October 2013


Life is a bit lovelier.  I am about to sneak off from my regular plot gardening duties for a fortnight in a school in the Isle of Dogs to help the children make a dinosaur or two out of willow. How could life be more fun?  Terry is making a splendid recovery with much credit to be taken by his amazing family and his sheer bloody mindedness. He has asked me to thank everyone who sent him get well messages, he is extremely chufty about how lovely you all are.  The weather has been seasonally normal, bit of a shock this year with snow until May and tropical sunshine in August, so here we are with the sun shining in our eyes by 4pm and trees turning a delightful colour.  I do love autumn. In between a bit of willow weaving I will be tackling some of this months jobs, please have a look below and see if I can tempt you out too.  For my free rein ramble I have been asked about making a pond in a pot a burble I burbled a few years ago so here it is rehashed, updated and revisited so do have a look.  Matt has joined us again on this newsletter to add his wisdom about how to encourage wildlife into our ponds, be they in a pot or a hole in the ground.  All this aquatic twaddle links beautifully in with the rhs and wildlife trusts  ‘wild about gardens week‘ which runs from 21st until all hallows on 31st of this month.  Finally this month I have some tasty outings and a really good walk out at midnight – werewolf costume not needed.

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.  You are really taming the beasty, cutting off the dead, diseased and dying bits, the bits that are rubbing and crossing over each other. If you need to give it a good taming then think of leaving at least 2 thirds of the plant.
  • 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, onions and broad beans in your veg bed.
  • 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.

Pond life:

(This is my bit)

I sometimes feel like I could slip over the edge and start to turn into the Veruca Salt of the garden, stamping my foot and shouting ‘I want it NOW!’ a lot. So as I work my way around my garden I find that still on my wish list alongside a stumpery, hammock, wildflower meadow and penguin, enclosure is a pond. A pond is a tricky one with two gallivanting children – even if they didn’t tumble, ride or plunge into it then one of their mates was sure to, or in all reality I probably would! But I want one!! So here is my compromise. A pond in a pot, fancy joining me? Here’s what I’m going to do – this afternoon.

In what? Any container that’s at least 45cm across and 30cm deep will do as long as it is waterproof, and if you have fallen in love with a pot but it isn’t waterproof (and that is daft as you’re making work for yourself) then seal up the holes with all-purpose, waterproof sealant, such as Starbrite Epoxy Putty to bung up the holes and then let it dry overnight. In the morning (wishing you’d heeded my advice about not bothering) seal the porous surfaces with waterproofing paint, yes it does exist look! You will need to do this outside else you’ll get as high as a kite.

Stating the blindingly obvious: Before you begin filling it place your pot where you want it to live as it will be really heavy once it’s filled up! I know, but these oversights happen to the best of us. So where to put it? In a sunny position away from trees if you can, as you don’t want to be fishing leaves out in the autumn.

Let’s get busy: In the bottom put a layer of washed gravel. This gives you a good base to put your plants onto. You will probably need some bricks or upturned pots to put some of the plants on so they are at the correct height.

Water water everywhere: Fill with rainwater but if you are using water out of the tap you’ll need to leave your pond alone now for a few days to let the chlorine evaporate.

Planting it up: There are four types of pond plants that we need to get for our pond: marginals, oxygenating plants, floating plants and waterlillies. Go for a good mix of these. Smaller dwarf varieties are what you are after. Don’t cram the pot as it is the water effect that makes it a pond and not a sloppy plant holder. There are some baddies, very invasive, non-native naughty plants so avoid these, here is defra’s list, yes defra so pay attention!

Naming names: If you don’t want to fly solo then let me recommend a few types of plants by name so you can clutch a list then ignore me once in the shop and fall in love with something else. Waterlilies – with glorious names like Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helvola’, Nymphaea ‘Perry’s Baby Red’ and Nymphaea tetragona are all little fellas’ suitable for a container. Make sure you have an oxygenating plant such as Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum). I’m going to go with a Corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus f.Spiralis) and a Water solider (Stratiotes aloides), if I can find them.

Where to go looking: I have rainwater so can plant up today – so off I’ll go to the Aquatic Centre behind Wyevales in Croydon, they have a great selection. There is If you are using tap water and have to wait then why not go for it and order your plants on line? I very much like the look of Puddleplants That way when they arrive you will suddenly remember you started this project and can feel happy and smug that you actually finished it!

Wildlife for the pond: No need to help here.  It won’t take long before your little pond will be brimming with things. Some of those things you can identify on this download.  Delightfully, in spring, frogs are tempted into a pond by the smell of algae….so up to you if you clear the algae!

Now once we’ve finished how about a spot of penguin rustling?

Pond Colonisation:

(This is Matt’s bit)

Experiments conducted looking into the colonisation of ponds have shown
it takes less than 3 weeks for life to arrive in a new pond.  The
experimenters create empty ponds that are allowed to fill naturally with
rainwater and that have no other “assistance” from people i.e. not
adding plants or adding a bucket of water from another pond.  The first
living things to arrive are the microscopic animals called zooplankton.
Next come the photoplankton, which are microscopic plants that can
photosynthesize, and the pioneer algae.  The death and decay of these
species helps to build up a silt that the next wave of colonisers can
make use of.

Scientists don’t know with absolute certainty how the first larger
organisms arrive, but current thinking suggests that they may be
windblown, or hitch a lift on other creatures that naturally visit water
such as birds and the flying insects like hoverflies and dragonflies.

Lots of pond inhabitants fly during one of their lifecycle stages e.g.
pond skaters, water beetles, caddisflies and alderflies, and definitely
arrive airborne. However that doesn’t explain how the worms, snails and
the like make their way from one pond to another.  I suspect they hitch
on to amphibians and maybe birds.  Whilst working at The Plot, I have on
occasion seen snails fly, but they were not aquatic snails, were
definitely human assisted and were never going to survive living in a
pond – you know who you are!

Days Out

Crunchy month! Crisp, fresh air, freshly fallen leaves to trample through and loads to do! I love October.

Roots and Shoots Apple Day is brilliant and is on Sunday 6th October this month….so excited!

Thinking of things falling off a tree in to my hand – it is the end of the pick-your-own season. I know I nearly missed it too but I managed to rally the troupes and get off to Garson Farm in Esher.  It is huge, it was so lovely, I left some stuff for you to go harvest.

On Saturday 12th October St Christopher’s Hospice has it’s Midnight walk, superb local cause providing bereavement counselling and support for young people and we get to do a midnight walk, we might hear owls!

This outing is a bit of a way out but looks really good. I found out about this vineyard tour on the kent garden of england website, and then visited the Biddenden vineyard website to find out more but I have to admit that I am a bit baffled by the layout of the website but very impressed by the free tours that are held every Wednesday and Saturday, and you get a free cup of tea!

The rhs have taken the 21st to 31st of October and decided it is wild about gardens week. So Wisley are hosting a sensory day which looks interesting, and Wisley is always a great day out.