I love Autumn.  I love leaves to kick through, apples to catch, the clocks going back, the fire being lit, the cosiness of winter creeping in and oh Halloween…I even like the way us British do Halloween – half arsed and a bit wonky but full of laughing. So hold onto your hats, it’s a right old windy autumn so far…and here comes another newsletter.  Thanks for all your comments about the new website. Don’t feel obliged but you can comment below in the box and then everyone can join in.  Also if you are so inclined then you can follow me on facebook and twitter, just use the links on the right. Some of you wanted more, (even calling for daily up dates) others wanted more pictures (gardening ones…I think), one of you asked me for recipes….as you can see I have done that thing of thanking you but completely ignoring you all! I promise you that would if I could, but I just about manage to fit sanity into the day as it is and any blogging, spieling, waffling or non-gardeningaction would be sure to tip me firmly over the edge.  So onto the good things in life it is super crunchy leaf falling weather.  October is a great month for lots of digging, raking and other very satisfying jobs in the garden.  This is a great time for a bit of proper magic, root cuttings, honestly it is proper magic, and I have put aside my blibber blabber bit to this and only this.  Finally if you’d rather be kicking leaves than picking them up then have a look at the outings bit and see if I can tempt you out.

Seasonal Jobs

Raking time again – I would recommend that on the last mowing that you keep the mower out and once you have checked for large rocks and the like then you can mow up the leaves from the driveway much easier and very satisfying:

  • Make a leaf mulch bin with 4 posts knocked into the ground and chicken wire tacked on. If you can’t face such a chore then have a look here for biodegradable leaf sacks. They are great.
  • Rake up the leaves to put in one of the above, but leave them in the flower beds for over wintering wildlife. Save your leaves but burn your twigs and save back some bigger logs to…
  • …make a log pile for a winter retreat for beetles, bugs and frogs.
    Prune your climbing roses.
  • Get vacant ground busy by choosing a plant for your site and preparing your ground now. November is the ideal time to plant roses, fruit trees, shrubs and deciduous trees. Dig the ground, adding plenty of well rotted animal manure and let the ground settle for a few weeks.
  • Check your tree ties. Loosen or replace them if needed.
  • Pot up your strawberry runners and make yourself a new strawberry bed.
  • It is the best time to lay a new lawn.
  • This is the month for seeding and repairing your lawn, but then stop it!
  • Sow sweet pea seeds – put them in pots (not tubes) and keep in a greenhouse or on a cool windowsill.
  • Is the frost coming? If it does and all your dahlias, cannas and begonias go black then cut back the foliage and either dig up to store in dry compost in a frost free place, or wrap up in fleece for the wintertime. Be prepared for this advice to appear every month for a while.
  • If you still have green tomatoes on your vines then dig up the whole vine and hang it upside down in your greenhouse or in a cool light place to encourage the fruits to ripen.
  • Sort out and clean out your greenhouse. Keep it well ventilated or you’ll end up with a mouldy greenhouse.
  • If you do have a greenhouse then it’s time to make your last sowing of hardy lettuces such as Arctic King.
  • Once the ferny foliage of the asparagus goes all yellow and dies then cut it back to 2.5cms above the ground. Pop on a good layer of compost.
  • Keep picking apples and pears and make sure you clear them from under the trees to stop diseases and pests getting a hold.
  • Plant garlic, shallots and onions.
  • Chuck a bit of fleece over any beetroot or carrots that you are growing outdoors.
    Sow green manure in empty veg beds to improve your soil and also to prevent autumn weeds coming up.
  • Plant lily bulbs in pots or in well drained soil straight into the garden.
    In your ponds take out lights and pumps and remove dead leaves from your water lilies.
  • If you have put netting over your pond to catch leaves then make sure you check them often so you can save trapped frogs, newts and toads.
  • Plant spring bulbs (but hold off planting tulips until November)
    If you need any help or advice then please get in touch.


Rooting tooting

Free plant time! Oh yes indeedy free – or cheap as chips.  Mind you if you don’t have a suitable plant to operate on in your garden then you may be looking at Joannas hand cut chips rather than Morley’s fries to go but it is still worth it.

What are you on about?  Root cuttings.

What are you on about?  Ok you dig up a suitable plant.  Wash it’s underside.  Cut off juicy carbohydrate full roots.  Plant your cuttings in nice cosy compost.  Top with grit.  Put outside in your greenhouse, coldframe or (more likely) in a sheltered spot. Wait a bit, not forgetting to water and murmur sweet encouragement now and again.  Then woohoo, new baby plants to pot on in spring and plant out in summer. Magic.  Proper, clever, exciting, lovely, lovely free plants.

Why haven’t I done this before, why isn’t everyone doing this daily?
Exactly.  Well most of us are wrapped up warm inside.  It’s cold.  Our attention turns to hot chocolate and worrying about our trick and treating outfits.  Most expert gardeners don’t think this an activity we are all capable of or interested in!  But it is easy, productive, money-saving and most of all magic!  I do this indoors on my kitchen table, but with my new kitchen now installed I may have to hide that fact from my family!!  They often peer at my feet, hands and activities to ensure they fit in with our new fixtures and fittings and so far I’m bluffing superbly.

Some plants you can, some you can’t
Totally pointless to even touch on the can’t list, but it’s long, very long.  Best to give you the can list, it’s much shorter and in this context more helpful too.  So the ones to try are Japanese anemone, Acanthus both mollis and spinosus, Crambe cordifolia, Verbascum, Oriental poppies and Eryngium’s.  I have linked you up to websites that will sell you one. To be honest the website link is just so you can have a quick look if you aren’t sure what a plant looks like.  I’d suggest that if you have the urge then go to your local garden centre of choice and get one now! I bizarrely prefer buying a new healthy plant to do this too as it is easy to get at, you know it is in good nick and you don’t have to muck up your border.  Also if you go out to dig up a plant you know you’ll get sidetracked weeding and faffing about and then the day will be gone and you’ve dug up a plant and never got round to doing anything with it and you’ll have that unsettled, annoyed feeling as you make dinner and you’ll begin to resent the children for having to eat – that might just be me – but I’m pretending it’s you too, if it’s my mother reading then I know I speak the truth!

Ingredients list….
Just ran upstairs to put on my Nigella Lawson outfit so I can dish you up an ingredients list.  Right here we go, we need: 
1) a suitable plant from the list above.  
2) a sharp knife.  
3) a chopping board or suitable cleanish surface, remember before we nurture and tend we will be chopping and cutting and slashing and despite our wanton abandonment we do need to keep the roots as healthy as possible so NO! that mucky old garden table won’t do, don’t make me come over there!
4) sterilised pots
5) compost (mix potting compost with perlite or sand) I like Vital Earth’s seed and cutting compost, last year Knolly’s nursery had some in.  No need to mix or fiddle faddle about if you get that compost it is all ready to go!

Two optional extras
6) optional hormone rooting powder 
7) optional is a layer of grit, this stops the compost from panning (getting compounded by our watering), it keeps water from evaporating and can deter slugs and snails if it is sharp enough.

To do list…. It really is simple
You get everything ready.  Fill your pot with the compost.  Tip out/dig up and then wash the roots of your plant.  Choose a good chunky healthy root, cut it off, remember which is the top and which is the bottom.  Then chop the root into lengths of about 5cm’s and pop it in your pot – the right way up.  I usually put in five in a pot all round the edge.  Then put on your grit on, if you are using, give it a light bit of watering and put the pot in your greenhouse/coldframe or in a sheltered bit. It doesn’t need molly coddling.  In spring you’ll probably suddenly remember them and find a little leaf popping through.  I pot on at this time and then by the summer you have a plant for your garden or to sell at the summer fair.

Helpful websites
As usual the rhs website is a good, clear source of information.   The bbc page  is good and there is a video of Carol Klein actually taking root cuttings, it is always helpful to see what I’m wittering on about, BUT I am a bit sceptical about Carols use of toilet roll middles. In the past I’ve used them to grow sweet peas as I thought they made great root trainers but they all either died quickly or never germinated. I looked into what was going on and found that toilet roll middles are often treated with fungicide to stop any mould developing in storage. So I’d look at the vid but ignore that toilet roll middles.

We’ve got ourselves a reader
Always always always I recommend RHS Propagating plants by the deliciously named Alan Toogood. Carol Klein knows her stuff and I really enjoy her writing, she has a section in her book Grow your own garden that is really good, it’s also one of those books that makes you want to get busy.  If you want a borrow of either of these please let me know you are very welcome. It seems to have started to become a thing I do, to put on one book I don’t have but looks good so this month it is The Gardener’s Guide to Propagation: Step-by-step Instructions for Creating Plants for Free, from Propagating Seeds and Cuttings to Dividing, Layering and Grafting by Richard Rosenfeld, now he wrote tricks with trees a truly delightful book so this must be a good one too!

January 2014


Happy New Year!! Well here we are, all bouncy and ready for a myriad of good deeds, full of extremely good intentions and bursting with plans.  I have great swathes of fruit bushes ready for a good cut back. I really enjoy it as it feels like a great big fresh start and is a good test as to if I can bend over after all the Christmas, birthday and New Year feasts.  I am gagging to get back out there, but first I may need to apologise for my recent absence (I don’t really want to flag it up if you didn’t noticed!). Ever so slightly apt for a gardening company that everything went a little pear shaped at ‘the Plot’ in recent months. Only on the admin front as I was domainless.  I don’t have the wherewithal to go into detail about my dilemma, but happy to say it has gone away, the dilemma that is, and the domain has returned.  For a while back there my email and website didn’t exist anymore, all was very, very quiet.  But crikey didn’t the outdoors make up for the lull within my home. It said storms and it stormed alright! Trees down at All Saints church and the doctors on Church road. Huge ones!  Hope your garden is still standing, if you do need a tree surgeon I can recommend Sam Jones, hes very good. I hope it is less timber yard and more mudfest in your garden so if you are going a bit stir crazy and managed to top up your blood sugars to an all time high you can still get out into the garden and do a bit of raking, digging or just hiding. So let me offer up jobs that can be done this month, please have a look below and let’s go gardening.  My bit of blather in the middle is my traditional ‘where to recycle your real Christmas tree’ bit.  It is my only regular bit of newsletter offering, I have been told it is a useful reminder so it will appear until I hear differently! Finally the days out bit has a few ideas for us all to get out there to wobble off the excess and get back to having fun for free that doesn’t need wrapping up.

clemetisSeasonal Jobs

Bit of rain!  So let’s make sure we have on our waterproofs (button undone for a week or two I thinks!) and waders and lets squelch out there to have a go at some of these gardening jobs:

  • Start cutting back grasses and other perennials that you left for winter interest.
  • Spread any left over compost around the garden and let the worms do the work.
  • If your roses or gooseberries had a visit from sawflies this year then have a light dig around the base of the plant to uncover the lava that is lurking there – leave these little cocoons uncovered and if the cold doesn’t get them then a hungry bird will.
  • This is a great month for getting your lawn mower serviced. Or do a good clean up yourself and replace any blunt blades. The offer is there for me to take it to the guy I use so get in touch.
  • Dig all available ground. As long as there hasn’t been a hard frost and the soil isn’t too wet, dig, dig, dig!
  • Plant your lily bulbs in pots.
  • Clean and sharpen your tools and, if necessary replace some tools. If you are throwing anything out, please let me know as the school gardening project I help run can always do with tools no matter how elderly or broken!!
  • Prune currant bushes by shortening side shoots and remove old stems that are crowding the centre of the bush.
  • Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries back to soil level.
  • Prune your apple and pear trees.
  • Try not to walk on frosty grass as it leaves big black footprints come the thaw.
  • Cut off any blotchy leaves that appear on your hellebores, new healthier ones will soon replace them.
  • Plan and plot your vegetable garden for the coming year, buy in seed and get excited! Whether you have a whole allotment or a few odd patches in a flower border we can provide you with a tailor-made plan so please get in touch.
  • Cover soil in your vegetable garden with black polythene (bin bags do just fine, just pop a brick on each corner to anchor it) this will warm up your soil ready for sowing early veg and salads in the Spring.
  • Start forcing rhubarb – place a large bucket, dust bin or forcing jar over the crown to encourage fresh, pink shoots.
  • Cut back ornamental vines, Ivy, Virginia Creeper and Boston Ivy. It’s a good idea to keep them away from windows, doors, gutters and roof tiles. It is much easier to remove live ivy, so try not to cut the base and hope to pull it off once brown.
  • Cut back your wisteria, taking back all side shoots to finger-length. This job does take ages, so it is advisable to take your new iPod/old radio out with you.
  • Order your potatoes and save your egg boxes for chitting them next month. With the potato fairs coming up please let me know if you want me to pick some up for you.
  • Berries, seeds and natural food sources have been exhausted now, so feeding birds becomes more important. It is the big garden bird watch on the 25th and 26th of January so have a look at the RSPB’s website.
  • If, like me, you are itching to sow something, then tomatoes, peppers, onions and sweet pea seeds can all be sown in the green house or on a window sill.
  • Sort out any trees, roses or shrubs that need a winter prune.
  • For any advice or help then please get in touch.

xmas-treeRecycling your Christmas Tree

 This bit is for all of you with real trees out there – I hope it will make your life easier if you are out there looking to dispose of your tree:

Croydon:  From Thursday 2nd until Saturday 11th you can take your tree to The Secret Garden or Sainsbury’s on Whitehorse Lane. For other collection points in Croydon then click here for the Croydon Council website.

Southwark: If you live in Southwark and you are part of the garden waste collection scheme then you can just put your tree out on your collection day and your bin men will take it away, or give them a ring on 0207 525 2000 or email ( and they will arrange a free collection for you. If you like to drive around with a dying tree then you can always pop it in the car and from 6th to 31st January you can take your tree to Belair Park, Peckham Rye Park or have a look at Southwarks website.

Lewisham: Yet again it is Lewisham who have gone all previous with their collection points and have opened them on December 28th, whatever happened to the 12 days of Christmas? So from 28th December until 27th January there will be collection points at Sydenham Wells Park, at the entrance on Wells Park Road and at Mayow Park at the entrance in Mayow Road. For other places in Lewisham click here.  They have made me feel like I’m not doing the best by my tree as on their website they clearly state we can dispose of our ‘unwanted real Christmas trees’ as if I wanted it just a bit more, loved it better and saw its potential I could find a new, happier use for it, maybe dress it in my mothers clothes and prop it in a rocking chair in the attic room?

Bromley: The borough of Bromley scares me!  You have to be very organised to live in Bromley so here we go – trees to the temporary recycling sites on Saturday 11th 11am-4pm or Sunday 12th 8am-12 noon only, if you live in Beckenham then Unicorn Primary school is your nearest site!  Have a look at Bromley’s council website to check their funny times and their seasonal message of prosecution!

Lambeth: If you live in Lambeth and are part of the orange sack recycling then they actually come to your door and take your tree away for you! On the week beginning 6th Jan until 31st Jan just leave your tree with your rubbish on your normal collection day and they take it away….you lucky lucky people! If you aren’t an orange sack person or if you miss the collection day then the nearest collection point is on Streatham Common or Clapham Common. For more information then click here to check out the Lambeth council website.

I’m offering the usual service of collecting and recycling your tree. Email me for details as soon as possible, (or we can do our usual and I will take it away in late July when I just can’t ignore the dead tree rolling around your front lawn any longer!).

Recycle at home: If you have an open fire or a brand new wood burning stove (oh yes Tim!) then why not keep your tree, cut it into bits and use the resin filled branches as firelighters.  You can get a double benefit if you strip the branches of the needles, or save your fingers and let the needles drop off of their own accord by leaving your hacked up tree in a bin bag, then use the dropped needles as mulch for your ericaceous plants, so blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias those sort of fellas.

While you’re in the mood for recycling then grab all your Christmas cards and take them to M&S and chuck them in the Woodland Trust Recycling bins, they’ll be there throughout January. Have a look in the other big shops as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and TK Max usually do this but I can’t find any news on that this year….and I got a bit bored of big corporate websites!

sydenham-woodsDays Out

It is the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch on 25th and 26th and to get in the mood there is a bird walk on Tuesday 14th January in South Norwood Country Park, it is free and starts at 9.30.

Another birdy walk is happening at Hall Place, in Bexley.  From 10am – 2pm on Saturday 25th January.  Even if you don’t fancy a guided tour, Hall Place is a great day out with the topiary worth seeing, especially if we get a smattering of snow!

London Potato Day and Seedy Sunday, is on 26th January at Sydenham School in Forest Hill, it is a joy to shuffle around, trestle table after trestle table of seed potatoes to buy, some favourites and some unusual fellas (spuds and sellers alike).  If you can’t get there and would like me to pick you up some spuds to grow, just let me know.

At 2pm on 26th January Sydenham Hill Wood and Cox’s Walk has a Winter Tree ID walk…..well you can see in my photo!  If you can’t read it then all the info is on the London Wildlife Trust site.

A little way out in Kent is Bedgebury Pinetum and Forest.  It has acres and acres to explore with loads going on.  The reason it gets a special mention this month is that the ‘Stick man Trail’ is running until 30th Jan and based on the childrens book, it sounds really good fun with den making and woodland sounds and making a stick man to take home… children are a bit old for this sort of malarkey so any babysitting jobs out there, let me know!!