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Gardening Tips. November 2012

This is the month where there should be good housekeeping in the garden, tidying up and pruning in readiness for the winter months. If you have a large compost area it is a very good idea to keep all the leaves swept from the lawn and elsewhere, as they will make excellent leaf mould – eventually.

Prepare for the spring by digging and manuring the vegetable patch. Remember to keep a 3 year rotation so that potatoes (for example) are not planted in the same area two years running.

Where possible, clear debris from your ponds. Surrounding perennials should be cut down and the soil forked over. Giant leave of the Gunnera manicata should be folded over the crown of the plant to provide protection from the cold. Remove any submersible pumps that may have been used earlier in the year and have them serviced and stored for use next year.

Remember to get your tulips planted before the end of the month. Try layer planting of tulips in containers. Do this by planting the later flowering varieties first, cover them with about an inch to 2″ of compost and then plant earlier varieties. A typical 12″ diameter container can take up to 40 bulbs in order to get a good display that lasts several weeks if this technique is used. On the subject of container planting for the winter, it is difficult to find suitable plants. Winter pansies are usually reliable. One tip I have learnt, and I expect it has been done to death with all the TV gardening programmes, is the use of variegated and evergreen plants like ivy (hedera) and also some of the herbs such as purple sage, and the evergreen thyme. When these are mixed with spot colour of winter flowering dwarf wallflowers, or pansies it can make for an interesting colour spot in the depths of winter.

Seed catalogues abound and it is worthwhile to spend some time thinking about what you might grow next year. Thompson & Morgan and Dobies are probably the most promoted catalogues. For vegetable seed and fruit plants, I have found D.T. Brown (www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk) very good. They are expanding the range of plants and products sold. Recently I bought a pair of ‘Vine Snips’ from them and find them very useful in the garden. Whilst most people have pruning shears, the blades are relatively thick and cumbersome. The Vine Snips are similar to a pair of fine surgical scissors that are ideal for more delicate work, like deadheading and taking out small offshoots. They cost around a fiver and might be a suitable Christmas present for gardeners everywhere.

For those who can lay out £100 for a pair of garden boots, the Toggi range are very good. Ideally the best are the Dubarry boots but they cost between £200 to £300 a pair. The Toggi alternative has a leather foot cover, and a mix of cloth and leather up to the knee. They are waterproof, warm in winter, and very comfortable. Until I bought a pair earlier this year I had always gone for the cheapest rubber wellie possible, but now it seems that the average wellie costs anything between £40 to £60 and they do not seem to last much more than a couple of years, so I think that paying more as an investment in a good pair of boots is justified.

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