Time to think about the new year

Now its getting darker and colder the gardening year is starting to feel like its drawing to a close, but I assure you it isn’t. One of the most fun and creative jobs in gardening is planting, and what better than planting spring bulbs.

Tulips, Iris, Alliums, Snakes Head Fritillaries, Crocus and everything else you love about spring can be bought and planted right now. If you don’t have any room in your borders then all spring bulbs can be planted in pots, which is particularly useful for Tulips which need replacing yearly.

I pride myself on my spring displays and this years were absolutely fantastic. But I promise you this… next years will be better!

So give me a call and book me to plant spring bulbs now, and enjoy a fantastic display come the new year.

See the gallery below for spring bulbs I can get this year, and contact me for pricing!

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Mulching in spring and its many benefits

A spring mulch is an important job in the gardening calendar that is often over-looked in the UK.

Mulches are loose ground coverings comprised ideally of compost, sometimes bark and wood chippings, with the purpose of suppressing weeds and improving moisture retention. Why is this important for spring? The added benefit of using compost is the nutrients it adds to the soil. Whats growing now to flower in summer will be happy for the extra nutrients provided by the compost, though you won’t get this with most other types of mulch. Eventually bark based mulches will break down, but without the level of nutrients of a good quality compost.

As well as looking nice it will help you to conserve water throughout the summer, and as we don’t know if a hose-pipe ban is around the corner, its another reason to mulch with compost or wood chippings now while watering and rain is unrestricted.

Finally, provided you have had a good weed in the borders and beds before mulching, it is a great weed suppression tactic. With all of these pluses, there really is little reason not to do it! Contact Ben today about spring mulching.

Spring Garden Maintenance

Spring is here once again, and the weeds have started to pop through as well as the tulips.

My number one job for spring is one of the most important jobs of the entire gardening year. Mulching.

Now is a great time to weed the beds and borders thoroughly and give them a good nutritious mulch. Mulching keeps weeds down, and provides nutrients to both established and growing plants.

Its feeding time for everything now growing, and particularly for your lawn, now getting cut regularly. Lawn treatments from applications of selective herbicides to kill off your moss and fertilizers to promote healthy growth are now offered at reasonable rates by Ben. Ben is fully qualified in Use of Pesticides and will arrive to do an initial survey and safety assessment prior to application of chemicals to minimise any risk to yourself, your neighbors, your pets and members of the public.

Spring pruning the shrubs that need it along with regular bed and border maintenance will keep your garden looking fantastic through until summer and beyond.


Winter Garden Maintenance

Helleborus x hybridus

Although the weather outside may be frightful, there are still jobs to be done in the garden! In fact, winter can be a crucial time for planning a new border, digging and preparing it.
Many a new layout to a garden has started in winter, and it is a rule of thumb that as long as the ground is not frozen or water-logged then it can be worked. The latter is particularly true of clay soil, which gains significant weight and sticking power when flooded. However this is a much better time to dig a bed or border than summer, when clay will be as hard as concrete.

A good tidy up is often whats needed in winter. Time to get rid of the annuals that perish to the first frosts, and while we are at it, it is a great time for jobs such as pressure washing paths, drives and decking.

Look out for emerging Hellebore flowers, Hamamelis (witch hazel) and Prunus Alba (dogwood) with its colourful stems. For winter interest consider these and more. Acer’s can be great for this, with amazing foliage the rest of the year, and beautiful red, yellow and amber branches in winter.

Have a lot of pots stood empty? Contact me about my winter annual displays!

Hiring Ben to maintain your garden over winter and you will get a complete service tailored to the needs of your garden.

If you wish to book Ben to maintain your garden, call 07927 896 956

Autumn Garden Maintenance

Prunus Alba

Autumn is a great time for the garden. If you hire Ben to maintain your garden, here are a few of the kind of jobs you can expect to be offered.

Leaf clearing – now the leaves are dropping its a good idea to rake them up and make a leaf mould pile. All you need is a shady corner or a black bag to fill with the leaves collected. Puncture it a little to allow air to circulate and water to get in, and then put it out of sight until next year. It will give you some lovely compost, known as leaf mould, which is a fantastic soil conditioner, good for borders, beds and pots.

Planting – Yes, believe it or not now is an excellent chance to fill up those borders! Plant spring bulbs now for a great display next year. Ben especially enjoys container displays of winter pansy, cyclamen and others, to give you some late flowers that will last you.

Pruning – its time to get all your shrubs in order for next year. Pruning now will give them time to recover before the hard frosts turn up.

Hedge trimming – for the same reason as above, its a great time to do one final cut on most hedges.

Weeding – Weeds are still growing, can you believe it? When everything else is starting to wind down, perennial weeds are often still growing. A good tidy up now will give them less of a chance to establish before winter.

Lawn maintenance – Scarify and re-seed for an amazing lawn come the spring.

And more! Hiring Ben to maintain your garden over autumn and you will get a complete service tailored to the needs of your garden.

If you wish to book Ben to maintain your garden, call 07927 896 956

Top 10 garden tools for every serious gardener

Buying garden tools is always fun. So many places offer a real variety of tools, all aimed at solving specific problems in the garden. There are weeders that grab hold of a weed and (theoretically) yank it up and out of the ground. There are lawn edging shears, for precise trimming or people without a strimmer. But what are the most useful, all round tools you can use? Hand tools specifically – power tools are another beast. and with a far higher quality -> price ratio.


5. A digging spade

A spade is an essential garden tool, but they come in various types. A digging spade is a full sized spade, smaller than a shovel, but big enough to be versatile in almost any situation. Things to look for when purchasing: A good solid handle. A comfortable grip – some prefer wooden, I personally favor the ergonomic handles. If you garden frequently, and require a little extra grunt, you can’t go far wrong with a Spear & Jackson digging spade. You can get them with a bent edge to help you get your foot into it, which is very useful is you have the common gardening foot condition of Plantar Fasciitis. Bulldog is another great brand to go for. But there are many out there, and as long as you follow the advice above, you will find one to suit you, and it will become your best friend in the garden.


4. A spring tine rake aka lawn rake

This is actually a really versatile tool. Before becoming a gardener, I thought its only use was for clearing leaves. But actually it is one of the most used tools I own. You can scarify lawns with it (small ones, mind!) and rake away the tops of weeds after hoeing (see later on) as well as rake soil into a very fine tilth. Brands I recommend vary wildly on this one. I use Spear & Jackson, but frankly any decently made metal spring tine rake will do. I don’t personally get along well with the plastic ones. Pro tip: consider mulching your bests with compost and spreading it out with a rake, and creating a fine texture on the soil after wards with the spring tine rake. It creates such a lovely effect, and brings tired borders back to life in no time.


3. A border fork

A very useful tool for all kinds of garden work, but quality of build is more important here than anything other than a spade. If you need to take out a well established shrub, its my experience that the cheaper, own-brand forks bend wildly. I’m currently favoring Bulldog Tools british-made border forks. No bending, so far! This like the spade is something to really shell out the extra coins on.


2. A mattock

This is what I turn to if I just cannot get a shrub out of the ground with a spade or fork. Swing it like a pick, and drag it along to create a trench. The other end has an axe, great for cutting tough roots. I cannot recommend one enough, though it is not for the faint of heart. You need to be very careful as its heavy and dangerous. Take regular breaks. When not swinging it with anger at that stubborn root you can’t get out, try the softer approach. Use it to create a trench to plant potatoes in, or to make rows for other crops. The only brand I trust with this, is Roughneck. With such a dangerous tool, you need quality, and that’s what Roughneck offers with this mattock.


1. A dutch hoe

Why get a bad back from leaning over and weeding? Cut the heads off all but the toughest weeds (garden elder, bindweed etc, need to be dug out still) and then either rake them up with your spring tine rake, or leave them to dry out in the sun and rot back into the soil. Disadvantages are that it won’t, like I say, rid you of the tougher weeds, but for annual weeds, it is perfect. Recommended brands: as always, spear and jackson, bulldog tools, and a new one into the mix – wolf garten tools. I use them, as I bought a handle that is the right height for me (I am a small gardener – and no amount of tomorite is going to change that!) and the dutch hoe head just click in, and can be changed to another head when needed. So, I’d recommend getting one thats the right height for you. The biggest key though, is it being sharp. Some are covered in this black, mottled coating, and are a real issue to sharpen properly. Make sure the head is sharp or can be sharpened easily and you will find weeding on a sunday afternoon is an absolute breeze.

That concludes my recommended hand tools for the serious gardener. Always remember to wear the correct safety wear when using the tools. Buy a pair of steel toe capped shoes – you can get trainers too with steel toe caps these days, for extra comfort. Even wellies can have them! For the mattock in particular, eye protection is requires in case of flying earth and stones when using it like a pick. Look out for future tools advice from me, and if you have any questions, I’m contactable on twitter @GardensByBen