THE LATEST tips, advice and information crucial to maintaining your oasis of green space.
Create a sea of calm with water
Dipping my toes in the river near my home during the spell of warm weather made me reflect on how therapeutic water is in so many ways, whether just to cool off or to appreciate in its movement and sound.
You can transfer some of those therapeutic qualities to your garden by creating a water feature, whether it’s as simple as a wooden barrel with a waterproof lining and a single plant in it, or as elaborate as a large pond which will not only provide a focal point but will become a magnet to wildlife.
Whatever type of water feature you decide to install, positioning it will be important in all but the smallest of features.
Ponds should be situated on an open site, with at least six hours of sunlight a day, away from trees where you are less likely to come across tree roots when digging the hole, and near a water source for easy topping up in summer.
Try to avoid placing the pond where there’s a naturally high water table, as the pressure from below is likely to lift your liner, forcing the pond water out.
You can work out your natural water level by digging a hole until you see water, but you’re better off doing this in winter as the water table will be higher then.
Leaves can be a terrible hindrance to ponds, so don’t place them under deciduous trees where the leaves are going fall into the pond in autumn.
Also be aware that placing a large pond in full sun is going to encourage a build-up of algae. If there’s no other site, you’ll have to plant some large shrubs around it to cast shade over the water for some of the day.
Next you need to select your liner. It can be either concrete, butyl or a pre-fabricated shell made of fibreglass or plastic. Concrete may be the most long-lasting but it is also likely to be the most expensive.
The cheapest pond option is probably a flexible butyl liner which can be used for any shape of pond your create and is particularly effective for informal ponds. Dig the hole slightly larger than the desired size of the pool, creating shelves as you go.
Remove sharp stones and roots and cover the base of the pond with a thick layer of soft sand which, if dampened, will help to keep it in place. Alternatively, cover the base with sections of old carpet or protective underlay (available from good garden centres and aquatic specialists) to protect the liner from sharp objects.
Measure the maximum width, depth and length of your pond. The liner width should equal the pond’s width plus twice the depth, plus 30cm (1ft) overhang. Check that the surface is level using a spirit level placed on a plank of wood the length of the pond.
Lay the liner loosely over the hole and lightly anchored at the sides with weights such as bricks. Start filling the pool slowly with a hose, allowing the weight of water to gently drag the liner into the shape of the pool.
Fill the pond to within 5cm (2in) of the rim, then cut off the excess liner, leaving around 15cm (6in) overlap, which can be anchored with paving stones, turf or planting. If you are using slabs, position them overlapping the pool by around 5cm (2in) which will create shade for the liner, protecting it from sunlight which can cause it to deteriorate.
Many gardeners go for pre-made plastic or fibreglass shells in different shapes, which often have pre-formed shelves for aquatic plants. Holes for these will need to be dug carefully to almost exactly the same shape and size as the shell, or else when the pool is filled, the weight will put uneven pressure on the unsupported areas and can cause fractures.
Whichever type you choose, they should be at least 60cm (24in) deep if you want to keep fish. To keep the water moving, which helps prevent it going stagnant, and create a soothing, bubbly sound or a small fountain or waterfall, you’ll need a pump.
Small pumps are available with fountain or waterfall kits, but all electric pumps should be used with a residual-current device (RCD) device. Consider access to your mains and always use a qualified electrician.
Best of the bunch — Alpine phlox
If you’ve graced your local garden centre recently you’ll have no doubt seen the plethora of alpine phlox available which will brighten up rock gardens, cascading over walls, in a range of colours from white to pink and purple, with or without stripes.
If kept happy, they will go on for a few years before they need replacing, spreading their colour happily over rocks and stones. Go for the ground-hugging evergreen P. subulata ‘Amazing Grace’, which flowers from late spring to early summer, producing pale pink flowers with deep pink eyes. Grow it in well-drained but fertile soil in shingle beds, rock gardens and containers.
Good enough to eat...Dill
If fish is your bag you shouldn’t be without dill in your herb garden as it’s the perfect accompaniment to salmon and other fish.
Sow it in tubs or windowboxes outside in late spring and if you sow successionally through to June, you will be harvesting a fresh crop of leaves into August.
It does best in full sun and well-drained soil. Thin out overcrowded seedlings to 10-15cm (4-6in) apart and water sparingly in dry spells, as the plants don’t like wet conditions.
The leaves can be harvested as a cut-and-come-again crop as soon as the leaves are large enough. Sow a new batch when you’re about half way through the first harvest.
If you want the seeds, which can also be eaten, leave the crops to grow without taking many leaves off and you should have them by the end of the summer. Good varieties include ‘Tetra’, which is a busy variety, perfect for leaves, while ‘Mammoth’ is grown for seeds.
Three ways to... eradicate bindweed and other pernicious weeds
1. If they are emerging from under hedges and fences, set an unbroken plastic sheet barrier in a deep trench just in front of your fence line.
2. Remove every leaf from every plant each week from March until October, which will result in the root systems becoming weak and dying away.
3. Use systemic weedkiller such as glyphosate when they have developed a lot of foliage, painting the leaves carefully on a still, dry day and waiting a few days until the plant has ingested the formula.
What to do this week
Take cuttings from summer-flowering clematis.
Plant dormant dahlia tubers and young plants.
Remove faded flowers from daffodils, hyacinths and tulips.
Stake border plants as they grow.
Feed seedlings which are growing poorly or have yellowing foliage.
Move overwintered hardy annuals to their final flowering position.
Sow late-flowering annuals directly into their flowering position.
Continue to harden off summer bedding plants.
Prune winter-flowering heathers.
Train greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes. Remove male flowers from cucumbers.
Pinch out the tips of all side shoots growing from main rod framework of outdoor grapevines.
Thin gooseberry fruits, using the crop for cooking.
Remove suckers on fruit trees.
Cut lawns but keep the mower blades high.
Continue with evening slug patrols, especially after rain.
Keep weeding regularly.