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Garden Ramblings, Issue #044
April 15, 2008


April 2008

Monthly Musings on the Garden Scene


If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend.

If you are reading the text version you will need to go online to see the videos.


In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Callaway Gardens
- Tips For Growing Chillies
- The Bokashi Composting System
- Pruning Evergreen Trees In The Spring
- Special Offers
- Tailpiece



Welcome to the April issue of Garden Ramblings. As usual there are two articles by guest authors this month, but I have added a short note in between.

The first is Ric Wiley who gives you his tips on growing chillies both indoors and outside depending on your local climate zone.

Our second guest author is Jonathan Yaakobi who provides some topical advice on pruning evergreen trees in spring. You may be intrigued to learn that professional gardeners do not prune with their hands, but you will have to read the article to find out what they use.

In between these two articles is a short note about the Bokashi Composting System.

As usual there is a Special Offers section with all the bargains that I've managed to find this month.

We start with a video shot just a few days ago in Callaway Gardens with the azaleas in full bloom.

Enjoy the issue.





Callaway Gardens

*********************************************************** Tips For Growing Chillies
by Ric Wiley

Growing chillies is fantastic fun but results often depend on the climate where you live. However, there are things you can do to grow excellent quality and quantities of chillies in most climates. I live in an area where chillies do not grow very well outdoors so I grow them in a greenhouse but what I am going to talk about here can be used when growing outdoors.

The first thing to think about is seed. You can walk into a supermarket, buy a chilli and use the seeds from the chilli you cook with. Not after you have cooked them though. It is better to buy from a specialist seed company though as these seeds will be from chillies which have been specially grown for their seeds. You can buy these from supermarkets, DIY stores or major seed supply companies. However, I like to buy my chilli seeds from specialist chilli growers. They are easy enough to find now that the internet has been developed but my Grandfather never had the internet yet he found a specialist company many years ago before chillies became a popular food in the UK.

So how do you grow them. Well you could just throw a few seeds in a pot and hope for the best but by taking some careful steps you can maximise your success.

If you live in a colder area start chillies off early in your house. There is no reason why you cannot grow them on the windowsill of your kitchen, at least to begin with. I start mine off in February or sometimes even January as I like to give them a long growing season. Plant 3 or 4 seeds on the surface of a pot of compost which has been watered and then cover with a fine dusting of sieved compost. Keep the pot on a warm windowsill and in a week or so your plants will start to grow.

Once they reach about 1 inch high they need to be potted on into their own pots. Handle the seedling by its leaves and gently transfer this to a pot of its own. I simply make a hole with a pencil and then carefully push the soil round the root with this. Hi tech or what - not really but it works though.

Grow the chilli plant on until it is big enough to be planted in its growing position. As I have mentioned as I live in the north of the UK, I grow these in a greenhouse but if my weather was warmer and drier I could just as easily grow these outside.

While your chilli plant is growing keep an eye out for slugs and deal with these how you see fit. My chillies are grown on a 3 foot tall wooden bench in a greenhouse but I still get slug problems.. Your plants may need a stake to help them grow and feed regularly. I use a specialist tomato feed and find that this works fine.

How to harvest your chillies. Well I just pull them off the plant when ready and do something with them. I usually wait until they turn red as this is how I prefer my chillies but you can eat them green. I grow a specialist thin walled chilli but have in the past grown Jalapeno chillies with great success. I started growing a thin walled variety as I prefer to dry the chillies to use in my cooking. To dry them I just lay them on a tray and leave them on a windowsill in my office until they become leathery. I keep turning them every few days and after a month or so they have become dry enough to store but not so dry that they become hard a brittle.

Although I grow my chillies in a greenhouse, they are also very suitable for growing in a High Density Gardening bed. You can find more about growing chillies by checking out



About the Author
Ric Wiley is a gardener and internet writer. Find out more about High Density Gardening at


Bokashi Composting System

If you read my Garden Supplies News you may remember a note about the Bokashi Composting System. This simple composting system developed in Japan allows you to recycle all non-liquid food scraps, including dairy and meat. The food waste is broken down by a process of fermentation. I discovered that Ric Wiley has written about his experiences of using this system and, if you are interested, here is the link to his article.


Pruning Evergreen Trees In The Spring - Important Tips For The Home Gardener
by Jonathan Yaakobi

Spring is the principle season for pruning evergreen trees. In adopting a correct approach to the task, the gardener should be focusing on two separate but connected matters. On the one hand, we are interested in the tree growing in the desired manner, all the while recognizing that pruning is liable to seriously affect the future long-term health and survival of the tree. In this regard, we should never forget that the tree stands unmatched as the single most significant and precious feature in the garden.

Pruning trees for shaping depends mainly on the natural growth habit of the species concerned. At one extreme, there are the plants whose natural shape is so strongly defined that pruning, at least for shaping purposes, is unnecessary. Two examples are Palms and Cypress trees. At the other end of the scale are trees such as Hawthorn or Elm, which tend towards a wild, untidy habit. Many, if not most garden species, require at least some pruning.

A golden rule for shaping purposes is to avoid shortening branches, because this "stops" the natural direction in which the branch is growing. Instead, limbs that are earmarked for removal should be cut back to the trunk or thicker branch to which they are attached. In time, it appears that nothing has been pruned at all. This does not have to apply though to young stems that in some species shoot forward as long, but thin leaders. Such a growth pattern is common amongst citrus trees for example, and there is no harm in clipping these leaders, in order to encourage lateral growth.

It is important to remove at the juvenile stage, those stems that are clearly liable to be troublesome when they thicken over the years into mature branches. The most obvious candidates for early removal are stems that grow parallel to the trunk, or whose angle to the trunk is too small. Pruning out a young stem is often a matter of a quick snip with the secateurs. Attempting to saw a thick branch however, is not only time-consuming (the lesser problem by far) but will almost invariably result in a pruning wound which will become a source of rot and decay.

It is natural to believe that our hands are the principle part of the human anatomy by which we prune trees. This is utterly wrong! Professional gardeners do not prune with their hands, but rather with their eyes. Thought as usual precedes deed. Always have a clear idea as to which branches are to be pruned before even touching the saw or secateurs. Secondly, after removing one branch, do not proceed to the next, but put the tools down, step back from the tree and look at what you've done, revising your initial plan if necessary.

From the angle of the plant's health, two crucial points should be recognized. Firstly, removing excessive material at one session can seriously reduce the energy level of the tree. Arboriculturists have reduced the whole complex of tree care to a matter of maintaining a positive energy gradient within the specimen. As a rule of thumb, one may remove, as an absolute upper limit, one third of the volume of the tree. To be safe however, I recommend pruning no more than half that figure. If there are many branches to prune, then it is best to stagger the work over a couple of seasons.

Secondly, the pruning wound should be as small as possible in relation to the width of the trunk. Large pruning cuts do not heal properly, even if the wound appears to have completely calloused over. The result is bacterial or fungal infections that lead to rot and decay within the heart of the tree. In cases where the branch to be removed is too thick in relation to the trunk, it can be shortened to a stub of a about a meter in length, (3 feet) and sliced back further every few months, as though it were a salami or cucumber. This has the effect of retarding the thickening of the branch, and while the trunk continues to thicken over a few years, its diameter remains the same. Consequently, when the final pruning cut is made, the wound will be of an appropriate size relative to the width of the trunk.



About the Author
My name is Jonathan Ya'akobi. I've been gardening in a professional capacity since 1984. I am the former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, but now concentrate on building gardens for private home owners. I also teach horticulture to students on training courses. I'd love to help you get the very best from your garden, so you're welcome to visit me on or contact me [email protected]


Special Offers

Unfortunately April is not the right time of year for sales of gardening products or special bargains so there is little to report this month.



Gardener's Supply Company still have a few items in their Outlet section, but as you see from the banner, the basic discount is now just 10% when you spend $75.


Gardener's Supply Company


At Dutch Gardens you can save $25 when you spend $50 or more. Apparently this was due to end on 11 April but when I tested the banner the discount was still available. Click the banner.


Dutch Gardens, Inc.




Shop at for your vegetable and flower seeds!



This month Nature Hills Nursery are offering discounts of 10% on over 300 shrubs.









Fortune Cookie Garden

********************************************************* Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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