General Gardening Notes

August 2011

Felicia

Felicia

Tomatoes are doing well. The grafted Sungold are ripening slowly, Felicia not yet. I can’t see any difference in the grafted and ungrafted Felicia so far.

Sungold beginning to ripen

Sungold beginning to ripen

July 2011

The tomatoes I grew from seed, Losetto F1 hybrid from Thompson & Morgan, are really bushy and have lots of flowers. No need to pinch out or sideshoot. Need to harvest fruit regularly to encourage more flowers and extend the picking period. This tomato is suitable for planting in hanging baskets and patio pots – if my experience is anything to go by it would be excellent for the balcony and patio. I have three plants and already I’m planning on making chutney as I don’t think we can keep up with eating the fruit as it ripens!

June 16

The Mizuna has grown terrifically. Will be cutting it now for cooking, apparently the seed heads are good in stir fry.

Found in my notes that using trimmings from some of the strong smelling herbs are good as deterrents to bugs that attack vegetables. So I cut back the sage and put it in the centre of the bean wigwam. Oregano was spread round the tomatoes and mint went under the broccoli plants. This is an interesting way of using herb prunings that would normally go on the compost heap when I had enough dried leaves.

The grafted tomato plants are not showing much difference in growth compared to the non-grafted plants … so far.

Everything is growing a pace and there is a lot to do all at once. Timeconsuming work.

June 7th

Blanket weed has taken over the small pond we have in the back garden since the fish were finally finished off by the local cat a couple of years ago. Some mature fish were on offer from friends and we decided we needed to treat the blanket week before we added the fish. A visit to Hertfordshire Fisheries gave us the information we needed. We bought and later added two level scoopfuls of Blanket Answer by Cloverleaf, mixed with pond water in a watering can to the pond. Apparently the pond water will go milky in a couple of days gradually clearing, taking the blanket weed with to the bottom of the pond, gradually breaking it down harmlessly over time.

Hertfordshire Fisheries were most helpful and informative and we were told there is nothing that really works for another problem we have: duckweed. Just clearing it with a fine mesh net on a regular basis – a pretty tedious job – is the best solution. The most important time is when the duckweed drops its seeds in summer which then settle on the bottom of the pond ready to emerge next year.  While at the fisheries we wandered round the aquariums and came across some Axolotols, one looked like an albino and the others were black with the distinctive waving head gills. Early relatives of lizards they come from South America. Axolotols is an Aztec word.

Sempervirum seedlings, Thompson & Morgan

Sempervirum seedlings, Thompson & Morgan

I found a strong little poppy seedling in the path and transplanted it between a ragged robin and a penstemon. This kind of activity always makes me feel good! Any seedling that has survived in a difficult location must have a lot of strength and could be good for propagating.

June 5th

After some rain

After some rain

I spent ages this morning using the pump to send the bath water into the garden but it just wouldn’t budge. When I, eventually, found the instructions I realised I needed to try a slightly different approach. Next time then perhaps I’ll be more successful.

Then rain at last, at least an inch. Suddenly everything looks fresher and energetic!

June 1st

Raised bed with lettuce, beetroot, carrots and onions

Raised bed with lettuce, beetroot, carrots and onions

Am going to thin out the lettuce and beetroot seedlings in the raised bed. I’m inordinately pleased with how this experiment has gone. Everything looks so good! Am thinking that once the fleece is off the slugs will come galloping in so I’ll add some copper tape. This will get expensive as the boxes are a metre square, but I think it is the only way to make sure the little critters don’t have a chance to reach the luscious leaves, unless they parachute in! Well anything is possible! I think the pigeons may have their eyes on it so I’m waiting for some netting to put over them. Growing your own is not as straight forward as they make out on the tv and in magazines!

Last day of May Seeper hose and pump installed and working – see here for details.

Late May

Am going to green up the gravel where the car is parked with thyme and creeping jenny.
Still haven’t bought the hand pump so the seeper hose is sitting there doing nothing.

Water bottles had to be given to the gerberas and lupins. The hellebore looked a little thirsty so I gave that a litre bottle too. Nothing much to do in the way of weeding!

Have bought a seeper hose to use for the bath water, need to get a hand pump first.

Early May

So much stuff to go in my little greenhouse that there is, as Anna Pavord says, a traffic problem! Some are waiting to go out, others have been unceremoniously put outside in the shade where I hope they survive the activities of foraging birds and active slugs. We have been putting out mealworms for the birds, the blackbirds and robins hoover them up. I was a bit taken aback to see a robin gathering emergent damselflies in the pond. Poor things didn’t even have a chance to use their wings. Oh well, I can’t expect to pick and choose what lives or dies.

Common frog

Common frog

Absolutely over the moon to see a newt in the pond, hopefully laying eggs, and joy of joy a frog. I thought we had lost them all to the virus that seems to have killed off so many throughout the world.

Mizuna, good for salads and stir fries

Mizuna, good for salads and stir fries

Delighted to be able to pick small amounts of Mizuna – seed bought from – a mild oriental salad leaf that can be picked throughout summer as salad and stir fries. When the plants go to seed it’s possible to eat the flowers. Available from RealSeeds.

Broad bean leaf problem

Broad bean leaf problem

Am worried to find some kind of virus/fungus on my broadbeans – anyone know what it is and what I should do about it?

Thompson & Morgan pansies

Thompson & Morgan pansies

I have transplanted the vibrant orange pansies that I want to plant as edging in the front garden.

Thompson & Morgan tricolour violas

Thompson & Morgan tricolour violas

I have a packet of viola tricolour, known as heartsease, I’ll use as edging in the back garden. Apparently the seed germinates well and the plants provide masses of colour throughout summer and autumn.

Have sown wallflower seeds direct in the ground, covered with fleece. The wallflowers I grew from seed last year have been so useful as colour fillers that I have sown another packet for 2012 flowering.  I noticed some other beautiful wallflowers in the Thompson & Morgan catalogue and I’m tempted to sow some more. The scent this year has been really noticeable, a welcome bonus when little else is blooming so prolifically.

I have also sown a wildflower mix to attract beneficial insects to the vegetable plot. Chase Organics sell green manure mixes that do the same thing and can be hoed down and left as a mulch, which sounds a good use of effort to me.

The beetroot and lettuce seeds have germinated in raised bed number one. The onion seeds haven’t done anything yet.

Have planted six tomatoes – Felicia, two grafted and two not grafted for comparison. Also two grafted Sungold plants. Have reused plastic milk containers as water containers each with a fabulous drip tap device. I am absolutely delighted with the taps and I have written about them in In Balance Magazine.

Thompson & Morgan sempervivum

Thompson & Morgan sempervivum

Am also delighted at the progress of the sempervivum, also known as house leek. Miniature plants are waiting to be transplanted. Have high hopes for a good crop to put in a particularly dry patch. They are mountainous plants that can take extremes of temperature so while they don’t exactly thrive on neglect, they won’t be too demanding of my attention.

I have finally put together all four raised bed frames. First sowings in the first two beds are onions, beetroot, carrot and lettuce. They are all covered by fleece and hope they are not attacked by what we thought might be foxes earlier in the year.

Mid-April

Seeds are covering every surface of the dining table and the window sills … most are doing well. It’s always difficult to decide how many seeds to sow – sometimes the germination is good and you are overwhelmed by the number to transplant, or so few germinate that you wish you had two packets. Hey ho, that’s the way it goes I guess.

Rather leggy Cosmos seedlings

Rather leggy Cosmos seedlings

Watering is an ongoing activity, the seed trays are shaded by blinds but some of them are really leggy which is disappointing. Especially the cosmos, one of my favourite plants. They germinated quickly and shot up. They are not a pretty sight. I will persevere though and whip them into shape when I transplant them!

April 1, 2011

Sempervirum seeds germinating

http-//inbalancemagazine.com/photo-gallery/

First seeds of the year were sown on 26 March and brought indoors to keep warm and stimulate germination. I was surprised to see the sempervivum  germinated within five days. The seeds were so fine and few in number I wondered whether we would ever see anything. The broad beans showed no sign of movement, but I poked about a bit and found they were germinating. Great. The nautia macedonica are showing signs of life too.

The poppies and aquilegia are not. I used covers for some of the seed trays and cling film for others. The cling film has not been a success – the weight of the moisture moves the clingfilm onto the seed compost and is unacceptable. I will have to put some kind of support – to keep it higher. This is disappointing, I can’t remember who suggested clingfilm. I wonder how successful it was for them, or was it one of those bright ideas that people have but haven’t actually put into practice themselves?

The main concern now is damping off. This is when the damp soil attracts a fungus that kills, or severely stunts the growth, of seeds. I spray on camomile tea, you can use crushed garlic although I never have. There are commercial chemicals available.

March 26, 2011

STEPOVER FRUIT TREE - apples Thompson & Morgan

STEPOVER FRUIT TREE - apples Thompson & Morgan

Stepover apples planted today. They will need staking which I had overlooked but will get something sorted next week. Am looking forward to seeing these apples develop – I hope they look like this in a few years.

March 25, 2011

Climbing Strawberry Mount Everest

Climbing Strawberry Mount Everest

Climbing strawberries arrived, their fruiting period is June to September, now there’s a thing! Will we be strawberried out by September? Or, as I hope there will be so much fruit I’ll be able to make jam. The best jam I ever made was called freezer jam. So simple – just mash up the fruit, add sugar, put it in freezer bags in tubs and freeze. Remove from tubs when frozen and you easily stack them. The ‘jam’ is so tasty and delicious on ice cream, cereal, and in cakes. I’m going to experiment this summer and try adding a little pectin and cook it for a much shorter time than usual to see if it will be a bit thicker to put on bread. It will keep if you use a lid with a seal, or if you are worried it might go off, freeze it.

These plants are Mount Everest from Thompson & Morgan £9.99 for six potted plants.

March 20, 2011

Weather has been cool but dry and the ground is much easier to dig. The raspberries I ordered were dug in today 3 x Polka and 3 x Autumn Bliss from Thompson & Morgan. Both are autumn fruiting and need no support.  They have been heavily mulched and I’ll sow some green manure seeds next month, ones that attract pollinating insects. The Organic Gardening catalogue has several to choose from. As I try to follow the No Dig system the green manure plants can be hoed off, or killed with a mulch in the autumn.

March 15, 2011

Today I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and added a greaseband to each fruit tree. I’ve never done it before because it seemed rather brutal. Brutal because I didn’t and still don’t feel good about insects being glued to a sheet and dying a long death. I might be wrong, but that’s what I felt.

Anyway in the interests of research I decided to try two. Boltac Greasebands and Agralan Econmy Glue Bands. Boltac won. First from the fact that grease is more humane than glue, I could be wrong of course. Secondly because the greasebands were so much easier to put onto the trees. Nor could I do the string thing very well. But that’s just me. What is interesting is what was printed on the containers. The kinds of insects that emerge and crawl up fruit trees and  lay their eggs in the flower buds, how ants find and cultivate greenfly – did you know they spray formic acid on the greenfly which deters the ladybirds and lacewings from eating them.

Greaseband

Greaseband

I’m not sure that bands are the most humane way to control what are seen as pests. Perhaps I should just care better for the trees so they have a stronger resistance to the negative effects of attack. After all even pests have a right to an existence …

March 10, 2011

Digging out the bluebells

Digging out the bluebells

We had cleared most of the back garden ready for new planting of fruit and veg and covered it with a thick layer of leaf mould to identify the whereabouts of the bluebells we had missed when digging out the weeds. We find bluebells beautiful but invasive, growing up into plants and making it difficult to weed them out. So the leaf mulch was very useful to show quickly where we had to work. The soil has been very claggy for weeks, but I did manage to fit in a couple of hours on two days and removed the majority of them. No doubt I have missed some again though, so next year I’ll be digging again.

February 20, 2011

Secateur comparison

Secateur comparison

Over the past couple of years I have tried out several pairs of secateurs, here they are:

The first pair was so designed that when I was cutting a particularly thick stem it somehow managed to nip the space between my thumb and first finger. Very painful.

The second one had a very simple closing device with no special features. I like this one but would like one with a larger blade.

The third one had a ratchet system that fell apart within a couple of months, and the last one has a yellow closing device that is loose and when I am cutting it in a downward direction the yellow tab falls down and locks the blades. There is no way of tightening the yellow tab. So really that latest pair is totally useless, unless I unscrew the yellow tab or tape it into the open position. However, this was the only pair I could attach a coloured tape to in an attempt to avoid leaving them in the garden to rust.

I’m sorry to say none of them had all the features I wanted and I’m now looking for one that will give a good strong cut, reliable, a long life and simple to operate with a hole in one of the arms to thread through a brightly coloured tape, although I might get a holster to keep it in.

Do you have any recommendations?

February 1, 2011

A short sortie into the countryside showed plants are on the move!

Eranthis, winter aconite

Eranthis, winter aconite

Eranthis, a member of the buttercup family, known as winter aconite, were well out in a friend’s garden.

I rather like them and will get some for next year. They are available from Thompson & Morgan, my favourite plant and seed supplier.

The catkins were shaking their tails in the wind

Catkins

Catkins

and the snowdrops are more advanced than a couple of weeks ago.

Snowdrops
Snowdrops
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About Val Reynolds

I publish In Balance Magazine and www.ourfrontgarden.com Contributions from other writers give breadth and insights to the magazine You can contact me at editorinbalance@me.com
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