Sunday 30 April 2017

Frost Damage

A few nights ago the temperature inside my polytunnel almost touched zero, according to the thermometer. Actually I rather think it did reach freezing. Most of the chilis are OK, but some of the tomatoes have been damaged, along with some of the dahlia seedlings and most of the achocha. Germinating true potato seed was unharmed, though a plant grown from a Negresse tuber was trimmed back. In some ways it's not altogether a loss; it's selected out, for instance, the really susceptible achocha and left two seedlings untouched, which presumably have a shade more resistance. Seed from them should in turn be more resistant. I'm more worried about the tomatoes. I may or may not have lost a couple of varieties; they were planted deep as they root from the stems easily, and if they're replanted shallow they may grow new shoots form the leaf nodes. the one I'm really worried about is a grafting variety which I only had a very few seeds of, and which would be hard to replace. I just need one plant to recover and give me one ripe tomato, and that'll produce plenty of seed for the future.

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Urban Flowers

I live in the middle of Birmingham, so whatever gardening I do is inevitably urban. I have an allotment which I struggle with, so my efforts are concentrated there. There are sites all over the city, and demand has slackened off over the last few years, so some may well have empty plots and no waiting list. There’s a growing movement round the world for community gardens, where people come together to develop a space. Just across the dual carriageway nearby there’s a row of small shops with beds outside; some are neglected, while others can be a mass of bloom later in the year. A couple of years ago, a dreary stretch of dual carriageway was transformed by guerrilla gardeners who planted annuals all along the central reservation. There are opportunities to garden everywhere if you look!
The book covers all the basics; design and planning, styles, plant selection, colour schemes, which are always a bit random in my own plantings, cut, dried, pressed and preserved plants and flowers. There’s a short section on seed saving, always a useful thing to do (I keep anything precious in the freezer), and seed bombs, which are useful for guerrilla gardeners. You mix seeds into a ball of damp compost, and chuck it where you want them to grow. When it rains they germinate. Choose something tough which will perpetuate itself.
The emphasis throughout is on your own territory, whatever that amounts to, but there’s no real reason to stop there. With imagination, and sometimes by working together with neighbours, there’s a lot that can be done to transform dreary urban environments. I have snowdrops and daffodils outside my allotment, for instance, to brighten up the lane. The daffs have suffered rather thanks to being strimmed too early in the year, but I’m hoping that cutbacks have stopped that. A lilac in my front hedge provides some colour later in the year, as does a rose over the gate.
One thing worth remembering is that herbs and vegetables can be used as well as flowers. They’re useful, and can be a garden feature in their own right. Angelica, lovage, or even parsnips left in the ground provide clumps of green foliage and white flowers five or six feet high. Cardoons, a sort of giant thistle grown for its blanched stems, reach about six feet, with large purple flowers.
The book provides what you need to develop ideas for your own situation, whatever that is. Whether you have a garden, and allotment, or a windowsill, there’s always something to grow, and if that’s not enough, try guerrilla gardening!

Written by Caroline Dunster, and published by Frances Lincoln, this could be the book you need.

Friday 21 April 2017

Potatoes, and a Break-In

This is the state I found the lock on my allotment gate in on Sunday. Someone - no doubt kids with tools - had been along ten or a dozen plots, breaking into all of them. They eventually managed to wriggle through a gap in the hedge, but not before they'd bent up my bolt to the point where it couldn't be opened. I broke in, got a crowbar and a big hammer, and manged to get it reasonably well straightened out, so it opens again. Nothing inside had been touched, and they hadn't even got into the polytunnel. Or if they did, they shut the door properly behind them!

These are some of my experimental potatoes, which made a good meal yesterday. They're all grown from true seed from various varieties. I'm obviously very late lifting them, but they're in good condition, and I'm getting enough decent-looking spuds to full a couple of beds. They should give me a good crop this year. I'm particularly pleased with the black one, at least at first glance. It was solid black inside,and kept its colour well as a baked potato. It's 'son of' Violetta. The very red one was ex-Blue Belle, and again, a good solid colour inside.