Random thoughts and ideas about general annoyances and little ways in which the world could be made better
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Latest garden update after the recent hot, dry weather The post Garden Update for July – Produce at Last! appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
It has been such a strange season here in the UK. I honestly can’t remember another period of hot and dry weather that was so prolonged – I literally can’t remember the last time it rained. The grass is no longer green, and trees are beginning to shed their leaves.
Thank goodness I installed the Hozelock systems earlier this year (see An Automatic Watering System) – otherwise I would have been spending most of my time watering. That’s the downside of growing in containers – water and nutrients are quickly lost. And carrying a heavy watering can around in the hot sun soon loses its appeal. Especially in the greenhouse which has regularly been over 40°C.
The two Hozelock systems I installed do have a few annoying problems. Because of the limited choice of settings plants tend to be watered too little or too much. And there are a few minor leaks where the thin tubing to the individual drippers connects to the wider supply tube. For smaller pots I have found that it is better to stand them on growbag trays lined with capillary matting, and water the trays rather than the individual plants. This seems to work well, and although some water will be lost through evaporation, it is better than it being lost by running straight through the pot and into the ground.
Even with these minor problems the system has been a huge success. I just hand water any plants that I think need a little more, and wastage is minimal. And I love being able to go away for a few days without worrying about my plants while I am gone.
I seem to have been watching the tomatoes develop for ages. I thought that the hot sunny conditions would encourage early ripening, but that didn’t happen.
They are only just starting to turn red. I have grown four varieties this year – Apero, Sungold, Romello and Money Maker. The first three have started to ripen, and the Money Makers are now well on their way.
I love trying and comparing different varieties – it is just so interesting seeing how they all turn out.
The Sungold and Apero are small cherry tomatoes which are great in salads. The Romello are small plum-shaped tomatoes – also good in salads and ideal for cooking in pasta dishes and sauces. Money Maker, which I grew last year, are larger and perfect for sandwiches.
On first impressions the Sungold seem to be the tastiest, though the others may improve with a bit more time.
I have grown all of these tomatoes from seed which I sowed indoors in January and February. I chose these varieties from the huge selection at Thomson & Morgan, and have been very pleased with the germination rate and growth. Hopefully it will now be several months before I have to buy any more from the shops!
There have been a few other successes.
I had quite a good crop of broccoli (actually calabrese) – mainly varieties Green Magic and Kabuki F1.
Fortunately I managed to harvest many of the plants before the cabbage white butterflies appeared. (The butterflies have now descended on the garden en masse, and are seeking out every Brassica in sight, so it is only a matter of time before the caterpillars start munching. I am trying to remove as many eggs as possible, but I think it is a losing battle!)
Beans are doing well. I have bush varieties in various containers, which I have already been harvesting, and climbing ones on the trellis which are growing rapidly and starting to produce flowers.
The carrots growing in the VegTrug are still small but doing really well. The Trug makes it really easy to harvest them – no bending or digging. A quick wash and they are ready to cook – great!
Various lettuces and salad leaves are growing all over the place – in the VegTrug, in troughs in the garden and these under the staging in the greenhouse. It’s great. Whenever I want sandwiches, a garnish or a full salad I just pick whichever leaves I fancy – and in a few days they have regrown – magic!
I had a small crop from my “Ruby Falls” raspberry bush, but the raspberries were good, but not quite as sweet as I hoped. This was the plant’s first year, and I am hoping it will produce a better crop next year. I also have a blackberry bush which is now producing flowers, and a heavily laden blueberry bush coming along great.
Watering fruit bushes growing in containers might be a problem, but at least it is easy to protect them from birds and insects (see A Great Way to Protect Soft Fruit in Your Garden). And if there is very bad weather in the winter I can just move them into the greenhouse.
Not everything has been doing well. I seem to have had massive problems with greenfly and whitefly this year – perhaps because they need heavy showers to keep washing them off the leaves? Or perhaps because of a lack of natural predators – I have hardly seen any ladybirds this year, and none in my garden.
My chilli plants, which have been so successful the last couple of years, have been really suffering. The leaves are shrunken and the plants are horribly sticky with honeydew – despite me regularly spraying them with soapy water and manually removing badly infected leaves.
My sweet pepper plants were even worse – so bad that I have given up on them.
And I succeeded in growing all of three pea pods – some mystery disease caused my plants to wither and die. Such a shame – they did fine last year.
Despite these minor setbacks, I am really enjoying my experiments in growing fruit and veg plants. When it works, and the plants produce, it is just so satisfying to pick ingredients for a meal just before I cook it. I am cooking lots of pasta dishes and stirfries using my own brocolli, beans, carrots, spring onions, tomatoes and, hopefully soon, courgettes and baby corn. I have an abundance of salad leaves for sandwiches and salads, and herbs and spices for flavouring. And some tasty fresh berries are on their way.
If you haven’t tried already, why not give it a go? You don’t need a large garden, and all sorts of containers can be used to grow things in. Like me you can learn as you go along, and like me you just might become hooked…..
A photographic celebration of the wonderful woods we can enjoy throughout the year The post Wonderful Woods – A Photographic Celebration appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
Woods are such special places. Of course trees are the major feature, but they provide a habitat for so many other forms of life. Wild flowers, ferns, fungi, birds, small mammals, deer, insects and spiders, molluscs, and a myriad of other creatures.
Walking through woodland is always a magical experience, whatever the season. What could be nicer than listening to birdsong surrounded by dappled light and swaying branches? You get shelter from the sun, wind and rain, and there is always that feeling of not knowing what you might see next.
We have lots of wonderful woodland around my home in North Yorkshire. I have put together a seasonal collection of some of my favourite woodland photos from strolls in sites I visit often. Most were taken not far from my home in York, though a few are from other sites in the North of England.
All of these photos are available to purchase as digital downloads (Paypal account required). Just click on any image for details.
Spring in woodland is characterised by the vivid green of fresh new leaves, and the wild flowers which flourish while light can still reach ground. The birds sing and the bees appear.
In summer the greens are darker and the canopy denser. The shade is welcome on hot sunny days. Though some of the insects are not!
Autumn is a season of dramatic colours and profound change. Trees lose their leaves, nuts, cones and old wood, and creatures prepare to hibernate.
I love the starkness of deciduous trees in winter – you can really appreciate their form and structure. And coniferous woodland takes on a dark, moody feel which adds atmosphere and mystery.
An update on the progress of various vegetable plants and flowers in my garden The post Garden Update – Exciting Times appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
Many of the fruit, vegetable and flowering plants in various containers around my garden are really coming along now. This time of year is so exciting – every day there are changes and new developments.
So I thought it was time for another update.
These really are coming along a treat, both in the greenhouse and outside in the garden. Unlike last year, when I more or less let them grow as they wished, this year I have kept the cordon varieties under control by cutting off side branches and tying them regularly to canes, as you are supposed to do. They look so much neater, and are now producing flowers, like the ones in the photo below which are on one of the Apero variety plants. There is even evidence of a tiny tomato beginning to develop on the lowest flower!
I am also growing some bush-type tomatoes, which do not need supporting and side branch removal. The variety is Romello, which I grew last year and was really pleased with. It produces small slightly elongated tomatoes which are tasty and perfect for homemade pasta dishes. Hopefully I will have some photos to show you soon!
The first of the strawberries have ripened, and we had our first sample the other day – so tasty! The one shown in the photo below is variety Cambridge Favourite, bought as bare root plants. Hopefully they will keep producing fruit for a long time.
In its new position with plenty of sunlight, and regular watering due to the installation of the Hozelock irrigation system, the VegTrug is really coming into its own this year (see posts on Mistakes Made with a VegTrug and Automatic Watering System). It is already producing several varieties of lovely lettuces, and the carrots in the deeper part of the Trug are coming along fine.
I love these delicate little petunias, found at a local garden store, which I hope will eventually trail over the pot.
And these big showy ones
Our Cosmos plants in various pots are beginning to flower – I think they are really pretty.
The Anemone de Caen bulbs I set around Christmas have been lovely, but are now beginning to fade.
And I recently bought some cranesbill geranium plants to set in a border. The first delicate little flowers have just opened.
Although my main interest is growing edible plants, it is great to have these little splashes of colour around the garden!
Not everything is growing as planned. Last year I was really pleased with my first attempt at growing peas. This year the peas germinated fine, but after a couple of weeks the plants began to look wizened with brown patches and holes appearing in the leaves.
I don’t know what is causing this. I haven’t seen any slugs or insects on the plants, but clearly the plants are not thriving, and I think I will have to give up on them. If anyone knows what the problem is I would love to hear from them for future reference….
My broccoli plants are also being severely eaten by something, though I haven’t seen anything on the plants. They still seem to be growing, so perhaps there is hope here.
I can’t believe that until a couple of years ago I had no interest whatsoever in gardening. Now I can’t imagine not wanting to grow things. And there are just so many different plants and varieties to try.
I find that when I use ingredients I have grown myself I appreciate them so much more. Even though they do take so much more effort than popping into the supermarket. Some taste better than those bought in the shops, and others, if I am honest, are less good. But the fact that I have cared for them and watched them grow, usually from seed, just makes them so much more special.
A simple way to protect soft fruit growing in your garden The post A Great Way to Protect Soft Fruit in Your Garden appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
If you grow soft fruit like blueberries and raspberries in your garden, you will need a way to prevent birds from eating your developing fruit.
You can, of course, make your own protective covers using garden netting and canes. But it can be quite tricky to do it well, especially in a small garden, and it can also make it difficult to harvest your fruit.
A couple of years ago I came across an ideal solution in a local garden centre – a Popadome fruit protector.
This consists of a strong mesh cover through which you slot a flexible frame. The mesh is large enough to let pollinators through, but small enough to keep out most butterflies and birds. There is also a copper strip around the bottom to deter slugs and snails, and it comes with pegs to keep it grounded.
Now in its third year of use, my original Popadome is looking a bit faded, but still doing its job perfectly.
Because my blueberry bush has now grown larger, and I now also have a dwarf blackberry plant, I decided to buy an additional Popadome this year. It is no longer available in our local garden centre, but I found it available in a range of sizes online at Harrod Horticultural. The price was good, and with an excellent delivery service my new Popadome duly turned up today.
The Popadome is easily assembled (and just as easily disassembled to store in its own bag for the winter).
The front zip gives access to the plants, but to be honest I find it just as easy to remove the ground pegs and lift the whole frame off when I want to harvest the fruit – it only takes a minute. And you can easily water the plants directly through the mesh.
The Popadome is such a simple solution for keeping birds off soft fruit (and other) plants that I am amazed you don’t see these readily available in garden centres. I wouldn’t be without mine.
Photos of the seasonal changes from spring to summer around my Yorkshire home The post Spring Transitions – Seasonal Changes Around My Yorkshire Home appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
We have had some beautiful weather this spring here in Yorkshire. Sunny days, blue skies, high temperatures and little rain.
The change from bare winter branches to vivid green leaves and spring blossom seemed to happen almost overnight. And now the blossom is falling, the leaves are maturing, and summer is approaching fast. I remember many years when unusually warm and dry spring weather was followed by a disappointingly dull, damp summer. But weather patterns are so unpredictable now that who knows what will follow.
I thought I would post some photos showing the colours and changes of the spring season. These were mostly taken in my garden or whilst strolling the paths and fields around my home near York. I do hope you enjoy them.
(Please note that many of these images can be purchased as digital downloads – see Flowers Gallery and Trees Gallery. Some are also available to purchase as prints and gifts – just click on any image to see if it is available.)
The post Spring Transitions – Seasonal Changes Around My Yorkshire Home appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
An update on my vegetable plants, and the installation of an automatic watering system The post Garden Update – Vegetable Plants and an Automatic Watering System appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
It has been a while now since I posted about sowing the first seeds of the year. So I thought it was time I posted an update on how the gardening is coming along.
The recent sunny days have really stimulated growth!
The tomato plants are coming along a treat. I like trying different varieties, and the ones I am growing this year are Sungold, Apero, Romello and the reliable Money Maker.
I will keep some in the greenhouse all summer, and have already moved others outside.
We have several bags of potato plants which are growing fast and look really well. I got these bags from Thompson & Morgan last year. They may not look pretty, especially as this is their second year of use, but the handles make it really easy to move them around the garden. Our garden has a lot of shade, so it is useful to move things to sunny spots during the day.
After having success with Minipop sweetcorn last year, I am growing this again. The little baby corn are great in pasta dishes and stir fries. And the corn plants are interesting.
Strawberry plants in various pots are looking good, despite having had a few nasty greenfly problems. The greenfly seem particularly bad this year – I wonder if other people have noticed this?
I have had a blueberry bush for a couple of years now and it is very productive, though the fruit are a little tart (probably due to a shortage of sun at the crucial time – maybe it will be better this year). Unfortunately I am not sure of the variety.
The raspberry bush shown below is variety Ruby Beauty, one of several I bought this spring from Thompson & Morgan. It is looking great, with flowers just forming, and I have high hopes!
I also have a dwarf blackberry bush, variety Opal, again ordered from Thompson & Morgan, which has been a bit slow but is now showing good signs of growth.
Also growing well in pots, tubs and bags around the garden are various varieties of lettuce, oriental leaves, peas, beans, chillies, broccoli, carrots, spring onions, leeks, herbs – and even a few flowers. I will post more photos later in the year when the veggies (hopefully) start being productive. And to think I wasn’t going to do so much this year…..
The big news is that, after spending up to 2 hours a day watering pots in the height of the summer last year, we finally got round to installing a Hozelock system. Well actually, two.
We got a three way tap connector (one of which acts as a directional tap – see photo above). We then bought two Hozelock kits with automatic timers – one for each side of the garden. It was then a matter of locating supply hoses around the garden, and adding side branches as necessary to water various pots, hanging baskets and our VegTrug.
I thought this would be difficult, but once you get the idea it is actually much easier than I expected. I was also a bit dubious that there would be enough pressure to supply the hanging baskets and VegTrug, but they both work a treat.
We still have a few extensions to add, and quite a bit of tidying up to do so the supply hoses are less visible, but I was very impressed with how quickly we had a working system. The VegTrug is already benefiting. Last year it was a complete failure (see Mistakes Made With A VegTrug). But in its new location with plenty of light, and a regular, consistent supply of water, plants are already showing good signs of growth.
I bought our two Hozelock kits, and various extra components including the three-way tap, online from Keen Gardener. They had the best prices I could find, and the delivery service has been excellent. When I made a mistake with one of my orders they sorted it out immediately, and I can wholeheartedly recommend them.
As you can see from the photo of the tap above, I bought two different types of kits to compare. One uses a 13 mm supply hose, to which you attach smaller 4mm micro hose to supply each of the pots. The other relies completely on the 4mm micro hose. Both kits seem to work equally well.
The automatic timers mean that, in addition to spending less time and effort watering each day, I will also not be worrying about my plants when we are on holiday. I am sure my neighbour will also be relieved…
The post Garden Update – Vegetable Plants and an Automatic Watering System appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
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