I admit I don’t mind weeding but of course it’s easy for the weeds to take over and the job becomes huge and demoralising rather than an hour of gently teasing them out.
There are ways to help keep weeds at bay.
1 ~ Try not to let them seed. ‘One year’s seeds, seven years’ weeds’ as the saying goes. When things are getting out of hand and you don’t have much time, cut off the seeding heads.
2 ~ Don’t add weed seeds to the compost (unless you are sure it’s going to get to a high enough temperature to kill them). I often find that after adding compost to a bed or border, weeds quickly start to take over. It can be a nice surprise. Last year Honesty started popping up all over one of my beds. But it can also be a nuisance if it’s Nettles and Dandelions. They spread fast enough without us helping them.
3 ~ Mulch. See above. Mulches cover the soil, supressing weed seeds and locking in moisture and nutrients. Things to use are homemade compost, manufactured compost, well rotted manure or mushroom compost.
4 ~ Hoe. Here it’s a case of do as I say, not as I do. I rarely hoe though I always mean to. Hoeing on a warm day means little weeds will be pulled up and quickly wilt on the surface of the soil. Regular hoeing keeps them at bay.
5 ~ Little and often. This goes for hoeing and hand weeding. I say this as reminder to myself. Keeping on top of the weeds and not letting them get out of hand is the way forward. Whipping out small weeds when you see them is so much easier then having to use a large fork on a huge clump of nettles.
6 ~ My favourite is to pack in the plants so there is no room for weeds!
Also if you try and learn to identify weed seedlings, you won’t find yourself nurturing weeds fondly hoping they’ll turn into flowers.
We’ll see how it goes this year, I have good intentions.
26th August ~ out at 7am to get ahead of the heat. It was misty and damp and perfect. I cut down all the Larkspur and trimmed the whole edge of the first cutting bed, weeding and tidying as I went. I wish I’d done it last week before open day. Moving along close the the plants, I spotted seed heads to dry and seeds to collect. Pulling out these spent plants leaves gaps for new planting. I have plenty to plant but it’s too dry just now. Possible rain again this week.
27th August ~ It’s time to sort out the seed stash again and get started on the Autumn sowing. I’ve also bought a few new ones (of course) so a plan is needed.
28th August ~ Pricking out. I aim to keep on top of the pricking out of seedlings so they don’t get crowded and leggy whilst crammed in a pot together. Today Dianthus ‘Chaubad Marie Yellow’ and potting on Escholzia.
30th August ~ Lopping heads of Cosmos seems cruel but it ensures that the flowers keep coming. My aim is to remove any which haven’t been cut and used as soon as they have been pollinated by bees. The flowers last longer un-pollinated. There are still plenty around for the bees. Lucky bees to live here. Lucky me.
31st August ~ Creating buttonholes and table centres in a beautiful blue and white colour scheme. There is very little pale blue around in August so Cornflowers took centre stage with purple tones in the table centres. I loved them so hope the wedding party do too.
1st September ~ Another day out but before I went I spend half an hour sowing seeds. As well as growing for cutting, there are lots of areas in the garden I’d like to improve next year. Growing from seed is a cost effective way to produce a lot of plants. I’m sowing wild flowers for our grassy area, I hesitate to call it a meadow, as well as late vegetables and overwintering hardy annual flowers. Hopefully they will germinate quickly in the warm greenhouse.
20th August ~ I’ve cut bunches and bunches of Atriplex, Straw flowers and Limonium for drying. Each time I cut it means a climb up the ladder to the loft where we have ropes strung across for drying. Tomorrow Eryngium and Pink Pokers.
21st August ~ I cut down the sweet peas in the poly tunnel. They’d stopped flowering a few weeks ago but I wanted to save some seed. I should have taken them down sooner as I think they’ve been shading the tomatoes. Next year plant in a different orientation. They were such tiny, weedy plants when they were planted, I never believe they will grow so tall or last so long.
22nd August ~ feeding the dahlias. I started well planting them with blood, fish and bone plus compost in the hole and then was feeding once a week with seaweed feed. The plants (mostly) look good and healthy but they’ll appreciate it if I keep feeding. I use seaweed or Comfrey concentrate.
23rd August ~ Cobweb in the face day.
24th August ~ Planning ahead for a funeral spray this week. I’ve made a ‘pocket’ out of chicken wire and string to stuff with moss. It will be a cuboid when it’s stuffed and sewn up, similar in shape to to a floral foam block. I never use floral foam and this will work in just the same way after soaking – holding the stems in place and hydrating them.
25th August ~ Day off visiting Ston Easton Park. Gorgeous gardens with enviable vegetables. As well as box edged beds there are huge green houses filled to the brim with tomatoes, cucurbits and chillis. We weren’t allowed entry but it would have been steamy hot inside. We could only peer in the doors in wonderment. Coffee in the beautiful and relaxed hotel overlooking the gardens and river.
28th July. 9pm weeding outside in the perfect temperature. Weeds come out easily as it is dry, dry, dry.
29th July Deadheading snap dragons. They are getting rust.
30th July 7.30 am enjoying a cup of tea while listening to rain. First time in weeks I haven’t had to start outside early before the temperatures soar.
—————3pm Trapped in the poly tunnel with no coat as rain beats down. Managed to do plenty of jobs which have been piling up when is was too hot to go in. Satisfying.
31st July Motto for next year is ‘Plant then stake immediately’. No exceptions
1st August Many interruptions, little progress.
2nd August Weeding in cutting beds. So very dry that perennials are suffering from that and being swamped by weeds. Adding compost and mulching are very important if we are to have these dry summers. Any rain we have had has been burnt of by the high temperatures.
3rd August Found a wasps nest in a compost heap while trying to turn it. Bone dry in the centre of the heap. Will have to leave it now until Autumn and the wasps have left. Strimmed the long grass in the middle area where we hope to establish wild flowers. Far too late, really, most of the seed had already dropped and have now spread the rest all around. Will cover some of it over winter to reduce grass ready for planting.
Anemones are flowering. Finally, after what seems like a long winter, we have flowers again. Plants are in active growth again with new spring flowers popping up every day.
Here, Anemones were among the first flowers in bloom. Their rich jewel colours are a tonic after the grey months of January and February, though we did have a crazy hot spell in February this year.
These were pre-sprouted in the Autumn and grown on until they had a good root system. Then they were planted out to overwinter in our poly tunnel. The corms rot if they get too wet so this is a good way of preventing that.
During winter on the flower farm, it’s all about planning for a succession of flowers through the year. From the middle of February we can start sowing seeds, cautiously at first as, here, it’s still a long way to the last frost date. That’s the date that it’s safe to plant out tender plants. Half hardy annuals shouldn’t be started off yet, it’s important to be patient and wait a few weeks.
A few things can be sown earlier. These are a second sowing of sweet peas. Despite their delicate look, they are tough.
Some hardy annuals seeds were sown in Autumn and they are looking good now. As long as they get the right amount of light and water they will continue to grow slowly, ready to take off as the weather warms and the days lengthen.
Everyone knows that weeds start growing first but eagle eyes will notice self seeders start to pop up too. Not much is sown direct here but if Mother Nature wants to help we can’t complain. She does a better job anyway.
Hardy annuals seeds can be sown now. A little bit of warmth and good light will help them along. The aim is for strong, little plants growing slowly and steadily. If they don’t get enough light they will get too tall and weak.
Not much makes me happier than an little pot of seedlings enthusiastically bursting out of their seed coats.
We can no longer pretend it’s still summer. The days are shorter, mornings are misty with a real nip in the air and we have had a touch of frost. October in the poly tunnel is a time to look back and plan ahead for next year’s flowers.
Photo opportunities are always available in Autumn. This was early one morning.
I promise you there is absolutely no editing here, this is exactly how the camera captured the morning. (We don’t always have a Bell tent in the garden, it is supposedly drying).
It’s a time of looking back and planning ahead. It’s important to assess what has gone well, or badly, and when it’s time to take a crop out and replace. Zinnia, Rudbekia and Cosmos are valuable late flowers.
Tomatoes are growing in the poly tunnel, as well as flowers, and it’s hard taking them out while there are still tomatoes ripening. Often there are tomatoes up until November.
Trays and trays of seedlings are growing in preparation for next year. The trays of tiny plants are squeezed in here so the tomatoes and flowers get a reprieve for a few more weeks.
The seedlings of some hardy annuals will be tucked in here for the winter. They will taking advantage of the warmth and be somewhat protected from the cold and the wind which can be more damaging. Growth will slow down and watering will be minimal during cold snaps The plants will just be waiting to take off when the weather warms up in the Spring. This means the best chance of early flowers. Some will be planted inside and later sowings outside for a succession.
There are also bulbs to go in the ground, inside and out. Thankfully Tulips shouldn’t be planted until November so there should be some more space by then.
There is no denying it has been hot and while many plants are struggling some are thriving – Zinnias.
I certainly spend a lot of time watering. It’s time consuming as there is so much to do but it has to be done carefully too. The ground is so dry that water drains away from the plant if you water too quickly. When planting I try to make a shallow depression around a plant so water will drain towards it rather than away. It is best to use a rose on your watering can, as it sprinkles water gently without disturbing the soil around the roots. I pour on a small amount, let it soak in and then gradually add more. The rule is give what you think is enough and then some more.
The poly tunnel is full to bursting just now. There is also a rogue at the centre which grew itself.
The Zinnias are loving the heat and thriving. I love this little gentle pink one:
Some of the colours are not so gentle:
This one is unusual but the combination is very pretty:
But for me the real star is ‘Queen Red Lime’:
They look great in bouquets and last for ages in water.
This was how we started early in the year. Now that buckets of blooms have been harvested from here I can show it.
We removed the turf and dug it over. I follow the ‘no-dig’ method of gardening but it was necessary to dig over to begin with to remove weeds and loosen the soil which had been compacted. This bed is now divided in two with a path up the middle.
Seedlings went in and, as usual, I wondered how these tiny things would ever produce flowers.
Many of them are now waist high and flowering their hearts out.
Here are a few current highlights.
The challenging year goes on but the rewards are enormous and I love being able to work here every day.