TIME TO PLAN THE 2013 GARDEN
Early January is always the ideal time to sort out what changes we will make in the garden and allotment for the next twelve months. The ground outside is either wet, frozen or covered in snow, so apart from pruning and fence repairs the amount of outdoor work is quite limited, and it is still a bit early to start any seed sowing. Any improvement in the weather to dry out the surface will give us an opportunity to continue with the digging so we can get the soil surface exposed to the weather to break it down.
In the meantime we can look ahead to see where we are going in 2013.
New vegetables for the allotment
Last year was not a good year to judge crops or compare different varieties, as it was so wet, cool and sunless, that very few crops grew normally. My biggest lesson was the need to tackle clubroot disease which devastated numerous brassica plants. I will maintain a decent rotation, stop using mustard as a green manure as I find clover is just as good and it does not get attacked by clubroot.
Once I complete my winter digging the ground allocated to brassicas will get limed, and two weeks before planting I will give a dusting of Perlka, the nitrogenous fertiliser with lime.
However I will also test out some clubroot resistance varieties such as Swede Gowrie, cabbage Kilaton and cauliflower Clapton.
Parnips can be very prone to canker so I will grow Gladiator to see just how canker resistant it is.
I will continue to try out the new leafy salads, Mizuna, Komatsuna, and Tatsoi. I tried Pak Soi last year but germination failed. Maybe give it another try this year. These leafy salads were fine and different, but nothing to get very excited about, unless they perform better in a drier year.
I am very keen to try and find a good outdoor grape vine for this area, so I will try a few more varieties such as Phoenix, Regent and Polo Muscat, while I wait on my Solaris to grow. It is in its third year, but growth is still not strong enough to support a crop. The new plants will need good soil and a warm south facing fence to grow against. My own small fruited variety, Brant gives me a huge crop of small grapes and this year I decided to brew up a demijohn of wine so I would not be without it, but it would be nice to find success with a variety that gave big bunches of large grapes.
I will try out some raspberry Glen Fyne on my allotment, and blackcurrant Big Ben which has large sweet berries ready to eat straight off the bush. My strawberry season will be extended into the autumn with some Flamenco which I have tried before and found very successful. It is a perpetual variety which continues to fruit till the frosts come. Runners are produced quite prolifically and these immediately produce flowers and fruit. However by the fourth year the plants stopped producing runners and my stock died out.
I look forward to my new pear grafts bearing some fruit. The Christie and Beurre Hardy were grafted onto my Comice/Conference family pear tree two years ago. The grafts all took and now new growth looks to have matured successfully so I am hoping they will fruit this year.
Similarly, grafts on my old James Grieve tree have been successful, so I look forward to my first apples from the heritage varieties of Pearl, Park Farm Pippin and Lord Roseberry. I have never tried these varieties but they all got the seal of approval from our local fruit expert Willie Duncan.
New garden plants
I am digging up and replanting my herbaceous border, so I will be buying in some new varieties of flag iris and day lilies. I will be taking a stand again this year at both Gardening Scotland at Ingliston in June and Camperdown Flower show in September to promote my saskatoons and chokeberries. However we always get a chance to wander around the show and find that must have plant. Last year Anna bought up a collection of Heucheras, the previous year it was Peonies and scented lilies, this year is anyone’s guess.
Plant of the week
Euonymus fortunei is best known for its golden variegated form called Emerald n Gold as well as its silver form Emerald Gaiety. It is a slow growing ground cover plant reaching about 2 to 3 feet tall. Being evergreen it is brilliant at smothering weeds and provides a very welcome bright colour all year round but especially in winter when most of the garden is dormant. It is perfect for low maintenance banks and looks great on patios and courtyard gardens. It is not fussy about soil as long as it is well drained and is suitable in full sun or partial shade.
It can be propagated by layering or semi ripe cuttings in late summer.