Episode 15 Gardeners' World


Episode 15

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The garden definitely enters a new season in July

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and it's conventional wisdom that late July and August

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can be quite tricky, but that's not true here at Longmeadow at all.

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It's the summer holidays and you get this flush of wonderful, rich colour.

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The tawny shades, oranges, browns and deep purples

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and plum colours, which can last right into autumn.

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They say August is a tricky time - well, here it isn't.

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In tonight's programme, I'll be showing you

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how to extend the colour of sweet peas for as long as possible

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into late summer.

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It's also time to summer-prune apples and pears,

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so I'll be sharing my tips on how to do that.

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Plus, if you've got primulas, now is the perfect time to propagate them.

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Gardening on a steep slope can be tricky,

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but Carol meets a man who relishes the challenge of a hillside.

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You turn round and say, "No, how can that possibly garden?"

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And slugs may devour your hostas, but you can do something about it,

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as Rachel finds out when she drops in on a couple of "hostaholics".

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There's more here!

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I do feel like I've stepped into another world.

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I sowed our sweet peas in March and planted them out in May.

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They were a bit slow to start because we had a dry, early spring

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and a cold, middle and late spring, but they've done well.

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I want them to go on doing well for as long as possible.

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The way to do that is to keep picking them,

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because sweet peas, once the weather gets warmer

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and the days get shorter, want to start producing seed.

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There's an urgent need to get seed before next year

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and we want to delay that process.

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What we found through trial and error is,

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if you pick the whole lot every ten days,

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that maximises the flowers and minimises the seeds.

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When you're cutting back,

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make sure that you go right back for as long a stem as possible.

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Don't leave any stubs.

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But I will leave these buds here and here

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and they will flower on into the border for continuity.

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It's not as though you just get a shock of flowers every ten days.

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Now, I know that it might seem a bit unlikely,

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but one of my own real personal pleasures of gardening

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is picking flowers.

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I really like cutting flowers for the house.

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I can't stress too much how, if it's hot and dry and you don't pick them,

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how quickly they'll set seed.

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You need to keep on top of a picking regime every nine or ten days

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and also give them a good soak.

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Every time you pick them, give them a bucket of water

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and with any luck, they should go on giving you lovely flowers

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right into September, as well as lots of cut flowers for the house.

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This part of the damp garden has no visible flowers at the moment.

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But there are a couple of things

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I'm watching like a hawk and treasuring.

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The first are these Meconopsis sheldonii.

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I really want to make them work,

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because they've got the most amazing blue flower in spring.

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I've tried in the past and failed.

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The secret is to keep them damp all summer,

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not sopping, but don't let them dry out.

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Luckily, we've had lots of rain in the last few months,

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but they need watering once a week

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with a shower and they're looking healthy and they should be good.

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This is Primula bulleyana

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and now is a perfect time to propagate it,

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both by seed from the green seed, and also by division, by splitting it.

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Where the flowers have formed these tiers,

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wonderful, orange, intense flowers that last for ages,

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they've left groups of seed heads.

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I'll just cut off those stems.

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Those will go to the potting shed

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but before that, I'm going to divide the plant, dig the whole thing up.

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It came out very easily.

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There we go.

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There we go.

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You can see that's divided through.

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I could divide that again.

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Pull that apart - there we are.

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Two nice plants from that.

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They're all being cut off because they've done their job.

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That, we can replant. By taking leaves off,

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we're taking stress off the roots

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which have been traumatised, hacked about, dug up.

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Put it in the ground, give it a really good soak and keep it moist.

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New leaf will grow and there'll be a new vigour to the plant

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and that will flower enthusiastically next spring.

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These go really well with hostas

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and share exactly the same growing conditions

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of damp soil, but taking sun or shade.

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I've got lots of hostas here and would like to get more,

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but I'd never call myself a "hostaholic".

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Rachel has been to visit a couple in Hampshire

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to whom the word "hostaholic" really doesn't do sufficient justice.

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Wow, this is unlike any garden I've ever been to before.

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It's so lush, there's so much foliage,

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hostas everywhere.

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It's absolutely extraordinary.

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There's only just room to walk through.

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I do feel like I've stepped into another world.

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This incredible collection, christened "the hanging hostas of Hampshire",

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is the creation of June Colley and her partner John. When did you first get hooked on hostas?

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I started growing hostas in 1995.

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I was looking for a perennial for the shade.

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I saw this at a car-boot sale and it grew very well in my backyard.

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Then I started to look for other hostas in the local nursery.

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So now I have about 1,300 varieties.

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They've gone up the walls of the house

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and vertically into the trees and made pagodas with the hostas.

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It's often said that hosta people are "hostaholics".

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We can always find ways to find room for a few more.

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The garden is divided into different spaces.

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There's an artificial

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but very convincing stream running through lush, naturalistic planting.

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Contrasting with this is the cool formality of the Islamic garden.

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There are variegated hostas, blues, yellows and miniatures.

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And all expertly arranged.

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Do you both tend to agree about what goes where, how you arrange things?

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No, I'm the one who decides where they should go.

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Quite right, there's got to be a boss in the garden.

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-That's certainly true.

-I always look for the colours, the size and shape.

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June's very creative and she can set out the hostas and arrange them.

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That's why we have them in pots,

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because she can move them about for a pleasing display.

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It's amazing. Wherever you look there are hostas.

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Just growing them up here in the pots on the wall, that's fantastic.

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Well, it's a custom in the Tropics to hang plants

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and also, at this level, you can appreciate the foliage even more.

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So what would you describe as the ideal growing conditions for hostas?

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-What do they really need to thrive?

-Dappled shade.

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They like to have maybe four hours of sun.

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We use potting compost, humus.

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We use grit to give the roots the best chance of growing.

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And we feed the plant with slow-release fertiliser

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to give it a boost to grow roots in the autumn

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and produce their shoots for the next year.

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You can't sit here and not admire the fact that it's pristine.

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The leaves are all beautiful, I can't see any holes,

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any damage anywhere.

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This is the million-dollar question.

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What do you do about slugs and snails?

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The most important thing is garden cleanliness.

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In the autumn, we clear up all the debris

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and that gets rid of a lot of eggs

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which are likely to hatch in the spring.

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And then, usually around February time,

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we use the blue slug pellet

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and we distribute that like seeds around the garden

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and that kills off the first generation of slugs and snails

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that may be emerging.

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And then, when the leaves have emerged,

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and the slugs and snails might be on the leaves,

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we use a garlic spray.

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It irritates their nervous system

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and they go off into someone else's garden.

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It doesn't kill them, but it does kill slug eggs in the soil.

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John's recipe for garlic spray is as follows.

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Crush one bulb of garlic and add it to a litre of water.

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Boil it for five minutes

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and, when it's cooled, sieve it, bottle it and put it in the fridge.

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Then add one tablespoonful per litre of water and spray.

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This garden is very deceptive but in the best way.

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It's not a big garden, but it looks enormous.

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That's because they've divided up the space so you don't see everything immediately.

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You have to work your way through the paths and sometimes it's really quite narrow.

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And then each space has a very individual feel.

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It's beautiful. The best thing of all is, if this was the entirety of your garden,

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this small space here, just look how beautiful it can be.

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I've been increasing my stock of candelabra primulas.

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I've lifted, divided and replanted a batch,

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but I'm also going to propagate more from green seed.

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Right, just water in the last of these primula divisions.

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There we go. And now I'll go and sow the seed.

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Whoops. Dropped my glasses. Always doing that.

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OK, these seeds, being green, will germinate much quicker

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than if they're left to dry.

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And it's a fairly straightforward process. Take a small container.

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I actually have a home-made mix which I use.

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Leaf mould, a little bit of garden compost, some vermiculite,

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but you can use any peat-free compost, but just thin it down.

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It doesn't need a lot of nutrition because these will be pricked out

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as soon as they're big enough to handle. Right. Here we go.

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Now, we're so used to thinking of seed as this dry thing

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that we harvest and we store and we dry out.

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It's quite novel to go for green seed. There we are.

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Now, we take that out and it looks like a little green raspberry.

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And the paler parts, each one is a separate seed,

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so if I gently break that apart...

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..and just drop them on the surface of the compost,

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that's all I need to do.

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It is amazing to think that each one of these is going to make

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a new plant.

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Now, don't cover it, because primula seeds

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are stimulated into germination by light.

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If you're going to put these somewhere where it's windy

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or you think it's going to be disturbed,

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you could put a thin cover on your vermiculite, but best not.

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Best to just leave it open.

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And because the seeds are a bit sticky,

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they're not dry at all or light, like dried seeds,

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they should just stay put.

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The next step is just to sit that in some water so the soil can get moist

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and then put it somewhere where the air is moist.

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An easy way of doing that is to put a sheet of glass over it.

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So water it, then put glass over the top.

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Light can get in, but moisture can't evaporate out.

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Or, I've got a mist propagator, that's perfect.

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Put it under there and then the air is kept moist all the time.

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Failing that, use a polythene bag. But it must be clear.

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You need light on those seeds.

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And they should germinate in three to four weeks

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and then we can prick 'em out.

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Although the herbs are now in their heyday,

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it is worth thinking about next year already.

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Because if we have a winter like the last couple,

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we're bound to lose herbs in the process,

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particularly the Mediterranean ones like rosemary and sage and lavender.

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I've got some lavender here. This is Lavandula stoechas,

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which is really not very hardy at all. Although it's in pots

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and can be taken in,

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it's worth taking steps now to ensure I have plenty of back-up.

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The best way to do that is from cuttings.

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What I'm looking for are nice, straight, healthy stems

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without any flower buds.

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Now, if I took just the soft ends,

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that would root very readily, but it would also die very fast.

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However, if I take some older growth, wood that's grown this year

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but has had a few months to harden off,

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it'll die off much slower

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and therefore have more time to produce roots,

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so that's what I'm looking for. So, I'm going to cut back to there

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and then I'll take another couple from this plant.

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Right, now, the crucial thing if you're taking any cutting at all

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is have a polythene bag in your pocket and put them straight in.

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Because essentially those are dying

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and by sealing them in a polythene bag, we're delaying their death,

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which buys us time to prepare them so they can make roots.

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As it is, I'm going to do that right now.

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Right, this is just normal potting compost

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and I've got some extra grit which I'm going to add into it.

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You could take the cutting in pure grit if you had to,

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so don't stint on it.

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Wherever you have a heel,

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which is a slither that attaches to another stem,

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you tend to get much better rooting.

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So it's a good idea to keep that.

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Now, when we have a long cutting like this without a heel,

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I'm going to cut that back.

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Do you see here that there are leaves coming from there and there?

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So if I just cut across there,

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sharp knife, and then take a few more leaves out...

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I always used to make my cuttings by just sticking them into the compost.

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But actually, recently, I've been putting them

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between the pot and the compost, and they take much better.

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You just slide it down nearer to the pot like that.

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And the reason for that is because they're kept a bit warmer

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and the drainage is a bit sharper.

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Now, Mediterranean shrubs don't want to be too wet.

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Unlike some cuttings which need to be kept permanently wet,

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these are fine if you put them in a bright,

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but not glaringly bright, place.

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A sort of shade for half the day is fine. And mist them.

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Once, twice, three times a day if you remember.

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But if they turn brown at the tips, that means they are too wet,

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so dry them off a bit. And then when you see fresh, new growth,

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you'll know they've got a root system

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and you can pot them up individually and keep them over winter.

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They won't grow a lot between now and next spring,

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but once next spring comes, they'll grow away strongly

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and you'll have half a dozen healthy, new plants.

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Now, we've had quite a few e-mails, letters and pictures

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about the problems of gardening on a slope.

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This one's from Carmen Odell who says,

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"I've got a very steeply-sloping garden

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"and I've recently removed a tree." She sent pictures of this.

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"I'm a single mum.

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"I've got lots of enthusiasm, but not much time and money.

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"I'd like to grow some veg, but not only have I got a sloping shape

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"but awful soil and I greatly welcome some advice."

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Another one, "Our garden has

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"a north-sloping, exposed windy site with clay soil."

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This can all be a bit daunting. I do know that.

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But Carol has been to visit a very steep garden

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that is just packed full of ideas and inspiration.

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This is the pretty Welsh village of Drefelin,

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nestled deep in a landscape more suited to four legs than two.

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But, for some people, their desire to garden knows no bounds.

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Steve Harwood lives here with his young family,

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and over the last seven years,

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he's transformed an almost vertical slice of Welsh hillside

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into a plant-rich and family-friendly garden.

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Most people would just take one look at this

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and head in the opposite direction.

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You'd turn round and you'd say, "No! How can that possibly garden?"

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-What did you think when you got here?

-We scrambled up to the garden.

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-Right. Right up to the top?

-Yeah. We saw the vista,

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just so excited and we started bouncing up and down on the spot.

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SHE LAUGHS

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I just fell in love with the whole atmosphere of the place.

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The views, the river at the bottom of the hill...

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It's just such a peaceful place

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and I didn't consider really the issues of a hill garden.

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It looks wonderful, though. It looks so inviting, you know?

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I just want to climb up in there.

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-Can we have a look?

-Yeah, of course we can.

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The actual landscaping must have been pretty hard work, wasn't it?

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The hard landscaping was just real hard slog for the first three years.

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It takes you time to get access,

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so as you are working your way up the garden,

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you form ideas in your head about what you're going to do

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in that area once you've got to it.

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If you try to take on a hill garden and think,

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"I'm going to try and do it all at once,"

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it would just be so overwhelming.

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If you tackle it in small projects at a time,

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it just becomes so much easier.

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Yeah. Well, you're certainly succeeding, aren't you?

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And everywhere you walk, you've got these new vistas, these little ways through.

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And it leads you on, doesn't it, right up the slope.

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Up we come.

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Once you'd got access and made your steps,

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you started to create these terraces.

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So how did you do it? Pickaxe, yeah?

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Pickaxe and shovel. I dug all the soil on this side,

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moved it across to this side to level it.

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So that triangle there went over to the other side.

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You've created a level and got rid of all the soil at the same time.

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You don't have to carry it down the slope or up it or anything, it's just to the other side.

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Obviously, all the stone I dig out goes into walls and rockeries.

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You've got to reuse and recycle these days.

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That's what you call local materials, isn't it?

0:21:280:21:32

There are seven terraces in all. No mean feat.

0:21:350:21:39

And the clever thing about them is the way they've been planted.

0:21:390:21:43

Each one has its own character.

0:21:430:21:45

Even though this is a south-facing slope,

0:21:490:21:51

by adding shrubs and smaller trees and vertical structures,

0:21:510:21:55

Steve's created a range of growing conditions.

0:21:550:22:00

From hot, sunny spots, perfect for growing vegetables,

0:22:000:22:05

to both damp and even dry shade.

0:22:050:22:10

Everywhere you look there are these secret little places, aren't there?

0:22:120:22:16

-This is so pretty.

-Yeah, this is my rose walk.

0:22:160:22:21

Not many people would have it on the level with the roof.

0:22:210:22:24

-What came first, the veranda?

-Yeah, the veranda came first.

0:22:240:22:28

And I bet you can smell these roses from the veranda.

0:22:280:22:31

The scent of some of these roses is just amazing.

0:22:310:22:34

A really brilliant use of a bit of difficult space. Well done.

0:22:340:22:40

Plenty of ideas, eh?

0:22:400:22:43

At every stage, you've got a different view.

0:22:470:22:49

-You'd never get that in a flat garden.

-That's right.

0:22:490:22:52

And on each area of the garden, I've put seats so you can actually enjoy that view.

0:22:520:22:58

I'm trying to encourage this area to be a glade

0:22:590:23:02

and plant lots of nectar-loving plants in this particular area

0:23:020:23:05

to get the butterflies in and the bees.

0:23:050:23:08

And you're succeeding, too.

0:23:080:23:11

Right at the top of the garden,

0:23:150:23:17

Steve has made use of existing trees to create a shady woodland.

0:23:170:23:22

I've planted a couple of trees at the front edge to enclose it a bit more.

0:23:220:23:26

It is more protected now for the Acers, which don't like to be in the strong winds.

0:23:260:23:31

Having a young family means this garden isn't just about plants.

0:23:330:23:38

I'll tell you what though, they're not going to be able to play football up here, are they?!

0:23:380:23:42

It's not a garden for football, it's not a garden for cricket.

0:23:420:23:46

It's a garden for using your imagination

0:23:460:23:49

and making up games and hiding.

0:23:490:23:51

The way Steve's risen to the challenge is truly inspiring.

0:23:530:23:57

I've put the tree-house in.

0:23:570:23:59

The kids, as they get older, they can go up there with their friends and have sleepovers.

0:23:590:24:05

I've got a few more ideas that I want to do up there.

0:24:050:24:10

I'm summer-pruning these pears. It's a job that I do every year,

0:24:270:24:32

any time from midsummer to the middle of August.

0:24:320:24:35

And it's very simple.

0:24:350:24:36

But I know that some people feel very anxious about pruning.

0:24:360:24:39

It comes with all kinds of problems

0:24:390:24:42

of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

0:24:420:24:45

In fact, we've had a couple of e-mails, which I've got here,

0:24:450:24:48

on exactly that subject.

0:24:480:24:50

One is from Doreen Hamilton. And another from Beryl Woolesden.

0:24:500:24:55

You've got a gift of two pear trees, four apple trees and a plum tree.

0:24:550:24:58

"My dilemma is, they're coming up to their first summer pruning

0:24:580:25:02

"and I'm very unsure what to do, as I don't wish to damage the trees."

0:25:020:25:06

And it's a refrain I often hear.

0:25:060:25:09

"I don't want to harm trees that are growing perfectly well,

0:25:090:25:12

"yet I do want to prune them."

0:25:120:25:14

So the first thing to sort out is that apples and pears

0:25:140:25:17

have a very different regime from plums and gages.

0:25:170:25:21

The basic rule of plums and gages is, don't prune unless you have to.

0:25:210:25:25

However, for apples and pears,

0:25:250:25:28

what we tend to do is prune in summer for training and restricting.

0:25:280:25:34

I've done this dozens of times, so I'm doing it with complete confidence.

0:25:450:25:50

I know what I'm doing and I know that it's very easy.

0:25:500:25:53

But if it's your first time and you're feeling a bit daunted,

0:25:530:25:57

just take it steady. Go slowly.

0:25:570:25:59

Take a piece of new growth like that and you can see it's new

0:25:590:26:02

cos you can bend it around.

0:26:020:26:04

Follow it back down to old growth, and the old growth,

0:26:040:26:08

that's two years old and that's one year old and that's this year.

0:26:080:26:12

Then come back up the new growth and leave two, three,

0:26:120:26:15

even four leaves.

0:26:150:26:17

Now, obviously the anxiety is cutting off a fruiting spur,

0:26:170:26:21

especially if you're not quite sure what it should look like.

0:26:210:26:24

We've got some examples here. You can see there's one,

0:26:240:26:28

the fruit coming off.

0:26:280:26:29

If you follow this branch along, it's encrusted with lichen.

0:26:310:26:35

Good and old and probably riddled with canker.

0:26:350:26:38

You've got a spur coming off it.

0:26:380:26:40

That wood there is two or three years old. That's probably three, that's two.

0:26:400:26:45

And there's fruit on the end it.

0:26:450:26:47

This, that I've pruned back, is this year's.

0:26:470:26:50

And if I leave it,

0:26:500:26:51

that may well develop fruit next year or the year after.

0:26:510:26:54

Now, I'm going to pootle along and do this nice and slowly.

0:26:540:26:57

But even if you don't have fruit trees at home,

0:26:570:27:01

here are some jobs that you can get on with this weekend.

0:27:010:27:05

If you have a variegated tree or shrub, like this holly,

0:27:070:27:09

it's not at all uncommon to see strong, all-green shoots

0:27:090:27:14

at this time of year.

0:27:140:27:16

This is because they're reverting to the basic green that the plant has been bred from.

0:27:160:27:21

You should cut these off as soon as you see them

0:27:210:27:24

because they grow much stronger than the rest of the plant,

0:27:240:27:27

and if you're not careful, you can lose your variegation altogether.

0:27:270:27:33

It's time now to clear the first crop of beans and peas

0:27:350:27:40

to make room for future plants.

0:27:400:27:42

Lift them all, picking any pods you want to use for cooking,

0:27:440:27:48

and take the haulms to the compost heap.

0:27:480:27:51

These espaliers are all riddled with canker, and that's not good.

0:28:030:28:08

But it's never got desperate and I think one of the reasons is

0:28:080:28:11

that I prune them really hard every summer,

0:28:110:28:15

so they're constantly exposed to light and air

0:28:150:28:18

and the fungus never gets a chance to develop.

0:28:180:28:21

Anyway, I shan't take them out. They'll see me out.

0:28:210:28:24

And it's the end of tonight's programme,

0:28:240:28:27

but we'll be back next week

0:28:270:28:28

for a 60-minute programme starting at 8pm.

0:28:280:28:31

so join me at Longmeadow then. Bye-bye.

0:28:310:28:34

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0:28:390:28:43

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0:28:430:28:46

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