• Thursday, November 26th, 2009
You can save a lot of money by checking out the gardening discounts at this time of the year. I went to my local garden centre and found some reduced price packets of seeds which actually don’t expire until 2011. For a mere 10p I was able to pick up some unusual flower and herb seeds such as Borage and Gypsophilia. I would not normally consider buying these seeds but at that price it’s worth a try.
Strawberry plants are also reduced to half price at this time of year and although it is probably late in the season to be planting them, there is a good chance that they will be fine next year if they can survive the winter. The two varieties which I found were: Hapil and Elsanta, which I have never grown before.
Similarly bulbs like Alliums (Mars) which normally cost about £3 were 50% off as it is getting a bit wet to get planting in the garden. This variety of allium grows really tall flowers (48″) which look lovely in a mixed border and dry out nicely as they fade out. I noticed on their instructions that these alliums can actually be planted successfully right until the end of autumn. Many garden centres also have offers on other spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips.
Finally I have also bought some broad beans (100 grms for 80p) and although these should have been planted earlier in the month, I have sown them in modules and placed them in the greenhouse to help with germination.
So when you next visit your garden centre to find some Christmas decorations check out the seasonal discounts on seeds, bulbs and plants, and you could save yourself a lot of money.
• Sunday, November 15th, 2009
November is perceived by many as a grim wet month with nothing exciting to do in the garden, and yet for me it signals the turn of the year with so many things to do in preparation for next year’s Summer.
In fact today is actually sunny and warm and I have been able to potter around in the garden and take stock of what’s changed and what needs sorting.
I started by creating a bit of space in my greenhouse in order to provide shelter for frost tender plants such as succulents and the plant cuttings such as rosemary and sage which I made at the end of Summer.
I have also cleared my strawberry bed and pulled up all of the plants as they had been in place for 3 years. Usually strawberry plants don’t crop so well after 3 years hence the need to replace them. I found a lot of ladybirds in my strawberry patch which seem to have really thrived this year. Since l like these dear ladies I have provided them with a shelter in the greenhouse.
• 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.
• Monday, October 19th, 2009
The month of October is an ideal time to sow green manure seeds, which will improve the structural quality of your soil. Green manures include mustard seeds, rye grass, etc. This month I am giving a go at sowing Mustard seeds which I have never grown before. Already after just a couple of days the mustard seeds have started to sprout in profusion, covering the area with a green carpet of leaves.
My neighbour reckons that I should be able to use some of the mustard plants to spice up my salads which I shall try. I bought my mustard seeds from a local small garden shop in Ely which supplies loose seeds sold by weight. But I think that I over-estimated the quantity as it seems that I have enough seeds to cover the whole of my vegetable plot!
Spring Onion is another crop which can be sown this month, or at least some varieties are suitable to Autumn sowings.
Hollyhocks in the garden
And there’s also still some time to sow lettuces such as Mizuma and Lamb’s Lettuce. I have also sown a few winter lettuces in my cold frame, which has a removable glass panel that was taken off in the hot summer months. When the first frosts arrive I shall put the panel back on to protect the lettuces from the worst of the cold weather. Hopefully this should enable me to make the most of the crop well into winter.
October is also a good month for sowing hollyhocks, and in fact I have noticed that the flowers heads in my garden are full of seeds ready to self propogate. I have already collected these before the arrival of the frost. Hollyhocks are really easy to grow but they will normally only start flowering the following year.
Another flower which can be sown and kept in a frost free place is Sweet peas. The advantage of sowing sweetpeas right now is that they will flower earlier next year. I will however need to take care of them and make sure that they make it through the winter.
Finally I may look into sowing some broad beans although my last year’s sowing suffered from the heavy snow and cold which we endured at the beginning of this year and resulted in a relatively poor crop.
As we step into the colder month of November the sowing activity will start slowing down but there will still be so much to do in the garden whilst I take stock of the new season to come.
• Friday, September 25th, 2009
I was reading this article about a gardener being banned from exhibiting at his local county vegetable show and it occurred to me that I need to keep an eye out for local agricultural events to include in my diary. I think that it’s important to support your local show even if you are not exhibiting. Quite often you will find that the events include the opportunity to discover and buy delicatessen products such as home-made jams, cakes or chutneys.
I have previously exhibited vegetables at a local amateur vegetable show and did win a couple of small prizes for some of my peppers and cherry tomatoes. But most of all I enjoyed watching what other people grow to get new ideas. The morning of the show is always an exciting moment for me as I go round the garden selecting my best looking vegetables. I am not very experienced at showing vegetables – having exhibited my garden produce only twice at the local village show. Sadly this year the horticultural show will not take place in my village due to lack of interest but hopefully next year it will be scheduled again.
This weekend is forecast to be largely sunny in the UK so if you are not busy watering the garden and harvesting crops you may wish to visit a local show.
One of the largest events to take place soon is the Malvern Autumn Show on 26th & 27th September. And if like me you also enjoy learning about activities related to the land, and you are visiting the region of East Anglia then the Grandsden Agricultural show (26th September 2009 – Cambridgeshire) may be of interest too.
• Wednesday, September 09th, 2009
As the days are drawing in and getting colder there are fewer opportunities for outdoor sowings in September. Having just come back from holiday I will need to take the time to do the following sowings before winter stops me in my track.
Clarkia in Summer
: my recent sowing has started to sprout. I like Lambs Lettuce (also called Corn Salad) because it’s one of the very few lettuces which keep well throughout winter and I can keep pinching off the leaves until the frost arrives. Mizuna and Rocket are another of these lettuces which are often used in exotic mixed salads and can be sown in September.
Winter spinach: I have a nice supply of spinach and chard which can make up for the lack of greens in winter.
Winter cabbage: having noticed that my brussels sprouts are being eaten by the White Cabbage Butterfly caterpillars I may need to dig them out and replace them by winter cabbage or cauliflowers which can be sown now.
Last sowing of culinary herbs (parsley): my recent sowing has just come up and I find that you always need parsley to flavour a great many dishes.
Calendula & Clarkias: I have just noticed that my packet of seeds indicate later sowings in September. I did sow these flowers in Spring and enjoyed the blossoms in summer but apparently a September sowing would allow for earlier blossoms next year. Something to really look forward to in 2010.