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Category: My Experiences

A gardeners personal gardening life over 70 years

Plant Potty Dahlia

Plant Potty Dahlia


Bought as Melody Dora but looks like Bantling

Still no complaints on the volume of flowers over a long period after plenty of deadheading and a bit of liquid feed. The pot was quite large so I put a wick through the drain hole and stood the pot on a big saucer to provide this heavy drinker with water.

The same plant late in the day with under light conditions

Garden Miscellany

Garden Miscellany

Useful supports in the greenhouse

Odd garden thoughts

  1. A weed is a plant that has no intention of growing in rows.
  2. Potato peelers and apple corers make  useful weeding tools. Also I like home made wooden wodgers and splodgers for compost compressing.
  3. I have  become a fan of raised beds for vegetables. The added benefit of less bending encourages me to give more effort to plants. If retaining with boards rather than blocks or sleepers pay attention to firm pegs.
  4. Consider reuse and repurpose for use in the garden including pop bottle, glass jars and old packaging. Even cardboard will compost with greenery to produce friable soil.
  5. After shredding the branches a Christmas tree trunk can be repurposed as a sturdy support or stake
  6. Thinnings of veg seedlings should be destroyed as the odour they give off attracts pests
  7. Put crushed egg shells under sweetpeas to increase the yield
  8. Pinch out plants that tend to grow long and spindly.

 

Dahlias not just for the South

Dahlias not just for the South

Up North we have the benefit of many keen dahlia growers and exhibitors. Better than that we have the national dahlia society (NDS) trials at Golden Acre park in Leeds and here is the video from this year.

Winning back Dahlias as friends progressively over the last decade we now have some of the best garden plants and some showy cut flowers from a cutting garden.

My Lessons in 2021

  1. I grew only from saved tubers not tubers left in the ground over winter. My worry was damp not frost.
  2. This method worked well when I started off the overwintered tubers in the same garage environment for potting up.
  3. I got lots of extra plants that I was able to give to friends and neighbors.
  4. Five top notch plants were grown in large pots and gave a ‘stonking display’. The last to tire, an orange pom pom is just about finished at the end of October.
  5. The roots and tubers I lifted this week had not yet been frosted. I have still many plants in flower and when frosted I will need the time later.
  6. The tubers and roots did not grow very deep and I hope I wont have trouble dividing up the clumps and or taking shoot cuttings.
  7. After a variable show from the small single tubers I had decided not to bother next year but they have come through in autumn with a blase of glory and earned a reprieve.

 

Some Seeds Sowing Stories

Some Seeds Sowing Stories

The recent history of my seed sowing is not a traditional gardeners tip more a recollection of my own gardening method or lack thereof. These seed sowing stories are neither best practice nor a road to success.

Allium Seedhead ready to Harvest

Sources of my seeds

  • I don’t like waste so I collect a lot of seed from existing plants. Sweet peas, poppies, calendula, aquliegia and legumes feature regularly. I have had recent success with growing yellow tree peony lutea from seeds. I used to collect wild seeds when on holiday or where I thought I could get away with doing so.
  • I buy more seed than I need or ever convert into plants. Salad and vegetable seed is usually a considered purchase as a result of previous success or catalogue recommendations. I am an impulse buyer of other seeds often for experiments or to try new flowers. I buy gardening magazines that have free seed packets on the cover.
  • I obtain seed from societies such as the RHS, cyclamen or alpine seed schemes. I haven’t found anyone local with whom to swap seeds.
  • Old stock of previous seasons remnant seeds (kept in an airtight tin) last longer than expected particularly tomato and salad crops. I don’t worry about fertility, if they germinate it is a bonus.
  • I suppose my garden benefits most from self seeders although many are weeds or unwanted specimens.

Reasons For Seed Sowing

  • My prime seed sowing is for vegetables.
  • Flower sowing is usually to meet an aspiration for shock and awe from the results. Seldom achieved but fun to attempt.
  • Some I sow intending to obtain more cut flowers but only really successfully with sweet peas which I recommend as well worth the effort.
  • I silly reason for buying them is because they are cheap. A local garden center treats them as a loss leader and all year they are 50% of the packet price. I buy more than I need and sow wastefully. I did well this year on a variety pack of sunflowers.
  • If I want perennials or gap fillers like Lupins I will try seed even though it may work out more economical to buy plants.
Know Your Abscission from your Zygomorphic

Know Your Abscission from your Zygomorphic

I have been reading the Penguin Encyclopedia of Gardening which aims to provide ‘….an explanation of words used in a technical sense in a horticultural context in the UK and USA.’ Set out as an A to Z this resulting post, missing a thousand definitions, is unlikely to rank highly with search engines.

Abscission

The separation of a leaf or fruit from it’s stem. Most notable as a deciduous tree sheds its leaves in autumn. Two layers of cells are formed to facilitate this process, an abscission layer and a corky tissue layer. The corky layer cuts off the food supply to the fruit or leaf and protects the the wound formed when the drop occurs.

Zygomorphic

A botanical term  referring to a flower having floral parts that are capable of division into essentially symmetrical halves by only one vertical or longitudinal plane passing through the axis. Examples include  Peas , Snapdragons and Orchids.

 

Orchid

 

Flitting about My Garden

Flitting about My Garden

The biggest butterfly in my garden is undoubtedly me the gardener. Whilst working on the beds or landscape I can flit from task to task or pause and forget what I intended doing. Even with ‘to do’ lists at the starts of the day I complete very few and add on  many supplementary things instead. The garden’s requirements take precedent as I flit about with spade or watering can but I also ‘butterfly’ in another key direction.

Over the years my preference for plant or species come in and out of fashion and I favour certain groups for a few seasons and then move on or more specifically move off. I think of these as my specialties but in truth I don’t specialise and never really learn or attain the best results before changing. It is more a case of the garden will be greener and my horticultural pleasure multiplied by variety and change.

Flitting about in this manner has led me to collect books on specific species in a vain attempt to excel. To this end I often join a specialist society for a period of time that currently includes;  the National Auricular and Primula, Cactus, Cyclamen, as well as RHS and AGS (alpine garden society). Added to this are my memberships of local clubs and societies where my enthusiasm last for about 5 years before I move on.

Current and Past Specialties

  1. Chrysanthemums
  2. Rhododendron and deciduous  Azaleas
  3. Dahlia
  4. Patio and miniature Roses and Rambler varieties.
  5. Cyclamen
  6. Auricula
  7. Carnations and Dianthus
  8. Peonies
  9. Dwarf Hosta
  10. Pelargoniums
  11. Dwarf Conifers
  12. Alpines
  13. Primroses and Polyanthus
  14. Daisy Compositae family of 30,000+ species
  15. Soft fruit and apple trees
  16. Shorter lived interest in Heuchera, Ivyies, African violets, Cistus,

Rambling Rector

Genome of a Garden Gnome

Genome of a Garden Gnome

Book Cover

I am not against garden gnomes, they can brighten up your mood and dark wintery days. From a gardeners view I offer the following comments.

  • Use gnomes for friends family and your own pleasure and amusement.
  • I don’t take gnomes too seriously and have just a couple to keep one another company.
  • Large families of gnomes seem better if you have the space.  The weeds of a gnomery are other frivolous ornaments and I stay clear of them particularly fairies, witches and elves.
  • You can name you gnome three times with a personal name, a clan name, and a nickname.  The picture is Mumple chops the fourth from the clan  gardenfoot with the nickname hortoris.
  • Keep your gnome clean and they will live in your garden without needing special fertiliser or pruning
Skunk Cabbage Kicks up a New Stink

Skunk Cabbage Kicks up a New Stink

Latest news on Skunk Cabbage

Repeated below is our post from 2009 when I first reported on the water loving skunk cabbage. In 2021 the RHS have decided that the proliferation of this plant is endangering native species and they should not be grown in the UK. The RHS say ‘after flowering  seed heads should be cut off and burnt’ this should help the spread of the rouge amongst our aquatic plants in areas such as the Wye Valley and Lake District.

If you followed our tip to grow this plant I leave it to you what you may wish to do. I am not changing my mind as it is not yet a plant on the banned list  under Schedule 9 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act

skunk-cabbage

‘American Skunk Cabbage Lysichiton americanus is planted in groups along the streamside at the Valley Garden Harrogate. Over the years the plants have seeded themselves freely and now make a fantastic display covering the full length of the stream and beyond. The yellow flame-shaped flowers really called spathes, are 18 inches high and look magnificent reflected in the water in April and May. Then the flowers are followed by enormous paddle-shaped, leathery green leaves which remain until dieing back in autumn.
Lysichiton camschatcensis has a hypnotic white spathe and lime green flowering head and a cross between the two species produces a cream spathe (I like to call a spathe a spathe). This spathe surrounds a cigar shaped stem called the spadix which bears many small, bisexual green flowers.

Read More Read More

Net Gains in the Garden

Net Gains in the Garden

2021 Net Experience to date

  • I am moving away from plastic nets particularly the fine thin green version sold by some retailers. They break after one season, become brittle and inevitably end up in landfill or worse.
  • This season I favour chicken wire either galvanised or coated mesh. I have strung a 6 foot length between two stout metal poles. The poles have been fed through the holes at the edge every 6 inches or so. Thus I have a wall of netting for my sweetpeas to climb up.
  • Rather than use netting on softfruit I intend using horticultural fleece as a temorary covering because I hve a surplus of fleece and it deteriorates if kept to long.
  • Wire mesh can be adapted as a coarse sieve used on my home made compost.
  • Whilst not true netting I use wire frames for bird feed holders. I have a couple for suit blocks and seed balls.

original post on garden products April 2011

‘Netting can be very useful in the garden and there is usually one or more types for each particular application.

Climbers like Sweet Peas need something to cling on to as they grow. You can cut off the tendrils and tie the stems to a cane but that is labour intensive. I prefer to use a very open green plastic net. It is about the cheapest you can buy and if you throw it away at the end of the year it will have done its job.

For runner beans and climbing beans I use stronger plastic net also with a wide open mesh and strong poles. Again it is still cheap as a form of netting.

For protecting soft fruit like strawberries or building a fruit cage you need knotted netting also called mesh knotted netting. This is strong enough to keep out the birds. The mesh varies from 7mm squares to 18mm diamonds. The smaller gauge keeps out moths and butterflies and the wider for pigeons and small birds.
For herons over your pond a wider mesh of 45mm will not spoil the appearance.

Insect mesh netting is finer and more akin to fleece. It can deter carrot fly, cabbage root fly and caterpillars whilst giving a modest amount of shade.

Wind break or shade nets are made from higher density polypropylene.

Pond nets for leaves and debris can also protect your goldfish. A fishing line strung across the edge of ponds may deter cats and other creatures.’

Me and Seed Trays

Me and Seed Trays

Plastic seed trays

Seed sowing reaches its height in the middle of April. It is worth looking at the labour saving devices that were not available to our parents and grandparents.

Seed Tray Review

  • Old wooden seed trays with slats and high sides are still in use. They need care when cleaning before new crops are sown.
  • Plastic seed trays from rigid polypropylene with drainage holes can be used time and again and are easy to store and clean. There is generally a pattern of ridges to improve drainage.
  • I like to use the thin plastic segmented inserts inside a normal seed tray like those in the photograph.
    • They are cheap enough to be disposable but last a couple of seasons with care.
    • They vary in the number of cells, 3×5, 8×5 or 4×6 for example.
    • Each cell can be for individual seeds or used for several fine seeds. It makes pricking out and planting far easier.
    • The cells can also be used for growing on after pricking out. 15 or 24 good plants can be raised in one tray.
    • Do not put plastic inserts in a tray without drainage holes or the compost may get water logged.
  • Seed trays can be used to hold individual pots in one place. Up to 15 square 3″ pots can be put in one tray and they are a bit deeper than a standard tray.

Seed Tray Tips

  • Take care when watering to get all the area damp. Be careful with small cells and those near to the drying sun.
  • Label your seed sowing with the date and type of seed sown.
  • Sterilise your used seed trays in Jeys fluid or similar
  • To water from the bottom fill a larger container and stand the tray in the water until enough has been taken up.
  • Do not leave seedlings too long before pricking out. Long roots soon become stunted.
  • Carefully push out the cell contents from the bottom if using this product.

2021 Experience So Far

  • I vowed to sow fewer seed packets this year as pricking out then fills all the available warm space before the frost goes. Instead I have filled seed trays and 7cm pots with cuttings and bought in seedlings, so my space problem remains.
  • The square 7cm pots fit together in a seed tray for watering and carrying (but I always end up tipping some out by accident).
  • I did provide bottom heat for those seeds I have sown except lettuce. This has helped germination but regrettably not for tomatoes.
  • I stand some seed trays on wicking fabric to benefit from capillary action when watering from the bottom.
  • I have managed to get more seed trays in my greenhouse so all is not bad news despite the weather.
  • There is still time to use the seed trays for annuals and other seeds like wallflowers which await my attention.