Thursday, 5 July 2012

Summertime, and the annuals are flowering.

It is a very satisfying sight to start to see the benefits of your hard work pay off.

It has been an important part of my plan for the nursery to develop the garden. Here customers can see how the plants that I produce grow.

Unfortunately my garden is somewhat problematic, it is on a slope with very variable soil depth and type. It has never been worked as a flower garden, nor much of any type of garden, although it is bordered by an old stone wall and therefore separate from the croft land. Part of the garden, as evidenced by the peaty soil, was obviously used for stacking the peats for the home fire. It has taken some work to incorporate this into the soil underneath.

Much of the garden was covered with wild raspberry canes, brambles, nettles etc. Clearing, and keeping on top of the weeds, has been the focus of much of my work over the last 6 years. Whist the weeds grow much of the structure of the garden has been set out with yew, hornbeam, Cornus, Stipa gigantea, and bamboo. These, for the most part, have done extremely well.

Breaking new ground leads to more weeds. Most of the garden has been waiting under black plastic, but even then tough weeds penetrate through. Creeping thistle, nettles, rosebay willow herb and those raspberry canes again. Planting perennials in new ground only creates problems as even tiny parts of roots not cleared send up new shoots. I therefore decided to break the ground and plant with annuals. Some parts with thin soil were not dug, but layered first with grass cuttings the previous season and then with cardboard and clean compost. The plan is to clear out any returning weeds and only when the soil is 'weed free' plant perennials. Mean while to create colour, help suppress weeds and feed bees and other insects, I have sown and planted out annuals.

Annuals are much underrated plants, for flower power, variety and insect friendliness they should be more widely appreciated. Today they are beginning to put on a spectacular show, the cornflowers are humming with bees, the poppies are vibrant, Tagetes and Alonsoa are mixing with hardy annuals and looking right at home. Following the RHS trial I sowed some of the hardy annuals during the autumn and planted them out in March. Cornflowers, poppies and pot marigold - all have put on a fantastic amount of growth and are covered in flowers. Definitely worth doing again. And the weeds? Yes they keep returning, but are easy to pullout, and with all those flowers to enjoy it makes the job seem worthwhile. It seems almost a pity that they will have to make room for perennials in due course. However meanwhile I will be able to gather plenty of seed to create the look again in subsequent years, even if on a smaller scale.

A taste of summer - the first tomatoes!

Whereas much of the UK has been suffering with prolonged rain we have been fortunate in our northern outpost.

Temperatures may not be high but we have seen the sun and it has been dry and warm.

Summer may be said to have truly arrived when the first of the tomatoes have ripened. 'Sungold', a sweet yellow cherry, was the first, with 'Lucciola', a small plum, hot on it's heels. 'Red Alert', a standard size tomato, is coming on strong with abundant fruit on it's small bushy frame.

Many of the tomato plants still look pretty small for the time of year, thanks to our tricky spring, but they are forming fruit and beginning to show more vigorous growth. The healthiest looking ones are in the tubs on my own compost, but I am somewhat concerned that their abundant vegetative growth may be at the expense of fruit, time will tell.

For those who already grow your own tomatoes you don't need me to tell you how good the flavour is, for those who don't it's time you started, especially if, like me, you don't care for the taste of shop bought.