Monday, 18 June 2018

THE SUMMER HAS ARRIVED


THE SUMMER HAS ARRIVED

Mixed azaleas
The summer has definitely arrived. All the signs are in place. The summer flowers are out, geraniums looking brilliant, and ice-cream is being served on the patio. The sun loungers are in place but we sit in the shade as it is too hot in the sun. Thunderstorms are raging all over UK, but somehow Dundee misses out. The garden hose has been in constant use as we have seen no rain for at least three weeks, but as long as the garden gets plenty of water from the hose plants are thriving. During the cold spring period plants were falling about three weeks behind normal, but now they seem to be catching up. However the last two years I picked my first strawberries towards the end of May, but this year it will be mid June before I get a picking as the first few are only turning colour now. I grow strawberries to cover the whole summer to autumn period with early mid season, late and autumn fruiting perpetuals, but the unusually weird weather has them all at the same stage and ready
Delosperma nubigenum
to crop together. Global warming may have arrived up in Dundee.
One shaw of first early potato Casablanca got dug up to see how size is progressing. It is a salad potato so we do not expect big tubers. Just as well as we never got big tubers seems I may be a wee bit premature. They will need another week to gain size. They are a week

behind last year’s crop.
Rose Margaret merril
My first roses are now flowering, with white scented Margaret Merril first to bloom followed by yellow Arthur Bell. Climbing Dublin Bay and Gertrude Jekyll have also got a few flowers on the bushes. They are all responding to this unusually warm period of summer weather, lasting well over three weeks, which for us in Scotland is beyond our wildest dreams as we all expect summer weather to last about three days before rain returns. Some climate change at last!!!
In the flower borders flag iris, English iris and oriental poppies are all in full bloom and in the drier top of walls position my ground hugging yellow succulent Delosperma nubigenum and garden pinks have all started to flower.
Oriental poppies
Evergreen Japanese azaleas and deciduous azaleas are still flowering and the Cistus purpureus and Ceanothus are all in bloom so the garden has been a riot of colour for over three months. The warm dry weather lasting so long has been great for encouraging the spring bulbs to die down so the withered leaves of tulips, daffodils, crocus and grape hyacinths can be removed carefully so the bulbs stay in the ground. These areas can now be sown with annual flowers, such as Livingston daisies, Godetia, Candytuft, Cornflower and Love in a Mist which will hopefully give us some flowers from summer onwards. The bulbs underneath will be perfectly happy as they are dormant.
Geraniums
Up on the allotment the first strawberries are colouring up so it was necessary to lay straw up the rows and cover them with nets to keep out the birds.
Lettuce Lollo Rossa, Radish and Spring Onion sown earlier in the greenhouse and planted out against a warm south facing corrugated fence have been ready for picking since mid April.
Some seed germination has been abysmal. I only got one plant from a whole packet of lettuce Webs Wonderful, none from a packet of polyanthus, or the Red Veined Sheep Sorrel, eight from one packet of spring onions, yet my parsnips (normally a bit erratic to germinate) all germinated.
Gooseberry bushes were just laden with berries, but the plants did a big June drop though still leaving me with a great crop.

Wee jobs to do this week

Grape spur
Grape vines have been enjoying the recent warm dry weather and making a lot of spring growth. Now is a great time to start the summer pruning. Any growths that do not have a bunch of grapes
showing should be removed unless they have plenty of room in which case cut back to a couple of leaves as this spur may fruit next year. Cut back all fruiting shoots to two leaves after the grape bunch, and once side shoots grow cut these back to one leaf. Towards the end of summer start removing more side shoots to allow sunshine onto the developing grapes to help to ripen them up. Any shoot showing two or more bunches should have them reduced to one bunch per shoot.

END



Monday, 11 June 2018

KEEP PLANTS HEALTHY


KEEP PLANTS HEALTHY

Gooseberry sawfly
Looks like 2018 could be a bumper year for fruit crops. Apples, plums, pears and even my peach tree have been covered in blossom, and fruit bushes from strawberries, rasps, currants, saskatoons and gooseberries are all looking prolific. Even our weekend country walk around the Lairds Loch on Tullybaccart showed outdoor wild fruit of blaeberries, wild raspberries, brambles and elderberries all looking very prolific. However to reap the harvest we need to keep a watch on pests, diseases and weeds to take action before they take hold. Late spring has also been very dry and coupled with very warm weather at the end of May the hose has been in constant demand to keep plants watered. However this long dry hot spell has been brilliant for hoeing weeds as they shrivel up very quickly. Go back over the ground a few of days later and hoe out any survivors.
Greenfly on roses
The hot spell has been excellent in the greenhouse as both tomatoes, planted out mid May and my three grape vines are putting on plenty of healthy growth and fruits. Removal of side shoots of tomatoes is a constant job as is summer pruning young shoots on the grape vines to stop them being over vigorous at the expense of developing grapes. Watering and weekly feeding has now started on the tomatoes, and full ventilation of windows and doors has been necessary to avoid condensation and prevent mildew on the vines. So far this year there has been no signs of vine weevils so my nematode biological drench last year seems to have worked, though I found some in my tubs as I removed the polyanthus, a plant they just love.
Apple mildew
The June drop has started early with my cherry tree dropping a fair bit of fruit so I will keep an eye open on other top fruit trees to see if they also shed fruitlets. My outdoor peach tree Avalon Pride planted a couple of years ago is looking great with about two dozen peaches starting to form and peach leaf curl has not been a big problem. I just pick off those few affected leaves.
Redcurrant leaf blister mite
Blackfly on cherries has yet to start, but I watch over them just in case.
Greenfly has been rampant on my roses, so wiping them off with fingers was too big a task. I had to resort to spraying which soon sorted them out. Greenfly also had a go on my pansies so they got sprayed as well, and are now putting on a great show in pots and hanging baskets.
It was also necessary to use the sprayer on my gooseberries as my two bushes, appeared healthy one day then a few days later a thousand appeared with voracious appetites chomping through the foliage. Spraying sorted them out, and like all other fruits the crop potential looks very promising.
Rose rust
Slugs and snails however have been busy on salads, bedding plants, bulbs and strawberry beds so the pellets have had to be sprinkled. I thought they would have been dormant in the dry weather, but it has not deterred them from seeking out some tender new leaves.
Pea and bean weevils have been a nuisance on both these crops. I have never been able to find them on peas, but you can catch them on broad beans as they congregate at the top of the shoots.
Scale and sooty mould on rhododendron
Scale on rhododendrons has again appeared resulting in sooty mould covering the leaves, so once the flowers have faded the bushes will be sprayed with an insecticide targeting the undersides of the leaves as there are just too many leaves to clean up by hand.
Mildew on apples always appears at this time but removal of these primary infections on over wintered shoots stops it from spreading. Mildew and blackspot have not yet appeared on my roses, but rust has, but only on a few leaves so these have been removed before it spreads further.
Clubroot on cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts has been prevented by using resistant varieties so now all crops are growing strongly. Kale never seems to get affected so far. Fingers crossed.

Wee jobs to do this week
Newly planted hanging basket

Hanging baskets for summer display can now get planted up. There is an abundance of good plants available at garden centres to supplement your own home grown plants. Geraniums, fuchsias, French marigolds, Impatiens, nemesia, petunias and trailing lobelia are all excellent plants to use. Remember to make holes in the side to pop in a few plants so the basket can make a round ball of flowers and foliage. Always keep them well watered and give a fortnightly feed.
END



Monday, 4 June 2018

BEDDING PLANTS


BEDDING PLANTS

The spring bedding put on a fantastic display but now tulips, wallflower, polyanthus and myosotis are all past their best so it is time to replace them in tubs, hanging baskets and flower borders with summer bedding plants. Pansies always continue to bloom from spring well into summer so let them have extra time while still giving us plenty of flowers.
Anna waters the tubs of geraniums and begonias
However if you need the space they can be carefully transplanted to a border, and water in well, where they will continue to flower. Keep all tulip and crocus bulbs and dry them off so they can be replanted in early autumn in a border. When clearing tubs, pots and baskets check for vine weevils, slugs and snails and dispose of them before they get a chance to munch away at fresh foliage and roots, and remove any weeds. It is a good idea to replace some of the old compost with fresh compost
French Marigolds
and add in some fertiliser and some rock dust. Check out the security of wall brackets for hanging baskets as these can become loose over time and may need replacement of screws and plastic rawl plugs. Hanging baskets can be very heavy once plants are in full growth then they get watered. Everyone has their own favourite plants for hanging baskets. My favourites are geraniums, petunias, trailing lobelia, French marigolds, Tagetes, Impatiens, Nemesia, trailing begonias and fuchsias. This will give plenty to choose from when you select colours to match up. I line my baskets with polythene from compost bags turned inside out and cut holes in the sides for plants to make sure my baskets are covered with foliage and flowers. If the location has some shade then use fuchsias, geraniums, trailing begonias and impatiens, and keep
Bed of mixed geraniums
the petunias for full sun. Use blue petunias for scent near entrance doorways.
Tubs and borders get the same range but add some of the taller growing plants such as African marigolds, antirrhinum, cosmos and tuberous begonias. Salvias also put on a bright display of red flowers, but I have to admit it is the geraniums that flower first from spring onwards and are still flowering in October when we are ready to replace them with the next year’s spring bedding.
Plants ready for planting are available in garden centres, and some have plug plants to take home, pot up and grow into bigger plants for bedding. However the keen gardener can grow most of his own stock from seeds and geraniums and begonias can be retained year after year. My geranium stock of selected varieties is about twenty years. I take cuttings each autumn, and grow them on a windowsill over
Tubs planted with summer bedding plants
winter. In spring they get potted up and transferred to my cold greenhouse in March. I remove all flower buds over winter up till end March so plants can keep their energy into growing strong stocky plants. My training as an apprentice gardener in the nurseries at Camperdown Park where we grew geraniums by the thousands, way back in the nineteen sixties has stayed with me ever since. We saw the benefit of our work in the mass displays of colour all over the town and in Parks, open spaces and gardens. Paul Crampel was always the best red geranium.
My collection of tuberous begonias was started well over twenty years ago when I bought a batch of fifty ready to plant. After flowering all summer they get dried off for storing in winter then grow again in spring every year. If the tubers get too big I just chop them in half once the shoots are a few inches high. They never come to any harm as they are quite tough.
Preparation of the ground for pots, tubs and baskets before planting is always important as they need good fertile soil with plenty of compost to aid drainage and feed the growing plants. Most are fairly untroubled by pests and diseases but fuchsias, begonias and impatiens are favourites for vine weevils so if you think they could be a problem use a nematode based insecticide. Slugs and snails can also be a problem so watch out for them and use slug pellets if required.

Pumpkins ready for planting
Wee jobs to do this week

Now that drier sunny weather has had a chance to warm up the soil, we can now plant out courgettes and pumpkins. They are all gross feeders so make sure the ground has been well composted and add some fertiliser at planting. During the growing season keep them well watered and feed regularly. Plant out about a metre apart as they need plenty of room to grow, especially the pumpkins which have shoots that like to travel as far as allowed, before summer pruning.
END