Thompson & Morgan Gardening Blog

Our gardening blog covers a wide variety of topics, including fruit, vegetable and tree stories. Read some of the top gardening stories right here.

Propagation, planting out and cultivation posts from writers that know their subjects well.

Why I love September!

Yum, I love this time of year! September seems to have an endless supplies of tomatoes, so I know Ill be making my end of season tomato soups.

I chop up the tomatoes, one onion and about three cloves of garlic and a few chilis. I roast them off for about 40 minutes and them blitz them till smooth and then enjoy with some granary bread, lush!!

The weather is changing too, I still have my fingers crossed for an ‘Indian Summer’ but at the moment in Suffolk, its seems like rain, rain or windy. 🙁

It’s still gilet and shorts weather for work, Im dreading getting the Winter coat, hat and scarf out though.

There are stunning flowers out at the moment, just walking around the gardens at work I have found these beauties!!

The wonderful Rudbeckia, it bridges the seasons between late summer and autumn, one of my favourites, easy to grow from seed and to propagate by lifting and dividing what the clump gets too big.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sedum, lovely big flower heads and the bees and butterflies, love them. They use them for their last pit stop before the end of the year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leycesteria, Pheasant Berry, this border plant has worked hard this season with its long arching stems dripping with rich purple pearls careful holding those seeds for next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anemone, I love seeing this lovely pink flower towards the back of the border, coming alive! With a slight breeze, they sway, carefully dancing learning the moves on Strictly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly Dahlias, how can you forget these? They are in my opinion the jewel in the crown, this time of the year the flower borders, I even have some on the patio, of course, keeping up to date on the dead heading will keep these flowering until the first frosts.

That’s it for September, see you in October.

Keep dead heading!!

Suz x

 

Sue Russell
One of my earliest memories; helping my Mum and Dad weed the veggie plot and collecting chicken eggs from the chooks at the end of the garden. I grew up on a farm as a child and always had my own piece of land to grow and learn with, so I suppose its in the blood!
In my mid twenties, I re trained in Horticulture (Professional Gardening ANCH) and set up my own Gardening business working for clients in the Suffolk/Essex area. For the last thirteen years Ive had the pleasure of working on a private twenty five acre estate tending to the grounds.
Most recently, eighteen months ago, I joined the team at Thompson and Morgan in the Customer Care department.
Also season ticket holder at Ipswich Town Football Club!!

10 awesome allotment blogs

Check out these awesome allotmenteers
Image: shutterstock

There’s an allotment revival going on at the moment. And it’s no wonder. Growing your own helps you eat better and cheaper, get fit, and spend quality time outdoors with friends and family.

If you fancy grabbing a piece of the ‘good life’ for yourself, then have a nose through these awesome allotment blogs. With practical how-tos, delicious homegrown recipes and inspirational pictures, they’ll make an allotmenteer of you yet.

Veg Plotting

veg plotting's home grown figs

Homegrown figs queuing up to feature in Michelle’s figgy cheese tart
Image: vegplotting

Ever wondered if you should break the rules when it comes to bulbs or asked yourself how to deal with ‘June drop’? Michelle, the green fingers behind Veg Plotting, has all the answers. This allotmenteer and ‘subversive soprano’ from Wiltshire has been tending her plot since 2003, when her husband’s illness inspired her to grow good, honest fayre for her family.

Fifteen years on, Michelle grows pretty much everything. Veg Plotting is a wonderful mix of advice, inspiration and humour. You’ll find a wealth of tutorials and some magnificent recipes including allotment soup and figgy cheese tart.

Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments

The berries are in at Green Lane allotments!
Image: Green Lane Allotments

It all started in the ‘80s with a single plot on a West Yorkshire allotment. As growing went out of fashion and neighbouring plots became vacant and overgrown, Sue and her husband took another plot, then another, and so on, until they ended up with five!

Sue is now the oracle on all things allotment-based. She generously shares growing techniques and top tips with her readership; such as why you should always leave slug-nibbled berries on the plant. Plus there are garden sudokus for rainy days and ‘young seedlings’ ideas to get the children hooked on growing.

Flighty’s plot

Flighty is pleased as Punch with his Polka Dot cornflowers
Image: Flightplot

Flighty’s Plot is tended by Mike: ‘allotmenteer, armchair gardener, blogger and sofa flyer’. Mike took over his allotment in 2007 and instantly fell in love with growing, getting to know the local wildlife and regular chat with fellow plot holders. Indeed, reading Flighty’s Plot feels a lot like chatting to an old friend.

Let Mike keep you up to date with the progress of this season’s crops and his close encounters with Foxy. When he’s not tending his allotment, Mike can be found on the sofa with a good book and a nice cup of tea. Our kind of chap.

JibberJabberUK

raspberries frpm jibberjabber's plot

The recent raspberry glut provided jam, muffins and crumble for Ness
Image: jibberjabberUK

Ness is the CBO (Chief Baking Officer) at JibberJabberUK, a blog about growing, cooking and baking for the family. The family started their allotment adventure to take control over how their fruit and veg were grown. They have certainly succeeded!

With monthly allotment updates and fantastic photography, this blog will show what can be done with a little imagination and a lot of hard work. And once you have harvested your goodies, be sure to check out Ness’s recipes such as her rhubarb, lemon and ginger friands.

Agents of Field

agents of field's jam

Follow these beauties as they journey from allotment to breakfast table
Image: Agents of Field

Sophie and Ade are the Agents of Field and their mission is to save the Earth ‘one forkful at a time’. Their superpowers are sustainability, thriftiness and some very green fingers. And with twenty years of film and TV production between them, their blog is bursting with beautiful images and witty words.

So dive in and let horticulturalist Ade show you how to battle aphid invasions and upcycle just about any old rubbish into vital equipment for the allotment. Then settle down and discover how chef Sophie transforms both crops and weeds into mouthwatering meals. Nettle pesto, anyone?

Sharpen your spades

peas from sharpen your spades

Richard’s Blauwschokker peas are thriving in his no-dig allotment 
Image: Sharpen Your Spades

Richard Chivers is the man behind Sharpen Your Spades. His early growing career was a tempestuous one as he hurtled from one short-lived allotment fling to the next. But in 2015 he settled down with the plot of his life and hasn’t looked back since.

In his blog you’ll find a wealth of goodies from an allotment diary – a record of the frustrations and successes of organic growing – to comprehensive growing guides. Having sharpened his spade in the past, Richard has recently hung it up in favour of the no-dig gardening technique. Intriguing, huh?

The Green Fingered Blog

green fingered blog bug hotel

All bugs are welcome at the Holiday Inn(sect)
Image: greenfingeredblog

Growing doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming or difficult, says Paul Cartwright, the Green Fingered Blogger. His posts are always informative and often eccentric. Whether it’s creating a cheap and easy bug hotel, trying to grow watercress on a garden fence and discovering the cure for wisteria hysteria, it’s all worth a read.

Paul is convinced that spending time amongst plants is good for the soul, and we have to say the same about loafing around this blog.

The Bohemian Raspberry

seedlings

Chelle’s chillies, peppers and aubergines survived eviction from the polytunnel
Image: Instagram/ bohoraspberry

Chelle dreams of having her own smallholding one day. But until then, this gardening rebel is happy tending her plot-and-a-half at the local allotment. She’s the blogger behind Bohemian Raspberry as well as being a mum, horticultural student and gardening addict.

Knowledgeable, funny and warm, you’ll enjoy her beginner’s guide to growing cut flowers, take her advice on when to sow your seeds and share her joy when her son gets the gardening bug. Magic.

Horticultural ‘obbit

gooseberries from the horticultural hobbit

These gooseberries will soon be simmering with ginger, turmeric and spices
Image: Horticultural Hobbit

‘You won’t find romance here,’ warns Punam Farmah, psychology teacher, adventurous allotmenteer and writer of the Horticultural ‘obbit. This honest blog documents the natural experiments – some successful, others not – conducted on Punam’s allotment in Birmingham.

Discover how she transformed the jungle that was Plot 2a into a treasure-trove of taste (it took two weeks and 48 full green waste bags) and follow her delicious tutorials to create delights such as gooseberry pickle.

Grow Like Grandad

eggshells don't deter snails

It’s official: eggshells do NOT deter snails
Image: Grow Like Grandad

The granddads Matt Peskett wants to emulate are his very own – Grandad Jack and Great-Grandad George, both head gardeners in their time. And it’s thanks to Grandad Jack that our blogger got his first taste for growing.

Grow Like Grandad is full of expert information on allotmenteering, from how to grow giant pumpkins to a comprehensive guide to tackling your first allotment. It’s beautifully written and there’s always something to make you smile. The Snail Barrier Performance Trial (time-lapse video) is not to be missed.

We hope these wonderful blogs have inspired you to get growing or even to start your own allotment blog. And if you write about growing we’d love to hear from you. Visit our Facebook page and share a link to your gardening adventures.

Trial plants at Driftwood Gardens

So, as we approach the end of the season, how have then plants received this year fared? Without doubt the one that has excelled and received many comments from our many visitors is Petunia Amore “Queen of Hearts”. It has  flowered prolifically throughout the season and is  still going strong in mid-September. It is interesting that many do not see the hearts in the petals until they are pointed out to them. A lovely plant that many say they will be buying in 2018. Another showstopper, without doubt has been the Sweet pea “Earl Grey”. I don’t normally have any  success with them in my windy garden but these seem to have  done very well and produced some amazing blooms greatly admired by visitors.

Petunia night sky, which I also had in 2016, has done very well again, many people still not having seen it before and much taken with it. The petunia mini rosebud Romantic Peach  took a while to get started but looked really pretty tumbling out of 2 rusty urns in the garden. A little bit  delicate, perhaps, for my garden as you really had to look to see  and appreciate them. The calendula “Winter Wonders Collection” did not work that well for me, likewise the Osteospermum “Falling Stars”. The latter arrived in poor condition through the post and you were not able to replace them.    The strawberries “Just add cream” started off really well but only one plant lasted the season and produce some delicious fruit. Geranium ‘Black Rose was a great success too! the dazzling blooms drawing attention in containers throughout the garden. Certainly one I would recommend. The Gazania “Shepherds Delight” were so very,  very slow to grow on and develop and I have to admit a few fell by the wayside, but then the flowers finally appeared, they were quite stunning. The Buddleja Davidii “Wisteria Lane” was not as impressive as I had hoped, maybe it was me,  but it seemed not to do too well in my coastal garden, quite badly bruised buy the salt winds.

Meanwhile the hydrangea Annabelle and the Erigeron Glaucas “Sea Breeze” that I purchased have both done really well.

In addition to this I was sent some trial, as yet unnamed, Hibiscus  and experimental lilies. Many suggested the lilies be called something along the lines of red hot chillies. Both were quite stunning when they flowered and were such bold colours. They received many positive comments from visitors.

Finally back in May we received the pack of experimental dahlias with just a reference letter to their name. They were potted up and have been such beautiful flowers. I have to admit the slugs and snails love them too, but the flowers have  been incredible. Dahlias, C, D, F & XXL were especially gorgeous and much remarked upon by visitors. All in all great season at Driftwood and we shall be doing it all over again in 2018.

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, featured on Gardeners’ World on BBC TV and finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine Garden of the Year 2016, he’s raised £95000 for various charities in 8 years, £53400 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

August – What a month!

Hi Everyone,

Where to start? What a month – the weather has been just awful, heavy rain, westerly winds and foggy overcast days. The perfect way to ruin a summer garden and then just when you’ve decided to pack up the patio furniture for next year, guess what the sun comes out!

viola seedlings - August 2017

August has been really hit and miss when it comes to seed germination. I planted up some 2008 Viola seeds that have germinated perfectly, I have planted up fresh from my future Mum-in-Law’s garden, bright orange, English Marigold seeds that grew almost instantly, yet a new packet of cabbage seeds germinated and then died, same for the Stevia, Lavender and a few of the turnips.

As the grass seeds take between one and four months to germinate I’m not sure what the success rate will be. The Liatris appear to have failed entirely. Even though I have tried different composts, different sowing months, and different conditions. It’s a shame because I really liked the look of these plants.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – I have had great success with my food plants – but more about that later. First I need your help. I am a bit bored with writing the names “Big Greenhouse” and “Little Greenhouse” each month so I want to call them something different. I thought of calling the big one Ty Mawr which is Welsh for the big house, but then I would have to call the little one Ty Bach which although translates to little house, it actually refers to visiting the toilet.

In Pembrokeshire a lot of people speak Wenglish! (Welsh-English) for example, “I’m just going to  the Ty Bach” or Put it in the Popty-Ping” meaning use the microwave. Although Popty-ping is a nickname that seems to have stuck. The real word for Microwave in Welsh is Meicrodon -phonetically pronounced as Micro Don and easy to remember as it sounds like a tiny Italian Mobster. So please help me out and suggest some names.

Meanwhile…..

In the little greenhouse, I have germinating seeds, some plug plants that I had free from Thompson and Morgan, via a Gardeners World special offer and many empty pots waiting to filled when my seedlings get larger.

Seedlings - August 2017

Unfortunately, a quarter of my twelve free plants are in a bad state and will possibly fail, the box was slightly crushed when it was delivered, and the plants were very dry, which makes me wonder how long they had taken to get to me once they had been despatched. I haven’t complained as they were free to begin with. I was also disappointed that some of the plants stated in the magazine offer (Hensol Poppies) were not actually in the collection, but they were substituted for Geranium Splish Splash – which although pretty is not what I wanted. However, as I’ve never grown these before perhaps I’m in for a treat. And it clearly states on the offer that they can substitute plants at any time – so again not complaining, but I really only took up the offer because of the poppies (sad sulky face).

The other plants in the offer were Digitalis Alba, Digitalis Sugar Plum and Digitalis Candy Mountain plus Primula Denticulata. The primula looks exciting to grow so I really hope I don’t loose any more of these plants.

On the shelves I also have a Christmas Cacti cutting that has finally rooted, a sickly looking dog rose and two buckthorn alders, again in a sorry state. The reason being we put the trees in the cold frame and then I totally forgot about them.

In the border there’s the usual aloes and cacti and money tree, along with a yellow stuffer tomato plant. Its nice to have an annual plant in there again. I’m sort of missing the annual borders there, but it is really nice to have permanent evergreen plants to look at all year round. Plus it only needs a light weed and feed, so is easy to maintain.

In the cold frame I now have two baby money trees and a spider plant, as they have been evicted from the big greenhouse for the summer.

Whilst sorting out the little greenhouse a few days ago I found a flowerpot with small bulbs in it. No, compost, no, label so no idea what they are. I asked Mark if he put them there, he said: “Yes I did ages ago. I forgot about them.”

“What are they?” I asked. Meaning have you any idea what bulbs they are.

Shrugging he helpfully replied “You are the gardener not me. I don’t know what they are.”

“Where did you get them from?” I tried. Hoping he would say which border or bit in the garden he had accidentally dug them out from.

“One of your pots in the garden.” Was his reply.

As we say in Welsh “Fel Rhech Mewn Pot Jam……”*

It’s used to describe something or someone as Useless – but you may want to google the phrase for the exact translation!

*I mean his reply was not helpful not that he is useless.

And so to the big greenhouse……

tomatoes and aubergines - August 2017

I have so many Sweet Aperitif tomatoes, I can pick fresh ones every day. The lowest number per pick per day was seven, the highest is currently at sixty six. The Yellow Stuffers are a bit more reasonable, in that they produce one or two a day, which is ideal. The Bonica Aubergines are slow, but they have flowered and I can just see the fruits forming. The Patio Mix ones are awesome, they are giving me one or two fruits per week since the second week of August. But so far only dark purple ones, the green type from the mix (Jewel Jade) have fruit, but they are not ripe enough to pick.

The Marigolds and Amaranthus and Nicotianas are still keeping the pests at bay, except for a giant slug, that I quickly evicted. I left the Hunter Spider in the foliage as he can help out with pest control.

The Sweet Bonita peppers have many fruits on them, they are large but still too hard, and they are refusing to turn any other colour, they are staying a pale creamy yellow. I took a single pepper off each plant to encourage them to keep flowering. I have put said peppers on the kitchen windowsill to ripen.

The Medina chilli stopped growing for a while, but has since recovered, and thanks to the pollinators there are now more chillies growing. Mark wants us to make a sweet chilli sauce with them – I think he’s forgotten how hot they are! Regretfully, I lost my watermelon to powdery mildew last month before its fruits were big enough to recuse, and annoyingly the cantaloupe melon has done the same. The fruits would grow to no bigger than a tomato then fall to the floor. Then I noticed powdery mildew on its leaves and stalks, so I had to have Mark rip it out. So frustrating, as it was a total waste of time and money buying them from a different supplier. Thankfully T&M gave me some melon seeds to trial this year, but because they were posted to me after their recommended sow by month, I can’t trial them until next year.

The greenhouse pumpkin succumbed to mildew too. The outdoor one is fine. I wish I lived near to Ian and Stuart Paton, the champion pumpkin growers as I would love to ask them for some handy tips. I don’t think I could afford their electricity bill though to keep the pumpkins at a constant eighteen degrees both day and night, nor the gallons of water needed for the pumpkins to grow six stone a day.

The gaps left by the melons were dug over, and fresh fertiliser was added to the soil, in the form of compost and tomato feed, and we have now put in the two spare tomatoes that were in spud growing sacks in the smaller greenhouse. They have established and continue to form fruit and flowers.

Mark still has to do all the heavy watering, lifting and digging,for me, as I continue to recover from the cancer and learn my new limitations with the heart failure. But compared to this time last year, things are 100% better.

harvested fruit and veg - August 2017

Finally, there was nothing better than to see the smile on my oncologists face, when I presented him with a bag of home grown tomatoes at my last check-up. A tiny thank you from me for everything he and his team have done.

Until next month.

Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda xx

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

After a busy week with barely a peep outside, I went into the garden this morning and I felt a none too subtle shift from high summer towards early autumn. There I was last Sunday extolling the virtues of planting for late summer colour, marvelling at the fact that my plot had yet to reach its peak. And this morning, well, I realised it had gone ahead without me!

Experience tells me that we should be able to enjoy the garden until well into October and to a lesser extent into November too. But it’s a bitter sweet knowledge. And it doesn’t help that it’s just started pouring down outside when, in 15 minutes, a party of nonagenarians is due for a spot of horticultural therapy a la NGS Garden and Health Week! OMG it’s pelting down…………..

Phew, that went well. Sun came out. One of the ladies visiting the garden had been a WW2 Land Army Girl in Middlesex for five years. What she doesn’t know about spuds isn’t worth knowing. Eve, my neighbour, from whom we inherited our allotment when her lovely Ted died, (he was 91; we’re bred to last round ‘ere in Finchley!) remembers going down to the plot with her grandfather when she was seven to pick blackberries. (Trish, is that what you call split infinitives?) The blackberry hedge was well established by then. Eve is now 87 so it’s at least 80 years old. I’ve contacted the allotment committee to see if they have any records as to whether it is the oldest cultivated blackberry bush on the allotment site.

Anyway…. With the turn of the season comes reflection (and re-registering for NGS 2018: I Really Must update our garden description. Even I am bored with same-old same-old year after year!) So I thought it would be a good time to review some of this summer’s planting schemes (whilst I can still see them that is!) First then, T&M annual bedding plants:

  • First Prize goes to Non Stop Mocca Bright Orange for its stunning bright red(!) double flowers above deep dark foliage. Many more next year. Plant with everything!

non stop mocca - summer 2017

  • Durability Prize: Petunia Mini Rosebud Romantic Peachy. Although not much of a spreader, its dense mats of flowers need no deadheading and sparse watering. (Good job too, seeing as their hanging baskets just fall short of hose distance, and are just above comfortable watering can height.)

petunia rosebud peachy - summer 2017

  • Greatest Endeavour: Begonia Glowing Embers. Poor things; when I planted them out with coleus Redhead, amongst some 2016 black canna divisions, who was to know that they would be completely dwarfed by the canna’s 6ft tall paddle leaves. Still, their delicate little orange gems managed to poke out of the darkness. Talk about hiding your light under a bushel.
  • Forgot I Had Them Prize: Bidens Collection. Having trialled these bidens last summer I was more than happy to plug another lot into the shady hosta and heuchera baskets in the fernery (posh name for shady bit at back where nothing else grows) this year. Once planted I promptly forgot about them until towards the end of July,when their starry little daisy like flowers started popping up, clearly no offence taken.

And a special prize goes to the T&M trial dahlia plugs that I trialled on the allotment:

  • trial dahlias - summer 2017Didn’t Think I Could Grow Them Prize: Trial Dahlia Plug Plants. Having never grown dahlias from anything other than tubers, I was hesitant to take on this trial. That said, wasn’t I likely to be the ideal candidate as, if they proved successful, then surely they could be catalogued as Idiot Proof! Three plugs each of four experimental varieties. Due to lack of space I planted each group of three into a 12” pot to start them off and eventually transplanted them onto the allotment. Well, within a fortnight two out of the four came into bloom, with more robust buds coming on. One group seemed particularly prone to slugs so I collared them with plastic tomato auto watering rings, which put a stop to that problem. I swear by those rings! Never have used them on tomatoes though…….

Now for performance review of the established plants in the garden, bearing in mind one always loves the plants that are Flowering Right Now the best:

best plants - summer 2017

  • Variegated version with pinky white flowers, mixed with deep blue and white varieties, breathe new life into the mid-summer borders.
  • Pastel carpet roses from Flower Carpet Range and County Series, Chelsea Rose of Year 2015 For Your Eyes Only, just keep flowering away all summer long.
  • Shrubby salvias, salvia Uliginosa and huge tender salvias Confertifolia and Involucrata. In fact all salvias. Except sage, I can’t grow sage. I have even broken my cardinal rule of not having any tender perennials in the borders, by lifting the most vulnerable ones for over wintering under cover.
  • Anything tall. Miscanthus, calamagrostis, eupatorium, thalictrum, veronica Virginucum Fascination. With exceptions: tansy has to go; sick of it, better things in the offing at Plant Heritage Plant Sale in September, oh, and rampant filipendula should carry a government health warning.

jitterbug cat -summer 2017And in conclusion, the prize for the most innovative hanging basket must go to Catus Jitterbuggus, who enjoys the shade of the patio in her very own hammock.

Make the most of the next few weeks, and remember it’s never too late to do a bit of plant buying…. Love, Caroline

Growing at home and at work!

One of my earliest memories is of helping my Mum and Dad weed the veggie plot and collecting chicken eggs from the chooks at the end of the garden. I grew up on a farm as a child and always had my own piece of land to grow and learn with, so I suppose it’s in the blood!

In my mid twenties, I re trained in Horticulture (Professional Gardening ANCH) and set up my own Gardening business working for clients in the Suffolk/Essex area. For the last thirteen years I’ve had the pleasure of working on a private twenty five acre estate tending to the grounds.

My work:

growing seedlings

This year I’ve grown everything from seed on the estate. I wanted different and above all tasty and engaging fruits and veg.

growing tomatoes

In the greenhouse this year I’ve grown Harbinger, Terenzo and Red Cherry, three different types of toms, slicing and cooking with the Harbinger and a little snacking tomato, appropriately named Cherry Red and also the Terenzo which is hanging basket variety.

Also cucumber Swing, which hasn’t stopped producing and has a great taste, two types of Aubergine, Bonica and Orlando. I tried Aubergines a few years ago, they didn’t come to anything and the Woodlice enjoyed eating them before they were ready for humans.

growing aubergines and runner beans

In the veggie plot, are Courgette – Parador and Eclipse. I wanted a break away from the regular, (boring!) courgettes, so this year, yellow and green and round. Lovely flavours too, tonight I added the yellow to a veggie Spaghetti Bolognese which we all tucked into, ending with clean plates all round, great way to get it into the kiddies!!

Runner beans are in pots this year with six canes in each, I tried two varieties, Scarlet Emperor and Desiree, thought these two were good to try with each having different coloured flowers and growing in pots means they are transportable!

At home:

growing seeds with the children

One wet spring afternoon after visiting Waitrose and enjoying our free hot beverages, the kids raided my seed box and chose seeds they fancied growing to sow in the empty cups, (a good way to recycle). They sat on my kitchen window sill to grow, the children checked every day to see who’s grew first and then we transplanted their seedlings. The Rudbeckia looks superb on the patio and will be planted into the garden in the autumn.

There is definitely something to be said for encouraging children at a young age, especially nowadays with so much focus on five a day and healthy eating and children finding out where and how their food grows.

I haven’t grown as much as I would really like to this but I did try Chilli Pepper Numex Twilight which was new for me, love chillies, great to be picking and cooking from garden to kitchen within seconds.

Once thing that never makes it into the kitchen though are our peas, we all sow them all together, watch them grow and when ready sit on the patio and eat them. A few are left now to save the seeds for next year’s annual pea sowing.

begonias and petunias

I wanted to know what all the fuss was about with Begonia Apricot Shades, to be fair I was in Monty Don’s camp with the dislike of these plants. But reluctantly I gave them a go, a few crept into the baskets and pots and they are ok, won’t say I love them just yet!

victoria plum

I am impressed with my patio Vicky Plum though, my favourite plum! Bought it last year and last week William (my eight year old son) and I shared the first one. Simply divine.

Looking ahead to next year, as I mentioned through the good and the bad, William and I are season ticket holders at our beloved ITFC, so we thought about planting and growing from seed blue plants for the garden and friends. There is a Pansy actually called ‘Singing the Blues‘, so maybe a good place to start!

Well that’s my first ever blog, hope you enjoyed a little insight into my world, until next time, over and out!!

Sue x

Sue Russell
One of my earliest memories; helping my Mum and Dad weed the veggie plot and collecting chicken eggs from the chooks at the end of the garden. I grew up on a farm as a child and always had my own piece of land to grow and learn with, so I suppose its in the blood!
In my mid twenties, I re trained in Horticulture (Professional Gardening ANCH) and set up my own Gardening business working for clients in the Suffolk/Essex area. For the last thirteen years Ive had the pleasure of working on a private twenty five acre estate tending to the grounds.
Most recently, eighteen months ago, I joined the team at Thompson and Morgan in the Customer Care department.
Also season ticket holder at Ipswich Town Football Club!!

August – Potatoes, Carrots….. and Elephants!

Theresa's Garden in August

Hello, it’s been a long time since I had the time to sit down and let you know how the garden has been progressing through August.

We have been harvesting everyday in the vegetable patch. I can’t remember a year where we have had such a good potato crop, both early and main crops have grown very well and to date no blight.  Carrots are abundant and no carrot fly, they have been well protected behind insect mesh along with our lovely crop of brassicas.  We have managed to keep the dreaded white butterflies and local wood pigeons off with netting.

Runner beans are all in the freezer as are the surplus Victoria Plums and we are busy cooking and freezing the cooking apples to see us through the year.

The tomatoes have proved very abundant and all varieties have ripened well.  They are being skinned and frozen in readiness for pasta sauce using all home grown garlic, basil and onions. This is then bottled for use throughout the year.

elephant hawk moth caterpillar in August

In the flower garden the baskets tubs and bedding are all full of colour. The large hardy fuchsia that has been in the garden for twenty years has been completely de-foliated by the biggest caterpillars of the beautiful Elephant Hawk Moth. Not a problem for the plant and a big boost for the moths.

 

Theresa Bloomfield
I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

No weight-watching for these WHOPPERS!

one of the paton whoppers

Champion pumpkin growing twins, Ian and Stuart Paton from Southampton are at it again!  This year they have four pumpkin babies which are currently piling on a massive 60lb or 4 stone a day!  The twins are well on the way to giving their record-breaking 160 stone pumpkin of 2016 a run for its money.

The water and electricity bills are going through the roof to keep the pumpkins hydrated and warm and in an effort to beat the record once again.  The growing pumpkins are being kept at a constant 18°C, even throughout the night for the first time.  This seems to be working as the rapidly expanding pumpkins are currently 10% ahead of last year’s winner with a circumference of 19ft.  The Paton’s will need to hire a special, super-charged, truck to lift the enormous pumpkin as their tractor will not be up to the job.

However, size isn’t everything as one false move and the pumpkin skin can split making it ineligible for the weigh-in.  The official weigh-in is on Saturday 14th October at the Royal Victoria Country Park, Southampton, so make a day of it and enjoy the Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival and Scarecrow Avenue.

For the first time in 2017, the competition will also include the Tomato Gigantomo weigh-in and these entries will be a welcome addition to the pumpkins on display.  So if you have any Gigantomo hanging around, why not bring them along on the day.

Pumpkin growing really is everything to the dedicated pumpkin-growing twins and the ultimate accolade has been bestowed on Ian Paton.  He has been made President of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a world-renowned organisation.  Well done to Ian as it is an honour to be asked.

National Allotment Week

National Allotment Week

So this week is National Allotment week, it brings back happy memories of my first allotment that we decided would be a wonderful idea ( myself and my partner at the time), we would be self sufficient in vegetables and it would be such fun to do!

Oh my goodness…..

We were really lucky as some local allotments out where I live in (very) rural Suffolk hadn’t been used for years and so were quickly available. In fact, we were told we could have two! So I quickly drove to see the local chap who ran the allotments and handed over my £10 for the year for both ( I know, how cheap was that!)  and we were on our way.

National Allotment week

Humming the tune to “The Good Life” we went down, armed with spades, hoes and various tools that we thought we’d need, we had seen the allotments from the footpath but never actually set foot on them until now. It turned out that a more suitable variety of tools would have been dynamite, a JCB and a flame thrower! Mare’s tail was everywhere, bindweed, fat hen towering over our heads, nettles galore and brambles that were actually deliberately trying to trip us at every opportunity. However – my partner and I were determined to make a start, and we did just that, slashing digging raking all commenced in earnest!  Followed by bonfires and flasks of tea, rolls, oh, and blisters, hot baths and plasters too.

It was incredibly worth it though, after clearing the worst, we hired a huge tiller and we turned over the whole site, raked and removed root clumps, tilled again and repeated over and over for an entire weekend until we actually had a useable area.

We couldn’t wait to plant all sorts, starting with onion sets brassicas, lots of spuds and even butternut squashes, peas, beans and a pumpkin that we’d been growing in the greenhouse back at home.

I won’t say it was easy, but my goodness it was rewarding, being able to go down to the allotment after work, a flask of tea and some snacks and do some gardening was good for the soul, being able to sit and look over the river in the distance after doing a couple of hours’ weeding felt like an accomplishment and eating the fruits of our labours (literally) was the best feeling in the world. That was usually after giving away loads of fresh veg to our neighbours too! Who knew that 15 years later, I’d be lucky enough to work at Thompson & Morgan and be reminded today of those amazing days.

What were your first experiences of allotmenteering ? I’d love to hear them, feel free to share in the comments below.

All the best

Graham

Graham Ward
I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.

Storm Force Caterpillars and Losses Cut

There’s this story going around that there’s only a month or so left to go of summer before it fades to autumn. Well that’s handy as I was starting to tire of the endless heat haze and Long Island iced teas.

No? Well, if reality has to get dragged into it, who else here has been casually eyeing up the cosy knits heap at the bottom of the wardrobe, or maybe even sneaking on the central heating?

Just for fun, here’s a definition of Beaufort Wind Scale 7:

‘High wind, moderate gale, near gale … whole trees in motion, inconvenience felt when walking against the wind.’

A few days ago these were the outdoor conditions here; the obvious time to finally sort out the caterpillars cheerfully laying waste to the veg growing in various pots on the patio.  Sprouting broccoli, by now gone over anyway so no real loss, but more importantly the clutch of sprouts intended for Christmas, and which had been grown from seed.  All under attack from the young of the Large Cabbage White.

So, head bent into the wind and with grim determination, the Eviction of the Caterpillars commenced.

Some things I learned:

They like hanging around in packs. I say ‘packs’, apparently the proper collective noun for a group of caterpillars is an army.   That kind of sounds wrong though, too overblown.   They’re actually more like those groups of teenagers you sometimes get around bus stops.  All faux-swagger, but basically a bit timid under it all and preferring safety in numbers.  So, maybe it should be a skulk of caterpillars.

Whatever, as with any skulking teens, they had to move on. This would have happened a lot faster had I known the next bit.

Now, all over the munched sprout leaves were these odd, tiny clumps of mushy green, well, ‘stuff’.  Look again at the first picture above. There it is, all around the stem.  Turns out, somewhat grossly, this is actually caterpillar vomit. The semi-regurgitated leavings of the plants they have been nibbling away at.  Sorry to make you choke on your Long Island iced tea, but there we have it.

Apparently they do this when they are being predated to put off whatever is trying to eat them, according to those in the know at the National Geographic.  Kind of glad I hosed the plant off afterwards.

So, caterpillars despatched to the compost bin together with all ravaged leaves and spent broccoli, losses were cut.  Might still get at least a small handful of sprouts for Christmas, which is all anyone wants anyway.

 

Also this week, wasps claimed the remaining super-ripe Victoria plums for themselves, eating them practically down to the stones. For some reason, I didn’t fancy getting quite so hands-on with the wasps, so left them alone to get on with it.

All of which brings us to the question of pest control. Having always opted for non-chemical means of control for anything grown to be eaten, it does seem we’ve only ever done this in an ad-hoc way, after damage has been done.  Maybe there is a better, preventative approach?

I’m not talking about anything too labour- or time-intensive though. What quick, nifty tricks are there?  Wasp traps are one way I’ve spotted, not that I’ve used these (they look a bit grisly).

I suspect some cold hard cash will have to spent on proper kit to keep the pests off such as netting.

What are your secret tricks and shortcuts?  Oh, and if it’s budget-friendly, we’ll love you forever.  The pests, not so much.

Comment below and share your experiences…

Alison Hooper
I’ve lived in various places from freezing flats in Manchester with just enough room to swing a pot rubber plant, to a Leicester semi which must have held some kind of local record for most concrete used in the garden. That took some digging out.

Now living in Market Harborough with husband Matt and two young daughters. And a cat who shows up for mealtimes.

Gardening neophyte, learning always.

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