Monday, 30 September 2019

AUTUMN FLOWERS


                                                             AUTUMN FLOWERS

The garden is beginning to go into its autumn phase as berried plants such as the rowan, and cotoneasters are starting to steal the show and
Dahlia Thomas A Edison
summer flowers start to fade away. Although the summer has been warm, there has been so much rain that flowers have been sulking a bit so the wee bit of warm weather in the middle of September was very welcome. All of a sudden the flowers decided to go out in a blaze of glory and the garden lit up with dazzling displays of colour.
Begonias, petunias, lobelia, Impatiens and geraniums in tubs and hanging baskets sent out a bright display of flowers that we normally see in mid summer but they had been held back by constant wet weather. Geraniums were looking very weak with poor growth in summer and I was left wondering if I would be getting enough young shoots for my autumn cuttings to overwinter, but now both growth and flowers are back to normal. However a few tuberous begonias were not too happy with the wet summer as they wilted and died, though the rest are all full of flowers, but as I bought my tubers well over twenty years ago, maybe it
Pale pink Phalaenopsis
was old age. Some Impatiens (Busy Lizzies) were getting crowded out in tubs and baskets due to excessive growth of other bedding plants, but others are a mass of colour and I can see that I will still be able to get plenty of cuttings in the next few weeks to grow plants to flower in the house as well making young plants for next year.
Californian poppies are having a revival and make a great drift around the outdoor fuchsia, up at City Road allotments and pansies planted in our large communal flower border to create some spring colour, must be enjoying the new border as they have been a mass of colour the whole year. The council gave us a huge
Rose Arthur Bell
trailer load of Discovery compost to help establish this flower border and this seems to have helped our brilliant show of pansies.
On the allotment plot plants grown for cut flower such as chrysanthemums and dahlias have never been better and may well keep going for many more weeks, but gladioli are now all finished and sweet peas are also well past their best.
Roses have struggled this year as both mildew and blackspot infestations have been very serious and as soon as any young shoot appeared it was a target for the plagues of greenfly. Some spraying and pruning away infected shoots has been necessary so we are hoping for a late display of colour.
The white Anemone Honorine Jobert and pink Nerine bowdenii always put on a great display at the beginning of autumn no matter what weather is thrown at them. The Nerine grows from spring till the
The last roses of summer
end of summer then just as the leaves start to die down the flowers appear in a large drift of brilliant pink blossom. Down at ground level my Cyclamen hederifolium is in full flower. It shares the ground with the spring flowering Aconites but as both grow and flower at different times they work well together. The Cyclamen flowers ahead of any foliage (opposite to the Nerines) then as they begin to fade the leaves appear and remain till the end of winter, and just as the Aconites appear and need the space the cyclamen leaves die down; very convenient.
Tubs with summer flowers
Calluna H E Beale is a great late summer/early autumn heather with very bright pink flowers. I have always grown this plant since I first came across it about forty years ago, and once established it is perfect for keeping weeds away as the foliage is so dense.
At home it is the phalaenopsis orchid that catches the eye and this year it has one stem with nearly thirty flowers all out at the same time. It gets watered once or twice every week and is kept in a light place but away from direct sunlight otherwise damage may occur to the leaves.
Amaryllis in bloom

Wee jobs to do this week

Looking ahead to the festive season now is a good time to sort out some plants for flowering at
Christmas. Poinsettias and cyclamen are always in plentiful supply in supermarkets nearer the time, but most people like the challenge of getting an Amaryllis bulb and getting it to flower for Christmas. Now is the time to pot them up in the smallest pot and leave at least half the bulb above the compost. Keep it on a sunny windowsill and keep it watered. It may need staking if it grows tall.

END

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

ALLOTMENT LIFE


                                                             ALLOTMENT LIFE

I got my first allotment when I was a mere young lad of sixteen, not long started as an apprentice gardener and looking for ways to learn all about gardening. The plot had a greenhouse and as it was on the Law Hill the views were brilliant, and
Break time for works team
at weekends pop music was played from Dens Park before the match began. Other plot holders were all very helpful and I was in my element. As horticulture took me all over the UK I still longed for an
Grandad helping Scarlet plant her pumpkins
allotment so when I went to Darlington I got a huge plot at Barmpton Lane, twice normal size at 600 square yards. My ambition was to become self sufficient all year round with fruit, vegetables. Eventually my career took me back home to Dundee when I took an interest in growing Saskatoon fruit bushes and needed some land to grow them on. So I ended up at City Road allotments about ten years ago. The site has over sixty plots of varying sizes on a south facing slope with good soil. We have communal sheds, a shop open at weekends, toilets and there is plenty parking on City Road. The site is leased by the Council and managed internally by a committee. Over time all the plot holders get to know one another as they seek information on growing something new.
Fresh garden produce for sale
People lead busy lives so they need to wind down by getting back to nature growing fresh fruit and vegetables. Today many folk live in flats and modern houses tend to have had the gardens paved over with slabs, concrete and granite chips, so they need an allotment. Plot holders get plenty fresh air and exercise, and there is a strong social side as we keep the communal sheds well stocked with tea, coffee and milk and someone always brings in a few savouries or some home baking. However it sometimes comes as a bit of a shock with new plot holders as their wee bits of garden need some hard graft to dig them over and keep those weeds down. Then just when you think you are winning, the pigeons, caterpillars, mice, greenfly and numerous diseases arrive when your backs turned and start
Time for a wee break
to chomp away at your prize fruit and vegetables, and that’s not the end of problems down on the land. Gales, thunderstorms, occasional snow flurries, drought and tropical temperatures all arrive to test your temperament. But we keep on trying as the rewards more than make up for it. For older folk it is a means of keeping in touch with the gardening community, and for the younger folk with kids a great way to let them see where their food comes from.  Our plot holders come from all corners of the globe bringing with them plants from their native countries. It is interesting to see sweet potatoes, kiwis, Chinese cabbage, saskatoons, figs, chokeberries and many plots have grapes growing outdoors as well as under glass.
New flower border in spring
The social side of allotment life has developed as work party volunteers get together to tackle overgrown plots, path repairs, hut repairs and painting, burst water pipes and recently the creation of flower borders near the entrance and along City Road so our site is an attractive with flowers in bloom from spring till winter. Then we have our Open Day in summer and participate in the Doors Open Event in autumn so the public are invited in to see how we look after our plots. We have recently gained charity status so now we can apply for grants to improve our site. Our next project once we get funding will be to create a plot suited for disabled gardeners so there will be raised beds and good access, and improved toilet facilities. The social side of allotment life often ends the growing season with a party with good food, a wee drink and a fair bit of singing and dancing where space permits. We must have impressed the judges when we entered the Dundee City Council Allotments competition. Our site took the top award and one of our plot holders won the best plot in town for the second year running.
Hydrangea Charme

Wee jobs to do this week

Hydrangea Charme is looking great this year and is easy to propagate with young shoots used as cuttings, taken about four inches long and cut across the stem just below a pair of leaves, and then remove all large leaves. Place about three or four cuttings around a pot filled with free draining compost and water in. Place cuttings in a warm but shady place and cuttings should be well rooted towards the end of autumn and ready to pot up.

END

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Autumn art classes

 Evening art classes for the autumn session

 The autumn art class session of 12 weeks begins on Monday 23rd September at John's Studio at 17a Menzieshill Road, Dundee DD21PS. Classes start at 7pm and finish at 9pm with a break at 8pm for tea and coffee. John welcomes new students to come along and join our group. If you fancy a night of artistic creations get in touch with John by phone or email.
Students bring their own materials and John gives guidance on painting.

Art Class party in summer 2019

AUTUMN CROPS


                                                             AUTUMN CROPS

As summer makes way for autumn, the harvesting range of fruit and vegetables changes as most of the soft fruit has been picked as well as summer cabbages, cauliflower, onions, broad beans and early potatoes. The wet but warm summer did the
Picking Seigerrebe grapes
potatoes no favours as marauding slugs and snails just loved the soft fresh leaves. Second early potato Charlotte got picked first followed by maincrop Mayan Gold, then first early Casa Blanca got lifted in August as its leaves lasted a wee bit longer. Finally at the end of August I lifted maincrop Maris Piper as leaves had totally disintegrated in spite of ample dressings of slug pellets, yet there was still a great crop of large clean potatoes.
Aronia crumble bars
Cauliflower, sprouts and cabbages were also badly affected and caterpillars were a real nuisance. Kale seemed to be less affected but some pruning was necessary as growth was so prolific that the normal spacing was just not enough as all brassicas fought for space. Kale should keep us going well throughout autumn and winter. Other winter vegetables of Swedes and leeks will give variety, though many of my leeks have run up to seed. Autumn salads have been sown on land cleared of broad beans to keep the kitchen supplied with lettuce, rocket and spring onions well into winter.
Plum Oullins Golden Gage
Land cleared of potatoes will now get several rows of young wallflower seedlings that were saved from a brilliant display of Cloth of Gold, sown in August and now growing strongly but needing more space. Hopefully these will be ready to plant out in late autumn for flowering next spring.
Autumn raspberry Polka and autumn strawberry Flamenco are both yielding well with plenty fresh fruit and surplus going into the freezer, but lack of sun, still too much rain and lower temperatures adversely affect texture and sweetness.
Pears ripening up
Apple Arbroath Pippin was totally wiped out by brown rot, but now Discovery is ready for picking and other apples looking good. Cooking apple Bramley continues to lose apples as gales tear off fruit, but there is still plenty left for picking in October. Pears and plums are both bearing well this year though a new Victoria plum tree planted two years ago is still too young to bear fruit, but hopefully we shall see a few plums in 2020.
Aronia Viking, the Chokeberry, is giving us heavy crops of black berries. Although I keep eleven pounds for wine brewing (giving me three demijohns) there is still plenty left so Anna can experiment with new ways to use this very healthy berry. She recently bought a brilliant Aronia Berry Recipes cook book published by the Midwest Aronia Association. The Aronia is native to North America and viewed as a power packed superfruit, due to the very high levels of antioxidants.
Anna’s latest creation of Aronia Crumble Bars were unbelievably delicious.
Anna picking Discovery apples
Figs seem to love Scotland outdoors no matter what the weather throws at them though this year massive growth will need some severe pruning once
cropping has finished. Last year I got about 150 figs from two bushes and so far this year cropping has been just as good.
Tomatoes outdoors was better last year as there has been just too much rain and not enough sunshine, unless that jet stream turns north and brings us a warm autumn. However tomatoes in the greenhouse have been prolific and two grape varieties, Solaris and Seigerrebe have now been picked and are in the brewing bucket for a lovely Muscat flavoured wine ready in two years time.
Dave picks his sweet corn

Wee jobs to do this week


Harvest sweet corn after testing ripeness by pulling back some of the sheath and if the corn is yellow and juicy when you push your nail in then they are ready. The crop usually ripens all at the same time so after picking off all the cobs the plants can be pulled up and chopped with a spade before adding them to the compost heap. Ground left bare at this time of year can be sown down with a green manure crop left to grow till digging in during mid winter. Sowing down all empty land after crop harvesting (potatoes, onions, peas, beans, sweet corn) with green manures will create a very fertile soil in the long term making it very easy to dig and all plants will benefit with strong growth.

END

Sunday, 8 September 2019

THE GARDENERS WEATHER


                                                         Gardeners Weather

To achieve consistently good crop yields of fruit and vegetables and a glorious display of flowers we learn good gardening techniques for each type of plant, use the best varieties, and make sure our soil is fertile, well drained and weed free. The battle
Anna picking figs
against pests and diseases is a continuous one that we must not allow to get out of control. However no matter how much time and effort we give to cultivation of our plants it is the weather that finally
Outdoor grape Rondo
determines our success rate, as we have little control when it throws extremes at us which seems to get more frequent as time goes on. Thunderstorms with lightening in Scotland used to be a rare event, but not this year.
Temperature
It seems that global warming has arrived in Scotland, and although we all love to see more of the sun, gardening has been a struggle both in 2018 and 2019 as temperatures rise way above normal for days on end. However we can take advantage of this warmer weather to indulge in growing a few of the more exotic crops. Sweet potatoes and a whole range of Chinese salads are becoming popular but success rates vary with climate. Figs outdoors in Scotland are now very successful and most grape varieties will also perform brilliantly, but to get grapes to produce good bunches of sweet juicy grapes is a huge challenge. Some dessert varieties fail to produce many grapes, and then we need a warm dry autumn to get them to ripen. The variety Brant is very
Pumpkins ripening up
successful but the grape bunches are quite small. The search for the right variety continues. Outdoor cherries are now becoming very popular, and those that produce very large fruit are a bonus as they
Tomatoes growing outdoors
are too big for marauding blackbirds beaks. Our mild winters are now quite frequent so leaving beetroot outdoors over winter is quite safe.  However on the negative side of mild winters, many pests come through unscathed and ready to multiply and go on a feeding frenzy every time our backs are turned. Plagues of slugs, snails and caterpillars have devastated cabbages, cauliflower, sprouts, kale, potatoes, dwarf French beans and greenfly have been feeding shoulder to shoulder on roses. Mild winters have also reduced the fruiting potential of those fruit bushes such as blackcurrants and saskatoons that need periods of cold temperatures over winter to initiate fruit buds. My best crop of saskatoons came after the cold winter of 2010. The warmer climate is allowing us to grow Eucalyptus, Cordylines, date palms, Agapanthus and outdoor fuchsias successfully.
Rainfall
Cordyline australis in flower
Last year we all basked in a long sunny and dry summer so the garden hose was always out as drought conditions prevailed. This year it has been even hotter but rainfall has never been lacking. This has been great for plant growth, and all crops, bushes and flowers are all a lot taller than normal. Roses have grown so tall that many needed staking to prevent them falling over. Autumn raspberries are having similar problems as many are about seven feet tall. This is not such a good thing when we get extremes of winds in gale strength blowing over tall plants and shredding anything with large leaves. Early on this year we got a warm spell but without any rain so mildew and blackspot on roses infected all the leaves and reduced the impact of flowers. It was made all the worse as greenfly smothered any young shoots before the diseases reached them.
Weed control this year has been a major problem as weeds just love the warm wet weather and hoeing is difficult as the weeds are often just transplanted rather than shrivelled up in the hot sun.
Pansy and wallflower seedlings
But up at City Road allotments plot holders have been busy getting their gardens tidied up ahead of our participation in the Dundee Doors Open Event on the weekend of 14 and 15 September 2019.

Wee jobs to do this week

Prick out pansy and wallflower seedlings sown in mid August and now well established in seed
boxes. They will grow strongly at this stage and make a sturdy plant for planting out in tubs, hanging baskets and borders. The pansies associate well with dwarf early tulips planted between them but the wallflower prefer the taller triumph or Darwin Hybrid tulips planted between them.

END

Monday, 2 September 2019

LATE SUMMER TASKS


LATE SUMMER TASKS

Apples with brown rot and wasps
It is always easy to find a wee job in the garden, even after all the main tasks have been completed. Crops have been sown, planted, had all summer to grow and harvesting is well under way, then as the summer returns after the August thunderstorms we think this could be a nice time to relax on the sun lounger. Lying back enjoying a few moments of peace you let your mind wander, but then it prompts you with a wee reminder of a few outstanding jobs. Now that so many crops have been gathered in there is land empty which is ideal for some late season crops of lettuce, radish, spring onions, rocket and their might be just enough time to grow some beetroot. No need to dig over the ground as the soil is just fine, then after removing any weeds, giving it a rake over and a wee dusting of fertiliser. Sow a few rows of salads and head back to the sun lounger. On the way back I notice that the early and mid season strawberries have finished so old leaves need cutting back, straw removed to the compost heap, remove a few weeds that appeared when no-one was looking, and shift those runaway runners back in line as they will fruit next year.
Onions getting dried off in the sun
More land has become empty as potatoes get harvested. Potatoes made a great start in spring as weather was on their side. Good planting conditions, plenty warm sunny days and just enough rain to keep them growing, but then the jet stream changed course and nothing was quite the same. Warm days continued but it was accompanied by a lot more rain than we needed. Potatoes were not happy and leaves started to wither combined with attacks from slugs and snails who were having a great time. I started to lift first early Casa Blanca, but stopped to lift second early Charlotte as it had lost all its leaves. Meanwhile Mayan Gold leaves shrivelled up so they got lifted. Maris Piper at present is still in the ground, but having a bad year. On the positive side the Casa Blanca gave a great crop of very clean perfect salad spuds.
Onions started of the year looking fantastic, but as the August rains continued unabated the dreaded white rot appeared and began to work its way along the rows. It was time to lift and dry off before any more bulbs get affected. They are now drying off in the sun ahead of storing for winter.
Cauliflowers came out in sympathy with the potatoes. No
Potato Casa Blanca ready for storing
sign of clubroot or rootfly and nets kept the pigeons away but slugs, snails and caterpillars had a party, and the wet weather did not help curd formation. I only got one cauliflower from a dozen plants. More land got cleared and ready for another autumn crop. Peas and broad beans grew fast early on so harvesting was brought forward with good yields, but then there was even more land going spare.
Good time to sow green manure crops of tares, clover, rye and even field beans. These crops will get dug in during winter and add a huge amount of humus to the soil as well as opening it up and adding nitrogen with those that have the nitrogen fixing bacteria on the roots.
Pansies and wallflower that flowered from spring to early summer had plenty of seed heads that got kept for sowing in August. The pansies will flower next spring but time will tell if the wallflower can grow big enough from now till October to produce a decent spring bedding plant.
The warm but wet summer has not been good for the greenhouse grapes as botrytis is trying to take hold in bunches that are swelling up, and the wasps have found my sweet Seigerrebe grapes so need controlling before word gets back and even more arrive to do battle with the gardener.
Anna with Iris Dusky Challenger
Now all the wee jobs have been sorted I can get back to that sun lounger for some well earned relaxation. As I enjoy these odd moments without a care I suddenly realise this is the last chance to do a thorough garden clean up before the leaves start to fall and that compost heap needs turning.

Wee jobs to do this week

Cut back flag iris Dusky Challenger, delphiniums, oriental poppies and other herbaceous plants that flowered in mid summer but are now dying back and a wee bit untidy. This is also a good time to lift and split up the iris and replant in fresh soil. Remember to keep the plants at same depth as previous as they do not like deep planting.

END

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

LATE SUMMER FLOWERS


LATE SUMMER FLOWERS

After last year’s brilliant summer we gardeners were hoping for a repeat performance just like with the hot summer of 1975 followed by 1976 which was even better. We are getting plenty good temperatures, (a record breaking hot spell) but the continual rain coming in thunderstorms is way over the top. This year the garden hose is gathering dust lying in a corner. Early summer gave the flowers a great start, as we had warmth, and
Oriental lily Brasilia
just enough water to keep them happy. However there is always the negative side in gardening where mildews, rust, rose blackspot, slugs, snails and greenfly thinking the garden belonged to them. Roses struggled the most as disease attacked the leaves, but bedding plants just loved it. Hanging baskets looked great with geraniums, petunias, French marigolds and Impatiens all in great form, though geraniums almost flowered themselves to death as they ran to seed and growth got held back. Hopefully they will recover once normality resumes with the late summer weather. That jet stream has a lot to answer for.
Oriental lilies loved the weather, though gales blew a few over. However these were cut and brought indoors and we had a fortnight of their glorious scent through out the house. Every year I
Verbena
have bought in another fifty or so and now they are quite eye catching in large drifts where ever I find a dry sunny spot. They are quite happy with spring bulbs at their feet so I get the snowdrops, crocus, then tulips and grape hyacinths in display over the spring months before the Oriental poppies need the space.
Annual flowers of Godetia, Candytuft and a variety of Poppies have all naturalised over different parts of the garden and as long as nothing else is suffering we just let them get on with it. The Californian poppies as well as poppy Ladybird have been terrific and this year a new Poppy Ladybird appeared with larger than normal flowers, so seed is being kept from it for next year. Seed is also being saved from pansies and wallflower Golden Monarch which both have been fantastic up at City Road allotments. The show has been so good that several plot holders are now dead heading the pansies to
Summer hanging basket
keep them flowering and at the same time providing fresh seed for young plants for flowering next year.
Fuchsia Mrs Popple never lets us down so new plants from cuttings were planted in the new flower border at City Road allotments and continues to flower well into autumn. This flower border is also planted up with lilies, Houttuynia, Cistus and Lamium White Nancy as well as numerous bush roses all from cuttings. The border has been great this year, but hopefully next year it will be even better as plants mature, and with more spring bulb planting.
Dahlias, gladioli and Chrysanthemums are now all in full flower, but growing conditions have been so good that staking and tying has been problematic as they are all so much bigger than normal. There have been plenty of flowers for the house, though I need to keep some vases for my oriental lilies for their scent.
Verbena and Osteospermum however have just grown normally but with a greater show of flowers
Osteospermum
than in previous years.
Hydrangea Charme had a poor display last year and was getting ready for the chop, but we relented and gave it another year, but with a severe verbal warning. Must have given it a fright, as it has been great this year, so it lives to flower a few more years.
Calluna H E Beale is always a show stopping heather towards the end of August and is well budded up at present. It has grown really well in the hot clammy moist summer climate.

Wee jobs to do this week
Botrytis on Seigerrebe grapes

Check over grapes in the greenhouse and remove any showing signs of botrytis rot before it spreads. Remove some leaves to let sunshine penetrate the ripening bunches and keep the doors and windows open as much as possible to improve air circulation and keep temperatures down. This is a bad year for botrytis with high temperatures and too much rainfall.

END

Monday, 19 August 2019

EXPERIMENTS IN THE GARDEN


EXPERIMENTS IN THE GARDEN

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

Wee jobs to do this week

Cut back summer growth extensions on pumpkins once each plant has made two or three decent fruits. Pumpkins just love this hot wet summer and will try to take over the whole garden.

END

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

SUMMER HARVESTS


SUMMER HARVESTS

We will always remember the summer of 2018 with its long hot and dry spell, but 2019 seems to be even hotter, but with plenty thunder storms so there was never any shortage of water. Plant growth has responded to this great growing weather. My bush roses normally reach five feet tall, but this year I am seeing them at six to seven feet tall and a real
Sophie and Anna topping and tailing gooseberries
nuisance with strong winds so staking and tying has been necessary to stop them blowing over. Flowering has been a bit erratic as the warm dry spring allowed a severe dose of mildew and black
Beetroot Cylindra
spot to spread and greenfly infestations have been in plague proportions. There has been plenty of ladybirds, but not enough to halt their spread, so spraying had to be done to stop them for a few weeks. Sweet peas have been brilliant this year, but needed constant dead heading and picking bunches for the house.
Broad beans grew very rapidly and ripened earlier than normal, so it was an early start to the harvesting season. Family members over on holiday get roped into the harvesting and processing tasks all summer long. The broad beans get picked in one go preferably in the morning, then after lunch we all gather around the patio and shell the beans. By evening, they get blanched and then we begin the task of separating the beans
Rose Myriam
from their skins, before bagging up for the freezer.
Peas were ready to pick at the same time, so another family day was spent picking, shelling then bagging up for the freezer, other than those for immediate use. Then just before my visitors departed volunteers were sought for the Invicta gooseberry picking. The bushes have been so packed with gooseberries that all the shoots were trailing on the ground with weight of crop so straw was needed underneath them to prevent soil splashing during heavy rainfall. Family again got together around the table for a night of music, wine (adults only) and topping and tailing the gooseberries.
Hot muggy weather seems to have brought on more crops, so it was the turn of blackcurrant Big Ben to get picked followed a week later for picking Ben Conan.
Strawberry Florence
Freezer is now well stocked, but Saskatoon picking has not yet started as the crop is a fortnight behind normal picking from mid July onwards, but this year it will be from early August. The bushes are absolutely laden down with berries. In between major crop harvesting there was plenty raspberries, strawberries and Bramble Helen to pick every three days apart, and autumn fruiting raspberry Polka is making an early start.
Harvesting on the vegetable patch is well under way. Potato Casa Blanca lifting was started in early June, but before the whole row was lifted I had to harvest Mayan Gold which seemed to suffer an odd disease that caused the leaves to die back. This variety is also liable to boil away to soup in the pot so I will not be growing it again.
Beetroot and turnips have had a mixed year so far. Beetroot is always a great cropper and keeps well outdoors in our mild winters, but all my Golden ball turnips ran to seed. Think I will stick to Purple Top Milan in future which is always reliable, though our freaky weather may have some bearing on matters. It’s been a great year for
Good crop of blackcurrants
salads. Lettuce has never been better, but greenfly infestations are not very welcome and spraying a bad idea as picking has been constant. I tried a few rows in between a block of chrysanthemums. I got plenty of lettuce before the chrysanthemums needed the space.  Onions, like all the other vegetables have made strong growth and are swelling up just fine, though the wet hot atmosphere has caused a severe infection of white rot fungus.
In the greenhouse grape vines and tomatoes are fighting for space. Tomatoes have now all had the tops removed after five or six trusses as they have all reached the roof and grapes are all hanging in great profusion. I know it’s a bit late but the massive bunches will need some thinning of the fruits.

Wee jobs to do this week

As summer harvests continue and land gets cleared of crops such as peas, onions, broad beans and early potatoes, put this spare ground to good use. This is a good time to sow salads (lettuce, radish, spring onions and rocket) for late summer and autumn use. Some varieties of lettuce are winter hardy and can give useful fresh greens over the winter months and into spring.

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Monday, 5 August 2019

ORCHIDS


ORCHIDS

Cattleya sincorana
Fifty years ago orchids were rarely seen outside stately homes with large gardens and greenhouses. I don’t recall seeing them during my five year gardening apprenticeship training, though we were given notes on their culture. Orchids were expensive to purchase so they remained fairly rare, but life moves on and growers and breeders saw a huge opportunity, so before long new varieties appeared on the market and using meristem culture they could be propagated in very large numbers quite cheaply. Today they now appear everywhere for sale from garden centres to supermarkets at very affordable prices. The Phalaenopsis seems to be the most popular, but then the flowers come in a range of colours, with stems full of blooms can last for months, and they are very easy to grow. However you must avoid keeping them in sunlight (they prefer dappled shade or full shade) and never leave them sitting in water. A sunny bathroom is perfect where the
Cattleya Saturn
aerial roots can get plenty of atmospheric moisture, though in our Scottish climate they will be happy on a sunny windowsill during the winter months. In their natural environment they grow by clinging to tree trunks in tropical forests where there is plenty of warmth and rainfall with perfect drainage, and nutrients washed down the trunk from bird droppings and rotting leaves absorbed by the aerial roots hang down the side of the plant.
The woodland canopy, mostly evergreen, affords dappled light and protection from strong sunlight. Orchids can be found all
White phalaenopsis acrylic painting
over the world growing wild in damp moist and peaty soils. I saw drifts of thousands growing in Glen Nevis and they even reached weed status growing in industrial developments in Livingston New Town.
Growing orchids in the home
Wild orchid
The Phalaenopsis type are usually quite reliable and very rewarding when it repeats the flowering every year, so makes the best one to start with. They will come in pots with ample holes for drainage and planted in special orchid compost. This is often a mixture of bark chips, coarse graded peat, charcoal to keep the mixture sweet, nutrients and trace elements. This should be sufficient to keep the plant happy for two to four years before repotting is necessary depending on type. It is best to repot in spring as growth commences. I purchased one in full flower last August at the City Road Allotments open day and it continued to flower well beyond Christmas. Once flowering is over allow the plant some dormancy by keeping it in a cooler spot, and water less often, but do not let it dry out and do not feed at this stage or repot. Orchids are not heavy feeders so just give them an orchid feed once every two to four weeks while they are growing.
Paphiopedilum orchid
Phalaenopsis can flower most of the year with six or up to twenty or more flowers on one spike. Keep the stem staked otherwise it hangs over and could pull over the whole plant.
Cymbidiums are very popular and another good one to start with as they are very adaptable. They flower in autumn to spring producing many spikes with up to twenty flowers each lasting up to ten weeks. The plants can grow quite large and are happy in a cool room. They require more frequent repotting because of their strong growth.
Paphiopedilum orchids are terrestrial, not epiphytic so there are no aerial roots or pseudobulbs. They grow from rhizomes just below ground level and produce medium sized flower stems with just one or a few flowers. They like to be kept lightly shaded. Propagate by division in spring and repot every second year in the smallest pot available.
Salads for autumn and winter
Cattleyas  are epiphytes that are very flamboyant with large colourful flowers which are often highly perfumed. Both Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis have been used extensively by artists as the subject for flower paintings with great impact.

Wee jobs to do this week
Take advantage of small areas of land becoming available as mid summer crops get harvested allowing sowings of lettuce, radish, spring onions and rocket and even some Chinese cabbage. These will give salads for late autumn use. Early potatoes, peas, broad beans, cabbage and cauliflower and soon onions will all get lifted to release some land though some onions are having a hard time with the warm but wet weather and white rot is gaining the upper hand.

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