NOVEMBER gardening tip – LEAF FREE LAWN

A very quick tip this month – LEAF FREE LAWN.
Its that time again. Wind, rain, leaves falling and covering your lawn in brown slimy piles. Now, the received wisdom is that you have to spend time raking them all up, otherwise your lawn will turn yellow, get mossy, start dying. All of which is actually true, you cant just leave them there. However, life is just too short to spend hours raking. So here’s the time-saving tip:

– get your lawnmower out, ideally its one with a box that collects the grass clippings (this will still work if not, but not as well)
– check that its on the highest setting (if you don’t know how to do that, don’t worry, just use it however you normally do)
– now just cut your grass, a little more slowly than usual
– if the grass is a bit wet, its not a problem, as long as it isn’t actually raining when you are mowing
– your mower will chop up and collect up nearly all the leaves as you go, with no extra effort needed by you
– if you have a hover mower, that’s great, it will blow away any leaves it doesn’t pick up
– then just empty the leaves and grass clippings into your compost bin or garden recycling.

Job done.

Do this a couple of times this autumn and not only will your lawn look a lot better, your garden will look neat and tidy too. If you didnt already give your lawn an autumn feed, its a bit late but you still can, so just spend a few minutes scattering some granular lawn food over it (or see my earlier post about autumn lawn care for more details).

By the way, I never bother to pick up leaves that fall on the flower borders. You can if you like but they are good for the soil as they rot down over winter.

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OCTOBER gardening tip – SPRING BULB FEST

This months tip – SPRING BULB FEST… right now is the perfect time to plant bulbs for spring. An hour out of your busy schedule this weekend will mean you will be delighted by a dazzling display of flowers in a few months time. Three bits of good news for you – it doesnt take long, you cant mess it up and a huge range of bulbs are on special offer in most garden and diy centres around London right now.

So, here’s what you need to do now to enjoy a dazzling display this spring. Its really easy.
1. Pop into your local garden centre or diy shop on the way home from work and buy a LOT of bulbs. Each bulb usually only sends up one flower so if you want to be able to see them from the house you will need at least 50. I recommend planting 100 or more. The more you put in, the better it will look.
2. Which bulbs to buy? Well, snowdrops are the first to flower, usually by the end of January, so definitely get lots of them. Crocuses are next in February and March, so get them too. Then come narcissus and daffodils and finally tulips in April and May.
3. How many and what combination? My recommendation for the maximum effect, get 100 snowdrops, 100 crocuses and as many narcissus, daffodils or tulips as you like. A handy tip when buying bulbs, don’t go for those bags of mixed colours, they are low quality and look rubbish. Instead, pick one colour, it will look much more stylish. White is the best to go for if you want them to really stand out, cant beat it. I only put white ones in my garden for this reason.
4. Where to plant them? You probably want to be able to see them from the house, a spot you can see through the windows.
5. How to plant them? You can dig a little hole for each bulb (and garden centres do sell a special tool to do this) but its a chore and takes forever. What I do is dig a shallow trench about 70cm x 30cm and about 8 cm deep. Thats enough space for 50 bulbs or more. Put the soil to one side. Then just place your bulbs in the hole randomly, with the pointy end sticking up (that’s the end that the flowers come out!). Mix up snowdrops, crocuses, narcissus if you like, that way you will have a succession of flowers over a few months. And put them close together, it will look a lot better.
6. Now just shovel the soil in on top and pat it down. That’s it.If you are feeling energetic, do several patches of bulbs in different spots in your garden, get creative and plant them in arcs, or in pots if you have a balcony or terrace. Just make sure you plant them 8cm deep in the pots.Now just sit back, probably forget you planted them until spring when one morning you will be surprised and delighted to see the first flowers poking up through the soil.

Enjoy!

SEPTEMBER gardening tip – LAWN MAKEOVER

This months time saving tip is the LAWN MAKEOVER. With the onset of autumn rain, it’s the perfect time to do one quick job that will perk up that tired lawn area and help it look green and lush:

– Pop into your local diy/garden centre type place on the way home from work and buy a box of lawn fertiliser (aftercut, evergreen, all much the same). Don’t buy a soluble or liquid one as it just takes time to dilute it down.
– Sprinkle the fertiliser fairly evenly over the grass (just do this by hand, wear gloves if you have sensitive skin) and let the rain wash it in. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly distributed.
– The grass will be greener in a week, grow thicker this autumn and look a lot better through the winter.
– BONUS ACTIVITY – If you have time, buy some ‘patch magic’ and sprinkle it over those bare patches.

Even if you dont have a lawn, its still worth buying some granular plant food (an own brand version, miracle grow or whatever) and give a little scoop to each of your patio plants in autumn. Don’t bother in winter though, wait until spring.Tip: Don’t use fertiliser that includes moss or weedkiller as it can leave you with big patches of blackened moss and dead weeds – which is usually not an improvement, unless you have time to rake it all out and re-seed the area !