Archive for ◊ July, 2009 ◊

• 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 26th, 2009

Following my previous post on planning a flower border which I wrote back in May the border has been looking good and it is also constantly evolving.

Clarkia in flower border

Clarkia in flower border

The effect can be seen in the following pictures taken in June and also on this lovely July morning. In my original post I was planning to have a few annuals amongst some of the perennials that were already there. I was also aiming to have a continuous display of flowers which is always the challenging part of any border design in my opinion.
Gallardia and Rudbekia

Gallardia and Rudbekia

Some of my ideas have worked out, so for example as you can see the Clarkias provided some interesting lush colour in the flower border.
But unfortunately some of the seeds did not germinate so I did not manage to get the homogenous effect which I was looking for. The Clarkias were interspersed with some Sisyrinchiums (Stiatum) which are perennial plants that produce elegant spikes of creamy yellow flowers. Since these flowers tend to self seed freely I ended up with too many of them in the border but it was nonetheless looking good in June.

Then later in the month there were a few unexpected blue cornflowers in the wrong places but they filled in some gaps nicely. I am also rather disappointed with the lawn Chamomile and the Erigerons which do not seem to have grown well as you can hardly see them in the border.

Mixed flower border

Mixed flower border

On the other hand this month the Gallardias are in full bloom and the double pompom-type blooms look nice as do the Rudbekias. The Dahlias in the background are just starting to bloom and hopefully the pink crinums will soon do too.

So my flower border is not really what I was expecting in terms of general effect but it does look good and colorful, and that’s what matters after all.

• Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

I have been growing peppers in my garden for a couple of years now and I find that the sweet pepper variety is very satisfactory to grow even in the colder British climate.

Greenhouse Peppers

Greenhouse Peppers

Usually grown from seeds, most of my peppers end up growing in the greenhouse because I can never guarantee that the summer will be a hot one and they do need enough heat to ripen well.

I did have a head start with my peppers which I starting to sow back in April of a variety called F1 tasty grill. They have an elongated form and tasted great last year.

You can see in the picture below that right now the peppers in my greenhouse are quite big and growing well in the grow bags.

I recommend feeding the plant regularly; personally I use a potash-rich tomato liquid feed (the organic type as a personal preference).

As the plants grow bigger and heavier with fruits, I need to start staking them with some bamboo canes which I will push in the ground. more…

Category: Growing Vegetables  | Tags:  | 4 Comments
• 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

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.

• Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

At this time of year many of us want to make the most of the outdoors by having a nice garden which is practical and can be used for entertainment purposes, preferably all year round. In other words what we really need is a low maintenance garden.

Black Sheet Weed Control

Black Sheet Weed Control

I am planning to have a go at a low or no-maintenance gardening since I actually have two small gardens located in different areas and it’s difficult to maintain both.

In fact my English garden is the main focus of my gardening efforts whereas my Mediterranean French garden really needs to survive on its own.

Whatever works for my dry Mediterranean garden should also be useful and applicable to my English cottage style garden particularly since climate change seems to makes us prone to extreme weather with spells of dryer weather and hose pipe bans.

So where do I start?

I have found some inspiration in a great garden which I visited last year whilst on holiday in Morrocco: the Majorelle garden. more…

• 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.

Garden Dahlia

Garden Dahlia

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.

• Friday, July 10th, 2009

Always on the look out for great new gift ideas I discovered an original garden gift which may be suitable to a gardening friend: a Garden Design Course.

I guess it’s quite natural that in my circle of friends many of them are keen gardeners. And most of them are rather well equipped with tools and plants, so when it comes to birthdays, choosing gifts is not an always an easy task. more…

• Tuesday, July 07th, 2009

With the return of the rain this week many of us will be faced with the problem of slug control, which can be difficult to handle on a large scale.

So it’s no surprise that someone would consider the option of eating them to make good use of this easy supply of salad-munching beast. And after all if snails can be considered tasty in the rest of Europe why not try slugs which are from the same gastropod family?

This is what keen gardener and professional chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recently decided to try in his British River Cottage TV programme.

The first option was to boil the slugs but as the pot was getting increasingly slimy it required a lot of time before they were able to taste them. And the raw cooked product tasted bitter, hard and unpromising.

The second attempt consisted in gutting the cooked slugs to remove the bitter elements of the slug. They were left with thin strips of slug which they were hoping to complement nicely with a strong spicy sauce. However Hugh’s final opinion was that the dish would be better as just the sauce without the slugs!

So if you cannot eat them, what can you do to keep slugs under control in your garden?

• Friday, July 03rd, 2009

Shading the greenhouse is the most important task that you will need to do right now since the weather has been really hot this week. With current temperatures reaching 33 degree celcius outside it gets even hotter in the greenhouse hence the need to shade it. In fact last night I recorded 40 degree celcius (104 degree Fahrenheit) even though the door and the window were open all day.

Greenhouse Shading

Greenhouse Shading

In my greenhouse I grow tomato plants, basil, sweet peppers, chili peppers and cucumbers, and despite the fact that these plants appreciate the heat, if it gets too hot they may start shrivelling and the soil is also likely to dehydrate too quickly.

You have a few options when it comes to shading your greenhouse. Personally I use a white shading powder which is cheap and available through any garden centre.

You just need to dilute the powder with some water according to the instructions on the packet and apply this liquid with a wide brush externally on the glass panels of your greenhouse.

I usually focus on shading the top glass panels of my greenhouse since they are most exposed to the sun. It is best not to do this job if rain is forecast since it may wash away the product.

This job only takes 15 minutes so it’s really worthwhile. Alternatively you can buy some greenhouse shading kits and I guess that the advantage of this is that you won’t need to clean your glass panels when you need to allow for more light into your greenhouse again.

It’s all looking good in the greenhouse right now so a little extra care will go a long way.

• 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.