Tuesday 3 August 2021


First picking was 3.5kg, second about the same. And lots ore to come!

Let me say straightaway that I do not claim to be a great expert on growing fruit. (Regular readers will know that I do not pretend to be a great expert on anything - but am happy to pass on my experience, both successes and failures - that was something of a theme last week)

However, in my experience gooseberries always do well and are worth considering if you have not yet tried growing fruit. I used to have both green and red varieties but have settled on the Japanese red Hinnonmaki. Here is what one true expert says:

Hinnonmaki Red ... gooseberry lacks an AGM but is our favourite. It produces large red berries, and lots of them, which are sweet enough to be eaten raw - really delicious. This is a strong grower which has good resistance to disease. We recommend this one without hesitation and it thrives even in cooler areas (full article here)

Raspberries are a good option if you have a corner
that gets some sun. Codger's favourite fruit!

Is there a downside? Well, the thorns are sharp - very sharp! On the other hand, a big plus point is that they do not need full sun all day - and, also, they will do well in a container. As I type this, I have just realised that my bush is about 25 years old. It somehow seems to self-regenerate as the roots spread. You can control the thing by pruning and this can also make the fruit easier to pick. To be honest, mine gets very little attention and keeps on producing loads of lovely sweet fruit every summer

We have several blueberry plants available right now,
including a large potted plans ready to harvest
Berries of different sorts

Of course, raspberries are a safer option as far as thorns are concerned. In fact, raspberries are my favourite fruit although ours did not perform quite so well this year due to poor pruning (my fault). Summer fruiting varieties are best cut back as soon as they have finished fruiting, whereas late fruiting varieties (such as Autumn Bliss) are best done in February. rather than wander around the topic, let me list the plants potted up in the nursery here and looking for a good home ...

Plants available right now

A winning combination that takes some beating
We have plants available (supply your own cream!)
I have a few soft fruit plants available right now. If anyone is interested get in touch. Here is a quick list:

  • Raspberries - several varieties
  • Strawberries - Malling variety - good cropping with medium to large fruit
  • Blueberries - several plants including one large, with plenty of fruit, almost ripe
  • Blackberry - a good cultivar that is thornless
  • Rhubarb - (not a berry, I know) - a good flavoured old variety 
A view of part of the stock of plants
Perennial reminder

We also have quite a range of strong and healthy perennial plants that could be slotted into your border right now. Far too many to list - but please feel free to come and expect the stock. Some - like echinacea, achillea and aquilegia - we have in multiples as they look better planted in threes (or fives)

An indelible impression

Do you find labelling a chore? Codger does - but tries hard to stick to a plant labelling discipline. Hence, we get frustrated when the writing fades and we get in an mix because of mistaken identity

I cannot be alone in this and have tried various solutions. The main issue is finding a pen that produces an indelible result. The ubiquitous Sharpie looks good when fresh but, I find, the writing only lasts about six months. So, an experiment ... 
Obviously, density varies - but that is not the issue

The photo on the right is self-explanatory - there are three pens under test. In addition to the Sharpie already mentioned, we have the Amazon Basics equivalent and a third contender which is labelled OWIM Gmbh & Co. This was bought from Lidl under the Home Office brand. Codger will be reporting back in due course

Talking of experiments

A corner of the bed showing impressive results
Yes, it's no-dig time again! First a photo of the Birmingham vegetable bed. This is the result after only two weeks. Looks good to me and the owner is pleased

The second, more local, trial was more of a challenge. Setting up the bed coincided with the torrential rain we had two or three weeks ago. We noticed how the water formed large puddles and failed to drain away

We persuaded the owner to do a trial within a trial - do half the bed no-dig (the cardboard had been in place for a couple of weeks) and to dig the other half

This is the dug half - note how wet the grass is
The photograph shows the left hand no-dig half. You can see the conditions were rather muddy but we pressed on and planted up both sides - dig and no-dig. We planted flowering perennials rather than vegetables - the owner's preference

Doing the dig, by both mattock and spade, revealed what I suspected - thick clay, as you can see from this shot that I took at the time. Nothing less than the local speciality known in Tipton as 'tacky dirt' - and for good reason

The dreaded Tipton 'tacky dirt'
So far the plants have been growing reasonably well but one specific problem: slug damage. I don't think one dahlia has survived. The damage looks worse on the no-dig side which makes me wonder if the wet and rotting cardboard creates something of a slug heaven with dahlias as the icing of the cake! (Sorry for the mixed metaphor but editing time has evaporated)

The plot is still work in progress and some replanting is planned. We shall see in time if one half does better than the other

[Perhaps I should add a background note. Tipton was once riddled with marl holes where the clay was dug out for brickmaking. When we moved in to our present property I spent a couple of years working on the drainage. That's another story but it's worth saying that subsequent experience has proven the effort to be well worthwhile]

A nice touch
Both sides of adjoining houses being planted up

Regular readers may remember that we had begun our efforts with the small garden at the front of our friend's house. The wielding of the mighty mattock attracted the attention of their immediate neighbour. As a result we got booked to do a front garden facelift

The photo shows the work in process. The neighbour's cousins were drafted in to do the heavy lifting - well, the planting actually. They were two delightful young ladies who proved to be excellent learners!

Discovery - first year of fruiting
Apples and pears

Perhaps I should have said something about apples and pears whilst on about fruit, above. I'm cautious about this as I know that many readers only have a small patch. But more may be possible than you think. The apple shown here is Discovery. This is the first year of fruiting. There are four such apples. The tree is growing in a pot and seems very happy with what was originally intended as a temporary home

Pear before haircut
Another way of growing apples and pears in a small space is to train the plant against a wall or fence, as in this case. Take a look at these two pictures. Two things to note: this year the pear has gone crazy putting on masses of green vegetative growth and, consequently (?), hardly any fruit to be seen

Of course, the summer growth always happens - it is in a tree's nature to grow! So, pruning is necessary. To show the difference, I've done a before and after shot, as you can see

After pruning. Note huge reduction in top growth
Growing espalier-fashion takes a bit of work but it is interesting work - and, usually, you get to eat the literal fruit of your labours. Although it ought to be mentioned, that you often get biennial cropping - that is, a lean year followed by a fat year

Incidentally, the growth on the right of the pictures is our main grapevine - a black Boskoop variety. That has also gone a bit mad this year and is being hacked back on a daily basis - done, in part, so the grapes see some sunlight. I suppose that this also counts as pruning!
A great way to recycle junk mail and cardboard food packaging

Composting: hot tip (2)

Following on from last week, here is my second tip to get your compost heap working: add shredded paper. This is all to do with balancing the nitrogen / carbon mix in the heap. This is often referred to as the green / brown mix that your unseen friends - the aerobic bacteria - need to thrive

Although a scientific approach is possible, I find that getting this balance is something of an art. Since it is easy to find green material - like when you mow the lawn - getting enough brown (carbon) is the issue. Here's my method ...

Japanese water iris - see below
When enough green material has accumulated to add to the heap, I first turn the top few inches to get a feel for the state of the heap. I then usually add a few inches of shredded paper before heaping on chopped material - weeds, prunings and so forth. This will be mainly green sappy stuff so I like to finish off with some more shredded paper to help keep the balance about right. The shredded paper top layer also acts as a useful insulator, helping to build the internal temperature of the heap

Identification catch-up

In the previous two editions I ran what amounts to a quiz - so it's time for some answers. The amazing bloom (shown above) is Iris Ensata - a Japanese water iris. Sadly, the bloom does not last long and, this year, only one plant flowered - I guess, because I split them last year. I find that tends to happen when propagating irises

And then there was a Monarda. Here is a younger version - photo right. I've no need to show the honeysuckle again - that was an easy one

Achillea Cerise Queen - plenty in stock
The previous week showed the David Austin rose, Celebration, below which was a lovely achillea. 
These are a great asset to the flower border as you can see here (left). And this gives me a chance to plug again my offer of perennial plants - we have a good stock of these plants

Also looking back to that edition (10th July), you have Moses in the Bulrushes and the startling electric blue of Eryngium. Also the Ligularia which we described last week 

A comment!

It does not worry Codger at all (in fact, he is rather relieved) but his blog only rarely gets a comment (only seven in total!). The 10th July post was an exception. Seven dwarves indeed! If you look back and click on comments, you'll work out the connection. Now, this raises a question: which one? The choice is: Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, or Dopey

Thanks for reading. Answers on a postcard to ... ... the old Garden Codger

PS. And to show there are no hard feelings - here are a few shots taken in the last couple of days:

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