Latest posts by Boater

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Garden Confessions - 3 Worst Crops of 2016!

Posted: 13/10/2016 at 16:25

It has been a hard year for my garden, not helped by my having a lot of time away.

The Gardeners Delight tomatoes in the conservatory were well looked after until the end of August but they weren't very convincing and a month away spoiled them - I have a separate thread about them, and the overflow I planted outside that have suffered even more.

Germination problems early in the year meant very few radish or spinach came up, until subsequent sowings. Radishes never produced radishes, lots of green and even running to seed but nothing to eat. Spinach, I can't even decribe the way the spinach went, the leaves were still edible but a pain to pick. I still haven't taken that bed to hand since I got back from holiday!

Fewer carrots (autumn king) germinated than normal, pretty thin so not much thinning needed or done - they have actually cropped well and are producing straight monsters.

First time with Parsnips (Gladiator), 3 germinated and are doing well.

Peas (Jaguar) - second year experimenting with growing in troughs, Hurst seemed to do OK last year but I think peas want more soil and nutrients so I'll need to look at another solution for next year - they came up as super-dwarf. Peas OK, I do prefer Hurst though.

Raspberries (Autumn bliss) - more canes than ever, fruit still small and falls apart when touched but still fruiting and the birds didn't clean up whilst I was away so I think they will be even better next year!

Elderberries - what elderberries? There were some, I don't know if the wind got them or the birds.

Blackberries (wild along the boundary) - seemed a bit early this year, bulk of them were ready whilst I was away, lots of mouldy and shrivelled ones by the time I got back and I haven't braved looking for any worth picking (or had time, or a nice day to do it).

Flowers (to attract pollinators, I'm not really a flower grower) have done brilliantly. Free Cosmos from Fothergills got planted out in pots and are still going strong, even when the wind flattens the stems they keep growing and flowering. Tagetes did well almost finished, Antirhinnums still flowering, Bergamot (second year) are still flowering well, dwarf sunflowers mostly OK (some thing ate a couple of seedlings and I was away for their best flowering), Lobelia around the sunflowers still going.

Tomatoes - strange results

Posted: 13/10/2016 at 15:54

Thanks everyone.

It was just my overflow that went outside, I should have not sowed all the seeds really, but then it was a bit of a trial and now I need not try again :)

I've had about a dozen small but very nice tomatoes, and I will try to ripen up some others.

My carrots on the other hand haven't been troubled by the neglect, they are enormous!

Tomatoes - strange results

Posted: 06/10/2016 at 17:13

Hi Dove, I wasn't expecting optimum results, I tried to start them early in the hope they might be ready before I went away with the expectation that by the time I got back they would be ruined. I wasn't going to bother at all this year but then I saw the GD came in a small packet size and decided to try anyway.

I used a computerised timer to water the conservatory plants - probably had too much water overall although I was aiming for the same amount as a weekly watering divided by 7 days. I don't think the drippers are as accurate as they make out. I normally water once a week, 1 can (5l) per growbag and that seems about right, once fruit sets every second watering is a feed so only really missed one and next one a bit late.

I pinched out the growing tips (and sideshoots) of all the plants in the week before I left, but they continued to sideshoot whilst I was away. I didn't realise they could still make sideshoots after the tip was pinched out, I thought it was supposed to cause some chemical change that makes them concentrate energy on fruit instead? Obviously I got that wrong!

I'm just curious why they seemed to be so slow to set in the first place, and whether the neglect would normally lead to small tomatoes or if it was more likely the wrong seed?

You are quite right about the troubles with growing in Scotland, my tomatoes are never as good as other people's, maybe I should give up and concentrate on something Scottish like Raspberries :)

Tomatoes - strange results

Posted: 06/10/2016 at 16:14

I don't know if it's the cool, wet and windy summer we had, or the month I was away on holiday (most of September), or a combination of both, or seeds that weren't what they claimed to be.

I started some Gardeners Delight in propogators way back, maybe as early as March. First thing I noticed was way more seeds in the packet than advertised, so many that I ended up with more plants going outdoors than in my conservatory.

I am bad with seedlings and they always get quite leggy, these were no exception, and even once planted in growbags (pots outdoors) they continued to grow and grow and grow. By the end of August I had some flowers and some tomatoes starting to form, which I knew meant they would probably be about ready when I got back.

Having got back from holiday the wind devasted the garden (again) and it took a few days to tidy up the outdoor plants and cut the side shoots out of all them (some were huge) and see what I had.

What I had was a few small ripe tomatoes and quite a few green tomatoes, and some trusses still flowering. I fed the plants since only a few had started fruiting before I left and only those ones got fed, and only once. Another week on and I have picked some of the tomatoes (half a dozen maybe) and some others are starting to turn orange, but in all honesty most of my plants are not going to produce ripe fruit before it gets frosty, some have not fruited at all.

The tomatoes I picked were very nice and sweet, leading me to suspect I could have been sent seeds for a cherry variety which would explain the size of the tomatoes, but not the fact that the plants are still growing happily long after they should have flowered and fruited.

Any ideas? I know I have mucked them about a lot but I would have thought that would have lead to early fruiting or just dying.

Yellow potato leaves

Posted: 21/07/2016 at 17:33

Sounds like they are dying back because they are ready - how many weeks for your King Edwards - 12? They must have had 15 or 16....

My Epicure have taken forever, presumably due to the variable and often cool weather here in Scotland - supposed to be a really early variety, the last bag I harvested weren't quite ready and I notice that 1 of the 3 plants in the next bag is still not dying back so I'm tempted to wait a bit longer.

I think you can store spuds in the ground for a bit (someone here will tell me off if that's wrong!), so probably if you pull off any properly dead bits you can wait for the whole bag to be ready before harvesting - I don't think I can be accurate enough to harvest part of a bag!

Bl*#dy Tomatoes!

Posted: 21/07/2016 at 17:22

In the conservatory (I don't have a greenhouse) I use growbags on plastic trays, with ring pots to increase the depth of soil around the plants for the roots. I tie rot resistant twine in a big loop under the tray and up the sides of the ring pot knotting it about 6" above the top of the ring pot, and then running it straight up to a wooden frame I constructed for the purpose. As the plants grow, gently wind them around the twine and they seem to stay in place just fine.

I did try pegging the twine into the soil, but like you I found it rotted, the big loop around the bottom of the trays (or pots) is working fine so far though (and worked a couple of years ago before I tried pegging)

I have far too many this year and have transferred loads of spare plants in pots (which B&Q sell as tomato pots but I suspect are a bit small) to the garden where I have built up cane based supports as described by others already. The row between the garage and the clothes line post is fully exposed to wind, I screwed a spare 2x1" (oversized) arris rail left over from a fencing project to the garage and square lashed it to the post - it forms a sturdy ridge to tie the tops of the canes to - so far none of those have fallen over in the strong winds I will remember this summer for!

Don't try to wind the plants around the canes (maybe if they are very spindly), it seems much safer to use soft ties (or similar) to support the plants against canes.

Potatoes - Earlies and Main Crop

Posted: 22/01/2016 at 17:58

If you have space you could perhaps plant earlies in bags/pots and use the beds for maincrop in oreder to extend the cropping season. Or plant different varieties in the same bed.

How much bird food do burds eat a day?

Posted: 08/01/2016 at 16:02

Apart from the hungriness of the birds, I have noticed lots of other factors:

Some feeders seem to be able to feed at a faster rate than others - take the regular plastic seed feeders with a couple of openings at the bottom for example - the mid price ones I had could be emptied about twice as fast as the really cheap ones I got after I suffered some vandalism.

Sunflower hearts in a plastic seed feeder go down much more quickly than in a wire mesh seed feeder, even though many more birds can feed simultaneously on the mesh feeder - presumably it is harder for them to get each seed out?

In high winds some feeders will accidentally drop seed when swinging more than others - the squirrel buster is particularly bad for losing seed quickly in high winds because it essentially dispenses seeds into an open tray, with a squirrel proof shroud around. The shroud is spring loaded to the weight of a squrirrel, so if a squirrel (or big bird like pigeon or jackdaw) climbs on it slides down and covers the tray, but when the feeder is swinging in the wind, the tray is open....

A squirrel will make short work of emptying most feeders. Plastic ones they just chew around the openings to get seed faster - if you stop them doing that they soon work out how to tip them and empty them from the lids, or knock them off the hanger to do the same. I use some soft plant tie wire to secure the lids of my feeders now to combat the squirrels.

Jackdaws are another issue for me - corvids are smart so maybe not limited to jackdaws. Mine have worked out that if they can't get to seed they can swing the feeders until the seed spills out - even the squirrel buster if they can get it swinging without putting weight on the shroud!

Everything goes for fatballs, I have seen as many as 6 jackdaws or maybe 12 starlings on a small fat ball feeder ripping the balls to pieces in no time (other birds pick up the scraps off the ground) - but if there are only sparrows and tits about the balls can last for days!

Weather makes a big difference - I have seen large numbers of birds trying to get onto the feeders in windy and/or wet conditions, but they don't stick around for as long and presumably head off for shelter once they have taken on enough calories to get through another day/night?

Time of day is also a factor - here in Scotland we have short days in winter especially when it is overcast, so the birds stop feeding and head off to roost quite early and the seed lasts longer than in the spring and autumn. If I fill a feeder after about 3pm it likely won't get touched until the following morning, so if I am filling in the morning and get up late, that can greatly reduce the number of feeding hours the birds have (if the weather is good I try to fill them at night to maximise feeding hours).

I have given up with plastic feeders, too expensive if there is just one squirrel about! I have wire feeders for fat balls and peanuts (go down slowly as long as the lid is squirrel proofed), wire mesh feeder for sunflower hearts (can take other seed), and I use the squirrel buster for mixed seed, which has the mesh shroud completely protecting the inner plastic container.

I get: house sparrows, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, goldfinches, robins, blackbirds, starlings, jackdaws, wood pigeons, collared doves, siskins (some of those just collect spillage from the ground).

And yes, in the right conditions, it is not unusual for a feeder or sunflower hearts to go in less than a day!

Carrots - what's the secret?!

Posted: 08/01/2016 at 15:22

A question for the experts - when watering my carrots by watering can, the leaves get wet and fall to the ground, any tips for avoiding that?

Carrots - what's the secret?!

Posted: 08/01/2016 at 15:20

Carrots are my favourite.

Still perfecting, but one tip I have picked up latterly is not to fertilise the soil richly or the carrots can be stunted with lots of hairy side shoots - keep the soil relativley low in nutrients and the tap root will go deeper looking for them and you should end up with longer smoother carrots.

As already mentioned a fine tilth prevents them forking around lumps and stones.

I like Autumn King which are obviously a late cropper, but not had much luck with Nantes so will be looking for a different early carrot this year. People tell me Nantes are nice and sweet, mine always seem to be tough and bland.

Keep your eye on the weather to make sure they don't dry out - working in a metal building with no windows I can easily lose track of how hot/dry/wet/cold the weather is so have started experimenting with drip waterers connected to a hose timer - last summer was so wet and windy that I really have no idea if it helped on not.

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