I hope you have had a wonderful summer and are enjoying the fruits of your harvest. I have had the most successful year ever thanks to the reliable and strong seeds from Thompson & Morgan. I wish I had thought to count how many Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ seeds we had. We had such a glut we were giving them to friends, neighbours, family and hospital staff. My mum has made me pasta sauce and tomato soup on a regular basis and my brother took some to make me a chutney although I have yet to see it!
Unfortunately, I can’t take the credit for looking after the watering and feeding of the plants as I haven’t been well enough It’s thanks to Mark and mum that the greenhouses have been kept going. The only thing I did was prune the tomato vines down to five foot, pinch out the side shoots and cut off the lower leaves as the fruits were forming.
My Uncle Vince who lives in Solva says he’s had the worst tomato crop ever. He thinks they’ve not had enough sun and they have been affected by blight. My Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ have certainly lived up to the claim that they are blight resistant as so far there is no disease in our greenhouse and the weather is unpredictable at the moment.
Huge haul of tomatoes & delicious pasta sauce
Blogger Jean Willis who grows wonderful petunia displays sent me a few packets of seeds, the chillies didn’t take, they germinated well but a sudden hike in temperature when I was in hospital meant they were put under stress as they were on the hottest shelf in the greenhouse, all day. When they were watered intermittently at dusk the compost had dried out far too much,and they couldn’t recover. Mark had so much to do in the mornings I had to occasionally remind him by text to open the greenhouse doors and windows and damp down the floor. However, the Pepper ‘Sweet Bonita’ has been the best plant I have ever grown! They have even beaten the plug plants that I usually buy in terms of numbers of fruit, taste and size. Again I’m not sure if this is down to Mark looking after them, or that I have set the greenhouse planting up better than last year, by choosing the side closest to the house for the tomato vines so the heavy leaves and vigorous growth don’t shade out the sun for the slower and lower growing crops.
After carefully growing aubergines for my other brother, who still hasn’t managed to build his greenhouse (2nd year of having it) I ended up with too many plants, and I used up the last of my precious seeds. I gave a plant each to my auntie and mum, but both of them say that there are no fruits on theirs. Mum’s is outdoors as she does not have a greenhouse, and my Auntie Mary’s aubergine is in a pot in the greenhouse, but comes out to sit on the path in the day. Mum lives three miles away from me, and my auntie lives twenty odd miles away from me. I think it may be because the Enorma seeds tend to do better undercover.
I bought some cucamelons and they cropped really well, but due to having excess aubergine plants I could only grow them in a pot with a string frame in the greenhouse. They would have been better in the borders with a strong mesh support, however they did grow and fruit really well. It’s not something I will grow again though as I wasn’t keen on the taste, although it was funny watching people’s faces as they bit into the fruits and decided on what they tasted like or whether they liked them or not. Surprisingly it was my oldest niece Ffion who loved them. She even asked if she could take some home for her lunch box, I told her to take as many as she liked. This then led to her sisters Hattie and Gracie asking very sweetly if they could take some peppers, tomatoes and aubergines home to make a fruity rice dish for tea. I am glad I had more than enough for them to go home with.
This is the time of the year when I would be planning my winter crops, things like cauliflower, broccoli, onions turnip, spinach and Christmas Potatoes. I would be sowing seeds, sifting compost, and keeping an eye for spaces in the greenhouses to pop the plants into. However, the way it’s going I will still be eating summer fruits in the winter. The aubergines are still fruiting, as are the peppers and cucamelons, although I think the tomatoes will be finished by the end of the month. I also have been now banned from working with compost, and am not allowed into the greenhouses or garden without gloves on as I have started Chemotherapy. My treatment is weekly and for a possibility of eighteen weeks, with an operation after, so all I can do at the moment is delegate tasks to mum and Mark.
Just because I am having this treatment doesn’t mean that my gardening life has stopped, it’s just changed down a gear. For my birthday Mark bought me some Primula Vialii plug plants and they have been transplanted into individual three inch pots to overwinter on the shelves. These are in the small greenhouse along with three aubergines in pots, a massive begonia which is in the aloe borders. A squash plant is also in the small greenhouse, that I thought wouldn’t make it and the money tree which has put on loads of growth through the summer.
The big greenhouse has the tomato plants, aubergines, peppers, cucamelons and the basils. I also seem to
have a woodlice invasion too! But it’s my fault they are there as I didn’t tell Mark and mum to pick up all the dead material from the borders. Yesterday I had poor mum picking up the odd split tomato, dead leaves, spent trusses and random snails all in order to keep the greenhouse as clean as possible to help prevent diseases forming. I don’t mind the woodlice, but I occasionally heard a startled squeak from mum when she uncovered them under a leaf. I have stopped using slug pellets in the greenhouses as the plants are strong enough to cope with the irregular munch. I felt quite empowered saying snip this, cut that, compost that bit. Poor mum, but I did pay her in fresh raspberries and apples from the garden, and another tub of tomatoes.
Another great garden haul
The strangest thing to happen since I’ve being diagnosed with Cancer is that I’ve met some wonderful Thompson & Morgan customers in the three hospitals I have been in, and one of them a lovely lady called Lynne said she always reads my blogs. I was really shocked at this, because I only ever expect family or friends to read them I did say I still am as surprised as anyone else when things grow, as I’m still learning how to garden. I also had good advice from another great lady called Sally-Anne (aka Purple Pip) who insisted I get out in the fresh air as much as possible. I’ve made friends for life with Hazel, Kelly and Monica, and the support from Bloggers Geoff, Caroline and Jean has been incredible.
I am really hoping that I will have something to blog about in the next month or two if not I might just do a short winter blog, if not I will just have to rely on Geoff, Caroline, Jean and all of the other writers for my gardening fix.
Until next time, Take care, and Happy Gardening,
As this is my first blog, ever, I thought I would start by reflecting a little on where our gardening world has been going since the Second World War and, of course, where we are on the journey now!
Immediately after the war our successive Governments, of a variety of political persuasions, encouraged farmers and growers to maximise the cropping potential of every acre of land they could make productive. This move, in turn, caused what became known as the chemical treadmill. Where we applied stronger and stronger chemical products to kill off pests, diseases and weeds; that dared to attack our ever increasing acreages of crops. By the time we reached the 1970’s we had food mountains and wine lakes and had, without realising it, started to kill off wild flowers, insects, birds and wild animals in numbers that are now causing us serious concern.
Meadowland Mixture and Wildflower ‘Honey Bee Mixed’
When Rachel Carson wrote ‘The Silent Spring’ in 1962 few people listened to her concerns about the excessive use of chemical pesticides across the developed and developing world. When Dr. Chris Baines got the BBC to make the film ‘Bluetits and Bumblebees’ in the early 1980’s we all watched it but did not pick up the message. The Henry Doubleday Research Association (now Garden Organic), started in 1954 by Lawrence Hills has been encouraging amateur and professional growers to steer away from inorganic pesticides for over 60 years but who has been listening?
Now that scientific evidence and advanced knowledge of the damage that we have done to our planet over the last 60 + years has come into the public’s view, our Seed companies, breeders, researchers, nurseries and growers are seeing the potential market in offering us new strains of old favourites that require less and less pesticide attention.
Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ and Carrot ‘Flyaway’ F1 Hybrid
Scanning through the first eleven pages of Thompson and Morgan’s 2016 Seed Catalogue, I have found five cultivars of popular vegetables that have known resistance to one problem or another. Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ F1 is resistant to early and late blight; Carrot ‘Flyaway’ F1 is resistant to carrot root fly; Parsnip ‘Gladiator’F1 is resistant to Parsnip canker; Cucumber ‘Bella’ F1 and Courgette ‘Defender’ F1 are both resistant to powdery mildew.
Parsnip ‘Gladiator’ F1 Hybrid and Cucumber ‘Bella’ F1 Hybrid
Maybe someone will find strains of Impatiens and Aquilegias that are not devastated by Downy mildew in the future and Ash trees that are resistant to Ash dieback.
Busy Lizzy ‘Divine Mixed’ and Aquilegia ‘Swan Mixed’
This is all fantastic work on the part of breeders and growers and I feel sure that the list will get longer over the years as the pesticides gradually disappear from our Garden Centre shelves and pests and diseases become more resistant to them.
This cultural method of reducing the impact of pests and diseases should now be at the forefront in our battle with Mother Nature and, if we use physical barriers to help prevent attacks alongside the occasional use of biological control methods, we should be able to stop the use inorganic pesticides altogether.
Ground cover plants are useful in the garden for covering bare patches of soil beneath trees or shrubs or for covering steep banks where access is difficult. Their roots also help to stabilise soil on steep slopes. Ground cover plants brighten up otherwise dull areas and will suppress weeds, making them ideal for a low-maintenance garden. We’ve put together a list of some of the best ground cover plants, which are fast-growing and make an effective dense covering.
Ground cover plants for shade
From foliage to flowers there are plenty of colourful ground cover plants to light up a shady spot in your garden. Even vigorous plants may grow more slowly in heavier shade so don’t be too concerned if they are taking their time to spread. You may need to be more vigilant in weeding whilst these plants become established as the soil will be bare for some time. Once they do establish however, they will form an impenetrable mat.
Bergenia ‘Dragonfly Sakura’
Bergenia ‘Dragonfly Sakura’ is a hardy evergreen ground cover plant with incredible winter colour! The pretty blooms provide invaluable food for pollinating insects early in the year, and make dainty cut flowers too. Plant Elephant’s Ears in any well-drained soil in sun or dappled shade.
Heuchera ‘Patchwork’ Mix are prized for their colourful leaves, these versatile semi-evergreen perennials make excellent drifts of ground cover, adding a distinctive splash of colour to the front of borders, or even brightening winter containers.
Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley is a scented ground cover plant. Each delicate arching stem carries a flurry of snow-white, bell shaped blooms with a powerful, timeless fragrance. Set against of a carpet of lush green foliage, the exquisite blooms of Convallaria majalis make a wonderful cut flower for scented, springtime posies.
Ground cover plants full sun
From annual to evergreen ground cover plants, there are plenty of options for a sunny spot in the garden. Plants growing in full sun benefit from mulching in their first year to help retain moisture at their roots. If the weather is very hot and dry make sure you water your new plants regularly to help them establish. It’s also essential to keep on top of weeds so there is no competition for nutrients and water.
Delosperma ‘Hardy Mixed’
Delosperma ‘Hardy Mixed‘, Hardy ice plant, is fantastic for those hot, dry problem areas where many other plants would fail to establish.
Lily ‘Colour Carpet™ Mixture’
Lily ‘Colour Carpet™ Mixture’ is the only ground cover Lily that will flower within 10 weeks. These short stemmed dwarf lilies are a ‘must have’ for creating vibrant ground cover in exotic gardens, or edging paths and borders.
For more information take a look at our ground cover plants guide.
There is nothing more frustrating for a gardener than purchasing, growing and nurturing a plant for it to be destroyed by pests or disease. As gardeners we strive to protect our crops and this can be an enormous challenge especially when we have to try identify what has caused the damage. Even more frustrating, those shifty beasties are often hidden and not noticeable without a thorough search.
I have collated my top 5 tips to help you reduce the chance of infestation, and due to the overwhelming questions asked by our Facebook and Twitter followers, I will discuss the most common concerns which will hopefully solve your gardening concerns too.
Sometimes there is no right or single answer to getting rid of pest and diseases so these tips are intended to help reduce the risk of attack of any pest and disease in your garden;
- By covering your crops with fleece you will prevent pests from reaching your crops.
- Keep your eyes peeled for the earliest signs of attack and take action. Have a good look at your plants and if there is an infestation don’t let the problem get out of hand.
- Know your enemy. Certain pests and diseases are specific to a particular crop, so make sure you identify yourself with the most likely kind to attack your crops.
- By encouraging natural predators to your garden such as Ladybirds and Lacewings you will reduce pest and disease in your garden. They will happily munch their way through aphid colonies, preventing the spread around your garden.
- Be careful not to spread disease, many diseases can be prevented by practising good garden hygiene and keeping your garden well maintained.
Our facebookers and tweeters took to social media to ask their pesky queries; from slugs to mildew we had it all. It soon became clear that our gardeners need help with preventing and eliminating pests and diseases to save their garden.
Slugs and snails are probably the most common pests that will attack your crops, and by the time you notice their damage they are often long gone. No wonder gardeners resort to throwing them over fences – which is another discussion we had on Horticultural etiquette! So, how do you prevent snails and slugs from attacking your crop? You can use beer traps, or apply sharp scratchy mulch such as gravel to deter them. For a more targeted approach try using Nemaslug, which is completely safe around children, all animals, birds and wildlife – except for slugs and snails.
Ants can also be a nuisance although they don’t directly damage your plants. They often set up farms of sap sucking aphids, from which they gather sugary honeydew. You can try applications of ant deterrent around their nests and watch to see where they move to. If you keep applying it wherever they move, then sooner or later they will find somewhere to live which will be less of an inconvenience to you. It is also well worth encouraging insectivorous birds to your garden who will help to keep the ant population down.
Diseases such as Powdery Mildew and Downy Mildew affect a wide range of plants. Many plants are now bred with Mildew resistance to help combat the disease. Good air circulation and watering
For more information view our full pests and diseases guide.
Companion planting has been around for a long time and is a really good way of using Mother Nature to deter pests and improve pollination.
We’ve put together a Companion Planting Guide which you can find on the Thompson & Morgan website and use to help you plan your vegetable patch.
The guide, written by our horticultural experts, is full of great advice when it comes to growing your crops. For example, many of us grow vegetables in rows, known as ‘monoculture‘. However, pests generally have a favourite crop and this method helps them locate and infest it. Mixing plants up confuses the pests and you’re more likely to have a more successful harvest.
Intercropping is another way to make the most of the available space and is particularly useful when growing Brussels sprouts or parsnips which take a long time to grow. Sow the seeds and while you’re waiting for the them to germinate and grow, sow fast-growing vegetables like salad leaves and radishes and not only will you save a lot of space, you’ll be keeping weeds at bay – less weeding can only be a good thing!
Grow marigolds with tomatoes
Herbs are a great weapon against insects – their pungent scent deters them. Try growing basil, mint and chives near your tomato plants, as well as marigolds, to deter whitefly and aphids. Be cautious when growing mint though, it’s invasive and grows quickly, so it’s best in a container where you can, well, contain it!
Growing onions next to carrots benefits both crops – carrot fly is repelled by the smell of onions, and onion white fly is put off by the scent of the carrots.