The Society meets in the Brabourne & Smeeth Village Hall on the last Friday of each month at 7.15 for 7.30 pm; the Village Hall is on the corner of Lees Road and Manor Pound Lane in Brabourne Lees and is a wheelchair friendly venue with ample parking.
At most meetings there is a guest speaker covering subjects such as vegetables, flowers, bees, plants, wild flowers, gardens, etc. – look out for our posters around the village. If you want to know more about what, when, where and how to grow fruit, veg, flowers, shrubs and trees and how to beat the rabbits, pigeons, foxes, slugs and snails why not come along to our group for tea, coffee and a chat with like-minded fellow gardeners in a friendly and sociable atmosphere? Everyone is welcome no matter how green their fingers!
The Society arranges occasional day trips to some of the best gardens in the South East – in recent years we have visited RHS Wisley, Beth Chatto, Great Comp, Hyde Hall, Downderry Lavender Nursery and Wakehurst to name but a few. The Society is affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society, giving us, amongst other benefits, access to personalised advice and concessions for entry to the gardens at Wisley.
Throughout the year we also hold seasonal shows, a very popular plant sale, the occasional quiz, a summer supper, wine and wander evenings and, of course, our renowned annual Christmas dinner.
The Gardener’s Society Chairman sends out a monthly newsletter, this months includes:
Another Zoom presentation at the end of February proved very successful and very well supported, with good, positive feedback. The next presentation [“Scottish Spring” by Andrew Lapworth] will be held on Friday 26 March – details to be circulated a few days before the event. Andrew is an expert wildlife photographer who lives locally and entertained us some three years ago with a stunning presentation of his work – don’t miss the next one.
It is still hoped that the Plant Sale and Summer and Autumn Shows will go ahead so that, in addition to “Things to do in March” [see below], please check your seeds and start preparing for these events…remember that even if you don’t sow outdoors, indoor plants can still be entered for the Sale and Shows AND there are also categories for hobby and cooking entries.
The committee is absolutely delighted to report that membership is now seventy three, a very encouraging number given the current circumstances.
Things to do in March
- Sow flower seeds now to fill pots, window boxes, borders or beds rather than having to buy plants later in the season
- Sow lettuces into small pots or modules for planting out in a few weeks’ time
- Keep newly germinated seedlings light and warm for a few days. If they’re on a windowsill turn the container regularly to stop them from leaning. Prick them out into fresh compost when they are big enough to handle and DON’T FORGET TO KEEP THE LABELS WITH THEM!
- Tackle overgrown climbers once buds have sprouted, cutting and pulling out dead shoots
Plant new climbers Now is a good time but make sure that trellises and supports are firmly in place for them
- Look out for slugs and snails as these creatures become more active in warm, damp spring weather and they just love fresh, young seedlings
- Areas of prepared bare soil? Very attractive to cats so you may find cat poo a bit of a problem; placing twigs and/or holly leaves over the soil is a pretty effective deterrent
- Divide large clumps of snowdrops to reduce overcrowding and spread them over a wider area. Best done when they have finished flowering but still in leaf [technical term coming up: ‘in the green’]
- Protect crops with cloches on frosty nights as nights can still be cold in March
- Weeding – start hoeing bare soil regularly from this month, to keep annual weeds under control
- Deadhead daffodils – pinch off flowers and seed capsules as they fade but leave stems to die back naturally with the foliage. Leaves and flowers stem both photosynthesise helping to feed the bulb for next year’s flowers
- Insulated your greenhouse for the winter? Then now is the time to remove the insulation as plants are starting to grow rapidly and need as much light as they can get. This also allows more heat from the sun [Ed: as I look at a very cloudy sky!] to penetrate and warm the structure overnight.
- Mulch bare soil – spread a layer of well-rotted organic matter ideally about 75mm [3”] thick around plants. This will help to improve soil, suppress weeds, insulate plant roots and conserve moisture particularly in summer
- Last chance – finish pruning fruit trees and bushes before leaf or flower buds burst open
Still digging? Then read on
Rather than digging the soil to remove weeds, the no-dig process involves applying organic matter [e.g., garden compost or well-rotted manure] to the soil surface, emulating the natural processes of decomposition, as plants die back, and leaves fall. Instead of being dug in, no-digging allows plants, fungi and soil organisms to break down and incorporate the organic matter into the soil.
In this way the soil structure is not disrupted by being dug over, worms and other organisms are not disturbed, and the soil’s ecosystem remains intact.
Trials have shown that no-dig beds can produce bigger veg harvests than those that are dug over. This doesn’t always apply as, for example, potatoes grown in soils that have been dug often give a better harvest
Taking up the no-dig gardening method means you’ll spend less time digging, weeding and watering – perfect for busy growers
No-dig doesn’t eradicate weeds altogether but digging can inadvertently bring weed seeds and roots to the surface where they can germinate and grow. By not digging, you leave these undisturbed. Applying a layer of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or garden compost, to the soil surface also acts as a weed-suppressing mulch
Good for your body
Gardening is great exercise, but the intensity of digging over a bed can be too much exertion if you’re not physically fit – particularly when the ground is still cold and wet. With no-dig, the heaviest job is making your compost and spreading it over the soil – after that, only gentle maintenance is required
Better drainage and less watering
Digging, particularly on heavy soils, can sometimes lead to compaction, meaning that water cannot permeate through and instead sits in puddles or runs onto other areas of the garden. A no-dig approach can help to improve drainage, whilst mulching helps to retain moisture
In winter and early spring, the temperature of undug soil is higher than soil that has been dug over so not only can you start planting and sowing earlier, because you haven’t spent so much time digging, the soil also warms up earlier too. Harvesting earlier can also help to avoid problems such as blight and to give you time to grow a second crop in the same space, once the ground is cleared.
Help the environment
We can all do our bit to limit climate change by ensuring carbon stays in the soil; digging causes carbon that is stored in the soil to oxidise and be released as carbon dioxide. By not digging, this carbon stays in the soil
By not digging, you preserve the organisms that live in the soil. These include mycorrhizal fungi, which team up with the roots of your plants and help them to access nutrients and moisture. Most soil life is found fairly close to the surface, where it’s readily accessible to new roots, but if you dig, you risk plunging those organisms deep into the soil, out of reach of your plants. Garden compost helps to feed these organisms and keep them plentiful, and by applying it as a mulch you’re mimicking natural processes, The result is that newly planted seedlings settle more quickly into undug soil and grow into strong, healthy plants.