Green Manure

How to sow green manure

We have found that sowing a green manure between crops of cut flowers or vegetables makes for a much better harvest the following year.

Here’s our simple guide to sowing green manure in autumn for digging in the following spring.

You will need:

  1. A clear bed dug to a fine tilth. (Not as hard as you think if you have just removed this year’s crop.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2421
  2. An enthusiastic pair of hands. (In this case, Harry.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2422
  3. Seeds. (Here we are using hungarian forage rye. Being from a different plant family, it won’t harbour diseases that might affect next year’s sweet peas. Mustard is another good choice.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2425
  4. Some old CDs, short bamboo canes and string.easton-walled-gardens-img_2428

Method:

Scatter the seeds across the bed on a day when there has been some rain in the night but the temperatures are still mild.

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The image below shows roughly the rate at which we sow.

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Lightly rake over the bed so that the seeds are covered.

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Attach the string to the top of each bamboo cane and hang the CDs on the bottom. You should end up with a ‘fishing rod’ shape with a CD attached to the end. The CDs will spin in the wind.

Place these at regular intervals to deter birds.

Other enemies:

Mice and voles can take your whole crop but our TOP TIP is to fill a small tin with corn and place it nearby. The mice will happily eat more of this and less of your crop.

After about 10 days it should look like this!

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Allow it to grow all winter and dig and chop the crop into the soil next spring. (About 2 weeks before planting out your summer flowers or vegetables.)

Why it works:

Green manure works on our free draining soil because it locks up the nutrients in the rye leaves throughout the winter.  When we dig in the green plants, we keep the nutrients near the surface.

If we leave the ground bare, winter rain causes the nutrients to leach out into the subsoil where they become inaccessible to crops with shallow root systems.

By next summer, this bed will be filled with our grandiflora sweet peas. With all this extra food available to them they will look fantastic!

 

 

 

 

September Colour

Colour in the garden in September

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Autumn doesn’t just have to be about autumn leaves, it is possible to continue to use flowers as a foil to the spent foliage around them. A lot will depend on when the first frosts hit your area (here, as early as 31 August or as late as October) but in sheltered areas of the garden, the mild days of September create the perfect environment for late perennials and tender annuals to flourish.

To show you what I mean here are some pictures of the gardens in September that might offer inspiration for your garden.

First up, what happens if you don’t plant for late colour. Here are the terraces. All the colour is drained from them and it is just the picturesque seed heads that remain. This is what happens to our native plants if they are not cut down and nothing is added. We will make hay once the final seeds are ripe.

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The seed heads of wild carrot are particularly interesting and make the perfect shape for spiders to hang their webs off on a dewy morning.

Adding colour

The light is great now so adding some colour makes all this decay a lot more interesting.

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In the long borders, asters and rudbeckias are particularly useful. This is the perennial Rudbeckia fulgida with Agastache ‘Black Adder’ in the foreground. The purple spires are putting out their final flowers of the season and are given a lift by the yellow daisies behind.

Dahlias are excellent too for late summer colour. We use yellow ‘California Sunset’ in the long borders (see them giving the borders a lift in the photo above) but anything we like in the Pickery. Here is a new colour scheme which is giving us great satisfaction.

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This is Dahlia ‘Preference’ with Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’. On the other side of the path is an exquisite arrangement of Dahlia ‘Wizard of Oz’ with a Chrysanthemum called ‘Pink Danielle.’

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It took me a while to be convinced of the value of grasses in an English garden but there are certain varieties that don’t make you feel like you have stumbled into a prairie and these tend to blend beautifully with big late flowers.

Cut Flowers

The cut flower beds in the pickery are still bursting with colour. They provide interest and lots of flowers for the tea room, history room and coach house. Here we consider the overall effect as well as their usefulness in flower arrangements.

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This sunflower is ‘Earthwalker’ which is a branching annual with lots of classic sunflower shaped heads, unusual chestnut and gold petals and dark chocolate seed heads – these will be very popular with the goldfinches next month. The white phlox is late this year, it decides for itself whether to flower in high summer or autumn.

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A similar colour scheme is achieved by bedding out pockets of annuals in the cottage garden. This is a white Ageratum with the humble double marigold. In the background, Dahlia ‘Red Honka’ shines against the light. See how it lifts the papery seed heads of the long-spent honesty. Although these are in the cottage garden, everything you see in flower here is excellent in a vase.

Another faithfully good annual and cut flower for this time of year is Cleome. The light creates translucent petals in pinks, mauves or whites and the intriguing seed heads add interest later on.

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Repeat flowering

The roses throughout the gardens are reinvigorated after deadheading and some of them like Rosa ‘Grace’, ‘Lady of Shalott’ ‘Graham Thomas’ and ‘The Mayflower’ are in flower again.

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The roses aren’t alone, some clematis are still flowering. Our success with clematis is variable but one or two are now becoming reliable additions to our garden. Here is Clematis jackmanii in one of four pots on the cherry plat.

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Containers

The pots around the pickery, cottage garden and tearoom are at their peak. Plectranthus of various types and coleus make huge vases of silver and deep red matt leaves. The solidity of the pots is lightened by red and white stars of flowers (Zinnia ‘Red Spider’ and Gaura lindheimerii respectively) and by Petunia exserta whose orange-red flowers peak out from below the foliage.

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If you would like to take a virtual tour of the gardens in September, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October stories

 

It’s been a busy start to Autumn.

Marie Curie talkLast week, Chris Young and I were at the Stamford Arts Centre to give a talk in aid of Marie Curie. I talked about the gardens and its 400 year old history and he talked about being the editor of the world’s largest garden magazine (RHS The Garden.) As you can see he knows how to hold an audience.

Strange, there were plenty of people there when I spoke….:)

Actually, it was a lovely evening, with lots of questions and the dedicated committee raised nearly £2,000 for Marie Curie. We were delighted to have been a part of it.

 

 

 

Then on to Burghley House.

Alexandra, our florist, created a stunning display in the Black and Yellow Room as part of their Shakespearean flower festival.  We represented the Hidden England Group with a floral extravaganza based on Othello. What initially seemed like a tall order became a great play to interpret and Alexandra wove meaning and pathos into her beautiful design. As the weather has been so mild, most of the flowers came from our gardens. To be working in natural materials, in an Elizabethan palace next to this extraordinary bed with its intricate embroidery, was deeply life enhancing.

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flower festival at Burghley House

With all my attention focused outside the gardens this week, it was lucky the boys were still hard at it.

meadow maintenance

The meadows are now cut and are being cleared. The old season is passing and a new one arriving. The hay is bundled into a huge pile to rot down before returning to the gardens as mulch.

In the flower beds, the continuing mild weather has given our late bloomers the chance to show us what they can really do.

Perilla  The Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens

Particularly, TITHONIA!  When I posted on twitter that we had finally had success with this tender annual there was a certain amount of bemusement. ‘What’s taken you so long?’ asked @UltingWick.

Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’  (see below) likes a sheltered spot, good soil and a mild spring – none of which we could supply when we first started on the garden restoration. Building up the beds by lining them with boards to allow a greater depth of soil has had an impact throughout the gardens. We added large amounts of organic matter, repositioned our late summer plants and here is our reward.

Tithonia and Ricinus

Tithonia rotundifolia 'Torch'If these fresh colours in the borders and pickery make us feel that the season will go on forever, there are other reminders of change. This creeper (below) needs to be cut to the ground every two years or it will swamp the building. We grow it for the ephemeral display of deep red it gives us now.

Nearer to the ground, Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ is making its annual appearance in fine grass. This double flowered variety is particularly good as it tends to flop more elegantly than its single relations.

Colchicum Waterlily

The ultimate symbol of an Autumn walled garden has to be ripening pears. It’s a waiting game. One misty day they will give off that golden sweetness that tells us, and the late wasps, that they are finally ready. I will probably eat far too many and feel a bit ill. (I hope the wasps do too.)

Ripening Pears at Easton Walled Gardens