Gardening Archives

Trugg and Barrows Garden Diary Spring 2013

The ground is white,
The winds are wild, They chill and bite;
The ground is thick with slush and sleet,
And I barely feel my feet.”

It is now the end of March and the garden is still stuck in the grip of winter. Mild weather at the turn of the year looked like it was going to encourage early flowering of daffodils, magnolias and other spring flowering shrubs. Flower buds were swelling and, if conditions had stayed mild for a week or so longer, buds would have burst and flowering would have happenend very early indeed. But nature, as it often does, intervened; high pressure that sits over the continent in winter spread westward and has been sitting over us ever since.

Over the last couple of months we have spent much of our time painting benches, graveling paths and clearing overgrown areas of the garden. Due to the wet, cold, snowy weather opportunity to get on to the garden has been rare, but when conditions have allowed we have been able to prune and muck the roses and the hydrangeas (more below).

One major job carried out on the estate over the winter was work undertaken on the site of Hodnet Castle, which is a Scheduled Monument. This work mainly entailed the clearing of undergrowth and trees from around the site. The work was carried out by local arborist company Nagingtons and by the estate woodsmen, Rick and Dave.

The castle that once stood on this site is thought to have been built by Roger de Montgomery, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, under William The Conqueror in the late 11th century. Originally of wooden construction, it was in time reinforced with red sandstone and a circular tower was added. The castle was garrisoned under William III. Fire is thought to have been the probable cause of the demise of the castle. All that is left today are the humps and bumps of the moats. Visitors to the garden are now invited to walk across the field to view the inner moat, which is still pretty impressive when seen close-up.

Winter Woes and Unfinished Business.
Despondent. If I had to pick one word to sum up my feelings about the garden at the time of writing it would be this. As I sit down to write at the end of March, the worst of winter is taking its toll. Heavy snow and freezing winds are wreaking havoc. There are none of the crisp frosty days and clear skies, the type of day when one takes the time to turn up the blooms of hellebores to admire the interior or sniff the spicy scent of Chionanthus praecox.
Perhaps there are two reasons for my mood. The first has to do with the state of the garden before all the weather related chaos. Despite best efforts it was still looking out of sorts; more reminiscent of November, before the weeks of serious tidying up than the result of such laborious effort. There were more leaves blowing around stuck in the grass than I would have liked.
We have changed tack in recent years. Whereas previously every leaf was blow out of borders and off of the grass and gathered up, the new policy has been to leave them on the borders. This is certainly the right thing to do. It avoids the compaction created by treading on the soil and saves time and energy by leaving the leaves to break down where they lie. What is the point of removing leaves to make leaf mould and then barrowing it back on to borders (doubling the compaction) when it will make good leaf mould if left to its own devices. It also prevents the degradation of the soil which occurs when organic material is removed, exposing it to erosion by wind and water and further reducing the topsoil. It provides an in-situ mulch that over time will retain moisture and smother weeds. Finally it stops the accidental damage done by clumsy gardeners!
All this of course depends on the leaves pretty much remaining where you put them and having the time to push them back to where they came from if not. Time is exactly the problem. This winter it seems to have slipped past so quickly that it has left little time for the touches of refinement that we might have employed. It seems to have been more than enough just to get the basics done! Now we have broken branches to contend with and debris everywhere. Added to which as the snow melts, the already wet soil will not hold up to the necessary traffic.
Doesn’t despondency affect all gardeners at some point? Aren’t we all perfectionists trying to wrest control of a space from nature? I wouldn’t mind, but spring seemed to be on its way. One of the main signs I look for eagerly every year is the flowering of Oemleria cerasiformis. This is a suckering shrub from America which can reach over 2m. In March clusters of pendulous flowers appear, small and pale greenish as the leaves emerge which give off an incredibly powerful marzipan scent.
The second reason for my low mood is the damage done by the snow and wind. This is especially true of the evergreens, including the camellias which have become unshapely in recent years. Ideally they should be cut off about a foot from the ground before this happens. This is usually done after flowering, they are then fed, mulched and left to reshoot which they usually do (although they can take a year before anything appears!). This year we have suffered from broken branches leaving quite serious scars. We had already tackled some of the camellias last month but those that remained have become casualties.
Yet as the snow begins to melt my spirits begin to lift. There have been unexpected positives such as the resilience of the hellebores. We remove the leaves when cutting back in the autumn as this prevents the transmission of disease and exposes the flowers to better viewing. All seemed lost as the flowers were bent under frozen snow. However, as the sun came out, up they stood again, proudly presenting their intriguingly mottled flowers. Another surprise was the emergence of crocus flowers as the snow melted. Bright purple against the dazzling white, splendid!
Suddenly it occurred to me, the solution to our problem with the leaves. Planting hellebores and other evergreens to edge the borders will hold back leaves whilst quietly fading into the background in summer. Perhaps this winter was not so bad after all!
In the Kitchen Garden
On the whole the kitchen garden is tidy and more or less ready for the growing season. The remnants of last year’s crops have been removed, weeds have been cleared and any mucking has been done. In my view muck is best left on the surface and not dug into the soil, worms will do that job. Make sure the manure or compost is well rotted and not spread too thickly on the surface. This approach, if carried out each year, will gradually improve the soil structure. Too much digging destroys soil structure and causes organic matter to oxidise more quickly than it needs to.
Normally I would have hoped that early sowings of luttuce, spinach, spring onion, radish and carrots would have been carried out by now. But the ground has been so wet, to the point of saturation, that it has been impossible to get out on to the garden. I fear that the soil has been so wet and cold, that seed would have rotted in the ground. Broad beans and peas have been sown, but there is no sign of these yet. These are under a layer of fleece, which helps retain any heat in the soil, but just as importantly keeps the birds, mice and voles from having the seed before they get a chance to germinate. Some sowings of lettuce etc have been made on the propagation bench to be planted out as soon as the weather allows. In order to catch up on the slightly delayed growing season, April will probably prove to be a very busy month for sowing and planting out in the veg garden. If you don’t want to be left behind, you’d better get under starter’s orders. As soon as the soil conditions allow get out there, otherwise the time will never be made up.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrow’s Garden Diary February 2013

“The more it snows tiddely-pom

the more it goes tiddely-pom

the more it goes tiddely-pom on snowing

and nobody knows tiddely-pom

how cold my toes tiddely-pom

how cold my toes are growing.” (A.A. Milne)

For a gardener, January is often the bleakest month of the year, and this was certainly true this year. Although the month started off mild, the weather soon turned cold, then snowy. Many people consider it a month when the garden should be avoided, and this year there was little choice. In the garden here we have spent much of the month painting garden benches indoors. A necessary but not very exciting job.
Even though the garden over much of the last month has been an uninviting place, there is a fascinating and complex process of renewal going on out there. Micro-organisms, worms and all kinds of other minibeasts are converting fallen leaves, manure and compost into nutrients that the coming year’s crops and other plants will use to make leaves, stems, flowers, seeds, roots, bark and wood etc. As the earthworms munch, they tunnel along, aerating the soil, an essential process for healthy plants. So although you may not be in the garden yourself, there is plenty of activity going on out there.
Lost time in the garden in January means that there are still fallen leaves and the cutting back of herbaceous plants to do. Much of February will be taken up catching up on these kind of routine maintenance jobs.

A few things to do in winter.

Winter never seems to really be winter these days (despite recent climatic evidence) but a mish-mash of autumn and spring. Late January and February can offer some of the most subtle and delightful garden pleasures.
There are some local gardens where some of winter’s treasures are on view. Via the Shropshire pages of the Plant Heritage website can be found the national collection of Chimonanthus or “Winter Sweet” belonging to Fr David Maxfield. This is the only national collection of Chimonanthus and is set in 1\3 of an acre. Opening is by appointment and the charge is a donation to Plant Heritage.
Also in Shropshire there is a national collection of Sarcococca or ‘Christmas Box’ near Whitchurch in the grounds of Gredington, the property of the Rt Hon The Lord Kenyon. The collection contains 14 taxa and is arranged, for comparison, in a walled garden. Again, opening is by appointment and admission costs £4.
On February 24th this year the garden of Mrs Margaret Owen MBE will be open at ‘The Patch’, Acton Pigott, Nr. Acton Burnell Shrewsbury SY5 7PH. The garden will feature Snowdrops, Hellebores and much more and is open in aid of the Shrewsbury & District Multiple Sclerosis Society from 11am – 3pm at £3 per person.
I hope you can take the opportunity to treat yourself this winter!
In the kitchen garden.
Over the next month in the kitchen garden I will really have to get stuck into preparing the ground ready for this year’s growing season. Experience has shown me that unless you are on top of the weeding, digging and mulching before the growing season gets going then you will be chasing the jobs for the whole season to come. As a result, the time spent on the growing side of things will suffer and you won’t get as much out of the ground as you could have done.
Sowing has already begun in a modest way with cabbages and cauliflowers, as well as sweet peas all germinating on the propagation bench. During February I will be sowing lettuce, carrots, broad beans, beetroot and peas directly into the ground. I will also be planting out onion sets. Of course all this depends on the weather.
Now is the time to get your seed potatoes. First and second earlies benefit from chitting as it encourages quick maturity which means that crops can be lifted sooner: Place the tubers in a cool, frost free, bright, well ventilated and dry place. After 2-3 weeks shoots should have developed. Now is the time to plant.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrow’s Garden Diary January 2013

Rain rain rain rain, rain rain, rain rain rain rain rain, rain rain rain, rain rain. The British are known for their pre-occupation with the weather, for gardeners, farmers and others working on the land it is more like an obsession. This time a year ago this part of Shropshire had experienced 9 months of record low rain fall. It then started to rain in April and it has barely stoppped since, making it difficult and uncomfortable at times to do anything out of doors. The answer to these contrasts in the weather probably lies in global warming.
Put simply: As a consequence of the increasing temperatures in the north polar region there is less of a contrast between sub-tropical high pressure and polar low pressure. This causes the polar front jet stream to track further to the south. The result of this is that the jet stream is more likely to be sitting over the U.K. (or even further south).
The polar jet stream is a powerful conveyor belt of winds in the upper atmosphere that circles the north pole. The jet stream marks the boundary between cold polar air from the north and warm sub-tropical air from the south. Weather systems generated on the other side of the Atlantic track eastwards towards northern Europe following the course of the jet stream. If the jet stream is sitting over the U.K. then we get more wet weather, if it is sitting further to the south then we will get drier weather (as in 2011).
Over the last month in the garden we have been covering plants vulnerable to cold weather with thermal fleece. Leaf collecting has been more or less completed, although the water gardens have still got to be tackled. This is always a mauling job due to the difficulty of access. We have also continued cutting back plants in the herbaceous borders. We have spent time decorating Christmas trees for the ‘Big House’ and the church, as well as digging out drains. Drying out clothes has also kept us busy.

Bewitching Witch Hazels.

There is no flower, with the exception of perhaps the snowdrop, that brightens a winter day more than that of the witch hazel or Hamamelis. We are all easily beguiled by their bright display, which is actually made up of floral bracts, the flowers being a rather insignificant cluster. Moreover, descendents of H. mollis, the Chinese species, also offer a spicy aroma that can fill the garden on calm days.
I have fallen so in love with these most accommodating shrubs that I have set myself the task of duplicating an entire collection of over 60 plants. Beyond the sheer enjoyment of these plants there are two reasons for doing this. Firstly, the collection in question has National Collection status so the plants are certain to be of good quality and be representative of the genus. Secondly, although it might be easier to go out and buy a collection of plants, propagating Witch Hazels represents a particular challenge and I am keen to teach myself a new skill.
When I asked more experienced hands about using cuttings, a method that I have more experience of, they all said don’t bother! The more I looked into it the more I found that this was an unreliable method for all but the species. H. mollis, H. japonica and H. virginiana, which will all root from softwood cuttings or layers taken in summer (late June) but they do seem to need some coddling. Cultivars, especially those of H x intermedia, are notoriously unreliable. The best method seems to be grafting and that is the one used in the nursery trade where thousands are produced each year.
Grafting is an ancient method of propagation, known to have been practised by the Romans and in the monastic gardens of the medieval period. It is a form of vegetative propagation which, as with cuttings or layers, avoids the hazard of variable progeny where this is not desired. Unlike a cutting which gardeners attempt to get to form roots on its own; the scion, the cultivar you want to propagate, is attached to a rootstock which already has roots. This rootstock must be a relative. You could not graft a rhododendron onto a palm tree for example. With plants that have been heavily hybridised this can be a problem. With Magnolias, M. kobus, M. campbellii, M. soulangeana and M. denudate are commonly used as rootstocks because they feature so heavily in breeding.
There are other reasons for choosing rootstocks. Rhododendrons all used to be grafted onto R. ponticum because it was amenable to most scions and its vigorous spreading root system gave good establishment. Most roses in this country are budded onto R. laxa as a rootstock which helps control vigour and imparts greater disease resistance in some. However some rootstocks also have disadvantages. R. ponticum is notorious for throwing out suckers (portions of itself) which if not kept in check out-compete the scion which eventually succumbs.
Luckily, Hamamelis are not too fussy about what rootstocks they prefer and can even be grafted onto cultivars or hybrids. The usual rootstock used in the trade is H. virginiana. This species hails from North America and is the plant most used medicinally. It can be attractive in its own right and usually flowers in the late summer with its leaves on. These rootstocks come in bundles of 100 and I purchased them at a cost of £1.40 each from a wholesaler.
That was the easy bit, now for the method. I am a complete novice when it comes to grafting. I attended a one day workshop a year ago and managed to successfully graft my own apple tree but that is the sum total of my experience. Yet it is a fascinating and rewarding technique if practised. Fortunately, I have enlisted the help of a more experienced friend to help or at least show me the ropes.
There are as many methods of grafting as you can shake a stick at and lots of different tools to use. The standard bit of kit for most jobs is a sharp straight bladed knife and some grafting wax or sealing tape. The knife is used to make as clean and precise a cut as possible because any damage to the rootstock or scion will impair the union. The wax or tape is used to seal the wound and prevent infection.
You need to have some dexterity with the knife which is what I am most worried about. The next thing is to select the method. There are two widely practised methods. The first is the “whip and tongue” method where opposite wedge shapes are cut in the scion and rootstock and slotted into each other using a small “tongue” which just helps hold them together more firmly. The union should be close as most of a plants tissue is dead but on the outside of the stem just under the bark is an area of living tissue called the cambium layer. It is vital that these layers meet and fuse together for a successful union to take place. If they do not then the scion will not be able to take up water and nutrients and will just die.
The method that I will use however is chip-budding. The name is pretty self-explanatory. A bud (the chip) with an attached layer of cambium is cut away from the scion and a matching bud chip is cut from the rootstock. The two are then married up and bound with budding tape which seals the union and prevents damp causing fungus to spread.
The ideal time for this kind of operation is February so I will update you on my success or lack of it. Whatever the result it promises to be a rewarding experience!
In the Kitchen Garden
Whilst the weather is so wet it is better to stay off the soil as much as possible. Besides it being a miserable and messy job working on claggy soil, you are destroying the soil’s structure. Jobs have still got to be done, so when the opportunity arises get out and do them. This is mainly muck spreading and digging at this time of year.
I will be sowing sweet peas this month into pots, with bottom heat of 15 °C. This will give early sweet peas. You could also get going with other sowing of things such as parsley, broad beans and early cabbage.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrow’s garden diary December 2012

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
When Langston Hughes wrote this he clearly didn’t have to go out and work in it or have flood water lapping around his front door or swamping his fields when he needed to be working them. The game keeper and the woodsmen have found it especially difficult to get around the estate this last month, with mud up to their eyeballs.. Yes, it has been another very wet month in the garden but the plaintive tones of Tura Lura Lurral have got us through it.
The garden played host to a craft fair at the end of November and, despite the desperate shortage of parking due to a waterlogged car park, the sun shone and the day went off very well. Thanks to all who came.
The wet weather and extra work due to the craft fair has meant that we are a little bit behind where we would normally be with the season’s jobs. But drier weather and a following wind should help us to catch up before Christmas.
Something to settle down to.
This month has mostly been about getting up the leaves and cutting back the decaying growth of perennials. Although it is good to leave some foliage until Spring as a refuge for insects, birds and mammals, there is something satisfying about being able to impose ‘tidiness’ on a space. It must be something to do with the satisfaction one gets from a ‘job done.’
Yet the Autumn tidy up leaves little to offer the reader or the writer, so with Christmas approaching it seems appropriate to think of a gardener’s wish list and throw in a few recommendations of my own.
High on my list are always books, some old and some new. First amongst them are works by Edward Augustus Bowles; that great plantsman who gardened at Myddleton House. I cannot believe that I have omitted his works from my library but there you are, you can’t have everything! His three volume work following the progress of his garden through the year is widely regarded as a masterpiece. He was also an authority on Crocus and his work ‘Crocus and Colchicum’ will sit nicely on my shelf next to the other three. Janis Ruksans the Latvian bulb expert, has recently written the monograph on Crocus which I think would be worth purchasing in order to update elements of Bowles’ work.
My next must have is another book entitled ‘New Trees’. The eighth and final edition of Bean’s ‘Trees and Shrubs hardy in the British Isles’ has been revised and updated. ‘New Trees’ is in many ways an extension of this monument of gardening literature and, weighing in at three kilos, it is not to be taken lightly although I have found it readable where I have been able to borrow a copy. However, as well as weighty it is also pricy at £90 in some retailers so I will have to hope that Father Christmas is generous and has been receptive to my hints about book tokens!
Finally on my wish list is a more modern work entitled ‘Seeds of Adventure’ by Peter Cox the eminent plant hunter and rhododendron expert. Part travelogue, it is a record of his time botanising in the eastern Himalaya and China. I always choose to read a book of this type along with a more genus specific work. Short of actually going to some of these exotic places, growing the plants that have been brought back by intrepid explorers are the best way of being ‘transported’ from the mundane!
Why not write to us with your own gardening wish list!
In the Kitchen Garden
Due partly to the hectic work schedule and long-term staff sickness some annual jobs in the kitchen garden have gone undone for a couple of years. One of those jobs is the soft fruit bush pruning that should ideally be done at the beginning of winter. As they have not been pruned for a while they have become a bit overgrown and disheveled. I have made a start on trying to renovate them and I will be trying to finish the job in December.
The normal procudure for established bushes is to remove one-quarter to one third of the oldest wood each year. Cut out low-lying and badly placed branches, try to produce an open bush that allows light into the centre. Keep strong, young, upright shoots. Old wood is almost black whilst young wood is light golden brown. Cut as low as practical as this will encourage new vigorous shoots from the base of the bush. Any weak, dead or diseased shoots should be removed to their base.
Old neglected bushes, provided that they are not diseased, can be pruned hard to around 2.5 cm from the ground during Winter. New shoots produced in Spring should be thinned in the following Autumn if they are over crowded.
What I have done is somewhere in between these two options. This is so that I at least get some fruit next year. Each of the bushes has at least produced some new shoots this last year. I have removed half or more of the oldest wood, much of which was layering into the surrounding soil. Dead and diseased wood is also being removed. This action should enable the plants to produce some fruit next year and stimulate new shoots from the base.
Other jobs being done in the kitchen garden are tidying fallen leaves and a bit of winter digging.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrows Garden Diary November 2012

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree”

It has been a wonderful year for autumn colour. One of the first trees as always that showed it’s intent in the garden was the Cladrastis lutea (Yellow wood). This seemed to spur many of the plants in the garden to produce a fantastic display of reds, oranges, browns and yellows in every hue and shade imaginable. Standing beneath a mature Copper Beech, at the peak of its Autumn display, provided a moment of pure pleasure. The tree seemed to produce illumination from within its leaves, casting a soft ‘heavenly’ light around its base. Over the next two months we will spend much of our time picking these and millions of other leaves up, ah well, first the pleasure then the pain. As well as leaf collecting over the next month we will be cutting back herbaceous plants and mulching the borders. Any late planting before the ground gets frosted will also be undertaken.
You may have heard in the news recently about a fungus that is causing leaf loss and crown die back on ash trees in East Anglia. Chalara fraxinea is now the greatest threat facing trees in the UK since Dutch elm killed millions of trees in the countryside during the 1970s. The disease may have been lying dormant in our ash trees for many years, and it may already be widespread.
The first signs of the fungus arriving in Britain were in February when it was found in saplings at a nursery in Buckinghamshire, which had imported trees from Holland. It has subsequently been identified in several sites around the U.K.
Recently the fungus was found in 20-year-old trees in East Anglia. The fungal spores could have found their way from mainland Europe on cloths or boots or they could have blown over from infected trees on mainland Europe. This fungus adds to the problems already facing trees in this country such as the oak processionary moth, sudden oak death, horse-chestnut leaf miner and a fungus that has been devastating larches called Phytophthoria.
Until this year, ash trees in this country had apparently remained free of the fungus while it has been running rampant in parts of Europe. The disease first emerged in 1992 in Poland and other eastern European countries, possibly originating in Asia, where the indigenous ash trees have developed a natural immunity. Once some of these infected but resistant trees were imported in to Europe the fungus was then able to transfer to the non-resistant European stock.
It gradually spread across the continent, reaching Denmark in around 2003, where it has killed 90 per cent of the country’s ash trees, and Holland in 2010. The fungus responsible for the disease was identified in 2006.
Ash trees are the fourth most abundant tree species in the U.K. with an estimated 80 million specimens. It can be seen all over the landscape. In many hedgerows ash has replaced the elm after it was devistated in the 1970’s. There is currently a big effort to find infected trees in Britain in an attempt to identify sites where the disease has taken hold. As there is no known cure, infected trees have to be destroyed in order to try to contain the fungus. So far around 100,000 trees have been destroyed at 20 or so sites in the U.K.
In this modern age, the virtues of ash have been largely forgotten, but no tree has tougher, more elastic and flexible wood than the ash. In times past ash timber was the first choice for spears, arrows and pike-shafts. Larger timber was used for wagons or furniture; smaller poles were ideal for hop-poles, wagon wheels, ladders, oars and shafts for tools. Well seasoned ash has the ability to be steamed and bent into all kinds of shapes and still keep its strength; the chassis for the Morgan car is made from ash. As a fuel wood, ash is very useful as it will burn green.
Currently Chalara fraxinea is a quarantine pest under national emergency measures and as such suspected cases must be reported. You can do this by calling the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate on 01904 465625. Click on the link to find a pictorial guide on how to identify the disease.

A Garden to Visit.

As winter winds blow in, it is nice to think of sitting in the warm whilst the garden makes few demands and tasks can be left for sunnier weather. Yet gardeners, being the outdoors type, will often find themselves getting bored kicking around the house especially on clear crisp days. For this reason I always look for gardens to visit in winter. High on my list is Colesbourne Park in Gloucestershire.
I had heard and read about this famous snowdrop garden and added it to my list of places to go if I was ever in the area. I recently went to a talk about this garden hosted by the Shropshire branch of ‘Plant Heritage’ which has now made it a must see for me.
Sitting in the Churn valley in the Cotswolds, Colesbourne has been home to the Elwes (think Galanthus elwesii) family for over 200 years though the original Victorian pile has been extensively modified and made into a comfortable family home.
The garden is open every weekend in February and such is its popularity that visitor numbers in this month alone pay for the garden for the rest of the year!
The collection of snowdrops now boasts over 250 varieties and for those of us, (myself included), who do not fancy kneeling in the mud to examine minute differences, they are planted in broad drifts which gives a wonderful effect.
The garden is just over ten acres surrounded by a shelter belt of mature beech woodland planted as a shelter belt. Glades are opened along pathways containing shrubs grown for winter interest. Yet it is bulbs for which Colesbourne is rightly famous. Henry John Elwes, discoverer of G. elwesii, was a keen plant hunter in the nineteenth century and brought many treasures back from his travels, mostly bulbous plants.
Winter aconites abound at Colesbourne spreading their cheery yellow flowers over a long period. They include some rare cultivars including ‘Lightening’ and the cheekily named seedling of this variety ‘Strikes Twice’.
Self-sowing is encouraged at Colesbourne such as the bank of G. plicatus ssp. byzantinus in the Icehouse Hollow and the Fritillaria meleagris ‘Alba’. Petasites japonica is also grown here but a word of warning to those tempted by the flower heads sitting flush to the ground – once you get this plant it is there forever and spreads wherever it wants!
Colesbourne is high on my list of must see places, perhaps you would like to write in and tell me yours? (See the email below).
In the Kitchen Garden.
Over the next month in the kitchen garden we will be:- pruning this years fruited stems out of the raspberries, winter pruning apple trees, more leaf collecting and generally tidying the vegetable plot. There are still some crops to harvest including leeks, sprouts and carrots. Due to the work schedule and mice I don’t plant any crops at this time of year, but you could have a go at sowing some early cabbage for planting out in spring.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrows Garden Diary October 2012

Most of September’s weather was quite benign. There were some lovely sunny days as well as many breezy and cloudy ones, along with the occasional grass frost and daily heavy dews keeping conditions underfoot a bit damp. Typical autumn weather. The last few days of the month were anything but typical; heavy persistant rain caused flooding around the garden, with paths partially washed away, and the ground so wet that any thought of working on it was out of the question. So a few days painting benches and barrels was the order of the day.
Bountiful Fruits of Autumn.
To me nothing is more redolent of the bountiful fruits of autumn than a Rowan (Sorbus) bedecked with berries.
Rowans are attractive, slender trees with silvery-brown bark and frothy white flowers in spring-summer which are especially attractive to bees. In autumn they bear berries in tones ranging from pinkish white to orange and scarlet which provide welcome sustenance to birds, especially blackbirds and thrushes. The foliage is also light and airy making them perfect for under planting.
In the garden they prefer light, sandy, slightly acidic soils and will often thrive in exposed places. Often in the most exposed places they will be no more than shrubs clinging precariously to rock faces. When transplanted to the garden however, many make handsome trees of 15-20m tall. All are extremely hardy and cold tolerant and indeed do best in cold, temperate climates. What follows are a few of my favourites.
Sorbus commixta
The Japanese Rowan is most notable for its superb autumn colour, the leaves glow bright orange, red and finally purple. The orange-red berries seem a sideshow compared to the foliage although they do persist longer than the foliage, until the birds take them anyway. In cultivation it can reach over 20 feet but is more tolerant of heavy soils if good preparation is made when planting. The cultivar ‘Jermyns’ is especially choice with outstanding autumn colour and orange berries. ‘Embley’ makes another excellent autumn feature and in a good year the display of red, gold and purple foliage can last up to a fortnight.
Sorbus cashmiriana
The flowers of this species appear in summer and are tinged pink followed in autumn by heavy bunches of pure white berries which are often ignored by birds. Although it comes from a warmer area of the world it is perfectly hardy.
Sorbus vilmorinii
This is an ideal tree for the smaller garden. The foliage is made up of small leaflets giving a ferny effect. The berries are especially striking as they develop from rose pink to bright mauve fading to near white in the winter.
Sorbus sargentiana
This is one of my favourite trees despite being slow growing. Although the flowers are quite tiny they are born in profusion and develop into large clusters of shiny scarlet fruit and crimson sticky winter buds as well as orange autumn colour.
Sorbus hupehensis
This is one of the most distinctive trees in leaf as it has blue-green undersides to the foliage. The berries are pale pink and often left alone by the birds which means they will persist in winter. This has been the parent of some outstanding cultivars including ‘Pink Pagoda’ which has a well deserved AGM.
Sorbus aria
Native to northern Europe, including Britiain, this is one Sorbus that will thrive on chalk. The emerging foliage is covered in a silvery down which is soon shed on the upper surfaces whilst they remain brilliantly white below. The white flowers are followed by red berries.
The year of the mollusc.
In thirty years of gardening, I can’t remember a worse summer for damage to garden plants caused by slugs and snails. This includes to the foliage high up on established shrubs and to the tops of taller herbacacious plants. A number of the garden’s Hostas, many of which usually show little sign of damage have been chewed to the ground.
Slugs and snails can feed on live or dead plant material. They have tiny teeth (within there radula or mouthparts) that rasp away at foliage, stripping it to the midrib. They feed throughout the year, stopping only in dry conditions, when they look for moist conditions lower down in the soil or a damp place under rocks and the like. Snails hibernate in winter and dozens can often be found clustered together in a sheltered nook.
There are many species of slugs and snails that you may come across in the garden. The most common slug is the Field Slug. But also common is the Garden Slug, which is black with a yellow sole, producing yellow tinged mucus. The largest of the main pest species is the Black Slug, growing to more than 10 cm. It is black or dark brown with textured skin and an orange fringe and grey sole. One of the biggest nuisances, I find, is the keeled slug, which feeds underground, ruining root crops such as potatoes, carrots and turnips. The Common garden snail is widespread. They have a grey-brown patterned shell that grows up to 3 cm in diameter.
Both slugs and snails are hermaphrodite, which means that an individual can produce both eggs and sperm. Slugs lay up to 50 eggs in or on organic matter, hatching in a few weeks. Snails lay upto 100 eggs at a time in the soil throughout the summer, with the adults living for many years.
Over the years I have heard many weird and wonderful ways of controlling these pests, most of which are ‘pie in the sky’, although some are amusing. One lady told me how she would place a ‘fence’ of holly leaves around a plant that she wanted to protect, inventive, but not very practical. Beer traps have been shown to work with some species of slug, and it may be worth having a go, if you have the stomach for it. Nematodes that are available from several biological control companies work, but are expensive.
Cultural control includes keeping hiding places such as weeds and old plant debris to a minimum. Keep algae and moss on paths etc down to minimum. Sand and small sharp gravel used as a mulch may prevent slugs amd snails moving across a surface. It is worth encouraging natural predators, such as hedgehogs, birds and ground beetles.
Chemical controls are available and include products with ferric phoshate, metaldehyde or methiocarb as their active ingedient. Care should be taken to ensure that other wildlife and the environment are not damaged when using products containing these chemicals.
In the kitchen garden this month, we will continue to harvest apples, pears and raspberries (the latter as long as the weather stays dry). Carrots, turnips, potatoes, chard, cabbage, early sprouts, late courgettes are all in plentiful supply and will provide for the ‘Big House’. I will continue to do the autumn tidy up, as well as try to do some of the summer jobs that have not yet been done , such as cutting back the old raspberry canes.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrow’s Garden Diary September 2012

The end to another summer is fast approaching, but there is still plenty to enjoy and lots more gardening to do.
There are few plants to which the above adjectives can truly be applied but Hydrangeas are certainly one of them and NOW is the time when they are at their best. In addition, few other woody shrubs come from as versatile a family or display such variety.
Hydrangeas shout their presence in the summer garden when there are few flowering shrubs apart from Hypericums. There are a number of highly ornamental species and cultivars.
What makes hydrangeas so special is the longevity of the display. Roses will repeat flower all summer, presenting new flowers as old ones fade. Hydrangeas present the same flower from bud burst to first frosts. This is only possible because of the curious arrangement of hydrangea flowers. Each head is made up of small fertile flowers usually toward the centre, these are the flowers concerned with producing seed. The sterile flowers attract insects with showy bracts which, because they are infertile, cannot be pollinated so remain until the fertile flowers have been pollinated when they turn downward and change colour. Most species have lacecap type flowers except H. quercifolia and H. paniculata. Most variation between cultivars has to do with the ratio of fertile to infertile flowers.
H. arborescens was, incidentally, the first hydrangea to be introduced into cultivation and in the wild can grow to tree like proportions of 10ft or more, although it usually achieves only 3-5ft in the garden. ‘Annabelle’ is perhaps the best cultivar with huge heads of sterile flowers.
Also from America, H. quercifolia has large drooping panicles of flowers although these are only borne in warm summers. What is impressive is the foliage which looks like a much magnified oak leaf but displays wonderful crimson and purplish autumn colour. Unlike most hydrangeas which will still perform well in shade, this one demands a warm spot and acidic soil.
H. paniculata by contrast will tolerate the most extreme cold and is not fussy about pH so long as the drainage is good. Left unpruned, the bush can reach 20ft though pruned annually it makes an impressive plant of 5-7ft. This is also one of the most trouble free of a trouble free genus and as a bonus is also scented!
There are a host of available cultivars, all differing in the ratio of sterile to fertile flowers and some have a slight pinkish hue. The best in my opinion are all pure white such as H. paniculata ‘Kyushu’ or H. ‘Unique which has so many infertile flowers that they completely obscure the fertile ones. Late in the season the bracts droop and turn a lovely rust red.
My favourite species of hydrangea is H. aspera var villosa and H. aspera var sargentiana. The latter is a tall upright shrub displaying large pink hued lacecap flowerheads atop large hairy leaves. If that were not enough, the bark is a pleasing confection of brown papery peel revealing grey underneath which makes an excellent winter feature. To grow this hydrangea successfully, the soil needs to retain moisture so that the large leaves do not turn brown prematurely. With sufficient moisture this normally shade loving plant will tolerate full sun. Shelter is also advisable to help keep those big leaves in tip top condition but if you can grow this plant successfully it will make you the envy of your neighbours.
H. aspera var villosa bears purplish/mauve lacecap flowers and prefers full sun. It has slender hairy leaves and is very easy to grow. In the 2010/2011 winter, a fine specimen was cut to the ground by the severe cold and has since completely regenerated. Whereas H. sargentiana is a tall slender shrub, by comparison H. villosa is spreading, reaching 7-10ft tall by as much wide. The hairy leaves protect it from extremes of drought and cold and it is a deservedly popular plant.
By far the most common hydrangeas are descended from H. macrophylla which adorn front and back gardens everywhere and deservedly so. These are also the hydrangeas which change colour according to pH so need no introduction from me!
The climbing hydrangeas are as impressive as the shrubby ones and extend far beyond the realms of the commonly planted H. anomala subsp petiolaris, though many people seem unfamiliar with using it as a ground cover by preventing it from climbing.
Schizophragma hydrangeoides and S. ‘Roseum’ are amongst the best, both self clinging and bearing showy bracts. Content in both sun or shade they flower best in sun and on warm walls.
Pileostegia viburnoides is an evergreen relative and is worth the patience it needs to get going, after which it will reward with creamy white flowers in late summer. It does best in rich, well drained soil in sun, though it will tolerate some shade.
Easy, fuss free and affordable. Add to that adaptable, elegant and varied…what more could one want!
In the Kitchen Garden
The end of another growing season has swung around again. There is already a bit of chill in the air on some mornings, with the grass covered in heavy dew, and the occasional morning fog. As well as these early indications of a change in season, the first few signs of autumn colour are also appearing in yellows, reds, purples and oranges.
Production in the kitchen garden is winding down now and although some growing could continue, here we have a full programe of autumn and winter work in the main garden, so the race is on to get as much of the kitchen garden put to bed now. During August, as well as fruit and vegetable picking, cutting of the box hedging in the kitchen garden has occupied most of the working time. Time is getting on for this job and it needs finishing quickly in order to lower the risk from the disfiguring and potentially fatal box blight. This fungal disease attacks during the cool damp weather prevalent in Autumn (the cool damp weather we have had in summer this year has already caused an outbreak) . Large patches of the 750 m or so we have in the kitchen garden has suffered in the last 5 years from attacks from box blight. However, with good cultural practices we are now holding the disease at arm’s length.
This has been one of the least productive years in the KG for a good while. This is due to the cool cloudy weather conditions which have all kinds of knock on effects. Potatoes have produced low yields, sweetcorn has been stunted, lettuce, chard and onions have all bolted. Tomatoes don’t seem to be able to ripen; in fact a few people have told me that they gave up on these early in the season as they were doing so poorly. It has not been all doom and gloom though. Some crops such as cucumber have done very well this year, probably due to the more humid conditions that they favour.
The vegetable garden does not have to be unproductive through the winter. For example, hardy varieties of lettuce and cabbage can be grown.
Spring Cabbages need an open, sunny position together with some protection against harsh winter winds. Grow hardy varieties such as Primo, Savoy King or Savoy Siberia. A light, well-drained soil is preferable. Nothing will damage them more than water-logged conditions in the cold winter. Don’t add manure or nitrogen rich feeds to the soil as this will only encourage vulnerable soft green growth.
Generally, late July to early August is the best time to sow Spring cabbage. If you have some kind of crop protection you can still have a go this year. Spring cabbage matures earlier and more reliably under cloches.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrows Garden Diary August 2012

Time to stand and stare.
July weather started very wet indeed, so wet that it was difficult to get out into the garden on many days. This allowed the weeds to grow unrestrained and as a result some areas became ‘rather weedy’. As well as this, large areas of grass were not mown for nearly 3 weeks. I know that many of you were in the same position. Now that we are having a bit of summer (at last), for the last two weeks it has been noses to the grindstone trying to put things right again.
August will be a month of ‘steady as she goes’ in the garden here. It is a time of little change; a time of anticipation, waiting for autumn to arrive. Try to enjoy your garden this month, keep on top of things, but spend as much time as you can just enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and ‘spirit’ of your garden.
Herbaceous Heaven in July.
Summer weather seems finally to have got around to arriving and there is no better time to get out and about and see other gardens. July and August are some of the best months to see herbaceous displays.
Perhaps the most historic herbaceous borders in the country are at Arley Hall in Cheshire; indeed they claim to be the first such borders to have been planted in England. There are double herbaceous borders backed by tall hedges to give a contrast. Refreshingly, most of the planting is permanent, hardy perennials, though there are of course annuals mingled in to fill gaps. I am all for annuals but it does often mean gardening more intensively and greater demands on time.
Yet the herbaceous border is not the only feature of this outstanding garden. From the car park, visitors approach the garden between the towering 8m high pleached lime avenue. Planted in the 1850s, the avenue has been kept juvenile by constant pruning.
There are a number of smaller garden ‘rooms’ within the garden including the discrete ‘Flag Garden’ planted with roses and clematis and the ‘Fish Garden’ which, as its name might suggest, contains a small pond and fountain planted with sun loving plants.
For me some one of the most striking features of the garden is the Ilex Avenue which is in fact made up of huge columns of evergreen oak, Quercus ilex. They are massive and imposing things and I certainly don’t envy the gardeners the job of cutting them!
My own favourite part is the walled garden. Originally a kitchen garden, it was the most recent area to be re-designed and now the ancient fruit trees along the wall form a backdrop to other stunning trees and shrubs including some Fagus ‘Dawyck’, a fastigiate beech first grown at Dawyck Botanic garden in Scotland.
Further along in the glasshouses I encountered one of my favourite climbers the giant Burmese honeysuckle, Lonicera hildebrandiana which has 2in long mango scented blooms. Although only suitable for a greenhouse or conservatory, it is worth growing if you have either.
Yet as I mentioned, now is the time for herbaceous plants to be at their best; here are some of my favourites.
July and August can be a peak time for Hemerocallis, the daylilies. I am not too keen on those with too many different colours in the flower preferring blooms to have a more solid hue and a good purity of colour. One of the best for me has to be ‘Gentle Shepherd’ which is almost pure white with a green tinged throat. Some people go mad for daylilies others not so much and I do agree that they are not always good front of border plants but they make excellent fillers adding plenty of body.
Bistorts, or Persicaria will be lifting their tall spires of flower now above large leaves. They certainly thrive where there is year round moisture in the soil but I have found that if well mulched or given some manure when planted they are surprisingly adaptable. P. amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ is a red which positively glows in evening light. Yet if you want something more unusual try P. polymorpha which reaches up to 6ft and has creamy white flowers.
For a really hot combination try under planting Perovskia, the Russian sage, with its silvery foliage and spires of bright blue flowers with Echinacea purpurea in shades of purple or Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ which is as vibrant as the name suggests. My favourite Echinacea is E. pallid which is wonderful to grow through something like Perovskia because it has loose pink flowers which sway in the gentlest breeze giving the movement that the Perovskia lacks.
Ornamental grasses are in their stride by now, though perhaps somewhat battered by the rain. One of my personal favourites is Calamagrostis ‘Karl Forster’ which has an upright slender habit and attractive golden brown flower heads.
Whatever the weather, there is plenty of herbaceous inspiration to enjoy this summer, wet or otherwise!
In the kitchen garden
Keep on top of the weeds; when produce comes ready harvest it, make time to stand and stare.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrows Garden Diary July 2012

“What has happened to summer,
That’s what I want to know.
Is she on a holiday –
Who knows where did she go?”
Challenging weather
The beginning of June saw the Plant Hunters Fair come to the gardens. This years event was held over two days, the first day was marred by strong winds, heavy rain and cool temperatures, the same weather spoilt the Jubilee event held on the same day on Hodnet Recreation Ground. Fortunately the second day was better with winds abating, hazy sunshine and temperatures climbing to a balmy 15 °C. In the end around 1800 people visited the gardens over the two days which made it a good event for the nurseries attending.
Junes weather continued as it started, wet, windy and cool. Several trees and large boughs were blown down, many days have been so wet that it was impossible to get on to the garden.
Noticable at the moment are the large numbers of toadstools and other fungal fruiting bodies that can be seen in and around the garden. These include Parasol, The Blusher and Fairy Ring Champignon mushrooms, all not normally seen until late summer/early autumn.
This month I was sent some pictures of a fungal problem effecting a hawthorn hedge that I had not seen before. The symptoms are reddish/orange spots on leaves with horn-shaped fruiting bodies 1-5 mm long (see photo). After a little bit of detective work the problem was identified as Juniper/Hawthorn rust, again, a fungal problem that is not normally seen until late summer. This fungi has an unusual life cycle, spores produced by fruiting bodies on Junipers infect hawthorn and vice-versa. Hawthorn can not infect itself, so if you sought out your Junipers it should stop the problem occuring on your hawthorn.
New Plants from Old – Collecting Seed from the Garden.
As gardeners I’m sure that we are all familiar with growing plants from seed, whether it be vegetables for the plate or flowers for the garden. I’m also sure we have all bought seed from garden centres or seed list. Yet how many of us realise what a potential seed bank exists in our own gardens and how much potential excitement we could be denying ourselves.
Many of the plants we buy at garden centres and nurseries were originally collected as seed either in the wild or often from gardens. Indeed, many of the cultivars we are so familiar with were selected by keen-eyed gardeners from plants growing in their own back gardens.
Many famous gardeners have named plants, Euphorbia griffithii ‘Dixter’ was grown by Christopher Lloyd in his garden. But we don’t all have to have large gardens or an array of rare or specialist plants.
Many early flowing stalwarts are producing seed right now and the keen gardener should take advantage of this bounty.
I recently collected seed of the spring flowering Lathyrus vernus, a perennial member of the pea family. The seed capsules were just beginning to split open to reveal the small round seeds within. Like many members of the pea family the seeds need chitting. Some older books recommend nicking the seed with an knife although I find soaking in water for 24-48 hours works just as well.
Seeds of garden Hellebores are also ripening now. Collect the seed when the seed case had become ripe and brittle and before it has ruptured scattering the seed. It is always tempting to wait until you see the capsules splitting but often that is too late. I have often said to myself that I will collect seed the next day only to find that when I get round to it I am too late.
Another plant to watch out for are geraniums especially as they have an explosive method of shedding their seed. Early performers such as G. phaeum will be fading now and the seed capsules will have formed beginning with the lowest spent flower. Early spurges such as Euphorbia palustris will be ripening seed now. Euphorbias also fling their seed far and wide. It is often best to take the whole stem just prior to the seed being shed and letting it ripen in an airy place in a paper bag or tie a paper or muslin bag over the seed head to catch the seed as they are shed.
Seed can of course be stored in envelopes in a cool dark place as long as it is kept dry or in the salad compartment of the fridge. Personally I find they these methods tend to reduce the viability of some seeds thus reducing the yield. Personally I prefer to sow my seed as freshly as possible. I see no sense in building up a cupboard full of envelopes of seed and then having to sow it all in the spring when I could have sown it fresh and gotten it stated.
Hellebores are always best sown fresh. The seeds are big enough to handle individually so I sow them in six pack trays that once contained bedding or else in a crate. Multi-purpose compost is fine and if you recycle your old bedding trays as I do then by the time the resulting plants are ready for the garden you will have a handy plug sized plant. The main thing is to protect the seeds from marauding mice. It is also a good idea to put a thin layer of gravel on the tray to prevent the growth of mosses and liverworts on the compost.
It would be appropriate to say something about selection here and Hellebores are a good example. They are naturally randy plants and breed readily. Unless only one variety is grown the resulting seedlings will be a mixture of colours many of them rather muddy. The excitement comes from trialling the resulting seedlings in the garden. By continually selecting the best plants from the crop and ensuring they also breed with the best we can all develop our own seed strains.
I have found collecting my own seed and raising it to be one of the most rewarding activities so why not collect your own for free.
In the Kitchen Garden
June has continued the cool damp weather of the previous two months, unless we get a warm spell it seems inevitable that many crops are going to suffer from reduced yields. Even though the summer solstice has now passed, the cool cloudy weather has set the growing season around 10 – 14 days later than last year. To compound things the forecast is set for similar weather to continue for a while yet. In the kitchen garden crops such as leeks, onions, courgettes, carrots and climbing and french beans are all only making slow progress. The strawberry crop has also been badly effected with fruit either rotting or slugs eating them before they ripen. On the positive side, greens such as cabbages, lettuce and chard are all doing well.
As space becomes available after the cropping of early produce such as peas, early potatoes and salads, sow follow on crops suitable for sowing in summer such as kohl rabi, spinach, chard and fennel. Also in July continue planting Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage and broccoli (but be quick about it). There is still time to plant out sweet corn, marrows and leeks. Earth up main crop and late potatoes. Continue sowing successions of lettuce, carrots, baby turnip and the like.
Lets hope for better weather!
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Trugg and Barrow’s Garden Diary June 2012

“It’s better to wear away than rust away.”
It’s that time of year in the garden when you don’t know whether you’re coming or going.
Weather-wise, May was a month of two contrasting halves. The beginning of the month was cold and wet with danger of frost on many of the nights. As a result, spring growth was around 10 days behind where it would normally be. Then, as if somebody flicked a switch, the rain stopped, temperatures increased, the sun shone and the birds began to sing. Night time temperatures haven’t dropped below around 12 ºC over the last two weeks of the month, a big contrast to the beginning.
One Sunday in early May saw an unusual sight, as 102 tractors from the Tern Valley Vintage Tractor Club passed through the garden.
The beginning of June will be very busy as the garden is playing host to a plant hunters’ fair.
Ephemeral Glory: The Umbelliferacea
Having passed up the opportunity of a more alliterative title, I cannot forego singing the praises of one of my favourite plant families. Furthermore, as I write, Anthriscus sylvestris, commonly known as ‘Cow Parsley’ is decorating the lanes and verges all around us, doing much of the hard work for me.
As May rolls into June the genus is coming into its own. All share common traits, usually very divided foliage, giving the plants a transparent air, and individual flowers born on short stalks, arranged umbrella fashion. Plants range from annuals and biennials to perennials and are amongst the most versatile of garden plants.
If you don’t fancy planting ‘Cow Parsley’ in your garden try Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, identical in every way except for dramatic purple foliage and stems. Although it is an annual it will self-seed freely and come true if kept isolated from other cow parslies.
Angelica is perhaps the most statuesque of umbelliferae for the border. A biennial, it will be familiar to cake decorators but makes a superb garden plant. Angelica gigas is well known and frequently encountered in garden centres. After spending its first year producing foliage, sturdy stems rise to 6 feet, bearing flowers of a dusky hue. Less well known is Angelica taiwaniana ‘Vicar’s Mead’ which can soar to as much as 10 feet in a good soil with stems of blackish purple and umbels up to five inches across.
Many people would not immediately associate the masterworts or Astrantia with the umbelliferacea (or Apiaceae as the taxonomists would have it). Yet these are amongst the most durable and easy to cultivate of garden plants. Look closely however and you will see the family resemblance; the inflorescence being a buttonlike umbel surrounded by showy bracts. Amongst those in cultivation Astrantia major is the major player in all its forms and for me the finest is A. major ‘Hadspen Blood’. Most members of the genus flower only once before setting seed and in many cases dying off. However the Astrantias have a long flowering period: first emerging in late May they will repeat flower all summer if dead headed and kept watered.
For borders in full sun with sharply draining soil, Chaerophyllum hirsutum ‘Roseum’ will flourish, producing misty pink flowers in April atop finely dissected foliage that emerges in late winter. Yet my favourite has to be Selinum tenuifolium from Nepal. It is a rarely encountered plant but worth searching out. It does best in rich soil where it displays the most finely dissected foliage topped with white flowers on 5ft stems in late spring. Although it has a reputation a s a short lived perennial it will last in a good soil under cultivation.
The plants discussed here represent only a fraction of those within this fascinating genus which offers few challenges to the gardener and plenty of rewards. Don’t be put off by the annual or biennial nature of some as the excitement and ease of growing a ten foot monster from seed will prove a delight.
In the Kitchen Garden
Slugs have been a big problem in the veg garden this Spring; the wet April seems to have spurred them on. At the moment they are causing a lot of damage. I am using ‘environmentally friendly’ slug pellets to try and control them. If I don’t they will strip everything bare.
The wet beginning to May ensured that the soil was moist for planting out young brassicas, lettuce plants and just about everything else that is going to be grown in the vegetable garden this year. Despite the slugs best efforts, most things have established, all be it a bit chewed. In June I will sow successional crops of carrot, lettuce, radish etc. The tomato and cucumbers will also be set out in their cropping positions in the glasshouse.
If you have not done so already, straw the strawberries soon. This keeps fruit clean (reducing disease) and also helps to keep slugs at bay.
It is surprising how dry the surface of the soil has already become, even after such a prolonged wet period between April and mid May. As gardeners we should all be concerned about the environment, as we depend entirely upon it. Part of being good stewards is to make sure that the water we use in the garden is done so wisely. Before watering;

  • Check that it is necessary to water by digging to a depth of 15-20 cm, if the soil at this depth is dry then water.
  • Water heavily occasionally rather than lightly every day or every other day. A good soak at 10 day intervals to about 20 cm is much more efficient, and better for the plants.
  • Water in the evenings, this allows water to soak into the ground instead of evaporating.
  • Mulching moist ground helps reduce evaporation.
  • If rain is due, delay watering (keep an eye on the weather forcast).

Hopefully these measures will help save water and reduce the work load.
Last year produced a bumper crop of apples and pears in the garden. I delayed the fruit thinning operation that should have been done in late June after the natural fruit shedding that occurs in that month (known as the ‘June drop’). Unfortunately, this delay on my part led to damage to some of the trees due to the weight of fruit. At the moment it does not look like there is going to be a good year for top fruit. This could be due to the cold weather we had during the flowering period or to the very heavy crop the trees produced last year (there are other reasons why fruit trees may produce low yields but I have discounted these). With apples and pears, thin to 2 fruits per cluster, removing the weakest and keeping the best.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.