when choosing a mower. This is a broad guide to the sort of questions you should consider when buying your lawn mower.

Size of Garden.

Probably the first place to start is considering the size of your garden as generally speaking, the bigger your garden the bigger the lawnmower. However, what constitutes a small, medium, or large garden? A rule of thumb is to think of your garden in terms of the size of a tennis court – so up to ½ a tennis court would be considered small; a tennis court size would be medium and any bigger than that would be considered large.

Small Garden
For a small garden, you might consider a small petrol mower, electric mower or cordless mower. The decision here can be down to several factors such as budget, access to the garden (consider steps), acceptable noise levels, and storage as a petrol mower will take up more space. Electric and Cordless mowers are lighter in weight than petrol mowers and of course, they need less servicing.

ATCO-15E-1600W-Electric-Lawnmower
ATCO-15E-1600W-Electric-Lawnmower

For a small garden, a good electric mower that we would recommend is the ATCO 15E 1600W Electric Lawnmower.

If you are considering a petrol four-wheel rotary mower for a small garden with a general-use lawn then one with a 16in/41cm cutting width will do the job well and really there is no need to go for a wider cut as it will simply cost more.

Hayter Spirit 619
Hayter Spirit 619

If you have a flat even lawn and want to have stripes then you will need a mower with a rear roller so could look at either a Petrol or Electric Rear Roller Mower. The Hayter Spirit 619 is an ideal choice with a 16in/41cm cut and offering a good combination of reliability and performance.

Cobra RM40SPCE 16 inch Rear Roller Petrol Lawnmower
Cobra RM40SPCE 16 inch Rear Roller Petrol Lawnmower

Cobra produces a range of electric and petrol lawnmowers which offer style and exceptional performance at a very good price. The Cobra RM40SPCE 16 inch Rear Roller Petrol Lawnmower is a very reasonably priced, reliable petrol mower with great performance and has been one of our best-selling lawnmowers.

Medium Garden
If your garden is the size of a tennis court then your choices are similar to that for a small garden but probably excluding the electric option due to cable length.

If you require a more formal lawn then you will want to look at either a cylinder mower or rear roller rotary mower (for formal short grass) but if you are looking to cut a general use lawn, then you will very likely be considering a petrol four-wheel lawnmower.

Ego Cordless Battery Mowers
Ego Cordless Battery Mowers

These days some of the cordless lawnmowers with Lithium-ion batteries rival the power of petrol and can be worth considering as well. They are lighter than petrol mowers to handle and are better for the environment as they emit no polluting fumes. The downside can be battery life although this can be overcome by having 2 batteries. If considering a cordless lawnmower, the EGO range of cordless lawn mowers is worth looking at.

Large garden

Toro-Steel-Deck-55cm-AWD-Self-Propelled-Recycler-Lawnmower
Toro-Steel-Deck-55cm-AWD-Self-Propelled-Recycler-Lawnmower

For large gardens over the size of a tennis court, the width of cut is important and you will need to look at large walk-behind lawnmowers with a cutting width over 50cm/20in. These are big mowers and will necessarily be self-propelled. If you have flowerbeds and obstacles in your garden to go around then opt for one with speed control so that you can easily slow down in the appropriate areas. For a more formal lawn (with stripes) if relatively free of obstacles you could consider a large rear roller lawnmower. For large gardens with obstacles and/or a less formal lawn a large 4 wheel rotary lawnmower would be a good choice.

Both Toro and ATCO produce quality large petrol lawnmowers. In particular,  we think the Toro Steel Deck 55cm/22in AWD Self Propelled Recycler Lawnmower is a very good value lawnmower with exceptional performance.

And for an excellent cylinder lawnmower have a look at the Allett Buckingham 20H Cylinder Lawnmower 51cm / 20in

Allett-Buckingham-20H-Cylinder-Lawn-Mower
Allett-Buckingham-20H-Cylinder-Lawn-Mower

 

Choosing the type of lawnmower to buy

Buy a cylinder lawn mower if you want…

  • short fine grass and/or stripes for your lawn
  • a lawnmower where you can change the cutting widths / heights
  • a neat looking finish to your lawn as cylinder mowers can cut the grass at low height
  • to attach a collection box for the grass
  • to buy an electric, petrol or hand push cylinder mower

Buy a rotary lawn mower if you want…

  • a lawnmower where you can change the heights
  • a lawnmower where you can attach a collection box for the grass
  • to buy an electric, petrol or cordless lawn mower
  • a self-propelled lawnmower for ease of pushing – better if you have a heavier lawnmower and also for large grass areas
  • a lawn mower for many lawn types as the blade rotates horizontally and can tackle longer grass

Buy a hover lawn mower if you want…

  • a lawn mower that is ideal for small lawns and easy to use
  • a lightweight mower that can mow the grass, uneven areas and slopes
  • a lawn mower where the finish of the cut is not so important to you and you are looking for something that will do the job effectively
  • some larger hover mowers can tackle larger grassed areas and also come with grass collection bags

Buy a cordless lawn mower if you want…

  • a lawn mower that has the power to rival that of a petrol mower
  • a lighter lawn mower than that of a petrol mower of the same power
  • an easy to start lawn mower
  • a lawn mower with the benefits of petrol and the ease of an electric mower
  • a quieter lawn mower that also offers an environmentally friendly option to petrol
  • to use other garden tools with the battery

Other points to consider when buying a lawnmower

Cutting width
The wider the cut of the lawnmower clearly the more grass it will cut each time you run up and down the lawn. Consider the time you are happy to spend cutting the grass. A wider width of mower will cost more.

Length of Cable
If you are considering an electric lawnmower then make sure that the cord is long enough to reach across your garden.

Adjustable heights
Most lawnmowers have height adjustments so check the settings on any mower you buy to ensure that the height settings are suitable for your requirements.

Adjustable handle
Make sure that you can adjust the handle to the right height to ensure that you are comfortable with the mowing position. Also, see whether the handle folds for ease of storage and space saving.

Battery life
If you are considering cordless then make sure that the battery life is sufficient for the job in hand. Alternatively, buy a spare battery so that one can always be on charge.

Bag volume
Consider a mower that can have a sufficient grass collection bag attached so as to minimise emptying.

If you require any advice at all when choosing your lawnmower then please give Nigel or Sam a call on 01380 828867.

Spring Garden Tidy Up

Spring is the ideal time to get those heavy jobs done before the growing season gets underway. Perhaps you’re thinking of changing the structure of your garden to incorporate a new pond or water feature, or some raised beds?

Crocus-Grande-Lutyens-Bench
Crocus-Grande-Lutyens-Bench

It’s a good opportunity to build a new compost bin or install some water butts too, so you’re ready for summer watering. And what about somewhere to sit to enjoy the fruits of your labours when the warmer weather comes? Crocus have a range of benches and garden sets to suit classical or modern schemes.

Once we’ve thought about any structural work we can concentrate on sprucing up any neglected areas, cutting back perennials, removing debris and raking up leaves and twigs.

Gardners-World-Pruning
Image: Gardners-World

Then it’s on to the pruning. It’s much easier to cut plants back before old growth starts getting tangled up in new growth. It’s a job we’re often unsure about but a very general rule is that plants that flower before mid-summer are best pruned after flowering, and those that flower later should be left until the following spring, but there are exceptions so you will need to check the requirements for each plant. Whatever you’re pruning, cut the stem at an angle so that rainwater can run off it. The team at Gardeners’ World have a step-by-step guide to getting it right.

Buddleia needs pruning in March and so do modern bush roses, otherwise they’ll grow so tall you can only enjoy the flowers from your upstairs windows! Most climbing and rambling roses are pruned after flowering but very vigorous types that are difficult to prune in summer can be tackled now.

Henchman-Ladders
Henchman-Ladders

An invaluable aid for these tasks and many others throughout the year is a decent ladder. Our Henchman Platform Tripod ladders are amazingly lightweight, stable and designed specifically for working safely at height or on uneven and sloping ground as they have just three legs and there are options for one or all three of the legs to be adjustable. The ladders are multi-tasking – brilliant for hedge-cutting, topiary and pruning and also come into their own for window cleaning, house painting and lightbulb changing!

Offer of the month

Henchman Ladder Feet
Henchman Ladder Feet

Buy any Henchman Tripod Ladder before the end of March 2018 and receive a FREE pack of 3 rubber feet worth £22. Designed especially for the tripod ladder range, the rubber feet are easy to apply and remove. The durable, non-slip rubber is perfect for gripping hard and indoor surfaces, keeping them free from scratches or dents.

 

Call us on 01380 828867 or order online and put ‘Free Feet’ in notes.

Spring Lawn Care

March is also the time to pay attention to that most hardworking of garden features – the lawn.

Poor lawn needing aeration & scarifyingWorn areas can be re-seeded and crumbled edges can be repaired – properly made lawn edges make all the difference to the look of the garden. Scarifying and aerating the lawn will pay dividends, discouraging moss and improving drainage – it can look quite patchy afterwards but will soon recover.  If you’ve got a small lawn, of course, you can do all this by hand, but hey, it’s the 21st century and there are great labour-saving devices that can make this a lot easier.  Needless to say, we’ve got a comprehensive range of scarifiers and aerators in stock.

Hand on green lush grass

If you’re planning a new lawn from scratch, think about how it will be used – are you after bowling-green perfection or a family lawn that can take the rough and tumble of kids, animals and summer barbeques?  Choosing a suitable seed mixture will also depend on the degree of shade or whether you have a dry or sunny spot.  Growing from seed will need a carefully prepared seed bed and a pre-seeding fertiliser.  Give the first mowing when the grass is 75mm (3″) high, and with new or re-seeded lawns keep everyone off areas until the new grass is growing vigorously.

If you need a lawn sooner, turf can be laid towards the end of March.  It requires the same ground preparation and is more expensive, but provides a near instant result that can be used in just a few weeks and can be laid anytime from autumn until late spring.  The RHS have useful advice on both options.

Spring Has Sprung

Spring is finally on its way and March is the perfect time to plant shrubs, roses and climbers, both pot-grown and bare-rooted.

Magnolia-Stellata-Shrub
Photo: Magnolia Stellata – Ornamental Trees Ltd

The Magnolia Stellata is one of the smallest Magnolias, growing slowly to the size of a shrub and needing no special conditions, so is suitable for most gardens. It puts on a fantastic show of large, white or pink lightly-scented flowers in early spring before its leaves open.

Other old faithfuls flowering at this time of year are Forsythias with their abundance of spiky yellow flowers, and Camellias, spectacular evergreens with glossy foliage with blooms in every shade of pink, red and white. Once it has finished flowering the attractive glossy foliage is a useful background to other plants that flower later on in the season. If you don’t yet have some of these versatile and low-maintenance shrubs in your garden you might want to plant them.

DARCEY BUSSELL English Rose - bred by David Austin
Photo: Darcey Bussell English Rose – David Austin

Thinking ahead to what we’ll be enjoying in early summer, do you have room for another English Rose? We recommend Darcey Bussell – a shrub rose bred by David Austin – compact bushy growth with deep crimson rosettes which flower freely, repeats well and, most importantly, has a delightful fragrance.

 

 

Clematis florida var. florida 'Sieboldiana'
Photo: Clematis florida var. florida ‘Sieboldiana’ – Crocus

And for a reliable climber, there are many varieties of Clematis that will keep going right through summer into early autumn. One of our favourites is Sieboldiana – gorgeous single white flowers which are offset by deep purple stamens. The flowers appear in late spring or summer amongst the semi-evergreen foliage. It grows to about 2.5m so is excellent for a container or to weave up and through a wall shrub.