Keep a colourful and flourishing garden during extreme weather

The record breaking weather we have experienced recently has affected our gardens in various ways, and we have to adapt to these extreme changes, so learning how to garden during droughts, deluges, arctic chills and heat-waves is a main priority.

garden flooding

Record breaking rain fall has hit the UK this year

Although many of our plants will adapt and toughen up to the weather extremes, for some it will be their undoing, separating the strong from the weak. But that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying some of your favourite more tender plants, even during biting frost. There are preventative measures that can be taken during particularly cold and icy winters. We suggest using a frost protection spray to lessen the damage and aid adaption. Also, keeping such plants in an environment where frost is at a minimum, such as a shed with a window or a greenhouse, will help keep them in tip top shape over winter.

A greenhouse is one of the best investments for any gardener in this changing climate, and sowing plants inside and allowing them to grow and prepare before transferring into the garden is a must for veg and perennials.

greenhouse climate change gardening extreme weather

A greenhouse or shed is a gardener’s best friend during climate change

The early summer in March, followed by non-stop rain in May, June and July, caused many garden centres to cancel their orders for bedding plants. Wholesalers ended up having to compost thousands of cancelled bedding plant orders, and the trade has still not picked up, as sales are remaining poor for garden centres this year. But this could mean good news for you. There is no better time than the present to go on a hunt for some bargains on shrubs, perennials and veg plants.

Whatever the weather, tender perennials seem to be able to adapt and perform well. Many of the salvias, including the dark pink S. involucrata ‘Bethellii’ and the blue ‘Indigo Spires’ seem to spring back no matter what. Argyranthemums are equally as good, and the pale yellow ‘Jamaica Primrose’ brings a beautiful burst of colour to the garden.

jamaica primrose

‘Jamaica Primrose’

Plants with tall, leafless stems of colourful bulbs and perennials, such as the Verbena bonariensis, can be beautiful and useful as the naked stems give an airy feel and allow different plants to mingle closer together. Thalictrum delavayi is also a popular choice, as it has branching sprays of tiny lavender flowers and fine foliage. Dianthus carthusianorum has intense magenta flowers, and regular deadheading will keep it blooming from July to September at least. This looks well mixed with naked stemmed tulbaghias (lilac flowers). Alliums and eremurus in late spring and early summer are brilliant, and can be ordered for autumn planting.

Before you embark on your summer holidays, be sure all your plants are prepared. Soak all pots, despite if it is wet, and move them into shade. Deadhead the flowers, especially the annuals, so they will be blooming when come back. Harvest all nearly ripe vegetables to prevent rotten crops from spreading disease, and cut back any over long growth on trees and shrubs in case of storms.

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Maxicrop’s guide to Mulching

Mulches are materials that are placed over the soil’s surface to trap in moisture and improve the soil’s overall conditions. Mulching is one of the best and most beneficial techniques of keeping plants and trees healthy as it reduces water loss from the soil, minimizes weeds, and improve the soil’s overall structure.

Mulch

However, if not done properly, for instance if the mulch is too deep or is made of the wrong materials, it will have the opposite effect, causing significant damage, so it is vital to know your mulch! That’s why Maxicrop have put together a guide to mulching, to help gardeners get to terms with one of the best but often tricky gardening techniques.

Benefits of Mulching

  • Helps soil retain moisture by reducing evaporation, hence the need for watering is minimized.
  • Helps control weeds in the garden by creating less than ideal conditions for germination and growth for weeds.
  • Serves as nature’s insulating blanket. It helps keep soil temperature up in winter, and reduces it in summer.
  • Various types of mulch improve soil aeration, structure and drainage over time.
  • Some types of mulch improve soil fertility.
  • A layer of mulch can prevent certain plant diseases from plaguing your garden.
  • Mulching around trees helps facilitate maintenance and can reduce the likelihood of damage from “weed whackers” or the dreaded “lawn mower blight.”
  • Mulch can give plant beds a well-cared-for look.

A plant bed with mulch can look attractive and cared for

Types of Mulch

You can buy prepacked mulches in many forms from local garden centres. The two main types you will come across are inorganic and organic. Inorganic includes various types of stone, lava rock, pulverized rubber, geo-textile fabrics, and other materials. The upside to this type of mulch will not need to be replaced often as it does not decompose. The downside is it won’t improve soil structure, add organic materials, or provide nutrients because it doesn’t decompose. For these reasons, most gardeners opt for organic mulches.

Organic include wood chips, pine needles, hardwood and softwood bark, cocoa hulls, leaves, compost mixes, and a variety of other products usually from plants. The upside to this type of mulch is it will add nutrients and organic materials, as well as improving soil structure as it decomposes. The downside is that as most decompose fairly fast, the need for maintenance is increased.

Not Too Much!

Although mulch has highly beneficial factors, you can always have too much of a good thing. Too much mulch could do serious harm, so the general recommended depth of mulch is 2 to 4 inches. Only replenish as the mulch decomposes, and never venture outside these depth limits.

Rubber Mulch

Problems Associated with Improper Mulching

  • Deep mulch can cause excess moisture to pool around the roots, giving plants and trees root rot.
  • Piling too much mulch around stems and trunks can traumatise stem tissues and lead to disease.
  • Use of mulches containing cut grass or similar materials over a long period of time can affect soil pH and lead to micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities.
  • Thick blankets of fine mulch can become matted and may prevent the penetration of water and air. In addition, a thick layer of fine mulch can become like potting soil and may support weed growth.
  • Anaerobic “sour” mulch is likely to give off nasty odours and the alcohols and organic acids that build up may be toxic to young plants.

Mulch gives plants and trees essential nutrients and locks in moisture

How To Practice ‘Proper’ Mulching

So we have now established that the type of mulch and the method of application have an important effect on the health of landscape plants. The following are some guidelines to use when applying mulch:

  • Inspect plants and soil in the area to be mulched. Determine whether drainage is adequate. Determine whether there are plants that may be affected by the choice of mulch. Most commonly available mulches work well in most landscapes. Some plants may benefit from the use of slightly acidifying mulch such as pine bark.
  • If mulch is already present, check the depth. Do not add mulch if there is a sufficient layer in place. Rake the old mulch to break up any matted layers and to refresh the appearance. Some landscape maintenance companies spray mulch with a water-soluble, vegetable-based dye to improve the appearance.
  • If mulch is piled against the stems or tree trunks, pull it back several inches so that the base of the trunk and the root crown are exposed.
  • Organic mulches usually are preferred to inorganic materials due to their soil-enhancing properties. If organic mulch is used, it should be well aerated and, preferably, composted. Avoid sour-smelling mulch.
  • Composted wood chips can make good mulch, especially when they contain a blend of leaves, bark, and wood. Fresh wood chips also may be used around established trees and shrubs. Avoid using non-composted wood chips that have been piled deeply without exposure to oxygen.
  • For well-drained sites, apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch. If there are drainage problems, a thinner layer should be used. Avoid placing mulch against the tree trunks. Place mulch out to the tree’s drip line or beyond.

Climate change: How to keep a healthy garden in a changing climate

Climate change is at the top of political, environmental and scientific agendas worldwide. However, they may be combating the bigger picture, but no-one is considering the effect it is having on horticulture and gardening here in the UK. Maxicrop take a look at what the changing climate means for our gardens, and how we can best adapt to the constant changes.

garden flood climate change weather

Flood Garden

Seasons change

The general effect of climate change will be seen on our seasonal weather and expected temperatures. Summers will become hotter and drier. Lawns will become malnourished and brown, bedding plants and vegetables will require far more water, trees will scorch and lose their leaves prematurely, and hosepipe bans are likely to be far more widespread.

Winters will become warmer and wetter. You may have noticed there has already been less frost and snow, as well as heavier downpours and more frequent rain. This will continue to increase, and our gardens will suffer from storms and flooding from the excess downfall.

Spring is coming around increasingly earlier, at the moment at a rate of 2-6 days earlier each decade, and summer will become longer, and extend into what would have been autumn, at a rate of 2 days later per decade.

The impact on gardens

How will the changing climate affect our gardens? Our gardens are special ecosystems, and they combine many different plants and materials such as water, wood and concrete. Fortunately, plants in gardens are much more adaptable to climate change than those in natural and semi-natural ecosystems, where the fight for survival is tough.  Unfortunately, anyone tending to a historically important garden which is required to look the same in 2050 as it did in 1750, there will be issues faced, and the National Trust is already aware of this. For home gardeners, the majority of the plants in the garden today will survive the change in climate, but are not necessarily safe from the changing weather.

climate change trees

Trees could suffer from lack of moisture

What can we do?

There is plenty that we can do to help our gardens stay healthy and gradually adjust to the changing climate.

Be adventurous: Play around with new ideas and exotic plants that you haven’t thought of or been able to manage in the previously cold UK climate. Olives and bananas are fast becoming a popular crop choice in the changing climate, as are Albizia and Strelitzia flowers. For more exotic plant ideas, check out Climate Change Gardening. You can provide more shade for summer using Pergolas and similar structures, so that the garden can still be enjoyed even when it is too hot to work in. If some plants succumb to recurring droughts or new pests, simply pick a new plant to try and grow. Trial and error is the best way to find what will work best.

Be greener: Start (if you don’t already) to store rain water so when droughts and hose pipe bans occur, you have a natural and sustainable alternative water source. Opt for plants and soils that store carbon. oUse Organic and permeable materials rather than concrete for paving, as concrete causes large amounts of carbon to be emitted into the atmosphere in its manufacture and transport, and offers nothing in return. Deep cultivation of the soil to add organic matter, organic mulching, and growing woody plants all help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (and also help the soil absorb and store water). Use of an organic fertiliser product like Maxicrop will protect your plants all year round, as it helps soil to store moisture in dry periods, and also prevents plants from getting ‘wet feet’ (too much water collected around their roots) in periods of heavy and frequent rain.

Arum Lily, Calla Lily - Zantedeschia aethiopica Green Goddess

Try growing something exotic like this Arum Lily – ‘Green Goddess’

Think ‘sustainable’:  When buying gardening tools and working in the garden, aim to avoid powered tools such as hedge-trimmers and lawnmowers. Use sustainable tools such as shears that can be continuously sharpened and hand propelled mowers. For small lawns, push mowers are a great alternative to powered equipment. For large lawns, opt for a cylinder mower as they use far less fuel than a rotary.

Be flexible and adaptable: Rather than trying to control problems, a more effective method for gardeners is to avoid them. By keeping your garden in a strong and healthy condition all year round, and with an assorted variety of youthful plants, you will help guard against disaster as, if one plant fails, the gap can easily be filled.

Slugs and Snails: Dealing with the unwanted visitors in your garden

With the British weather being at it usual erratic best, and the soil remaining constantly damp from the downpours, it’s a slugs and snails paradise out in your garden right now. But as slimy and unwanted as they are, there is no need to go harming your soil with harsh chemical poisons to combat the problem. Maxicrop have put together an organic and plant friendly guide to keeping the slimy creatures at bay.

snails and slugs

Slugs and snails reek havoc in the garden

Use organic natural alternatives to pellets: The problem can be easily controlled with a sprinkling of organic slug baits. These contain iron phosphate which will causes the slugs and snails to lose their appetite once they eat them. Unlike with traditional poison pellets, the organic baits will cause them to die of starvation, instead of using harsh chemicals. Unfortunately these baits can take days to work, but in the meantime you could pair this method with some other strategies.

Go hunting: Slugs and snails like places that are dark, damp and cool, so look for them at the edge of the lawn, under logs or mulch, and around the sides of raised beds. Hunting for them early in the morning is the best time to find them, and once found, drown them in a bucket of soapy water and then toss them on your compost pile. If you don’t want to get down and dirty with the slimy beings, you could try crumpling a piece of newspaper and placing it into the garden at night. They will often hide out in the paper and then in the morning you can just pick it up and throw it in the bin.

snail and slug killer

The ground beetles are welcome visitors

Attract ground beetles: Slug eggs are a favourite snack of the ground beetle, so lure these bugs into your garden by planting low, perennial plants that provide shelter, such as ornamental grasses, oregano, and thyme.

Make beer traps: Slugs and snails are drawn to the yeasty smell of beer, so make a beer trap. To do so, simply fill such as a yogurt pot with beer and bury it in the garden. Leave the rim of the container one inch above the soil line to prevent ground beetles from accidentally falling in. The slugs will smell the beer, crawl right into the container and drown. Simply dump the contents onto your compost each morning and refill the cup.

Keep healthy plants, whatever the weather!

It is no real surprise that most  of the UK is damp and dull despite the summer season being in full swing. People of the UK have slowly nut surely adjusted to the idea that the ‘British Summer’ is characteristically erratic weather wise. But don’t let the weather dampen your spirits, in the true British spirit, get out there and get gardening regardless!

Get a little help from a local source

When the seasons aren’t on your side, encouraging seedlings to grow into healthy and thriving plants can be an uphill battle. That is why more and more people are turning to their local garden centres and plant nurseries for help. Let the experts get the hardest part over with for you, and purchase some ready potted plants. They are value for money, and the experts not only start you off with a healthy specimen for your to grow and maintain, but they can advise you on how to keep them healthy and protect them against the UK seasons.

potted plants

Local garden centres have a wide variety of healthy potted plants

Plant shopping tips

  • Make a list of what plants and extras you are looking for, and be sure to check that those plants will do well in your garden before buying them.
  • Smaller plants such as perennials or shrubs are value for money as they will grow quickly once planted out.  Also,  remember young trees  will establish more quickly and strongly than mature trees and are more reliable long term.
  • Perennials and annuals that can be divided up mean you could get two plants for the price of one.
  • Plants bearing the cup symbol of the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM). These plants have all been rigorously tested for hardiness and pest and disease resistance.

What to look for when buying plants

  • Check the roots. Avoid plants where roots are circling or are so densely packed that no compost is visible.
  • Be sure any flowers match the label images.
  • Check leaves for any signs of pests and disease. Warning signs are holes, discolouration or ragged edges.
  • When buying shrubs and trees find the best-shaped plant and avoid plants with broken stems or branches.
plant health

How to maintain plant health, whatever the weather

  • Water plants only when needed, during dry spells and when the plant begins to show signs of dehydration.
  • Water plants during the early morning or evening to minimise evaporation.
  • Use a natural fertiliser such as Maxicrop to top up the soil nutrients washed away during heavy rain spells as well as promote natural and healthy plant growth.
  • Prune trees and shrubs to remove dead or diseased leaves and branches and promote growth of healthy new ones.
  • Keep pruning tools sharp to avoid ragged cuts, and disinfect them to eliminate disease transfer.

To find out which Maxicrop products are best suited to your plants and to find out more gardening issues that can be helped with the aid of Maxicrop, click here.

Show us your flowerbeds and WIN!

Here at Maxicrop UK we aren’t about to let a bit of British weather stand in the way of us and our gardens, and we know it won’t stop our keen green fingered friends either!

flowers in a garden

Show us your flowerbeds!

We want to see you all getting into the spirit and getting out into the garden, be it your own, a friend’s, or even a beautiful public garden, of which there are plenty up and down the country for us to explore and enjoy.

So get out there, get creative, and snap and post your garden related pictures on our Facebook wall. The best three pictures judged by us will WIN a 1 litre bottle of Maxicrop Natural Fertiliser to keep their garden healthy and thriving all year round!

Competition winners announced on 16th July!