EXPERIMENTS IN THE GARDEN
|Apple Pearl grafted onto a James Grieve tree|
My interest in gardening started in childhood encouraged by keen gardeners in the family, so it was natural to choose it for a career as well as a hobby. For some folk it is climbing the long list of Scottish Munroe’s, or swimming across the River Tay to Fife, but my challenges were more down to earth as I experimented with plants in the garden.
|Grafted pears now growing|
The first challenge was to have some part of the garden looking its best with flowers and colour all year round. In spring its bulbs and spring bedding, then as they begin to fade the rhododendrons and azaleas flower, then onto a huge array of summer bedding plants, roses, and herbaceous plants. In autumn we have the harvest season with apples, pears and plums as well as harvesting my huge bright orange pumpkins. However all this time vegetables are being grown and harvested to keep the kitchen supplied all year round where possible. Interest in winter comes from the colour stemmed border of Cornus, Kerria and maple, then before spring arrives the snowdrops appear, quickly followed by the aconites then the whole circle begins again.
|Avalon Pride the last peach|
I wanted to grow many apples and pears but there was only space for three trees, so to grow all my favourite varieties I had to learn to graft. This gave me trees with at least six varieties on each tree. Grafting sounds difficult, but it is very easy and satisfying once you look up techniques and the success rates are near 100%.
I grew up with raspberries and strawberries as a young berry picker, but now the challenge is to have fruit over the whole summer by choosing early, mid season and late varieties with a row of early strawberries brought on a fortnight early with protection of low polythene tunnels.
|Snowdrops in December|
Breeders are always bringing out new varieties of every type of plant, so I always buy a few to try them out. Strawberry Colossus turned out to be a complete waste of space with just a few small berries. It got dug out after a couple of years. Blackberry Rhuben advertised as huge fruits produced on new canes in the same year. Mine didn’t flower till November so hardly any time to produce fruit, and the few that did fruit were less than half the size claimed in the catalogue. It got dug out.
With talk of global warming I thought I would try some exotics, so I purchased a peach tree, Peregrine, but it got massacred with disease, so it got replaced with disease resistant Avalon Pride. For the first three years I only got one peach year, then in 2019 there was none, so tree has now been removed to make way for my next experiments to find a grape to grow outdoors in Scotland.
|Outdoor grape trial at City Road|
I have tried quite a few and had some success but only with grapes for wine use. I have yet to find a seedless variety for dessert use, but I keep trying. Up at City Road Allotments we have planted several against our south facing shed. These will be grown as single stem cordons with summer and winter pruning so they do not take over the front of the shed.
|Saskatoons in fruit|
Trials were successful with my outdoor fig, Brown Turkey which is a real beauty that never lets me down producing well over a hundred figs every year. Growing Saskatoon fruit bushes is my other great success story. They are in great demand from other gardeners, but as yet no-one in UK is growing them for the fresh fruit market or as bushes to sell to the public.
This year I am trying a range of cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse. They are all very vigorous reaching the top of the greenhouse long before my large fruited Alicante. However most only got five trusses, though Sungold had seven trusses with excellent flavour and texture. Supersweet 100 was not an early cropper but trusses all had over 100 tomatoes on them. Rapunzel had large fruit but poor texture and flavour. Sugarglass was my heaviest cropper but lost points for flavour and texture. Cherry Baby had the smallest fruit but with the best flavour. Trusses had well over 100 fruits, but most of them fell off before the fruits grew.
|Pumpkins growing strongly|
Wee jobs to do this week
Cut back summer growth extensions on pumpkins once each plant has made two or three decent fruits. Pumpkins just love this hot wet summer and will try to take over the whole garden.