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The arrival of spring: That means plenty to do in the garden
Roses require cutting back in March, in order to truly flourish in the summer. However, the right time for this has only arrived once the forsythia is in bloom. Nonetheless, roses should be carefully checked now for attacks by fungus such as mildew, rose rust and black spot. The risk of infection is particularly high in spring because the fungus winters in the living stalks. If the initial signs of fungal attacks become evident then the infested parts of the plant must be carefully cut away immediately. Trimmed parts of infested plants should not however be tossed on the compost heap, but instead burned or disposed of with the household waste.
These plants need pruning
Clematis species that flower in the summer should be cut down to a height of 30 to 50 centimetres in March. "They will sprout back to size very quickly". This will result in even more abundant flowers in summertime. The hydrangeas can also be trimmed back a little - depending on type. Cut lavender back by one third in mid-March. As with other bushes and trees that blossom in spring, the forsythia should only be pruned after flowering. The spring maintenance of fruit trees also mainly consists of pruning. With the exception of peach and sweet cherry trees, fruit trees and berry bushes should be cut back between November and April. Anyone who prunes after this time risks the tree failing to produce sufficient new growth, after which it may bear only limited fruit. You should avoid this error when pruning fruit trees.
Prune winter bloomers now
Plants that have flowered over winter, such as winter heather, need cutting back now. This is not possible later on. Because buds will form over the coming year on the branches that are now growing. If winter bloomers are pruned too late then the secateurs' victims will be newly grown branches. Winter jasmine, for example, should be thinned out every two to three years because this promotes its blossoms. When doing so prune branches in areas that have become too dense. Erica carnea also benefits and flourishes after thinning out.
Place frost-sensitive vegetables on the window-sill
Early or frost-sensitive vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and lettuce are now sown in pots or in a seed box and positioned on a bright window-sill in a warm room. "The bathroom or kitchen are optimum". "Because it is particularly warm here". The seedlings need high humidity levels in order to germinate. The seed box therefore has a lid. It is necessary to cover pots with transparent film. Seeds for the first of the annual flowers such as snapdragons and sweet peas are now planted in soil, likewise initially in a pot. From April the seedlings can be put outdoors.
Cold frame for the first crops
It is possible to sow plants in the cold frame as early as February. Initial placement on a window-sill is unnecessary. A cold frame acts in the same way as a small greenhouse: The usually box-shaped frame produced from metal or timber is covered with strong film, or clad with plastic or glass panels. A roof sits on top, likewise produced from film or glass. Radishes and kohlrabi are sown first, alongside lettuce. "As soon as it is possible to grasp hold of the plants, prick them out with a small rod". Once the leaves touch each other the plants can be moved outdoors - no earlier than the end of March. It is necessary to place them outside, in order to make space for the second generation of vegetables.
Prepare for the strawberry crop
Anyone who wishes to harvest sweet strawberries in the summer should prepare the strawberry bed in March. Old and sick leaves on the shrubs must be removed with secateurs because these can pass on disease such as grey mould. The leaves must never be torn off because this can damage the plants. The weeds between the individual strawberry plants must be removed and the mulch from the previous year worked carefully into the soil. This loosens up the earth at the same time. The plants receive a new layer of mulch and up to 30 grams of berry fertiliser. If you only wish to spread the bed once, use raw compost that is approximately three to five months old. This is fertiliser and mulch in one.
Reproduce geraniums before spring arrives
It is possible to multiply geraniums and fuchsias before they begin to sprout anew in spring. To do so place a cutting in a pot on the window-sill where it can form roots. Place a bag over this. Open the bag daily. This will replace the used air with fresh air and prevent the formation of mould. "If just one leaf is damaged then the fungus will develop". Check the plants regularly. As soon as the cuttings are large enough, they should be placed outdoors on warm days to harden up.
Now plant the gooseberries
March is gooseberry planting time. Choose a location in which the berries will not be exposed to blazing sunshine. Otherwise the fruit could burn. If you are tight for space, select a tall-stemmed type. Whilst a bush requires roughly one and a half square metres, a tall-stemmed variety needs just half of this. Anyone who already has gooseberries in their garden should cut these back at the beginning of March. This promotes growth. And because the shrub bears fruits on branches grown in the previous year, it must always form new growth.
Lime grass on dry days
The garden pond should be cleared of excessive sludge and dead plant debris. After lengthy cold spells it is also important to check the quality of the water. Special test strips measure the water's pH value. If this lies below 6 when measured over a number of days then the water should be partially exchanged. Pond owners should also check the ammonia and ammoniac values, as well as the nitrite and nitrate levels in the water. Also ideal for these checks are test strips or drops, which can be added to water samples. Once the water has reached a constant temperature of ten degrees it is also possible to introduce new fish to the pond.
Prepare the garden pond for spring
Der Gartenteich sollte nun von überflüssigem Schlamm und abgestorbenen Pflanzenteilen befreit werden. Nach einer langen Kälteperiode ist es zudem wichtig, die Wasserqualität zu überprüfen. Spezielle Teststreifen messen den ph-Wert des Wassers. Liegt dieser bei mehreren, über den Tag verteilten Messungen unter 6, sollte das Wasser teilweise ausgetauscht werden. Teichbesitzer sollten weiterhin die Ammonium- und Ammoniakwerte sowie den Nitrit- und Nitratgehalt im Wasser bestimmen. Auch dafür eignen sich Teststreifen oder Tropfen, die in Wasserproben geträufelt werden können. Hat sich das Wasser konstant auf zehn Grad erwärmt, dürfen auch neue Fische in den Teich gesetzt werden.
Maintain garden equipment
Anyone who has not tackled this yet should do so now: Garden equipment must be maintained and prepared for the season. Spades, rakes and shovels are cleaned, de-rusted and greased, secateurs and shears are sharpened. Lawnmowers and hedge trimmers may perhaps be put in for servicing and the blades sharpened.
Effectively combat moss in the lawn
Fertilise before scarifying
In order to banish moss from the lawn for the long-term it must first be removed. This is reliably achieved with a scarifier. In order that the grass can recover quickly and grow once the thatch has been removed, the green area should be fertilised and mown before scarifying. The best time for spring fertilising is actually in April, when the first flowers and buds appear. This year nature woke up somewhat earlier due to the warm winter, meaning that it was possible to get started in the garden slightly earlier too. However, you should definitely get going now if not before. If the grass does not exhibit any particular deficiencies then a slow release lawn fertiliser should be used. This supplies the grass with the nutrients nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium on a balanced basis over a number of months. The nitrogen stimulates grass growth here, whilst phosphorous strengths the roots and potassium makes the blades more resistant
Before scarifying, mow the lawn as low as possible. A dry lawn surface is essential when scarifying. The barbs on the scarifier's roller vertically penetrate the turf and tear lichens and moss from the grass. It is important that the blades penetrate no further than three millimetres into the soil, otherwise the grass will be excessively damaged. The blades of grass will be somewhat adversely affected, although fresh aeration will allow the lawn to recover very quickly with the right care. The best results are achieved by evenly running the scarifier in a longitudinal and then a lateral direction over the lawn area. After scarifying, the bare patches are reseeded. Special seed mixtures are available for this, which are intended for remedying lawn damage.
Exercise caution with iron fertilisers
Many lawn owners resort to moss killers based on ferrous sulphate, in order to rid their lawns of moss. The iron salt certainly kills off the moss and simultaneously acts as a fertiliser. However, the product does also have disadvantages. Anyone who uses ferrous sulphate must ensure that the fertiliser does not come into contact with stone slabs or clothing. Otherwise they may be left with stains. Furthermore, it is strongly advisable to wear gloves and to avoid contact with the skin and eyes. The fertiliser is particularly irritating in conjunction with moisture. Pets and small children should therefore also be kept away from the lawn if possible after application. This is also necessary because ferrous sulphate is harmful to health if ingested. Once the moss killer has been applied it takes around one week for the moss to die. Afterwards it is possible to remove the dead matter with a rake or scarifier. If you are also intending to re-sow bare patches, wait two weeks before doing so if possible; otherwise the grass growth will be inferior. Anyone who cannot wait this long - or who does not wish to use chemicals - can also aerate their lawn with the scarifier without the use of moss killer.
Lime prevents moss growth
If acidic soil is the reason for moss growth then lime is a good way of preventing moss from re-growing. You can obtain test kits for soil analysis from your garden centre. It is necessary to dose the lime depending on the pH value and the soil characteristics. A light, sandy soil requires less lime. With a light soil with a pH value of less than 5.5, 150 grams per square metre is sufficient, whilst it is possible to use almost double the quantity with a loamy soil. No further lime should be applied with pH values of 6.9 or higher. It is often possible to detect acidic soil by the vegetation alone. For example, the presence of clover would tend to indicate an alkaline soil. Lime should never be applied in this case. Hoof and horn helps to combat clove
Prevent lawn water-logging with sand
If moss has still spread throughout the lawn, the cause may well be water-logging. In particular with loamy soil the top layer may compact so heavily over time that the water no longer drains away. Working sand into the ground can help here - ideally when the lawn is laid. It is also helpful to apply a little sand to the surface after scarifying.
Prevent moss in shady lawns
If a shady situation is the cause of moss then it is important to select a suitable type of grass. Furthermore, lawns in shade should not be mown too short - six centimetres are ideal - and ensure that the lawn is also sufficiently watered in the summer. Only then will it be healthy enough to overcome moss growth.
Your garden in the autumn
Your garden in the autumn: Ornamental garden
If you have evergreens in your garden, give them a dose of potassium in the autumn to make them more resistant to frost. Potassium encourages the wood to drain, improving the plants' resistance to frost in autumn. At this time of year scatter fertilizer and gently work it in around the root zone, especially with young plants and plants put into the ground in the autumn. Do not use any more complete fertilizer in your garden in the autumn!
Move citrus plants, bougainvillea and other potted plants into the house before the first frost arrives in the autumn. However, it is important that you ensure that the root ball has dried out. Move the plants from the garden and allow them to stand first in a spot where they are protected from the rain. In contrast, leave olive trees, oleanders and fig trees out for as long as possible in your garden, as they can withstand temperatures as low as -5 °C.
The first frosts of autumn also bring the season to an end for geraniums (pelargoniums). Do not throw away vigorous plants. Even although it's generally not worth overwintering them, geraniums from the garden will continue to flower merrily throughout the autumn on your windowsill or in your conservatory. You'll need a cool, preferably bright spot for these plants in the autumn if you wish to overwinter them.
Spreading lime on your lawn or garden in the autumn helps to regulate its pH, preventing moss and thatch and ensuring that you’ll enjoy a beautifully green lawn next year.
Use perennials to fill any gaps in your beds in the autumn. If you plant them before early October, they'll still have enough time to root before the winter arrives.
Your garden in the autumn: Kitchen garden
Autumn is the harvest time for black salsify in your garden. As the harvested roots do not stay fresh for long, it's best to pick small quantities at a time in the autumn. Black salsify is hardy and can be left in your vegetable bed for some time, protected by a light mulch. Carefully dig your spade into the ground when you wish to harvest them, as the roots break easily and then dry out.
Anyone who sowed late radish varieties, like 'Stoplite', in their garden before the end of August can now harvest them in the autumn. You can even eat the tasty leaves. Pick out plants that are planted too closely together to add spice to a vegetable soup. In the autumn months you can still plant gooseberry bushes from September until the first frost. The plants need a sunny spot in the garden in well-drained soil rich in humus. The mildew-tolerant variety 'Xenia' is also available as an upright bush.
Your garden in the autumn: Propagation
The wild poppy (Papaver commutatum) is a relative of the corn poppy. 'Lady Bird' is an especially lovely variety. If you sow the plant in your garden in the autumn, you can look forward to its decorative flowers towards the end of May. Spread the extremely fine seed thinly in your garden and then cover with soil. Keep the planted areas evenly moist.
If you wish to collect the seeds of plants in the autumn, be sure only to collect mature seed heads, the capsules and pods of which are brown and dried. First dry the capsules in paper or cotton bags. Then pour them into a sieve and rub them carefully with your fingers. Separate out the seeds by sieving them several times. Store the seeds at room temperature in paper bags or sealed jam jars until you're ready to sow them in your garden in the spring.
Make your garden ready to survive winter now
Bring in pot plants
Bring most pot plants into their winter quarters before the first frost. It is essential that you bring exotic plants, in particular, indoors. There are a few thing you should watch however, to ensure that you can continue to enjoy your oleanders, boxwood, palms etc. in the coming gardening season.
Move container evergreen trees and shrubs, which will remain outdoors, into a shady position if possible. If the sun shines on them, they will try to draw water from the soil, however, as the ground is frozen, the plants will die of thirst. The Association of German Tree Nurseries therefore recommends watering occasionally on frost-free days. Winter damage can often be caused by drought but this does not threaten plants that are planted out in the garden, as their roots can absorb water from deeper layers of soil.
The final mow of the lawn
When you mow your lawn for the last time really depends on the weather. Grass will continue to grow providing it is not too cold at night and so your lawn needs a regular trim.
However, your lawn should preferably be ready-for-winter before the first frost arrives. The right grass height is crucial with the last mow. Mow your lawn around half a centimetre shorter than usual: we would recommend cutting it to a height of around four centimetres. If you leave your lawn too long, snow will press down individual blades of grass in winter and fungus and disease can then spread in the flattened gras
Protect sensitive plants from frost
Newly planted shrubs, young autumn anemones, buddleia and other sensitive plants need protection before the first frost of winter arrives.. Leaves and pine twigs are ideal for this, although felt matting and fleece also provide good cover.
Pile up soil, topsoil and compost around roses so that it covers the delicate points around the base of the crown really well. Place a jacket made of jute, sacking or fleece (not film) around the crown of standard roses. Cover hardy container plants with bubble wrap.
Never cover plants with materials that do not allow air and light to permeate through, as plants will perspire too much under this and could start growing too early. Besides, chlorophyll, the green pigment in evergreens, also needs air and light for photosynthesis. A blanket of snow does not present this problem, as it protects plants even at very low sub-zero temperatures. Gardeners should only do this when the first frosts of autumn arrive. Prior to this, make use of autumnal weather to get plants slowly used to the cold and harden them off for the winter. Plants that shed or retract their leaves before the onset of winter can get through the winter without protection.