Tag Archive: greenhouse


Winter Jasmine looking good

Winter Jasmine looking good

I wish all my blog followers and casual readers a very Happy 2018!!

It’s been a year of ‘ticking over’ in Old School Garden, as a long trip to Australia to be at the birth of our grand daughter fell right in the middle of the growing season… and voluntary activity elsewhere meant my attention was not on the Ground Elder amongst other things on the home patch!

Still, various important projects are underway, most notably the restructuring and renovation of the Kitchen Garden, where I hope by the Spring to have built a new shed, and installed trellis, rose swags and other features….watch this space.

I’ve said before, you might think that January is a month when there’s not much to do in the garden; well there are some useful things you can get stuck into. So here are my top ten tips (with a ‘grow your own food’ angle and with thanks to various websites):

Chitting potatoes- probably only worth doing for first or second earlies. Place tubers with blunter ends upwards (the ones with most ‘eyes’) and place in trays in a cool but well- lit place towards the end of the month.

chitting pots

1. The answer is in the soil.

Remove all plant debris, to reduce the spread of disease and pests. If you need to, continue preparing ground and digging beds ready for next season, but only if the ground is still workable (don’t dig if the soils is wet or heavily frosted).

2. Don’t let the rot set in.

Check your stored fruit and vegetables carefully, for rot will pass easily one to another. Empty sacks of potatoes, checking them for rot and any slugs that might have been over-wintering unnoticed. Your nose is a good indicator, often you will smell rot even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye! Also check strung onions- rot usually starts from the underside of the onion.

 3. Enjoy your winter veg.

Continue harvesting Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages, celeriac, celery, chard, endive, kale, leeks, parsnips, turnips, winter lettuce, winter spinach, turnips. As you harvest brassicas, dig up the stems and turn the ground over. Because the compost heap will be cold and slow at this time of year, you can always bury these in the bottom of a trench along with some kitchen waste to prepare for the runner beans later in the year.

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar…

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar...

 4. Get ahead of the game.

Continue to sow winter salad leaves indoors/ under glass/ cloches- make your stir fries and salads more interesting with easy-to-grow sprouting seeds. If not already done and the weather is mild, plant garlic, onion sets and sow broad beans (e.g. Aquadulce ‘Claudia’) for early crops. Order or buy seed potatoes and start chitting (sprout) seed potatoes. Herbs are easy to grow on your windowsill and provide fresh greens all year round.

5. Not mushroom?

It’s surprisingly easy to grow your own mushrooms – try growing a mushroom log in your garden or alternatively grow some indoors using mushroom kits.

Mushroom-Logs

Mushroom logs can make you a fun guy…! 

6. Rhubarb, Rhubarb.

Consider dividing well established plants, and at the first signs of growth, cover to exclude light if you want ‘forced’ rhubarb over the next couple of months (growing the variety ‘Timperley Early’ may mean you get rhubarb in February anyway).

 7. The hardest cut.

Continue pruning out dead or diseased shoots on apple and pear trees, prune newly planted cane fruit, vines and established bush fruit if not already done. Continue planting new fruit trees and bushes if the soil conditions allow. If the ground is too waterlogged or frozen, keep bare rooted plants in a frost free cool place ensuring the roots don’t dry out.

8. Clean up.

If not already done, make sure your greenhouse is thoroughly cleaned inside and out and that any seed trays and pots you plan to use are also cleaned and inspected for pests- e.g. slugs and snails.

9. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Plan out what you are going to grow in the coming season and order seed catalogues.

pback1_1380165c 10. Put your back into it.

If you must dig, look after your back- remember to warm up and limber up before you do anything strenuous and try to bend your knees to ensure your legs take the strain – and not your back!

Old School Gardener

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Carrot harvest via vegetables matter blogspotAs the heat (hopefully) builds, July’s the time to ease off and work smarter, not harder in the garden, and actually take time to enjoy it!

1. Food, glorious food…

  • Get a bumper vegetable harvest – now’s the time to reap a lot of what you’ve sown, but there’s still time to plant extra crops – like carrots
  • Pick courgettes before they become marrows
  • Sow chard for a winter crop
  • Summer prune redcurrants and gooseberries once the crop has been picked (or do it at the same time)
  • Keep an eye on the watering and try to do this early or late in the day to avoid evaporation during hot spells
  • Keep on top of the weeding in your food crops

2. Extend your flowering season

Now we’re in July your garden maybe just past its peak, so take some action to prolong the flowering value of some plants:

  • Cut back early-flowering perennials to the ground and they will send up fresh leaves and maybe even the bonus of some extra late-summer flowers (e.g Geraniums, Nepeta)
  • Give them a boost after pruning with a good soak of water and some tomato feed
  • Exploit plants’ desperate need to set seed by removing blooms as they fade. This will encourage them to produce more flowers to replace them
  • Remember that plants in containers are dependent on you for their water as they’ll get little benefit from any rain. Give them a good soak at least once a day in sunny weather

    Early flowerign perennila slike Oriental poppies can be cut back hard to encourage new foliage and some will also flower again

    Early flowering perennials like Oriental poppies can be cut back hard to encourage new foliage – and some will also flower again.

3.   Look after your pond

  • Look out for any yellowing leaves on water lilies and other water plants and remove them promptly- allowing them to fall off and rot in the water will decrease water quality and encourage algal ‘blooms’
  • Remove blanket weed with a net or rake to let oxygen into your pond. Remember to give aquatic life a chance to get back to the water by piling the weed next to the pond for a day. Add a football-sized net of straw to your pond (you can use old tights or stockings) to reduce the nitrogen levels if  blanket weed is a continuous problem
  • Top up water levels. Water can evaporate rapidly from water features and ponds in the height of summer, so top them up if the water level drops significantly. Fresh rainwater from a water butt is best – chemicals in tap water can affect the nutrient balance in the pond

    Water the greenhouse early or late in the day

    Water the greenhouse early or late in the day

4. Stay watchful in the greenhouse

  • Check plants daily, and once again, water first thing in the morning or in the evening to reduce water loss through evaporation
  • Harden off and plant out any plug plants that you have been growing on
  • Damp down your greenhouse on hot days to increase humidity and deter red spider mites; placing a bucket or watering can of water inside can help to maintain humidity
  • Open vents and doors daily to provide adequate ventilation
  • Use blinds or apply shade paint to prevent the greenhouse from over-heating in sunny weather

    Relax (note the old pallet turned into a stylish lounger) and plan ahead...

    Relax (note the old pallet turned into a stylish lounger) and plan ahead…

5. Relax in your Deck/armchair and…

  • Order catalogues for next year’s spring-flowering bulbs
  • Order perennial plants online now ready for autumn delivery
  • Think about which bulbs you would like for next spring – now is the time to order ready for autumn planting
  • Make a note of your garden’s pros and cons at this time of year to remind you of any changes that you need to make for next year – and take photos so that you can accurately see what it looks like once things have died down
  • Have a leisurely walk around the garden and use string of different colours tied to the stems of plants you are marking out for removal, division etc.
Encourage pest predators like hoverflies by attractive plantings and think about creating winter habitats now

Encourage pest predators like hoverflies by attractive plantings and think about creating winter homes for them now

6. Strengthen your alliance with nature for pest and disease control…

  • Look after your aphid eaters – ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings feast on greenfly and blackfly so it is worth protecting them by avoiding pesticides which will kill them as well as the pests. And why not take steps now to prepare suitable winter habitats for these and other ‘gardeners’ friends’ – e.g. bug hotels, timber piles, areas of long or rough grass or nettles etc.
  • Look for aphids on the underside of leaves – rub them off by hand or spray with an organic insecticide to prevent them multiplying
  • Keep an eye out for scarlet lily beetles on your lilies – remove and crush any you see. Also check for the sticky brown larvae on the underside of leaves
  • If your plants are wilting for no obvious reason then check for vine weevils by tipping your plants out of their pots and looking for ‘C’ shaped creamy maggots amongst the roots – treat with nematodes if vine weevils are spotted
  • Tidy up fallen leaves, flowers and compost – this will prevent potential pest and disease problems

7. Stop plants drying out

  • For recently planted large shrubs or trees, leave a hose trickling around the base for an hour. The same goes for established plants in very dry periods – pay particular attention to camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas which will abort next season’s flowers if they get too dry. Mulch around the roots when moist to help avoid this.
  • Recently planted hedges are best watered with a trickle hose (a length of old hose punctured with little holes) left running for an hour or so

8. Give houseplants a summer holiday

  • Many indoor plants benefit from being placed outside for the summer. Moving many plants out of the conservatory will save them from baking under glass, and lessen some pest and disease problems, such as red spider mite
  • Ventilate and shade sunrooms and conservatories to prevent scorch damage to remaining plants
  • Water houseplants freely when in growth, and feed as necessary (often weekly or fortnightly)

9. Paint your wagon…

  • Give woodwork like sheds, fences, pergolas etc. a lick of paint or preserver, while the weather is dry
Give your shed and other garden woodwork a fresh new look when the weather's dry.

Give your shed and other garden woodwork a fresh new look when the weather’s dry

10. Gimme shelter

  • Slow down and give yourself and your plants a rest from the heat; fix temporary awnings to provide shade in the hottest part of the day – for you and your tenderest plants!

Old School Gardener

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WP_20160421_10_36_32_ProMy latest session at Blickling was spent in the Walled Garden, once more. On my way I stopped to look at the wonderful display of Tulips in the Double Borders, caught in the early morning sun.

As I arrived it was clear that a lot had happened in the Walled Garden since last week- mainly that the grass paths had been turfed. These really look great, and I also saw that the first prototype metal arch had been installed at one end of the central path… this will eventually be a ‘fruit arch’ covering the entire length of this path.

One group of volunteers were set to weeding in the Parterre garden, whilst the two Petes and a new volunteer, Chris and I were detailed to path edging (Norfolk Pete) and digging (yes, you guessed it!) and mulching some borders which will be home to an array of cut flowers, all ready and waiting to go in from the nearby cold frames.

We moved over to one of the quarter beds and dig some double digging- the three of us in line. Or rather, ‘bastard digging’ (!) , so Mike tells me as he says ‘double digging would involve incorporating some organic matter in the trenches before turning in the next spit of topsoil.

Norfolk Peter- a bolting we will go...

Norfolk Peter- a bolting we will go…

‘Norfolk Pete’ spent the day bolting in some joining plates for the metal edging, which appears to be nearly complete. I saw a large pile (some 120 tonnes) of Carr Stone in the orchard, which is waiting to be put down as the base for the hard paths , which will have peas shingle laid on top. A bit of path near the potting shed had been finished off as a trial run and it does look neat. mike said we may spend next week laying and raking this gravel over the rest of the paths, the Carr stone having been rammed hard. Carr Stone (the gingerbread coloured sand stone found in West Norfolk), when broken down, provides a perfect sandy path sub surface; it binds together well and is hard wearing.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

The third object in this series is of historic importance. The Wardian Case, originally designed by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in 1829.

A modern reproduction of a Wardian Case at Tregothnan Gardens, Cornwall. Picture by Rosie Reeve

A modern reproduction of a Wardian Case at Tregothnan Gardens, Cornwall

It became a vital tool for those intrepid plant hunters of the 19th century. Without it, many of the exotic plants that now thrive in the U.K. would not have survived even half their journey from the far corners of the world.

Early plant hunters had been actively searching the world for new exotic plants from the end of the 16th century. But transporting their discoveries as seeds and dry roots because of the dehydrating sea air and a substantial lack of fresh water caused many plants to perish. The Wardian Case provided protection from the salty wind, created a mini greenhouse where the plants could use sunlight and produce their own water through condensation.

And the Case is not only of historic importance in explaining the wide range of plants now available in the U.K. It also symbolises the ways in which gardeners try to create micro climates to nurture an exotic plant or even a range of plants. They do this by growing them under glass (and a few years after Ward’s invention an explosion in greenhouse manufacture began), sheltering them from the excesses of sun, wind and rain or creating plant colonies which support each other, possibly altering the soil too.

 Old School Gardener

heat sink greenhouseHeat Sink Greenhouse- heat is absorbed by the stone trough during the day and relased at night.

Old School Gardener

telephone box greenhouse mull

What a lovely idea for using a redundant ‘phone box- greenhouse on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Old School Gardener

shady greenhouseI’ve previously had a question about acquiring a second greenhouse and what it could be used for. Today’s question is from Tony Sharp of Hertford and also involves a ‘greenhouse gift’. Tony asks:

‘My parents have offered me their old greenhouse, but the only available space for it in my garden is generally shaded. Is it worth the trouble of moving it to my place?’

Tony, it is certainly worth it. The great majority of popular greenhouse and pot plants prefer shady conditions when in the decorative stage- but good light, which does not mean direct sunlight under glass, is essential for them in their early stages of growth. If there is too much gloom, growth will be weak, straggly and pale. If your greenhouse is going to be very shaded, the use of a cold frame or other mini garden frame in a more open, sunny position might provide the right light levels for the early growth stages of some plants.

There are also many plants that revel in considerable shade, apart from the low growers suitable for placing under the staging (more on this below). Examples include:

  • Many ferns for both cool and warm conditions

  • Norfolk island pine (Araucaria excelsa) in its juvenile form

  • The climbers, Chilean bell-flower (Lapageria rosea) and Hoya carnosa- both with attractive flowers

  • Many ivies

  • The Schefflera foliage species

  • Camellias, which flower very well in pots when young

  • Streptocarpus

  • Gloxinias

  • Many of the Gesneria family

  • The ‘forest cacti’ such as Schlumbergera and Rhipsalidopsis

  • The annual Exacum affine, which is sweet-smelling

  • Anthurium crystallinum

  • Various palms

And there are many more possibilities to choose from depending on the temperature that can be maintained in the greenhouse.

I mentioned using the space under the staging in the greenhouse above. If you have a glass-to ground greenhouse the lighting conditions will probably allow this area to be used for a propagator or those plants that like slight shade. If, however there is considerable shade (as you might get with a solid wall greenhouse), only shade lovers can be put there- but once again there are lots of these to consider. Many houseplants like the sort of lighting you get in this area (and may even be raised there); so, too, do tropical  plants and exotic foliage subjects if warmth and humidity is adequate. Good crops of mushrooms can be grown and, if an area is blacked out, it can also be used for blanching and forcing crops such as chicory, rhubarb and sea kale.

You have staging- what can you use the area underneath for?
You have staging- but what can you use the area underneath for?

I’d suggest that you don’t use the under staging area as a store for general garden stuff (eg plant pots and trays) as these and other ‘junk’ can soon turn into places where pests and diseases will be encouraged. However this area can be useful as a store for tools that are used regularly in the greenhouse, as well as containers of seed and potting compost- as long as these can be effectively sealed (I’ve seen a bag of compost left open in a greenhouse and soon become a home for ants!).

Link: 10 Greenhouses you can build yourself

If you have any gardening questions that you think I might help with, then please email me at nbold@btinternet.com

Old School Gardener

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Yucca aloifolia flowers

Yucca aloifolia flowers

A genus of about 40 species of perennial evergreen shrubs or trees, Yucca is rosette-forming or woody- based and comes from hot, dry places such as deserts. sand dunes and plains in north and central America and the West Indies. It is also colloquially known in the Midwest United States as “ghosts in the graveyard”, as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and when in bloom the cluster of (usually pale) flowers on a thin stalk appear as floating apparitions. So striking are these flowers that early settlers of the south-western United States called them “Lamparas de Dios” or “Lanterns of God”. 

A member of the Agavae family, the yucca is closely related to the lily and has its origins in Mexico and Central America where it was prized by indigenous peoples for the medicinal and nutritional properties of the yucca flower.

North American natives, too, found the plant useful, using it to make clothing and soap (yucca roots are rich in saponins).

Cultivated for their bold, linear to lance shaped leaves and their erect (sometimes pendent) panicles of, usually white bell-shaped flowers. Many species also bear edible parts, including fruits, seeds,flowers, flowering stems and more rarely roots. References to yucca root as food often stem from confusion with the similarly pronounced, but botanically unrelated, yuca, also called cassava (Manihot esculenta).

They tolerate a range of conditions, but are best grown in full sun in subtropical or mild temperate areas. In gardening centres and horticultural catalogues they are usually grouped with other architectural plants such as Cordylines and Phormiums.

Joshua trees

(Yucca brevifolia) are protected by law in some American states. A permit is needed for wild collection. As a landscape plant, they can be killed by excessive water during their summer dormant phase, so are avoided by landscape contractors.

Several species of yucca can be grown outdoors in mild temperate climates where they are protected from frost. These include:-

Y. filamentosa

Y. flaccida

Y. gloriosa

y. recurvifolia

Yuccas are widely grown as architectural plants providing a dramatic accent to landscape design. They can be used as specimen plants in courtyards or borders and in frost prone areas can be grown in a cool or temperate greenhouse or conservatory. Pollination and proper yucca care are necessary for the formation of these flowers on indoor plants.

Be careful to site them away from paths or other places people could be scratched by their sharp leaves. Free-draining soil and sun is all yuccas require.They are fully frost hardy to frost tender and can be propagated by seed sown in spring. Rooted suckers can also be removed in spring and root cuttings can be taken in the autumn. They can be susceptible to leaf spot and aphid attack.

Yucca guatemalensis (syn Yucca elephantipes)

Yucca guatemalensis (syn Yucca elephantipes)

Further Information:

Wikipedia

Yucca filamentosa- RHS guide

How to Grow Yucca

Yucca Care

Yucca- Plant Encyclopedia

Old School Gardener

Using pallets and other recycled materials to create useful garden equipment and features seems to have really taken off in the last year- at least the posts I’ve made to Old School Garden during that time are among my most popular.

My own exploits to date have been limited to a set of vertical planters, shortly to be used as mini raised beds for some young children at my local primary school. Following a bit of a reorganisation of outside stores here at the Old School, I have a redundant wooden bicycle rack which looks perfect as the base for a ‘plant theatre’ so I might get round to doing that as the days lengthen and (hopefully) the air warms up. In the meantime here’s the latest batch of ideas I’ve gleaned from Facebook sites like 1001 pallets, urban gardens, container gardening and the like. Enjoy!

First some sheds, shacks and greenhouses….

 

Next a few planters…..

And now some serious outdoor building work…..

Finally a few odds and ends…..

Old School Gardener

Molehills seem to be springing up at a rate of knots in Old School Garden!
Molehills seem to be springing up at a rate of knots in Old School Garden!

Letter from Old School Garden 23rd December 2013

Dear Walter,

As I write this a major storm is sweeping across the country,disrupting travel, cutting power from homes and maybe even bringing further local flooding. I hope that you aren’t in danger from this.Fortunately we seem to be missing the worst of it, but nevetheless the winds are ferocious and I’m wondering if we can complete out planned Christmas family gathering later today, as I’m due to collect my eldest daughter and her boy friend from Norwich Station. Let’s hope they are able to get a train before the cancellations set it in at 5pm.

Setting the current ‘excitement’ aside, it’s been a pretty quiet time here at Old School Garden in recent weeks. I’ve been collecting Physalis fruit, Rose hips and Crab apples (‘Red Sentinel’) for festive decorations and rather good they look too. The other day I was pleased to discover that my local nursery had its supply of seed potatoes in, so rather than wait and possibly miss out on my favourite variety (‘Charlotte’), I bought a bag of these and one of Maris Bard (second and first earlies respectively). Once Christmas is over I’ll be setting these out on trays to ‘chit’ (sprout).

Festive Decoration- Physalis
Festive Decoration- Physalis

We’ve also had some new french doors fitted and I managed to grab the old glazed doors which I hope to use for cloches to warm the soil/protect tender crops in the new season. I really haven’t done as much as I’d hoped in the garden this past few weeks. As I said last month, the weather has been quite mild so I should have taken advantage of this to move things around, but all I’ve managed to do is extend a border and moved a few perennials to here and one or two other places. I still have some larger clumps of Achillea and Echinops to split and move.

I’ve just about managed to keep on top of leaf collection, but have noticed how the grass has kept growing, so at some point I shall have to venture out with the mower to keep it to a reasonable height. Having said this, mole hills seem to appear almost as I’m clearing the old ones away!

The last month has seen some gorgeous autumn colour- the Euphorbia palustris was especially brilliant, and I’m looking forward to seeing the various groups of Dogwoods as their bright stems liven up the winter garden.

Red Sentinel crab apples
Red Sentinel crab apples

The greenhouse is now fully set up with electric heater, insulation and tender plants all in- though I’ve still to get the Dahlias properly potted up for winter. I’ve ordered some flower seeds and these have arrived. I’ve gone for few more exotic- looking varieties of flowers this year and also some extras which I’ll use for an extended ornamental area in kitchen garden. I’ll turn to more detailed planning of these areas and my propagation schedule in the next week or two. I’ve also re-potted some house plants and I’m trying to care for these a little better, by thinking about their placement and trying not to over water them!

On the wider front, I’ve been approached by a Norfolk High School about tutoring a group of students on the School gardening plot, probably for a couple of sessions a week.This sounds interesting and something I’m keen to do, so will be visiting the School garden in early January to discuss plans in more detail. Meanwhile, I’ve continued to help at my local primary school. The mild weather has meant that we managed to plant out some leek ‘survivors’ from a sowing earlier in the year- hopefully it will remain mild enough for them to get settled. The children have also been busy collecting a lot of leaves for leaf mould. I’ll probably be back with them after February half term to get on with some seed sowing, amongst other things

Rose hips
Rose hips

I’ve also heard that I may have a new garden design commission in the New Year and I’ve agreed to meet up with the Head Gardener at nearby Salle Park Gardens to discuss her plans for turning over a portion of their 2 acre walled garden to ornamental rather than food production ( a bit like my own plans but on a much larger scale!).

As I mentioned last month my courses in Garden Design and Grow Your Own Food seem to have been successful and I’m hoping that we can run another set beginning in February, though once more subject to numbers of course.

Well, old friend I hope that you and Lise are safe in this rough weather and that you have a wonderful Christmas time with your family, tucked up in that lovely old house of yours. All the best to you and them at this special time and here’s to a productive gardening year in 2014!

Old School Gardener

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