• Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
The gardening activity picked up during the months of May and June, and I have been busy planting my seedlings in the garden and the greenhouse. The flower borders saw a succession of Spring flowers and bulbs soon to be replaced by the Summer annuals which I have recently planted. This includes petunias, antirhinums and geraniums.
I think that it’s fair to say that although spring was late, it has been rather good and was soon followed by a lovely sunny Summer so far. I have quickly ran out of water from my recycled water butt and the lawn is looking rather yellow and dry but I don’t intend to water it since I know that it will recover as soon as the rain comes again.
My greenhouse is packed with tomato, cucumber and pepper plants which I visit daily to make sure that the cucumbers are climbing nicely against the twine which I have hung from the greenhouse ceiling. Tomato plants need to be staked regularly as they develop more flowers and fruits rapidly in summer and may collapse otherwise. I have 2 different grow bags, one of which is peat free and was purchased from B&Q. I have noticed that the 3 peppers in that bag aren’t doing so well as the other ones.
I have enjoyed the cherries from the half of the tree which I protected from birds although they appeared to be rather small this year. I have noticed some particularly big bumble bees flying around my fruit trees and shrubs and I have been wondering why.
This year I have managed to dig over and plant the whole of the garden which is now full of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Gardening has been very rewarding so far, what with the weather being so good and the crops coming on nicely, so bring on July!
• Friday, April 30th, 2010
Many amateur gardeners like myself are likely to have a cherry tree in their garden, whether it is a decorative type or fruit bearing variety. And at this time of the year you cannot fail to spot them with their beautiful blossoms. Like me you can take part in the urban cherry survey which is planned to run for 3 years and is organised by the National History Museum. The aim of this survey is to find out more about the changes to the urban landscape. The cherry tree survey is anonymous and can help the National History Museum and other research organisations gain useful information about the biodiversity of the wildlife in urban areas where the trees are growing. And since the United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity this initiative is a good opportunity for the public to be involved at a local level.
Cherry Tree Survey
Taking part in the survey is easy and only takes a few seconds. You just need to enter the postcode of the area where you have spotted the cherry tree and give a few details about the type of cherry tree which you have identified. There are some guidelines on the website for people who are not sure about types of cherry tree. My cherry tree is a fruit tree from a Morello variety which I planted in my garden 5 years ago, and it looks magnificent at present (as you can see in the header of this website). But I need to remember to put a net on top of my tree to prevent the birds from eating all the fruits later in the year. Some birds like the black bird or thrush do manage to get in the net anyway but all is not lost.
By taking part in this survey you will contribute to developing a greater understanding of how changes in the climate may affect where and how trees grow as part of the overall biodiversity picture.
• Monday, October 26th, 2009
It is possible to grow grapes in the UK as long as you choose grape varieties which are suitable for growing in your region. In my case however I simply bought a rootless stick from a small village market in Languedoc Roussillon for a mere £2.50.
I chose a red grape variety called Alphonse Lavallée which is well-known as a good accompaniment to cheeses such as Comté or Gruyère for example. I did have second thoughts about buying a red grape variety since I was concerned about the weather in England, in particular the fact that it would need a lot of sun to ripen into red grapes. East Anglia enjoys some of the driest weather in the UK and just £2.50 I was happy to give it a go if only for the decorative quality of the vine.
I planted my twig two and a half years ago in my south facing garden and I have trained it to grow along the top part of a white painted brick shed. I was amazed to see some healthy shoots sprouting from such a small and frail rootless stick.
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 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
• Thursday, April 30th, 2009
April was a wet month in Languedoc Roussillon and therefore a lot of weeds have cropped up in my French garden.
I missed the almond tree blossom but I was delighted to see that the tree was full of newly formed green almonds.
The apricot tree has also finished blossoming and I could see a few small apricots amongst the green leaves. Unfortunately one of the main branches appears to be dead and will need cutting probably in the dormant season. I am a bit concerned about this dead branch since I also found an unsightly 2 inch grub which you can see on the picture below. It was nestled underneath a rotten mimosa tree stump which I dug out to clear some space.
I think that this type of grub feeds on cellulose and therefore is prone to weakening trees.
My nectarine tree which I only planted last November seems to be growing well despite the cold and wet weather which we had during winter. Trees are an important feature of my French garden since I am aiming for a low or no maintenance garden (since I am not often there to look after the plants).
Casualties happen however and I was disappointed to see that my bougainvillea didn’t make it through winter. I did protect it with a special garden fleece but I made the mistake of adding some newspaper sheets at the base of the plant in an attempt to protect the roots from the cold. I think that my bougainvillea did not appreciate the cold wet newspaper treatment so it’s a lesson to be learned about frost tender plants and bushes.
• 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.
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!).
• Sunday, April 05th, 2009
On a glorious morning like this, I enjoy walking in the garden looking at the daffodils and hyacinths which are in full bloom now, and just taking stock of what’s happening in the garden.
You may be fooled into thinking that everything is ready to grow and burst into bloom. But last night we got a nasty frost and my neighbour who had left his tray of lobelias just told me that they got hit badly by the frost.
Cherry Tree Buds
So today I only planted the broad beans which I had started in the greenhouse to fill in the gaps in my line of broad beans, where quite a few are missing since the broad beans were damaged during our cold winter. I also planted out the garlic which I had left in trays during winter. And finally I cleared the area for the sweet peas, and strenghtened the bamboo canes and the structure as a whole.
I have noticed that the Berberis bush is about to blossom. It is a prickly but lovely bush which carries deep coloured orange flowers which attracts bees. Similarly full of bees is the rosemary which is in full bloom too.
Finally, my cherry tree is just about to burst into bloom as you can see on the picture above. By next weekend it will look like my header (at the top of the page), soon to be followed by some fruits.
• Saturday, March 07th, 2009
You know the saying but what if you could have your own supply of home-grown Fresh organic apples?
Two years ago we planted two apples trees in our garden. Since we regularly eat apples in all forms (lunch box fruit, crumbles, apple sauce, tarts,…) it made sense to give it a go (did I mention cider?). And it’s not too late to plant a tree now; in fact the dormant period is probably the best time to do so.
This country used to be a major grower of apples of all sorts but due to many reasons (cheaper exports, supermarkets demands…) we now mainly ship in standard varieties from abroad.
And yet there are so many delicious different varieties to choose from. Personally I would recommend that you make sure that you plant a local variety of apple tree. Not only because it has more chances of growing well in its local environment but also it’s part of our heritage and the chances are that your local varieties will include anything but the standard bland tasting supermarket apples.