Gardening tips - recycle as much green waste as possible

The splendour of Brodsworth Hall gardens Photograph by Joan Russell

The splendour of Brodsworth Hall gardens Photograph by Joan Russell - Credit: Joan Russell

Prune with confidence and recycle as much green waste as possible urges Suzie Hanson, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall

When frost prevails and the ground is frozen solid don’t be too disheartened. This is the ideal opportunity to get some juicy muck on to your beds without getting completely covered in mud. You will be able to walk all over your beds and not damage the structure of the soil and all the shovelling and barrowing will help keep you warm.

Any organic matter will benefit the soil and its structure but check that the plants in your beds are getting all the nutrients they need. For example, a rhododendron will prefer acidic mulch – which can be bought but you can just as easily make your own by combining cuttings from conifer or pine needles with leaf mould and leaving it to compost thoroughly.

January is a good time of year to finish pruning in the garden or as I like to call it ‘slash and burn’. It is important when hard pruning any plants, especially mature trees (mainly evergreens) and shrubs, to be confident in what you are doing. It is unlikely that a plant with a well established root network will die as a result of anything you do in terms of pruning. So don’t be scared; go for it!

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense to hard prune an established shrub or tree. A root network that has had to support a large canopy or network of branches has much less work to do after pruning and so re-growth is usually more vigorous and impressive.

One thing you must watch out for when pruning variegated varieties is reversion. Reversion results in a section or sometimes an entire branch re-growing in just one of its colours, such as all yellow or all green, rather than a variegated mixture. This will take over the whole plant if left unchecked. It can usually be pruned out at source, so don’t worry about it too much. Occasionally reversion occurs where a previously non-variegated plant randomly sprouts a variegated stem. These can be cut off and grown on and in fact this is how many variegated cultivars originated.

If you are planning major pruning there are a few simple steps to take that will help the plant recover more quickly, producing neat, round calluses in the process. When cuts are needed close to the main trunk or any structural branches, make sure to take the weight out of the branch by removing the large end section. This will prevent ripping where the branch falls, tearing a strip down the main stem with it.

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Once you have a short stub take care not to cut into the branch collar when making your final cut. The branch collar contains the healing power to cover up the wound properly; if this is damaged the wound may remain open for much longer or even permanently, greatly increasing the risk of infection from a whole host of garden critters. This final cut should be made at an angle, pointing away from the main stem to help direct water away. The finished job may look a little harsh at first but you will be surprised how quickly the plant rejuvenates.

Here at Brodsworth we try our best to recycle as much green waste as possible and our compost contains a wide range of garden debris from leaves to evergreen clippings. We achieve temperatures as high as 65ºc in our heaps through regular turning, which is more than enough to kill off the pests and disease and sterilise any weed seeds that may have made their way in. I’m sure in your garden you have a corner where nothing grows. Build a compost bin and give it a go. It’s easier than you think and very satisfying.

Top tip

Collect liquid that dribbles from your compost heap. It is packed with nutrients and can be diluted to make compost tea (don’t drink it though, it’s for the plants).

Brodsworth hall is a beautiful Victorian house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature, lovingly restored to their original splendour. For more information contact Brodsworth Hall & Gardens, Brodsworth, Doncaster South Yorkshire DN5 7XJ

01302 722598

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