• Robert Blake

topical tips and new ideas

The Gardeners’ Club organised its first Zoom meeting on 7 October and 29 members took part. Ray Broughton was our guest speaker, who gave a wide range of his topical tips and new gardening ideas. He is an immensely experienced horticulturalist who taught at Sparsholt College for 37 years, the last 12 as Head of Horticulture, and has given at least five talks to the Club in the past.


He broke the talk into four sections with time in between for questions, which were well managed by our Secretary, Tina Williams as ‘Zoom Host’. Some of his key tips are as follows:

SB Plant Invigorator is an excellent foliar growth stimulant and pesticide, which is biodegradable, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. It controls a wide range of important pests including whitefly, aphid and spider mite and does not harm birds or bees.

White flowering runner beans do not need pollinators but red flowering ones do. If you have planted companion plants, such as marigolds, to act as hosts for blackfly and greenfly, these should be strongly sprayed with water in early January to remove the eggs. Whitefly is also kept at bay by planting basil and nasturtiums, which it finds unpleasant.


Lawns: To prevent grass going yellow when it goes dormant in hot weather, water it for just ‘ten minutes’ every ‘four days’ in the cool of the evening. It is also advisable to raise the cut of the mower to about one inch. If you need to patch your lawn, use ‘Smart’ seed as it is treated with a resin to stop birds eating it.


Planting: If you are planting a tree or shrub from a pot, push a spade or sharp edging tool vertically down through the root ball in 3 places spaced about 1200 apart before placing it in the hole. This will encourage new roots to establish. Also cut off the bottom inch of the root plate as it has no value to the plant and will prevent the roots going round in a circle. Finally, apply a mycorrhizal fungi in granule form just to the bottom of the planting hole as it encourages the release of the roots.


Hebe: Pruning should generally be avoided. If you need to restrict its size then carry out pruning when it is in full flower. It will re-shoot straight away as its sex hormones are at their most active.


Roses: There is a simple way of distinguishing rambling from climbing roses. The former has thorns that lean backwards and should be pruned in August, whereas the latter has straight thorns and is pruned in March.


Tulips: If you require them to flower at Christmas, plant the bulbs in August, leave them outside and bring them indoors in October. If you want them to continue to flower for up to 30 days, cut off the female stigma in the centre of each flower.


Wild flower meadow: If you want to create a display of poppies, soak the seeds in vinegar for 20 minutes, dry them off and then sow them. The action of the vinegar breaks dormancy and they will all grow in the same year.


Hardwood cuttings: Research at Sparsholt has shown that cuttings should be taken from the middle of the plant (not from the top or base) as this is where the hormones are balanced, resulting in a more uniform shape rather than a leggy or lopsided one.


Leggy seedlings in a greenhouse: This condition is caused by a lack of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and can be avoided by ensuring adequate ventilation. If this does not solve the problem then CO2 levels can be enhanced by filling a plastic box with manure, covering it with cling film secured with string, and finally punching 6 holes in the film.


Maintenance of Secateurs: The blades can be cleaned, and burrs removed, by immersing them in tomato sauce for 48 hours, which is an ideal late autumn task! I have found this method to be highly effective and it improves their performance.


Moles: If you suffer from moles in your garden they can be deterred by applying Ferrous (iron) sulphate (used to kill moss) to the affected area once every two months for a year at ‘half’ the recommended dose rate. It increases the acidity of the soil (i.e. lowers the ph level) which moles do not like!


In sum, Ray’s talk was both amusing and informative, prompted numerous questions and made a very enjoyable evening for everyone who took part.


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