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Green Magpie

Latest posts by Green Magpie

How long do Lupins live?

Posted: 21/06/2012 at 11:32

We've had lupins in our garden since we moved in almost 8 years ago, and they were probably there long before that. They are still flowering well and look strong and healthy, except when attacked by slugs, knocked over by gales and (the latest) visited by lupin aphids. I'm not aware that they have a short life.I cut the flowering heads back to a new shoot once they've gone to seed, to prolong the flowering period.

I think if they set seed, the new plants will always be purple-flowered, but I may be wrong about that.

Aquilegias and the Chelsea chop

Posted: 21/06/2012 at 11:27

It's worth leaving some of them to go to seed if you want them to set seed and produce new plants.

All year round??

Posted: 17/06/2012 at 09:29

There's no particular reason to leave an area of soil bare in the winter, as long as you keep rotating your crops. You can follow one crop by sowing another straight away, as long as it's of a different type. But in practice most people don't have enough year-round crops to fill their plot, and don't want to spend too much time in winter looking after crops. You'll probably find that once you've got some overwintering crops established (brassicas, parsnips, leeks, chard) that there will also be some ground you don't need to use in winter. Just turn the soil over and let the frost break it up. You can also refresh the soil by adding compost to the bare areas.

what type of compost to use ?

Posted: 17/06/2012 at 09:19

You can do this, but you need to think about drainage. If there are no holes in the ceramic pots, you'll need something like broken crocks in the bottom to create a space for any excess water. Also, the plants will lose more water, as ceramic pots are porous.

And be aware that once they're directly planted in the ceramic pots, they'll be more difficult and heavy to move around, as you can't remove the inner pot + plant.

I am not so sure about the compost, but I would guess that a mix sold for pots and hanging baskets would be best. It may depend on the requirements of those particular plants. Me, I'd just use mulit-purpose if I had some to hand.


Posted: 16/06/2012 at 15:46

Grannyjanny, that's exactly when I ordered mine, and my e-mail also said they'd start processing the order immediately. Maybe they meant that's when they'd plant the seeds to grow into our plants?

feeding wild birds

Posted: 16/06/2012 at 13:19

The niger seed from our feeder makes an awful mess, as a lot of it ends up on the ground. I have seen niger seed feeders on sale that have a tray attached underneath.  But as you say, what would happen in the rain? Anything with drainage holes would also allow the tiny seeds to spill through, or block the holes, and if it had no holes, when the tray filled up with rain it would just slop over on to the ground.

no plums

Posted: 16/06/2012 at 12:13

We bought a 2-in-1 plum tree about 4 years ago. It's half damson and half greengage, grafted on to one rootstock.

It has grown well but stubbornly refused to flower at all. It's nota pollenation problme, there simply are no flowers.Then this year it produced two tiny flowers together. One of these has set, so we are looking forward to our first plum!

I still don't know what we're doing wrong, I gave it a good feed of potash early in the year. I've pruned it a bit now, but am not sure whether I've done this right. If anyone has any ideas on how to encourage it to blossom, please tell me!

feeding wild birds

Posted: 16/06/2012 at 12:07

I had the impression when I saw that feeder that it was designed for looks more than practicality. Would birds really get the hang of which port to search for to find the food they liked best? And if they did, wouldn't they just empty the sunflower hearts first, so you'd have to take down the whole thing just to top up one section, probably resulting in unnecessary spilling of nuts and seeds? I'm sticking with separate feeders for now.


Posted: 16/06/2012 at 11:46

I would think they's be OK even if they don't get to you until August. They are mostly hardy perennials, and there should be enough warm weather between August and winter for them to get established, even if they're still small. But if you want something to brighten your garden this year, then it may have to be a tray of bedding plants! Morrisons still has some good-value plants - I've just bought a tray of 4 little fuchsias for £2, and they had trailing petunias at 3 for £2.

all veg and herb and what to do now

Posted: 15/06/2012 at 20:50

Wow, you really seem to have hit the ground running! It hasn't been an easy year for gardeners so far, but you seem undaunted by the fickle weather.

A few attempts at answering your queries:

The herbs all behave a bit differently but most of them will come back after cutting. Mint and lemon balm are vigorous and will take over if you don't watch them (mint in particular is better in its own pot. But you can move some to a separate pot.) Rosemary will grow to a sprawling bush and will also need a space of its own eventually.

Chives will grow back after cutting, although you may have to wait a while, so it's best just to cut a little as you need it. Coriander is an annual and will die this year, but if you let it set seed you'll probably get new plants coming up next year, or you can save some seed and plant again. It doesn't really come back much after you cut it. All the rest  will carry on growing after you cut them, and will over-winter with no problems. Mint and chives and lemon balm will mostly disappear in winter but sprout back again in the spring.

Root veg should start to be ready any time now. If you have early potatoes, have a little grope around the roots and see if you can find any potatoes. You can pull out the first ones without disturbing the plant, and leave the rest to grow on. Carrots: we've just pulled the first ones, which are just finger-sized babies, but that helps thin out the crop and we leave the others to ger bigger. Beetroot will probably need more time yet, you'll have to feel around the shoulder of the plant and see whether it feels like a decent size.

Oninons and garlic are ready when the leaves start to die back and collapse (probably August).

Cabbage and lettuce - yes, when they look big enough to be interesting, you can eat them. You can start by eating baby ones and leave some to get bigger.

Mangetout: you have to wait until the flowers die down, and look out for the pods. Ours are only about 2 ft tall, the height varies according to variety. You pick the pods when they're still thin, before the peas swell, and eat the whole pod. We've just eaten the first of ours this evening, also our first potatoes. There is nothing like the thrill of eating your first crops!

Hope this is some help. I am banned from the living room this evening (England are playing Sweden) so might as well come here and chat about gardening. Good luck with your veg!

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