Spontaneous Combustion

Welcome to my penultimate newsletter for 2012.  I can’t believe how quickly this year has passed.  Do you sometimes feel that at any point you might spontaneously combust?  I wonder how much quicker life will become before that happens to us all!

Thank goodness for the joy and relaxation offered by gardening.  That said, there is little time to rest and always something to do, or take care of, in your garden.  Read on to find out more…

PS.  Phil Smith’s nursery at Sunnyside, Northchurch, has a fantastic sale with 30% off at the moment, well worth a visit!

planning for 2013

As we know, now is the perfect time to prep your garden for the Spring.  However, before you jump in with your sleeves rolled up, take a short while to consider 2012.  We have endured a wet and soggy summer and been overriden with slugs and seen unprecedented growth!  So take five to consider what you could do next year in preparation for similar imperfect conditions.  Call or drop me an email if you’d like to plan a review together.

Mark Diacono, writer and owner of Otter Farm, the UK’s only climate change farm, says of his experience this year, “herbs, perennial veg and most soft fruit were fabulous – globe artichokes, asparagus, currants and wineberries were among those that seemed unperturbed by the less-than-perfect year.  Annuals, especially leafy greens, salads and brassicas, suffered from a lack of sun and frequent slug attack.  Potatoes and many of the roots didn’t amount to a decent crop, and while the tomatoes, chillies and peppers have been OK, there’s no sense of high harvest and my kitchen is no hive of preserving activity.”

So, what to do… dedicate more of your kitchen garden to perennials, which are hardier due to their root system – buy your plants now and get them into the ground before the frost hits.  Secondly, opt for diversity and multiple crops, thereby improving your ‘insurance’ for both quality and quantity.

I’m hearing also that the new book by James Wong offers some excellent kitchen garden crop choices that thrive on neglect.  If you’ve already seen it, let me know what you think.

open season

I rarely sit on the fence, as you know, and definitely don’t on this occasion; my controversial twitter pal Anne Wareham has garnered a variety of opinions on Yellow Book NGS Gardens.  I fully support passionate critique and hot debate on all gardens open for whatever reason or cause.

In my opinion, for some years the NGS (National Garden Schemes) has done little more than encourage mediocre design and plant choices, and forced visitors to endure crowds and Victoria Sponge of questionable quality!   Rant over, please proceed…

raised beds

I’m including this great video with Monty Don on building raised beds because we have such heavy soil in this area.

The additional drainage properties offered by raised beds is excellent as an alternative for your kitchen garden and can be built from a variety of materials, from old paving slabs and bricks to railway sleepers.  If in doubt, or you need some help, give me a call or drop me a line.

My friend Dorrie has supplied this lovely picture of raised beds that we built in her garden earlier this year.

november top five tasks

  1. Tidy your borders – cut down your herbaceous stems, clear away any remains of your annuals, and rake up all fallen leaves.  Not only will they look better and you’ll feel better, but also they will be less likely to encourage pests and disease.
  2. Spring clean your greenhouse – clean it up and clear it out; wash your pots and your windows, throw away anything beyond repair and fumigate with a sulphur candle.
  3. Drain and lag – your outdoor taps and standpipes before the hard frost hits, you’ll thank me in the long run!
  4. Prepare your soil – dig over, remove the weeds and invest in some ‘green’ manure.

Plant up – your garlic and shallots, spring greens, purple sprouting broccoli and broad beans for early harvest next year.