Thursday, 19 September 2019

Autumn art classes

 Evening art classes for the autumn session

 The autumn art class session of 12 weeks begins on Monday 23rd September at John's Studio at 17a Menzieshill Road, Dundee DD21PS. Classes start at 7pm and finish at 9pm with a break at 8pm for tea and coffee. John welcomes new students to come along and join our group. If you fancy a night of artistic creations get in touch with John by phone or email.
Students bring their own materials and John gives guidance on painting.

Art Class party in summer 2019

AUTUMN CROPS


                                                             AUTUMN CROPS

As summer makes way for autumn, the harvesting range of fruit and vegetables changes as most of the soft fruit has been picked as well as summer cabbages, cauliflower, onions, broad beans and early potatoes. The wet but warm summer did the
Picking Seigerrebe grapes
potatoes no favours as marauding slugs and snails just loved the soft fresh leaves. Second early potato Charlotte got picked first followed by maincrop Mayan Gold, then first early Casa Blanca got lifted in August as its leaves lasted a wee bit longer. Finally at the end of August I lifted maincrop Maris Piper as leaves had totally disintegrated in spite of ample dressings of slug pellets, yet there was still a great crop of large clean potatoes.
Aronia crumble bars
Cauliflower, sprouts and cabbages were also badly affected and caterpillars were a real nuisance. Kale seemed to be less affected but some pruning was necessary as growth was so prolific that the normal spacing was just not enough as all brassicas fought for space. Kale should keep us going well throughout autumn and winter. Other winter vegetables of Swedes and leeks will give variety, though many of my leeks have run up to seed. Autumn salads have been sown on land cleared of broad beans to keep the kitchen supplied with lettuce, rocket and spring onions well into winter.
Plum Oullins Golden Gage
Land cleared of potatoes will now get several rows of young wallflower seedlings that were saved from a brilliant display of Cloth of Gold, sown in August and now growing strongly but needing more space. Hopefully these will be ready to plant out in late autumn for flowering next spring.
Autumn raspberry Polka and autumn strawberry Flamenco are both yielding well with plenty fresh fruit and surplus going into the freezer, but lack of sun, still too much rain and lower temperatures adversely affect texture and sweetness.
Pears ripening up
Apple Arbroath Pippin was totally wiped out by brown rot, but now Discovery is ready for picking and other apples looking good. Cooking apple Bramley continues to lose apples as gales tear off fruit, but there is still plenty left for picking in October. Pears and plums are both bearing well this year though a new Victoria plum tree planted two years ago is still too young to bear fruit, but hopefully we shall see a few plums in 2020.
Aronia Viking, the Chokeberry, is giving us heavy crops of black berries. Although I keep eleven pounds for wine brewing (giving me three demijohns) there is still plenty left so Anna can experiment with new ways to use this very healthy berry. She recently bought a brilliant Aronia Berry Recipes cook book published by the Midwest Aronia Association. The Aronia is native to North America and viewed as a power packed superfruit, due to the very high levels of antioxidants.
Anna’s latest creation of Aronia Crumble Bars were unbelievably delicious.
Anna picking Discovery apples
Figs seem to love Scotland outdoors no matter what the weather throws at them though this year massive growth will need some severe pruning once
cropping has finished. Last year I got about 150 figs from two bushes and so far this year cropping has been just as good.
Tomatoes outdoors was better last year as there has been just too much rain and not enough sunshine, unless that jet stream turns north and brings us a warm autumn. However tomatoes in the greenhouse have been prolific and two grape varieties, Solaris and Seigerrebe have now been picked and are in the brewing bucket for a lovely Muscat flavoured wine ready in two years time.
Dave picks his sweet corn

Wee jobs to do this week


Harvest sweet corn after testing ripeness by pulling back some of the sheath and if the corn is yellow and juicy when you push your nail in then they are ready. The crop usually ripens all at the same time so after picking off all the cobs the plants can be pulled up and chopped with a spade before adding them to the compost heap. Ground left bare at this time of year can be sown down with a green manure crop left to grow till digging in during mid winter. Sowing down all empty land after crop harvesting (potatoes, onions, peas, beans, sweet corn) with green manures will create a very fertile soil in the long term making it very easy to dig and all plants will benefit with strong growth.

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Sunday, 8 September 2019

THE GARDENERS WEATHER


                                                         Gardeners Weather

To achieve consistently good crop yields of fruit and vegetables and a glorious display of flowers we learn good gardening techniques for each type of plant, use the best varieties, and make sure our soil is fertile, well drained and weed free. The battle
Anna picking figs
against pests and diseases is a continuous one that we must not allow to get out of control. However no matter how much time and effort we give to cultivation of our plants it is the weather that finally
Outdoor grape Rondo
determines our success rate, as we have little control when it throws extremes at us which seems to get more frequent as time goes on. Thunderstorms with lightening in Scotland used to be a rare event, but not this year.
Temperature
It seems that global warming has arrived in Scotland, and although we all love to see more of the sun, gardening has been a struggle both in 2018 and 2019 as temperatures rise way above normal for days on end. However we can take advantage of this warmer weather to indulge in growing a few of the more exotic crops. Sweet potatoes and a whole range of Chinese salads are becoming popular but success rates vary with climate. Figs outdoors in Scotland are now very successful and most grape varieties will also perform brilliantly, but to get grapes to produce good bunches of sweet juicy grapes is a huge challenge. Some dessert varieties fail to produce many grapes, and then we need a warm dry autumn to get them to ripen. The variety Brant is very
Pumpkins ripening up
successful but the grape bunches are quite small. The search for the right variety continues. Outdoor cherries are now becoming very popular, and those that produce very large fruit are a bonus as they
Tomatoes growing outdoors
are too big for marauding blackbirds beaks. Our mild winters are now quite frequent so leaving beetroot outdoors over winter is quite safe.  However on the negative side of mild winters, many pests come through unscathed and ready to multiply and go on a feeding frenzy every time our backs are turned. Plagues of slugs, snails and caterpillars have devastated cabbages, cauliflower, sprouts, kale, potatoes, dwarf French beans and greenfly have been feeding shoulder to shoulder on roses. Mild winters have also reduced the fruiting potential of those fruit bushes such as blackcurrants and saskatoons that need periods of cold temperatures over winter to initiate fruit buds. My best crop of saskatoons came after the cold winter of 2010. The warmer climate is allowing us to grow Eucalyptus, Cordylines, date palms, Agapanthus and outdoor fuchsias successfully.
Rainfall
Cordyline australis in flower
Last year we all basked in a long sunny and dry summer so the garden hose was always out as drought conditions prevailed. This year it has been even hotter but rainfall has never been lacking. This has been great for plant growth, and all crops, bushes and flowers are all a lot taller than normal. Roses have grown so tall that many needed staking to prevent them falling over. Autumn raspberries are having similar problems as many are about seven feet tall. This is not such a good thing when we get extremes of winds in gale strength blowing over tall plants and shredding anything with large leaves. Early on this year we got a warm spell but without any rain so mildew and blackspot on roses infected all the leaves and reduced the impact of flowers. It was made all the worse as greenfly smothered any young shoots before the diseases reached them.
Weed control this year has been a major problem as weeds just love the warm wet weather and hoeing is difficult as the weeds are often just transplanted rather than shrivelled up in the hot sun.
Pansy and wallflower seedlings
But up at City Road allotments plot holders have been busy getting their gardens tidied up ahead of our participation in the Dundee Doors Open Event on the weekend of 14 and 15 September 2019.

Wee jobs to do this week

Prick out pansy and wallflower seedlings sown in mid August and now well established in seed
boxes. They will grow strongly at this stage and make a sturdy plant for planting out in tubs, hanging baskets and borders. The pansies associate well with dwarf early tulips planted between them but the wallflower prefer the taller triumph or Darwin Hybrid tulips planted between them.

END

Monday, 2 September 2019

LATE SUMMER TASKS


LATE SUMMER TASKS

Apples with brown rot and wasps
It is always easy to find a wee job in the garden, even after all the main tasks have been completed. Crops have been sown, planted, had all summer to grow and harvesting is well under way, then as the summer returns after the August thunderstorms we think this could be a nice time to relax on the sun lounger. Lying back enjoying a few moments of peace you let your mind wander, but then it prompts you with a wee reminder of a few outstanding jobs. Now that so many crops have been gathered in there is land empty which is ideal for some late season crops of lettuce, radish, spring onions, rocket and their might be just enough time to grow some beetroot. No need to dig over the ground as the soil is just fine, then after removing any weeds, giving it a rake over and a wee dusting of fertiliser. Sow a few rows of salads and head back to the sun lounger. On the way back I notice that the early and mid season strawberries have finished so old leaves need cutting back, straw removed to the compost heap, remove a few weeds that appeared when no-one was looking, and shift those runaway runners back in line as they will fruit next year.
Onions getting dried off in the sun
More land has become empty as potatoes get harvested. Potatoes made a great start in spring as weather was on their side. Good planting conditions, plenty warm sunny days and just enough rain to keep them growing, but then the jet stream changed course and nothing was quite the same. Warm days continued but it was accompanied by a lot more rain than we needed. Potatoes were not happy and leaves started to wither combined with attacks from slugs and snails who were having a great time. I started to lift first early Casa Blanca, but stopped to lift second early Charlotte as it had lost all its leaves. Meanwhile Mayan Gold leaves shrivelled up so they got lifted. Maris Piper at present is still in the ground, but having a bad year. On the positive side the Casa Blanca gave a great crop of very clean perfect salad spuds.
Onions started of the year looking fantastic, but as the August rains continued unabated the dreaded white rot appeared and began to work its way along the rows. It was time to lift and dry off before any more bulbs get affected. They are now drying off in the sun ahead of storing for winter.
Cauliflowers came out in sympathy with the potatoes. No
Potato Casa Blanca ready for storing
sign of clubroot or rootfly and nets kept the pigeons away but slugs, snails and caterpillars had a party, and the wet weather did not help curd formation. I only got one cauliflower from a dozen plants. More land got cleared and ready for another autumn crop. Peas and broad beans grew fast early on so harvesting was brought forward with good yields, but then there was even more land going spare.
Good time to sow green manure crops of tares, clover, rye and even field beans. These crops will get dug in during winter and add a huge amount of humus to the soil as well as opening it up and adding nitrogen with those that have the nitrogen fixing bacteria on the roots.
Pansies and wallflower that flowered from spring to early summer had plenty of seed heads that got kept for sowing in August. The pansies will flower next spring but time will tell if the wallflower can grow big enough from now till October to produce a decent spring bedding plant.
The warm but wet summer has not been good for the greenhouse grapes as botrytis is trying to take hold in bunches that are swelling up, and the wasps have found my sweet Seigerrebe grapes so need controlling before word gets back and even more arrive to do battle with the gardener.
Anna with Iris Dusky Challenger
Now all the wee jobs have been sorted I can get back to that sun lounger for some well earned relaxation. As I enjoy these odd moments without a care I suddenly realise this is the last chance to do a thorough garden clean up before the leaves start to fall and that compost heap needs turning.

Wee jobs to do this week

Cut back flag iris Dusky Challenger, delphiniums, oriental poppies and other herbaceous plants that flowered in mid summer but are now dying back and a wee bit untidy. This is also a good time to lift and split up the iris and replant in fresh soil. Remember to keep the plants at same depth as previous as they do not like deep planting.

END