Tuesday, 31 March 2020

SPRING IS ARRIVING

                                                       SPRING IS ARRIVING

It only takes a few sunny warm and dry days to cheer us and the garden plants up, after the cold and very wet extended winter had to come to an end.
The first daffodils
We can now wander around the garden (if we can get a few spare moments) and enjoy the first flowers a wee bit late, but very welcome. Crocus seem to be huge this year and large established drifts really catch the eye, not only in my garden but also in numerous roadside verges. Every autumn I seem to find another spot for a packet of 100 crocus to brighten up the borders and over time they
Christmas cactus is a bit late this year
have now become a major feature. They start off the floral displays around the garden, and then the daffodils and narcissi quickly follow on. They are another bulb that I always plant up a few more in the autumn as new varieties are hard to resist. Both Dick Wilden and Replete are recent newcomers, but the double large heads are so heavy that they bend over and if the wind arrives they are liable to break off. Chionodoxa, Anemone blanda, Scillas and many other dwarf bulbs are spring up into the sunlight to add to the show. They will be followed by the grape hyacinths which are very successful in getting established into large solid drifts. I have one large area of grape hyacinths underplanted with tulips and these are underplanted with oriental lilies so I get several displays over spring and summer.
Chionodoxa
The first tulip to flower in mid March is the dwarf Tulip kaufmanniana Scarlet Baby and this year nearly at the same time as my yellow saxifrage. The blue ground hugging Pulmonaria is now in flower but early tulips designed to flower at the same time are a good three weeks behind.
Tubs and hanging baskets with pansies, wallflower and polyanthus have now all started to flower and I couldn’t resist a batch of polyanthus full of bright colours in a local store, so they are now adding some colour to a bare patch after removing some shrubs past their best.
Rhododendron praecox has been in flower most of March and this year there has been no late frost to spoil the blooms. The red flowered Cammelia Adolphe Audusson and pink Donation are now in flower. They have always been very reliable and will soon be joined by many other rhododendrons and Azaleas making up another major garden display.
Yellow saxifrage
Indoors my Zygocactus truncatus, the Christmas cactus has lost all sense of timing. Christmas is well past and it is only now coming into full flower. In most other years it flowers just ahead of Christmas and my pink Phalaenopsis orchid which normally has at least thirty flowers along the stem has only got three flowers this year. I know last year was wet and lacked sunshine up north, but the orchid gets the warmth indoors, so hard to blame the weather.
In the greenhouse chrysanthemum cuttings were well rooted by mid March so they all got potted up and once established they are hardy enough to go outdoors. A batch of oriental lily bulbs arrived by mail order and got potted up as the ground was too wet to plant them out. I will keep them in the greenhouse till end March, then harden them off for planting out in April.
Tuberous begonias were brought out from store and boxed up at the beginning of March. I keep these on plastic trays in my house as they like warm conditions, but as soon as they begin to grow they will get transferred to my cold greenhouse. Tomatoes, lettuce, rocket and spring onions sown in early March and kept on a windowsill in a warm room soon germinated and got transplanted into cellular trays. They will go into the greenhouse at the end of March to grow on for a couple of weeks before hardening off for planting outdoors, except for the tomatoes which will stay under glass. They will get planted later once more space is available.

Plants now hardening off
Wee jobs to do this week

The greenhouse is becoming packed out with plants now we are in the middle of the indoor seed
sowing season and as plants on windowsills need more space they need the greenhouse. So geraniums, rooted chrysanthemum cuttings and stools and young sweet pea plants are all deemed tough enough to get hardened off outdoors. Later on the broad beans will be next to get some fresh air as they are also quite hardy.

END

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

A VERY BUSY SPRING

                                                           A VERY BUSY SPRING

I have always tried to work to a plan for sowing and planting on my allotment, with timing based on previous year’s experience. Last year we had a mild winter followed by an early warm spring so plans were brought forward by two weeks with potato planting starting at the end of February.
Planting early potato Casa Blanca
This year we still got a mild winter but ending with continual rains keeping us off the wet ground so gardening has been put back by a few weeks. Potato planting started in mid March with my first early Casa Blanca though the ground is still very slow to warm up. To give the spuds a good start I take out a furrow, add good garden compost along the bottom then plant my sprouted tubers a foot apart along the row. After covering over the row I add some potato fertiliser. Second early and maincrop potatoes will go in towards the end of March.
Pick a few dry sunny days and start with some outdoor seed sowing. End of March is a good time to sow a row of Leek Musselburgh. Sow thinly so the small plants have room to grow and make a sturdy plant for transplanting in a couple of months time. Late March is also a good time to sow some annual flower seeds such as poppies, godetia, candytuft, cornflowers and Livingston daisies. Annuals are great for adding some colour and interest where ever you find a bare patch of ground.
Polyanthus ready to plant out
Land set aside for courgettes, pumpkins and sweet corn will lie bare till the beginning of June as these crops are all very sensitive to cold weather and frosts, so take this chance to increase the soil fertility by sowing down a green manure crop of clover, ryegrass, vetches or field beans, or even mustard if you do not have a clubroot disease problem. These grow fast so are ready to trample down and dig in about three weeks ahead of planting.
Outdoor tasks are now getting underway with the first cut for lawns now the grass is putting on a fair bit of growth. Raise the blades for the first couple of cuts and check for weeds and moss if you want the perfect lawn. However ignore the weeds if the young kids are still around and prefer a lawn with daisies, buttercups, dandelions and other interesting weeds, sorry, flowers!!!
Windowsill propagation
Harvesting last years cabbages, sprouts, kale, leeks, swedes and parsnips is now scaling back as crops become depleted, but now young rhubarb clumps are in full growth and soon pulling a few sticks for dessert is very welcome. Give the clumps a feed of fertiliser and a mulch of well rotted garden compost to retain moisture.
Early strawberry Christine can be encouraged to flower and fruit two to three weeks ahead of
normal by erecting a low polythene tunnel over the row, but make sure all the weeds are removed first as well as any old straw left over from the previous year.
Check over outdoor spring flowering pots and tubs and replace any failures with fresh spring
Field beans green manure
bedding plants such as pansies and polyanthus.
Now is the time to sow crops for this year’s vegetable patch and greenhouse. These need warm
conditions so windowsills facing south are very handy. Cabbage Kilaton, cauliflower Clapton and sprouts Crispen (all clubroot resistant for my soil), kale, lettuce, spring onion, can all be sown in shallow seed trays
then pricked out later into cellular trays. Beetroot has to go in
Putting polythene tunnel over early strawberries
cellular trays as you cannot prick them out without damaging the roots. Tomato Sungold and Sweet 100 were sown in cellular trays with seeds (only five per packet) left over from last year. Very pleased to see all ten seedlings came through. Tomato Alicante have plenty seeds so no problem with numbers. Tuberous begonias dried off last autumn have now all been boxed up to bring them back into growth.

Greenfly on roses
Wee jobs to do this week

Greenfly have come through the mild winter in top form and now we are seeing some warm dry days they could not wait to get started. Roses have also made an early start with plenty new young soft shoots emerging. Greenfly spotted these and quickly build up to plague proportions. At this early stage it is easy to rub off small infestations, but if they become a real nuisance then it is out with the sprayer and some rose insecticide.

END

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

PLANT FRUIT SHRUBS AND TREES

                                               PLANT FRUIT SHRUBS AND TREES

The dormant season from November to March used to be the time to buy in bare root trees, shrubs and fruit bushes, but today container grown plants have become the norm, so buying in and planting can continue well into spring.
Anna samples early strawberry Mae
However early purchasing is still recommended in case the best and most popular varieties get sold out. In past times we found good gardening advice from television gardeners, gardening magazines, catalogues and visiting nurseries and garden centres, but today we can add on the internet as it is
Apple Discovery
packed with information on everything you can imagine. Yesterday, while erecting a fence around my steep garden I purchased metal brackets to secure fence posts to a stone wall. Mr Google was full of ideas and videos to inform me how to do this task for any size of post. No need to travel around hardware stores, and only a £5 delivery charge.
Do plenty of research to find the best varieties of fruit bushes, trees and other garden plants. Many plants are available locally, but there are plenty plant specialist around UK for all kinds of plants and with internet access mail order purchasing has become normal.
Fig Brown Turkey
Prepare the ground well in advance of planting by digging over and adding tree planting compost or well rotted garden compost. Although recent periods of wet weather has hampered soil cultivations, there has been a few dry days when you got the chance to catch up. Ground for permanent planting of any tree, shrub or rose bush left in the ground for six or more
years should be double dug to help drainage and allow roots to penetrate deep down.
Fruit trees
Cherry Cherokee
Good apple varieties for this area include the early Discovery, mid season Falstaff and Fiesta and late season Red Devil and the most reliable cooker is still Bramley. Apples come in a whole range of sizes and form from low trained stepover, cordons, espaliers, fan trained and standard. Where space is very limited the upright narrow form of Starline Firedance will fit the bill. What form you choose will vary with space available.
Good pears include Beth, Concorde and Beurre Hardy. Comice has great flavour but is a bit
susceptible to scab disease. Pears also come in a range of forms.
The best plum is still Victoria though other varieties are all worth trying, but remember plums can be destroyed easily by silver leaf disease so do no pruning in winter.
A good reliable cherry is Cherokee. In a good year the cherries are so big the blackbirds leave them alone as they prefer smaller ones more easy to swallow.
Gooseberry Invicta
For something a bit more exotic the Brown Turkey fig is very rewarding, crops all summer with fruit from top to bottom as in early years it grows as a large shrub. For an exotic wall trained fruit try grape Brant which does very well in Scotland. The bunches may be smaller than normal grapes and have small pips but the black grapes are sweet and juicy.
Fruit bushes
Grape Brant
Good blackcurrants include those bred in Scotland including Ben Conan and Big Ben with larger and sweeter fruit. Invicta is my best gooseberry and makes a fantastic wine.
Strawberries can fruit all summer from May till October using early varieties, Mae and Christine, mid season Elsanto, Florence and Symphony then the autumn fruiting Flamenco.
Raspberries have been bred for Scottish conditions so there is quite a few to choose from, but you cannot go wrong with Glen Ample, Glen Fyne and Glen Dee and to enjoy fruits into the autumn Polka and Autumn Treasure are hard to beat.

John sowing broad bean seeds
Wee jobs to do this week

Sow Broad Beans now as they like an early start. Aquadulce is still a good variety. Sow individually
in cellular trays at one to each cell and keep in a warm place for germination. Once they emerge and start to grow pot them up and grow on for a few weeks then harden off in early April for planting out mid April.

END

Sunday, 8 March 2020

COMPANION PLANTING

                                                          COMPANION PLANTING


I first became aware of the benefits of companion planting in early apprenticeship times. As an
apprentice gardener we learned to make the best of spring flower displays as all wallflowers,
daisies, polyanthus, myosotis and pansies always got an underplanting of tulip bulbs.
Doronicums with Tulip Negrita (purple) and Abba (red)
Different heights of tulips were important as you needed the taller Darwin hybrids to accompany the taller wallflower, but the smaller pansies and myosotis and other ground hugging bedding got the dwarf double tulips. In summer the spring flowering bedding plants got replaced with summer flowering bedding plants all in flower together, and flower beds tended to be grouped together in well
manicured lawns. In spring our tutor Walter Gilmore arranged a trip to St. Andrews Botanic
Gardens.
Geraniums and Californian poppies
They had tall forsythia shrubs covered in a mass of golden yellow flowers and all
underplanted with the fosteriana tulip, Red Emperor, also known as Mme lefebre which was also in full bloom. These lessons stayed with me and I soon began to see many amateur and professional gardeners with great colourful gardens but very few had grouped plants together with the same flowering time. There may have had very impressive plants in full bloom but all at different parts of the garden. I realised the value of grouping plants with the same flowering time together to create maximum impact. Another lesson at bulb planting time was to plant daffodils and tulips in deep tubs with one layer below the other to maximise impact of flowers. I have now applied these ideas with a whole range of plants.
Senecio, Delosperma, Erigeron and Cistus flower together
The layer style of companion planting is great with bulbs. I have a bed
devoted to Oriental Lilies planted quite deep, which flower in mid summer, but this bed also has a layer of tulips planted above the lilies as well as a surface layer of grape hyacinths. This way I get a spring display followed by a summer display. However grape hyacinths can form a thick layer of bulbs so some periodic thinning is required to allow the tulips and lilies to push through. Tall
Oriental lilies are also fine amongst dwarf azaleas. Beds of azaleas have little impact once the flowering is finished, but the lilies give a great show in summer.
Woodland fringe areas are also perfect places to create a spring display with snowdrops, wood
Berberis darwinii
anemones, crocus, aconites and narcissus provided the trees are deciduous. The bulbs are happy to go dormant once the trees produce leaves and close the canopy. Aconites can smother the ground in late winter, but they are a great companion to Cyclamen hederifolium as they emerge just as the aconites die down. Other good companions have been plants selected for the top of a wall where it can get a bit dry. Senecio with grey foliage and yellow flowers is at its best as ground hugging
Lettuce crop under chrysamthemums
Delosperma cooperii with purple flowers is in full flower. These two also flower at the same time as Cistus and Erigerons. My first tulips to flower is the Scarlet Baby coming out in March at the same time as a yellow saxifrage. Then in April and May the yellow Doronicum Little Leo flowers with purple tulip Negrita and red Abba.
An unusual combination is to plant the orange Berberis darwinii beside your plum, pear and apple trees as the berberis is very attractive to bees which then help to pollinate the other trees.
On the allotment I plant lettuce between rows of freshly planted chrysanthemums and harvest them before the chrysanthemums need the space.
My climbing rose Dublin Bay with red flowers covers the wall, but at ground level I have
geraniums and some naturalised Californian poppies all flowering together.

Wee jobs to do this week

John prunes outdoor fuchsia Mrs Popple
Outdoor fuchsias are now showing young buds starting to put on some growth. They have a habit of dieing back in various degrees depending on the severity of the winter. This year winter has been fairly mild though a bit wet so dieback is not too serious, but still cut back any shoot to remove dead ends and other shoots where the bushes have been growing beyond there allocated space, especially next to footpaths.

END

Thursday, 5 March 2020

TIME TO START SPRING GARDENING

                               TIME TO START SPRING GARDENING


My gardening year has always started by selecting plants and seed in mid winter and drawing up my seed sowing schedule. Last year the spring arrived early after a very mild winter and warm weather allowed sowing and planting well ahead (a fortnight) of that planned on my schedule, so this year I adjusted the schedule to allow for another early start.
Geraniums go into their final pots
Weather however is very
unpredictable as climate change is erratic and although global warming would appear to benefit gardening in Scotland, you just cannot rely on it. The winter has now just about finished, and again been very mild. I have not seen one snowflake land on my garden, but torrential storms and gales have kept us off the land for a wee bit.
Casa Blanca potatoes ready to plant out
However my sowing schedule has started indoors with onion Hybound, sweet peas and pepper Early Jalapeno sown in mid February based on last year’s early start, and if we get another early spring I will be happy. This is also a great time to sow Lobelia as it needs a long growing season. My unheated cold greenhouse is too cold for seed germination so south facing windowsills are used for both seeds and geraniums rooted from autumn cuttings now growing strongly. By the end of February my geraniums will have been potted up into their final pots and in need of more space so they will get moved into the greenhouse, assuming there will be a wee bit of global warming to get them started.
Sowing seeds
Geraniums are pretty tough so no need to molly coddle them, in fact the two I left outdoors all winter are surviving, though one looks a wee bit sad. Onion seedlings, peppers and sweet peas will soon be needing more space so they will go into the cold greenhouse but I will keep an eye on the weather forecasts and if any frost is threatened I have an electric heater I can use.
The end of February is the time to sow many other crops including broad bean Aquadulce, Lettuce Lollo Rossa, Cauliflower Clapton (clubroot resistant) spring onions and tomatoes. After last year’s tomato trial I will be growing my favourite maincrop Alicante, Supersweet 100 my best red cherry and Sungold my best yellow cherry. These will all come from seed saved from last year. Making a seed packet last two years comes from time tested tradition for Scottish gardeners, a practise taught as apprentices and it has never gone away.
Chrysanthemum cuttings in a propagator
However problems arise when seed producers decide to severely limit the amount of seed in each packet. Tomatoes all came with ten seeds declared in each packet, and not one had eleven. So last year only five got sown from each packet, which was just fine, and this year it should also be just fine as long as I get good germination from the remaining five. Time will tell.
Just like last year the mild winter has allowed chrysanthemum stools to put on a lot of growth so a batch of cuttings were taken. There is no room at home so they went into a propagator in the
Tomato seedlings just pricked out
greenhouse. It is still quite early so the stools will continue to grow and give me more cuttings later on. Begonia tubers need a long growing season before they flower so dry corms got boxed up and watered in. They need warmth so I will keep them in the house for a few weeks placed on plastic trays. They do not need light until the shoots begin to grow, but hopefully by that time the weather will be warmer and they can go into the unheated greenhouse.
If the spring comes in early this year I will be on schedule to plant a row of first early Casa Blanca
potatoes as the chitted seed looks ready to go into the ground.

Wee jobs to do this week

Spreading lime for brassicas
When growing a wide variety of flowers, fruit and vegetables we try to keep to a good plan of rotation. This allows us to group together plants requiring the same soil conditions of fertility and soil alkalinity as well as trying to avoid any build up of pests and diseases. The cabbage family including sprouts, kale, cauliflower, swedes, turnips and radish do not like an acid soil, so land for these gets a dressing of hydrated lime in late winter. As they also like a fertile soil it was composted and dug over in December so now is a good time to spread some lime over this area.

END


Wednesday, 26 February 2020

GOOD TIME TO PLANT ROSES

                                             GOOD TIME TO PLANT ROSES

Roses have been in and out of favour all my gardening life. I have always been a rose lover and never had a garden without them, but just like fashion they have their moments, then everything changes. Sixty years ago they were very much in favour, but relatively expensive.
John waters climbing rose Dublin Bay
They were a means to brighten up towns, and parks departments all over UK grew them and planted them by the thousands. Aberdeen’s Anderson Drive was famous for its roses and Dundee planted them in Parks and housing estates. In my apprenticeship training we spent summer in Camperdown nursery
Rose Dawn Chorus
budding thousands of roses. It was a great time, brilliant training and a lot of fun. Roses were also used (the very vigorous and thorny types) as barriers and hedgerows to prevent access in various places. In my early years working in many parts of Scotland and England I always bought a
hundred briar as rootstocks to grow my own plants. Roses tended to suffer from mildew, blackspot, rust and greenfly, but there was always a chemical to use to keep these under control. Plant breeders were always bringing out new varieties to try. Time has moved on and everything changes. Most chemicals of yesterday are no longer in use, though there is still some safe chemicals available to keep pests and diseases under control. Plant breeders now look for diseases resistance for new roses as most folk no longer bother to spray. Fashion in gardening has also changed as the
Rose Gaujard
younger
generation are less keen on gardening, and as they all have one or two cars they need somewhere to park them, so front gardens are disappearing. People now want easy to maintain smaller gardens with permanent planting easy to look after, so now roses are coming back into favour. Once planted in good soil they can last for years if helped by some good pruning, and an annual dressing of
fertiliser. Late winter is a perfect time to order in roses as bare root plants, but today interest in gardening for most folk begins in spring. At this time garden centres are just packed with container grown roses all with colourful labels, but if you wait a wee bit longer you can see them in bloom when you can select your favourite colours and hopefully some with a good rose scent. As these plants are permanent make
Rose Myriam
sure the ground is well prepared in advance. For dedicated gardeners this means double digging, especially if soil has a high clay content, incorporating well rotted
compost as digging proceeds, but for others digging as deep as you can to help drainage will always keep the bushes happy. Plant bushes at same depth as in pots and for bare root bushes plant with crown at ground level. Suckers on roses are no longer a problem as growers have changed
rootstocks to those that no longer send up suckers. Cut new plants by about half after planting to
encourage them to branch. Use Floribunda and Hybrid Tea types for beds, shrub roses for bigger borders and perimeter hedges and climbers to grow up walls. Pruning of all types is usually aimed at replacing older wood with younger wood, where ever possible.
Although over time we all find our favourites, rose nurseries will always have a few new varieties to try out every year. My criteria is always firstly to see a good shaped flower with pleasing colour and scent and must have healthy disease resistant foliage. I have bought a lot of new roses in the past, only to dig them out a few years later as disease wipes out the leaves. Last year was very dry early on so mildew and greenfly became a huge problem, then the rain arrived and forgot to go off, so blackspot and rust took over. Hopefully 2020 will be better. I’ve added a few photos of my
favourite bushes, E H Morse, Dawn Chorus, Arthur Bell, shrubs Ispahan and climbers, Dublin Bay and Gertrude Jekyll, but these can always change as new roses are tried out.

Wee jobs to do this week

Stored crops in February
Check over fruit and vegetables in store. Onions and pumpkins can store for months, but apples need checking as some begin to shrivel, and potatoes begin to sprout even in a cold garage as the mild weather keeps temperatures too high for good storage. Parsnips, swedes and leeks are best left in the ground and dug up as needed. Cabbage, sprouts and kale are also just fine outdoors over winter. Kale putting on excellent top growth in the mild winter.

END

Monday, 17 February 2020

FIRST FLOWERS APPEAR

                                                 FIRST FLOWERS APPEAR


In past times it was a great occasion when the first flowers appeared in winter, usually towards the end as it heralded the coming of spring.
Early spring polyanthus
Climate change appears to have moved us on to a new
Hammamelis mollis
scenario. The mild winter is no longer newsworthy as it seems to happen every winter, well at least since 2010 when the severe weather let us know what winter was supposed to look like. The garden flowers are not complaining. In fact they have never had it better. My snowdrops regularly start to flower at the end of December and Aconites are a mass of colour now at the beginning of February. Both of these early bulbous plants are spreading at a great pace and allow me to pass on spare plants and seeds to those admire them. New aconite seedlings germinated at the end of January, but wont flower till 2023. Gardeners learn to be patient. We started with a tray of six aconites many years ago, but can now count them as several thousand, and I still find space to sow a few more.
Snowdrops in January
The crocus species usually flower ahead of the larger hybrids, but both are now coming into flower in early February. Just hope they can keep their heads down as gales and a deep depression is
forecast for middle of February. However the polyanthus in tubs seem to be unaware of this
impending storm as they are all flowering happily, and this year I only see one that appears to be getting attacked by a few vine weevils that seem to love eating their roots.
Pansies in pots outdoors are a bit further behind, but the two hanging baskets full of pansies moved into the cold greenhouse to
Crocus Yellow Mammoth
give them some winter protection just love it and are happy to start the flowering season. Just a bit unfortunate that the warmer atmosphere under glass also favours the greenfly and pansy leaf spot, so some careful spraying on a dull day is necessary. At the moment there is plenty space under glass as my young lettuce crop is still small but growing and as yet my seed sowing will start in the warmth of the house for a few weeks before going into the greenhouse.
March is usually the month when greenhouse space is at a premium and anything slightly hardy goes outdoors, which is normally sweet peas, broad beans, some onions and geraniums. My wee trial of testing the hardiness of geraniums to be left outdoors in a mild winter is going fairly well as they are all still just fine, but looking a wee bit sorry for themselves. If they can hang on till after the storm passes good times are just a few days away.
Mahonia Charity
Garden shrubs are enjoying this winter. Viburnum Dawn is in full flower as well as Hamamelis mollis, Mahonia Charity (been in flower from December), the yellow Jasminum nudiflorum and down at ground level the pink Erica carnea. Rhododendron praecox is always very early and in previous years got caught out with late frosts. The buds are all showing colour but are not as yet open, so fingers crossed hoping the mild winter continues.
Christmas cactus
Several garden pinks are in flower from last year’s buds which never died down in winter. There is almost enough for a bunch for the house where we can enjoy the colour as well as the scent.
Looking around the garden, everything is taking advantage of the mild weather. Rose buds are all growing, even on those shoots I took as hardwood cuttings, and tulips are already six to ten inches tall and some narcissus showing buds. My companion planting experiment of Tulip Scarlet Baby and yellow saxifrage both frequently flower together in early March, but this year the tulip is still quite small but the saxifrage is now showing colour. Time will tell. Back indoors my Christmas
Amaryllis growing strongly
cactus was very late. It missed Christmas, but flowered in January and rooted geranium cutting on windowsills need tips and flower buds removed to make sturdy bushy plants.

Wee jobs to do this week

Amaryllis that flowered just before Christmas is now wanting to grow, so keep it watered and give it a feed every two to three weeks, but do not pot it up. This will help the bulb to grow strongly through spring and into summer, but at the end of summer start to dry it off. This will give it some dormancy so it can put its energy into flower bud production ready for next Christmas.

END

Monday, 10 February 2020

INTERNET GARDENING

                                                INTERNET GARDENING

There was a time way back in the dim and distant past when we gained our gardening knowledge from gardening magazines, and those more wealthy individuals who had a television were able to see the professional gardeners like Percy Thrower and Geoff Hamilton from the box in their living room. Growing up in Dundee we also had Crolls nursery in the Ferry and Lauries Nursery in Ninewells where we could wander around and see garden plants all named up.
John tackling the Windows 10 computer
I was lucky to get a five year gardening apprenticeship, with trained gardeners at Duntrune Terrace for practical help and the Kingsway Tech for our written lessons. Those were great days, but now relegated to pleasant distant memories as we head at great speed into the new world of technology.
Tomatoes from Dobbies Seeds
This may be fantastic for the young kids introduced to this world from primary school where even those kids from poor backgrounds all have the essential mobile phone. Alas we silver haired surfers are left to struggle trying to understand this massive knowledge now available with information technology. We no longer need to ask some expert for gardening advise, just ask Mr Google. He has all the answers, or knows someone with answers to every question. I had thought that I had a fair grasp of computers, even building my own website,
www.johnstoa.com but the world moves on quicker than I can run, so now Google frowns at my website as it is not mobile friendly.
Rhododendron Sneezy from Glendoick
Microsoft has now brought out a new Windows 10 to replace my old Windows 7. The last few weeks have been a nightmare. Emails disappear, photos disappear, jpegs that I normally resize to just over one megabite are now well over ten. New folders appear that I haven’t asked for and I struggle to use my new posh keyboard as it is black and needs a light so I can see which keys I am using.
However once you calm down and embrace this new world there is no limit to finding answers to all your gardening queries. We hear about problems on the high streets with so many shops closing down as folk today do so much shopping on the internet.
Pumpkin Mammoth from Simply Seeds
The gardening world is going through the same problems. I am now more likely to buy online rather than go to my local garden centres, which I notice are filling up with household goods at the expense of garden plants. In the autumn my tulips, daffodils and crocus were ordered online from,
www.peternyssen.com oriental lilies from www.hartsnursery.co.uk and Angels Trumpets from www.vanmeuwen.com My garden seeds ordered in January from www.simplyseed.co.uk and www.dobies.co.uk . A great source for fruit bushes is www.pomonafruits.co.uk and www.kenmuir.co.uk and the best chrysanthemums come from www.walkersplantcentre.co.uk If you are looking for tuberous begonias, delphiniums or polyanthus try www.blackmore-langdon.com. A great nursery from Bath.
Previous Courier articles are archived in my weekly blog scottishartistandhisgarden.blogspot.co.uk which goes back to 2008. Today every nursery and garden center has a website, and there is also one for our
Tulip Scarlet Baby from Peter Nyssen
local Botanic Gardens
www.dundee.ac.uk/botanic and for horticultural research see our local www.hutton.ac.uk However there is still garden centers to walk around at www.glendoick.com who specialize in rhododendrons and www.dobbies.com They are only a short drive away and both have excellent restaurants. If you are looking for quality rose bushes try Cockers Roses in Aberdeen, www.roses.uk.com and www.davidaustinroses.com
Allotments are also fairly well covered with websites with www.allotment.org.uk which has links to everything you are likely to grow, then check out both the National Society at www.nsalg.org.uk and the Scottish Society at www.sags.org.uk. Then off course the City Road allotments have a
website at www.cityroadallotments.com, though there is a tendency to go modern and use social media with Facebook and Instagram. Now I wonder if Google can help me with the digging !!!

Wee jobs to do this week

Winter border
The winter border is at its best just now with the bright coloured dogwoods and willow but keep the ground free of leaves and weeds as the crocus and snowdrop bulbs are now all through the ground and keen to open up their flowers as we all enjoy the mild winter. Even the tulips are emerging up into the sunlight so spring may come early this year.
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Monday, 3 February 2020

A FEW WINTER JOBS

                                                    A FEW WINTER JOBS


The gardeners weather has been very kind over winter. Seems like we must be getting
another mild winter, as we are now at the end of January and I have yet to see a snow flake. In fact it has been dry and warm with
Checking tree stakes and ties
just a few morning frosts and ground preparations up on the allotment are well ahead. Digging has been completed apart from where winter
Fig cuttings
vegetables are growing, but it is always very easy to find other jobs needing attention.
Fruit trees and bushes and roses, (bush, shrub and climbers) have all been pruned. Most grape vines inside the greenhouse as well as outdoor varieties have all been pruned though I left a few shoots on so I could get a batch of cuttings. Grape vines like an early start and with the mild winter they are quick to spring into growth, so to prevent sap bleeding from pruned shoots the pruning is best completed by the end of January for those under glass and a couple of weeks later for those grown outdoors. Where ever they are grown adopt a
Grape vine cuttings
system that allows good air circulation around developing bunches and continual summer pruning to prevent the vines
Top of pruned vine rod

from growing excessively at the expense of grapes. Establish a permanent framework of rods and laterals with spurs every six inches or so. Vines are very adaptable and are happy to be restricted to any space available, and perfect on a warm south facing wall. During December to early February cut all shoots back to one bud on the rods or laterals. Once growth starts in spring wait till you see the young grape bunches appear then start the summer pruning. Cut the shoot tips after two leaves have formed beyond the fruit bunches then subsequently cut all shoots after one leaf. When the vine is prevented from growing excessively it puts all its energy into developing the bunches of grapes.
Vine rods pruned in winter
Grapes are very easy to propagate. Retain some of the strongest shoots and cut to lengths of two to three buds and putting them into small pots, three to a pot. Grow them indoors in a cold greenhouse or on a windowsill. Once rooting takes place and growth commences
remove them from the pot and place them in individual pots. They grow very quickly.
Rhubarb crowns ready to divide
Figs growing outdoors can also be propagated by hardwood cuttings taken about four to six inches long and treated the same as vines.
Another task on a dry day is to check over tree stakes and ties and replace where necessary.
Picking a few sprouts
This is also a good time to dig up and divide rhubarb clumps that may have been growing for several years. Dig up the clump and divide them into strong roots with at least two or three good buds. Replant these on fresh ground that has been dug over and compost worked into the soil. Add a dusting of fertiliser to help them get established in spring.
Harvesting continues with swedes, cabbage, sprouts, kale, parsnips and leeks. The mild winter has allowed excellent growth of overwintered vegetables.
Indoors it is time to start the first seed sowing. Peppers need a long growing season so they are first to get sown. Varieties worth trying include Tabasco, Basket of Fire, Krakatoa, Demon Red and Padron. Peppers will be followed by onions, broad beans and sweet peas and if the mild winter continues my tuberous begonias will be coming out of storage to get boxed up in good
compost and placed in a warm room.
Leaf spot and greenfly on pansy

Wee jobs to do this week

Check over young spring flowering pansies for greenfly (aphids) and leaf spot disease and spray all affected plants with a rose combined pest and disease insecticide. Plants in sheltered spots are liable to infection in our mild winters as both greenfly and leaf spot disease keep growing.

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