Monday, 16 July 2018

GARDENING WITH TROPICAL WEATHER


GARDENING WITH TROPICAL WEATHER

Garden activities have always been dependant on prevailing weather. We expect frost and snow in winter, followed by increasing temperatures in
Aurelia with home grown mushrooms and strawberries
spring then onwards to our erratic summer of sun, rain and wind. Climate change appears to be happening so we are left trying to tie garden work somewhere in between normal seasonal weather
Dave hoeing his weeds
and its frequent variations. 2018 got off to a weird start as a mild winter continued into spring which almost failed to arrive. Then we were quickly thrust into summer for the whole month of May, until the storms arrived followed by gales. The rain passed away, summer returned and decided to stay for a few weeks. Both the gardener and his plants were left in complete bewilderment. Summer turned tropical. It was so hot that I had to find a shady spot for my sun lounger, but the garden plants (those that recovered from the gales) just adored it, provided the hose came out on a daily basis to make sure they never dried out. Growth and flowering have never been better. We may have been running three to four weeks behind in spring but now many crops are ahead and harvesting has started. My
Casablanca first early potatoes
first row of lettuce Lollo Rossa and spring onions have all been lifted and used, and my second row of spring onions and lettuce, Webbs Wonderful are getting used regularly.
The hot dry weather has been fantastic for hoeing weeds as they quickly shrivel up, and while it is dry there is very little germination of new weeds, apart from those areas which get irrigated.
Potato Casablanca, a first early has been getting lifted from early June, with excellent size for a salad spud, and the taste of this potato is fantastic. Other potatoes have now all finished flowering
Dave with his great cherry crop
and with very strong healthy foliage bulking up is well under way. Blight may well give us a miss this year as long as the sun shines and rain is just the occasional shower.
Cabbage, cauliflower and kale are growing very strongly, and it seems the normal spacing has been too close as they all want to grow to exhibition size.
Delosperma cooperii
Courgettes and Pumpkins are also growing like fury, though I have to keep them well watered. My first courgettes were ready at the end of June. These cucurbits are sharing space with my sweet corn Incredible, now about four to five feet tall, very robust and now beginning to flower.
Brilliant to see so much luxuriant growth.
Strawberry picking started in mid June with berries in abundance on early, mid season, late season and even my autumn perpetual Flamenco is cropping. However my new variety on trial, Colossus, turns out no bigger than any others, but has a high level of small misshapen fruit and a very low level of crop. It will be getting dug out and discarded in a few weeks time.
Raspberry Glen Fyne started to crop at the beginning of July and crop potential looks enormous. Raspberry Glen Dee suffered in the gales, but is recovering and also looks great. Autumn raspberry Polka got flattened with many canes broken, so looks like I will be depending on old favourite Autumn Bliss which was unharmed and now growing strongly.
Grape Siegerrebe
Fig tree Brown Turkey may not yet be in full foliage as many of the large leaves suffered in the gales, but it is determined to put on more growth to feed the huge crop of figs that just love this tropical climate. I hope to pick my first figs this month.
Cherry trees are having a great year and fellow plot holder Dave has had to protect his huge crop from birds who just love the juicy fresh cherries. Another plot holder Aurelia has had a terrific crop of mushrooms which she has grown in an old barrel full of compost.
The flower garden has never been better; with star of the show my purple Delosperma cooperii.
Apples after thinning
Tomatoes are well ahead with the first Alicante ready to pick in early July and yellow cherry Sungold now turning colour. Grapes under glass have huge bunches which may need thinning.

Wee jobs to do this week

The June drop has now thinned out the apple crop, but most trees are still carrying too many apples so go over the tree and thin clusters out to leave only one or two apples per spur. This will ensure they grow to a decent size.
END

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A GOOD YEAR FOR ROSES


A GOOD YEAR FOR ROSES

Climbing rose Morning Jewel
Rose growers could not have asked for better weather. Provided the rose beds and borders got some irrigation, plant growth has been strong and very healthy, responding to our recent near tropical weather. However, just when the first heat wave was ending and rain returned, so did the strong gales and damaged any long shoots on both bush and climbing rose. Then the tropical weather returned and plants again just loved it.
Dawn Chorus
I had thought that my tall climbing rose Dublin Bay was a goner as the gales broke off a lot of flowering shoots, but there was still plenty unopened buds ready to replace the losses. Similarly my shrub rose Gertrude Jekyll, which I train as a climber lost a lot of flowers, but still put on a great show. It suffered a lot of greenfly infestations during May, but these got washed off while watering the garden and putting on a high pressure spray, carefully. Roses have always created the main floral impact in summer, as I grow shrubs, climbers and bush types, though they may have lost the popularity they once held when in my youth. They were a symbol of wealth for both gardeners,  home owners and Leisure departments of towns. Both Dundee and Aberdeen and many other towns grew and planted them by the thousand, but sadly today most have all vanished.  My early gardening experience in my training years, was to buy 100 Rosa canina rootstocks then with a broken pen knife, I budded them in summer and got over 80 bushes for my garden. Several years later while studying at college in Chelmsford I did a project researching rose breeding and came across another rootstock, Rosa
Mme Alfred Carrier
multiflora. It was said to give far superior results, so I purchased another 100 and budded these. Commercially this rootstock would not be acceptable in the trade as the neck between roots and stem is too small making budding difficult and slowing down the budders, but my bushes were fantastic. Each bush had more flowering shoots than normal, and each shoot had more flowers than normal. My garden was a mass of colour. Today growers prefer to use Rosa laxa as this does not sucker as much as Rosa canina. Roses may not be so popular, but they are in my blood, so my garden would be empty without them.
Ispahan
Over the years the large number of rose varieties has been whittled down as any bush liable to infection from the common rose diseases would get discarded as chemicals used for their control have just about all been withdrawn. There is still a few chemicals available for diseases of roses, but I tend to only grow those with strong healthy foliage able to withstand attacks of fungi.
Shrub roses now include Ispahan, 
Lavander Lassie, Wisley, Gertrude Jekyll and Rosa Mundi, though the recent gales blew Rosa Mundi over just as it was coming into flower.
Miriam
Climbers able to stand up to diseases include Mme Alfred Carrier, Dublin Bay, Iceberg, Ena Harkness and the pink Morning Jewel. Climbing Ena Harkness is a sport of the bush variety and suffers the same weak neck which can’t hold up the large deep red and scented flowers, but in the climbing form this is an advantage. The flowers bend down so you can see them.
Gertrude Jekyll
My favourite bush roses include, the yellow Arthur Bell, the red E H Morse, the white Iceberg and Margaret Merril, and pink Congratulations, Miriam and Dearest, and Piccadilly is a great bicolour as is Rose Gaujard.
For the perfect red rose bloom, National Trust almost fits the bill, but sadly it is not scented, whereas Fragrant Cloud has a great scent. Super Star may have been the first orange rose way back in the sixties, but now Alexander and Dawn Chorus are the popular choices. For the best scented rose try Wendy Cussons, a deep pink hybrid tea type, which won the Clay Vase for fragrance.

Anna dead heads the sweet peas
Wee jobs to do this week

Dead head rhododendron and azaleas, bedding plants in tubs and borders, herbaceous plants, roses, and sweet peas. This encourages the plant to continue growing and producing more flowers rather than setting seeds.
Spray an insecticide on Rhododendrons and Camellias against scale growing on the underside of the leaves to prevent a build up of sooty mould.
END



Monday, 2 July 2018

BUSY TIME IN THE GARDEN


BUSY TIME IN THE GARDEN

Storms in the middle of June caused a fair bit of damage all around the garden and allotment. Winter pansies were at their best before the severe winds tore them apart. Sweet peas got flattened and flag iris blew over and those that stood up shriveled
First picking of strawberries
in the cold winds, but once the winds subsided the sweet peas will start to climb up the support netting once again. Climbing rose Dublin Bay was at its best but now many flowering shoots broke off as did my outdoor grape vines. Then a new row of raspberry Glen Dee got flattened when the suppor
Peony Doreen
t posts broke off at ground level. Some fig tree branches shrivelled up in the strong winds, and although the dry soil got some rain to give it some moisture, the winds quickly dried up the surface. Tubs of geraniums had huge flowers before the storms, but soon all of these got blown away. Peony Doreen with huge flowers could not stand up to the winds though they were well staked so blooms were intact, but drooping down just a bit. Delphiniums standing six feet tall had been well tied to supports so survived undamaged, and these can now open up their flower spikes as the winds have died down. Oriental poppies gave a great display ahead of the gales, but had suffered in the dry weather and frequent hose watering kept them alive, but then they got flattened by the winds. The remaining foliage will be cut back to see if it will grow again. Summer bedding plants and Sweet William in borders were unharmed as they are still quite small and now putting on growth and
Sweet William
flowering will soon give us the summer display.
Many border areas that were carpeted with spring bulbs (crocus, grape hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, snowdrops and aconites) are now all into dormancy so after the old foliage was cleared away, the soil was lightly cultivated and sown down with fast growing annual flowers, like poppies, candytuft, cornflower, godetia and Livingston daisies. Hopefully there is still time for these to grow and flower by mid summer. The long dry month of May was brilliant for hoeing weeds, but when the rains came the weeds duly returned, so the hoe came out again before they could take hold.
Vegetables sown by seed soon germinated, and thinning was needed for turnips, Swedes, carrots, beetroot, dwarf French beans, salsify, lettuce and radish. Leeks grown from seed needed replanting once they gained pencil thickness and these are now looking sturdy. Onions just loved the hot sunny May weather and are also looking strong, though they did get a fair bit of irrigation by hose.
Anna weeds the allotment flower border
Potatoes have also grown very strong and are now in full flower. Shaws of first early Casablanca will be lifted before the end of June, which is a couple of weeks behind last year’s crop.
Strawberries down at ground level covered in netting to keep birds out suffered no damage and picking started in early June, but still a fortnight behind last year’s crop.
Blackcurrants have such a huge crop potential that many branches have bent down to the ground with the
Climbing rose Dublin Bay
weight of berries and needed staking before they suffered any rain damage from soil splashing on them. Gooseberries are also laden with a huge crop, but the bushes did a June drop, and although they shed half the berries I will still get a great crop.
My dwarf cherry tree Cherokee is also hanging with a great crop now beginning to turn red so it will need netting before the birds spot it.
Greenhouse tomatoes are now on their fourth truss and need constant side shoot removal and support of the cordon stems as well as regular feeding. Grape vine bunches are now all in place and beginning to swell. Summer pruning of side shoots is now almost complete, but now I begin to reduce foliage to let in the sunshine to help ripen up the grapes.

Turning the compost heap
Wee jobs to do this week

Plant waste has been building up on the compost heap with grass cuttings, storm damaged plants, vegetable waste from the kitchen, spent spring bedding plants, spring bulb foliage which has now been removed as well as annual weeds removed from the plot. Now is a good time to turn over the heap and water as you go as the sunny weather in May has dried it out. It won’t rot down unless it is kept moist. Keep adding to the heap and give another turn at the end of summer and good compost should be ready to use in late autumn just in time for the winter digging.
END