Monday, 1 October 2018

PLAN NEXT SPRING’S FLOWERS


PLAN NEXT SPRING’S FLOWERS

As summer draws to a close the display of bedding plants begins to look a bit tired. Now is the time to look forward to next year’s spring flowers.
Allotment flower border
The spring this year was wet cool and lacked sun, but this allowed spring flowers to last a long time, giving us the chance to review the show and make plans for the next year. At the moment my tubs are still flowering as tuberous begonias and geraniums continue to flower well into autumn, but hanging baskets
Drift of Aconites
with petunias, impatiens and lobelia are finished. These will be the first to get planted up with spring flowers, and most likely with pansies. I had some terrific colours in my mixed pansies so I saved the seed and sowed it in August. I now have well over a hundred strong plants in cellular trays ready for planting out. Each hanging basket takes about a dozen plants with six for the top and six inserted around the sides as I hope to achieve a round ball of greenery covered in flowers. The rest of the pansies can go in other tubs and flower borders as well as areas of spare land where shrubs have been removed. One
Mixed tulips in rose bed
Ceanothus was fine for nearly twenty years, but then started to die off so it got removed. The pansies will give us flowers while we decide what to replace it with.
Last year we bought some really good polyanthus which got lined out once their spring display finished, and now they can be replanted back into some tubs. I also have a good batch of wallflower grown from seed on my allotment for planting in larger tubs and underplanted with tall tulips. My favourite tulips are the Darwin Hybrids Apeldoorn (red) and Golden Apeldoorn (yellow) but another border above a wall will get the tall
Mixed Fosteriana tulips
Fosteriana tulips Red Emperor and the white scented Purissima. This border is also planted with tall scented Oriental Lilies flowering in mid summer. We keep the soil bare, remove the old tulip leaves six weeks after flowering then sow some fast growing annuals such as Candytuft, Cornflower, Godetia to grow underneath the taller lilies.
More lilies are also planned for a summer display of large scented blooms amongst the Cornus in my coloured stem winter border. This border is attractive from autumn till the end of March when I then cut back all the shrubs to ground level. This gives the drifts of crocus space to flower followed by tulips before the Cornus starts to grow again. However there is a lack of interest in summer so a batch of the tall Oriental Lilies will get planted in this border.
Narcissus Dick wilden
Up on my allotment I keep a flower border at the front to add colour and impact and detract the eye from the rest of the plot just in case there may be an odd weed that has escaped my attention. This has been known to happen from time to time. Last spring there was a brilliant display of tulips, but very few white ones so I will buy some of the Fosteriana Purissima and plant these into the border. This border starts with snowdrops, then the yellow aconites and some narcissus ahead of the main tulip display. This year I will plant up the border with my spare pansy seedling plants to accompany the tulips to give two levels of flowering plants.
Over the years I have added Crocus all over the garden and allotment front border, so no need for any more, but they are perfect amongst tubs of pansies and polyanthus. Then after flowering I can always manage to find a spot to plant them out for future spring
Narcissus Replete
flowers. The herbaceous border is always a favourite for spare bulbs as the permanent plants are slow to grow by which time the dwarf bulbs have flowered, produced their leaves before the herbaceous plants need more space.
Drifts of daffodils and narcissus make a great show amongst deciduous trees and shrubs and although the garden is not short of these, you always find another variety well worth trying out. Growers can always breed something different to catch your eye. Last year it was Westward, Sir Winston Churchill, Dick Wilden and Replete, and this year it is White Lion, My Story and Decoy.

Wee jobs to do this week
Plant strawberry plants from runners taken from older but healthy
Strawberry runners of Flamenco
beds. As they will be down for three years dig over the soil before planting and incorporate compost to feed the growing crop. Space plants out at a foot apart in rows three feet apart to allow for easy picking and give new runners a chance to grow along the row as these young plants will give extra crops.

END

Monday, 24 September 2018

PRESERVING THE AUTUMN CROPS


PRESERVING THE AUTUMN CROPS

Autumn is the traditional time to harvest many crops such as potatoes, apples, pears, plums, sweet corn, pumpkins and grapes. Soft fruit is used for immediate use (strawberries, raspberries, brambles and tomatoes) with surplus for the freezer
Anna cooks fig jam and chutney
or jams and chutneys. In the past, although I was getting bumper crops of figs, picking was done over several months so they were all consumed as fresh fruit. This year however the tropical summer has brought on the ripening so fast that surplus figs had to find a home as two people could not consume
Fresh picked tomatoes
forty figs over three days. Anna found some great recipes for both fig chutney as well as fig jam. The fig chutney has apples, onions, sultanas added with brown sugar, cider vinegar and some salt, ginger, a clove and some ground nutmeg.
Apple Discovery
The jam is pure figs and sugar in equal weights with a vanilla pod and some lemon juice.
Potatoes harvested in autumn and onions in late summer are all dried off and stored in a dark cool but frost free shed or garage. Beetroot can be lifted and stored dry in boxes of sand or dry soil, but with mild winters mine have been happy outdoors where they are growing, and if frost threatens they get happed up with soil for protection. Some beetroots however are continually called for in the kitchen for a delicious beetroot soup, or in a borsch dish, as well as the traditional pickled beetroot. Leeks, Swedes, parsnips, cabbage and sprouts are all happy left in the ground and used as required. They will all happily survive till the end of winter.
Brewing fruit wines
Pumpkins in a normal year are harvested at the end of October, but this year mine are ready in mid September. The leaves suffered mildew then some damage as I harvested the sweet corn which shared the growing space as an experiment as they are happy together growing at different heights. The pumpkins will now be brought home to brighten up a shelf in the house. They usually last well into the next year, but are very popular when sliced and roasted as well as an ingredient in soups.
Summer crops of gooseberries, black and red currants are either in the freezer or converted into jams. Surplus raspberries and strawberries are also in the freezer to be used for jams, compote and summer puddings. In summer the gooseberry crop was huge,
Roast pumpkin slices
so a fair bit got frozen but some got combined with mint to make a savoury but sweet gooseberry jelly, and still enough for five demijohns of vintage gooseberry wine. Sweet corn gets harvested in one task once ripeness is at its best. Sampling is started ahead to see how the crop is progressing. Some are kept in the fridge for immediate use over a couple of weeks, but then the others are frozen. Preparing them for the freezer starts on a sunny day outdoors where we strip off all the leaves and remove the tip if it lacks corn. They are then blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes, removed and plunged into cold water before laying out to dry and then bagged up for freezing. The freezer space
Setanta potatoes
gets filled early with the gluts of soft fruit and vegetables like the broad beans, dwarf French beans and peas, but room is needed for the surplus raspberries and strawberries as well as the sweet corn. This is where my wine brewing helps out as I can utilise the previous year’s surplus of saskatoons, chokeberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries. Once they are defrosted they are perfect for a homebrew and release space in the freezer for the next crop. At this time of year there is no shortage of produce.
Pears do not store for very long, so surplus can be peeled, cored and diced then slightly cooked with a dash of water and some vanilla. Once cold they can be frozen for future use in sweets, with yogurt, custard or with breakfast cereals. Tomatoes have had a brilliant year, but now there are huge surpluses for freezing to be used later on for soups and pasta sauce.

Wee jobs to do this week
As autumn weather brings down our temperatures our greenhouse tomatoes and grapes come to the
Solaris and Siegerrebe grapes
end of their season. No need for any more feeding but keep watering if required. Tomatoes can hang on the vine for many more weeks, but pick them as they ripen. If you have a few grape varieties, the early ones like Siegerrebe, the seedless Flame and Solaris will have been picked but Black Hamburg ripens slowly over many weeks so just pick those that ripen and be patient for the later bunches as Black Hamburg can continue to ripen up to the end of November.

END

Monday, 17 September 2018

AUTUMN BEGINS


AUTUMN BEGINS

September is a very busy time in the garden as so many crops are in need of harvesting, then cleaning, processing and storing. The tropical summer weather has given everything a huge boost but now we have more produce than we can use
Anna picking Discovery apples
so we have to find a home for our surplus once the freezer is full. Peas, Dwarf French beans, broad beans, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, figs, brambles, blueberries, sweet corn and gooseberries are all packing out the freezer. So wine brewing  and jam making are in full throttle to
reduce surplus berries. This year I tried to vary sowing dates for cabbage and cauliflower by a couple
Cabbage Kilaton
of months to avoid a massive surplus as they all ripen together, but the later sowings did their best to catch up so we still got twenty cabbage and twenty cauliflower all ready to eat over a few short weeks. Two small Scots people can only eat so much. We have a bad clubroot problem so it is not possible to use different varieties other than clubroot resistant, and they are all summer crops. Both cabbage Kilaton and cauliflower Clapton have had huge heads this year. It took us a fortnight to eat one cabbage.

Potatoes are also cropping very heavily. We are still trying to eat our way through the first early Casablanca before we start on second early Charlotte, but maincrop Maris Piper has been lifted and awaits our attention in store. Setanta, our other maincrop, is still in the ground but ready to lift as the foliage is going over. Land cleared of potatoes, onions, peas, French beans, sweet corn, cabbage and cauliflower and salads all coming early and getting harvested ahead of normal times has seen a lot of land left vacant, so it has left me plenty scope for sowing some late summer and early winter salads such as lettuce, spring onion,
Tomatoes
beetroot, rocket and cress. However other spare land without a late catch crop has been sown down with a green manure of clover and tares.
Tomatoes have also gone into surplus harvest mode as they responded brilliantly to the summer heat wave. Fortunately the wee cherry types are sweet and easy to eat fresh at all times of the day, but at some point soon the larger Alicante and Marmande will need to head into the freezer.
Summer raspberries are now finished, but autumn raspberries, Autumn Bliss and Polka are in great form with huge raspberries. Autumn Treasure is also a great cropper and comes in a few weeks after Polka so giving a longer cropping period.
Apples are going through a weird phase. Spring blossom was brilliant except Fiesta which shows biennial bearing behaviour with no blossom, and not one single apple this year. Others showed a huge crop, but then the June drop in July took out a fair bit, followed by my thinning to a manageable crop. However in August the trees started to drop even more apples long before they
Outdoor grape Regent
were ready, though Discovery and Red Devil seem fine both with a great crop of huge apples.
Grapes under glass matured early so I was picking small bunches of Siegerrebe in late August and Solaris in early September. Black Hamburg is well coloured up but I will leave these till early October apart from sampling a few grapes that look ready from time to time. Outdoors my three other vines, Rondo, Regent and Phoenix are all laden down with numerous bunches of large grapes, and now all beginning to show colour as I removed a fair bit of foliage to let the sun shine on them.
Raspberry Polka
Flowering plants have followed the sun and been at their best from spring till mid summer, but the wet spell in late summer spoiled the show. Dahlias and the annual Cosmos failed to show any flowers but put on a lot of growth. Both got dug out as it is too late now to expect a decent show of blooms. Chrysanthemums, gladioli, roses and sweet peas were all just fine so long as regular dead heading was practised. You know summer is just about gone when the cyclamen hederifolium comes into flower and the foliage of Nerine bowdenii the Guernsey Lily dies down soon to be replaced by the mauve pink flowers in September.

Wee jobs to do this week
Onions ready for storing
Onions that have been lifted and laid out to dry off can now be cleaned up ready to store either in onion sacks or if the withered stems are long enough pleat them into a rope. This makes storage a lot simpler as they do not take up so much room.
END

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

OUTDOOR FIGS FOR SCOTLAND


OUTDOOR FIGS FOR SCOTLAND

I planted a young fig tree on my allotment plot over ten years ago. I first tasted a fresh fig about 50 years ago when I visited a farmer up north who had a bush in his greenhouse. It was delicious and I never forgot that moment, but it was years later before I decided to buy a fig and try it outdoors. My horticultural training in early youth, told me
John picks a few figs
they were not hardy in Scotland and needed winter protection, but today we have climate change and if Scotland gets a wee bit more of this global warming my fig should be just fine. Last year was a rotten year up north. The sun in summer rarely appeared, but we got plenty rain, yet my fig tree gave me
One days harvest of figs
well over one hundred figs. This year we have all had a bit of global warming so I think my crop will be even better. I picked my first fig at end of July and so far I have had over fifty. Fortunately they crop over a long period so it is easy to eat them fresh, but when gluts happen they are easy to freeze for future use.
History
Figs have been grown or collected for food for thousands of years. Sub fossil figs (over 9000BC) were found in a Neolithic village in the Jordan Valley. They were also grown by the ancient Greeks as well as the Romans for food. Human migration has resulted in them now being grown throughout the Temperate World. They are a major crop in California which has a Mediterranean
Early summer fig potential
climate. Continental countries with hot climates can harvest four crops each year, but in UK we only get two crops that overlap. The early crop is from small buds that successfully overwinter, then later more figs are produced from currant seasons shoots. In hot countries the fig is pollinated by a wasp which often stays behind in the fig but in our country our figs are self pollinating so no wasps to worry about. Figs originated in the Middle East and western Asia but have now naturalised throughout Asia and North America. It thrives in hot dry climates where its roots can grow deep into the soil to find water. Our hot dry summer this year is just what it really enjoys.
Culture
We need to use this knowledge to grow it successfully in UK and more so in Scotland with our damper climate in normal years. Left on its own without pruning it will grow into a small tree up to thirty
Developing fig fruits
feet tall, making harvesting a nightmare. In our climate on good soils it loves to grow vigorously, so we need to control vigour so it can concentrate its energy into fruit production.
Ripe figs in August
It is best to restrict growth by planting it in a prepared fig pit. Up north it is best to choose a south facing wall or fence to plant against and train it as a fan of sorts. Dig out a trench two feet deep, two feet wide and three feet long. Line the sides of this pit with slabs. Fork up the bottom to assist drainage. Backfill the pit with broken bricks again to help drainage just leaving about nine inches for top soil, but enriching the top soil with compost to create a rich medium. Add some fertiliser to get it started and as most plants come in pots you can plant at any time. Keep it weeded, watered and fed for the first year till it settles down. A two year old plant should give a few figs in the second year increasing to about twenty the following year, and getting better each year as it grows larger. Prune in winter to keep the height down for ease of picking, pruning off week shoots, cutting strong upright shoots by half and removing those that grow out of the fan shape.
There are numerous varieties available, but for us up north Brown Turkey is the most reliable.
So far I have not seen any pests or diseases on the figs, so this crop will be very organic.

Wee jobs to do this week
 
Semi ripe stem cuttings
Many shrubs and heathers can be propagated by taking semi ripe cuttings from end of summer to early autumn. Use shoots about four inches long for most shrubs and two inches for heathers. Trim the shoot below a leaf joint and remove the lower leaves, except heathers where they are left on to aid drainage and aeration. Insert about one to two inches apart in a shallow pot with a 50/50 mixture of compost and sharp sand or grit. Water in and cover with a polythene bag to retain a moist atmosphere. Keep in a cool spot away from direct sunshine for the next three months. Plants should be well rooted by next spring.
END

Monday, 3 September 2018

A DAY IN THE GREENHOUSE


A DAY IN THE GREENHOUSE

Tomatoes reach the roof
Tomato varieties
Greenhouse crops have been growing and cropping at luxury levels following the long hot spell though watering has been a necessary and frequent task, and to control the high temperatures both ventilators and doors have been wide open. Even at night the doors were opened just enough to keep condensation down but keep resting birds out.
Tomatoes have been getting fed twice a week and grapes grown in the greenhouse border 
Peppers
once a week. This year I tried some new tomato varieties alongside my regular Alicante which always gives a great crop of large tomatoes. Included were Marmande a beefsteak variety, Yellow Delight a plum type, Red Cherry and Sungold a yellow cherry variety. In previous years Sweet Million was one of my better cherry types. This year Alicante is still my favourite large tomato. Armande was a poor cropper and the misshapen fruits were not attractive. Yellow Delight was a real bully as growth outperformed all the others and had to be stopped once it reached the top of the greenhouse and wanted to climb up and over my grape vines on the other side. It gave a good yield of yellow plum tomatoes, but some were slow to turn colour and the fruit had no taste. However Red Cherry was brilliant with huge crops of small sweet fruit but Sungold gave even heavier crops of very sweet tomatoes. It was this year’s winner. However both cherry varieties had long trusses with well over twenty small tomatoes, and one Red Cherry truss had branched out with fifty four tomatoes. Now, that is hard to beat.
Grape Phoenix
Excellent growing conditions on all types sent main stems skyward. All reached seven trusses, with Red Cherry reaching eight trusses and Sungold with nine trusses before tips were taken out. Lower leaves remained very healthy so stayed on a long time before removing, but from mid August onwards I allowed some sideshoots to grow to provide healthy foliage to feed the crop.
Grapes both under glass and outdoors are having a great year. Although we will eat as much as we can, the remainder will go into demijohns for a vintage year brew. I am hoping this year, providing we get a decent autumn (dry, warm and sunny) I can achieve good wine direct from the grapes without having to add sugar to achieve ten or even eleven percent alcohol. Siegerrebe was first to ripen in mid August. It is a sweet musk flavoured grape, but attracts wasps which have to be dealt with before word gets out and the whole nest arrives for a feeding frenzy. Sideshoots are still being removed as well as a third of the leaves to let sun in to ripen up the bunches of grapes. Both Black Hamburg and Solaris are ripening up well, and outdoors Brant has masses of bunches of huge grapes. It is outstanding as it is not normally grown for grapes as they are normally quite small. Rondo, Regent and Phoenix are all having a great year and potential harvest looks very promising.
Cucumbers started off with excellent growth, but then mildew arrived to hold them back. They like a moist atmosphere, but other crops like it dry otherwise diseases get a hold, so maximum ventilation is practised which may not suit the cucumbers.
Pansies
Peppers are the best ever as this hot summer is right up their street.

Freezer space is going to be tested this autumn.
Pansies normally grown for my spring display continued flowering right up till July, but then I let them go to seed. This was saved and sown, and now I have loads of young seedlings to grow on for next years spring and summer display.

Wee jobs to do this week
 
Land cleared early of peas, onions, brassicas and early potatoes and sown
with an autumn crop of salads (lettuce, spring onion, radish, rocket, cress, etc) will need weeding and the new rows of seedlings will need thinning. Some of the thinnings can be used to make new rows where space is available. These salads and baby beet will be much appreciated as we go into late autumn and early winter, and if we go back into mild winters these salads will be fine for many months.

END

Sunday, 26 August 2018

SWEET CORN


SWEET CORN

August is a great month for healthy eating as the garden and allotment are at the peak of the harvesting season with a huge variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Sweet corn tends to ripen all at the same time so harvesting the cobs is a once over task. However, to know when best to cut the corn, sampling is done every few days to test the softness and sweetness. Sample when some of the cobs tassels have turned a dark brown colour. Push your
Sampling some sweet corn
fingernail into the corn and if it is watery it is not ready, as it should be milky when tested, but if it is left too long it will go pasty. I tend to pick a few cobs to sample for the table about two weeks before final harvest. The corn has a high sugar content at this stage, but the sugar is slowly converted to starch if harvesting is delayed. However for folk watching the calories, one cob has less sugar than an apple and only half as much as a banana. Some newer varieties have a higher sugar content known as super
Anna pots up sweet corn seedlings
sweet and are delicious to eat fresh straight off the plant. The sweetness in the corn is created by a recessive gene so keep the sweet corn block well away from other sweet corn plants otherwise cross pollination may cause loss of sweetness and make the cobs chewy.
Sweet corn has amazing health benefits both as a freshly eaten cob straight from the plant and also when cooked as many of the benefits are enhanced. They are rich in phytochemicals that promote healthy vision, rich in vitamins B and C, plus the minerals iron, magnesium and potassium. They are also rich in fibre which feeds the good bacteria in your gut, and aid digestion.
Culture
Sweet corn is still seen as a novel crop in Scotland though it has been grown here by amateurs and
Sweet corn and pumpkin
farmers for many years. Our soils and climate (most years) are perfect for its growth and cropping, and this year my plants (variety Incredible) are huge with some showing a third cob on very vigorous plants. To get a strong and vigorous plantation grow on well manured and fertile soil. As planting is most often done in June, there is plenty of time to dig over the plot in winter adding plenty of compost and leaving the surface rough for winter weathering. In early spring break down the soil, rake level adding some fertiliser then sow down a fast growing green manure crop. This will add humus and assist drainage. Trample this down before it flowers probably in early to mid May then dig in the green manure. This will give it time to begin to rot down before planting then it will release its nutrients while the sweet corn grows. Sow seed indoors individually in cellular seed trays in mid March, then pot up into bigger pots when the plants are about six inches tall. Harden off in May then plant out in early June, but all depending on prevailing weather. Plant about two feet apart in square blocks to assist wind pollination. Give them
Sweet corn Incredible
wider spacing if you grow then together with pumpkins in the same block. Keep weeded and water in dry weather.
Varieties
Incredible
sugar enhanced variety, very reliable. Grows quite tall.
Lark F1 tendersweet variety
Sundance F1, Early
Swift’ F1
Extra tender sweet. Plants have two to three cobs
‘Golden Giant’ AGM Supersweet, Large, good quality cobs.
‘Earlibird AGM Supersweet early variety with vigorous plants with good sized, uniform cobs.
‘Lark’ AGM Extra tender sweet. High yielding top quality cobs.

Wee jobs to do this week

Rhubarb crumble and jam
Rhubarb is growing very strongly now that the rain has returned and the plants have had really warm weather, so keep pulling off good stems for immediate use or if the crop is heavy it can go into the freezer for future use. Give the plants a feed to boost more growth as there is still time to pull more stems off before the plant slows down in autumn. Brilliant for crumbles, stewed rhubarb and added to saskatoons for a fantastic jam.

END

Monday, 20 August 2018

SUMMER HARVEST CONTINUES


SUMMER HARVEST CONTINUES

Crop harvesting has started early this year, brought on by the fantastic hot dry summer. Provided plants got irrigated growth was excellent and many crops are now well ahead and ready for picking. It was the salads, lettuce and spring onion that were first to crop in early May, quickly followed by the strawberries. However both had a short season
Bringing in the gooseberries
and I was out of strawberries in mid July, though hoping my autumn cropping Flamenco, (young runners planted last autumn,) will continue with a few berries into autumn once it has established
Cauliflower Clapton
some growth. Salads needed several sowings a few months apart to give a succession, and now I am sowing those hardy varieties to last into winter.
First early potato Casablanca was ready for lifting in late May and now I have lifted second early Charlotte as all the foliage had withered, even although I had tried to keep them irrigated. No sign of any damage by slugs or blight which can be a real problem in a rainy season, but not this year. Both early varieties are salad potatoes so no huge spuds, but the crop was clean with good sizes and an excellent weight per shaw. Maincrop potato Setanta is still in foliage, but beginning to go over.
Onions ripened very early in July and needed lifting and laid out in the sun to ripen off. They do not like being irrigated as this can bring on white rot, but with the dry weather irrigation was necessary.
Successional sowings about six weeks apart, kept us supplied with Golden Ball turnips and beetroot,
Huge fresh produce from garden in August
though good growth let us have plenty baby beet as we thinned out the plants to four inches apart. The later beetroot sowing will keep us supplied into winter. I usually leave these outdoors, but will lift them for storage indoors if cold weather threatens.
Courgettes required continuous watering but with the heat they have been bountiful. Anna got a fantastic recipe for courgette soup, to use up the excess crop.
Cauliflower, cabbage and calabrese have all given great crops of huge vegetables, and unfortunately all the cauliflower ripen at the same time so it has been necessary to plant up several smaller rows a couple of months apart.
Peas were sown in two rows with Kelvedon Wonder and Onward cropped a few weeks apart so harvesting, shelling and preparing for the freezer were tasks well spread out. My granddaughter Sophie arrived for a few days on her school holidays just in time to help out. She just loved it!!!
The broad bean harvest however is a huge work load. Beans were picked in between rain showers, but then the old plants have to be dug out and chopped up for the compost heap. Once back home the sun came out so we could shell them outdoors
Workforce relaxes between harvesting  
on the patio with help from Sophie. Later that evening we gathered round the table to remove the beans from their skins before weighing and bagging up for the freezer.
Then just before Sophie got too relaxed she needed to help out to pick the gooseberries, bring them home and top and tail about thirty pounds of fruit. However that was not the end as she helped me to crush ten pounds of fruit with a potato masher for wine brewing in buckets. The white gooseberry Invicta makes a brilliant wine but I give it three years to mature in demijohns before bottling. Surplus gooseberries were again mashed by Sophie to extract the juice for some gooseberry and mint jelly, then Anna and Sophie cooked up a jelly pan of tablet in time for the allotment open day.
Saskatoons ripened on schedule at the end of July with picking over two weeks so most of the crop has been frozen or brewed for wine. The final picking was done just as Sophie’s Dundee holidays came to an end and she could get back to a normal life with friends.
Siegerrebe grapes pruned and ready to pick
Raspberry Glen Fyne and Glen Dee both gave great crops and autumn fruiting Polka and Autumn Bliss have also both started to crop from early August.

Wee jobs to do this week

Remove all sideshoots on grape vines both in greenhouses and outdoors. Also remove some leaves to let the sun shine on the swelling bunches to help ripen them up. This year of the big heatwave should ensure a bumper year for outdoor grapes in Scotland, provided autumn is warm, dry and sunny. Fingers crossed!!!
END

Sunday, 12 August 2018

SUMMER FLOWERS


SUMMER FLOWERS

Sophie with clove scented pinks
Dahlia Otto's Thrill
We have had a fantastic spell of summer weather, followed by the rain, and the garden flowers have put on a brilliant display, apart from those that suffered in the drought, got their leaves scorched by too hot sunshine and those that got blown over by the gales. This year will be remembered as a very hot year, and it remains to be seen whether the next hot year is coming soon. My memory of hot summers goes far back to 1976 and 1959, the year I started work as an apprentice gardener in early July based in the Howff Cemetery. There was no rain for three months, and then the heavens opened up in a deluge. It was also a fantastic year for flowers at their best around McManus Gallery, Sea Braes, the City Churches and Baxter Park and many other Parks Department parks and open spaces.
Oriental lilies
This year my garden has been a mass of flowers from early spring. The mid summer thunderstorms were a bit much for some plants, so they had a wee rest before resuming flowering as normality returned. It is hard to pick out the winners as so many plants put out masses of flowers. My red geraniums have been the show stealers both at home in beds, tubs and hanging baskets, but you needed to remove spent flowers to give room for the next blossom. Roses were also having a great time, and again they kept flowering provided the spent flowers were removed before they went to seed. French marigolds and petunias both loved the summer heatwave, but there was a battle with slugs as the ground needed constant watering which suited the slugs.
Red geranium
Tuberous begonias, now well over twenty years old were a bit slow to flower but once they began they were a mass display with great impact. My secret is to split the corms in spring by chopping through them with a trowel once I can see where the new shoots are. It may be a bit of rough treatment, but they never complain.
Sweet peas quickly put on a great show, but keeping them from running to seed was a constant problem. Garden pinks were in their element as they just love hot dry conditions as long as they get some watering now and then. The scent was wonderful, and just as they were going over the strongly perfumed oriental lilies took centre stage. A few years ago I purchased a few, and then the next year a
Anemone Honorine Jobert
few more and now I devote a lot of garden space to them. They are great companion plants for planting amongst spring flowering bulb drifts, coloured stemmed cornus and willow which get chopped back to stools in early April, as well as amongst low growing spring flowering azaleas. They add colour to many areas which otherwise would be green, but dull.
Hanging baskets with spring flowering pansies were replaced with geraniums, petunias, lobelia and impatiens, but the pansies will continue to flower for many months, so plants were carefully
Poppies and geraniums
removed and planted in a border that had room to spare.
Chrysanthemums, dahlias and gladioli grown for cut flower started to open up at the beginning of August. They enjoyed the hot spell in June and July and put on
Shasta daisies and delphiniums
strong growth so now flowering can begin and continue till late autumn.
Annual poppies, candytuft, cornflower, Livingston daisies and godetia were sown on bare areas where spring bulb foliage has been removed and grow quickly to flower from August onwards.
The herbaceous border is now showing the summer flowers of shasta daisies, day lilies, oriental lilies, Japanese anemonies and delphiniums. The show continues as plants and gardeners reaped the benefits of this long hot summer.

Winter salads
Wee jobs to do this week

Now is a good time to look ahead to the late autumn and early winter to make sure there are some salads available as there are some varieties that are fairly hardy but still tender on the plate. Sow lettuce Hilde or Winter Density and spring onions on land cleared of a previous crop. The ground will already be in good heart so no need for compost or manure. Just firm the soil, rake level and take out drills about a foot apart. Germination is quick at this time of year so some thinning may be necessary, or use the thinnings for another row.

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Monday, 6 August 2018

SUMMER FRUITS


SUMMER FRUITS

This year will go down as one of the hottest in memory, and it has been brilliant for most fruit crops. They got off to a poor start after a miserable winter with the “Beast from the East” and a non existent spring lacking sunshine, but fruit tree pollination was excellent on trees covered in masses of flowers. The potential was strong for a good fruit harvest, though it would be about three to four weeks late due to rotten climate at the beginning of the year.
Anna picks Big Ben blackcurrants
However, along came the heat wave lasting a couple of months and crops made up for lost time, though some ripened fast and cropped heavily, but over a shorter period. Although the long hot sunny days were a tonic it came with very dry weather so constant watering was necessary to keep plants alive.
Strawberries were first off the block. Fruits were large and sweet with early, midseason and autumn fruiting varieties all fruiting together. Unfortunately that this gave us a glut, then from mid July onwards there was none left. I hope my autumn perpetual variety Flamenco picks up again as we go through summer. At City Road Allotments everyone was getting great crops, so although I never
Saskatoons in fruit
netted all my strawberry rows, I only noticed two berries which the local blackbirds had eaten. They could have been spoiled for choice.
Blackcurrants got picked in early July with massive crops and huge berries. Big Ben was smaller than expected but very sweet, whereas Ben Conan was not so sweet but fruit size was huge. Crops gave us plenty to eat fresh, some for compote, some for jam, some in the freezer for future use and enough for my three demijohns of wine.
Redcurrants were very sweet but did not crop as heavily as last year, so no redcurrant wine brewing in 2018. They also suffered a bad attack of leaf blister aphids.
Gooseberries gave a massive crop which weighed many branches down to the ground and sawfly maggots swarmed out when I took my eye off the ball for a couple of days. I just managed to tackle them with a quick spray before they did too much damage. Huge crops will give plenty for the kitchen and I will get my three demijohns of vintage gooseberry wine. Some berries were lost due to hot sunshine blistering the fruit making it unusable.
Raspberry Glen Dee
Raspberries were doing just fine putting on a lot of growth in the sunny weather coupled with my constant watering, then along came the early summer gales and two rows got flattened. Strong tall cane growth with full foliage cover got hit so hard that the supporting posts broke off at ground level and flattened a couple of rows. Once the gale died down Glen Dee got its posts replaced, but a lot of canes of autumn fruiting Polka snapped off at ground level. Picking continues however on Glen Dee and Glen Fyne, and the remnants of Polka are also producing a crop of massive berries.
Apple The Oslin
Saskatoons are having a fantastic year with heavy crops of large sweet black fruiting bunches easy to pick. Nets were put in place in mid July, but this year there is no sign of our marauding blackbird. Plenty fruits to eat, freeze and brew, as this makes another fantastic wine after its three years maturing in demijohns.
Bramble Helen was always reliable to give the first fruits in August, but this year the first fruits were ready in mid July, and sweeter than ever.
Apple Oslin, the Arbroath Pippin is usually my first apple of the season. It is quite delicious, but can suffer a lot of brown rot in a bad year, but not this year without any rain. First fruits were picked at the end of July, with more to follow and Discovery ripening fast so not far behind.

Wee jobs to do this week

Pea crops in succession
Many crops such as salads, onions, turnips, beetroot, peas and early potatoes are ripening ahead of normal due to the hot summer and some three years old strawberry beds which have finished cropping are getting grubbed out. All of these areas can be used for another quick maturing crop of lettuce, spring onions, rocket, radish and early peas. Give them a light fork over, firm down, raking level and adding some fertiliser before sowing. Watering will be essential if the ground is dry.

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