I was recently a panel member on a Q&A session with the wonderful Jekka McVicar – Queen of Herbs and font of much wisdom. Jekka is a great communicator and has a way of imparting ideas in memorable ways.
On the day in question the advice that I came away with and have started to follow is that she liquid feeds all her potted plants EVERY Friday during the growing season. She told us that it makes an enormous difference to the health and growth rate of her plants – and anyone who is familiar with Jekka’s herbs will know they always look superb. Her chosen feed is Maxicrop which is made from seaweed. I have just bought a ten litre container of Maxicrop and will be out there every Friday following her good advice. Thanks Jekka.
Over the years I have tried many potting composts, some good, some bad and some that varied between the two. If money was no object, or I was a commercial grower, I would definitely use GroChar from Carbon Gold as there is no doubt that it produces wonderful results, but at more than double the price of other composts (plus delivery) I’ve reluctantly found myself looking elsewhere. New Horizon used to be my preferred alternative, but in the last few years the formulation has changed and currently it is full of lumpy green waste and is not the compost it used to be. My new favourite potting compost is SylvaGrow (£6.99 for a 50 litre bag) a professional peat free formulation that has been used by the National Trust, RHS and the Eden Project for many years and is a favourite with commercial growers. It is now available to amateur gardeners. You may need to hunt around to find a local stockists, but if we spread the word I’m sure it will become more freely available.
By the way, whatever make of compost you buy don’t be fobbed off with leftovers from last year, especially if it has been stacked out of doors – the nutrients will have leached out, it may well be sour and it certainly won’t (as I overheard in a garden centre) have more beneficial micro organisms thanks to hanging around in the cold and wet!
I’ve just prepared my bean trench and sown broad beans and peas – all quite straightforward and enjoyable. I then spent double the time erecting barricades to keep the foxes at bay. I used to find that twiggy branches laid across the soil was all that was needed to deter cats, but foxes will just view them as playthings to drag round the garden, especially once the cubs arrive.
So hurdles and fences all round the edge and netting over the top to stop them jumping in. Fingers crossed the badgers stay away or further reinforcing will be necessary.
These few weeks before the weeds really get going and the slugs and snails start to munch everything in sight is such an optimistic time. Each year I find myself thinking that I’ve really got it all sorted this year and the garden is going to be particularly flower-filled and productive. Then, just when the weather is at its most balmy, I will walk out one morning to find that the weeds have staged an overnight invasion and that the slugs and snails have discovered a salad bar of deliciousness in my cold frames, leaving me with bare stems and shredded leaves. I’m trying to deal with the weeds whilst they are tiny, but I know they will get the upper hand before long and as for the slugs and snails, I’ve just invested in a roll of Slug Shocka, the matting that is coated with copper to protect my strawberries and most vulnerable vegetables. Sheep wool pellets will also be part of my armoury and soon it will be time to recommence the nightly patrols armed with a torch and a bucket. In the meantime I’m enjoying the lull before the storm!
I love the many colour variations you get with hellebores – even the less successful natural crosses that pop up in the garden look good when tucked in amongst the star performers. Many years ago I had the good fortune to visit Elizabeth Strangman at Washfield Nursery (sadly long gone) and was entrusted with a few plants (buying one was a bit like adopting one of her children). I’m not sure she was entirely confident that I was worthy of the task, but most have survived and thrived. I did lose a double, but I think they are generally trickier and less inclined to thrive. Of them all, I think it is the picotee with the strongly veined markings that is my favourite – just don’t ask me the varietal names – I would need to consult an expert.