“Amanda…is…water…the Triffiods?” Yells Mark through the glass. I can’t hear him let alone understand what he’s on about. I’m down by the patio tying in a sunflower, its way over six foot and I have to stand on the steps. He is in the greenhouse with a watering can.
“What?” I shout back. “I can’t hear you”
He says, coming out; can in hand, “Shall I water the Triffiods?”
He means my Aubergines. During the last few days they have gone huge. The leaves are bigger than my hands and the purple flowers are opening. I grew seven seeds as my brother and auntie wanted some plants and then changed their minds, asking for just the harvest instead. I don’t believe in throwing things away and gardening friends had already made their plant choices so I hastily dug the four extra ones into the border next to the sweet pepper. I was saving that border for my cucumbers. I have grown aubergines in the old greenhouse and even this variety, but they have never grown this big a leaf before so early. I can’t wait to see how big the fruits might be. Usually they are normal aubergine size, I am hoping for something that looks like a baby seal this year.
My mum visits, she’s in the greenhouse inspecting the tomatoes, she asks what have a done to them. I haven’t done anything to them, other than the usual tie-them-in, pinch the tips, and feed them every ten to fourteen days. They too have shot up and Mark has had to pinch the tops as they have reached the roof as I can’t reach. The trusses on the bottom have fruits that are turning red, with about six to eight trusses on the stalk are at various stages of bud, flower, or tiny fruits. I ask her what she means, she says because her tomatoes are not that big yet. To be fair hers are outside in pots. The Gardner’s Delight are the strongest and most aggressive, they respond well to cutting and tying and I have even started to remove some of their lower leaves. The Sungolds whilst slower than last year are quickly catching up. The Black Opal and White Opal plants are forming flowers. The Green Zebra is my slowest tomato, but it seems happy enough.
Packed in between the aubergines and pepper are radishes. I recently read that the hotter the soil, the hotter the radish will be, I’m getting a bit worried as it’s baking in there some days, apparently you’re not meant to grow radish in a greenhouse in the summer months for this reason. Have you grown anything in the wrong season or in the wrong place by mistake? They were meant to go outside but the weather has been so temperamental I sort of forgot about them and now they are going so well I don’t want to disturb them. They take twenty five days and I wrote about them last month so they should be ready to harvest I don’t want them to go woody.
In the little greenhouse my onions are finally done. The turnip seedlings died because it got too hot, and for some reason the cucumbers have failed again. They appear to have rotted at the stems but I cannot see how as they were not overwatered. I usually go round with a mini fork to scrape back a little soil to see how wet it is underneath before watering. I did not damage the stems. There are no pests in there and everything else is thriving. Someone said to Mark that cucumbers don’t like the heat, but someone else said to me cucumbers love the heat and humidity. I did not keep the small greenhouse humid or excessively hot, so I have no idea what went wrong.
The basil trial is well under way. Both the Lemonade and Rubin germinated well. The Rubin was showing faster growth, but the Lemonade soon caught up. They are ready to go into bigger pots before replacing the Radishes in the large greenhouse. It’s really hard not to just tear a leaf off and munch on them as they smell delicious. The Rubin smells like fresh deep basil should, but the Lemonade one smells like a lemon, basil and something sweet but not sugary. It’s really hard to explain, I would say the best thing to do is buy a pack and grow it for the scent alone.
However, my pride and joy at the moment is an olive seedling. I bought the seeds about three years ago and each time they have not germinated. Not that there is anything wrong with them seeds I just don’t think we have had enough heat. This year however I might be lucky. Mark did say “An olive? Do you know how big they grow?” Yes I do, I have been to Italy and Greece many times. They are slow growing. I think it will be many years before it becomes a beautiful gnarled tree, I do not expect any fruit from it ever as this is Wales – but if I can have an olive tree then I can have a little bit of the Med right here at home.
Next month we are visiting Scotland and our guesthouse is next to the Royal Botanical Gardens I have a two for the price of one ticket and I cannot wait to visit their glasshouse. We were hoping to visit Jimmy’s Farm in Ipswich where T&M have their trial garden but as I have several hospital visits in non-local hospitals and not a lot of annual leave left we are not able to go. I know the farm is open on the weekends but as it’s a six hour car/train journey from home I would ideally need time to rest before going back to work. I am looking forward to the photos that I hope people will post on Facebook of their visit though.
Now who can I ask to look after my Triffods whilst we are away?
Until next month.
Love Amanda x
I’m writing this from the best seat in the world, well maybe not the world but definitely the best place in my world. I’m on the bench in the front garden surrounded by the warm setting sun, bird song, the bumbling of bees and an occasional rustle of wind through the poppies, lupin and corncockles. On each side of the bench are pots of nicotiana and linaria, and hanging baskets of violas, pansy and fuchsia. I have a cup of cinnamon and hazelnut coffee and a small bowl of cherries, what else does a girl need?
It’s hard to believe its June already, we have reached the summer solstice. It’s a year since my dad passed away, and the greenhouse and garden have kept me from being too downhearted. I have harvested my potatoes and can proudly say that T&M were 100% correct in saying you get a bigger harvest from their potato grow bags than from other larger ones. I harvested almost double the weight from putting single potato in each of the five bags than I did from a large bag with five potatoes sown in it. I used Charlottes for both types of bags. I also grew a large bag with five redskin potatoes which were either a Rooster or a Desiree just to see if there would be any difference in the bigger bags, but again although each spud was bigger I had less volume overall.
In the small greenhouse there is a steady turnover of radishes, peas, amaranths zinnias and the Aloe Vera’s waiting to be moved to bigger homes outside. Terri kindly sent me some Basil Lemonade Seeds and I cannot wait for these to grow. Its zesty lemon flavour should taste amazing with strawberry jelly and fresh strawberries set in it. It may even taste great in a glass of water or frozen in ice cubes on a hot summers day. My next trial will be to compare how well Lemonade grows to Basil Red Rubin.
Now is the time to start off foxgloves undercover for next year’s display. I am off for a week so will be sowing Foxglove Alba, as well as raiding my seed box for late summer sowing plants. As I discovered, gardening makes you think ahead, but sometimes there is so much to do, that I forget to look ahead and then look at seeds in my box in September that says sow April to June. Although the way the weather is here I can probably get away with sowing them in early July. Last year we had six weeks of constant sun from the 10th of June, this year it’s looking more like six days altogether if we are lucky.
Thinking ahead, I am looking for veggies I can grow in the greenhouses from November onwards. I am wondering if spinach, beet and possibly turnips are any good in the greenhouse. Have you any suggestions or have you growing any winter hardy veg in the greenhouse? We get some cracking winter sunshine and the last few years have been very mild.
In our “mahoosive” greenhouse, as my mum calls it, I have fruit and flowers on nearly all of the tomatoes, even through lack of sunny days they are about four feet. The only two that are a bit slow is Green Zebra and Black Opal, the Sungold, Gardeners Delight and White Opal are rampant. I have also put half dozen radishes into a spare corner of the greenhouse as the soil was bare where an aubergine inexplicably gave up the ghost. They are sprouting well, fingers crossed for tasty treats. There is a family competition on as my Uncle Derek has produced radishes the size of golf balls that taste amazingly sweet. I do not plan to compete with that. Do you have friendly or fierce competitions with family or friends, or grow anything unusual in your greenhouse? I would love to know.
As the months progress, I am learning so much more about the differences between my greenhouses. Firstly I understand my smaller greenhouse as having it for a number of years, I understand its capabilities. One thing that is clear though, it gets a lot less sun than I originally thought. I know it’s a great place to germinate seeds from January to early November. I know I can grow tomatoes aubergines peppers or chillies in its border and get a tasty crop with just watering three to four times a week. Secondly, the big greenhouse and I are only just getting acquainted. I realise that I chose to write a blog about my journey with this one from start to finish, but I hadn’t a clue what I was letting myself in for! So I apologies to you in advance for accidentally killing any of my plants or getting things wrong or dodgy photos, but I am only halfway through my journey and the road is a bit bumpy.
Whilst the greenhouses are almost side by side, the door to the big one is on the longest side of the small one so the aspects are completely different. It is ten foot, stretches from North to South so the sides get the sun from East to West the whole day. Also due to us being at the top of a hill our neighbours gardens both next door and opposite roll away from us, so the bigger greenhouse is about a foot or so on higher ground than the other one meaning the sun takes longer to go behind our bungalow giving it a distinct light advantage. The borders are a lot wider so I could have planted a bit denser which would have reduced the need for almost daily watering as I have too much bare soil. This will be rectified by the basil but it’s useless for lettuce as it’s far too hot in there. I was watching Monty Don’s Small Garden Big Dreams the other night when I realised I had a hot house instead of a greenhouse. Maybe next year I could try watermelons they like the heat don’t they?
It takes me a lot longer to complete my tasks in here not just because of the size of it, but because I spend ages thinking about light & heat, pollinators and just looking at my plants. I consider what I would like to grow, do I have the time to grow it now, or is it something for winter or even next year. I’ve even been known to take my I-Pad and a chair into the greenhouse and listen to the T&M radio pod casts whilst simultaneously writing my blog on the pretence of just checking the greenhouse. At the end of the evening I say goodnight to my plants and hope no one else hears me. It’s funny how I can totally switch off in there, and sometimes do my best thinking too. I do not regret in any way buying a second greenhouse. The only thing I am worried about is you reading a blog from someone who appears to not have a clue, but with six months to go before the end of the year, and with help from T&M’s customer service, online videos and guides and Facebook posts and their customers comments, I hope that I can learn loads more about my new greenhouse, and share it with you.
For now, Happy Gardening until next month.
Love Amanda x
After living without any outdoor space of my own for 5 years, last year we moved and I gained an empty balcony. A blank canvas. When you live without any outdoor gardening space you realise just how much you previously took it for granted. I had never been a gardener, despite my mother avidly encouraging me through my youth. However, spurred on by the gift of some blueberry bushes and the notion of ‘feeding off my (rented) land’ I decided to give growing a go.
After hearing tales of how difficult growing veg could be, and knowing little about the ‘correct’ growing methods I started out with low expectations, perhaps I’d have a tomato or two by the end of summer.
I started from seed, nurturing them on the windowsill. A few days on, a rippling on the soil surface and the breakthrough of greenery caused a grin to adorn my face. The pure pleasure of watching something grow from next to nothing is one of life’s simple satisfactions.
A few factors influenced my plant choices; what couldn’t I buy from supermarkets (purple carrots), what was expensive to buy (mangetout), what tasted significantly better fresh (runner beans), and what could I fit on a balcony! Many venture into growing-your-own with tomatoes so I threw in some seeds. Far, far too many seeds as it turned out when I had around 50 tomato seedlings to try and re-home! A learning curve…
A learning ‘curve’
Of course I made many errors, none were detrimental. I remember exclaims from my boyfriend’s mother, “You didn’t harden off your tomatoes?!”. ‘Harden off’ meant nothing to me (for novices and others not ‘in-the-know’ this refers to the process of acclimatising your plants to the outer world). As a result my tomatoes grew slowly, but they still fruited. Nothing lost, some more knowledge gained.
By the end of summer, we had enjoyed plentiful runner beans, mangetout and tomatoes. They tasted incredible, perhaps enhanced by the knowledge of where they’d grown and what they’d been exposed to. There’s something incredibly rewarding about stepping outside and harvesting your crop to eat then and there. No more than a few paces between plant and pan.
Mangetout, purple-podded peas, runner beans
If you think you don’t have enough space, think outside the box. Even a windowsill can flourish with chilies, herbs, lettuce leaves to name a few. If you think you can’t grow anything, try it anyway, maybe it’ll work. Get inspired by what others do, I watched a TED talk on growing salad in a New York apartment with no space using vertical, hydroponic platforms. Incredible!
So, one summer on I’ve learnt what did and didn’t work for me. Carrots can’t just be plonked in soil and expected to grow as a single straight root, they need more care and soil preparation which at the moment I don’t have time for. Shelling peas didn’t give me a good yield, I got approximately 30 peas from a whole summer – it wasn’t worth it, especially compared to the mangetout yield which kept us going for weeks. So this year I’m eager to try more – sweetcorn, peppers, courgettes, broad beans. Maybe they’ll work, maybe they won’t.
This spring has proved the most challenging gardening season in all my gardening years. In November 2014 whilst on holiday at my Sister`s in Huntington Beach, California, I had a bad fall and fractured my spine. I`ve always wanted an extended holiday but not quite like this – flat on my back. Getting the garden ready had to be done in short bursts so I could rest but with the help of my Husband Alan, who did all of the lifting, moving and digging I managed to get the garden sorted.
I am growing the TomTato® again this year as it was very successful last year with almost 5 kg of tomatoes as well as the potatoes harvested. I started it off indoors but as soon as the weather was right transferred it into the larger container of Incredicompost® in a sunny but sheltered position.
Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’
I ordered `garden ready` plants this year as I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to do in the early months. They arrived this last week and look wonderful, very fresh and ready for planting. I love Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ and have planted these into a triple basket, 12”/14”/16” and now in position in the front garden. They are very easy to handle and you don`t have to worry about growing them on first which might have been a problem as I couldn’t stand for very long.
I am planning to use three troughs at the side of the front garden but looking at them they really looked worse for wear, then I wondered if they could be painted with the blue paint we have on our decking, no sooner said than done as Alan painted them last night now they just need planting up and they look like new troughs.
I have also planted a triple stand with black and red petunias and red diascia as a tribute to our local football team – AFC Bournemouth who have just been promoted to the Premier League from being almost bankrupt six years ago. I am patiently waiting for these plants to start flowering so I can see the full effect.
April here in Bournemouth on the South Coast was very dry and warm everything in the garden really sat up and took notice flowering quite early in some cases. May, unfortunately has been cold and wet. In March my 90 year old neighbour died, I have been looking after her front garden for several years. I was very kindly given two stone planters which stood either side of her front door. They now take pride of place in my back garden.
My Strawberry ‘Irresistible’ which I had on trial about three years ago are doing exceptionally well and now have the fruit formed – and to think they almost got thrown out as they had been covered in leaves in the winter and couldn’t see the plants!!
Here`s hoping that the rest of the summer is going to be kind to us all especially the gardeners. Enjoy!
It is amazing what a difference you can make to any outdoor space with pots and baskets, regardless of whether you have a garden or not. I personally fill my patio full of different planters and baskets as the summer arrives and I have spent the last few months nurturing seedlings ready to plant out.
I am a firm believer that if you don’t have enough space to grow things in the ground then pots and baskets are a great way to bring any type of plant into your garden. I want to talk about how you can make your pots and baskets interesting, pretty and productive.
There are lots of different planter sizes, shapes and colours to choose from on the market, so you can pretty much buy the pots to suit your outdoor area. Don’t forget there are variations for windows if you don’t have a yard or patio area or if you live in a flat, and of course you can go for hanging baskets by your front or back doors. If money is tight why not make your own pots and planters out of old pallets which look great painted up and most companies are happy to give away pallets for free. I also like to use builders rubble buckets which come in some really funky colours, and they are a fraction of the price of bespoke planters (don’t forget to add drainage hole).
I like to plant my baskets and tubs with a striking mixture of flowers and veg plants (there is no reason why a tub should look glum). In my summer pots this year I will be growing lots of different veg including baby sweetcorn, dwarf beans, beetroots, salads and courgettes. The varieties I choose are all small so will grow quite well together in a large pot or container, and the leaf structures and varying growing habits really complement each other. In order to add plenty of colours to my pots I love to interplant flowers such as dwarf sweet peas, aubrietia, violas, nasturtiums and much more.
There is nothing better than picking fresh tomatoes so I will be growing some tumbling toms in my baskets, alongside, rocket, nasturtiums, violas and basil. The nasturtiums will trail, the violas provide colour and the basil, rocket and tomatoes will be handy to pick for the salad plate (chives and spring onions also make a nice alternative or strawberry plants and mint for a sweet treat). Where possible I like to use flowers that are edible. My baskets are always colourful and useful, and different plants can be used to brighten up any wall.
When planting up either tubs or baskets you have to be mindful that they need watering and feeding regularly. In my pots I use a good quality multipurpose compost with some slow release fertiliser and water retaining crystals to help hold in moisture. I have never gone for any of those fancy composts unless I am planting something on a more permanent basis such as a shrub or fruit bush. If you can get down to your local farm for some well rotted horse manure this will always enrich any tub.
There are a number of innovative pots and baskets that now have water canals built into them so this takes the strain off watering, but ordinarily I would water baskets daily regardless of weather and tubs every few days unless the weather is hot and then it would be every day. I find the best thing to keep food in pots is a tomato feed which contains all the right nutrients for flowers and fruits, however in recent years I have also made comfrey tea which has had great results and is free so double bonus.
So now I am at the point where my baskets and tubs are planned out and I have started to plant them up. It is still a little early for them to be put outside in Manchester as the threat of frost is not gone until the end of May. Until they are ready to be safely put outside keep them in a cool shed or greenhouse over night.
As your plants grow and develop keep an eye out for pests and diseases such as aphids as they do like to feast on the succulent young plants. I find the best thing to use to get rid of most pests is a garlic spray or a weak solution of water and washing up liquid so no need to spend lots of money on expensive chemicals and these won’t hurt the bees and lady birds.
I will bring you updates on my baskets throughout the summer and let you see the yields they have produced at the end of July and August.
Just remember you can grow anything in pots and most dwarf varieties in baskets, but be mindful that you need to water religiously and keep the food levels up as they get exhausted quickly. Keep an eye on them, keep them deadheaded and you will have lovely colour and tasty treats all summer long.
The year is moving on at a pace and there are only a few weeks to go until the garden gate is opened again for a summer season of fundraising for a number of charities. This year we will open for the National Gardens Scheme, the RNLI, PSPA and Macmillan Cancer Support, a total of 16 public days as well as the visits by appointment too!
For the 3rd year running we will have many Thompson & Morgan plants on show in the garden! The 2 trees we trialled in the first year, the Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Plum Claude Reine have grown a great deal and are full of blossom at the moment. Under the plum tree is one of my new features for 2015, a vintage children’s horse, mounted on a frame to look as though it is vaulting the hedge!
Other plants from the first year’s trial are the Viola Unique Collection which are starting to flower again! Some stunning tulips from 2014 were Silver Parrot which has come back up again this month too. They look quite amazing around the pond area. Late last year I received a lovely Camellia Cupido and it has now flowered with it’s delicate pink flowers. The Clematis New Love also delivered last autumn has found a new home with a lovely wire frame to grow up though and is now positioned beside the pond. I am waiting for the rose sweet calypso to flower, the plant is looking quite healthy.
The new plants for 2015 that have been arriving in recent weeks are sure to get the visitors talking this summer, Last year we saw over 2200 visitors and raised over £16000 for charity and hope to see the same again in 2015. The new arrivals they will be able to see are Osteospermum Blue Eyed Beauty, which although not yet planted out, has started to flower in the greenhouse! The 2 garden ready Lavender Hidcote I received last month are already looking very healthy with new growth too.
The more recent arrivals have yet to show their true colours but are already well established and waiting to be planted out in the coming weeks! Verbena Lollipop, Fuchsia Pink Fizz and Alstromeria Indian Summer. The piece de resistance in the garden this summer, after the vintage horse that is, will be the begonia burning embers which will have pride of place in a new feature at the top of the garden of an old fireplace with mirror above and a rusted grate in which the plants will be put to resemble the glowing fire!
So all in all a great year in prospect! If you want to read more about the garden go to www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk