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

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Nether Heyford Community Wildlife Area – November 2019

View from The Wildlife Patch

We have been busy preparing the patch in preparation for sowing the wildflower seed on the designated meadow area. We have removed the weed smothering covers and raked over the soil ready to receive the seed; all we need now is for the rain to stop and the seed can go in.

We were extremely pleased to find during the uncovering operation that our resident toad is still in situ.

HeyfordResidentToad

We shall have to ensure that we keep an area covered over for it to lurk in. Toads, unlike frogs, are very conservative creatures and will only lay their eggs in the place where they themselves were tadpoles, so it is unlikely that we will have toad spawn in our new pond. However we shall almost certainly find frogs and newts in there fairly soon.

As the days shorten and cool, the amount of insect life in the patch is reducing, but the flowering ivy is still producing things of interest. Recently there has been a group of large black flies with showy orange wing bases hanging out there; these were noon flies, something I don’t remember seeing before. A large orange flying insect also appeared, looking at first like a hornet, but it turned out to be a species of hoverfly. This creature not only looks like a hornet, but flies and moves like one too. Its larvae actually live in hornet and wasp nests where they eat the rubbish in the bottom of the nest, and so are tolerated by their hosts.

On a recent trip to Suffolk (prior to the wet weather) I was astonished to see on lawns and patches of grass numerous little bees flying just above the ground. These were mining bees which had just hatched from their burrows in the soil. This is something that would normally happen in the spring (I have seen that at Harlestone Heath in the past) but September would seem too late for the bees to get enough pollen and nectar to make the nests to raise the next generation. If we keep an area of close mown grass we can hope for a similar colony of bees on our own patch in due course.

Mark Newstead

Heyford Gardening Club – October 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments
We started our new programme for the year with our annual flower and vegetable
show. These shows are always affected by the vagaries of the weather that has
experienced over the year, and our efforts to balance the classes are frequently
frustrated by events. For example, based on previous poor displays the class for
beetroot was withdrawn last year, only to prompt complaints from members because
their beetroot crops had been particularly good. So for this year the beetroot class was reinstated only to find that there was only one entry! And there were no courgette’s at all, whereas there were ten entries in the tomatoes. However the expansion of the floral classes was clearly a clever move as the displays of arrangements on show were truly impressive, indicating a wealth of artistic talent among our members.

The vegetable section was won by Irene Reeves with Jill Langrish in second place
and Tony Clewett third.

The flower section was closely fought, Mike Langrish came first with Anne Haynes in second place while Jill Langrish, Maureen Wright, Irene Reeves and Lynn Ashbee all took the third spot.

We reduced the plot to plate section down to just a jam or jelly class, which was won by Jill Langrish, with Margaret Ridgewell in second place and Sandy Alderson third.

The overall winner this year, taking into account prizes in our series of bench shows over the year, was Jill Langrish, with Irene Reeves as runner up and Margaret Ridgewell third. So our congratulations to them, the rest of us will just have to try harder next year!

Our next meeting will be on the 14th October when we will have a talk from Malcolm Dickson from Hooksgreen Herbs.

Some Things to do in October
1 Divide and replant herbaceous perennials
2 Give lawns a last cut and trim
3 Prune climbing roses

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Heyford Gardening Club – September 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments
After the summer break our annual programme will commence on the 9th September
with our autumn flower and produce show.

What a year-so far!

I commented on the weather earlier in the year, but since then we have had the
hottest July ever recorded, followed by monsoon like rain and now gale force winds. So how have our gardens fared in this year of extremes? Amazingly our own patch has hardly been affected at all. I have had to do no more watering than usual and there have been no losses to speak of. Our soft fruit crops have been good in quantity and quality, and we have a bumper crop of damsons on our trees. I have noticed that plum and pear trees around the village seem to have little fruit on though. The roses have been good and so were our lilies. Our beetroot were poor but the lettuces were prolific. Some greens plants withered away, but the kale grew better than usual. How difficult it is to predict what will happen from one year to the next.

Serendipity

When weeding our gardens it pays to keep an eye out for the unusual, as all sorts of plants can appear amongst the weeds. Garden compost is a fertile source of tomato plants, chard and even parsley. Poppies and nigella are notorious for self seeding, as are evening primroses. Birds can drop seeds such as cherry stones and elder pips, so maybe that’s where the sunflower came from on our vegetable plot. Rather more mysterious was the beautiful pink nicotiana and the orange coreopsis, neither of which are plants that I have ever grown and the angelica by our pond. A couple of years ago a salsify plant arrived from somewhere, and has spread around with it’s dandelion-like fluffy seeds; a beautiful and edible weed. These interlopers often seem to grow better than the plants that I have carefully planted and nurtured, presumably they have grown so well because the seeds have landed where the conditions are just right for them.

Some Things to do in September

1 Sow some salad plants in pots for the autumn and winter
2 Buy and plant narcissi and daffodils
3 Reduce watering of cacti, succulents and other houseplants

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

 

Heyford Gardening Club – July 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Our June meeting featured a fascinating talk by Steve Brown on bonsai; a form of gardening which verges on an art form. I always think of it as extreme topiary.

Rose Show

Despite the tempestuous weather there was a good showing for the rose show with 57 entries.

Pauline Guglielmi won the single flowered class, Brian Jackson came second with John Dunkley and Tony Clewett in joint third place.

In the cluster flowered class Jill Langrish came first, Pauline Guglielmi was second
and Val Jackson, Rosemary Dunkley and Anne Haynes all tied for third place.

The perils of perlite

Following advice in the RHS magazine I have over the last few years added vermiculite to multi purpose compost for sowing seeds and taking cuttings. This proved extremely successful producing plants with vigorous root systems which established very quickly. Last year however instead of vermiculite I used perlite which, I assumed, would do the same thing. However I experienced a lot of difficulty; seedlings germinated quickly enough but then failed to develop properly and cuttings just didn’t root.

I can’t be sure that this was entirely due to the perlite, but having gone back to using vermiculite again, the results have improved significantly. This illustrates the principle that in gardening apparently small variations in conditions can make the difference between success and failure.

Weird Weather-again!

Following a baking Easter, a freezing May, and no rain for months suddenly the
heavens have opened and given us the whole summers rain in a few days. It’s a
wonder that we can grow anything!

Some Things to do in July

1. Dead head roses, bedding plants and perennials to get more flowers.
2. Pick courgette’s before they turn into marrows (unless you like marrows)
3. Water and feed plants in containers

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Nether Heyford Community Wildlife Area – July 2019

Take the time to just stand back and watch the bees in your garden and you will be amazed at their variety. Its the sound they make that is so wonderful, from the high pitched hum of a bee swimming in the stamens of a poppy to the deep drone of a queen bumblebee.

On the wildlife patch on the allotments I have counted ten different types of bee so far. They come in all shapes and sizes ranging from the tiny “hairy footed flower bee” (I think that is the best name ever) that darts about and hovers in front of flowers. The females are black with orange hairs on their back legs for collecting pollen. Red and buff tailed bumble bees on the other hand seem huge in comparison, and the flowers bend under their weight. Honey bees and bumble bees are social insects, where the queen lays eggs and daughter workers do all the work. Solitary bees work on their own and make their own nests in different locations, from a hole in the ground or brick or cob wall. You will often find their holes grouped together but each nest is completely separate.

Amongst the bees that I have spotted so far are two that are called nomad bees that on first sight appear to be tiny wasps for they have bright yellow and black markings, but in fact they parasitise solitary bee’s nests. They lay an egg inside host’s nest and the nomad grub then destroys the host’s egg or grub and proceeds to feed on the food store.

The best thing we can all do for bees is to grow a variety of flowers in our gardens particularly those which flower early and late so providing nectar for the longest possible period. Different species of bees have tongues of different lengths so need flowers of different lengths of tube. This doesn’t stop some short tongued bees from cheating. You can see this happening if you stand by a clump of comfrey; not all the bees will be entering the flowers but some will bite a hole at top of the flower to get the nectar. This unfortunately prevents the flower from being pollinated.

For the allotment holders having such a number and variety of bees in the wildlife patch is good news for they will be out and about pollinating the fruit and vegetables. The best crop of runner beans we ever had was when the beans were planted next to our lavender bushes (a good reason to grow some flowers amongst the vegetables, which also looks beautiful).

To make a solitary bee nest site:
1. Cut the top off a plastic drinks bottle.
2. Fill the bottle with lengths of hollow woody plant stems, reed stems or bamboo cane to make lots of tunnels for the bees to crawl into and make their nests.
3. Hang the bottle up in the garden (at a slight angle so the rain doesn’t get in) where it will get some sun but not be baked all day..

Mary Newstead