Trugg and Barrows Garden Diary July 2012

“What has happened to summer,
That’s what I want to know.
Is she on a holiday –
Who knows where did she go?”

Challenging weather

The beginning of June saw the Plant Hunters Fair come to the gardens. This years event was held over two days, the first day was marred by strong winds, heavy rain and cool temperatures, the same weather spoilt the Jubilee event held on the same day on Hodnet Recreation Ground. Fortunately the second day was better with winds abating, hazy sunshine and temperatures climbing to a balmy 15 °C. In the end around 1800 people visited the gardens over the two days which made it a good event for the nurseries attending.

Junes weather continued as it started, wet, windy and cool. Several trees and large boughs were blown down, many days have been so wet that it was impossible to get on to the garden.

Noticable at the moment are the large numbers of toadstools and other fungal fruiting bodies that can be seen in and around the garden. These include Parasol, The Blusher and Fairy Ring Champignon mushrooms, all not normally seen until late summer/early autumn.

This month I was sent some pictures of a fungal problem effecting a hawthorn hedge that I had not seen before. The symptoms are reddish/orange spots on leaves with horn-shaped fruiting bodies 1-5 mm long (see photo). After a little bit of detective work the problem was identified as Juniper/Hawthorn rust, again, a fungal problem that is not normally seen until late summer. This fungi has an unusual life cycle, spores produced by fruiting bodies on Junipers infect hawthorn and vice-versa. Hawthorn can not infect itself, so if you sought out your Junipers it should stop the problem occuring on your hawthorn.

New Plants from Old – Collecting Seed from the Garden.

As gardeners I’m sure that we are all familiar with growing plants from seed, whether it be vegetables for the plate or flowers for the garden. I’m also sure we have all bought seed from garden centres or seed list. Yet how many of us realise what a potential seed bank exists in our own gardens and how much potential excitement we could be denying ourselves.

Many of the plants we buy at garden centres and nurseries were originally collected as seed either in the wild or often from gardens. Indeed, many of the cultivars we are so familiar with were selected by keen-eyed gardeners from plants growing in their own back gardens.

Many famous gardeners have named plants, Euphorbia griffithii ‘Dixter’ was grown by Christopher Lloyd in his garden. But we don’t all have to have large gardens or an array of rare or specialist plants.

Many early flowing stalwarts are producing seed right now and the keen gardener should take advantage of this bounty.

I recently collected seed of the spring flowering Lathyrus vernus, a perennial member of the pea family. The seed capsules were just beginning to split open to reveal the small round seeds within. Like many members of the pea family the seeds need chitting. Some older books recommend nicking the seed with an knife although I find soaking in water for 24-48 hours works just as well.

Seeds of garden Hellebores are also ripening now. Collect the seed when the seed case had become ripe and brittle and before it has ruptured scattering the seed. It is always tempting to wait until you see the capsules splitting but often that is too late. I have often said to myself that I will collect seed the next day only to find that when I get round to it I am too late.

Another plant to watch out for are geraniums especially as they have an explosive method of shedding their seed. Early performers such as G. phaeum will be fading now and the seed capsules will have formed beginning with the lowest spent flower. Early spurges such as Euphorbia palustris will be ripening seed now. Euphorbias also fling their seed far and wide. It is often best to take the whole stem just prior to the seed being shed and letting it ripen in an airy place in a paper bag or tie a paper or muslin bag over the seed head to catch the seed as they are shed.

Seed can of course be stored in envelopes in a cool dark place as long as it is kept dry or in the salad compartment of the fridge. Personally I find they these methods tend to reduce the viability of some seeds thus reducing the yield. Personally I prefer to sow my seed as freshly as possible. I see no sense in building up a cupboard full of envelopes of seed and then having to sow it all in the spring when I could have sown it fresh and gotten it stated.

Hellebores are always best sown fresh. The seeds are big enough to handle individually so I sow them in six pack trays that once contained bedding or else in a crate. Multi-purpose compost is fine and if you recycle your old bedding trays as I do then by the time the resulting plants are ready for the garden you will have a handy plug sized plant. The main thing is to protect the seeds from marauding mice. It is also a good idea to put a thin layer of gravel on the tray to prevent the growth of mosses and liverworts on the compost.

It would be appropriate to say something about selection here and Hellebores are a good example. They are naturally randy plants and breed readily. Unless only one variety is grown the resulting seedlings will be a mixture of colours many of them rather muddy. The excitement comes from trialling the resulting seedlings in the garden. By continually selecting the best plants from the crop and ensuring they also breed with the best we can all develop our own seed strains.

I have found collecting my own seed and raising it to be one of the most rewarding activities so why not collect your own for free.

In the Kitchen Garden

June has continued the cool damp weather of the previous two months, unless we get a warm spell it seems inevitable that many crops are going to suffer from reduced yields. Even though the summer solstice has now passed, the cool cloudy weather has set the growing season around 10 – 14 days later than last year. To compound things the forecast is set for similar weather to continue for a while yet. In the kitchen garden crops such as leeks, onions, courgettes, carrots and climbing and french beans are all only making slow progress. The strawberry crop has also been badly effected with fruit either rotting or slugs eating them before they ripen. On the positive side, greens such as cabbages, lettuce and chard are all doing well.

As space becomes available after the cropping of early produce such as peas, early potatoes and salads, sow follow on crops suitable for sowing in summer such as kohl rabi, spinach, chard and fennel. Also in July continue planting Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage and broccoli (but be quick about it). There is still time to plant out sweet corn, marrows and leeks. Earth up main crop and late potatoes. Continue sowing successions of lettuce, carrots, baby turnip and the like.

Lets hope for better weather!

Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

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