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The winter patio

The winter patio or balcony, need not look bare and unloved. Evergreen shrubs and conifers give shape and clothing; there can even be splashes of colour from purple winter pansies, red holly berries and white Helleborus niger. Keeping the area swept, and trimming off any dead flower heads or shrivelled leaves, will ensure it never looks neglected. In mild regions, it is not usually necessary to protect terracotta pots against frost, unless they are particularly valuable antiques or, non-frostproof imports from the Mediterranean. However, in many areas it would be prudent to gather the pots together in the shelter of a porch, or as near to the house wall as possible. If it is not possible to bring large pots indoors, wrap them in plastic bubble-wrap or hessian. Avoid watering unless it is absolutely necessary - it is usually, the freezing of wet compost which causes the pots to crack.
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Garden in the month of November

This month conjures up pictures of fallen leaves and bonfires as the traditional calendar of activities go on. This is certainly the time for sweeping, tidying and protecting plants in preparation for the winter. When the weather brings more than its fair share of cold, rainy, days, it is some consolation to think about the flowers you will be enjoying in the summer. Lilies, which can be planted now, provide a legitimate excuse for dreaming ahead to next year's sunshine. If local garden centres and stores do not stock a good range of species, use one of the specialist nurseries of which there are many.
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October

This is a month of changing skies and misty mornings - a sure sign that summer has made its final exit. Autumn is now in full swing and we can expect frosts before the end of the month in many areas. Although the days are undeniably shorter, this is a productive time of the year and there is no need to turn our backs on our outdoor space just yet.
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The garden, as we move through September

Plant growth is starting to slow down now, and garden plants do not need so much sustenance, so feeding can be reduced. Towards the end of the month frost can become a danger in some areas, and houseplants and tender plants spending summer outdoors should be brought under cover. This releases space on the balcony or patio for a whole new range of planting, including bulbs, evergreens, conifers and winter perennials.
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The garden, as the Autumn Equinox approaches

As the calendar moves on into the first month of autumn, wave of planning and planting can begin. This is also the harvest season: the time to gather in your produce, such as French and runner beans, tomatoes and apples. Don't be too keen to dismantle your annual flower displays, in planters, window boxes, and hanging baskets - continue to water and dead head them to prolong their life until the end of September.
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Gardening in the languorous days of summer

In most regions it is a little early for planting spring bulbs, but it is a good time to propagate your favourite shrubs from cuttings. If you don't have the space or the inclination for propagation, you will just have to mark time until the next season of shrubs starts in garden centres in early autumn. In the meantime , be content with the current, late summer show. The theme of powdery blues and mauves seem to suit the languorous, tail end of summer; lavenders salvias, heathers and hebes are all flowering generously.
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Gardens in July

It might be hard to contemplate next year's show when this year is only halfway through, but the bulb catalogues get more colourful and enticing every year and make good holiday reading. Other than the regular rituals of watering and feeding , the only plants that might need attention at this time are tomatoes, which are putting on growth at an alarming rate. Tie the stems in to bamboo canes and pinch out the top growth to keep them within their allotted space.
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July in the Garden

The height of summer is the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the good weather which, with luck, will last through the rest of the month. As long as the plants get a regular soaking, the garden should be looking at its best. The cool foliage of the hostas and ferns make a perfect back drop for the hot splashes of colours provided by day lilies, and the true lilies that are just beginning to show.
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Troublesome summer pests

Pests can be troublesome at any time of the year, but in early summer it seems that the enntire greenfly population has descended on my garden. Personally I prefer not to use chemicals in the garden. I work on the principle that prevention is better than cure. Unhealthy plants which are struggling for survival in poor soil always seem to suffer. So it follows that healthy plants should be able to withstand most pest attacks.
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Taking fuchsia cuttings

Half Hardy hybrid fuchsias are popular planter plants. Fuchsias are either upright bushes suitable for individual planters and for training as standards, or trailers to be grown in hanging baskets and window boxes. Taking fuchsia cuttings in late spring will produce flowers by summer. Choose shoots with three or four pairs of leaves and trim off just above the lowest pair. Then dip the ends in hormone rooting powder, and then insert four or five cuttings around the edge of a 7,5 cm pot. Cover with a plastic bag and place on a warm windowsill.
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As spring drifts into summer

As spring drifts into summer and the threat of night frosts recedes, gardening can begin in earnest. The garden centres and nurseries are packed to capacity with bedding plants a rather unflattering name for annuals and lender perennials which are not hardy enough to have been planted out before now. Don't be put off the name: bedding plants are the most economic ,way, to large numbers of planters hanging baskets and window boxes. They are also one of the few plants that you can safely buy from market stalls and roadside sellers, who will be considerably cheaper than the garden centres.
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One of the most pleasurable activities for the gardener in spring

One of the most pleasurable activities for the gardener in spring, is visiting the nurseries and garden centres to build up plant collections. These can turn out to be very expensive outings unless you brace yourself to resist the temptations of large, mature shrubs and luxuriant climbers in full flower. Better to build the collection gradually - the carousel may not look as enticing, but annual flowers, herbs, tomatoes and courgettes sown this month will give you guaranteed return later in the year.
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Shrub propagation by layering

Well! March is drawing to a close, and it is still pretty cold where we are. Now, though, is a good time to increase the numbers of some of your garden shrubs. This can be done by a method known as layering. This doesn't need any special equipment. In fact, many shrubs, like hydrangea, the mock orange, and forsythias will do this themselves forming roots on any shoots that are touching the ground.
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As the year hurries to a close

As the year hurries to a close, winter descends, sometimes with alarming speed. Frosts are a definite possibility in many areas, yet in milder regions, autumn can linger for a surprisingly long time. The tasks undertaken outside will to some degree be dictated by the weather, but as long as frost protection is in place, gardeners can enjoy the seasonal festivities without too much concern for their garden plants. Traditionally, this is the time for planting bare rooted roses, shrubs and fruit trees. Although more and more nurseries and garden centres are selling container grown plants(which can be planted at any time of the year), some plants are only available bare-rooted and must be planted while they are dormant.
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Harvest time

For many gardeners, this month is harvest time, and there are apples and pears to be collected and stored safely away, in your apple or vegetable racks. The old technique of cradling the fruit in the palm of your hand and gently twisting, so that the fruit breaks away with the stalk intact, is still the best way of picking the crop without damage.
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As September draws to a close.

Well, this is the time of year that the garden centres and catalogues are trying hard to lure the pennies from the pockets of us gardeners. It can seem as if you are not getting much for your money. After all, a deciduous shrub, devoid of flowers, and starting to shed its leaves, is hardly the most inviting of prospects. Similarly, it takes a great leap of faith to dive into those garden centre bran tubs piled high with brown, flaky bulbs. In this case, however, appearances are definitely deceptive, because with planning it is possible to have bulbs appearing throughout winter and spring.
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A garden compost Bin for September

This is the month to buy or make a compost bin for all the autumn debris. It is essential to add plenty of organic matter to the soil to maintain it in good heart. Growing plants intensively, as we tend to do in small gardens, means that a lot of goodness is taken out of the earth in a relatively small area. It is therefore essential to put something back in order to get the best out of your garden. Remember to use a good mix of different materials, exclude woody and diseased material, to make the best compost.
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Holiday Watering

Leaving a garden at the hottest time of the year can be a problem, and planter plants are more at risk from drying out than those growing in the ground. If planters cannot be watered and the garden has to remain untended for more than a few days, take as many precautions as possible to guard against water loss. Immediately before you go, water plants thoroughly. Move the most vulnerable plants into the shade, and add a layer of mulch mix or stone chippings. If possible plunge small pots into larger containers of damp compost.
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August in the garden

All the world seems to be winding down this month - and that includes the gardener. Lazy summer days should be savoured to the full, this period of inactivity is all too short. The one task that cannot be neglected is the watering to prevent your garden plants, garden planters, window boxes, and hanging baskets from drying out. Keep up the daily watering routine and snip off flower heads as they fade. A fortnightly feed will keep most annuals and bedding plants going right into the Autumn.
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Summer scents.

The scent of Jasminum officinale is taking over from the honeysuckle which is now fading fast. Mophead and lacecap hydrangeas have now reached their prime and are almost perfect. They are ideal for planters, with long lasting flowers and mottled foliage. If you have Hydrangeas in planters it is advisable to move them around to keep them from the fierce midday sun - they will keep their fresh looks far better in dappled shade. The gardener could be forgiven for taking it easy this month, but those who like to exercise their creativity will, already, be thinking ahead to their autumn plantings.
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Harvesting in the June Garden

Continue to harvest all crops as they mature. Early peas will be ready to pick now. Cut down the top growth of the plants after harvesting, but leave the roots of the peas in the soil, as they will return valuable nitrogen to it. Nodules on the roots of peas and beans are able to fix and store atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. Follow peas with leafy crops which require a higher nitrogen content in the soil. This is one way, by practising good crop rotation, of reducing the amount of fertiliser we need to put into the ground.
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The Garden in the month of June

Roses take the centre stage this month, even though their starring role is all too short. Snipping the heads off the moment they fade will keep the show going as long as possible. There are well plenty of other flowers that work just as hard, even if they don't have the same glamour. The climbing passion flower, planted against a sunny wall, reveals exotic blooms, one or two at a time- as if it is wary of smothering itself with colour. What the passion flower lacks in daring and scent is more than compensated for by the queen of early summer climbers, the honeysuckle, which fills the summer patio with its perfume and the buzz of insects.
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A couple of shrubs worth a special mention this month

A couple of shrubs worth a special mention this month are the Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata) has all the qualifications of a near-perfect patio shrub. The species grows to a height of 2 metres although commercially produced hybrids like 'Aztec Pearl' remain a compact 1 metre. The foliage is evergreen, glossy and aromatic when crushed between the fingers. They flower this month and again in late summer are sweetly scented. It is an all-round, easy to care for plant. A close runner-up would be Weigela florida 'variegated' with its arching branches, cream-edged leaves and pale pink flowers. It is deciduous, so never looks its best in winter, but the late spring flowers which last into late summer are irresistible.
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The Garden in April

Trips to the garden centre can be very enlightening, even if you buy nothing at all. Magnolias are in full bloom, with their goblet shaped, rose pink or white flowers. Take note of any varieties of Camellia that are in bloom. Some have been flowering since late winter and deserve a place on any patio or balcony. A range of interesting bulbs can be planted this month for flowering in the summer. Agapanthus and galtonia are tall lilies that when grown in large planters make a striking feature. Galtonia is a tall impressive plant that looks like a giant white bluebell and has subtle perfume. Agapanthus, sometimes called the African lily is also a bold plant with vibrant blue flowers.
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The April Garden

The weather may still be unpredictable, but this is not the time for a slow-down in garden activity. In fact, this is one of the busiest periods in the gardener's calendar, with a range of jobs begging to be done - not least dealing with the surprising number of weed seedlings that find their way into the top layers of your garden beds.
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