Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Sow maincrop carrots, beetroot and Parsnips

Mary hard at work sowing parsnips
Hi lads according to Klaus Laitenberger on Garrai Glas we should all be sowing our main crop carrots and parsnips this week or next. As today is a root day I'm doing it this evening.If you want to stick with the moon it's a root day tomorrow and Friday. You could do beetroot and other root crops while you are at it. Read more about Klaus here on  Klaus's website.

Before I sow though I will be watering the ground really well and if it stays dry over the coming days I will have to keep it moist to help seedlings germinate-don't forget about this part or all your diligent sowing may just be in vain!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Foxgloves in bloom

Check out the fat pink one in the distance. Only one white plant though!

 One thing about time away is the army of weeds waiting for you when you return. The nice thing though was the sight of an army of foxgloves all blooming together. They become huge plants though and spread seeds everywhere. If you want to grow them wait a month and set seeds outdoors on your own soil. Last years plants set seeds on top of the soil here and grew where they fell, so don't cover them. I have clay soil that's a bit alkaline but they seeded fine, but I noticed that a load of seedlings germinated in an open bag of ericacious compost lying nearby so they seem to like that a lot). Seedlings that pop up will have reached a nice size to overwinter and flower for you next year.

Honey bees swarming

Walked down the garden this morning to find it awash with honey bees! They are really keen on one big bed bursting with poached egg flowers. Where the hell did they come from? I rang Jack to find out where his nearest hives are, he told me the P.P.s house a few miles away. Anyway he said it was much more likely a swarm as the bees are swarming like mad at the moment. Woo hoo! well good for us, not the beekeepers. Keep yer eyes and ears peeled for friendly local swarms to pollinate your crops for you.I thought a video said it best (the hum from the garden is quite amazing-reminds me of being at Jacks) so here is a very small short one. If it doesn't work here's a utube link; bees

Just to let you know I will never win an award at Cannes for my camera work!!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Festival fever in London & The Chelsea Flower Show

Wondering what to do with your bedding plants this year?
Hello all!
I'm back!
What a terrific week it was in London. Despite almost melting onto the pavement from the incredible heat I loved every minute of it. Great pub grub, great history, beautiful buildings and parks, delicious snacks on every corner and the worlds politest people. London is gearing up for the Queens big party and the Olympics so the atmosphere is hugely festive and happy, the streets are so clean it's amazing! and everywhere is decorated with festive bunting and ye old union jacks. Couldn't be a better time to visit! No I'm not on commission unfortunately, but if anyone in the UK or London wants to pay me just get in touch.

Joe Swifts beautiful garden-loved the three connected pools
And so on to the main business of Chelsea itself. Well fecking hell it was hot, I mean boiling-Greek-Islands-hot. And it did not cool down as the day went on.The throngs of people were a sight to see. My Dad worked in London years ago and he said the crowds on the streets reminded him of the day of the Fleadh!! (big yearly traditional Irish music event for ye non-Irish) So day of the Fleadh it was- multiplied by about 1000!

It was hot and sunny and very crowded. There was loads to see, from long shopping areas to the show gardens, to trade displays, to the huge grand pavilion full of specialist and mad stuff and a nice big park with a bandstand, loads of seating and a cheery band belting out old 50s rock and roll.

There was a brilliant free cloakroom service to put your bag away while you walked around, in the end I gave them my jacket too and Mary gave them her coat and cardigan! Loads of people wore light summery gear, I felt bad for those in jeans and heavier clothing, they must have sweated buckets.

Irises were the stars of the show
It seemed to me that the catering had been well expanded this year. The last time I came a few years ago there were queues for food and for sitting areas. This year it seemed to be no problem, there was mobile catering in lots of places and restaurants if you wanted those too. Eileen's Mike made me smile when he told me he was dying for chips! what a crackpot! all I wanted was pimms or ice cream, and from what I saw sales of both were through the roof!!

The show gardens were amazing as always, I think without being there you get that from the BBC coverage on TV. At Diarmuid Gavin's pyramid westland garden a slightly portly Dermot O'Neill was on the door chatting to passersby and patiently answering questions while the great man himself/total plonker (depending on your point of view) partied inside with celebs taking turns down the slide and screaming their heads off. It was all a bit bizarre and somehow(to me at least) rude. My mother in law was delighted to shake hands and chat with Dermot O' Neill. As I waited for her I was nearly knocked over by Goldie who still giddy from his swift slide exit looked like it was the best fun he's had in years. Whats wrong with these z listers, don't they get out?

Diarmuids pie in the sky-literally! there was a cafe in there!
Joe Swift was in his medal winning garden with two ladies in tow, one looked like his Mum! They were busy taking pictures, even famous presenters have proud mums. In the Australian garden the BBC were filming a slot with the garden designer so it was hard to get a good look in while they were cluttering the place up with cameras and crew. There was a great old atmosphere of relaxed enjoyment, despite the heat and the crowds.

By 5pm I was wrecked. We took refuge from the still roasting sun on a shady bank and watched what can only be described as the "Chelsea shuffle", People who could hardly walk, had blisters and were probably suffering from sheer exhaustion from being out 13 hours in the sun. It was comforting to know I wasn't the only one banjaxed after the day. By 7 it was time to go to the pub or we were in danger of losing the will to live. An hour later-jug of pimms in front of me and dinner on the way I was almost back to life. My feet were wrecked for the rest of the week. Be warned ye Chelsea gowers of the future wear runners!

And so the main points from Chelsea 2012 (according to me);

Thank God for Pimms and Pubs!

  • Irises are in fashion, they even printed one on the tickets and on the free souvenir canvas bag.They were always cool plants anyway, being in fashion is sure to make them unfashionable in record time, so if you like irises say nothing about how "bang on trend" you are, you will be uncool again in no time I promise.
  • There is a society for delphinium lovers! brilliant, I love a whole group of crackpots together. If I had an unhealthy fixation on delphiniums I'd be delighted to join them.
  • The environment, bees and recycling were hugely on the agenda-great news for gardeners everywhere. There is a petition by friends of the earth to the UK PM to help preserve and plant wildlife plants for bees. They generously gave out seeds to everyone who visited their stand. Is anyone doing something similar in Ireland?
  • Old roses are making a comeback! the Laurent Perrier garden featured Reine des Violette's and Louise Odier. I'd love to see them make a comeback. Discovered an old rose myself at the Peter Beals stand called Archiduc Joseph-twas love at first sight, mentally picking out a spot for it already.
  • There is a new disease to watch out for, a very earnest man gave me a test kit and asked me to let them know if its spread to Ireland-they are monitoring it in the UK its called phytophthora ramorum(cousin of potato blight) and its a right bastard of a thing, with no known cure.It has another cousin photophthora kernoviae thart is just as evil. They affect lots of common garden plants. Look both up on
  • covering your car with grass or putting plants in the engine is very cool! As is using your old runners as planters. The recycling stand in the great pavilion was amazing.
  • I think the flower arrangers have a sinister desire to convert anyone to flower arranging-I was waylaid in the flower arranging shop by an enthuastic woman who tried to talk me into joining them despite every verbal hurdle I could throw in front of her. I only just escaped by making a solem promise to check out the website!If it was an olympic sport shed have taken the gold for sure!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

No blogging for a week

Hi lads! Won't be blogging this week but looking forward to enjoying some fine weather at long last. Talk to you next week. Happy gardening.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cold weather playing havoc with transplanting out

The only growth at the moment is indoors-Fiona planting courgettes at Eileen's
It's a bit of a pain in the arse but when the temperatures are below normal, with cold, sometimes frosty nights you have to hold your horses and wait for things to improve before transplanting down the garden. Some plants are tougher than others, Rows of Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and broccoli are germinating well outdoors here and the peas have just begun to pop up too. Potatoes seem to be flying it and the first lettuces, salad crops and spinach I planted out are finally taking off.

But its far too cold to think of introducing courgettes, sunflowers, climbing beans, pumpkins or outdoor tomatoes to the outdoors. Fiona told me yesterday that these plants are living INSIDE in her house with her. She sowed her sunflowers far too early and they are now practically blocking out the light in her front room. A friend came over to visit  and thought the place was a jungle and that Fiona had lost the plot!!

Eileen is much better off with her two tunnels and glasshouse to mind tender crops. As I am going away for a few days my cucumbers have gone on holiday to her. A spell under glass will help to get them past the seedling stage and into stronger plants.Eileen reserved them a "room" on the penthouse shelf with the warmest most constant temperatures-exactly what they want!

Although she has been checking the soil temperature regularly it has only just come up to about 15 degrees in the last two weeks. So the only plants really fit for transplanting out now are hardy brassicas, legumes  or alliums.
Broad beans starting to flower

As a case in point yesterday we transplanted out broad beans in Eileen's sunken garden and courgettes indoors to the second tunnel.I think everyone is frustrated waiting for the temperatures to climb. I wonder if it's making life difficult for those putting together gardens for Bloom and Chelsea? Whatever you do if you decide you can't wait a moment longer to plant out any of the tender stuff have a cloche ready to pop over them or a roll of fleece to hand in case we have to suffer a few more cold nights before"Summer" arrives.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Fermented food?

Heirloom tomatoes from the blog
Lads this might seem a bit mad but naturally fermented foods are an old idea with a lot of promise in the health department. Its easy to do, no cooking or sauces required! Have a look at this blog. I think I will try it later when I start to get gluts.The link leads you directly to the page with an easy fermented tomato recipe. One for later in the year.

fermented foods

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Garden Inspiration on Flickr

How gorgeous is this?! View the pics on flickr at full screen size to get the best view
Was just eating a snack to keep me going in the potato bed(formerly the gone to shit strawberry bed-now cleared) and  looking for a photo of a particular rose on line when I stumbled over this amazing Garden in Switzerland(I think), on the photo sharing website flickr. I nabbed the photo, apologies to the owner, Rosarian49, to put on the post, but here is the link to see all the fab pictures.These people also like to travel and have amazing travel pics. Inspiration from the comfort of your own home!

Prevent black spot on roses now

photo from Rose Madame Caroline Testout recommended by Dermot for Irish Gardens
Got this tip off Dermot O'Neills website-organic and all, if it works its worth doing!

"Keep black spot away and save a small fortune
Mix 3 level teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda with 1 teaspoon of soluble fertiliser and a tiny dash of washing-up liquid. Mix together with a little water and add to 1 gallon of water. Using a watering can, apply once a fortnight and your roses are guaranteed to be black spot free." 

Hoe Hoe hoe!

Three types of hoe in Eileen's garden last week
No I haven't lost the plot, it just is the perfect day to Hoe-warm and windy, so if you don't object on religious grounds get out there and do a bit while its dry!

Mulching with cardboard and grass

Mulch with Purple beech planted through it, in need of a top-up
Sunday. Day of rest. Or maybe not. After all it is dry-praise the Lord for the fine day and I'm sure he will forgive us for making the best use of it.Mum I hope you're not reading this-if you are we can have a theological discussion as to where Jesus pointed it out in the Bible that you're not to garden on a Sunday( the only advantage to having studied the bible is the amount of times it saves me in these types of discussions with my darling mother).Thank God mum hates reading, the very size of the Bible defeats her.

Two problems happen simultaneously in May. Grass takes off and weeds take off, both at the same time.These two problems have one solution as far as I'm concerned, but for some reason its unfashionable to say it. As demonstrated on Friday when one of my Students was telling me they were at a loss to know what to do with all the grass they are cutting around the town.

"Surely its too much for a compost heap? "
"Yes,"I agreed, "it is".
"What will we do with it so? "
"Use it as a mulch around your new hedge" I said
His eyes glazed over-not what he wanted to hear!
He has a long way to go.

Pile of fresh cut grass at the ready
Lazy gardening people! lazy gardening is where it's at. You can call it permaculture, hug a fecking tree I don't care but you should be looking for the soft option in everything and spending feck all in this recession while you're at it. Allow me to demonstrate;

Pile of fresh cut grass
Arrange (free)cardboard(obtained from shop) around hedging plants/trees/roses/insert plant here
Pile up grass on top of cardboard
Top up whenever it needs it
No actual weeding required


Thursday trip to Terra Nova

Danish Flag Poppy from the facebook page of Terra Nova
Hi lads, hope you are enjoying the sunny, but breezy day out there. This Thursday morning(May 17th) I'm taking a group to Terra Nova, Deborah and Martin Begleys lovely Garden near Bruff at 10am. If any of you are free you are welcome to join us. This year they are only having  4 or 5 open days at Terra Nova for the public, no more appointments outside of that except for groups like this one! So if you want a return visit let me know!

terra nova
on facebook

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Dermots sidekick? Tanguy de Toulgo√ęt

Images from the website
I found this gorgeous website when I was researching the size a family vegetable garden should be for my FETAC crew. If I'm not mistaken Dermot O Neill, (who by the way is appearing in Bruree at Cuain Mhuire Garden centre next Saturday from 1-5,) had this guy Tanguy as his side kick throughout the TV programme (Dermot's secret garden) on restoring his walled garden at Clondeglass last year on RTE.He helped out and took over when Dermot was getting treatment for Cancer and was too sick to be there himself.

Tanguy and his wife run gardening and cookery courses from their lovely house in Co. Laois.Their kitchen garden is on a one acre plot, with a poly tunnel and is based on the traditional French "potager", or kitchen garden.They produce almost all of the vegetables and herbs that they need for the year and use flowers as part of their rotation system which is both beautiful and practical.They also produce herbs for their own consumption and keep bees as well.
Looks like a great place to visit, french gardener, french style potager but in Ireland-cool! God bless the French and their delicious food!

The house

Lunatics with strimmers

May the month of luxurious summer growth
Sorry about this but its a pet hate and I must get this rant out of my system!
The other evening while out for a walk I met Aoife on her horse who warned me that there was a game of road hurling going on between Old Pallas and Nicker. I don't know about you but I never heard  of road hurling in my life so I headed straight for it to see what I was missing!

At the Junction in Nicker two old boys were manning a "road closed" sign in reflective jackets. Just as I got to them the heavens opened and they jumped into their cars. I ploughed on and no one stopped me, so I figured this road hurling musent be too detrimental to my health! A few cars passed too, so maybe the "road closed" was a bit half-hearted. Up beyond the hill I met my first "team" an ould lad in a reflective jacket and a few young lads with Hurley's and sliotars. I can't for the life of me figure out how the "game" was being played but after I passed one young lad got the nod and belted the sliotar off down the road with the ould lads watching intently. I could be wrong but I thought he had a stopwatch too. I passed one more "team" before I got to old pallas, turned around and headed back.

the roadside below Nicker, beautiful and un-cut!
OK here comes the rant! on the way back I noticed that someone had shaved the sides of the roads in honour of this great sporting event. So both sides of the road from old pallas down to nicker were bare. This really annoyed me! May is the month of so many wildflowers, including cows parsley, wild Lillie's, wild vetch, all of which play a huge role in feeding pollinating insects and especially wild bees. Bad enough wild plants are practically extinct in fields and gardens but the tiny margins that sustain so much life are just callously cut down by ignormasuses with strimmers for one hour events like this or usually because some ould lad with a strimmer wants to "tidy up the place" Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.................let the fecking plants grow, let them set seeds, then cut them down!! Jesus!!

OK rant over.

Update on the blue poppies!

 Yesterday I spoke to Helen and Tim. They don't pinch out the first flowers! But they do continuously collect and propagate from seed to keep their plants in good supply. Tim offered me more seedlings-it will save him potting them up he said-what a kind man.  Mystery solved for those of you with the blue poppies! By the way Im thinking of doing a garden visit to Tim and Helen the last week in May if anyone is interested?

Monday, 7 May 2012

The one armed man and the blue poppy

the book courtesy of
Last weekend I had some time on my hands on the long journey up to Dublin so I took out a book I have had for a while, but had never got around to reading. It was given to me by a strange but funny group I once taught gardening to. I think they were the most mis-matched bunch of people you could ever hope to put together! They were based in a community house, in a rough estate, but there was something lovely about them all and I enjoyed the weekly get togethers, passing out tattooed toughies walking scary dogs and small kids that could make Mike Tyson cry on my way to the house. After a while this all became part of the local "SCENERY" and I worried less about the van being there when I got back and more about the weather, affecting how much we could get done that day.

Over the course of many weeks we built a vegetable garden, sowed seeds, cleared a dumping ground of weeds and broken beer bottles and planted trees and flowers. Months later my heart swelled with pride when I saw in the newspaper that the estate had been highly commended by the tidy town committee and they never looked back since.

The group I had were all at different stages of life, with their own sets of obstacles to overcome. One lady rarely spoke, hadn't left the house in years, yet her neighbours and family were delighted that she came faithfully to us each week. A young girl in her early 20s was working in a menial job being bullied by her boss and desperately looking for a decent job working for a kinder person.She was very soft hearted and apt to tears, and it was truly a horrible person who would take full advantage of it. Paddy was the daddy of the group, he looked after everyone was kindhearted and good natured and an excellent gardener. Every thug on the estate respected him. Others had mental illnesses and physical handicaps-we even had PJ our very own one armed man!

Angels choir poppy from Flickr by Lynda 2008
One day PJ went missing and a few set off in search of him. Our young girl was very sweet and innocent and made her way up the town stopping everyone asking them if they had seen a one armed man! It caused great consternation among the daytime shoppers who I'm sure thought she was some kind of lunatic, and by the time PJ reappeared, having been on a "mission for God" to the local Church the whole town was in an uproar! Still he took it all in good part, he was that type of guy, nothing ever fazed him. He was a hell of a man with a shovel too! I know how crazy it sounds but believe me its true!

Anyway back to the book which is a lovely pocket book sized collection of essays and stories from famous people including gardeners on their favourite plants. I picked out the one by Christopher Lloyd, thinking of Charles and how he liked to read his weekly articles in the guardian.It was all about Poppies, which ones to grow and why, very timely as I have about 10 packets including his highly recommended "angels choir" to scatter in the upper garden this month. But then I saw the very first entry, simply called Meconopsis by Wayne Winterrowd and  it turned out to be about menoconopsis betonicifolia, the the fabled blue Himalayan poppy.

Tim taken from his daughters facebook page
The story begins with the gift of a clump of these poppies to the new gardener by an old hand in a garden in Vermont. This is exactly what happened to me when Tim in Knockpatrick gardens gave me, and my lucky class who visited that day, the present of blue poppy seedlings that he had raised himself. I laughed as I read the account in the book of the sage advise given to the novice gardener by the old hand " but pinch out the first flower bud. You must pinch out the first flower bud"

What a dilemma I thought! waiting for this 4 ft high stem with a magnificent 3 inch bloom and you have to deliberately pinch it out the first year! It turned out that if you didn't pinch it out the plant would pack up and die, pinching it out meant keeping the plant in leaf for another year making sure it became a reliable perennial in the long run, producing more and more blue poppies with each passing year.

So I sympathised with him, and laughed at the pain of it all until I walked past Tim's blue poppy plants in my own garden a few days later and saw...the first flowers budding up from the base!! O No!! Now its my fecking dilemma too!! I am sorely tempted to ring Tim and ask his advise but I don't want to bother him either, its one of my pet hates getting ridiculous phone calls about what to do from some inconsiderate person on a Bank Holiday afternoon (not you guys!), bad students, obviously!!!! I looked up the internet but beyond the mention in this book I cant find the answer for growing the poppy on this side of the world. This pinching out business dosent surprise me though, last year I had an education on it talking to a guy who grows show winning dahlias.

the dilemma, to pinch out or not?
In the end I chose the middle ground and left Tim a message. Once I figure out if this pinching out is needed I will pass on Tim's words of wisdom to you all. I would really like to know who got these plants last year when we were visiting Knockpatrick and how they fared out for you? My other purchase from Helen and Tim was a rare and very beautiful form of Peruvian lily that flowered non-stop its first year and has already leafed up beautifully this year again. Hopefully I will be taking a class to Knockpatrick in the next two months so even if I do have to pinch out the first of my lovely poppies I will be able to enjoy them at Tim and Helens house. This ties in beautifully with the writers musings in the book when he quotes Eleanor Perenyi, a very opinated American garden writer who wrote that she " would give anything for a glimpse of it, even in someone else's garden".

Biodegradable pots ideal for starting seedlings

handy pots but roots grow through fast
Last weekend I was under pressure to squeeze as many seeds as possible onto the propagator. It was a fruit day so I had cucumbers, pumpkins, courgettes, melons and squash to set. Rooting around in a gardening box I keep in the utility(looking for labels-what else?) I found brown square modules made from biodegradable cardboard that I bought and forgot about a few years ago. These were the perfect solution for the lack of space and the quantity of seeds! There are a few things to know about using them though.

  1. First give them a good soaking in the sink. The news papery/cardboardy substance they are made of means they will dry out really quickly and absolutely suck water from your seedlings. If they are wet to begin with this really helps.
  2.  Second once on the propagator a nice white mould will coat every surface within a day or two DON'T PANIC this is par for the course, it wont stop seedlings germinating so don't fight it.
  3.  Once the seedlings clear the surface you might have to transplant them immediately, especially if they are large seeds like pumpkins and courgettes. These bio-degradable pots are designed to allow the roots to grow through them easily. If the roots grow through and out to fresh air they can die. Check out the photo to see what I mean.
I grew different varieties in each cell, tearing each cell apart as each seedling appeared, and transplanting them on into small plastic pots, biodegradable cell and all. Later on when the seedlings are bigger I will separate out multiples sown together, (the melons and the cucumbers) but for now they can grow away in the same pot. Cells still in the propagator had to be watered a little more as they will dry out with more air around them. Watch that the last ones to germinate don't dry out completely if they are left in the propagator by themselves for a few more days.

Maincrop spud companions

seedling were a good size for transplanting-hope the bunnies don't spot them!
Over the weekend mass evictions continued for seedlings badly in need of transplanting. Although most of the salads I sow are cut and come again varieties I do love some crisp heads of cos lettuce for Caesar salads so I always sow some, but overall they are a small portion of the greens we grow. As the potager (how posh am I?!) out the back is packed with flowers, many thanks to Heather for the poppies and calendulas, and salad leaves it was down to the main garden I had to go. The tolucas I sowed this week are going to be a few weeks before they break soil so in the spirit of "meanwhile use" I put three rows of baby cos"Paris island" in the space between the two spud rows.If you are just putting in main crops consider using the space this way to get the most out of the bed while its still empty. You can sow radishes too but most people are more enamoured with salads.

The info on sowing cucumbers

the article in Amateur Gardening
I know lots of people are rearing to go when March arrives so they sow cucumbers, pumpkins, courgettes, frost tender beans, and sunflowers early to get a head start. Madness people, absolute madness! These are all aggressive, fast growing, huge plants with insatiable appetites and yet vulnerable to frost, so unless you have a tunnel or a big glasshouse cool your heels and wait until the end of April or the beginning of May. I sowed mine last Sunday week and they were up by last Thursday.That's plenty of time to get them started!

It's nice when you are an opinionated, pain in the arse like me to see someone else agree with you, especially a well known gardener putting it in print! Charles Dowding, hero of no-dig wrote a great article on sowing cucumbers in the Amateur Gardening Magazine dated the week of 21 April. Apart from us agreeing on the timing of the sowing i.e. Now! I learnt a lot about how to handle them after they germinate, answering questions about where I have gone wrong in the past. I love this type of practical how-to article. The more I read of his writing the more I like it. At the moment I have downloaded his book "organic gardening" on kindle and I'm riveted to it. No-dig is where I am going this year and his arguments are compelling if you needed any convincing-but I don't! Highly, highly recommend it.

Anyway here is the lowdown on cucumbers from the article, hope it helps those of you getting to grips with sowing and successfully growing them;

Cucumber seedlings heading out for a day of sun this morning

  • Sow the seedlings in small pots or cells and put them on a propagator, they need 20-30c to germinate. They grow better with company so set a few seeds together.

  • Keep them warm after they germinate. Mine are out in the warmest part of the coldframe by day and back indoors at night. C.D. says they need 12-25c pretty constantly while growing.

  • Avoid over watering young plants-the lower stems and roots can rot very easily, wait for the compost to dry out a bit before you water them. Rotting is most likely in dull weather.

  • After a few weeks transplant them into slightly larger pots, making sure they have lots of roots. You can bury the stems up to and including the lower leaves in the new pot of compost to encourage more root development.

One last thing to think about. In the article he talks about how plants do much better when they have other plants for company, citing an experiment he did growing Brussels sprouts with lettuce plants between them. I think its a good way to use beds to the maxium too, an idea you are sure to come to with pressure for space in your garden.

The organic gardening book on kindle is here amazon

Verbena bonariensis-erratic germination.

Verbena bonariensis in late Summer
Hi all! another lovely day-I love it when the met office get it wrong! Today I was opening the cold frame when I noticed a tray of verbena b. that I had thrown out in sheer frustration had germinated. This had been through chilling in the fridge and a spell on the propagator. Finally when I could take it no longer I left the tray outside, without its plastic cover. It was left on the path exposed to the elements to get wet and dry according to what the weather was doing, I didn't even think to water it. Having forgotten about it for weeks now it decides to germinate!!

I thought I would share it with you all, especially Mary J who was getting a bit fed up with her attempts to grow it from seed too, so persevere Mary, throw it out and leave it to its own devices. In some of the places I have seen it grow the plants seed themselves very successfully without "help" from us. Some of the most frustrating seeds, verbena, foxgloves, poppies need wilful neglect to get going.

typical! after all my hard work!!!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Gardening workshop-blog poll

this evenings sun on an aquilegia
Hi lads!
I need some feedback for this. I have been asked to do a two hour workshop on a Saturday. It's just loosely termed a "gardening workshop" and its to be held in a garden Centre. Normally I'd run a mile but I got cleverly blackmailed into it. Heres my question, if you were going to a gardening workshop what would you like to learn? And of the things you have learnt which was the most valuable? drop me an email and let me know-thanks!

Mini Glasshouse-recycling style!

the niftiest bit of recycling in an age
Just when I think I have seen it all someone does something that completely surprises me. Today was one of those days. I was in Fedamore, with my afternoon class when one of the girls arrived in asking us if we had seen her glasshouse?!

Turns out she had intended bringing it with her to class but couldn't fit it in her car so she left it out the front of the community centre earlier that morning. Her "glasshouse" was a fantastic halogen light (minus the bulb). She filled the case with compost, sowed her seeds and popped the clear light case over it. It even has clips to keep the cover in place which was a good job, as she showed us a seed tray chewed by her dog-not good!!

Everyone was well impressed with the talk quickly turning to all the stuff that's thrown out that could be useful for growing plants. There was even a mention of going to the recycling centre for a good poke around!( this would be my husbands idea of hell). Mind you as Katherine said, if you do consistently keep items that might one day come in useful your place starts looking like a junkyard and you cant find anything when you do finally need it.

Main crop spuds

Its a bit of a squeeze for the main crop spuds
Another lovely day today, not as sunny as yesterday but still calm and warm, any day you get to sit outside eating dinner can only be a good one. So roll on more of this weather in May!
As it was a root day today, and it will be again tomorrow, and Saturday, its time to get the finger out and sow the main crop spuds. This evening I put in 8 Tolucas in the new potato bed. These are the spuds the lads in Ellen street recommended. They are resistant to most diseases, including blight and are supposedly delicious and floury! They are Scottish seed potatoes, so the reputation of all in Scotland depend upon them!

Fancy a toluca?
The thing I forget about main crops is the distances they need apart-that's why I only got 8 tubers in one 8x4 bed. So I have tolucas left over and I'm scratching my head as to where to put them. The half cleared-covered-in-weeds bed has been already set aside for main crop spuds and now I have no choice but to finish weeding it. I have King Edwards, Black Bog, Tibet and Maris Pipers to plant yet, but there are only 5 of each, but then I have 25 Mayan Twilight!!!!The Maths are not looking good.Do I try and cheat by putting them closer together, or obey the rules and get the best yields I can? Maybe the most important question is does anyone want to try my leftover tolucas?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Celery-Diva of the veg world

Willing workers but Anne hates celery!!
Don't set foot in my garden unless you want a job! Right now between flowers, veg, and fruit the list of to do's is going on and on and on ........

I thought (foolishly) that I would sow a tray of celery, harden it off and transplant it out. I even bought self blanching celery-just to be sure of a easy time of it. I generously sowed a small tray and of course every seed germinated. Great. Then it turns out you have to transplant the shagging plants into pots and grow them on to 5 leaves before you can plan them down the garden!! And the frost must be gone! Celery started looking like a right Diva.

Luckily for me two willing volunteers arrived today, my sister Annie and Mary my mother in law. I broke them in gently, getting Mary to transplant tomatoes and Annie to help her with some tiny plug plants. Of course they had a great time of it sitting out in the glorious sunshine, their sunhats and sunblock on chatting away and getting a little production line going. So when they ran out of work and asked for more I produced the celery!

Sturdy little plants
Lets just say it didn't prove to be as popular as the tomatoes! It kept me busy too transplanting out small salad plants in order to free up more and more small pots for them.You can never have enough pots this time of the year.  By the time they had finished ( with a third of the seed tray remaining to be done) they had transplanted 72 celery plants! It's a good job I like celery, still you must ask yourself do I really like it THAT much? Sowing to cropping -25 weeks. They are going to occupy a large chunk of space for 6 months-the seed packet advise is to plant them in blocks, 9 inches between plants each way. I will have to wait until I eat it to see if it was worth all this hassle, but in the meantime many thanks to Mary and to Annie for getting the worst of the job done. Anyone else at a lose end give me a call......and if you would l;ike to try some celery give me a shout too!!

In one more month they will be transplanted outside