Gardening jobs for the weekend: Gather falling leaves and finish potting bulbs – iNews

gardening-jobs-for-the-weekend:-gather-falling-leaves-and-finish-potting-bulbs-–-inews

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With the onset of winter, protect bananas, gather falling leaves, and finish potting up bulbs. Consider a light touch with annual weeds. If ordering fertilisers, some are more sustainable than others.1. Banana plant protectionBefore the first severe frosts, make a cylinder of wire mesh around plants and fill with straw. Make a “cap” of polythene to shed rain. To exclude freezing wind, provide an outer wrap of hessian. Compost any dead, damp, rotted foliage. If an early frost nips foliage, the “crown” of the plant is probably still sound and a lower but similar covering should exclude harder winter frosts.2. Scavenge leavesMany gardeners find leaf-raking irksome. As a minimum, raking leaves under trees and shrubs from grass and borders acts as a mulch. Topping with compost will prevent the leaves from taking off in dry, windy spells. A leaf mould bin in a shady corner holds leaves until they rot into crumbly leaf mould after about two years. A mower with a collection box can swiftly gather leaves, but if much grass is incorporated, the compost bin is the best destination.3. Potted bulbsHyacinths and tulips thrive from November planting. Plant the bulbs at twice their own depth and space them one bulb’s width apart. Use any general-purpose potting media or recycle growbag compost used for summer tomatoes. Potted bulbs should be moist but not soggy over winter and not allowed to freeze solid. However, mollycoddling does them no good – they need to be cold to flower next year. Placing against house walls offers good conditions.A Close-up showing chicken wire cage and straw used around a banana for Winter protection at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey (Photo: Tim Sandall/RHS)4. Border weedsEven in early winter, some weeds, such as cleavers, ivy-leafed speedwell, hairy bittercress, red dead nettle and willowherbs, germinate on bare soil. Others germinate at any season – annual meadow grass, chickweed and shepherd’s purse, for example. As seeds will not be set until spring, consider leaving weeds to protect the soil and benefit wildlife. Be ready to dig them in or smother with a thick cover of mulch from February, as they become amazingly vigorous in April. 5. Sustainable fertilisersFertilisers made from waste products include pelleted poultry manure (inset), blood fish and bone, and bone meal. Where fertilisers of animal origin are not wanted, consider seaweed fertilisers and fertilisers based on lucerne, a forage legume. Unfortunately, there are few alternatives to mined potassium fertiliser. However, potassium fertilisers based on residues from sugar manufacturing are often available. Garden compost and farmyard manure both contain potassium and, being bulky organic material, improve soil texture as well as feeding plants.Guy Barter is chief horticultural adviser for the Royal Horticultural Society (@GuyBarter).The Royal Horticultural Society is a charity working to share the best in gardening and make the UK a greener place. Find out more at rhs.org.uk.
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