PERFECT WEATHER FOR THE GARDEN
Spring has been perfect this year. We had enough dry weather to catch up on outstanding tasks, complete the digging, and start the planting and sowing. Then the sun came out for a whole week and just as we were beginning to worry about the soil drying up, along came some serious rainfall.
The spring flowers were glorious and tulips have never lasted so long. The strawberries are two to three weeks ahead of last year and I have harvested my first lettuce and radish, and the sun lounger has been tested on several occasions. Well, I have to do my garden planning somewhere.
Every time I need to crack on with a bit of planting the weather turns dry, then once I’ve finished we get a bit of rain over night to water things in. This is just too perfect.
Is nature trying to make up for giving us two hard winters on the trot plus three wet summers. We lost a few plants in the winter, including some cistus, escallonias and cordyline, but those that survived are really putting on a brilliant display. My Fuchsia Mrs Popple was again frosted back to ground level, but it has survived and now has many young shoots reaching for the sun.
The spring flowers will now be replaced with summer flowering bedding plants. Tubs, hanging baskets and beds have now all been replanted with geraniums, tuberous begonias, petunias, nemesia, busy lizzies and lobelia.
I grow some cosmos which is used to fill in any bare patches around the garden, and also sow some Shirley poppies which never fail to put on a good show.
Euphorbia polychroma has lovely lemon yellow flowers, but this year they are quite dazzling.
Azaleas are at their peak and really enjoying the moisture combined with cool but sunny weather.
Lilac is also superb with the white Mme Lemoine still favourite, and the deep lilac Michel Buchner also outstanding.
Himalayan blue poppies continue to flower, but remove the seedheads unless you wish to increase the stock. They grow fairly easy from seed if harvested when ripe and stored in a fridge for a few months. Sow them in a tray in late autumn and keep them outdoors all winter in a sheltered but shady place. Do not let them dry out and they should germinate in April the following year.
Iceland poppies also need regular dead heading to keep them flowering all summer. I also save the seed but sow them in late summer so I can overwinter small plants in trays for planting in early spring. These will then flower for the next two years.
Aconites grow quite easily from seed, so collect it as they ripen and sow it immediately where ever you wish to grow them. They naturalise rapidly.
Apple and pear grafts are now shooting so I will soon have new varieties on two trees. I am looking forward to seeing pear Beurre Hardy and Christie and apples, Park Farm Pippin, Lord Roseberry and Pearl.
Mildew on apples overwinters in buds which open up in spring completely infected. These primary infections are quite noticeable, (they are completely white with mildew) so they should be picked off and destroyed before they spread.
Peach fruit set has been really poor. I think the severe winter did not help them. The blossom was quite late to open, (normally a distinct advantage), but never looked very strong, and although they got their regular hand pollination, assisted by a few bees most did not fertilise. They did not get any late frost. I hope to get three fruits this year and they will still be better than supermarket peaches.
Fig bushes got a fair frosting, killing back many shoots, but there is still a wee crop.
All my fruit bushes are looking very good, but the gooseberry sawfly caterpillars have massed an attack. I spent an unpleasant moment picking them off and disposing off them. You need to be vigilant as they don’t hang about. They can chomp through the bushes at an alarming speed.
Strawberries are looking great and I may be picking my first fruit by the time you are reading this.
Planting has gone ahead at full steam. Sweet corn, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts are all planted and seeds of Dwarf French beans, Swiss chard, lettuce, radish, spring onion, beetroot, turnip, and Swedes are all sown.
Leeks have germinated but are quite slow to grow.
Tomatoes have established in the growbags and are now in flower, so feeding has started. The flowers get a daily tickle to spread the pollen which will assist fertilisation as the flower is cleistogamic. Just love that word !!! Google knows what it means.
If you are growing them as cordons, remove the sideshoots regularly and twist the growing stems around the supporting strings to keep them upright.
Grape vines are now showing the flower bunches. I cut back any non flowering shoots to a couple of leaves just to help feed the plant. The flowering shoots get cut back to two leaves after the flower bunch. Thereafter right through the growing season you must cut back all sideshoots regularly to one leaf. Black Hamburg is very reliable and is full of flower, but Flame, my red seedless variety and Perlette the new white seedless grape do not have as much flowers as I would like.
However my newly planted outdoor grape vine, Solaris has a couple of bunches on it. Gardening by the book, I should really remove them to let the new vine concentrate its energies into growing into a strong bush. I was never very great at doing the right thing and I am very curious to know if I can get a good outdoor grape to ripen in Dundee, so I may leave them alone for a bit, but keep the situation monitored. My outdoor Brant is very successful, but it has small bunches that are not very commercial, no matter how sweet and juicy they are.