24 August, 2019

March/April/May 2013

The April Garden

Jonathan Piercy’s plant of the month is a cherry tree while Peter Blackburne-Maze gives advice on grass-growing.

Flowery cherryChoice Cherry by Jonathan Piercy.

On entering Manor Park you cannot fail to notice the wonderful cherry in the garden of No 1 during Spring.

Prunus Kanzan is probably the most popular of ornamental cherries producing double pink flowers in profusion.

The fully hardy deciduous tree makes an excellent specimen for the medium to large garden and has an award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

The leaves, which appear bronze when young, turn dark green with age and provide good autumn colour when the first autumn frosts arrive.


How to grow the perfect lawn by Peter Blackburne-Maze.

At last we’re getting a bit of spring weather.  I’ve hung on to this in the hopes that it would come before long and at last it has.

But we’re now on 10th. April and this is the first time this year that  we’ve hit 50F. (10C.) outdoors.

The trouble with this is that it puts all the work back and usually  means that we have to do everything together in a rush. Anyway, lets get on with in and stop moaning!

The first thing that I see when I throw back the curtains in the  morning is the main lawn at the front of the house; this is also the  first thing that visitors see.  This may not matter to most people  but, having spent my working life in commercial horticulture, people  expect my garden to look at least reasonable, if not like Wisley!

Most lawns are probably looking a bit threadbare after the long winter  and this is where a spring/summer lawn feed is going to put them back  on their feet.  I don’t believe in feeding for the sake of feeding but  I like to get some on before I start mowing in earnest.  There are  plenty of spring/summer lawn feeds available at garden centres.  These  will contain the right proportion of nutrients and will put the lawn  back on it’s feet in no time. You should start to see the difference in about a week.

Once the grass is growing and is looking green again, you can give it  the first cut.

On no account should this be a close mow.  Set the blades to no less  than about an inch higher than the mower’s wheels or rollers. You can  do this very easily if you have the mower standing on a concrete, or  similar, path.

This relatively high cut will smarten up the lawn immeasurably but  won’t stress it.deckchairs

If it is full of weeds, I would wait until about mid-May before  applying a specific lawn weedkiller. Ideally, I like to apply it about  midway between mows.  The grass will have got over the last cut and  won’t need the next one yet.

Now all that remains is to fetch out the deckchairs!  But make sure that wooden ones haven’t been attacked by woodworm during the winter.   If you don’t, the first you’ll know is when you pick yourself up off the ground in a cloud of sawdust!  Nasty.


 The March Garden

March 2013 has advice on snapdragons and moles from our gardening experts Jonathan Piercy and Peter Blackburn-Maze.

Jonathan choice plant for March is the:

Antirrhinum – commonly known as the snapdragon.snapdragon

You may think it strange to write about the summer flowering half hardy

annual Antirrhinum (commonly known as snapdragon) in March, but sowings

can be made from now onwards in the greenhouse at around 21 degrees

centigrade.  Alternatively, you can sow in the summer and overwinter in a

cold frame.

Snapdragon-200x300The flowering period usually starts in June and lasts until

the first frosts of Autumn.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick off into trays, placing the seedlings 2” (5cm) apart.

Harden off gradually and plant out 10” (25cm) apart.

Packets of seeds will produce a wide range of colours including some pastel shades, and as well as bedding, you can also pick them for cut flowers. The plants will reach a height of around 18” (45cm).

Cut back the flowering stems to encourage new growth and a second display of flowers.

Average price for a packet of seed would be around £1.25 with approx 700 seeds, so not much money for a stunning display of flowers.


PS from web editor:  snapdragons are an excellent source of nectar for bumblebees which learn to either enter the flower from the front or drill a hole in the petal close to where it joins the stem.  But beware some of the newer hybrid versions – they may not have the nectar to the same degree, or have none at all, compared to the old fashioned varities.


I AM A MOLE AND I LIVE IN A HOLE.………….by Peter Blackburn-Maze (2013)


Have you noticed that moles are back in action with a vengance?



The familiar hills of fine soil have been appearing in the fields, if not in gardens, for some time now. You can work out what time of year it is because their main activity periods are the autumn and spring.

The one good thing about these mole hills, especially if they’re not in your garden, is that the soil is brilliant for mixing with peat and sand to make potting compost!

Some years ago, I was involved in trials to find a way of driving the little brutes out of your own garden and into someone else’s! We were using the non-toxic chemical deterrent, Scoot,based on aluminium ammonium sulphate and you couldn’t say that after a few pints!

It isn’t a very neighbourly control system but all is fair in love, and the war against moles.

Because moles are socially acceptable little creatures, most people are reluctant to kill them. That’s why a deterrent is more acceptable than a trap; we just want them to go somewhere else.

The first task is to find the main nests of the mole colonies. These are usually found where the main holes lead down into the ground under the molehills. They are, though, also found away from the hills at the start of surface tunnels. The molehills are then raked flat and surface tunnels trodden down. This is mainly so that we can see any movement after treating.

Two systems of applying the Scoot are then used; I’ll give the rates afterwards.

Full length mole

First, the nests, and the ground around them, are thoroughly soaked with diluted Scoot. A minimum of two gallons is normally needed so that it soaks right down. A sprinkling here and there is useless.

A barrier treatment is then applied to the ground 3-4 ft. from the nearest visible nest to stop the moles simply moving house to a few feet away from the treated area. The barrier should be a semi-circle around the workings and the nest, with the open section on the side to which you want the moles to travel.

Once they have left the site, which you will see by the lack of new workings, a further barrier is put down to join the two ends of the open semi-circle and stop them returning. This is normally along the neighbour’s fence!

The barrier treatment involves treating a strip of ground at least 18 in. wide with enough material (about 1gal/sq.yd.) to soak the ground well so that moles meeting the barrier, above or below the ground, are deterred from crossing it and are turned back. All treatments are applied with a watering can.

Dilution rates

The dilution rates are as follows. First, make up a stock solution of 200 gm of Scoot in 4 pints (2.5 litres) of water.

For the initial soaking of the nests and surroundings, 5 fl.oz. of the stock solution are added to 1 gallon of water.

The barrier treatment is half this strength; 2.5 fl.oz. of stock solution in a gallon of water to treat 1 sq.yd.

The treatment is repeated if the moles return but the duration of effective control varies enormously; mainly because of the varying local conditions of soils and rainfall. It is largely useless to treat just the surface runs; these are normally feeding tunnels and are made by the moles when searching for food and are often used just once. The moles seldom use treated surface tunnels again but make fresh ones.

The system works well, even if it does pass the problem on to someone else!

Your queries and thoughts.

Questions on how to cope with moles in your garden?  Please use the contact the web editor for your query which will be forwarded onto Peter.

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