Monday, 21 January 2019

WINTER PROPAGATION


WINTER PROPAGATION

Mid January can be a quiet time in the garden.
Lifting raspberry suckers for replanting elswhere
Most plants will be dormant and it is still a bit early to sow this year’s seeds. With a bit of luck the dry sunny days at the beginning of the month were perfect to catch up with the winter digging, and at this point the winter has been relatively mild. This has helped the snowdrops and aconites to spring
Well rooted strawberry runner
into action. The snowdrops started to flower in mid December and now the aconites are opening up on sunny days and adding to the show.
However we still like to keep active so now is a good time to think about propagation of a whole range of plants.
Hardwood cuttings of willow, dogwood, black, red and white currants, gooseberries, philadelphus and Japanese maples can all be taken now and lined out in a protected cold frame or a sheltered border. Take cuttings about nine inches long and bury two thirds of them in the ground in rows a foot apart spacing the cuttings about six inches apart. I sometimes bundle up my cuttings and plant them on the top of my compost heap where they will get some bottom heat. Remove them for lining out at the end of March when the cut end should have callused over and the first root initials will be ready to push through. The well
Blackcurrant cuttings
spaced cuttings have room to grow through summer and be ready for lifting in early winter, when they can be planted out into permanent positions or lined out again with more space to grow into a bigger plant the following year. They can also be potted up and grown on. Gooseberry bushes are usually grown on a leg to keep shoots well off the ground to prevent soil splashing on the fruits so

remove the lower buds, but leave the top two or three buds to form the bush with a clear leg. The Japanese maples have smaller shoots so cuttings are about six inches long and dibbled around the edge of a shallow pot filled with good compost and placed in the cold greenhouse.
December snowdrops
Some plants can be propagated in winter by lifting up suckers growing away from the parent plant. Both raspberries and saskatoons grow easily from suckers but make sure they have plenty of roots to get them started. Strawberries can also be propagated at this time using runners that have grown away from the parent plant and lifting them with a good ball of soil. Traditionally strawberries are planted in rows three feet apart spacing the plants a foot apart, but, as often happens if there are plenty spare runners then plant a lot closer in the row so the first crops will have more fruit.
Blackberries can be tip layered by bending the ends of long shoots down to the ground and pegging them in firmly. They should be rooted by mid spring. They can also be propagated by using the tips as cuttings, putting them in pots of free draining compost and keeping them in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse over winter.
Maple Sango Kaku cuttings
Layering is also very successful with the evergreen Japanese azaleas, winter jasmine, heathers and hydrangea petiolaris. It usually helps if you scrape some of the bark off and peg the shoots down into the soil covering an inch or so with top soil. They should be well rooted by next winter.
Berries of chokeberry, blueberry and saskatoons saved from the summer crops had the seeds removed and placed in between layers of damp kitchen roll and placed in the fridge for six weeks, checking on them to keep them moist and free from botrytis. They were then sown in seed compost, but need a period of cold weather before they will germinate, so keep them outdoors to get exposure to winter weather.

Wee jobs to do this week

Chitting potato Mayan Gold
This is a good time to look over the seed catalogues and decide which potato varieties to grow this year. Purchase the seed potatoes and place them in trays in a cool room with good light or a cold greenhouse to let them chit. Casablanca and Lady Christl are both excellent first earlies and Charlotte and Maris Peer really good second earlies. Good maincrops include Maris Piper, Sarpo Mira and Amour which has huge potatoes perfect for roasting. This year I will be trying a row of Mayan Gold.
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Monday, 14 January 2019

WINTERS DAY ON THE PLOT


WINTERS DAY ON THE PLOT

The festive season has come and gone. There was no white Christmas, in fact we are well into winter and yet still to see some snow, but now I’ve said that, it is just about guaranteed to come within the next few days. Until then we can crack on with
Kyle and Scarlet digging and adding compost
all those jobs put off during the festive season. The wet weather at the back end of the year kept us off the land, so this week it was out with the loppers and secateurs to tackle pruning. So it was climbing roses, shrub roses and bush roses that all got trimmed, then on to saskatoons that needed some height reduction to keep them under my summer six feet tall nets. A few very tall branches get cut down to ground level and others cut down to about four feet, but leaving plenty of shoots to fruit. Bramble Helen was next, removing last summers fruiting shoots and tying in the remaining young shoots to fruit in summer. My fig trained against a wall got pruned by removing any shoots growing away from the wall or just too high. Summer fruiting raspberries were next then autumn fruiting varieties got chopped down to the ground. Gooseberries did not escape as those branches too close to the ground and likely to suffer soil
Festive poinsettia
splashing had to be removed as well as opening up the centre to make picking easier. Red and
City Road allotments shredding team
blackcurrants were next, but both with different styles of pruning. The blackcurrants fruit best on young shoots whereas the redcurrants fruit on spurs established on older wood. However each year remove some of these older shoots with new younger shoots to take their place and remain for about four years. Finally it was the apples and pears turn for pruning, but I left some shoots on my Concord pear for grafting wood on my family pear tree. All of these prunings can be recycled as we have a large wood shredder up at City Road allotments and the shredded material can go on the compost heap, used as a mulch or if the material is rough it can be used on paths.
Harvesting continues with parsnips, sprouts, cabbage, leeks, winter
Beetroot ready for storing
salads and beetroot, though some of the beetroot has been lifted, washed and dried for storing in the garage just in case we get some frost. There is still plenty pumpkins, potatoes, onions and apples in store and loads of other fruit and vegetables in the freezer. This just about makes us self sufficient all year round, though the late spring period and early summer are hard to fill as frozen, stored and overwintered crops are just about done and the first summer crops are not quite ready.
Any time the weather dries up the soil surface enough to walk on we can continue with the winter digging, leaving the soil rough for weathering.
Grape vine cuttings
Frost is always with us till March so put some protection on all outdoor taps and those in cold greenhouses, and turn off the water supply and drain down the pipes till spring.
Festive pot plants indoors may need some attention. Keep watering poinsettias as they need it but do not over water or leave them sitting in water. They should still last several more weeks. Christmas cactus will now be finished so it should be dried off to give it a rest till spring.
Protect taps from frost
Clean the glass both inside and outside on the greenhouse to remove a years worth of dirt, moss and algae and clean out the gutters. Pots, boxes and seed trays in the shed can be cleaned and sorted into their sizes ready for the spring propagation. As now is the time for pruning grape vines, use some of these shoots about 6 to 9 inches long with two to three buds as cuttings to increase stock. Put three cuttings in a pot of compost where they will be fine and begin to grow in spring.

Grape vine rod pruned
Wee jobs to do this week

Grape vines are best pruned any time from December to January. If left later than this bleeding may occur as the sap rises early with vines. Grapes grown in the greenhouse are usually trained as upright rods spaced about 18 inches apart. Spurs occur up the rods about six inches apart. All growths coming from these spurs are cut back to one bud. Outdoors you can do a similar cordon with spurs, or train in a fan shaped framework with spurs if grown against a wall or fence. The guyot system of training works best for field grown grapes, but in Scotland our grapes need the warmth and shelter of a south facing wall or fence, so best with the rod and spur training.

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Sunday, 6 January 2019

PLANS FOR THE NEW YEAR


PLANS FOR THE NEW YEAR                   

Grape Rondo
As we begin the new gardening year, and day length is limited and winter begins to look serious we are better of at home reading gardening magazines, or browsing through the latest plant and seed catalogues. We can look back over the previous year to see what we can do about those plants that did not live up to expectations, and build on those that turned out to be our winners. Also take time to look over the box of seeds left over from last year to see what is worth keeping and others like parsnips whose seeds give poor germination if more than a year old. The days are long gone when you bought a packet of seeds so full that it lasted a good three years.
The Greenhouse
Parsnip Albion
Last year was a brilliant year for grapes, but although I did some thinning out of the bunches, it was just not enough and I lost a fair bit from botrytis and shanking. This year I must thin out a lot more grapes from each bunch. However grape Rondo grown outdoors was very successful.
Last year I tried five tomato varieties. My favourite Alicante did not let me down, but Marmande was miserable with very few tomatoes, though I heard other growers had great success with it. Yellow Delight was extremely vigorous taking over space from other varieties. It gave huge crops of yellow plum tomatoes, but for taste it could not compete with Red Cherry or Sungold, both of which were very sweet and delicious.
Raspberry Glen Carron
Vegetables
Parsnip Albion and Student both gave great roots, but seed quantity was miserable as I needed the two packets to sow a twelve foot row. Not impressed. Cauliflower Clapton, a clubroot resistant type, was brilliant but my plan to get continuity by sowing a few weeks apart was not very successful so this year I need to be at least two months apart or even longer. Sweet corn Incredible was truly incredible as the six feet tall plants all gave two large cobs per plant. Definitely one to grow again for 2019. Last year I tried growing my carrots between the onions in the hope the carrot fly would not find them. No such luck. I never got one carrot so either I grow them under fleece or just give up. Pumpkin Rocket was another great success, but with the tropical summer they were ready for harvesting in late summer, but definitely another to grow this year. Onions were grown from sets last year, but suffered badly from white rot as I had to resort to watering in the hot dry summer so this year it is back to seeds sown early on a windowsill.
Pear Beurre Hardy
Fruit
The latest raspberry just released is called Glen Carron bred at our local James Hutton Institute so I will try it out to compare it with the other summer fruiting Glen Fyne and Glen Dee. See the video with Nikki Jennings about her raspberry Glen Carron on YouTube.
Last year I got a very heavy crop of all my fruit bushes and trees (except my peach tree) and struggled to use and give away surplus so this year the trees and bushes will get a more severe pruning to reduce cropping potential and hopefully improve fruit size. Some pear varieties on my family tree were excessively vigorous at the expense of fruit so they got pruned back and these branches will get grafts of Beth and Concorde to accompany Beurre Hardy and Christie.
Rose Oshima
Rose Oshima has had a great year and even when I was doing my winter pruning just before Christmas it was still flowering so I managed to get a great bunch for the table. I have some space available so nine inch long hardwood cuttings have been taken to grow on.

Wee jobs to do this week
Carving the pumpkin
Pumpkins in store are now ready to use. However they can remain fresh for many months with careful storage. Slice them up into two inch wide segments, removing the seeds. There is usually a fair bit so one pumpkin can do many different dishes. Those segments for roasting need no further preparation, (leave the skin on as it will soften) but will benefit with a sprinkling of honey and nutmeg during the last minute of roasting. Pumpkin also makes a delicious soup with sweet potato, onion and nutmeg, but remove the skin. They are also brilliant in curries and risotto and pies. Pumpkin segments can also be stored in the freezer, but remove the skin.
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