Monday 1 June 2020

The soft option (1)

Container-grown in greenhouse 
Space is at premium is most gardens. From the feedback we receive that is particularly true of our readers. For those with young children, necessity demands a lawn for play purposes. Not much space is left in which to grow fruit and veg. Strawberries are well worth considering as they grow well in containers – especially the long plastic troughs we mentioned last week. These are cheap and work well

For the more adventurous, a similar size container can be from an old pallet. Gardener’s World recently featured a pallet project. They made the job look very simple, but I have discovered a  catch – getting the pallet apart. I have done several pallet projects and every time this has been the main difficulty. Energetic attack will leave you with a pile of splintered wood. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has found the simple way to disassemble that which is made not to come apart!

A reader's starter greenhouse
I grew five troughs of strawberries in the greenhouse with satisfactory results, as the photo above shows. A small plastic greenhouse will also do the trick if you want an early crop (photo right). A sunny spot is essential with strawberries. The one problem I encountered was whitefly. I think they like to overwinter in the strawberries. However, 'twas dealt with using a safe spray (the one that makes the pests fall off coughing)

We also have strawberries growing outside. These are just beginning to fruit, so we have a neat succession. In fact, unless you want an early crop, you can forget greenhouse - strawberries are great outside but keep an eye out for slugs

Better still
We prefer raspberries. Provided with a bit of support they pretty well look after themselves. They will take some shade, provided they can grow up and into direct sunlight. The growing information will tell you whether the variety is early, mid-season or late. You can have fruit over several months by growing all three types.  I shall let you know when we start picking and when we finish

Raspberry cane bent over to increase fruit production
An old trick
I think the reason that our canes grow tall is that they are in a shady corner looking for the light. Garden Codger turns this to his advantage - by simply bending over the tops of the canes. It is known that this action causes the plant to fruit better. Certainly worth trying. I have taken a photo (left) to show how I do it - not terribly clear but you can see how the top of the cane is arched over. Incidentally, I used wire to tie in the canes. Our cheeky sparrows eat the string I prefer to use - a natural hemp - perhaps the quality is too good

Dappled shade
Shady corner opened up by judicious pruning
I plan to continue the soft fruit story tomorrow, so come back for part 2 then. Having raised the topic of shade, let me share a little success story. We have a corner where the shrubs were becoming both leggy and congested in heavy shade - also very dry due to nearby tree roots. I tend to be a cautious pruner but summoned up courage and removed a lot of the top growth to let in more light. I almost decided to dig out a redundant rhododendron but held back. The photo shows the result: flowers! All the plants there are listed as preferring dappled shade. I took to opportunity to move some around a bit - a bit of fine-tuning. I watered well, both before and after. It seems to be working fine

Crackpot contraption 
Repair hidden at the back
Rear view showing the tensioner and wire loop
Some readers enjoy the odd hints and tips spot. So, here is another: did you know it is possible to repair a big pot? Here's how I tackled a large earthenware pot that was badly cracked. In fact, is was given to me as vulnerable and no longer saleable stock. It has been happy growing an hydrangea (see photo left) but was threatening to split in two. I had purchased some tensioners for another garden job and had one spare - this gave me an idea. It was necessary to fix the tensioner so it stands away from the pot's surface. You can see how I did this (second photo). The pot now stands with the contraption hidden from sight. All seems well - the hydrangea is thriving. In fact, some of her daughters are ready to leave home. She gave birth whilst out of the pot. Lovely white flower - Dutch. Get in touch if you would like one. Winter will be the test of the repair - especially if we get a really cold snap

Hanging basket - flowers will increase and cover
Basket in the sun 
However, it is difficult to think of a cold snap just at the moment. Fancy a hanging basket? This one is available right now. In no time it will be covered with flowers. Available now and, hopefully, more to follow. So, on offer at the moment we have:

Hanging baskets (trailing petunias)
Young hydrangeas (white)
Money Maker tomato plants (lots)

More to come on soft fruit - even includes a horticultural joke
The nursery calls
We are coming to a critical point in the greenhouse year which I shall explain tomorrow. And, we also plan to have the second instalment of the soft fruit story. Apart from a couple of deliveries yesterday (socially distanced of course), we had the day off (and needed it). We were at our own church in the morning - in a virtual sense. Churches have tackled the lockdown in different ways. Although we use Zoom for some purposes, we have followed a different route for our regular Sunday service - a rather better one, in my view, that is better felt than tell't. Feel free to drop in - you are welcome to try it here

The theme came from the Epistle of James. James is just great for one-liners. Here's my favourite: 

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness

That's James 3:17-18 - I even wonder if he was a gardener. So, hoping to see you tomorrow ...

... best wishes from the old Gardening Codger

PS - thanks to the many readers who were in touch over the weekend - your feedback is always valued

PPS- I told you our Dutch friends are good with roses - look at this!

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