Monday, 25 February 2019

GARDEN HEDGES


                                                      GARDEN  HEDGES

Italian Garden at Glamis Castle
Garden hedges are still as popular as ever, but most folk fall into the love them or loath them category. They and their problems come into Gardeners Question Time events constantly. Way back in the mists of time when John was a boy doing his apprenticeship, many winters were spent cutting council hedges and massed areas of shrubs trimmed precisely at chest level, though some ended up as cubes
Forsythia
or neat round balls. It was a criminal act to suggest to the foreman that some shrubs liked to flower and correct pruning could encourage this. However it kept us employed all winter and we got numerous offers of spare time gardening jobs from Joe Public and his wife to come and sort out their garden hedge that had run riot over the garden. These experiences had a huge affect on my gardening life and I resolved that my garden would never have a problem hedge.
Hedges provide many benefits in the garden, but need careful consideration in plant material. Privet is not the only plant available. Hedges provide
Kerria japonica
shelter from winds, screening for privacy, screening around eyesores, compost heaps and they keep animals in, neighbours dogs out, and separate vegetable patch from ornamental garden areas. They are also an excellent place for nesting birds.
Plants selected will depend on use, as some can grow very tall such as beech and Leyland cypress, but lavender and box are quite dwarf but very attractive. Beech has the advantage of retaining its leaves in winter. Consideration for neighbours is very important, especially when Leyland cypress is chosen. It is a high maintenance hedge but needs constant clipping. It can be allowed to grow very tall, but depending on what and who are next to it. It would never be on my list of good plants for a hedge. For the lovers of privet, it may be better to choose the more attractive golden privet as it is a slow grower. Another slow growing hedge is Lonicera nitida, but even more attractive is the form with yellow foliage, Lonicera Baggesons Gold. This hedge is very dense and is a favourite for nesting
Saskatoon
birds. I use it around parts of my garden, but allow it to grow naturally with just the minimum of pruning in winter. However for something that is functional as a hedge and attractive there are plenty flowering shrubs to add to the list. Some climbing plants can form hedges with practically no maintenance when allowed to clamber up fences, such as Clematis, Honeysuckle and winter flowering Jasmine.
Camellia
Good shrubs for tall hedges include Escallonia with pink and red flowers, Camellia in pink, white and red flowers, Berberis darwinii which is a mass of orange flowers in spring followed by black berries to feed the birds well into winter. These are also evergreen, but a few tall deciduous shrubs include the Forsythia and Philadelphus with white scented flowers in early summer, and Kerria japonica with yellow flowers in late spring. Some plants can be both ornamental, function as a hedge and also provide a fruit crop. Both Saskatoons and Aronias fit this need and can grow quite tall if there is room to leave them alone. However the birds will feast on the saskatoons unless they are netted, but they leave the Aronia berries (chokeberries) alone. Another low growing shrub, Fuchsia Mrs Popple is very attractive with flowers well into winter and has edible fruits. However every so often it gets cut back to ground level if the winter does not suit it, though mine always recover in spring.
Where ornamental shrubs function as a hedge select those that only need the minimum of pruning to enjoy them in flower as well as getting the shelter and screening value.

Wee jobs to do this week

John fixing too large steps
We seem to be getting another mild winter in these parts with just a few nights of light frost. It was early February before we saw the first snow but it only lasted one day. It has also been remarkably dry, so outdoor gardening work continued with very little hold ups except for a wee coffee break. My garden steps were installed by a younger John Stoa nearly twenty years ago when twelve inch risers were no problem. Visitors were none too happy, especially as many of us now in the older generation have a wee bit of arthritis, so I decided to reconstruct them with a more manageable step to access steep parts of the garden and a fence with rail is also in the plans.

END

Sunday, 17 February 2019

WORKING WITH THE WEATHER


WORKING WITH THE WEATHER

Great year for outdoor figs
Gardeners just love the challenge of growing something better than normal, whether it be a huge pumpkin, a massive potato, a dazzling show of flowers, or a brilliant fruit crop. We study the techniques for growing each plant, water them, feed them, prune them, spray them for pests and diseases and keep them free from weeds. Success however is still dependant on the weather being in
Outdoor grape Brant
our favour. We never seem to get two years the same, so we must monitor the weather forecasts and work within its limits. I like to try and get all my allotment digging done at the beginning of winter, but last year autumn was wet and continued well into December so digging was delayed. Then the rain stopped, the ground surface dried up and winter never arrived till February, so I spent January on the plot and got the lot dug over leaving the surface rough for winter weathering.
Climate change is very debatable, but we can all remember the unusual years of hot dry summers like last year, then 1976 and 1959 (for us old enough to remember.) In 1976 I was in Darlington where we grew thousands of geraniums which put on a fantastic show of colour helping us to win the regional Britain in Bloom award. Working in horticulture outdoors you can remember many very bad winters. I don’t remember 1947 (I was only 3 years old) but I do remember 1962/63 cycling through deep snow to get to work. In 1981/82 I had come north from Darlington to Dundee for a Christmas holiday, but before I could return blizzards closed all the roads. There was no trains, no buses so no-one could get to work, but there were several well trodden tracks through the deep snow heading towards the Nine Maidens pub, which we discovered was packed. Then 2010/11 winter
Pansies in January
returned and blocked off all the roads again, and killed off to ground level all my fuchsias and a ten foot tall Cordyline australis. Severe winters are not frequent, but dry hot summers seem to be coming in more regularly, so I am happy to try growing some of the more exotic plants to see if I can succeed with them. I grow several grape varieties outdoors as well as peaches, cherries and figs, but they all need a warm dry autumn to help ripening. The challenge also exists with strawberries where it is possible to get the first berries ripe towards the end of May using low polythene tunnels, an early variety and a warm spring. Cropping then continues with maincrops, late varieties then autumn fruiting types. However they still need warmth to ripen up so a good autumn really helps.
Planting first early potato Casablanca
Last year the mild winter continued well into spring so tulips had a fantastic display in the cool climate, but other plants were running three weeks late with the lack of any warm spring weather. However the long hot summer reversed this trend so we ended up three weeks ahead by the end of summer. This year the mild winter allowed me to pick a large bunch of red roses for the Christmas table and my winter pansies were showing flowers from early January.
Early potatoes can give the first spuds by the end of May if with a good spring, planting them in March and hoping there is no late frost. Earth then up to protect them if frost is forecast.
Wind can be a problem for any young or tender plants in spring, or ripening crops in late summer and autumn, so if the garden is very exposed plant a narrow hedge or erect a fence as a windbreak.
Pests and diseases infestations are also very weather dependant. A bad winter kills off many pests including slugs and disease spores. Last year the summer was so dry that potato blight never arrived till late summer, and rose diseases were not a problem till late in the season. I never forget the greenfly plague in 1975 starting in Lincolnshire and extending up to the Scottish borders, followed by the ladybird plague of 1976. Ladybirds feed on greenfly.
Amaryllis

Wee jobs to do this week

Amaryllis that were started back into growth last October are now in full bloom and a light liquid feed every two to three weeks will help to build up strength in the bulb. Once the flowers start to fade the leaves and roots still need feeding throughout the summer. They can go outdoors in summer in a sheltered sunny spot, but keep them watered and fed. However usually in mid summer withhold watering for about ten weeks and let the bulbs dry off to ripen them up. As they go dormant next years flower buds will be forming in the bulb.
END


Monday, 11 February 2019

FLOWERING TREES


FLOWERING TREES

The dormant season (November to March) was
Apple Red Falstaff
always the time to plant trees and shrubs as most came as bare root plants, but today they are mostly container grown so planting can be done all year round. However with flowering trees we do not want to miss the flowers so planting in winter is a good idea. As gardens vary in size the selection of plants will depend on how much space is available. The small garden is not left behind as there are quite a few flowering trees that do not take up much space. Trees add scale to a garden, provide shelter from wind and shade from sun as summer climates get warmer. In my early gardening days my small council house garden still managed to find room for a Laburnum vossii and the upright growing flowering cherry, Prunus Amanogawa. However if space was really limited then the dwarf weeping cherry, Prunus Shidare Zakura was perfect. Later on as my
Eucryphia rostrevor
gardens got bigger I went for the brilliant Prunus Shirotae with horizontal branches which got covered in a mass of pure white flowers in spring. Flowering cherries were very much in fashion in the sixties and the pink Prunus Kanzan was so popular that it became the number one of choice, but those with a wee bit of experience avoided it before our horticultural street cred went oot the windae.
Lilac Michel Buchner
Lilacs were not a huge tree but flower potential was enormous and the white Mme Lemoine is still very popular. The red Charles Jolly is still outstanding and most lilacs benefit from a great scent. Many lilacs come as hybrids grafted onto the common Syringa vulgaris, so keep checking for suckers growing from the rootstock and remove these as soon as seen.
Another less common tree suited to the small garden is the Euphorbia Rostrevor with white flowers towards the end of summer. It grows slowly with an upright form so suits the small garden with limited space.
Prunus Amanogawa
For those who like to try something different there are a couple of medium sized trees a bit less hardy than most, but with climate change who knows if global warming comes to Scotland what we can achieve. The Australian bottlebrush tree, Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' is a red flowered beauty but needs a sunny sheltered spot. It grows very well outdoors in London as a street tree, but their climate is just a wee bit kinder. Another worth trying is the Pocket Handkerchief Tree, Davidia involucrate, with white bracts in early summer.
Prunus Kanzan
The common hawthorn is very hardy and comes with a pink flower, Crataegus Pauls Scarlet, beautiful in spring and not all that common.
Some people may with to grow a flowering fruit tree, and apples, plums, pears and cherries will all
laburnum vossii
give a great flower show in spring then follow on with a delicious harvest in the autumn.
Apple Starline Firedance grows upright taking up very little space and produces a great crop of red apples in autumn. Another form of apple is the stepover  trained type on a dwarfing rootstock.
Both cherries and peaches can come on very dwarfing rootstocks suited to the small garden.
upright apple Starlight
Many tall growing shrubs can also give the same virtues as smaller trees.
Cornus kousa chinensis has always been one of my favourites after seeing it in full flower in Wisley gardens down south, and Cytisus battandieri, the Pineapple broom tree is a great spectacle but needs a bit of space or a wall to lean against.
Other tall and impressive shrubs include Forsythia, Philadelphus, Ceanothus and Magnolias.

Wee jobs to do this week

Sweet peas
Sweet peas are usually the first seeds to sow as they are quite hardy and like a long season to grow. They can be sown in the autumn and overwintered in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse, or sown in late winter to early spring. The seed coat is quite tough so you can soak the seeds in water overnight, or chip the seed coat with a sharp knife. Sow seeds three to a pot then after germination transplant one to a pot, or you can sow one seed to a cell in a cellular tray. After germination grow on in a cold greenhouse and harden off towards the end of March, for planting out in early April.
END

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

CROP ROTATION


CROP ROTATION

Crop rotation plan for 2019
We may be in mid winter and as it’s a wee bit cold outdoors, and the first snow flakes have arrived, so better to do some indoor gardening. Now is a good time to look at the new allotment plan using last years plan as a template and sorting out where this year’s crops are to be grown. I checked over last years seed list a few weeks ago, then adjusted the list for 2019 and ordered my seeds online from a
Peas, leeks and onions
well known trusted supplier. I always follow a rotation of crops over a four year cycle to try and keep ahead of diseases such as clubroot and onion white rot as well as giving plants the best growing conditions as their needs all vary individually. I also integrate my strawberry beds into the rotation as these get replanted every three years onto fresh soil.
Crops with similar needs are grouped together. Thus the brassicas, cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts and kale are grown in one block. This block gets compost dug in over winter, then limed in late February. This assists the prevention of clubroot disease which is
Sweet corn radish and mezuna
a major problem on my allotment. Unfortunately, some salads, i.e. rocket, and radish are also prone to clubroot as well as the root crops, Swedes and turnips. Then care must be taken with use of green manures as mustard, a great crop for green manuring, can also attract and carry over clubroot disease. I use clubroot resistant vegetables where ever possible; intercrop some salads with widely spaced sprouts and cabbage early in the season to catch a crop before the big leafy plants take up all the room.
The brassica patch becomes the heavy feeders patch the following year. These are the peas, beans, onions, leeks, sweet corn, courgettes and pumpkins. These crops are fine on land limed the
A good year for sprouts
previous year and are given the lion’s share of compost or manure during the winter digging. I also hold back some extra compost to add to the courgettes and pumpkin bed to improve fertility and retain moisture. The pumpkins, courgettes and sweet corn are tender plants so they don’t get planted till the end of May or early June. This gives us time to sow a fast growing green manure crop like clover or rye grass to be ready for digging in about three weeks ahead of planting.
This area the following year becomes the root crop patch for parsnips, carrots, beetroot, Swedes and turnip. This land does not get compost during the winter digging as there is plenty of well rotted organic matter left over from the heavy feeders, and anyway the roots are liable to forking if there is fresh compost in the soil. Salad crops are also fine in this patch as they are short lived and do not need a lot of space. In my rotation I add some flower crops such as dahlias, chrysanthemums and gladioli for cut flowers as well as brightening up the plot.
Digging in the green manure
My last rotational crop is the potatoes, which get both plenty compost and usually follow an autumn green manure crop. They do not like an alkaline soil which makes the tubers liable to scab, but should be fine on land a few years after liming for the brassica crop. I also hold back some compost to spread along the bottom of the furrow taken out when planting the seed potatoes.
Salads in succession
Strawberries are another great crop to help with the rotation. I grow an early row of Mae, Honeoye or Christine, two maincrop rows of Symphony and Florence and the autumn variety Flamenco and crop for no more than three years before digging in. This gives me extra land to bring into the rotation. New strawberry beds come from strong healthy runners from the older beds in autumn after cropping has finished, then the old plants are dug out and added to the compost heap together with any straw bedded down between the rows. Be careful with the autumn fruiting varieties as good runners are only produced on young plants. Once they are three years old they can be very reluctant to throw out new runners.

Aconites
Wee jobs to do this week

Winter may now be with us as the mild weather could not last forever, but it has allowed the first spring bulbs to flower. The snowdrops first appeared in December and the aconites in January and February, but enjoy them while they last as before too long the crocus will be coming out to let us know winter is coming to an end.

END

Sunday, 27 January 2019

HEATHERS


HEATHERS

I have always grown a few heathers in the garden from way back to apprenticeship days. They were well used in landscape schemes especially around
Pruning heathers
rock gardens and in parks, and there was always an experienced gardener around to show me how to propagate them from cuttings. Over the years I found new ones to add to my collection. Forty years
Calluna H E Beale
ago I came across Calluna vulgaris Goldsworth Crimson used for landscaping in Darlington where I worked. It was very popular in the cemeteries and some housing estate borders not liable to theft or vandalism. The bronze foliage turns a dazzling golden colour after a few frosts. I took a few cuttings and still have the plants forty years later as it is still very eye catching, but to keep the plants from getting too leggy I had to propagate from cuttings every six to ten years or so. Gold Haze, Beoley Gold and Sunset all have similar golden foliage. Another must have heather is Calluna vulgaris H E Beale which is a mass of pale pink flowers at the end of summer. Peter Sparkes is very similar and just as popular. Then as we get through winter the Erica carnea varieties come alive with pink, red and white
Daboecia
flowers. Heathers are popular today as once planted and looked after they soon merge together to form great ground cover that smother any weeds that try to grow. However for me they are invaluable as part of my ericaceous border planted together with azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and for my very attractive specimen tree the white stemmed Betula jaquemontia. Another plant that fits into this group is the dwarf evergreen Pinus mugo, but then you can extend the range with many more dwarf conifers if space allows. Oriental lilies planted amongst the heathers will add colour and in summer.
Heathers were very popular with hill walkers and ramblers as they covered our hills with massive drifts and when in flower were an
Heathers with azaleas
unforgettable picture. Many peoples love of heathers started as they took home a wee memento of their hill walking experience. If they subsequently died they would get replaced from the local garden centre.
In their natural environment heathers grow on open, usually acid, shallow soils but with good surface drainage. They look great in drifts as big as the garden can afford. Before planting prepare the ground by selecting an open sunny area and remove all perennial weeds before digging over and incorporating some leaf mold or ericaceous compost. Do not use manure and they do not need added fertiliser, other than some bone meal. Plants which are in pots can be planted at any time of year, but before planting give them a good soaking and after
Oriental lilies
planting water the bed as they do not like dry conditions. Space the plants about a foot apart or closer if you want an immediate effect.
From spring onwards they benefit from a mulch of leaf mold or ericaceous compost to help retain moisture and keep down weeds till they get established.
Heathers need very little maintenance other than watering in dry weather, keeping weeds down in early life and trimming back shoots after flowering, but do not prune hard into old wood as it will not regrow shoots. After ten years or so the plants may get a bit leggy, so take cuttings and once they grow into a decent sized plant dig out the old plants and replace them with the young ones.
Heathers can be propagated by layering or taking cuttings in early summer. Wait until growths are a
Red Camellia
couple of inches long and then take cuttings just over an inch tall but do not use flowering shoots. Place the cuttings in prepared lime free compost with added grit or sand burying then half their size and water in well. Place them in a cool frame but away from direct sunlight. They should root and be ready to pot up about a year later. Heathers can also be propagated by layering shoots and covering them with soil and again leave them for a year.

Wee jobs to do this week

At this time of year, when winter takes its grip and gardening can only be done indoors take a few moments to draw up a sowing and planting schedule for the year ahead. Check the sowing dates from last year’s diary and how crops grew and adjust if necessary. Add in any new crops for trying out this year. I also create an annual plan of my allotment plot to scale so I can work out how much plants I can get in. It is also an invaluable tool to plot in a good rotation of crops.


Sowing schedule 2019

February
Sow sweet peas
Early March     
Tomato  Alicante,  Sungold,  Cherry Baby,      
Rapunzel,  Supersweet 100,  Sugar Gloss,
Leek Musselburgh,  Cauliflower Clapton,  
                        Broad bean  Aquadulce,   Onion Hybound
 Sprin               Spring onion White Lisbon,   Lettuce Lollo Rossa,  
Start begonias
 Lettuce L       Mid-March                       
Take Chrysanth cuttings, Potato Casablanca,
 Sweet corn Incredible,  Cabbage Kilaton,      
 
Brussel sprouts Crispus
End-March        
Plant Potato Charlotte, Kale Dwarf Green Curled     
Early-April        
Turnip Golden Ball,    Spicy Salad leaves,   Pea Kelvedon Wonder          
Plant potato Maris Piper,     Mayan Gold
Mid-April         
 Beetroot Boltardy,   lettuce Mixed,   
 Parsnip Albion,  Student, Tender and True
Cauliflower Clapton,  Spring onion Wild Rocket
End April             
Pumpkin Rocket,   Pea Onward Swede Marian,
Courgette Zucchini and Atena Polka,    
 Early May          
Cabbage Kilaton, Dwarf French Bean Tendergreen,        
June                       
Beetroot Boltardy, Lettuce Lollo Rossa, Turnip Golden Ball   
Late June            
 Cauliflower Clapton,    Spicy salad leaves
July                       
 Lettuce Salad Bowl,  Spring onion,   Rocket                                
Winter Lettuce Hilda and Winter Imperial
                               


 END

Monday, 21 January 2019

WINTER PROPAGATION


WINTER PROPAGATION

Mid January can be a quiet time in the garden.
Lifting raspberry suckers for replanting elswhere
Most plants will be dormant and it is still a bit early to sow this year’s seeds. With a bit of luck the dry sunny days at the beginning of the month were perfect to catch up with the winter digging, and at this point the winter has been relatively mild. This has helped the snowdrops and aconites to spring
Well rooted strawberry runner
into action. The snowdrops started to flower in mid December and now the aconites are opening up on sunny days and adding to the show.
However we still like to keep active so now is a good time to think about propagation of a whole range of plants.
Hardwood cuttings of willow, dogwood, black, red and white currants, gooseberries, philadelphus and Japanese maples can all be taken now and lined out in a protected cold frame or a sheltered border. Take cuttings about nine inches long and bury two thirds of them in the ground in rows a foot apart spacing the cuttings about six inches apart. I sometimes bundle up my cuttings and plant them on the top of my compost heap where they will get some bottom heat. Remove them for lining out at the end of March when the cut end should have callused over and the first root initials will be ready to push through. The well
Blackcurrant cuttings
spaced cuttings have room to grow through summer and be ready for lifting in early winter, when they can be planted out into permanent positions or lined out again with more space to grow into a bigger plant the following year. They can also be potted up and grown on. Gooseberry bushes are usually grown on a leg to keep shoots well off the ground to prevent soil splashing on the fruits so

remove the lower buds, but leave the top two or three buds to form the bush with a clear leg. The Japanese maples have smaller shoots so cuttings are about six inches long and dibbled around the edge of a shallow pot filled with good compost and placed in the cold greenhouse.
December snowdrops
Some plants can be propagated in winter by lifting up suckers growing away from the parent plant. Both raspberries and saskatoons grow easily from suckers but make sure they have plenty of roots to get them started. Strawberries can also be propagated at this time using runners that have grown away from the parent plant and lifting them with a good ball of soil. Traditionally strawberries are planted in rows three feet apart spacing the plants a foot apart, but, as often happens if there are plenty spare runners then plant a lot closer in the row so the first crops will have more fruit.
Blackberries can be tip layered by bending the ends of long shoots down to the ground and pegging them in firmly. They should be rooted by mid spring. They can also be propagated by using the tips as cuttings, putting them in pots of free draining compost and keeping them in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse over winter.
Maple Sango Kaku cuttings
Layering is also very successful with the evergreen Japanese azaleas, winter jasmine, heathers and hydrangea petiolaris. It usually helps if you scrape some of the bark off and peg the shoots down into the soil covering an inch or so with top soil. They should be well rooted by next winter.
Berries of chokeberry, blueberry and saskatoons saved from the summer crops had the seeds removed and placed in between layers of damp kitchen roll and placed in the fridge for six weeks, checking on them to keep them moist and free from botrytis. They were then sown in seed compost, but need a period of cold weather before they will germinate, so keep them outdoors to get exposure to winter weather.

Wee jobs to do this week

Chitting potato Mayan Gold
This is a good time to look over the seed catalogues and decide which potato varieties to grow this year. Purchase the seed potatoes and place them in trays in a cool room with good light or a cold greenhouse to let them chit. Casablanca and Lady Christl are both excellent first earlies and Charlotte and Maris Peer really good second earlies. Good maincrops include Maris Piper, Sarpo Mira and Amour which has huge potatoes perfect for roasting. This year I will be trying a row of Mayan Gold.
END

Monday, 14 January 2019

WINTERS DAY ON THE PLOT


WINTERS DAY ON THE PLOT

The festive season has come and gone. There was no white Christmas, in fact we are well into winter and yet still to see some snow, but now I’ve said that, it is just about guaranteed to come within the next few days. Until then we can crack on with
Kyle and Scarlet digging and adding compost
all those jobs put off during the festive season. The wet weather at the back end of the year kept us off the land, so this week it was out with the loppers and secateurs to tackle pruning. So it was climbing roses, shrub roses and bush roses that all got trimmed, then on to saskatoons that needed some height reduction to keep them under my summer six feet tall nets. A few very tall branches get cut down to ground level and others cut down to about four feet, but leaving plenty of shoots to fruit. Bramble Helen was next, removing last summers fruiting shoots and tying in the remaining young shoots to fruit in summer. My fig trained against a wall got pruned by removing any shoots growing away from the wall or just too high. Summer fruiting raspberries were next then autumn fruiting varieties got chopped down to the ground. Gooseberries did not escape as those branches too close to the ground and likely to suffer soil
Festive poinsettia
splashing had to be removed as well as opening up the centre to make picking easier. Red and
City Road allotments shredding team
blackcurrants were next, but both with different styles of pruning. The blackcurrants fruit best on young shoots whereas the redcurrants fruit on spurs established on older wood. However each year remove some of these older shoots with new younger shoots to take their place and remain for about four years. Finally it was the apples and pears turn for pruning, but I left some shoots on my Concord pear for grafting wood on my family pear tree. All of these prunings can be recycled as we have a large wood shredder up at City Road allotments and the shredded material can go on the compost heap, used as a mulch or if the material is rough it can be used on paths.
Harvesting continues with parsnips, sprouts, cabbage, leeks, winter
Beetroot ready for storing
salads and beetroot, though some of the beetroot has been lifted, washed and dried for storing in the garage just in case we get some frost. There is still plenty pumpkins, potatoes, onions and apples in store and loads of other fruit and vegetables in the freezer. This just about makes us self sufficient all year round, though the late spring period and early summer are hard to fill as frozen, stored and overwintered crops are just about done and the first summer crops are not quite ready.
Any time the weather dries up the soil surface enough to walk on we can continue with the winter digging, leaving the soil rough for weathering.
Grape vine cuttings
Frost is always with us till March so put some protection on all outdoor taps and those in cold greenhouses, and turn off the water supply and drain down the pipes till spring.
Festive pot plants indoors may need some attention. Keep watering poinsettias as they need it but do not over water or leave them sitting in water. They should still last several more weeks. Christmas cactus will now be finished so it should be dried off to give it a rest till spring.
Protect taps from frost
Clean the glass both inside and outside on the greenhouse to remove a years worth of dirt, moss and algae and clean out the gutters. Pots, boxes and seed trays in the shed can be cleaned and sorted into their sizes ready for the spring propagation. As now is the time for pruning grape vines, use some of these shoots about 6 to 9 inches long with two to three buds as cuttings to increase stock. Put three cuttings in a pot of compost where they will be fine and begin to grow in spring.

Grape vine rod pruned
Wee jobs to do this week

Grape vines are best pruned any time from December to January. If left later than this bleeding may occur as the sap rises early with vines. Grapes grown in the greenhouse are usually trained as upright rods spaced about 18 inches apart. Spurs occur up the rods about six inches apart. All growths coming from these spurs are cut back to one bud. Outdoors you can do a similar cordon with spurs, or train in a fan shaped framework with spurs if grown against a wall or fence. The guyot system of training works best for field grown grapes, but in Scotland our grapes need the warmth and shelter of a south facing wall or fence, so best with the rod and spur training.

END

Sunday, 6 January 2019

PLANS FOR THE NEW YEAR


PLANS FOR THE NEW YEAR                   

Grape Rondo
As we begin the new gardening year, and day length is limited and winter begins to look serious we are better of at home reading gardening magazines, or browsing through the latest plant and seed catalogues. We can look back over the previous year to see what we can do about those plants that did not live up to expectations, and build on those that turned out to be our winners. Also take time to look over the box of seeds left over from last year to see what is worth keeping and others like parsnips whose seeds give poor germination if more than a year old. The days are long gone when you bought a packet of seeds so full that it lasted a good three years.
The Greenhouse
Parsnip Albion
Last year was a brilliant year for grapes, but although I did some thinning out of the bunches, it was just not enough and I lost a fair bit from botrytis and shanking. This year I must thin out a lot more grapes from each bunch. However grape Rondo grown outdoors was very successful.
Last year I tried five tomato varieties. My favourite Alicante did not let me down, but Marmande was miserable with very few tomatoes, though I heard other growers had great success with it. Yellow Delight was extremely vigorous taking over space from other varieties. It gave huge crops of yellow plum tomatoes, but for taste it could not compete with Red Cherry or Sungold, both of which were very sweet and delicious.
Raspberry Glen Carron
Vegetables
Parsnip Albion and Student both gave great roots, but seed quantity was miserable as I needed the two packets to sow a twelve foot row. Not impressed. Cauliflower Clapton, a clubroot resistant type, was brilliant but my plan to get continuity by sowing a few weeks apart was not very successful so this year I need to be at least two months apart or even longer. Sweet corn Incredible was truly incredible as the six feet tall plants all gave two large cobs per plant. Definitely one to grow again for 2019. Last year I tried growing my carrots between the onions in the hope the carrot fly would not find them. No such luck. I never got one carrot so either I grow them under fleece or just give up. Pumpkin Rocket was another great success, but with the tropical summer they were ready for harvesting in late summer, but definitely another to grow this year. Onions were grown from sets last year, but suffered badly from white rot as I had to resort to watering in the hot dry summer so this year it is back to seeds sown early on a windowsill.
Pear Beurre Hardy
Fruit
The latest raspberry just released is called Glen Carron bred at our local James Hutton Institute so I will try it out to compare it with the other summer fruiting Glen Fyne and Glen Dee. See the video with Nikki Jennings about her raspberry Glen Carron on YouTube.
Last year I got a very heavy crop of all my fruit bushes and trees (except my peach tree) and struggled to use and give away surplus so this year the trees and bushes will get a more severe pruning to reduce cropping potential and hopefully improve fruit size. Some pear varieties on my family tree were excessively vigorous at the expense of fruit so they got pruned back and these branches will get grafts of Beth and Concorde to accompany Beurre Hardy and Christie.
Rose Oshima
Rose Oshima has had a great year and even when I was doing my winter pruning just before Christmas it was still flowering so I managed to get a great bunch for the table. I have some space available so nine inch long hardwood cuttings have been taken to grow on.

Wee jobs to do this week
Carving the pumpkin
Pumpkins in store are now ready to use. However they can remain fresh for many months with careful storage. Slice them up into two inch wide segments, removing the seeds. There is usually a fair bit so one pumpkin can do many different dishes. Those segments for roasting need no further preparation, (leave the skin on as it will soften) but will benefit with a sprinkling of honey and nutmeg during the last minute of roasting. Pumpkin also makes a delicious soup with sweet potato, onion and nutmeg, but remove the skin. They are also brilliant in curries and risotto and pies. Pumpkin segments can also be stored in the freezer, but remove the skin.
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