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Archive for November, 2011

Thinking ahead for next year, it’s great to see what courses are out there that can add to your gardening knowledge. I’ve been intrigued for a while now about the ‘No dig’ system of gardening, where soil is improved by adding compost every year to beds but without digging it in. My back supports this idea very much as all the hard work is done by worms gradually working the compost into the soil. No digging also retains the structure of the soil and if you can add a couple of inches of compost each year, will help to reduce weeds too. Charles Dowding (above) is a great advocate of ‘No dig’ gardening and has been operating a successful veg growing business for twenty-nine years using this system. I’m hoping to attend one of his courses running at Great Dixter in February next year. As well as books about ‘No dig’ gardening, he’s also written about salad leaves for all seasons, and so ‘participants will also learn about the importance of sowing at the best time of year for each vegetable crop, to help minimise pests and maximise yield, and there’ ll also be the opportunity for discussion about planting by the moon and biodynamics’. Planting by the moon -another topic that I’ve always meant to investigate (but often wondered if planting by the moon would be possible with my sometimes rigid gardening schedule), so I’m really looking forward to attending the course and learning from an expert in his field.

If you can’t make the course in February, there are many courses at Great Dixter (above) throughout the year that will tempt you and Charles Dowding also runs courses from his farm in Somerset which are booking now for spring next year.

West Dean Gardens, nr Chichester in W.Sussex are offering some really interesting gardening courses for next year including ‘Training trees and shrubs’, ‘Designing your own garden’ and ‘The organic kitchen garden’ (and lots more), and it’s worth keeping an eye on The Garden Museum in London too as they’ll be introducing more talks and events for 2012 soon.

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Over the last few days, a flurry of parcels has arrived, containing a gorgeous assortment of bare-rooted plants. Delighted to receive them all, but slightly panicked too as they all need planting or potting up as soon as possible, along with planting a whole heap of Tulips that are already lurking in the wings. Above is some privet hedging for a sad piece of land in need of topiary tlc, some autumn raspberries for a neighbour’s front garden, wild rose (rosa rugosa) for hedging and climbing and shrub roses that arrived today from Peter Beales too.

Why order bare-rooted plants? Well there’s often greater choice if you order bare-rooted plants and they’re also cheaper as there are no heavy pots of soil to transport (or indeed plastic pots to feed landfill sites with!) As the growing season slows down, plants that are now dormant and can easily be dug up and delivered far and wide.

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I’ve recently noticed on the Twittersphere that Toby Buckland (previously of Gardeners World) has now started up an on-line bare-rooted nursery selling bare-rooted perennials and roses for autumn dispatch. His website looks very user-friendly and he’s a great proponent of mycorrhizal fungi as “its bacteria speeds up establishment and makes for bigger, better plants full of rude health!”. Must say, I’ve only used mycorrhizal fungi when planting bare-rooted roses before, but Toby’s ‘planting powder’ does sound very beneficial for one’s plants, so will definitely be ordering a pot or two of this helpful product to lavish on my next order of bare-rooted plants. On his website there’s also a very useful ‘how to’ clip for planting bare-rooted new plants -well worth a look.

Some of my bare-rooted arrivals are ‘Polka’ autumn fruiting raspberry canes (above) as I’m intrigued to see what differences there are between these fruits and my Autumn Bliss raspberries. I’m preparing the bed with garden compost and well-rotted manure and will now be sprinkling the roots with some mycorrhizal fungi (bought initially solely for the roses) to help the roots in establishing themselves (thanks Toby!). With all bare-rooted plants, soak the roots for 20-30 mins before planting and for raspberries, canes need to be spaced each about 40cms (16 inches) apart. Dig a generous hole, position the canes to be planted at the previous soil level, sprinkle the fungi powder over the roots and carefully backfill and firm the soil around the roots. Water in well and continue to water the plant should this unseasonably dry weather continue. There’s nothing more to do until Feb now, but click here for more detailed info on planting raspberries and how and when to cut back autumn fruiting raspberry canes in February.

Another welcome delivery is this Old Blush Climber rose. Unlike most other plants, you need to plant the graft union (the knobbly bit where the stems join the rootstock) a good inch below the soil level. Roses need good rich soil too, so mix in plenty of well-rotted manure into the soil and sprinkle the roots with mycorrhizal fungi before backfilling and firming the soil.

There’s still time to order roses, fruit bushes, fruit trees and all kinds of hedging as these can be delivered from November through until March, although the longer you leave it, the less choice there may be. Peter Beales supply great roses (and are very helpful on the phone) and this year I’ve ordered fruit canes from Victoriana Nursery , Ken Muir and Marshalls. The healthy looking privet (in top pic) was supplied by Hedge Nursey.

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We had a great afternoon at ‘Cake Sunday’ this weekend. Many neighbours braved the somewhat chilly weather and came along to catch up with each other. This is the end of the second year of growing vegetables in our front gardens and our project has really helped neighbours to get to know one another better and to grow some fantastic veg.

Lots of cakes were made for our get-together,

and happily eaten by our next generation of veg growers,

and our more established veg growers too.

There were also free daffodil bulbs and small grow bags to give away so that our streets will glow come the spring.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to chat with each other about veg growing and just about anything else.

And some cannily used the opportunity to sell raffle tickets for their school.

We now have over 100 households signed up for our front garden veg growing scheme in Finsbury Park,

and now have funding for next year from the Islington Community Chest. It’s great to see our local urban community brought closer together through gardening and cake!

To read more about our community veg growing project over the last two and a half years, please click here.

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