Latest posts by ChapelGirl2

Creating a Hedgerow

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 21:48

The common elder in the UK is a low-growing shrub or small tree with stiff deeply-furrowed green or brownish-grey trunk and branches.  The younger branches are green with whiteish blotches.  In spring it produces big mops of creamy-white flower heads which are sweet and fragrant when young but as they fade they develop a distinctive cat-pee smell.  http:elder flower

The flowers are followed by bunches of small purple-black berries which are very bitter to the taste (more accurately, like alum, they make the mouth pucker and go dry) but which are rich in vitamin C and can be made into a very palatable syrup, jam or wine, if stripped from the stems with a fork.

http://elder berry


Creating a Hedgerow

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 21:25

"We had a huge overgrown elder and as it was only flowering and fruiting high up, we cut it right back hard."  Elders are relatively short-lived, I think.  If yours was quite big it is possible it was nearing the end of its useful life.  You first posted back in June.  Has it recovered yet?  If not, I fear it may be a gonner.  Although they provide flowers and berries for insects and birds (and humans too - eldeflower cordial is delicious!) there are many other things you could replace it with which will provide good hedgerow cover. Elder tends to get very leggy and sparse and the branches are quite brittle, so it's not very good in a mixed hedgerow.


Posted: 09/08/2012 at 21:01

All of the above, and did you remember to pinch them out?  Unless thay are described on the packet as a bush variety, once they start setting flowers you need to pinch out all the side-shoot growth to encourage the plants to put their energy into the fruits rather than the branches.  You have the main stem, and then the main branches which carry the flowers and fruits.  In the junctions between the two, you get side growths.  I think of them as tomato-plant upwards-growing armpit-hair.   Check for them every week at least.  Nip them out with your thumb nail and your plants will be stronger, leaner and fitter.

wasps nest

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 20:48

I am not sure how a wasp colony would damage wooden cladding.  If your wood is rotten then they might chew it away to use in the nest, but I don't think they would do anything to sound wood, except glue their nest to it.  I've had a wasp nest in the attic of a house in Essex but I only found it after it had been vacated, so clearly it didn't bother me when it was occupied.  Here in France we have quite a few paper wasps, which are bigger than the common UK kind, but less aggressive, they say, and they make smaller nests.  They like to nest under roof tiles and in nooks and crannies such as the mechanism of a patio awning.  When we first moved here they alarmed us, but now we're used to them, and we tolerate them unless they start invading our living space, which is rare.

Herbs dying

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 20:33

Here in the Savoie we had a very hard winter and I thought I'd lost my big pot of mint (3 varieties) but just as I had given up and was about to empty it out and start again, they started emerging from the compost.  Mint grows wild in the ditches here, so I think it takes quite a lot to kill it!

I think that once we had got going over here we've had a much better year growing-wise than you've had in the UK.  Having said that, we had a very wet and humid May, which favoured the weeds and mildew, and now I'm having to water the pots daily and keep the pots of more tender herbs in the shade to avoid scorch.


Too much cement in flower bed

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 19:40

Sparklepinksunflower I wholeheartedly agree.  I'd also add Vinca (periwinkle) to that avoid list.  Pretty, but must be ruled with a rod of iron.

what can i use instead of plastic pots

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 19:29

sotongeoff has a brilliant idea with Freecycle.  When we were moving house I got rid of tons of stuff which would otherwise have gone to the recycling centre to be put into landfill or burnt, by advertising it there.  

Ask people at work or at your kids' school if they have any spare pots or would save you some.  You'll probably end up with more than you can handle!

Our local farm shop sells yoghurts in very sturdy plastic pots.  We eat loads.  I'd send you some, willingly, but the postage would cost more than buying new plantpots.

Also, you might have a local gardening club who can help with pots.

what can i use instead of plastic pots

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 19:19

Well said, gardeninggenes.  We have a soldering iron, which is absolutely ideal for making holes in plastic yoghurt & cream pots etc.  Before we had it, I used to get a metal BBQ skewer and heat it up on the gas hob until the end was very hot. It worked, but it cooled down quite quickly and it created soot and was messier.

wasps nest

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 19:10

Is it "growing" out through the nestbox hole, or the roof, or what?  Is it in a place where it is a nuisance to you or your neighbours?  Bearing in mind that wasps are carnivorous and eat insects which eat our plants, if it isn't, personally I'd leave it alone. They'll be gone when the frosts arrive anyway.

If you're bent on destruction, as sotongeoff says, you should wait until dusk, when they have all returned to the nest.  For safety's sake, I'd wear thick trousers, tucked into your socks, and a long-sleeved sweatshirt or similar.  Wear gardening or thick rubber gloves.  When I had one of these to deal with in my mailbox I found an old chiffon scarf and a straw hat and made myself a beekeeper-style head covering. That might have been slight overkill, but it made me feel better.

You should be able to get big aerosols of wasp & hornet killer frorm garden centres.  Don't try to use a domestic fly & wasp spray.

If the nest is semi in the open it might be a good idea to try and surround the nesting box with a large bin bag or garden refuse bag to keep the wasps in and to concentrate & contain the poison.  We don't want any blue-on-blue collateral damage to your bees etc!  Give it a good burst of spray and retire.  Come back in the morning (cautiously) and you should find it safe to clean out the nesting box.

Lemon tree

Posted: 09/08/2012 at 18:51

Have you had a lot of rain or might you have watered the plant a bit too much?  Citrus trees are best slightly under- rather than over-watered and if the roots get too wet they will start to drop leaves.

As MuddyFork says, the other possibility is scale insect.  When my Kaffir lime was quite young we had a minor infestation, which we cured by dilligent application of a cotton bud soaked in meths to each scale.  They are sometimes hard to see, so a magnifying glass helps.  I also sprayed with soft soap diluted in water, in a hand sprayer.  This old-fashioned soap product is available in virtually any supermarket in France (savon noir) but might be a little harder to get hold of in the UK.  This seemed to help to get rid of any remaining adults before they went into the scale stage.

We do our very best to be as organic as possible, but there are agro-chemical treatments if you want to use them. (As Monty Don definitely wouldn't say! )

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