Thursday 9 April 2009

More seed sowing - and growing on

The evening's are lighter and the days are longer, which means just one thing - there's time in the evening to do some gardening after getting home from work. So, with one hand carefully nurturing a bottle of Perroni, I've put the other to good use this week sowing more veg in pots and putting them in the propagator.

Joining the assortment of tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and courgettes already sown, we've now got aubergine 'Fairy Tale' and that good stalwart 'Black Beauty', tomato 'Burpee's Jubilee' and 'Falcorosso', chilli pepper 'Tropical Heat', 'Hot Portugal' and 'Georgia Flame' and cucumber 'White Wonder' plus a tray of celeriac 'Giant Prague'. The cucumbers have already germinated!

From the first sowing in March, all the tomatoes have grown well and these have now been potted up into 9cm pots and are lined out in the lean-to frame.

Outside the veg garden, I've taken the plunge and cut back all the artemisias, penstemons and hardy fuchsias - Clare has been getting impatient over the last few weeks as they were all looking decidedly floppy and untidy. Let's hope we don't get any severe frosts - fingers crossed.

And, as usual I've been on my regular pest watch patrols - looking for any nasties that are lurking and taking advantage of new, fresh growth. So far, nothing to report. Any I mean nothing. The slugs and snails are being taken care of by the army or frogs and toads in the garden and a liberal scattering of slug pellets. And I know that lots of people are talking about early attacks of lily beetle but so far nothing. About this time last year our Lilium formosanum var. pricei had been totally ravaged and gave up the ghost soon afterwards, but this year not a sign of damage. So let's hope it stays that way. I have given all the lilies a thorough spray with Provado Ultimate Bug Killer to offer some protection, but if the lily beetles were active, there would be some signs of nibbling - but so far nothing.

And now it's the Easter weekend, so in between entertaining friends and eating fatty choccy treats I'm hoping there'll be some time to get outside and get on with things.

Saturday 4 April 2009

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb – and agapanthus

I’ve just got back from my latest stint on Gardening Plus with Ken Crowther on BBC Essex – another action-packed, three-hour programme with loads of questions, comments and problems to solve. And lots to eat – this time a local frozen yoghurt manufacturer brought in some delicious tubs stuffed with fruit and fabulous jersey and Guernsey milk creaminess. The programme always flies by and it wasn’t long before the three hours were up. We did have to keep cutting across live to the build-up to Jade Goody’s funeral though.

It’s weird how themes of questions start to emerge. Whether it’s because someone asks a question and then everyone else thinks: “Oh yes, I’ve got a question about that plant too”, or whether it’s because that’s the way it is, I don’t know. Anyway this week it was mainly rhubarb and agapanthus – although fruit and other plants in containers came in high up the list as well.

The rhubarb theme had many sections. Most revolved around poor, spindly crops and what to do to put it right. Others were about rhubarb going to seed – already! One phone call was about using rhubarb leaves in the planting hole for brassica plants to prevent clubroot. Luckily, for us, it was a comment that it worked, not a question about whether it can be used. The reason? Because as rhubarb hasn’t been passed as a garden pesticide we can’t recommend its use as such. Crazy, but true. Another text message was about the poisonous virtue or rhubarb leaves – yes, they are, so don’t eat them!

The agapanthus questions were about getting good flowers, should they be grown in pots rather than the ground as this keeps them potbound and so flowering well, the virtue of splitting them and how to look after them generally.

Back home and it’s a glorious April day, so I’m off into the garden.

I’ve got some lawn care to get on with. After the winter wet, there’s been a spot of die out and general grass thinning, so I’m going to oversow the whole lawn with grass seed to help thicken it out. It needs a good feed, and there’s a bit of weed to control – mainly speedwell, which is never easy.

All my plants in containers need a little TLC too. So I’ll be topping up with fresh compost, feeding with a controlled-release fertiliser and using Sulphur Soil, both from Greenacres Horticultural Supplies, on all the lime-haters, especially blueberries and Japanese maples. And some of them are in need of a good drink too. I know the feeling, so it’s gardening and beer sipping for me this afternoon.