DON’T you just love the buzz at this time of year – and I’m not thinking solely of bees, even though it’s a delight to have them and butterflies back in the garden.
In the horticultural world there’s a feeling of business as usual, with shows and plant centres to visit, if you can manage the time away from an ever-demanding home garden.
Top priority for us has been keeping up to date with vegetable plantings. Although we grow varieties that have proven they can cope with Northumberland’s shorter growing season and eccentric weather, it does help if some are started indoors then turned out at the earliest safe opportunity. With this in mind, the broad beans and peas are romping away outdoors, having been introduced as young potted plants with vigorous roots. Likewise the onion sets, French and runner beans, etc.
Just give it a try and see how much is gained from being ahead of the game.
Several sweetcorn varieties have been bred over the years with northern gardening in mind. Cultivars such as Earliking and North Star spring to mind, but of the relatively recent series Sundance is the tops as far as we’re concerned. Planted out the second week in May, it will offer plump cobs, ready for picking with flower tassels just fading, 12 weeks later. But you must plant them in a sunny position.
One square metre of growing space will accommodate a dozen plants organised in a square formation. Because they are wind pollinated this block planting suits them fine. Based on an average four cobs per plant, you can even work out how many of these delicious ‘starters’ will be served at table throughout August and September. There is still time to introduce them to your garden because they are sold in plug form and can be grown in containers.
Turbo-charged vegetables sound just the ticket for a short growing season and we are about to find out whether they are. Introduced by Suttons, they are grafted onto vigorous rootsocks and have been launched onto the market this year. They are available as young plants at garden centres. Given the price per plant (£2.50 to £3.50) I would not risk growing them outdoors unless you have a sheltered, sunny spot or are prepared to do so under fleece.
They will be best grown in a poly-tunnel or greenhouse, either in a large pot or the border. This is where the tomato plants I’m anticipating will be given a fair test. Meanwhile, two locally-bought plants, sweet potato Beauregard and chilli Pepper Medina, have already been potted on and are looking good on the greenhouse bench. Next pot size will come when the roots start circling and show in the drainage holes. It is also important to keep the graft union just above compost level in the pot.
As you would anticipate, well-chosen cultivars with known pest & disease resistance, grafted onto vigorous rootstocks, should perform really well.
I hope to report later on bigger plants with heavier crops but no ‘royal jelly’ for them - they will be given the same treatment as less expensive counterparts growing alongside. We shall see!
THE call of Harrogate Spring Show was too strong to resist so we paid a visit on the second day – it runs from a Thursday to Sunday.
Over the years we attended the spring and summer events when they were held in the beautiful Valley Gardens.
The show was then conveniently placed in Harrogate but reached a stage where it outgrew the venue.
The timely move to the Great Yorkshire Showground, a purpose-built site on outskirts of town, has been the making of the event.
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the North of England Horticultural Society, a gardening charity which supports horticulture in the north and organises the spring and autumn shows.
The Prince of Wales is the new Patron of the show and this year also saw the inauguration of a new president – Jane, Duchess of Northumberland.
The 100th birthday of a gardening society could not pass without the release of a new plant cultivar, suitably named to mark the occasion. This came in the form of Narcissus Harrogate Centenary, raised by friend Rae Beckwith, a national judge and exhibitor, who presided at Alnwick Spring Show just recently.
With over 100 nursery displays and lots of other attractions, there were several eye-catching features but liliums and sweet peas formed two stands that excelled in fragrance and beauty. They should not be flowering this early of course and that simply added to the appeal.
Imagine a large bowl of mixed Spencer sweet peas at either end of a long table, with twenty or so vases of individual cultivars in between. Visit www.sweetpeasonline.co.uk for an idea of the varieties involved.
There are many nurseries selling liliums but few can perform better than those that came from www.hartsnursery.co.uk
With thousands of visitors milling around the walkways, there is a Chelsea feeling about the present Harrogate setup, and the introduction of show gardens this year made it more so.
Only eight entries, true, but they were in the open air and attracted a great deal of attention.
Each had been attended by judges and awarded medals as is traditional – gold, silver gilt, etc. They were also judged by the public, another Chelsea tradition.
My vote went to one constructed by Finchale Training College, which had a beehive and small square beds filled with a range of plants. The title of the entry was Good to Bee Square.
Now that garden really did buzz for me!