Monday, 21 September 2020

 

PERIMETER PLANTING

There has been a very remarkable change in the gardeners weather pattern. Climate change has not only given us mild wetter winters and more summer rainfall, but there has also been a lot more gales to live with. This year raspberry canes got flattened, roses got the flowers blown off and pears and blueberry leaves and young fruit got shrivelled up in the spring and summer gales. Where ever possible garden design can help to mitigate these problems by planting up the perimeters with tall trees and shrubs to give the garden some shelter, especially on the south west side where most prevailing winds come from. During the long periods in lockdown we had more time, to relax in the sun on the patio. However some planting may be required to give us a bit of privacy.

Picking apples and pears

There are any amount of plants that can be used for shelter and privacy, but garden size may well determine what we can use. Trees and shrubs should also have merit of flowers, autumn colour, coloured bark or even edible fruit, and where trespassers may be a problem, go for plants with thorns such as pyracantha, the Firethorn. For the very large gardens mature trees of beech, oak, maple and hornbeam may be fine and if evergreens are preferred use, pine, spruce or cedars.

Eucryphia Rostrevor

My favourite has always been Cedrus atlantica glauca, but I soon realised my wee garden could not contain it once it started to put on a bit of growth. I have never been a lover of hedges, as they are not attractive and need a lot of maintenance, and the one very popular hedging conifer at the top of the hate list is the Leyland cypress, unfortunately still a favourite for those without a clue. A few other on my hate list is holly and Berberis darwinii with spiky leaves a nightmare when hand weeding close by, and Cotoneaster simonsii which seeds profusely all over the garden.

Japanese maple Acer Sango Kaku

However many tall shrubs will both give shelter as well as fantastic flower displays such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, Escallonia, Philadelphus and Fuchsia Mrs Popple.

The Japanese maple Acer Sango-kaku has brilliant autumn colours as well as bright red stems and the hardy palm Cordyline australis is always a touch of the exotic.

Cordyline australis

Lonicera Baggesons Gold is an attractive evergreen golden shrub about six feet tall, and is so dense it is a favourite for nesting birds. Three small trees excellent for perimeter planting is the white flowered Eucryphia Rostrevor, the upright columnar pink cherry, Prunus Amanogawa, and the golden leaved Robinia frisia.

Most gardens now come with walls and fences around the perimeter and these can support a range of flowering climbers and edible plants. I have been experimenting with hardy grape vines to see what will ripen in Scotland. The variety Brant is tops and although the bunches are not big, they are black, sweet and juicy and the pips are so small they are easy to swallow. Regent and Rondo are fine but need a good autumn to ripen up the grapes. Another very successful exotic is the fig Brown Turkey giving about a hundred fruits each year from a ten year old bush. Other edible fruits can include apples, pears, plums to grow a few metres high, and some come on dwarfing rootstocks to keep size down and some apples come as narrow columnar trees.

Grape vine Brant on wall

For something smaller try

saskatoons, brambles or even a row of raspberries very much at home in Scotland. Our local James Hutton Institute has breeders working on raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and honey berries. Although plants are bred for commercial markets there is always a spin off for gardeners. Breeder Nikki Jennings latest raspberry to be released is Glen Mor with large sweet berries in early summer, then Lewis and Skye for an autumn crop. Nikki has bred a very promising blackberry with large sweet fruit and is a heavy cropper. It is still being assessed so is not yet named, but make a note of selection number 11. Could make a perfect edible boundary hedge.


Wee jobs to do this week

Apple Starline Firedance


This year apple, plum and pear crops are ripening up a fortnight earlier than last year so keep checking them and harvest any that have ripened up. Cut an apple open and if the seeds are dark brown the fruit will be fine. Apple Oslin ripens at end of August followed by Discovery in mid September. Pears are usually best left about a week in store after picking to let them ripen up.


END



Monday, 14 September 2020

 

                                                      LATE SUMMER HARVEST


As summer draws to a close, fruit and vegetables all start to ripen up and harvesting gets into full swing. These are very busy times as it is not just the picking, but also the sorting, cleaning, grading, boxing, bagging, blanching as food is prepared for storing and freezing.

Anna picks a few beetroot

Sweet corn Incredible had put on good growth and was a few days away from harvest, when the gales arrived at the end of August and flattened the crop, so the cobs got picked and bagged up. The old plants were then pulled out, soil shook off then carried up to the compost heap for chopping up with a shade to help them rot down. Back home the cobs had to be stripped of leaves then graded for immediate use for fridge storage and the rest blanched and bagged for the free

Cabbage Kilaton
zer.

Dwarf French beans had also been blown over so Anna picked a good crop, but then once home they had to be topped, tailed, sorted and washed, then bagged up for fridge and freezer.

Cabbage Kilaton, Cauliflower Clapton and kale have all excelled this year so a lot of crop had to be given away as Anna may have found plenty excellent recipes, but two wee Scots folk can only eat so much. Pumpkins are having their best year ever. I have four absolutely massive pumpkins still growing, but as harvesting is still traditionally a week before Halloween they could be a lot bigger. Some pruning was carried out with

Potato Bambino

one side shoot fifteen feet long heading towards the gate trying to escape. It got chopped as did the shoots clambering through my gladioli and chrysanthemums, beans and strawberries. Courgettes continue to offer plenty fruit, but as Anna has perfected a great soup recipe and also a brilliant courgette cake, we now only need to give away the occasional fruit.

This growth year has been fantastic for salads. Lettuce, radish, spring onions, beetroot and rocket have all grown very fast. I am now on my fourth row of lettuce, sown on land recently cleared of broad beans, and land getting cleared of potatoes will either get sown with winter hardy lettuce and spring onions, or a green manure crop. Beetroot have all grown a good size this year and the thinnings taken earlier as baby beet were very welcome.

Under glass the tomatoes have all cropped heavily, but large bowls of fresh cherry tomatoes in the house are very easy to consume at every opportunity, and surplus large Alicante tomatoes make a delicious soup.

Muscat and Aronia wine brewing

Most fruit crops have also joined in the growth bonanza, with loads of strawberries, raspberries and brambles and now the autumn fruiting raspberry, Polka, although flattened earlier by the gales has now recovered and cropping well with exceptionally large and sweet berries. Then the fig bush, now a small tree, joined in the party and it is quite easy to pick a dozen ripe figs twice a week. All of this excess keeps us in good form as we snack a few fresh fruits in between meals. No need to reach for the biscuit tin, although Anna’s courgette cake is hard to resist.

Earlier red currants, blackcurrants, gooseberries and Aronias, the chokeberry were all picked, sorted, cleaned up and either went into the freezer or cooked in batches of jam as long as I got my ten pounds of each for wine brewing to give me three demijohns of each to put down for a few years. Greenhouse grapes and the Aronias are all quietly bleeping along in demijohns in the background as the yeast convert the sugars into a wee bit of tasty alcohol.

Apple Discovery is now ripe and ready for picking, but this year my pear crop has failed as earlier gales tore off all the young fruits. Reckon we could get about three pears each in autumn.

Wee jobs to do this week

Tomatoes in the greenhouse will now be in full cropping with the occasional glut following any period

Removing old leaves

of warm sunny weather. This can continue till well into autumn provided you look after them. Once the cordons reach the roof after about five to seven trusses the tops will have been removed, but the plants will still try to keep growing so look out for sideshoots hiding amongst the foliage and remove them and any leaves showing signs of botrytis rot as it can spread. Keep giving them a weekly feed and keep ventilators open as well as the door on all sunny days.


END


Monday, 7 September 2020

GARDEN HIGHLIGHTS

                                                           

Rose Congraulations

 As we reluctantly head towards the end of summer the harvesting season for fruit and vegetables picks up and it is difficult to keep on top of the garden. Peas, broad beans, onions and early potatoes have all been lifted, but then they have to be prepared for storing, freezing and giving any surplus to friends or up at City Road Allotments we have our surplus basket of produce attached to the entrance gate for passers by.

Azaleas
The wet August brought on a lot of blight so potato harvesting has become necessary for all varieties. Courgettes continue to provide a bumper crop and growing so fast that if left for a couple of days we have young marrows, but still there is so many ways to cook them, they all get used, with still a few left over for the public outside our allotment gate. Pumpkins are also enjoying this excessive growth weather and I’ve spotted five massive whoppers hiding amongst my gladioli, chrysanthemums and swamping my dwarf French beans.
Cauliflower Clapton
Figs, autumn strawberries and raspberries, brambles, dwarf French beans, cabbage, cauliflowers, kale, turnips, beetroots and all kinds of salads are all waiting to get harvested. Weeds are also demanding attention, and bare ground left over after lifting crops has been prepared and sown with autumn salads. When the rains, gales and thunderstorms have a rest, and the sun appears it is great to take a break and sit out on the patio with a glass of gooseberry wine to wind down for a few moments before it all starts again. Weird weather seems to have given flowers a massive boost, so we enjoy a meander around the garden amongst crops and flower borders discussing how things have been and making plans for the months ahead.
Hydrangea Charme
Hydrangea Charme

The spring highlights were both the tulips, rhododendrons and azaleas with displays lasting a long time assisted by many weeks of dry sunny days. This ended abruptly when the thunderstorms arrived. Roses did their best to put on a good show, but then the gales arrived and all hell broke out. Rose flowers all got broken off, pear trees shed all their fruits, Autumn raspberries got blown over and my blueberries got shredded. A few weeks of calmer weather allowed some recovery. Geraniums, begonias, bedding plants, oriental poppies and lilies, and annuals such as poppies made up for lost time and went into a supersonic flowering phase Hybrid tea roses Arthur bell and Congratulations both thought they were climbers as they reached six to eight feet up into the sky. 

For the biggest impact this year it must be my Delosperma cooperi, the Ice Plant and Hydrangea Charme with pink flowers, then gladioli mixed amongst Oriental lilies. Its been a great year for rhubarb as growth has been luxuriant with plenty for stews, pies, crumble, giving some to friends with plenty left over for the freezer. Cabbage, cauliflowers and kale are all just loving this growth year, but just a pity my whole row of cauliflowers were ready at the same time. However my biggest surprise was my Amaryllis which I had planned to flower next Christmas. After its spring growth period and long summer dormancy kept dry it decided to flower in mid summer, so no choice but to water and feed while it put on two great stems of flowers. We got an early Christmas. 

Wee jobs to do this week

Poppy Ladybird

Annual poppy Ladybird and Californian poppy have both naturalized on my allotment and given a great
display in the flower border all summer. They will self seed and appear next year without any help from me, but if you wish to save the seed to sow next year on other areas or give some to a friend now is the time to collect the seed pods before they open up and disperse the seeds. Keep them dry over winter in a shed ready for sowing next spring. 




END

Monday, 31 August 2020

BACK TO THE GREENHOUSE

 

BACK TO THE GREENHOUSE



Add caption

Plants under glass have been protected from thunderstorms and gales, but those that started off with protection, then spent summer outdoors have had a more turbulent time.
Cape gooseberries growing fast under glass got a bit big in their large pots so they went outdoors against a south facing wall. This was great on sunny days, but then came the thunderstorms.

John picks Solaris grapes


They survived and are now over four feet tall and still growing and producing a good crop, but it will be a few more weeks before the first ones ripen. Pepper Early Jalapeno were plentiful from seed sown early February, so some were planted in south facing sheltered spots outdoors, some in pots on windowsills and a few in a border in the greenhouse. It is the ones on the windowsill that are growing
Pepper Early Jalapeno

and cropping the best, th
ough it is still early to judge. Basil grown from a spring sowing indoors grew strongly at first under glass but suffered when we got a run of cold gray weather in mid August.


Some in the greenhouse started to rot off, but those again on my windowsills at home were quite happy. Had to keep pinching out flower heads to produce more growth.
Another plant getting sown this month in the greenhouse is the onion Senshu Yellow. Seeds were sown in cellular trays in mid August as weather had turned cooler and gray skies with mist over the Tay predominate for several days. I hope to plant the young seedlings in autumn for over wintering then grow strongly to give an early crop next year.

The first tomatoes were ripe for picking in mid July, then in August both red cherry, Super Sweet 100 and yellow cherry, Sungold and maincrop Alicante were ripening up fast. Anna soon found a tomato soup recipe as we had plenty surplus fruits. Onions, basil, parsley, garlic and oregano and rosemary herbs were added. As we had family visiting from Glasgow it was a large pot of soup, and though it went down very well there

Tomato Alicante

was still some left for another day and the freezer. Tomato plants have all reached the greenhouse roof so tops have been removed with most producing five to seven trusses. Cherry tomatoes are so much more vigorous than the Alicante, but the fruits are just heavenly as a frequent snack between meals and in all salads.
Grape Seigerrebe

Sunny warm days this year have brought on the greenhouse grapes a lot earlier than last year, so Seigerrebe grapes were quite sweet by mid August. To grow healthy vines under glass good ventilation is very important so all roof vents have been fully open as well as the door. However our local blackbird popped in to have a look around and took a liking to the grapes. He got through several bunches of Seigerrebe before I spotted him. Next year the door and vents will get net protection, but this year I decided to harvest both Seigerrebe and the sweet white muscat flavoured Solaris. As these grapes have pips they are perfect for wine but not for eating unless you are happy to swallow pips. After harvesting work starts immediately, so grapes were separated from the bunch, then crushed in a fermentation bucket with a couple of campden tablets to sterilise any wild yeasts. The following day I add AW4 wine yeast, pectolase, acid, tannin and nutrient. The mixture stays in the bucket for four days then is strained off the must and the wine transferred to demijohns after adding some grape concentrate for further fermentation. If Blackie had stayed away, grapes would have been left on the vine for another week to increase sugar content, but they only had enough for 9% alcohol, so needed some grape concentrate to raise alcohol levels up to 12%

Field beans green manure crop

Wee jobs to do this week

As some mid season potatoes have been lifted the land is now clear for a green manure crop. Other
early harvested crops of onions, broad beans and peas left land free for autumn salads, so now as there is still time for plants to grow, it will be tares, ryegrass, clover or field beans for my green manure crop. These usually germinate quickly, grow fast as they all have a strong root ststem. They can get trampled down in winter then dug in. If field beans grow too tall, they can get pulled out and chopped up for the compost heap. This still leaves most of the nodules with nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil. When these rot down they will release nitrogen for the spring crops.


END


Tuesday, 25 August 2020

BACK TO THE ALLOTMENT

 


                                                BACK TO THE ALLOTMENT

Although gardening is very much in focus just now as lockdown and lack of holidays abroad has meant many folk have been busy at home in their gardens. My daily exercise is most often in our garden around the house or up at City Road on the allotment plot. You then become very aware of how plants are growing and if success is down to your skills or just great weather.

Raspberry Polka
Raspberry Polka
The early long sunny spell of dry weather followed by a fair bit of rain, and thunderstorms lasting a long time, has been brilliant for plant growth. However I always manage to keep a huge compost heap and practice green manuring on all spare land. Thus plants never go hungry, and combine it with an exceptional summer so now many plants have gone into supersonic growth. I have never seen so many different plants grow way beyond their allocated spacings. Courgettes are all massive and plentiful with spares going to fellow plot holders and the public boxes of free fruit and vegetables outside our gate on City Road. Pumpkins needed no encouragement from the courgettes.
Blackberry Helen
Bramble Helen
They decided to take over a large section of the plot, invading adjacent dwarf French beans, strawberries, chrysanthemum bed, gladioli block, front flower border and leapt the fence to climb up my neighbours lilac tree. It now has a large fruit swelling up, six feet above the ground. Afraid the long knives came out to cut back a few of the massive pumpkin leaves where they were crowding out other crops. Potatoes were just as active unable to contain themselves as they expanded south into my rose bed which fortunately has tall roses. As these are maincrop varieties they wont get lifted till autumn. Casa Blanca my first early potato has all been lifted and gave a very heavy crop, so I wont need to lift my second early for a few more weeks.

The heavy rains that ended the long dry sunny spell did no favours for my onions as white rot affected a lot of them, so they all got lifted and dried off for storing.

All the brassicas have loved the growing weather, but a crop of large cauliflower Klapton were all ready at the same time. Anna however found a great recipe for roasted cauliflower soup both for immediate consumption as well as some for the freezer.

Apple Discovery
Apple Discovery
Swedes are growing very strongly but crowding out an adjacent row of parsnips, so again a few leaves have had to be removed.

Salads are normally grown as successional crops, but all had massive growth so each row of lettuce, rocket, radish and spring onion was more than we could use. I had one Lollo Rosa lettuce got a wee bit over excited and reached four feet tall, without going to seed, before I got round to cutting it.

Lettuce Lollo Rossa
Four feet tall Lettuce

First crop of peas suffered some pigeon damage, but second crop of pea Onward is making up for it.

Fruit crop harvesting continues with bramble Helen ready from early August, autumn raspberry Polka, autumn strawberry Flamenco and now I am picking my first figs. However the fig bush has put on a massive amount of growth so it will get pruned once cropping has finished. Large pots of

Cape gooseberries placed against a warm south facing wall, enjoying Scotland’s brief heatwave, are all producing a good crop of fruit, but none ready just yet. Apple Discovery is swelling up and turning bright red, so should be ready to pick by end of August.

Flowers in tubs, baskets and borders have put on a great show but are now needing a wee rest,

before they grow again and go into late summer with their second flush. Geraniums have stopped growing but hope they will recover with a late summer flush and back to strong growth for autumn cuttings. Oriental lilies and gladioli are now at peak flowering as they revel in the summer weather.


Wee jobs to do this week

Collect Pansy seed
Collect pansy seed


Seed pods saved from the best pansies has dried off, cleaned up and seeds extracted ready for sowing in mid summer. Once a good crop of strong young seedlings emerge they will be pricked off into cellular trays to grow on to produce sturdy plants for autumn planting in tubs, pots, baskets and borders looking ahead to a display next spring and summer.


END


Wednesday, 19 August 2020

THE HERB GARDEN



Lockdown has given many people more time to get into their garden as well as being more adventurist in the kitchen. Growing herbs is now back in favour. Looking back over many years in gardening, growing herbs was seldom mentioned.

Chives
Chives
It was a bit like growing rhubarb. Find a dark neglected area and plant a few crowns then forget about them, but life moves on and now rhubarb is almost at superfood status as we now know all about its brilliant health giving attributes. Herbs are now an essential part of the kitchen and outdoor barbecue and have a special place in both the garden and allotment plot. We always grew Lavender and Rosemary as attractive landscape shrubs, a bay tree in a large pot to add interest on the patio, thyme was a popular ground cover plant and there was always a few sprigs of mint lurking amongst the bottom of the apple trees. Anna had always used a wide range of herbs in the kitchen as she just loves to cook and find new ideas with recipes. This week, after a glut of cauliflowers all ready at the same time, she created a brilliant roasted cauliflower soup with parsley, nutmeg, garlic and a few other available vegetables.
Basil
Basil
Over time more and more herbs got planted around the garden, and now with a bit of lockdown, she has even more time to experiment in the kitchen, so herbs are gaining prominence. Up at City Road Allotments herbs are very popular with a fair bit of swapping taking place. To get a herb garden started you can buy plants or plugs then pot up or plant out, though some annual and biennial herbs can be grown from seed. Herbs come in all forms from perennial evergreen shrubs, (Lavender, Sage and Rosemary) ground cover as thyme, herbaceous such as mint which dies down in winter, biennials such as parsley and annuals such as Basil. However Basil is not very hardy and up north it is best on a warm windowsill. Great in Pesto, pizzas and tomato dishes, and as it is the leaves that are used remove any flower buds as they appear. Parsley is often used in leek and a favourite in Scotch broth soup adding the health benefits of iron and the vitamins A, C and E.
Black mint
Black mint

Herbs are favourite along path edges for frequent and easy fresh picking for the kitchen, and Lavender and Rosemary best in a sunny dry spot. Rosemary has numerous uses in the kitchen especially for adding flavour to roast lamb, pork, chicken and pasta dishes. Both have a great perfume and bees are very attracted to them when in flower. Rosemary may be prone to die off if winters are severe, but these are becoming a rarity. Bay may also be prone to die off in a bad winter, but it is often grown in a large pot that can be moved into the greenhouse if bad weather threatens.

Another plant for a dry sunny spot is Coriander, a hot spicy herb added to curries and Mexican and Indian dishes. Oregano, a Greek aromatic herb has been grown for thousands of years, establishes easily from seed and both the seed and leaves are dried off for storing for future use sprinkled over pizza, in soups, marinades and savoury dishes. It is rich in

Sage and Rosemary

antioxidants and is proving to have numerous health benefits. Lemon balm herb is another plant needing a warm dry sunny spot, makes a lovely and healthy tea and often added when stuffing poultry.

Mint has always been popular in gardens, and now we can have black mint and applemint as well as spearmint and peppermint. Mint sauce is brilliant with lamb and freshly harvested peas. All mints are very easy to grow and control as they always try to grow beyond their allocated patch, so growing them in pots may be preferable. Both sage and chives, related to garlic are grown as attractive garden plants as well as ingredients for the kitchen.


Wee jobs to do this week


summer salads
Late summer salads
As early crops get harvested such as onions, broad beans, peas, potatoes and salads there will be bare soil awaiting the next crops for picking throughout autumn and into early winter. Sow some lettuce, radish, spring onions, rocket, land cress. No need to dig over the ground, just hoe the surface to remove any weeds and provide an inch of tilth to help seeds germinate, rake level and sow the seeds usually in rows a foot apart. I also add some fertiliser to give them a boost. Once they have all germinated they will need thinning out to give them more room to grow.


END


Monday, 10 August 2020

SUMMER PROPAGATION



Keen gardeners have always welcomed admiration for their horticultural success and only too happy to let someone have a cutting, spare plant or a bit of a plant that has layered itself. In my earlier apprenticeship days propagation in all its forms was a major part of our training and we gathered a lot of plants for our garden as our wee cuttings grew into bigger plants. Our older experienced journeymen would always bring us some cuttings to test our skills. Today it is now us older gardeners that help others with cuttings, spare plants and wee bits with a few roots showing.
Delosperma cooperii
Delosperma cooperii

Garden plants have had a great boost to growth this year with very favourable weather, at least so far. Although propagation goes on all year round there are many plants we can grow from summer cuttings as growth matures but is still active.

Lamium White Nancy is a silver coloured attractive ground hugging plant with shoots that root easily as they hug the soil. Take some of these shoots with a few roots and pot up as they quickly establish as young plants. Houttuynia is also propagated by lifting young shoots with roots on. Border phlox is also propagated from ground hugging branches that root into the soil as they spread.

Lamium White Nancy
Lamium White Nancy

Bearded iris have now finished flowering and any clumps three years old will benefit from digging up, splitting the crowns and replanting into fresh soil. The border pinks may still be flowering, but come easily from cuttings of non flowering shoots about three to four inches long and potted up with potting compost with added grit for extra drainage,

Many dwarf evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias can be propagated both by layering as well as cuttings, but for success you will need to use ericaceous compost with added grit, sand, or perlite. Take cuttings from shoots that still look like they have not finished growing. Size again about three to four inches long. Remove most of the leaves except a couple near the top and if these are large cut half of the leaf off. Water in well and keep in a sheltered light place away from direct sunlight. Most of these cuttings will root better with the help of some hormone rooting powder.

Hydrangea Charme
Hydrangea Charme cuttings

The dwarf japanese azaleas can also be layered. Take a low shoot near the ground and scrape a wee bit of bark off then lower it into the soil while still attached to the parent plant. You will need a peg to keep it in the ground and cover it with soil. It may be at least six months before it is rooted sufficiently to be cut off and either potted up or transplanted to another spot to grow on.

Heathers will come from cuttings two to three inches long placed in ericaceous compost with added grit, but keep them away from direct sunlight. Remove growth from the bottom one or two inches and take the tip out to encourage it to branch once it roots.

Pink cuttings now rooted
Pink cuttings now rooted

Other plants that root well from mid to late summer as semi ripe cuttings include, Lavender, Cistus, Rosemary, Fuchsia, Senecio, Hydrangea, Euonymus, Lonicera Baggesons Gold and many others.

My two favourite very colourful succulents, the ice plant, Delosperma cooperi and D. nubigenum are easily propagated from short shoots a couple of inches long put direct into the soil. They always root and grow very quickly, but like very well drained soil in a sunny position. Perfect at the top of a south facing wall where they can hang down happily and soon burst into flower.

Strawberry runners
Strawberry runners just planted


Wee jobs to do this week


Summer strawberries have now finished cropping. Only the perpetual and autumn varieties such as Flamenco continue to fruit. Take this chance to cut off all the old leaves, remove weeds and straw which can all go on the compost heap. The crowns will soon grow fresh young leaves to take the plants through the winter. Once they have made two or three years cropping they should be removed and a new patch planted up from runners. Some varieties produce very few runners after three cropping seasons so take runners from them after two years or buy in fresh plants for autumn planting. Runners are normally spaced a foot apart, but if there is plenty available then plant at six inches apart to give a bigger crop in the first summer.


END



Monday, 3 August 2020

THE ABUNDANT SUMMER HARVEST

  THE ABUNDANT SUMMER HARVEST


The summer harvest is well under way. Salads, lettuce, radish, spring onion and rocket have been plentiful since early spring and now numerous fruits are all ripening up. There is raspberries,

strawberries and saskatoons to add to the breakfast cereals and the first cherry tomatoes to add to salads at lunchtime.
Picking broad beans
Erica and Mum Patricia picking broad beans
Cherry Cherokee is giving a great crop for afternoon snacks and Anna found a great recipe for gooseberry fool as the first Invicta gooseberries ripened up. We will be bursting with great health all summer living off the land with an abundance of fresh produce. The weather has encouraged massive growth on all crops mostly to their benefit, though the lush growth on my autumn strawberry rows inhibited ripening as the sun could not get through to them. The early and maincrop strawberries are all picked, but the autumn Flamenco variety continues to bear fruit.
Strawberry Flamenco
Strawberry Flamenco

Raspberry Glen Dee is giving large fruit, but my Glen Fyne is being attacked by phytophthora root rot and will have to be dug out once the fruit has been picked. Fortunately I have a couple of rows of autumn fruiting rasps, Autumn Bliss and Polka which do not seem to be affected by the root rot. Gooseberries are again weighed down with huge berries which gives Anna plenty for the kitchen and freezer and I will get my ten pounds for wine brewing. The sawfly maggot gave us a miss this year, although a few appeared but were quickly spotted and dealt with. Cherry Cherokee is giving great crops, and although not netted for the marauding blackbird a few new cats in the area appear to have frightened him off. This year the cherries are huge so may be too big for the blackbird to swallow, though I am told some crows have been swooping down to sample a few.

Bramble Helen usually crops from August onwards but this year the first fruits were ready in mid July, and should continue to bear fruit for a few more weeks.

Summer fruit
Summer fruits

Blackcurrant Big Ben was picked in early July then Ben Connan a week later. Berries this year are quite big and the Big Ben is remarkably sweet as my wee helper, Luke from Glasgow found out. The happy smile on his face told the whole story, so crop weight this year may not be as much as we anticipated, but kids will return from their holiday very healthy, being full of vitamin C.

Redcurrants are poor this year, but I put this down to my pruning being not quite by the book. The bushes have been very vigorous with masses of foliage, but then they got attacked by leaf blister aphid. Might not get my three demijohns of my favourite wine this year.

Steve chops up old broad bean stems
Steve chops up broad bean stems

The vegetables have also seen massive growth this year on all crops. Potato foliage is massive and invaded my rose beds growing adjacent. Pumpkins are even worse. They have put on shoots well over ten feet long invading my chrysanthemum bed, two rows of gladioli and at present are climbing the lilac tree on my neighbours plot. However potatoes are very heavy yielding so far and blight yet to appear. Broad bean harvesting was assisted this year by friends visiting from Glasgow. So while Patricia picked the pods, I pulled out the spent plants and wee five year old Erica carried them up to the compost heap where her dad chopped them up for composting. Later on in the afternoon we all sat on the patio and shelled the beans before they were added to boiling water then cleaned and once they had cooled down the skins were removed from each seed, then bagged for freezing. Courgettes have been competing with the pumpkins for strong growth. One plant gave me eight large courgettes by mid July. Good job we have a produce sharing system for surplus crops on our allotment site and in times of plenty we box surplus up outside our gates for passers by to help themselves.


Wee jobs to do this week

Pumpkins running riot
Pumpkins running riot


Pumpkins have set off to explore the allotment. They are in a serious growth stage so secateurs were needed to prune back any sideshoot without a flower and a few huge leaves smothering my flower beds. Long growths needed cutting back so long as I get enough flowers to set and produce a few pumpkins. They have just loved the long sunny spell, then a few thunderstorms and all the while getting regular feeding from me. Weeds never had a chance.


END


Wednesday, 29 July 2020

SUMMER ROSES IN DISTRESS

                                             SUMMER ROSES IN DISTRESS

In a good year roses are always the favourite for bright colour, scent and lovely shape of blossom, but in the last few years they have had a bit of a struggle with weird weather. They enjoy a deep
fertile clay soil that is well drained, weed free and with plenty organic matter added as a mulch or lightly forked in over winter.
E H Morse
Then with decent weather, plenty warm sunny days and just enough rain to keep them happy they will put on a great display. The wet winter added just a wee bit too much moisture and a few floods but then the rain went off as spring arrived and the sun came out for nearly three months. Unfortunately this favoured mildew which took hold and weakened the bushes. At the same time the long sunny weather favoured plagues of greenfly which did the young shoots trying to grow no favours at all. The rains finally arrived in mid June but the weakened bushes were then subjected to blackspot disease. The wet weather at the beginning of summer brought with it torrential rain and thunderstorms as well as gales. The poor roses trying to put on a show with their first flush, had no chance. The gales, shredded the young leaves and broke the heads off numerous roses. Now at the end of June weather has settled down to the normal pattern of a few days rain and a few days
Iceberg
sunshine so I am hoping the roses will put on a great show in their second flush. Choose a dry day to give a spray of fungicide and pesticide to sort out any remaining greenfly, blackspot and mildew and add a bit fertiliser to give them a wee boost. Remove all old flowers before they form hips and cut back to the nearest young shoot or even further if leaves have a bad dose of blackspot fungus.
Now is a good time to visit garden centres which have all reopened and check out roses in pots for sale as they will all have some flowers on them. Roses can also be propagated from hardwood
cuttings in winter about six to ten inches long spaced about four inches apart and grown in a nursery row in the first year as they may not all grow.
Roses are very accommodating. They can be grown in prepared beds as bushes (floribundas and
hybrid teas) up walls as climbers and along fences as ramblers. Shrub roses are also great to add
Rosa omiensis pteracantha
height and structure at the rear of shrub borders adding security and privacy to the garden. One of my favourites is Ispahan, a large shrub rose with scented pink flowers and healthy disease free
foliage. If you need added security try Rosa omiensis pteracantha, the red winged rose, an
ornamental shrub rose with stems covered in huge red thorns. There are numerous climbers for all walls and even on the shaded north wall there are several climbers that will be happy to grow and flower. Try some of the white flowered Mme Alfred Carrier, Climbing Iceberg, Claire Austin or
Alberic Barbier. For pink flowers try Albertine, New Dawn or Gertrude Jekyll a shrub rose but happy to be trained as a wall climber. Good yellow roses for north walls are Maigold and Golden Showers and good red ones include Paul’s Scarlet and Danse du Feu.
We all have our favourite bush roses, but my list prefers those varieties bred with strong disease
Dawn Chorus
resistant foliage, a trait still sadly lacking in numerous roses. My favourite reds include E H Morse, Ingrid Bergman and Deep Secret. Good yellow roses include Arthur Bell, Freedom and Golden Wedding. My best white rose is still Margaret Merril but still a bit prone to blackspot. Iceberg has always been the best white floribunda. Myriam is a great pale pink and Congratulations a deeper pink and Dearest a great floribunda. My best orange rose is Dawn Chorus. Two good bicolour roses are Piccadilly and the old Rose Gaujard.

Wee jobs to do this week

Saskatoon bushes get netted
Saskatoon berries are ripening up and our local blackbird is getting quite agitated as he knows the nets will appear and stop him getting his summer food source. Bushes are over six foot tall, but with tall posts and nets I can still make them secure. Where nets reach the ground I cover the ends over with soil as I’ve seen the blackie flick up the nets and limbo dance under them to get into his fruitful paradise. Saskatoons down south in Worcester have now been harvested due to a warmer climate.

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Wednesday, 22 July 2020

SUMMER FLOWERS

                                                           SUMMER FLOWERS

The long periods of lockdown have not really been a great hardship for the keen gardener. After nearly three months of dry sunny weather then a fortnight of heavy rain the garden has never looked better. Weeds were slow to get started so plants had little competition and as long as the hose kept the plants watered in the dry months everything in the garden was rosy.
Anna securing the cordon sweet peas
The spring display was brilliant and lasted a long time but now it is the summer flowers turn to brighten up the garden.
Roses all made an early start but the dry spell brought on some mildew as well as plagues of greenfly.
Fuchsia Swingtime
Then just as they were just getting into the first flush the gales arrived and numerous heads on bush and climbers got broken off. However they are now recovering and soon they will be getting their second flush. Hopefully summer weather with a wee bit of global warming will be in their favour. Flowering shrubs seemed less affected by weather and Philadelphus a mass of scented white flowers has been amazing and very long lasting. Yellow Senecio greyi and pink Cistus purpureus and Silver Pink as well as Genista and the golden broom Cytisus praecox all flowered well as the long dry spell really suited them. I have several outdoor Fuchsia Mrs Popple in borders and the less hardy fuchsia Swingtime in pots all enjoying this weather all full of flowers.
In the herbaceous border the Oriental poppies, Peonies and Bearded Iris are now over but Shasta Daisies, Delphiniums, Day Lilies, and
Geraniums and Petunias

Oriental lilies are now taking over. They are all self supporting except the Delphiniums and the taller Oriental Lilies which all require to have supporting canes. I use some Oriental Lilies as dot plants in tubs to add height to the summer bedding plants and with their exotic perfume they are perfect near entrance doorways and on the patio. The lockdown may confine us to be near home, but this gives us plenty time for garden work to keep weeds under control, carry out essential watering, staking and as flowers fade continual dead heading. Spring flowering pansies removed from tubs and hanging baskets in May were carefully replanted in bare areas amongst other plants as they always continue to flower into mid summer. However I identify the best white, yellow and blue colours and save seeds for growing on young plants for next years display.
Geraniums Petunias and Nemesia
These will be sown at the end of this month. I also have some very colourful Californian poppies as well as Poppy Ladybird and Opium poppies which have all naturalised in both my garden and allotment flower borders so I again save some seed for sowing next year in early spring. Poppies this year have been brilliant in all their different forms except my group of Himalayan Blue Poppies which are a bit slower to flower this year.

Yellow cactus dahlia
A wide mixture of summer bedding plants are used for tubs, hanging baskets and any bare areas in flower, shrub and herbaceous borders. The red geraniums have been outstanding as the long sunny spring was perfect for them. I had plenty of spare plants as I keep my own stock of best colours from cuttings in autumn, then as these grow I take out the tops to keep them bushy and use these as more cuttings. If you continue with this practise you can have a lot of plants by the end of spring ready to plant out.
Locked down but still smiling
These are brilliant for tubs and hanging baskets along with Nemesia Carnival and Petunias. Tuberous begonias are my favourite in tubs and borders, though they are later in starting to flower. This year the flowers seem a lot bigger than normal, so must be liking our weird weather.
Sweet peas and Dahlias grown for cut flower on the allotment are now providing plenty of flowers to take home though gladioli and chrysanthemums will come into bloom a bit later.
John tops up the compost heap

Wee jobs to do this week

Early summer is the time to clean up the garden after the spring display of bulbs and spring flowers has finished. The old foliage from bulbs and spent spring bedding plants together with grass cuttings and ample rhubarb leaves can all be added to the compost heap. Recent heavy rain has been brilliant in helping to keep the heap moist to allow the worms to start converting plant remains into well rotted compost. To help them out turn the compost over so that the fresh material is buried by some old compost. It helps if all the old plants have been chopped up before adding to the heap.

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