Monday, 3 August 2020

THE ABUNDANT SUMMER HARVEST

  THE ABUNDANT SUMMER HARVEST


The summer harvest is well under way. Salads, lettuce, radish, spring onion and rocket have been plentiful since early spring and now numerous fruits are all ripening up. There is raspberries,

strawberries and saskatoons to add to the breakfast cereals and the first cherry tomatoes to add to salads at lunchtime.
Picking broad beans
Erica and Mum Patricia picking broad beans
Cherry Cherokee is giving a great crop for afternoon snacks and Anna found a great recipe for gooseberry fool as the first Invicta gooseberries ripened up. We will be bursting with great health all summer living off the land with an abundance of fresh produce. The weather has encouraged massive growth on all crops mostly to their benefit, though the lush growth on my autumn strawberry rows inhibited ripening as the sun could not get through to them. The early and maincrop strawberries are all picked, but the autumn Flamenco variety continues to bear fruit.
Strawberry Flamenco
Strawberry Flamenco

Raspberry Glen Dee is giving large fruit, but my Glen Fyne is being attacked by phytophthora root rot and will have to be dug out once the fruit has been picked. Fortunately I have a couple of rows of autumn fruiting rasps, Autumn Bliss and Polka which do not seem to be affected by the root rot. Gooseberries are again weighed down with huge berries which gives Anna plenty for the kitchen and freezer and I will get my ten pounds for wine brewing. The sawfly maggot gave us a miss this year, although a few appeared but were quickly spotted and dealt with. Cherry Cherokee is giving great crops, and although not netted for the marauding blackbird a few new cats in the area appear to have frightened him off. This year the cherries are huge so may be too big for the blackbird to swallow, though I am told some crows have been swooping down to sample a few.

Bramble Helen usually crops from August onwards but this year the first fruits were ready in mid July, and should continue to bear fruit for a few more weeks.

Summer fruit
Summer fruits

Blackcurrant Big Ben was picked in early July then Ben Connan a week later. Berries this year are quite big and the Big Ben is remarkably sweet as my wee helper, Luke from Glasgow found out. The happy smile on his face told the whole story, so crop weight this year may not be as much as we anticipated, but kids will return from their holiday very healthy, being full of vitamin C.

Redcurrants are poor this year, but I put this down to my pruning being not quite by the book. The bushes have been very vigorous with masses of foliage, but then they got attacked by leaf blister aphid. Might not get my three demijohns of my favourite wine this year.

Steve chops up old broad bean stems
Steve chops up broad bean stems

The vegetables have also seen massive growth this year on all crops. Potato foliage is massive and invaded my rose beds growing adjacent. Pumpkins are even worse. They have put on shoots well over ten feet long invading my chrysanthemum bed, two rows of gladioli and at present are climbing the lilac tree on my neighbours plot. However potatoes are very heavy yielding so far and blight yet to appear. Broad bean harvesting was assisted this year by friends visiting from Glasgow. So while Patricia picked the pods, I pulled out the spent plants and wee five year old Erica carried them up to the compost heap where her dad chopped them up for composting. Later on in the afternoon we all sat on the patio and shelled the beans before they were added to boiling water then cleaned and once they had cooled down the skins were removed from each seed, then bagged for freezing. Courgettes have been competing with the pumpkins for strong growth. One plant gave me eight large courgettes by mid July. Good job we have a produce sharing system for surplus crops on our allotment site and in times of plenty we box surplus up outside our gates for passers by to help themselves.


Wee jobs to do this week

Pumpkins running riot
Pumpkins running riot


Pumpkins have set off to explore the allotment. They are in a serious growth stage so secateurs were needed to prune back any sideshoot without a flower and a few huge leaves smothering my flower beds. Long growths needed cutting back so long as I get enough flowers to set and produce a few pumpkins. They have just loved the long sunny spell, then a few thunderstorms and all the while getting regular feeding from me. Weeds never had a chance.


END


Wednesday, 29 July 2020

SUMMER ROSES IN DISTRESS

                                             SUMMER ROSES IN DISTRESS

In a good year roses are always the favourite for bright colour, scent and lovely shape of blossom, but in the last few years they have had a bit of a struggle with weird weather. They enjoy a deep
fertile clay soil that is well drained, weed free and with plenty organic matter added as a mulch or lightly forked in over winter.
E H Morse
Then with decent weather, plenty warm sunny days and just enough rain to keep them happy they will put on a great display. The wet winter added just a wee bit too much moisture and a few floods but then the rain went off as spring arrived and the sun came out for nearly three months. Unfortunately this favoured mildew which took hold and weakened the bushes. At the same time the long sunny weather favoured plagues of greenfly which did the young shoots trying to grow no favours at all. The rains finally arrived in mid June but the weakened bushes were then subjected to blackspot disease. The wet weather at the beginning of summer brought with it torrential rain and thunderstorms as well as gales. The poor roses trying to put on a show with their first flush, had no chance. The gales, shredded the young leaves and broke the heads off numerous roses. Now at the end of June weather has settled down to the normal pattern of a few days rain and a few days
Iceberg
sunshine so I am hoping the roses will put on a great show in their second flush. Choose a dry day to give a spray of fungicide and pesticide to sort out any remaining greenfly, blackspot and mildew and add a bit fertiliser to give them a wee boost. Remove all old flowers before they form hips and cut back to the nearest young shoot or even further if leaves have a bad dose of blackspot fungus.
Now is a good time to visit garden centres which have all reopened and check out roses in pots for sale as they will all have some flowers on them. Roses can also be propagated from hardwood
cuttings in winter about six to ten inches long spaced about four inches apart and grown in a nursery row in the first year as they may not all grow.
Roses are very accommodating. They can be grown in prepared beds as bushes (floribundas and
hybrid teas) up walls as climbers and along fences as ramblers. Shrub roses are also great to add
Rosa omiensis pteracantha
height and structure at the rear of shrub borders adding security and privacy to the garden. One of my favourites is Ispahan, a large shrub rose with scented pink flowers and healthy disease free
foliage. If you need added security try Rosa omiensis pteracantha, the red winged rose, an
ornamental shrub rose with stems covered in huge red thorns. There are numerous climbers for all walls and even on the shaded north wall there are several climbers that will be happy to grow and flower. Try some of the white flowered Mme Alfred Carrier, Climbing Iceberg, Claire Austin or
Alberic Barbier. For pink flowers try Albertine, New Dawn or Gertrude Jekyll a shrub rose but happy to be trained as a wall climber. Good yellow roses for north walls are Maigold and Golden Showers and good red ones include Paul’s Scarlet and Danse du Feu.
We all have our favourite bush roses, but my list prefers those varieties bred with strong disease
Dawn Chorus
resistant foliage, a trait still sadly lacking in numerous roses. My favourite reds include E H Morse, Ingrid Bergman and Deep Secret. Good yellow roses include Arthur Bell, Freedom and Golden Wedding. My best white rose is still Margaret Merril but still a bit prone to blackspot. Iceberg has always been the best white floribunda. Myriam is a great pale pink and Congratulations a deeper pink and Dearest a great floribunda. My best orange rose is Dawn Chorus. Two good bicolour roses are Piccadilly and the old Rose Gaujard.

Wee jobs to do this week

Saskatoon bushes get netted
Saskatoon berries are ripening up and our local blackbird is getting quite agitated as he knows the nets will appear and stop him getting his summer food source. Bushes are over six foot tall, but with tall posts and nets I can still make them secure. Where nets reach the ground I cover the ends over with soil as I’ve seen the blackie flick up the nets and limbo dance under them to get into his fruitful paradise. Saskatoons down south in Worcester have now been harvested due to a warmer climate.

END

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

SUMMER FLOWERS

                                                           SUMMER FLOWERS

The long periods of lockdown have not really been a great hardship for the keen gardener. After nearly three months of dry sunny weather then a fortnight of heavy rain the garden has never looked better. Weeds were slow to get started so plants had little competition and as long as the hose kept the plants watered in the dry months everything in the garden was rosy.
Anna securing the cordon sweet peas
The spring display was brilliant and lasted a long time but now it is the summer flowers turn to brighten up the garden.
Roses all made an early start but the dry spell brought on some mildew as well as plagues of greenfly.
Fuchsia Swingtime
Then just as they were just getting into the first flush the gales arrived and numerous heads on bush and climbers got broken off. However they are now recovering and soon they will be getting their second flush. Hopefully summer weather with a wee bit of global warming will be in their favour. Flowering shrubs seemed less affected by weather and Philadelphus a mass of scented white flowers has been amazing and very long lasting. Yellow Senecio greyi and pink Cistus purpureus and Silver Pink as well as Genista and the golden broom Cytisus praecox all flowered well as the long dry spell really suited them. I have several outdoor Fuchsia Mrs Popple in borders and the less hardy fuchsia Swingtime in pots all enjoying this weather all full of flowers.
In the herbaceous border the Oriental poppies, Peonies and Bearded Iris are now over but Shasta Daisies, Delphiniums, Day Lilies, and
Geraniums and Petunias

Oriental lilies are now taking over. They are all self supporting except the Delphiniums and the taller Oriental Lilies which all require to have supporting canes. I use some Oriental Lilies as dot plants in tubs to add height to the summer bedding plants and with their exotic perfume they are perfect near entrance doorways and on the patio. The lockdown may confine us to be near home, but this gives us plenty time for garden work to keep weeds under control, carry out essential watering, staking and as flowers fade continual dead heading. Spring flowering pansies removed from tubs and hanging baskets in May were carefully replanted in bare areas amongst other plants as they always continue to flower into mid summer. However I identify the best white, yellow and blue colours and save seeds for growing on young plants for next years display.
Geraniums Petunias and Nemesia
These will be sown at the end of this month. I also have some very colourful Californian poppies as well as Poppy Ladybird and Opium poppies which have all naturalised in both my garden and allotment flower borders so I again save some seed for sowing next year in early spring. Poppies this year have been brilliant in all their different forms except my group of Himalayan Blue Poppies which are a bit slower to flower this year.

Yellow cactus dahlia
A wide mixture of summer bedding plants are used for tubs, hanging baskets and any bare areas in flower, shrub and herbaceous borders. The red geraniums have been outstanding as the long sunny spring was perfect for them. I had plenty of spare plants as I keep my own stock of best colours from cuttings in autumn, then as these grow I take out the tops to keep them bushy and use these as more cuttings. If you continue with this practise you can have a lot of plants by the end of spring ready to plant out.
Locked down but still smiling
These are brilliant for tubs and hanging baskets along with Nemesia Carnival and Petunias. Tuberous begonias are my favourite in tubs and borders, though they are later in starting to flower. This year the flowers seem a lot bigger than normal, so must be liking our weird weather.
Sweet peas and Dahlias grown for cut flower on the allotment are now providing plenty of flowers to take home though gladioli and chrysanthemums will come into bloom a bit later.
John tops up the compost heap

Wee jobs to do this week

Early summer is the time to clean up the garden after the spring display of bulbs and spring flowers has finished. The old foliage from bulbs and spent spring bedding plants together with grass cuttings and ample rhubarb leaves can all be added to the compost heap. Recent heavy rain has been brilliant in helping to keep the heap moist to allow the worms to start converting plant remains into well rotted compost. To help them out turn the compost over so that the fresh material is buried by some old compost. It helps if all the old plants have been chopped up before adding to the heap.

END

Monday, 13 July 2020

SOFT FRUIT PICKING SEASON BEGINS

                                            SOFT FRUIT PICKING SEASON BEGINS


The fruit picking season has got off to a flying start with strawberries enjoying the long sunny weather followed by a period of plentiful rainfall to make sure they never suffered from drought.
I was picking my early variety Christine from the end of May.
Emily and Kieran at Cairnie Fruit Farm
Other mid season varieties as well as my everbearing autumn variety Flamenco are all bearing crops. Just hope the season keeps going, but at present it is strawberries for breakfast, lunch and a snack in the evening almost daily, and Anna makes sure there is plenty jam and scones. There has been plenty
John picking redcurrants
surplus to add to the freezer to keep us going well into next year. Mice have been a nuisance, nibbling the outer seeds off berries which then quickly rot, so action will be taken. I know they just love a bit of blue cheese; well it will be their last meal.
Red currants look to be the next crop to ripen up, and they also need to be netted as the local
blackbird is very partial to a few red currants. Red currants are quite prolific croppers so Anna gets plenty for the kitchen and freezer and I get my ten pounds to start off my wine brewing season. This will give me three demijohns to lay down after fermentation and siphoning off the lees. I usually leave them for three years to mature before bottling up.
Blackcurrants are already very heavy with crops so my Ben Conan, which is blessed with very large berries, had to be staked to prevent the branches laden with berries from trailing onto the soil. Blackcurrant Big Ben also has very large berries with even sweeter fruit so can be used in desserts, compote and jam, as well as wine.
Raspberry Polka
Gooseberries are another fruit that is cropping at full capacity, but the recent thunderstorms with torrential rain did a bit of fruit thinning. However there is still plenty left to swell up and ripen. They are brilliant as compote, added to some jams and surplus put in freezer as well as leaving me with my ten pounds for brewing.
Raspberries are still growing and as yet the fruit is still to start to colour up but again looks like
another great crop, though constant watering was necessary during the dry months from April till early June.
Saskatoons are starting to colour up so they will get netted so blackbirds cannot get access
Anna picking young rhubarb
otherwise they would strip them bare in a few days, even those berries not yet ripe. Saskatoons are favourite added to rhubarb for
jam, as the berries are sweet and the rhubarb balances this with some acidity. However I need another ten pounds for my brewing programme. Although I usually keep saskatoon wine for three years, last year I tried a surplus bottle at six weeks old and it was perfect.
Rhubarb has been growing very fast so picking has been prolific and no need yet to stop, though I keep checking as it needs a rest at end of summer to build up good crowns for next year.
Figs, Brambles and Blueberries normally ripen in August but progress looks good in all except the blueberries that suffered when gales swept across the land in June and shredded off all the leaves.
Gooseberry Invicta
Cape Gooseberries were grown on my allotment a few years ago, but following a few bad summers when they
just would not ripen I gave them a miss. They are a lovely fruit so they are back this year in large pots against a sheltered south facing wall and all are in flower, so hopefully we will be sampling them before too long.

Wee jobs to do this week

Thinning apples
Apple June drop in Tayside was on time this year, so we can assess the young apple clusters left on the tree and thin out where there is still too many apples. The natural June drop only removes a small number, so further thinning is required. Aim to leave only one or two fruits per cluster and at least 4 to 6 inches apart. Remove any with damage or misshapen fruits and the king fruit. This is usually the biggest at the centre of the cluster and is often misshapen. Thinning allows the remaining apples to grow bigger.

END

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

PLANTS FOR A DRY GARDEN

                                               PLANTS FOR A DRY GARDEN

In my early years of horticultural training at Balfour Street Trades school, Kingsway Technical
College, then at Chelmsford Agricultural College we learned how to create a garden and grow crops on all kinds of soils. For low lying wet soils it was waterside plants, bog and ponds with a range of plants that enjoyed those conditions.
Delosperma nubigenum

Many areas in north west Scotland on heavy clay soils with high rainfall have problems, but rhododendrons, azaleas, turnips, swedes, kale and cabbages all just love it once some soil amelioration and drainage are attended to. Gardens down in the south east can be on deep peaty fen soils that are great once drained. Some coastal locations on sandy soils needed plants that could grow on dry soils and tolerate salt water spray. However it is not just soil type that affects plants but also climate which changes from north to south as well as west to east. Up in Tayside we miss out on all of these heatwaves enjoyed by those in the south, but we also miss out on all the rain which arrives in the west of Scotland. Training in horticulture covered all of these variables over the UK, but today we also have additional problems with climate change and very
Dianthus Doris
erratic weather patterns that are hard to work with. After a very wet 2019 year we have just come through a very dry spring, with cloudless skies and almost devoid of any rainfall from early April to mid June, though we did get a wee April shower at the end of April. The garden hose was in
constant use and even although the weather forecasts promised a few showers for our area, they
Cordyline australis
always missed Dundee, except one thunderstorm arriving on 21st June with gales and hailstones. That did help to add moisture to both garden and allotment. However that long dry spell did make me think on what changes I would make to the garden if dry conditions prevailed. Over the years I have continuously added more plants and removed those that died as soil and climate were not to their liking. The 2010 severe winter killed out many plants, but then surprisingly several came back to life a couple of years later. My palm tree Cordyline australis (great for dry soils) died back to soil level but grew back again after two years, however my well established date palm never survived. Fuchsia Mrs Popple regularly dies back to ground level but always comes back in spring. Many of my dry areas have been improved by adding in garden compost to add fertility and retain moisture. My garden is on a south facing slope with soil on several levels retained by walls so there are many dry spots to find plants for, especially in cracks in the wall as well as on top of it. The landscape structure uses several flowering shrubs preferring dry conditions such as lavender, rosemary,
Euonymus, both the silver form, Emerald Gaiety, the golden leaved Emerald n Gold, and the pink flowered Cistus purpureus. Plants with silver to grey foliage which reflects the hot suns rays are
favourite for dry gardens. Eucalyptus makes a very attractive tree and the shrub Senecio with
Sedum spathulifolium purpureum
yellow flowers is superb on top of dry walls next to the succulent Delosperma cooperi with purple flowers, and Erigeron with mauve flowers all in flower in June. The brooms Genista Lydia, Genista hispanica and Cytisus praecox will also thrive in dry conditions, as will many garden Pinks such as Dianthus Doris. Down at ground level the yellow flowered Delosperma nubigenum smothers the ground and can also be grown in cracks in dry walls by pushing a few shoots into a crack where it soon roots and grows quite happily. Both the ground hugging Sedums and Sempervivum will be happy in crevices in wall as well as on top. To add some colour in the summer months try a few
annuals such as poppies, Livingston daisies, Nigella, Osteospermums, Nemesia and Geraniums, but if dry weather prevails it will be back out with the hose to make sure they thrive.

Wee jobs to do this week

Remove grape vine sideshoots
Tomatoes are usually grown as single stem cordons with all sideshoots removed, and some form of support is needed. Canes are often used or strong polypropylene twine suspended from roof wires with the tomato cordons twisted around the twine as they grow. Side shoots need removing about twice a week. Grapes under glass also need removal of sideshoots twice a week but outdoor grapes grow more slowly so remove side shoots about once a week throughout summer.

END

Monday, 29 June 2020

HARVEST SOME HEALTHY CROPS

                                          HARVEST SOME HEALTHY CROPS

Life under lockdown has been a new way to see modern day living with plenty time to look at what we are doing now compared to life before the pandemic. Folk living in flats without a garden or an allotment have my full sympathy. However those with gardens and allotments and plenty of time on their hands are seeing a new way to live.
Summer garden produce
As lockdown has closed so many restaurants, shops, and pubs and it has not been so easy to go out for a meal, or even get a takeaway. Junk food is harder to find and that is no a bad thing. Folk are now growing more of their own fruit and vegetables with their kids involved from seed sowing to planting then on to harvesting. Getting them to do a bit of
weeding is a harder task!!! The adults just love to see fresh fruit and vegetables harvested and ready to eat in the same day, and totally chemical free. Just a pity there may be a few small slugs on the lettuce and the odd greenfly hiding in the kale, and you soon learn how to find those wee maggots in the raspberries, and the odd caterpillar in the cauliflower.
Blueberries
We all have more time now to practise new cooking skills especially as plenty magazines have numerous recipes to try out. Folk are slowly
learning that a more healthy lifestyle has many benefits and as we grow our own food we get plenty exercise, and allotment life is quite sociable as we can still chatter from a distance over the garden fence. Plot holders today are from all over the world including China, Philippines, Japan so we learn how to grow exotic crops as well as our tried and tested potatoes, cabbages, peas and turnips. People are now looking at health benefits of fruit and vegetables as well as taste. Most plot holders have no problem getting their five fruits and vegetables a day, and many including myself are often on ten a day if you include a good salad. Some of my favourite foods with ample health benefits will include some of the following.
Spring rhubarb
Black fruits such as grapes, blackcurrants, chokeberry, blueberries and saskatoons are all high in vitamin C and antioxidants, especially the chokeberry, but as the fruit is a wee bit astringent it is best cooked in compote, sauces or in jams and also makes a very tasty and healthy red wine.
Rhubarb was for a long time the poor man’s fruit, but now it is being recognized as very healthy,
being high in anti-oxidants, and the minerals calcium and potassium. It is also very tasty in tarts, crumbles, and stewed. Nearly every allotment plot will have a clump of rhubarb.
Strawberries are high in fibre, vitamins C and K and the minerals manganese and potassium, and figs are similar but also have vitamin A and B and the minerals zinc and copper. Using a range of varieties and polythene tunnels to give an early crop I can enjoy strawberries from May till
October, though last year the wet weather rotted most of my late crop. Fingers crossed for this year.
Swiss chard
Beetroot and chard are very high in antioxidants, magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C. The leaves and stems are rich in calcium, iron and the vitamins A and C. The juice of beetroots is used by athletes as a health drink and although traditionally we always pickled them, they can also be used in risotto, chutney, spiced beetroot, and my favourite beetroot soup.
Tomatoes contain vitamins A, C and E, some B vitamins and vitamin K, and this year I will enjoy the cherry tomato Sungold and the red cherry Super Sweet 100.
Peppers are very high in Vitamin C, vitamin A, and most of the vitamin B range, as well as the
minerals potassium, magnesium and iron, and if you can get used to some of the hotter varieties
research has indicated these have an amazing range of health benefits including a healthy heart, stomach, reduce migraines and joint pains, and help to prevent colds, flu and some allergies.

Wee jobs to do this week

Californian poppies
Tidy up herbaceous borders where early flowering bulbs (snowdrops, aconites, crocus daffodils and tulips) planted for an early display between drifts of plants have now finished and withered leaves can be removed. Oriental poppies and peonies have now also finished and dying leaves can be cut back. Any bare soil can be planted up with summer bedding plants such as geraniums or annuals such as Californian poppies, godetia, cornflower and Candytuft.

END

Thursday, 25 June 2020

GOOD GROWING WEATHER SOMETIMES

                                     GOOD GROWING WEATHER SOMETIMES

Gardeners and farmers have one thing in common. We just love to moan about the weather. Nearly all our crop failures can be weather related. After last years long wet spell it was hard to believe the long dry sunny weather from the beginning of April lasted up to the middle of June.
Anna cooking the jam
Plants just loved it as long as I got the hose out nearly every day. I kept checking the local weather forecasts who kept promising us some rain, but it never arrived in Dundee. Growth was lush on all crops, and flowers were plentiful from the spring crocus, daffodils and tulips, azaleas, rhododendrons and now the geraniums are flowering themselves to death. The dry weather prevented most annual weeds from getting a start. Life was brilliant as the gardener was in paradise. Thoughts of the coronavirus problems were far from our minds, but nothing is perfect. The great weather also suited greenfly so plagues arrived on my roses, garden pinks, oriental lilies and in the greenhouse they had a go at my peppers and basil. On the allotment it was the cut worms, leather jackets and cabbage root fly that had a picnic among my cabbage, kale, sprouts and cauliflowers. However the sunny weather brought on my strawberries so Anna was able to start her jam making. Nets had to be used on all my strawberries as the blackbird likes to run up the row taking small bites from several berries. Why cant they just eat one whole one. Just when I was beginning to like our glorious summer, the
forecasters told us there was gales coming. This time they were right. Along came the winds from the north. Young autumn raspberry
Courgettes now in flower
canes got shredded and blown over. The supports just could not hold them. The wind was so severe it dessicated the foliage on my blueberries, (no fruit this year) then whipped through my pear trees. The entire crop got blown off. Fortunately I hadn’t planted out my pumpkins or courgettes as I put them back in the greenhouse for a couple of days. They have now been planted out and growing very strong with the first flowers now in bloom. Climbing rose
Dublin Bay lost numerous flowers broken off before they got a chance to open up.
Potatoes got planted in mid March, same time as last year, but in April just when the foliage was about a foot high we got a bad frost which blackened the soft leaves. However they survived and I picked my first shaw in early June.
Summer flowers in pots
Potatoes were not big, but then Casa Blanca is a salad potato and these new potatoes are very tasty. That late frost also blackened my early strawberry Christine’s flowers, even although they were under a polythene tunnel, but they still have more flowers being produced and cropping very well from late May. I get a great feeling of satisfaction when I can take home some fresh strawberries, a lettuce, a few spring onions, radish, some rocket and a good
Add caption
boiling of new potatoes. Its the beginning of the harvest with plenty more to come. Other vegetables are all growing strongly with no sign of weevils or blackfly on my beans, and no white rot on my onions even though I have had to water them frequently. Sweet corn has established well and now putting on good growth, as this patch had been green manured early on. I am trying Cape
Gooseberries this year hoping our global warming is just what they need. Some are planted
outdoors in a sheltered spot and others potted up and placed against a warm south facing wall.
Two apple trees grafted a few weeks ago are now showing signs of growth on some varieties.
Sweet peas grown up individual canes with sideshoots and tendrills removed are beginning to flower whereas those grown up wire supports for a display have yet to come into flower.
Summer bedding plants in tubs, hanging baskets and borders have responded to the sunny weather and most have their first flowers, but geraniums have never stopped flowering. They are now in first place for impact of colour.

Wee jobs to do this week

Tomatoes now on second truss
Tomatoes in the greenhouse got off to a flying start with plenty sunshine and my watering and feeding. They are now flowering on the third truss. They are grown as single stem cordons twisted up polypropylene twine suspended from roof wires. Side shoots are removed as they appear and with the sunny weather vents are fully open as is the door to give maximum ventilation.

END

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

LONG SUNNY SPELL BRINGS OUT THE FLOWERS

                                LONG SUNNY SPELL BRINGS OUT THE FLOWERS

Although lockdown restrictions are now being relaxed a wee bit and we can now venture out, but not too far, it is still great to return to our place of rest and relaxation amongst the early summer flowers in the garden.
Cistus purpureus
After two months of continuous sunshine and very warm temperatures
towards the end of May and into June the flowers just love it as long as we give them plenty
irrigation. Rain has been non existent apart from one April shower at the end of April, none in May, and a bit more beginning June so with a bit of luck the soil water deficit will be returned to normal and planting can continue without the need to water before and after every planting of vegetables and summer bedding plants. This is a great time for flowers from shrubs, herbaceous, ground cover and the first summer bedding plants and now all the roses are well into their flowering season.
Iris Jeanne Price
Rhododendrons and Azaleas were at their best in May but later varieties are still in great form into June provided they got plenty water during the dry spell. Anna took the opportunity to practise some layering of the best Azalea colours so we can add a few more plants. The lockdown has given us more time to see which plants give the biggest colour impact and others that are not so great, so these will need replacing. Some Phlox subulata, Doronicum and Pulmonaria died out as the dry weather was not to their liking so they will be replaced with a few drought tolerant plants such as the succulent ground hugging Delosperma nubigenum. This is very easy to propagate from cuttings so a batch of plants are now growing in cellular trays. They will be ready to plant in a couple of months. Alliums put on a good display but it was very short lived in the dry weather.
Oriental Poppies
Viburnum mariesii and Cistus purpureus were both looking great but they had to have constant
watering to prevent the flowers flagging. However Lilacs flowered over a long time and my outdoor Fuchsia Mrs Popple has started flowering and will continue till the autumn.
Our small border of herbaceous plants has been a real eye catcher as the bright red Oriental Poppies with huge flowers all came out together. Red Peonies are also in flower apart from pink Doreen, as well as the first bearded iris. My favourites are the deep purple Dusky Challenger and the yellow Jeanne Price. Border pinks are also trying to flower but the unusual sunny weather, which is
normally in their favour, may also be helping an invasion of aphids on both flowering shoots and leaves. There is just too many to kill by rubbing off so the sprayer will be needed.
Pansies still flowering
Greenfly are also a serious problem on the Oriental lilies, roses, both bush, shrub and climbing. The first rose out was the climbers Dublin Bay and Gertrude Jekyll and the first bush was the white scented Margaret Merrill, but spoiled by the greenfly invasion. The last two are both scented with a lovely perfume letting me know I don’t have that coronavirus symptom. Even amongst all the summer flowers it is hard to forget the pandemic is never too far away.
The spring bedding plants of wallflower, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus are now all finished apart from some polyanthus in a shaded border that are still flowering and my two hanging baskets of winter pansies are still a mass of colour. They may have been replaced but I keep them on the patio as long as they keep flowering, but now it is the turn for the geraniums, begonias, petunias, nemesia and marigolds to provide the colour in summer. At the present moment all the geraniums are bursting into flower as they just love all this sunshine. Lets hope it continues.

Wee jobs to do this week

First pick of strawberries
th May. So much for two months of continuous sunshine, though the late frost did blacken the first flowers. The local blackbirds just love them so make sure the row is covered with a net. Slugs also enjoy the strawberry so sprinkle a few slug pellets along the rows, and place some straw between the rows to prevent rain splashing soil onto the fruits. Also watch out for mice as they are also fond of a few berries. They eat the seeds around the surface but leave the rest to rot. Enjoy this summer fruit.
Early varieties of Strawberries like Mae and Christine are now ready for picking. My first berries were ready at end of May but last year I was picking on 11

END

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

LOCKDOWN IN THE GARDEN

                                               LOCKDOWN IN THE GARDEN

It has taken a major disaster to let people see the benefits of a garden. Prior to the coronavirus
epidemic, gardens were going out of favour as they involved a wee bit of hard graft, (digging,
Auralia paints her new fence
planting and weeding) and as more and more folk have cars they need somewhere to park them so gardens lost out to hard landscaping of slabs, setts, paving, gravel and tarmac. Today there are also so many leisure activities that gardening was relegated to the lower levels of the popularity table.
Then along comes the virulent virus and social life and many jobs came to a standstill. Now we are all in lockdown, what on earth can we get up to relieve boredom. Those of us with gardens will be fine and even a lot better if we also have an allotment. For folk living in flats and those with
concrete gardens the answer seems to be getting an allotment. Interest in gardening has
Steve and Erica dig up the lawn
mushroomed but there is a problem of access to plants, seeds, compost, pots, etc. as garden centres are all closed. Fortunately everybody is now becoming competent in ordering online so we get our gardening supplies delivered to our home, though hopefully when this goes to print the garden centres will all be open and doing a great trade.
Most gardens are not all that big so there is a limit on just how many garden jobs we can find. I have been amazed. Our City Road Allotments have both a website and a Facebook page.
While on Facebook you get invited to join other garden groups like Allotments Online. There are masses of new entrants into the world of gardening who just have not got a clue, but are very keen to learn. Some folk that just got a plot very overgrown and in a short space of time it was cleaned up and planted with photos provided. Very impressive.
Anne and Frank's Hot Tub
Gardens are going through a period of transformation as folk have all the time in the world, while in lockdown, to think about plans to modernise their gardens. Garden fences are being repaired and
Dino Daly creates his wee garden
painted, paths and steps are being repaired. New greenhouses are being erected as well as sheds, and patios being constructed to allow more enjoyable leisure time. There is a move to get back to nature and kids are very much involved as parents want to show them where food comes from. Up at City Road Allotments Karen is helping young Dino with a natural bug garden and pond with
tadpoles so he can see them grow into frogs which hopefully will help to keep the slugs down.
Luke and mum get ready for the Parkour challenge
Another chap is building a Wendy House for the kids who now are frequent visitors to our site. On
another plot Jane is very much inspired to indulge in her creative poetry sitting blissful amongst the flowers and plants she enjoys growing. On my plot I now have the time to indulge in taking
gardening up one level. This year I am growing sweet peas to exhibition standards having been taught those skills sixty years ago up at Camperdown nursery (now a zoo) where we grew a few hundred for council functions. I never forgot the method. Lockdown has curtailed our allotment committee activities, so there is no longer any plot inspections and vacant plots are not re let but
Jane writes some poetry
volunteers still plant up these vacant plots and we offer produce to passers by with baskets of
vegetables and fruit for free left outside the gate on City Road. Another couple of friends, Frank and Anne decided to install a hot tub in the garden to enjoy a wee bit of lockdown in luxury. Friends over in Glasgow are digging up the lawn to give more space to growing vegetables with help from the kids. Their garden is terraced on several levels with fences. Just the perfect location for young Luke to create a Parkour free running, jumping, climbing trail for charity encouraged by Captain Tom Moore’s very successful charity walk. Luke who is only 7 years old raised £300 for charity.

Wee jobs to do this week

Pumpkins and courgettes just planted
Early June is a good time to plant courgettes and pumpkins. The long spell (six weeks) of sunny dry weather brought on the plants faster than normal so I was ready to plant at the end of May, then along came a couple of days of gales, but I had my plants under fleece so no harm was done. These plants are gross feeders so need fertile soil and plenty of moisture, so if dry weather prevails keep the hose going. Give the plants plenty of room especially the pumpkins as they like to grow.

END