Monday, 17 April 2017

LAWN MAINTENANCE


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At this time of year, the lawn is actively growing and requires feeding, moss-killing, weeding and regular mowing. Spring is also a suitable time to over-seed sparse areas.

All lawns need feeding in order to maintain vigour. When feeding, look out for signs of pest or disease and apply moss killer if required. Regular maintenance is the best way to approach a lawn, and may avoid the need for renovation later on.

Over winter the lawn does not grow much, but once the weather warms up in early spring you can start mowing, and this is also a good time to over-seed any areas damaged over winter.

Mowing

This is the most obvious, and one of the most important, maintenance task over spring and summer. Mowing regularly keeps the lawn in good health. Cutting the grass fortnightly from mid-March until November (around 16 cuts a year) to maintain a healthy sward. 
Adjust the cutting height and mowing frequencies to match grass vigour and ground conditions. Lower the cutting height gradually during the spring until a cutting height of around 25 mm is reached. During periods of drought raise the height of the cut or postpone cutting to avoid stressing the lawn

Killing moss

Moss is a problem in damp, poorly drained lawns. Spring is a good time to remedy moss problems. There are several options for dealing with moss in lawns, either using cultivation or by chemical means.  

Remove loose moss in autumn, by scarification (vigorous raking). On small lawns this can be done by hand, raking out the moss with a spring-tine rake, but on larger lawns mechanical scarifiers can be hired.

For chemical control use a moss killer containing sulphate of iron in spring or early autumn. When the moss blackens after two or three weeks use a spring-tine rake to remove it. Apply mosskillers either by hand or with a push-along spreader. 

Be careful not to apply lawn sand (ferrous sulphate mixed with a carrier) at too high a rate as this can blacken and kill the grass as well as the moss. Apply lawn mosskillers in fine weather. Some require watering after 48 hours if there has been no rain. Check pack for details.

Mosskillers combined with a fertiliser are beneficial where grass vigour is low.

Feeding

In mid-spring use a proprietary spring or summer lawn fertiliser at the manufacturer’s recommended rates. Feeding the lawn will increase vigour and help prevent weeds and moss from establishing. Apply fertilisers when the soil is moist, or when rain is expected.
If grass loses its vigour and freshness between late spring and late summer, repeat the application of spring or summer lawn fertiliser or apply 15g per sq m sulphate of ammonia mixed with four times its weight dry soil. Mixing with soil ensures even distribution and avoids scorching the grass. Apply this mixture in cool, moist conditions and lightly water it in. As an organic alternative, use chicken manure pellets. Repeat fertiliser application a third time if needed six to eight weeks later.

Do not apply spring or summer lawn fertilisers, chicken manure pellets or sulphate of ammonia after August. They contain too much nitrogen for autumn use, encouraging green leafy growth at the wrong time of year, when it could be damaged by winter cold or pests and disease.

Over-seeding

After moss or weeds have been removed, or where grass is growing sparsely, over-seeding may be necessary. Early autumn is the best time for this job, but mid-spring is also suitable. 
  • Break up the surface with a fork and rake it to make a reasonably fine surface.
  • Sow grass seed at half the recommended rate or, where there are no recommendations, at 10-15g per sq m.
  • Lightly rake to incorporate the seed into the surface.
  • Where birds are a problem, net the area.
  • If the weather remains dry for two or three days water gently with a sprinkler.
  • Grass should sprout seven to 10 days after sowing.
In heavily used areas, choose a hardwearing utility mix containing ryegrass. Most lawn grasses do not thrive in shade, so for these areas choose a shade-tolerant mix.

Waterlogging

Lawns can become waterlogged if water sits on the surface and drains slowly. Waterlogging is more likely to be a problem on compacted and clay soils.

Pricking or slitting the surface can improve a waterlogged lawn. Shallow, 2-3 cm, pricking or slitting will help. However, deeper spiking is better, especially with a tool designed to leave holes 10-15 cm deep. These holes can be filled with a free-draining material, such as proprietary lawn top dressings or horticultural sand. This allows the water to flow from the surface to deeper, less compacted layers

Hand spiking tools are available for the purpose, but an ordinary garden fork can be used. Alternatively, for larger lawns, use powered tools. Try a hollow tiner, which has hollow spikes and removes plugs of soil that are then swept up and removed.

Pricking and slitting are best carried out once the excess water has drained away, especially where machinery is to be used. In small areas where standing water persists, sweep it off the lawn and into the beds before spiking with a hand spiking tool or garden fork
If your lawn is prone to waterlogging, spike it every few years in autumn. This will prevent the need for emergency action after wet winters.

Applying fertiliser in spring will help the grass to recover from winter damage and to grow more extensive root systems that are better able to withstand drought and flooding
Feeding in autumn with a lawn feed, rich in phosphorus, promotes good root growth

Wet soils and dead patches allow mosses to thrive in the lawn over winter. Remove these with a proprietary moss killer to allow the lawn to thrive.

Dogs

Dogs can cause unsightly patches on lawns, especially if they frequent the usual spot.  This is because their urine contains high levels of nitrogen which damages the lawn and causes small, characteristic brown patches. Lawns that are suffering from drought, disease, or are newly sodded or seeded are more susceptible to lawn burn.

Reduce the stress on your lawn by not over or under fertilising and by watering frequently. Encourage your dog to use less conspicuous areas to urinate in. If practical you can dilute the nitrogen in the soil by watering in the affected areas shortly after your dog has visited. 

Watering

Even if lawns turn brown and dry over summer, they usually recover well when rains return. Watering is usually not necessary over summer.

Looking after new lawns

Avoid using new lawns heavily in their first season.
Newly laid lawns can be fed like established lawns. They need watering, but should not be over watered, as this may result in shallow rooting and poor establishment.

Problems

When over-seeding the lawn, it can be difficult to match the colour of a new seed mix with your existing lawn.  In such circumstances it may be necessary to over-seed the whole lawn to achieve uniformity of colour and texture.

Areas of dry shade, such as under trees, become sparse very quickly despite adequate care. Consider over-seeding on an annual basis to maintain a dense sward. However, in very shady or high traffic areas grass just will not thrive and replacing grass with paving, gravel or bark mulch may give better results.

Spring is a good time to repair damage to lawns caused by pests, diseases or mechanical damage.


Sunday, 5 March 2017

DANDELIONS




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Kingdom:   Plantae
Order:         Asterales
Family:       Asteraceae
Subfamily: Cichorioideae
Tribe:          Cichorieae
Subtribe:    Crepidinae
Genus:       Taraxacum

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) are such a common weed and one that most people would immediately recognise.  They get their name fro their distinctive shaped leaves that are evocative of lion teeth (Dande meaning teeth and Lion, well, means lion).

This rosette shaped weed has distinctive toothed leaves and yellow flowers.  The flowers are are followed by the familiar dandelion clocks which spread the seed far on the wind on a parachute like ball of fluff. These are in fact a collection of very small flowers that together form a composite flower head called a floret. 

Dandelions are tough, hence why they are so successful as a weed.  No only do they have efficient seed dispersing capacities they are also very resilient, having a long tap root from which new plants can grow.  This means that mowing the plant or removing the leaves will have a minimal effect on the flower, which will be back within flower by the end of the week.



Digging out the plants and removing all of the tap root will do the trick but this is a time consuming job and not always practical. Larger volume of weeds will require chemical control with glyphosate which can be applied during the growing season.

Dandelions

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

PLANTS FOR SEASIDE AREAS


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Some plants are better adapted at thriving in seaside conditions, coping with high salt levels, strong drying winds and poor soils.

The plants that thrive in coastal areas have adapted to conserving water, often by succulence of leaf or stem. Alternatively they can also protect against water loss by tough waxy or hairy leaves.

All coastal plants are tolerant of high levels of salt in both the soil and in salt spray. They often have large tap roots to help anchor them in strong winds.

When planning a garden near coastal areas there are some great plant species that will thrive in this environment.  Shrubs and trees can be used to act as protection for other plants, creating microclimates where other non-coastal plants can thrive.





Ammophila arenaria
Arbutus unedo
Armeria maritima
Calystegia soldanella
Chamaerops humilis
Choisya
Crataegus
Colutea
Cordyline australis
Cotoneaster
Crambe maritima
Cytisus
Eryngium maritimum
Escallonia
Euonymus fortunei
Garrya elliptica
Griselinia littoralis
Hebe
Helianthemum
Helichrysum
Honkenya peploides
Hydrangea macrophylla
Ilex aquifolium
Laurus noblis
Lavatera arborea
Lavendula
Olearia
Ononis repens
Phormium
Pittosporum
Pyracantha
Quercus ilex
Rosa
Rosmarinus officinalis
Salix
Santolina
Senecio
Spiraea
Tamarix
Ulex
Viburnum
Yucca

Plants for seaside areas

Friday, 3 February 2017

HOW TO GROW A LEMON FROM SEED


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Inspired by Georges' recently grown apple tree, I have decided to try my luck at growing an lemon tree from seed.  I will keep it indoors until the really warm weather, and bring it back indoors during the winter.

Lemon trees grown from seed will take nearly 10 years to bear fruit. Similar to apples, commercial lemon trees are grown on a rootstock which means they fruit much earlier. When growing lemon fro seed remember that the seed will not be true to the parent.  It is best to align this germination period with winter so that the seedlings can emerge into their first spring and make the most of the growing season.

Firstly, to grow an lemon tree from seed I need to get the pips from lemon.  Easy peasy (Lemon squeezy lol) with lemons used for pancakes. Use a knife to cut your lemon in half and remove the seeds.  Rinse them in water to remove any sugar and pulp.  Place in a bowl filled with water and leave overnight. If you are not planting them straight away you can air dry them overnight then place in a sealed plastic bag and leave in the fridge.

Lemons like a well drained soil. Fill a 9 cm pot with John Innes seed & potting compost and vermiculite. Water well.  Spread the seeds over the surface of the pot whilst they are still moist and sprinkle a 1 cm layer of the potting compost over the top of them.  Mist with water and cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to retain moisture.

Place in a sunny and warm position (around 70 degrees).  After 3-6 weeks the seeds will germinate.  Remove the plastic cover and move to a sunny windowsill. Mist regularly to ensure the compost does not dry out.

When the seedling is large enough to transport, around 10 cm high, place it outside or in a cold frame to harden off for several weeks. Plant your lemon seedling into a large pot and place in a sunny, sheltered site well away from any frost pockets.  Water regularly.

Lemons are tender so protect from frost and bring indoors during the winter.

How to propagate from root cuttings
How to overwinter banana plants
How to grow hardy bananas
How to grow an apple from seed
How to grow a lemon tree
Recipe for cider roast pork

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

RECIPE FOR WALNUT AND APPLE TART


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Ingredients
225 g / 8 oz plain flour
250 g / 8 oz butter
4 eggs
200 g / 7 oz honey
125 g / 4 oz light muscovado sugar
125 g / 4 oz dried apples and pears
125 g / 4 oz walnuts, chopped
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 lemon

Method
To make the pastry put the flour and icing sugar into the bowl or food mixer.  Add 125 g chilled butter and mix until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Beat 1 egg into a bowl and add with 1 tbsp cold water and mix until comes together.  Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes in fridge.


Warm the honey gently in a small pan.  Place the muscovado sugar in a bowl with 125 g / 4 oz butter and mix together until light and fluffy.  Beat the remaining eggs and add to the bowl with the zest from the lemon and juice, walnuts, apples, pears, and warm honey.  Stir well.

Roll out the pastry and line out a 23 cm / 9 inch flan case. Trim the edge and prick out the base. Cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180 C / gas mark 4.  Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Remove the paper and beans and bake the pastry for 5 minutes longer. Pour he apple and walnut filling into teh pastry and arrange teh pear slices on top.  Brush with the top with honey.

Place the tart on a baking sheet, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for a further 25 minutes until tart is golden brown and slightly risen.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Recipe for cider roast pork


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

This cider roast pork is fabulous.  Apple and pork have been a winning combination for years, so the cider works brilliantly.  I made this for my family this weekend and it was delicious.

Ingredients
1 kg bone, rolled loin of pork (fat removed)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions
2 apples
440 ml can cider
salt
pepper
thyme sprigs

Method
Place the pork in a large bowl with the olive oil, chopped onions, quartered apples and thyme. Pour the cider over the pork and marinate in the fridge for 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

When ready to cook, remove from the fridge 20 minutes before putting in the oven. Preheat the oven to 200 C / gas mark 6.  Put the joint in a roasting tin with the marinade ingredients and season.  Roast for 25 minutes per pound (450g) plus 20 minutes.


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Chicken stir fry
Chicken supreme
How to roast pork
How to roast turkey
Recipe for Asparagus Quiche
Recipe for cauliflower cheese
Recipe for home made olive bread
Recipe for Italian pizza
Recipe for Italian tomato sauce
Recipe for lasagna
Recipe for pea salad with mint
Recipe for pickled cucumber
Recipe for Salmon with lemon and herbs
Recipe Spaghetti bolognese
Recipe for spinach and broccoli fritatta

Recipe for tomato soup

Recipe for cider roast pork
Spiced brussels sprouts

Vegetarian recipes - vegetable fried rice

Sunday, 8 January 2017

HOW TO GROW AN APPLE FROM SEED


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

George recently handed me an apple seed and said he wanted to plant it.  We have planted acorns and grown cress before, but apple seeds are new for me.  I wondered how long it would take before the tree grew, and if growing it true for seed (rather than grafting onto a rootstock) would give us a viable tree.


Firstly, to grow an apple tree from seed will take much longer than grafting it onto rootstock. The size and vigour of the tree will be as programmed in the seed, not the rootstock.  Apples trees grown from seed will not have the dwarfing qualities of those grown on rootstock and so will be much larger, 9 meters in height, and will take nearly ten years to bear fruit. 

The variety of apple see you plant will determine the size, shape and vigour of your tree but remember apple trees do not grow true to type, and so the seeds from apple will not grow be identical to its parents. Apple seeds are not self pollinating  so if you want your tree to bear fruit and have not got any adjacent apple trees in your garden you may be lucky enough to get two varieties for one apple but to be on the safe side collect two different types of seeds to ensure cross pollination. Ensure you select varieties of apples that grow well in your climate zone, or the plants will die once planted outside.

Firstly dry out your apple seeds on some kitchen paper and allow to air dry. In order to facilitate germination you need to mimic winter so place your seeds on moist kitchen towel and seal in a transparent plastic bag in the fridge.  Keep in the fridge for ten weeks until they have germinated and the seeds have sprouted.  Check regularly to ensure that the kitchen towel is kept moist.  It is best to align this germination period with winter so that the seedlings can emerge into their first spring and make the most of the growing season.


Fill a 9 cm pot with John Innes seed and potting compost.  Use a dibber to make a hole in the pot 1 cm deep and carefully drop your sprouted apple seed in, pointed side facing up.  Place 2 seeds in every pot to allow you to select the strongest seedling when they emerge. Cover with soil and water gently. Place in a sunny and warm position such as a windowsill.  After several weeks shoots should start to appear and from then on your tree will continue to grow and get stronger.

When the seedling is 10 cm high place it outside or in a cold frame to harden off for several weeks. Plant your seedling directly into well drained soil in a sunny, sheltered site well away from any frost pockets.  Allow sufficient room for your tree and leave 5 metres between trees. 

Dig a hole twice the size of the rootball and plant the sapling in the hole. Water after planting to eliminate air pockets. Ensure you mark the location carefully with a stake and remove any competing weeds from around the base of the tree. Water regularly and protect from rabbits with rabbit mesh.


How to propagate from root cuttings
How to overwinter banana plants
How to grow hardy bananas
How to grow an apple from seed
How to grow a lemon tree
Recipe for cider roast pork