Six On Saturday: Potatoes. What do I know?

If there’s one thing I know about potatoes it is that King Edward is the best potato for roasting. IMHO. I have spent the last few years moaning about the size of those that come in the supermarket bags. Too small and what a pain they are to peel. So I took matters into my own hands and bought a few to grow. Here’s the result.

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As you can see I did no better than the supermarket buyers.  But worse is to come.  I don’t grow many potatoes but I like to have a few varieties.  The mix this year was Arran Pilot, Belle de Fontenay, Ratte, King Edward and Pink Fir Apple.  I buy them loose, filling up a bag and separating each variety with a slip of paper.  I chitted them and planted out the first and second earlies in a raised bed.  The King Edward and Pink Fir Apple went into the ground in a separate bed.  Arran Pilot did well but was not very interesting.  Belle de Fontenay was a joy and is definitely on the list for next year.  Ratte was a strange one.  Good taste but surprisingly floury for a new potato.  It did very well as a crushed new potato.  But how would the King Edwards turn out.  After several weeks of rain I finally got round to lifting the main crop.  The King Edwards did not look like King Edwards at all.  In fact they looked suspiciously like a new potato with a nice looking shape.  It very slowly and painfully dawned on me that I had mixed up my potatoes and had been happily digging up the King Edwards throughout August and subjecting them to large amounts of mayonnaise or butter and chives.  The shame of it! Thankfully I had a few left in the fridge which will be getting a good roasting very soon. There is more to share.

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Now on to the results of the ‘main crop’.  The result is sadly very pathetic.  There were only a handful of Pink Fir Apple and barely more than that from the mislocated Ratte.  The size is tiny.  The upside is I don’t have to peel them and there is the chance for one more potato salad.  Barring the Arran Pilot I will grow these varieties again next year.  I will keep improving the soil and will try to water more often.  Maybe results will be better. Who knows?

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Happily other things in the garden are doing well and have benefited from the October rain.  The hydrangea has put out several new blooms, they are such generous flowerers when the conditions are right.

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I have a second flush of delphinium flowers.  This is my reward for cutting them back as soon as they had finished flowering.  Those that I didn’t get round too quite so quickly have not delivered and who can blame them.

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Sometime ago I whined about the zinnias being late but they arrived and have been amazing.  The bees still have something to come into the garden for and the colour is beautiful.  If I remember rightly these came from a free packet of seeds. A bargain and a definite for next year.

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Last week I said I would be optimistically looking at my sweet peas to see if they had germinated.  I sowed the left over seeds from this year and some I had from a few years ago.  Last week they had just broken the surface and this week they are an inch or two high.  Time for tough love, they have been removed from the sunny windowsill and placed in the greenhouse.  Overnight temperatures there dropped to five degrees one night this week.

Thanks to Mr P for starting this meme off.  It works for me and if you are tempted to join in then take a look at the participant guide on The Propagator’s site.  I’m hoping to plant some more bulbs this weekend.   Let’s hope I can tell my onions from my daffs!

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Six On Saturday: Dad’s Delphiniums

To avoid charges of misleading posts, this is not a delphinium themed post but Dad’s delphiniums do get pride of place this week.  It is always good to have plants in the garden that hold memories of people and places and it seems particularly appropriate to share his delphiniums in this week of D-day memories.  Dad followed up the first D-day landings on Sword beach as a member of a tank regiment and went on to the battle for Caen.

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The delphiniums came from a division of the delphiniums that grew in the parental garden.  They came to the old house and settled in their for twenty odd years.  I divided them up when we moved and brought a clump with me.  They have always reached a good height but this year they have excelled themselves, I am estimating at least two metres.  I took this photo on Thursday as I was more than a little concerned for them suffering in the wet and windy weather that was forecast.  So far, they are still standing proud.

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I also have good memories attached to this geranium which came from Aunty Jen’s garden.  It also moved gardens when we came here and it’s settled in well.  I have a distant memory that it is ‘Johnson’s Blue’.

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I do love a geranium and this one is ‘Brookside’. It’s a big sprawly one and beautifully grows around the roses, in this case ‘Wisley’.  I wish I could be cheesy and say I have fond memories of the Wisley gardens but I’ve never been there.

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The sweet peas are flowering.  They were sown in February and have grown very chunky and strong.  This variety is ‘April in Paris’ and I can say I have enjoyed many good times there.  This is a beautifully scented variety with long stems.

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I also enjoyed a good day out Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire a couple of years ago and this cistus was bought there.  It’s  ‘Alan Fradd’ and is laden with flowers at the moment.

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The rainy weather of the last few days has been a wonderful relief for the garden. The water butts are filling up again and I imagine the slugs and snails are partying like mad.  A few weeks ago I spotted this beautiful pot thrown out in a skip.  I called at the house and asked if I could liberate it.  I was amazed that anyone would want to throw it away but when I flexed the muscles to lift it from the skip I realised why.  It is plastic!  It fooled me but I was still happy to take it and give a new hosta a home.  I’ve wrapped copper tape around the pot and mulched the top with a layer of slate chips that were lurking at the back of the shed.  I’ve placed it on the wooden top of a raised bed.  What more can I do?  I’m pleased that I made a small contribution to plastic recycling and I now have another garden memory.

Mr P has a truly beautiful rose (I’m so envious) on show in his Six on Saturday and all the links to other sixes will appear in his comments section through the day.  If it’s raining where you are put your feet up and have a good read.

 

Six On Saturday: Last of the winter jobs, moving into spring

A cold week with several foggy mornings ended with some welcome warmth.  The sunshine lifts the human spirit and that of the plants.  The last of the winter cut back needs to be done, excepting the penstemons which I will leave until April.  I did cut the grapevine back last week, just in time.  The tomato seeds did not get sown.  This first sowing is destined for the greenhouse and I must get them done this weekend.  Sowing for plants to be grown outside can be left for a little longer.  While reading the comments on Jim Steven’s SOS for last week I came across his link to a blog by The Laid Back Gardener and found my way to  Goldilocks and the three seedlings which is a great story about sowing tomato seeds.  I recommend it and hope that this year I’ve got my sowing just right.

Here’s my six for the week:

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The first sowing of sweet peas have germinated.  ‘Midnight Blue’ with a 56% success rate and ‘April in Paris’ achieving 94%.  There may be a few laggards to come through for ‘Midnight Blue’ but they’ll have to get a move on as this weekend they will go out into the cooler potting shed.

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Mr P who hosts this blog, and does us all a wonderful service, is a great grower of plants from seeds.  His latest success is lupins and I am much put to shame by his efforts.  By coincidence this week I received three small pots of lupins for planting out.  This is my first foray into lupins, previously not one of my favourites but  I was tempted by a twitter post of ‘The Pages’ and decided to order a few.  The colour is carmine red – let’s see what they look like in a few months time.  Of course, they will have to survive slug attacks first.

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IMG_3304Speaking of twitter, I have already shared my labours of last weekend there but I am happy to share the success with you all here.  The compost bins were finally built.  The bins are a slot-in build and took hardly anytime at all.  I will have to tidy up the front surface which will require nice words to delightful builder again!  In the meantime I have some compost heap turning to do.

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IMG_3325The deciduous shrubs are beginning to leaf up.  I love the fresh green colours.  This is my mystery shrub in the front garden.  It has black berries over the winter but unfortunately I can’t remember the flower type.  I’ll watch it carefully this year and see if I can identify it.

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img_3323.jpgThese hyacinths were going to be my forced hyacinths for Christmas but when they were brought into the warm they came with a plague of flies and were banished to the garden.  It’s good to see them in flower now.

 

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This is my long border.  The plants left standing over winter for their seed heads will be cut down now.  I’m going to post a photo each month taken from the same spot to record the wonderful transformation that takes place over the summer months.  It’s all very gloomy today as this was another foggy morning but there is much potential!

If you’d like to join the SOS band of gardeners that go immediately to the participant guide on Mr P’s site.  SOS is a mix of the pottering gardener like myself, the adventurous like Mr Propagator and many more lovely people all willing to share their experience and knowledge.  Take the plunge!

 

 

 

 

Six on Saturday: Plan, plan and then cross fingers

Things are definitely on the move in the garden.  The bulbs are poking up their first leaves and here in London some of the perennials are beginning to stir.  Storm Eric poured in yesterday and is blowing itself out today.  The sun is shining and optimism is rising.

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There was a brief lull in the weather this week.  The snow disappeared and the ground wasn’t too wet so the opportunity was taken to plant out the asparagus crowns.  I dug out the trench, created the ‘w’ shaped profile and elegantly draped the crowns across the top.  The trench was then back-filled to just cover the crowns and over the coming weeks as the crowns send out shoots there will  be more back filling to ensure the crowns are well buried.  A scattering of fish bone and blood also went into the mix.  I opted for one long trench and I think I have space for a border of companion plants. Recommendations are to plant tomatoes and basil in an attempt to fend off asparagus beetle.  I am growing tomatoes from seed this year and I’m sure I will have some spare plants.  The extras can go by the side of the asparagus as a first barrier.  I’m happy to sow a few basil seeds as well.  That’s the first plan.  We’ll see if it works.

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The potatoes have been bought and chitting is underway.  The second plan is where to put the potatoes this year.  My veg plot has a three year rotation plot.  (I don’t grow brassicas).  Potatoes are followed by onions followed by root crops.  The lay out of the veg plot gives me two larger beds and then three thinner strips.  There is also one medium sized raised bed.  I have to decide if  I use the raised bed for half the potatoes and one of the larger smaller strips for the remainder.  You may be a little confused by now – as I am.  I have a few weeks to sort this all out.

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Beans will also have to fit into the plan and this year I am forgoing the climbing bean ‘Blue Lake’ in favour of a dwarf french bean.  The simple reason is I don’t enjoy untangling the beans and twine from the wig wam at the end of the season.  I also reasoned that the dwarf beans would fit very nicely into one of the thin strips.  A long term plan is to combine two of the thin strips, but that’s on the wish list.

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My final purchase of sweet peas seeds has been made.  Let’s see how ‘Iris’ and ‘Gwendoline’ get on with ‘April in Paris’.  The first batch of sweet peas was sown last weekend.  These will be sown in a week or two.

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Onion choices have also been made.  Sturon, Red Baron and Longor shallots.  I am going to start off the onions in modules this year ready to transplant as the weather becomes warmer.  A first time of trying this for me so fingers crossed here too.

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The first flower on the Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’  has appeared.  It is nestled under a Mahonia in the front garden.  Yes, Spring is on its way.

 

Six On Saturday: Snow, sowing and growing

Clearly I have been spending too much time in the garden scouting out goodies for the Six On Saturday show.  I should have been cosy and warm inside reading the seed catalogues.  This has now been rectified and some seeds are on their way.  But it was the snow that arrived on  Wednesday.

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Wednesday was also the day scheduled for the builder to come and destroy  the brick walls of the old compost heap.  Bless him! He did come and the walls are no more.  I have three wooden bins ready to be installed but they can wait for warmer weather.  It was good day despite the snow.  All the garden rubbish went into the skip plus plenty more from the house.  The builder did not get frostbite and I didn’t run out of tea or milk!

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We moved to this house in 2016 and the garden was in need of a good weed and the addition of some new plants.  Each year another little patch of the garden gets my attention.  Last summer I managed to get this corner trellised and planted clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’.  It was a lovely surprise this week to see it putting on new growth and buds.

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For some unknown reason I missed planting out shallots and autumn onions.  Last year’s weather and lack of watering on my part did not lead to a bumper crop and the last few from the store have gone soft and been consigned to the bin.  The shallots did store better and they have encouraged me to try again.  A visit to the nursery is now urgent if I am going to get some purchases made before they sell out.

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I have been muttering for weeks that it is time to sow some sweet peas and as February approaches I feel that I might actually do it.  I find I always start talking about sowing sweet peas early but then actually do it a bit later.  These are my first two choices for this year but I am on the look out for a couple of extra packets, just in case.

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It’s still too early for me to be sowing tomato seeds but this year I do have some!  Last year in a bid to increase the number of varieties grown but decrease the number of plants I limited myself to six plants bought from my local plant sale.  This year I want to try ‘Green Zebra’.  For more variety I chose this seed collection which gives ‘Marmande’,  ‘San Marzano 2’ and a new (for me) yellow variety to grow – ‘Golden Sunrise’.  The ‘Green Zebra’ had to be bought separately.  I’m also looking forward to trying ‘Tigerella’.

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Here’s the compost area without it’s walls.  Once the bins are constructed I will see what tidying up I have to do round the edges.

All done for another week,  Mr P will be showcasing his goodies plus links to posts from around the gardening world.  Stop by and take a look.