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Gardening with Hannah Genders

Why nature knows best

Posted on December 28 2018 at 12:20:14 0 comments

sedum

Hannah Genders looks back over the growing year.

It was such a hot summer last year – I can only just remember the last one in the 1970s, when our pond dried up on the farm in Somerset where I lived at the time.

The ducks didn’t know what to do with themselves, and the whole of the school summer holidays were sunny!

With a similar very dry season throughout the summer and autumn, I’ve that found some things in my garden have done badly and others have thrived in the hot weather.

In the vegetable garden, my beans came in two hits. I put in seed for the purple French beans I usually grow and as nothing appeared I assumed the mice had eaten them – so in a panic I bought some French bean plug plants from a little stall over the road in the village here and shoved those in.

In fact, I got several pickings from the plug plants, but the best ones were the purple French beans that came later.

The mice had not eaten them; they were just late germinating and came on and gave us a crop at the back end of the summer and well into autumn. I love this variety, not only for its beans but the flowers too.

Tomatoes did amazingly well, and I know they did for most people, both in the greenhouse and outside.

I also grew some Padron peppers in the greenhouse – these are a tapas pepper, and I had tasted them at a wedding last year so I decided to see how easy they were to grow. With the summer we had they were very easy, and we’ve had loads of them.

I grew both the tomatoes and the peppers in hedging bags, which are much deeper than grow bags and I fill them with my own home-made compost.

This gives any of the plants plenty of space for their roots to fill out and with a regular feed, like an organic tomato feed or a comfrey feed, they thrive.

The description that came with the peppers was that most of them are mild with the occasional hot one – but mine were all hot! In fact I am using them more like chillis and have them drying in the kitchen as I write.

It’s always good to try a new plant each year and see what you can grow. The tapas way to cook them is to fry them in hot olive oil and eat them with a little salt and pepper; delicious if you are willing to take the heat!

I also find with gardening that nature knows best. For years I have been trying to get Verbena bonariensis growing strongly in my bee border, and allowed the seedlings to come up but moved them if they were misbehaving and growing outside the border.

But this year, I was unable to do as much gardening and so the Verbena self-seeded in the gravel and has done amazingly well, much better than any plants I moved.

So, I think I’m just going to leave it there and keep the gravel full of flowers.

The sedums thrived with their fleshy water-retaining leaves, but some of the other perennials with larger leaves really struggled as they need much more rain in the summer season.

Mediterranean plants like lavender or rosemary, which are used to very hot temperatures, have small leaves with a small surface area to avoid moisture loss.

The leaves are tough and silvery grey which also reflects the light – this is why they can cope in drought conditions.

In fact, both my rosemary and lavender flowered for ages. The rosemary I grow as a low hedge along a raised border and it seems to love it. It is the horizontal one, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’, which is ideal as it doesn’t get too tall.

Other herbs like purple sage and oregano did well too.

It’s a good year for apples – we had a wet spring and not many late frosts, so they have done very well. However, my pear tree has struggled this year.

It broke under the weight of the fruit last year, but this time it has had a fungal disease called pear rust, where you get orange spots on the leaves and the fruit is affected.

There are different schools of thought on what to do about it, including a good prune of the tree to remove any infected branches and burning affected leaves. I’m not into using chemical controls so I’ll try this and see how it does.

As winter is now upon us there is less to look at in the garden, but a few things appear to brighten these darker days.

I have a winter flowering viburnum, a variety called Viburnum ‘Bodnantense Dawn’; quite a common shrub but worth its place for the heavily-scented white and pink flowers in December and January.

I also leave the heads on my sedum plants to protect the new growth, but they give winter interest as they frost up.

Above: Sedum touched with frost

 


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