Monthly Archives: June 2014

Tuberous begonia cuttings – June update

I’m beginning to think that the tuberous begonia cuttings I took last year may eventually come good.

Back in May they looked fairly unpromising:

begonia-cuttings-21st-May

Healthy enough, but horribly leggy and not looking at all disposed to shoot from low down.

Since then, though, the taller one has started to develop some growth from the base:

begonia-cutting-23rd-june-basal-shoot

 

Now, I don’t suppose that the plants will suddenly become gorgeous this season, but I’m hopeful that a decent tuber will have formed by winter so that I can give them a proper dormant period and thereby get better, bushier plants for next year.

We’ll see!

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Hemerocallis “Egyptian Ibis”

I blogged about this plant last year and wasn’t going to do so this season, but when I went into the garden this morning and found not one, not two but three flowers had burst into bloom over night, I couldn’t resist a pic:

hemerocallis-egyptian-3-flowers

The large-flowered hemerocallis hybrids truly are showstoppers, for all that the individual blooms last only a day. Even in a small garden such as mine I feel they’re worth the space: from mid-Spring onwards I’m waiting excitedly for the flower stalks to appear, then for the buds to fatten day by day until they finally burst open in dramatic and opulent fashion, so the interest starts well before the actual flowering period for me. Add to that the fact that they suffer very little from pests and diseases, propagate easily by division and perform well in a variety of soil types and situations and you have a winner for my money!

 

Veg update: carrots, spinach, lettuce, beans and tomatoes

Time for a look at how the veg are getting along, and with the weather having been fair for most of this month, they’re doing quite nicely.

First, the mixed pot of carrots and spring onions:

carrot-comparison-9-23-june

I finally got around to thinning out the carrots a couple of days ago, but only on completion of my carrot fly barrier, which I fashioned from 8 build-a-balls, 12 pieces of bamboo cane cut to length and a fine gauge plastic mesh cover sewn together with nylon thread:

carrot-cover

Not exactly a thing of beauty but it should stop carrot flies from getting in there to lay their eggs and ruin the crop, which is something you risk any time you touch or handle carrot foliage because carrot flies can smell them from literally a mile away! At around £18 for the materials it’s quite an expense to go to for a handful of carrots (!), but it will of course be reusable from year to year so will hopefully be worth it in the end.

Next to them is the spinach:

spinach-comparison-9-23-june

I’ve had some aphids on them already, which I removed by hand, but no other problems. I’m not quite sure why they are all such different sizes but I guess the smaller ones will catch up. I’ve thinned down to just the four plants now, so I hope none of them fail!

A couple of feet from the carrots and spinach is my pot of lettuce:

lettuce-comparison-9-23-june

Looking pretty good. I’ve kept the cat deterrent wire over them because it isn’t really in the way yet – I’ll probably remove it when the row I’ve sown in the space on the left start to come through. I’ve had to remove the odd aphid but I’ve had no more attacks from slugs and snails, so maybe the copper tape does work most of the time?

Next there are my french beans (Castandel):

french-beans-comparison-9-23-june

They look good from a distance but close up there are one or two problems becoming apparent, chiefly little holes in the leaves which appear to have been made by some tiny caterpillars (since removed, obviously!). There are also a few aphids kicking around so I’m keeping a very watchful eye. Thankfully no slugs or snails have gotten past the copper tape, and I’ve decided to leave the wire cat deterrent permanently in place as it may serve as a handy support as the beans grow.

Last but not least here are the tomatoes:

tomatoes-comparison-9-23june

 

They are now reaching the height of the third arris rail and have about four or five stalks of flowers each with set fruit on the lowest trusses, so doing okay I reckon. Both varieties that I’m growing (Sungold and Matina) are cordon types, so I’m diligently removing sideshoots as and when I spot them. Other than that they give me little to do beyond slopping some water into the outer troughs of the growpots every second day or so and some feed (Tomorite) into the inner pots once a week.

Mind you, they never are much trouble pest-wise – it’s disease that’s always the problem, namely blight. Growing out of doors I pretty much know that it will strike at some point, and I just have to hope that it will be late enough in the season to have picked most of my tomatoes, or at least to have had a decent crop. Fingers crossed for a hot, dry summer…

Pinks a-plenty!

Having removed “Widecombe Fair” from my improvised propagator (an old, small fish tank turned upside down!) in the coldframe, I felt it was time to fill it with lots more cuttings:

pinks-cuttings-4-varieties

 

from left to right we have “Mrs Sinkins”, “Ruby”, “Doris” and “Gran’s Favourite” all done in exactly the same way as my original pot of “Widecombe Fair”. And here they are in situ:

pinks-in-coldframe

(note to self: clean out coldframe!)

If they all take I’ll have over 35 plants – plus the parents! – to put…somewhere.

ETA:

I certainly know that 7 have taken because I turned out the “Widecombe Fair” cuttings this afternoon to find they all had roots:

widecombe-fair-rooted

I’ve potted them up into 9cm square pots of multi-purpose compost with a bit of the rooting mix, watered them well and placed them back in the shady coldframe to settle in. I also nipped out the growing point on each one – I forgot to do it when preparing the cuttings – so that they will form bushier plants.

 

Pest watch and other musings…

Much as I love summer, it’s really hard work on the pest front: everywhere you turn, something is trying to chomp the living daylights out of your plants.

Last night when the rain had stopped I went out with a torch to see how many slugs and snails were about. First I looked at my Hosta “Frances Williams” which I grow in a pot rather than a border, pellet regularly (around the base of the pot and in the pot) and which I have heard named as one of the less appealing hostas to slugs and snails because of its thick leaves. So was it mollusc-free? Er, no. Five large snails and a couple of tiddlers were merrily munching away at the hosta that I thought was protected. Hmm.

Then I turned my attention to my Solomon’s Seal, also pelleted and also in a pot, but placed within a border, and that too was hosting several unwelcome slimy diners. I’ve always thought that it was sawfly grubs doing the bulk of the damage every summer, but this year I’ve kept it sawfly-free so now I know that slugs and snails are as much to blame, if not more so!

And in fact, they were all over the place: slithering over the paving, the gravel, the wooden water feature, the soil and, of course, the plants – it’s a wonder that there’s anything left by morning, to be honest!

The only good news is that thus far they are ignoring my copper-taped veg containers, although whether this is because the tape puts them off or because they simply haven’t found them yet I couldn’t say.*

Then there are the rose sawflies. Much of the soft new growth on my favourite roses seems to be sporting the tell-tale scarring left by the egg-laying activities of rose sawflies, so any moment the poor things will be crawling with grubs and, if I do nothing about it, virtually leafless by July. I foresee many happy hours of picking the little wretches off, oh joy!

We’re still patrolling our solitary pot of lilies for scarlet lily beetle, and still finding one or two from time to time, so if you have lilies you need to keep inspecting them regularly through the summer.

There haven’t been overwhelming numbers of aphids yet, so I suppose I should be thankful for that, but sometimes you wonder whether it wouldn’t just be easier to have concrete and astroturf instead! *sigh*

On a brighter note, the “Widecombe Fair” pink cuttings that I took just over 3 weeks ago seem to have rooted: I spied what looks like fresh new growth on them and an experimental tweak of each one tells me that they’re now anchored into the compost, so I’ve taken them out from under their glass cover to harden off before I pot them up individually.

Also, the 3 new primroses that I made from my single plant a few weeks back all seem to be doing well and making new leaves. I suppose I could plant them out any moment but I think I’ll leave them in my shaded coldframe for the time being – they’re probably safer there!

*Breaking News: just nipped out in darkness with my torch and there was a snail in my lettuce pot, so it doesn’t look like the copper tape is going to be much use. Fiddlesticks. Pellets it is, then…

Tomatoes and container-grown veg – early June update

First, a side-by-side comparison photo of my 3 tomatoes in a growbag:

tomatoes-june-update

 

In spite of the fact that we had a cold and rainy end to May, they’ve grown away nicely and are starting to flower well. I’m following the growpot watering instructions to the letter, though I have to say that on hot days I’m sorely tempted to reach for the watering can whether I’m supposed to be watering them or not! Force of habit, I suppose.

Moving on to my container veg, we have germination!

First, the carrots and spring onions:

carrots-9th-june

…need a bit of thinning, I think! I will have to be careful not to attract the attentions of any passing carrot flies, however.

Then we have the perpetual spinach:

spinach-9th-june

I’m aiming to have just 4 plants in this pot – one in each corner – so I’m thinning them progressively as I decide which the strongest seedlings are.

Next, the cut-and-come-again lettuce:

lettuce-9th-june

Just the two rows for the moment – I’ll be sowing again in a couple of weeks for a succession. The wire fencing circle is to deter cats from using it as a litter tray, by the way – one of the many little delights of suburban gardening!

And finally, the dwarf french beans:

french-beans-9th-june

Same deal with the wire fencing – it will be removed when the plants have filled enough space to deter the cats without assistance.

I’m trying the variety “Castandel” again since I had reasonable success with it last year. This time I didn’t bother trying to get a head start by sowing indoors in pots as I found germination was very poor doing it that way last year; I just sowed direct into the pot outdoors in late May and they’ve come through pretty well. I’ve certainly got enough!

Mind you, if the slugs and snails have their way, I won’t have many for long, so I’m trying out copper tape on all my veg pots to see if it actually will protect them:

tape-and-grid-protection

I’ve applied a double row so that the big slugs can’t arch over the tape without touching it, and made sure that nothing is overhanging or touching the tops of the pots to make a bridge for them to bypass the tape, so I hope I’ve given the product the best chance of working. I’ve read mixed reviews about it so I have to say that I’m somewhat sceptical, but if it does work I’ll be very happy not to have to use poison pellets around something I’m intending to eat. (If I used nothing at all, with the vast army of slugs and snails in my garden, I wouldn’t have a leaf or stalk to my name by the end of June, I’m afraid!)

So we shall see…fingers crossed!

Now I just have to work out how I’m going to stop everything getting sucked dry by aphids…

 

Large begonia tuber and citrus cuttings – June update

My large begonia tuber has finally got going:

large-tuber-june-update

I’ve moved it on into a 24cm glazed pot of free-draining multi-purpose compost and it’s looking pretty healthy at the moment. I have a hazy idea that this might be the one that unaccountably died back early last summer then spent the rest of the season recovering and never produced any flowers, but I hope not!

As for my citrus cuttings, it seems I was a little hasty in giving them a so-so appraisal, because they’ve sprung into action this past few weeks. I’ve outlined all the new growth in pink as it’s a bit hard to pick out from the background:

citrus-cuttings-9th-june-1 citrus-cuttings-june-9th-2 citrus-cuttings-june-9th-3

 

They’re looking much less sickly and the new growth seems strong and vibrant, so I’m really pleased with how they’ve come on, though I don’t know whether to attribute it to the iron treatment, the weekly feeding with citrus food or the arrival of summer – it’s probably a combination of all three. I’m also trying to remember to water them with rain water rather than my rock-hard tap water, so that may be helping too.

I won’t pot them on until they’re obviously pot-bound, and I’m keeping them indoors for now so that I can better monitor them for pest attack.

Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus

Always the earliest hemerocallis to flower in my garden is H. lilioasphodelus:

hemerocallis-lilioasphodelus

I grow it by an east-facing fence and it seems to do fine even though it often gets somewhat overshadowed by a honeysuckle growing behind it.

The flowering period is rather short – about 3 weeks, give or take – and it’s probably not the best use of space in a small garden such as mine, but I keep it because it is very well-behaved (maintains a nice, tidy clump and never outgrows its area), keeps its foliage in mild winters and, best of all, has a lovely fragrance to go with those cheery yellow blooms. I’ve also never known it to suffer pest or disease problems, which is a big plus in my book.

It’s easy to propagate by division in spring or autumn (preferably spring) and has few requirements other than a reasonably fertile soil that doesn’t dry out too easily – a drop of water during a dry spring might be necessary to ensure flowering.

So there it is: nothing spectacular, but early summer in my garden wouldn’t be quite the same without its fleeting golden trumpets, so I won’t be replacing it any time soon…