Today we sowed the potatoes so I’m writing this post mostly to keep track of that date. To recap on my previous post, I am growing Casablanca and International Kidney.
The weather has still been cold and wet; everything is late this year. My forsythia are flowering now and I’m so grateful for their cheery bright yellow. Some blue wood anemones have popped up and the pulmonaria is beginning to flower, but most plants still seem very sleepy.
I have some plans for a bed in the front garden which I started enacting today between rain showers. I am going to have to put the ceanothus out of its misery. (It is a broad-leaved one, Trewithen Blue, I think.) I mentioned last year that it came back from the brink of death a few years ago and since then has been rather misshapen and straggly. It did not appreciate two small dumpings of snow in March just as it was coming out of dormancy. I even went out with a broom to try to brush the snow off but that was too little, too late. It’s still alive but a lot of leaves have died and the flower buds are brown and floppy – I don’t think they will open. So that along with its already bad shape means it needs to go.
Yesterday I bought two Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Viveleg’ – one will replace the ceanothus (but slightly further away from the philadelphus which it was too close to) and the other will go on the other side of the philadelphus. They have nice evergreen variegated leaves which I hope will go well with the variegated leaves of the philadelphus but also fill in for its bareness in winter. I look forward to its scented flowers in autumn. I also bought some lavender which will go at the front of the bed, I couldn’t decide which variety to get so bought Munstead and Hidcote to mix it up a bit. I’m going to try using some mycorrhizal fungi when I plant these plants out. I haven’t used it before but it’s supposed to support the root system and help the plant get established more quickly.
Another change in the front is that I decided to put the Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa), that was in a pot in the porch, into the ground right next to the porch. It hasn’t grown very much in the pot and I wondered if it would be happier if it could spread its roots but when I took it out of the pot the root system wasn’t that big and it certainly wasn’t pot bound. I didn’t find any grubs so I don’t think it’s been eaten, maybe it’s just a very slow grower. I also popped some bluey-purple hyacinths, which I’d had indoors, in the ground in front of it.
No posts for three months and the first in the Winter category. It’s no surprise that less has been happening in the garden. The plants are mostly sleeping and it has been so cold, damp, and dark that I have barely ventured out. I have done a minimal amount of tidying over the last couple of weeks – trimmed the wisteria, jasmine, and very messy passionflower in the front garden, and swept some leaves. I try to leave most cutting back until spring kicks in so that invertebrates and birds have somewhere to hide out. I have come around to the idea of trying to support all invertebrates in my garden, even though there are some that are my sworn enemies, because more invertebrates = more birds and maybe the birds will eat the baddies. There are also some carnivorous beetles and the like that perhaps will devour some slug eggs. We can live in hope anyway. Basically, diverse ecosystem must be better is what I reckon.
Today my seed potatoes and veg seed arrived. Last year I left ordering my potatoes way too late and they didn’t have enough time chitting so I’ve got in earlier this year. Chitting potatoes is not a bowel disorder but the process of leaving the potatoes out in the light so that they start sprouting. The idea is that this gives them a head start before you bury them. I am growing different varieties to last year: Casablanca, a first early (on the right); and International Kidney, a maincrop potato (on the left).
Due to lack of sunny spots in my garden I only have space for three climbing vegetables which I grow up the side of my shed. Last year I grew three varieties of bean, taking a break from curcubits due to mildew fears. The year before that I grew cucumbers (harvested 25), classic large pumpkins (one was edible, one was already gruesome for Hallowe’en), and tomatoes. This year I have bought seed for: cucumber ‘Crystal Lemon’ which are small round yellow cucumbers; ‘Turks Turban’ squash/pumpkin; and ‘Violetto’ climbing French beans. It’s obviously too early to start sowing but I am prepared!
This week I did, however, sow some sweet peas. They are a Spencer mix which came with my RHS membership. I am hoping to do better this year than I did with my sweet peas last year. I sowed them in the autumn and kept them in the conservatory over winter which was too warm and without enough light so they grew very leggy and weak. Then after I had finally put them outside in the spring I neglected them and didn’t provide enough support so they were a bit of a mess really. This year I will harden them off outside as soon as they are a few inches tall. Apparently sweet peas are actually hardy and can stay out during winter once they’ve been hardened off carefully, and they will be all the tougher for it!
As a member of the RHS I had the opportunity to order some seeds from them that they have collected from their gardens. There was quite a long list to choose from and we get to pick 15 species, and then 5 second choices in case they run out of any from the first choice list. Some of what I’ve chosen is probably completely inappropriate for my tiny garden but I’m very much looking forward to receiving them.
Outside some snowdrops and a crocus have appeared, and daffodil and bluebell leaves are emerging. My mahonia has flowered continuously for three months and is now spent but what a performer – this is a very underrated plant! It has green berries now which I think are supposed to turn blue. In the front garden a small-leaved purple hebe has been flowering which I’m not sure is supposed to at this time of year. The best colour in the back garden is being provided by the deep red leaves of an epimedium. I will endeavour to take some photos of all these plants when there is some light.
There is some autumn colour about. In my garden my blueberry bush is putting on the best show. My Japanese maple is disappointing this year compared to last when it went very red, the leaves haven’t changed much at all and are starting to drop. Less sun I guess. My nerines have also not done so well, I only got five flower stalks this year, which I think is my fault for forgetting about them amidst the jungle and not making sure they weren’t being shaded. I am cheating by using a photo from last year.
My Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ is flowering for the first time, bringing some cheeriness to a dark corner. It’s still quite a small plant and I’m looking forward to it getting bigger and filling out the space.
In September I dug up my maincrop potatoes, the Pink Fir Apple. They are very knobbly and funny looking and washing them was quite tedious but they had a good flavour. I’m not sure I would grow them again though.
At last we have a waterlily flower (Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helvola’)!
I was also very excited to discover some dragonfly nymphs living in the pond – I accidentally scooped one up when I was clearing some pond weed. Then a few days later I started to notice several exoskeletons that had been left on plants, presumably shed as the dragonflies emerged.
I’m currently cultivating quite a jungle, my paulownia are huge and the size of the leaves is impressive. They do lose a lot of water though and have been wilting in the hot, dry weather we’ve been having despite constant watering. They definitely need to go into bigger pots this autumn. Yesterday it got a bit windy and one fell over, luckily it wasn’t damaged and I’ve tried to weigh down the pot.
We’ve harvested the second batch of Charlotte potatoes, we got about 2.5lbs, so not a huge amount more after waiting another couple of weeks. The climbing French beans have been coming a bit faster now, we’re getting enough for dinner once or twice a week. If only I had more space and less shade, then I could provide a lot more food!
We’ve been picking strawberries for quite a few weeks and are now starting to get some blueberries and a few climbing French beans. Today we couldn’t wait any longer and decided to dig up some potatoes. We’re growing two bags of Charlotte (2nd earlies) and two bags of Pink Fir Apple (maincrop). It was very exciting rifling through the compost to find the spuds! We got almost 2lbs from one bag of Charlotte (2 seeds), some were still very tiny so we’re going to leave the second bag to grow for a bit longer. Something to remember for next year was that there weren’t any potatoes or roots growing deeper than the seed potatoes so we should perhaps use a thinner layer of compost below the seeds and therefore leaving more room for compost further up the stalks. The upper part of the plants are in quite a state: they got a lot taller than I expected (not enough sun maybe) and then fell over. The was one particular stormy night at the beginning of June where some of the Pink Fir Apple got snapped right off! I’m not really sure what to support them with, and there’s also the problem that the sunniest spot for them is also quite exposed to wind, as far as sunlight goes beggars can’t be choosers in my garden!
I’ve been watching the weather forecasts like a hawk for any night-time dips in temperature and have decided that today looks safe for planting out my first batch of climbing French beans. They have been hardening off in the porch for a little over a week and have survived that without problem. The second batch of beans seem to be germinating a little slower, only two have appeared so, which is perhaps due to less sunshine than we had in early April. I have sown a few kale seeds in the tubs with the beans hoping they will be suitable companions, perhaps the beans will supply the kale with nitrogen and the kale leaves will shade the compost and reduce evaporation.
My potatoes are growing, not amazing amounts but enough that I’ve started earthing them up regularly. Surprisingly the maincrop variety seem to be ahead of the earlies! Perhaps because they were better chitted. My strawberries are flowering and I’ve mulched them with straw. Chives are also displaying lots of pretty, little, purple pom-pom flowers.
Last summer my son and I dug out a very small pond. The water forget-me-nots (Myosotis scorpioides) are now flowering, and also the watercress that I grew from some supermarket, bagged, cut watercress. My lily of the valley have been flowering for a couple of weeks, they are from the same rhizomes as the flowers that I had in my bridal bouquet 19 years ago! They are finally establishing quite nicely in the shady bed at the back of the garden.
My climbing rose (Rosa ‘Maigold’) has started flowering and smells gorgeous, it has tons of buds so I’m hoping for a record year. And look how magnificent my paulownia looks!
While out in the garden with my camera I noticed my cat looking intently at something – a red admiral butterfly feeding on the ceanothus. The ceanothus is still looking stunning, flowering away, earlier I spotted a blue butterfly on it almost camouflaged in the blueness! The swifts are back and its so good to hear them screeching around again, and mesmerising to watch their aerial acrobatics.
And here is my wisteria which has been looking glorious for the past couple of weeks but I have been unable to get any photographs that do it justice.
I will be trying to grow potatoes for the first time this year, in bags. I’ve got Charlotte (on the left) which is classed as a 2nd early, and Pink Fir Apple (right) which is a maincrop potato. I was quite late ordering my seed potatoes so they’ve only had just over a week chitting (where you leave them out in a light, warm place to start sprouting). Some of the Pink Fir Apple already had some shoots when they arrived and some small shoots have appeared on the Charlottes. Many people say you don’t even need to bother with chitting so I sowed them today anyway.