Autumn Garden Hints

fennelThe good autumn season continues as opposed to the wet weather that extended the end of last winter. It did have its advantages and we reap the rewards. We are still picking French runner beans (variety ‘Cobra’). The turnips (variety ‘Oasis’) are almost like melons on the dinner plate and the courgettes continue to throw out plump green and yellow torpedoes. Leeks (variety ‘ Musselburgh’) fatten in the row alongside onions but sad to say the sweet-corn (varieties ‘Landmark’ and ‘Extra Sweet’) seem only to yield, so far, one good cob.

The 50 transplants raised in the greenhouse were planted just over a foot apart each way in one plot so that the ‘tassles’ could fertilise the flowers on the cobs. After taking off the ripe cobs there is a chance those left will continue to swell and turn yellow! It’s an easy starter for any meal with a few minutes in the microwave and then smothered with butter. Oops! Sorry: ‘Flora’. The plants share a square of ground with daffodil bulbs and wild flowers; spring bringing a splash of yellow up the garden. Next year we’ll (royal we!) get them started earlier in unit pots in the greenhouse and get them planted out before the long taproot has a chance to develop so that they suffer little disturbance. I suspect that we shall be interplanting with the green tops of the daffodils as they die off!

Seasonal activities merge and whilst it was not long ago harvesting was on the go and blanching beans both ‘broad’ and ‘runner’ was in full swing the ground has already been turned over incorporating stacks of organic matter. The broad beans (varieties ‘Super Aquadulce’, and ‘The Sutton’) will go in shortly 8 inches apart in a single row or two rows 8 inches with 2 feet to the next double row. The garlic will go in 6 inches apart in the row and 12 inches between the rows. Water in dry weather but not when the garlic is near ready for harvesting or rotting may occur. That leaves us with the onion sets which can go in 4 inches apart in the row with rows 9 inches apart. Suttons have onion plant varieties ‘Fire King’, ‘Hiball’ and Ebenezer’available now by post. That is of course when the weather allows. Pray we don’t get another spring 2013!

Young lettuce plants sit ready to be hardened off prior to planting and they will need some protection from the cold weather with a cloche, cold frame or fleece.

This is the time when the autumn fruiting raspberries give their best. Varieties ‘Autumn Bliss’ and ‘Tullameen’ are giving sweet, ripe berries. After fruiting the canes will be cut back close to the ground and a good dressing of organic matter supplied from the compost heap. Care should be taken when removing any perennial weeds as raspberries are surface rooters and hate to be disturbed.

The old summer fruiting canes will have died back and these should be removed the new young canes tied in about 4 inches apart and 6 foot high supported on two horizontal wires. Only select the strongest canes and removing any weak growth.

Whilst the tomatoes and cucumbers struggle on in the cold greenhouse some sweet potatoes (variety ‘Beauregard’) started off in pots were planted in between. Their scrambling tops took me by surprise as well as the swelling potatoes which proved too much for the pots. Growth could not be contained and they have spread like wildfire creating shade and reducing water evaporation. Beware though; the growths must also be sweet and they provide a very prompt meal for any marauding slugs and snails!

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Gardening Hints - August

bumble beeThe expectation that three rows of strawberries would do us proud in the garden was dented by some of the fruit turning ‘wizzened’! They had not been properly fertilised! This was also the case with the plums and red currents. Although at the time of blossom weather conditions were poor for pollination, things improved when the apples and the blueberries were in flower. My concern now is for the peas and beans which have been showing poor results. I have seen few bees if any in the garden. Alternatively there are lots of bumble bees, our progress picking fruit being interrupted, as these little fellows return to their ground nests under the red current bushes.

Reports over the last 25 years have seen the bee population more than halve: their numbers have tumbled. Bill Turnball; newscaster and beekeeper raised the temperature on BBC 2’s Horizon programme. He gave some very cogent reasons, much of it still conjecture, why this had occurred. There was not a great deal of proof from the various experiments going on at this time, but time might tell.

Gardening Hints - July

my1GdLgDoesn’t gardening take time – that’s if you do it properly? The more crops you grow the longer it takes to get round the garden to do the jobs. Vegetables rely on thorough soil preparation, constant care with weeding, feeding and keeping the birds off. My three rows of strawberries had a layer of chipping put round them at the beginning of the season keeping down weeds and retain moisture. It made a soft bed for the fruit to lie on and prevented soil splash on the fruit. We’ve managed to keep the slugs and snails at bay with carefully timed slug pellets. Nets can’t keep determined birds out. Baby birds in particular are able to get through the small mesh and I am trying very hard to protect those four blueberry bushes.

How do they do it? All that talk of CD’s suspended above the vegetable bed is a criterion that with me doesn’t work. We try to encourage bird life in the garden but it is frustrating when the complete crop of peas disappears! I blamed it on the pigeons first, then the slugs and then discovered non emergent peas. It appears you have to sow seed for bird feed as well as the crop! Those wee ‘blackies’ are devils!

Of course the simplest way of gardening is – Yes! – keep it simple. We have a lawn area, 11 X 8 yards lawn at the side of the house overlooked by the bedrooms. A large Magnolia (soulangeana), 35 years old sits in the centre with a bed of blue lavender beneath to match the white lavender strip under the windows. Grass cutting is saved by a strip of tulips on one side and ‘bluebells’ and ‘daffs’ on the other. The sumac (Rhus typhina) in the corner shadows the stone seat and extends the interest season with its beautiful autumn colour. Quick to wiz round with the mower, edge up and   occasionally pull an offending weed!

I’m already looking into the future when the old bones start to creak and the aches and pains start in. Cut down the work. Keep going with the mulching to reduce weeds. Finesse the composting techniques and make careful selections of shrubs. No herbaceous plants for me and the bedding we’ll keep to the absolute minimum. The beech and box hedges need little attention during the season, that’s if you catch the new growths early enough with the first cut and keep fertilizers to the minimum.

Trouble is I’m a sucker for a new plant and the market is just teaming with new varieties with Roy Lancaster diving off to China every 5 minutes or the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden coming up with another exotic.

Giving a talk with a Horticultural Society the other evening I went through a visual palate of shrubs and climbers. They were able to tick their matching list of plants. You could tell by the “oo’s” and “aah’s”; their ball point pens were busy. The red Hydrangea mycrophylla ‘Tellers Red’ and Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki looked set for a few orders. Yes, pride in your garden is easily raised; a maelstrom area for ideas and can create plenty of added value when it comes to a house sale! Roll on retirement!!


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Harrogate Flower Show

Judging taking place at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show“Which? Gardening” has placed Harrogate Spring Flower Show (NEHS) a clear winner, top of their poll for the UK’s Horticultural Shows beating even premier Chelsea Flower Show. The Autumn Show also does well in third place just behind Hampton Court. Shows like Tatton Park, Shrewsbury and BBC Gardeners World Live follow along behind. Most Shows are in the south with Gardening Scotland and the Ayr Flower Show up north.

Harrogate has everything going for it. It’s the show that most people would recommend to others and go again themselves. It’s down to earth with no pretensions. It’s easy to get to, easy to walk round and parking is excellent. No need to travel to southern climes when you have excellence under your very nose. Here you can spend a relaxed time talking to exhibitors which they just love and gathering information of your favourite plants with tips and hints!

Harrogate is a day out for the whole family from the first welcome at the gate by the Bourbon Street Roof-Raisers jazz band. Music is constant through the day. There is even a hands on at the wormeries for the little ones and fascinating live bee displays. My favourite is Don Billington, a very funny Liverpudlian from ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ with his floral demonstrations. The Show brings in huge revenue to the area and gives work to a hardcore of voluntary workers. A small dedicated team support the committee, some expert in their own horticultural field like flower arrangers, growers and landscape. This is their forte and they are on home ground!

The objectives of the show are to encourage members of the public to get involved in gardening and obtain inspirational ideas. This it certainly does with its trade stands from over 100 growers. They promote plant material which is of a high quality, suiting the tough northerly climate. Dispensing cultural information is the NOEHS stand answering hundreds of questions and run by the Institute of Horticulture and the Horticultural Exhibitors Association and their gardening experts. The new “Dig it Theatre” with its question time and demonstrations entertains you in comfort and with nationally recognised expertise. Your own Sarah Hopps from North Yorkshire, Frances MacDonald from Ireland, Geoff Stebbing, Editor, all features writers from “Garden Answers”. They are supported this year by ‘guest experts’.

The promotion of food from many Yorkshire outlets is highlighted with cooking demonstrations and culinary surprises in Plot to Pot Cookery Theatre. This is hosted by Chefs Stephanie Moon and Gilly Robinson. There is no shortage of food and victuals with menus to suit every taste. Students, Cooks and Top Chef’s with high reputations from local Colleges and Hotels present with mouth-watering delicacies through the day. Martin Fish the Show Director and his team will be challenging the Chefs. This proved to be a real crowd puller last September.

The Show acts as a spark; encouraging the training of young people and helping them get established in the industry or become self employed in their own business. The Show Gardens have been a great success with twice as many gardens built by Colleges and independent landscape businesses this year.

The show encourages the training of young people, getting them established in the industry or to become self employed. It creates opportunities for horticultural businesses and makes the public aware of services available to them locally and in the UK. It challenges professionals and amateurs entering the various classes and various growing Societies of the Horticultural trade like Fuchsias, Chrysanthemums and Dahlia Society.


At a stroke the public see in a very short period of time the wide variety of skills and disciplines that make up the Horticultural industry. There is a plethora of trades and skills that surround the industry like seeds, equipment, greenhouses, fencing, ornamentals, shelters and garden furniture along with clothes, jewellery, art and anything that hints of a place in the garden. It’s all there for you; the pure pleasure of having a day out.

The show sets a standard of excellence in Horticulture to all those who enter the various classes providing great ideas from products to landscape gardens.

There are special deals and a range of packages for VIP treatment. Choose from afternoon tea or breakfast, lunch and use of the VIP tent during the day with coffee and bites to eat. You can make contact for these by ‘phoning Harrogate (01423) 546157. They are ideal for any size of group from a couple to a business.

The NEHS expend their profits to over 100 organisations and charities each year contributing to a range of projects. 44 are grant schemes. Castlerigg Manor in Keswick developed their bluebell wood. Age UK Yorkshire (Harrogate) was awarded funds towards their Garden Buddy Project. Friends of Brunts Barn Ecology Project built a wild life pond and others received grants for planting fruit trees and growing projects. The Show provides free space in marquees and staging for the Specialist Societies, Charities and Gardening Groups.

Transport to the show may be by courtesy bus from the car parks and shuttle bus to the town centre, railway and bus station. There is even a plant crèche to leave your bought plants whilst you look around the show.

The very best is advertised and presented to the Judges and to the discerning eye of the public for they are the greatest critics and Chris Smith and committee and Martin Fish and his team know this. The staff pull out all the stops to give their public a great day out! This year’s Show will be on the 25th to the 28thApril 2013.


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