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Posts Tagged ‘Potager’

Cor Blimey! It’s only mid May and I’ve just eaten my first strawberry from the beds in the front garden. It was sweet and delicious and hopefully in a week or so, I’ll have enough strawberries to make an Eton mess-a favourite for one of my favourites.

With yet another day of promised rain passing by, and not a drop felt, I finally caved in and gave the veg a good soak.

The tulips and daffodils dying back in the front garden look messy, but I want them to be able to store up enough energy (by photosynthesizing ) for next near, so the leaves stay until they’ve died right back. The strange upright plant popping up in the left-hand corner of the back bed is a caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), and planted once, you’ll never be without this curious spurge again, as it self seeds like crazy by catapulting its seeds as far as it can.
Also at the back of the border, I’ve planted out about a dozen sunflowers for a show later in the year and I’ve started taking advantage of gaps appearing by planting out some leeks a friend gave me. Front garden definitely taking on a potager feel (mixture of veg and flowers in the same bed).

So here’s a quick ‘how to’ plant leeks. Although it looks fairly small, I’ve planted my home -grown leeks when they were only about 4 to 5 inches long previously, and they’ve always grown well from such a tiny start. This leek was getting pot-bound, so I’ve given it a very good soak to loosen the roots before planting out.

With a stick, make a generous hole for your leek.

Let the leek drop into the hole,

and then water it into the hole with plenty of water.

There’s no need to firm the leek in with your hands as the water has helped the roots make contact with the soil. It should be fine from now on, but if it still doesn’t rain, make sure you don’t let it dry out.

Out in the back garden, some flowers are being rather forward too. I’ve seen agapanthus heads already forming in a client’s garden(about 6-8 weeks early), and these self-sown Nigellas (above) also seem to be flowering weeks earlier than normal. Don’t think I had any in flower until July las year.  With so much happening in the garden now, I wonder what will be left to see in July and August. Luckily, I ‘ve grown loads of Nicotiana sylvestris (tall tobacco plants) and Cleome from seed and I certainly will be needing these to fill in gaps left this year. It’s still not too late to sow some annuals to fill in gaps in the border. There’s also a great article about how to delay your perennials from flowering by Robin Lane Fox at the FT which is a really useful read if you’re concerned about flower beds with no flowers come the summer proper. Anything strange happening in your gardens too?

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Although it can seem quite bleak out there at the moment (February), small signs of life are appearing on the allotment and it’s time to cut back autumn fruiting raspberries before new shoots appear. Don’t be tempted to cut back summer fruiting raspberry canes though, as they produce fruit on the stems that grew last year. Pruning summer fruiting canes now will mean no raspberries this year!! so wait until your plants have fruited in summer and then cut back the woody canes on which the raspberries grew this year, leaving the fresher looking green stems to fruit next year.(More on this later in the year) If in doubt as to whether you have summer or autumn fruiting canes, don’t prune now and wait until your plant has fruited. Feeling experimental? Then cut back some of the canes now and wait to see what happens.

If you can already see a few tiny green leaves at the base of the plant, just be very careful where you prune, so as not to disturb these new shoots, as these will become the canes that your plant will fruit on in later on in summer. This year, as well as thinning out and cutting back, I’ve decided to move my raspberries to a different part of the plot, but not for crop rotation purposes. Raspberries, if kept in check and well fed, can stay in the same bed for many years.

So firstly, cut back all of the canes with a sharp pair of secateurs, as close to the ground as possible.
As I’m moving my raspberries (it’s a good time for moving both autumn and summer raspberries), I’m digging up the whole bed. Once dug up, you can see that raspberries are not deep-rooted. They mainly have roots that spread horizontally only a few inches below the surface of the soil. This makes them very adept at spreading all over the plot, so if you see canes in unwanted positions, then now is the time to dig them up. These spare plants can be planted in another row if you have the space, or give them to friends if you have a surplus.

Potager in Drum Castle Garden. Pic from http://christinelaennec.co.uk/

I’m giving some canes to a friend (Sarah) who wants to create a more Cottage Garden/ Potager style garden (where flowers, fruit and veg are all mixed into one glorious border), so these raspberries will be growing alongside lots of herbaceous perennials and small shrubs. Should work very well as pollinating bees attracted by the flowers will also pollinate the fruit and raspberries amongst the late summer flowers will look fantastic. Potagers are also a great way to grow fruit and veg if you don’t have the space for a separate vegetable plot, but want to grow your favourite edible plants.
Placing each plant about inches 16 inches (40cm) apart, I’ve replanted the raspberries in lovingly prepared soil (plenty of compost or well-rotted manure mixed in a few weeks before if possible ) and watered them in well. If you planting more than one row, plant each row about 5-6 ft  (150-180cm) apart. In late March, mulch with a good layer of well-rotted manure or compost which will help to conserve moisture. Some say that you don’t have to support autumn cropping raspberries, but in my experience, if left unsupported, the fruit- laden canes reach the ground, spoiling some of the fruit and making picking the rest difficult. In the end, to support or not to support probably depends on your particular plot and growing conditions.

Make sure you water during hot dry spells (here’s hoping!), then look forward to a late summer and autumn crop of very tasty, home-grown fruit.

P.S.I have pruned autumn raspberries in November and December and they’ve been absolutely fine the following year, but in theory, it’s  best to leave it until February, when the plant is completely dormant, so there’s no chance of the cold damaging the plant after you’ve pruned it.

P.P.S

I love my Polka raspberries.

October 26th 2011

Now is a great time to order and plant new raspberry canes for next year. Autumn Bliss is a very well-known and popular Autumn fruiting variety, but there are now quite a few new introductions such as Polka, Joan J, All Gold and Autumn Treasure and in fact ‘Joan J’ won best tasting Autumn raspberry in the ‘Gardening Which?’ trials this September. Both Victoriana Nursery and Ken Muir stock good selections of both Summer and Autumn Fruiting varieties and now is the time to order while they still have a wide choice of varieties available. This year I’ve ordered some new ‘Polka’ and ‘Joan J’ canes as I already have Autumn Bliss growing in the allotment and I want to see if there is a difference in taste between the two. I’m going to find a space somehow to plant these in my back garden so that I can pick this delicious fruit just outside my back door next year.

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