Guest post by Kevin Jameson
Hi. I’m Kevin Jameson, an allotment gardener for nearly 30 years together with my lovely wife Angela. I’ve been interested in gardening all my life thanks to my Mum. She’s 90 and is still as keen as ever. Once you have the bug it seldom leaves you.
We try to garden in a sustainable way using organic methods. Mostly with very good results and a steady supply of produce but as any seasoned gardener will say, you never stop learning. That’s part of the joy of it. I’m very pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to the blog and share some of our gardening experiences with you.
Enjoying Your Work and Planning for Next Year
Late Summer and the growing season has now passed its peak. Time to ease off a bit after the busy times sowing and planting. Our garden and allotment plants are mainly at the flowering and ripening and harvesting stage now, although some veg such as leeks, brassicas (cabbage family) carrots and parsnips will continue growing well into next winter.
We have many tall flowering herbaceous perennial plants in our garden. They put on vigorous bushy top growth in Spring with long stems that will die back in Autumn leaving just a small rosette of leaves above ground. Then the following year they repeat the whole process.
Most of our perennials are still in full flower. Japanese anemones, rudbeckia, acanthus, achillea and globe thistle. Some up to 2 metres tall. Very dramatic and rewarding. Last winter we applied a thick mulch of Green Goodness and some of our own home made compost on the ground around these plants. This has really paid off with masses of flowers and very few competitor weeds.
Most gardens will be at their best at this time just before Summer starts to mellow into Autumn. The early signs are already there. Darker, chillier evenings and less bird song. Our resident blackbirds Beaky and Betsy look a bit dishevelled as they begin to moult their summer feathers to be replaced by cosy winter plumage.
This is a great time to find a sunny or sheltered area in your garden and sit for a while. It’s important to sit, as you take in your surroundings so much better. Ask yourself a few questions. Such as. Do the plants seem happy? Are some things getting too large maybe? Are there gaps or empty spaces with future potential? Does it all fit together? Any wildlife of interest? Is there a good vibe? Soak it all in and maybe take a few pictures as a reminder. Remember. The winter garden, like ours, can look very different.
If you’d like to make structural changes such as new beds, paths and timber structures, winter is a good time to do gardening projects like these but now is a great starting point for fulfilling your dreams.
More Bees Please
Our fabulous bees are in trouble. Please help! In fact, the World’s insect biomass is in crisis and declining rapidly with consequences for all of us. I noticed in the Spring how few bumble bees were appearing and then realised that the unusually cold plus dry weather was affecting them.
Bees and other insect flower pollinators such as hoverflies, butterflies, moths and yes, wasps too! do an essential job keeping us humans fed. Imagine. No bees. No honey, no strawberries and ice cream, no beans etc etc.
Climate change, loss of natural habitat, pollution and certain farming methods are all having a negative impact on our insect populations. We gardeners can help. Residential gardens have become a vital refuge for insects and other wildlife and we need more of these safe havens.
We grow a good variety of nectar rich flowering plants and shrubs that attract and support bees and other pollinators. It’s great to sit back on a mellow sunny afternoon watching and listening to the hum of our busy little friends at work.
Five Easy to Grow Plants To Help Bees And Butterflies
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
This is a common and attractive wild flower and a favourite of bumble bees. Watch the bees climb up inside the flower tubes again and again the reach the nectar inside. Foxgloves readily self-seed in gardens once planted. Flowers May-July. Height 1-1.5 metres
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
This tall herb has fine feathery leaves with an aniseed smell and taste. The seeds are often used in cooking. The yellow flowers are a magnet to bees and hoverflies and it happily self-seeds. Flowers July-September. Height 1.5 metres.
Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)
Very tall. (There are smaller varieties). Needs lots of room, sunshine and prefers drier soils. Probably the best of all for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Flowers August. Height Over 1.5 metres
Verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
This lovely plant is popular with garden designers and is my personal favourite. Butterflies absolutely love the tiny clusters of pale purple flowers on top of stiff slender stems. These verbenas do need a very sunny spot but otherwise are quite robust. Easy to grow from seed to flower in one season. Flowers July-October. Height 1-1.5 metres.
Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum)
Comfrey deserves a special mention. We only grow comfrey on our allotment. It’s not really a garden plant but bees find the nectar rich flowers irresistible. We use comfrey leaves for composting and liquid fertiliser. It also has a traditional use discovered in Roman times as a poultice to heal broken bones. If you plant comfrey just to attract bees, you won’t be disappointed. Always handle with gloves. Flowers June-September. Height 1.5 metres.
What could be nicer than sitting down in a sunny summer garden with a pot of tea to enjoy a plate of home-made scones and your own fruit jam?
The soft fruits season starts in June with strawberries followed by gooseberries, summer raspberries, currants, blueberries and autumn raspberries.
Often there are surpluses and a traditional way to make the most of the harvest and avoid waste is jam making. (Remember that most soft fruits also freeze well too).
If you haven’t tried jam making it’s really worth a go. All that is needed is a good supply of clean jars, a large pan, maybe a sieve, fruit and sugar. There are some simple basic steps that must be followed and off you go.
Homemade jams, jellys and cordials will save you pots of money, last for months and taste much better than store purchases.
Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t any fruit bushes in your garden. Why not ask around friends, relatives or neighbours? They may have more produce than they know what to do with. Or try foraging in the countryside? Going bramble (blackberry) picking can be fun for the family and bramble jelly is delicious.
Our favourite allotment fruit bush is this redcurrant. It was given a generous mulch of Green Goodness and some potash fertiliser during the winter and has now rewarded us with a bumper crop of fruits that shine like jewels.
We’re now busy making delicious redcurrant jelly and fruit cordial.
We’re enjoying our garden in August. Hope you are too!