Ormskirk Advertiser : 2020-09-24

Your Garden : 23 : 23

Your Garden

The Advertiser Thursday, September 24, 2020 23 YOUR GARDEN With Diarmuid Gavin T A wildflower meadow is not just beautiful, it’s beneficial for those vital pollinator­s too HIS year has been an introducti­on for many to gardening. Times have been hard and during periods like this we begin to appreciate simple things and understand why it’s important we look after the planet. With an astonishin­g lack of leadership on climate change coming from America it’s up to us small folk to do our part. So, combining this need to look after ourselves as well as caring for our planet, many of us are appreciati­ng the work of pollinator­s. One great way to attract these important creatures is to turn a piece of your garden, even just a couple of square feet, into a wildflower meadow. From late spring right through to now they can be beautiful to look at. There are many different types of meadows and virtually all of them do a lot of good. September is a good time of year to undertake this project – some perennial seeds need a cold spell over winter to activate them and hardy annuals sown now will have a head start on spring-sown annuals. So what do you need to do? Prepare your soil first and remove anything you don’t want, for example, vigorous weeds like bindweed which will choke everything else. If you’re converting a lawn, you can either remove the top layer of turf but if that’s too big a job, your aim is to make the grass less vigorous to give your wildflower­s a chance. So no more feeding it and sow yellow rattle this autumn. This is a semiparasi­tic plant which will weaken the domination of your grass. If you’re converting a border, it may be too fertile from all that good gardening work you have been doing over the years, mulching and feeding. If this is the case you could plant some annual seeds that enjoy richer soil, such as corncockle­s and cornflower­s. Wildflower seed suppliers have lots of different mixes and these will include grasses, perennials and annual native flowers. Your choice will depend on soil type and situation as well. Next rake and shake – rake the soil to a fine tilth and then shake or scatter seed evenly across the plot. Where seed is very fine, you can mix with silver sand which makes it easier to distribute more evenly. Gently firm in by walking over the soil as you go and water in if no rain is forecast. Then leave nature to take its course. If you do see any obvious weeds that you don’t want emerging, pull these out. Another option is to plant plugs of wildflower­s in the spring and these can be inserted into your lawn or borders. These are available to buy in springtime, or alternativ­ely you could plant up trays of wildflower­s now and leave in the cold frame for the winter. Good options include ragged-robin, oxeye daisy, scabious, cowslip and red campion. Meadows will take time to establish and become more diverse over the years with good management. You don’t just leave them to their own devices – they need to be cut down at the end of the season with a scythe or strimmer but leave it as late as possible. This allows seed to ripen and land on the ground to germinate. Leave the clippings to dry out for maximum seed ripening and then put them on the compost heap – don’t leave clippings in situ as these will act as a fertiliser as they rot. So whether you are new to gardening or reinventin­g your plot in the light of environmen­tal concerns, consider the possibilit­ies a meadow could bring to your plot. Good luck! PLANT OF THE WEEK WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK GET your bird table cleaned and stock up on bird food for the approachin­g autumn. EVERGREEN hedges can have a final trim. LIFT maincrop potatoes and store in a dark, frostfree area. IT’S a good time to divide plants in ponds to increase stock if desired or cut back overgrowth – you are aiming for around 50% plant ■ HAILING from Mexico, these cheerful annuals provide bursts of pink, orange and red flowers. They are half-hardy so only grow outside around May time. You can grow them under glass earlier in the year but they are difficult to transplant as their roots don’t like to be disturbed so an easier option is to sow in situ. Grow in full sunshine and well-drained soil. Deadhead to keep the flowers coming and the pollinator­s will be happy too. Favourite varieties include the Queen Lime series which look a little like mini cactus dahlias and the fun bi-coloured Swizzle series which are very jolly in containers. coverage of the pond. INSTALL water butts to collect winter rain. GET your compost bins or bags ready for collecting leaf fall for compost. WHILE the soil is still warm, this makes the perfect condition for applying vine weevil controllin­g nematodes into soil. OBSERVE gaps in your border – does it need late summer colour? Sedums, asters and chrysanthe­mums are all good options. ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■