Spalding Guardian Gardening, 1 September 2011
Another new month, three-quarters of the year has already gone and we will be into winter before we know it.
My summer has been largely occupied in delivering my sizeable contribution to a new Reader’s Digest gardening book, which, hopefully will be out in the spring – more details next year. This means that I haven’t been able to spend as much time gardening as I would have liked (stolen moments deadheading when I should have been meeting a deadline invariably gave me a guilty conscience) and there has been little opportunity to stop and stare.
Now, with the pressure off, I am starting to pick up the pieces.
All the roses, in spite of the dry weather, have done remarkably well. This is probably because I have made the effort this summer to spray every 3-4 weeks for disease, so as I write, there is very little black spot and mildew and the foliage looks almost as handsome as the blooms and there will be a large second flush of flowers in the next week or two. But the climbers have recently thrown out enormously long shoots, and one of my first jobs is to get out the step ladder and tie them in before the next strong winds, or next year’s growths will end up in pieces on the ground.
Earlier this summer, I was short of a few hanging baskets, so moved my begonia baskets outside from the greenhouse where they usually spend the summer and now, what a difference! Dozens of huge flowers , terrific colour for this time of year, so next year it will be a begonia monopoly in the hanging baskets (unless I have a few ‘Wave’ petunias in the draughty spots as these appear to have withstood everything thrown at them this season).
The vegetables in the raised beds have started paying their way this summer, too. I’ve always managed to pick a few servings of whatever I’ve grown, but nothing to write home about, despite regular feeding and watering, and last autumn I was sorely tempted to clear another piece of ground at the Patch for vegetables, and get rid of the raised beds. As I write this, however, we are self-sufficient in peas, beans, chard, lettuce and broccoli, and, with the greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, the saving on the weekly shopping bill are noticeable.
I can only think that the increase in production is due to the fact that I was given a ton of topsoil last autumn, and topped up all the beds, which until that time had contained a mixture of multipurpose and John Innes composts. It would seem that the extra soil not only helps to conserve moisture, but retains nutrients better. Next job will be to clear the pea haulms and get the autumn onions planted.
So what of this year’s disappointments? The main one is my choice of plants for the conical hanging baskets – mainly non-trailing varieties of petunia. These, especially the double varieties, have produced more foliage than flowers, and the shoots are brittle and fall over and snap off – a good opportunity next year to replace with begonias. The strawberry plants produced rubbish fruit as I couldn’t keep up with the watering; they have already been replaced with broccoli, spring cabbage and cauliflowers. And the ‘Sungold’ (yummy!) tomato plugs I bought on impulse from a garden centre in Boston in March turned out to have been labelled wrongly, and have produced huge crops of something yellow and flavourless – never mind, they look good in a bowl!
This piece originally appeared in the Spalding Guardian