Gardening jobs, Weekend 23 & 24 February 2019

‘Mr Lincoln’ rose in bloom

It’s been a couple of years now since my grandmother passed away, and finally the roses I planted in memory of both sets of grandparents have started to flourish. The climbing Mr Lincoln rose was planted in memory of my grandmother who passed away when I was 16. I have also planted a climbing Pierre de Ronsard and climbing Gold Bunny, with the aim of having them climb the front of our house. They have all taken some time to establish, especially the Gold Bunny, which seems quite miserable most of the time. My grandfather’s Gold Bunny was magnificent, so I am hoping that mine will get over its current state and grow to be as beautiful as his was. By far, the happiest is the Pierre de Ronsard, which has already produced about a dozen beautiful blooms. The red rose pictured is the first of the Mr Lincoln roses we have had. My husband and I were so happy to see it appear. These plants are important to me as a living memorial of grandparents that each passed a love of gardening on to me.

Summer Roundup

Time in the garden has been rare over the past couple of weeks. I have been busy with work and family, and I am travelling for work again this week. Coupled with the intense heat we have experienced this Summer, my garden is looking quite sad.

This Summer has been one of the hottest on record, and we recorded the hottest day on record. We have had almost no rain to speak of. This has affected my vegetable garden more than the rest of the garden, which is well established. We almost lost a newly planted avocado tree, but my husband’s careful watering and shading of the tree has enabled it to recover, thank goodness. We did lose all our tomato plants in the end, which really grinds my corn. We had a great early start with the tomatoes, and then a week of intense heat with temperatures over 45 degrees, including a day of 47 degrees, really knocked them. Some plants died outright, and the rest never recovered. They continued producing fruit but the fruit didn’t properly mature. Even the chilli and zucchini plants, which are usually reliable producers, failed to produce.

The corn I planted this year produced, but cobs were smaller. Beans produced very few pods compared to previous years. We have plenty of pollinators in our garden, so I do not believe that was the problem. The soil was prepared properly, in the usual way. I believe that it was not possible for us to water enough to replace the loss of moisture caused by the extreme heat.

Successes

There were a couple of successes, however. Pumpkins sow themselves in our garden, popping up out of the compost. I let them ramble, because I have the space. I figure if they produce some pumpkins, that’s great, and if they don’t I have not lost anything. The vines help suppress the weeds and shade the soil.

Last year I grew Kent (also known as ‘Jap‘ in Australia) which I did plant, and Butternuts, which popped up on their own. This year, I appear to be growing a Kent-Butternut hybrid! It has the shape of a Butternut but the skin markings and colour of a Kent. I have not seen this before (others probably have) but for now I am calling it a Kenternut. Or should I call it a Butterkent? Either way, it is fruiting pretty prolifically and we are looking forward to trying it.

Kenternut Pumpkin

I’ll save some seeds of this mutant and see if I can grow it again next year.

The rhubarb plants I divided a couple of years ago have been growing great guns. I divided them again this weekend, as the plants are enormous and becoming crowded – something I might live to regret considering it is going to be another week of 40-plus degrees. We are eating rhubarb every week at this point, even in the Summer. I know some people don’t like it, but I have always loved the stuff. It’s best baked with some maple syrup and strawberries, served with custard.

Dividing rhubarb is very easy. Just dig up the plant, and hack it in half (or more) with a spade. Make sure each crown has a bit of root. Replant each piece. I have even planted a rhubarb crown I found on the ground several weeks after I dropped it there, and it still grew. It is pretty hard to stuff it up, which is why I am not too worried about doing it this week even in the hot weather.

Pomegranate Azerbaijan

The passionfruit (classic black) exploded with fruit this year. Our passionfruit vine is named Odette. We take great care of her, feeding and watering her regularly. She is enormous, brilliant green, and very healthy. This year she rewarded us with hundreds of passionfruit. We have given some away, frozen it, and of course, eaten it. My husband loves it, and so does our neighbour, so there is always someone willing to eat it daily. I freeze it in ice cube trays for when the weather is cooler. Then I will make passionfruit slice (my favourite) and shortbread.

The pomegranate tree (Pomegranate Azerbaijan) is producing for the first time. Having never grown them before, we were unsure how long it would take to produce (this is its third year). A major storm in September knocked the tree sideways, and we thought we had lost it. I staked it and it was able to recover. We are very much looking forward to our first pomegranates. Mostly I just love looking at them on the tree. They are so beautiful.

This Summer we also had our first real boysenberry crop. Afterwards, I pruned the spent canes and then had the fun job of disposing of the prickly prunings. Boysenberries are thorny and unpleasant vines, but I think this is why we were able to keep so many of the berries for ourselves instead of losing them to birds. No bird was brave enough to get in there and pinch one. I don’t blame them, being pricked by those thorns really hurts. I was stabbed on more than one occasion.

Finally this weekend, I turned the compost, and dug out the fresh compost to spread around the roses and newly divided rhubarb. I gave an extra helping to the Gold Bunny rose, in the hope that it will cheer the poor thing up.

For the next couple of weeks until the cooler weather sets in, we are on a care and maintenance plan for the garden. I am considering trialling a different planting regime for Autumn and Winter, given the change to the seasons we experienced last year: longer warm weather, much less rain, dry Winter. I think home gardeners need to adapt to climate change, but I am not sure yet how to do it. Our traditional practice of Autumn planting and Sprint planting needs to change. Any ideas?

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