can I prevent cats from damaging my garden?
Cats can cause general damage to the garden and are a particular nuisance
when they use it as a toilet.
The Animals Act of 1971 states that owners are obliged to keep their
pets under control. However, it excludes cats which are treated as wild.
Scaring away or removing the cat is allowed, but you may not cause it
Here are a few suggestions for deterring them from your garden:
coleus canina ‘Scaredy Cat’. Cats do not
like the smell of this plant and so avoid it.
• Try an ultrasonic cat scarer. These are portable and
run off batteries and so can be placed wherever necessary.
The unit is triggered when the cat walks in front of
the PIR detector and emits a high frequency noise. Because
cats have highly sensitive hearing they will run away.
Keep a water pistol to hand and squirt the cat when you
see it. It will soon deter them from your garden.
Placing mirrors on the ground where the cat enters
the garden will scare them. Also try filling bottles
water and place where the cats enter the garden. Cats
will see their enlarged reflection and think they are
in a larger cat’s territory.
Hang moth balls where the cat is entering the garden
as they do not like the smell. They will need replacing
from time to time as the smell fades. However, you may
find that hedgehogs are also put off by the smell of
the moth balls.
Mixing orange or lemon peel with water and watering a
post may deter the cat, or try sprinkling some dry ground
chilli peppers over the area you wish to keep cats off.
gardening & the pond:
can I stop my pond from freezing over?
We recommend that you never smash the ice as the shock waves can kill
the fish. Instead install a heater before the Winter, which must be installed
by a trained electrician as required by law. Switch the heater on when
a frost is expected, to melt a hole in the ice. Alternatively stand a
pan of hot water on the surface to melt a hole.
Expanding ice can damage a pond by putting excessive amounts of pressure
on the walls of the pond. At Haskins we recommend a float made from polystyrene
or an inflatable ball, which will absorbs some of this pressure. After
removing the float it is possible to siphon out some of the water to
create an air pocket below the ice.
It is important that the pond does not freeze over completely as it traps
gases such as methane and hydrogen sulphide that result from the decomposition
of decaying plant material and are poisonous to fish if levels build
can I prevent heron from stealing my pond fish?
A heron can clear a pond of fish very
quickly. Herons are protected and so it is against
the law to harm them.
Watch out there’s
a thief about!
||Here are some suggestions for preventing the theft:
• Cover the pond with netting, or install
a steel grate over the top if small children may go near the pond.
• Place a decoy heron in or around the pond. Herons are territorial and will be
discouraged from landing if they see a bird already feeding._Move the decoy regularly,
herons will realise that it is a decoy if it doesn't move!
• A fishing line supported 18" above the surface of the pond will discourage
herons from feeding as they land and walk into the water - they do not like anything
touching their legs.
can I prevent algae growth in my pond?
New or recently cleaned
ponds can suffer problems with algae. Providing
some shade can help reduce this problem. Ironically
a covering of Lemna (duckweed) can provide sufficient
shade to help suppress the algae until cultivated
aquatic plants establish sufficiently to suppress
the duckweed’s proliferation.
Other helpful measures include
filling the pond with rain water rather than tap
water, avoiding getting soil or multipurpose compost
in the pond (as these contain fertilisers that
encourage algal growth), and taking care to remove
plant debris from the water promptly. Always use
specialist aquatic compost for planting up pond
Q. What does
A Herbaceous plant has leaves and stems that die down at the end
of the growing season to soil level are known as herbaceous. A herbaceous
plant can be biennial or perennial.
does ericaceous mean?
Ericaceous plants are
usually heathers such as pieris, rhododendron,
camellia and vaccinium, which all like acid soil.
These plants are also known as lime-hating or calcifuge
Ericaceous plants are best grown
in peaty lime free soils as Lime or chalk in the
soil will often turn the leaves yellow. If your
soil does contain lime, you can still grow them
in containers or beds filled with lime-free, ericaceous
is an annual plant?
Annual plants live for only one
growing season, during which they produce seeds
and then die. Familiar annual plants include impatiens,
zinnias, and sunflowers.
is a biennial plant?
A biennial is a plant that lives
for two growing seasons before setting seed and dying.
It germinates and grows from seed for a summer, overwinters
one time, then blooms and sets seed the following
summer, then it dies. An example of a biennial plant
is some types of foxglove.
does the term perennial mean?
The term perennial is reserved
for plants that live for more than two years; examples
include daylilies, hostas and peonies.
Technically speaking, trees and shrubs are perennial
plants - they live for more than two years. But in
common usage the term perennial refers to herbaceous
perennials: non-woody plants that die back to the
ground each Autumn, then regrow in Spring.
does deadheading mean?
Deadheading is the removal of flowers from plants when the flowers are
fading or dead. It is done for maintaining appearance and improving performance.
Flowers can lose their attraction as they fade, spoiling the overall
appearance of bedding schemes or individual plants - particularly where
the display is in a container or extends over several weeks. Flowers
with numerous petals, such as peonies, some camellias and many roses
if allowed to drop as they fade, may scatter widely.
Flowers which have been pollinated soon fade, shed their petals and begin
to form seed heads, pods or capsules. Energy is channelled into development
of usually unwanted seeds, slowing further growth and flower development.
Regular deadheading directs energy into stronger growth and improved
performance and encourages the plant to flower again.
does NPK mean on fertiliser packets?
Many of the fertilisers at Haskins will display
NPK on the packet, which represents the key
constituent chemical elements Nitrogen (N),
Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).
The percentages of each chemical element
are shown as numbers, e.g. 10-8-12, where
the first number is N, the second P and the
Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium promote
plant growth in 3 different ways. These are:
N - Nitrogen: promotes
the growth of leaves and vegetation
P - Phosphorous: promotes
K - Potassium: promotes
flower and fruit growth
The NPK values help you to identify the best fertiliser for the job in
hand. For example, lawn fertilisers are typically higher in Nitrogen
to promote leafy growth of the grass.
A balanced fertiliser is when the 3 chemical nutrients NPK are included
in equal measures and reflected so in the ratio e.g. 5:5:5. A balanced
fertiliser is good for all round, general use.
Pruning the selective removal of
specific plant parts. Shoots and branches are the
main targets for removal, however, roots, flower
buds, fruits and seed pods may also be pruned.
Why is pruning necessary?
There are several reasons why it may be necessary
to prune plants. Here are some of them:
improve the appearance or health of a plant. Prompt removal of
diseased, damaged, or dead plant parts speeds the formation
of callus tissue, and sometimes limits the spread of
insects and disease. For trees, pruning a dense canopy
permits better air circulation and sunlight penetration.
2. To control the
size of a plant. Pruning reduces the
size of a plant so that it remains in better proportion
with your landscape. Pruning can also decrease shade,
prevent interference with utility lines, and allow better
access for pest control.
3. To prevent personal
injury or property damage. Remove
dead or hazardously low limbs to make underlying areas
safer. Corrective pruning also reduces wind resistance
in trees. Prune shrubs with thorny branches back from
walkways and other well-travelled areas. Have trained
or certified arborists handle any pruning work in the
crowns of large trees.
4. To train young
plants. Train main scaffold branches
(those that form the structure of the canopy) to produce
stronger and more vigorous trees. Pruning often begins
with young plants for bonsai, topiary, espalier, or other
types of special plant training.
5. To influence fruiting
and flowering. Proper pruning
of flower buds encourages early vegetative growth. You
can also use selective pruning to stimulate flowering
in some species, and to help produce larger (though fewer)
fruits in others.
6. To rejuvenate old
trees and shrubs. As trees and shrubs
mature, their forms may become unattractive. Pruning
can restore vigour, and enhance the appearance of these
What tools do I need?
Hand pruners (secateurs) can be
used to cut stems up to 1.50cm in diameter.
Two types are available:
• Bypass pruners – sharpened,
curved, scissors-type blades that overlap
• Anvil pruners – straight
upper blades that cut against flat lower plates.
Lopping Shears can be used to cut through branches
up to 4.50cm in diameter. Loppers have long handles
that give you extra reach and better cutting leverage.
Loppers are available with ratchet joints and gears
for heavy duty pruning jobs.
Pruning Saws are available to remove stems that
cannot be reached with hand pruners or lopping
shears. These come with either straight or curved
blades and with fine or coarse teeth. Fine toothed
saws are used for branches with 6cm diameter. The
coarse toothed saws may be used for heavier branches
with diameters of 7.50cm or more.
Pole Pruners may be used to cut out of reach branches
with a diameter of up to 5cm. They may be used
when the use of a ladder is not possible. These
consist of a spring loaded blade attached to a
stationary hook mounted on a long pole. The cutting
action is controlled by a cord or chain.
Chain Saws may be used to remove
branches greater than 7.50cm in diameter. Chain
saws may be petrol
or electric. Care should be taken when selecting
the type of chain saw. Consideration needs to be
made about the tasks it will be used for which
will determine the size of engine and length of
blade. Great care should be taken over their use
and chain saws should be used only with appropriate
safety gear by people who fully understand their
Hedge Clippers or pruning shears are used to trim
thin-stemmed hedges. Hedge clippers may be manual,
electric or petrol driven. They shear off growth
in a straight line. With repeated shearing, hedges
develop a profusion of outer twigs, die back in
the centre and often show an increase in pest problems.
and when do I prune my clematis?
There are three points to remember:
1. Clematis flower quite happily
in the wild and they are never pruned!
2. The key to Clematis
pruning is to establish which wood it flowers on;
new or old
3. Consider feeding
your Clematis with a specialist Clematis food after
All Clematis plants can be split into two groups:
Clematis that flower on wood that was produced last year.
To see if the Clematis is flowering on wood that was produced last year,
look at the shoots that are flowering to see if they are woody and tough.
Are there other obvious signs that the flowering wood has been maturing
for some months? Clematis that flower on previous year’s growth
tend to flower early but there are also some Clematis that flower early
on current season’s growth so be careful to confirm the age of
the wood. If you think that your Clematis is flowering on shoots
produced last year prune it immediately after flowering has finished. This
allows your Clematis a whole year to produce the wood that will flower
at the same time next year. Prune back to a strong, healthy looking pair
of buds. How low down the plant you prune is up to you, if you have spent
many hours training your Clematis, through a trellis for example you
might not want to waste all you hard work by cutting back to 6 inches
from the ground. As long as you prune to a healthy pair of buds, you
cannot go wrong. As with any pruning, remove any dead or weak shoots.
Clematis that flower on wood that has been produced
in the current growing season.
These Clematis produce flowers on wood that is
new, produced in the current growing season. They
can flower at any time. Prune Clematis
that flower on current season’s wood in late Winter or
early Spring. They can be pruned hard, often to
within 6 inches of the ground. Just make sure you
don’t prune any lower than where you can
see active signs of life i.e. pairs of plump, healthy
growth buds. Remember the harder you prune the
more vigour this will generate in the plant’s
reaction, if you are brave you will be rewarded!
Hard pruning of this type of Clematis will result
in lots of new young shoots that will all produce
If your Clematis has grown 20ft along a Pergola,
is very tangled, but flowers beautifully every
year don’t bother pruning it!
is the best time to prune forsythia?
The best time to prune your Forsythia is immediately
after flowering. Cut out the shoots that have
flowered, leaving the young, flowerless shoots ready
If your Forsythia has not been properly pruned for a
number of years it may well have become congested and
choked with old wood. If this is the case, hard, drastic
pruning can be used to trigger many young shoots that
will still flower next Spring.
does my azalea have yellow leaves and what should I
do about it?
leaves on an azalea is caused by iron deficiency.
Being ericaceous plants, Azaleas thrive in a low
lime environment. If you have alkaline soil, then
your azalea will be having trouble absorbing sufficient
iron to keep it fit and healthy. Haskins recommends
feeding it regularly with a specialist plant food,
such as Miracle-Gro Liquid Ericaceous Plant Food – a
fast-acting tonic that combats iron-deficiency
and boosts lack-lustre blooms.
lawn is very mossy what can I do?
Moss growing in the lawn is usually
a symptom for an underlying cause.
The cause could be one of the following:
• That the site is too shady
• That the soil itself may not have sufficient drainage
• That the grass is starved of nutrients making it
weak, vulnerable and in need of food.
Whatever the cause, if you don’t deal with
the underlying problem the chances are that the moss
will return even after you have removed it all.
So if you have moss in your lawn here are some
points to consider:
a soil test, if your soil is heavy clay it will
require annual addition of sharp sand to improve
2. Aerate your lawn
every autumn, using a machine or hand-tool that
removes a plug, refilling the holes with sharp
3. Scarify your lawn
every Autumn. Use a decent lawn rake rather than
a machine because machines don’t tend get
all of the moss. Raking a lawn with a rake is also
an excellent way to keep fit! You can also lightly
rake the lawn in Spring, removing further thatch
4. If moss is a problem
on shady patches of the lawn there are shade tolerant
grass seed varieties that may be more successful
in such conditions.
5. Keep your lawn
healthy by feeding it regularly with a fertiliser
high in Nitrogen. Well-fed, healthy
lawns will compete strongly against moss.
daffodils didn’t produce any flowers this year.
When Daffodils do not produce flowers they are said to be blind. There
are many possible reasons that Daffodils do not flower, these are:
site is too shady, Daffodils prefer full sun or
2. A high Nitrogen
feed has been used in the area where the Daffodils
are growing to feed other plants, resulting in
excessive leafy growth at the expense of flowers.
3. The leaves have been cut back prematurely in the previous year.
Daffodil leaves should be withered and brown before they are cut back.
4. There has not been enough rain during the growing season.
5. There has been too much rain during the period of dormancy.
If the soil is waterlogged the bulb will rot.
6. The clump of daffodils has become congested. Dig up the clump
and only replant the best, healthiest bulbs.
does FSC on furniture mean?
The Forest Stewardship Council enables you to buy forest products of
all kinds with confidence that you are not contributing to global forest
destruction. FSC certified forests are managed to ensure long term timber
supplies while protecting the environment and the lives of forest-dependent
people. FSC certification can also cover non-timber forest products
such as latex and foods.
How does FSC promote responsible forest management?
FSC has developed a system of forest certification and product labeling
that allows consumers to identify wood and wood-based products from well-managed
How does the FSC system work?
Forests are inspected and certified against strict standards based on
FSC’S 10 Principles of Forest Stewardship. These inspections are
undertaken by independent organisations, such as the Soil Association,
that are accredited by the FSC. In order to be given FSC certification
a forest must be managed in an environmentally appropriate, socially
beneficial and economically viable manner. This is what makes the FSC
system unique and ensures that a forest is well-managed from the protection
of indigenous people's rights to the methods of felling trees. Forests
that meet these strict standards are given FSC certification and the
timber is allowed to carry the FSC label.
What does the FSC label mean?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on a wood or wood based product
is your assurance that it is made with, or contains, wood that comes
from FSC certified forests or from post-consumer waste.
Which products carry the label?
The FSC label is currently found on over 10,000 product lines in the
UK alone. You'll find it on garden furniture, decking, sheds, conservatories,
tools, bird boxes and bird tables, kitchen, bathroom and general house
wares, brushes, wall paper, flooring, doors, shelves, furniture, toilet
tissue, paper, pencils - in fact most things made from wood. It can also
be found on less obvious items such as charcoal.
Why is the FSC trademark different from forest certification
There are a number of other forest certification schemes around
but they do not have the same strict environmental, social and economic
standards or such a rigorous chain of custody; tracking timber from the
forest to the final user. Therefore the FSC is the only one endorsed
by the major environment charities including WWF, Friends of the Earth,
Greenpeace and the Woodland Trust.
Do FSC certified products cost more?
Like all products it depends on the availability but on the whole familiar
items will be roughly the same price as non-FSC items.
pots state that they are frost resistant on them. What
does this mean?
This does not mean that they are frost proof. Nothing is completely frost
proof and most pots, regardless of what it is made of, if filled with
water and allowed to freeze will crack.
How frost resistant a pot is can be determined by the firing temperature
of the pot and the type of clay it has been from. However, the important
thing to remember is to ensure that the pot is well drained. Do this
by raising it off the ground using pot feet of small stones and keeping
the drainage holes in the base of the pot free from obstruction.
Terracotta pots are very vulnerable in the winter due to their porous
nature. Treating the pot with a sealant may prolong the life of the pot
but water may still soak into the surface of the pot and then freeze.
This causes the surface to flake.
Earthenware pots are normally glazed. They are normally less porous than
terracotta pots and tend to be more durable over the winter. However,
the unglazed areas, such as inside the pot, are still slightly porous
and can absorb water and therefore be vulnerable to frost damage. In
bad winter conditions the glaze on the pots may blow out or flake off.
It is important to keep these pots well drained at all times.
The most durable type of pot is the stoneware or salt glazed pot. These
are fired at a much higher temperature than other pots. The firing makes
the types of clay vitrify, meaning that the clay particles bond together
so that water molecules are too big to be absorbed into the pot. The
water proof nature of the pot makes them more durable in frosty conditions.
do I control weeds on my lawn?
The following are suggested:
• Use a daisy
grubber to remove shallow rooted, rosette forming
weeds from the lawn
• Stubborn rosette
forming lawn weeds can be painted with a herbicide
• Tackle coarse grasses growing in the lawn by slashing
through the crown with a knife before mowing
• Rake the stems of weeds with long runners to the surface
before mowing lawns. Regular mowing will eventually
weaken and kill the weed
• Haskins recommend that lawns that are smothered with
weeds and moss are best treated with a weed and feed
is it important that I know what type of soil I have
in my garden?
Different plants thrive in varying
soils, so it is important and to know what feeds
or treatments can be applied to help balance or
match in your soil to your plants.
You can test your soil acidity with a simple soil
testing kit available to purchase from Haskins. Most
plants prefer a pH of 6.5 to 7 , however Ericaceous
plants (e.g. rhododendrons) need acid soil, while
plants such as lilacs grow better in alkaline soil.
A simple way of finding out
the type of soil in your garden is by rubbing some
damp soil between your fingers:
• Clay soil will
be sticky and be easy to roll into a ball
• Sandy soil will feel gritty
and won’t hold together
Silty soil will feel silky, and while it won’t hold
together into a ball like clay it will make a roll
Loamy soil is brown and crumbly in texture and has a lot of
organic matter in it
Chalky soil is very light and doesn’t hold water well.
When digging you will find chunks of white chalk or flint. Chalky
soil is always alkaline
Peaty soil is almost black and spongy to touch and holds a lot
do I need to feed my garden?
Feeding garden plants provides the best opportunity for them to thrive.
Here are a few tips on giving your garden a healthy diet containing the
right nutrients for your plants.
beds and borders in the spring with a slow release
fertiliser around plants
will also thrive if fed three times a year with
a slow release fertiliser
Use a liquid fertiliser weekly to keep flowers
in pots healthy during the peak growing and flowering
Mix controlled release fertiliser granules
into compost mixes to feed container grown plants
over a long period
Fork organic matter into soil before planting
in the spring and mulch existing permanent plant
displays with a thick layer of organic matter
If a plant appears unhealthy, use a fast-acting,
quick release liquid plant food to give it a pick
do I change the colour of my hydrangeas?
The colour of most hydrangeas (not
white ones) varies due to the Ph of the soil which
affects the aluminium availability. Typically they
grow blue in acid soil conditions, mauve in acid
to neutral soil conditions, and pink in alkaline
Mophead cultivators are the only ones that it is
possible to change the colour of. Encouraging colour
change can be tricky and if not done correctly can
have a negative effect on the plant’s health.
To change hydrangea blooms to pink the plant must not
take up aluminium from the soil. To do this try adding
dolomitic lime to the soil several times a year to help
raise the pH level. Alternatively, use a high level phosphorus
Look for a fertilizer with a ration of 25/10/10.
To change hydrangea blooms to blue, aluminium must
be present in the soil. To ensure this add hydrangea
colourant to the soil, following the
manufactures guidelines carefully. Before adding this colourant make
sure the plant is well watered to prevent the roots from being burnt.
An alternative method of lowering the pH is to add organic matter to
the soil such as coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peel, grass clippings
or using iron sulphate. Using a fertilizer low in phosphorus and high
in potassium will also help.
One of the best ideas for growing hydrangeas is to grow them in a large
pot where the soil and growing requirements are easier to control.
does companion planting mean?
Companion planting is where you plant certain plants in near proximity
to benefit each other. It is an ancient gardening tradition that’s
primarily about pest control where different plants attract beneficial
insects. Companion planting also helps to create plant communities where
the plants help each other by providing nutrients in the soil and offering
protection from the wind and sun.
Another theory is that because pests find their host plants through taste
and smell mixing different crops together makes it harder for the pests
to find their host plants and to travel through the crop.
For this method of planting to be most successful, make sure companion
plants are planted at the same time as the edible crop to prevent pests
from getting a foothold.
Here are some companion planting suggestions:
• Plant French Marigolds
in between tomato plants to deter aphids
• Planting nasturtiums in with cabbages
attracts caterpillars which will then leave the cabbages alone
• Garlic planted among roses will
ward off aphids
• Grow dill in the garden to attract
can I reduce the amount of water I use in my garden?
It is essential, particularly in periods of drought, that water is used
wisely in the garden. Water saving tips include:
flower beds and borders to prevent moisture loss
• Water in the evenings when
the temperature is cooler and evaporation is reduced
• Fitting an automatic irrigation system to target watering and
run at night
• Use a water butt or recycle grey water from the house
• Mix water-retaining gel with your compost in baskets and containers
• Raise the blade on the lawn mower so that grass becomes deeper
rooted and loses less moisture from evaporation