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Each month we will try to answer a few of the top gardening questions. We are planning on including as much information as possible but if you want to contact us to ask us a question or request further info please feel free, we will do our best to help. You can use the comments form or our contact us page.

Top winter question….Can I spread the ash from my fire on the garden?

Answer: Wood ash is great stuff and can be spread on your beds or put into your compost bin. When its cold obviously. It is full of calcium carbonate and has a low level of Phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and other trace elements, all of which promote root growth. Not so good for acid loving plants though. But don’t be tempted by your coal ash or if your wood ash contains other ingredients, such as your little bit of plastic you needed to get rid of or other waste. These types of ash contain chemicals that your plants wont appreciate.

What is the best mulch for my flower beds?

Answer: There are two types of mulch, Inorganic or decorative and organic. Decorative mulches do what it says on the tin whilst organic mulches can also give nutrients back to the soil as well as acting to suppress weeds. Mulch in Autumn, winter or early spring for best effect.


Bark is sold as mulch in bags at your local garden or DIY store, as a mulch its pros over its cons are questionable. It will help to stop weed growth and more so when used in conjunction with a weed control membrane. It will also help to disguise the membrane. But it can rot your plants shrubs and trees when its put up against the stems and trunks. Its rotting itself and carriers a number of bacteria which can affect the very plants your trying to benefit. Although its good for adding some nutrients back into soil it can actually draw nitrogen out of the soil as it rots down. Watch out for nitrogen deficiency and treat as necessary.

Well, and I really mean well, rotted farm manure is great for putting nutrients into soil and is best spread in winter. This is not an attractive mulch but it serves its purpose and its especially good for your veg garden.

Other organic mulches include grass clippings, leaf mold and leaves.

Inorganic or decorative

Gravel or grit and seashells are all more attractive mulches. These are also best used in conjunction with a weed suppressing membrane. Rain water is sent away from plants and so it helps with drainage. This is especially good when you have plants such as alpines which tend to rot if left in contact with water for to long. They are also sharp which may help to deter slugs and snails, although don’t hold me to that.

These are the most widely used there are other more decorative mulches such as glass, crushed cd’s, polished pebbles and marbles which all look nice but might not work so well at keeping the weeds at bay.

Another more recent addition are recycled mulches made from old tyres these come in a array of colours and if you choose brown do look remarkably like bark chips.

How late/early can trees, shrubs and perennials be planted?

Answer: It all depends on the weather. I could tell you to plant in late December but what if it decided to snow, I’m sure I would get lots of angry letters. The answer is if its wet not dry and the forecast isn’t for snow and your not getting any very hard frosts your probably OK to move or plant. This would also depend on the plant your hoping to move as well. This is the time for bare root roses, fruit plants and trees. This gives you a good idea of what is possible at this time. Try to get a good root ball when you move any established plants and shrubs. Make sure you water in.

How deep do I plant my bulbs?

The general rule is plant bulbs between two and three times the height of the bulb. If your bulb is 7cm tall then you need to plant it at least 14cm below the surface but no more than 21cm below.