Roehampton Garden Society

Counting Hedgehogs

The latest Gardener’s World Magazine annual Hedgehog survey has reported a small increase in numbers. This was the first year that hedgehog numbers have slightly increased, so could hedgehogs could be making a comeback?
There is an increase in awareness of the hedgehog’s decline and more gardeners trying to help, but we need better data on where they survive.

The Big Hedgehog Map tells us that 92 holes and 549 hedgehogs were sighted in our area. Do check out this splendid resource. If you want to join the hedgehog monitoring community you can sign up to register your garden and start counting.

If you’re not sure if your garden hosts a hedgehog read this advice from the Wildlife trusts – lots of help!

On a cautionary note, Fay Vass, CEO of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, warned that ‘Valuable as the Gardeners’ World survey is, we need to remember that these figures are only a snapshot. Populations change year to year, and these findings might not necessarily represent the underlying trend.’ Data from the BHPS’s 2022 research into the state of Britain’s hedgehogs gave ‘cause for cautious optimism’ but showed that urban populations are still much lower than they should be.

The RGS joins the National Garden Scheme

The RGS has joined the National Gardens Scheme.
This medical and gardening charity raises funds from their ‘Open Gardens’ scheme. Originally set up in 1927 to support district nurses, the National Garden Scheme now raises millions of pounds for nursing and health charities each year.
They also support charities working in gardens and health, grant bursaries to help community gardening projects and support gardeners at the start of their career.
Many of you may have visited local gardens which open as part of this scheme.
Here is our entry on the NGS Website.

Site 3 will be open to the public as part of the Open Gardens Scheme on 21st July.

Pests and Diseases: how to manage them

There was standing room only in our Store on Sunday 18 February when our guest, Sarah Foss (M.Hort.) engaged RGS members with her talk on Pests and Diseases and how to Manage them. Sarah works for Ecolocal, a community run charity based in Carshalton. She also has a very large allotment and is an examiner for the RHS. Thanks to Georgina O’ Reilly for this summary of her interesting talk. Read it here.

More help with managing slugs can be found here on the RHS website.

Sarah is clear about the need for a balance of allotment creatures and the damage that pesticides can do. Please note that, in 2022, metaldehyde was banned in slug pellets – please be careful what you buy and use.

Metaldehyde ban

In September 2020 the government announced the withdrawal of metaldehyde slug control, with product sales ending in March 2021 and remaining stocks to be used up or disposed of by 31st March 2022. The withdrawal was planned following advice from the UK expert committee on pesticides and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who consider that metaldehyde poses an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals. An initial withdrawal in 2019 was overturned due to problems with incorrect implementation.

Product names for slug pellets for home garden use containing metaldehyde that will be affected by this withdrawal include: Ultimate Slug and Snail Killer, Deadfast Slug Killer, Doff Slug Killer Blue Mini Pellets and Westland Eraza Slug and Snail Killer. Please be aware that these and other product names may be relaunched using ferric phosphate as the main ingredient instead, and check any products you have stored to make sure they are used up or disposed of safely by the end of March 2022.

Nesting boxes – specialist designs

Can you help a bird by putting up a nesting box this spring? You may welcome a DIY project this winter and our allotmenteers excel at creating items from spare wood or pallets. Nest box design is now an art – with specialist box shapes available for more unusual birds as well as our robins tits, sparrows.

robin and wren
barn owl
great tit

But – what type of birds do you see that might appreciate a warm roost – and do you have a suitable place to attach a box? Urban cats can make life a misery for a misplaced nest. There’s useful information available from the British Trust for Ornithology here, with instructions, cutting plans and advice – make a box for robin, wren, blue tit, great tit, and even 3 types of owl! They have produced a printable pdf all about beginning with nest boxes here.

There’s also much good advice on nest boxes available from CJ Wildlife here: – well worth a read.

The scents of Winter

One of the joys of a sunny winter day is to catch a hint of perfume from our winter flowering shrubs.
One of the most beautiful has to be the viburnum. This lovely, tall, but easily controlled shrub flowers on bare branches and is a joy both for us and early bumblebees – an excellent early source of nectar for them. Find out more about growing viburnum.

One of the best for perfume is a humble evergreen shrub called sarcococca. In general a spreading shrub, some varieties will survive well in a pot near a pathway. Here’s more about growing them..
If you’re looking to enjoy the scents of winter, both of the varieties below thrive in Wandsworth gardens, and Kew is famous for its viburnum collection…

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn
Breakfast for an early bumblebee
Sarcococca confusa

Winter pruning can be daunting

Pruning a fruit tree takes a steady nerve – and we all feel we may not be getting it right.
Apples pears and quince should be winter pruned – although most other fruit trees such as apricot and cherry are pruned in summer.
The RHS has a website page called Pruning made Easy, see here, aimed at the beginner.

There’s even a short video on rejuvenating an older tree (on Youtube here) and advice about checking the bark for disease too.

Your tree may also be helped by a winter oil wash and grease bands low on the trunk (both stocked in the Store). These help reduce disease and pests. Winter is the right time to catch up with pruning your apple and pear trees – so pick a sunny day, take courage and prune!

Exotic vegetables from seed

Crop planning and seed sowing time begins for 2024. Are you planning to grow any of these?

There’s much interest in the new, often easy to grow, exotic vegetables and salads. Some are useful to fill a gap between more traditional produce, some just for exotic variety! Here’s an article from Bite Sized Gardening which covers forty unusual vegetables to grow in an English garden !

The Real Seed Company is a small seed business in Wales. In addition to their heritage and heirloom seed varieties their website is a mine of information about how these exotics grow in our climate. Check out their unusual salad veg, their rare and unusual tubers section for Oca and Yacon, and Cucumbers, Achocha and similar things for unusual Cucmbers, Cucamelon and the Giant Bolivian Achocha!

Their seedling gallery can be useful when the plant labels go astray….

Gardening with Children

We know that family gardening is great fun for children, and the RHS Campaign for School Gardening is helping some to have gardening experience in school. Early reports find that school gardening is proving excellent support for their mental health. Granard School enjoy their visits to our allotments.

The Little Green Fingers website from the BBC contains some lovely short videos to show children how to tackle jobs in the garden. Watch them here.

if you’d like more ideas for child friendly garden projects try this selection from Gardener’s World magazine

A new book on children’s gardening is included in the RHS ten top gardening books of 2023..

The No-Dig Children’s Gardening Book by Charles Dowding is published by Welbeck.

See the complete 2023 top ten gardening book list from the RHS here

Fantastic Mr Fox?

Most of us are accustomed to seeing the odd fox in daylight hours – they are part of site wildlife, and seem amazingly unworried by humans.

Photo by Kate Pugh

This lovely photo, taken by Kate Pugh on site 2, shows how relaxed they can be! Certainly, most of us with a greenhouse have experienced the pleasure of a fox visitor enjoying the warmth and sunshine.

We do need to avoid crop damage and other problems that occur if too many foxes live on the sites. They are wild creatures that can give much pleasure. They do love digging under sheds, however!
There is excellent information and advice about living with foxes from the RSPCA – including how to find out if an earth (den) is occupied before you fill it in. Please do read it.

AGM and Prizegiving 2023

Held in St. Margaret’s church, the AGM was an enjoyable event with informal seating and delicious food and drink. Thanks are due to all those involved. Cups were presented by Fleur Anderson, our MP and RGS President. Awards included a ‘best plot’ cup for both sites and certificates of excellence for two new plot holders.

Read the full ‘Award of Cups AGM report‘ by Carol Martinez here.

Events at the Lindley Library

If you’re interested in a Central London source of horticultural information, talks and events, do add the RHS Lindley library to your list. They hold world-renowned collections of early printed books, the archives of the RHS, botanical art collections and modern books on the history of horticulture, botanical art and practical gardening, but after refurbishment they are now also open for practical sessions.

Here are two examples on Tuesday 12th December

Free Plant Advice Pop-up

Do you have a houseplant that has seen brighter days? Is a pest or disease ravaging your garden? Drop into the Lindley Library between 11am–3pm to receive free one-to-one gardening advice from the RHS Advisory team. Bring a photograph (no samples, please). RHS membership is not required – these sessions are open to all. See more

There will be a break in the advice session to allow you to enjoy Lindley Live: A Curious Herbal – From Love Apples to Treacle Mustard – a 15 minute talk about the unusual life of Elizabeth Blackwell, the woman behind this 18th century herbal.

Heating a Greenhouse

How do you heat a greenhouse with minimal energy usage? Now that we need to be energy efficient and sustainable – what options do we have to try and keep it frost free? Bubble wrap may be the future….

Read some practical advice from the RHS here:

This candle heater will produce a slight raise in temperature

Bubble Wrap Insulation – but light will be reduced..

Hydronic underfloor heating! Recommended to solar heat the circulating water if possible. You can also use old carpet to insulate the floor.