Friday 16 October 2020

The long haul

Fresh cut chrysanthemums

Well folks, we are obviously in for the long haul. I refer to the tiered lockdown, of course. Or, should that be tired lockdown – we seem to be losing consensus, don’t we? With the renewed lockdown very much in mind today’s edition features three growing projects for you to consider. I hope that at least one of them may provide a helpful distraction whilst normal living continues to be so curtailed

I am glad about one thing. Although I doubted the wisdom along the way, growing chrysanthemums has turned out to be a great idea. Because of my lack of experience, it is something I have not encouraged others in. But now I have persevered myself I can see the advantage: prolonged colour at the end of the season. And this applies both in the garden and in the house since chrysanthemums make such excellent cut flowers – they look good and last a long time

Hederifolium - the ivy-leaf type which is hardier
It is rather late to make a move now but you can buy a potted chrysanthemum. Obviously, that will give an instant result. If you can, look out for a hardy variety that can be planted outside. I see that Mrs Codger’s gardening magazine says that chrysanthemum have made a comeback so, perhaps, we are ahead of the curve

Speaking of hardy types, the same applies to cyclamen. I see lots of these at the supermarkets – but there is often a problem

Persicum - less tolerant of cold BUT it does not
like dry central heating - neither type do
The labelling is poor so you often cannot tell what variety is being supplied. If you want to plant outside you need cyclamen hederifolium – often called ivy leaf cyclamen. The other sort, often sold, is cyclamen persicum. These two photographs may help you. Neither sort like dry, centrally heated conditions, so I think a bit of mis-selling is going on here

Now let’s turn to our possible projects …

(1) Growing Spring bulbs

Growing tomatoes in May this year

Were you one of those who grew tomatoes in a container this summer? Good news, Spring bulbs are a great follow-on! Although not ideal, you will probably get away with popping in a few bulbs once you have removed the old tomato plants. However, there is a risk of the bulbs getting waterlogged so here is the old Garden Codger approach …

Doing it right

Potting compost becomes a bit caggy after a season of growing so it is best to liven up a bit. As a general rule bulbs like good drainage, so a growing medium remix is in order. My photo introduces you to the ingredients:

  • We start with the main component: the old compost used for growing tomatoes. It should be perfectly good enough to reuse for this purpose. The only thing to look out for is soil-borne pests and diseases like weevils – easy to spot as they are white grubs that are easy to see. If in any doubt then simply use fresh potting compost
  • Vermiculite. Available from the usual garden stores this will help lighten the soil and assist drainage
  • Grit
    Cheapest way of buying grit - good tip!
    . For really good drainage you need grit. If you are a regular reader you will know that my tip is to use chicken grit. Monty Don reckons you should use 30 – 50% grit. I think he is right, but the experts tend not to tell you that horticultural grit is ridiculously expensive – hence my suggestion. I have just ordered another bag of chicken grit from Amazon. £14 buys you 25kg. That is heavy, so please be careful
  • Blood, fish and bone. I am not sure if this is essential, but it seems wise to me to add a little fertiliser as the tomatoes will have depleted the nutrients in the compost. This step can be skipped if you are using fresh compost
  • Leaf mould – if you can get it! Not available for love nor money so regard this as an optional extra. Well, it is available for love – if, like me, you resort to roaming the streets with bag and shovel. (Collecting autumn leaves could comprise another useful lockdown activity – fresh air and good exercise!)

Half fill with new mix and place the bulbs before topping up
Rather like making a cake, the next step is to mix the ingredients. You will obviously need a tub, or whatever. Having done that, half fill the planter you are using. I had re-used the tomato planter as in the photo. Usual routine: cover the drainage holes with old broken crock first. Place the bulbs and then top up with the remaining compost, leaving an inch gap. Sprinkle with a layer of gravel or grit, and you are done!

Spring bulbs

The choice of bulbs is up to you. There are loads of online offers at the moment. You will often see bulb packs at B&Q / Homebase and garden centres. And there are many online offers. I got mine from the Secret Garden Club. I have recommended this outfit before. (Free delivery over £25 – much lower than most companies. They are reliable and fast. The prices are good, and you can get 20% off - just to drop me a line as to how)

The term Spring bulbs refers to those that produce small flowers like tête-à-tête daffodil, iris reticulata and so forth. These are, say, four to ten inches high and differentiated from the bigger bulb plants like more standard daffodils and tulips which need not be planted for a week or two, yet. It you want a good show of Spring bulbs – start now!

Leaf mould being sieved - wonderful stuff!

Leaf mould

My list of ingredients includes leaf mould. I must have referred to this before. Leaf mould is marvellous stuff and easy to make. The simplest method is to stuff a black plastic bag with fallen leaves. Tie the top and bodge a few holes in the bottom. Best left in a forgotten corner but in contact with the soil. That way the creep-crawlies will get to work. Even so, it will probably take two years to rot down

This is lettuce I have growing outside at the moment
Use only deciduous leaves. When it looks ready, rub through a sieve. I wear gloves for this so I can use the sieve like a cheese grater. Look out for worms – too precious to kill by accident

One last point about the bulbs. Squirrels alert! They love to dig them up. Easiest protection is wire mesh. Fancy another long lockdown project? Why not grow some winter lettuce? Here’s how …

 (2) Winter lettuce

I'm trying a couple of varieties new to me
As with the Spring bulbs this will work well in a long container. But first, you will need to sow some lettuce seed and get them established before planting them out in the container. I carried out a late summer experiment with sowing lettuces. Some straight in the ground, some in plug planters and some in a seed tray – these subsequently had to be pricked out. The traditional seed tray plus pricking-out worked best – so this is the way I shall go with this project

Sow the seeds in a seed tray or similar receptacle. Ordinary potting/seed compost will work OK but I prefer to sieve it first and then lighten it a bit with vermiculite. Moisten the mix and then sprinkle the seeds thinly, firm down so they are in good contact with the soil and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite or sieved compost. Place on a sunny windowsill or in cold frame / greenhouse

This time I've ordered from a smaller company near Frome
Which lettuce seed? Winter Density is a favourite but it does not do well for me so I am trying something different this year. Charles Dowding recommends a variety named, Grenoble Red. I tracked this down under its French name Rouge Grenobloise. It is available from, Simpsons seeds, a small company near Frome. I also ordered Artic King more good measure – sounds hardy! The order came yesterday so, taking advantage of the nice day, I sowed the seeds straightaway as you can see in the photos

You may find other suitable varieties in your local garden centre. The online companies are worth checking, too. For example, I have just had an email from Thompson & Morgan with a 79p per packet offer. The big thing is to get sowing soon and I’ll take you through the next stage in our next episode (see note on publication  below)

(3) Broad beans

Sowing broad beans. I like to use a line - a bit old-fashioned
I'm sowing through a top mulch of DIY compost mixed with magic mountain
My method is simple - push the seed through into the soil below
(Note my posh kneeling pad - essential these days, I'm afraid
I like to grow broad beans for two reasons. First, they do well as an overwinter crop and, secondly, they taste good. If you follow this through, I’ll give you a super-speedy recipe for a snack lunch that will keep you coming back for more! A really tasty lunch in only 15 minutes

If you can spare a patch of soil that gets a reasonable amount of sun, then you are in with a chance. Broad bean seed is readily available, but you will need to check the packet to make sure that it is suited to autumn sowing. I can thoroughly recommend Aquadulce Claudia but some lower growing varieties may suit you better

Sowing very close to leeks but
these will be harvested soon
and out of the way

Depending on the space you have, plant the seeds in a rough square or circle about eight to ten inches apart. That way the plants will support each other although you will probably need to stake as well. If you have any garden compost, then spread this first. There is no need to dig it in, worms are expert at doing this and they tend not to get backache!

So, there are three lockdown projects to consider – speaking of which …

Difficult times

A few weeks ago, I gave details of how to get the Covid figures for your local area. The Government have changed access to the interactive map in just the last couple of days – in fact, they have changed the appearance and features of the map, as well

Here is the updated information. Start by clicking here. You are taken straight to the map and invited to type in your postcode. When you do this a pointer will mark your location on the map of the UK. You then have to zoom in. You will see the various local areas coloured to indicate the severity of the outbreak (purple means really bad). Everything then depends on pointing and clicking. (An additional feature allows you to track the figures over time – try the slider above the map)

The new map has a download feature - hence I can reproduce this image
- it shows you our local area as of yesterday - it is updated daily
The most badly affected districts are coloured blue to purple (400+)
So, I’m leaving you with a bit of reality check. All the more reason to have a shot at a growing project – perhaps I need to come up with a few more ideas – we shall see

Well, friends, I hope that you will be back for the next post. But kindly note that the timing will be different to usual. I hope to publish in about ten days’ time on Wednesday 28th October …

… best wishes from the old Garden Codger

These photographs did not make it through to the final cut - but may be interested:

This is the lettuce currently under production. Lollo Rosso - does well for me

I'm growing salvias ready for the next Codger season - this is Blue Merced

The Black Country can be a strange place. A question for locals: Do you now here this is?

Pan right and you see a Romany Caravan

Even stranger. You may even encounter a gardener with piratical tendencies eating homegrown figs

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring story, mr Codger. Thanks for the clear way of explaining how to have a lovely and tasty garden. Love from Holland Jan & Elly