Monday, 11 February 2019

FLOWERING TREES


FLOWERING TREES

The dormant season (November to March) was
Apple Red Falstaff
always the time to plant trees and shrubs as most came as bare root plants, but today they are mostly container grown so planting can be done all year round. However with flowering trees we do not want to miss the flowers so planting in winter is a good idea. As gardens vary in size the selection of plants will depend on how much space is available. The small garden is not left behind as there are quite a few flowering trees that do not take up much space. Trees add scale to a garden, provide shelter from wind and shade from sun as summer climates get warmer. In my early gardening days my small council house garden still managed to find room for a Laburnum vossii and the upright growing flowering cherry, Prunus Amanogawa. However if space was really limited then the dwarf weeping cherry, Prunus Shidare Zakura was perfect. Later on as my
Eucryphia rostrevor
gardens got bigger I went for the brilliant Prunus Shirotae with horizontal branches which got covered in a mass of pure white flowers in spring. Flowering cherries were very much in fashion in the sixties and the pink Prunus Kanzan was so popular that it became the number one of choice, but those with a wee bit of experience avoided it before our horticultural street cred went oot the windae.
Lilac Michel Buchner
Lilacs were not a huge tree but flower potential was enormous and the white Mme Lemoine is still very popular. The red Charles Jolly is still outstanding and most lilacs benefit from a great scent. Many lilacs come as hybrids grafted onto the common Syringa vulgaris, so keep checking for suckers growing from the rootstock and remove these as soon as seen.
Another less common tree suited to the small garden is the Euphorbia Rostrevor with white flowers towards the end of summer. It grows slowly with an upright form so suits the small garden with limited space.
Prunus Amanogawa
For those who like to try something different there are a couple of medium sized trees a bit less hardy than most, but with climate change who knows if global warming comes to Scotland what we can achieve. The Australian bottlebrush tree, Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' is a red flowered beauty but needs a sunny sheltered spot. It grows very well outdoors in London as a street tree, but their climate is just a wee bit kinder. Another worth trying is the Pocket Handkerchief Tree, Davidia involucrate, with white bracts in early summer.
Prunus Kanzan
The common hawthorn is very hardy and comes with a pink flower, Crataegus Pauls Scarlet, beautiful in spring and not all that common.
Some people may with to grow a flowering fruit tree, and apples, plums, pears and cherries will all
laburnum vossii
give a great flower show in spring then follow on with a delicious harvest in the autumn.
Apple Starline Firedance grows upright taking up very little space and produces a great crop of red apples in autumn. Another form of apple is the stepover  trained type on a dwarfing rootstock.
Both cherries and peaches can come on very dwarfing rootstocks suited to the small garden.
upright apple Starlight
Many tall growing shrubs can also give the same virtues as smaller trees.
Cornus kousa chinensis has always been one of my favourites after seeing it in full flower in Wisley gardens down south, and Cytisus battandieri, the Pineapple broom tree is a great spectacle but needs a bit of space or a wall to lean against.
Other tall and impressive shrubs include Forsythia, Philadelphus, Ceanothus and Magnolias.

Wee jobs to do this week

Sweet peas
Sweet peas are usually the first seeds to sow as they are quite hardy and like a long season to grow. They can be sown in the autumn and overwintered in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse, or sown in late winter to early spring. The seed coat is quite tough so you can soak the seeds in water overnight, or chip the seed coat with a sharp knife. Sow seeds three to a pot then after germination transplant one to a pot, or you can sow one seed to a cell in a cellular tray. After germination grow on in a cold greenhouse and harden off towards the end of March, for planting out in early April.
END

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

CROP ROTATION


CROP ROTATION

Crop rotation plan for 2019
We may be in mid winter and as it’s a wee bit cold outdoors, and the first snow flakes have arrived, so better to do some indoor gardening. Now is a good time to look at the new allotment plan using last years plan as a template and sorting out where this year’s crops are to be grown. I checked over last years seed list a few weeks ago, then adjusted the list for 2019 and ordered my seeds online from a
Peas, leeks and onions
well known trusted supplier. I always follow a rotation of crops over a four year cycle to try and keep ahead of diseases such as clubroot and onion white rot as well as giving plants the best growing conditions as their needs all vary individually. I also integrate my strawberry beds into the rotation as these get replanted every three years onto fresh soil.
Crops with similar needs are grouped together. Thus the brassicas, cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts and kale are grown in one block. This block gets compost dug in over winter, then limed in late February. This assists the prevention of clubroot disease which is
Sweet corn radish and mezuna
a major problem on my allotment. Unfortunately, some salads, i.e. rocket, and radish are also prone to clubroot as well as the root crops, Swedes and turnips. Then care must be taken with use of green manures as mustard, a great crop for green manuring, can also attract and carry over clubroot disease. I use clubroot resistant vegetables where ever possible; intercrop some salads with widely spaced sprouts and cabbage early in the season to catch a crop before the big leafy plants take up all the room.
The brassica patch becomes the heavy feeders patch the following year. These are the peas, beans, onions, leeks, sweet corn, courgettes and pumpkins. These crops are fine on land limed the
A good year for sprouts
previous year and are given the lion’s share of compost or manure during the winter digging. I also hold back some extra compost to add to the courgettes and pumpkin bed to improve fertility and retain moisture. The pumpkins, courgettes and sweet corn are tender plants so they don’t get planted till the end of May or early June. This gives us time to sow a fast growing green manure crop like clover or rye grass to be ready for digging in about three weeks ahead of planting.
This area the following year becomes the root crop patch for parsnips, carrots, beetroot, Swedes and turnip. This land does not get compost during the winter digging as there is plenty of well rotted organic matter left over from the heavy feeders, and anyway the roots are liable to forking if there is fresh compost in the soil. Salad crops are also fine in this patch as they are short lived and do not need a lot of space. In my rotation I add some flower crops such as dahlias, chrysanthemums and gladioli for cut flowers as well as brightening up the plot.
Digging in the green manure
My last rotational crop is the potatoes, which get both plenty compost and usually follow an autumn green manure crop. They do not like an alkaline soil which makes the tubers liable to scab, but should be fine on land a few years after liming for the brassica crop. I also hold back some compost to spread along the bottom of the furrow taken out when planting the seed potatoes.
Salads in succession
Strawberries are another great crop to help with the rotation. I grow an early row of Mae, Honeoye or Christine, two maincrop rows of Symphony and Florence and the autumn variety Flamenco and crop for no more than three years before digging in. This gives me extra land to bring into the rotation. New strawberry beds come from strong healthy runners from the older beds in autumn after cropping has finished, then the old plants are dug out and added to the compost heap together with any straw bedded down between the rows. Be careful with the autumn fruiting varieties as good runners are only produced on young plants. Once they are three years old they can be very reluctant to throw out new runners.

Aconites
Wee jobs to do this week

Winter may now be with us as the mild weather could not last forever, but it has allowed the first spring bulbs to flower. The snowdrops first appeared in December and the aconites in January and February, but enjoy them while they last as before too long the crocus will be coming out to let us know winter is coming to an end.

END

Sunday, 27 January 2019

HEATHERS


HEATHERS

I have always grown a few heathers in the garden from way back to apprenticeship days. They were well used in landscape schemes especially around
Pruning heathers
rock gardens and in parks, and there was always an experienced gardener around to show me how to propagate them from cuttings. Over the years I found new ones to add to my collection. Forty years
Calluna H E Beale
ago I came across Calluna vulgaris Goldsworth Crimson used for landscaping in Darlington where I worked. It was very popular in the cemeteries and some housing estate borders not liable to theft or vandalism. The bronze foliage turns a dazzling golden colour after a few frosts. I took a few cuttings and still have the plants forty years later as it is still very eye catching, but to keep the plants from getting too leggy I had to propagate from cuttings every six to ten years or so. Gold Haze, Beoley Gold and Sunset all have similar golden foliage. Another must have heather is Calluna vulgaris H E Beale which is a mass of pale pink flowers at the end of summer. Peter Sparkes is very similar and just as popular. Then as we get through winter the Erica carnea varieties come alive with pink, red and white
Daboecia
flowers. Heathers are popular today as once planted and looked after they soon merge together to form great ground cover that smother any weeds that try to grow. However for me they are invaluable as part of my ericaceous border planted together with azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and for my very attractive specimen tree the white stemmed Betula jaquemontia. Another plant that fits into this group is the dwarf evergreen Pinus mugo, but then you can extend the range with many more dwarf conifers if space allows. Oriental lilies planted amongst the heathers will add colour and in summer.
Heathers were very popular with hill walkers and ramblers as they covered our hills with massive drifts and when in flower were an
Heathers with azaleas
unforgettable picture. Many peoples love of heathers started as they took home a wee memento of their hill walking experience. If they subsequently died they would get replaced from the local garden centre.
In their natural environment heathers grow on open, usually acid, shallow soils but with good surface drainage. They look great in drifts as big as the garden can afford. Before planting prepare the ground by selecting an open sunny area and remove all perennial weeds before digging over and incorporating some leaf mold or ericaceous compost. Do not use manure and they do not need added fertiliser, other than some bone meal. Plants which are in pots can be planted at any time of year, but before planting give them a good soaking and after
Oriental lilies
planting water the bed as they do not like dry conditions. Space the plants about a foot apart or closer if you want an immediate effect.
From spring onwards they benefit from a mulch of leaf mold or ericaceous compost to help retain moisture and keep down weeds till they get established.
Heathers need very little maintenance other than watering in dry weather, keeping weeds down in early life and trimming back shoots after flowering, but do not prune hard into old wood as it will not regrow shoots. After ten years or so the plants may get a bit leggy, so take cuttings and once they grow into a decent sized plant dig out the old plants and replace them with the young ones.
Heathers can be propagated by layering or taking cuttings in early summer. Wait until growths are a
Red Camellia
couple of inches long and then take cuttings just over an inch tall but do not use flowering shoots. Place the cuttings in prepared lime free compost with added grit or sand burying then half their size and water in well. Place them in a cool frame but away from direct sunlight. They should root and be ready to pot up about a year later. Heathers can also be propagated by layering shoots and covering them with soil and again leave them for a year.

Wee jobs to do this week

At this time of year, when winter takes its grip and gardening can only be done indoors take a few moments to draw up a sowing and planting schedule for the year ahead. Check the sowing dates from last year’s diary and how crops grew and adjust if necessary. Add in any new crops for trying out this year. I also create an annual plan of my allotment plot to scale so I can work out how much plants I can get in. It is also an invaluable tool to plot in a good rotation of crops.


Sowing schedule 2019

February
Sow sweet peas
Early March     
Tomato  Alicante,  Sungold,  Cherry Baby,      
Rapunzel,  Supersweet 100,  Sugar Gloss,
Leek Musselburgh,  Cauliflower Clapton,  
                        Broad bean  Aquadulce,   Onion Hybound
 Sprin               Spring onion White Lisbon,   Lettuce Lollo Rossa,  
Start begonias
 Lettuce L       Mid-March                       
Take Chrysanth cuttings, Potato Casablanca,
 Sweet corn Incredible,  Cabbage Kilaton,      
 
Brussel sprouts Crispus
End-March        
Plant Potato Charlotte, Kale Dwarf Green Curled     
Early-April        
Turnip Golden Ball,    Spicy Salad leaves,   Pea Kelvedon Wonder          
Plant potato Maris Piper,     Mayan Gold
Mid-April         
 Beetroot Boltardy,   lettuce Mixed,   
 Parsnip Albion,  Student, Tender and True
Cauliflower Clapton,  Spring onion Wild Rocket
End April             
Pumpkin Rocket,   Pea Onward Swede Marian,
Courgette Zucchini and Atena Polka,    
 Early May          
Cabbage Kilaton, Dwarf French Bean Tendergreen,        
June                       
Beetroot Boltardy, Lettuce Lollo Rossa, Turnip Golden Ball   
Late June            
 Cauliflower Clapton,    Spicy salad leaves
July                       
 Lettuce Salad Bowl,  Spring onion,   Rocket                                
Winter Lettuce Hilda and Winter Imperial
                               


 END

Monday, 21 January 2019

WINTER PROPAGATION


WINTER PROPAGATION

Mid January can be a quiet time in the garden.
Lifting raspberry suckers for replanting elswhere
Most plants will be dormant and it is still a bit early to sow this year’s seeds. With a bit of luck the dry sunny days at the beginning of the month were perfect to catch up with the winter digging, and at this point the winter has been relatively mild. This has helped the snowdrops and aconites to spring
Well rooted strawberry runner
into action. The snowdrops started to flower in mid December and now the aconites are opening up on sunny days and adding to the show.
However we still like to keep active so now is a good time to think about propagation of a whole range of plants.
Hardwood cuttings of willow, dogwood, black, red and white currants, gooseberries, philadelphus and Japanese maples can all be taken now and lined out in a protected cold frame or a sheltered border. Take cuttings about nine inches long and bury two thirds of them in the ground in rows a foot apart spacing the cuttings about six inches apart. I sometimes bundle up my cuttings and plant them on the top of my compost heap where they will get some bottom heat. Remove them for lining out at the end of March when the cut end should have callused over and the first root initials will be ready to push through. The well
Blackcurrant cuttings
spaced cuttings have room to grow through summer and be ready for lifting in early winter, when they can be planted out into permanent positions or lined out again with more space to grow into a bigger plant the following year. They can also be potted up and grown on. Gooseberry bushes are usually grown on a leg to keep shoots well off the ground to prevent soil splashing on the fruits so

remove the lower buds, but leave the top two or three buds to form the bush with a clear leg. The Japanese maples have smaller shoots so cuttings are about six inches long and dibbled around the edge of a shallow pot filled with good compost and placed in the cold greenhouse.
December snowdrops
Some plants can be propagated in winter by lifting up suckers growing away from the parent plant. Both raspberries and saskatoons grow easily from suckers but make sure they have plenty of roots to get them started. Strawberries can also be propagated at this time using runners that have grown away from the parent plant and lifting them with a good ball of soil. Traditionally strawberries are planted in rows three feet apart spacing the plants a foot apart, but, as often happens if there are plenty spare runners then plant a lot closer in the row so the first crops will have more fruit.
Blackberries can be tip layered by bending the ends of long shoots down to the ground and pegging them in firmly. They should be rooted by mid spring. They can also be propagated by using the tips as cuttings, putting them in pots of free draining compost and keeping them in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse over winter.
Maple Sango Kaku cuttings
Layering is also very successful with the evergreen Japanese azaleas, winter jasmine, heathers and hydrangea petiolaris. It usually helps if you scrape some of the bark off and peg the shoots down into the soil covering an inch or so with top soil. They should be well rooted by next winter.
Berries of chokeberry, blueberry and saskatoons saved from the summer crops had the seeds removed and placed in between layers of damp kitchen roll and placed in the fridge for six weeks, checking on them to keep them moist and free from botrytis. They were then sown in seed compost, but need a period of cold weather before they will germinate, so keep them outdoors to get exposure to winter weather.

Wee jobs to do this week

Chitting potato Mayan Gold
This is a good time to look over the seed catalogues and decide which potato varieties to grow this year. Purchase the seed potatoes and place them in trays in a cool room with good light or a cold greenhouse to let them chit. Casablanca and Lady Christl are both excellent first earlies and Charlotte and Maris Peer really good second earlies. Good maincrops include Maris Piper, Sarpo Mira and Amour which has huge potatoes perfect for roasting. This year I will be trying a row of Mayan Gold.
END

Monday, 14 January 2019

WINTERS DAY ON THE PLOT


WINTERS DAY ON THE PLOT

The festive season has come and gone. There was no white Christmas, in fact we are well into winter and yet still to see some snow, but now I’ve said that, it is just about guaranteed to come within the next few days. Until then we can crack on with
Kyle and Scarlet digging and adding compost
all those jobs put off during the festive season. The wet weather at the back end of the year kept us off the land, so this week it was out with the loppers and secateurs to tackle pruning. So it was climbing roses, shrub roses and bush roses that all got trimmed, then on to saskatoons that needed some height reduction to keep them under my summer six feet tall nets. A few very tall branches get cut down to ground level and others cut down to about four feet, but leaving plenty of shoots to fruit. Bramble Helen was next, removing last summers fruiting shoots and tying in the remaining young shoots to fruit in summer. My fig trained against a wall got pruned by removing any shoots growing away from the wall or just too high. Summer fruiting raspberries were next then autumn fruiting varieties got chopped down to the ground. Gooseberries did not escape as those branches too close to the ground and likely to suffer soil
Festive poinsettia
splashing had to be removed as well as opening up the centre to make picking easier. Red and
City Road allotments shredding team
blackcurrants were next, but both with different styles of pruning. The blackcurrants fruit best on young shoots whereas the redcurrants fruit on spurs established on older wood. However each year remove some of these older shoots with new younger shoots to take their place and remain for about four years. Finally it was the apples and pears turn for pruning, but I left some shoots on my Concord pear for grafting wood on my family pear tree. All of these prunings can be recycled as we have a large wood shredder up at City Road allotments and the shredded material can go on the compost heap, used as a mulch or if the material is rough it can be used on paths.
Harvesting continues with parsnips, sprouts, cabbage, leeks, winter
Beetroot ready for storing
salads and beetroot, though some of the beetroot has been lifted, washed and dried for storing in the garage just in case we get some frost. There is still plenty pumpkins, potatoes, onions and apples in store and loads of other fruit and vegetables in the freezer. This just about makes us self sufficient all year round, though the late spring period and early summer are hard to fill as frozen, stored and overwintered crops are just about done and the first summer crops are not quite ready.
Any time the weather dries up the soil surface enough to walk on we can continue with the winter digging, leaving the soil rough for weathering.
Grape vine cuttings
Frost is always with us till March so put some protection on all outdoor taps and those in cold greenhouses, and turn off the water supply and drain down the pipes till spring.
Festive pot plants indoors may need some attention. Keep watering poinsettias as they need it but do not over water or leave them sitting in water. They should still last several more weeks. Christmas cactus will now be finished so it should be dried off to give it a rest till spring.
Protect taps from frost
Clean the glass both inside and outside on the greenhouse to remove a years worth of dirt, moss and algae and clean out the gutters. Pots, boxes and seed trays in the shed can be cleaned and sorted into their sizes ready for the spring propagation. As now is the time for pruning grape vines, use some of these shoots about 6 to 9 inches long with two to three buds as cuttings to increase stock. Put three cuttings in a pot of compost where they will be fine and begin to grow in spring.

Grape vine rod pruned
Wee jobs to do this week

Grape vines are best pruned any time from December to January. If left later than this bleeding may occur as the sap rises early with vines. Grapes grown in the greenhouse are usually trained as upright rods spaced about 18 inches apart. Spurs occur up the rods about six inches apart. All growths coming from these spurs are cut back to one bud. Outdoors you can do a similar cordon with spurs, or train in a fan shaped framework with spurs if grown against a wall or fence. The guyot system of training works best for field grown grapes, but in Scotland our grapes need the warmth and shelter of a south facing wall or fence, so best with the rod and spur training.

END

Sunday, 6 January 2019

PLANS FOR THE NEW YEAR


PLANS FOR THE NEW YEAR                   

Grape Rondo
As we begin the new gardening year, and day length is limited and winter begins to look serious we are better of at home reading gardening magazines, or browsing through the latest plant and seed catalogues. We can look back over the previous year to see what we can do about those plants that did not live up to expectations, and build on those that turned out to be our winners. Also take time to look over the box of seeds left over from last year to see what is worth keeping and others like parsnips whose seeds give poor germination if more than a year old. The days are long gone when you bought a packet of seeds so full that it lasted a good three years.
The Greenhouse
Parsnip Albion
Last year was a brilliant year for grapes, but although I did some thinning out of the bunches, it was just not enough and I lost a fair bit from botrytis and shanking. This year I must thin out a lot more grapes from each bunch. However grape Rondo grown outdoors was very successful.
Last year I tried five tomato varieties. My favourite Alicante did not let me down, but Marmande was miserable with very few tomatoes, though I heard other growers had great success with it. Yellow Delight was extremely vigorous taking over space from other varieties. It gave huge crops of yellow plum tomatoes, but for taste it could not compete with Red Cherry or Sungold, both of which were very sweet and delicious.
Raspberry Glen Carron
Vegetables
Parsnip Albion and Student both gave great roots, but seed quantity was miserable as I needed the two packets to sow a twelve foot row. Not impressed. Cauliflower Clapton, a clubroot resistant type, was brilliant but my plan to get continuity by sowing a few weeks apart was not very successful so this year I need to be at least two months apart or even longer. Sweet corn Incredible was truly incredible as the six feet tall plants all gave two large cobs per plant. Definitely one to grow again for 2019. Last year I tried growing my carrots between the onions in the hope the carrot fly would not find them. No such luck. I never got one carrot so either I grow them under fleece or just give up. Pumpkin Rocket was another great success, but with the tropical summer they were ready for harvesting in late summer, but definitely another to grow this year. Onions were grown from sets last year, but suffered badly from white rot as I had to resort to watering in the hot dry summer so this year it is back to seeds sown early on a windowsill.
Pear Beurre Hardy
Fruit
The latest raspberry just released is called Glen Carron bred at our local James Hutton Institute so I will try it out to compare it with the other summer fruiting Glen Fyne and Glen Dee. See the video with Nikki Jennings about her raspberry Glen Carron on YouTube.
Last year I got a very heavy crop of all my fruit bushes and trees (except my peach tree) and struggled to use and give away surplus so this year the trees and bushes will get a more severe pruning to reduce cropping potential and hopefully improve fruit size. Some pear varieties on my family tree were excessively vigorous at the expense of fruit so they got pruned back and these branches will get grafts of Beth and Concorde to accompany Beurre Hardy and Christie.
Rose Oshima
Rose Oshima has had a great year and even when I was doing my winter pruning just before Christmas it was still flowering so I managed to get a great bunch for the table. I have some space available so nine inch long hardwood cuttings have been taken to grow on.

Wee jobs to do this week
Carving the pumpkin
Pumpkins in store are now ready to use. However they can remain fresh for many months with careful storage. Slice them up into two inch wide segments, removing the seeds. There is usually a fair bit so one pumpkin can do many different dishes. Those segments for roasting need no further preparation, (leave the skin on as it will soften) but will benefit with a sprinkling of honey and nutmeg during the last minute of roasting. Pumpkin also makes a delicious soup with sweet potato, onion and nutmeg, but remove the skin. They are also brilliant in curries and risotto and pies. Pumpkin segments can also be stored in the freezer, but remove the skin.
END

Monday, 31 December 2018

REVIEW OF THE YEAR


REVIEW OF THE YEAR                      

City Road Allotments Doors Open Day
rose Oshima
The past year has been so diverse for weather and its affects on garden plants that it’s hard to know where to begin. It has certainly not been a normal year, and plants have been just as bewildered as the gardeners. It started off at the beginning of the year as a normal mild winter with my snowdrops beginning to flower the previous year in December.  Oddly enough outdoor Fuchsia Mrs Popple did not like the mild winter and died back to ground level, but recovered later. I guess she knew what was ahead. As winter was relatively dry with little snow or frost, winter cultivations were well ahead of schedule. Then just as we were beginning to enjoy it, the weather turned colder and spring never really arrived. Cold biting winds continued for a few months delaying flowering of spring blossom on trees, fruit bushes, spring bulbs and flowers. The season slowed down and we were running three weeks late. On the apple, pear, plum and peach trees the flowers were in abundance but opened late so there were plenty bees around for pollination. However the trees could not support such huge crops so when the June drop came in June (not the usual July) it was severe and a lot of crop fell off.
Gold certificate for Anna's garden
Prior to this, the Beast from the East arrived in UK at the end of February and lasted a few weeks. Even Dundee got a bit of snow. However summer arrived at Easter and lasted a whole day, but then the snow returned on Easter Monday. A pattern emerged of decent weather followed by rain and gales for a few weeks, but if you watched the weather forecasts you could crack on with sowing and planting then stand back as the rain arrived to water the plants in. The spring flowers lasted forever as the climate was not too hot and there was plenty moisture. Tulips made a dazzling display.
Grape Brant
Summer returned in May and June with a vengeance trying to make up those three lost weeks. My climbing roses were a mass of colour and outdoor grape vines hanging heavy with potential crop then the gales arrived in June shredding leaves off fruit bushes, shrivelling up crops, flattening rows of raspberries, blowing away my polythene tunnels and breaking flowering shoots on my climbing roses. However the summer returned again, the rain disappeared and we ended up in the tropics for ages. Temperatures got so high that my sun lounger found a permanent spot in the shade. Plants recovered and strong growth resumed as well as flowering. Roses had a great year as did geraniums. On the allotment all crops were in abundance. Cabbage, cauliflowers, courgettes, pumpkins were never better. Sweet corn grew very tall and I harvested numerous large sweet cobs. Salads had a great year as did potatoes as the hot dry weather kept blight at bay, but the rows needed
Early strawberries
constant watering. Only crop to suffer was onions as they are prone to white rot with artificial watering, but would suffer in the heat wave if they got left out. They got harvested before the September gales arrived and had another go at flattening out the garden, and bringing down the apple crops.
Greenhouse crops were protected from the weather but needed constant ventilation to eliminate condensation and keep temperatures down. Tomatoes were all brilliant except Marmande which gave a very poor crop. The yellow cherry Sungold and Red Cherry were brilliant. Grape crops Siegerrebe and Solaris gave heavy crops which both ripened in August. Figs were another success as the tropical summer suited them perfectly, though oddly enough I got a better crop last year when we got a rotten summer. That I cannot explain. Weather was in our favour for our two
A selection of tomatoes
allotment events at our Open Day in August as well as the Doors Open Day in September. Our City Road allotments won an award for best site in Dundee and I got top spot for best allotment in Dundee and not wanting to be left out, Anna got a Gold Certificate for her garden in the competition run by Dundee City Council. I think the best memory of 2018 will be that tropical summer of wall to wall summer with no rain for months, and enjoying the garden flowers from a shady spot on the patio.

Best wishes for 2019 from John and Anna
 Wee jobs to do this week
As this is the last week of the year it must be time to relax, wind down, and stop trying to think up another ten minute wee job needing done, which you know will take a good couple of hours. Best stay indoors and open up that Christmas gift of a quality malt whisky. Cheers from John and Anna.
END

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

FESTIVE GARDENING


FESTIVE GARDENING            

As Christmas is just a few days away we are more likely to get into relaxation mode rather than try and catch up with all those outstanding gardening tasks. Main problem to solve; will the gooseberry wine, the Saskatoon wine or the redcurrant be
Best wishes for Christmas from John and Anna
best for the Christmas table, and will Santa bring along a couple of bottles of good malt whisky. Anna will need my best sprouts, and this year they are huge, some Swedes, cabbage, kale, leeks and parsnips. We still have plenty beetroot in the ground and so far there hasn’t been any frost to bother them, and after the Christmas meal it is no a bad idea to keep some salad ready for the following days when you need something a wee bit lighter. The three rows of winter lettuce are all ready to use as well as rocket and spring onion.
A few winter vegetables
After a long dry spell in autumn the early winter rains started in mid November and stopped soil cultivations, so the winter digging is running behind schedule, but as a lot of the allotment has a covering of green manure the digging can wait a few more weeks. Areas of cleared crops will get composted and dug over first remembering to allocate compost quantity to heavy feeders, those that just need an organic top up and root crops which get none. It is a great task to keep you warm on a cold and frosty morning. Pruning rose bushes is another task I often keep for an early winter task when I’m keen to get outdoors but the ground
Christmas cactus
may be frozen, and there is always the chance that I may get a couple of blooms at Christmas. Looking ahead the mild winter phenomenon is almost becoming normal, but this year the bets are on for a bad winter to balance out and follow on from the brilliant summer. However at this point in time as my snowdrops begin to flower I am betting on another mild winter. In mid December the weather has turned reasonably mild, the sun is out so I wander around the garden to see if winter is upon us. Some roses are still flowering, pansies and polyanthus in tubs are still colourful, Fuchsia Mrs Popple shows no signs of giving up and my border pinks are still in bloom. The winter weather might restrict outdoor gardening, but there are still a few odd jobs to do in the greenhouse and indoors on the windowsills. In the greenhouse the old tomato plants have now been removed and chopped up for the compost heap. All
Early snowdrops
the grape vines have gone dormant and dropped all their leaves, so these get cleared up. Grape vine pruning will be done in early January both under glass and outdoors.
I had a fair few geraniums lifted from flower borders and potted up to give me a good start next year. These were in my cold greenhouse, but with cold weather now settling in they had to be moved indoors in a cool but sunny windowsill where they will stay till next March. Geraniums grown from cuttings take up less room, but I still keep them cool otherwise they will grow away fast and need potting up and more space.
Impatiens
Impatiens grown from cuttings in jars full of water quickly rooted, then got potted up, and are now happily blooming in a warm room. My Amaryllis bulb dried off in the greenhouse after growing throughout the summer got started into growth again in early November, but I doubt if it will be in flower for Christmas. Fingers crossed. My Christmas cactus is also flowering, but not as good as previous years so next spring I will take the shoots as cuttings and start again from a young plant. Poinsettias are now available from garden centres and stores and are not expensive, but almost essential as festive decorations in the house. However, this year there will be no orchids in bloom over Christmas as my two phalaenopsis are taking a break. They flowered so profusely for almost the whole year so I think they deserve a wee rest.
Patio tables go into storage

Wee jobs to do this week
Bring in outdoor garden furniture made from wood such as tables and chairs. Once they have dried out they can be cleaned and repaired if required, and sometime over the winter give them a coat of varnish to freshen them up.
Sun loungers are usually put into storage in October as it is then too cold for tea on the patio. It will be the end of March or early April before these get dusted off and get back to the patio.

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