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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A September Walk

At dawn this morning, mist hung in the paddocks and parkland around our little village. A white haze appeared above the trees and slowly golden rays began to slant through the branches.

September light at Easton

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to follow the light as it hit the gardens, so I took the dogs (all four of them) and we started in the Pickery. Or we would have done. If Binky the dachshund hadn’t spotted Sue and her daughter, Laura, in the village. Binky is deeply in love with our neighbours and as the light came just right, I realised I was a dog short. Binky’s squeaky bark echoed from the village. This high pitched bark means she is overwhelmed to find someone she loves, who, in her opinion, has nothing better to do than be her best friend. So, I went back (twice) to retrieve the errant sausage dog and ‘persuade’ her to join us.

With all four dogs safely secure in the Pickery, I could focus on the flowers and take some pictures.

dahlias at Easton Walled Gardens

In the long narrow bed alongside the path through the Pickery, the dahlias looked perfect with drops of dew hanging from candy coloured flowers.

Opposite the dahlias are our two cutflower beds. The plants are raised from seed every year and this is the best time to appreciate the colours of late flowering annuals. Here you can see a profusion of Nicotianas, Cosmos, Amaranths, Zinnia and Clary. In the foreground tawny rudbeckias and a single deep pink Cleome has crept into the shot.

The Pickery in September at Easton Walled Gardens

On the other side of this grass path are our sweet pea beds. The sweet peas have stopped flowering and have run to seed. The pods have their own beauty while they hang on bleached stems. They will soon be harvested by us to be sown next year or go into packets for selling to visitors as part of the 65 varieties we offer in our  online shop.

Sweet pea pods at Easton Walled Gardens

Out of the pickery; ‘come on dogs, we are going to the Cottage Garden’.

The Pickery in Autumn Easton Walled Gardens

(Binky still wants to go back to Sue…)

In the cottage garden the three sister’s bed of beans, courgettes and corn on the cob looks wonderful but the greenhouse is a bit damp: we will need to get the airflow moving to prevent the mildew getting any worse. It’s a hard choice for greenhouse grown plants. Do we maximise warmth over airflow or spray over organic produce? There hardly seems any point to growing your own if it is covered with chemicals.

Greenhouse Easton Walled Gardens

Inside the air is very still but the tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

in the greenhouse at Easton Walled Gardens

We head out now, under the tall peach house wall and into the wider garden. Here the terraces are filled with seedheads where the goldfinches are chattering and feeding. Over 100 finches have spent the last few days feeding on the knapweed which makes me very proud as you rarely saw a single goldfinch here 10 years ago.

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The giraffes watch over us as we pass through the cedar meadow.

Giraffe at Easton Walled Gardens

We swing back across the lawns and stop at the White Space Garden to see how the colour is holding up. There have been white flowers here for six months solid. The Eleagnus in the centre holds all the different shapes and hues together in this scheme. The silvery leaves absorb any friction between plant forms. It’s very satisfying to see this come together as it was ten years in the planning (nothing happens fast around here)

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The day is getting on, so there is no time to visit the long borders, roses and orchard now. The dogs have had a good run so we head back towards the gate out of the garden. Guess who is there first? Can we go and see Sue again now, please??

Binky at the gate