A poem for a frog

SummerhouseWelcome back to the summerhouse, dear readers. The weather in August has been a distinct improvement over July with a lot of growth and ripening crops. In the greenhouse tomatoes are ripening every day giving plenty to use in the kitchen. My courgette, tomato and rice soup proved a winner and I am building up bonus points which will stand me in good stead when I forget myself and wander into the house with muddy boots leaving footprints all over the carpet or leaving smelly gardening gloves in the kitchen.

In the Garden

Beans

Roots with nodules
Root nodules

The broad beans are gone now and as they are of the legume family (which includes peas) they developed nodules on the roots which contained nitrogen. I have returned the nodules to the ground as they will benefit the next crop. The plants collect nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots. When I cut the plants down I found a lot of beans which I had missed at my last picking  but as some were as tough as old boots they were not fit for the dining table. They were not wasted as I made a surprisingly tasty broad bean and red pepper soup which gained me further bonus points. So good I made a further batch of soup for freezing the next day.

I will now lightly dig this area and apply some chicken manure pellets before planting my Autumn onion sets, shallots and garlic. A word of warning here, never apply fresh chicken manure to your plot as this will burn the roots of anything you plant.

Dwarf french beans

I was complaining about how poor these were this year but the better August weather has revived them and I am harvesting them again.

Runner beans

While not quite at the picking stage, plenty of beans are now forming and I will give them a liquid feed to encourage them along.

Potatoes

My wife keeps asking  “When will we be getting some potatoes?” I can’t tell her as the shaws are still green and showing no signs of dying back. I am confident, however, that we will get our first boiling next month. I always  feel the wait is too long when I plant only late varieties.

Parsley

In my blog of 5 August I said it would take at least 3 weeks for the seed to germinate. Wrong!!! Seedlings started appearing after 15 days, quite the fastest germination I can remember. All conditions must have been just right for this to happen.

Dahlias 

Cream, full dahlia flowers
Eastwood Moonlight

In the open garden one of my favourite flowers is the dahlia. It is excellent for garden display and as a cut flower. The sheer number of different varieties, colour and shapes continue to fascinate me. There are over 1600 varieties to be seen at the National Dahlia Selection.  A particular favourite of mine is Eastwood Moonlight, a medium semi- cactus variety. Its yellow colour seems to grow more intense as dusk approaches giving it a lovely luminous quality.

Spring Bulbs

I love seeing a colourful display of Spring flowers in a garden, ranging from the snowdrop and crocus to the daffodil and tulip. There are of course many more. I have just ordered my bulbs on line from Parkers but if you are interested in a more exclusive selection try Bloms.  I will plant my bulbs in containers in October and place them in a sheltered spot behind the summerhouse. Next year when there is 2 – 3 inches of growth visible I will place them in bare patches in the garden to give a display throughout Spring. When flowering is over I will plant them in parts of the garden where I would like to see them the following year.

“Why”, I hear you ask,” do you not just plant them in the garden in October?” The answer is simple; in October I will have no idea where bulbs from previous years are going to appear so to avoid damaging them while digging I plant my new bulbs in containers. This also means I can move the containers around while the bulbs are blooming to get the most pleasing display.

In the greenhouse

Tomatoes

Frogs and toads live in or under my gro-bags and we get along pretty well together. The other day while I was watering a frog leapt out and sat staring at me. I was reminded of some years ago when I got a similar fright. At that time I was visiting the wonderful Maggie’s Centre in Dundee and taking part in creative writing sessions. I was inspired to write a poem about the frog which is just a bit of fun and may not be for the purist but it still amuses me. I hope you do not mind me sharing it with you. For those of you who do not grow tomatoes, Ailsa Craig and Alicante are both varieties of tomato.

Large frog
One of my frogs

Paddy the Puddock in my Greenhouse

I found him one May morning
The grass was wet with dew
In my greenhouse I was working
On that day the clouds were few.
I saw him in a corner watching me in fear
Coloured yellow, brown and golden green
With a mouth that stretched from ear to ear
On his head two black eyes were so keen
We worked well together all that Summer
Between Alicante and Ailsa Craig too
He patrolled the tomato beds like a US Army Hummer
Eating the beasties and slugs until his belly was fu’
A dish of water was always there for him
To prevent his skin from dehydrating
I kept it filled up to the brim
Paddy fairly enjoyed the bathing
It was after sunset one August night
When I stepped across the greenhouse door
A rotten tomato made me skite
I landed on Paddy and squashed him to the floor
It is sad but Paddy has gone now
He’s gone where the good puddocks go
Diving and swimming in that great pond in the sky
I may meet him one day in that garden on high.

06/08

Problems

Tomatoes can be affected by blossom end rot and while I have not been troubled so far this year I did have this problem last year. Affected plants are easily identified by the dark colouring on the bottom of the tomato. This is not a disease just a deficiency, usually caused by dry conditions which prevent the plant taking up calcium. Regular watering and a liquid feed should ensure that later fruit is unaffected.

Other matters 

Comfrey/Nettle Experiment

This experiment continues with the Tomorite treated courgettes excelling by 2.8 kg to 1.4kg of fruit but as I said before their situations are not identical.  If I repeat the experiment next year I will swap them round.

The Tomorite treated tomatoes look healthier and more robust and while they have been later in ripening there seems to be a larger crop. I will report in more detail in my next blog. I have been giving my outdoor pot plants a regular feed of the Comfrey/nettle mixture and the results have been promising with good strong growth and a good number of blooms.

Teabag Index UK

Teabag Index participant collage by Sarah Duddigan (Source: Teabag Index Facebook page)

Sarah, who we are helping with this experiment and will be analyzing the teabags, has posted this collage of participants. It was my intention to have a competition to see if anyone could identify me with a prize for the first correct entry. However, I decided it would be unfair to the readers who do not know me. Suffice to say you will find me if you look for a hat!

Thank you for reading my tale and please feel free to leave a comment.

Enjoy your garden.

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Planting teabags

Summer house
Where blogs are written

Welcome to the summerhouse dear readers, but do not fret, I am here of my own freewill and not by compulsion. I found that a steady stream of vegetables for the kitchen capped by making a delicious courgette and red pepper soup was sufficient to get me back in the good books. Note, no red roses required in this remedy !

I find that this is a great place for writing my blog.

Now for my garden:

Beans

Broad beans are more or less finished and  when removed I will replace with Autumn planting  Japanese onion sets, shallots and garlic. I sourced an offer of all three with a free bottle of onion fertiliser from Marshalls.  At the same time I ordered broad bean Aquadulce Claudia, an overwintering variety, for sowing in October to give an early crop of beans next year,

Dwarf french beans Castandel are not doing well, the crop being very poor. This is in contrast to the last two years when they were top performers. No doubt the poor Spring and Summer weather is the culprit.

Runner beans, it is too early to say how they will perform and they have reached the top of their wigwam but so far no beans to be seen despite having been in flower for a week or so.

Cabbage and Kale

Have done very well and are much larger than last year. So far the netting has stopped  the cabbage butterfly laying any eggs, hence no caterpillars. I use collars round the neck of my brassicas when planting out and this prevents attack by the cabbage root fly whose grubs devour the roots. I used to buy these but this year I made my own out of spare cardboard and they have worked well. I will mention this again with an image next Spring .

Courgettes

Are a success this year and while there is a pause in production just now I see many  courgettes starting to form and will ripen during the next few days. Frequent cutting of the courgettes before they grow big ensures a steady supply of tender and tasty courgettes.

Beetroot

Beetroot
Excellent this year

Boltardy has done exceptionally well this year and I am digging up large succulent roots which are much appreciated in the kitchen.

Fruit

Fig

Fruit on a tree
Growing nicely

Over the last four years, as per cultivation instructions, I grew my fig in a large pot but never had more than 3 figs in any year. Last winter, while the tree was dormant, I transplanted it in the open garden and it is fair to say it has flourished with eleven fruits this year.

Raspberries

Have finished fruiting so the fruit bearing canes of this year will be cut out at the base and the young growth tied to the supporting wires to fruit next year.

Strawberries

Did reasonably well but it is now time to cut off any dead leaves and remove any runners which bear the young plants. I might pin a few runners to the ground first of all to get them to root so I  have some more plants for next year.

In the Greenhouse.

Tomatoes

Sungold and Gardener’s Delight are ripening now, especially the former, providing a steady supply. Alicante is still being stubborn and staying green. During a recent visit to St Andrews Botanic Gardens I started chatting to a chap from Forfar who was bemoaning the slow ripening of his tomatoes, he had not picked a ripe one so far! He assured me he was going back home to hang bananas in his greenhouse to speed up ripening of his tomatoes!!! Now,  I have heard of people placing bananas in a bowl  to hasten ripening of other fruits but never in a greenhouse. I am convinced my tomatoes will ripen when they reach the correct stage of maturity. I think I will give his remedy a miss.

What is interesting is that those fed with my comfrey/nettle mixture are ripening faster than the others. This could turn out to be significant  as I would much rather have a smaller amount of ripe tomatoes than be left with a large amount of unripe fruit.

Pests.

Aphids

The garden still seems to be free from aphids. Although I did find a few black fly they were quickly squished and no others have taken their place.

Snails and Slugs

SnailThey have extracted their revenge, pass me the smelling salts!!! I had some salad crops growing in a container on top of my log store and I foolishly did not include them in my garden troubleshooting patrols as I knew they would not need watering. About four days later I looked and the tender green foliage had been stripped to the base, much too late now for my garlic spray!   I left my container and went back after dark and found the rascal shown in my picture polishing off the last of the greenery! Any guesses as to what happened to him? I should have known better than to neglect daily inspections but I will sow some more and pay more attention this time.

Other Matters

Teabag index UK

Experimental pack of teabags
My pack

My Teabag index kit arrived and it was with much excitement I selected 3 spots in my garden to bury my teabags. After planting my last sample I was firming the soil around the marker stick when my neighbour’s head popped over the wall. ” Now I’ve seen it all” he said “Why are you planting lollipop sticks in your grass Ian? You must be daft.”  “I’m not daft ” I replied, “I’m planting teabags here not lollipop sticks”. He raised his eyes to the heavens, gave a sigh and shook his head.

As he was walking away he turned and said ” By the way I notice a nasty smell around here sometimes, when I pass. It must be the drains and I think you should report it to the Council”. I just nodded, smiled and held my breath  as I gave the courgettes some of my comfrey/nettle mixture.

Comments

I apologise to any  readers who have tried to comment on my previous blogs but have been unable to do so. This was due to my settings being wrong but this has since been rectified and is working properly now.

On a similar vein an old friend of mine whose computer skills are limited told me how he enjoyed my blog but why did I have some words in blue? I explained that by clicking on the blue words he would be taken through to further information on that subject. He thought that  was a pretty good idea.

I am glad that we have both learned something new about the computer and blogging this week.

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments as it will now be easy to do.

Enjoy your gardening.

Garlic spray and cucumber wilt

Well here I am again. Yesterday I made more garlic spray, this time to tackle the earwigs and slugs attacking my dahlias. This morning I was accused of smelling strongly of garlic and that I should wash my hands in vinegar to get rid of the smell. I explained that I used the last of the vinegar to make my latest batch of weedkiller. I knew from the atmosphere it was time to beat a hasty retreat and as I left I heard “and don’t bring your gardening  gloves into the house again as you have obviously spilled some of your comfrey/nettle mixture on them”. That’s me in the doghouse again, just as well I have the summerhouse  as a sanctuary.

My Garden

Beans

Runner beans growing against brick wall
The discarded runner beans with a pathetic tomato

Broad beans continue to produce enough to let us have them every day as a vegetable. When I start to tire of them I will freeze a few. Dwarf french beans are now coming on stream and will slot in nicely as the broad beans come to an end. Runner beans are now in blossom so things are looking good for them. If you read my blog of 27th June  you will know that my first sowing became a victim of the harsh Spring weather. There were three plants which had some life about them and being a softie I did not compost them.  Instead I  put them in a corner beside the compost bins. They have responded well in the sheltered environment and in fact have flower buds showing.

Courgettes

I mentioned in my blog of 15th July that I had extended my comfrey/nettle experiment to them and so far the courgette fed on tomarite is away ahead of the comfrey/nettle one having produced 1.76kg of courgettes whereas the comfrey/nettle only .889kg. To be fair the tomorite courgette was bigger, stronger and is in a slightly more favourable situation. We will see how they compare at the end of the season. Who knows the big producer now may suffer from burnout.  

Potatoes

Large potato plants behind a row of onions
Potatoes overpowering onions and leeks

Due to crop rotation I have not grown potatoes for four years or so and I had forgotten how big main crop potatoes grow!  My Pentland Dell is in danger of suffocating some of my onions and leeks! Next year I will grow earlies in another part of the garden (Duke of York is a favourite of mine). They are not so strong growers.

Turnips

“Purple Top”, small turnips, are now finished so to use the ground  I sowed dwarf pea “Meteor”in their place on 14th July and they are growing well. We may have some peas in the Autumn. I spread the residue from my garlic spray along the row to deter the slugs and snails and to date they are unscathed.

Apples

Maturing apples on a tree branch
Too bonnie to thin out

I mentioned in my blog of 15th July that I would wait until after the “June Drop” to thin my apples. Despite it now being August and considering the strong winds, there have been very few fallen apples. They are now looking so good I don’t have the heart to climb the tree to remove any. I am hoping that all the wet weather will keep the fruit swelling until ripe.

In the Greenhouse

Cucumber

Cucumber stem covered in mould
The dreaded stem rot

My one plant wilted and died on 30 July suffering from stem rot. I may have been over generous with watering as they prefer a dry atmosphere whereas tomatoes thrive in a humid one. Very difficult to strike the right balance when both crops are in a small greenhouse.  At the end of the day it did produce 10 fine cucumbers and we are making some cucumber soup with the last one.   When I first tried this soup I was surprised by how delicious it is. I will sow parsley in the empty gro bag as this herb is always in demand in our house. Germination can take some time, at least 3 weeks, so some patience is required. For some reason flat leafed parsley germinates more quickly than the curly leafed variety.

Tomatoes

At last on 2nd August, I picked 5 tomatoes (Sungold) and it was a treat to enjoy a home grown tomato again. I had to wait 2 weeks longer this year for my first taste. Sungold is a sweet variety and is best left until it is orange in colour and fully ripe. Although Gardener’s Delight and Alicante (my other varieties) are still green I am expecting a steady supply of tomatoes over the next 2 months, or longer, if we have an Indian Summer . In the meantime I will continue feeding twice a week. In my last blog I mentioned the magnesium deficiency in my experimental tomatoes and Jessie Roberts has been good enough to tell me that liquid seaweed is also an effective remedy. The use of epsom salts as a cure intrigued me and I was amazed when I saw on the internet how many effective uses it has in the garden.

Other Matters

I have been doing some hard pruning of spring flowering shrubs which after shredding I have used as a mulch among my shrubs and also topped up my compost bins. It should rot down nicely over the next few months. While browsing I came across an experiment entitled Tea Bag Index where tea bags (organic I believe) are buried in the ground for 3 months and then sent back for analysis. This is to ascertain how quickly decomposition occurs in different soils. This is a world wide initiative.  The rate of release of CO2  from this source is of great importance when related to climate change.  If you are interested in taking part in this experiment follow this link  to Tea Bag Index UK. I am waiting impatiently for my tea bags to arrive as I believe an additional complementary tea bag is included in the pack. Now if only I had an electric kettle in the summerhouse I could settle in for the day  with a nice cup of tea and a digestive!!

Thank you for reading and I will be delighted to read any comments you wish to leave. Enjoy your gardening.