Sunday, 5 January 2014



Last week we reviewed the garden and allotment to analyse how plants and crops performed with a late spring, a brilliant summer then a poor autumn. We can never tell what the weather has in store for us, so we plan crops for what we hope will be a normal year.


Some plants are very reliable and will give a great display no matter what kind of year we get. Geraniums, tuberous begonias, gladioli and chrysanthemums never let me down. When I lived in Darlington the drier sunnier climate allowed us to grow fantastic African marigolds. Now I always reckon Dundee is Scotland’s sunniest city, (I’m sure I read it somewhere) so my African marigolds should be just fine. In 2012 they were an absolute washout, but I tried them again last year. Growth was massive, but flowering was never a show stopper. This year I will have a few but they have to perform or they get deleted. Fuchsias did not like the hot weather, but they are special so will be grown again this year.
I have always loved roses, but black spot really tests them now there is not a decent chemical to spray them with. Some varieties have stronger foliage and can resist an attack, but many of my favourites such as Margaret Merrill and even Iceberg can suffer very badly.


Following the disastrous 2012 wet year when clubroot attacked every brassica, turnips, Swedes, radish, wallflowers and even my mustard green manures, I made many changes. Mustard green manure was replaced with red clover and tares, and most brassica varieties had to be bred for clubroot resistance. Most of these new varieties had been bred here at the James Hutton Institute, and results have been fantastic. I have had such heavy crops and no losses that we had far more than we could eat or freeze so a lot was given away. So this year it is back to Swede Marion or Gowrie, cabbage Kilaton and cauliflower Clapton. I still grow Brussels sprouts Wellington, but may try Crispus this year as it is clubroot resistant.


Hopefully this year will see my first huge sweet berries from my new Big Ben blackcurrants, and also my new row of raspberry Glen Fyne.
I have tried cape gooseberries for too many years now. Last year’s great summer helped the growth and fruiting, but autumn was poor so the young fruits would just not ripen up. Outdoor plants were a waste of time and even in the greenhouse they did not impress me.
This is the goji berries last chance. If it doesn’t fruit, or the fruit is not absolutely delicious it gets dug out.
Outdoor grapes were a huge success, but then it was a great summer and all the varieties are early ripening so the poor autumn did not affect them. However, as they are only just planted, other than Solaris, which is in its third year, they will need training and good growing to see if they can continue to give good results.
Rondo, Regent, Solaris and Phoenix all gave some grapes that ripened just fine. Siegerrebe struggled to grow so it will need another year or more to try it out.
Outdoor cherry Cherokee was really good last year, so hopefully this will continue with an even better crop as the dwarf tree gets bigger.
This has to be the year my new varieties of pear, Beurre Hardy and the Christie, grafted onto my Comice in 2011 bear some fruit, as I did not get one fruit last year. Also my outdoor peach Peregrine failed to fruit last year, so hopefully it will crop heavily in 2014.
Apple grafts from local heritage varieties Park Farm Pippin, Lord Roseberry and Pearl will also give me some crop this year, hopefully, provided 2014 turns out to be a relatively normal year free from gales, blizzards, floods and tornadoes. Only time will tell.

Plant of the week

Cyclamen persicum has always been a favourite pot plant for autumn and winter flowering, always trying to time peak flowering around Christmas, but usually getting it too early. They come in a range of white, pink, mauve and scarlet colours. Keep them cool and moist but never wet and they are happier on a less sunny windowsill. They can flower every year with the right conditions. Water, some feeding and cool growing conditions after flowering will build up a strong corm. Dry it off in summer to give it a rest before starting it off again in autumn. If it needs repotting keep the corm above the soil surface to prevent any rotting of the new foliage or flowers.


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