Monthly Roundup: September

Compost Corner

Not strictly September but on the last day of August, I emptied Compost Bin 2 into old growbags and compost bags – eleven in total – ready to take to the allotment to help improve the soil in my bed. So while Bin #1 does its thing over winter, I can start a new batch in Bin #2.

I could, however, have done without the eight-and-a-half-hours in A&E with chest pains that followed; and the potential diagnosis of angina following two ECGs, four blood tests, and four hours on a cardiac monitor. I am now on one low dosage aspirin a day, have a GTN spray for when the pain starts. BUT, after a chat with a cardiac nurse on September 10th, it MIGHT NOT be angina after all. Further tests are being arranged.

Gardening, apparently, is the best exercise; though I doubt she meant lugging great pots of compost around and stretching across raised bed. She probably thought I meant a little gentle pruning and a bit of weeding!

Lavender Border

I have been trimming the fuchsia by the garage. Apart from being bitten by ‘midgies’ every time I hack another section off, I wasn’t certain where to go. My preference was to wait until October and take everything off except the single upright stem to the right of centre, (below the kink to the right). Sounds radical, but I’ve pruned it harder previously and it’s always come back. And if it doesn’t, I’ll try something else in it’s place – pyracantha perhaps.

But looking at it again, the stem I wanted to retain, though it looks straight in the photograph, leans to the right. There is another that is more upright and would lend itself to shaping into a loose standard fuchsia

So I handed my husband a saw, a pruning saw, and a pair of long-handled loppers – and let him get on with it. (I was keeping an eye on him). Personally, I’d have tried to get even closer to soil/gravel level, but I’m just happy that it’s been done. I’ll take the top off in a few weeks. And I’ve left the thicker stems for a little wildlife haven over winter.

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Tales from the Potting Shed

Spot the difference!

Taking advantage of the glorious weather on the first Sunday of the month to have a clear out in the Potting Shed. A little tidier and a lot cleaner after 3 hours – and then I ran out of steam! I also got rid of several plastic trays (the ones mushrooms usually come in), some bubble wrap; and a lot of dead seedlings went into the compost bin.

Raspberry Yummy

Should I prune this? Information is conflicted on this point.

“Each autumn, prune out the canes which have fruited over the summer, cutting them back to the base of the plant. Leave the remaining canes in place for fruiting in the following year.” Thompson & Morgan website

leave last years stems in place for early crops in the following year, or cut them back immediately after fruiting for slightly later crops. Van Meuwen website

I have the original stem which is now bare and woody. The remaining canes did bare fruit, just not very much, so I will follow the second guidance – I have pruned the single old stem and will place coloured ties on the remaining stems as these will need pruning next year.

Scenes from the Patio

Since we sealed the rear patio last month, I’ve gradually been moving pots and troughs; some returned to their usual spot, others to temporary accommodation to await emptying or potting on. Some of the plants – pinks and begonias – I will try to overwinter for the second time; others will be composted. The hebes, rosemary and sedums will stay out all winter but will move to the Shady Patio for more shelter.

Tomatoes

A good haul slowly ripening on the kitchen counter at the start of the month. By the middle of the month, I’d removed all the green tomatoes, putting some inside to ripen in the warmer air of the kitchen and the outdoor-grown ones in a tray in the Potting Shed, so they don’t have too much of a shock.

Cucumbers and Cucamelons

The ‘Crystal Lemon’ cucumbers are still growing well. I’m continuing to remove the growing tips and larger leaves every few days, but there were no signs of the tiny swellings where flowers have dropped off turning into anything like a tennis ball sized cucumber – until the middle of the month when three appeared. I’ve stopped feeding them and they are going through a watering can of water every other day.

Similarly, the cucamelon has, I think, been held back by the change in the weather. Again plenty of tiny fruits but nothing fattening up. Now the tomato plants have come out of the Tiny Greenhouse, the cucamelon pot has gone inside and is standing in a tray of water in an effort to coax some some action.

A possible cause is lack of pollination. I agree that might be the case with the cucumbers, but the cucamelons had plenty of visitors while they were outside for three months.

Jerusalem Artichokes

These are beginning to look a bit tatty. Once most of the leaves have all turned brown, I’ll cut the stems down to soil level and stack the pots in the Tiny Greenhouse. Then when I’m ready to try them, I’ll tip a plant into the wheelbarrow, harvest what I need (assuming there is anything worth harvesting) and plonk it back in the pot, repeating until everything has gone. They don’t store well in a sack, but do in dry sand. Dried out compost is the best they’re going to get from me!

Sweet Peas

The ‘Cupani’ are on their last legs but I’ve been waiting for a couple of sunny days to dry everything off so I can harvest the dried seed pods. These had a good scent but I had to get close up to smell them, unlike modern varieties. They did better as posies in the bathroom; changed every few days and better than chemical air fresheners.

With warm sunny weather mid month, and every stem covered in aphids, it was finally time to take them down – and out. I wasn’t sure if aphids would survive composting and live to bite another day (and another stem) so, with a trip to the Recycling Centre on the card, everything went into a bin liner and was taken away.

The perennial sweet peas have started growing again. They are still in the same pot and tucked away in a corner of the Shady Patio, so sheltered slightly from the winds. This growth will probably die back when frost hits, but will come back. No scent at all on these.

Leeks and Onions

The leeks are growing larger. Yes, I have stuffed them into toilet roll centres in a bid to keep the stem pale. Will it work? Probably not. Next to them are some spring onions. I’ve not picked any this year as they were very slow to get going. I’ve lost, as far as I know, the white Welsh Onions, but the red ones are forming a small (too small) clump in the other raised bed.

Salsify (?)

It looks like a leek – from a distance – but hopefully it’s salsify ‘Sandwich Island’. It takes between 100 – 120 days from germination to harvest and likes to go through a few frosts before harvesting and eating. I think I have at least three plants, maybe a couple more. Recipes say to use it like a parsnip or other root vegetable – boiling until just soft or roasting. There is even a recipe for Salsify in Blankets!

The leaves have this weird pale wrinkled centre and it’s supposed to taste a little like oysters. I’ve never eaten an oyster so won’t be able to vouch for that.

Herbs

These are the two Bay Tree cuttings I started in autumn 2019; still here, still growing. They could probably do with larger pots, but not until next spring. They’ll be happy enough with the shelter provided by the trough; they’ll have to be as I’ve nowhere else to put them. I’ve also trimmed down the herbs in the front garden – oregano, marjoram, and lemon thyme.

Butternut Squash

Is still producing flowers though I doubt at this late stage it will produce a fruit. But when is it time to call time and dig it up? Maybe not yet. One for the allotment next year I think.

Salads – success and failure

Lettuce, parsley and red-veined sorred appear to be the only salady things I can grow with any degree of success. This spinach was planted weeks ago in a shady spot, then moved to a sunny place after we finished sealing the patio. This is the ONLY spinach crop I managed to grow.

The seeds of these radish were sown on 3 August. Pathetic!

Bindweed? What bindweed?

Can you see it? Me neither. Finally I’m winning the battle. Usually this trellis down the side of the garage is covered with it. But each year since I put down the brick path (2018), on top of the old gravel from the garage roof, which was topped with plastic bin liners, I’ve wandered down and pulled the new stems as they appeared and – fingers crossed – it is weakening.

I don’t go down here very often, just occasionally to trim my other neighbour’s overhanging shrubs (we have a new neighbour who may be digging out that section of garden to make a parking space so hopefully the shrubs may disappear, or at least be cut back).

This is where I store my bulb pots through the summer, so they’ll be coming out soon for a sort out. There are my four galvanised ‘Blue’ pots (crocus, grape hyacinths and anemone ‘Blanda Bleu’). Any decent bulbs (narcissi and daffs) will go in the bulb baskets I bought early this year, to be planted in one of the raised beds so I have something nice to look forward to in spring. But I’m still waiting for my snowdrops to arrive.

Front Garden

Managed a bit of a tidy up in the front border mid-month. I cut down the astilbes and tied up the grasses (to keep them from flopping).

Extreme Pruning

My eighty-year-old neighbour across the road pays a gardener to come in once a month. However, she’d either bought or been given some gardening tools of her own. For a whole week she has been in and out of her garden (middle bungalow) trimming trees and shrubs until there is almost nothing left of them. She’s also completely pruned the back off a conifer that belongs to the left-hand bungalow but straddles the shared fence.

The neighbours in the right-hand bungalow are still having work done (which started two weeks after they moved in at the end of May). They may now have room to park seven cars on their drive, but their cars spend most days parked on the road to allow builders/joiners/plasterers etc to park their vans. They reckon the inside should be completed by the end of October. They are still thinking about what to do with the garden!

A Little Project

Remember these?

Time for a re-vamp – hubbie cutting them in half again to make ‘troughs’ for sedums.

After glorious weather for most of the month, the last week has seen cooler weather and heavy showers here in North Wales. Sunny spells are just that – disappearing almost as soon as we say ‘Shall we have our coffee outside?’ and switch the kettle on.

Gardening has come to a halt and my onions and snowdrop bulbs have still not arrived – no doubt a combination of covid and the disgusting behaviour of those who are cruising the country looking to buy up spare fuel – and denying it to emergency staff, NHS staff and care workers. Does anyone really think it’s a good idea to drive from Birmingham or Manchester into Wales because they’ve read on social media that an out of the way garage still has petrol? No they do not!

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