A quick update from the garden after the growing season.
So now the colder months begin and the long, darker nights draw in I am reflecting back on the last growing year at certain successes and trials in the garden and allotment sites. One of the big successes has been the runner beans. I planted 3 different Thompson & Morgan varieties – all with different coloured flowers. I planted these down at the allotment mixed up so that when they grew it created not only tasty beans but also a lovely mix of different coloured blooms on the plants too, winding up the canes. These were perfect simply chopped up and boiled for evening meals in pastas or grated for seasonal, fresh salads. I simply kept picking them every few days and they kept on growing right into end September/October which was fantastic. A real crowd pleaser both for ease of growing and for taste value too.
Another massive success was the raspberry canes. Now I know I mention these every time but it is simply because I have been so impressed by them each year in the summer. In particular the ‘Glen Moy’ variety has flourished. Fruit started appearing nice and early in the growing season and from then on gave a regular and heavy crop each week till late. I loved picking these fresh, juicy raspberries as I wandered past to feed the chickens I keep and try to save the raspberries to go with my breakfast porridge. However, most of them did not make it back into the house for cooking desserts or breakfasts as they were consumed earlier on the garden walk.
Jerusalem artichokes have been a new discovery for me this year – trying to grow and cook with them. They were easy to grow and I have experimented with cooking them in different ways. They are a faff to prepare and peel but are a nice addition to a potato gratin with tasty layers topped with cheese and cream – perfect in autumn!
The spring onion (White Lisbon variety) crop I have had this year has been immense! Simply so easy to plant and grow with little intervention apart from regular watering. I have had a formidable crop and have used them mercilessly snipped into fresh salads, mixed into potato salads and as a quirky addition to scrambled eggs on a Sunday (with wild garlic).
Overall, I cannot wait to get cracking with the next growing season and focus on one particular element next year. I haven’t decided which project yet but possibly thinking salads or unusual varieties of vegetable.
After a very busy November I finally found myself at home on a fresh, bright, still day and decided it was time for The Big Garden Tidy Up. I’ve always sworn by the adage that there is no such thing as the wrong weather, just the right clothes (or something like that anyway). So, togged up appropriately, I strode outside with implements in hand to – Leaf Fall Hell! As I stepped into the garden I felt the Silent Scream come upon me. I have never seen so many dead leaves, and I wouldn’t care, but the majority of them aren’t even from our trees! I can only assume that last year the wind must have blown them elsewhere.
Where to start? I decided to tackle the worst bit first. Have you ever tried raking dead leaves out of heavily planted gravel? You have to create a pile and then sieve the gravel back out of said pile before finally bagging up the leaves. Not fun. Next I decided to tackle the rampant ivy colonising the corner behind the apple tree. This task was quite satisfying as it happens, dragging the tendrils out of the tree canopy and cutting back to a nice hedgy silhouette. As the trellis backs onto the greenhouse the gutters where choked with leaf litter and yet more ivy was starting to run over the roof, creating a cavern inside! All was going well until my thankfully gloved hand touched upon something cold and clammy. No more the Silent scream! Having unearthed several hibernating frogs during clearance my first thought was dead amphibian. Girding myself up I reached back into the gutter and retrieved – the 6″ rubber lizard!
Caroline clearing up leaves and one of the many frogs she found
That lizard is haunting me. Last autumn I unearthed it from the leaf litter under the hydrangea petiolaris and thought I had hurled it over the fence from whence it came (junior neighbours) so unless it crawled back under its own volition (it’s eerily lifelike), I have a very poor aim!
Somewhat unnerved I decided to clear the roof terrace. Open air, bright sunshine, back into the land of the living. Straightforward apart from one thing: how to dispose of the ricinus? So, well gloved up, I chopped it up into manageable pieces and bagged it up. However, by now the recycle bin was virtually full so – do I stuff it in the top and risk poisoning the dustmen? Oh no, I delve deep into the bin, emptying half of its contents onto the pavement, so that the ricinus can be safely buried beneath. Lifting and transporting the three cannas (picture The Three Tenors haha!) down the ship’s ladder was no joke; they had tripled in size so that only cut-down black dustbin sacks were big enough to contain their massive root balls. I am having to overwinter them in the summer house with the colocasia and banana as there is no room in the greenhouse raised bed in case I disturb the mice.
The beach huts at Southwold, Suffolk and David’s new water feature idea
As I continued to sweep, prune and mulch the borders into submission I reflected upon the passing year. Our most recent adventure was a long weekend in Southwold, Suffolk with good friends Amanda and Michael. Southwold in November brings its own unique meteorological challenges. France has its Mistral, Lybia has its Ghibli. The horizontal wind driven Southwold rain that surges across the gorse dunes towards Walberswick deserves its own name too! In summer, amble across the dunes, surrounded by the delicious aroma of coconut emanating from the gorse, and pay your 20p to be rowed across the estuary by the small family run boat service. But in the winter even they hang up their oars! So a two mile walk becomes a four mile trek and of course being stalwarts we were not to be deterred. A refuelling stop at The Bell Inn to break the round trip certainly helped!
The beach huts at Southwold are the inspiration for our new summer house theme, and we had great fun picking up little nautical whimsies from the gift shops. The cheeky Heath Robinsonesque clock water feature on the pier gave David food for thought regarding his next water feature. Take a close look every quarter hour and you will be shocked or hysterical with laughter depending on your temperament!
Caroline’s raised bed decorated for the festive season
David installed our exterior festive lights at the end of November before a hand operation put him out of action over the holiday period. The twinkling red lights threaded through the undergrowth in the raised bed out front look lovely, but the multi-coloured flashers in the eucalyptus out back were like Blackpool illuminations (nothing wrong with Blackpool – right plant right place or some such analogy). But when he reprogrammed them to be static, the neighbour’s young daughter complained, so now they are fading on and off tastefully!
So it only remains for me to wish you all Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year and I hope you enjoy the photo of me in action. We’ve had Gardening In your Nightie, Gardening in your Pyjamas and now we have – Gardening in Your Curlers! xx
A view of London from Hampstead Heath
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’
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
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!!
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
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…..
Just because we have nearly reached the shortest day does not mean to say that we should only eat sprouts, cabbage and leeks between now and springtime.
With a few small pots of multi-purpose compost, a bright windowsill or cool glasshouse and as little TLC, we can all have a succession of yummy salad leaves to add to our five a day.
Cabbage Chinese ‘Natsuki’ & Leek ‘Autumn Giant 2 – Porvite
Flicking through the 2017 Thompson & Morgan catalogue, you do not have to look very far before you find Spinach ‘Perpetual,’ eaten cooked or raw, and Salad Leaves ‘Speedy Mix’ to give you a quick start. If you fancy growing your own pea shoots (they will need a few days in the dark to get them to start germinating) or spring onion seedlings to lift a posh meal to another level, why not give them a try.
If you like that wonderful peppery flavour that rocket gives, try Wasabi Rocket to spice up a boring lettuce salad. Add some colour to the salad with a few Beetroot ‘Rainbow Beet’ leaves. With a little more heat, up to 15° C and light you might try one or two of the fabulous basil varieties that are listed amongst the herbs. Coriander leaves can also be grown with that little extra TLC.
Lettuce ‘Yugoslavian Red’ & Turnip ‘Oasis’
If you like something unusual, try growing Cabbage Chinese ‘Natsuki’ and throw the leaves into a stir fry.
Check out the pages on Salad leaves for a whole collection of other salad leaves to try. If you have a cool glasshouse (10°C) with a soil bed or similar and a little more patience, why not try growing some white salad Turnip ‘Oasis,’ sown in early January. Harvest from April onwards.
Salad Leaves ‘Speedy Mix’ & Spring Onion ‘Feast’ F1 Hybrid
Remember that all most of these salads need is a bright windowsill, temperatures of between 10 and 12°C. Many are best being grown in shallow pots to avoid excessive use of compost – the plants will only be in the compost for 6 to 8 weeks and so do not need large volumes of compost.
Whichever ones you grow, enjoy your winter salads and look forward to growing more as winter turns to spring.
With the onset of the cold weather it is important to consider protecting your plants from the frost which will no doubt be on the way. Inadequate frost protection has killed too many plants, so don’t get caught out this winter, as we know the weather can change in a matter of days.
As the temperature starts to drop the cells in plants can freeze, this blocks vital fluid movement so plants no longer receive nutrients. Ice forming in cell walls will eventually dry and the plant will no doubt die. Ice can also cause sections of the plant to die back. When weather warms the thawing process damages plants. Damage is easy to see. The foliage is usually affected first, becoming discoloured, and wilting. The stem will eventually blacken and the plant turns brown and crispy.
Choosing plants wisely to begin with will always be the best method of prevention. If you live in an area that suffers from heavy frosts, extreme weather or gets water logged then buy plants that can withstand this type of environment if possible. However, if you are taken by surprise with adverse weather conditions at Thompson & Morgan we have products to aid plant protection.
Bell boy cloche & pastic tunnel cloche
Move your containers and pots with specimen plants, such as palms, to a sheltered spot in the garden. Another protection tip is to move them off the ground. Put small pieces of wood or legs underneath the pots. This will stop the roots getting cold, and the plant from becoming waterlogged. A bell boy cloche can be added on top of smaller plants.
With heavy brassicas, such as Cabbage ‘Savoy King,’ brussels sprouts, draw up soil around the base of the stem to prevent movement. If the wind does manage to rock them this can cause damage and prevent them from providing a healthy crop in the spring. Once you have drawn the soil up then add netting over them to protect them from the pigeons.
On cold nights apply horticultural fleece to hardy salad crops such as Lettuce ‘Winter Gem’ and Salad Leaves ‘Land Cress’ and Corn Salad ‘Cavallo.’ This will protect them from the harshest of the cold weather, which can blacken the leaves, or even kill them completely.
Netting & Horticultural fleece
Potted plants that can stay out over the winter can be grouped together in a sheltered spot. Put horticultural fleece, and they can be stored in a cold frame if you have one. Cold frames are usually used to protect hardy young plants such as Stenocarpus sinuatus. It is a good idea to add in any plants that are susceptible to rotting in cold, wet conditions.
If you soil is heavy clay then it could be an idea to keep some of your winter vegetables such as carrots and pak choi in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.
Cold frame & Lean-to greenhouse
Tender perennials such as Coleus ‘Kong Mixed’ or geraniums should be lifted and stored in the greenhouse and given extra protection with horticultural fleece, and in some cases, a heated greenhouse. This type of warmth will encourage good root growth through the cold months.
Straw can be used to protect plants that cannot be moved indoors. A cloche or mini tunnel will also add extra protection from freezing conditions. Fruit such as strawberries can be covered with straw and broken twigs, this stops the frost from getting at their roots.
Moving deciduous trees and shrubs, or fruit trees while dormant, avoids damage. This allows them to be settled in to their before they start to grow again. So if you are thinking of moving a tree or shrub from one part of the garden to another, now is the time to do it.
A well documented tip during winter is to try not to over water your plants. Just a small amount every so often has proved to be the best way to keep your plants happy during this time of year.
Good luck with your over wintering. If you have any good tips for our new gardeners, please let us know.