Notes from my Garden – With Susie Tucker
What an exceptional year it has been so far, weather wise. In the beginning of the year we were battered by named storm after a named storm and again and again…. and then in the spring/early summer the weather was, again, very unseasonable, hot and sunny, day after day, for weeks on end, with no wind or rain, and at that point we were hit by Covid19! Everyone was asked to socially isolate, but, during this time, being safe at home, we all had lots of time to plant up our gardens with flowers and vegetables. And whilst I’ve been out there, as a key worker in the local community, I’ve noticed many a garden looking so beautiful, colourful, and tidy, hats off to you all. It really makes a difference to all of the community, on our daily walkout, to see something beautiful, it puts a smile on your face.
The notes from my garden, during these strange times, are, I planted up my greenhouse from March onwards with tomatoes, chillies, peppers and cucumbers. Had a little help from local friends with securing some plants. And there has been a lot of plant swapping, and selling off extra plants for local charities to raise much needed funds during this lockdown, our little community at it’s best.
Still in the greenhouse, I have also planted some Basil, to eat with my tomatoes. Also planted some French Marigolds to keep all the insects in the Aphid family out of there, I have been doing this for years, and it really works! And because tomatoes are really thirsty and have deep roots, I’ve cut the bottoms of 2litre water bottles and planted them upside down next to my tomatoes, with just half of an inch of the bottle still visible, so that when I pour water into the bottles, the water gets right down there where it’s needed.
Now that all is planted and growing, I need to care for all these plants, to keep them looking gorgeous. I have been watering the vegetable plot every two days, until recently, when we finally had some rain, never during the hot midday sun, when plants are already stressed out, and then giving it a real soaking, so that the water goes deep down, and encourages deeper roots to grow healthier plants. And once a week I add a fertilizer to my watering cans. I make my own “compost tea”, I make it from comfrey, nettles, sheep droppings and seaweed, then pour water over it all and let it brew for a week or so, but there are plenty that you can buy locally, specially since our two garden centres are open again, and the hardware shops in town also sell them. It is always preferable to feed your plants with a liquid fertilizer, it works immediately, but there are also pellets of various kinds available, they release their goodness more slowly. The main nutrients that all plants need is, Phosphorous, Nitrogen and Potassium. I will stop feeding all my veg plants, when they have reached their desired growth, so that they can concentrate on giving me their fruit, rather growing new leaves instead.
I have also been mulching, both in the veg patch and the flower borders, this is to keep any moisture in the soil, for it not to evaporate, and to provide a slow-release fertilizer and to discourage weeds, from growing. A 2 to a 4 inch layer round each plant is best. I’ve used several different mulches this year, mainly to try them out, and also because I didn’t have enough of my home-made compost to go round for everything. I used wood chippings and saw dust and grass cuttings round my perennial plants, such as the roses, peonies, fuchsias, lupins, and my Cherry Tree that I got for mothering Sunday. I had plenty of sawdust this year, have been busy getting my winter logs for the fire ready, and this created a lot of it, and, so far, this has kept most of the weeds away, but there’s always one that need attention! Dig it up carefully, try not to disturb the soil too much, this can ruin the structure of it. For the veg patch I mixed my homemade compost with some leaf mould and some old straw. If you grow your plants in pots, it’s still advisable to mulch them.
And I have also been dead-heading all the annual flowers, to encourage new buds to form, always using a sharp pair of secateurs, as not to damage the plant, and invite disease to it.