Archive for the Category ◊ My English Garden ◊

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• Sunday, June 07th, 2009

Following a comment on this website regarding removing side shoots from tomatoes plants, here is an update post on how I look after my tomato plants in order to get a good crop.

My Greenhouse Tomatoes

My Greenhouse Tomatoes

By now your tomato plants are likely to be of an average height of 9 inches (depending on when you sowed or planted them and where they are growing and care for). The tomatoes grown in my greenhouse are actually taller than the other outdoor specimen which I planted not that long ago and both are bearing flowers. The size of the plant is not a concern since it will all come in good time with the warm summer which we shall hopefully continue to enjoy (although it is cold and raining heavily today!).

So what do I need to do now to make sure that I get a delicious crop of tomatoes? For me just a bit of maintenance is enough as follows :

1. Removing side shoots:

Early on I try to make sure that I remember to remove the side shoots as they appear on cordon tomatoes only. I tend to focus on the shoots that start from the bottom part of the tomato plant stem. I often forget some side shoots but in my personal experience it doesn’t do any harm and I still get a good crop.
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• Friday, May 22nd, 2009

I am really looking forward to the strawberry season which will start in June. The best part of growing your own strawberries is wandering in the garden and picking and eating the fruits on the spot. And they taste so much better than the fruits which you can buy from the supermarkets.

Strawberries in blossom

Strawberries in blossom

Strawberries are not that difficult to grow even for a gardening novice like me. I have a small patch where I cultivate the following varieties: Honeye and Cambridge Favourite, the latter one being my favourite variety indeed.

I have been a bit disappointed with the honeye variety which turned out to be not so sweet. One reason for this could be the origin of my plants which I bought from a local village fair as bare rooted home grown specimens.

I have also tried and enjoyed the following varieties: Royal sovereign strawberries (a popular well tried variety) and Gariguette (French variety).

My tips on how to grow strawberries

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• Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Last week a few councils in the UK organized localized initiatives to encourage people to make their own compost. If you are concerned about protecting the environment then composting is one of the first steps towards recycling and making things better for the future at a local level.

Now I am not a specialist in making compost but my two compost bins are currently full to the brim with grass cuttings and the cardboard which I used to force my rhubarb, as well as the household vegetable waste which I collect every day. And I admit it: it feels good to be doing my bit at a personal level.
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• Friday, May 08th, 2009

If like me you have a flower border which is looking a bit bare at present then you may want to start planning your flower border. Planning or designing your flower borders should help you achieve a succession of flowers right into autumn.

My Flower Border

My Flower Border

Obviously you don’t have to plan the border in exact details but you may find that it pays to do so in the long run and it’s also quite interesting and fun. You will find below my personal gardening tips on how to achieve this.

Right now my flower border is adorning a few tulips which will soon fade away (as you can see in the picture) so I need to fill the empty spaces with some more beautiful flowers and plants.

I first had a look at my border area earlier in the year and did a lot of sowings of flowers which are currently growing patiently in the greenhouse. And now I am just considering which plants will be grown in the border and as part of my simplified version of garden design.
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• Sunday, May 03rd, 2009

Before the rain returns I have managed to plant the rest of my potato tubers which I had chitted last month. These are for a maincrop variety called Desiree, which is one of my favourite potatoes. And as you can see on the picture below I usually tend to include my grass cuttings as well as newspaper sheets when I plant my tubers. I personally find that it helps keep the moisture in and it’s a good way of recycling some of my organic matter.

Planting Potatoes

Planting Potatoes

My early variety potatoes are already in and they have started to sprout shoots so I will need soon to start earthing up the shoots in order to get a bigger crop of potatoes. This also allows me to do some weeding along the way.

I should have a continuous supply of my home grown potatoes for at least 7 months of the year by planting early and maincrop varieties of potatoes. The two varieties allow me to have early new potatoes in July and then a later maincrop in September.

So it’s not bad going for all my digging efforts!

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• Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Many flowers and vegetables can be sown safely outdoors in May as the risk of frost is diminishing. Last month I made a lot of indoor sowings of plants which I currently have sheltered in my greenhouse and should be going out gradually by mid May. This includes tomatoes, chilies as well as a wide range of flowers such as cleomes and geraniums.

Below is a list of plants which are easy-to-grow and I shall start sowing most of them outdoors in May if the weather allows it.

Sunflower

Sunflower

Sowing flowers:

Outdoor sunflowers: bring a bit of sunshine in your garden with tall sunflowers. May is a better month to grow them outdoors. I did sow some sunflowers seeds in my greenhouse in April but they did not germinate and it looks like a slug ate the tender shoots.
Love-in-a-mist: easy to grow annuals usually available in shades of blue and pink.
Sweet peas can be planted outside and trained to climb on a bamboo wigwam for example. Mine are already out.
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• Sunday, April 26th, 2009

The garden has evolved so quickly recently with the warm weather which we have enjoyed that it has proved difficult to keep track of all my gardening activities. However this is my update of what’s growing in the garden right now including the flower borders, vegetable and fruit areas.

Tulips

Tulips

My tulips are all out including the bulbs which I planted back in autumn in containers along with pansies grown from seeds. In turn, I have also spotted a few butterflies including the lovely red peacock butterfly.

The rose bushes are growing new leaves following the spring pruning which I carried out earlier in the year (I must remember to give them a good feed!).
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• Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Radishes are so easy-to grow and now is a good time to start sowing the seeds in the garden. I sowed a line of radishes 3 weeks ago and they are already out so I shall sow a few more today to make sure that I get a continuous crop of radishes.

Picking Radishes

Picking Radishes

My preferred variety of radishes is called French breakfast which has a long shape and a nice crunchy taste and which you can see on the picture below. You can grow radishes too since they do not take much space: you just need to make a drill in the soil and sow your seeds at a depth of 1.5 cm and cover the seeds with soil. If you grow a different variety the depth may differ so it is best to check the instruction on the packet.

Radishes need a fair bit of water to grow well and remain crunchy so I usually tend to grow them only in spring time.

Top TipMy top tip: did you know that you can make a nice soup with radish leaves?

My mum used to make a nice green soup with the radish leaves which actually taste like spinach. All you need is freshly cleaned radish leaves, butter, onion, potatoes, seasoning and some crème fraiche. Fry the radish leaves lightly with the chopped onion and add a couple of boiled potatoes and liquid to make the soup. Then once you have liquidized all the ingredients, just add a good spoonful of crème fraiche or double cream to make it unctuous.

In the old days people in France used to also add a boiled egg cut in chunks in the soup. Which reminds me of the old recipe for making fish pie when people in the UK used to include a boiled egg too.

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• Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Today looks like a good day to get on with cutting the lawn. My lawn used to look like an unkempt meadow, patchy with dandelion weeds, buttercups, and ribwort to name but a few weeds.

Relax on the lawn

Relax on the lawn

Other European countries like France envy our expertise in growing the perfect English lawn. Lush and green with razor sharp cut edges and neatly clipped on top, the English lawn involves a lot of skills and some will say art.

I’m no expert at growing a perfect lawn however I have a few tips for the occasional gardener who is keen to get the green spruced up and ready for the forthcoming good days of barbecues and play in the garden.

Lawn care Tip no.1: patch it up

Spring time marks the beginning of the lawn growing season. Now is a good time to get started by removing carefully any weeds which may have creeped up in your lawn such as daisies or dandelion. Then carefully patch up the gap left with some ‘heavy duty’ type lawn seeds and water well to help with germination.
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• Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Dahlias invariably form part of my flower borders each year. With over 50,000 different dahlias to choose from, it’s a real pleasure at this time of year to be browsing through the horticultural catalogues for ideas of new dahlia varieties to grow.

My Red Dahlias

My Red Dahlias

I feel a sense of nostalgia associated with dahlias, which hangs around memories of allotments separated with rows of dahlias. Commonly used as cut flowers in allotments, they are often arranged in a garish display of colour with all shapes and colours lined up casually. One benefit of growing dahlias is that they have a long flowering season which extends well into autumn and sometimes winter.

My favourite dahlia types:

Various types of dahlias are available to choose from: pompon style; daisy-like flowers – the Bishop of Llandaff is particularly recommended for its stylish red blossoms on a dark foliage; cactus flowered type; and they come in all sizes and colours. Personally I prefer the tall varieties which I can use as filler at the back of my borders. And I love their striking colours as well as the size of the plant and flowers.
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