Common Gardening Terms

Like many other hobbies gardening has developed its own peculiar language and it is useful to know some of the gardening terms and elsewhere. Here is a selection of the most common.

Blanch This is a term used in vegetable growing which means to make the plant or part of the plant white by excluding light. Two examples are in the case of celery and leeks where paper collars or soil is drawn up around the stems to exclude light.

The purpose of blanching in the case of celery and endive for example is to remove the sometimes bitter taste of the green plant.

Bolt This is the early or premature flowering or running to seed of a plant.

Compost This can be a misleading word because it has two meanings. Compost can refer to the ingredients of the compost heap where material is rotting down.

Compost is also a British term for special soil mixtures used in the growing of plants such as seed composts and potting composts.

Crown The area or part of a plant which is at soil level or just below it.

Drill A fairly shallow trench or furrow made for the sowing of seeds.

F1 Hybrid This is a term used for the new generation of plants where a variety is obtained by a controlled fertilization or breeding of two different plants. Usually two different parent plants are used, and the point must be made that seed from the resultant plants cannot be saved as the progeny of these will not run true to the original seed or variety.

Harden off Getting plants used to cooler conditions or atmosphere in a gradual process. Plants raised in a greenhouse in heat or in a frame should be hardened off before they are planted outside in their permanent quarters. This is usually done by placing the plants in a frame from the greenhouse or, if plants are already in a frame, the frame lights are gradually opened a bit each week until finally they are removed completely to allow the plants to become fully accustomed to outside conditions.

Haulm This refers to the top growth or foliage on stems of plants and is particularly used with reference to vegetables such as peas, potatoes and beans.

Heel in To place plants temporarily in the ground until they can be planted out finally in their permanent quarters in the garden.

Laterals These are the side growths of plants.

Maiden This refers chiefly to fruit. A maiden is a fruit tree which is one year old.

Mulch A layer or covering of manure, peat, composted vegetable waste, or even black polythene around plants and over the surface of the soil. This is applied to conserve moisture and also in many cases to suppress small weed seedlings.

Pinch out The stopping of a growth by tenderly nipping out or pinching out the growing centre. This causes the plants to branch out also.

Prick out To transfer seedlings either from seed trays into individual pots, or spaced wider apart in new seed trays. It must be carried out carefully to avoid damaging the young plants or their root systems.

Set out This means to plant out.

Stopping The prevention of further growth or extension of growth by pinching out the growing centre or laterals.

Thinning The reduction of the number of young plants or seedlings in a row. This refers chiefly to vegetable growing and can refer for example to where a row of lettuce has been sown and the young seedlings which result from the sowing are thinned out to a few inches apart to give them more room for expansion. Thinning can also take place where seed such as seed of annual plants has been broadcast over a bed. Thinning can also refer to fruit growing, where some fruits which develop in trusses such as apples and pears are carefully thinned in their young stage to allow the remaining fruit to have plenty of room to swell and mature.

Tuber A swollen underground stem, as for example a potato or dahlia. Spit Refers to the depth of digging and usually refers to the length of the spade blade which is approximately 25cm (10 in).

Essential Garden Tools and Equipment

No garden can be prepared and maintained without a basic set of equipment and once this basic set has been acquired it is possible to add to it during the course of the seasons until a comprehensive array of tools and gadgets is available in the garden shed. Most of those listed here are essential, and others you may wish to acquire as you eo along.

Digging spade and fork

The most important basic tools are those related to soil cultivation and planting. Two important tools are the digging spade and the digging fork, and there are several designs available ranging from the relatively inexpensive items to those which cost considerably more because they have stainless steel heads or tines and lightweight but strong tubular handles, which may be polythene or plastic covered and with very comfortable contoured handle grips.

Border spade and fork

There is a smaller and lighter type of spade and fork known as the border spade and fork, and these are very handy for working in more confined areas. They are especially useful tools for the woman gardener to use. In a small garden the border spade and fork may be sufficient for all requirements.

Garden rake

Another essential tool is the garden rake, which should have at least ten teeth. There are rakes with more teeth than this, and the more teeth a rake has the easier it is to break down and prepare the surface or thith of the soil.


A dutch or D-shaped hoe is important, for this is the tool for keeping weeds and weed seedlings under control. The hoe is worked down the rows between the plants, and this action slices off young weeds just below the surface and uproots seedlings.

Hand trowel and fork

These are also essential for planting out and for working in very confined situations.

Garden line

Do not forget the garden line which is essential where one has a vegetable garden in order to keep the rows nice and straight. It is also useful for trimming straight lawn edges.


A dibber will be useful for making plant holes. This tool can vary from a small stick for pricking out small seedlings to a cut-down spade or fork handle for larger plants.

Lawn mower The type of lawn mower to purchase will depend on the size of the lawn, and of course the type of grass it has to cut. For the small lawns the hand mower is quite sufficient and for powered assistance the mains electric small versions of the mowers are also very handy. For larger areas the bigger mains electric or battery mowers are “excellent and so too are petrol engined machines. In this category there are cutting widths from 30cm (12in) to about 75cm (30m) and the latter would be ideal for really large areas of grass. For really big areas there are the ride-on mowers to consider.

The type of cut is important too. The rotary mower, where the blades revolve parallel to the grass, gives you the best of both worlds. They will cut the domestic garden quite well, giving a reasonably close cut and good finish, and they will also cut the taller tougher grasses. For really tough work there are special rotary mowers available for jobs like cutting rough grass in orchards. For the best quality cut there is no doubt that the cylinder mower is the best, and the more blades it has the larger the number of cuts and the finer the finish.

Edging shears and edging knife

A lawn is only as neat as its edges, and edging shears are essential. One should also have a half moon edging knife to keep the edges cut cleanly so that the edging tool can be used more efficiently.


There will also be the need to cut hedges with a pair of shears. Electric hedge-cutters can save a lot of effort if the garden has a lot of hedges to be kept trimmed.


The cutting of blooms and the cutting of stems during pruning will require the use of a good pair of secateurs. This is an item you will use a great deal, and it is worth paying more for a really top quality pair.


Do not forget the war to be waged against pest and disease. A sprayer should be included as an essential part of the tool kit. The size of sprayer will depend on the size of garden but usually a pneumatic 5 litre (one gallon) sprayer is adequate, with a small hand sprayer for work in the greenhouse or for spraying indoor plants.

Hosepipes, sprinklers and watering cans Also essential for a garden of any size is a good quality hosepipe, and a sprinkler and a watering can will not go amiss either.


Especially where a new garden or neglected garden is being taken over, a wheelbarrow is an essential item for the transportation of soil, debris etc. Potting requisites If one has a greenhouse or a frame a selection of plastic pots and seed trays should be included in the range of essential equipment for the garden, and do not forget to keep a stock of seed labels so that a check can be kept on the names and types of plants being grown.

Pests and Diseases of Garden Plants

Unfortunately from time to time our fruit, flowers and vegetables can be attacked either by pests or by virus or fungus disease. The nature and intensity of these attacks varies from season to season. In the average garden the damage caused is of no great consequence, but it is a wise gardener who is prepared to combat either of these problems. Of course, in these days when more and more people are growing their own food crops it would be foolish for the gardener to allow pests or disease to reduce the yield.

It is the intention of this article to deal with the more common pests and diseases because these are the ones most likely to be encountered. For convenience the attack is defined by the part of the plant which is affected, and first of all we deal with the foliage of plants. The signs of an attack are described briefly to aid identification, and the relevant control or preventive measure is given in each case.

Irregular areas or holes eaten out of leaves

This can be a sign of attack by one or two different types of insect. Caterpillars can cause a great deal of damage and the period of attack is normally from about March onwards.

Control: Spray with BHC, derris or malathion.

Earwigs can also cause irregular holes in foliage and these are generally seen during the period between May and late September.

Control: Spray or dust the foliage with BHC.

Scalloped edges on leaves

The scalloped effect is an indication that the plant has been attacked by either leaf cutting bees, vine weevils or the pea and bean weevil. The period of attack is from about March to June as far as the pea and bean weevil is concerned and from about June onwards for the leaf cutting bee and the vine weevil. Control: Spray with BHC dust.

White flies on leaves

Masses of tiny white flies on crops such as cabbages and also indoor plants such as tomatoes are a sign of whitefly attack. The period of attack is from about early May to late September.

Control: Spray with BHC, pyrethrum or malathion. There are also special fumigating preparations available for use in greenhouses, but the instructions must be followed very carefully.

Insects on leaves and young shoots

Lots of tiny flies of black, green, pink or even red colour are indications of aphid attack. The spring and early summer are the critical periods outdoors, but under glass these creatures can attack during any part of the gardening year. Control: Use malathion, BHC or derris.

Woolly or mealy white covering on foliage

This is a sure sign of attack by the mealy bug. These insects can attack at most times of the year.

Control: Use a systemic insecticide such as dimethoate or formothion.

Leaves practically reduced to a skeleton of veins

This is an attack by the gooseberry sawfly, and the period of attack is likely to be from about April to late August.

Control: Spray with dcrris or malathion.

Chocolate coloured spots on leaves

There is a disease which aflects broad beans known as chocolate spot. The trouble usually affects plants grown during the winter.

Control: Apply potash in the form of sulphate of potash to encourage sturdier and healthier growth at the outset.

Dark spots on rose leaves are an indication of black spot, a virus disease which is less common in town gardens than in the country.

Control: Spray with a fungicide if plants are badly affected. The best control is just to burn affected leaves and prunings.

Brownish mould spots or areas underneath leaves

This is the leaf mould disease which chiefly affects tomatoes in the greenhouse. It can occur early on in the year in May, but is more prevalent in the middle of the summer. The cause is poor ventilation and general damp conditions.

Control: Allow more ventilation, leave plenty of spacing between plants, and grow the modern, more resistant varieties. Plants can also be sprayed with a copper preparation such as zineb.

Leaves with white tunnels in them

This is a sure sign of the chrysanthemum leaf miner. It affects plants from early July to late autumn, and it can affect several other plants as well as chrysanthemums. Control: The badly affected leaves should be removed and burnt, and spraying with 131IC or diazinon should effect a good control.

Frothy areas on foliage

This is a sign of the cuckoo spit caused by the frog hopper. It can affect a wide range of plants and is usually found during the height of the summer.

Control: Light attacks are fairly harmless, but a spray with either 131 IC or malathion will be effective if the trouble is serious.

Leaves wilting badly or drooping

This can just be a sign of dryness, and it can also be a sign of some check to growth due to root damage. A distinct wilting of foliage in tomatoes, however, is a sure sign of a disease called verticillium wilt. The plants can be affected at any time of the growing period.

Control: The best control is the severest—pull up and burn the affected plants, and at the end of the season thoroughly sterilize the soil. Some plains not badly affected may be encouraged to grow on by top dressing with moist peat around the base of the stems. This action encourages roots to form higher up the stems in that area and it may save the plants.

Streaks and black and brownish marks on foliage

This could well be a virus disease and can occur at any time of the year on plants both indoors and outdoors. Quite often too the markings continue into the stems. Control: There is unfortunately only one treatment, and that is to dig up and burn the affected plants and to sterilize the soil where the plants have been growing.

Leaves badly curled

This can affect many plants and is usually an indication of attacks by aphids. The usual period is from about late spring to late summer.

Control: Spray frequently with a preparation such as 131 IC or dimethoate.

Kim foliage dying

It is important here to make mention of the Dutch elm disease. It is identified by the foliage which turns yellow and then brown, and then hangs from the branches which are themselves slowly killed. The time it makes itself known is from about May to late September, and it is vital that the affected trees are destroyed. It is in fact important to notify the local authority at once if a tree on your property is suspected of having this trouble.

Stems rotting at ground level

This chiefly affects seedlings in their very early stages but can also affect more mature plants. It is a disease which is called ‘damping off’, and eventually the affected plant collapses and dies.

Control: One of the best ways to avoid the trouble is always to use sterilized seed mixtures and to make sure that receptacles such as pots and trays are scrupulously clean. It pays to dip these in dilute Jeycs fluid, formalin, or any other suitable sterilizing preparation for horticultural use. Also seedlings in boxes can be watered with a dilute solution of Cheshunt compound.

Buds failing to open

This can affect fruit and flower buds and is caused by a weevil. The period of trouble extends from about April to late May. Usually apples are badly affected, and in this case the apple blossom weevil is responsible.

Control: The best preventive measure is to spray with BHC or fenitrothion just before the buds begin to open.

Buds grossly enlarged

This is usually seen on blackcurrant bushes and is caused by the blackcurrant gall mite. It is usually seen in February and March.

Control: The buds should be picked out and burnt as quickly as possible, and the plants sprayed with lime sulphur as soon as the first flowers open. A repeat spray should be given about three weeks later.

Flower petals badly eaten

Many flowering plants are affected but especially dahlias and chrysanthemums. The culprit is the earwig. The damage is usually seen from about May to late September. Control: Spray frequently with BHC. The pest can alsb be trapped in rows of corrugated cardboard or flowerpots stuffed with straw or hay and the pots placed either near ground level or on top of cane sticks by the plants. The contents should be examined each day and destroyed.

Caterpillars found in the centre of fruit

The trouble usually affects apples and pears, and is caused by the caterpillar of the codling moth. The period of attack is from about June to late August. Control: Prevention here is better than cure. Spray about mid June with malathion and repeat the operation three weeks later.

Young fruit eaten into the centre by caterpillars

This is a type of damage which occurs obviously much earlier in the fruit formation stage and chiefly affects apples. The attacks occur from about May to late June. Control: Apply a spray of BHC or dimethoate as soon as the petals have fallen.

Raised areas or bumps on fruit

This usually affects apples and is caused by the apple capsid. It affects the fruit from about April to August.

Control: Use a DNOC petroleum or tar oil petroleum in the dormant time, which kills the eggs. Just before flowers are produced a spray of BHC or fenitrothion should be applied.

Brown or black scabs on fruit

This is closely allied to the visual type of damage of the previous apple problem. It is caused by a disease known as scab and can affect the fruits during the whole of the growing period.

Control: The treatment is to give frequent spraying as soon as the flower buds are formed, using captan of lime sulphur, but take care that lime sulphur is not used on those varieties of fruit that are known as ‘sulphur shy’.

A brown rot on fruit

This can affect most fruit trees and bushes and is caused by a fungus which produces a ringed spore over the surface of the fruit. It affects the fruit during the summer and can also affect fruit in store. That is why it is always wise to check through stored fruit regularly during the storage period and remove and destroy those which are affected, even though slightly. Control: A spray of thiophanate-methyl can be given later on in the season.

White grubs found in soft fruit

This affects loganberries and raspberries, and the culprit is the grub of the raspberry beetle, which is found from June to late August.

Control: Spray with derris or malathion when the early fruits begin to turn colour.

Fruits rotting and covered with grey mould

This affects all soft fruits and is caused by the grey mould fungus. The trouble is not often seen until the fruit is well on the way to becoming ripe. Control: The treatment is to spray as soon as the first flowers begin to open, repeating the spray at 14 day intervals. A suitable spray is bemoyl or thiophanate-methyl. Badly affected fruit should be removed and destroyed.

A circular black or brownish area at the base of tomato fruits This unfortunately can be rather common and is known as blossom end rot. It is seen when the fruit is beginning to swell.

Control: Prevent fluctuations in the water supply to’the plants and also avoid plants drying out before they receive a watering.

Brown area on tomato fruits

This usually affects the outdoor tomatoes and is caused by a fungus disease. It is more prevalent in bad wet summers and usually affects the fruit when it begins to ripen.

Control: Remove and destroy badly affected fruits and spray at 14 day intervals with Bordeaux mixture or maneb.

White grubs in pea pods

This is an irritating discovery and ruins whole crops of peas. It is caused by the maggot of the pea moth caterpillar and is seen usually in the height of summer. Control: The plants should be sprayed when the flowers begin to open, using a preparation such as fenitrothion. It may be necessary to apply a second spray about two or three weeks after the first one.

Rotten bulbs

Quite often when bulbs such as daffodils are lifted the bulb is soft and rotten and a little maggot is found inside. This is the grub of the narcissus fly and it attacks between April and late June.

Control: The affected bulbs must be destroyed and the soil should be dusted with BHC dust as a precautionary measure before any bulbs are planted in future.

Holes and tunnels in tubers

This is a sign of attacks by slugs, and plants such as potatoes are particularly affected.

Control: The slugs can attack at any time of the year, and as they are usually prevalent in wet badly drained soils one control is to improve drainage by deeper digging. Proprietary slug baits are very effective but these should be used with care if domestic animals are present and are best covered with slate or a seed tray to prevent accidental damage.

Brownish discoloration of potatoes

Blight disease is the trouble and can affect potatoes especially in a wet season. The potatoes which are badly affected should be destroyed, and any doubtful potatoes should not be stored away for winter use.

Control: Earth up the potatoes to prevent infection entering around the root area.

The control for blight is to spray at fortnightly intervals from early July until late September with Bordeaux mixture or zineb.

Brownish-red area on the top or crown of parsnips This is caused by parsnip canker and it can affect the plants during the entire growing period.

Control: The parsnips should be kept covered with soil and a more resistant modern variety should be grown.

Maggots in carrot roots

These are the grubs of the carrot fly and are usually seen in the main summer period. Control: Water plants with diaimon in late August. Another way of avoiding the trouble is to sow in late May.

Cabbage plants collapsing

This is a result of attack on the root system by the cabbage root fly maggot. The time to look out for trouble is from late April until the end of September. Control: The ground should be treated with bromophis or a solution of diazimon can be watered in. Affected plants must be lifted and burnt. Collapsing cabbages can be caused by the attacks of the leather jacket maggot which is a fat grey brown colour. It is usually active between April and late June. Control: Protect the plants by working BHC into the soil.

Distorted enlarged roots

This usually affects the brassicas (members of the cabbage family) and is discovered when plants begin to collapse. This is caused by the disease club root. Control: Affected plants must be lifted and destroyed. The affected ground must be given a good limine; in the autumn and winter using hvdrated lime. It is interesting to note that if the fertility of the ground is built up with plenty of organic matter the disease can be reduced over the seasons. It is important also to practise a strict rotation of vegetable crops, and members of the brassica family must not be grown in affected ground for two or three seasons at least.

It is as well to remember that ah hough plants can show signs of distress by discoloration of foliage this may not always mean that pests and diseases are affecting the plants. It could well be that plants, especially young ones, are chilled through cold winds or poor hardening off. It could also be that the soil is in a poor way as far as drainage is concerned, or even that the plants are not receiving sufficient feeding. Healthy plants will always be produced if the ground is well manured and the plants given an occasional tonic or feed during their growth. Liquid feeds are especially good because these are assimilated so quickly by the plants that a rapid recovery often follows.

Finally, never put diseased plants on the compost heap: wherever possible leave them in a neat heap until they can dry out and be burnt later on.

Soil types

There are of course many different types of soil which are encountered and the type of soil or its condition can vary quite considerably within a small area. Basically there are three main types or divisions of soil: these are light, medium and heavy. The difference depends on the amount or proportion of sand or clay which is in them, and there is another classification as to the alkalinity or otherwise of a soil which is known as the pH. The acidity and alkalinity is usually measured as far as the gardener is concerned by a scale known as the pPI. A pH of 7.0 indicates that the soil is neutral— in other words it is neither acid nor alkaline. If however the pH is above 7.0 it is alkaline and below the figure of 7.0 the soil is acid. Plants will not grow well on a very acid soil, probably because the phosphates in the soil become unobtainable to the plants and the potassiums and magnesiums are easily lost from this type of soil. Also iron and aluminium are released in rather large amounts and this can actually cause poisoning of the plants.

The acid soils can be corrected to a certain extent by the use of lime, in the form of ground limestone, chalk, or hydrated lime. On the other hand, alkaline soil can be corrected by giving generous dressings of peat or leaf mould. It is possible to purchase a very simple and cheap soil testing kit or outfit so that the pH content of one’s soil can be checked from time to time. There are more complex or comprehensive soil testing outfits which will not only assess the pH content but also the deficiency or otherwise of some basic chemicals in the soil. By colour chart comparison corrections can be easily made following the instructions provided with these kits. Of course you can tell a great deal about your soil just by looking at the colour, looking at the plants already growing in it, and crumbling a sample through your fingers to feel the texture. But getting your soil tested scientifically is well worth a little effort and expense.

The sandy soils are the light soils which tend to dry out badly and which are known as hungry soils because they need plenty of feeding. They are soils which can be worked on at most times of the vear and even during reasonably wet weather drainage is so good that the soil can be walked on very shortly after heavy showers of rain. The light sandy soils require plenty of organic matter or humus working into them in order that this material will act as a sponge and retain as much valuable moisture as possible and also provide a good rooting medium for the plants to grow into. The chalk soils can be difficult because they are often sticky and hard to work, but they too require plenty of feeding. To keep them nice and open plenty of organic matter should be worked in regularly. The peat soils are easy to work, like the light sandy ones, and they are particularly good for growing celery. One of the main problems with a peat soil is that it is acid. A peat soil is also a hungry soil and needs good feeding.

The clay soil is heavy because the soil particles are fine and closely packed together and these are perhaps the most difficult soils of all to work because they bake hard in dry weather and become wet and sticky during wet weather. In many cases they are only fit to work on during infrequent periods in winter, and one has to choose one’s opportunity when the weather is reasonably dry and a cooling dry wind is prevalent, which helps to dry up the particles to a certain extent and facilitate the breaking down of the large resistant lumps. A clay soil, however, is a reasonably rich soil with a lot of plant food locked in it. The clay and heavy soils are usually poorly drained and therefore tend to become waterlogged. Particular attention should be paid to drainage and also to the working in of plenty of organic matter and sharp sand or well-weathered gritty cinders, which helps to open up the soil particles and keep them open so that they can be broken down more easily.

There is of course the ideal soil if one is lucky enough to have a garden with this type of soil in it. It should be a mixture of equal parts of sand and clay with a nice amount of organic matter included to make it nice and workable. A garden soil which has been well cultivated for years and years will generally be this kind of fertile, friable loam, but it is something that will not be achieved overnight.

Whatever type of soil you have in your garden make sure that you examine it thoroughly to begin with to assess the type and then treat it accordingly. Careful initial preparations pay off with handsome dividends of good crops, and frequent attention to soil improvement will in the course of a few seasons produce a soil which is much easier to work and which is rich in the essential plant foods. And if you are sensible about choosing plants, rather than trying to grow carrots on stony ground, rhododendrons on chalk soils or chalk-loving plants on heavy clay, you will be assured of successful gardening whatever your basic soil type.


These are important as they act as a boost to many crops, but they are also invaluable for the initial preparation or improvement of the soil, especially those soils which have been sadly neglected for several seasons. It is possible to buy individual fertilizers which provide specific plant foods, but it is also possible to purchase what is known as a general or balanced fertilizer which contains a mixture of different nutrients to provide the plants with a ‘well-balanced meal’.

In many cases specialist firms supply specific plant foods, for example for roses, for vegetables, for fruit and for the lawn. Let us first of all take a look at some of the most useful and popular individual fertilizers. Where a steady and slow-acting fertilizer is required then hoof and horn meal is invaluable. It contains about 12% of nitrogen and 1-3% phosphoric acid. It is used outdoors at the rate of 60g per sq. m (2oz per sq. yd). Another useful slow acting fertilizer which provides phosphates is bonemeal, and the sterilized form should be purchased. It is best used for autumn and winter application, and the rate of distribution is up to 120g per sq. m (4oz per sq. yd). Another soil improver is lime. Hydrated lime is the quickest acting, and is used at rates up to 500g per sq. m (lib per sq. yd). This also helps to improve the condition of the soil and helps to break down the heavier soils though it should not be used on chalky or limy soils which are already alkaline. It is best applied in the autumn or winter. Gypsum or calcium sulphate is extremely good for improving the heavy soils, and this should be applied at about 25og per sq. m (.Ub per sq. yd). A very quick acting fertilizer which gives a boost to plant growth, especially to leaf formation, is nitrate of soda. This is rather caustic and must be kept away from foliage and stems. Another useful fertilizer is sulphate of ammonia which provides high nitrogen and encourages rapid growth.

It is also caustic and needs application with care — rates should not exceed 15g per sq. m (ioz per sq. yd). It is best used in the spring or early part of the summer. It contains about 20% of nitrogen. Sulphate of potash provides the very important potash to encourage sturdy, strong plant growth and can be applied at about 15g per sq. m (\oz per sq. yd). It contains about 14% of potash. To apply phosphates to the soil and to encourage good root formation superphosphate of lime can be applied at 30-60g per sq. m (1-2oz per sq. yd). It is applied in the spring or the early summer and an average analysis is 18% phosphoric acid.

These then are the individual fertilizers. One can purchase these in quantity and make up one’s own fertilizer for specific crops. For example a good potato fertilizer is made up as follows: sulphate of ammonia 3 parts by weight; superphosphate of lime 4 parts by weight; sulphate of potash 2 parts by weight. The ingredients are mixed well together and applied just before planting at rates up to 90g per sq. m (3oz per sq. yd). For roots such as carrots etc. the following can be made up: sulphate of ammonia 1 part by weight; superphosphate of lime 4 parts by weight; sulphate of potash 2 parts by weight. Use just before sowing or planting and apply at the rate of 90g per sq. m (3oz per sq. yd). For peas and beans the following is excellent: sulphate of ammonia 1 part by weight; superphosphate of lime 3 parts by weight; sulphate of potash 2 parts by weight. These are mixed together as for the others and applied just before sowing at the rate of 60g per sq. m (2oz per sq. yd).

For a general or balanced fertilizer for most garden plants the following is an excellent mixture: sulphate of ammonia 5 parts by weight; superphosphate of lime 7 parts by weight, sulphate of potash 2 parts by weight; steamed bone flour 1 part by weight. Mix the ingredients well together and apply at the rate of 90-120g per sq. m (3-4oz per sq. yd).

Organic manures

Basically soil is improved by deep digging and by drainage, and also by incorporating certain materials into the soil which not only supply nutrients to the plants but also help to maintain the structure of the soil itself. For example, a light or sandy soil is beautiful and easy to work but it is a soil which dries out very quickly and as a result plants suffer. To reduce this tendency or to prevent it completely the soil should be enriched with plenty of material which can act like a sponge and retain every vestige of moisture. There are several materials which can be used for this purpose and these include manure, peat, and composted vegetable waste. The manure can take several forms such as farmyard manure (usually cow manure) horse manure from stables, and concentrated manures which are a dry or prepared manure, usually from poultry houses. These are very pleasant to handle since they are dry and virtually odourless, and are very good as far as nutrients and soil conditioning is concerned.

Where ground is vacant at the time and will remain so for a month or so before seeds or plants are put into the ground, fresh manure can be dug in. By the time planting or seed sowing times come along it will have rotted down sufficiently. Fresh manure is known as ‘hot’ and can burn plant roots badly. Chicken manure is especially caustic in its fresh state and should be incorporated in good time, or should be rotted down for several months like the manure if to be used just before seed is sown or plants are put out. The manures are generally stacked in a convenient heap where they will rot down quite quickly.

Another useful form of organic matter is composted vegetable waste which is obtained from the stacking and rotting down of all sorts of garden waste material such as lawn mowings, the trimmings from the vegetable plot, flower heads, leaves and of course the autumn leaf fall. There are neat compost bins or containers which can be purchased these days to keep the heap neat and tidy and there are accelerating materials which can be applied to hasten the decomposition process. These also help to produce a sweeter smelling material.

The average dressing of manure is about 50kg (one hundredweight), or an average size barrow load, to about 6.5-8 sq. m (8-10 sq. yd). This composted vegetable waste has not quite the same high (bod value, and therefore a barrow load of this material should be applied to every 2.5-3.5 sq- m. Another way of improving the soil is to grow what is known as a green manure, which is usually either mustard, rape or annual lupins. These are sown in July or August quite thickly and are dug into the ground when about 20-23cm (8-9m) high. As they are dug in, sulphate of ammonia is applied at about 45g per sq m to hasten the decay and to prevent a temporary nitrogen shortage.

The prepared or concentrated manures should be applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions but usually the approximate rate is about a couple of handfuls to the sq. m (sq. yd). Another valuable material is seaweed, which can be gathered and dug in at the rate of about 50kg per 6.5 sq. m (1cwt per 8 sq. yd). There are several types of seaweed but the most useful are bladder and driftweed. Horticultural peat, which can be purchased in large bags, is also ideal for soil improvement. It has no food value but is very high in organic matter. The rate of application should be a good bucketful to the sq. m (sq. yd) on light soils and for average soils about three quarters of this amount can be applied.

In many cases, especially where one has a large garden and the outlay on manures could be prohibitive, they can be applied only where plants are to be planted. In time, by moving plants around (espcciallv in the vegetable garden) the whole of the plot will be manured, but if possible it is best to invest in the basic organic materials and treat the whole site in one operation.

Terms, tools & techniques

The soil is the most important factor in the whole garden. The rate of growth of plants and their flower display (or the yield in the case of fruit and vegetables) is dependent on the fertility of the soil they grow in. It is important, therefore, to spend a little time in the preparation and improvement of one’s soil because it is very difficult in later years to rectify mistakes, particularly once you have put in permanent plants such as trees and shrubs.

Aftercare for strawberries

If a few cloches can be spared of the larger barn type an early crop of strawberries can be produced. The cloches are placed over a few plants about mid February and the cloches remain on the crop until the fruit has been picked. If you do this the plants are encouraged to fruit a week or two earlier than unprotected plants in a garden. Another advantage is the fact that the fruit is protected from rain and also from the attention of birds. Another method of producing out of season strawberry fruits is to select strong runners in June and pot them singly in 13cm (sin) pots in August, using a fairly rich potting mixture. The pots should be placed in a shaded part of the garden or plunged up to their base in a bed of ashes in a frame. In October the pots should be protected with cloches or a frame light and then the pots brought into the greenhouse from January until March where a temperature of at least 7-10°C (45-50F) should be maintained. It will be necessary to hand pollinate the flowers when they open using a camel hair brush for this purpose. When the plants come to flower the temperature should be increased gradually up to a maximum of about 18-21°C (65-70°F)- When the fruit begins to swell the temperature can be lowered to about 16-18°C (60-65°F).

Propagating strawberries

Many gardeners make the mistake of keeping strawberry beds too long. After their fourth year the fruiting capabilities are reduced, so it is a good idea to make or remake one third of the bed each year.

It is an easy matter to increase one’s stock of strawberries by means of the runners which are thrown out by the parent plants every year. It is most important though that only the best or healthiest plants are selected for propagation purposes; about five runners per plant should be used and the remainder cut off. The tips of the runners where the little plantlet is forming should be pegged securely into the soil, after the surface has been broken up and loosened with a hand fork and a little moist peat and some sharp sand incorporated. The plantlet can be retained close to the soil by a bent piece of wire forming a pin. Another system is to peg the plantlets in small flower pots filled with a suitable mixture and plunge the pots up to their rim in the soil nearby. The only snag with this form of propagation is that the pots can dry out and they do require watering frequently. The best propagating time is between June and July. The pegged down runners must be kept moist all the time. By late August they should have rooted and will be ready to transplant.

Pruning grapes

The pruning and training of a newly planted vine is as follows. When the shoots have produced about five or six leaves their growing point should be carefully pinched out, but the leading one should be allowed to grow on as this is to form the extension growth to the shoot or rod. Any secondary laterals which are produced should be pinched out above the first leaf. Then turn your attention to the leading growth which, when about zm (6—7ft) long, should have its growing point pinched out. Also look at the side growths produced. These should be pinched above the first leaf, all except the top one which is allowed to grow on. Any other shoots made on the leading growth should be left until about the end of September when they too should be pinched. Lateral growths that may be produced should be pinched out also. In the winter, when the foliage has dropped, all the side growths should be cut hard back to the main stem (or rod as it is called) and the leading growth should be shortened to within about 120cm (4ft) of ground level.

In the vine’s second year any unwanted side growths should be removed from the main stem. The ideal is to retain a strong shoot or growth about every 45cm (iSin) on each side of the main stem. The leading growth should be stopped when it reaches the ridge of the house and its growing point is then nipped out.

Once the vine has become established there should be what are known as spurs about every 45cm (18in) or so along the side of each of the main rods. Only allow one growth from each of these spurs. When these growths have produced a flower truss or have grown about 90cm (3ft) in length their growing points or centres should be nipped out. Allow one leaf beyond the flower truss, and where secondary growths are produced these too should be nipped out beyond the first leaf. In late November, when the foliage has fallen, each side growth should be cut back to within one dormant bud of the spur on the main rod.

Pruning soft fruits

Cane fruits

Here we come to a much simpler systcn of pruning. For the blackberries and loganberries all the canes should be cut back after planting to about 30cm (12in) of ground level. It is wise not to allow fruiting in the first year, the object being to encourage the canes to produce really strong growth. In later years, as soon as the crop has been gathered, all the old fruiting canes should be cut right out to ground level and the young canes should be trained in their place. According to variety the number of new canes produced may vary, but never allow more than about eight new canes per plant each year.

In subsequent years canes which have fruited should be cut right out to ground level and the new canes trained in their place. Some varieties tend to make rather tall growth, and these are best tipped back in February to about 2m (6ft) from ground level. Autumn fruiting types of raspberry should be pruned in February where the old canes are cut out to about 15cm (6in) above ground level. For raspberries it is advisable to allow only about six good strong canes per plant.

Pruning currants

Blackcurrants are pruned in October, and pruning can continue until the end of January according to weather conditions. Pruning is carried out to remove as much as possible of the growth which has just borne the fruits but care must be taken not to cut out too many of the young shoots which will bear the following year’s crop. New blackcurrant plants should be cut back to about 5-8cm (2-3U-1) of soil level when they have been planted.

Red and white currants are pruned twice: once in the summer, and again in the winter. The summer pruning is done in July when side growths should be cut back to about five leaves each. Winter pruning is carried out from the end of October until the end of January, and side shoots are cut back still harder to about three dormant buds. Leaders are cut back by about one-third of their length. A careful eye should be kept on some varieties which tend to produce poor shoots, some of which can be dead; these should be cut right back to strong buds.

Pruning gooseberries

Summer and winter pruning is also carried out for this fruit and the system is exactly the same as for the redcurrants. The centre of the bushes should be kept as open as possible to facilitate picking (this applies also to the other currants). There are some varieties of gooseberry which tend to make a rather drooping or arching growth, and in the autumn these growths should be cut back to a bud which is pointing upwards and near the top of the arch or droop.