Gardening Tips for UK Climate
Fruit and vegetables are a good source of many vitamins and minerals, yet most of us don’t eat enough of them.
People who eat lots of fruit and veg are less likely to develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers. That’s why it’s important to remember to have them every day, and include a variety of different fruit and vegetables when you do your weekly shop. These some useful tip on gardening in the UK.
Light, space and water
and suitable soil to grow in. Sadly, you can’t grow a vegetable garden in the shade – you really need your plants to be in the sun for most of the day.
If the weather is dry, you’ll need to water your crops. Before deciding that you need to water, dig down a couple of inches, you’ll often find that the soil is quite damp enough down by the plants’ roots. If you do need to water, it is much better to water thoroughly a couple of times a week rather than a little bit every day. The aim is to make sure that there is plenty of water deep down. Pots and containers are an exception to this – they’ll need watering every day in summer, and possibly twice a day if the weather is very hot.
Most garden soil is fine for growing vegetables, though you’ll need to think about keeping it fertile from year to year. The best way to do this on a garden scale is to make plenty of compost from all your weeds, kitchen scraps, lawn mowings etc. Most councils offer free or subsidised ‘dalek bins’ and often advice on composting too.
With the ideal planting conditions of autumn (warm moist soil), now is the time to plant container grown shrubs, trees, fruit bushes, perennials and bulbs. The key to successful planting is to water in well. Soak the rootball in a bucket until no air bubbles come to the surface, dig the planting hole, fill with water and allow to drain away. Place the plant in the hole, fill with soil, firm gently and water well with a watering can – this will give the plant a huge advantage over one planted with a dry rootball in a dry hole and watered only on the surface.
Don’t buy too much seed.
It is really easy to get overenthusiastic and carried away reading catalogues. Lots of first-time gardeners order huge amounts of seed, far more than necessary or advisable. If you try to grow loads of different things, and try to learn how to garden at the same time, you won’t be able to look after them all properly, and you may end up discouraged.
We think you will do best trying fewer things the first year, as you’ll be able to give them each more attention and learn from what they do. In general, if you spend more than £20 or £25 on seed in your first year, you may be setting your sights too high. Growing veg is really easy & fun, but it is a learning process and you need to walk before you can fly . . . .
Prepare your soil for next year
For beds that lie bare in winter, carry on with the winter digging until the soil is too hard – use compost, manure, leaf mould – in fact as much organic matter as you can lay your hands on to replace the goodness in it. It can be left in a pretty rough state over the winter when the elements will break the clods down, making spring planting infinitely easier!
For text book soil improvement, you should add a layer of organic matter and dig it in by turning over spadefuls so it is buried below the surface. If this seems too much like hard work, just mulch the bed and leave the rest to the worms! If your soil is thin or heavy clay, just fork it over now; too much digging on the former will bring up infertile matter from below whilst great chunks of wet clay will remain rock solid over the winter and become nigh on impossible to break up next year.
Rake fallen leaves
Fallen leaves prevent light and air getting to plants and lawns and these dark, damp conditions are also heaven on earth for slugs, snails and an unwholesome array of fungal diseases. However, don’t waste these tumbled treasures – given time they will decompose into fabulously rich leaf mould – aka ‘nature’s soil conditioner of choice’! Rake them up and throw into a simple frame made of chicken wire or wood. Failing that, black bin liners spiked with air holes will do if you can bear the sight, but remember to dampen the leaves first should they be dry (some hope!). Leaf mould takes about a year to mature (2 in the case of oak leaves), makes a great top dressing for woodland plants such as rhododendrons and is an excellent and FREE home-grown substitute for peat. Don’t be tempted to use rose leaves, which can easily carry infection, or evergreens, which take too long to rot down.
Be gentle with new plants
If you remove new plants from their pots by pulling their stems, you’re likely to break or bruise them. Instead, gently squeeze the pot sides and turn it upside-down, using your other hand to catch the plant as it slides out. Or place the pot on a hard surface and press the sides as you rotate it. Again, the plant should slip out when you upturn the pot.
Have fun with it
Allow yourself to experiment and try new things. If you realise you’ve planted something in the wrong place – either because it’s the wrong height or colour, or because it’s not growing well – you can move it. Most plants and shrubs, even young trees, can be uprooted and replanted.