Friday, 9 April 2021

Fruit & Veg

Cerise - good enough to eat (last summer's photo)
Tomatoes were a great success last year and requests have already been coming in for more of the same

I think the winner was Cerise - a small sweet variety that can be grown in a pot. It fruited prolifically and was especially appreciated by first-time growers 

So, Cerise is certainly on this year's list but we have considerably expanded the range. As you can see below, propagation is well underway. Germination has been good and we should have more that enough to meet demand. Here's a quick guide to some of the other varieties

Seedlings in the greenhouse 
Tomatoes plants towards the back

Take your pick!

For those who want a traditional British cordon variety we have both Moneymaker and Gardeners' Delight. Lidl have not stocked Harzfeuer this year, instead I've sown their alternative which is called Hildares (from Germany, I imagine)

Marmande, which has bigger fruit than any of these, is French, as the name suggests. A big tomato that is reputedly even bigger on flavour

In terms of smaller size fruits we have Sungold and several derivatives plus a variety that will even grow in a hanging basket: Tumbling Tom. The full line-up is truly international, in addition to France and Germany we have: Sakura (Japan), San Marzano (Italy) and Alicante (Spain)

Of course, it is far to early to plant out tomatoes but I thought readers might like to know what is coming along. We now turn to fruit and veg that can be planted now ...

Well-rooted strawberry plants
Strawberries

Yes, we know that Wimbledon some way off (and, to be honest, I don't know what the plans are) but, whatever happens, you won't get strawberries in June without action now. We have two strawberry offers ...

(1) We have some excellent plants that have done well over the winter, developing really strong root systems - as you can see in the photograph here. Strawberries need full sunshine but are easy to grow - just watch out for slugs (birds like them, too - attracted by the colour, I'm told. I guess the slugs just sniff them out)

(2) Special offer. I have made up a planter with three of my best strawberry plants. I've been bringing them on in the greenhouse so you can be sure of an early crop. There is only one trough available, so it is: first come, first served. You only have to put it in a sunny spot and make sure it doesn't dry out. Feed with ordinary tomato fertiliser and you can guarantee a great crop

Flower buds already forming
Other fruity offers

There are also several rhubarb plants available. They are surely a heritage variety but I'm afraid I don't know the name. Been in Mrs Codger's family since the year dot - and tastes superb

From Codger's side of the family we have Uncle Doug, or so I call it. A cultivated blackberry - good size fruit and lovely flavour. Whereas rhubarb will take some shade, make sure you plant a blackberry in full sun if you want sweet fruit

Heritage rhubarb
We also have a few blueberry plants. Like all the plants mentioned, they should give you fruit this year

Fancy something rather special? Chuckleberry could be the answer. Despite the name - or, perhaps, because of it, this berry makes the best jam in the world - similar to blackcurrant but an even more intense flavour. (I wrote about this hard-to-come-by fruit last year - you could trawl back for more information)

In a similar category we also have a Tummelberry - yes, you read it here first! As with all the above, just get in touch if you are interested (and see below for opening)

Before we move onto vegetables I want to share a sight for sore eyes

Not all gardening surprises are great (Codger has many failures, he readily admits) but I did have surprise yesterday when, seeming overnight, one of my clematis burst into bloom

For most of the year Clematis armandii is recognisable by its rather leathery foliage. It the right place, a useful plant - and the flowers are lovely and so delicate, as you can see (right)

Growing below this clematis (photograph shown below here) I have some unusual snow drops. This is a tall-growing variety so much easier to appreciate - that is, easier on the hands and knees




Well, what about veg?

This is by way of advance information. In a month or so we will be offering runner bean plants (Polestar) and also French beans (several varieties including the reliable Cobra)

There is one veg you can plant now - broad beans. We have a few young plants available as we goo to press - good variety Aquadulce. Worth a try if you have a little space

In due course, I'll remind you of a great snack recipe for broad beans - fantastic flavour, especially the first picking

A small Turk's Turban kept for decoration

Just thought: I ought to add a point about tomato plants. You can have them three ways: (1) plants to put into your border, (2) all potted up and ready-to-go, and (3) innovation: planted up in a baskets (Tumbling Tom, as mentioned above)

We shall also be repeating Grow Your Own Squash - great for kids. The Turk's Turban proved popular as family project last year

Nearly ready

Despite the low temperatures and the nippy wind, we are making good progress and hope soon to welcome anyone who would like to pick up plants. Codger felt that he needed to smarten up his own patch first

Covid-19 restrictions are being eased next week so look out for details in the next edition when we'll return the focus back to plants that will look great in your border. And, I've just realised - it is almost one year now since we first threw open the gates to Codger's Nursery - that was on 18th April 2020. How time flies!

With best wishes from your old friend, the Garden Codger

PS - a few shots to finish

Cherry blossom on the walkway

Dog's Tooth Violet - not quite open - get the name?


Our second, later flowering, camellia - great name Nuccio's Jewel

... and those rather gaudy Fritillaria Imperalis

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Photo extra

May blossom on the nearby walkway
It is not altogether clear what the question was but the answer has gone done in the history of quotations: "Events, dear boy, events." So spoke the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. describing the unpredictability of politics

Codger, overtaken by seemingly everyday events, has not found the time to pull together the material for this week's planned edition. So, with my apologies, a few photos to show that, Spring is sprung (although with the erratic weather conditions, unsprung might be the better verb!)


Ground elder eradication programme in action
That ground elder!

Before I show you something pretty, here is one event that has scuppered my timing this week - weeding! But not weeding, as you know it. This is ground-elder-blitzkrieg - following every root back and extricating it from the other roots with which it viciously intertwines

Sadly, all this trouble is a self inflicted injury. I once, rather stupidly, put ground elder on the compost heap. I live to regret it!

Camellia

Turning to something more pleasant. Mrs Codger loves blooms that appear two-tone. Moreover, Mr Codger loves camellias - so we are both very happy with this variety

Too cold to go out to check but I believe this variety is scented - somewhat unusual for a camellia - must check tomorrow but I fear that there will be is too strong a wind


Rhubarb!

Epimedium nestling in the shady woodland corner

Not in the same category, I know. But a sneaky reminder that we have some lovely plants looking for a good home! More on fruit and veg next week (held over from this)

Epimedium

I am rather pleased with this result - the first flowering of an epimedium. It is growing in my tiny woodland corner where all the plants are selected for those conditions. Codger finds it really gratifying when the choice works out well

There are a a few dog's tooth violets (erythronium pagoda) also making a showing. I planted the bulbs in the autumn and they are almost in flower - look out in the next edition

Crown imperial

On the patio, away from the shady area, this is another first. Rather showy but rather grand, too, don't you think? A bit of a fling that has paid off

Certainly worthy of its name: fritillaria imperialis! Despite the ten degree drop in temperature I am hoping that we will get the full royal display tomorrow as the blooms open


Violas

Rather more humble, violas have their place. I always think they look to be cheerful souls


They seem to sing!




Blossom has suddenly appeared on the pear

Promise

Sadly, our time is almost up. It has been grim work attacking the ground elder. But looking up I see our pear in blossom. What promise!

And so appropriate for Easter. Despite other pressures (Mrs Codger has not been too well), I try to keep the main focus right as we approach Good Friday. I continue to be fascinated with Luke's account and was struck by the introduction in today's reading in the series of reflections I have been following 

Page 135 of To Seek and To Save
Sinclair Ferguson comments on the remarkable prominence given to the closing week of Jesus' life on earth (see tailpiece) and then, speaking of the reactions of the two thieves crucified with Jesus, makes the following observation:

We know that the law never works grace: punishment does not make us love; in and of itself it may produce regret, but it cannot produce repentance. Only the hope of forgiveness can produce repentance 

Rather than wish my readers a Happy Easter, may I wish you a contemplative one? And an Easter with an open Bible - God's means of bringing the blessings of the Easter message

So, with my best wishes - from the old Garden Codger


Here are Dr Ferguson's comments taken from the page photographed above:

THE TWO CRIMINALS

Luke 23:32, 39-43

The Gospels have sometimes been described as passion narratives with extended introductions. There is an element of truth in this. Luke spends two chapters on the first twelve years of Jesus' life, sixteen chapters on the final three years, and then six chapters on the final week. It is with a view to this week that Jesus lived all previous weeks. So the action is slowed down, frame by frame as it were, to help us to meditate on and take in the significance of what is happening for clearly this part of the Gospel is the key to the whole.

Now Luke devotes two whole chapters to the closing twenty-four hours of Jesus' life. It is with a view to these hours that Jesus has lived all his previous hours.

And here, slowing down even further, Luke devotes five verses to a conversation that may have lasted only a minute or two. But in one sense, it is with a view to what Jesus would accomplish in these few minutes that he lived all previous minutes.

(I might add that I have a spare copy of the book. Don't hesitate to contact me if you would like it. It has forty readings and is wonderful. At least, this old man finds it so)

And, for good measure, one last photo from the shady woodland corner





Friday, 26 March 2021

A time to plant

This week's offer
Our initial focus this week is on planting. Readers will have felt the rather modest temperatures this month - but you may have also noticed that this has been no great deterrent to the weeds! 

Growth is well underway and it is safe to begin planting out those plants that will brave a bit of frost - we still need to keep that possibility in mind

However, you may prefer a head's start so we begin with an easy winner. I have planted up a pot of Spring flowers - a primula surrounded by violas - as a 'come and get me' offer. Please let me know if you would like it - as usual: first come, first served

Please note that there will be a similar fruit & veg offer next week - already planted up and coming on in the greenhouse

Turning now to plants that are ready and eager to find a place in your border ...

The peony in bud and flower May 2020
Peony

I have one, just one, really well-established plant that I potted up last autumn (see photo below)

As you can see it has just come into growth and should give great flowers this season. This photo from 2020 shows how it looked last year. . Codger would really love this strong plant to go to a good home. As you see, the flower has a lovely colour

As it looks right now
The photo was taken last May. So, plant it now and you enjoy a great display in just a couple of months. Thinking about it, you have a two-way choice: plant it in the garden or leave it in the pot - or I could pot it on for you if you would like it in a larger container

Hellebores

You may have noticed that Codger likes his hellebores. Why? Simple, you get three months of colour when nothing else is in flower! (January to March, ours are still in flower).

Added to this you have a plant that is reliable and easy to maintain. I'll put another photo in the tailpeice so you have an idea of the colour range available

My hellebores in February (also see tailpiece)

I already have a good stock of plants which will be further increased when my hellebore patch has done flowering - that will be sometime next month

Please get in touch if interested - plants are available now with more coming on-stream soon

Chrysanthemums

Right now is a very good time to get to the back of the border - something more difficult as the season advances. We have some excellent plants that will look fine there: chrysanthemums

How one plant looked at the end of November
Last year I found that they flowered continuously for months - right through the autumn and well into the winter

Despite their reputation as rather specialist plants, I have been surprised to find them fairly easy - just let them grow and cut back at the end of the season. They are available as yellow, white and various bronze shades

All the plants that I am mentioning today are perennials - that is, they come into flower again year after year. Worth noting that they make excellent cut flowers

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun - photographed September 2020

Rudbeckia

In a month or two, I will have some new varieties. Available, right now, I have plenty of the really sturdy Rudbeckia Prairie Sun. Last year they gave a splendid display. Again, really good value in that they flower for months on end

Codger strongly recommends these really reliable plants

Jane Phillips (AGM) - loved by robins!

Iris

The one bloom that invariably gets admiring glances in our garden is a lovely powder blue iris. Codger is 99% sure it is Jane Phillips - the label showing the variety disappeared many years ago. It proved very popular last year so I propagated more and these are now available

They are potted up and ready to go - as you can see here (below)

Potted up and ready to go

Many more

Old Codger's Nursery is already bursting at the seams. We have far more plants than listed here. I have started to update the Plants for You page and will continue to do so. (Reminder: you will find Plants for You at the top right of this page)

However, nothing is better than taking a look yourself and we are hoping that, as Covid restrictions are eased, that will be possible again

You may gain some impression of this from the photo of the new plastic greenhouse (below). As I mentioned last week, extra shelving has been installed. Those shelves are now filled as you can see here. So, next week, I'll be promoting some more flowering plants

No room - plastic greenhouse full!
I also intend to tell you about fruit and veg plants that will become available. Orders for tomatoes are already coming in, so we will be explaining about the different varieties that you can choose from

That plastic job!

Remember my cautionary comments about plastic greenhouses? One thing I forgot to say was that seams and zips are the most vulnerable points

Yes, I have already had experience of a seam popping. Rather than the upheaval of dismantling and sending the thing back, I've risked a repair - and it seems (seams?) to be holding up - see below. I'll spare you the details but anyone wanting to know the best adhesive and so forth - just get in touch

The repair. Clips needed - and the correct adhesive

Another tip

I recently mentioned that, for reasons of cost, I have switched to perlite from vermiculite. So, another tip: don't breathe in when handling perlite - there's a very fine dusk, invisible to my eyes, that gets my chest. Otherwise, I've been happy with the stuff

Interesting to note, though, that cuttings I took last year have done better in vermiculite. More on this topic another time

Well, it's a busy time of year so need to wind up now. Please get in touch if you are interested in any of the plant offers - there will be more next week

Best wishes from the old Garden Codger

A few flower photos

Our camellia flowered yesterday
















Here are some of the hellebores I'm so pleased with (we have a range of colours available)
















... and, easily overlooked - the humble pulmonaria (lungwort)




Tuesday, 16 March 2021

A time to sow ...

The supermarkets go big with primulas this time of year
A glimmer of sunshine, a slight rise in temperature, a hint of growth - and the urge to sow and plant become irresistible. Perhaps that is the definition of a gardener, one who sows in hope ...

It will not surprise you to learn that Codger has been busy sowing and today's edition has this as its main focus. There is plenty of advice on the web but we have one or two tips of our own

A couple of websites first. I mentioned Charles Dowding last week - you'll find his site here. There are many, many others including Grow Veg which I came across only recently - you can try it here. Here are a few brief propagation pointers of my own ...

Seeds available in multiple outlets - often good value

Buying seeds

You don't need to spend a mint on seeds. Often a packet of seeds contains far more than you can use. The photo shows seeds I bought a few days ago from Lidl (ignoring the expensive packet from elsewhere, bottom right). The five packets from Lidl cost less than £2.00 in total (upon checking the receipt just £1.65 - not bad!)

Many online suppliers do good offers, too.  Mind you, I often weaken when I see something that takes my fancy. The fancy in the picture is Purple Bell Vine, something new to me that I want to try

Codger likes to lighten the sowing mix
This year we are trying Perlite

On Saturday I noticed that Homebase was selling six 50 litre bags for £22. I find I cannot now cope with the big (120 litre) bags (it comes to us all). I was pleased to see that the instructions on the bad advocated lightening the mix with something like vermiculite or perlite. Coarse sand can also work. Improving drainage by such additions gives better germination

Most of the covers here are recycled -
mainly from food containers

Read the instructions

Seed packets always have instructions on the back. The bit I always look for is the germination temperature, usually 15-20℃. A sunny window ledge will easily achieve this. You can create a micro-climate by covering with a plastic bag. I also find bubble-wrap works well. Obviously, Codger is working to a bigger scale in the greenhouse

Containers

Recycle trays and pots that you already have. I try not to purchase flimsy trays that won't last. I also use disposable food containers that come from the supermarket (plastic re-use, again). Of course, it is necessary to drill drainage holes

My new addition, somewhat squashed in
being used as a cold frame 
Plastic greenhouses

I sometimes get asked about the cheap greenhouses that are available at retail outfits. Dare I say it but I have had many years experience of these contraptions and have accumulated a bit of advice

Let me first explain that my recent purchase is being deployed more as a cold frame - Codger needs the space as seedlings develop. So, with its assembly fresh in my mind, let me pass on a few pointers. First, a don't - don't buy one with a flimsy see-through cover (see last week's photo). Go for the sort where the cover has meshed reinforcement. With regard to assembly:


1: Don't rush, take your time - it's easy to get in a mix. 

The structure is formed from steel tubing
joined by plastic corner pieces

2: Push the tubing fully home - a tap with a Brummagem screwdriver may be needed. 


3: You need level hardstanding - in my case slabs - this means that the thing stands square. 

4: Secure the beast - otherwise the wind will take it in spectacular fashion! 

5: Finally, persuade the cover into place - don't force it, otherwise the zips will give way. I could say a lot more - I've made many, many mistakes in the past

A final and vital point: do not expect it to last forever but, remember, replacement covers may be available (you can check this on purchase).

A bit of DIY

Extra shelving made from old parts
Do you have the remains of an old plastic greenhouse? Great, you have a kit of parts that can be reused! I needed to increase the amount of shelving in the new one and built a unit from old parts. The metal tubing and plastic joints seem to be made to a standard size - I have combined different makes quite successfully in the past

The tubing is made of thin steel and can be cut to size. The best way of doing this is to use a plumber's cutter - I find a hacksaw less good because the material is very thin and snags. Take a look at the photos and you'll be able to work out how I did the job. (Yes, you've guessed - old Codger grew up with Meccano. You'll find a few more shots as a tailpiece, below.) Incidentally, all the staging (shelving) in my proper glasshouse is constructed from old plastic greenhouse bits

An unexpected donation

We are almost ready to supply plants for this season - very close, in fact. See the next edition for details - out in about ten days time

But I can risk telling you that we should have some nice geraniums. I spent yesterday afternoon potting-on 72 plug plants that were not required by the person who ordered them. They have been kindly passed on to us so that BCM gets the benefit

The variety is is Bull's Eye and there will be a mixture of colours - or so the delivery note says. Just as well that I bought those six bags of potting compost!

Very healthy geranium cuttings - now transplanted and growing away


Something a bit different

You may have worked out that Codger is fascinated by the way plants grow. The unseen microscopic action that is continually taking place in the soil is vital to this process. Fungi play a key part. They can be strangely beautiful, too - as you can see here. The photo is courtesy of Wiki - a Japanese photographer, I believe



If this fascinates you, too - then you are sure to appreciate the work of an Australian photographer, Stephen Axford. You may well have seen his time-lapse photography on television. The BBC have incorporated his work in recent David Attenborough films. You can view a wonderful video of the world of fungi here - and meet Steve Axford at the same time:


(If you are viewing on a mobile phone, you may need to click here)

A time to sow ...

To me, all of this demonstrates the absolute wonder of creation. Illustrated, again, every time a seed germinates. When I checked out the quotation "A time to sow .." I found I had got it wrong in that the Biblical original is "A time to plant ..." ( Ecclesiastes 3:2)

I like to get quotes correct and was digging around the lyrics of "Turn, turn, turn" - remember - Pete Seeger and many other followers? Then, in that strange serendipitous way of the internet, hit upon this. Join me for a quiet moment before you rush on today:


(If you are viewing on a mobile phone, you may need to click here)

If you are still with me, you'll find a few more photos below. Best wishes!

... from the old Garden Codger

Extras: first, if you are interested in plastic greenhouse reuse ...

Pipe cutter used to shorten or clean up reused tubing - gives a nice clean cut - and is quick


Then, if you want to see how a new structure (or old!) goes together:

Slabs give a firm footing. I was squeezing into a tight space. But, this protects from wind

Meanwhile, the tomato seedling are coming on. Photo just taken (noon today). Almost ready to prick out - my next big job

Tomato seedlings sown three weeks ago in my DIY propagator set at 19 degrees Celsius
The bubble-wrap is rolled back - this covers at night - we are still getting low temperatures


Signs of life - the frogs have been busy in the pond doing what frogs do


And, finally, a bit of aubretia brightness