Wednesday, 3 June 2020

BUSY DAYS AROUND THE GREENHOUSE

                                     BUSY DAYS AROUND THE GREENHOUSE

The long dry spell and cool but sunny cloudless days in April and May have not been a problem for plants in the greenhouse. Daily watering is always necessary and keeping the ventilators open
during the day but closing them over night has kept temperatures just right and reduced problem of
condensation. I had lined the greenhouse with bubble polythene sheeting over the winter so the threat of frost was not a problem. The biggest problem was space as plants grown from seed needed pricking out and later potting up.
Planting Sweet Corn Incredible
I have a lot of tuberous begonias which are not very hardy so it was mid May before I got them outdoors to harden off. Marigolds, Nemesia, Angels Trumpets, salads and all the brassicas started life under glass but soon they all got hardened off. Last to go
outdoors was my sweet corn, courgettes and pumpkins. After a week outdoors the weather changed. It was a nights rain followed by warm weather so planting was completed in mid May. Cape gooseberries and peppers were however still kept under glass. I will try growing the cape gooseberries outdoors in a sheltered border, and try some in large tubs, but the peppers will get planted out in a border under glass at the foot of my grape
Pepper Jalapeno
vines. The clearance gave me the chance to remove the bubble polythene and let the sun shine in. The tomato border has now been cleared of propagated plants so soil preparations could go ahead. In the past I have grown tomatoes in pots, grow-bags and straw bales but I find those grown in soil have the best flavour, but you need to give them fertile soil. I start by removing about three inches of top soil which gets spread amongst my shrub borders. This is replaced with good top soil from my vegetable patch mixed with potting compost or compost from a couple of growbags. Fertiliser is then spread over the area and the whole lot lightly dug over. This may be a lot of hard work, but the results make it worthwhile, and I can get my daily exercise.
Tomatoes just planted
The area is then watered so it is ready for planting the following day. Last year I did a small trial of cherry tomatoes and this year I am growing the best from these. Alicante is still my main large tomato with Super Sweet 100 my best red cherry and Sungold my best yellow cherry. Tomatoes get planted in two rows in a border 20 inches wide and spacing plants about 14 inches apart. Plants are supported on polypropylene string suspended down from wires across the roof. The plants are twisted around the string as they grow. Growth varies according to weather and six trusses are normal though in a good year I have had eight trusses on some varieties.
Side shoots on grape vines are now putting on growth, so these get pruned to one leaf almost weekly all summer. When I start to feed the tomatoes the vines which are also growing in a border will also get a feed, but maybe not so often.
Pumpkins and courgettes getting hardened off
Greenfly has become a big pest not only under glass but also on all my outdoor roses. Under glass they are all over my Peppers, Basil seedlings and Cape Gooseberries. These get rubbed off, but I may need to get a chemical spray organised if the infestation outdoors is beyond rubbing off. Maybe the recent climate is suiting pests, but up on the allotment the cutworms have been busy chopping off my sprouts at ground level, and I found quite a few leather jackets when planting my sweet corn. Then I noticed about twenty sawfly larvae chewing my gooseberry leaves. This needs a daily check and a spray if they all appear on-masse as they can devour all the leaves in just a few days. Pigeons are another big problem as everything has to get protected under nets. Pea Kelvedon Wonder however is not netted so the pigeons stopped by for a wee feed.
Anna plants up a hanging basket

Wee jobs to do this week

Hanging basket give us the opportunity to add flowers at entrance doorways and patios. I use the normal basket but line it with an old compost bag turned inside out. Add some potting compost then add a few plants around the side by pushing through slits made in the polythene. Add more compost and plant up the top with geraniums, busy lizzies, nemesia, trailing lobelia, petunias or other summer bedding plants. Make sure the hanging brackets are strong and well secured and not too high so they can be watered easily. Add a feed every three weeks or so.

END

TROUBLE IN PARADISE

                                                      TROUBLE IN PARADISE

Gardens and allotments are playing a major role in providing a haven of peace and tranquillity as so many folk are in lockdown, and fear that going out may put them at risk of catching the virus so they turn to gardening to calm the mind and get back to nature.
Spraying a few weeds on the tarmac
New Facebook gardening groups appear as folk wish to meet (online) to discuss their new venture and give guidance on how to grow crops. For my daily exercise it is usually a trip to the allotment to get crops growing and help others out with any technical issues over the garden fence (always at a good distance.) Mind you even a few of us well trained gardeners sometimes get it wrong.
Frost damage on potatoes
We have had a few years of mild winters and early spring so sowing and planting dates have been modified to allow for this, assuming it will continue. Last year I was picking strawberries and the first spuds at the end of May, so planned to continue with the good fortune this year. Everything was going great. Strawberries were in flower at beginning of May and all my potatoes had been earthed up with good strong foliage six inches above ground. Then in mid May we got two days of frost. Potato leaves turned black and so did the flowers on my early strawberries. Notes made in diary for 2021. Any way it let me know that
turning to gardening to escape the coronavirus is not all plain sailing.
Greenfly on roses
There are a few problems to look out for and hopefully find a cure. The weather is always a problem, but so are weeds, pests and diseases which are all totally unavoidable. This year has been perfect for weed killing as the long dry sunny spell caused poor germination of weeds which died easily after hoeing in the sunshine.
Pests and diseases are a different problem, but if you provide a good fertile soil this will grow strong plants more able to withstand pestilence. Keep a compost heap with every spent plant, grass cuttings, leaves, kitchen waste, shredded wood and paper. This gets dug in annually to improve the fertility. Grow green manures at every opportunity both early in the season and also after
harvesting. Some early harvested crops like onions, turnips, peas and salads leave plenty time for an autumn crop of clover or tares. Practise deep digging for any permanent crops like fruit trees and bushes and roses. With fruit crops watch out for sawfly larvae on gooseberries, raspberry beetle maggots and rust on raspberries, slugs and mice on strawberries, vine weevils and greenfly on just about everything. Large fruit trees are also prone to infestations of the
Ladybirds sun bathing
rosy leaf curling aphid on plums and blackfly on cherries. Then our feathered friends who are always happy to take food from our bird tables and feeders will quickly devour any unprotected cherry trees, strawberries and they just love saskatoons. Even my astringent chokeberries got lost to marauding blackbirds. Pigeons are a nightmare with peas and all the brassicas, so protection with nets is compulsory, but even under the protection of nets the rootfly maggots will reach your brassicas unless you give them a collar, which is also a favourite spot for slugs. Make sure your nets can keep out the cabbage white
butterfly or you will have a caterpillar infestation. If your soil has been infected by clubroot fungus it will be necessary to only grow those cabbage, cauliflower and swede s that have been bred for resistance. Peas and broad beans are a favourite food for the pea and bean weevil so keep checking for notches eaten out from the edges of leaves. Other pests you are likely to encounter are the carrot fly on your carrots and leaf miner on your beetroot. Onions are fairly healthy but in wet years white rot can be a problem but then it also affects your potatoes with the blight. Roses can also be troubled with rust, mildew and blackspot and greenfly just love the young shoots. I may have left a few problems out, and you may not always get all of the above, but we all love a challenge and it is made all the more worthwhile when we sort out these wee problems.
Who said lockdown was going to be a picnic in paradise.

Wee jobs to do this week
Young salads need thinning

The first salads, turnips, parsnips and beetroot grown from seed has now germinated so begin thinning to leave young plants about an inch apart while removing any week seedlings and weeds.
Later on remove more to leave plants 6 to 9 inches apart to grow on to mature.

END

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

EARLY SUMMER FLOWERS

                                                 EARLY SUMMER FLOWERS

In the world of gardening no two years are ever the same. Plant growth and flowering are all
affected by weather from late frosts to dry years, wet years, severe cold and in Scotland we
Anna watering the pansies
occasionally get a heatwave. After the wet year of 2019 it has been quite a surprise to get a very dry and sunny April. The normal April showers reluctantly made a brief appearance on the last day then it was back to dry warm weather which for us gardeners was a gift, though a return to winter is threatened about the time this goes to print. In the meantime the hoe has been out to sort out any weeds, the hose has been in use to give the plants a drink and flowers have been having a great time.
Apple Fiesta
I had hoped to be writing about the flowers that brighten up the garden once the tulips display is at an end, but they just seem to keep on flowering. The early summer has helped plants to grow strong and I am kept very busy potting up plants, planting out and seed sowing. You would think that with the spare time available with lockdown, as trips to shops are rare, trips to pubs a distant memory, I canna even get oot for a haircut, so I should have plenty time for gardening. Maybe it is the extra time watering both around my garden as well as my allotment that keeps me busy. Another affect of lockdown is I no longer have my art classes, and yet as an artist the garden is taking up all my time, so it is months since I had a paintbrush in my hand. However as a trained gardener,
spending every day doing a bit of gardening is no great hardship, and I get my daily exercise amongst some beautiful flowering plants.
Doronicum Little Leo
Although the tulips are still very much part of the show, especially the Triumphs and Darwin
Hybrids the azaleas and rhododendrons are now taking over as the main show stoppers.
Mixed Azaleas
Rhododendron Elizabeth has always been a favourite and is now a bright splash of crimson. Other dwarf Japanese azaleas are also seeking attention, as well as Pieris Forest Flame with its bright red young shoots. Down at ground level the deep pink Phlox subulata and the golden Doronicum Little Leo are absolute crackers. Another great yellow plant at ground level is the Euphorbia polychroma. I first saw this in the display garden at Glendoick Garden Centre then had to get a plant. I use a lot of pansies to add to the spring display of tulips, but my hanging baskets are all pansies which seem to want to continue to
Rhododendron Elizabeth
flower well into summer. However by June I will be hanging up my summer hanging baskets, so I will carefully remove the pansies and find a quiet border to let them continue to flower. Late spring and early summer sees the peonys and Oriental poppies coming alive with bright red and crimson huge flowers, making a bold statement, but my Clematis montana rubens is also trying to steal the show. It just will not behave. It has established its own space then clambered up, over and through my climbing rose Morning Jewel as well as a tall Camellia Adolphe Audusson.
Phlox subulata
It is brilliant in full flower, but my Camellia does need rescuing so the loppers are coming out after it finishes flowering. Another shrub in full flower just now is the fruiting saskatoon bush.
We grow apples, pears, plums and cherries for their fruit but at this time of year when they are in full bloom they are fantastic to see. There appears to be more flowers than in other years, except for my biennial bearing Apple Fiesta, which has a few but nothing like Falstaff, Red Devil, Discovery and the best cooker Bramley. Other cherries grown for their flowers like Prunus Kanzan, Shirotae and the upright Amanogawa are hard to beat.

Wee jobs to do this week
Start summer pruning grapes

Indoor grapes have made an early start due to recent sunny weather. Now is the time to begin the summer pruning. Once you can see which young shoots have a grape bunch and which have none, remove the latter or at least pinch the shoot back to a couple of leaves as they help to feed the vine until there is plenty of leaves. Pinch off the end of shoots with grapes leaving two leaves after the bunch. Later on new sideshoots will grow and these should be pinched after one leaf. Outdoor vines will be a few weeks later, but the pruning is the same.

END



Monday, 11 May 2020

A DAY ON THE PLOT

                                                   A DAY ON THE PLOT

After a very dry April when the garden hose was in constant use, the rains finally arrived in the last few days of the month. We can now start to plant up our onions and other hardy fruit, flower and vegetable plants, and no doubt weeds will make a comeback.
Watering young crops
The cool dry spell was great for weed control as very few weeds were germinating and hoeing was easy for killing them as they just
shrivelled up under cloudless skies. There is so much work to be done with seed sowing, planting and the start of the change over as the spring flower show begins to pass over and we concentrate on the summer bedding plants that the problems of the coronavirus can be put at the back of our minds. Unfortunately there are so many people affected and death rates so high and wide spread over whole communities that many people are aware of losing close friends and relatives. Gardens and allotments are becoming places of peace where the flowers and growing crops help to keep our spirits high. As measures are being considered for how we start the relaxation of
First grapes appear
lockdown rules and with so many people now taken to gardening, there is a great need to open up the garden centres, but with social distancing rules still in place, so folk can buy in some compost, plants, seeds and other gardening aids. Plants brought on early from seed on my indoor windowsills have now all gone into the greenhouse and so far I have not needed to put in a heater over night. However my Pumpkins and Courgettes are still a bit tender so they have the windowsills all to themselves. They have been sown individually in cellular trays. The greenhouse has been a hive of activity as plants are moved out for hardening off to allow more space for other younger plants needing the room.
Earthing up the Casa Blanca potatoes
Sweet corn seedlings in small cellular trays got potted up into individual pots to grow on under glass for a couple of weeks before hardening off and planting out at the end of May. African and French Marigolds, Nemesia and Livingston Daisies all needed pricking out but will stay under glass for a couple of weeks before hardening off once threat of frost diminishes. Geraniums have all been outside since beginning of April, but growth has been poor as weather has been cold all April.
Tomatoes are growing strongly under glass but so far none are flowering so planting will be delayed till mid May. Grape vines under glass are growing just fine. Seigerrebe and Solaris have all got plenty flowering shoots and some may need to be thinned, but Black Hamburg is surprisingly poor with many shoots without any signs of a bunch.
Outdoors the tulips and daffodils are going over so removing the seed pods is a frequent task.
Grafting some apple trees
However as one show ends the next one begins as Rhododendrons and Azaleas begin to flower, as well as my numerous young geraniums grown for borders, tubs and hanging baskets. All through winter I remove all flowers so they can concentrate on growing, but once they go outdoors for hardening off I let them all flower. I keep track of the different colours as reds go in square pots, pink in black pots and white geraniums go in clay coloured pots.
Potatoes are now all above ground so earthing up is done just in case we get a late frost. Sowing has started for turnips, salads, peas, dwarf French beans, runner beans, parsnips and swedes.
A friend up at City Road Allotments has two apple trees with unimpressive apples, so I grafted a few shoots with Discovery, Falstaff, Fiesta and Red Devil, and if they all grow she will have an
interesting family tree. Once you read up about grafting it is a fairly simple operation with a good success rate (provided you have a sharp knife) and gives great satisfaction when the new varieties begin to grow. So fingers crossed.

Wee jobs to do this week

Early strawberries in flower
Early strawberries under low polythene tunnels had the benefit of a long sunny April. Although it was a dry spell it is always necessary to water plants under tunnels so they never suffered. They have now responded and burst into bloom, but the flowers need to get pollinated by bees so the tunnels get opened up. Last year I picked the first berries from my tunnelled crop on 11thMay, but the cool spring this year may delay picking a few days.

END

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

ENJOY THE SPRING FLOWERS

                                               ENJOY THE SPRING FLOWERS

Whether you turn on the television or pick up a newspaper, there is only one topic under discussion, and while we see the bad side of the coronavirus outbreak, a lot of folk are seeking out more
positive aspects to keep us amused, entertained and raise our spirits.
Anna watering young crops
The garden is so full of spring flowers just now and the dry sunny weather allows us to enjoy them taking our minds away from the pandemic.
Azalea Blaaws Pink
I have been very surprised by seeing so many adults and kids getting involved in gardening. So many of us are in lock down and isolation, but if we have a garden it gives us a new venture to have a go at gardening. We need to be strong to fend off the virus so exercise and healthy food are very important. If you grow your own crops you get very fresh and chemical free produce. We tried getting some fresh food from the supermarket, but when you cant pick your own you risk getting some real inferior stuff. Anna’s savoy cabbage looked more like a large brussel sprout, the Braeburn apples were as hard as rocks and tomatoes were huge but totally tasteless.
Cherry Blossom
I have been asked advice on how to convert the lawn into a vegetable garden, so fresh vegetables can be grown. Others ask the best seeds to show the kids how to grow vegetables and flowers. The lockdown affects kids as much as adults now that schools are shut down as they are full of energy and need some activity to keep them happy. The garden can play an important role to let them see where food comes from, and growing a few flowers that attract bees and butterflies is fun for kids.
At City Road Allotments our communal flower border is ablaze with tulips, daffodils, pansies, and grape hyacinths which is great for plot holders as well as passers-by who stop to admire the show.
Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow
The flowers are getting the benefit of the dry sunny weather, but temperatures have been kept low due to a cool easterly breeze, so the show lasts a long time. The wide range of tulips in every colour came about as many gardeners added a few bulbs as well as those bought by the allotment
Tulop Abba
committee. Then bulbs planted in our flower troughs for the spring display were added to the border after they finished flowering. Although the early flowers (snowdrops and aconites) are now finished the early tulips, white Purissima and Red Emperor and Stressa, took over then it was the turn of the dwarf doubles Sun Lover, Abba and Showcase. As these begin to fade the tall Darwin Hybrids Apeldoorn, Golden Apeldoorn and the purple triumph Negrita and single early yellow Bellona have their moment. Wallflower and pansies are bedded in between the tulips to add depth and the pansies can flower well into the summer. Spring colour is also
Tulip Bellona
appearing on the rhododendrons and azaleas with the dwarf Japanese azaleas (Blaaws Pink) quite early. Camellias are also flowering with the pink Donation covered in flowers. Another very bright tall shrub is the Berberis darwinnii with
orange flowers, but if left to grow unchecked it can grow into a massive shrub. However it produces black fruits that keep the birds fed in autumn for several months.
The first herbaceous plants to flower include Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow, but these will be
Tulip Carnaval du Nice
followed quickly by the peonies (my favourite is Doreen) and Oriental poppies which always put on a dazzling show with huge bright red flowers.
This is also the time when the cherry trees, apples, pears and plums all come into bloom, and give us some indication of potential fruit crops to follow. Some flowering on fruit trees sends us a timely reminder to look out for a few pests. Check plum trees as the first leaves appear same time as flowers as they can get devastated by aphids, and gooseberries in flower also need to be checked for sawflies which can devour leaves very rapidly.

Wee jobs to do this week

Emily and Kieran pot up flowers
April has been a very dry month. Not one April shower to be seen, at least up in the north east. No doubt in time the rains will arrive to make up the deficit. Just hope they remember to go off. In the meantime get the hose out and keep the young crops (seeds just germinating and young plants
recently planted) well watered. Dry spell however has been brilliant for hoeing the weeds, though it has been so cold that there’s not many around.

END

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

SPRING BULBS

                                                          SPRING BULBS

As dry but cool weather brings in our spring the early bulbs are putting on a brilliant display. As most folk are in deep isolation to avoid the coronavirus the bright splash of colour really keeps us in high spirits.
Tulips with Doronicums and Phlox
Every year in autumn I have always splashed out on spring flowering bulbs, as I find it hard to resist and there is always some spot in the garden in need of a bit of extra colour. Over the years these bulbs have formed large drifts, but still I find space for a few more. We can then look forward to spring to see how the latest bulbs perform. Some start off in tubs amongst wallflowers, pansies and polyanthus, but then once their flowering season ends and the summer bedding takes over, the bulbs while still growing can get replanted in some border. When the spring flowers are at their best in April and May this is a good time to see how the bulb planting has performed, and make plans for any adjustments next autumn. I have a few drifts of white and yellow tulips really needing a few reds and mauve to balance the drift. I had a nice mixture of dwarf early tulips amongst my roses, but several have died out and only the yellow survives so need a few other
Tulip Monsella
colours in autumn. Two years ago I bought some narcissus Dick Wilden but the gorgeous double flower is so heavy the stems cannot support then and they break so they will get replaced.
Another area of mixed crocus planted last autumn had white, purple and striped flowers but no
yellow crocus. I expected a mixed batch to have yellow as well as all the others so I will buy some yellow crocus to balance out the drift. A similar purchase of 100 mixed Darwin Hybrid tulips was a bit one sided with 80 of them all white. In future I will buy in separate colours and mix my own.
The show stopper this spring has been tulip Red Emperor flowering in early April, but then in late April the Darwin Hybrids Apeldoorn and Golden Apeldoorn kept the display in top form. The first tulip is always Scarlet Baby flowering in March followed by Stressa in early to mid April. Then
Scarlet admiring the tulips
numerous other spring bulbs pop up including the scented hyacinths, grape hyacinths, Chionodoxa and the other blue flowered Anemone blanda. All the while daffodils and narcissi are flowering. They start off with February Gold which was very late this year coming in early April, then the Golden Harvest, Mount Hood, my favourite white scented white trumpet daffodil. The highly
scented Jonquills and Cheerfulness group didn’t flower till near the end of April.
Dundee City Council always puts on a great display of daffodils and crocus along highway grass verges all over the town planted many years ago in times when it was fashionable to spend money on flowers to brighten up the town for residents and visitors. Dundonians were very proud of their floral achievements in Parks, housing
Narcissus February Gold at Lansdown Gardens
estates and highway verges with ample well trained gardeners to look after them. Unfortunately gardening is no longer looked upon as worthwhile career, so there is no more flowers, the grass grows long but looks natural and weeds are left alone in the back to nature move. Horticulture has become a victim of Council cut backs.
Tulip Stressa and pansies
However for some of us, the old traditions are maintained but in our gardens and allotments. The beauty of our displays of spring colour can be seen by those few hardy souls out for a days exercise jogging or dog walking past our gardens and allotments. Fortunately there was no cut backs at City Road Allotments and our spring display along the entrance border and a few other plots backing onto City Road is looking fantastic. It was not long before other plot holders appreciated the
benefits of floral displays and now many plots are adding flowers in borders, troughs and tubs.

Hardening off onions and salads
Wee jobs to do this week

Take advantage of warmer days to get a few greenhouse plants hardened off. A few weeks back it was the broad beans, sweet peas and chrysanthemums that were first to get hardened off and now these are all in the ground. Geraniums can now go outdoors as well as early sown salads of lettuce, radish, spring onions and beetroot, but keep checking the weather forecasts in case there is a late frost and crops have to go back indoors over night. Onions grown from seed are also getting hardened off for planting towards the end of April.

END

Monday, 20 April 2020

A SUNNY SPRING DAY

                                                        A SUNNY SPRING DAY

Spring eventually arrived once we got into April, so it was warm enough to bring out the picnic table from store so we could enjoy tea on the patio. Isolation at home is fine for those of us with
gardens as there is always some wee job to sort out.
Anna plants the broad beans
As many folks will be confined to barracks for many weeks, I reckon by mid summer there will be some brilliant looking gardens around, but maybe not many folks to see them. Now that temperatures are rising garden plants are just loving it and spring flowers are popping up everywhere. The self
Mixed crocus
isolation can affect your mental well-being
if boredom sets in, but the lucky ones with a garden are kept busy working amongst fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers to keep us entertained. Then we have beautiful flowers to enjoy both in the garden and some cut flowers for the home. However the story is a bit different up on the allotment plots. For many plot holders who live in flats the allotment plot is their garden for exercise in the fresh air, a place for relaxation amongst nature and the production of fresh healthy vegetables and fruit, and most also grow flowers to make their plot attractive. These outdoor activities in the sun also builds up strong levels of vitamin D and home grown fruit and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep us strong and more able to fight off any attack of the coronavirus. The allotment movement all over UK provide a massive amount of fresh produce as
Magnolia stellata
many amateur gardeners are nearly self sufficient for half the year. I still have a few onions,
potatoes and pumpkins in store and outdoors there is swedes, sprouts, leeks, kale and my over wintered lettuce can now be picked. Anna’s freezer is still bulging with fruit and vegetables
harvested last year. Advice coming from government has considered the above and Michael Gove concluded that using allotments for exercise was perfectly sensible provided plot holders maintain the recommended distance from each other and also implement other precautions of washing hands and not forming any social groups. If any plot holder shows any signs of
The last stored vegetables
infection they must leave the site until they recover. Up on City Road Allotments, we now all wear gloves when opening gates on arrival and as our communal hut and toilets are shut down we bring along a flask of tea and our social chat is confined to shouting, Good Morning over the plot fence. Allotments are relatively quiet and even with over sixty plots there is usually only about three to six people on site at any one occasion. No-one can escape the new rules as notices are everywhere from the entrance gates, the new flower border, a blaze of daffodils and tulips at this moment, and on the communal hut outdoor noticeboard. The communal hut and toilets are shut down for the time being.
Time to bring out the picnic tables
The normal April showers have not yet arrived so the ground is perfect for seed sowing and
planting, provided everything gets watered afterwards. The hardy range of broad beans, sweet peas and chrysanthemums have all got planted then watered in. Turnip Purple Top Milan, Leek
Musselburgh and Pea Kelvedon Wonder have all been sown outdoors on the plot and African marigold, Livingston daisies and Nemesia got sown in seed trays indoors. These will be pricked out into cellular trays after a couple of weeks.
Amaryllis that had flowered in December is now growing strongly in the greenhouse, and will get fed regularly to build up the bulb for flowering next December. Spring flowers of pansies,
polyanthus and wallflower with tulips
City Road Allotments flower border
and crocus amongst them growing in tubs and baskets will also benefit from a feed. Spring flowers are now in full display mode with daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinths at ground level as well as many shrubs including Camellias, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Magnolias and Forsythia. Flower power is helping to keep spirits high at this critical time.

Wee jobs to do this week
Remove flower shoots from rhubarb

Rhubarb is now growing strongly and pulling a few stems for the kitchen is very welcome.
To keep it growing add some fertiliser and a mulch of well rotted compost. Rhubarb can be a gross feeder and also needs plenty of moisture so water the clumps in dry spells. Flowering shoots appear early in April. Remove these as soon as possible otherwise they will affect growth.

END

Monday, 13 April 2020

OUTDOOR SUN LOVERS

                                                   OUTDOOR SUN LOVERS

It looks like we are getting a few days of spring weather to brighten up the gloom. Winter has passed, but not a single snowflake landed on my garden. Temperatures have hovered around
Anna waters the spring flowers
freezing for weeks so we were due some warm sunshine for both plants and gardeners. Folk with gardens are now the lucky ones as self isolation to avoid coronavirus infection has at least given us a place to go with plenty of jobs needing attention, and now spring flowers are in abundance it raises up our spirits. I had a day weeding the garden, but it has been too cold for most weeds to
Sweet corn seedlings
germinate, so it was not a difficult task, apart from a few speedwells, pennycress, willow herb, and annual meadow grass. Anna has been busy in isolation in the kitchen making our own loaves of bread. Small of fresh home made bread is fantastic, then there was a large pot of home made leek and parsnip soup. This isolation is not all bad it has a lot of merits. March has been a busy month for seed sowing. Sweet corn, lettuce, radish, beetroot, cauliflower, kale, Nemesia, French and African marigolds all got sown in the warmth of my south facing lounge. Windowsills are all used up, but others in pans, pots and cellular trays were placed on plastic tray and just left on a spare table. However as soon as I got a decent germination they got transferred to the greenhouse before they got leggy. That meant hardy greenhouse plants like sweet peas, broad beans and geraniums all went outdoors to harden off. I have always loved pushing the limits of what we can grow up in Scotland as climate change is increasing the range we can grow, so sweet corn, pumpkins,
Sweet corn
courgettes and Cape gooseberries which all like it hot and sunny are on this year’s list.
Unfortunately, although we are getting warmer temperatures we are also getting a lot more rain. That is a big problem with no answer. Last year my autumn strawberries Flamenco produced a very heavy crop of berries that all rotted as botrytis took hold. I hardly got any berries.
Over the years I have tried several varieties of sweet corn, but the variety Incredible was my real winner so I am growing it again this year. Germination has been nearly 100% so after a fortnight the plants in small cells will get potted up and kept in the greenhouse for two or three weeks before hardening of and planting out about the end of May. The land allocated for them as well as
Cape gooseberry
pumpkins and courgettes has all been sown down with a clover green manure. This is quick
growing so I will have a decent amount of growth to trample down and dig in about three weeks ahead of planting. Pumpkins and courgettes will get sown at the end of April. Two courgettes and five pumpkin plants will keep us supplied for several months. My last Cape gooseberries also love a warm sheltered spot with fertile soil. In previous wet years they have failed to ripen up, but we keep trying, and this could be their year.
pumpkin grown in 2019 was cooked at the beginning of this month. Both courgettes and pumpkins need plenty of space so are planted about three to four feet apart. I tend to let my pumpkins wander around hoping to get extra fruits.
Young cauliflowers
Other permanent plantings that enjoy the heat are figs, peaches and grapes. Figs have been very successful every year but outdoor grapes have varied. The variety Brant is brilliant though bunches are small, but last year the wet weather shrivelled up all the bunches of Regent and Rondo, though Phoenix gave me a small crop of ripe grapes for wine. Growing peaches outdoors in Scotland has its problems. They will grow, flower and fruit, but our wet climate encourages peach leaf curl disease even on those varieties such as Avalon Pride claimed to have some resistance. If you remove all the infected leaves the plant cannot grow and fruit. They all fall off before they ripen.
Pruning cornus and willow stems

Wee jobs to do this week

Cut back the colourful shoots from the cornus and willow in the winter garden as these are now
beginning to grow. After the winter show of bright red and orange stems, it is now time for the underplanted bulbs of crocus then tulips to put on a show. I cut back all shoots as far back as possible as they regrow again very easily. The longest shoots are retained for supports for rows of peas on my allotment.

END

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

CORONAVIRUS GARDENING SPECIAL

                                             CORONAVIRUS GARDENING SPECIAL

Coronavirus is now firmly established with matters getting worse until it reaches a peak.. We are all affected in one way or another, but hopefully keeping isolated will prevent contact with anyone who may be a carrier. The gardening life style is hopefully keeping us fit and healthy. Lock-down still allows us to carry on with the garden around our house.
Start hoeing the weeds
The allotment is a few miles away but as we are allowed some exercise the plot is the place to be. Plot holders are usually fairly thin on the ground so isolation is just fine and we can still be sociable from a distance as all plots are separated by wide paths. The communal hut up at City Road Allotments where we used to gather for a tea and coffee breaks is now shut for the foreseeable future and even our toilets have now been closed and put out of use. Our shop has been closed, but plot holders can order compost, seeds and other
sundries online for delivery to their plots and with
Daffodils amongst the roses
payment delayed till the virus problem
disappears. As we remain in isolation, I will be taking a flask of coffee and keeping social
conversations always over the allotment plot fence. My own plant and seed order is bought in by mail order so this can be done from home. This should work so long as staff are still around in
nurseries to grow and pack seeds and plants, then we need some hauliers to transport produce to our door. We are now seeing warm spring days with flowers popping up all over the place. This really lifts your spirit and brings on the feel good factor. It is important to keep fit, happy and healthy. We are really lucky to have both a large garden as well as an allotment plot. This gives us ample fresh fruit and vegetables just about all year round, with plenty surplus in the cool garage and stored in the freezer. I grow
Social distancing at allotment shop
plenty flowers to make the garden and allotment plot attractive as this raises the
spirits and now we will be confined to barracks for a few months we can brighten up the home with cut flowers from sweet peas, chrysanthemums, gladioli and dahlias and plenty roses.
In the garden tubs, pots and hanging baskets will be full of geraniums, begonias, petunias, marigolds, lobelia and busy lizzies, so the patio is always a bright spot and several flowers, such as the blue petunia has a beautiful perfume. This year I will also be planting some Brugmansias, Angel Trumpets in the largest tubs so the perfume will be at its best in the evenings. As we are in isolation we will enjoy sitting out on the patio relaxing on the sun loungers getting a wee bit of sun to build up our vitamin D levels.
Saxifrage with tulip Scarlet Baby
This vitamin together with vitamin C which is in plentiful supply with our fresh fruit and berries grown on the plot. Both saskatoons and the Aronias, chokeberry and of course the blueberry are just packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. However we will make an early start with lettuce, rocket, radish, spring onions and a few baby beet sown in the greenhouse border under the grape vine. They should be fine for a couple of months before the grape vine foliage takes over.
To keep our health in top form we need plenty exercise, especially now that the gyms and Anna’s
Pilates classes are shut for the time being. That is no problem in the garden as we can spend time weeding, mowing the lawn, cleaning up paths, fixing fences, repairing sheds, turning the compost heap, netting the strawberries and saskatoons, digging in green manure crops as well as seed sowing and planting. Then there is plants to stake, greenfly on roses, sawfly on gooseberries, caterpillars on cabbages all needing a spray. As summer gets under way there is always a few shrubs growing
beyond their allocated space so the loppers and secateurs are needed if isolation extends into the summer. When the isolation finishes the garden and allotment should be in a perfect condition.

Wee jobs to do this week

Drift of aconites
Aconites are past the flowering stage and are now getting ready to spread their seeds. These grow very successfully so collect the ripe seed pods before they split open and either find a spare bit of garden in need of brightening up in late winter and scatter them, or give them to a friend. Next spring the seeds will germinate and produce two seed leaves, (cotyledons) and the following year these will produce one or two true leaves, but it will be the following year before the first flowers will emerge. Patience will be well rewarded.

END