Q Can I use the leaves from the road and verge outside my house? Matt,
A Technically the leaves outside you home are from Council owned street trees however I am sure they would not mind you cleaning up for them! A few things to consider though. I would be happy to take the leaves from the footpath and verge but leaves in the gatter will contain pollutants from cars exhausts and brake lings which may be harmful if put onto vegetable plots. Also I’m not sure of the legal implications of clearing the pavement which could make it much more slippery. Would you be liable if someone fell?
Q Clay Soils
Because my garden soil is more like clay I find it very hard to grow anything. Even perennials find it hard to return after the first year and eventually give up. Can I do something about the soil? or are they any specific plants that like this type of soil?
Clay soil is a good soil for gardening but only if you treat it well! Adding lots of organic matter improves the drainage in clay soils, makes it warmer and breaks up the clay particles. Dig it in, and also top dress as often as you can. Use spent gro-bags, compost, leaf-mould, bark chippings etc. People often use gravel or grit and whilst this does improve the drainage it does not help in the long term.
There are many plants that like clay soils but in particular you mention perennials, so I would recommend the following:-
Alchemilla mollis, Anemone hupehensis var. japonica, A. × hybrida Aster novae-angliae, A. novi-belgii, Astrantia, Geranium, Helleborus, Hosta, Kniphofia, Sedum spectabile
Q Protecting Oleanders from Frost
Hi Andrew, November 2011
What would you suggest using to shield plants from frost ? I have six Oleanders and believe them to be quite hardy but its recommended that they be covered. I’ve seen some ‘plant cosies’ on sale but they can be quite costly so I’m wondering if there is a less expensive alternative ?
Thanks, your advice would be very welcome !
Cris ! from Redbridge
Oleanders come from Mediterranean climates and as such are not fully hardy in this country. However in a “normal” winter are quite hardy to -5 c. As you say plant “cosies” are quite expensive. I assume you have them in pots? If so move these to a sheltered area near a wall. Ideally in a side alley, or under evergreen trees where they will be protected against cold and frost. You could also buy horticultural fleece and with canes make a “tent” to cover the pots. Horticultural fleece can be bought from most garden centres and hardware store by the metre. A single layer of fleece will protect plants down to – 5c a double to -10c. Should all that fail and your Oleander succumb to frost damage they can be cut back hard in the spring and will flower on the new growth later on in the year.