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,
So anyway, after two weeks of tropical 30c heat, here we are in mid-September, the rain finally came and the temperature’s dropped to a respectably dull 20c. Great, I think, I can start tidying up for the autumn, and then go on holiday. But when I get outside everything has started greening up and growing again!
Anyone for cucamelon? & cucamelon and Tomato ‘Tutti Fruiti’
All very confusing, for me as well as the plants! Summer: The cucamelons are overtaking the greenhouse and have taken the tomatoes hostage, the cucumber vine isn’t even mildewed yet, and the peppers are ripening. Autumn: Salvia cuttings and strawberry runners are potted up. Winter: Colocasias have been brought undercover. Spring: My T&M bulbs have arrived.
Talking of which, I‘ve gone all delicate for next spring: I’ve bought jonquilla daffs Martinette, Pueblo & Pipit, and Green Eyed Lady for the patio containers. For the raised bed out front I’ve bought scilla, aconite and puschkinia; lots and lots of them. I’m into naturalising from now on, partly to let nature increase its stocks and partly because I hate planting bulbs. Tulips are off – by the time they come into flower I’ve got bored waiting, and the minute they start to look off colour I pull’em up because I’m impatient to start planting out for summer. No point planting them in pots as Fred the Oriental eats the leaves! Alliums get on my nerves too, all those floppy leaves lying around amongst the pristine perennials. Oh didn’t I tell you? I’m a neat freak.
Poinsonous ricinus seed heads & minitunia Calibrachoa ‘Crackerjack’
However, I digress. Actually I‘ve had a lovely morning in the garden. Been around all the borders deadheading & cutting back, planting up some divisions I took earlier this year to bulk up their parent plants, reducing clumps of thugs like achillea The Pearl, and relocating perennials to rebalance displays. I’ve even pushed the boundaries of taste (my taste anyway) and planted very garish (plant label refers to them as Bold) but stunning Rudbeckia ‘Summertime Orange‘ and Helenium autumnale ‘Red Shades’. Sedums seem to be very in vogue at the moment with several new varieties on offer. I have bought Jose Aubergine, a deep burgundy type with dusky pink flowers. (Why I have bothered to plant late summer colour is a mystery to me as I‘m only likely to see it on my way to the greenhouse and back these days.)
Since our last Open Day for this year on Sept 4th I’ve barely been in the garden for more than a few minutes at a time – too hot or too busy – other than to water. The auto-watering system keeps exploding from a key joint in the pipe on the patio. (As a result, frogs have been gravitating to the cool shady moisture of the patio from the scorching heat of the borders, straight into the jaws of Winky the Sphynx. One such happy incident resulted in seven cats staking out the sofa with frog in hiding underneath. David applied the glass jar and plate method of capture, frog relocated to pond and all was well.) Back to the matter at hand, consequently the irrigation system was rendered useless during the hottest September temperatures for the last 40 years so watering had to be done with hose and sprinkler twice a day for nearly a fortnight. A heated debate ensued amongst friends, as to the relative merits of watering as a means of relaxation as opposed to deadheading. My money’s on deadheading every time!
Petunia ‘Mandevilla’ & Today’s Catch!
Since the summer holidays ended there has been a distinct change of pace (traffic, talks of Christmas) but my thoughts are naturally turning to Garden 2017. The summer house, currently decorated in the style of a 1930s tea room, is going to be transformed into a beach hut. On the patio we are going to fix mirrors along the boundary fence to reflect more light in and make it look bigger.
It’s time to reflect on the winners and losers of the season, now that this summer’s T&M trial period has concluded. Definitely to be repeated next summer are Petunia ‘Cremissimo’, minitunia Calabrachoa ‘Crackerjack’, Bidens ‘Bee Dance Painted Red’ and the un-named bidens which is being launched in T&M 2017 catalogue. Petunia ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’ is not for the faint hearted, although stunningly beautiful and still going strong, it needs watering and deadheading twice a day at the height of the season and sulks if you don’t feed it every week. Although Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY never really got going I am hopeful that it will come into its own next summer. Patti Pans ‘Summer Mixed’ have been great fun to grow and are very versatile in recipes for stir fry, roasted, in soups and pie fillings. Having initially been disappointed in Tomato ‘Tutti Frutti’, suddenly, overnight it seems, the trusses have ripened to produce colourful little fruits, not my favourites but very pretty.
Ricinus communis ‘Impala’ has been a revelation, three magnificent specimens grown from seed, admired by all, and great fun to see people’s faces when you tell them that’s where the poisonous ricin comes from! But my absolute favourite product has got to be Cucamelon ‘Melothria’: A real curiosity on Garden Open Days, and second prize in the Any Other Fruits category at our Horticultural Society Autumn Show. (Hmm, David won first prize and Best In show for his Dinner Plate Aeonium, judged by the one and only Jim Butress no less.) So easy to grow from seed, three vines have produced dozens, no hundreds, of fruits that look like mini watermelons and taste like lemon flavoured cucumbers. They are delicious in salads dressed with raspberry vinegar or thrown into a gin and tonic (with lime juice ice-cubes) or Pimms. Anyone got any other recipes for cucamelon?
My next blog will be after the London Gardens Society awards in October; we have been shortlisted for Best Small Garden so fingers crossed…..In the meantime I intend to make the most of the autumn as it’s a long old winter ahead. Hope you do too!
An update from The Good Life In Practice:
So a lot has been happening in the growing season these last few months! The weather has got truly warmer and the rain has indeed helped the plants to push on. Here is a quick round up of what has been happening here…
The tomato plants have well and truly flourished and I have added supports (small canes) for each of them so they can grow straight upwards-cannot wait for juicy tomatoes from these! The mixed salad seed mix, watercress seed mix and sorrel seed mix have been so easy to use too. I simply planted them in pots around the patio and they have sprouted up fresh leaves. This has been perfectly timed for making summer salads for dinners.
Additionally, another supplement to salads has been the different varieties of nasturtiums I have tried. I have included some photographs of two types I have been using thus far in salads and in nasturtium leaf pesto recipes. Herbs such as chives have flowered and the beautiful, deep purple blooms on top have again been perfect for topping salads or pasta dishes. Moreover, when I get low on salad leaves between cropping’s I add pea shoots to the mix – these are so easy to simply cut off the top of pea crops and they quickly grow back. The spring onions tapes have been a triumph and are gradually growing as we speak. The easy seed tapes have meant I haven’t really had to worry about spacing or weeds as it is self-sufficient in this respect – a great, revolutionary idea.
Selection of Katy’s flowers from the garden
The big success has been the fruit bushes. My raspberry canes from Thompson & Morgan – including Glen Moy have been so successful again this year. It has been marvellous to pop down to sort the chickens of a morning and graze on fresh, plump raspberries on the journey down the garden! I have been lucky enough to have a successful blueberry bush, currants and gooseberry bush as well.
Katy’s kitchen garden
The dwarf runner beans I am excited for too. They are just perfect for pots on the patio if you haven’t got a mountain of space in your garden – mine are potted up near the peas and thriving. Again runner beans are a firm favourite not just for eating on their own but also they are a great addition to chutney making.
More of Katy’s great produce
Lots more to share next time and hopefully some recipes too, Katy, The Good Life In Practice
Hope you are all well, and enjoying the beautiful summer days. Our weather in Neyland has been erratic, if there’s one thing we can bet on at the moment is that there are no two days the same. If it’s not twenty seven degrees Celsius and cloudless it’s foggy, damp humid and uncomfortable. Oh and don’t forget the heavy rain, thunder and winds. The poor plants have taken a battering. Although luckily for me most have bounced back, it’s only Petunia ‘Anna’ that seems to be struggling.
Petunia ‘Anna’, Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ & Hollyhock ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’
Like last month I have not done as much in the greenhouses as I would have liked to, this is because I have been unwell again for over two weeks, with a gastric bug, that put me in hospital for five days and because I was in my local hospital the specialist hospital sixty miles away had to cancel my operation as I was too unwell to attend, which is frustrating as I have to wait for a new admission date.
Whilst in hospital I used my visualisation technique to help me through the procedures including trying to name in alphabetical order plants growing in my garden whilst I was having a brain scan. I was quite impressed on two accounts; one that I only got to the letter K before the procedure was over, and two I have a brain! In case your interested I have apples, biden, cosmos, Dianthus ‘Elephants Ear’, foxglove, gazania, hollyhock, ivy, Viola ‘Jonny Jump Up’ and as for K well it was all over then. I am saving the rest of the alphabet for when I go for surgery.
I was discharged on Friday the fifteenth and as soon as I got home I did another garden inspection. The corcockles had gone to seed as had most of the wildflower border, the peas had finished and the Lambs Ears had flowered.
On Saturday I felt really well so I thought I would spend ten minutes in the greenhouse cutting the lower leaves off the tomatoes as they had gone wild. It was warm in there but not uncomfortable, when I got to tired to continue, I realised I had been thirty minutes instead of ten, which really made me smile as it made me feel that I was stronger than I thought I was, happy, relaxed and grateful to be alive. And I was rewarded with my first ripe Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’.
Amanda’s Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ in different stages of growth
To eat my first tomato of the season was so special, firstly because it’s a new variety for 2016 and it’s the first tomato I have ever grown from seed (I usually buy plug plants,) and secondly because there had been days when I thought I would never get to try them as I felt so ill. Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ are really tasty, the smell of the vine stays on them long after they are picked, which makes them feel super fresh even if you eat them a day or two after picking. They are bigger than a cherry tomato but smaller than a salad one. The skin was a little bit hard, but that may be due to not having enough sun here. The flesh is thick for a small tomato, but it’s firm and succulent. There are hardly any pips, so fussy eaters should be happy. As there have only been one or two that have been ready since Friday they didn’t get as far as a sandwich or anything more interesting, however, I can’t wait to fry them with some butter, mushrooms, aubergine, sweet peppers basil and oregano. Then scatter them with some cheddar cheese on a warm crusty roll.
Talking about aubergines, the ones opposite my tomato vines are doing much better than last year, the leaves are bigger and they are now starting to flower, the reason they are doing better is because they are receiving a lot more sunlight from early morning than they were in the opposite side of the greenhouse, and as we have kept the tomatoes to only four to five feet tall they are getting the sun for longer in the afternoon too.
The peppers seeds ( T&M Sweet Bonita) that Blogger Jean Willis gave me, have produced some of the best pepper plants I have ever grown, and they are 100% better than last year’s garden centre plant bought. The leaves are even and shiny, within no bare patches or uneven growth. There are a lot more flowers on them than other varieties I have grown, and which the bees are happy to pollinate for me.
Unfortunately, the Rubin be Lemonade Basils have bolted, but the flowers are so pretty I’ve just let them continue as they are. The leaves taste slightly more bitter, but I am wondering if I should collect their seeds to see if they have cross pollinated. It would be amazing if I could come up,with a green and burgundy striped basil, or a new tasting one. Knowing my luck though I’d probably end up with something that tastes disgusting and looks like an alien.
Sweet Pepper ‘Bonita’ & Cucamelon ‘Melothria
The cucumelons and squashes that I had from another company, really are not doing that well at all. They are small and weak growing, and the leaves seem to be more of a pale green than they should be,they are having the same care and attention as any other plants we have, with the same watering and feed. Carelessly whoever packed the plants sent the wrong instructions too, as they sent me the leaflet for how to grow your tomatoes and peppers! I have used the company before, but I won’t by plug plants from them again. However the cucamelons in the small greenhouse seem to be ok. The chilli plant that I had from them died after a few weeks too. Poor Mark won’t have any sweet chilli chutney this year as I lost my baby chilli plants when I first got ill in May.
In the small greenhouse the money tree is really thriving, as are the Aloe Vera’s. The shelves are still bare, as I haven’t done any seed sowing, and I’m feeling frustrated as now would be a good time to start off the winter veg, such as cabbage, turnips and swede. I know we are lucky in this region that I can sow seeds even up to September and October and still get a good crop, but I hate seeing things empty. I did think about setting some seeds, but I know in the next few weeks they won’t have my full attention so it would be a bit of a pointless exercise.
Bidens ‘Pink Princess’ & Gazania ‘Big Kiss White Flame’ F1 Hybrid
For the first time in years, I have nothing to plant in the bare soil now my corncockles have been dug up. Usually the space is filled with dahlias, amaranthus, marigolds and any other plants I happen to be growing, so I am tempted to go to the garden centre and buy some bedding plants. At least these will be established and I can plant them straight away. I did think of getting them from T&M special offers, but being on the cancellation list at the hospital I can’t take the chance on waiting for delivery.
My trial Bidens are still flowering, they are still white, pink, and pink and white ringed. They have taken the wildly fluctuating temperatures, the winds and rain and as long as they are deadheaded regularly continue to bloom.
The trial antirhinums that were in with a pot of petunias survived two days upside down on the grass when the bracket holding the heavy pot fell out of the wall. Not sure how the bracket fell out though, Mark is usually good at DIY. The plants were not damaged at all which really impressed us.
The trial trailing fuschias are just beautiful. The ones in pots out the front aren’t growing as well as the ones that are in the more sheltered back garden. Every morning I open my bedroom curtains and look out at three pots of pinky/purple/red fuschias, roses, veronica, poppies, sage, mint and lavender, the scent in the mornings is delicious.
I am hoping by August my operation will have been done, and that I am on the road to recovery. I have promised my nieces to bring down fresh peppers and aubergines. My brother still hasn’t put up his greenhouse so mum is babysitting his tomato plants, and his aubergines are in pots in my small greenhouse. I have a sneaky feeling he won’t finish his greenhouse until next year.
So here’s looking forward to new and tasty fresh vine fruit and veg, time spent with the family and long sunny days.
Take care, and happy gardening,
PS Thank you to everyone who continues to share their gardening adventures with me on Facebook, I love the photos from Geoff and Caroline’s open days for McMillan and NGS open days, to T&Ms Jimmys Farm posts. I love hearing people’s successes as well as problem solving hints and tips. Believe me, it really does make my day.
I hate gardening! Our 18 year old acer Bloodgood has died; it resided in a huge terracotta planter on the patio so replacing it will be disruptive and expensive. Melianthus major, focal point of the hot border, followed in its footsteps (rootsteps?) shortly after. Digging that up was no joke (so why are you all laughing?) The root ball was solid with finger thick roots that had anchored themselves under all neighbouring perennials, so the whole lot had to come out and be replanted afterwards. Then a branch of our ancient lilac came down in the recent windy spell, straight across the barbecue (could have been worse, we might even have wanted to use it this summer). Finally I discovered that the potting tray containing my own mix of compost, water retaining gel and T&M incredibloom® had become a giant litter tray! Oh joy.
Brunnera ‘Alexander’s Great’ & Fred having an identity crisis!
Still, the hanging baskets have all been planted up, with four extras in dappled shade: two on the patio combining ipomoeas with T&M begonias, and two in the fernery with hostas (how do those snails manage to get up there?), heucheras and some lovely as-yet-unnamed T&M trial bidens. Very impressive bidens they are too; within four weeks their 9cm pots were full of roots. These compact plants are already in flower, their delicate white petals blushed with pale pink, belying their robust form.
Petunia ‘Mandevilla’ & Cucamelons on the go!
So now that all the baskets are planted up – Crazytunia Mandevilla and Bidens Bee Dance Painted Red already in flower – I can concentrate on the greenhouse crops. Tutti Frutti cordon tomatoes are in the raised bed. Shame I didn’t realise that they came in three different varieties; I’ll just have to wait and see which is which! Chillies have gone in with them to maximise space. The canes supporting the three cucamelon vines are not going to be sufficient so David is going to rig up some mesh for them and whilst he’s at it he can put up some wires for the cucumbers I have yet to plant (David are you reading this?) It’s only an 8ft x 4ft structure, not Kew Gardens, but where there’s a will there’s a way.
Digitalis ‘Ruby Slippers’
Ricinus are in! One in the kadai on the roof terrace, surrounded by Canna Durban and blood grasses, one in prairie border and one in the front garden, amongst other architectural plants melianthus major (son of deceased), filipendula and contorted hazel. Very directional I must say!
Courgettes de Nice a Fruit Rond, courgette Soleil and Patti Pans Summer Mix have been planted on the allotment. I’ve taken no chances after last year’s initial fiasco of the disappearing crops (the dreaded mollusc again) so they each have a T&M tomato auto waterer collaring them as well as slug pellets, and I’ve kept back a couple of spare plants just in case.
Flaming Kadai & unnamed bidens
Oh, and then there’s the small matter of our NGS Open Day on 12th June. Never mind the borders! All hands are on deck baking cakes, putting up signage, distributing leaflets and London Guides. Volunteers, raffle and children’s treasure hunt to be organised, plants for sale labelled and colour coded by price point. The living wall, nicknamed the dying wall due to an unfortunate misjudgement regarding the watering system, has to be replanted, so I’ll fill it with nasturtiums for a quick fix. T & M nasturtium Phoenix seeds are popping up all over the roof terrace but no time to grow more from seed; it’ll have to be a case of Instant Gardening at this late stage.
Oh well back to the grindstone. How I love gardening!