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Village Features

A time to review

Posted on October 31 2017 at 5:00:16

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Hannah Genders makes plans for the coming year.

I always remember older people (when I was young) saying to me that time goes much quicker when you get older. I now know it’s true and I can’t believe we are already in November – the year has flown past.

The one thing I tend to do in the winter months is review my garden, usually from notes I’ve managed to keep, remembering what went well and how I can improve it for next year.

My main border of perennials and grasses is still looking good even this late in the year, I’ve done lots of hoeing and I think the mulch I put on last year really helped.

I’ve added a few more late summer perennials and these seem to keep going and giving me colour – and, more importantly, the bees nectar well into the winter as the weather is still mild.

To this border I want to add some more Perovskia or Russian Sage; it’s been invaluable at the back of the border and I’ve realised a whole line of it would look fabulous.

It’s a shrub more than a perennial but has these gorgeous white stems. As a late flower it doesn’t do much early in the year but comes into its own in late summer.

The vine I planted to cover the pergola is really getting some size on it now and it fruited really well.

I was predominantly growing it for the leaf cover to give some shade but the pounds of grapes were also very welcome – I pressed them and made juice. I do love red wine but not usually the home-made variety, so having the juice was great.

This border will now be cut back as it dies off, and I will again cover all the bare soil with well-rotted compost that we made last year.

The large grasses like Stipa gigantea I will cut back to a ball, as this helps to weed around them and keeps a good shape.

My vegetable plot has produced well and is now largely put to bed for the winter, apart from a few leeks and some red-leafed kale. I am, however, planning major improvements to this area during the winter.

My greenhouse has definitely seen better days and will probably fall over if it is not taken down.

I have been given another second-hand greenhouse in much better condition, and with the current greenhouse having some wasted space behind it (about 1.5 metres), I’ve decided to site the new one a bit nearer the fence which gives me a good amount of space in front of the new greenhouse for two things.

Mike has offered to make me some cold frames from old windows and these will be ideal for hardening off plants in the spring, and I also want a small bench in this position as it is sunny and protected and will be a lovely place to sit, in which I must confess is still my favourite part of the garden.

To make the whole garden lower-maintenance and create some wilder areas, we planted a number of trees towards the top end and also a native hedge which will replace the ugly fence once it finally rots away.

The hedge is only five years old and was planted from whips (small bare rooted twigs) in November. This is the ideal way to plant a hedge, particularly a native one, and this is the month to do it; they tend to establish really well from being planted like this.

It’s very easy – you literally push a spade into the ground and prise the small root system in, healing it back in with your foot.

Whips generally cost between 60p and £1 each and are planted about five per metre if you want a thick hedge fairly quickly.

I’ve planted this one as mainly hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), with some Viburnum opulus and Cornus for autumn colour and berries for birds.

I’ve also interspersed the wild dog rose, Rosa canina, for its flowers and hips – by cutting it back twice a year you will soon have a great hedge that birds and insects will love.

The trees we planted are starting to gain some height now, and again I’ve gone for semi-native trees which are good for birds and wildlife.

I’ve planted a Rowan (Sorbus), two types of Hawthorn which have larger leaves and larger berries, and a lovely crab apple called Malus prunifolia – the small orangey red crab apples stay on well into the winter before the birds eat them.

Some of these trees now need a prune to start to get the overall shape I want.

My pots of flowers on the patio have struggled a bit this year because they have been infected with vine weevil, which is hard to eradicate. I will remove all the compost this winter and start again.

I have also been treating them with nematodes, which is a biological control for vine weevil although it does need watering on every three months.

The nematode in this case lays its eggs in the vine weevil grub and the emerging larvae eat the grubs from the inside out! I’m not usually sadistic but this really appeals to me as the vine weevil grubs and beetles do so much damage.

It is quite easy to tell if you have them – the beetle is not often seen but it has a distinct way of eating a leaf by chewing holes in the edge. The plants will also struggle as the grubs eat away at the plant roots.

The other feature that has just improved each year is the swimming pond. With a larger surface area of roots the water has become better and better quality for swimming.

I’ve had my last swim of the year and now covered all the reedbed area with netting to capture the leaves, saving me time on the big clean-up in the spring.


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