Better By the Pound

The greenhouse tomatoes are coming to an end – but what an end with four giant Brandywines. I’ve just picked one to take to a friend and it weighs in at just over a pound. My best ever crop of this delicious variety. This year I planted direct into the greenhouse border rather than into grow bags and I think that’s why they did so well. Next year I would like to do this again, but rather than replace all the soil I’m going to add several bags of GroChar compost as the biochar should keep the plants disease free. Fingers crossed.brandywine tomato with 50p as a scale

Solar power

Solar power

If you’re anything like me you’ll need to know your plants are well watered during the warm summer months when you’re out and about or on holiday. It’s not always possible to rely on good neighbours so what should you do ? The answer came in a small box, ordered online, from Irrigatia. As the name might allude, it’s a solar powered irrigation system.

Getting my head around the parts wasn’t difficult, there’s the control box complete with the solar panel, some tubes and some connectors.  Within around half an hour I had it all sussed and rigged up a little experiment to see how much water the system could deliver. Rather than using pots I chose to use clear bottles to get a feel for the volume of water the pump could deliver.  I set the dial to the middle setting and left it for a day, after 24 hours there was some movement but not a great deal, I put this down to the rechargeable batteries which no doubt would require a bit of charge.    Although a little cloudy the next day there was plenty of water in the bottles, Eureka. It’s just a case of finding the right setting for the plants you’re growing . As you might expect being solar powered the pump is more active on a bright sunny day than on a cloudy one and there’s a dial on the side of the unit to slow or speed up activity.

irrigatia test

48 hours later – it’s not a particularly even delivery but it’s probably more accurate than me with a watering can.

On the plus side

  • No power required so it’s ideal for a greenhouse or a bright environment where power is unavailable.
  • It doesn’t require a hose either so it’s being fed from the water barrel that is connected to the greenhouse guttering.
  • Can be bought from the comfort of your couch here online.

Here’s how it works :

Autumn Peas

Autumn Peas

At the Thompson & Morgan press day a couple of months ago we were all given packets of Terrain peas and Sweet Horizon mangetout with the instructions to go home and sow them that weekend.  They are new downy and powdery mildew-resistant varieties that will keep growing for picking through October and November. Rather than sow them in the ground, I’ve put them in large pots accompanied by Swiss chard and plan to move them into the greenhouse as soon as the tomatoes have finished cropping. A friend has had great success growing Carouby de Maussane mangetout in his greenhouse overwinter and was picking them right through to March, so I’m hoping they prove equally productive. I decided not to risk them in the garden given the size and profusion of giant slugs in the garden this year – even on the outside bench I have the pots standing on bricks in large saucers of water to keep the critters at bay.fresh pea shoots

Painshill Park

Painshill Park

bridge at Painshill Gardens

The Lake

gothic folly

 The Gothic Folly

It’s often the case (for me anyway) that gardens that are quite nearby get overlooked – I think it’s the thought that going there doesn’t need much planning compared with many of the far flung places I go to, so it can wait until another day. Another day finally arrived for Painshill Park and I finally made it to this historically very important 18th century landscape park with its series of wonderful follies.
It had its heyday between 1740 and 1773 when Charles Hamilton created the ornamental pleasure grounds, vineyard, follies, lake and parkland that eventually bankrupted him and forced him to sell. Over the intervening centuries it fell into greater and greater disrepair and it wasn’t until the 1980s that its restoration began. By this time its setting had become suburban and the A3 and M25 are close by, so it is quite astonishing to turn off a busy road, walk over a pedestrian bridge and find yourself in a Grade 1 listed parkland. Restoration is an ongoing process, but now most of the follies restored and the landscape has been returned to its former glory, this is a wonderful place to stroll around on a sunny autumn day.route to grottoinside grotto at Painshill gardenssmall pond within grottoclose up of manmade stalagtiteThe Grotto is dark, mysterious and magical with every single crystal fixed individually to restore it to its original 18th century condition
Do allow plenty of time though – I didn’t get all the way round, but on the plus side that does give me an excuse to return.