Thursday, 28 January 2016

Hedgehoggs Gardening Solutions: Pruning - A hazy shade of winter

Going down the list of things for us to do with Hedgehoggs' Gardening clients this week is rather quick reading.
Prune and prune.

Why prune?
There are many reasons to prune a plant, shrub or tree from improving it's appearance and maintaining a plant's shape to reducing a size of a plant to maintain balance in the garden. Thinning out the centre branches and removing dead and diseased wood will also help keep a plant healthy. Good air circulation helps keep diseases in check and removing interior branches helps open it up to air circulation.

From a practical standpoint, we generally aim to do a hard prune and cut backs in the winter as it's far easier to see what needs to be pruned after the leaves have dropped.

Most importantly for us at Hedgehoggs Gardens, pruning in Jan/Feb when many shrubs and trees are dormant helps to improve plants for more robust growth in the spring. One of the things we aim for is to ensure our clients' gardens look their best year round. And like most things in life, a successful spring and summer garden is often the result of hard work and planning before the blooms start to show.

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

Don't let ivy drive you up a wall

While ivy is the bane of many estate agents, kept under tight control ivy can be a real asset to a garden. It is one of the few evergreen climbers that is self supporting. None is as hardy as ivy.

Now is the time of year to give it a bold haircut because you want to do a hard prune before it starts growing again. If you want your ivy to grow to cover more wall, we recommend you take it hard back to the wall until the only lightest cover remains. This removes the shoots that flower rather than cling. Doing this ensures that all the plant's energies are pushed back into the main stems instead of the extremities and you get fast lush growth.

Ivy needs regular tending to however and can be quite demanding. Untangling it from gutters, roofs, walls and fences can be a real chore, as can pulling up shoots that are rooting along the ground.

Give Hedgehoggs Gardening Solutions a call if you've had enough of trying to keep it at bay by yourself. We have the experience and equipment to easily tame it for you and ensure it's in good shape year round.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Walking on frosted grass

Unfortunately we're not like Annie Lennox, so we try to avoiding walking on broken glass. Likewise, we also try to avoid walking on frozen grass!

Contrary to popular belief, frost doesn't damage grass; walking on it does. Normally when you walk across a lawn, the individual blades of grass are elastic and bounce back without damage. Walking on frozen grass causes the grass leaves to break. When this happens the leaf cells rupture and seriously damage the leaves, resulting in tell-tale blackened foot prints for a few weeks.

If you can't keep off frosted grass, maybe consider putting in a hard path instead?

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Time to check and prune pleached trees

Many of our clients have pleached trees, also called espaliered trees. It's that time of year where we start checking and retying tree ties in our clients' gardens. This is an almost impossible job to do when leaves are on the trees so now is the ideal time of year to get out on the ladder and ensure all tree ties are both still in place and also not too tight. If a tie has broken, the tree can be subject to wind damage. On the other hand, if a tree has grown substantially since the ties were last done, the ties could be too tight and be strangling the plant. We try not to use wire when tying in the tree, but use either natural string or plastic clips as they are less prone to cutting into the bark of the tree.

Tips for Tying Trees:
1. Don't use wire.
2. Leave room for a small amount of movement and, of course, plant growth. After all, the tighter you tie, the more frequently you'll have to check and retie. Also if you tie too tight, the tree won't develop it's own natural strength to be able to sustain winds and environment on it's own.
3. Remember staking and tying trees is not about supporting the plant everyday, but ensuring it's stable from unexpected knocks and strong winds.
4. Use spacers to ensure stake doesn't rub the stem
5. Remember that high quality pleached trees will need pruning, tying in and maintenance at least twice during a single growing season.
6. After bad weather, check for abrasions and snapped ties.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Up the Apple and Pears

With winter pruning season in high gear, it's important to remember to prune back your fruit trees -- particularly apple and pear trees. Forget that UK Boy Band, what you want to remember is to tackle the 3Ds first: Removing any Dead, Damaged or Diseased wood. Once you are sure you have only healthy stems left you then want to move to C, and prune in such a way that you remove any crossing or rubbing branches (which will eventually lead to damaged or diseased wood). This lets light and air in which further reduces disease and helps to ripen the fruit that grows next year.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Insulate your pots and water pipes

While we've had a mild winter so far, it's always good to be on the safe side and protect your plants, containers and water spigots before a harsh cold sets in. In London, weather forecasters are saying a bit of a cold spell is headed our way in the next week, bringing with it normal temperatures for the first time this season. When the cold starts setting in, at Hedgehoggs Gardening we recommend moving containers closer to the house and wrapping your pots, containers and spigots with bubble wrap or hessian bags. You can also use a strip of old carpet, hessian side out to protect both pots and roots from severe cold.

The concern is not the hardiness of the plant, but rather that plants are more vulnerable to damage in cold and frosty weather because their roots are not insulated below ground.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Here Comes the Rain Again

All this rain we've been having is causing havoc with a number of lawns and Hedgehoggs Gardening looks after. Lawn that was a lush thick green carpet a few weeks ago has turned to a soggy brown sponge. Turf will survive these conditions just fine, assuming it's not walked on. The ground is totally saturated in places at the moment so any traffic is going to churn it up and turn it into a muddy compacted mess.

A lot of time and effort will have gone into making sure the ground is level before laying new turf. This can come undone by walking on it when it's waterlogged.  One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to aerate the lawn and to ensure that your lawn has good drainage before the winter starts. It's past the point for preventative measures at this point in the season, however.
Putting boards down minimises damage
When we absolutely have to work in a wet area we put large plank boards on the ground to reduce the load. It prevents compacting and breaking down the turf when we are working from the edge of a lawn and saves compacting the soil if we're working within the border itself.

The fact is that the best advice is to not step on a lawn at all for a number of weeks. For many people, however, this is not an option...especially people with dogs. In that case, you may want to consider installing a row of stepping stones or lay a mulch or gravel path down instead. Otherwise, you'll want to wait until spring when the ground dries out and you can address any drainage issues and reseed/returf...but until then make sure you take you shoes off before you step inside!

Photo: Shutterstock

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy 2016! 10 Things to do in the garden this January

Happy New Year! We can't believe 2016 is here already, but we starting the new year with a long list of things to do in our clients'  gardens already.

Top things to do in your garden in January:
1. Spread mulch/organic matter
2. Prune trees and overgrown shrubs to shape
3. Water container plants
4. Get your lawn mower serviced
5. Check tree ties and stakes
6. Keep an eye on ponds freezing over
7. Make sure there's enough bird food out
8. Prune Whisteria
9. Improve drainage in your lawn by forking it
10. Order summer flowering bulbs