free advice for the great outdoors – if its not here – tell me

Brown & Black Leaves ?

In north Dublin last week I recorded temperatures just over -8 celcius and although the wind chill factor was something a lot greater than that, with the recent weather and the subsequent thaw….what one can see now is [maybe] mildly uncertain regarding what plants have survived the minus temperatures due to the fact that a lot are at present leafless and dormant.

A plants cells are made up essentially of water and in extreme conditions that water in the plant cells expands resulting in the cells bursting. The bit that’s important to you, the plant owner, is that once the plant cell has burst it is dead – and – put very simply beyond resurrection.

The question is how far or how much of the plant is actually dead, if it has just burnt some of the leaves or it has actually made it’s way into the ‘heart’ of the plant. For this there’s really no one definitive answer, but [for example] for my own bay laurel hedge [above] I’ll simply cut out the brown and work my way down the stems until I can only see green. It may well look a bit sparse and patchy after, but it’ll come back for next season. Smaller and younger plants may not have been so fortunate.

My advice is to get out into the garden and have a good rustle through the aftermath and give each plant a good close up inspection. In fear of a frost return you may consider mulching around the base of your plants which will aid them that little bit better – and – they will thank you for it come the new year.

Unsure if one of your plants has survived [?] you can contact me in the following ways…

See the image above…. this is [image below] the exact same hedge plant just 7 days ago.

Geotropism

The directional growth of an organism in response to gravity. Roots display positive geotropism when they grow downwards, while shoots display negative geotropism when they grow upwards. Also called gravitropism

source: The American Heritage® Science Dictionary 2002

It is also defined as:

the response of a plant part to the stimulus of gravity. Plant stems, which grow upwards irrespective of the position in which they are placed, show negative geotropism

source: Collins English Dictionary 2009

So why is the gardener throwing fancy nouns all over the landscaping blog…?

In very simple horticulture and specifically it’s relevance to you – here’s my breakdown of the above definition, for you….

if one should plant a bulb upside down – the roots will always grow south or upwards and the stem will always grow north or downwards. Fact.

In really simple terms, there is no incorrect way to plant a bulb or seed.

So why then do I see this on so many gardening blogs and websites…?

Plant the cloves the right way up! – like any other bulb, if it’s planted incorrectly they will never see the light of day – literally. The base of each clove should be pointing downwards while its peak should face the sun. Fairly obvious, one would assume, but the number of people who ask the question illustrates the need to make the point.

The video below is really terrible… but scroll, to about 30 seconds on the timeline and watch it until the end. It explains it extremely well.

The same theoretically applies to any plant, tree or shrub. This definition should not be confused with phototropism which is a plants stimulus or response to light.

A little further explanation…?

Plants can sense the Earth’s gravitational field. Geotropism is the term applied to the consequent orientation response of growing plant parts. Roots are positively geotropic, that is, they will bend and grow downwards, towards the center of the Earth. In contrast, shoots are negatively geotropic, that is, they will bend and grow upwards, or away, from the surface.

These geotropisms can be demonstrated easily with seedlings grown entirely in darkness. A seedling with its radicle (or seedling root) and shoot already in the expected orientation can be turned upside down, or placed on its side, while kept in darkness. The root will subsequently bend and grow downwards, and the shoot upwards. Because the plant is still in darkness, phototropism (a growth movement in response to light) can be eliminated as an explanation for these movements.

Several theories about the manner by which plants perceive gravity have been advanced, but none of them is entirely satisfactory. To account for the positive geotropism of roots, some researchers have proposed that under the influence of gravity, starch grains within the cells of the root fall towards the “bottom” of the cell. There they provide signals to the cell membrane, which are translated into growth responses. However, there have been many objections to this idea. It is likely that starch grains are in constant motion in the cytoplasm of living root cells, and only “sink” during the process of fixation of cells for microscopic examination. Roots can still be positively geotropic and lack starch grains in the appropriate cells.

A more promising hypothesis concerns the transport of auxin, a class of plant-growth regulating hormones. Experiments since 1929 have shown that auxin accumulates on the “down” side of both shoots and roots placed in a horizontal position in darkness. This gradient of auxin was believed to promote bending on that side in shoots, and to do the opposite in roots. Confirmation of the auxin gradient hypothesis came in the 1970s. When seeds are germinated in darkness in the presence of morphactin (an antagonist of the hormonal action of auxin), the resulting seedlings are disoriented—both the root and shoot grow in random directions. Auxin gradients are known to affect the expansion of plant cell walls, so these observations all support the idea that the transport of auxin mediates the bending effect that is an essential part of the directional response of growing plants to gravity.

landscaping dublin, gleditsia

Webber Moth

This is an odd one. A message came in follwed by an email with three photographs [the first 3 – see below – the rest followed shortly after] of what I was told was the tent caterpillar. Which is correct-ish. But not, because the the [eastern] tent caterpillar moth Malacosoma americanum is from [eastern] North America.

That said we weren’t far off the mark. What we have [because I know Donal Conaty lives in Ireland – because his phone number starts with 087 😀 ], is the webber moth. This comes from varying caterpillars one of which is the Malacosoma neustria. Not that far apart 😯 In short what we have are two Donegans – one is simply my long lost brother. Does that make sense….? [the webber moths also include the euproctis chrysorrhoea/ dichomeris marginella/ Yponomeuta sp.]

So these moths [the caterpillars or ugly butterflies of that is…] can affect any tree or shrub, although they have a particular likening for fruit trees, willow, cotoneaster and crataegus to name a few. What they do is very simple to see from Donals images, they cover the entire area of planting with a web.

The problem for any plant affected by a caterpillar is that the leaves are eaten… Loss in leaf means a reduction in photosynthesis and therefore a loss in production or – more important for any plant is it chances of reproduction. In fruit trees in particular and moreso of importance to me and you – it simply means less fruit. And of course it looks ghastly.

The control is quite simple. Remove the web. Remove the caterpillar. Some say careful pruning but I have seen infestations – like a scene from Wuthering Heights – in my time and a garden rake would be more appropriate in some scenes, to start with. My theory for ‘problems’ such as white fly and caterpillars is always wishy washy liquid and a sponge and in this case by hand first. I may go select pruning if its necessary afterwards. In Donals case I know there are over 100 trees affected and spraying with a pyrethrum based biological control may be the choice.

If you are asking for a name of a product – I haven’t a clue what trade names garden centres have them marketed under and they change regularly enough – just bring them this post and tell them I said call me if they [he says jokingly] need any more information 😉

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Water Conservation

Today I discovered some of plant collection had been, put simply, close on fried. It’s rare for me to complain about the weather…. but here’s my situation.

For gardens that are new, or newly planted [Hi Julie and Terry 😉 ],for best results and knowing that the hose must be used…. try water at night time. It ensures the plant isn’t competing with the sun for water intake and therefore gets the maximum return from the watering and your time in doing so. Also one may find the water, combined with the days sun can act like a magnifying glass of sorts and cook the leaves slightly.

When these water charges do come in – the county councils will most likely up the price of those water butts too. My advice get one what you can sooner.

If however it is newly selected areas of planting, you may find that the water butts are an option to be considered.

As always you can rss the podcasts via iTunes or direct via audioboo or you subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here.

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May In The Garden

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I’m slightly delayed on getting this one out…. but, I’m sure you possibly lazed up the sunshine last weekend and now you want to get the garden grooving.

Since my April In The Garden Post, plant life has gone mental. Thank God. Temperatures are well up… in fact I think I got sunburnt yesterday. The grass was cut twice in the last two weeks and thats only the fourth cut this year. Makes a change considering the amount of gardens I’m working in where plants have literally got blasted by the frost and low temperatures and are now being repalced….

So what will I be doing in my garden this month….

My lettuce is being used and thrown in with some sorrell… My spinach [image 1] is just about ready for cropping. I won’t be cutting an entire head of it… more just selecting a few leaves as required. The turnips on the other hand is a totally different story but you can see from the image above [image 2] that the first seed leaves [now purple] are ready to drop off and the plant is going to get ready to produce me something nice to cook. I grew mine in the old wheelbarrow.

In the garden everything is bumper. The daffodils have gone out of flower and are heading towards die back… I’ll give it another week or two before I run the lawnmower over them. I’m also on the last dregs of the tulips in my garden [image 2] but they were amazing while they lasted. In their place I have the Prunus amanagowa  cherry tree [image 3]  and also my edible cherries [image 1] and they are blooming. Not much to do there except wait for the fruit.But with them come the apple trees and that’s definitely one fruit I am looking forward to.

In other herb news the bay [image 1] is in flower, the fennell despite all the frosts are back with new shoots and the rosemary is also producing some nice blooms. You couldn’t really ask for more. Assuming you followed my bits of advice over the last few months you should be good. But do make sure and give them a cut back if required… grabbing a clump for the cooking usually helps this along.

My chives are something I may divide up, but for the moment they are getting a regular haircut. I’ve not had much luck growing them from seed… but I’m going to put that down to the slugs 🙄 The starwberrries on the other hand are growing well but are a while off producing fruit. That said it may be a bumper crop for my rhubarb this month. Pie anyone ?

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The biggest problem with this rain and warm temperatures though is the weeds. They are still plants, they just don’t know that we don’t like them 😉 In controlling them, I like to strike a balance between the back break and so I weed by hand in between my food crops and tend to spray in between my shrubs and trees. I think thats fair.

I’m going to continue sowing random bits of veg and herbs as the mood takes me – but I need to be careful I don’t end up farming with the amounts that I am growing. That said my neighbours seem to like me that little bit more and I have literally tons of window boxes and planters to get ready this weekend. I am going to be so busy.

Outside I just need to keep things watered… every evening this week I’ve been soaking my seed trays but then it has been raining while I’ve been sleeping [?] and I have an endless supply with my two water butts by my side.

Did I miss out on anything…. ? Leave a comment and let me know. Other than that happy gardening. 😀