Tree ferns are among the most magnificent and resilient of all plant species and posses an architectural quality almost unique in nature. Unfortunately it is the very fact of its uniqueness that causes concern when it comes to looking after them.

Luckily, feeding a tree fern is relatively easily because - like most other plants - they are able to retrieve nutrients from the soil using its root system. However, they also have a secondary formation of roots within the trunk which reaches close to the top of the crown. This enables tree ferns to also feed on accumulated debris, bird and animal droppings that are washed into the crown by way of their specialist fronds during rainfall.

Feeding from the crown will be important when you first purchase a tree fern as they will generally come cut at the base and therefore without a root system. In this condition they are still able to survive but they look more like a detached elephant leg than anything else. At this time feeding is important as the tree fern will be stressed and will have little energy reserves with which to produce new leaves and an essential, replacement root system.

It is good practice to soak a new, cut tree fern in a bath of water for an hour or so before planting, but is also well worth adding a half to quarter dose of soluble plant feed in with the water – especially if bought during the spring and summer months. To prevent fertilizer wastage only apply soluble fertilizers via the crown but as the plant becomes established it will do well with a regular mulch at the base. Continue to regularly water the trunk and crown until the first frond unfurls, at which point a half dose of soluble plant fertilizer can be applied once a week. As soon as the tree fern starts producing new fronds on a regular basis it can then be fed the recommended dose of plant fertiliser once or twice a week.

When trees ferns are established they can utilise a surprisingly large amount of nutrition, and in a good year are able to produce a second ring of fronds on top of the first. If you intend heavily feeding your tree ferns then it will be important to also water them regularly – at least twice a day morning and evening – so that they do not suffer with root burn.

Once the growing season moves into the autumn period it’s best to end feeding to allow the existing fronds to harden up for the winter. As soon as the first frond opens in the spring feeding can once again commence at the half dose concentration.
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Tree ferns are among the most magnificent and resilient of all plant species and posses an architectural quality almost unique in nature.
Unfortunately it is the very fact of its uniqueness that causes concern when it comes to looking after them. Why, well it’s because - when purchased - tree ferns generally come without a root system, and look more like a detached elephant leg than anything else.

Luckily, watering tree ferns is very simple; it is just a case of mimicking how they would receive water in their native habitat. Tree ferns live below the tree canopy along the floor of temperate rain forests but as well as absorbing ground water through their roots they can also collect water from their leaves which drains into the crown and further down into the trunk. Their specialised fibrous trunks can also collect water either as rain falling onto it or from water droplets from mist and fog.

In the garden situation you would use either a hose or watering can fitted with a rose, watering the entire plant from top to bottom. While your tree fern may be bought without roots, once potted on these will be produced during the growing season.

If your tree fern is positioned in full sun it is likely to need watering most days, especially during the summer. If it is growing in the shade or semi-shade then you should be able to get away with watering every two to three days. Once the cooler temperatures of autumn arrive watering can be dropped off to perhaps once a week but you still do not want the truck or the crown to dry out. It is only over the winter period that the crown should just be kept on the damp side, but it may also require protection to stop the crown from fully freezing and damaging next seasons new growth.

If you have purchased your tree fern as just a cut trunk it is worth letting it soak in a bath of water for an hour or so before planting.

For more information click onto:
Dicksonia antarctica
Dinosaur Plants: The Tree Fern
How to Feed Tree Ferns
How to Grow Japanese Painted Ferns
How to Grow Tree Ferns
How to Look After and Care For Tree Ferns
How to Protect Tree Ferns Over Winter
How to Save and Recover an Over-watered Plant
How to Water Amaryllis
How to Water Orchids
How to Water Garden and Container Grown Plants
JAPANESE PAINTED FERNS - Athyrium niponicum cultivars
THE RASP FERN - Doodia media
When do Tree Ferns put out New Fronds
Why is my Tree Fern Dead?


A wormery – sometimes known as a worm composter – is an organic method of breaking down suitable kitchen and garden waste. However using worms as part of the natural process not only speeds up natural decomposition by digestion, it also significantly increases the comparative levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and humic acids.

Tiger worms
Worms have evolved to become nature’s natural composters and because they never sleep they are producing compost all the time. Depending on the right conditions, they can eat and digest between half and all of their body weight in a single day, converting waste into nutrient-rich worm casts. This process can quickly reduce the bulk of the organic waste by up to 80%.

Typically, a wormery is an enclosed unit made from several separate - but linked – compartments stacked in a column. The unit houses live worms together with any organic waste that is supplied. More organic matter is added over time which will give you a mixture of processed compost in varying stages of decomposition. The upper-most compartment is normally covered with a simple, damp, degradable ‘blanket’ to help retain the warmth and moisture content within the compost. This can be a section of natural fibre matting, an old towels, or even an old newspapers or similar. The unit is topped with a lid perforated with tiny breather holes, and the compartments are linked in such a way that the worms are able to pass from compartment to compartment as they please.

Not only will a wormery supply an excellent quality of compost, it will also produce a nutritious and concentrated liquid fertiliser. To collect this liquid feed the wormery will need to be raised from the floor with a container placed underneath beneath a suitably sized and positioned hole. Once collected, this can be used as a liquid feed but it will need to be diluted at an approximate 1:10 rate with water.

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When it comes to tree ferns you should always lean to the safe side. Consider the worse weather that the winter climate is likely to throw at you, and protect your plant against that. You can do this in one of two ways.

1. Protect you fern for the entire winter period or
2. Only protect your fern when temperatures get close to the limits that it can survive at.
Which parts of the tree fern will need protecting?

Although it’s the fronds that are most susceptible to the cold, they are also in fact the most expendable. It is the crown of the trunk that is the most important part as this is where the meristems exist which will produce the following years growth. Next in line is the trunk because this protects the thick, boot-strap like roots which – if the crown dies – may be able to produce new meristematic tissue from dormant buds which will in turn produce new fronds – but don’t hold your breath. Coming in third in the hierarchy of importance is the thick, fibrous root system at the base of the plants. If the root system dies - but the crown and the thick roots within the truck survive - there is nothing to worry about as these will re-grow over the following season. I would still protect them just to be on the safe side as less hardy species - such as Dicksonia squarrosa - can form multiple crowns and will grow back from the base if the crown is cold damaged – but only if it is mature enough.

Methods of protection

In their native habitat the crowns of tree ferns will normally be protected by leaf litter that has fallen down from the tree canopy above.

You can easily mimic this with leaves collected from around the garden, and this will work quite effectively down to temperatures of between 1 or 2 degrees below freezing.

However the best method is to plant the tree fern in the ground but with the root-ball still contained in some type of pot. That way it can be lifted before the cold depths of winter arrive without disturbing the root-ball. Remember that - come the spring - the tree fern will need to be hardened off again. Unfortunately this will be dependent on the size and weight of the tree fern, and whether suitable over-wintering space is available, otherwise the yearly lifting of your tree fern may not be a viable option.

The most popular method used for protecting tree ferns is to surround the entire plant – excluding the fronds as these will grow back – with a simple structure filled with a natural insulation. The structure can be made of anything that is sturdy enough such as wood, plastic tubing or a firm wire mesh.

This can be covered with clear polyethylene sheeting, bubble wrap, loft insulation – again, use whatever is suitably appropriate and close to hand. This in itself may be perfectly adequate, but for extra protection you can back fill the structure with a good layer of straw or woollen fleece. I would recommend putting on some kind of a water-proof lid above the structure but make sure there is a good air gap between the top and the sides to prevent the build up of condensation on sunny days. At all times the crown must be kept moist especially if the weather picks up, but try not to have it wet during the cold spells as freezing will damage the crown.

As an additional precaution for the cautious, you can build up a mound of soil around the base of the trunk to help protect the root system and the lower body of the trunk from the cold.
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It’s difficult trying to find enthusiasm for growing crops at this time of year. The weather is on the turn, the air is damp and many of our plants are dropping leaves and making the garden look a right, sorry state. And although it may not seem so at first glance, this is in fact a magical time of year as plants prepare themselves for winter in readiness for the following spring. There is a lesson to be learned here because if you wait until the spring to start planting you will be wasting valuable time. Anything that you can be put into the ground this side of winter will have time to establish their roots system, build up more reserves and grow away far quicker and stronger than you would achieve by planting later on in the spring.

When it comes to autumn planting of fruit and vegetables your best choices would be onions, shallots, rhubarb, asparagus, raspberries and garlic. The soil is still warm, and it’s a good excuse to get back out into the garden to keep an eye on things.


Asparagus Crowns

Although often grown as seed and planted in the spring, you can also plant bare-root or pot grown plants now. Prepare the planting area as early as you can adding plenty of rich compost or farm manure and removing all traces of weeds. If the soil is not well-drained then add some grit or lots more compost.

For each row dig out a trench 10in deep by 1ft wide, then fill the bottom of each trench with a few inches of well-rotted compost then cover with the soil to form a ridge. Place the new asparagus plants 1ft 6in apart, sitting them on top of the ridge – when using bare-root plants have the roots spread out either side. Now cover the roots up to the level of the crown and water them in. For more information click onto How to Grow Asparagus Plants.


The secret to growing garlic is to plant it in mid October, spring planting is possible in warmer areas, but even then, better sized bulbs will result from an autumn sowing. Dig the soil well to a spade's depth before planting, incorporating as much organic matter as possible to assist with drainage as garlic will rot in water-logged conditions. If you can, dig in some horticultural grit as drainage will be improved even further. A couple of handfuls of bonemeal should also be incorporated every square yard. Garlic bulbs will not require much nitrogen and so should not be grown on freshly manured soil. If you still intend to use manure then dig it into the ground several months before planting. If the soil is acid it's worth liming it so its pH level becomes neutral or even slightly alkaline.


Onions prefer a sunny position with a rich, yet light soil; however they will be fine in most soils as long as it is firm. For this reason it is best to prepare the soil well in advance of planting – up until December will be fine for most maincrop onions. Dig the soil to 18in deep, working in any organic matter available, but remove any stones in the soil that you come across. As with garlic, onions do not require much nitrogen and so should not be grown on freshly manured soil. If you still intend to use manure then dig it into the ground several months before planting.

And again, if the soil is acid it's worth liming it so its pH level becomes neutral or even slightly alkaline. Just before planting, tread the soil down so that it is firm. For more information click onto How to Grow Onions from Onion Sets.


Shallots are popular for their distinctive flavour, and are easy to grow. They can be planted in the autumn or spring, but the best flavour and yields come from over-wintering shallots planted in late autumn for harvesting the following August.

Grow shallots from shallot sets - baby shallot bulbs - planted 6 inches apart in rows 9 inches apart with the roots downwards and the tops just below the soil. A shallot bulb can be divided into cloves and in this way they are similar to garlic, but with shallots the whole bulb should be planted. As long as the bed is kept relatively free of weeds and is watered during prolonged dry spells, the shallots will grow well.

When the leaves turn yellow, lift the shallots and allow them to dry in the sun for a couple of weeks, after which they can be stored in a cool, dry, frost-free place.



This popular berrying fruit is best grown from bare-root plants in the autumn October is the preferred month to plant them this can be done any time up to March if the weather and soil conditions are suitable.

Most soils are suitable for raspberries, but a little preparation will pay rewards, especially because they will remain in the same position for 10 to 12 years. Start your site off by removing weeds and digging in plenty of well-rotted manure a few weeks before planting.

When you are ready, dig a row 1ft deep by 3ft wide, working more well-rotted. The planting depth is important with raspberries and as a rule of thumb, aim for the old soil mark on the stem to be at the same level as the ground after planting. Where more than one row is being planted, allow 5ft between rows in order to let the roots spread freely and give room for you to harvest the crop in summer.


Rhubarb plants are available all year round at some garden centres, although by far the best time to plant rhubarb is late autumn to early winter. If you can, buy one-year-old plants, known as 'crowns', that have been divided from strong, disease-free plants.

They are tolerant of most soil conditions, and will grow best in a neutral soil which has been dug to a depth of 2ft or more. Incorporate as much organic matter as possible during the digging because it must last the life of the plant - rhubarb plants do not cope well with their roots being disturbed once they have established. If you can, the site should be prepared a month or so in advance of planting in order to give it time to settle.

Dig a hole a little bit wider than the plant. The depth should be such that the top of the plant is 1 inch below the soil surface. Fill in around the plant with soil, gently firming it down to ensure that no air pockets remain. Water well if the conditions are dry and after the leaves have died down, spread a rich mulch around the plants to help conserve water and suppress weeds. Do not mulch directly over where the crown is likely to emerge.

Remember to dead-head any flower clusters immediately after they appear in the early spring, as allowing them to set seed will weaken the plant, reducing your crop.

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After a very steep learning curve and not much to show for it, I have decided release all of my short films for permanent viewing. They are placed in order of their production so that everyone can see how bad I was in the beginning now that I have reached the heady heights of 1970's mediocrity.

If you laugh at least one of them, then I for one believe that I have done my job. I hope that you enjoy them.

Click on your chosen title to watch the film.


Sissinghurst Castle and its secret history

Mind bending magic with prunus Marolia

Littlehampton: A history of promise

ATHENS: The Caryatids

ROME: The Pyramid of Rome


You only need to experience digging over an area of wet, heavy clay once to understand how soul destroying this can be. Generally it will be enough to question your sanity for starting such a job, shortly followed by the nagging feeling there must be an easier way?

Unfortunately, the prospect of a repeat performance year after year is often enough to quash even the most passionate gardener’s motivation, but there are things that you can do to improve matters.

It’s not all bad news with clay soils as they are great for holding onto nutrients and of course plenty of water. This is great for areas prone to dry summers, but what they give with one hand they take with the other as clay soils are they are also poor draining and slow to warm up giving your plants a shorter growing season.

The prospect of digging over clay soils will be particularly difficult to avoid for anyone growing edible crops as this is all part and parcel of managing your soil. However if you can help the clay naturally break up into smaller, more manageable clumps your life will be so much easier.


Unfortunately when it comes to improving clay soils there is still digging involved although you can choose to use a rotavator. Be aware however that using powered machinery on clay soils will almost guarantee that you will create a hardpan within the soil. A soil hardpan is a compacted layer of soil formed by – amongst other things - repeated cultivation to a similar depth.

There are three ways to approach the improvement of clay soils, all of which are simple to employ. You may wish to consider using all of them in one go in while you are still young enough to benefit from your hard work.

1. The first approach is to add as much organic matter to the soil as you possibly can. This can take the form of leave mould, farm manures, home made composts, composted bark - whatever you can get your hands on really, but price will be important because you can end up using tonnes of the stuff. Increasing the organic content of clay soils will help to coat the clay particles and cause them to granulate. The more organic matter to can dig in to the soil, the more friable it will become.

2. The second approach is to add plenty of grit and again, find a cheap source as you can end up using huge amounts of it. Do not use soft sand as this can bind with the clay creating an even more solid structure. Although grit this will help to break up the clay and improve the drainage, it will do little for improving soil fertility.

3. The third way is to use a ‘Clay Breaker’ product. This will bond with the clay particles helping in it to form into granules. It is often found as a pelleted blend of mineral gypsum, limestone and other organic matter such as cocoa shell and poultry manure.

Apart from the clay breaker, whatever product or products are using you will be looking at an application depth of between 3-4 inches. This will need to be dug into the soil to a depth of around 8 inches. You will need to repeat this process 2 or 3 times over the next few years in order to achieve the improved conditions that you are looking for. However, this will be well worth it in the long run.
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Image credit -

Orchids won’t need to be potted on very often even though they may look as though they do. What does this mean? Well, orchids grow two main and distinctly different types of root - aerial and subterranean - and unfortunately (especially for the tidy minded) it is in their nature to send these roots everywhere looking for nourishment and more points to anchor themselves to.

This can of course look untidy and you can be forgiven for thinking that the plant is doing this because they have exhausted the nutritional supply within the pot. However, don’t forget that when orchids are grown indoors they rely on the owner for adequate feeds with a soluble fertilizer and if the orchid is being fed correctly then there is no need to re-pot.

With that in mind do not make the mistake of trying to bury aerial roots back within the confines of the pot because even if they don’t break in the process they will eventually suffocate and rot.

That being said there are times when you really will need to re-pot your orchid.

1. Orchids can outgrow their pots and this point is reached when there is room left within the pot for the next season’s growth.
2. Orchids will need to be re-potted in a fresh batch of appropriate sterilised compost if the existing potting medium is beginning to decompose.
3. Remove and re-pot the orchid if it is showing any sign of root rots.
4. Re-pot orchids if there are visible signs of salt residue on the growing medium

The best time to re-pot orchids is after they have finished flowering and have begun to produce new root growth. If you can, always try to avoid potting on orchids while they are in flower.

Gently squeeze the sides of the pot then tip the pot on its side and carefully remove the plant from the pot. Keep an eye on the base of the pot as you may have roots that have grown through the drainage holes. If this has happened then try to thread the roots back through the holes without damaging them. You may need to consider cutting the pot away from the rots in severe cases.

Once the orchid has been released from it pot, try to remove all trace of the old potting medium. Look over the root system and with a pair or sterilised scissors trim off all roots that are black, dark brown, or mushy.

Scissors can be sterilised by either dipping them in methylated spirits or by passing the blades through a flame. All healthy roots will be turgid to the touch and white or light tan-brown in colour.

Remove any old, shrivelled or dormant growth that you can find - such as "back bulbs”. These are older, pseudo bulbs that have lost their leaves but are still alive. Once removed, these back bulbs can be either thrown away or potted on themselves. Dust all areas that have been cut with sulphur.

When it comes re-potting, choose a compost mix which has been specifically formulated for orchids, and allow it to soak overnight in water before you use it. With regards to pot choice tries to keep to clear pots and use a new one where possible. At the very least sterilise the old one with boiling water to kill off any pathogens before hand – don’t forget to let it cool down first!

When ready, hold the plant inside the new pot keeping the base of the plant roughly where it should eventually rest, i.e. in line with the top of the compost. Now begin to drop compost around the roots, tapping the pot firmly as you do so – this will help to shake the compost down amongst the roots. When the compost is almost level with the leaves then you have finished although there may well be some gaps which you can see through the side of the clear plant pot, don't worry as the odd air chamber is beneficial to the plant roots.



As beautiful and unique as they are, orchids require the same environmental conditions as any other plant in order to survive and thrive. These necessary conditions are heat, light, nutrition, water and oxygen, with each individual plant species and family requiring differing amounts of each. Outside of watering, understanding how to feed orchids effectively will make the biggest difference in the health of these plants and the quality of their flowers.

The majority of orchid species are part of that specialist group of plants known as ‘epiphytes’. This is a group of plants - mainly found in the tropics - that have turned their back on growing in the ground and instead have made their homes up in the tree canopy.

Because of this, the roots of epiphytic plants have evolved to become more than just a structure used for support, and nutrient and water uptake. In the specific case of orchids they are also used for water storage and - rather impressively – to house chlorophyll pigment so that the roots can produce energy rich sugars through photosynthesis along with their fleshy leaves.

As mentioned previously, in their natural habitat epiphytic orchids live high up in the canopy often secured to a suitable branch. Although this makes them safe from grazing predators it also puts them well out of reach from life giving ground water and the nutrients locked up within the soil. In order to obtain their essential nutrients orchids have to rely on accumulated debris, bird and animal droppings to be washed onto their roots by rain.

All of this means that when it comes to feeding orchids effectively, which is why it helps to understand the environment they come from.


The way that orchids have evolved to cope in their nutrient poor habitat means that they do not need as much fertilizer as other house or garden plants.

Using the normal concentration of water soluble fertilizers that you would use for other plants will quite simply overfeed orchids burning their roots and leaves, and cause fertilizer salts to build up in the growing mix. This is caused by the phenomenon known as ex-osmosis. The dictionary explanation of osmosis is a follows:

Osmosis is the diffusion of water through a semi-permeable membrane, from a low concentrate solution (high water potential) to a highly concentrated solution (low water potential), up a solute concentration gradient.

Ex-osmosis occurs when water contained within the plants root is drawn back out into the root environment due to the high concentration of nutrients compared to that within the root. If exposed for too long the root cells will die through dehydration causing the characteristic burn marks on the surface of the roots.

Over-feeding orchids will not make them grow faster, or flower more, but instead will push them into decline and even die. However there are some basic orchid feeding rules with will prevent this from happening.

1. If using a standard house plant food always feed your orchids using half the recommended strength. If in doubt, always feed less.

2. Purchase and use orchid fertilizers specially formulated for orchids and simply follow the directions.

3. Try not to get into the habit of feeding orchids the same amount of feed at the same time each month. Orchids will need more feeding in the spring and summer months while they are actively growing, and far less during the cooler winter period.

4. You can’t treat all orchids the same and this includes the amount of fertilizer given. Give larger growing specimens or species that naturally produce more foliage – cymbidium species – more food than other those that grow naturally smaller or produce less foliage such as plants from the paphiopedilum family.

Together with feeding your orchid plants and to reduce the risk of over feeding it is also a good idea to flush the root system thoroughly with water at least once a month to get rid of excess salts.



As beautiful and unique as they are, orchids require the same environmental conditions as any other plant in order to survive and thrive. These necessary conditions are heat, light, nutrition, water and oxygen, with each individual plant species and family requiring differing amounts of each. Out of all of these factors it’s the watering of orchids that seems to cause the most concern.

The majority of orchid species are part of that specialist group of plants known as ‘epiphytes’. This is a group of plants - mainly found in the tropics - that have turned their back on growing in the ground and instead have made their homes up in the tree canopy.

Because of this, the roots of epiphytic plants have evolved to become more than just a structure used for support, and nutrient and water uptake. In the specific case of orchids they are also used for water storage and - rather impressively – to house chlorophyll pigment so that the roots can produce energy rich sugars through photosynthesis along with their fleshy leaves.

As mentioned previously, in their natural habitat epiphytic orchids live high up in the canopy often secured to a suitable branch. Although this makes them safe from grazing predators it also puts them well out of reach from the ground water. In order to obtain vital life-giving water from their elevated position they have to rely on the rain, damp air or cloud moisture that can condense on the surface of their leaves and roots.

All of this means that to water orchids successfully, it helps to understand the environment they come from.
When buying a shop bought orchid you will notice two things.

1. The ‘root-ball’ of your orchid is growing – I hope – in a clear container and,
2. Your orchid is not grown in compost but rather a course, free-draining bark substitute.

The free-draining bark that the orchid is rooted in is there to prevent the root environment from becoming waterlogged. It is also to mimic – as best as possible – their natural environment in which they are found to be clinging for dear life onto the bark of their host tree. The container is clear so that the orchid roots can continue to photosynthesis using the available light.


There is a simple saying when it comes to looking after orchids which goes like this:

‘Water weekly – feed monthly.’

However it is important to keep the free-draining bark compost moist all the year round so during the summer you may find that watering once a week isn’t enough. When watering the plant, remove it from its pot cover – if it has one - and gently submerge the root-ball. As soon as the root-ball is completely submerged take it out of the water and allow any excess to drain away, After 20 minutes or so place the orchid back into its pot cover. Remember to never allow the root ball to stand in water for extended periods as the roots are designed for growing in the air and can easily become damage. Allow the compost to dry out slightly and for the pot to become lighter before watering again. Avoid water collecting in the crown of the plant as this can cause fungal rots.

For more information click onto:
How and Why does Over-watering Kill Plants?
How to care for Orchids
How to Feed Orchids
How to Grow the Blue Orchid
How to Grow Orchids
How to Look After and Care For Orchids
How to Repot an Orchid
How to Save and Recover an Over-watered Plant
How to Water Amaryllis
How to Water Orchids
How to Water Tree Ferns
Monkey Face Orchids
Naked Man Orchid - Orchis italica
The Angel orchid - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
THE MOTH ORCHID - Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
THE SILVER VASE PLANT - Aechmea fasciata
The Swaddled Babies orchid - Anguloa uniflora 
THE VAMPIRE ORCHID - Catasetum macrocarpum
THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Habenaria radiata
What is Over-watering and How to Recognise it?
What is an Epiphyte?
What is an Orchid?
When should you Re-pot an Orchid?


An epiphyte is a specialist plant - mainly found in the tropics - that has evolved away from growing in the ground and has instead made its home up in the tree canopy.
Epiphytic plants usually derive only physical support and not nutrition from their host - normally a tree, but man-made wooden structures may also be suitable depending on the epiphyte species - although they may sometimes physically damage the host in the process of anchoring to it.
These specialist plants still use photosynthesis for energy, but some epiphytes - such as many of the orchids - have actually developed photosynthetic pigment with in the roots!

They obtain moisture from the rain, damp air or cloud moisture that condenses on the surface of their hosts. In some species the roots - which are primarily used for attachment - have developed into specialized structures that can be used to collect or hold moisture.
Plants from the bromeliad family produce leaves in a tightly packed rosette enabling them to hold a reservoir of water at the base. These tiny ponds can also support a second tier of life such as tiny frog species and aquatic insects.

It is believed that epiphytes have evolved to survive in the canopy because there is less plant competition, more available light, and they have a better chance of not being eaten by herbivores.
For related articles click onto:


The talk of citrus plants thriving in our northern climate does sound a little challenging. This is especially so when you consider that the citrus genus originated from the areas of India, Indonesia and southern China where the climates are more tropical rainforest. However, given the right conditions, varieties such as the Meyers lemon, the Satsuma, Mandarin, Clementine and Calamondin are capable of surviving temperatures as low as -9° Celsius, although - to be fair - they may not look like much come the spring.

Satsuma fruit
Living with the shadow of global warming, and our seemingly milder winters, the growing of citrus outside in the English climate is now becoming a reality – but you need to choose the right varieties. If you are not too worries about cropping flavoursome or edible fruit then you can pick from the toughest of the bunch. The hardiest of all the citrus are the Seville or Bitter orange – as used for marmalade, and root-stocks. The Washington Navel orange also has good cold tolerance, and in particular the Navelina cultivar. If you want lemons for your summer G&T then look no further than the Meyers lemon variety - a natural hybrid between the lemon and the sweet orange but far hardier than either plant.

Cold hardy oranges are far more difficult to provide because – to be fair – there aren't any as yet. Even so, you can get still that orange effect by planting the tough Clementine and Calamondin. Although not quite as cold hardy but definitely worth a go is the flavoursome Satsuma mandarin especially if you are prepared to give it some protection.


With the damp, cold grey days that October can often bring, the idea of sowing seeds is far from most peoples minds. In fact, growing any edible crops over winter would appear to be – at least at first glance – a waste of time and effort. However if you choose your crops carefully you can steal a march on your fellow gardeners by reaping the rewards of an early crop. Check out below for my edible recommendation.
Pea Meteor

Pea Meteor has a neat, dwarf habit producing an abundance of small, well-filled pods. Unlike most peas this variety has very good winter hardiness - even in exposed areas - making it an ideal autumn planting variety. Pea Meteor is better flavoured than the old variety Feltham.

Although best sown from October to November for over-wintering, they can also be sown in March if you have any seed left over.

When then the plants are about 4inches tall provide twiggy sticks or netting for support. Over-wintered sowings will be ready in May and regular picking will encourage further cropping. Remember to protect with netting to prevent damage from pigeons.

Lettuce Winter Gem

A specially bred, Little Gem Cos lettuce, this late season salad is ideal for sowing from September to January. Although this fantastic variety loves the cold it will need to be kept under protection during the worst of the winder either in an unheated greenhouse or in a cold. Lettuce Winter Gem has delicious small, crunchy, sweet hearts equal in taste to Little Gem. Sow seeds into individual pots or a seed tray of a good quality seed compost, cover seeds with 6mm (¼in) of compost or vermiculite, keep at a minimum of 15C (60F), until germination which takes 7-10 days.

Also try Lettuce 'Winter Density - a semi-cos type with outstanding winter hardiness. and one last batch of Lollo Rossa and Bioda, Oriental Mustard,Lambs lettuce - also known as Corn Salad or Mache, Mizuna Kyoto - oriental baby leaf salad, and Mesclun- a mix of small salad leaves popular around the Mediterranean.

Spring Onion Performer

For winter production of delicious spring or bunching onions, Spring Onion Performer is one of the best. It will produce upright, dark green leaves and mild flavoured stems which do not bulb up. The spring onions will prefer a fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. You can in fact sow spring onion performer even later, but they will need the protection of a green house or cloche to perform.

Broad Bean ‘Aquadulce’

Of all the broad bean varieties ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is universally recognised as being the best for an autumn sowing. It establishes itself quickly and is able to produce a very early crop. In fact it actually needs the cold winter temperatures in order to perform so plant early in cool conditions and try not to sow any later than mid January as this will have a detrimental effect on both the quality and the quantity of the harvest. If the ground is frozen before sowing, lay and secure some polythene or other material down to warm it up.

Click here to learn How to Grow the Autumn Broad Bean 'Aquadulce Claudia'

Green Manures

The practice of growing a green manure comes from agriculture. Historically, it can be traced back to the fallow cycle of crop rotation, which was used to allow soils to recover. They are used as a type of fast growing ‘cover’ crop primarily grown to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Leaving your land bare of plants can lead to the breakdown of soil particles, leaching of nutrients, and poorer drainage.

Green manures, especially autumn sown ones, are effective in mopping up nutrients remaining after crops, preventing them being washed away by rain. Italian ryegrass, and rye sown in September are both very hardy, growing all winter before being dug in during the spring in order to release their nutrients as they rot. Fast growing fodder radish or mustard sown before mid-September can be incorporated in October, or their frosted remains left as a mulch.

Using plants from the legume family – such as the broad bean - as a green manure will help to accumulate nitrogen from bacteria in their root nodules. Although they will function best in summer, field beans and vetches can be sown in autumn for cutting in the spring.

Green manures will not only add nutrients to the soil but they will also protect and improve the soil structure – especially important over the winter period – as well as restrict weed growth, and encourage the proliferation of beneficial soil borne organisms. Green manure can also attract native wildlife providing cover and food for predators like frogs, and hoverflies, and - if left to produce flowers - for beneficial insect pollinators.

Typically, a green manure crop is grown for a specific period – usually immediately after one crop finishes but before the next crop is sown - and is then ploughed back into the ground to rot down to release its nutrients. The crop should be cut back before the stems become woody and before flowering to make the most of the available nutrient. At this stage the available nitrogen content is relatively high. Depending on the species of green manure used, you can cut it and just leave it on the soil surface to decompose naturally.

For more information click onto:
Can You Over-winter Citrus Outside?
Fruit and Vegetables for Growing in October
Fruit and Vegetable Plants for Growing in November
How can you tell when Sweetcorn is ready to Harvest?
How to Cure and Store Pumpkins
How to Grow Autumn Sowings of Broad Beans
How to Grow the Autumn Broad Bean 'Aquadulce Claudia'
How to Grow the Autumn Fava Bean 'Aquadulce Claudia'
How to Over-Winter Citrus Plants outside
How to Protect and Over-Winter Bananas
How to Tell when Pumpkins are Ready to Harvest
Salad Crops for Late Summer/Autumn Planting
Which Salad Crops and Herbs are Tolerant of Shade
Which Salad Crop Seeds can be sown in August?
Which Vegetables are Tolerant of Growing in the Shade
Which Vegetable Seeds can be Sown in January?
Which Vegetable Seeds can be Grown in February?
Which Vegetable Seeds can be Sown and Grown in March?
Which Vegetable Seeds can be Sown and Grown in April?
Which Vegetable Seeds can be Sown in August?
Which Vegetable Seeds can be Sown in September
Which Vegetable Seeds can be Grown in November?
Gardening Jobs for January
Gardening Jobs for February
Gardening Jobs for March
Gardening Jobs for April
Gardening Jobs for May
Gardening Jobs For October
Gardening Jobs For November
Gardening Jobs For December