Sunday, 25 December 2016



The Festive season is a time to relax and enjoy the benefits of our labour over the past year. We have filled the freezer with fruit and vegetables, there is ample fruit and vegetables in storage, and plenty leeks, swedes, cabbages, winter cauliflower, kale, winter lettuce, rocket, Swiss chard and parsnips still quietly growing through the winter months. It is a time to look back and review the year, looking at the successes, failures, varieties we grow, sowing dates and how much we have worked with the climate that can never be relied on as no one knows what is normal any more.
John and Anna wish everybody a very Merry Christmas
However it is the climate more than anything else that determines how plants will grow. The UK climate varies dramatically from north to south and east to west, but looking back my Dundee area hasnae done too bad. Early on we came through a reasonably mild winter which had snowdrops beginning to flower the previous December, just a bit like this winter as mine are all showing white tips as I write. The year will go on record as a mild dry year, with always just enough rain to keep plants growing in between warm dry weather. The south of UK got plenty heatwaves, which we were promised would travel north, but the heat seemed to wither away round about the borders.
Fuchsia Mrs Popple
Spring arrived early and never got too warm so displays of daffodils, crocus and tulips were brilliant and lasted a very long time. Fruit trees flowered abundantly, and there always seemed to be plenty bees around to pollinate them. The apples gave the heaviest crop ever and had to get some serious thinning. Fiesta was my biggest winner as fruit was huge, very flavoursome and is still very fresh in storage. Discovery and Red Devil both cropped heavily. Pears looked great in full blossom, but only produced three fruits, so either a late frost stopped fertilisation or my four varieties on one tree are not compatible. I thought Conference, Comice, The Christie and Beurre hardy would help to pollinate each other, so next March I will graft some Concorde onto the tree to see if that helps.
Figs also had a great year, as did all my currants, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, saskatoons and brambles. New autumn raspberry Polka was excellent with large fruits and spine free stems. Autumn Treasure was also good, but fruited a fortnight later. My new primocane bramble
Red tuberous begonias
Reuben was a disaster as the new canes never flowered till November, then withered away. I will leave the canes in place and see how it fares as a floricane type.
New perpetual strawberry Albion was cropping right into November, but the flesh is very firm and not as soft as we expect from a summer strawberry. I will retain it another year and review progress.
The dry mild summer brought out the best in flowering plants with geraniums, begonias, fuchsias  and roses all at their best, but petunias were miserable as they really like it to be a wee bit warmer.
Vegetables had a mixed year, as disease was hard to control, so the onions suffered some white rot, brassicas got clubroot and potatoes got blackleg and late blight, though I still got a great crop with Amour producing huge spuds. Broad and French beans, peas, courgettes
Tulip Monte orange
and pumpkins all had a great year, but root crops have not been as big as in previous years.
Indoor and outdoor grapes had a very good year, but the lack of a warm sunny autumn did not help to ripen up the fruits and increase the sugar content, other than with Muscat flavoured Seigerrebe which ripens in August and was this year’s star attraction. Just a pity the fruit is so small.
The dry autumn allowed me to complete all my composting and digging ahead of winter and now raking up leaves will soon be completed so next year’s compost heap will have a good start.
Now I am well ahead of gardening tasks, I can sit back, enjoy the festive season, and with a glass of three year old Saskatoon wine in hand let’s look to 2017 and make new plans. Cheers!!!
Check over fruit and veg in store

Wee jobs to do this week

Rake Check over stored apples onions potatoes beetroot carrots as well as dahlias, begonias and gladioli and remove any with signs of decay in case it spreads to healthy plants.
Check chrysanthemums stools growing in the cold greenhouse for overwintering greenfly on young foliage. Try to keep them frost free and growing away slowly.


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