Monday, 31 August 2020

BACK TO THE GREENHOUSE

 

BACK TO THE GREENHOUSE



Add caption

Plants under glass have been protected from thunderstorms and gales, but those that started off with protection, then spent summer outdoors have had a more turbulent time.
Cape gooseberries growing fast under glass got a bit big in their large pots so they went outdoors against a south facing wall. This was great on sunny days, but then came the thunderstorms.

John picks Solaris grapes


They survived and are now over four feet tall and still growing and producing a good crop, but it will be a few more weeks before the first ones ripen. Pepper Early Jalapeno were plentiful from seed sown early February, so some were planted in south facing sheltered spots outdoors, some in pots on windowsills and a few in a border in the greenhouse. It is the ones on the windowsill that are growing
Pepper Early Jalapeno

and cropping the best, th
ough it is still early to judge. Basil grown from a spring sowing indoors grew strongly at first under glass but suffered when we got a run of cold gray weather in mid August.


Some in the greenhouse started to rot off, but those again on my windowsills at home were quite happy. Had to keep pinching out flower heads to produce more growth.
Another plant getting sown this month in the greenhouse is the onion Senshu Yellow. Seeds were sown in cellular trays in mid August as weather had turned cooler and gray skies with mist over the Tay predominate for several days. I hope to plant the young seedlings in autumn for over wintering then grow strongly to give an early crop next year.

The first tomatoes were ripe for picking in mid July, then in August both red cherry, Super Sweet 100 and yellow cherry, Sungold and maincrop Alicante were ripening up fast. Anna soon found a tomato soup recipe as we had plenty surplus fruits. Onions, basil, parsley, garlic and oregano and rosemary herbs were added. As we had family visiting from Glasgow it was a large pot of soup, and though it went down very well there

Tomato Alicante

was still some left for another day and the freezer. Tomato plants have all reached the greenhouse roof so tops have been removed with most producing five to seven trusses. Cherry tomatoes are so much more vigorous than the Alicante, but the fruits are just heavenly as a frequent snack between meals and in all salads.
Grape Seigerrebe

Sunny warm days this year have brought on the greenhouse grapes a lot earlier than last year, so Seigerrebe grapes were quite sweet by mid August. To grow healthy vines under glass good ventilation is very important so all roof vents have been fully open as well as the door. However our local blackbird popped in to have a look around and took a liking to the grapes. He got through several bunches of Seigerrebe before I spotted him. Next year the door and vents will get net protection, but this year I decided to harvest both Seigerrebe and the sweet white muscat flavoured Solaris. As these grapes have pips they are perfect for wine but not for eating unless you are happy to swallow pips. After harvesting work starts immediately, so grapes were separated from the bunch, then crushed in a fermentation bucket with a couple of campden tablets to sterilise any wild yeasts. The following day I add AW4 wine yeast, pectolase, acid, tannin and nutrient. The mixture stays in the bucket for four days then is strained off the must and the wine transferred to demijohns after adding some grape concentrate for further fermentation. If Blackie had stayed away, grapes would have been left on the vine for another week to increase sugar content, but they only had enough for 9% alcohol, so needed some grape concentrate to raise alcohol levels up to 12%

Field beans green manure crop

Wee jobs to do this week

As some mid season potatoes have been lifted the land is now clear for a green manure crop. Other
early harvested crops of onions, broad beans and peas left land free for autumn salads, so now as there is still time for plants to grow, it will be tares, ryegrass, clover or field beans for my green manure crop. These usually germinate quickly, grow fast as they all have a strong root ststem. They can get trampled down in winter then dug in. If field beans grow too tall, they can get pulled out and chopped up for the compost heap. This still leaves most of the nodules with nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil. When these rot down they will release nitrogen for the spring crops.


END


Tuesday, 25 August 2020

BACK TO THE ALLOTMENT

 


                                                BACK TO THE ALLOTMENT

Although gardening is very much in focus just now as lockdown and lack of holidays abroad has meant many folk have been busy at home in their gardens. My daily exercise is most often in our garden around the house or up at City Road on the allotment plot. You then become very aware of how plants are growing and if success is down to your skills or just great weather.

Raspberry Polka
Raspberry Polka
The early long sunny spell of dry weather followed by a fair bit of rain, and thunderstorms lasting a long time, has been brilliant for plant growth. However I always manage to keep a huge compost heap and practice green manuring on all spare land. Thus plants never go hungry, and combine it with an exceptional summer so now many plants have gone into supersonic growth. I have never seen so many different plants grow way beyond their allocated spacings. Courgettes are all massive and plentiful with spares going to fellow plot holders and the public boxes of free fruit and vegetables outside our gate on City Road. Pumpkins needed no encouragement from the courgettes.
Blackberry Helen
Bramble Helen
They decided to take over a large section of the plot, invading adjacent dwarf French beans, strawberries, chrysanthemum bed, gladioli block, front flower border and leapt the fence to climb up my neighbours lilac tree. It now has a large fruit swelling up, six feet above the ground. Afraid the long knives came out to cut back a few of the massive pumpkin leaves where they were crowding out other crops. Potatoes were just as active unable to contain themselves as they expanded south into my rose bed which fortunately has tall roses. As these are maincrop varieties they wont get lifted till autumn. Casa Blanca my first early potato has all been lifted and gave a very heavy crop, so I wont need to lift my second early for a few more weeks.

The heavy rains that ended the long dry sunny spell did no favours for my onions as white rot affected a lot of them, so they all got lifted and dried off for storing.

All the brassicas have loved the growing weather, but a crop of large cauliflower Klapton were all ready at the same time. Anna however found a great recipe for roasted cauliflower soup both for immediate consumption as well as some for the freezer.

Apple Discovery
Apple Discovery
Swedes are growing very strongly but crowding out an adjacent row of parsnips, so again a few leaves have had to be removed.

Salads are normally grown as successional crops, but all had massive growth so each row of lettuce, rocket, radish and spring onion was more than we could use. I had one Lollo Rosa lettuce got a wee bit over excited and reached four feet tall, without going to seed, before I got round to cutting it.

Lettuce Lollo Rossa
Four feet tall Lettuce

First crop of peas suffered some pigeon damage, but second crop of pea Onward is making up for it.

Fruit crop harvesting continues with bramble Helen ready from early August, autumn raspberry Polka, autumn strawberry Flamenco and now I am picking my first figs. However the fig bush has put on a massive amount of growth so it will get pruned once cropping has finished. Large pots of

Cape gooseberries placed against a warm south facing wall, enjoying Scotland’s brief heatwave, are all producing a good crop of fruit, but none ready just yet. Apple Discovery is swelling up and turning bright red, so should be ready to pick by end of August.

Flowers in tubs, baskets and borders have put on a great show but are now needing a wee rest,

before they grow again and go into late summer with their second flush. Geraniums have stopped growing but hope they will recover with a late summer flush and back to strong growth for autumn cuttings. Oriental lilies and gladioli are now at peak flowering as they revel in the summer weather.


Wee jobs to do this week

Collect Pansy seed
Collect pansy seed


Seed pods saved from the best pansies has dried off, cleaned up and seeds extracted ready for sowing in mid summer. Once a good crop of strong young seedlings emerge they will be pricked off into cellular trays to grow on to produce sturdy plants for autumn planting in tubs, pots, baskets and borders looking ahead to a display next spring and summer.


END


Wednesday, 19 August 2020

THE HERB GARDEN



Lockdown has given many people more time to get into their garden as well as being more adventurist in the kitchen. Growing herbs is now back in favour. Looking back over many years in gardening, growing herbs was seldom mentioned.

Chives
Chives
It was a bit like growing rhubarb. Find a dark neglected area and plant a few crowns then forget about them, but life moves on and now rhubarb is almost at superfood status as we now know all about its brilliant health giving attributes. Herbs are now an essential part of the kitchen and outdoor barbecue and have a special place in both the garden and allotment plot. We always grew Lavender and Rosemary as attractive landscape shrubs, a bay tree in a large pot to add interest on the patio, thyme was a popular ground cover plant and there was always a few sprigs of mint lurking amongst the bottom of the apple trees. Anna had always used a wide range of herbs in the kitchen as she just loves to cook and find new ideas with recipes. This week, after a glut of cauliflowers all ready at the same time, she created a brilliant roasted cauliflower soup with parsley, nutmeg, garlic and a few other available vegetables.
Basil
Basil
Over time more and more herbs got planted around the garden, and now with a bit of lockdown, she has even more time to experiment in the kitchen, so herbs are gaining prominence. Up at City Road Allotments herbs are very popular with a fair bit of swapping taking place. To get a herb garden started you can buy plants or plugs then pot up or plant out, though some annual and biennial herbs can be grown from seed. Herbs come in all forms from perennial evergreen shrubs, (Lavender, Sage and Rosemary) ground cover as thyme, herbaceous such as mint which dies down in winter, biennials such as parsley and annuals such as Basil. However Basil is not very hardy and up north it is best on a warm windowsill. Great in Pesto, pizzas and tomato dishes, and as it is the leaves that are used remove any flower buds as they appear. Parsley is often used in leek and a favourite in Scotch broth soup adding the health benefits of iron and the vitamins A, C and E.
Black mint
Black mint

Herbs are favourite along path edges for frequent and easy fresh picking for the kitchen, and Lavender and Rosemary best in a sunny dry spot. Rosemary has numerous uses in the kitchen especially for adding flavour to roast lamb, pork, chicken and pasta dishes. Both have a great perfume and bees are very attracted to them when in flower. Rosemary may be prone to die off if winters are severe, but these are becoming a rarity. Bay may also be prone to die off in a bad winter, but it is often grown in a large pot that can be moved into the greenhouse if bad weather threatens.

Another plant for a dry sunny spot is Coriander, a hot spicy herb added to curries and Mexican and Indian dishes. Oregano, a Greek aromatic herb has been grown for thousands of years, establishes easily from seed and both the seed and leaves are dried off for storing for future use sprinkled over pizza, in soups, marinades and savoury dishes. It is rich in

Sage and Rosemary

antioxidants and is proving to have numerous health benefits. Lemon balm herb is another plant needing a warm dry sunny spot, makes a lovely and healthy tea and often added when stuffing poultry.

Mint has always been popular in gardens, and now we can have black mint and applemint as well as spearmint and peppermint. Mint sauce is brilliant with lamb and freshly harvested peas. All mints are very easy to grow and control as they always try to grow beyond their allocated patch, so growing them in pots may be preferable. Both sage and chives, related to garlic are grown as attractive garden plants as well as ingredients for the kitchen.


Wee jobs to do this week


summer salads
Late summer salads
As early crops get harvested such as onions, broad beans, peas, potatoes and salads there will be bare soil awaiting the next crops for picking throughout autumn and into early winter. Sow some lettuce, radish, spring onions, rocket, land cress. No need to dig over the ground, just hoe the surface to remove any weeds and provide an inch of tilth to help seeds germinate, rake level and sow the seeds usually in rows a foot apart. I also add some fertiliser to give them a boost. Once they have all germinated they will need thinning out to give them more room to grow.


END


Monday, 10 August 2020

SUMMER PROPAGATION



Keen gardeners have always welcomed admiration for their horticultural success and only too happy to let someone have a cutting, spare plant or a bit of a plant that has layered itself. In my earlier apprenticeship days propagation in all its forms was a major part of our training and we gathered a lot of plants for our garden as our wee cuttings grew into bigger plants. Our older experienced journeymen would always bring us some cuttings to test our skills. Today it is now us older gardeners that help others with cuttings, spare plants and wee bits with a few roots showing.
Delosperma cooperii
Delosperma cooperii

Garden plants have had a great boost to growth this year with very favourable weather, at least so far. Although propagation goes on all year round there are many plants we can grow from summer cuttings as growth matures but is still active.

Lamium White Nancy is a silver coloured attractive ground hugging plant with shoots that root easily as they hug the soil. Take some of these shoots with a few roots and pot up as they quickly establish as young plants. Houttuynia is also propagated by lifting young shoots with roots on. Border phlox is also propagated from ground hugging branches that root into the soil as they spread.

Lamium White Nancy
Lamium White Nancy

Bearded iris have now finished flowering and any clumps three years old will benefit from digging up, splitting the crowns and replanting into fresh soil. The border pinks may still be flowering, but come easily from cuttings of non flowering shoots about three to four inches long and potted up with potting compost with added grit for extra drainage,

Many dwarf evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias can be propagated both by layering as well as cuttings, but for success you will need to use ericaceous compost with added grit, sand, or perlite. Take cuttings from shoots that still look like they have not finished growing. Size again about three to four inches long. Remove most of the leaves except a couple near the top and if these are large cut half of the leaf off. Water in well and keep in a sheltered light place away from direct sunlight. Most of these cuttings will root better with the help of some hormone rooting powder.

Hydrangea Charme
Hydrangea Charme cuttings

The dwarf japanese azaleas can also be layered. Take a low shoot near the ground and scrape a wee bit of bark off then lower it into the soil while still attached to the parent plant. You will need a peg to keep it in the ground and cover it with soil. It may be at least six months before it is rooted sufficiently to be cut off and either potted up or transplanted to another spot to grow on.

Heathers will come from cuttings two to three inches long placed in ericaceous compost with added grit, but keep them away from direct sunlight. Remove growth from the bottom one or two inches and take the tip out to encourage it to branch once it roots.

Pink cuttings now rooted
Pink cuttings now rooted

Other plants that root well from mid to late summer as semi ripe cuttings include, Lavender, Cistus, Rosemary, Fuchsia, Senecio, Hydrangea, Euonymus, Lonicera Baggesons Gold and many others.

My two favourite very colourful succulents, the ice plant, Delosperma cooperi and D. nubigenum are easily propagated from short shoots a couple of inches long put direct into the soil. They always root and grow very quickly, but like very well drained soil in a sunny position. Perfect at the top of a south facing wall where they can hang down happily and soon burst into flower.

Strawberry runners
Strawberry runners just planted


Wee jobs to do this week


Summer strawberries have now finished cropping. Only the perpetual and autumn varieties such as Flamenco continue to fruit. Take this chance to cut off all the old leaves, remove weeds and straw which can all go on the compost heap. The crowns will soon grow fresh young leaves to take the plants through the winter. Once they have made two or three years cropping they should be removed and a new patch planted up from runners. Some varieties produce very few runners after three cropping seasons so take runners from them after two years or buy in fresh plants for autumn planting. Runners are normally spaced a foot apart, but if there is plenty available then plant at six inches apart to give a bigger crop in the first summer.


END



Monday, 3 August 2020

THE ABUNDANT SUMMER HARVEST

  THE ABUNDANT SUMMER HARVEST


The summer harvest is well under way. Salads, lettuce, radish, spring onion and rocket have been plentiful since early spring and now numerous fruits are all ripening up. There is raspberries,

strawberries and saskatoons to add to the breakfast cereals and the first cherry tomatoes to add to salads at lunchtime.
Picking broad beans
Erica and Mum Patricia picking broad beans
Cherry Cherokee is giving a great crop for afternoon snacks and Anna found a great recipe for gooseberry fool as the first Invicta gooseberries ripened up. We will be bursting with great health all summer living off the land with an abundance of fresh produce. The weather has encouraged massive growth on all crops mostly to their benefit, though the lush growth on my autumn strawberry rows inhibited ripening as the sun could not get through to them. The early and maincrop strawberries are all picked, but the autumn Flamenco variety continues to bear fruit.
Strawberry Flamenco
Strawberry Flamenco

Raspberry Glen Dee is giving large fruit, but my Glen Fyne is being attacked by phytophthora root rot and will have to be dug out once the fruit has been picked. Fortunately I have a couple of rows of autumn fruiting rasps, Autumn Bliss and Polka which do not seem to be affected by the root rot. Gooseberries are again weighed down with huge berries which gives Anna plenty for the kitchen and freezer and I will get my ten pounds for wine brewing. The sawfly maggot gave us a miss this year, although a few appeared but were quickly spotted and dealt with. Cherry Cherokee is giving great crops, and although not netted for the marauding blackbird a few new cats in the area appear to have frightened him off. This year the cherries are huge so may be too big for the blackbird to swallow, though I am told some crows have been swooping down to sample a few.

Bramble Helen usually crops from August onwards but this year the first fruits were ready in mid July, and should continue to bear fruit for a few more weeks.

Summer fruit
Summer fruits

Blackcurrant Big Ben was picked in early July then Ben Connan a week later. Berries this year are quite big and the Big Ben is remarkably sweet as my wee helper, Luke from Glasgow found out. The happy smile on his face told the whole story, so crop weight this year may not be as much as we anticipated, but kids will return from their holiday very healthy, being full of vitamin C.

Redcurrants are poor this year, but I put this down to my pruning being not quite by the book. The bushes have been very vigorous with masses of foliage, but then they got attacked by leaf blister aphid. Might not get my three demijohns of my favourite wine this year.

Steve chops up old broad bean stems
Steve chops up broad bean stems

The vegetables have also seen massive growth this year on all crops. Potato foliage is massive and invaded my rose beds growing adjacent. Pumpkins are even worse. They have put on shoots well over ten feet long invading my chrysanthemum bed, two rows of gladioli and at present are climbing the lilac tree on my neighbours plot. However potatoes are very heavy yielding so far and blight yet to appear. Broad bean harvesting was assisted this year by friends visiting from Glasgow. So while Patricia picked the pods, I pulled out the spent plants and wee five year old Erica carried them up to the compost heap where her dad chopped them up for composting. Later on in the afternoon we all sat on the patio and shelled the beans before they were added to boiling water then cleaned and once they had cooled down the skins were removed from each seed, then bagged for freezing. Courgettes have been competing with the pumpkins for strong growth. One plant gave me eight large courgettes by mid July. Good job we have a produce sharing system for surplus crops on our allotment site and in times of plenty we box surplus up outside our gates for passers by to help themselves.


Wee jobs to do this week

Pumpkins running riot
Pumpkins running riot


Pumpkins have set off to explore the allotment. They are in a serious growth stage so secateurs were needed to prune back any sideshoot without a flower and a few huge leaves smothering my flower beds. Long growths needed cutting back so long as I get enough flowers to set and produce a few pumpkins. They have just loved the long sunny spell, then a few thunderstorms and all the while getting regular feeding from me. Weeds never had a chance.


END


Wednesday, 29 July 2020

SUMMER ROSES IN DISTRESS

                                             SUMMER ROSES IN DISTRESS

In a good year roses are always the favourite for bright colour, scent and lovely shape of blossom, but in the last few years they have had a bit of a struggle with weird weather. They enjoy a deep
fertile clay soil that is well drained, weed free and with plenty organic matter added as a mulch or lightly forked in over winter.
E H Morse
Then with decent weather, plenty warm sunny days and just enough rain to keep them happy they will put on a great display. The wet winter added just a wee bit too much moisture and a few floods but then the rain went off as spring arrived and the sun came out for nearly three months. Unfortunately this favoured mildew which took hold and weakened the bushes. At the same time the long sunny weather favoured plagues of greenfly which did the young shoots trying to grow no favours at all. The rains finally arrived in mid June but the weakened bushes were then subjected to blackspot disease. The wet weather at the beginning of summer brought with it torrential rain and thunderstorms as well as gales. The poor roses trying to put on a show with their first flush, had no chance. The gales, shredded the young leaves and broke the heads off numerous roses. Now at the end of June weather has settled down to the normal pattern of a few days rain and a few days
Iceberg
sunshine so I am hoping the roses will put on a great show in their second flush. Choose a dry day to give a spray of fungicide and pesticide to sort out any remaining greenfly, blackspot and mildew and add a bit fertiliser to give them a wee boost. Remove all old flowers before they form hips and cut back to the nearest young shoot or even further if leaves have a bad dose of blackspot fungus.
Now is a good time to visit garden centres which have all reopened and check out roses in pots for sale as they will all have some flowers on them. Roses can also be propagated from hardwood
cuttings in winter about six to ten inches long spaced about four inches apart and grown in a nursery row in the first year as they may not all grow.
Roses are very accommodating. They can be grown in prepared beds as bushes (floribundas and
hybrid teas) up walls as climbers and along fences as ramblers. Shrub roses are also great to add
Rosa omiensis pteracantha
height and structure at the rear of shrub borders adding security and privacy to the garden. One of my favourites is Ispahan, a large shrub rose with scented pink flowers and healthy disease free
foliage. If you need added security try Rosa omiensis pteracantha, the red winged rose, an
ornamental shrub rose with stems covered in huge red thorns. There are numerous climbers for all walls and even on the shaded north wall there are several climbers that will be happy to grow and flower. Try some of the white flowered Mme Alfred Carrier, Climbing Iceberg, Claire Austin or
Alberic Barbier. For pink flowers try Albertine, New Dawn or Gertrude Jekyll a shrub rose but happy to be trained as a wall climber. Good yellow roses for north walls are Maigold and Golden Showers and good red ones include Paul’s Scarlet and Danse du Feu.
We all have our favourite bush roses, but my list prefers those varieties bred with strong disease
Dawn Chorus
resistant foliage, a trait still sadly lacking in numerous roses. My favourite reds include E H Morse, Ingrid Bergman and Deep Secret. Good yellow roses include Arthur Bell, Freedom and Golden Wedding. My best white rose is still Margaret Merril but still a bit prone to blackspot. Iceberg has always been the best white floribunda. Myriam is a great pale pink and Congratulations a deeper pink and Dearest a great floribunda. My best orange rose is Dawn Chorus. Two good bicolour roses are Piccadilly and the old Rose Gaujard.

Wee jobs to do this week

Saskatoon bushes get netted
Saskatoon berries are ripening up and our local blackbird is getting quite agitated as he knows the nets will appear and stop him getting his summer food source. Bushes are over six foot tall, but with tall posts and nets I can still make them secure. Where nets reach the ground I cover the ends over with soil as I’ve seen the blackie flick up the nets and limbo dance under them to get into his fruitful paradise. Saskatoons down south in Worcester have now been harvested due to a warmer climate.

END

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

SUMMER FLOWERS

                                                           SUMMER FLOWERS

The long periods of lockdown have not really been a great hardship for the keen gardener. After nearly three months of dry sunny weather then a fortnight of heavy rain the garden has never looked better. Weeds were slow to get started so plants had little competition and as long as the hose kept the plants watered in the dry months everything in the garden was rosy.
Anna securing the cordon sweet peas
The spring display was brilliant and lasted a long time but now it is the summer flowers turn to brighten up the garden.
Roses all made an early start but the dry spell brought on some mildew as well as plagues of greenfly.
Fuchsia Swingtime
Then just as they were just getting into the first flush the gales arrived and numerous heads on bush and climbers got broken off. However they are now recovering and soon they will be getting their second flush. Hopefully summer weather with a wee bit of global warming will be in their favour. Flowering shrubs seemed less affected by weather and Philadelphus a mass of scented white flowers has been amazing and very long lasting. Yellow Senecio greyi and pink Cistus purpureus and Silver Pink as well as Genista and the golden broom Cytisus praecox all flowered well as the long dry spell really suited them. I have several outdoor Fuchsia Mrs Popple in borders and the less hardy fuchsia Swingtime in pots all enjoying this weather all full of flowers.
In the herbaceous border the Oriental poppies, Peonies and Bearded Iris are now over but Shasta Daisies, Delphiniums, Day Lilies, and
Geraniums and Petunias

Oriental lilies are now taking over. They are all self supporting except the Delphiniums and the taller Oriental Lilies which all require to have supporting canes. I use some Oriental Lilies as dot plants in tubs to add height to the summer bedding plants and with their exotic perfume they are perfect near entrance doorways and on the patio. The lockdown may confine us to be near home, but this gives us plenty time for garden work to keep weeds under control, carry out essential watering, staking and as flowers fade continual dead heading. Spring flowering pansies removed from tubs and hanging baskets in May were carefully replanted in bare areas amongst other plants as they always continue to flower into mid summer. However I identify the best white, yellow and blue colours and save seeds for growing on young plants for next years display.
Geraniums Petunias and Nemesia
These will be sown at the end of this month. I also have some very colourful Californian poppies as well as Poppy Ladybird and Opium poppies which have all naturalised in both my garden and allotment flower borders so I again save some seed for sowing next year in early spring. Poppies this year have been brilliant in all their different forms except my group of Himalayan Blue Poppies which are a bit slower to flower this year.

Yellow cactus dahlia
A wide mixture of summer bedding plants are used for tubs, hanging baskets and any bare areas in flower, shrub and herbaceous borders. The red geraniums have been outstanding as the long sunny spring was perfect for them. I had plenty of spare plants as I keep my own stock of best colours from cuttings in autumn, then as these grow I take out the tops to keep them bushy and use these as more cuttings. If you continue with this practise you can have a lot of plants by the end of spring ready to plant out.
Locked down but still smiling
These are brilliant for tubs and hanging baskets along with Nemesia Carnival and Petunias. Tuberous begonias are my favourite in tubs and borders, though they are later in starting to flower. This year the flowers seem a lot bigger than normal, so must be liking our weird weather.
Sweet peas and Dahlias grown for cut flower on the allotment are now providing plenty of flowers to take home though gladioli and chrysanthemums will come into bloom a bit later.
John tops up the compost heap

Wee jobs to do this week

Early summer is the time to clean up the garden after the spring display of bulbs and spring flowers has finished. The old foliage from bulbs and spent spring bedding plants together with grass cuttings and ample rhubarb leaves can all be added to the compost heap. Recent heavy rain has been brilliant in helping to keep the heap moist to allow the worms to start converting plant remains into well rotted compost. To help them out turn the compost over so that the fresh material is buried by some old compost. It helps if all the old plants have been chopped up before adding to the heap.

END

Monday, 13 July 2020

SOFT FRUIT PICKING SEASON BEGINS

                                            SOFT FRUIT PICKING SEASON BEGINS


The fruit picking season has got off to a flying start with strawberries enjoying the long sunny weather followed by a period of plentiful rainfall to make sure they never suffered from drought.
I was picking my early variety Christine from the end of May.
Emily and Kieran at Cairnie Fruit Farm
Other mid season varieties as well as my everbearing autumn variety Flamenco are all bearing crops. Just hope the season keeps going, but at present it is strawberries for breakfast, lunch and a snack in the evening almost daily, and Anna makes sure there is plenty jam and scones. There has been plenty
John picking redcurrants
surplus to add to the freezer to keep us going well into next year. Mice have been a nuisance, nibbling the outer seeds off berries which then quickly rot, so action will be taken. I know they just love a bit of blue cheese; well it will be their last meal.
Red currants look to be the next crop to ripen up, and they also need to be netted as the local
blackbird is very partial to a few red currants. Red currants are quite prolific croppers so Anna gets plenty for the kitchen and freezer and I get my ten pounds to start off my wine brewing season. This will give me three demijohns to lay down after fermentation and siphoning off the lees. I usually leave them for three years to mature before bottling up.
Blackcurrants are already very heavy with crops so my Ben Conan, which is blessed with very large berries, had to be staked to prevent the branches laden with berries from trailing onto the soil. Blackcurrant Big Ben also has very large berries with even sweeter fruit so can be used in desserts, compote and jam, as well as wine.
Raspberry Polka
Gooseberries are another fruit that is cropping at full capacity, but the recent thunderstorms with torrential rain did a bit of fruit thinning. However there is still plenty left to swell up and ripen. They are brilliant as compote, added to some jams and surplus put in freezer as well as leaving me with my ten pounds for brewing.
Raspberries are still growing and as yet the fruit is still to start to colour up but again looks like
another great crop, though constant watering was necessary during the dry months from April till early June.
Saskatoons are starting to colour up so they will get netted so blackbirds cannot get access
Anna picking young rhubarb
otherwise they would strip them bare in a few days, even those berries not yet ripe. Saskatoons are favourite added to rhubarb for
jam, as the berries are sweet and the rhubarb balances this with some acidity. However I need another ten pounds for my brewing programme. Although I usually keep saskatoon wine for three years, last year I tried a surplus bottle at six weeks old and it was perfect.
Rhubarb has been growing very fast so picking has been prolific and no need yet to stop, though I keep checking as it needs a rest at end of summer to build up good crowns for next year.
Figs, Brambles and Blueberries normally ripen in August but progress looks good in all except the blueberries that suffered when gales swept across the land in June and shredded off all the leaves.
Gooseberry Invicta
Cape Gooseberries were grown on my allotment a few years ago, but following a few bad summers when they
just would not ripen I gave them a miss. They are a lovely fruit so they are back this year in large pots against a sheltered south facing wall and all are in flower, so hopefully we will be sampling them before too long.

Wee jobs to do this week

Thinning apples
Apple June drop in Tayside was on time this year, so we can assess the young apple clusters left on the tree and thin out where there is still too many apples. The natural June drop only removes a small number, so further thinning is required. Aim to leave only one or two fruits per cluster and at least 4 to 6 inches apart. Remove any with damage or misshapen fruits and the king fruit. This is usually the biggest at the centre of the cluster and is often misshapen. Thinning allows the remaining apples to grow bigger.

END

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

PLANTS FOR A DRY GARDEN

                                               PLANTS FOR A DRY GARDEN

In my early years of horticultural training at Balfour Street Trades school, Kingsway Technical
College, then at Chelmsford Agricultural College we learned how to create a garden and grow crops on all kinds of soils. For low lying wet soils it was waterside plants, bog and ponds with a range of plants that enjoyed those conditions.
Delosperma nubigenum

Many areas in north west Scotland on heavy clay soils with high rainfall have problems, but rhododendrons, azaleas, turnips, swedes, kale and cabbages all just love it once some soil amelioration and drainage are attended to. Gardens down in the south east can be on deep peaty fen soils that are great once drained. Some coastal locations on sandy soils needed plants that could grow on dry soils and tolerate salt water spray. However it is not just soil type that affects plants but also climate which changes from north to south as well as west to east. Up in Tayside we miss out on all of these heatwaves enjoyed by those in the south, but we also miss out on all the rain which arrives in the west of Scotland. Training in horticulture covered all of these variables over the UK, but today we also have additional problems with climate change and very
Dianthus Doris
erratic weather patterns that are hard to work with. After a very wet 2019 year we have just come through a very dry spring, with cloudless skies and almost devoid of any rainfall from early April to mid June, though we did get a wee April shower at the end of April. The garden hose was in
constant use and even although the weather forecasts promised a few showers for our area, they
Cordyline australis
always missed Dundee, except one thunderstorm arriving on 21st June with gales and hailstones. That did help to add moisture to both garden and allotment. However that long dry spell did make me think on what changes I would make to the garden if dry conditions prevailed. Over the years I have continuously added more plants and removed those that died as soil and climate were not to their liking. The 2010 severe winter killed out many plants, but then surprisingly several came back to life a couple of years later. My palm tree Cordyline australis (great for dry soils) died back to soil level but grew back again after two years, however my well established date palm never survived. Fuchsia Mrs Popple regularly dies back to ground level but always comes back in spring. Many of my dry areas have been improved by adding in garden compost to add fertility and retain moisture. My garden is on a south facing slope with soil on several levels retained by walls so there are many dry spots to find plants for, especially in cracks in the wall as well as on top of it. The landscape structure uses several flowering shrubs preferring dry conditions such as lavender, rosemary,
Euonymus, both the silver form, Emerald Gaiety, the golden leaved Emerald n Gold, and the pink flowered Cistus purpureus. Plants with silver to grey foliage which reflects the hot suns rays are
favourite for dry gardens. Eucalyptus makes a very attractive tree and the shrub Senecio with
Sedum spathulifolium purpureum
yellow flowers is superb on top of dry walls next to the succulent Delosperma cooperi with purple flowers, and Erigeron with mauve flowers all in flower in June. The brooms Genista Lydia, Genista hispanica and Cytisus praecox will also thrive in dry conditions, as will many garden Pinks such as Dianthus Doris. Down at ground level the yellow flowered Delosperma nubigenum smothers the ground and can also be grown in cracks in dry walls by pushing a few shoots into a crack where it soon roots and grows quite happily. Both the ground hugging Sedums and Sempervivum will be happy in crevices in wall as well as on top. To add some colour in the summer months try a few
annuals such as poppies, Livingston daisies, Nigella, Osteospermums, Nemesia and Geraniums, but if dry weather prevails it will be back out with the hose to make sure they thrive.

Wee jobs to do this week

Remove grape vine sideshoots
Tomatoes are usually grown as single stem cordons with all sideshoots removed, and some form of support is needed. Canes are often used or strong polypropylene twine suspended from roof wires with the tomato cordons twisted around the twine as they grow. Side shoots need removing about twice a week. Grapes under glass also need removal of sideshoots twice a week but outdoor grapes grow more slowly so remove side shoots about once a week throughout summer.

END

Monday, 29 June 2020

HARVEST SOME HEALTHY CROPS

                                          HARVEST SOME HEALTHY CROPS

Life under lockdown has been a new way to see modern day living with plenty time to look at what we are doing now compared to life before the pandemic. Folk living in flats without a garden or an allotment have my full sympathy. However those with gardens and allotments and plenty of time on their hands are seeing a new way to live.
Summer garden produce
As lockdown has closed so many restaurants, shops, and pubs and it has not been so easy to go out for a meal, or even get a takeaway. Junk food is harder to find and that is no a bad thing. Folk are now growing more of their own fruit and vegetables with their kids involved from seed sowing to planting then on to harvesting. Getting them to do a bit of
weeding is a harder task!!! The adults just love to see fresh fruit and vegetables harvested and ready to eat in the same day, and totally chemical free. Just a pity there may be a few small slugs on the lettuce and the odd greenfly hiding in the kale, and you soon learn how to find those wee maggots in the raspberries, and the odd caterpillar in the cauliflower.
Blueberries
We all have more time now to practise new cooking skills especially as plenty magazines have numerous recipes to try out. Folk are slowly
learning that a more healthy lifestyle has many benefits and as we grow our own food we get plenty exercise, and allotment life is quite sociable as we can still chatter from a distance over the garden fence. Plot holders today are from all over the world including China, Philippines, Japan so we learn how to grow exotic crops as well as our tried and tested potatoes, cabbages, peas and turnips. People are now looking at health benefits of fruit and vegetables as well as taste. Most plot holders have no problem getting their five fruits and vegetables a day, and many including myself are often on ten a day if you include a good salad. Some of my favourite foods with ample health benefits will include some of the following.
Spring rhubarb
Black fruits such as grapes, blackcurrants, chokeberry, blueberries and saskatoons are all high in vitamin C and antioxidants, especially the chokeberry, but as the fruit is a wee bit astringent it is best cooked in compote, sauces or in jams and also makes a very tasty and healthy red wine.
Rhubarb was for a long time the poor man’s fruit, but now it is being recognized as very healthy,
being high in anti-oxidants, and the minerals calcium and potassium. It is also very tasty in tarts, crumbles, and stewed. Nearly every allotment plot will have a clump of rhubarb.
Strawberries are high in fibre, vitamins C and K and the minerals manganese and potassium, and figs are similar but also have vitamin A and B and the minerals zinc and copper. Using a range of varieties and polythene tunnels to give an early crop I can enjoy strawberries from May till
October, though last year the wet weather rotted most of my late crop. Fingers crossed for this year.
Swiss chard
Beetroot and chard are very high in antioxidants, magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C. The leaves and stems are rich in calcium, iron and the vitamins A and C. The juice of beetroots is used by athletes as a health drink and although traditionally we always pickled them, they can also be used in risotto, chutney, spiced beetroot, and my favourite beetroot soup.
Tomatoes contain vitamins A, C and E, some B vitamins and vitamin K, and this year I will enjoy the cherry tomato Sungold and the red cherry Super Sweet 100.
Peppers are very high in Vitamin C, vitamin A, and most of the vitamin B range, as well as the
minerals potassium, magnesium and iron, and if you can get used to some of the hotter varieties
research has indicated these have an amazing range of health benefits including a healthy heart, stomach, reduce migraines and joint pains, and help to prevent colds, flu and some allergies.

Wee jobs to do this week

Californian poppies
Tidy up herbaceous borders where early flowering bulbs (snowdrops, aconites, crocus daffodils and tulips) planted for an early display between drifts of plants have now finished and withered leaves can be removed. Oriental poppies and peonies have now also finished and dying leaves can be cut back. Any bare soil can be planted up with summer bedding plants such as geraniums or annuals such as Californian poppies, godetia, cornflower and Candytuft.

END