My favourite month is here. I love the September skies, especially on a sunny evening. In the greenhouse over the years I have been lucky to keep picking tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and sweet peppers for the whole month and well into October. Unfortunately this year the new greenhouse tomatoes have succumbed to late summer blight. I am really not surprised blight has struck, it’s been wet and humid for a good few weeks, and it only takes 48 hours of 70% humidity to spread the disease. Even with good air circulation the dim light was taking its toll on the plants. No amount of weekly feed or careful watering could make any difference.
This is the first time I have had blight and it is devastating. I never got to try the white opal tomatoes as the plant shrivelled and died, the sweet aperitifs tried to fight it, but towards the end of first week of September the fruits were rotting and splitting on the vines.
We quickly stripped the greenhouse of tomatoes leaving just the black opal, as this tomato showed a lot of resistance and continued to produce healthy fruits for another few weeks, before it too started to split its fruits.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, the sweet peppers are still producing fruit even with the lack of bees to pollinate, a good shake of the flowers seems to do the job. They don’t want to turn red as there is not enough heat though so I have to be content with green ones. It’s been so dismal I think the highest temperature we have had has been 18 degrees Celsius. Nights are chilly too, on several occasions it’s dipped to slightly less than 10 degrees.
My aubergines are thriving, I can pick a fruit (sometimes more than one) from a different plant each week. The last lot of radishes went to seed, so I am doing some more hopefully this weekend.
Things in the little greenhouse are picking up. My carrots have put on a lot of growth, I hope the colder weather will mean that I don’t get any carrot fly. the spinach beet has gone ballistic. It’s so quick to recover when I pick a few leaves for dinner. I have found though it’s best to not let the leaves get too big as they get a bit tough. Unfortunately I’m not the only one that likes the spinach there are a few sneaky green shield bugs hiding amongst the leaves. The basils are still growing, the Red Rubin is especially strong. Does anyone have some suggestions what I can use it for, as it’s too strong raw in a salad, it’s good for pasta dishes but I would like to try it in something different?
On the first of the month I sowed some seeds some have already germinated and I have included a photo (above), but the nights got cold quick so I think that I may have some failures. So far the Californian Poppies, achillea (yarrow) and sweet peas have germinated along with more basil for someone at work. However, I am still waiting for the pansy, godetia, laurentia and kniphofias. I spent ages with the old Dymo labelling machine making up the labels, as the old lolly sticks I used in the summer have run out. That’s after I used them a couple of times on each side. Also woodlice are partial to them and I don’t want them to overwinter in my pots, they can go in the compost bin or rotting hollyhock stumps instead.
The trouble is though this damp weather is starting to cause damping off, my compost seems to be turning a bit greenish. So I think other job for this weekend will be to repot my seedlings in fresh compost and try to water in the mornings instead of early evening. It’s dark by eightish now so it won’t be long before I will be coming home from work and not even going in the garden without a torch. Luckily my auntie has given my a huge candle lantern and candles to see my way.
We are due some more gales and torrential rain again this week. I hope the new greenhouse stands up to it. I was hoping for a beautiful crisp autumn not an early winter!
What are your thoughts on growing Christmas potatoes? A few years ago I planted grow bags in September, by November the weather had turned so bad we couldn’t even get out after work at night to move them into shelter under glass. The leaves finally tore off after a major storm in early December but the potatoes were lovely? I ask as I am thinking of putting them in grow bags again using a red variety, but putting the bags in the big greenhouse from the beginning. Being hit by blight has put me off. I don’t know if the blight virus would still be in the greenhouse or if I will end up with blight anyway because of the poor weather. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
My new Thompson & Morgan autumn and winter, spring bulbs, and seed catalogues have arrived and I have started looking for interesting things to grow in the greenhouse next spring. The problem is I want to grow everything! I make a list and then check my seed box, half the time I have the seeds already, but I have forgotten about them. Like the bellis or rudbeckia . But sometimes an unusual variety or old fashioned plant will romance me and I know I will be on the website placing an order. Then I look at the special offers and end up buying something else. My last order was for Red Hot Poker ‘Traffic Lights’ (kniphofia) which I got, but I also ended up buying grasses. I picked lots of wavy ones. Unfortunately, I have to wait for spring to start the grasses off. I picked the grasses as our broom bushes seem to be dying off. That’s the thing with a garden, it’s never finished and it always evolves.
I am sorry for the slightly short blog this month, I think it’s because of the season drawing to a close. I was hoping to have more interesting things to say, but I’m in a limbo, this year has been nothing like our last few years, although I do like the challenge of these new conditions. What I had planned to write about in certain months had either happened earlier or not at all! But don’t worry I still have plans for the greenhouses in the next few months. Meanwhile I am going to find a new home for the dahlia one of my brothers bought me for my birthday a few days ago. I’ve stuck it in the little greenhouse as I don’t want it to get wrecked in the storm. I leave dahlia bulbs in the ground in the mild winters but this year guess where they will be?
Love Amanda x
So here we are at 1st September, time to survey the successes, failures and lessons learnt this season, with one eye on bigger and better things for 2016 already!
The greenhouse is the most productive it’s ever been. Most of its yield goes straight into my mouth and doesn’t even reach the kitchen! Two out of the three cucumber Mini Fingers (Cucino) hit the ground running this year, one plug failing due to stem rot early on. Growing in minimal space in a couple of old council food recycling bins, their vines are stretching around the eves of the greenhouse to about 7ft. During hot spells they were producing one fruit per day, with dozens of small fruits forming along the stems. As the days have cooled they have slowed in their tracks: I have pinched off any yellowing ones to allow the plants to concentrate their energies into the more robust ones. With no sign of mildew on the leaves I am continuing to feed and water the plants in the hope of an Indian Summer to boost their final production. I made a delicious chilled avocado & cucumber soup, with fennel and green chilli peppers from our garden, so I hope we haven’t had the last of them.
I wanted to compare the merits of cordon tomatoes with bush varieties, so I chose my favourite cherry tomatoes: Sungold as cordon, versus Losetto as bush, three of each. Having fed and watered them regularly, I finally defoliated and topped them off end August, so they could concentrate on ripening their existing trusses. Sungold has three trusses per cordon, each with about 18 fruits. Although slow to ripen, they are catching up now, their fruits as sweet as ever. Losetto is disappointing, the bush method too sprawling for the confines of a small greenhouse, producing a low yield of about two small trusses per plant, reluctant to ripen & not nearly as sweet. Neither type however suffered from splitting or blossom end rot all fruits being firm and equal in size. From now on I shall stick to cordons but use the space to grow more varieties.
Sweet peppers and chillies are starting to produce in earnest. David is a chilli fiend and is enjoying Demon Red and the pretty multi-coloured basket variety Loco, both ready to harvest earlier than their larger cousins. I prefer sweet peppers and purple Tequila doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of flowers and small fruits developing so it looks like I shall have to bring them into our sunroom for some more heat and better light levels, and with such a selection of rainbow colours they are so decorative. I just hope that cats don’t try them!
Courgette Defender, whilst always prolific on the allotment, has been a dead loss in its 12” pot in the greenhouse! After one or two fruits, it succumbed to mildew and only produced male flowers, so I composted it. Although it flowered, the aubergine did not set fruit – weather too dull and summer too short.
On the allotment Climbing bean Colourful Collection sulked at first, refusing to grow until early August, producing meagre but healthy plants. They have produced about 4 portions worth of beans, the green being the most prolific, followed by yellow & purple in equal measure. I would grow them again though as they tasted delicious!
Because I can’t bear to pick blooms from our garden for the vase, I created a flower patch on the allotment specifically for cutting. This summer I transplanted some four year old Thompson & Morgan dahlias from our front garden to join the tree lilies and now have no qualms about cutting them for the vase. But as I do not intend to lift them overwinter they will have to take their chances.
So all-in-all it’s been a modest but delicious harvest which has proved to me that I should concentrate on growing crops that we actually like to eat in future!
I am not sure if it is a common perception but due to working within the horticultural industry, it is clear that here in Britain we are a nation of gardeners. With the development of the industrial sector and the new homes within our largest towns and city centres; space is now at a premium. However, new and innovative concepts such as an urban gardening, balcony growing, growing plants on your windowsill, and products such as our Tower Pot™, mean that space is no longer a required component to gardening.
Episode 1 of the Great British Garden Revival discussed the nation’s favourite flower, the rose. We live in a world that seeks new innovations, whether it is having the latest smart phone or fashion trend and I think this the same for our choice of flowers. We don’t like to feel that we are missing out on something and with our focus on new varieties, traditional varieties are taking a back-seat and we are at risk of losing them from our gardens forever.
So, roses. I have to admit I fall in love with roses every time I see them. There are over 1,000 cultivars of rose, from trailing to shrubs there is a variety to suit most requirements. The first episode featured traditional climbing rose varieties such as Crimson Glory. With deep crimson blooms, this older variety is beautiful and the fragrance is simply divine! However, even though older roses tend to have amazing fragrance, they can lack in vigour and good disease resistance. This is when we see the newer varieties take centre stage with the best of best of both worlds. Hardy rose variety Rose ‘The One and Only’ has flowers rich with crimson-red petals that give the appearance of an old-fashioned English rose. They are renowned for their scent, as this hybrid tea rose is like no other – fruity and indulgent. That being said, every rose has something to offer to the garden and we all have our own favourites. Have you got a favourite rose?
Episode 2 of the Great British Garden Revival focused on daffodils, blossom trees and shrubs. The history of daffodils dates back before the First World War, where fields were coated in a blaze of yellow. They were then cut and packed for the consumer market. The big affect on daffodil growing came after the Second World War when fields were taken over for the production of food. However, now we often see daffodils in front gardens and scattered along countryside lanes where they bring a smile to our faces as they are seen to resemble one of the first signs of Spring and the growing season ahead. I love the all time favourite Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’. This delightfully small variety is the perfect variety for cutting. Undemanding an easy to grow, they will make a beautiful addition to cottage gardens. What is your favourite daffodil?
On tonight’s episode James Wong attempts to revive a plant that has disappeared from our gardens, the rhododendron. Christine Walkden puts the case forward for the carnation, as she heads to a specialist nursery to recover some important facts.
Have you been watching? We would love to get your thoughts. Tell us if you prefer traditional or modern varieties and why.
This is our favourite time of year, when we get to judge all the stunning entries to our competitions. However, this year we decided to do things a little differently and we asked you to help us pick the winning photos.
Michael Perry short listed each category down to his six favourites of which we then posted onto facebook. You then chose your favourite photo by hitting the like button, the one with most likes won. Simples!
Thank you to everyone who entered and big congratulations to all of our winners.
So here are you winning entries for our 2014 categories;
Indredibloom® competition (selected by Thompson & Morgan)
Lindsey Cooper – Harrogate
Lindsey used basil seeds from the same pack, same bag of compost, same size pots. However, used the Incredibloom® fertiliser in one pot. This is a wonderful reflection of our ground breaking plant feed.
Plant a portrait
Barbara Thomas – Blackpool
Kate Duckmanton – Buckingham
Robert Leeke – Crewe
John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick
Beds and borders competition
John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick
Unusual fruit and veg competition
Jenny Clancy – Chelmsford
Fruit and Veg competition
Helen Crewdson – Surbiton
Patio Garden competition
Kathleen Bethell – Nottingham
Thank you to everyone who voted for their favourite photo. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for next years photo competition for a chance to win great prizes. You dont always have to wait for our competitions, we love to see your photos everyday so please feel free to post them on our facebook and twitter pages.
Sometimes our gardens can be slightly depressing and dull in winter, but why should our gardens suffer? You can create beautiful hanging basket displays for your garden this winter in 10 easy steps. Let our expert, Michael Perry (our Product Development Manager) guide you with his helpful video and top tips in creating your best winter hanging displays.
Michael’s Top Tips for Basket Success
1. Don’t cut corners with compost; always buy the best quality that you can afford.
2. Mix in Incredibloom® when planting, so your plants have all the ‘vitamins’ they need from the
3. You can put your basket straight outside too; no need to give your plants any under glass
4. Use our Easy Fill hanging basket to get a head start on your trailing growth; this amazing basket
even allows you to plant around the sides.
5. Don’t add water retaining gel to winter baskets – they could make things too soggy during winter rain and snow thaw.
6. Have some horticultural fleece to hand, ready to drape around your basket displays if we do get a
prolonged cold snap.
7. Check for watering needs regularly – cold winter winds can be as drying as hot summer sun!
8. Offer a top up feed as growth takes off in spring to ensure the longest life from your seasonal
9. Add one or two, evergreen winter-flowering/fruiting shrubs to your baskets for extra interest and
10. Check for watering needs regularly – cold winter winds can be as drying as hot summer sun!
Quick master class with Michael Perry