Autumn Sunshine

A beautiful sunny autumn day is just the inspiration need to go out and do some tasks that have been put to one side and the prospect of cold weather is another good reason to be busy.

Raised bed preparation I have dug over the ‘squash bed’, the planting moves around the bed but there is plenty of space for the trailing plants.  I am going to try growing them up a trellis this year, In saw this done at Hyde Hall and it saved space and gave a good crop.  One corner of the bed I have created a new raised strawberry bed to have new plants as the old ones are very tired and I wanted new varieties. Flamenco and Everest which is a variety that can be trained up a trellis both are ever-bearing so have a long productive season.



broad beans planted outTwo weeks ago I planted some broad bean Aquadulce Claudia seeds in cells in the greenhouse, they have grown big enough to be planted out today, I have put in the support canes now so that I can tie them up as the winter winds blow, but it will be worth the early crop.




turnip snowballWhile watching Monty Don a couple of months ago he was planting seeds for Swedes and Turnips. I planted some myself and I am surprised how fast they have grown, Swede Brora and Turnip Snowball both doing well.  The latent heat in the ground germinated them quickly and a few  showers of rain have swelled them well.




garlic germidorThe Garlic Germidor planted a couple of weeks ago is up well and I have put the shallots in next to them.

The ground has been well composted and we should get a good crop of both next summer.


As there is cold weather expected I have moved all my lovely geraniums into the greenhouse along with the Ginger Lily, the Agapanthus and Fuchsias are in the cold frames but will get plenty of fresh air on sunny warmer days to prevent botrytis and mildew.

The chickens are in the fruit cage for the winter doing their usual clean up around the fruit bushes. Last year I took cuttings from my gooseberry which is a good large fruiter and I wanted to have more of them. So after seeing Monty Don  plant his to create cordons I have done the same, I will keep you posted on their progress.

chickens in fruit cage

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

Katy’s Autumn Garden Update

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.

runner beans and raspberries

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!

artichoke and spring onions

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.

Katy Runacres

Katy is a smallholder, cook and writer. She keeps Chickens, Bantams, Meat Rabbits and has a resident cat called Podge. She takes an interest in all aspects of homesteading and has written pieces for a number of magazines including Backwoods Home, Bushcraft, Country Smallholding, Home Farmer and Smallholder. Katy is a member of the Essex and Suffolk Poultry Club and has a Diploma in Countryside Management.

Autumn Colour – The Sequel: The Silent Scream

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

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

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

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

A view of London from Hampstead Heath

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.

Grow your own winter five a day.

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

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'

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

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.
Graham Porter.


Graham Porter

I have worked in horticulture for the past 49 years and have become more involved with and concerned about the environmental impact that our profession has had on the world. I am married with 2 grown up children and 4 wonderful grandchildren. I am currently writing my first book that reflects my thoughts on gardening / horticulture in an environmentally friendly manner.

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