Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Globe Artichokes

Globe Artichokes Cynara scolymus
The Globe Artichoke is a handsome, thistle-like pant, architecturally decorative enough to comfortably sit in the herbaceous border rather than the vegetable patch.
It grows to about 1.5m (5ft high) with magnificent arching silver leaves and if left to flower, produces giant thistle-like flower heads.

It’s that global flower head that is a gourmet’s delight if removed and cooked before the fleshy scales open.   Boiled or steamed the edible part of the flower head are the fleshy base of each scale and the artichoke heart, which is the bottom of the flower and has the finest flavour.

The Globe Artichoke likes a good soil, regular watering, feeding and frost protection in the winter

Propagate from seed or spring suckers

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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Summer Holiday

Summer holiday ...we’re all going on a

If you are planning to get away this holiday season, here’s a little reminder of some of the jobs to do in the vegetable patch before going away, to avoid returning home to a wizened, pest and disease ridden disaster, spoiling all that good work which has been done in the vegetable plot to date.

First, be sure to pick all the vegetables that are ready or almost ready before you go, or, ask a neighbour to gather in any vegetables that ripen whilst you’re away.

Apply a good top dressing and fertiliser before you depart, followed by a heavy watering to prevent your plot becoming under nourished while you are away.

Tackle all those nasty pests and diseases which are sure to have a feast while you are soaking up the sunshine.

Remove any young plants from under cloches and frames before departing to avoid the risk of overheating or shortage of water.

Plant out seedlings and freely water them at least one week before going away to get them established.

Finally, those runner beans will be reaching the tops of their canes soon, so nip out the tops to encourage pod formation and growth.  This will also encourage side shoots and consequently, more beans.

Also see Seaforth Garden Jobs for the Month page and add all your holiday tips.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Himalayan Lily

Humbled by Himalayan Giant

Walking to a friend’s house I stumbled upon a flower garden bursting with colour, form and intrigue. Curious to see more of the garden I knocked on the owner’s door and asked to have a look around. I was not disappointed, the array of herbaceous plants, bulbs and shrubs was breath taking and in the coming months I hope to share with you, more of this wonderful plant collection on the Seaforth Garden Seasonal Interest page.

But let me start with Cardiocrinum giganteum, the Giant Himalayan Lily. A hardy bulbous perennial which dies after flowering, but leave behind small offset bulbs which will reach flowering size after 3-5 years. Cardiocrinum giganteum grows up to 3m (9 ft) tall, with a spiral of delicately fragrant, large, white trumpet  shaped flowers which appear between June and August.

 A truly magnificent plant!

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Friday, 10 June 2011


No Green Aliens here, Jim
Whether you like your potatoes baked, boiled, chipped, or mashed this traditional vegetable complement many of the favourite dishes we eat today.

And now that my seed potatoes have made about 15cm (6in) of top growth, it’s time to start earthed up.  Earthing-up is the old gardening term referring to the process of banking up soil around young potato plants to prevent greening which occurs when the tubers are exposed to light and beware, green potatoes are poisonous.

The advantages of earthing up are many to us gardeners – it encourages the formation and swelling of many more tubers in summer and early autumn and, at the same time, this protects the exposed tender growth from being caught by frost.  I’ve notices that it also has the added advantage of killing any weeds that might have grown amongst the potatoes plants.

A useful tip when earthing up is, try to make the sides as upright as possible so that spores of  potato blight do not contaminate the tubers.

As well as potatoes, I also earth up celery and leeks to prevent greening, and broccoli, kale, and cauliflower to keep them firm in the ground.

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Fresh Peas Please...Pretty Please!
This year’s first sowing of garden peas fell foul to the gardener’s old enemy, the dreaded slug. Many of my seeds were eaten away as they emerged through the soil and thus failed to establish. Determined as ever to enjoy fresh peas from a pod in my garden this summer, I have sown a second crop which are doing just fine – so far!
Whether I am growing the dwarf or taller varieties, I always support the young pea plants with enough sturdy supports to protect the plants against strong summer winds that will blow them over when bearing their heavy fruits.

I like to use traditional brushwood (pea sticks) of a height that the peas will grow to. The pea plants will soon cover the sticks so they can no longer be seen. However, other methods of support can be used such as bamboo canes linked together with garden twine or garden netting -That sounded like something the BBC would say.

And with a wee bit of gardener’s luck my children and I will be enjoying fresh garden peas this summer.

Do let me know how your garden peas are coming along?

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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Spring Cabbage

Spring Cabbage

I think that the Spring Cabbage is the prettiest of the cabbage plants, a little smaller than other varieties and distinctive by their pointed shaped head.  If sown in July-August and planted out between September and October, Spring Cabbages are still available for harvesting well into mid June before the summer varieties take over.

I love to use Spring Cabbage in stews, salads, coleslaw and soup.

Let me know how you how you use your Spring Cabbage?

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Friday, 3 June 2011

Winter Gardens

Sunderland Winter Gardens
I recently took a stroll, not through the deep dark woods (for anyone who knows the Gruffalo story) but through the Winter Garden in Sunderland.   An amazing steel and glass structure with advanced technology enabling it to copy many of the different climate conditions found around the world. 
The Winter Garden creates the ideal growing conditions for a range of exotic plants and flowers to grow; the warm south facing side of the garden is home to the cactus and succulents, whilst the shade loving ferns thrive in the cooler north side of the garden.

Features in the garden include the tree top walk allowing visits to the garden to experience a rare bird’s eye view of the canopy where the tallest plants compete for sun light.

Centre stage in the garden is elegant water sculpture by the international acclaimed sculptor William Pye. The sculpture stands like a guardian over the garden and incorporates  a continues film of water flowing down a 10 metre high column of highly polished stainless steel to form rhythmical patterns, giving visitor to the garden a sense of coolness in what is a humid climate.  

Walking down the fern gully I am reminded that these ancient plants are similar to the plants that once where common across Britain and Europe 350 million years ago, before the age of the dinosaur.  Ferns do not flower and seed like other plants but, instead produce thousands of tiny spores, from which new plants later develop.

My enjoyable visit concluded at the Koi carp pond, which was a great attraction for children and grown-ups alike. I sat for a while eating my sandwich and drinking from my flask of tea next to the pond memorised by these colourful fish, some as long as your forearm as they gently glided through the shallow, rocky pool.

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