Head Gardener of Knights Hayes National Trust Gardens UK Jess Evans

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Head Gardener Knights Hayes N Trust Devlon uk

When it became clear at the beginning of the season that we would most likely be short of staff and volunteer help in the walled garden this year Bev, senior gardener in the walled garden, made the decision to not sow many crops. It takes a huge amount of work to grow, plant out, care for and harvest the crops we grow each year in the walled garden and we didn’t want to waste seeds on growing crops we would be unable to care for fully throughout the season.

In order to avoid having large areas of empty beds green manures were sown in large patches, this was to help with keeping the weeds down and to help with improving the soil. We use green manures often in the walled garden and have been experimenting with using them more and in different ways throughout the growing season for different reasons.

Green manures are plants grown with the intention of ameliorating the soil in some way. This could be by adding nutrients, improving the soil structure or increasing the organic content or the soil. Some green manures can be used to help with breaking up compacted soils and others can be used overwinter to help reduce soil erosion when beds may otherwise be empty. At the end of the growing season (or seasons for some green manures) the plants are incorporated into the soil, the aim is to ensure the green manure is fully aerobically decomposed. The tops of the plants can be shredded on the surface before hand and allowed to wilt, after then the roots can be turned in. This may be done by hand or with a machine, either way it is key that it is not incorporated deeply, around 15cm deep, as otherwise you will break up the channels that the roots will have opened up deeper down and potentially undo the soil structure improvements that will have happened. The soil needs to be left after green manure is turned in for a few weeks before it is sown or planted again with the next crop. This is due to the microbes that rapidly multiply in the soil to break down the organic matter require nitrogen to carry out this process and so the nitrogen in the soil is temporarily ‘locked up’ but will be available again for plants once the green manures have been fully composted in the soil.

The simplest way to use green manures is to incorporate them into the growing rotation plan in a kitchen garden or to use them as cover crops for the winter or when beds will sit empty for some time. They can also be used however in strips between edible crops or to undersow a crop with the intention of allowing the green manure to spread and take over once the crop has finished. Undersowing is a good way to incorporate winter green manures into the rotation as they will be more established at the end of the crop growing season and more ready to fully cover a bed for winter.

In the walled garden at Knightshayes we use green manures as a way to improve soil structure and nutrient levels but also to cover the beds for winter. We are experimenting with using them more throughout the growing season and using different plants for different reasons, chicory for example is a great green manure to break up compaction. This season we have used green manures to help cover large areas where we have not grown crops and so would have had large empty beds rips for weeds to take over. We have used Phacelia, which is a beautiful plant related to Borage and great for bees as well as good as suppressing weeds, white clover as a short season green manure to improve nitrogen levels in the soil (although this can be used for paths for many years if the right variety is chosen), red clover as a green manure for a few seasons (initially as strips between other crops but now a full bed after this year) which is great for nitrogen fixation and also improving soil structure thanks to its deeper tap root and branching root system and chicory which is a biennial plant (produces a rosette of leaves in the first year and throws up a flower stem the following year whilst putting down a tap root) that can help with alleviating compaction when it puts down tap roots in the second season. Overwinter we will use a combination of Italian ryegrass and field beans to protect the soil and help with weed suppression also.

Head Gardener Jess evans with Editor and Author Tony Arnold

A good example of making use of green manure as stated in the editorial .

Green Manure Knights Hayes NT Gardens UK
A nice welcome from Knights Hayes Gardener Team

October November Gardener

Autumn Anemone japonica
Plant selected bulbs for post winter in gritty soil and plant deep

Gardening and Health and Covid 19

Gardening is good for our health and I have advocated that it would be good for doctors to prescribe this essential therapeutic activity for those in search of a pathway to peace and tranquillity.  I was pleased to read in the August 2019 even a UK Bishop calling for Churches to encourage gardening for mental health and to provide access to gardening spaces. Research indeed shows depression, loneliness and other mental health issues can and have been addressed successfully for people of all ages when they are introduced to varying horticultural activities.

Covid 19 has forced a huge burden upon us since March 2020  lock down and gardens provide additional space even just a balcony to try and social distance but in fresher air and a happier more relaxed environment however cramped. Some of us may be able to simply get out and walk along the street and enjoy walking past other gardens and even better to the nearest public space such as a playground or municipal park at least being able to maintain more freedom and enjoy trees shrubs and flowers, some wild flowers and not forgetting our wild birds and four legged friends such as hedgehogs and water voles if lucky to see them .

However, confusing the Govt leadership is; the virus damage waxes and wanes and the search for the vaccine proves elusive, we must still get involved with safe activities and modest gardening exercise, even with indoor plants now proving very popular.

Ref Science for the Gardener Chapter 13 The Good News Is

I have always regarded October as one of the busiest months of the gardening year because we need to prepare for Spring!  Yes – the New Year and Spring are fast approaching as well as the Christmas festive season.

Clear falling leaves into plastic sacks or wire and stick supported containers, it’s worth saving them for the best soil improver I know, leaf mould. Tidy ponds and cover from leaves and dig out silt and yellowing water lily leaves, reduce feeding fish. Leave any water weed cleared beside the pond to allow any wildlife to return.

Acer (Maple Acer family) growing wild in South Somerset UK

With evidence of climatic change, it is as I mentioned earlier in the year vital now to prepare and repair very hard the dried-out soil as it begins to moisten and soften with the approach of Autumn.  Add plenty of organic mulch with manure and compost to refresh the vital nitrogen cycle ; store water and allow oygen to travel for root respiration.   Begin by spreading and digging in organic blood, fish and bone preferably in damp/wet soil. This will boost all the vital main nutrients, especially Phosphorus for strengthening cell structure and roots and Potassium and Magnesium  for flowering.  Phosphorus is not a very soluble product so will need a few months to take effect but it’s worth the effort in giving plants added strength.  Check if any of your plants have unusually bending stems, a sure sign of weakness and possibly a lack of phosphorus .This deficiency usually occurs with sandy, stony, generally poor and neglected rough soil devoid of any clay-based and very important organic matter soil such as compost and manure .

Magnificent Autumn Colours of Tupelo( Cornaceae family .)Dogwood Forde Abbey Somerset UK

Ref Science for the Gardener Chapter 7 Digging for Victory

It’s a very good time to plant new trees, hardy shrubs and hedges, especially hardy climbers, allowing them to have that valuable over wintering cold period that is known as vernalisation.

Editor testing Soil for pH ,fertility ,moisture .

We have to plan ahead for Spring 2021 so do look for those attractive cost effective bulb offers including bulging bags of Narcissus on offer at Garden Centres.  Smaller ’Tête à Têtes’ Narcissus are useful for easy planting for smaller gardens and in shallow soil beds and look positively superb in containers with plenty of well drained gritty soil.

Pruning and tidying is best done in this Autumnal period but can I suggest leaving attractive seed heads such as those found on Miscanthus Grass, Sunflower heads, Teasels, Coneflowers, Rudbeckia and Sedums for the birds searching for food in the bitter cold of Winter.  A necessary caution before you start pruning is to check flower buds on Spring flowering shrubs such as Forsythia, Camellia and Magnolia that these are not accidentally removed.!!!

Young Garden Reader perusing ‘”shall i read it ‘” “Is it any good “

Autumn is a wonderful time of the year for enjoying tree leaf colours so take a few strolls along your local paths and if you can, visit one of the local region large private gardens such as those at UK ,Forde, Abbotsbury (Dorset), National Trust Tintinhull and Knightshayes and so many others.

A lovely silly dog in Cornwall uk garden center ha ha

Kitchen Garden and Harvest

Superb Onions correctly stored Home Grown in South Somerset .
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This has been a special timeMay July Aug Sept for planting growing and harvesting Brassica family (peas ,beens etc) Solanums family ,potatoes and tomatoes .

Dog Wood (not cornus ) waiting for service to start !

Amaryllis family ,artichokes both flower base and Jerusalem rooted tuber swollen stem similar in taste and constitution to potatoes. Also so important are the onion family which is Amaryllis too.!

First Class Beetroot in S Somerset
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Mint (menthacea), family Herbs are everyones bit of garden passion ,certainly mine ,Basil on bolognaise keep on kitchen window in winter ,Thyme hardy to brush past for devine fragrance as with most herbs not forgetting ornamental Salvia as well as plan Salvia officinalis .

Any science-based queries please feel free to contact me on tony@scienceforthegardener.com

I have recently 2019 been commissioned by Somerset Sight to do two broadcasts for the UK Chard and Ilminster Newsline “Gardening for disabled and unsighted gardeners” Do check at the top of the Home page if this can be useful for someone you know how ever distant who may want to spend more time in the garden on their own SAFELY !!!!!



                    Summer      August  Gardener 2020  

Let’s enjoy this summer weather that at least is more moderate heat this year in the UK ,BUT MUCH DRIER SO MAINTAIN REGULAR WATERING !!!!

For a PERSONALLY signed copy of Science for The Gardener Book you can buy from Shop page or just click on drop down menu to the top right of this page.


Typical clever planting Summer colour Border mixture of annual bedding and perennials ,some potted all in a limited space .


Protection from mid summer sun  may  be required with adding water crystals to hanging baskets and containers and if possible some lawn water feeding with a high nitrogen greening feed such as Miracle Grow (UK ) crystals to at least slow down the severe browning effect of the sun and lack of rain on grass.  Last year my south facing lawn recovered well with late summer autumn rain .The previous very hot year 2018 in the uk  I sadly lost one magnificent Prunus kanzan tree that died very suddenly in 34 deg despite regular watering!  Can’t win them all with nature ruling and a bit of climate change on the way!

Worms must be welcomed too irrigate the clay based soils They dont like acid soils EITHER worth noting

The most severe problem we all have had this year is a very wet winter and followed by a very very unwelcome dry summer .This confuses temperate plants physiological mechanisms leaving them looking dried out always desperate for water .Rain water is always more welcome to ‘green them up’and is particularly needed by Ericaceous (acid soil loving )plants. Many gardeners i speak to are really struggling to maintain garden soil back into a good, soft and diggable loamy condition using hosed water ,’grey water and a rain water butt, the latter supply was quickly exhausted by June !    Dried soil requires considerable added organic compost, manure( to hold the water) and if possible leaf mould is really excellent for soil conditioning If your soil is getting hard it may be a sure sign of too much clay without enough sand and organic matter.  These soil inbalances need to be addressed preferably in March and October when it is much easier to dig in organic matter and possibly added sand to a softer  good loam mixture ( clay silt sand ) rather than ending up with rock hard clay based soil in midsummer,which is becoming more and more common with climate change . Remember plants can die if the roots cannot physically travel through soil and move to search for soil stored NPK and Mg and micro nutrients nutrients ,available moisture and a small matter of oxygen for vital roots respiration.!

Ref  Science for the Gardener Book  Chapter 7   Digging for Victory  pps 67-83

Science for The Gardener Book is world wide and is on sale personally signed via this website go to shop .

Colours are magnificent and widest ranging at this time of the year with a good summer range of Blues – Campanulas, Linums , Lavandula    Oranges – Geum, Reds and White  Pelargonium – geraniums – also just go and enjoy all the great gardening efforts made in larger now reopen to the public private and public gardens (N Trust, RHS etc) all  looking radiant this year with lawns still just about greenish .You will need to book ahead at present with the virus emergency still present.

Potted Standard Roses can be placed in strategic places in Gardens
Aeonium -Crassulacea House Leek (Succulent )
sub tropical
Summer Autumn Clematis -Ranunculaceae ‘Polish spirit ‘
Mimulus ,v strong summer growing in moisture PHRYMACEA new was(Scrophulacea)
(Inexpensive) Electronic Soil Tester for Nutrients Fertility Moisture pH is a must .
Kitchen Gardens are moving towards Harvest time

 See what plants you can identify it’s great fun out on a walk with a friend and exchange guesses. Take a Pocket Plant or Wildflower book with you perhaps, its worth doing .

Potatoes growing well in domestic garden in Somerset
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Onions growing well in Domestic garden in Somerset .Rain Gauge
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Kitchen Gardens are now in full swing and Leguminous Pea and Bean vegetables and tomatoes under glass, Cucurbitaceae  Courgettes etc.  Mint Mentha family herbs all will grow  better to what appears to be a much drier July rather than the dreadful disappointing wet cold  June that was not at all helpful for pollinators.  There are many specialist editorials on vegetable and fruit growing in the  media.

Any Science based garden queries do contact me on tony@scienceforthe gardener.com  that includes international website www.scienceforthegardener .com and Science for the Gardener world wide Book readers  all very welcome .

Author Tony Arnold Book Signing in Somerset UK .
Book is now world wide as an easy read for gardeners around the world

Best wishes

Tony Arnold MCIHort


Products you didn’t know with plant origins by A J Arnold BSc

Rubber Gloves


In this ever-more-sustainable world, we look to natural alternatives to products. Rubber gloves, amongst many items, are made from Latex. Havea brasiliensis Natural Latex, or “caoutchouc” is farmed from trees in India,Indonesia,Singapore ,Malaya -Malaysia,Brasil, and at the turn of the century a larger production previously Congo sadly with appalling atrocities by the colonial power leader King Leopold 11 of Belgium


Image result for aloe vera plant

In developed countries, about 25% of prescriptions contain materials isolated from plants, such as the well-known Aloe Vera plant. The aspirin tablets you buy over the counter, are actually synthesised copies of naturally occurring chemicals (acetylsalicyclic acid )from the Spiraea ulmaria (meadowsweet )or modified from the original plant product the Salix (willow tree bark ) which produces Salicin which the body converts to salicylic acid and was used in herbal medicine.

Chewing Gum

While many of today’s gum brands have transitioned to synthetic substitutes, they got their idea from long, long ago, where the chicle sap from the Sapodilla tree (Manilkara zapota) of the Sapotaceae was used for thousands of years named after yellow sapote .This tree is desirable for fruit and is a long growing handsome looking and popular plant called Chikoo and is known to prevent colon cancer

Hair dye

Henna tree

A safer, natural alternative to chemical based hair dye can be found from the Lythraceae family the Henna tree (Lawsonia inermis) the sole species . The crushed leaves create a striking orange/red colour, while tree bark is used to create different colours.Also known as hina ,mignonette ,Egyption privet


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Move over Lush, more and more companies lean even further into natural alternatives rather than toxic substances to give you a hand with your beauty regime. Including roses, calendula and jojoba.

Products you didn’t know with plant origins