October Cleanup

Usually, in the winter, the patio is desolate – stripped of all of the bags of potatoes, gladioli and other sun-loving plants which I grow there.   I have wanted to reclaim some of the land under the patio since we moved on, but was held back by the fact that the patio is actually useful, and a nice place to have a barbecue, however, I decide there was a way to kill two birds with one stone – get more planting space and liven up the patio during the winter – removing some of the slabs around the edge.  This preserves the width of the patio but allows me to plant some shrubs!  If you can’t quite see them, the shrubs in question are buddleja!

I’m a big fan of these hardy bushes which are vigorous, attract insects and have a nice, fairly open, silhouette when not in flower.  These particular ones, too, were grown from seed – I have no idea what colour they are but of the three which I managed to grow to this stage they all have very different leaf colours and shapes and differing bark colours.  They are davidii, but beyond that?  Could be white, magenta or lilac!  I’m also hoping that by planting them in the ground now they’ll make it through the winter better than in pots.  They had already filled their pots with roots so they really should have been repotted sooner, but I’d been slacking a little on getting these new ‘beds’ done.

Behind the half-barrel is another mini-bed – not sure what will go there, yet! In the half-barrel itself is an Acer, which went straight from summer-colour to winter leaflessness.  I’ve heard that it’s common for Acers to drop their leaves all at once but I think this might have been a stress reaction due to being in a too-sunny spot during the summer and also being transplanted a little late.  The branches all have little buds, though, so I’ll look forward to it doing well next year in a shadier spot.  During winter it’s staying where it is, though, as our light levels drop so much that even the sunniest spot in the garden hardly gets much light all day.  The joys of living in the north, eh?

The rest of the garden is also still a little messy – I need to figure out what to do with the pile of decorative slabs!  The sunflowers are still doing pretty well and I’m even managing to grow some ‘small’ green stuff again.  The slugs must be starting to hibernate! Mwuhaha.

‘Dragon’s Tongue’ in the foreground, mibuna way at the back and I have no idea what’s in the middle as I seem to have lost the label – probably ‘Green Wave’ mustard greens.  Next to them is the late daikon I put in – it seems to be doing well and despite being grown outside of the cloche the slugs don’t seem to have looked at it much – guess they don’t like the taste!

This little geranium is still trying hard, despite the cool nights –

Oddly, it’s blooming pink – it was blooming deep red a month or two back!  Maybe the cold, whilst not killing it off, is affecting the colours of the flowers?  Or maybe the nutrients in the soil are less available in the cooler weather.

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Planning Ahead

I’ve now dragged my garden through the best part of two summer growing seasons and I’ve tried a whole bunch of different crops.  My method for choosing what to grow wasn’t very complex – ‘oh, those look cool, I’ll try them!’ – with the one caveat that I didn’t try to grow anything destined to fail in eastern Scotland (except, perhaps, sweetcorn, but that’s a year-to-year thing).  I’ve now learned that there are a few things that probably aren’t worth the space or effort and a few varieties which grow better for me than others.  There are, of course, a few border cases but I’ve drawn up a provisional list of what’s in and what’s not for next year so I can begin to work on a layout / plan for next year’s gardening adventure.

Not Even Bothering*

  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Sprouts
  • Chillis
  • Coriander (of the type I have, at least)
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • ‘Mixed Salad’

I’ve not had any luck with onions any time I’ve grown them – no matter when I start them off they never get to be much bigger than ping-pong balls and they take up a fair bit of room in my small garden as well as being relatively cheap to buy anyway.  Tomatoes are just too much to worry about and I’m worried about them attracting bugs which will infect my potatoes.  The shops are starting to sell some really nice tomatoes, so it’s not as big a loss as it might otherwise have been.  Sprouts take up a lot of room for a small crop.  I’m dithering, though, as fresh sprouts are lovely, but also rather cheap to buy.  Chillis (except my small venezuelan ones) have never worked for me.  They either fail to thrive (indoors) or die (outdoors) so after years of trying I’m not going to bother next year.  Coriander grows well, but the variety I’ve got is a seed type and I really want one which emphasizes leaves.  PSB I adore but… it also takes up a lot of room in the garden.  I might allow myself one plant in  a corner, as it is a favourite.

(*probably, I am a sucker for banging my head off of a brick wall, sometimes ;P)

Trying Harder

  • Leeks
  • Parsnip
  • Carrot
  • Peas
  • Beans (pole, bush, & broad)
  • Root Parsley
  • Squash
  • Turnips

All of the above I grew but could have done better at.  I don’t know that the problem is with my beans – everyone else seems to have no trouble with them but they don’t tend to grow that well for me… Perhaps a different support structure or more/less time indoors (I’d love to try direct planting but I’ve never had any germinate that way!).  The root parsley, (second batch) turnips and squash were mainly victims of going into the ground too late.

Certain Bets

  • Beetroot
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard Greens
  • Pak Choi
  • Spring Onions
  • Potatoes

These are all things which have grown well for me each time I’ve grown them.  Even with the troubles I had at times with the potatoes, they’re still something I wouldn’t be without.  Whilst you can get cheap potatoes from the supermarket, Andy and I can never eat a whole bag to ourselves before they go off and so growing our own, where we can harvest a few at a time, works well.  There’s also a stunning variety of potatoes we can grow at home which just aren’t available at the supermarket – as we found out at the Dundee Flower & Food Festival!

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