Tag Archives: dahlias

Flower Power 2012

You may know that I don’t just grow veg in the Two Chances Plot, I am partial to some colour and dedicate a  bit of space to flowers either as companion planting to the veg or in their own bed.

I grow quite a few from seed and here’s the current stock list:

Swan River Daisy – Summer Skies

Sweet Pea – True Fragrance Mix & 20th Anniversary Mix (although I may not grow these again since I discovered I’m allergic to the cut flowers)

Sunflower – Harlequin F1 Hybrid, Giant & Russian Giant

Nicotiana Sylvestris

Aster Apollonia Appleblossom

Dwarf Candytuft – Fairy Mix

Rudbeckia – Marmalade

Alyssum – Golden Queen

Nasturtium – Jewel Mix

Pot and French Marigolds – which are my main companion plants and grown in bulk from seed to put in the greenhouse and around the plot.

And then there’s the Dahlia tubers which I stored overwinter last year (with some failures) but have left in the ground this year (under a thick mulch) to save time and space.   The Dahlia bed at the height of summer:

So what’s your most effective companion plant on the plot? And is there a flower(s) you just can’t do without in the garden?

Here Comes the Sun!

At last the sun has returned and just in time for the 2011 Firsdown Music Fayre. And it’s bringing the plot into full bloom, particularly the Dahlias which are now between four and five foot high and packed with flowers.

The marrow is finally growing.

And the squash are starting to swell, I think this variety is Crown Prince.

Hope you’re getting some sun wherever you are today. Have a great weekend!

Dahlias, Carrots and Spuds

My Dahlias are now in flower. I stopped them on 5th June, just before we went on holiday, so they are decent sized plants now at 4 foot high.

One of my favourites is Shooting Star, a cream coloured semi-cactus variety.

And this one’s an unnamed variety similar to the pompom types of Dahlia.

Following Darren’s lead I thought I’d see how my carrots are doing.

And I was pleased with the results, a decent carrot 9″ long and 5″ around the shoulder. Hopefully before my local show the stump end of the carrots will have developed and they’ll have bulked out slightly. Still the best carrot I’ve ever grown, they have been my nemisis in previous years.

And finally I dug up some Kestrel potatoes that I’d planted on 2nd April. They had a lovely colour with the largest being 10oz – I’m quite pleased with their size after 13 weeks. The downside from a showing perspective is they have some faint signs of scab so I need to eliminate that next year but for the table they are a cracking spud!

Successfully Overwintered?

I’ve been really pleased with the crops I overwintered this year. With the warm Spring anything that was already up and running when the temperatures started to warm up has really shot on.

Take the broad beans for example, there’s loads of flowers on them already.

The Radar Onion sets I planted back in early November are doing well. I’m sure they’re starting to ‘bulb-up’ already.

And the pansies that I sowed last Spring made it through to give some welcome colour this Spring.

Considering all of them were under a foot of snow for most of December they’re doing pretty well. I think it’s worth taking the risk with the hardier crops. And what an April we’ve had, barely any rain here in Salisbury which has meant glorious weather, BBQs, too many cocktails yesterday for our Royal Wedding garden party but who’se complaining! The only downside is the extra watering, very unusual for April, but I’m now only giving each brassica plant a good soaking once a week which is all they need and this is keeping the watering time down to a minimum. The nights are still cool though and with my Dahlia tubers out and up through the soil already that’s a bit of a risk that I’ll have to keep an eye on for another few weeks in case a late frost strikes.

So what crops have you overwintered successfully this year? Enjoy the rest of your long Bank Holiday weekend (sorry any Scottish readers!).

Looking Back…….

With the big freeze continuing there’s absolutely nothing happening on the plot apart from the odd sprout and snip harvest. So I thought I’d get all nostalgic about 2010, the highs and lows, and the obligatory next year I’m definitely going to……..

The year really got going when I attended a series of talks from expert Ray Broughton, got my soil tested and learnt a great deal about sowing seeds. I even had a go at growing long carrots which ended in disaster! I dug a new bed in April, picked my first cauliflower and broccoli in June, and by July I was lovin’ the veg, well apart from my pitiful onions. In August I took a different perspective on the plot, the beans went crazy and I picked my first ever sweetcorn. In the Autumn the greenhouse really came into its own and by October the last of the peppers had ripened finally. I also took some prizes at the local Horticultural Society Summer Show and later joined the Committee. In November I started thinking ahead to next year, and we were briefly front page news before the snow arrived and the big freeze set in!

It was a colourful year particularly in the Spring Show and the garden was in bloomin’ good form right through to October. I embraced the dark side of flower growing and became a real fan of Dahlias which I stopped, disbudded, and generally pampered all year until Jack eventually took his revenge!

Off the plot I gave something back to the Southampton General Hospital PICU and Teenage Cancer Trust and raised some money for The Stroke Association with a charity plant sale. There was also and unexpected trip to Wembley with Saints who won the Johnstone Paint Trophy. We had the odd family day out here, there and everywhere, and a nice, long break in Brittany. I cooked some curries, got my first taste of foraging and started brewing my own beer. I also completed another leg of the Pennine Way and got round to writing about it at long last. There were one or two free giveaways as well thrown into the bargain.

On the blog writing front I hit my 50th, and 100th post and Blog Anniversary this year. I’ve really enjoyed writing, reading your blogs and, of course, all your comments and kind words of encouragement.

What a year! So what do I want to do in 2011?

Firstly expanding my empire and growing more veg. Starting that composting regime I posted about 10 months ago. Encouraging more people into gardening and growing their own if I can. Getting out there and learning as much as possible. Enjoying the seasons, our beautiful countryside and wildlife. I may also have a dabble at some prize winning parnsips. If you want to see the work that goes into setting up for a go at growing prize winning veg take a look at fellow Salisbury chap Darren’s blog. Hats off to his dedication to the cause and I’m sure he’ll have some great results next summer, definitely one blog to follow.

But most of all having fun with the family and enjoying the lifestyle that comes from this hobby. Not getting too bothered about things and letting nature take its course is what it’s all about. Hopefully it’ll be a great year.

So what are your goals for next year??

Jack’s Back!

Jack has returned with a vengeance in South Wiltshire this week. He first hit on Sunday and then lingered on and off for the next five days. Reducing the Dahlia bed from this:

To this:

In less than a week. My favourite plant, a summer powerhouse of growth and flowers, reduced to something resembling wilted spinach in double-quick time. Summer is officially over!

I had to keep the mourning period brief as I was setting off to Derby in a few hours and the tubers had to be lifted to guarantee their survival through the winter. I took a knife to the thick stems, some of which I could barely wrap my hand round.

And cut the foliage down to ground level. The stems are amazing, more like drain pipes with water trickling back out when cut. An important point to remember Dahlias need lots of water through the summer months.

Using a fork I lifted each tuber remembering to label and note the bloom colour for next year.

After an hour the job was done.

The tubers have really grown in size since planting. The prize has to go to Kennemerland, the largest tuber by some distance. I took off what soil I could before putting them in the garage to dry out. I’ll deal with them properly next week. They need to be dry and frost free to get through the winter successfully.

The last job was to dig up the celery, which was in a more sheltered spot so unaffected by frosts so far. I’ll clean them up and freeze most of this for winter use in stocks and soups. I’ll keep a few stalks wrapped in tin foil in the bottom of the fridge as this keeps them fresh for ages.

It’s been a great first year for growing Dahlias. They are easy to grow, I’ve had no real problems this year. If you want great flowers in your garden or for cutting all the way through to October then I would recommend giving them a go. If you want to have a dabble in the local show then you can go further by stopping and disbudding. And who knows I might try a higher standard next year.

Have a great weekend!

October Colours

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Even in mid-October there are some great colours on show in the garden.  The Dahlia’s are still producing dozens of blooms with no signs of slowing down.  And in the greenhouse there’s a few tomatoes, peppers and chillies to ripen.  Hopefully the frosts will stay away to let this continue for another few weeks yet.  The array of colours really does lift the mood, even on the dullest of Autumn days!

Update 17th Oct – spoke to soon the first Autumn frost hit this morning!  The curse of the commentator, should have kept my mouth shut!!