Thursday, 23 June 2011

Update on basil cuttings

Back on 1st June, I decided to try to increase a basil plant by means of cuttings rooted in water. I was a little dubious about this method but I shouldn't have been. The cuttings put on so many roots I was quite taken aback. Not only at/below the leaf nodes, but all the way down the stems.

I have further experimented. The stems were around 10cm/4-inches long so I potted 2 up without cutting the stems down - one in a deepish 7.5cm/3-inch pot, the other in a large pot with some other herbs. The last two I cut down by half and potted into smaller pots. I've used a multi purpose compost rather than ordinary garden soil.

That was about 6 days ago and they seem to be least they haven't drooped or died off.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ups and downs

This season seems to be a bit hit and miss for my shady patch. Whilst the plum tree is still doing really well (lots of fruit) my rhubarb plant has died. It started off ok but then suddenly went.

The potatoes are romping away as are the carrots, parsnips and leaf beet but all the seeds I sowed indoors are very dodgy. The beans seem to be perking up now, especially with the recent rain, but I lost the two butternut plants (I've now sown some seed directly in the open ground) and the courgette plants don't look right either. I've never seen such small leaves.

The chillie seedlings are also languishing and I am convinced the tomato seedlings aren't actually tomatoes. A friend thinks they look more like aubergines. Good job he happened to bring me a couple of tomato plants he had raised. Thanks Simon.

I guess that's gardening.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Basil plants from cuttings

I never have much luck growing basil from seed or keeping basil plants bought from supermarkets indoors for any length of time. Last year I planted an indoor plant outside in the open ground which survived in the open ground all summer. This year I'm going to have a go at taking cuttings from a plant I recently bought from a supermarket (before it dies on me) - something I've never done before. The instructions seem simple enough

1. Choose 10cm/4-inch stems and using a sharp blade (not scissors) cut just below a leaf node - the part on the stem where new leaves/stems sprout.

2. Strip any leaves from 3/4 of the stem then place in a glass of water and leave in a very bright but not too hot place until roots start to form on the stem making sure to change the water every couple of days.

3. Once the roots are around 5cm/2-inches long, pot up individual stems into pots at least 10cm/4-inches wide, filled with potting compost. Water in and then place in direct sunlight. It recommended that the plant gets at least six hours of bright, direct sunlight each day.

I've done steps 1 and 2 as you can see in the picture above and hopefully in a few weeks I'll have 4 new basil plants potted up whilst still having the main plant available for use in my kitchen

Friday, 27 May 2011

Can I grow proper watercress at home?

In the past, I've grown land cress which, whilst quite nice, is far more coarse than normal watercress bought from the shop.

True watercress is commercially grown in running water - obviously not possible for the likes of me with my shady, postage-stamp sized garden. However, I came across what seems to be a new variety called Aqua, which suggests it's much more refined than land cress. So I decided to give it a go.

The instructions on the packet recommended growing the watercress in containers which are permanently stood in trays of water throughout their growing cycle so I sowed the seeds outdoors in late April in a couple of 6-inch pots. Germination was a little patchy, so earlier this month I spread the little plants out more evenly to give them space to develop. As the picture shows, they are doing very well, despite the fact I let the trays dry out a couple of times though not for very long - naughty me !

They are still quite small so I have resisted tasting them as they are bound to be tender at this stage, but I reckon it will only be a few more weeks before I can start harvesting.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Hardening off

Once again, my runner beans have gone loopy and should be planted out sooner rather than later. Good job the weather has been so good in my part of the world. I skipped the usual steps of putting them out for just 1 hour on the fiurst day and gradually increasing the time they spend outside. I've just brought thhem in in the evening.

My extra long bamboo canes are already in place - they are about 8ft tall. As with last year, I plan to sow some extra runner bean seeds direct in the ground when I put the plants in so i get a prolonged cropping period.

I've done the same with the courgettes, butternut, tomatoes and chillies re hardening off, although I must admit I made a mistake with the courgettes. I placed them on the windowsill of a very sunny window to germinate but it was too sunny and scorched the edges of the leaves. I'm hoping it won't have too detrimental an effect on the plants.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Plums Galore

My Victoria plum tree is outdoing itself.

It's in its 2nd year in my ownership, so I am guessing it's actually 3/4 years old. Currently standing around 6ft tall with a 4ft spread in a 2ft wide container.

Last year I got 2 lovely plums. I have just counted over 40 small (about 2.5cm/1-inch long) plums and they don't look as though they are in any danger if falling off either !

The next important decision is whether to thin them. The last time a grew a plum tree(fan trained) in a pot, I just let it do its thing but after one really heavy crop, it never did very well. I don't want the same thing to happen again, so I think I am going to remove 1 in 3 plums so it doesn't exhaust itself too much this year...despite my old man's protestations.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Indoor sown veggies

Last year I sowed my tender veggies such as courgettes and beans indoors too early which resulted in some of the plants getting a little leggy before the weather was warm enough to put them outside. This year I waited until the very end of April before sowing courgettes, tomatoes and chillies indoors.

The given advice is to seal in a polythene bag or place in a propagator, but I did nether - just stood the pots on a windowsill and kept them damp. A week later the courgettes and tomatoes started to germinate: this picture was taken yesterday. Looking promising although the chillies haven't made any show at all.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

New Herb Plants

Earlier in the year I came across what seemed to be a good deal online: 6 herb plants for £7.95. So I ordered them. They arrived yesterday. For some reason I thought they would be much larger plants, perhaps in 10cm/4-inch pots but as you can see from the top picture, they are just small "plug" type cuttings. I probably read it wrong.

Never mind, I'll just have to wait a little longer than anticipated to harvest. The collection consisted of 2 different thyme plants, 2 different sage plants, 1 tarragon and 1 rosemary. Anyway, I have done as directed and potted them up. I've used 7.5cm/3-inch square pots. I'll re-pot again into larger containers them later in the season as and when necessary

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Update on my seed Potatoes

As I mentionbed in a previous post, this is the first time I've grown potatoes from bought seed potatoes. I am very pleased to report they have all sprouted, albeit some earlier than others.

This is mainly due to the fact that they are different varieties which mature at different times, but as you'll see in the photo, there are a couple of plants which are much larger, so I am guessing I didn't plant those as deeply as the rest. Doesn't really matter.

Once up, the plants are growing quite quickly so I will have to start earthing them up very soon. I've got quite a lot of earth available to earth them up (partitially cover the green parts with soil) so hopefully that will be more potatoes.

I planted 3 varieties. The ones on the right hand side should be ready to harvest by the end of June; the ones in the middle should be ready to harvest by the end of July; the ones on the left will be last and I'll probably leave those until September/October in the hope they will grow into bigger specimens.

I'm planning to replace the right/middle harvested potatoes with spring cabbage plants in August which should last through the winter to provide me with fresh greens next year.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Not just edibles

I thought I'd just do a quick post to show off my clematis which is growing in a 30cm/12-inch pot.

It's an early flowering Montana Rubens which I brought with me this time last year when we moved. I had to cut it right down which is always a worry, but it bounced back pretty quickly and, as you can see, is flowering beautifully a year later. It may look a bit sparse but that's only because I didn't put up proper training wires or trellis and the top bit has drooped down. Still pretty though and a welcome splash of early colour. With a bit of luck, it will flower again later in the year.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Slug buster

In my last post I mentioned nematodes. For those of you who haven't heard of them, they are microscopic organisms - worms actually - which you can buy to combat various pests, in my case slugs. It doesn't mention snails, but I am hoping it will get rid of those too - probably not knowing my luck.

You mix the sand-like substance which contains the nematodes(apparently around 12 million of them) with water then water the ground using a coarse holed rose on a watering can. The amount in the above packet is sufficient to treat 40 sq. metres - far too much for my tiny plot - but unfortunately, the packet has a "use by" date which isn't that long.

Once watered into the ground, the nematodes get to work by attacking the slugs (I'm guessing basically eating them alive) however they are only viable for around 6 weeks after which time more solution can be applied. I won't be doing a second application as the packet is quite expensive (over £8) but hopefully the first application will be enough to get a relatively slug free zone for a while and I will revert to more traditional methods, like beer traps, later in the season if necessary.

You can also get nematodes for other pests such as weevils, carrot root fly, caterpillar, cabbage root fly caterpillar etc. It's an organic form of pest control.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Welcome Rain

Thank goodness we got a real downpour yesterday (Saturday) evening. Saved me having to water especially as I want to introduce some slug nematodes which is best done when the soil is damp. More about that in a day or two.

In the meantime, things have started to germinate. Unlike last year, the peas in the 3ft trough have mostly germinated although having just taken a look, I think the rain brought out some critters (slugs or snails) as one has been completely eaten through). I will sprinkle some salt around the plants until I add the nematodes mentioned above. The lettuce in the 2 ft trough (top in the picture) have also germinated well.

Things in the main garden bed seem to be taking their time. A few leaf beet but no sign of the carrots, parsnips (which are notoriously slow), coriander or leeks.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Caught up nicely

The dry weather has enabled me to catch up with my planting and sowing. On Sunday I managed to get my seed potatoes in. Last year I planted a few potatoes which happened to start sprouting in the vegetable basket :( but as they did quite well, I thought I'd go the whole hog and buy some pukka seed potatoes.

As I don't have lots of space, I went for a special mixed "taster" pack which consisted of 1kg each of 3 different potatoes namely, Charlotte, swift and Maris peer. These 3 should provide me with potatoes from as early as June right the way through to October or even later. As I've never grown a "serious" crop of potatoes in open ground, I am looking forward to seeing how they turn out.

Planting those on Sunday was enough for me in my current semi-fragile state, so I meant to sow some veg seed on Monday however, I didn't get around to it. As rain was forecast from Tuesday onwards, I was really miff with myself thinking it would be at least another week before I could get out there but, surprise surprise, weather forecast was wrong and Tuesday ended up being a very nice bright day, if much cooler.

I seized the chance and sowed some carrots, parsnips and leaf beet.

So, I have completely caught up with my outside jobs and the garden is looking ship shape. Below is a picture of most of the growing area I have. Inset is a seed potato which has sprouted and is ready to plant.

I am about to go and water eveything because, surprise surprise, weather forecast was wrong and there has still been no rain.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Feels like summer

Hot out there! I couldn't resist taking a picture of my plum tree which is in a container. Looks so pretty with lots of blossom promising lots of plums. Last year I only got 2 but in fairness it was the first year and it had gone through the trauma of moving house.

Anyway, I just spent a pleasant hour and a half doing some very gently gardening - mainly re-arranging my pots/ troughs into some sort of order ready for filling/ planting. I also gave the more established container plants such as the clematis, honeysuckle and lilies, a feed with Growmore and/or topped up with some fresh compost.

As I felt OK, I went the extra bit and filled a couple of the troughs with compost so I could sow some seeds namely some peas in a 3 ft trough and some salad leaves in a 2 ft trough. I just hope the peas do better than last year when they got eaten by snails/slugs.

Didn't want to overdo it, especially as the weather is set fair for the next few days.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Back Home in time for spring weather

Actually, I've been back for a couple of weeks....just in time for that lovely bout of sunny weather.

So, you can expect more regular posts from now on. Not that I can do that much outside at the moment as I am still in a state of recovery. I did managed about 30 minutes just clearing some pots and general tidying up but that is my limit at the moment. HOWEVER I can still give instructions to my old man which is just as good when it comes to certain tasks.

He's done a really good job of digging the whole (albeit small) plot over. He even raked it relatively level so it's now ready for sowing/planting. Just as well because I received my seed potatoes a few days ago. More about those later this week.

Anyone with a garden will know growing isn't the only thing which occupies a gardener and in our case, the relatively new fencing needed protecting from the elements. So I got him to do that too so that it has all settled down before I start growing anything up or near it.

Here he is hard at work.

Friday, 11 March 2011


Anyone checking back maybe wondering why there have been no posts since 5 December. I have been ill and have ended up in hospital. Although it's great that I'm getting better having been here for a week, the downside is that I am now craving my garden. I had such plans for this season. All made worse by the lovely sunny weather I can see through my window, though I'm told it's a wee bit cold out.

Well I suppose it's still quite early so hopefully I will be out of here within a week even if I probably won't be able to do much. Perhaps sow some early carrots just to get started. Not to panic.