Saturday, 22 July 2017

BERRY PICKING TIME



BERRY PICKING TIME

The berry picking season is now well underway. Early strawberries ripened up at the end of May with the help of some polythene tunnel protection, and then mid season Elsanta kept us in strawberries till July when the later Symphony showed a very heavy crop. However the wet weather in June and July caused a fair bit of botrytis rots, though there was always more berries than we could use so there was plenty for the freezer. The perpetual Albion (an autumn variety) started fruiting in June and hopefully will continue till autumn, but it lacks a true strawberry softness.
Strawberry Symphony
My new Colossus strawberry variety put on a poor show as the expected huge berries described in the catalogue just did not live up to expectations. Not nearly as big as Symphony.
Raspberry Glen Fyne and Glen Dee have been outstanding but we could do with more sunshine to sweeten up the berries. Autumn fruiting varieties are all growing very strongly but cropping is still a few weeks away.
Currants red, black and white are all having a great year. Again Ben Conan is the star performer, but Big Ben in its third year gave us 6 pounds from one bush with very large and sweet berries. They
Redcurrants
were perfect mixed into a yoghurt dessert, as well as eaten fresh off the bush.
Gooseberries have all got branches almost broken with the weight of crop, so straw had to be placed under the bushes to keep them off the soil, and last winter I had pruned off all the lower branches.
Cherry Cherokee is now a few years old but still not too tall, so it was not difficult to cover the tree with netting to keep the blackbirds off them. The dwarfing rootstock Gisela 5 keeps the size down but so does some summer spur pruning. This has been a good year for my cherry and so far no sign of blackfly which often infest the young growing shoots.
Saskatoons, aronias and blueberries ripen up towards the end of July but are best picked in August once they have fully ripened as this increases the sugar content. Birds will eat the saskatoons and blueberries so it is necessary to cover them with netting, but usually the aronias are safe as the fruit is somewhat astringent and less attractive to eat.
Nikki Jennings with new raspberry selections
The James Hutton Institute is currently working on improving the qualities of blueberries, blackcurrants and raspberries through plant breeding. Varieties of blueberries are being assessed to find those suited to Scottish soils and climate as well as size of fruit, flavour, colour and texture.
Blackcurrant breeding looks at varieties that can flower and fruit following mild winters as they normally require a period of winter chilling to initiate fruit buds. Berry size, sweetness, evenness of ripening is also important as commercially they will be picked in one operation by machine. As much of the commercial crop goes into Ribena production flavour is very important as well as a high level of anthocyanins to keep us all very healthy.
Raspberries have different needs as today raspberry root rot is widespread so tolerance to this disease is important. Commercially raspberries are grown under the protection of polythene tunnels and a lot is hand picked so berry size is important making picking easier and breeders also include  flavour and colour. Having the fruit available over a long season is assisted by using autumn fruiting (primocane) varieties, but leaving the old canes on to get two crops. Many primocane selections had fruit ready to pick in June almost a fortnight ahead of the normal summer fruiting (floricane) varieties. Although Glen Ample is well established as the industry favourite, Glen Dee with large sweet fruit is becoming very popular, but soon others will be released.
Lettuce Lollo Rosso

Wee jobs to do this week

There is still time to sow some lettuce such as Lollo Rosso for autumn use as with general crop harvesting from mid summer onwards there is always some spare land needing utilised before the end of the growing season. A sowing of winter lettuce such as Hilde can be made at the end of July to grow outdoors in a sheltered spot and will provide the first lettuce next spring.

END

NO TIME TO RELAX



NO TIME TO RELAX

Gardening activities are very much determined by our weather and after a long dry and warm spring, the heat wave which predominantly affected areas south of the border, did assist our Scottish climate to reach seasonal highs for about a fortnight. It was very enjoyable and just as we were getting ready to complain of the drought, the heavens opened up and the honeymoon was over. June and early July were somewhat damp to put it mildly. Down at ground level crops and weeds had a field day with anything green reaching rapidly up to heaven. While this is brilliant for cabbages, kale, lettuce, courgettes and turnips, other crops took a different view as continual damp weather took its toll.
Onion white rot
Gardening jobs may be numerous but small at this time of year as we are supposed to be on top of tasks which gives us more time to relax in the sun on the patio, occasionally getting up to dead head a geranium or spent rose. However gardening opportunities have been few and far between as we dodged rainy days to catch up with lots of very wee but essential tasks.
Slugs just thrive in the moist undergrowth and strawberries, impatiens and French marigolds are under severe attack so pellets were essential. Then mice invaded the strawberry patch. They are getting very clever. They manage to spring the mouse traps, gobble up my best cheese, then tuck into a few more strawberries before heading home. Strawberry Colossus is proving to be a hit, but I wish they would leave one for me to sample. The strawberry patch is well netted so no bird problem, but now I need to put nets on my saskatoons and redcurrants to keep the blackbirds away.
Cherry Cherokee
Nets were also necessary on a recent planting of cabbages and cauliflower for autumn harvesting. I had just got them planted when the rains came so thought I would net them next day hoping the sun would be shining. Pigeons had an early morning start on my fresh young green leaves, but I think they will survive and grow now the nets are in place.
I am keeping an eye open on my gooseberries absolutely laden down with a heavy crop of berries, as in previous years it attracted the attention of our allotment site resident fox.
Cherry Cherokee also had to be netted otherwise our resident blackbird family would take the lot.
Potato Casa Blanca
Weeds just love the wet weather and have to be picked off as there is not enough sun to shrivel them up after hoeing. They germinate and grow very fast just now.
White rot on onions and root rot on raspberries is becoming a menace with the wet weather. Onions like it warm and dry and this wet spell has taken its toll. Root rot on raspberries is also spread by soil moisture and infected soil can easily be transported on boots, in compost and tools. Remove any infection as soon as it is found. Clubroot on a row of rocket salad leaves virtually wiped them out as it spread easily in the moist soil.
Summer harvesting is well under way for many crops. Pick peas, lettuce, rocket, spring onions, turnip and the first early potatoes. They may still be small but only lift enough for a few days needs.
Spray chrysanthemums
Sowings of turnips, parsnips, beetroot and salads for late summer use will now be germinated so thin out to give seedlings plenty of room to grow. I usually thin twice, initially to a couple of inches apart and then later select the strongest and thin out the rest to allow full growth.
Chrysanthemums grown for cut flower always need support as they will grow about four feet tall depending on variety. Those grown as sprays are just left to grow and flower, but the decorative, incurve and reflex types grown for single large heads will need disbudding. Once the top flower bud is obvious, start to remove all other buds and sideshoots from each main stem so the plant can put all its energy into developing a large head. Extra feeding helps to increase flower size and maintain a healthy vigorous plant. Always disbud from the top down just in case of any accidents.

Wee jobs to do this week
Poppy Ladybird

Dead head annual flowers, perennials, roses and keep some of the seed heads from favourites like Poppy Ladybird as these will come up again next year from the fresh seed.

END

Sunday, 9 July 2017

SUMMER COLOUR



SUMMER COLOUR

Dublin Bay in June
The recent heat wave enjoyed (or endured) in the south of the UK, may not have quite reached us up north, but this year our Scottish climate has still been outstanding for warmth, sunshine and dry weather. This followed a mild winter and a very pleasant spring so it is no surprise that our gardens have been a riot of colour month after month. I thought colour had peaked with a massive show from the tulips, but that was followed by the show of dazzling azaleas, then the bearded iris, and now the summer roses climbing up my walls continue the show. Every time we walk around the garden there is another plant having its moment in the spotlight. Two weeks ago I wrote about all this colour in the garden, only to find that a fortnight later the colour has not diminished but there is a whole new group of plants seeking attention.
Just where do you begin and just hope it continues through summer and into the autumn.
At the moment it is the climbing roses that catch the eye as well as my two shrub roses Ispahan and Rosa mundi.
Rosa Mundi
 Over the years I have grown numerous bush and shrub roses only to dig them out after a few years due to the ravishes of mildew, rust and blackspot. I am now down to about twenty which all have reasonably strong foliage able to withstand rose diseases. My red climbing rose Dublin Bay grown on a south wall is spectacular and every year never fails to impress, though I am fussy with the winter pruning even tackling those shoots beyond the top of my twelve foot ladder.
Another very tall shrub having its moment is my Philadelphus virginal. Catching those long arching sprays of pure white flowers against a deep blue sky make a brilliant picture and the scent is unforgettable.
Delosperma and Senecio
Coming down in scale to my dry border I have a few shrubs well adapted to a south facing bank with good soil but with a four foot retaining wall to hold it back it has always suffered from lack of moisture. A selection of those plants adapted to maritime conditions seems to work well. At this moment my large Senecio greyii is a mass of yellow flowers and growing alongside it clambering over the wall is a Delosperma cooperi with purple flowers. A perfect match and adding to the display is my pink Erigeron ground cover and taller evergreen shrub Cistus purpureus with
deep pink flowers. This group was never planned, but over the years I found a plant to fill a gap to suit the dry conditions and just so happen they all decide to flower at the same time. Sometimes you just get lucky. Another piece of luck was the visit to RHS gardens at Wisley last year when Anna picked up a packet of Sweet William seed which we had never grown before but Anna recalled them from childhood days and wanted to try them out. We didn’t have a special place for them so they went into every spare piece of soil in rose borders, herbaceous borders and our allotment flower border. They have been fantastic and added colour to other plants all around them.
Peonia Doreen
Over on the herbaceous border the latest star performer has been Peonia Doreen, one of Anna’s prize purchases from Gardening Scotland a few years ago. Every year it gets bigger with more flowers and now really catches the eye. Then again our massive group of deep blue delphiniums continue to perform every year, but need serious staking due to their size and strength.
Tubs and hanging baskets are growing well and are quite colourful, but this is not their time yet as they still have to come into full flower probably from end of July onwards. However the pink and red geraniums have been outstanding. I kept pinching off all the flowers from winter till the end of spring to build up strong growth. This has paid off as now they just can’t wait to get their flowers up into the sunshine. Petunias alongside them are also enjoying the warmth putting on plenty colour.

Wee jobs to do this week
Salad catch crops

Harvest vegetable crops as they ripen such as turnip, lettuce, rocket, spring onions, peas and early salad potatoes. This releases land for another quick growing crop of salads, beetroot, autumn and winter cabbages and cauliflower. There might also be time for another pea crop using a dwarf early variety such as Feltham First, Meteor, Kelvedon Wonder, or sugar snap peas.

END

Sunday, 2 July 2017

SUMMER FRUITS



SUMMER FRUITS

We are now beginning to reap the benefits from this warm summer, as the first strawberries ripened up at the end of May. My main crop Elsanta has come to the end of its useful life so will be replaced in the autumn. Colossus my new strawberry with huge fruit is living up to its name, but then the first berries from Symphony and Florence were also huge. Large fruit seems to be in fashion as my perpetual strawberry Albion which I rely on to fruit well into autumn also has massive berries. Just a pity they are so hard and lack sweetness. If they don’t improve they are destined for the compost heap to be replaced with some other autumn fruiting variety. Now that fruit picking has started it is a good time to review the crops and make notes for future action.
Picking fresh rhubarb
Raspberries are now starting to colour up so if you are troubled with the raspberry maggot now is the time for the first insecticide spray, then give another spray a week later. Both summer fruiting Glen Fyne and Glen Dee are heavy with berries ready to turn red. Looks like a good year for raspberries. Autumn fruiting Polka, Autumn Bliss as well as Autumn Treasure are all growing strongly so an autumn crop of berries looks assured.
Blackcurrant Ben Conan and Big Ben both have many branches weighed down with berries and should start to colour up soon. Most of the tops of vigorous branches were plagued by greenfly as growth has been soft with the warm wet weather, but rather than spray I just cut back the shoots to healthy leaves. This got rid of the pests and let more sunshine in to sweeten up the fruit.
Gooseberries also suffered a severe attack of sawfly maggots when I wasn’t looking, so they needed a spray which quickly wiped out the pests and allowed the bushes to grow fresh leaves. This is another crop that is just loaded with berries waiting to ripen up.
Fig Brown Turkey
Rhubarb may officially not be a fruit, but it is used as a dessert in stews, compote and is brilliant mixed with saskatoons for jam, as they add some acidity. The Saskatoon crop may be a bit lighter than last year as the winter was so mild that shoot ripening to initiate fruit buds was a bit lacking.
However I should get bigger berries and harvesting at the end of July is on target. It was interesting to see that the Saskatoon crop grown down south at Pershore Juneberries commenced in mid June.  They needed a mechanical harvester to pick the berries.
Great to see success with the first commercial Saskatoon plantation in the UK.
Bramble Helen has finished flowering and now we just wait for this early variety to ripen up for picking in August. However the new bramble Reuben is flowering on the shoots grown last year. This primocane type flowers and fruits on canes grown in the same year, so last years canes should have been removed after fruiting, but with flowers appearing in November they had no chance. New shoots growing this year are three feet tall and looks like they will flower this month. Can’t wait to see if Reuben will fruit this year and live up to its terrific catalogue description.
Thinning apples
Apples are ready for thinning but I will wait till after the June drop before the final thinning.
Cherries are turning colour but the tree needs netting otherwise the blackbird will take the lot.
My Peach Avalon Pride lost a third of its leaves to peach leaf curl, so the diseased foliage had to be removed. The tree was none too happy so it dropped my twelve potential peaches and has left me with just one. I give it one more year to acclimatise to Scotland or it gets the chop.
Grapes and figs are having a great year with much needed warmth and sunshine so good to see the fruit swelling up and we should soon get our first fig.
Peas and beans

Wee jobs to do this week

Peas can grow very fast in this warm damp summer climate so make sure they are all well supported. Even the dwarf varieties can grow two feet tall and are better for something to cling on to. I use both shrub prunings if tall enough and weldmesh wire held on posts driven into the ground.
Plastic pea and bean netting is quite cheap and very easy to use but make sure it is held up with a strong framework of posts and wires.

END

Sunday, 25 June 2017

EARLY SUMMER FLOWERS IN THE GARDEN



EARLY SUMMER FLOWERS IN THE GARDEN

Flowers in the garden all have their own season, so provided you grow a wide variety of plants the garden can be full of colour all year round. The spring bulbs are now a distant memory followed on by the oriental poppies and bearded iris. Some azaleas and rhododendrons are still in flower but it is the roses that steal the show in June. The long dry spell brought on some mildew then the rain gave the greenfly a boost, so a combined insecticide and fungicide was sprayed to clean them up. To keep the plants flowering remove all spent flowers to prevent them wasting energy producing rose hips. Oriental poppies also need seed pods removed and even old foliage as in a good year they can regrow with fresh leaves and produce a second burst of flowers.
Delosperma nubigenum
Peonies have given a good display but now the show is over cut back old flower heads.
Garden pinks are becoming very popular and are hard to beat for a wonderful clove scent. They do not need rich soil but it must be well drained and they flower best in a sunny position. Mine all
Delosperma cooperii
suffered a plague of minute black aphids which just about destroyed all foliage so a quick spray of insecticide sorted them out and are now well on the road to recovery.
Greenfly on my oriental lilies also got a spray well ahead of flowering so now we just await the first huge scented blooms to come into flower.
Dahlias, chrysanthemums and gladioli grown both for display and cut flower are all growing strongly but it will be a few weeks before they make an impact. Chrysanthemums are all supported with stakes and wires and the plants have had the tops pinched out to encourage branching, except with the spray types which branch naturally. Some of the dahlias have started to flower, but need more sunshine after this wet spell of several weeks.
Erigeron
Hardy fuchsia Mrs Popple survived well over winter as it was quite mild, but for some unknown reason most of the top woody growth all died back. However the old stems soon produced masses of new shoots, though the old dead wood needed removing for appearance sake. Once they burst into growth they can move fast so now there are plenty of flowers and these hardy fuchsias will continue to bloom till late autumn.
Senecio greyii has started to produce its yellow flowers which can be quite striking against the silvery gray foliage, and enhanced by a drift of pink Erigerons also in flower around the bush. This planting arrangement was a happy accident which just worked when
Fuchsia Mrs Popple
I needed a bush, the senecio for a spare patch of land on a dry sunny bank.
Coming back to ground level my succulent Delosperma nubigenum may only grow an inch tall but is a great ground cover plant which smothers all weeds and in May is a mass of yellow scented daisy flowers. The other Delosperma cooperi has purple flowers and grows two inches high. They are both perfect for growing in the cracks of walls. Push a few shoots in a crevice and just leave them. They will soon root and grow quite happily without any soil.
Rose Mme Alfred Carriere
Bare soil patches remaining after removal of spent tulip leaves have been sown with calendula, candyfuft, larkspur and other fast growing annuals to give a bit of colour later in the season.
Tubs and hanging baskets have done well with the warm but wet May/June period covering the pots and baskets with foliage and beginning to flower, but as they have a limited amount of soil feeding will be carried out at least once a month.

Wee jobs to do this week
Five month old compost

My allotment compost heap was all used up last year so a new one was started in January. There always seems to be plenty of material to use so it soon bulked up. I turned the heap twice to help rotting down so now I have compost ready to use after just six months. This will be used for mulching fruit bushes and trees, and courgettes and pumpkins. Any left over will be used to get the next heap started as there is plenty of spent rhubarb leaves, old tulip and other bulb leaves and now I have potatoes to start lifting so the shaws (no sign of blight) can be added to the heap.

END

Monday, 19 June 2017

AN EARLY HARVEST BEGINS



AN EARLY HARVEST BEGINS

The 2017 weather has been unbelievable for gardeners so far. The long dry spring with plenty sun warmed up the soil, then just when we needed some moisture for planting, down came the rain. This was followed by a few dry sunny days. Perfect for planting and sowing, but moisture had just gone down a few inches with dry soil underneath, but worry not, along came another couple of days of torrential rain to make up the deficit. You could not wish for better weather.
Thinning beetroot
So every dry sunny day let us catch up with numerous gardening tasks.
This has been perfect growing weather, so salads such as lettuce, radish, rocket and spring onions matured early and harvesting started at the end of May. Fresh salads picked twenty minutes before they are on the plate could not be more tasty and healthy.
However salads do not last long as they all mature together and after about three weeks they are gone, so successional sowings are made to cover the summer and autumn periods. Fast maturing salads can be intercropped between slower growing crops with wide spacings such as sweet corn and brussels sprouts. Other space becomes available when existing salads are cleared and early potatoes start to get lifted.
Casablanca first early potatoes had the first sample shaws dug up at the end of May. Although this is a salad potato, size was still on the small side but hopefully will improve after another week. The small spuds were delicious and although the crops harvested early lacked in size, the freshness and flavour made it well worth while.
Lettuce Lollo Rosso
Other young seedlings such as carrots, turnip, Swedes, beetroot, mizuna and all the salad successional sowings are in need of thinning, but the warm sunny days made this quite a pleasant task. I usually perform thinning over two operations to allow for any pest damage taking out a few more plants.
Pea Kelvedon Wonder is now three feet tall and full of flowers and a later sowing of Hurst Green Shaft is well through the ground and looking strong. These will soon need stakes, netting or other means to support them.
Currant leaf blister aphid
There is always a feeling of summer has arrived once the first strawberries are ripe for picking. Last year I started towards the end of May, but this year with different varieties my first berries had to wait till the first week in June. Albion my autumn fruiting variety was the first to fruit. Weird !!!
Redcurrants have put on a lot of summer growth so some spur pruning will be done to let the light into the ripening bunches. The tops of most shoots have been infected by the leaf blister aphid, but as these will all get cut back with the summer pruning it will not be a problem.
Tall bearded flag iris are stealing the show for early summer, but some varieties that fail to impress or have weak stems causing them to fall over when it rains, will be discarded and new varieties purchased in autumn.
Iris Dusky Challenger

Iris Jean Price
As well as the iris both bush, shrub and climbing roses are at their best, and it is difficult to decide where our favourite spot is. The large shrub Ispahan, and the climbers Mme Alfred Carriere, Dublin Bay and Gertrude Jekyll are all performing to script. They are very reliable and never let us down.
A small infestation of greenfly and some rose mildew and rust made an appearance so the sprayer came out to keep the bushes healthy.
A new compost heap was started in January and after turning it over twice it is now ready for use for mulching fruit trees and bushes and our courgettes and pumpkins.

Wee jobs to do this week
Planting leeks

If young leeks have put on enough growth and are now about nine inches tall and a fair thickness they can be lifted for transplanting to their permanent positions. I take out a shallow furrow then put deep dibble holes about four to six inches apart along the row. Lift the young leeks and give them a top and tail and drop them into the dibbled holes. Water them in and let them get on with it.

END

Monday, 12 June 2017

A LADY GARDENER



A LADY GARDENER

A mature garden that has been well designed with a lot of interest all year round gives a great deal of pleasure and has plenty of plant stories to write about. Although these gardening articles go under my name, the reality is that I am only one half of the team that creates and maintains the garden and allotment. Anna Anderson, the other team member has a huge garden and together we create an ever changing horticultural world that we like to share.
Anna relaxing on the patio
It was through art that we met many years ago when Anna visited my art exhibition in Roseangle Gallery looking for a painting of her home town Alyth. As I had no paintings of her home town I was commissioned to paint the Old Packbridge over the Alyth Burn. I was very impressed by this small town so another twenty paintings covering all seasons were completed for my next exhibition. We soon found that we both had an interest not only in art but also gardening. At that time I needed a
Anna in the summer garden
studio and Anna needed a hand with her large garden so a team was formed. The garden is built on a steep facing south slope. In the early days the garden had been planted with a lot of evergreen ground cover surrounded with tall conifers to help smother weeds. There was a lot of plants we would love to grow if only we had room, so it was sleeves rolled up as we started to dig out all the ground cover plants, but we had to call in professional foresters to remove a dozen huge conifer trees complete with roots. Most of the wood went through their shredder so it ended up on our allotment paths as well as the compost heap.
Garden construction continued with new fences, paths, two patios and terracing, and then areas identified for shady borders, dry borders, sun traps, herbaceous borders and a rose garden. We also
Anna harvesting the pumpkins
allocated space for fruit trees and some vegetables.
Then the interesting phase began as we both sorted out our favourite plants. We both had thoughts on those must have plants, so numerous trips took place to garden centres, nurseries, flower shows at Camperdown and Ingliston as well as further afield to RHS Wisley and Hampton Court Palace. We always took home some new plants or seeds. I started my rose collection of bushes, climbers and shrubs and Anna took a shine to Heucheras. Every time we visited the Dundee Flower Show at Camperdown Park she came away with ever more Heucheras. I was sure she was aiming for status as a national collection.
Luck was on our side when we won the lottery. We got £90 between us, so were able to indulge in a few special plants. I got Rhododendron Horizon Monarch and Anna got the coral barked maple Acer Sango Kaku, but it needed a partner so we also got the white stemmed birch and a golden Robinia frisia. Soon the autumn catalogues came in and Anna went for a flag iris collection and I started our affair with spring bulbs from aconites and snowdrops through daffodils and tulips and now into the summer with oriental lilies. We both fell in love with azaleas after a trip around Glendoick Gardens, so now they are our latest passion.
Anna with rose Gertrude Jekyll
It was our holidays abroad that introduced us to the exotics of figs, grapes, cherries and saskatoons. The latter discovery was a day trip to a pick your own Saskatoon farm in Canada while visiting Anna’s sister. When I realised they were a species of Amelanchier I knew they had every chance of success in Scotland. I later discovered that James Hutton had them growing in a field for forty years. As the garden and allotment provide us with ample produce we have just about become self sufficient in fruit and vegetables and now excellent wine from home grown grapes and other fruit.

Wee jobs to do this week
Spraying the roses
The moist warm weather has been perfect for pests and diseases on numerous plants. Roses have been troubled by mildew, blackspot, rust and greenfly and evergreen rhododendrons and camellias are plagued by scale insects. Up on the allotment the cabbage white butterflies are seeking out the cabbages and cauliflowers and the gooseberry sawfly has been chomping its way through the gooseberry bushes. Slugs and snails attack anything green at ground level so keep vigilant and take preventive action as soon as possible with practical as well as sprays with insecticide and pesticides.

END

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A WEEK ON THE PLOT



A WEEK ON THE PLOT

Gardeners could not ask for better weather this year. After the mild winter we got a dry spring then summer arrived in April and May, and then just as we were getting a bit worried about dry soil the rains came and watered the plants. My first rose opened up in mid May and it looks like I will be getting a few first early potatoes at the end of May.
Earthing up potatoes
Weeds are now trying to spoil the show, but we had so much dry weather that weed control by hoeing took care of most weeds early on. Pests and diseases are a bit rampant as there was no severe winter weather to hold them back. Slugs and snails are everywhere now the rains have arrived, and greenfly are chomping away at anything green.
Potatoes are growing so fast it is difficult to get time to earth them up and my first early Casa Blanca looks strong enough to allow a picking at the end of May.
Bramble Helen
All my root crops (carrots, turnips, Swedes) have all germinated and been thinned but my parsnips have yet to appear. I know they are always the last to germinate, but patience is being put to the test.
Early pea Kelvedon Wonder is now three feet tall well staked with my willow prunings and protected from pigeons with the old fashioned idea of a couple of lines of black thread.
A later sowing of Hurst Green Shaft is now through the ground and ready for staking.
Dwarf French Beans sown direct into the soil gave me a good
Outdoor grape Regent showing great crop potential
germination so will need thinning out when they are a few inches tall.
Sweet corn has been a bit disappointing this year as the plants have always been very pale, despite extra feeding so now they are in the soil I am hoping for a good recovery as they start to grow.
Courgettes and pumpkins just love this weather, but needed to kept well watered as they have been very thirsty in the hot sun. They both got planted on land that had extra helpings of well rotted compost as they are gross feeders and the compost retains moisture. In past years they have suffered from wind damage in early summer gales but this year has been fine so far.
Cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts and kale planted in early May have all established well, but they all got net protection for pigeons, slug pellets for slugs and snails and collars for rootfly.
Brassicas were always a battlefield for pests and I see plenty cabbage white butterflies trying to seek them out.
Young salads in May
Onions grown from seed sown in early March have also established well as this warm weather really suits them. Leeks are thickening up and will soon be ready to lift and transplant into their final rows.
Lettuce, spring onions and radish have grown very fast and picking started in mid May, but I keep sowing new batches for succession of salads together with some mizuna and rocket.
Strawberries are all swelling up so the rows have all got straw laid to prevent soil splashing and crop potential looks great, though it may be early June before I get my first picking.
Raspberries, red and blackcurrants, saskatoons, brambles and gooseberries are all growing strong and look like crops will be heavy. Gooseberries got attacked by hundreds of sawfly larvae, but an insecticide spray was needed to sort them out.
Outdoor grapes are having a good start with plenty of bunches showing.
Anna clearing up old tulip leaves

Wee jobs to do this week

Clear up withered leaves from spring bulbs as most have now died down assisted by the dry spring. These can all go on the compost heap, but remove any seed pods from bluebells and grape hyacinths as these can be very invasive.
Another timely job is to check over the stems and leaves of rhododendrons and camellias as scale insects have become a new problem with these evergreens. They are climbing up stems just now to reach the new leaves so can easily be seen and crushed or if your bushes are too big there are some insecticides available to control scale insects which cause the sooty mould.

END

Thursday, 1 June 2017

SUMMER FLOWERS



SUMMER FLOWERS

We have enjoyed a brilliant spring display of flowering bulbs, wallflower, polyanthus and pansies, but as most have now given us their best it is time to make the change over to the summer bedding plants for beds, borders, tubs, pots and hanging baskets. As usual my winter flowering pansies refuse to die down and always seem at their best just when I need to remove them, but with some care they can be replanted into a border where they will continue to flower for a few more weeks.
Summer hanging basket
Any tulips, narcissus, crocus or hyacinths removed from tubs and baskets can be replanted into a spare patch of ground to allow them to die back slowly. Once they are fully dormant they can be lifted for storing somewhere dry and free from mice. The bulbs can be planted in borders in the autumn and left undisturbed to naturalise.
Before planting up pots, tubs and baskets freshen them up with some new compost and some fertiliser. It is ok to retain a fair bit of the old compost but it will be deficient in humus and nutrients, so will benefit by the addition of fresh compost.
Tuberous begonias
We can now plan for the summer displays using whatever we have grown ourselves plus other bedding plants from garden centres which offer us a great variety. We all have our favourites that we continue to grow every year. I have my own range of geraniums that give me a dazzling red, a lovely pink, a pure white and a salmon with a strong zonal leaf effect. I retain these varieties by taking cuttings at the end of summer and growing them over winter on a windowsill. My tuberous begonias were purchased about twenty years ago and although the tubers can get to a fair size I just chop them up as long as each bit has two to three shoots. They never let me down.
It is good to have a range of bright dazzling colours, but I also like some white petunias and  as well as Nemesia and trailing Lobelia.
Impatiens to cool down the display. For a splash of yellow there are many good varieties of dwarf French marigolds, but keep the African Marigolds for larger tubs and borders as they can grow a fair size. Tubs and hanging baskets also need edge plants to hang down the sides so I use Impatiens
Summer bedding plants
Where ever I have a hanging basket beside entrance door ways I add in some dark blue Petunias as they have a wonderful perfume, and I usually place a bright red geranium in the middle for impact.
Fuchsias are also perfect in baskets as we can appreciate the flowers best when they are at eye level. Two varieties that really stand out are Swingtime a red and white double and Southern Belle a white with deep purple petals. Another perfect hanging basket plant is the trailing tuberous begonias available in a wide range of colours. It is a good idea to plant up the hanging baskets well ahead of time and give them some greenhouse protection (if you can find space) to get them established, and make sure the wall support brackets are strong enough to take the weight as a large hanging basket that has just been watered can be quite heavy.
When planting up beds, borders and other spare places in need of brightening up we can extend the range with Antirrhinums, Salvias and African Marigolds and for a soothing drift of deep blue Lobelia Crystal Palace is just perfect.
Dot plants were once essential to add height and character, but times change so we don’t see so many Caster Oil plants, Brugmansias (Angels trumpets) or Kochias or even Zea maize, though you could substitute it with a few sweet corn plants.

Wee jobs to do this week
 
Sweet corn freshly planted
Sweet corn sown at the end of March was potted up and grown in the greenhouse to make a strong plants which were ready to plant out towards the end of May. I choose land that has been well manured or composted and as the ground has been lying vacant there has been just enough time to grow a fast acting green manure to improve soil structure before it gets dug in a fortnight before the sweet corn needs the space. Space the plants just over a foot apart in a square block. This assists pollination in summer as these plants are wind pollinated.

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

HERBACEOUS PLANTS



HERBACEOUS PLANTS

Himalayan Blue Poppy
The garden is in a constant state of change and every plant or group of plants have their moment in the spotlight. I try to group different plants together when I see them at their best, providing the soil and location suits them. In winter we had the snowdrops, aconites and the yellow flowered Jasmine put on a terrific display letting us know that the season had started. This was followed by the crocus, anemone blanda and chionodoxa.
Iris Jeanne Price
Then the other larger bulbs started to flower with daffodils and the early tulips. Planting early flowering tulip Scarlet Baby next to my yellow saxifrage was a great combination brightening up a few square metres in early April. Spring this year was very dry and cool, though there was plenty of sun as we went into May. This was perfect weather for tulips, and as I have flooded huge areas of garden with tulips there was mass displays everywhere. May is one of the best months for rhododendrons and azaleas so these came alive as the tulips needed a rest to build up their strength for next year. Rhododendrons and azaleas are similar in display to the bulbs as they can provide a brilliant splash of colour over many weeks as one variety has its moment then another takes over as the centre of attraction
.
Iris Spellbreaker
All the while the herbaceous border is biding its time as it knows that come June it will hold centre stage. Already the oriental poppies and flag iris have started to open and delphiniums are stretching upwards to the sky. They will need support as do many other herbaceous plants. You can buy purpose made supports or use canes and green twine, or even tree and shrub prunings if they are big enough and can easily be pushed into the soil.
Red peony roses may be the common peony and there are other brilliant varieties but the common red puts on a great display and is very reliable. If the soil and location suits them they can spread almost to nuisance levels, and even after digging them out there is alway
Red Peony

s a wee root that just refuses to die off. Mine have spread all over my mini apple orchard of four trees (but with ten varieties through grafting) however they provide a dazzling display to follow the apple blossom so we just leave them alone and let them have their moment. None of them get tied up so the taller ones fall over onto the ground but the main shoots then head upwards or one falls onto the next peony for support.
Day Lily
Oriental poppies fall into the same category and never get any support as they grow in huge groups and tend to support each other. They also like to take over garden space if allowed.
Pyrethrum, however is one of those plants that only needs support if you grow taller varieties.
Then there is a wide range of herbaceous plants that are not so tall so need no support and are perfect in drifts towards the front of the herbaceous border.
Iris, Geum, Hosta, Shasta daisies and Himalayan Blue Poppies are all in this category as is the
Oriental lily Chelsea
Euphorbia Fireglow and the sulphur yellow Euphorbia polychroma.
There are many border plants that may not be herbaceous in growth but plants like pinks and border carnations can add to the display especially if flowering times can be co-ordinated together. Then again more colour can be added with bulbous plants such as gladioli and lilies. The oriental lilies are perfect as they can be bold, add height, and the scent is heavenly, especially the pink Chelsea.
The show goes out in mid summer as the tall deep blue delphiniums steal the show with the white Shasta daisies at their feet. To add to the show I have a large drift of lavender adjacent.

Wee jobs to do this week
 
Thinning radish
Many fast growing root vegetables such as turnip and radish and salad vegetables such as lettuce and rocket will have germinated with the warm weather in early May, especially if you have been able to give them a watering so now they will need thinning out if the germination has been good and rows liable to suffer from overcrowding. Thin radish to an inch apart, as they do not need a lot of space but all others are best at a couple of inches initially then about six inches later on once they have put on some growth.

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