Monday, 31 August 2020




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Plants under glass have been protected from thunderstorms and gales, but those that started off with protection, then spent summer outdoors have had a more turbulent time.
Cape gooseberries growing fast under glass got a bit big in their large pots so they went outdoors against a south facing wall. This was great on sunny days, but then came the thunderstorms.

John picks Solaris grapes

They survived and are now over four feet tall and still growing and producing a good crop, but it will be a few more weeks before the first ones ripen. Pepper Early Jalapeno were plentiful from seed sown early February, so some were planted in south facing sheltered spots outdoors, some in pots on windowsills and a few in a border in the greenhouse. It is the ones on the windowsill that are growing
Pepper Early Jalapeno

and cropping the best, th
ough it is still early to judge. Basil grown from a spring sowing indoors grew strongly at first under glass but suffered when we got a run of cold gray weather in mid August.

Some in the greenhouse started to rot off, but those again on my windowsills at home were quite happy. Had to keep pinching out flower heads to produce more growth.
Another plant getting sown this month in the greenhouse is the onion Senshu Yellow. Seeds were sown in cellular trays in mid August as weather had turned cooler and gray skies with mist over the Tay predominate for several days. I hope to plant the young seedlings in autumn for over wintering then grow strongly to give an early crop next year.

The first tomatoes were ripe for picking in mid July, then in August both red cherry, Super Sweet 100 and yellow cherry, Sungold and maincrop Alicante were ripening up fast. Anna soon found a tomato soup recipe as we had plenty surplus fruits. Onions, basil, parsley, garlic and oregano and rosemary herbs were added. As we had family visiting from Glasgow it was a large pot of soup, and though it went down very well there

Tomato Alicante

was still some left for another day and the freezer. Tomato plants have all reached the greenhouse roof so tops have been removed with most producing five to seven trusses. Cherry tomatoes are so much more vigorous than the Alicante, but the fruits are just heavenly as a frequent snack between meals and in all salads.
Grape Seigerrebe

Sunny warm days this year have brought on the greenhouse grapes a lot earlier than last year, so Seigerrebe grapes were quite sweet by mid August. To grow healthy vines under glass good ventilation is very important so all roof vents have been fully open as well as the door. However our local blackbird popped in to have a look around and took a liking to the grapes. He got through several bunches of Seigerrebe before I spotted him. Next year the door and vents will get net protection, but this year I decided to harvest both Seigerrebe and the sweet white muscat flavoured Solaris. As these grapes have pips they are perfect for wine but not for eating unless you are happy to swallow pips. After harvesting work starts immediately, so grapes were separated from the bunch, then crushed in a fermentation bucket with a couple of campden tablets to sterilise any wild yeasts. The following day I add AW4 wine yeast, pectolase, acid, tannin and nutrient. The mixture stays in the bucket for four days then is strained off the must and the wine transferred to demijohns after adding some grape concentrate for further fermentation. If Blackie had stayed away, grapes would have been left on the vine for another week to increase sugar content, but they only had enough for 9% alcohol, so needed some grape concentrate to raise alcohol levels up to 12%

Field beans green manure crop

Wee jobs to do this week

As some mid season potatoes have been lifted the land is now clear for a green manure crop. Other
early harvested crops of onions, broad beans and peas left land free for autumn salads, so now as there is still time for plants to grow, it will be tares, ryegrass, clover or field beans for my green manure crop. These usually germinate quickly, grow fast as they all have a strong root ststem. They can get trampled down in winter then dug in. If field beans grow too tall, they can get pulled out and chopped up for the compost heap. This still leaves most of the nodules with nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil. When these rot down they will release nitrogen for the spring crops.


Tuesday, 25 August 2020



                                                BACK TO THE ALLOTMENT

Although gardening is very much in focus just now as lockdown and lack of holidays abroad has meant many folk have been busy at home in their gardens. My daily exercise is most often in our garden around the house or up at City Road on the allotment plot. You then become very aware of how plants are growing and if success is down to your skills or just great weather.

Raspberry Polka
Raspberry Polka
The early long sunny spell of dry weather followed by a fair bit of rain, and thunderstorms lasting a long time, has been brilliant for plant growth. However I always manage to keep a huge compost heap and practice green manuring on all spare land. Thus plants never go hungry, and combine it with an exceptional summer so now many plants have gone into supersonic growth. I have never seen so many different plants grow way beyond their allocated spacings. Courgettes are all massive and plentiful with spares going to fellow plot holders and the public boxes of free fruit and vegetables outside our gate on City Road. Pumpkins needed no encouragement from the courgettes.
Blackberry Helen
Bramble Helen
They decided to take over a large section of the plot, invading adjacent dwarf French beans, strawberries, chrysanthemum bed, gladioli block, front flower border and leapt the fence to climb up my neighbours lilac tree. It now has a large fruit swelling up, six feet above the ground. Afraid the long knives came out to cut back a few of the massive pumpkin leaves where they were crowding out other crops. Potatoes were just as active unable to contain themselves as they expanded south into my rose bed which fortunately has tall roses. As these are maincrop varieties they wont get lifted till autumn. Casa Blanca my first early potato has all been lifted and gave a very heavy crop, so I wont need to lift my second early for a few more weeks.

The heavy rains that ended the long dry sunny spell did no favours for my onions as white rot affected a lot of them, so they all got lifted and dried off for storing.

All the brassicas have loved the growing weather, but a crop of large cauliflower Klapton were all ready at the same time. Anna however found a great recipe for roasted cauliflower soup both for immediate consumption as well as some for the freezer.

Apple Discovery
Apple Discovery
Swedes are growing very strongly but crowding out an adjacent row of parsnips, so again a few leaves have had to be removed.

Salads are normally grown as successional crops, but all had massive growth so each row of lettuce, rocket, radish and spring onion was more than we could use. I had one Lollo Rosa lettuce got a wee bit over excited and reached four feet tall, without going to seed, before I got round to cutting it.

Lettuce Lollo Rossa
Four feet tall Lettuce

First crop of peas suffered some pigeon damage, but second crop of pea Onward is making up for it.

Fruit crop harvesting continues with bramble Helen ready from early August, autumn raspberry Polka, autumn strawberry Flamenco and now I am picking my first figs. However the fig bush has put on a massive amount of growth so it will get pruned once cropping has finished. Large pots of

Cape gooseberries placed against a warm south facing wall, enjoying Scotland’s brief heatwave, are all producing a good crop of fruit, but none ready just yet. Apple Discovery is swelling up and turning bright red, so should be ready to pick by end of August.

Flowers in tubs, baskets and borders have put on a great show but are now needing a wee rest,

before they grow again and go into late summer with their second flush. Geraniums have stopped growing but hope they will recover with a late summer flush and back to strong growth for autumn cuttings. Oriental lilies and gladioli are now at peak flowering as they revel in the summer weather.

Wee jobs to do this week

Collect Pansy seed
Collect pansy seed

Seed pods saved from the best pansies has dried off, cleaned up and seeds extracted ready for sowing in mid summer. Once a good crop of strong young seedlings emerge they will be pricked off into cellular trays to grow on to produce sturdy plants for autumn planting in tubs, pots, baskets and borders looking ahead to a display next spring and summer.


Wednesday, 19 August 2020


Lockdown has given many people more time to get into their garden as well as being more adventurist in the kitchen. Growing herbs is now back in favour. Looking back over many years in gardening, growing herbs was seldom mentioned.

It was a bit like growing rhubarb. Find a dark neglected area and plant a few crowns then forget about them, but life moves on and now rhubarb is almost at superfood status as we now know all about its brilliant health giving attributes. Herbs are now an essential part of the kitchen and outdoor barbecue and have a special place in both the garden and allotment plot. We always grew Lavender and Rosemary as attractive landscape shrubs, a bay tree in a large pot to add interest on the patio, thyme was a popular ground cover plant and there was always a few sprigs of mint lurking amongst the bottom of the apple trees. Anna had always used a wide range of herbs in the kitchen as she just loves to cook and find new ideas with recipes. This week, after a glut of cauliflowers all ready at the same time, she created a brilliant roasted cauliflower soup with parsley, nutmeg, garlic and a few other available vegetables.
Over time more and more herbs got planted around the garden, and now with a bit of lockdown, she has even more time to experiment in the kitchen, so herbs are gaining prominence. Up at City Road Allotments herbs are very popular with a fair bit of swapping taking place. To get a herb garden started you can buy plants or plugs then pot up or plant out, though some annual and biennial herbs can be grown from seed. Herbs come in all forms from perennial evergreen shrubs, (Lavender, Sage and Rosemary) ground cover as thyme, herbaceous such as mint which dies down in winter, biennials such as parsley and annuals such as Basil. However Basil is not very hardy and up north it is best on a warm windowsill. Great in Pesto, pizzas and tomato dishes, and as it is the leaves that are used remove any flower buds as they appear. Parsley is often used in leek and a favourite in Scotch broth soup adding the health benefits of iron and the vitamins A, C and E.
Black mint
Black mint

Herbs are favourite along path edges for frequent and easy fresh picking for the kitchen, and Lavender and Rosemary best in a sunny dry spot. Rosemary has numerous uses in the kitchen especially for adding flavour to roast lamb, pork, chicken and pasta dishes. Both have a great perfume and bees are very attracted to them when in flower. Rosemary may be prone to die off if winters are severe, but these are becoming a rarity. Bay may also be prone to die off in a bad winter, but it is often grown in a large pot that can be moved into the greenhouse if bad weather threatens.

Another plant for a dry sunny spot is Coriander, a hot spicy herb added to curries and Mexican and Indian dishes. Oregano, a Greek aromatic herb has been grown for thousands of years, establishes easily from seed and both the seed and leaves are dried off for storing for future use sprinkled over pizza, in soups, marinades and savoury dishes. It is rich in

Sage and Rosemary

antioxidants and is proving to have numerous health benefits. Lemon balm herb is another plant needing a warm dry sunny spot, makes a lovely and healthy tea and often added when stuffing poultry.

Mint has always been popular in gardens, and now we can have black mint and applemint as well as spearmint and peppermint. Mint sauce is brilliant with lamb and freshly harvested peas. All mints are very easy to grow and control as they always try to grow beyond their allocated patch, so growing them in pots may be preferable. Both sage and chives, related to garlic are grown as attractive garden plants as well as ingredients for the kitchen.

Wee jobs to do this week

summer salads
Late summer salads
As early crops get harvested such as onions, broad beans, peas, potatoes and salads there will be bare soil awaiting the next crops for picking throughout autumn and into early winter. Sow some lettuce, radish, spring onions, rocket, land cress. No need to dig over the ground, just hoe the surface to remove any weeds and provide an inch of tilth to help seeds germinate, rake level and sow the seeds usually in rows a foot apart. I also add some fertiliser to give them a boost. Once they have all germinated they will need thinning out to give them more room to grow.


Monday, 10 August 2020


Keen gardeners have always welcomed admiration for their horticultural success and only too happy to let someone have a cutting, spare plant or a bit of a plant that has layered itself. In my earlier apprenticeship days propagation in all its forms was a major part of our training and we gathered a lot of plants for our garden as our wee cuttings grew into bigger plants. Our older experienced journeymen would always bring us some cuttings to test our skills. Today it is now us older gardeners that help others with cuttings, spare plants and wee bits with a few roots showing.
Delosperma cooperii
Delosperma cooperii

Garden plants have had a great boost to growth this year with very favourable weather, at least so far. Although propagation goes on all year round there are many plants we can grow from summer cuttings as growth matures but is still active.

Lamium White Nancy is a silver coloured attractive ground hugging plant with shoots that root easily as they hug the soil. Take some of these shoots with a few roots and pot up as they quickly establish as young plants. Houttuynia is also propagated by lifting young shoots with roots on. Border phlox is also propagated from ground hugging branches that root into the soil as they spread.

Lamium White Nancy
Lamium White Nancy

Bearded iris have now finished flowering and any clumps three years old will benefit from digging up, splitting the crowns and replanting into fresh soil. The border pinks may still be flowering, but come easily from cuttings of non flowering shoots about three to four inches long and potted up with potting compost with added grit for extra drainage,

Many dwarf evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias can be propagated both by layering as well as cuttings, but for success you will need to use ericaceous compost with added grit, sand, or perlite. Take cuttings from shoots that still look like they have not finished growing. Size again about three to four inches long. Remove most of the leaves except a couple near the top and if these are large cut half of the leaf off. Water in well and keep in a sheltered light place away from direct sunlight. Most of these cuttings will root better with the help of some hormone rooting powder.

Hydrangea Charme
Hydrangea Charme cuttings

The dwarf japanese azaleas can also be layered. Take a low shoot near the ground and scrape a wee bit of bark off then lower it into the soil while still attached to the parent plant. You will need a peg to keep it in the ground and cover it with soil. It may be at least six months before it is rooted sufficiently to be cut off and either potted up or transplanted to another spot to grow on.

Heathers will come from cuttings two to three inches long placed in ericaceous compost with added grit, but keep them away from direct sunlight. Remove growth from the bottom one or two inches and take the tip out to encourage it to branch once it roots.

Pink cuttings now rooted
Pink cuttings now rooted

Other plants that root well from mid to late summer as semi ripe cuttings include, Lavender, Cistus, Rosemary, Fuchsia, Senecio, Hydrangea, Euonymus, Lonicera Baggesons Gold and many others.

My two favourite very colourful succulents, the ice plant, Delosperma cooperi and D. nubigenum are easily propagated from short shoots a couple of inches long put direct into the soil. They always root and grow very quickly, but like very well drained soil in a sunny position. Perfect at the top of a south facing wall where they can hang down happily and soon burst into flower.

Strawberry runners
Strawberry runners just planted

Wee jobs to do this week

Summer strawberries have now finished cropping. Only the perpetual and autumn varieties such as Flamenco continue to fruit. Take this chance to cut off all the old leaves, remove weeds and straw which can all go on the compost heap. The crowns will soon grow fresh young leaves to take the plants through the winter. Once they have made two or three years cropping they should be removed and a new patch planted up from runners. Some varieties produce very few runners after three cropping seasons so take runners from them after two years or buy in fresh plants for autumn planting. Runners are normally spaced a foot apart, but if there is plenty available then plant at six inches apart to give a bigger crop in the first summer.


Monday, 3 August 2020



The summer harvest is well under way. Salads, lettuce, radish, spring onion and rocket have been plentiful since early spring and now numerous fruits are all ripening up. There is raspberries,

strawberries and saskatoons to add to the breakfast cereals and the first cherry tomatoes to add to salads at lunchtime.
Picking broad beans
Erica and Mum Patricia picking broad beans
Cherry Cherokee is giving a great crop for afternoon snacks and Anna found a great recipe for gooseberry fool as the first Invicta gooseberries ripened up. We will be bursting with great health all summer living off the land with an abundance of fresh produce. The weather has encouraged massive growth on all crops mostly to their benefit, though the lush growth on my autumn strawberry rows inhibited ripening as the sun could not get through to them. The early and maincrop strawberries are all picked, but the autumn Flamenco variety continues to bear fruit.
Strawberry Flamenco
Strawberry Flamenco

Raspberry Glen Dee is giving large fruit, but my Glen Fyne is being attacked by phytophthora root rot and will have to be dug out once the fruit has been picked. Fortunately I have a couple of rows of autumn fruiting rasps, Autumn Bliss and Polka which do not seem to be affected by the root rot. Gooseberries are again weighed down with huge berries which gives Anna plenty for the kitchen and freezer and I will get my ten pounds for wine brewing. The sawfly maggot gave us a miss this year, although a few appeared but were quickly spotted and dealt with. Cherry Cherokee is giving great crops, and although not netted for the marauding blackbird a few new cats in the area appear to have frightened him off. This year the cherries are huge so may be too big for the blackbird to swallow, though I am told some crows have been swooping down to sample a few.

Bramble Helen usually crops from August onwards but this year the first fruits were ready in mid July, and should continue to bear fruit for a few more weeks.

Summer fruit
Summer fruits

Blackcurrant Big Ben was picked in early July then Ben Connan a week later. Berries this year are quite big and the Big Ben is remarkably sweet as my wee helper, Luke from Glasgow found out. The happy smile on his face told the whole story, so crop weight this year may not be as much as we anticipated, but kids will return from their holiday very healthy, being full of vitamin C.

Redcurrants are poor this year, but I put this down to my pruning being not quite by the book. The bushes have been very vigorous with masses of foliage, but then they got attacked by leaf blister aphid. Might not get my three demijohns of my favourite wine this year.

Steve chops up old broad bean stems
Steve chops up broad bean stems

The vegetables have also seen massive growth this year on all crops. Potato foliage is massive and invaded my rose beds growing adjacent. Pumpkins are even worse. They have put on shoots well over ten feet long invading my chrysanthemum bed, two rows of gladioli and at present are climbing the lilac tree on my neighbours plot. However potatoes are very heavy yielding so far and blight yet to appear. Broad bean harvesting was assisted this year by friends visiting from Glasgow. So while Patricia picked the pods, I pulled out the spent plants and wee five year old Erica carried them up to the compost heap where her dad chopped them up for composting. Later on in the afternoon we all sat on the patio and shelled the beans before they were added to boiling water then cleaned and once they had cooled down the skins were removed from each seed, then bagged for freezing. Courgettes have been competing with the pumpkins for strong growth. One plant gave me eight large courgettes by mid July. Good job we have a produce sharing system for surplus crops on our allotment site and in times of plenty we box surplus up outside our gates for passers by to help themselves.

Wee jobs to do this week

Pumpkins running riot
Pumpkins running riot

Pumpkins have set off to explore the allotment. They are in a serious growth stage so secateurs were needed to prune back any sideshoot without a flower and a few huge leaves smothering my flower beds. Long growths needed cutting back so long as I get enough flowers to set and produce a few pumpkins. They have just loved the long sunny spell, then a few thunderstorms and all the while getting regular feeding from me. Weeds never had a chance.