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September 2011

August 2011

Harvest, the end or the beginning?


At this time of year when you're struggling to keep up with a glut of fruit and vegetables from the garden, it's easy to think that this is the beginning of the end for this year. Whereas really, in amongst all the batch baking and freezing and juicing and preserving, you need to be planting to ensure that you have crops in the winter and at the beginning of next year.

If your harvest from the garden this year hasn't amounted to as much as you'd like, don't worry, you havn't left it too late, because you still have a month left at least to get in crops you'll be eating in 2011, and several months to spare if you want to fill the hungry gap of March and April next year. You don't need a large space, or much expertise, just a little enthusiasm and some knowledge of which varieties work well.

Excellent places to order your seeds from include

Sarah Raven don't click on this link if you don't have self discipline, - but the range of winter cropping saladings is the best i've found

Seed Parade A budget seed website, - with excellent germination rates (their Broadbean Aquadulce Claudia) beat Mr Fothergills and T&M in my home trial of germination rates)

Thompson and Morgan (T &M) A giant in the Mail order plant industry, - i'm not always enamoured of their plants, but their range of seeds is unrivalled and their postage service for seeds is excellent


Wiggly Wigglers  - one of my favourite companies, who i've heard good things about their ready grown veg mixes, (no not me, I grow all mine from seed) and who now do some winter salad seeds in their range

so that you can get a Christmas day platter like this


If that doesn't give you food for thought and inspiration to start sowing, so that the end of your harvest is the beginning of your winter crops, then come along to my Workshop

Friday 16th September 2011 - 9.30am Horsley Surrey and find out more about growing Herbs and Salads all year round, in the company of other gardeners.

Planning to make sure it all fits in

New Houses, come with all mod cons nowadays, except that is, a decent sized or landscaped garden.

I was asked by Charlotte, to come up with an idea for how to fit in all her garden requirements to her pocket sized patch.

The obligatory 6ft fences, poor grade grass (i'm not even going to use the word turf) and the overlooked aspect meant that the garden wasn't really being used, and there was a large list of requirements.

As a single mum of 2 girls, with a business of her own, and a love for sports, there was a need for

A shed for storing bikes and windsurf boards, A lawn for sunbathing, a patio for eating on, room for the bins, and access to them all year round, some raised beds for growing herbs, and the rest needed to be as low maintenance as possible, so that it could be dealt with in the evenings (preferable with a glass of wine in one hand).

The Garden looked (mainly because it was) very narrow, and at the moment there was nothing in the garden to draw the eye, so we decided on a small tree at the bottom to help give some cover.

I produced a couple of concept plans, and Charlotte chose this one.

A diagonally set lawn helps to make the garden look wider, and the shed is a pent roofed version with the door at the end, so that the long bikes and boards can all be accomadated, and the bins will be hidden behind. (in the future we can also do a sedum roof) As there will not be much room for plants, i've used climbers and bulbs at the sides, which will soften the fences.

The landscaper was Landscapes Unlimited, and they did a great job of taking the concept and using their expertise to give final details, - including building the raised bed around the manhole cover, and putting wide enough edging around the lawn so that it can be used as a small path in winter.

Here's the result


and from above

The fences are now a Natural Stone colour, and the shed is Sage Green. The golden leaves of the Robinia will gently shade the bottom of the garden in time, - and block out the view of the neighbours at the back, plus Charlotte's clever use of a sail as an awning over the patio will give lunches some privacy.

When we've finished planting all the bulbs this autumn, and the climbers have covered the trellis there will be low maintenance colour year round, and then the 3 ladies of this house will just have to grow their herbs and mow the lawn (with a hand mower).

Border Planting - Summer flowers in dry shady spots

This is the hardest time of the year for shady borders on free draining soil, and here in the Surrey Hills, where the chalk soaks up water like a sponge, it is hard to get anything to give you colour during August.

The spring isn't too hard, with bulbs, epimediums and euphorbias giving bright whites, yellows and pinks.

Early summer is ok, with Alchemilla mollis, Alliums and geraniums flowering in even the driest spots. But by August, the soil is devoid of nutrition, and even the greens seem to have faded.

Here are my suggestions to get those small specks of colour to shine out of your mid summer border.

Hardy fuchsias are fantastic in dry soil, and so rewarding at the back end of the year.

I've sung the praises of Geranium Rozanne before, and although it loves full sun and a rich soil, it will still flower its socks off for longer than any other geranium even in the driest position (it just hugs the ground more rather than making a lovely mound)

The silvery foliage is Brunnera Jack Frost, - it has blue flowers in late March, - I deadheaded mine very promptly, and it is now rewarding me with a few new flowers, - not enough to light up a border, but with the silver, it helps to give a bright coloured patch.

Acanthus could take over in a clay soil, but in a dry border, the flowers are restrained, but a lovely accent in midsummer.

If you think of bulbs as only for the spring, then you're missing out on Cyclamen Hederifolium. My border underneath the evergreen magnolia has these fantastic plants which get a full hour of sun in the morning and then sit in shade for the rest of the day.

and if you'd like a cool blue for the hottest summer days, I totally recommmend this Viticella clematis Betty Corning, that i've been using as ground cover, and which has been flowering since mid June.


Fresh vegetables for all - What's a tithe?

This morning, I had a very rare Thursday that I wasn't working, so as Hubby was working from home, and the electronic babysitter (that's the TV) was taking care of my Son, I took the opportunity to slope off down to Grace and Flavour, our local community garden.


G&FTitheaug11 I usually help out on a Saturday if I can, so I havn't taken part in a Thursday harvest before, but it is one of the most satisfying jobs.

28 families receive a package of vegetables, - this week it included potatoes, carrots, lettuce, runner beans, courgette, parsley and sage.

These are picked and packed by the G & F team, and were then collected at 11.00 by some other lovely volunteers from the local Wheel of Care, who delivered them to those with out transport or unable to get out.

We also harvested crops that went to the local church at their coffee morning. The local shops got some to sell to the local community,  and Polesdon Lacey received a delivery to use in their restuarants. ( there will probably be Ratatouille, the amount of Marrow's that were delivered).

It was a highly satisfying couple of hours, in the company of other gardeners, and the cake to go with coffee was pretty good too!

If you live in Horsley, you are very welcome to take part in the Grace and Flavour garden. Team days are Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday. Give as much or as little time as you like (warning, it is addictive!) or if you can't get there, bake us a cake every now and then.

If you'd like to have a tour, then come along to the West Horsley Fete on Saturday September 10th - 2-5pm which is in the ground of Dene Place Nursing home in Ripley Lane (adjacent to the garden)

An apple a day..... Needs a lovely tree in your garden

From my office window, I have a view of the back garden.

My view is centred, (some might say dominated) by a fabulous apple tree.

(ignore the dirty window and the glass reflections for this please!)

When we came to view this house in September 2007, I asked to taste an apple from the tree, and found that it was a lovely tasty, crisp and sweet dessert apple.

The following year I used the RHS fruit naming service to find out the variety of apple. I highly recommend this service, and this year (2011) it is free to members and non members on selected dates throughout September, October and November at the RHS gardens and shows.

So I found out that my apple is a Merton Worcester, - raised at the John Innes Institute, Merton around 1930.


It's Parents are Cox's Orange Pippin, and Worcester Pearmain. - Both readily available, but I hadn't heard of Merton Worcester before.

Because it peaks in September, we have apples ready to pick from the beginning of August (when they are rather tart, but great for stewing and juicing) Through to the end of October, and with careful storage, through to December.

The RHS letter also stated that it is a heavy cropper, - which it is, fabulously this year.

A garden centrepiece, summer shade, and fantastic blossom and fruit. I'd recommend an apple tree for every garden.

Apparently UK apple orchards have declined by 95% in the last 40 years, - so Copella the apple juice people are running a plant and protect campaign this year. Copella and The National trust currently have a promotion to increase the number of apples grown and re-ignite the nation’s passion for English apples.

If you have a tree, you are being asked to visit the campaign website  to register your apple tree variety to help map out the UK’s English Apple landscape. (I have)

If you havn't got one, and are currently having to buy your apple juice. - Copella will be offering Cox’s Orange Pippin trees, (That's one of the parents to my tree!) , to Sainsbury’s customers who collect tokens on 750ml bottles of Copella Apple juice, and apply on their website

I'm off to fill that hunger gap before dinner with an apple


Garden Bloggers Bloom Day August 2011

Wow, where did the last month go?

For me mid August is harvest time, as my garden is at it's most productive. That also means flowers now as well as vegetables, as i've planted more annuals and cutting perennials this year.

First though these are just about the only perennials that I inherited from the previous owner of this house.

I thought that Phlox always got mildew, but these seem to get very little, and they have a lovely scent. The Helianthus behind are a lovely bright colour for very little work.

I'm really pleased about the Sweet pea Matucana, Calendula and Sunflowers, as they are all grown from seeds collected from plants in the garden last year.

In the front garden, i've got Anthemis reflowering, with Campanula Glomerata, and the Aster Frikatii Monch is doing well even in partial shade.

The Star of the show tho' has to be my Geranium Rozanne. - This is just one plant, planted 2 years ago.


Thanks as ever to Carol at May Dream Gardens for hosting this monthly look at what's flowering around the world.

Deadheading perennials to keep them blooming longer

I've had a lot of pruning to do today. Shrubs like Pyracantha and Bay, suddenly have branches that get in the way at this time of year. Philadelphus that smelt fantastic in May and Early June, now need to be thinned through, and if you want flowers that will last way in September, it's well worth doing as I have today and given lots of perennials a real haircut.

This Helenium was at it's peak last month.

But today it was looking a bit tired


By cutting it back, (i've shortened each stem by about 20cm to a leaf bud) it will reflower in about 2 weeks.

You don't always get quite as many flowers as the first flush, but plenty to keep your border blooming.

For now, the Echinacea and Verbena can shine in this part of the border.

I've also been pruning back

Lemon balm - cut right back to the ground

Lavenders - these start producing next years flower buds in September, so deadhead them by the end of this month.

Calendulas/Marigolds - very important to cut back annuals otherwise they will just seed and stop flowering completely

Alchemilla mollis - this will give a 2nd flush if you are brutal now (see how here)

and Euphobia Robbaie - cut back all flower stems to the ground on this spring flowering ground cover, and it looks a whole lot tidier, and encourages it to spread - but use gloves as the sap is poisonous.


Harvest for this w/e 7th August 2011

I havn't been telling you about my harvests so far this year. That doesn't mean there havn't been any, - just that i've normally been picking them 2 minutes before they are made into lunch or dinner, and I havn't had time to photograph them.

Yesterday however, thanks to the M25 being more of a nightmare than usual, I was waiting for my sister to come to lunch, so after spending a pleasant morning harvesting, I actually remembered to get the camera out for a reminder.

I've still got a few lettuces, Lollo rosso, and immatture leaves of Merveille de Quatre Saisons, plus Can Can. The rocket was eaten by flea beetles, but luckily the new season spinach is now ready for salads.

The tomatoes were mostly the Red Alert, and although these are not the easiest to grow, they are the tastiest. These havn't grown to as big as last years, I must remember to water more next year.

As well as Marketmore cucumber, which I find the easiest possible to grow, i've tried the lemon cucumber for the first time this year. The seeds were donated to the school gardening club by Seed Parade, but the ones we planted there were eaten by slugs. Luckily the couple of plants I kept for myself are doing very well in the greenhouse, and I think the fruit is delicious (my son dissagrees with me on this) although the skin needs to be removed.

The french beans have been very successful this year, - I planted 3 types, Speedy, an unnamed French variety, and Purple teepee. These look great, but disappointingly loose all their dark colour when steamed, so my plan to serve up 2 colours of beans failed.

We've also harvested, tons of apples, lots of raspberries, and the first fig this week.

Post Holiday pathos

The trouble with being a gardener, is that when you go away on holiday, the garden just, - well does it's own thing.


Random thoughts on my early evening stroll.

How did that grass get so long and weedy in 11 days?

I'd better pick some apples, or those branches will break.

I wonder if the lemon cucumbers will taste better or worse now they are lemon colour?

Why is it that now the sweet peas are ready to pick, the Calendula are looking over?

How can weeds get to smoothering Hosta size in just over a week, when everything else in that dry shady border struggles?

Better get mowing/deadheading/picking/weeding in the morning, - good job noone thinks i'm home till tomorrow! (don't tell them)