Know Your Garden May 2023
May is a magical month indeed and one that us gardeners eagerly await. We awake to the glorious sound of birdsong and can now garden for longer periods in the evening.
Which is just as well as there is a lot to do!
Rather than making you readers feel overwhelmed, I thought that I would mention a couple of tasks that we should not do.
Firstly lock up your mower, liberate your lawn and join the brilliant “No Mow May” campaign which is run by the wild plant conservation charity Plantlife. www.plantlife.org.uk The idea is, that if we all commit to leaving all or at least a part of our lawn alone at least for this month then that will result in a huge impact on the biodiversity of our gardens. It really doesn’t matter if you have a tiny lawn or a vast space, the effect nationally will be immense. The early wildflowers such as dandelions and clover are such an important source of pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies and so often their flowers are chopped off every week by a zealous mower. Leave them be and enjoy the sights and sounds that Nature has to offer.
Here at Bates Green we are fortunate to have a 6-acre Wildflower Meadow which been managed under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for many years. It is a feast for all the senses, although we do prefer our visitors not to actually eat the plants!
We are keen to use this meadow as an educational resource in order to promote conservation and a more ‘natural’ way of gardening. With this in mind, on Thursday 25 th May we have invited Colin Reader as our guest speaker for the inaugural Bates Green Study Morning. Colin is the owner of Wild Flower Lawns and Meadows Ltd and he plans to show our attendees how to create spectacular wildflower areas using seeds, plants and wild flower turf. There will also be the opportunity to visit the Bates Green Garden Wildflower Meadow and identify some of the various wildflower species we have growing in our heavy Wealden clay soil.
Please find the details on our website www.batesgreengarden.co.uk and follow the link to Study Mornings.
My second Not To Do task refers to hedges. These are veritable havens for a myriad of flora and fauna. Their presence, particularly in urban gardens, is vital to create corridors for wildlife and they are to be recommended over rigid fences both visually and environmentally. At the moment they are growing away at speed but they are also highly likely to contain active birds nests, most of which cannot be spotted. The RSPB advises us to avoid any hedge cutting between March to August in order to protect the eggs. So, be proud of your wayward boundaries and take full advantage of the voracious appetites that garden birds such as blue tits have for aphids and caterpillars. It is said that the hatching of their chicks is perfectly timed with the emergence of aphids, which are the most common pest to be found in our UK hedges. Relax and take advantage of the natural balance of pest and predator.
Millennium Avenue in Beatons Wood is a joy to behold in the spring, when the native daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus in in full flower. The late Carolyn McCutchan sowed this large swathe over many years and now they make a spectacular show. If you have had any groups of daffodils that have not flowered then this is the time to lift and divide them. Use a sharp border spade, lift the whole clump and then replant in smaller groups of 3-5 bulbs. Harriet and Alex bravely carried out this task in the rain last week, providing extra entertainment for the Arlington Bluebell Walk visitors.
A useful May activity is the “Chelsea Chop’ which is a useful and straightforward technique to increase the flowering period of your perennials, it also prevents them from growing too tall and floppy. Take a late summer flowering perennial such as Helenium or Phlox and cut the current growth back by one third to a half, if you have several groups then try cutting back a few but leaving others. Once you have mastered this, you can do the “Hampton Hack” in July. This involves cutting back early summer flowering perennials such as Alchemilla and Geranium to just above ground level after flowering. This will produce a new flush of fresh foliage and often a second flowering too. Both jobs are easy to remember if you are fans of the respective RHS Flower Shows.
Enjoy your gardens or outdoor spaces and remember, “all things seem possible in May” (Edwin Way Teal)
This message was added on Tuesday 18th April 2023
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