Tuesday 23 September 2008

With much Glee

I’ve just got back from Glee at the NEC, Birmingham. Glee is the UK’s gardening industry’s biggest trade show taking up several halls at the NEC. Here many of the major gardening product manufacturers and suppliers show off their wares for the following year.

One of my first ports of call was the new products area – and several things caught my eye – not necessarily for the right reason!

Many of the new products were centred around the grow your own bug that is sweeping the nation. There were lots of patio growing kits, raised bed kits, containers and compost specifically for veggies - including fat growing-bags, including some specifically for potatoes - and even new feeds and fertilisers, crop covers and other bits and bobs.

One of my favourite new products was an inflatable/blow up greenhouse – a bit like a transparent, greenhouse-shaped airbed. The air in the walls would provide excellent insulation – but I’m not sure it would be that practical in a windy area. I also thought it would be fantastic for Glastonbury Festival – although everyone could see what you’re doing inside!

I also loved the Bosch battery powered secateurs. This uses lithium ion battery technology, as I’ve got in my Bosch lawnmower, and will make up to 900 cuts with one battery charge. It was much lighter than I thought and well balanced. Perfect if you\’ve got a lot of pruning to do or you have arthritis or similar affliction that doesn’t allow you to grip secateurs handles properly.

And for the squeamish among you a slug grabber to pick up and dispose of the number one garden pest. It’s basically one of those long-handled rubbish picker-uppers with the trigger activated grabbing mechanism. Not sure about this one – just wear gloves.

Wildlife attracting gizmos were also much in evidence – including an all-in-one friendly insect overwintering station. The same company was also promoting its new ceramic bumblebee overwintering hive, which looked great until I saw the instructions: “First fill with material from a mouse nest or old bumblebee nest – OK, so where on earth do I buy/find either of those!

All in all some winners and some losers in next year’s race to remove money from your purse or wallet when you visit your local garden centre.

Sunday 7 September 2008

Gardening Plus...

We had a busy day on Gardening Plus on BBC Essex yesterday. I think the wet weather meant everyone was indoors catching up on their gardening advice – rather than outside actually doing it.

The morning started with some interesting pictures of an unidentified plant – Cannabis sativa or marijuana, the seed from which had come from a batch of bird food. The owner thought it probably was and was off to destroy the plant.

There were quite a few calls, texts and e-mails from people whose trees, shrubs and woody climbers had suddenly died this summer. Although difficult to do an exact diagnosis over the radio, the likely culprit is phytophthora root rot – a soil-borne disease that has become prevalent this year due to the wet weather and waterlogged soil.

One listener wanted to know how to control rust on pelargoniums that had spread from her hollyhocks. This sparked an interesting discussion that, although some diseases, such as botrytis, will spread from different plant species, others, such as rusts for instance, are specific to a particular plant or group or plants. So, rose rust only attacks roses, onion rust only attacks onions and other members of the allium family, pelargonium rust only pelargoniums and hollyhock rust only hollyhocks. Rusts are some of the most difficult diseases to control; carefully picking off affected leaves and spraying the rest of the plant with Dithane being just about all you can do – or assigning the plant to the dustbin if all else fails.

Another disease that provoked some interest is a new one in the UK – impatiens downy mildew, which appeared in 2003/2004 and kills busy Lizzie plants. Full details are available on the RHS website.

We had a call from someone who had taken over a neglected allotment and whose potatoes were riddled with wireworm and wanted to know how to control it. Sadly, there aren’t any cures, but wireworm are usually only present on undisturbed soil, and so tend to decline as the soil is cultivated – in a few years they should disappear altogether. We then had a text from a listener who said they controlled them by cutting old potatoes in half and part burying them in the soil. The wireworm start to feed on the potatoes and they can then be lifted and the wireworm removed – or fed to chickens, according to the texter.

Probably the most interesting call of the day was from a man who was trying to grow his own field mushrooms at home. He had cut an old mushroom into pieces and buried them under the turf of his lawn. He wanted to know when he’d start to get mushrooms. I answered it was more likely if rather than when as I doubted this would work. However, he was convinced it would and we asked him to keep us informed when he saw his first mushrooms – and to send us some!

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Radio, radio

It's weird how I can go for weeks without doing any radio programmes and then they come round like proverbial buses.
On Monday I was recording my monthly pre-record inserts into Jane Smith's Saturday breakfast programme for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. I'm so glad we now pre-record them as they go out at 7.45am ish and I used to hate having to get up at that time on a Saturday to do them over the phone. And after a heavy night out on Friday I'm sure they didn't sound that great either! We've also started recording a new item called granddad's garden (I'm not so hot on the name - being a young chicken and all that!). It's aimed at trying to beat the credit crunch by going back to first principles, doing things like they were in the olden days and so saving money.
Next on the agenda is a trip down to BBC Essex on Saturday for Ken Crowther's Gardening Plus programme. This has replaced Jane Smith's phone-in for the Saturday morning hangover slot; they used to start at noon but now they start at 9am and it's a one and a half hour drive down to Chelmsford. Never mind - it's all good fun. Just must remember not to overdo it this Friday night!