• Basil

Gardening Q & A


  • How often should I mow my lawn?

Under normal weather conditions during March to June, you probably only need to cut your grass once or twice a month.

When it gets warmer around June and July, you may need to cut the grass once or twice a week to keep the grass the length you want it.

Avoid cutting grass when it's wet - it can damage the grass and makes it harder for your mower to do a decent job!

Finally, avoid cutting the grass in very cold or very hot weather. Particularly in the summer, if there is a very hot, dry period, let your grass grow as it will provide greater shade and moisture retention.

  • How much should I cut?

We would advise when mowing the lawn to cut about a third of the length off the existing lawn height. Try to aim to cut no more than a third of the grass off in one go to keep your lawn looking lush. Cutting more than this will stress the grass and in hot weather risks the grass then turning yellow and brown.

To achieve the length of grass you want, particularly if you want a shorter lawn, you may need to cut it over a number of weeks and gradually decrease the cutting height of your mower each time, until you reach the height you're looking for.

  • Should I water my lawn in summer?

If there are particularly dry and hot periods of weather we do recommend watering your lawn. Best time to water is in the morning or evening - avoid the middle of the day! And if you do decide to water your lawn in summer, it is better to give the grass a good, deep soaking once a week, rather than a light watering every day that doesn't really penetrate the soil beneath.

  • How do I get weeds and moss out of my lawn?

Getting a golf course quality lawn takes time and dedication. If you don't like having dandelions, moss or other weeds growing on the lawn you need to be ready for some hard work and attention.

Follow these tips to keep your lawn looking it's best:

A) Weeds like to find bare, open spaces of lawn to colonise. So cut the opportunity for them taking over by crowding them out. Tackle any bare patches of lawn by re-seeding or turfing. In areas where there are weeds growing, remove the weeds from the root and then reseed or turf the affected area.

B) Fertiliser. Feeding your grass is important. We recommend using slow-release fertiliser in autumn and winter, and then a high nitrogen fertiliser in the spring. A good all round product for keeping your lawn in tip top shape is Miracle-Gro Complete Evergreen 4 in 1 - this feeds the lawn and helps to get rid of weeds and moss in an easy to apply granular form and can be applied twice a year.

C) Consider using lawn friendly herbicide if you don't fancy digging out weeds by hand. There are many on the market. Weedol is a product we can recommend, it kills a variety of common lawn loving weeds without harming the grass.

D) Put your lawnmower at a higher setting. If you cut your grass too short you risk your lawn weakening, which means weeds can more easily become the dominant plant instead of grass. The longer you let your grass grow, the better quality of lawn you will have.

E) Consider scarifying and de-thatching the lawn. This process uses either a hand rake or mechanical machine to comb through the grass at ground level, removing thatch, moss and other debris from your lawn. This will improve the amounts of water, fertiliser and oxygen that your grass needs to look its best.

  • I have lumps and bumps and an uneven lawn - what can I do?

You can even out bumps or low points in your lawn by cutting open that section of turf with a criss-cross incision using a spade. Then, simply remove the obstruction (e.g rocks or stones) and if necessary add in some topsoil to fill the gap beneath. Then replace the flaps of turf.

If the problem is more widespread and the lawn needs a complete re-levelling, you can do this by applying topsoil and sand in large quantities and raking it through with a soil rake.

Feel free to contact us if you would like any advice on this. .


  • What is the difference between an annual and a perennial plant?

Plants are grouped by the type of lifecycle they have. It's as simple as that.

A perennial plant flowers once a year - the stem dies back but the roots don't. A biennial plant has a two year cycle. In the first year they grow stems, roots and leaves. In the second year they flower, produce seed and then die.

An annual plant germinates, flowers, sets seed and then dies all in one year - perfect for borders, hanging baskets or filling gaps in the garden on a short term basis.

Then there are shrubs - which can be evergreen or deciduous - these are the plants with permanent woody stems!

  • What should I do when my Daffodils, Tulips or Bluebells have faded?

Whether you plan to dig up these bulbs for storage or, like most of us, prefer to just leave them in the ground, do not cut away the green foliage. You can cut off spent flowers but let the leaves die back naturally - this ensures that the plant puts energy back into its bulb for storage and for use the following year.

  • Should I feed my plants?

The short answer is 'yes'. Particularly those grown in containers or hanging baskets - the compost alone will rarely provide all the nutrients your plants required to keep them strong and healthy for the entire growing season. Always feed your plants when the soil is damp. If you put fertiliser on dry soil you risk damaging your plants!

  • I have a shaded area of the garden - can you recommend some plants to grow there?

Most gardens have at least one shaded area and it can be tricky to know what to plant in them.

While plants like ferns can grow well in shade, too much green can make the area look dull, so combining green plants with those that have colour, shape or berries is a good idea.

Here are our top 10 plants for livening up those more gloomy parts of the garden.

1. Astilbe - False Goatsbeard.

2. Himalayan Blue Poppy.

3. Hardy Cyclamen - Coum.

4. Masterwort - Astrantia.

5. Hellebores.

6. Cranesbill Geraniums.

7. Arum Maculatum - Lords & Ladies.

8. Bleeding Heart - Lamprocapnos Spectabilis.

9. Foxglove - Digitalis Purpurea.

10. Snowdrops.

  • I have a tree that is in the wrong place in the garden - can I move it without killing it?

You can. But it very much depends on the size, age and health of the tree. If you have a very large tree you want moving it is best to get in touch with a professional and take advice, particularly if it is near a building or foundations.

Smaller, less established trees can be moved pretty easily if care is taken. It is important to water the tree well 2-3 days before digging up the tree. This will help to avoid root shock and make the tree easier to dig out. Never attempt to move a tree in late spring or summer as this will cause too much stress to the tree and may well kill it.

  • Can you recommend some plants that have a nice smell?

Sometimes we don't think enough about the scent of plants, but it really should be a consideration in any garden big or small.

Some of our favourite scented plants, shrubs and trees are as follows (check varieties before purchase as not all varieties of these plants will be scented):

1. Hyacinth.

2. Jasmine.

3. Magnolia.

4. Wisteria.

5. Honeysuckle.

6. Rose.

7. Lilac.

8. Witch Hazel.

9. Lily of the Valley.

10. Lavender.

11. Viburnum.

12. Sweet Peas.

13. Philadelphus

14. Daphne.

15. Choisya (Mexican Orange Blossom).


  • What vegetables can I grow in shaded areas?

All vegetable plants need some light, so completely shaded areas aren't advisable.

However, the following vegetables can be easily potted and placed in partially shaded areas:

• Carrots

• Cucumber

• Spinach

• Radishes

• Lettuce

• Beans

• Beetroot

• Peas

  • How do I know when my potato plants are ready to harvest?

The presence of flowers is a sign that potato plants are well on their way.

Depending on the variety, first early potatoes should be ready in June and July. Second earlies in July and August. And maincrops from late August through to October.

With earlies, you should wait until the flowers are fully open or even until the flowers drop. The tubers are ready to harvest when they’re the size of eggs, so have a rummage around in the soil to check.

With maincrops for storage, wait until the flowers have gone and the foliage turns yellow, then cut it down and remove it. Wait for 10 days before harvesting the potatoes, and then leave them to dry for a few hours before storing.

  • Do you have any tips for growing tomatoes?

Tomatoes are either bush varieties or cordon, indeterminate varieties (which are grown vertically upright).

Bush tomatoes are easier to grow than cordon and are advisable for kids or beginners. As long as you feed them with an organic fertilizer once a week after the flowers have set, as well as regular watering, just let the tomatoes do their thing. They may require some support to stop them falling forward or backward but you will be very unlucky not to get a bumper crop. You can even grow tumbling tomatoes in hanging baskets.

Cordon varieties are best grown up a long line of support - either a thin rope if in the greenhouse, or up bamboo canes if they are outside or in pots. You will get bigger, tastier tomatoes if you restrict the branches of fruit to an absolute maximum of 5 trusses of fruit. Once you have that many - snip out the growing tip so the plant can focus its energy on those trusses.

As the plant grows you will notice small side-shoots coming off the main stem - these should be cut out once they are big enough to snip. Feed once a week and cut away any big, low lying leaves to allow better air circulation and light on to the developing first 1-2 trusses of fruit.

And finally, remember to put your toms in the sunniest spot you have!

  • What are the best vegetables for kids to grow?

Getting kids to learn about food is a fantastic thing. But what are the best and easiest crops for little ones to try growing themselves?

Our recommendations are as follows and in no particular order!

A) Tomatoes - bush varieties that don't require staking.

B) Courgette. One of the easiest, most prolific of crops to grow.

C) Cucumbers - kids love eating cucumbers, so why not have them try growing their own?

D) Green beans and peas. Again, choose low growing or bush varieties that will be easier for young ones to work with.

E) Potatoes. Chit the potatoes (put them in egg boxes on the windowsill) for a few weeks in early spring and then plant them out in the garden or big containers once the threat of frost has passed. Kids LOVE unearthing the potatoes when they're ready - it's like searching for buried treasure.

F) Strawberries!

  • I don't have much space - what would you advise to grow in a small garden or patio?

Use containers! There are many fruits and vegetables that grow really well in pots and containers.

Our top recommendations for container grown plants would be:

1. Tomatoes - in pots or even trailing varieties in hanging baskets.

2. Potatoes - grow them in large pots or buckets for an easy to grow, thoroughly delicious homegrown crop of spuds.

3. Cucumbers. Pick outdoor varieties such as Marketmore for delicious 'cukes' you can enjoy all through the summer.

4. Strawberries. A firm, British favourite, there are many types of strawberries suitable for pots and containers. Just make sure you put them in a sunny spot.

5. Beetroot. A great crop to grow in containers - try the variety Bolthardy for a fail-safe choice.

6. Herbs and salad. Save yourself cash by growing salad and herbs at home. Perfect for growing in pots and for those summer salads to accompany the bbq!

7. Chillies. If you like spicy stuff then chili peppers are ideal for pot and container growing.

And be creative. As long as you have decent compost, plants will grow pretty much anywhere. We've even grown broad beans in Wellington boots and old metal watering cans!

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