Heyford Gardening Club – July & August 2020

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Please note that Garden Club activities have had to be suspended until further notice.

Weather
I may have mentioned the weather in previous articles, but it has been extreme this year. At time of writing after weeks with no rain we have had some heavy downpours, but the soil still looks parched. There is more rain in the forecast, so we hope this may help refresh our gardens as I for one am tired of lugging watering cans around and summer has hardly started.

The dry spring has had its benefits though, I have had very little damage from slugs this year, and might even see flowers on my one delphinium! The floral display seems to have been exceptional too, the spring flowers were excellent and long lasting and the summer flowers look to be as good, roses and clematis and various shrubs being laden with flowers. This might be a result of last years dry summer. If we get a bit of rain now we might even have a good crop of soft fruit.

Fruity Disasters
A number of people have told me that they have had a disappointing crop of strawberries this year which is almost certainly due to the frosts which happened just as the plants were flowering. I managed to cover my small bed with some glass, a bit laborious but we have had some strawberries as a result.

We would have had more had we not decided to reorganise some of the strawberry beds in March. Because of the dry spring those plants have mostly shrivelled up now and will have to be discarded. I also planted some raspberries this spring and they too struggled manfully but have now succumbed to the drought. I shall always plant fruit in the autumn in future.

Orange
Looking round our garden I noticed how many orange flowers we have. There are people who won’t have orange in their gardens. Because it is the complementary of green, the colour of most foliage, orange flowers will always assert themselves, but I couldn’t be without poppies and marigolds in our garden (but I do have reservations about orange roses; they don’t look right to me).

This year has proved challenging in other ways too; it has proved difficult getting supplies as garden centres were closed for a while, and recently many have run out of compost. I had to curtail plans to plant up more pots containers, but in view of the watering burden that may have been a sensible move in the end.

Lilies
I have discovered that lilies are one of the easiest plants to grow in pots; they seem able to put up with all sorts of weather, and if you can avoid the lily beetle, don’t suffer from many other pests or diseases. I have 3 pots of regal lilies in the garden at the present time with nearly one hundred buds between them. All they require is regular watering and a fortnightly splash of seaweed fertiliser.

Things to do in July
1. Clear blanket weed from ponds and top up if necessary
2. Look out for clematis wilt
3. Deadhead bedding plants and perennials to keep the display going

Mark Newstead

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For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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Revitalising the Allotments – July & August 2020

Revitalising the allotments

Sharing

I was pleased to report, in last month’s edition of the Prattler, that allotment holders had been generously sharing their surplus plants with other allotment holders. That has continued throughout June with more and more excess being offered. What a generous group of people we have in our growing community. I am sure that when excess produce is forthcoming later in the season, there will be fruit and veg to hand out too. I won’t even attempt to guess how many oversized courgette’s are likely to appear! An old wheelbarrow now sits proudly in the picnic area and hopefully by the time this article goes to print, there will be a sign attached directing you to place all surplus items there.

It has been encouraging to see more and more villagers making use of the picnic area. It is a tranquil place to sit and while away some time.

We are also encouraging people to visit our community flower patch (clearly signposted) and, if they so wish, help themselves to some cut flowers. Cutting carefully should enable everyone to have a bunch – so bring a pair of scissors or secateurs. Sweet peas benefit especially from regular cutting and will continue to flower all season if that happens. Later in the year we are hopeful that we may have sufficient soft fruit to offer to you as well. Just keep an eye on the notice boards at the entrances to the allotments and on the large shed in the middle of the site.

A spare watering can be found by the sweet pea wigwam, so if you are cutting flowers you might also give the plants in that area a drink. Every little helps.

Links to the past

We were very pleased to accept a donation of old tools from two allotment holders who found them at the back of their parents’ garden shed. They’d once rented an allotment in the village and it was wonderful to think that the tools were “coming home” and again being put to use. If you are a new allotmenteer or just want to make use of some unusual hoes and hand cultivators, let us know. They are stored in the community shed and available to borrow.

If you too have any unwanted garden tools let us know; someone can probably
make good use of them.

Wildlife

One of the joys of working on the allotments is the amount of wildlife you see. Even if we do seem to spend a lot of time and effort protecting crops from greedy pigeons and butterflies anxious to lay their eggs on our tasty greens, the benefits from creating a rich and diverse eco-system far outweigh any small loss of produce. It has been wonderful to see more and more people visiting the allotment wildlife area, created and curated by Dave and Pauline Musson and Mark and Mary Newstead.

An indication of the richness of our eco-system has been the presence of more frogs, toads and hedgehogs on the allotment. They are beneficial visitors to allotments and gardens, hoovering up large quantities of slugs and snails. A note of caution however: try to avoid using larger gauge netting to protect crops as it can snag and trap hedgehogs. One conscientious allotment holder recently spent an hour disentangling one of our prickly friends from a piece of netting before taking him off to the vet! I am pleased to report that the hedgehog made a full recovery and when set free, limped off across the allotment site to find more slimy treats for dinner.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

I believe in the life enhancing virtues of
pure earth, clean air and blue sky.
Octavia Hill – founder of the National Trust

Heyford Gardening Club – June 2020

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Please note that Garden Club activities have had to be suspended until further notice.

Spring (continued)
The weather has gone from unusual to downright weird; April has been the driest for decades, and one week after the hottest April day on record we had sharp frosts killing off all the tender vegetables that unwary gardeners had planted out having been misled by the warm sunshine. Northamptonshire has a particularly difficult climate for gardening, being so far from the sea it heats up and cools down very quickly producing frequent late spring frosts which can be quite severe, even in the beginning of June. I had to cover my strawberries with glass overnight as they were in full flower, but the glass had to be removed promptly the next morning or the bright sunshine would have boiled the plants alive.

Speaking of weather, I have got the impression that in recent years the amount of wind we get has increased considerably. Wind is (or was) something expected in the autumn winter and early spring, but otherwise only during storms. We now seem to have strong winds blowing frequently during warm weather making the soil even drier. It makes sense therefore for gardens to have some sort of windbreak; hedges and shrubs being better than solid fences and walls because they slow the wind down where solid features cause turbulent air in their lee.

Rhubarb
The weather has had a peculiar effect on our rhubarb, normally the easiest of vegetables/fruit to grow. In February and March it was producing the best crop I can remember, but since the cold wind we had in early April the pickings have been meagre to say the least. I have only managed enough for two jars of jam and a few desserts.

Don’t do this at home…
I recently read about the benefits of biochar, which is finely divided charcoal, as a soil conditioner. Apparently this can provide a source of fertility particularly for light soils. Not wanting to pay out large sums of money for the commercial product I decided to make my own from lumpwood barbecue charcoal. This turned out to be a bad idea; charcoal lumps are surprisingly difficult to break down and produce large quantities of fine dust which gets everywhere so a dust mask is essential. After a couple of hours of hard labour I looked like a coal miner after a shift down the pit. After all that I hope that this stuff lives up to its billing!

Runner beans
Whilst preparing an area on the allotment for planting recently I came across a large fleshy root which was producing some healthy green shoots. This wasn’t immediately familiar until I recalled that this was last year’s bean row. Obviously I had left a root in the ground and it had survived the winter. Runner beans are in fact perennial plants and it would be possible to treat them like dahlias and keep the roots over winter to plant out in the spring. But since they are so easy to grow from seed it’s hardly worth the effort.

Things to do in June
1. Prune early flowering shrubs
2. Plant out tender bedding plants and vegetables
3. Stake tall plants against wind.

Mark Newstead

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For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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Heyford Gardening Club – May 2020

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Please note that Garden Club activities have had to be suspended until further notice.

Spring
This has been a strange spring as normally we would be busy going to garden centres and nurseries for plants and materials, and visiting various gardens for ideas or just pleasure, but this year, like everybody else we have been confined to our own patch. Some compensation has been derived from the fact that the display of flowers this spring has been particularly good and with little rough weather it has lasted for weeks. Our garden is also tidier than it has been for many years as we’ve had few other diversions.

Unsprouting broccoli
In the past I sometimes had a broccoli plant that failed to produce sprouts in the spring but went on to grow for a further year before performing as it should. This year however the whole row are looking stubbornly unproductive. I wonder if this is due to the mild winter not giving the clue to start bud formation?

A rose by many other names
After nearly sixty years of gardening I am still amazed at how much I still have to learn. A couple of years ago we visited the Chelsea Physic Garden, and saw a magnificent red flowered rose growing up one of the walls. we took note of the name which was Bengal Crimson. On return home I searched catalogues and reference books but could find no trace of this plant.

Last year during a visit to the nursery at Coton Manor we noticed some plants for sale with the name Bengal Beauty. These had the same large red flowers but the description on the label said it grew to three feet (one metre)whereas the specimen at Chelsea was at least five metres high. Was it the same variety? When we walked a little further we found the same rose growing against a wall where it was considerably taller than me.

Further research has revealed that this rose can be found labelled as Rosa sanguinea, Bengal Rose, and Rosa odorata as well as the names noted above. In each case the description is of a small bush. It is a china rose and these by nature can produce flowers in almost any month, our plant even though small had produced flowers right until November, and then started again in March. The flowers are possibly not to everyone’s taste though, as they are single and rather floppy looking.

The moral of this story is that you can’t always rely on the descriptions of plants in books or catalogues, a lot depends on where and how they are grown.

Honey Fungus
A part of our garden is infested with honey fungus, and from time to time another plant succumbs to the infection. Recently we noticed that a climbing rose has begun to look rather peaky and we are afraid we may lose it. All will not be lost however as this plant is one of those that roots when the tips of the shoots touch the ground and so we have some new plants in parts of the garden unaffected by the fungus. Some plants do seem to be immune to infection, hazels, damsons, holly and an osmanthus shrub all still appear quite healthy as are all the herbaceous plants and bulbs.

The advice for dealing with honey fungus is to remove all plants and soil from the affected area and bring in new topsoil. As this would be impractical we shall have to learn to live with the problem. Obviously it would not be a good area to plant anything expensive or precious.

Lemon verbena
We have a venerable plant of lemon verbena grown in a tub. This as well as looking good supplies us with lemon flavoured leaves for use in drinks and salads etc. These plants are not totally winter hardy but just need shelter from the worst of the weather. It is easy to take cuttings but I discovered that these would be killed by cold in the winter even though the main plant was unaffected. So if you buy a small plant of lemon verbena from a nursery in would be wise to keep it in a frost free place during the first winter.

Things to do in May
1. Divide clumps of spring bulbs
2. Check for bird’s nests before cutting hedges
3. take softwood cuttings of shrubs and herbaceous plants.

Mark Newstead

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For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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Heyford Gardening Club – April 2020

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Our March meeting featured a talk by Andrew and Anita Thorp who have a nursery specialising in snowdrops. They have a thousand varieties of this popular bulb, some varieties of which command eye watering prices! Andrew gave us an explanation of the “chipping” method of propagating snowdrops and narcissi. Anita also showed us some of the plants that flower at the same time as snowdrops and can complement them. We also held our annual daffodil and narcissus show which this year attracted a good display of blossoms.

The large flowered section was won by Pauline Litchfield, Anne Haynes came second and Pauline Guglielmi third.

Chris West won the small flowered section, John Dunkley and Val Jackson tied for joint second place, but there was no award for third place.

The bi colour section was won by Pauline Guglielmi, John Tapsell came second , and Rosemary Dunkley and Chris West tied for third place.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak we are suspending meetings for the time being. Hopefully we shall be able to resume our programme before too long.

At the present moment we have a lovely display of bulbs and other spring flowering plants in flower in pots about the garden. It is often a temptation to try and continue this display through the summer, but the memory of last year when I seemed to spend most mornings heaving watering cans around has put me off. I shall try to stick to the minimum number of potted items this year; some succulent plants that don’t mind drought, a few lilies that I find are amazingly tolerant and don’t do well in the garden due to the lily beetle (growing in pots and repotting each spring gets rid of any over wintering pupae). Pelargoniums are also less demanding of water so I may keep a few of those. Last year I bought a blue convolvulus from Coton Manor which produced a wonderful show without much attention, and that has made it through this last mild winter so I shall keep that going as long as possible. If I can resist temptation, I may save myself a great deal of work this summer, but then I say that every year.

Things to do in April
1. Sow hardy flowers, vegetables and herbs
2. Feed roses and shrubs
3. Keep an eye out for late frosts

Mark Newstead

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For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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Heyford Gardening Club – March 2020

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Our February meeting featured the welcome return of Liz Taylor of the Woodland Trust who explained the different types of natural woodland to be found in Britain and their associated flora. She also demonstrated how to tell apart the two types of oak to be found here (sessile oaks have stalked leaves; pedunculate oaks have stalked acorns).

We also held our annual arts and crafts show, which again highlighted the range of talent amongst our members.

The photograph section was won by Mike Langrish, Tom Dodd came second and Tony Clewett third.

Philip Reeve won the visual art section with an exquisite miniature painting of a heron, Jean Spokes’ cross-stitch took second place and I managed a third place.

The craft section was won by Mary Newstead with an embroidered bag, Chris West got second with a quilted wreath, and Lynn Ashbee took third with her cupcake quilt.

Our next meeting will be on the 9th March when we will have a talk on snowdrops from Anita Thorp. The evening will also feature the annual daffodil and narcissus show (assuming that there are still daffodils in our gardens by then!).

I am writing this article whilst the second storm in two weeks is lashing the trees. We have already had a very wet winter although there has been little frost so far. Snowdrops are already over and daffodils are fully out and I notice buds nearly bursting on our lilac. This leaves a dilemma, if the season is so advanced, should I get on sowing seeds now to get an early start, or are we likely to get cold weather in the weeks to come? The soil is so wet now that, even without further rain, it will take a while to dry out so perhaps it would be wise to wait a while.

Speaking of plants in pots, I planted some anemone corms in pans in the greenhouse in the autumn, but some creature has been digging in the pans and nipping the developing buds off, I’m not sure whether this is due to mice or renegade sparrows, but it’s all very frustrating.

Things to do in March
1. Top dress container grown plants with fresh compost
2. Prune roses
3. Lift and divide crowded perennials.

Mark Newstead

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For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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Heyford Gardening Club – February 2020

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We held our AGM at our January meeting at which Mike Langrish stepped down for a well deserved rest after ten years as our Chairman. Avril Minchin now takes over the helm for a year which looks to be full of exciting talks and events. We also held a competition for the best winter arrangement which was won by Chris Watts. Looking at the offerings on display our gardens are full of colour and interest even in midwinter.

After everybody had filled up with wine and cheese, I was allowed to update them on the progress on our wildlife area.

Our next meeting will be on the 10th February when we will welcome Liz Taylor of the Woodland Trust who will talk to us about woodland flora. We will also hold our annual Art and Craft competition; the classes will be

A photograph (on a theme to be decided)
A piece of visual art in any medium
An item of craft work.

Programme for rest of the year
March 9th: Anita Thorp: Snowdrops Mini Show – Daffodils
April 6th *: Clare Price: Propagation; Mini Show Tulips
May 11th: John Lee; Penstemons; Seed Swap ; Mini Show of Spring Flowers
June 8th: Patsy Raynor: Plants in Literature and Anecdote; Mini Show Roses
June 20th: Village Hall Fete
July 13th: Summer Party
September 14th: Autumn Show
October 12th: Philip Aubury: Garden Ponds
November 9th: Plant Swap
December 14th: Christmas Tree Festival
*(NB a week early due to Easter)

Things to do in February
1. Plant bulbs in pots for the summer
2. Plant bare root trees and shrubs
3. Sow broad beans and sweet peas.

Mark Newstead

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For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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Heyford Gardening Club – December 2019

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At our November meeting we had the pleasure of a return visit from Caroline Tait formerly of Coton Manor, who has spent a year in Philadelphia in some magnificent gardens on a Horticultural Fellowship. Caroline’s account was fascinating despite the technological gremlins that tried to sabotage her pictures.

Our December meeting will be on the 14th and will feature a talk on snowdrops, to anticipate the spring, and there will be a competition for a Christmas display. The meeting will start at 8:00 pm as usual.

Disasters and triumphs

This year my leek plants grew particularly well, and knowing that they can be attacked by leek miner (which is a species of fly) I kept them covered with fine mesh netting all summer. I took this off in September, but when I pulled the first leek a few weeks later I found it full of little maggots. At this point I did what I should have done much earlier and checked the RHS website where I discovered that the fly is active in October and November. The net went back on. So far it seems the damage has been limited. Moral: know your enemy!

On a more encouraging note I had several areas where I had spread compost over vegetable beds without digging it in, mainly due to lack of energy. These areas turned out to be particularly productive despite the hot dry summer. This is a system I shall continue in future.

We tend to think of trees as being long lived organisms, but this year a white-berried rowan that I had grown from seed suddenly died after twenty years. This had happened to another rowan that we had some years before. Is this due to the rich living in Heyford? They seem to live much longer in the hills of the north and west where the soil is poor and conditions more exacting. I have noticed that the same seems to have happened to the hawthorns outside our house on the Green, which were healthy bushy trees when we arrived forty years ago, but which have dwindled sadly since.

Some Things to do in December and January

1 Keep ponds clear of ice.
2 Put out food for the wild birds
3 Buy and plant bare root trees and shrubs (if weather permits)
4 Sit indoors and decide what seeds to buy for the spring

Mark Newstead

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For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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Heyford Gardening Club – November 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments
At our October meeting we had a talk from Malcolm Dickson of Hookgreen Herbs who gave us an insight into the exigencies of running a herb nursery, no doubt disillusioning anyone with dreams of having their own little nursery. There was also a wide range of herb plants and seeds for sale.

The evening also featured a competition for the best Autumn Arrangement. The winner was Rosemary Dunkley with a colourful display which was even displayed in a pumpkin shell! Mary Newstead came second with Anne Haynes and Gil Guglielmi in joint third place.

Our next meeting will be on the 11th November when we will have a return visit from Caroline Tait who will tell us about her work at Longwood in Philadelphia.

Breaking the rules
In gardening many jobs have to be done at the right time, but sometimes I find that we have more freedom than you might expect. This year in June I had some gaps that needed filling and I had some annual seeds left over. The instructions on the packet said sow in April, but I went ahead anyway, and the result was a good display of flower in late summer and autumn.

In the past I had always struggled to grow leeks, finding them difficult to establish from sowings in the early spring as advised. One year having seed left over in May I sowed it in the vegetable patch, and found to my surprise that the seedlings grew lustily despite dry and hot conditions and made decent plants for the winter. I have done this again each year since with the same result. I wouldn’t win any prizes with the plants but they are fine for the kitchen. Leeks are obviously tougher than you might expect. Sometimes a bit of experimentation can pay off.

Cyclamen
I have been growing hardy cyclamen for some years now, and have been keeping the special varieties in pots in an unheated greenhouse. Last year owing to shortage of space I released some plants into the garden. These have prospered beyond my expectations, no doubt helped by the hot, dry summer this year which would have been like the conditions they would experience in the Mediterranean area where they originate. Recently I have noticed drifts of seedlings appearing next to the mature plants. They may look delicate and dainty but they are bruisers and can tough it out with the biggest weeds when they are somewhere they like.

Some Things to do in November
1. Clear up leaves from paths and ponds (but don’t be too tidy!)
2. Plant tulips in pots or beds
3. Put grease bands on fruit trees to stop winter moth
4. Plant winter bedding.

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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