GARDENING DIARY 9TH MAY 2021

GARDENING DIARY 9TH MAY 2021

Well, we had the coldest April in 100 years, the driest April in 30 years, and storms/hail/strong winds at the start of May, so an interesting time to garden!!

With hopefully the frosty nights behind us, we can finally start moving plants out of the greenhouse and into the garden this coming week. We had the 4 Greenfingers sessions last week making up hanging baskets and tubs, and photo 1 shows all of mine that I have made up so far (a few more to come).

When we were taking out the contacts of the winter baskets, they had a number of perennial evergreens that we saved – thyme, euonymus, ivy, wintersweet etc, and the bellis daisies will also go on for a few months yet. There was also the white cineraria, from which you can take cuttings. These will grow well over the summer, so the plants themselves (photo 2) can be saved and put in tubs in the winter. You can also take cuttings (photo 3) that will be large enough to go into hanging baskets for the winter, a continuous circle.

We also finally potted up the sweet peas (photo 4) which need tying in for the next couple of weeks, until their tendrils can support the plant’s weight. The potatoes are doing well (photo 5), and have just been earthed up for a second time. The wisteria is also now fully out (photo 6).

It was also time to sort out the various herbs (photo 7). Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme etc like very gritty soil and good drainage, and can all do with a haircut, to promote more bushy growth. Multi-stemmed herbs like thyme and marjoram can be divided to get more plants, and single-stemmed herbs like rosemary and sage, can have cuttings taken. Photo 8 shows some sage cuttings (again in very gritty and free-draining soil.

With the Greenfingers Plant Fayre on 24 July (please make a note in your diaries, it is at Margaret Hobson’s house), now would be a good time to sow both flowers and vegetables, to sell at the fayre, so please do give it a go.

Happy gardening!!

Kevin  

GARDENING DIARY 25TH APRIL 2021

GARDENING DIARY 25TH APRIL 2021

Well at last the weather has stopped being below freezing at night (just), so time to get stuff out of the greenhouse/garden room, to the outside to harden off. Photo 1 shows some dwarf French beans and beetroot grown earlier in pots. These will ripen earlier than seeds planted into the ground (still too early for beans), so will mean you will have beans etc over a longer period in the summer/autumn.

Photo 2 shows some overwintered onions (I have shallots and garlic too), which are doing well, and should be ready by the end of May, allowing me to plant more salad crops etc as soon as they are harvested.

With the extra space released in the greenhouse, I have been putting my tomatoes, peppers, chillies, cucumber and tomatillos into larger pots, as shown in photo 3.

Around the garden, the fresh new leaves on my hydrangeas were ‘burnt’ by the overnight frosts, as shown in photo 4, but they should recover OK. My wisteria and montana clematis in my (south-facing) front garden are doiong really well, and should be in full flower in the next couple of weeks, and photo 5 shows the main garden flower beds also doing really well. Lupins really loving it, as well as agapanthus, foxgloves and anemones.

We have the 4 Greenfingers meetings this Wed/Thurs when we will be potting up some hanging baskets and finally the sweet peas.

Kevin     

GARDENING DIARY 18TH APRIL 2021

GARDENING DIARY 18TH APRIL 2021

Well, another sunny week, but still below freezing at night, so we’re on the starting blocks, ready to go, as the weather warms up (at night) hopefully next week. But still lots to do anyway.
I will be using my nematodes today (Sunday) for both vine weevil and gooseberry sawfly. These are shown in photo 1. These are completely organic, the nematodes just burrow into the larvae, don’t poison it, so great for wildlife. You just dissolve them in water, and then water the ground around the plants. I have already used the slug nematodes.
As greenhouses and cold frames have had their windows and doors closed more than expected due to the freezing night temperatures, I have noticed a few whitefly and greenfly. As I try to be as organic as possible, and don’t use pesticides or chemicals, I find the following recipe really easy. I take 2 garlic cloves, mash them up (I use a hammer), then put them in water to infuse for a couple of hours. I then spray this garlic water directly onto the greenfly/whitefly, and that kills them organically. Something about breaking down viscosity from the sap and pest emissions, but I don’t really understand it – but it works.
If we have more cold weather over the summer, and have to keep our greenhouse doors closed a lot, this may limit the amount of pollinating insects that can get into the greenhouse. I am already seeing flowers on some of my tomato plants. So in case that happens, another tip. Tomatoes are indeed pollinated by bees/wasps etc. But not by taking pollen from one part of the plant to the other, it is simply by the buzzing sound and vibration, which releases the pollen onto the ovary, within the same flower. So if there aren’t enough pollinating insects about, simply get an electric toothbrush, and put it on the tomato flower, and that will do the same job. Simple.
I have been checking my overwintering broadbeans (variety called Aquadulce), and they have lots of flowers (see photo 2). Finally, I need your help in identifying a tree in my garden, with very attractive flowers (photo 3). I believe it is some type of prunus, but does anyone know exactly what it is?
Finally finally, Margaret Hobson has very kindly offered to hold the Greenfingers Plant Fayre at her house on Saturday 24th July, so please mark that date in your diaries, and tell all your friends/neighbours/relatives. Also, Margaret will need lots of help beforehand, on the day, and clearing up afterwards, so please try to help wherever you can. And please sow seeds, take cuttings or otherwise propagate as many plants as possible, all proceeds will go to charity.
Happy Gardening!
Kevin
GARDENING DIARY 11th APRIL 2021

GARDENING DIARY 11th APRIL 2021

Well, this current unexpected cold snap has pushed things back a week or two in the garden, as I would normally be thinking about planting out my sweet peas, beans, and putting out the summer bedding plants to harden off before planting, but that will have to wait now. But that is the fun of gardening.
So I have been busy in my greenhouse, garden room, and have recently (re)acquired the use of some of the conservatory, with permission from the boss of course!! That means I have been planting on a lot of my plants into bigger pots. I planted some ammi majus and calendula bullseye on 3rd March into a 12inch tray, and they have grown well. I have therefore been planting them up into individual pots. Photo 1 shows the ammi majus and calendula bullseye before planting into pots, and photo 2 shows them in pots. I used about a quarter of a seed packet in both cases, getting about 15 healthy plants of each. I have also done the same with monarda panorama, marigold French fancy, and little gem/lollo rosso lettuce. There is still a couple of beds to prepare, using compost from my hot bins (makes great compost in 6 months in the winter, 3 in the summer, so I have 3 of them), and organic chicken manure. Also, as there has been very little rain, I have been watering the seeds in the raised beds, and larger plants in pots. Once we are into May, I will hook up my automatic watering system.
But once the cold snap is over, there will be frantic activity getting a lot of plants outside, both into the ground and to harden off, as well as direct seed sowing into the ground. My potatoes have been growing well even with this frost, so will soon need earthing up.

Happy Gardening!

Kevin

 

GARDENING DIARY 4TH APRIL 2021

GARDENING DIARY 4TH APRIL 2021

Well, after the lovely weather of the last week, plants have really sprung to life. But unfortunately there is a frost over the coming 2-3 days, so we may need to consider some extra protection. My apple and pear trees haven’t come into full blossom yet, so they should be OK, but my Victoria plum trees have (as well as a cherry), so I will need to cover with some fleece. I will also bring some of the French beans etc in large troughs into the greenhouse, just for a couple of days.

Some of the daffodils have gone over, so I’ve been cutting off the flowers only, leaving the stems to die down naturally. This ensures the plant puts its goodness back into the bulb for next year, rather than into making seeds. Also, I will be putting my sweet peas into the ground (tied up obelisks) in about 10 days, so I have been pruning them down to 3 leaves. Some of these were sown in November, some in January. Photo 1 shows the sweet peas before pruning, photo 2 after pruning.

If you have any ferns (as opposed to bracken, which is a single stemmed fern), now is the time to cut off all the old growth, and watch the fronds uncurl over the coming weeks.

Whilst the weather will be a little colder over the coming few days, there is little rain on the horizon, so don’t forget to water your plants, especially a) any newly planted seeds b) any larger plants (like rhododendrons, hydrangeas or fruit trees) in pots. If you want them to put on any green growth, give them a nitrogen (ie nettle) feed, if you want flowers give them a tomato/comfrey feed.

For any overwintered fuchsias and pelargoniums, they will have put on some extra growth, so now is a great time to take some soft cuttings, to make even more plants (and also to extend the growing season). Photo 3 shows a fuchsia before taking cutting, photo 4 shows the fuchsia after cuttings, and photo 5 shows the fuchsia cuttings in a pot. The main fuchsia plant will start flowering in May, the cuttings in July onwards.
A big thankyou to everyone who has sponsored my half-marathon, which I have paid into the website. In addition, we made £65 from the plant sales at the 4 X Greenfingers sessions, which has gone to MacMillan. Thank you for your support.

Happy Easter! Kevin

GARDENING DIARY 28th MARCH

GARDENING DIARY 28th MARCH

Well, now we have put our clocks an hour forward, and British Summer Time has officially started, it really does feel like our spirits are being lifted, so let’s get out into the garden!!

Well, another busy week chez Steele. As both my greenhouse and garden room are completely jammed full, I have been moving some of the hardier plants outside, albeit still under shelter or cold frames. Which in turn frees up space to pot on the tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies into larger pots, which I have been doing. Although they all need heat, remember tomatoes and cucumbers need lots of watering, whereas chillies don’t.

It is also time to start using nematodes. I try to garden vaguely organically, and don’t use pesticides, poisons or weedkillers, so the best way to control slugs is to use nematodes (which are organic). So I have been using slug nematodes all around the garden this week – the soil is just warm enough – and will be using my vine weevil nematodes (which killed 2 cherry trees a couple of years ago) in a couple of weeks.

It is also time for the second cutting of the lawn, and you can gradually reduce the height of the cutting blades over the coming weeks. But I still leave one area of the garden undisturbed for wildlife.

My cucumbers, tomatoes and chillies, as well as my climbers (Morning Glory, Black-eyed Susan, Spanish Flag, Cobaea Scandens etc), all need a) support sticks or canes b) larger pots. Some of my cucumbers especially are now in my largest 14inch pots, with 7ft bamboo supporting canes, and should be producing cucumbers in May, and the tomatoes by June, so a bountiful summer beckons. As my comfrey plot hasn’t really started growing yet (I would normally get 3 or 4 comfrey cuttings over the summer to make wonderful comfrey juice), I am having to use both pellets of organic chicken manure, and normal tomato feed, for these very hungry plants. Although I do have some nettle feed (high in nitrogen) left over from last year, to feed plants needing lots of ‘green’ growth.
Have a great time in your garden too
Kevin