Monday, 28 October 2019

PUMPKINS


                                                             PUMPKINS

Pumpkins
Pumpkins belong to the cucurbita family, which also includes vegetable marrows, cucumbers, butternut squashes, gourds, courgettes, shark fin melons, melons and several other variations which differ according to the country where they are grown. Outdoors the courgettes, gourds, vegetable marrows, mildew which spreads very rapidly. They all need a warm summer and a favourable autumn to help ripen them up. The summer of 2018 was perfect for them but this year the continual wet weather and lack of sunshine has done them no favours. My two Zucchini courgettes only gave me six courgettes to take home, although the plant had great vigour. The flowers just did not set. My three pumpkins planted nearly four feet apart only produced four large fruits.
However my four pumpkins will keep Anna happy in the kitchen for several months as they go a long Butternut squash has become very popular as the main ingredient in creamy soups, ravioli filling, and risotto. It is quite sweet and has very few seeds. Pumpkins are a great plant to get the kids involved in nature and growing from seed sowing, planting, watering and feeding, and then you will need them to help in the harvest. Unfortunately they will want the biggest one for carving up into a lantern, though all the flesh scraped out can still be used for a sweet pumpkin pie, cooked of course by the kids.
Squashes

way. My favourite is roasted pumpkins, but they also make a great soup, or used as a side dish or added to numerous other recipes. Pumpkins as well as the other cucurbits are all a good source of potassium and vitamin C and rich in the antioxidants alpha and beta carotene, which are both
Roasted pumpkin slices
There were a few more but they all rotted away in the wet weather. However, vigorous shoots started running all over the place, even trying to climb up my Autumn Bliss raspberries and blackcurrant Big Ben. I had let them roam free hoping that at some point the flowers would produce a pumpkin. To get really big pumpkins give them a weekly feed with a high potash liquid feed like tomato fertiliser.


precursors to vitamin A, a vitamin that is important for keeping eyes healthy.
Auralia with her shark fin melons

butternut squashes, sharks fin melons and pumpkins are all relatively easy to grow provided they get fertile soil and a constant supply of moisture. Usually a mulch will help them through any dry spells in summer, and keep an eye out for
They have been a source of food for over 7000 years growing in their natural environment from southern Canada down to Mexico, Central America, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, but are now so popular they are grown all over the world. The USA is a massive importer of pumpkins mostly grown in Mexico. Gardeners in UK grow melons and cucumbers under glass and courgettes, marrows, squashes, gourds and pumpkins outdoors. As people on holiday see other types grown
Yellow courgettes
abroad we are now all experimenting in growing something different and then trying out new ways to cook them. The Shark Fin Melon seems to be the latest to appear in allotments. It is very vigorous and can soon take over large parts of the plot if allowed. It produces an abundance of large green and white spotted fruits which can be used in soups and stir fry dishes. Cucumbers and melons need warm conditions in a glasshouse and although the cucumber is relatively easy to grow and very productive, melons are far more challenging. They can take up a lot of space in the greenhouse, so if you grow tomatoes and a grapevine you will need a big greenhouse to accommodate a melon.

Wee jobs to do this week
Pansy hanging basket

Make up hanging baskets for a spring display. Pansies are always favourite. Use an old compost bag
inside out (black side outside) with a few slits around the side and cut to shape. Fill with a mixture of potting compost and some good garden soil and add a dusting of fertiliser. Plant up the sides first then add compost up to the top and finish the planting. To give an early start to the display, plant a few crocus bulbs amongst the pansies. I keep my hanging baskets in a cold greenhouse perched on top of a large flower pot to give them some shelter over the winter and an early start in spring.

END

Monday, 21 October 2019

HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLACK FRUITS


HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLACK FRUITS

I can remember getting my first allotment up at Stirling Park on the Law Hill in early 1960s. I had a plot of land to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers and it also had a greenhouse for a few tomatoes. As a young apprentice gardener I was very eager to
Anna picking chokeberries
learn all about my trade. The plot had a row of blackcurrants which I knew were full of vitamin C so they just had to be good for you. However it was a long time after before the health benefits of fruit began to sink in as I experimented with a whole variety of fruit bushes and sought information on
Chokeberry jam
cultivation and use on the internet. All of a sudden the world becomes a small place as the internet opens up and you can reach all for information from around the world. In my early days it was the blueberry that got all the attention, and I can remember picking a range of new varieties on trial at the Scottish Crops Research Institute (now James Hutton) in the mid sixties. They are still grown up at Mylnefield but a lot of research is going into blackcurrants for commercial use. Two other black fruits grown there were the saskatoons and chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa Viking) but they never received much attention as no-one was growing them and after many years they got grubbed out. I took an interest in saskatoons after a trip
Aronia wine fermenting
to Canada in 2004 where they are very popular and with a huge demand for them as fresh and processed fruit. When I found out that the Saskatoon was the fruiting form of the Amelanchier which is grown all over UK as an ornamental shrub, I knew they would be easy to grow here, so I started growing them about fifteen years ago.
Their popularity was helped by the fashionable custom of looking for a superfood with more health giving qualities than normal. The blueberry was very popular and had high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants, but the Saskatoon levels were even higher giving it superfood status. Its demand in Canada and the USA far exceeds its production, but in UK it has yet to find much
Aronias washed and dried
attention, apart from one grower in Pershore growing it as an additive in gin which at present is very much in fashion. A lot of research in USA and Canada has been given to the health benefits of these black fruits and while checking them out I came across the chokeberry which had been identified as the next superfood as it had more antioxidants and vitamin C than any other fruit. I had grown them before as a shrub with great autumn colour but never realised the fruit was edible, but after doing a bit more research I had to find and grow my own chokeberries. It seems that black coloured fruits have more health benefits than other fruit so I now add black grapes, blueberries and blackberries to my fruit collection.
The dark skins are a rich source of vitamin C and anthocyanins, an antioxidant which may help prevent heart
Brant grapes
disease, strokes, cancer, cataracts and other chronic illnesses associated with ageing. However the fruit is a bit astringent when eaten fresh so it is usually processed and added to numerous recipes.
During my research as well as Anna’s looking for chokeberry cooking recipes we came across the Midwest Aronia Association based in Iowa which has a high concentration of Aronia growers. Their website, www.midwestaronia.org and videos were a real treat and very informative. So now Anna after acquiring the Aronia Berry Recipe book regularly creates her Aronia crumble bars, makes jam with a mix of aronia, apple and raspberry. It also goes into cakes, compote and sauces, and I use just over ten pounds for three demijohns of a fantastic wine with great health giving properties. Now that canna be bad, and should help to keep me in good form for many more years.
Lifting gladioli corms

Wee jobs to do this week

Lift and dry off gladioli, tuberous begonias and dahlias before frosty nights arrive as these plants are not hardy, though with recent mild winters I have seen both gladioli and dahlias left outside come through the winter unscathed. However I would not risk it just in case The Beast from the East pays us another visit. They can be left outside on sunny days to dry off, but then clean them up and store inside in cool but frost free building. Make sure you tie a label on the Dahlia stems so they don’t get mixed up.

END

Monday, 14 October 2019

A DAY UNDER GLASS


A DAY UNDER GLASS


Crops in the greenhouse, may be well protected from the worst of the weather, so the incessant rainfall did not worry grapes, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, but lack of sunshine has been a big problem. Sunshine is necessary to give crops
Black Hamburg Grapes slow to ripen
a decent flavour and help to sweeten up the grapes. There has been some great very warm days but they just never last very long before the rain arrives.
Outdoor crops have suffered the most. Autumn strawberries have been prolific, but botrytis rot has affected a lot of them, and many are not very soft or sweet. Some outdoor grapes are just shrivelling up. They have had enough. Last year I got enough for a couple of demijohns of wine, but crops this year will not be producing vintage wine. However my Solaris and Seigerrebe in the greenhouse were ready for picking in August so I picked a great crop and all now sitting happy in a demijohn, with fermentation completed at 14% alcohol, though I did have to add a few ounces of sugar. Black Hamburg grapes are normally ready in late
Cherry tomatoes
October but poor weather is holding back ripening and some grapes have gone mouldy. These get removed immediately before the disease spreads, and ventilation is also very important to prevent dampness building up.
Tomatoes have given very good crops, but now damp atmosphere due to lack of sunshine and too much rain has encouraged botrytis rots on fruit, leaves and some stems of Alicante. However all my cherry tomatoes (five varieties) have cropped well except Cherry Baby. It produces trusses with well over a hundred flowers, but most of these fall of so number of fruits ripening is very poor. Supersweet 100 is my best red cherry for flavour and cropping, (over 100 tomatoes per truss and most ripened) and Sungold my best orange cherry. Sugarglass is also a good cropper but flavour
Pepper Trinidad Scorpion
and texture not as good as Supersweet 100. Hopefully tomatoes will continue to crop for a few more weeks depending on weather, but then it is time to harvest all remaining fruits and ripen them indoors. The old plants can then be removed and the soil or growbag get tidied up. However ahead of this operation you can sow a few salads for planting in this space once it is available. Use winter hardy lettuce like Hilde or Winter Imperial and some spring onions and rocket.
Hydrangea cuttings
Cuttings of fig Brown Turkey and Hydrangea Charme taken in September have rooted and can now get over wintered in the cold greenhouse. They are both hardy, but some shelter will help to get them off to a good start next year. Other cuttings of geraniums and Impatiens taken earlier to keep good varieties going for another year are better taken out of the greenhouse before frosts arrive as they are not hardy. A windowsill in a warm room is the best place for them. You can let them flower to give an attractive house plant, but in mid winter it is best to remove all flowers to keep growing shoots sturdy.
Peppers sown in early January indoors in a propagator soon germinated and were then potted up and
Rooted fig cuttings
kept on a windowsill till early May before planting in pots in the greenhouse, as well as in garden planters and hanging baskets outdoors. They are quite successful outdoors in Scotland even with our unpredictable climate, but need starting off indoors, and for good plants they need a long growing season. Keep an eye on the outdoor varieties as snails are quite fond of Pueblo chillies from Mexico. Most garden centres now stock a wide range of peppers as plug plants from mild to searingly hot, such as the Trinidad Scorpion (third hottest on record) If you wish to try out the hottest go for the Carolina Reaper, but be careful !!! For storing peppers,
they can be dried and ground into flakes in a food processor, pickled, and my favourite frozen.  

Wee jobs to do this week
Snails, caterpillars and mealy aphids on sprouts

Look after the winter vegetables to keep the kitchen supplied over the coming months. Sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale are still prone to attacks from slugs, snails, caterpillars and mealy aphids. Check the growing points, right into the centre and destroy any pests found. They are all easily found as they nibble young leaves. Plants are now a few feet tall but start to drop older leaves. Remove these from the ground as well as any weeds as they give shelter to slugs and snails.
END

Monday, 7 October 2019

FLOWERS FOR THE SPRING


                                               FLOWERS FOR THE SPRING

Autumn is a great time to look ahead to next year and make plans for the spring flowering displays.  Bulbs play a massive role in spring displays from snowdrops and crocus to tulips and daffodils and numerous other wee bulbs with massive impact.
Tulip Red Emperor
In tubs, baskets, troughs and borders we can plant wallflower, primroses, polyanthus, pansies and myosotis to provide the main show but these are greatly enhanced by planting bulbs in between the
Aconites pushing through the snow
plants. With wallflower the tall Triumph, Darwin Hybrid, single early and Fosteriana tulips are the perfect match and come in a huge range of colours. We all have our favourites and some have been with us for many years such as Red Emperor (also known as Mme Lefebre) an early scarlet to be followed a bit later by Apeldoorn another strong red, and its partner Golden Apeldoorn. To add variety try some of the bicolours in the Rembrant tulip range and Happy Generation is a brilliant white with red markings. Purissima is a brilliant white and Purple Crystal a deep burgundy purple. Polyanthus, pansies and Myosotis are all better with tulips a bit smaller so use the dwarf double early varieties such as Showcase (deep purple) Peach Blossom (pink) Sun Lover (yellow with red markings) and Abba is a great red. The dwarf early tulips are also a perfect size to
Red polyanthus
grow in amongst roses, then later when the young rose buds need the space the tulips are ready to die down.
I like to plant up a hanging basket for spring flowers, but use pansies under planted with crocus. I usually keep them in my cold greenhouse over winter as this gives them a bit of shelter and they then come into flower a bit earlier, but keep an eye out for greenfly and leaf spot disease and spray if necessary. Pansies need regular dead heading to keep them in flower, but you can save these seed pods and sow them in late summer to provide fresh plants for the next year.
Snowdrops are always the first flowers of the New Year and with our mild winters and a sheltered location some varieties start to
Doronicum Little Leo with tulip Abba
flower in December. A drift of these close to a window is essential to raise spirits with knowledge that winter is on its way out. Even when we get a layer of snow they are tough enough to rise above the snow and open up their flowers. Then in February it is the turn of the aconites to flower. These grow and spread very easily from seed gathered and scattered wherever you want to see them flourish, so you can create large drifts and as it is a time of year when most other plants are still dormant they will not bother other plants.
Crocus follow the aconites and again they give
Crocus Pickwick
a great display when planted up in large drifts. They are perfect amongst most deciduous trees and shrubs. They will spread very slowly so I always buy a few new bulbs every year and it is easy to find a space that needs brightening up.
Daffodils also give their best display when mass planted in borders, lawns and even in gravel paths under a wall, provided you excavate poor soil, replace it with good soil plant the bulbs, and then replace the gravel. This keeps the weeds down and the daffodils will easily grow through the gravel.
White crocus
As with all flowering bulbs you need to let the leaves die down naturally (at least six weeks after flowering) before you cut back old leaves and tidy up the drifts.
Hyacinths are often used in tubs, troughs and borders, then once the flowers are over they can be planted in borders where they can continue to flower in the years to come. I like to put them in pots around house entrances and on patios where you can appreciate their perfume.
Impatiens cuttings in water

Wee jobs to do this week

The summer bedding flowers have had a good run, but now as colder weather replaces the warm
summer days geraniums and Impatiens will soon stop growing and flowering. Now is a good time to propagate them from cuttings to provide stock for overwintering and flowering again next year.
Snap out the top three inches of geranium shoots and put three around the edge of small pots full of well drained compost, water them in and place in a cool greenhouse but out of the sun. Impatiens cuttings are best placed in small jars full of water where they will root after a few weeks. They can then get potted up to flower on a sunny windowsill as a house plant.

END

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.

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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.

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