Top gardening tips from our expert gardens manager
Updated 28 September: our gardens remain open while the castle is closed for the winter. Find out how we're keeping you safe on your visit.
As all professional gardeners and horticulturists know, the key to good growth of crops or garden plants is what you grow it in – from soil in your garden, to compost in a pot, or even just water. Your plants need water, air, nutrients and support to ensure optimum growth.
Add 15% of perlite – a volcanic material which helps maintain water – to your compost, or a water retaining jelly (not too much though) to make sure they’re getting enough to drink. For nutrients, 6 weeks after you’ve used your multi-purpose compost, introduce a liquid feed of a slow release fertilizer to make sure your plants are getting the nutrients they need to thrive!
Ever wondered why councils and parks departments only need to water their baskets a couple of times a week, when you have to do yours every day? The secret is a sump in the bottom of the basket, or trough that holds water.
You can make one too in you own basket. After you have inserted the liner, if you are using one, put an old saucer, ceramic or plastic, or even a plastic lid, at the bottom to retain water, reducing the rate of drainage whilst not drowning your plants too much by over-watering.
Practicing good hygiene is more important to us all now than ever – but it’s a vital technique for a gardener too. It will help you control pests and disease in your garden.
My top tip is to always wash pots before you reuse them, in a dilute disinfectant. The easiest way to do this is to fill a large bucket with your disinfectant solution and submerge all your pots in it for a day. You might need a brush to remove the most stubborn bits! Afterwards – leave them in the sun (if it appears!) to dry.
In spring and summer, when plants in pots and containers grow most rapidly, they will need lots of water are growing rapidly they need lots of water, especially if it’s windy! As a rule of thumb, if the clothes on your line are drying quickly, check your plants too – they might also be losing moisture rapidly! Use water from a rain butt if at all possible, but if you are using a hose, be gentle, and be careful not to simply wash compost away from the surface of your plant so water simply cannot penetrate. If you have a large number of pots, you can set up an irrigation system on a timer, but do make sure your plants aren’t being over watered. By watering regularly you prevent the plants from getting stressed which can affect their growth.
Claire Woods, Gardens Manager, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.