• Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
East Anglia has received its fair share of rain in the last month or so and it certainly feels like a new season is approaching.
Cucumber in the Greenhouse
In between showers and cloudy/wintry days I have been able to harvest my first crop of potatoes from a variety called Red Duke of York. The 2010 crop was not as bountiful as previous years due to the extremely dry weather which we experienced at the beginning of the summers and the late spring.
My tomatoes are ripening nicely in the greenhouse and also outdoors. In fact I have been busy feeding the plants with organic tomato feed as these plants are rather greedy. I had a nice crop of cucumbers in the greenhouse but it’s coming to the end as some of my plants have really dried out. I haven’t had as much success with peppers as I have in previous years and I am not sure of the reasons why. There is a possibility that I have overfed the plants and encouraged them to grow leaves as opposed to flowers. The peppers are still small and green but this could be due to the fact that this is a different variety from my usual favouriate Tasty Grill Red F1 Hybrid variety.
I have managed to cope with my courgette glut by sharing my crop and also using them extensively in risottos and in roast. My courgettes are truly relishing the wet weather and it is showing. Likewise the lawn is starting to recover from the draught which completely burnt out the green expanse of grass.
I will have to keep an eye on potato blight and tomato diseases if the wet weather continues for too long. The gardening season is not over for me yet as I am preparing my final sowing of beans and lettuces to come.
• 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!
• Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
A keen gardener like myself just wants to make the most of the last summer days of August; and there are so many things to do that I won’t be packing my gardening tools in the shed for a little while yet.
Here is my list of gardening activities for the next few weeks.
Since we have had a fair bit or rain recently it should be easier to pull up any old lawn to replace it by a new one. And Autumn is one of the best seasons to start a new lawn with turf or seed: the weather is still warm enough for the grass to grow and it will also get plenty or rain which should help the lawn establish itself. In fact I have noticed that my local garden centers have stocked up on turf recently. It’s always best to lay the turf as soon as possible on a level, weed and stone free soil in order to achieve best results.
Harvesting and feeding
The tomatoes which I have grown outdoors will continue to ripen into September, and therefore it’s important to continue to water and feed them regularly.
It’s important to harvest beans regularly to make the most of the young tasty vegetable and also to encourage further growth and crops.
The harvest of potatoes harvest is continuing especially for the maincrop varieties. And I am keeping an eye on the sweetcorn which should soon be ready for harvest.
• Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
At the peak of summer, August is when we’d rather make the most of the holiday season or just relax in the garden, however there are still a few seeds that can be sown this month.
In particular I need to grow more lettuce and with the current rainy weather it’s not going to be to hard to grow the following seeds:
Lamb’s lettuce: I grew some lamb’s lettuce last year and I find that it is a useful lettuce to grow through the winter months. It is fairly resistant to cold weather and although right now you may have a lot of vegetables available from your garden, it’s good to have something for the colder bleaker months to come.
Radicchios: this is a variety of chicory with red leaves which can be mixed with other type of lettuces to add a bit of interest to any salad. It’s not to everybody’s taste but worth a try as a change.
Christmas potatoes: I am considering growing some Christmas potatoes because my current harvest of potatoes does not look as bountiful as last year. And I do enjoy having a large supply of home-grown potatoes which I store in a dark and cool area of my shed.
I will probably buy specific winter varieties from catalogue or online. Apparently you can plant these in containers or pots late August – early September. more…
• Sunday, July 19th, 2009
My gardening activity is quite varied at the moment since most of the plants in my garden are growing at a different pace.
Picking Green Beans
In the vegetable plot I have been busy watering and feeding my organic vegetables such as courgettes, French beans and sweet corn.
I have had my first harvest of green beans and courgettes and I am still picking at the Black kale leaves which I like to include in my stir fries.
The tomato plants in the greenhouse are growing well and fruits have formed but none is ready yet for harvest. And the outdoor tomatoes are at a similar stage although smaller.
The rose bushes have blossomed and I have dead-headed the faded flowers to encourage another set of blooms. I am enjoying the burst of orange colour which the day lilies have provided for the last 3 weeks. My main flower border is evolving as the annual flowers are blossoming and in turn fading.
• Saturday, July 11th, 2009
Having recently been asked for advice on how I care for my dahlia plants at this time of year I have the following growing tips for beginners.
In my experience it is important to feed dahlias regularly in order to get a nice succession of blooms. Experts sometimes differ on what type of fertilizers they use to grow their prize-winning blooms (prize winning tips often remain secret!). I find that you can either use a general complete flower fertilizer that you can find in any garden center or better still, I like to use sulphate of potash which is basically the liquid that I use to feed my tomato plants.
I prefer to use liquid fertilizers since they are easier to dilute according to the manufacturers instructions. I also like to make sure that during periods of draught my dahlias are watered regularly and I obviously feed the base of the plant in the ground.
• Wednesday, July 01st, 2009
This month you can continue to grow your own vegetables in your garden and I recommend the following July sowings:
Beetroot: there’s still time to grow beetroots in your garden. They tend to be a slow growing vegetable from my experience.
Lettuce: I am currently growing an Oriental mixed lettuce selection which includes Pak Choi, Cima di rapa, Red mustard, Mizuma and Rocket lettuce. This is supposed to be an imaginative salad blend for people who are looking for an alternative to the usual salad leaves with new textures, colours and tastes.
I have not tried these before so hopefully this is a tasty and slow-to-bolt selection of lettuce. And it looks like I just need to harvest the young salad leaves as required.
Carrots: they tend to prefer light soil so you may need to prepare the bed before sowing and since the last few weeks have been fairly hot they will need a good soaking to get started too.
Herbs: basil, coriander, and lots of other lovely herbs to accompany any barbecue delicacy. I had lost my first lot of basil sowings because of the slugs but my second sowing is now doing well.
Beans: this is my third sowing of beans and this time I am trying a different variety from the Alan Titchmarsh Organic dwarf green beans range. Hopefully this one will be more prolific than the current variety which is currently in bloom in my garden and which I mention in my previous post about what to do in the garden now.
How about sowing a few flowers too:
Honesty : I have never grown these but I chose Honesty because this flower seems to be quite popular in cottage gardens. They look fairly basic but the faded pods look so nice in autumn and according to the packet the flowers are scented too.
Wallflowers: it may seem a bit too early to start thinking about spring but you actually need to sow your wallflowers now. They are best sown in pots as opposed to outdoors. The advantage of growing them from seeds is that you can actually choose the variety and in particular I am fond of the chocolate coloured type.
Blue poppy: also known as Meconopsis – I know that they are difficult to grow and they are fairly expensive to buy from nurseries. I tried sowing some blue poppies last year but failed to see any germination so I need to follow the instructions more closely this time.
• Saturday, June 20th, 2009
June is one of my favourite gardening months, not just for the organic vegetables which I have grown and started to harvest, but also for sheer burst of colours in the flower borders, and the wildlife activity going on right here.
Greenhouse in June
I particularly enjoy the evenings when I come back from work and go straight out to check if there are any strawberries ready for harvest.
We’ve had our first pea harvest which was so tasty that you can actually eat peas uncooked, but the quantity was rather disappointing – a big shelling job for a couple of handfuls of peas. I am considering sowing some snap peas next time.
We are finishing up the last of the green cabbage this week (much to everybody’s delight!). The rest of it has been ravaged by the white butterfly caterpillars and will probably end up in the compost bin too.
One of my favourite vegetables which I can hardly find in supermarkets: the artichokes have done really well this year. I have started to harvest a few heads and had to scrub off the black flies from a few heads but otherwise they are very tasty.
The early variety of potatoes are growing well but not ready yet for harvest. I have noticed that my second crop of lettuce has emerged so I have had to protect it from pigeons and rabbits.
The roses are looking great at this time of year and my flower borders are filling up nicely. My favourite rose this year is called Jude the Obscure, for its delicate scent and lovely shaped flowers.
My red oriental poppies all came up and now have gone very quickly so I didn’t even have a chance to take a picture. But I did finish planting all the flowers which I had sown indoors back in spring including the asters and more recently some zinnias which I have simply placed along the garden path.
The coming week is forecast to be a hot one, so I shall give the diary a rest to go and water my vegetables.
• Sunday, June 14th, 2009
There are a number of flowers which I grow in my garden and which I particularly like for their fragrance. A typical cottage garden is likely to include many of these plants and although it is difficult to express in writing the quality of their perfume, I have included below some pictures in order to illustrate the quality of the blossoms.
This year we had a new unexpected blossom from a Cordyline plant which as you can see below attracts all the bees and looks like a spray of small flowers. Cordylines give an exotic look to the border since they look similar to palm trees with the advantage of being relatively hardy in the UK.
The fragrance of the Cordyline blossom reminds me of a really gooey sweet nectar similar to Honeysuckle in my opinion.
My white Lilac
is starting to fade but this is another shrub which I enjoy for its delicate early summer perfume. I also recommend the Mock orange
bush which is currently in full bloom. Not only does it produce a delicate scent through its small white flowers but it’s also very easy to grow.
I have also recently enjoyed the late blossom of sweet peas which did not do so well for me this year probably because May was a really dry month. I shall remember to take more care of my sweet peas next year.
Blair No 2 Rose
are currently in full bloom and release a peculiar scent which is not as strong as the Carnation’s fragrance but they make a nice addition to a summer bouquet.
Finally, if you are looking for a fragrant climbing rose I recommend the following: climbing rose Blair no. 2, as seen on this picture taken this morning , with its delightful dual shade of pink blossoms and exceptionally strong English rose fragrance.
On this sunny day and with so many fragrances drifting in the garden all I want to do is go back for a little wander which is what I will do now.
• Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
Just like a busy bee I have enjoyed the good weather in May and now with the return of the rain I am able to get on with more planting and outdoor sowing.
So, what have I been up to in my garden ?
With so many sowings carried out over the last few months, there are a lot of plants that needed transplanting in the garden. Most of them were hardened off and queuing ready to go out.
So yesterday I planted out my Cleomes which were starting to look a bit sad in the greenhouse as it was getting too hot for them. I have planted them at the back of my main flower border since they grow into tall flowers with their stem developing little nasty thorns over time. Similarly my red Amaranthus also grown from seeds back in March were planted towards the rear of my flower border.
Over the weekend I also planted some French green beans outdoors, a dwarf variety called Nomad, from the RHS Award of Merit seed collection and gave them a good soaking because it’s been so dry in May that my soil is still hard to dig into.
In fact it was so hot that my early spuds required a good soaking from the water butt, although I shan’t complain about the weather!