HOMES & GARDENS : All in a Day's Work; Gardening Methods Used at Birmingham Botanical Gardens Can Be Easily Used in the Small, Domestic Space Says Philip Aubrey

The Birmingham Post (England), July 9, 2005 | Go to article overview

HOMES & GARDENS : All in a Day's Work; Gardening Methods Used at Birmingham Botanical Gardens Can Be Easily Used in the Small, Domestic Space Says Philip Aubrey


Byline: Philip Aubrey

At the Botanical Gardens we probably plant rather more bedding plants than the average gardener, but with thousands of visitors throughout the summer we need to keep them looking their best.

Good preparation before planting is important, with quality compost in tubs and baskets and added organic matter and fertiliser on beds to give the plants a good start. Then it's down to regular care.

Many summer bedding plants are geared to flowering and setting seed as quickly as possible, so regular dead heading stops seed production and keeps them producing more flowers.

There is a very useful tool for this job, about 40cms long it has a small trigger which works a cutter, while a clamp holds the dead flower. With one movement the dead flower is removed and easily transferred to a bucket.

Any container-grown plants are going to need watering daily, the evening being the best time as the water will have plenty time to soak in and there is no risk of sun scorching in bright sunshine.

For planted out bedding we water well after planting to encourage deep rooting but after that we only water during prolonged dry spells and when we do water, we give a thorough soaking.

At the Gardens we incorporate a slow release fertiliser in the compost for tubs, troughs and baskets as the alternative is to use a liquid feed every week.

At this time of year many of the other flowering plants around the gardens will also be requiring attention, especially regular dead heading in the rose garden.

In the herbaceous border the early flowering plants will need cutting back and repeat flowering plants will also need regular dead heading while taller plants may need some additional support.

The main lawn at the Botanical Gardens is vitally important. While in many small domestic gardens this has been replaced with paving, gravel or the ubiquitous decking, many gardeners take pride in their lawns.

Not only is it the green backdrop to the rest of the garden, it is also somewhere to sit and relax or play with children and grandchildren. Not many domestic lawns take the pounding that the main lawn at the Botanical Gardens does. While we don't allow ball games, we do have a quarter of a million visitors a year and thousands of these like to picnic on the grass which needs to look good throughout the year.

Work begins in the winter with a tractor-mounted aerator that relieves the compaction and allows air and water to the grass roots. In the spring we scarify the grass to remove dead plant material around the new shoots. An organic fertiliser is then applied to stimulate the new growth and encourage the grass to thicken up.

For a domestic lawn, spiking of worn areas should be completed by October, re-seeding any worn areas at the same time. A garden fork will do the job or you can buy or hire a hollow tyne tool.

For scarifying, if you want plenty of exercise, use a special sprung tyne rake or, for a more leisurely approach, use one of the electric scarifiers. You will be amazed at the debris which you will remove. Scarification should be done in the autumn or spring when the grass is growing well, so do avoid the winter or dry summer weather. …

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