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August 2009

Making more strawberry plants

Oh no not another fruit post, but it is the time of year to make more strawberry plants, so let me show you how.
my strawberry plants fed my son well this year, (and I got the occasional berry) but most of them have now decided to reproduce by putting out "runners" which are mini plants, which are still joined to the main plant. 

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Tomato Blight, watch out, it's about.

I saw my first case of blight this year today, - This is a fungal spore that you need to know what it looks like, so you can catch it the first day it occurs.
Blight is what caused the Irish potato famine, and if you are growing potatoes or tomatoes outdoors, you need to spot it within a day of it starting to be able to save your crop
For it to develop you need a couple of days of warm wet conditions (oh yes like in an English summer!) and then the spores will work fast to turn the stems and leaves brown (this is called the Haulm on potatoes). The only prevention is to spray when conditions are likely to effect plants, but for those of us that garden organically, (or don't get round to spraying) the only cure is to remove effected plants the minute you see the problem. 

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August Flowers Blooming

A lot of the planting in my garden is less than a year old, but that doesn't mean that there isn't lots flowering in the mid of summer. - Here is my photo record of those things flowering in the middle of August.

Geranium Rozanne and Sedum Purple Emporer- the sedum is supported by an upturned wire hanging basket to prevent it flopping.

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Fresh Figs - how to grow and enjoy them


Ripefig Until a year ago I hadn't ever eaten a fig fresh from a fig tree, i'd had a couple of fresh figs in hotel room fruit baskets (back in our traveling on airmiles points days) but mostly i'd only had figs as a dried fruit.

When a client that I visited in Dorking last September picked a fig from their huge tree, that was growing up their house and hadn't been pruned or attended to that year, and I tasted the sweet fruit that you could eat skin and all, I knew that I had to have a fig tree.

So I put it on my Birthday and Christmas list, and my mum came up trumps and got me a fan trained Brown Turkey fig from the Wisley Plant Centre.

When I got it last November, we were concentrating on painting and carpeting the house, so it was ignored in its pot at the side of the house until March, when I bought a large pot for it, and planted it up in a mixture of homemade compost and John Innes Compost.

I put it on our lovely sunny patio, against my Greenhouse, and watered it occasionally, and lo here we are mid august and i've harvest 7 figs from it this week.  The first one swelled overnight, and I got very excited and picked it before it was really ripe, - i've been leaving them a bit longer now I know the deal, and although the late Christopher Lloyd suggests putting a plastic bag over each fruit for 3 days to prevent wasps and birds getting to them, I haven't had time to do that, and they seem to have been ok so far.  I think i've got about another 6 that should ripen over the next few weeks, they suddenly seem to swell and change colour very quickly so it could be less time than that.

Babyfigs There are also some baby figs developing that are currently about pea size, If I was in the Mediterranean these might give me a 2nd crop this Autumn, but here in southern England, i'm very unlikely for them to ripen this side of Christmas, and if they've got to the size of the other figs in this photo, i'll have to take them off as they won't survive the winter.  If there are any pea size figs left in  November, they may make it through to be next years crop.

As this was a fan trained plant, that was fairly mature, I won't have got back my (mum's ) investment this year, - but with four figs costing £2.50 this week at Waitrose, with no named country of origin -i'll be enjoying my English figs for breakfast this week, - I think Honey and yogurt will go nicely.

If you didn't want to buy a fan trained plant you can get a small fig in a 3 to 5 litre pot for under £20 (the smaller the pot, the longer you'll have to wait for figs) Brown Turkey is the most widely available variety, but Brunswick and White Marseilles are often listed and a specialist may have even more. Figs actually appreciate having some restriction at their roots, and will become very large trees if they are in fertile soil.  The large leaves are great for providing shade, but don't forget they are deciduous so you will have lots of leaves to sweep up if you put one over a border or lawn (voice of experience having had a client with a large tree in their lawn.)

i'll leave you with a picture of my plant shading my greenhouse
Fan fig in pot

Successful gardening day out with Children

Being fortunate enough to live just down the road from RHS Garden Wisley, my son has been trailed around the garden there, on average about once a week since birth. As he's now a big school boy, we havn't been so much recently, but last summer's visit to their new attraction obviously had a lasting memory, as all this week, he's been asking to visit the Maize maze. - Here's the story of our morning out in pictures (mostly taken by him)
10000 bedding plants were used to create this carpet bedding picture of a peacock.

We collected our map and garden explorers trail sheet from the entrance and followed the pirate Maize maze this way signs through the garden.
The Maize maze is planted on the site of the old Wisley Greenhouses, - a nice big flat area, which lends itself wonderfully to this. - The Pirate theme, was added to by various dead end (me hearties) signs, - Parrots, and Pirate Scarecrows on the way, before we finally (after a good trek) found our way to the centre, - a very good design of maze, and very tall thick maize plants which meant that every now and again, you couldn't even see the pirate ship we were heading to.

But we reached the centre

As William is now reading, he had spotted on the map that there was a new play area, - so we headed in that direction through the fruit
His favourite fruit - pears - here trained on cordons

We were both impressed with the amount of fruit on the standard redcurrants

We watched the gardeners picking the blueberries, and found purple peppers, cucumbers ("they havn't got prickles on like our ones!") and aubergines("yuk") in the polytunnel. We then went through the fruit trail fields and found the yellow raspberry mentioned on the trail, and I felt very proud that my figs were looking bigger and riper than theirs.

I managed to stop William scrumping any blackberries, and then he raced me down the Piet Oudolf borders (no contest, he won by a mile) to the play area. Wild at Wisley- This is an area out in the Arboetum past the new glasshouse, which hardly anyone gets out to, - so it's a perfect area to put over to kids, and they have created some great features with carved logs, and dips in the ground.

There was also a grass spiral, and this balance trunk amused William, as he pretended there were crocodiles underneath


  We then did some more of the trail, finding the largest and smallest possible leaf, looking for fish  and finding water lilies.


We ended off our visit by with a visit to the garden centre,- William had told me that as it was his day, I couldn't go there, but an apple from the cart changed his mind, so I got a chance to browse the new season bulbs.

My tips for a sucessful gardening day out with Children

1) don't forget a drink and a snack, - Garden cafe's are available, but are often expensive with a queue

2) take as much literature from the garden entrance as possible, maps are always popular even with very little ones, any trails are good value as well

3) ask questions all the way round, - a lot of garden features will be missed by children unless they are looking for them - e.g what is the statue of, how many pink flowers can you see

4) don't stay to long, if you overstay a visit, as well as having a miserable child on the day, they won't want to go back again in the future.

Harvest time - save money on your food bills

i'm excited this morning as i've harvested my first fig (yes my posts are mostly about food at this time of year) - i've just eaten it with breakfast, - and it was tasty, although I probably should have left it until later as it wasn't quite sweet enough.
As you can see from the photo, i've harvested quite a mixture, and although I love growing vegetables, it's the fruit that i'm really excited about

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Top recipe for using august garden harvest


Warm Chickpea salad (original recipe from BBC Goodfood magazine, but i've amended it for me)

This is one of my favourite recipe's for using August vegetable garden harvests. This evening, I used yellow courgette, Cherry tomatoes, and 6 types of herbs (2 x mint, thyme, Parsley, Rosemary and Chives) from the garden. plus pepper and onions (mine have been hopeless this year!)

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