Monday, 13 April 2015

CLIMBERS



CLIMBERS

Our gardens are either surrounded by fences and walls, or they encompass buildings which are sure to have some bare wall that can be enhanced with plants. There are plants for all walls no matter which way they face. Some are self clinging such as ivies and Virginian creeper, others need a support to cling to such as clematis and honeysuckle and others need to be supported and tied in as with jasmine, roses, grapes and other fruits. As well as blending buildings into the landscape many have very attractive foliage, autumn colour and flowers some of which may be highly scented. Some types are excellent for giving security to vulnerable windows on account of possessing thorns such as the firethorn, (Pyracantha). Then again if you are into edible landscapes then choose a fruiting form of climber such as outdoor grape Brant or a thornless bramble.
Pruning outdoor grape Brant


The difficult walls and fences are those facing north as they get precious little sunshine, but it does seem to suit hydrangea petiolaris, camellias, jasmine, ivies and pyracantha.
Climbing rose Morning Jewel
It is the south facing walls where you can really excel with something a bit more exotic. This is where I try out a range of outdoor grapes to see if I can come up with one that will ripen up in our unpredictable climate. The variety Brant is brilliant, but is more ornamental rather than commercial as the bunches are quite small, however Phoenix looks quite promising as does Solaris. These vines can be very vigorous so make sure you have the pruning technique sorted out.
Another good plant for the sunny south wall is the common passion flower. I tried this one next to my climbing rose Dublin Bay. It just loved it and gave me plenty of curious flowers, but then it tried to take over the whole wall. It was too rampant so it got the chop.
Climbing rose New Dawn
For a good scented climber honeysuckle in many different varieties will fill the bill, but they don’t need a south wall, so try the exotically scented common Jasminum officinale. Another one to try is Jasminum polyanthum, but it is not the hardiest and will be killed if it gets a severe frost. I tried one which was very successful for about six years then one bad winter sorted it out. It never recovered.
It is very popular as a climbing houseplant up a small cane and it sells as the scent is terrific, but it soon outgrows its space.
If you want a good display of flowers it is hard to beat climbing roses and clematis.
The common Clematis Montana may be very rampant but it just covers itself in flowers in spring so is well worth finding a spot for one where it can grow unrestricted. The large flowered hybrids can also be show stealers and are easier to contain.
There are numerous climbing roses to try out but the secret to good flowering is some late summer pruning after the first flush, then another more severe prune in winter.
Grape vine Brant on house walls

Edible climbers
Grapes have still to prove themselves in Scotland, but many other plants can be very successful.
Fences and walls are also popular places to grow a wide range fruit trees and bushes. Apples, pears, peaches, figs and cherries can be grown as fan trained trees and blackberries, tayberries and loganberries will all enjoy support on a wall or fence.

Wee jobs to do this week

Weeds will now start to grow into a serious problem, so hoe if the ground is dry enough or hand weed. Annual weeds can go on the compost heap, but perennial weeds must be disposed off. For large areas and paths glyphosate weedkiller is still the best and only herbicide available, especially to control pernicious perennial weeds. Some types such as mares tail will need sprayed two or three times at monthly intervals for a complete control. Spray on a dry day when no rain is forecast for the next day or even longer, and do not cut back weed growth prior to spraying as the chemical is absorbed by the foliage only, not the roots. In fact it is inactivated on contact with the soil which makes it a safe chemical to use in the garden.

END

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

GREEN MANURES



GREEN MANURES

The urban gardener of today has a greater problem keeping his soil fertile compared to yesterday, when I was just a wee laddie. The town was smaller, which meant the countryside was nearer and access to farm manures was never a problem. We all had some contact with a local farmer who kept cows, pigs, hens and horses so using farmyard manure was part of normal garden practise. Life has evolved and now organic manure harder to come by so we build up our fertility by other means.
The compost heap is essential for all allotment gardens if you want to grow a worthwhile crop, and there are numerous things you can add to the heap. Annual weeds, vegetable kitchen waste, grass cuttings, shredded paper, wood shreddings from pruned bushes, autumn leaves, old bedding plants and old compost from tubs and hanging baskets.
However we do not need to stop there as soil improvements can continue all year long by using green manure practises. This involves sowing a fast maturing crop from seed which is then dug in as it comes into flower but before it gets a chance to seed. In spring you only need a couple of months to get a good green manure cover, and in autumn crops sown in September can be left as long as
possible as the ground is not needed till the following year. Some types of green manure such as the vetches (tares) are winter hardy so are great if you want to leave a ground cover over winter. The foliage is still active so no nutrients are lost from leaching in a wet winter, in fact they are absorbed by the plants and stored, to be released after the crop is dug in and it rots down.
Green manure crops used tend to have strong deep roots which break up the soil then add humus as
they rot down. A dense vegetative layer will help to suppress weeds. Clover, field beans and tares are very popular as they have root nodules which absorb nitrogen from the air and store it to be released later as nitrogenous fertiliser when the roots rot down. Mustard is also very popular as it is so reliable and quite vigorous, growing up to five feet tall giving plenty of green matter to dig in. However if your digging skills are a wee bit rough it might be easier to cut the tops down at ground level, rake them off and add them to the compost heap so digging can proceed without leaving a lot of green shoots sticking up. Mustard unfortunately is in the same family as all brassicas, so if you have a clubroot problem on your plot do not use mustard as it will carry the fungus over to the next year. This will also affect radish, turnips and swedes.
You can get two green manure crops in with a wee bit of planning. Late planted crops such as runner beans, sweet corn, courgettes and pumpkins, which don’t get planted till June, allow enough time from a March sowing to get a good green manure crop to grow sufficiently big before getting dug in at least two weeks ahead of planting. Then in late summer after harvesting your early potatoes, sweet corn, onions and broad beans and other crops there is still plenty of time for another green manure sowing. This is when tares are best used as these overwinter just fine. Use clover, field beans or phacelia for a spring sowing.
Always prepare the ground as normal for sowing a seed crop raking to a deep tilth and adding some general fertiliser. This boosts growth and the fertiliser is not wasted as it will be returned to the soil when the green manure crop is dug in and starts to rot.

Wee jobs to do this week

Start to mow the lawn if the mild winter has given the grass a growth boost, but keep the blades set high for the first couple of cuts. Remove the old grass from the lawn and compost it. Any bare patches can be scarified, adding a dusting of fine top soil and reseeded with a lawn seed mix.
Cut back dogwood, willows, and other shrubs grown for their coloured bark. I take mine right back to ground level and although this may seem severe at the time they soon regrow and by the end of the season they are four to ten feet tall.
Stake any tall growing herbaceous plants such as delphiniums, oriental poppies, peonias and pyrethrum before they get too big.

END

Monday, 30 March 2015

SOW SOME ANNUALS



SOW SOME ANNUALS

Hardy annuals grown from seed is one of the best ways to bring in summer colour to the new garden where newly planted landscape plants have still to grow so there is plenty of empty space. Established gardens often have an area dedicated to annuals as there are so many attractive plants that can be grown quickly and cheaply from seed.
Annuals do not need rich soil and may flower better if the ground is quite poor, though to get good germination and establishment it is worthwhile ensuring the soil surface is well prepared and broken down to produce a good tilth. Do not use any fertiliser otherwise you may get lush growth at the expense of flowers. They will flower best in full sun on well drained soil even if it is a bit dry so long as they have enough moisture to get them established.


Sowing and planting
Seed sowing can be started at the end of March to mid April direct onto the ground where they are to grow. If you only have a small patch of ground then just broadcast the seeds lightly and rake them in. However if your border is a fair size and you are growing a range of annuals it may be better to mark out drifts with sand then sow each type in rows in its own patch. When these grow to a few inches they can be thinned and transplanted to where ever they are needed. This method also makes weeding a lot easier. It gives a more natural appearance when planting up drifts if the different plant types overlap. Some types such as Livingston daisies and Osteospermums can be sown in plug trays and grown on for a few weeks before planting out. They will need to be kept well watered until they get growing.

My favourite selection
They can all be grown from seed, as well as plug plants from garden centres if you want to try out something new, or to gap up if seed has given a poor germination.
Top of my list has always been the Shirley poppies as they are very easy to grow, very colourful and often find themselves the subject of a painting. Californian poppies and Poppy Ladybird are also firm favourites. The best fully double pink poppy is varieties of the opium poppy Papaver somniferum which arrived as a stray weed in my garden but put on such a fantastic show that I saved seed for future years. The Iceland poppy is treated like a biennial sown at the end of summer then overwintered to flower the following year from early summer onwards.
Godetia, Livingston daisies, osteospermums and candytuft are very showy at the front of borders and clarkia, cosmos, cornflower, larkspur and amaranthus better at the back.
If you have young kids around grow some statice or helichrysum (everlasting flowers) at the front as they love to feel the rustling flower petals.
Calendula and nasturtiums are easy and give a great show, but keep them dead headed as if left unattended they can become very invasive in the following years as the seed remains viable for years and germinates readily.

Wee jobs to do this week

Once shoots begin to grow on outdoor hardy fuchsias they can be lightly pruned to remove any shoots that have died back, or others that are a bit straggly.
Check growth on the variegated Elaeagnus and remove any shoots that have reverted back to pure green as these will take over the bush if not removed.
Early varieties of potatoes can be planted as long as the soil has had a chance to warm up.
Pinch out the tops of young sweet pea plants once they have made two to three leaves, as it helps branching, but for cordon training select the strongest shoot once they all grow.

END

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

PEAS AND BEANS



PEAS AND BEANS

Peas and beans are found on most people’s allotment. They are very easy to grow provided you give them rich soil that was well manured or composted during the winter digging. Runner beans, dwarf French beans and later sown peas can also benefit from a green manure crop, since there is time to grow a quick clover crop before the ground is needed for sowing or planting.
Freshly harvested peas and beans can be on the dinner plate within a couple of hours of picking and there is nothing more healthy and delicious to taste. These pulses are rich in fibre, protein, vitamin A, C, E and K and the minerals copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc and selenium.


Broad beans are quite hardy so it is possible to do an autumn sowing and over winter the plants to give a very early crop. However I prefer to sow early in March indoors with some heat and grow them on in cellular trays for a couple of weeks on a sunny windowsill. When they are about four inches tall I transfer them to my unheated greenhouse to harden off. They will go outdoors to harden off further before they are planted on prepared ground in early April once the land has warmed up. I plant in a double row about nine to twelve inches apart spacing the plants about nine inches apart. I grow Giant Exhibition Longpod as although it is very vigorous and grows quite tall it produces a very heavy crop. It will need good support as it grows using stakes and binder twine.
I have never been troubled with blackfly, but taking out the tops is recommended as a precaution once the plants have set the pods. They are ready to harvest in summer in a one off operation. I pick the crop in the morning then it is a family affair in the afternoon as we gather around a table on the patio and shell the beans. I wee drop of Saskatoon wine adds to the social occasion. However the work continues in the kitchen soon after as the beans are blanched so the skins can be squeezed off.
This is necessary for perfect broad bean soup with a flavour to die for, and extremely healthy.

Runner beans are not so hardy so they are sown in small pots in late April and grown similar to the beans so they can be planted out in early June. They can also be sown direct outdoors in early June.
They need a support of canes or poles about six feet tall as they will climb.

Dwarf French beans are more tender so sowing is even later. I sow direct outdoors the first week in May (provided the soil has warmed up) in a double row a foot apart spacing the seeds about four inches apart. These do not need staked and picking should be regular over several weeks in summer.

Peas can crop over a long season by using different varieties and sowing times. To get earliest crops use a variety such as Kelvedon Wonder sown indoors in a length of guttering  filled with compost then when the plants are a few inches tall slide the whole batch into a furrow in the garden.
For succession follow on with the same variety outdoors in April, then later on use a maincrop such as Onward or the very tall Alderman. Peas will need staking and protection from pigeons. I use the old fashioned, but still effective black thread tied along the rows on the pea support. It frightens off the birds as they can feel it but not see it. For a late sown crop go back to the fast maturing Kelvedon Wonder or Feltham First sown in July. All peas get sown in a six inch wide furrow, a couple of inches deep and spacing the peas about two to three inches apart in three rows.

Wee jobs to do this week
Complete any outstanding pruning of fruit trees or bushes, except plum trees liable to infection from silver leaf.
Plant strawberry runners delivered as cold stored runners. They may not have much leaves on them but as long as they have strong crowns they will soon grow once the spring gets under way.
Once snowdrops and aconites have finished flowering the clumps can be lifted, split up and replanted where they will continue to grow for a few more weeks as long as they are kept moist.

END

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Art Exhibition Dundee Art Society

Dundee Art Society Spring Exhibition


Exhibition starts on Saturday 21st March 2015 at 11am at the gallery at 17 Roseangle and finishes at 5pm. Open every day at the same time until Saturday 28th March 2015.
My three paintings on display are this lady in red called Warm Glow


Entry is free and there should be about 100 paintings and a lot of craft on display.
Please support us and bring a friend along to see our artwork.

I also paint a lot of views from my allotment site at City Road, including this one of The Red Shed,


 and this snow scene winter landscape of The Apple Tree



Sunday, 15 March 2015

POTATOES FOR THE GARDEN



POTATOES FOR THE GARDEN

The humble potato has had a major impact on the British way of life. It is eaten by most people daily as boiled, mashed, baked, as a salad or as chips. It is a great source of food health and its cultivation gives us immense exercise. It is a major farm crop in Scotland for both ware and seed potato production. It holds an essential place on the allotment plot rotation. We all have our own favourite varieties depending on taste, texture and use. Some like a dry texture, others waxy or floury. Some have a strong flavour whereas others can be very bland. As my diet has evolved away from chips and now into salads, my needs are for the smaller potato cooked in their skins (the healthiest part) with enough surplus to add to a couple days salads.
Last year I started lifting my second early Lady Chrystl in mid July. It gave a good crop, and the earliest ones may not have reached full size, but they were perfect for me. However it was the smaller sized potato Maris Peer that was the perfect salad spud, though the crop weight was not high. This year I will be trying International Kidney as my first early salad potato.
My best maincrop last year was Sarpo Mira, which I still have plenty of in store so I will be planting it again this year.

Culture


Potatoes are heavy feeders so grow best on land that has been well manured in autumn and left rough over winter. It is a good practice to chit tubers as it gives them a head start. Place the seed potatoes upright, (rose end upwards) in trays or egg boxes and leave in a light frost free position for a few weeks to get them to sprout.
Planting
Planting time depends on weather, so this year as the weather has been cold it will begin early to mid March. Earlies are spaced about 12 inches apart along the rows which are 24 inches apart. For maincrops increase the spacing to 15 inches apart with rows 2 to 2.5 feet apart.
Take out a furrow six inches deep and run some well rotted compost along the bottom. Cover this with some soil and plant into this. Cover the rows but leave a slight ridge to mark the line.
Potato fertilizer high in phosphates and potassium, may be added during the covering of the tubers.
Growing on
Once the foliage emerges keep an eye on the weather and if frost threatens earth over to protect them. Continue to earth over as this kills weeds.
Hopefully earlies will escape blight, but watch out for blight on maincrops if wet weather predominates. You can protect the foliage with spays of Bordeaux mixture, but if rain keeps washing it off it may be better to cut off and remove the foliage.
Lifting
Lifting can begin at the end of June with first earlies and continue till October for lates. Lift on a sunny day and leave the spuds to dry on the surface for an hour or so. Discard any tubers that show any greening as this contains poisons. Potatoes are best stored in the dark in hessian or paper bags in a frost free shed protected from mice.

Wee jobs to do this week


Clean the glass in greenhouses both inside and outside as seed sowing will now be under way for many plants and grape vines will soon be budding up. Any vines left low to encourage even growth along the rods can now be tied back into place.
Tomatoes, onions and broad beans sown earlier in February will now be germinating and need more light to keep them sturdy. Only the tomatoes require constant heat, whereas the others can be grown as hardy as they can stand. Salads for an early crop to be planted out under low polythene tunnels can now be sown in a warm room or windowsill, unless you have a heated greenhouse.

End



Sunday, 8 March 2015

ONIONS AND LEEKS



ONIONS AND LEEKS

The allium family cover garlic, shallots, spring onions, pickling onions and leeks as well as onions.
However it is the onions and leeks that are the most popular. Most allotment plot holders will grow a few as they are not too difficult and are very popular in the kitchen almost on a daily basis as they can be used in so many different ways. As a healthy food crop they are just about the top of the list as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, dietary fibres and antioxidants.
They all grow best in rich well drained soil in a sunny location. During the winter digging session I allocate a very generous amount of compost to them, then about a month before planting the land gets a wee dusting of lime as they do not like an acid soil.

Onions
They both need a long season to grow so it is usual to give them an early start. Some onion types can be autumn sown and planted to overwinter then give an early harvest. Sets are also available for autumn planting. If you are into huge onions for show you will most likely be growing Kelsae which should be sown at the end of January. However, you will need to keep it warm and in the light to maintain sturdy growth. Over the years I have grown many varieties, but once you get the one that suits you best you tend to stick with it till someone shows you a better one. My favourite for the last few years has been Hytech. It is easy to grow from seed, is very tasty, and gives large onions that store well into spring the following year.


I sow my Hytech seed in cellular trays, dropping one to three seed per cell at the end of February. After watering in these are kept indoors in a dark warm place to germinate. When shoots appear they will go into a light warm windowsill for a fortnight before they get transferred to my cold greenhouse. Once they are hardened off they are quite tough so no need to mollycoddle them.
They will get planted out on the allotment about the end of April. I plant in rows a foot apart spacing the cellular grown plants about four inches apart. If cells have two or three seedlings per unit do not separate them, as they are quite happy even if a wee bit crowded along the row.
During summer keep them weeded and try to avoid any watering unless the weather is really dry, otherwise white rot fungus might infect them. If it appears remove any infected plants immediately.
Towards the end of summer allow the onion tops to bend over naturally while they ripen up. Once the leaves begin to wither lift them and dry them off in the sun before cleaning and storing in nets or tied up in ropes. The land vacated from the onions can now be sown with autumn salads, planted with spring cabbage or cauliflower Aalsmeer or a green manure to help increase fertility.

Leeks
I sow my leeks a wee bit later than the onions as I sow direct outdoors once the soil has warmed up about mid March. Using my tried and well tested Musselburgh variety, which must be two hundred years old, germination is good and soon I have a sturdy row of seedling six to nine inches tall and ready for transplanting. After carefully lifting the young leeks they get topped and tailed before planting. Prepare furrows spaced a foot apart and a few inches deep then dibber in wide holes about six inches apart. Drop in the seedlings and water the row to settle them in. As they grow the rows slowly earth up with hoeing to create a longer blanched stem.
They are ready to use from autumn and should last well into spring.

Wee jobs to do this week

Bare root trees, shrubs and roses can still be planted for a few more weeks while they are dormant. However container grown plants can be planted just about all year round, but keep them well watered in the growing season.
Once snowdrops and aconites have finished flowering they can be lifted and replanted if the drifts are getting overcrowded. They still have time to continue growing and get settled in. If either are forming seeds these can be scattered as they both spread and multiply easily from self sown seeds.

END

Monday, 2 March 2015

THE GARDEN AWAKENS



THE GARDEN AWAKENS


As winter weather recedes and we can feel some warmth in the sunshine, a trip around the garden lets us know that plant growth is on the move.  The snowdrops have finished, the aconites are past their best, but crocus are now blooming and bringing life into the garden. All my roses, pruned several weeks ago, have small shoots growing, and in the greenhouse the greenfly and whitefly are in great abundance and in party mode. Recent dry sunny weather has brought out the pests. Greenfly on my chrysanthemums and whitefly everywhere were just waiting on fresh new leaves to enhance their diet.  However a wee spray of Provado on a dull day stopped all their fun.
I had purchased some gorgeous pansies and polyanthus in full bloom so I could plant up my spring flowering hanging baskets and a few tubs. I kept them in the cold greenhouse to get them established as there is a strong chance they have all come direct from a polythene tunnel. They will go outdoors after a couple of weeks.
Sweet peas sown two weeks ago on a windowsill have all germinated and have now gone into my cold greenhouse as they are fairly hardy once they get growing. They were sown at three to four seeds in each cell in a tray and will get potted up in a fortnight.
Outdoor grape vines were pruned last month. The strongest of the pruning were used as cuttings (six inches long) placed in cellular trays in a propagator with bottom heat. They are now starting to grow so will get potted up into small pots but kept in the cold greenhouse.
Three new grape vines, (Rondo, Regent and Siegerrebe) have been purchased to replace those that died last year due to phytophthora root rot on the allotment. However they are growing at home in good soil against a south facing fence, with Siegerrebe going into my greenhouse.
Geraniums grown from cuttings last autumn and kept cool but frost free on a windowsill are now putting on some growth. The tops have been removed and used as more cuttings to increase stock. Geraniums are quite hardy so the biggest plants have now gone onto my cold greenhouse to harden off. This will keep them sturdy removing flower buds as they appear to keep the plants strong.
The sowing season kicked off a few weeks ago when I started my sweet peas, but now the last week in February is when I sow my tomatoes and broad beans, then a week later I will sow my onions.
I use the variety Hytech which is very reliable giving a heavy crop of large onions which can store right through winter into spring.
Apples in store are just about finished. Last years crop was not as heavy as normal due to lack of bees for pollination resulting in fewer apples. Bramley in store suffered some brown rot, but there will only be a few left at the beginning of March. Fiesta is the only apple still in store, but now down to my last five.
Down on the allotment the strawberries have had plenty frosty days to initiate fruit buds, so I have erected a low polythene tunnel over a row of the early variety Mae. I hope this will give me my first ripe berries at the end of May or early June depending on our local weather. Picked my first strawberries last year on 30th May, but it was a great year.

Wee jobs to do this week

Seed potatoes for planting in March are now in boxes in a light but cool room to let the shoots chit.
Potatoes and onions are still fine in store while kept cool, but I keep pumpkins a wee bit warmer. Winter cropping vegetables outdoors such as cabbage, swedes, leeks, kale, Brussels sprouts and parsnip should still be fine for using as required.
Beetroot left outdoors has now been lifted for use and was perfect even after a few frosts.
Rocket sown in autumn continues to provide plenty fresh leaves for salads, and flower spikes have been cut off as they appear to encourage growth.

END

Sunday, 22 February 2015

BEGONIAS



BEGONIAS

Tuberous begonias are hard to beat for an exotic summer bedding plant, providing a wealth of large blooms in any weather in just about any colour except blue. They are perfect for bedding, tubs, window boxes, hanging baskets and as a house plant on a sunny window sill.
The flowers are usually double and can be frilled and some have a beautiful picotee edge.
Once you have grasped their basic cultural needs for growing and storage they will last for years. I purchased my tubers over twenty years ago and at the end of each season I have more than I started with as the tubers grow larger. Protect them from frost at all times as they are half hardy.
It is usual to use different varieties suitable for summer bedding (doubles, Non Stop, Frilled and Picotees), those with a trailing habit for baskets (pendulas.) You can pay up to £40 for one tuber of the best variety, whereas tubers for bedding are about £1 to £6 each. They may be expensive to start off with, but they last for years and slowly increase in size. As they grow bigger you can cut them up in late March to April as long as each portion has a good couple of strong young shoots.

Propagation and growing

Tubers can be split in April when emerging shoots are quite prominent. You need at least two shoots on each piece, but this is a very slow way to bulk up stock. Seed sowing is the best way to produce a lot of plants quickly. Sow in February on finely prepared seed compost. Do not cover the seeds as they need light to germinate, but to retain a moist atmosphere cover the seed tray with glass. Turn this over daily to remove condensation. They must always be moist, but never wet and need a constant temperature of 65 to 70 F. to germinate. When big enough to transplant you will need to make a forked stick to lift them out together with a very small dibber. Plant them in trays about 4cms apart and once they fill those, transplant them again into larger containers.
Dry tubers are started into growth by placing them close together, concave side up in shallow trays of compost in February. Cover them with compost but not too deep. They need a temperature of at least 65 F. Once the sprouts begin to grow replant them into larger boxes or pots. Keep them watered and fed. Harden off by mid May and they should be ready for planting at the end of May or early June. I plant out my begonias in beds at about a foot apart as they can grow into quite large plants. They are gross feeders in tubs, pots and baskets and need constant watering, but will reward you with a fantastic show of colour right up till the autumn.

Storing
At the end of the flowering season, about mid October, cut back the plants to about three or four inches and lift them carefully. Knock off any loose soil and store them in an airy dry cool but frost proof place. Let the soil around the tubers dry out and fall off. Store them in boxes concave side up covering them with the dried out soil or old potting compost. Make sure it is dry.

Wee jobs to do this week
Cut hedges and any ornamentally shaped shrubs. Always start at the bottom, work up the sides and leave the top till last.

Check for leeks on garden shed roofs and repair with new felt or use bitumastic on small holes or tears. Replace any broken glass from shed windows, cold frames and glasshouses.
Areas on the vegetable patch allocated for brassicas, and dug over a few months ago can now be limed to reduce the soil acidity. This helps to minimise the incidence of clubroot disease.
Check for scale insect infestation on rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas as they can become quite a serious pest causing loss of foliage and allowing the fungus sooty mould to develop. They can be controlled with several sprays of Provado or Resolva. However best time to spray is in summer when the young scale nymphs are hatching.

END

Monday, 16 February 2015

INTERNET GARDENING



INTERNET GARDENING

Garden lovers have always bought a regular gardening magazine to hold our interest and give us up to date information. We also regularly visit garden centres and nurseries as well as horticultural events in our area. This way we gain knowledge of modern gardening techniques and the latest plant varieties as they appear. Today, even in the world of gardening everything has moved on and now we seek our information on the internet as well as the other sources. There is any amount of information available at the click of a mouse leading to websites, blogs, forums and newsletters.
Schools teach computer studies from primary age, so our kids are well versed up in internet technology, but my generation has a lot to catch up on and although there is plenty courses in basic computing, it is not easy to adapt to this new technology.


My first steps
About twelve years ago I enrolled onto an evening class for basic computing learning a wee bit about all the parts and how they worked, then I found another course on learning to search and surf the internet, “Computing for the Terrified” I was an uphill struggle as the keyboard, which I had never used before, really had me baffled, but Scots don’t give up easily.
At this time Dundee Business Gateway was running a series of courses on computers, the internet and website building for small businesses, so yet again this very determined lad enrolled on all of them. I got enough information on just what to look for to buy my first computer with confidence. Now I could practice all these lessons I had been taught. Before long I was searching, emailing, scanning, adding pictures from my camera, printing, booking buses, trains, holidays, and building up a list of my favourite sites that I look at frequently.
My next step was to build my own website www.johnstoa.com to showcase my paintings, prints and art tuition. However I also added pages to show my gardening activities in and around the house as well as my allotment at City Road.
I then added a new blog, scottishartistandhisgarden.blogspot.co.uk linked from my home page to archive all my Dundee Courier articles for future reference. The latest venture is into Facebook and other social media sites, but being very careful with uploading pictures and content.
Today every worthwhile nursery, garden centre and grower has a website. So do Botanical gardens, the Royal Horticultural Society, stately homes, research institutes and numerous allotment sites.
If you wish to find information, or where you can buy a plant just go to Google and type in the common or botanical name and browse through the result pages. Pests, diseases, weed control, pruning, planting, composts, greenhouses, sheds, fences, polythene are all easy to find.
You can look up local garden centres such as www.glendoick.com  or if you wish to look up specialist plant growers try Cockers at www.roses.uk.com and www.davidaustinroses.com for roses.
For fruit growing try www.kenmuir.co.uk, and for excellent chrysanthemums check out Harold Walker at www.walkersplantcentre.co.uk I have used him for over twenty years.
If you want the best tuberous begonias look up www.blackmore-langdon.com.
Our own Dundee Botanical Gardens can be found at www.dundee.ac.uk/botanic 
For information on allotment sites try www.allotment.org.uk which has links to everything you are likely to grow, then check out both the National Society at www.nsalg.org.uk and the Scottish Society at www.sags.org.uk

Wee jobs to do this week


Lift and divide rhubarb plants more than three years old and replant them in well prepared soil that has been well manured as they prefer a rich fertile soil.
Tidy up the edges of lawns with a half moon lawn edger. Any areas that are damaged can be repaired by cutting a square of turf then turning it around so that the edge is clean and straight on the outside. Add soil to the broken area, level it and sprinkle in some grass seed.
Check over all garden tools and sharpen blunt edges with a file. Many tools such as secateurs, spades, hoes, axes and shears all get blunt with constant use.

 End