Monday, 14 October 2019

A DAY UNDER GLASS


A DAY UNDER GLASS


Crops in the greenhouse, may be well protected from the worst of the weather, so the incessant rainfall did not worry grapes, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, but lack of sunshine has been a big problem. Sunshine is necessary to give crops
Black Hamburg Grapes slow to ripen
a decent flavour and help to sweeten up the grapes. There has been some great very warm days but they just never last very long before the rain arrives.
Outdoor crops have suffered the most. Autumn strawberries have been prolific, but botrytis rot has affected a lot of them, and many are not very soft or sweet. Some outdoor grapes are just shrivelling up. They have had enough. Last year I got enough for a couple of demijohns of wine, but crops this year will not be producing vintage wine. However my Solaris and Seigerrebe in the greenhouse were ready for picking in August so I picked a great crop and all now sitting happy in a demijohn, with fermentation completed at 14% alcohol, though I did have to add a few ounces of sugar. Black Hamburg grapes are normally ready in late
Cherry tomatoes
October but poor weather is holding back ripening and some grapes have gone mouldy. These get removed immediately before the disease spreads, and ventilation is also very important to prevent dampness building up.
Tomatoes have given very good crops, but now damp atmosphere due to lack of sunshine and too much rain has encouraged botrytis rots on fruit, leaves and some stems of Alicante. However all my cherry tomatoes (five varieties) have cropped well except Cherry Baby. It produces trusses with well over a hundred flowers, but most of these fall of so number of fruits ripening is very poor. Supersweet 100 is my best red cherry for flavour and cropping, (over 100 tomatoes per truss and most ripened) and Sungold my best orange cherry. Sugarglass is also a good cropper but flavour
Pepper Trinidad Scorpion
and texture not as good as Supersweet 100. Hopefully tomatoes will continue to crop for a few more weeks depending on weather, but then it is time to harvest all remaining fruits and ripen them indoors. The old plants can then be removed and the soil or growbag get tidied up. However ahead of this operation you can sow a few salads for planting in this space once it is available. Use winter hardy lettuce like Hilde or Winter Imperial and some spring onions and rocket.
Hydrangea cuttings
Cuttings of fig Brown Turkey and Hydrangea Charme taken in September have rooted and can now get over wintered in the cold greenhouse. They are both hardy, but some shelter will help to get them off to a good start next year. Other cuttings of geraniums and Impatiens taken earlier to keep good varieties going for another year are better taken out of the greenhouse before frosts arrive as they are not hardy. A windowsill in a warm room is the best place for them. You can let them flower to give an attractive house plant, but in mid winter it is best to remove all flowers to keep growing shoots sturdy.
Peppers sown in early January indoors in a propagator soon germinated and were then potted up and
Rooted fig cuttings
kept on a windowsill till early May before planting in pots in the greenhouse, as well as in garden planters and hanging baskets outdoors. They are quite successful outdoors in Scotland even with our unpredictable climate, but need starting off indoors, and for good plants they need a long growing season. Keep an eye on the outdoor varieties as snails are quite fond of Pueblo chillies from Mexico. Most garden centres now stock a wide range of peppers as plug plants from mild to searingly hot, such as the Trinidad Scorpion (third hottest on record) If you wish to try out the hottest go for the Carolina Reaper, but be careful !!! For storing peppers,
they can be dried and ground into flakes in a food processor, pickled, and my favourite frozen.  

Wee jobs to do this week
Snails, caterpillars and mealy aphids on sprouts

Look after the winter vegetables to keep the kitchen supplied over the coming months. Sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale are still prone to attacks from slugs, snails, caterpillars and mealy aphids. Check the growing points, right into the centre and destroy any pests found. They are all easily found as they nibble young leaves. Plants are now a few feet tall but start to drop older leaves. Remove these from the ground as well as any weeds as they give shelter to slugs and snails.
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Monday, 7 October 2019

FLOWERS FOR THE SPRING


                                               FLOWERS FOR THE SPRING

Autumn is a great time to look ahead to next year and make plans for the spring flowering displays.  Bulbs play a massive role in spring displays from snowdrops and crocus to tulips and daffodils and numerous other wee bulbs with massive impact.
Tulip Red Emperor
In tubs, baskets, troughs and borders we can plant wallflower, primroses, polyanthus, pansies and myosotis to provide the main show but these are greatly enhanced by planting bulbs in between the
Aconites pushing through the snow
plants. With wallflower the tall Triumph, Darwin Hybrid, single early and Fosteriana tulips are the perfect match and come in a huge range of colours. We all have our favourites and some have been with us for many years such as Red Emperor (also known as Mme Lefebre) an early scarlet to be followed a bit later by Apeldoorn another strong red, and its partner Golden Apeldoorn. To add variety try some of the bicolours in the Rembrant tulip range and Happy Generation is a brilliant white with red markings. Purissima is a brilliant white and Purple Crystal a deep burgundy purple. Polyanthus, pansies and Myosotis are all better with tulips a bit smaller so use the dwarf double early varieties such as Showcase (deep purple) Peach Blossom (pink) Sun Lover (yellow with red markings) and Abba is a great red. The dwarf early tulips are also a perfect size to
Red polyanthus
grow in amongst roses, then later when the young rose buds need the space the tulips are ready to die down.
I like to plant up a hanging basket for spring flowers, but use pansies under planted with crocus. I usually keep them in my cold greenhouse over winter as this gives them a bit of shelter and they then come into flower a bit earlier, but keep an eye out for greenfly and leaf spot disease and spray if necessary. Pansies need regular dead heading to keep them in flower, but you can save these seed pods and sow them in late summer to provide fresh plants for the next year.
Snowdrops are always the first flowers of the New Year and with our mild winters and a sheltered location some varieties start to
Doronicum Little Leo with tulip Abba
flower in December. A drift of these close to a window is essential to raise spirits with knowledge that winter is on its way out. Even when we get a layer of snow they are tough enough to rise above the snow and open up their flowers. Then in February it is the turn of the aconites to flower. These grow and spread very easily from seed gathered and scattered wherever you want to see them flourish, so you can create large drifts and as it is a time of year when most other plants are still dormant they will not bother other plants.
Crocus follow the aconites and again they give
Crocus Pickwick
a great display when planted up in large drifts. They are perfect amongst most deciduous trees and shrubs. They will spread very slowly so I always buy a few new bulbs every year and it is easy to find a space that needs brightening up.
Daffodils also give their best display when mass planted in borders, lawns and even in gravel paths under a wall, provided you excavate poor soil, replace it with good soil plant the bulbs, and then replace the gravel. This keeps the weeds down and the daffodils will easily grow through the gravel.
White crocus
As with all flowering bulbs you need to let the leaves die down naturally (at least six weeks after flowering) before you cut back old leaves and tidy up the drifts.
Hyacinths are often used in tubs, troughs and borders, then once the flowers are over they can be planted in borders where they can continue to flower in the years to come. I like to put them in pots around house entrances and on patios where you can appreciate their perfume.
Impatiens cuttings in water

Wee jobs to do this week

The summer bedding flowers have had a good run, but now as colder weather replaces the warm
summer days geraniums and Impatiens will soon stop growing and flowering. Now is a good time to propagate them from cuttings to provide stock for overwintering and flowering again next year.
Snap out the top three inches of geranium shoots and put three around the edge of small pots full of well drained compost, water them in and place in a cool greenhouse but out of the sun. Impatiens cuttings are best placed in small jars full of water where they will root after a few weeks. They can then get potted up to flower on a sunny windowsill as a house plant.

END