Get Fit and Garden!

There’s nothing like some time in the garden to clear your head and get the blood moving. Fresh, cool air will wake you up and get you thinking positively, and your garden will benefit.

Removing damp, clogged up leaves from the lawn with a spring-tined rake will prevent patches of faded grass and is good for upper arm muscles! Collect and bag up the leaves and rot them down to make leaf mould, a brilliant and free soil conditioner.

If the soil in cleared areas is sufficiently dry, fork it over to help the frosts break up heavier clay soils. Any exposed grubs and other soil pests will feed the birds and minimise pest problems next year.

Get some digging done if the soil is not too wet, but limber up first. Keeping your back straight and your knees bent helps to reduce the risk of injury.

Winter is a good time to prune apple and pear trees. Use sharp secateurs to remove dead, dying and diseased branches, as well as branches causing the tree’s crown to be too congested. 

Re-set any loose brick or similar edging around paths, beds or steps, and replace any damaged stones, pavers or bricks.

Carefully clear debris, dead foliage and stems from flower beds, but leave some dry foliage and stems over the bases or crowns of plants, especially those of the more tender perennials such as penstemons.

Smooth, hard garden surfaces such as patios, paths and steps become dangerously slippery if algae and debris builds up on them over the winter, especially when wet. A stiff brush or yard broom and plenty of elbow grease is the best solution.

Wet and very windy weather can cause shrubs and trees to become loosened in the soil, so re-firm the soil around the root

area and make sure the plant is still in the soil at the right level.

You’re bound to feel better after all that air and exercise, so reward yourself with a cuppa and admire your handiwork before heading inside for a nice hot bath!

Limber Up!

After too much time inside, and in cold weather, take care before you spring into action:

• Wear plenty of clothing when you go outside and remove layers gradually as you warm up.

• Limber up gently to slowly loosen up your arms, legs and back.

• Don’t do any single task for too long – rotate the jobs for perhaps ten minutes at a time, so you don’t put any one area of your body under too much strain.

• Give yourself regular, short breaks and don’t forget to drink enough.

• Bend your knees when lifting and if in doubt call on a friend, relative or neighbour to give you a hand.

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Gardening Tips for July

By Claire Brown of Plant Passion
  • Don’t bother watering the grass with this dry weather, but do keep it mown (not too short) as that will keep the weeds at bay, and as soon as we have rain it will come back.
  • Save any collected water and your precious watering time for those things that will appreciate it the most: the vegetables, the roses and the perennials.
  • Last chance to sow Biennials. I’m going to chance one more lot so i’ve got back up, but really they should have been sown by the summer solstice.
  • Enjoy the sunshine, and get out in the garden as much as you can, Scented flowers are important when enjoying the garden, so make a note to plant Jasmine or Trachelospurum for enjoyment next year.
  • If there’s anything you haven’t planted out, they are more likely to survive in the ground than in a small pot. – Dig your hole, fill it with water to dampen the soil all around, wait until it’s drained, then plant, and water again.
  • Slugs will be less in this dry weather, but can still decimate plants particularly Dahlias very quickly, so do protect against them (we’re currently working with slug pubs, and the cheap beer from Sainsburys is doing the best job of catching them!)
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Gardening tips for June

By Claire Brown of Plant Passion
  • Get everything planted in the garden, as it will have a better chance in hot weather in the ground than in a pot. Soak it really well when planting it. A dunk in a full bucket and holding the pot under water until the bubbles stop will let you know if you’ve got it wet enough.
  • A watering can is a lot better for watering in new plants  than the a hose, and most perennial and shrub plants need about a can of water each over the first week to ensure they establish well, why not cut the bottom off a 2 litre plastic drinks bottle, sink it upside down in the ground next to the plant, and then you’ll know that the roots are getting a really good soaking.
  • If you’ve got a greenhouse, it needs shading now (either netting, or greenhouse shading paint) to prevent scorch on leaves of seedlings and tomatoes
  • If you want Sweet Williams, Foxgloves, Sweet Rocket and Honesty in your garden next year, you need to sow the seeds this weekend. Biennials (those that grow one year and flower the next) need to grow large enough before Autumn to make it through the winter in the ground.
  • Keep mowing your grass regularly even if it isn’t growing long because it is hot, as the weeds will be more able to grow than the grass
  • Please don’t cut your hedges yet, unless they are intruding on footpaths, there are still lots of birds nesting. The RSPB recommends waiting until July to cut hedges.
  • Sit in your garden and enjoy the scent of the summer evenings, with Roses, Jasmine, and Peonies all being at their best this month.
Want more inspiration?  come and see the Plantpassion flower farm this weekend at the first of our summer’s Public open days. Tea and Cake, Field tours, and flowers and plants to buy. 1-5pm Sunday 3rd June., Staple Lane East Clandon, see here for more details
May bucket of flowers

Gardening Tips for May

Photo credit: Emma Davies

By Claire Brown of Plant Passion

The weather forecast is still predicted to be changeable throughout May, and although we may not get any more frosts, I won’t every forget the year I planted out all my tender annuals, and dahlias and we had a 1 degree on the 24th May, making them all sulk for weeks.  So my tender stuff is still and will stay in the greenhouse until half term week. All the hardy annuals are being planted out though! There’s not enough room in the greenhouse, so i can’t get them out quick enough.

There is still time to sow seeds for August and September such as Nigella, Cornflowers, Amaranthus, Zinnias, Cosmos, Ammi and Nicotiana.

If you’ve shrubs that have already flowered this season or are flowering now, these will be need to be pruned back or thinned before the summer. If you wait until later in the year, you won’t get flowers next spring. Forsythia, Winter Jasmine, Kerria, Lilac, and Viburnum all fall into this category.

If you’ve only cut your grass in one direction so far this season, make sure you change the direction of the stripes this weekend so you don’t weaken it.

If you’ve hedges that are starting to look shaggy already please DON’T be tempted to prune them until July. May and June are the key bird nesting seasons, and after the late and inclement spring, they will need all the help and support they can get from our Horsley hedges to enable them to raise their broods.

I’m planting out my tomatoes in the greenhouse next weekend and beans outside on the allotment, but my courgettes I’ve planted up into a bigger pot, as I’ve found that until they have spiny leaves the slugs will decimate them.

If you haven’t managed to grow any vegetables for yourself, don’t forget the Horsley Garden Society will hold their annual plant sale at West Horsley Village Hall on Saturday 19th May at 2.00pm with a wide range of vegetable plants, and garden annuals and perennials to tempt you.

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Gardening Tips for April

BY CLAIRE BROWN from Plant Passion
Don’t let seedlings get root-bound before you pot them on or plant them out. Sometimes in warm Spring temperatures they’ll need watering every day, and sometimes not for 3-4 days – do check by feeling the soil, and the weight before you water.
  • For Hardy annuals, like Cornflowers, Ammi, Orlaya, Nigella, Scabious and sweet peas can be planted out in the garden now (as long as you checked for slugs in February)
  • For Half hardy annuals, we probably haven’t had the last frosts yet, no matter how warm it gets today, so Cosmos, Amaranthus, Statice, Asters and Nicotiana, and all bedding plants,  whether grown your self or bought from the garden centre need to be protected until mid to the end of May.
  • The lawnmowers will be humming in Horsley from this week, and newly mown grass is great, but don’t cut your lawn too short, as that will encourage weeds and moss. If you’re wanting stripes on the lawn, make sure you don’t always cut in the same direction as this will weaken the grass and make it thinner.
  • Keep succession sowing your salad seedlings, so you don’t get a glut, and if you haven’t sown any yet, those who are Grace and Flavour members, there’s plenty for sale at the garden!

If you’re inspired to go out in the garden, and want to know more about growing, or arranging flowers for the vase, look at our Workshops and Flower clubs which will start to happen this month. Or book in your group for a talk and walk round the farm to find out more about flower growing in the 21st century.


Tips for getting your Spring season started

By CLAIRE BROWN of Plant Passion

It’s still too early to sow your Half Hardy Annuals (those that can’t go out until the end of May ) but the Hardy Annuals, such as Cornflowers, Ammi, Iceland poppies, Orlaya, Calendula and Gypsophila can all be sown now, as soon as the snow melts.

Have a look at the perennials poking through the ground. (That’s plants that flower in the summer, but aren’t showing all winter). Now is a great time to lift and split them. Things like Alchemilla, Solidago, Achillea, Stachys and Centarea. I pot them up and give them a bit of shelter for a few weeks in my polytunnel (or just a sheltered bit at the side of the house will help. This give the the time to grow a lovely root system and they will be strong in the ground and flower wonderfully this year. If you’ve got too many, then you could always use them to enter the Horsley Garden Society Plant Sale on the Saturday 19th May

Use Environmesh or Fleece to give newly planted seedlings a helping hand. I’ve been using Environmesh for 2 years now , having seen it working so well at our Grace and Flavour Community Garden and the productivity of my plants has gone up amazingly. As well as keeping off pests, Environmesh keep some of the wind and some of the cooler temperatures away from your new plants, enabling them to grow away faster and healthier.

Don’t forget to label everything. I know you think you’ll know what’s in that tray, but it really helps to know what variety it is and when you planted it.

Continue pruning evergreen shrubs, and now you can cut back Buddleya’s, Cornus and willows plus pollard Eucalyptus.  (I’ll gladly take any pruning!)

Don’t start mowing your lawn yet, – it’s way to wet underfoot.

Flowering for Mothering Sunday from your Garden –  look out for Hellebores, Daffodils, Camellia, Primulas, Kerria, Hyacinths, Early Tulips and Snowflakes.

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February gardening tips


February is the month that everything starts waking up. Already there are Hellebore flowers bursting out of their buds, and the snowdrops are starting to cover the ground

Tips for gardening in the next few weeks

  • Get buying those vegetable seeds that you’re going to need soon, Seed Potatoes, onion sets and Broad beans will need to be purchased this month.
  • Finish pruning Apple trees, and evergreen shrubs, before new growth starts again in March.
  • Buddleya and Cornus plants will need pruning back by the end of the month, both can be cut quite hard if you use the right equipment
  • Go on a slug and snail hunt (kids will love this. Check underneath pots, at the edge of grass paths, and particularly in any Phormium plants. Getting rid of slugs and snails now in February will mean several less generation of molluscs to eat your plants in the summer
  • Clean out any greenhouses ,or lean to’s that you’ll be putting seedlings in, but hold off planting seeds until late in the month, there just isn’t enough light, and they will become drawn and leggy. If you want to know which varieties I start first, read this article
  • Cut back any Autumn fruiting raspberry canes, – these are my favourite fruit, and i’m going to be adding more of these to the allotment this year!

Want to try growing your own cut flowers this year?

The end of February is when i start sowing seeds for this summer’s crop, and i’ll be hosting 2 workshops during February:

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January armchair gardening and plans for 2018

by CLAIRE BROWN from Plant Passion

Even though it’s the middle of winter, there are still flowers in January, even if it is frosted, but you do have to look a bit closer. Now’s an excellent time to be planning to get ahead for the 2018 growing and gardening season.

Tips for armchair (almost) gardening in the next few weeks…

  • Before you look through the seed catalogues, check through the seeds that you’ve already got.
  • Throw away any seeds that you can’t remember when you opened them. Last year or the year before is OK, but opened packets of seeds mean that the quality will deteriorate and there’s nothing more frustrating than sowing stuff that doesn’t come up.
  • Wash and clean off your plastic labels. Just use an eraser and the pencil markings will come off, even if washing doesn’t budge it. Although I don’t like to use too much plastic, nothing beats plastic labels with pencil marking for keeping track of what’s been planted, and still being able to read it next year.
  • Then write labels for all the seeds packets you are going  to sow this year, and stick it to the pack with sellotape. That way you’ve just got to add a date when you sow and there’s no label searching and trays of unknown seedlings.
  • Although it’s tempting to stay indoors when it’s cold, if it isn’t frosted, any weeding that you do now will keep the ground clear, and the weeds will be easy to take out after the frost.
  • Order Dahlias tubers to grow wonderful summer into autumn flowers – details of my favourites to cut flowers here.
  • Winter prune shrubs – apple trees, wisteria, evergreen shrubs and trees for pollarding are all good to be pruned at this time of year. Need a consultation or someone to help you do your pruning? More information here.