Category Archives: gardening tips

Chelsea chop

I’ve had a few emails asking about ‘The Chelsea Chop’ what is it and what does it do?  

I’m guessing this has come about after watching the wonderful RHS Chelsea flower show on our TV’s recently. It doesn’t take a genius to work out it’s something that normally done around the time of the flower show (late May or early June). It’s were you simply cut back the stems of some herbaceous plants such as Sedum, Echinacea purpurea, Campanula lactiflora, Rudbeckia ‘herbstonne’ to name but a few cut them back to around one third as their flower buds start to appear.  But why?  Cutting them back will make your plants stockier and bushier and will give you flowers into late summer/ Autumn, also helping to keep your borders looking tidy, without all those stems needing staking.  

If that sounds a little too radical why not try a less scary approach and cut back one in every 3 stems?  If you’ve never tried it have a go and let me know what you think later in the season. I’m about to do it with my sedum they do tend flop out wards leaving a big ugly hole in the middle.

And joy of joys, I harvested my first batch of broadbeans, how can anything beat sitting in the sunshine popping open their big pods, which remind me of huge cozy sleeping bags.

My allotment to do list:

 It’s time to start harvesting those broadbeans

Also early potatoes are getting ready to be dug up to, but keep earthing up your other spuds

Sow little rows of beetroot, lettuce, kohl rabi every couple of weeks

And believe it or not it’s time to think about winter cabbage, these can be sown this month in preparation for later on.

Keep training your peas to climb their supports, keep a ball of string in your pocket, saves walking back and forth to get it.

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Harvesting my bamboo

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I grow bamboo in my garden, I love the sound of the wind through it’s leaves and the bright green stalks in the sunshine it’s a great plant to have – plus it’s extremely useful.

I harvest the canes to use in my allotment. The great thing about growing your own canes is they have so many more useful bumps and tiny branches than shop bought ones. Which obviously, is very handy for your climbing plants to grab hold of plus the green coloured stalks slowly fade to the familiar beige colour through the growing season, just making them more interesting to look at.

Maybe I take this ‘grow your own’ thing too far, but I wonder what the carbon foot print of the humble garden cane is? I could go out and buy some brittle canes from the garden centre, but it’s so much more fun to grow it yourself!

What’s even more interesting is they are so bendy when green, so you can fashion your own different shaped structures. But take care because they don’t half snap back into shape quick if they aren’t secured properly!

So now I’ve got my newly harvested green bamboo canes… Just need those peas and beans to get a move on! Happy gardening my friend! X

The spring juggle

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My poly tunnel is starting to fill up, trying to find a slot for a seed tray is slowing becoming impossible, I call it the spring juggle. Every inch is filled with a pot or tray – isn’t spring exciting?

Is it me or is there never enough room? Even if I owned the Eden project there wouldn’t be enough space.

April is one of the busiest months for me, sowing and pricking out becomes a full time job. So far I’ve sown (prepare for a huge list):

Soya bean
Runner bean
French bean
Peas
Courgette golden
Marrow
Squash patty green tint
Courgette all green bush
Courgette F1 Atena
Chard Brightlights
Kale Nero di Toscana
Kale scarlet
Kale curly scarlet
Kale dwarf green curled
Leek prize taker
Lettuce little Gem
Rocket
Quinoa
Kohl Rabi purple and white Vienna mix
Tomato gardeners delight
Tomato Tigerella
Sweet Pepper
Multicoloured corn
French marigolds
French lavender
Basil sweet genovese
Basil red Rubin
Coriander fine leaved
Tarragon Russian
Peppery salad
Purple sprouting broccoli
Sunflower velvet queen
Sunflower giant
Sweet pea giant wave
Cabbage primero F1
Calendula Officianalis
Beetroot perfect 3
Good King Henry
Angelica
Pumpkins
Musk melon F1 Emir
Lupin Russell mix
Stock
Tagetes lemon gem
Night scented stock
Nasturtium home mix
Morning glory Rosa Volant

(Told you it was a long list)

I keep records of when everything is sown, the temperatures, and a tick box for if it germinated. Then you can see where you are up to, and it’s lush to look back on in the winter when planning ahead!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

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It’s tastes and looks amazing! And now is the time to start sowing it for your bumper harvest next spring!

It’s easy to grow, and just gets on with it’s business throughout the year. But then next spring it will explode with amazing sprouting fab purple stalks.

I have never understood why the supermarkets charge so much for it, as it’s so easy to grow and just a few plants will give you such a tremendous harvest. Freshly picked, gently steamed it’s simply wonderful!

I have about 5 plants and today I harvested so much we had enough for our dinner, as did all of my neighbours (I’m very popular today!)

But that’s what it’s all about eating super fresh, no silly chemicals and sharing your harvests with your friends and family!

Happy spring to you!

Three new Black Currents for free- propagation using ‘layering’.

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Last spring I pegged down a low hanging branch from my black current, in the hopes of getting a new plant from it and it’s worked a treat!

Propagation using layering is as easy as pie, I do like to take cuttings but this method may take longer but works a treat and it’s so simple!

All you need to do is take a low hanging supple branch and either peg, bury or pop a heavy stone on top of it. I covered mine with about 7cm of soil and gave it a good water. You can see in the picture I’m pointing to the original branch that I layered, look at all those fab roots and the wonderful growth! Also be careful not to snap the branch as you bring it down to soil level.

Another point, ensure that it is able to respond to layering! Plants such as hybrid berries, some woody herbs, Hydrangea, Forsythia, honeysuckle, Wisteria – actually quite a lot, all respond nicely to this process. Then when it’s ready dig it up, cut it from it’s parent plant and either pot it up or find it a new home somewhere in your garden or allotment.

I have two plants from a Forsythia which was originally from my amazing Granddad Berty, who gave some to my Mum and then she did the same for me – it’s almost like a family tradition to pass it down! (The lovely thing is, when ever I look at it, especially when it’s in flower I think of my Granddad and his allotment and my Mum in her little veg plot).

It’s easy and gets great results, do it either now in spring or in autumn. And don’t be too impatient, just leave it to it and have a look the following spring or autumn. Although plants such as honeysuckle are loads quicker!

So new plants from old, that’s what it’s all about and it’s so simple… Happy gardening! X

Guess what I’m about to do…

The sun is out, but the wind is still nippy in the North West of the UK. But I cannot wait any longer. It’s time to sow peas! Actually not just peas, there’s plenty to get going right now.

I’ve been busy sowing plenty of things

Tomato – Tigerella and Money Maker
Red Brussels Sprouts – Red Bull
Red cabbage – Primero F1
Sunflower – Velvet Queen
Purple sprouting Broccoli
A spicy salad mix (sown into a bed in the poly tunnel)
Sweet pea – Giant Wave and Perfume Duet (grandiflora)
And of course my daughters favourite Peas – Greenshaft

Don’t forget little and often when your sowing, otherwise you will everything at once! (I’m very guilty of sowing too much at once) this year I’m going to be good, a tray every 2 weeks! – well that’s the plan…

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Time to empty the compost heap

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What a big job, I’m so glad it’s done! I have, like many allotment growers, raised beds. Some of which aren’t exactly raised, in fact, you could say are sunken.

Well today I have emptied my compost heap and filled my last ‘sunken raised bed’. I’ve being filling that heap all of 2013, a mix of kitchen scraps, old weeds, horse manure, cuttings, cardboard even dust from my Hoover.

Now the bed is finally filled, the key is to leave it to settle before doing any planting. It will sink a little whilst it settles and obviously is going to need regular hoeing as any weed seeds start to wake up. But it’s full of promise.

Now to start work on the new heap, the gardening wheel turns again! Happy gardening my friend! X