April Seasonal Tips

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A month on and who would have thought we would be in the midst of such an unprecedented situation. Locked down and virtually locked in due to the Covid-19 crisis. Garden centres closed, show cancelled and all but essential travel banned.

So those fortunate to have gardens are spending much more time outside not only catching up on seasonal jobs which had been impossible during last month’s rain, but also enjoying the therapeutic benefits that gardening brings.

With rumours of the coming lockdown many garden centres reported unprecedented business sales of seeds and compost  before they were shut down. Now the only opportunity seems to buy online.

With a warm spell at the end of March and now a prolonged dry period it is important to remember to water pots  and newly planted shrubs. Overnight frosts threatened threatened to curtail what has been a good year for camellias and magnolias. After the last week of cold northerly winds we look as though things will return more ‘normal’ April weather with the possibility of overnight frosts. As always with gardening, patience needs to be the name of the game. Don’t be too hasty to plant out potatoes or sow seeds at least until the soil has returned to ‘normal’.

Harden off seedlings of plants sown last month eg. lettuce, onions and cauliflower. Prick out others as they reach the first true leaf stage. Later in the month sow runner beans, leeks, courgettes, marrows and cucumbers under glass. French beans can also be started off in the greenhouse now but don’t be too hasty to plant out in the garden as they hate cold soil. Make successive sowings of lettuce. Pot on sowings of tomatoes.

Outside, when conditions allow, sow crops of peas, broad beans, cabbage, beetroot, spinach, parsnips. Cover strawberries with fleece or cloches for an earlier crop. Trim and feed rosemary. Sow hardy annuals where they are to grow. Plant gladioli corms in groups of 5 or 6. Pinch out the dead heads of daffodils; Feed and mulch roses. Keep the hoe moving to keep weeds down.

Wood ashes should be preserved as they are invaluable, especially when mixed with heavy soils, when planting out sweet peas, gladioli and many other flowering plants that are put out in Spring.

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Stoke Poges, Wexham and Fulmer Horticultural Society has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK, for “passing horticultural knowledge and tradition from generation to generation since 1884”.

Two representatives from the Society attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace in MAY, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

The Horticultural Society, affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society, is one of 281 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.   The number of nominations and awards has increased year on year since the awards were introduced in 2002, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.   Winners are announced each year on 2 JUNE – the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse.   They include volunteers helping people overcome mental health problems through sport ;  volunteers using caravans as mobile cafe/information centres in geographically remote locations ;   another group mentoring children who have a parent in prison ;   and this Society serving the local community for 135 years.

Representatives of the Society will receive the award from Sir Henry AUBREY-FLETCHER, Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire later this Summer.

The Chairman, Mrs Ruth ROOLEY says :

“I am absolutely delighted; this award recognises volunteers past and present over many generations and will, I hope, inspire others to be involved and ensure the future”

President Emeritus, Jon HOMAN adds :

“Gardening is known to improve health and well-being, wherever you live, whatever your age.   It can be a most rewarding career or a very satisfying hobby “

Village Fete Rose Competition 

A Rose Competition was held at the Stoke Poges Fete on Saturday 8th June sponsored by the Horticultural Society and judged by Brian Christie, a National Rose Society Judge.

We were delighted by the response with some 50 wonderful entries and Brian stayed on after judging to provide helpful advice on growing and showing to the many visitors.

The winners of the four individual classes who received small monetary prizes were as follows:-

  1. Large-flowered  bloom-fully open. Jon Homan.
  2. Large-flowered bloom-perfect stage ½ to 3/4 open. Anna Gray.
  3. One stem cluster-flowered rose carrying 3 or more flowers. Pat Rofe.
  4. One stem miniature rose (any small-flowered rose e.g. Flower carpet or Seagull type). John Cox.

The best overall exhibit was submitted by Anna Gray, who received a National Rose Society Bronze Medal for her rose ‘Snow Queen’.

 

Metaldehyde slug pellets banned

An announcement from DEFRA has banned metaldehyde slug pellets from Spring 2020.  Metaldehyde poses an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals, its role in reducing hedgehog, amphibian and bird populations, poisoned by consuming contaminated slugs or pellets, has been well documented. It is also toxic to pets.

Although not a factor in the decision making, the ban will also stop farmers from creating widespread pollution of rivers and freshwaters with these toxic pellets. Only those using permanent greenhouses will be permitted to continue using metaldehyde pellets (where birds cannot easily venture).

If you have to resort to slug pellets use those that contain ferric phosphate which will degrade harmlessly in the soil.  Use them sparingly, only 4 or 5 pellets per plant, and only occasionally. Note however using this method means slugs will tend to go underground to die so there will be little evidence on the surface.

A number of alternative slug and snail barriers, from egg shells to hair, gypsum powder and copper tape are often suggested but only very wide and thick copper tape works. The thin products sold in garden centres doesn’t contain enough copper. A barrier of gypsum powder or chopped up young brambles also seems to do the job, but definitely not egg shells (unless you want to help snails make their own shells stronger by eating the egg shells, which might distract them from your plants).

Alternatively go hunting after dark using a torch to find them. Best of all, create a pond and encourage frogs and toads to do the eradication for you.

 

 

 

From the Pumpkin Patch

The Summer Holidays are over but the veg garden is still going strong. This is my first attempt at growing pumpkins for Halloween and the weather must have been ideal this year. Planted the seeds back in June and when I cut the leaves back last week this is what I found! All that rain has resulted in some rapid growth. There are only two pumpkins but they are whoppers. They are a bit pale but hopefully now the leaves aren’t covering them they will start to turn a lovely orange. I’m not sure if they will grow any more but I will take my bathroom scales out and weigh them soon. I’ve put them on roof tiles so they won’t rot and put Panda there for scale!

LITTLE GREEN FINGERS

 

 

The 127th Annual Show

The 2020 Show will be held on Saturday 25th July in the grounds of Stoke Poges School.

Look out for the Show Schedule which will be uploaded to this website in May/June.

Please spread the word about the children’s classes, the art, crafts, home economics, photographic and other classes, there is sure to be something in the schedule that appeals.

The Show doesn’t just happen, we need volunteers to help make the event as memorable and smooth running,  as in previous years. If you have time to spare and would like to help in any way, please get in touch with me on ruth@rooley.com or 01753 648040 or contact Jon Homan on homanhome@gmail.com or 01753 662166