Tuesday, 17 January 2017



The world we live in seems to change at an ever increasing speed and the older generation struggles to keep up with technological improvements. We spend hours trying to understand how to work the tablet, mobile phone, new printers and smart gadgets. The instructions on disc are in English, but not in a language easy to understand unless you have a grasp of symbols. Our kids get round this through education from primary schools onwards, then spending hours in the bedroom free to roam around cyberspace. I visited a friend’s new house and remarked how impressed I was at the ample open space for the kids to play on.
Cherry Cherokee
They all laughed as they told me kids don’t do that any more. Afraid that was my generation. Anyway, back in the world of gardening things are advancing but not at quite the same pace. The need to produce food to save money has gone for most folk, so now our allotments are a social meeting point of like minded souls and a place to chill out with some fresh air and relaxation after a wee bit of strenuous exercise. We grow for healthy food to eat and produce crops to impress our friends. We now grow rocket, mizuna, sweet corn, Swiss chard and now kale and rhubarb are back in fashion as must have healthy foods to eat.
Fig Brown Turkey
Fruit crops are going through the same changes, so now we have raspberries and strawberries fruiting from early summer till autumn, apples suited to the very small gardens and now everyone is having a go at the unusual and exotic crops. Nurseries, plant breeders and scientists are all out to improve plant performance and extend the range of plants available. Our gardens and allotments can be a great source of pleasure as we amaze our fellow gardeners with new, unusual and sometimes exotic fruit plants.
Fig Brown Turkey is quite successful in Scotland outdoors if given the shelter and warmth of a south facing wall and grown in a pit to restrict root growth and encourage fruiting.
Peaches are also successful up north outdoors with the same south facing fence or wall, but because of the peach leaf curl disease use the variety Avalon Pride which gets some disease but not enough to curtail growth and fruiting.
Grape Brant growing outdoors
Cherries are also possible outdoors with varieties like Cherokee especially if grown on the dwarfing rootstock Gisella 5. This keeps the height down to about six feet so nets can be used to keep birds off the fruits.
Saskatoons are easy to grow and are quite similar to blueberries but fruit a few weeks earlier. They produce a far heavier crop than blueberries and also need protection from birds.
Grapes grown outdoors in Scotland are a new venture. At present there are many hardy varieties to choose from. I am having success with Brant, Phoenix and Rondo with Solaris showing promise and Seigerrebe which crops early could be another to watch. It is a very heavy cropper, but grapes are small, though very sweet so can be a problem with wasps.
Strawberries can now fruit for 6 months from mid May by selecting a range of varieties and giving a row of earlies some polythene tunnel protection.
Raspberries can fruit from summer to autumn with a few varieties including Polka and Autumn Treasure for the late crops. Glen Fyne is brilliant in summer with the newer Glen Dee just planted.
Scottish Heritage apple Pearl
Apple and pear trees now come in many different forms to suit both large and very small gardens. Fans, cordons and espaliers were normal for walls but now we have narrow columnar shapes and low stepover plants. Where space is restricted you can buy a family tree with several varieties grown on one tree, or you can graft new varieties, (try Pearl a heritage type) onto your own tree as it is not too difficult. I will show this technique in a March feature for grafting in early spring.

Wee jobs to do this week
Sharpen up the garden shears

If frost or snow prevent outdoor activities take the chance of going through the gardening tools to make sure you are ready for the year ahead. Repair or replace broken or worn out spades, rakes, hoes, shears, garden lines, brushes or hoses that leak. Take a file and sharpen shears and hoes.
As I will be doing some grafting in March my knife will get sharpened with a carborundum stone.

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