Chickens, slugs and clearing up the vegetable plot

Theresa's Garden

The vegetable garden is looking a little sorry for itself at the moment.  The last of the winter roots and leeks and brassicas are waiting to be harvested and there are a few weeds showing now.  Nothing that a dry, sunny winters day cannot sort out. I have heavy clay soil so I use long planks resting on the side of the raised beds to work on to prevent compacting  the soil, which has had some good productive frosts this year breaking up the clods.

broad beans, garlic, shallots

The autumn planted garlic and shallots have benefited from  the frosts as well and are looking good. So too are the autumn sown Aquadulce Claudia Broad beans.  I always get a nice early crop which means some for us and the rest for the freezer and the ground can then be used for the spring onionslettuces and radishes which I plant in the spaces between the old bean stalks that stay in the ground making nitrogen nodules on their roots to feed the brassicas next year.

I am eagerly awaiting  the arrival of my potato tubers, egg boxes are ready for chitting on the conservatory window sill, The ground for these will be dug over after the last red cabbage and sprouts have gone.

The garden has suffered with plenty of slugs over the last couple of years so I am very diligent about cleaning up leaves weeds and old plant stems where they like to hide.  Any that I do find go straight into the chicken run where they are devoured with relish!  Chickens are very good re-cyclers, they love all the outside leaves from the brassicas , swede tops and fallen fruit which they instantly turn into quality manure which is added to the compost along with the nest box material and newspapers I use to line their sleeping quarters.  My reward lovely fresh eggs every day to share with family and friends.

sowing, propogating, thinning out

Seeds for the season have arrived so I must dust off the propagator to set the peppers and tomatoes at the end of the month. How quickly it all comes round!

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

Welcome To The New Gardening Year 2017

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year and are now ready for the new gardening year ahead.
During the summer of 2016 I planted Passiflora Caerulea and it soon grew to eight feet, must really have loved it in the full sun. I had around six flowers on it by early Autumn and then I noticed the fruit about the size of an egg appearing and turning gradually yellow. By then the days were colder but left them on the plant to see if they developed any further. The first week of January I decided to take the fruit off and cut them open and was very surprised to see that there was a lot of ripe flesh inside. I decided not to eat them as they had been around for a while and was not sure if they were edible after so long.

The Freesias I planted back in October started to grow far too quickly so I put more compost on them so the frost wouldn`t catch the tops but that only helped the local cats to use my containers as their toilet and scratched up the bulbs several times. Not wanting to to use anything that would hurt the cats but would stop them I asked a neighbour if I could have some branches of holly from her bush. That really did the trick with no damage to man nor beast.

On a mild day I checked the garden and noticed the Nemesia I had planted in a coloured pot during last summer were still growing and flowering as was some Cerinthe Major whose seeds had dropped on to the garden and had started to shoot, the plants are standing around 12” tall at the moment but I am afraid that when we get some very hard frosts it could be goodbye to them. My Hydranga `Annabelle` which had beautiful huge balls of white flowers, were still holding their own even though all the white heads are now brown, but still looking beautiful.

This Autumn I decided to plant up a couple of containers with a Winter Collection of small shrubs which gives a very nice show of various colours, and in the summer can be planted out in the garden.
My roses are in four containers but don`t really seem to be happy they all lost their leaves at one point and I did wonder if it was irregular watering that was causing it, although the bottoms of the containers were quite wet, so I am making room to put them into the border in front of a fence. If anyone has any answers re losing their leaves I would be very pleased to hear from you, this is their third year. The roses bloomed and looked great apart from the loss of leaves..

Having won Gold and Silver awards for my Container garden and hanging basket in 2016 for the Bournemouth in Bloom competition, I now have the challenge of turning the silver into gold for this year!

I have been making a provisional list of plants which I would like to grow from Thompson & Morgan for 2017 summer, I expect that will be re-written a couple of times before the final one. First of all we have to move a 5 ft.garden storage box and a small garden cupboard. The larger one is right into a corner and appears to be making the wall damp so will have to do some clearing out and moving it to under the kitchen window – fingers crossed.

I am hoping to try out a couple of Thompson & Morgan`s new Easy Fill baskets, I think the idea of having a solid piece of plastic holding the plants tight in their holes will stop the compost from falling out.

……………. so until we meet again, have fun deciding what you are going to grow this year, it`s getting lighter longer every day – hooray!!

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Watch out plants – No hiding place!

Christmas? Well thank goodness that’s over! So used to being outdoors am I (virtuous, smug) that being confined to quarters made me as sleepy as a dormouse. I reckon I was spending 14 hours a day either in or on the bed! Buoyed up by the prospect of increased day length (1 minute per day, yippee!) I have taken to mooching around the garden, peering at the earth for signs of life. And I haven’t been disappointed: crocus, snowdrops, narcissi; pulmonaria, cyclamen, Lords and Ladies; hellebores, scuttelaria integrifolia (Blue Helmet, cross between mint and salvia – look it up, it’s a thug but great for shade), sedum; and at eye level Clematis Freckles, little darling it is!

At this time of year there is no hiding place for hangers on I can tell you! I have been stalking around, beady eye looking out for howlers and as a result have a lovely list of removals in the offing: A variegated Philadelphus in a patio container never flowers well due to lack of bright sunlight and contributes nothing of interest to the winter displays. Where to put it in the borders though? It’s like the Domino effect here, what can I move on to make room for it? David reckons if he stands still too long he won’t be safe either! I can’t wait to get that clumsy spotted laurel out after sneering at it for years (ruthless terminator!) and replace it with Cornus Kousa Robert’s Selecte. The tree peony will be looking for a good home too. It doesn’t warrant its position as focal point of the fernery. Poor thing has only produced 3 flowers in its 5 year existence due to low light levels. I am rubbing my hands together in glee at the boundless planting possibilities: Maybe the T&M Blechnum Brasiliensis Volcano?

volcano

No more excuses! The miscanthus has to be lifted and divided in spring before it swallows up neighbouring thalictrum and euphatorium. Oh the effort, the mess, the clearance! Ah, but once it’s done think of the extra space. (Do you have two little green men on your shoulders arguing away behind your back? Only wish they could do the digging as well.) And bidens Hannay’s Lemon Drop is creeping through the salvia uliginosa and has to be stopped before it takes over. Trouble is, that whole section of bed will have to come up to separate them all. Perleeease! I’m exhausted already!

Some things seem to be a bridge too far though, like resolving to grow culinary herbs outside the back door. Trouble is, they start off vigorously enough in Spring, but by summer the passiflora canopy has shaded them out, and or the cats have been grazing on them. Maybe hanging baskets?

It’ll be a month or so before I can really get stuck in, but I shall console myself during the frosts by scouring the new Spring T&M catalogue. Plenty of sumptuous ideas for container planting, as well as delicious new tomato and veg varieties. A Must-Have addition to the allotment will be strawberry Just Add Cream, introduced to us at last Summer’s T&M Triallist’s Open Day. But more about the forthcoming year’s trials in my next blog.

In the meantime, here are some of my personal favourites from our garden throughout 2016:

jan to mar

apr to jun

jul to sep

oct to dec

A Winter’s Tale

a winters tale

Winter has arrived in my garden. It is later than expected, but just as unwelcome. Much too cold to mess about outside, but I am still thinking about my plot – winter is the perfect time to look back at the last season, and forward to the next.

What has worked? What hasn’t? A quick look through this year’s empty seed packets is revealing. Some of the seedlings made no appearance at all (although I live in hope that the perennial ones I scatter in the borders might take off at any time in years to come). I can see I need to be more selective about some of the seeds I grow, and more realistic about what will fit into my garden. And I must pay more attention to successive sowing, rather than trying to grow everything at once. (Note to self – a calendar kept in the greenhouse may help with that).

The new seed catalogues are here to provide me with inspiration. I choose a different annual colour scheme when choosing what to grow each year.

julias winter garden

2016 was orange and black – Sweet Pea ‘Prince of Orange’, Calendula ‘Porcupine’, Escholtzia californica and Nasturtium ‘Alaska’ looked well with drifts of black opium poppies, cornflowers and hollyhocks.

For next year I’m thinking of crimson and lime green – Amaranthus caudatus ‘Pony Tails’, Nasturtium ‘Crimson Emperor’, Antirrhinum ‘Black Prince’, Cosmos ‘Pied Piper Red’ with Nicotiana langsdorffii, Zinnia ‘Envy’, Bells of Ireland and Smyrnium perfoliatum. The self-seeding black opium poppies will make a welcome addition too.

beautiful flowers

And what about veg? I grow lots of my favourite perennial artichokes and asparagus, but have little success with annuals other than sweet corn and runner beans.

raised bed

Next year I will treat myself to a few varieties of plug plants, rather than leave the veg beds wanting. I like the idea of leeks, sweet peppers, aubergines and some grafted tomatoes – all will be given a better start to life than I can provide.

Throughout winter I will venture out to feed the birds and take a wander down to my greenhouse, so it will be good to have something growing there. I usually manage to succeed with grasses sown over winter, so I’ll try some different varieties of my favourite genus, Carex, to grow alongside some sweet peas I started in October.

sweet peas

Last week I squeezed in a large pot of young Echium pininana plants to protect them from the frost, along with cuttings of some potted up unusual hebes and buddlieas from gardening friends. I shall look forward to checking up on all of these throughout the coming months.

Julia Boulton is Editor of ‘The Cottage Gardener’, quarterly journal of The Cottage Garden Society: www.thecgs.org.uk
She is a professional garden photographer, and writes a regular garden blog from her garden at http://juliaboulton.me

Christmas is fast approaching!

Over the past few weeks I have been tidying the garden, putting the containers away upside down so they don`t fill with water.  Also have been putting away ornaments which were in the garden so they don`t get spoilt with the salt spray/wind that gets carried here in Bournemouth from the sea front. Sprayed them with a well known oil spray to stop them going rusty and wrapped them in fleece, putting three of them together in a black bag. Covered some of the more tender plants with fleece and waiting for my fleece bags to arrive  – with thanks to Geoff Stonebanks letting me know where I could buy them.

Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia 'Apricot Shades'

Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’

I have also finished planting up some tulip bulbs, unfortunately they were being dug up as fast as I planted them. Whilst talking to friends at our coffee club who said she had a large holly bush if I would like some. I put quite a few sprigs into each container and so far this has stopped my bulbs being dug up – we shall see how long this lasts!
My patio Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ which were planted on the edge of a narrow border have just finished flowering. I have had them growing with Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ which really filled the small border right up to the middle of November. I have cleaned off all the begonia corms that were dried off and put them away in newspaper and then wrapped in brown paper until around February when I hope to get them started for Summer 2017.

 

Rose 'Golden Wedding' & unnamed fuchsia trialled

Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ & unnamed fuchsia trialled

My smaller acer trees have looked  wonderful this autumn, the colours seem to change day by day, also the Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ was still managing to flower up until middle of November with slightly smaller flowers.  The Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY has lost all its leaves and almost all the fruit but there are a few fuchsia flowers still appearing. The trial of the un-named white trailing bidens is still flowering even though I have cut it back, from the same trial an un-named peachy pink antirrhinum was still flowering and as there was a frost forecast I decided to gently take it out of the basket and pot it up for the kitchen window sill, where it is continuing to thrive and grow – fingers crossed!!

Acer trees

Acer trees

We have just had the first storm of the season – Storm Angus! Trees down, roads blocked, underpasses flooded and the poor garden knocked about. That really was the end of the leaves on my acers, such a shame, now they just look like twigs. At the top of the garden I found the top part of one of my containers (which is usually fixed on its own stand) just sitting on the ground and couldn`t find the stand anywhere. Eventually found it under a fuchsia bush at the bottom of the garden, at least it didn`t tip the plants out that were still flowering. I was thrilled to bits that both my Calla Lilies (as mentioned in my previous Blog) are still flowering – end of November. I also have two cactus indoors which are flowering profusely and have been for almost a month now.

Indoor cactus plants

Indoor cactus plants

As we approach the end of November and in my case there is less to do in the garden, everything is turning towards the Big Man in his Sleigh and with over 30 members of our family ranging from a four year old great granddaughter to Alan who is 79 we have to start early with presents etc. and cards, I usually make all my own cards.
Here`s hoping that you all have an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas with lots of `garden` presents and a great gardening year for 2017.
…..Happy Christmas Everyone…..

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Gardening gifts for Christmas

1. Scented Celebration Rose ‘Warm Wishes’

Scented Celebration Rose 'Warm Wishes' - Christmas Gift

Christmas rose seems to be a very popular choice among our customers; and with good reason. This beautiful rose exudes love and Christmas spirit. Anyone who receives this will I am sure, feel blessed.

 

 

 

2. Rosa Chinensis Gardening Tools – KneelerRosa Chinensis Gardening Tools - Gift

This set can be bought individually, the kneeler is the ideal gift for those that have lots of beds and borders and are always getting dirty knees! This gift will be much appreciated and enjoyed all year round.

 

3. Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus are very colourful and reminds me of a Christmas tree with lights blazing. Cactus can last up to 20 years so make sure your recipient is prepared to enjoy this gift for a long period of time!

 

 

4. Gardener’s Gubbins Pot Set Gardener's Gubbins Pot Set

With a name like Gubbins who can resist this attractive Burgon & Ball set? Gardener’s, myself included, seem to aquire lots of bits and pieces, which we like to keep on us when we are in the garden. There is always a label or snips required which are back in the shed!

 

 

5. Cut Flower Seed & Bottle Gift Set

Cut flower seed & bottle gift setThis is a really pretty set for those of us who like to have something to do over the Christmas holidays. Gifts that need a little bit of time and attention are ideal for gardeners, who may be stuck in doors, due to awful weather or family commitments. This gift allows them to sit and be sociable and do a bit of gardening too.

 

 

6. Hyacinth 'Scented Pink Pearl' Hyacinth ‘Scented Pink Pearl’

This is one of the most popular gifts from the Christmas gift range. Smelling wonderful, looking fabulous, I have bought this one for my mother. When hyacinths have finished flowering during the festive period, they can be planted in the garden to flower again during springtime.

 

7. Crockery Teacup & Saucer Bird Feeder

Crockery Teacup & Saucer Bird FeederFor bird and wildlife lovers, this is ideal. Hang it anywhere, from a tree or on the fence, pop some bird seed on it and watch those birds flock in to have a feed. By choosing different bird seed you can attract different birds, so investigate and perhaps invest in the bird seed too.

 

 

 

8. Succulent BasketSucculent Basket

A trendy gift which will be enjoyed by any age. A minature succulent garden in a basket, has become a fashion item! Succulents seem to thrive on neglect so this is the perfect gift for those who are rubbish at watering their plants.

 

9. Seed Starter Kit

Seed Starter Kit

I first got this for myself when I began gardening. It proved to be a worthwhile investment, as I still use the propogator today. Although the  seeds have all been sown and the labels are now on their third year of being used. A seed starter kit can be the reason someone gets into gardening, which can become a lifelong passion.

 

 

10. Ladies Parisienne & Men’s Tweed Garden Gloves

Ladies' Parisienne Garden Gloves & Men's Tweed Garden GlovesLadies' Parisienne Garden Gloves & Men's Tweed Garden GlovesBoth pairs are made by Burgon & Ball, a company known for its high quality. These soft, functional gloves will be a welcome gift for any gardener. Gloves are used all year round, saving hands from thorns and blisters. With the trendy name on the outer cuff,  your gardener will feel very refined!

 

 

One for the animals? Pet Candles

Pet Candles Christmas GiftI don’t expect the dogs and cats of the world will be thrilled with this gift, but the owners will! Neutralising nasty niffs, these candles will make the house smell lovely for Christmas parties and get-togethers.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions, but if you have something that you think I should have included let me know on the comments box below. Happy Christmas readers!

Wendie Alexander
I have worked for Thompson & Morgan for nearly four years. In that time I have learnt lots about gardening, but consider myself very much a novice. I have started growing veg on a colleague’s allotment and also growing windowsill seeds such as Salad Leaves and Rocket. I love gaining more knowledge about horticulture and am lucky enough to work here.

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