Sunday, 13 May 2012



Normally at this time of year I am emptying the greenhouse as plants get hardened of for planting outdoors, but we seem to be in a cold spell of weather with the threat of frost so always be ready to shift any vulnerable plants back to the greenhouse if frost is forecast. However it is a bit difficult as there is hardly any spare space.
Young plants grown from seed, (winter cabbage, kale, cape gooseberries, sweet corn, courgettes and pumpkins) and cuttings (bizzie lizzies, fuchsias and grape vines) still need a bit of protection while we wait on the return of warmer weather. However I keep the greenhouse windows fully open during the day and shift plants outdoors if it is warm enough.
They are all at different stages, but as seedlings get pricked out they need more space, especially the pumpkins and courgettes. All the geraniums are now hardened off, but tuberous begonias are putting on a lot of growth and I really need to get them outdoors to harden off.
I also started some annuals including Livingston daisies, Star of the Veldt, Shirley poppies and Nemesia in cellular trays to get them started. Nemesia is a bit prone to damping off if it gets too cool overnight, and as my tomatoes are trying to get established in their growbags I have resorted to turning on my greenhouse fan heater at a low setting to keep the air above freezing over night.
The nemesias will get a soil drench of Cheshunt compound, a copper preparation which helps to prevent damping off.
An early sowing of salads in the greenhouse, (lettuce, radish, spring onion and beetroot) are now hardened off and planted outdoors in a sheltered spot to bring them on fast. Some of the radishes were big enough to use before they got planted out.
Most of my young plants have now been potted up except for the sweet corn (give them another week) and my grape vine cuttings which need another fortnight.


These have all got plenty of young shoots growing from the central rods. I will leave these till I see fruit bunches appearing. Any shoots having no fruit will be stopped at two leaves and those with fruit stopped at two leaves past the fruit bunch. Thereafter all growth will be tipped at one leaf throughout the growing season. This task continues on a weekly basis as grape vines under glass can be very vigorous and need firm control. They have to share the space with my tomatoes which also like maximum sunlight. If there is any overcrowding of shoots I will remove any surplus non fruiting shoots and a few leaves. I do not apply any glass shading as both crops need maximum sunlight and in Scotland we do not suffer too many prolonged heatwaves.
At the moment Black Hamburg is showing quite a decent crop of fruiting bunches. It is a very reliable variety with large sweet grapes. Pity it always has pips. Flame is my red seedless grape and Perlette my white seedless variety, both of which are a bit slow to show the first tiny grape bunches.
Flame is the very popular red seedless grape found in most supermarkets and Perlette may be less popular but has a lovely muscat flavour. Both are quite good under glass for us northern gardeners.


Although planted a few weeks ago, following our early summer spell of weather, growth has been poor. April was a washout with more rain than we need and a lot cooler than normal so my tomatoes were not too happy. Maybe May will see a return to better temperatures.
Gardeners Delight looks a lot stronger than Alicante and Sweet Million though all have now got a flower on the first trusses so feeding can begin. I start at once a week then increase to every second watering, but if the weather is warm and growth is good you can increase to every watering. Tomato fertiliser is high in potassium which assists fruit development, but if growth begins to suffer after the third truss use a high nitrogen fertiliser to give the growth a boost.

Plant of the week

Rhododendron Horizon Monarch is now at its best. The flower buds start off vivid red fading to cerise pink as they open, then turn to a pale peach with golden centres when fully open. Rhododendrons enjoy dappled shade in well drained but moist soil. Woodland fringe suits them best where there is ample leafmold in the soil surface. Do not feed them but give them a mulch of compost or leafmold every year in the dormant season. There are very many other great rhododendrons of all sizes and colours so you will always find a few beauties to suit all tastes.


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