Page 20 - HGS Suburb News 147 - September2021
P. 20



                                question: What do you want from  • Observe the directions of the  soil that has not been improved is  mould (preferably home-made*,
                                your garden? Now, I don’t want to  sun throughout the day for sunny  a fool’s errand. What do I mean by  but we’ll come to that) is ideal
        It’s all                rain on your parade, but if you want  and shady aspects.  improved? Mulch Mulch Mulch!  • Apply grit or gravel to any of
                                flowers that bloom throughout all
                                                                                                               your containers
                                                                                     What is mulch? It’s a protective
                                                           • Is it exposed on the brow of a
                                                                                     layer of organic matter, which acts
                                                                                                               • Shingle or slate lend themselves
                                four seasons, attractive evergreen
                                                           hill or sheltered by neighboring
                                shrubs and innovative planting  buildings or trees?  as a blanket, keeps weeds down,  to formal dry gardens
        in the                  schemes, with as little maintenance  • Are you on a slope?  returns nutrients to a depleted  principle of gardening: Know Thy
                                                                                                                  Having implemented the first
                                                           • Are you in a frost pocket?
                                                                                     soil, feeds worms who pull it down
                                as possible, then Buy Plastic or
                                                           • Do you have areas that are
                                hire a gardener! Seriously, one has
                                                                                     into the soil below, which in turn
                                                                                                               Soil, then, and only then, should
                                to manage one’s expectations. If  waterlogged or thick with tree roots?  opens up its structure, breaks  you start to think about planting.
        soil                    you are realistic from the outset,  type of soil do you have? The very  down clumps, improves drainage,  In future editions I’m going to
                                                             And most important of all, what
                                                                                                               guide you through the seasons,
                                then you can create a landscape
                                                                                     builds up soil levels depleted by
                                                           first lesson of my RHS General
                                                                                                               concentrating on developing
                                that suits your lifestyle, tastes and
                                                                                     natural erosion. This autumn, call
                                resources without it becoming a  Certificate course was about soil.  it Year One, apply a 10cm layer to  successful planting schemes for
                                millstone around your neck.  And just to get my point across,  damp soil, then annually, ideally  conditions most common to
                                    Consider what you want your  here are some words of wisdom:  in autumn after leaf drop. Wherever  Suburb gardens, from very dry
                                garden to provide: Do you need a  “Essentially, all life depends upon the  possible, incorporate a compost  shade, moist boggy conditions, to
                                lawn for children to play on and  soil.” Dr Charles E Kellogg, Soil  heap or bins into your scheme, as  exposed sunny sites.
                                someone to mow? Do you want to  Scientist and Chief of the USDA’s  this will provide the perfect home-
                                grow your own fruit and veg? Do  Bureau for Chemistry and Soils.  made mulch and soil improver.  *And here is your autumn homework:
                                you long for a quiet haven to sit  “To be a successful farmer one must  However, in addition, there are  If you don’t have a compost heap,
                                and relax in, surrounded by the  first know the nature of the soil.”  various different media, which  gather up fallen leaves into black plastic
                                sound of birds singing and bees  Xenophon, Ancient Greek  mimic natural conditions:  bags, tie off the tops, puncture bag with
                                buzzing? Could it be a formal  philosopher and historian,  • For alkaline heavy clay, apply  holes, set aside in a shady corner for
                                outdoor room for entertaining?  student of Socrates, circa 430 -  well-rotted manure.  about a year and hopefully next
                                Need inspiration? Then you can  354 BC. (NB: That applies to  • Acid soil prefers bark chippings  autumn you will have lovely home-
                                research the internet, TV and  gardeners too.)       • In woodland conditions, leaf  made leaf mold to mulch your borders.
                                horticultural publications, check  “The nation that destroys its soil,
                                out your neighbours’ plots, join  destroys itself.” Franklin Delano
                                your local Horticultural Society.  Roosevelt, 32nd President of The
      CAROLINE BROOME           (I would say that, wouldn’t I, I’m  United States of America.
                                Chair and my husband David is  Testing the soil for its pH
           reating a garden, whether  Membership Secretary!)  value is not rocket science. You
           you’re starting from scratch  One thing I have learned  can buy soil testing kits from your
      Cor developing an existing  over the years, is that there is no  local nursery or garden centre.
      one, can be a daunting task. A  such thing as an ideal situation  Whether it’s acid, neutral or
      blank canvas can overwhelm;  for a garden. When it comes to  alkaline will determine what you
      where to start?           planting, you adapt to your  can plant. There are clues:
         But then a mature, sometimes  garden, not the other way round.  Rhododendrons, azaleas and
      overgrown or neglected plot, can  If you are taking on an established  camellias thrive in acid soils,
      seem insurmountable.      garden, ideally you should  whilst roses, clematis, viburnums
         So, over the coming year, I’m  experience the garden through all  and philadelphus require alkaline
      going to help you navigate your way  four seasons before making  soils. Just to confuse, neutral
      towards year-round, manageable  changes. But let’s face it, how  (lucky you!) is a mixture, and
      planting schemes, season by  many of us want to wait that long!  judging by the number of
      season. But first and foremost,  Establishing some fundamentals  viburnums and camellias growing
      ask yourself a very fundamental  from the get-go is key:  happily side by side in the
                                                           Suburb, I would hazard a guess
                                                           that several areas of NW11 and
      Looking forward to                                   N2 fall into that category.
                                                             There are lots of different types
                                                           of soil structures: chalky, sandy,
      getting together again                               stony, but I’m going to concentrate
                                                           on London Clay, typical of Suburb
                                                           gardens. Typically, heavy clay soil
      MARJORIE HARRIS                                      is rock hard when dry and cracks
                                                           in the summer but can become
             ith fingers crossed that virtual events are a thing of the past,  waterlogged in winter, feels sticky
             Horticultural Society events for the rest of the year, both live  when wet, often forming a mossy
      W and via Zoom, can be found at, or from  surface ‘cap’.
      the membership secretary, David Broome (020 8444 2329). From  It’s not hard to realise that
      September we plan monthly Zoom talks on various topics, except on  planting straight into heavy clay             Photos: Caroline Broome
      14 October, when Philip Colman will be at Fellowship House at 7.30pm
      to talk about his much-loved family firm, Finchley Nurseries (members
      free, non-members £2 at the door).
         Towards the end of the year, we hope to hold a party to celebrate
      the fact that, at last, members can get together again to swap stories
      of how their gardens are growing, or just talk face to face.
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