Monthly Archives: November 2017

  • November - Keeping the lawn and garden ship-shape

    November … the clocks have gone back in the UK and people in some parts of the country are waking up to a ground frost. Autumn is turning into winter – but there’s still plenty to do in the garden.
    Bonfire Night

    The lawn

    For many gardeners, the lawnmower will have been put away for the winter. But if there is a prolonged period of mild weather this month, the grass will continue to grow and might need a little trim. Don’t overdo it though: the grass needs to be a few centimetres long to prevent damaging the turf.

    It’s important to clear fallen leaves from your lawn to ensure it gets the light and moisture it needs. Remove any fungi that might have appeared.

    Garden machinery and tools

    Before putting your lawnmower, hedge-trimmer and other machinery away for the winter, make sure you give them a good clean first. Allow to dry before putting away. And, importantly, remove any remaining petrol because it doesn’t keep and might cause problems when you next try to start your petrol mower. In fact, a winter service might be in order to ensure your mower is in tip-top condition in 2018. Clean and sharpen hand tools, too.

    Flowers & plants

    November is a good month for planting lily and tulip bulbs, and if you haven’t done your winter bedding plants yet then get cracking now before it’s too late.

    It’s also an ideal time to plant roses, but choose an area of the garden where roses haven’t been before to avoid the risk of replant disease. Established bush roses and climbing roses should be pruned to prevent possible damage from windy weather.

    Check for any flowers that still need to be dead-headed or cut back and you might want to lift movable tender plants and bring them into a shed or garage. Some wall shrubs and climbers will need a helping hand to see them through the winter, too. Tie them to their supports to keep them safe during high winds.

    As with the lawn, remove fallen leaves from your borders and dig up any weeds that emerge, which perennial ones are particularly prone to do during mild spells.

    For those of you with fruit and veg, now is the time to prune your fruit trees and thin out spurs where needed. If you have a vegetable plot, keep it clear of fallen leaves and plant debris.

    General maintenance:

    A winter mulch will help to protect plants and are also good for the soil. Large pots that aren’t frost-proof should be wrapped up to prevent them cracking. Use a good insulating material, such as hessian or fleece.

    And don’t forget our wildlife:

    Garden birds need some help at this time of year. Energy-providing fat blocks in wire cages are great, as are berry cakes. A grain mix will keep most garden birds happy – feeders are best for keeping out larger animals – while fruit such as ripe apples go down a treat with thrushes and blackbirds. Leave a dish of clean, fresh water out, too, but not where birds might be prey to cats. Of By helping our vulnerable garden birds, you’ll be rewarded with the sight and sound of some very welcome visitors during the winter months!

  • Bonfire Night - 10 tips on taking care of you, your pets, your garden and wildlife

    Bonfire Night
    Bonfire Night is a great time for family and friends to get together, share some winter warming food and hot drinks, and enjoy some spectacular fireworks.

    But for our wildlife, it’s a time of noise, damage, danger – or worse. Our gardens would benefit too, if we didn’t inflict fire and smoke onto them every 5th of November.

    If you’re having a Bonfire Night party at your house, there are some things you can do to make sure it passes enjoyably and safely.

    When to make your bonfire

    Build it just before you light it, to minimise the risk of wildlife making a home inside. Creatures at risk include hedgehogs looking for a cosy place to hibernate, frogs, toads and newts. Double check for wildlife at the very last minute before lighting your bonfire – and use a torch so you can see into all the nooks and crannies. If you’ve already built yours, then move it to a debris-free area to give creatures the chance to escape.

    If you find a hedgehog

    Wearing gloves, carefully pick up the hedgehog and move it to a nice sheltered spot under a tree or hedge and well away from the bonfire.

    Save some materials for the wildlife

    Don’t use up all the deadwood and leaves for your fire. Remember, this is what birds and other wildlife use to make their nests and homes for winter hibernation. You can help them by building inviting woodpiles that they can use – but make sure these are a safe distance from the fire. In fact, this is a great ‘diversionary tactic’ to keep them away from the bonfire. Or why not position a hedgehog hutch with clean straw as an alternative home for visiting wildlife?

    Where to site your bonfire & Catherine Wheels

    An open space is best. If the fire is too close to trees and hedges, it will scare away nesting birds and other creatures. It also poses a risk of the fire spreading. Never pin a Catherine wheel to a tree because it’s potentially dangerous and it will also disturb birds. Use a fence post or stake instead, in an open area if possible and 1.5 to 2m above ground so everyone can see it safely. Move bird feeders and other wildlife food away from the bonfire site at least a week before.

    How to light the fire to allow animals to flee

    Light one side of the fire only, not all the way round. This will enable any animals inside to scurry to safety. Always have a plentiful supply of water to hand just in case of an accident to animal or human.
    Bonfire Night

    Put the fire out properly afterwards

    The ashes can smoulder and remain dangerously hot for quite a long time afterwards, even if it looks as though the fire has gone out. The embers can sometimes remain hot for a day or longer and can reignite. Make sure you put it out completely by using water. Also be sure to clear away the remnants of your fireworks as these, too, can be a hazard to wildlife.

    Take care of your furry friends

    Keep your pets safely indoors on Bonfire Night and on nights before and after, when loud bangs might scare them into running off.

    Avoid garden damage

    The best way to avoid scorching your lawn is obvious: don’t build the fire on your lawn! Invest in a brazier or a firepit. Not only are they stylish, but they also ensure the fire is kept at a reasonably small size. Of course, this would also be better for wildlife. Set rockets off from a bucket filled with soft earth to prevent scorching the lawn. When it comes to avoiding wider damage, the RHS recommends leaving a space of 10m between a bonfire and structures such as fences and garden sheds. However, by keeping your bonfire small, this distance might not be quite so necessary. Bark and twigs are extremely vulnerable to radiant heat so common sense dictates you should keep fire well clear.

    Don’t waste all that wood ash

    Wood ash can be a great addition to the compost heap. Rich in potassium and trace minerals, it can be applied to fallow ground and dug in. As it has a liming effect, it is particularly useful in acidic soils.

    Have fun & stay safe!

    And remember, remember … to stay safe. Read Rospa’s advice before lighting any bonfires or fireworks – www.rospa.com/home-safety/advice/fireworks-safety. For further advice on how to celebrate Bonfire Night safely and without breaking the law, visit www.fireservice.co.uk/safety/bonfires and www.bonfire-night-safety.co.uk. Alternatively, you could just attend a public event!

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