Episode 20 Gardeners' World


Episode 20

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Hello, welcome to Gardeners' World.

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Now, it's a bank holiday weekend, which means three free days

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and, of course, you could join a traffic jam somewhere

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or you could stay at home, garden at your own pace,

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and go into next week refreshed and the garden looking fantastic.

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I know what I'm going to be doing.

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This week Carol visits a modern plant hunter who's amassed

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a vast collection of plants in his Scottish garden.

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This 18th-century walled garden in the heart

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of the Scottish Borders is home to more than 4,000 different varieties

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of really special plants, gathered together from all over the world.

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And we visit a couple who've made their allotment into more than just

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a fine collection of fruit and veg and it's become an entire garden.

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Well, the allotment really is the centre of our life now.

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What else would two old retired layabouts be doing?

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And I shall be cutting some of my taller hedges, and also taking

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the tomato trial to the really important stage, which is tasting.

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Just pop those in there just for a moment.

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In fact, the colour of this particular sweet pea

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is almost identical to this penstemon.

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This is Penstemon 'Blackbird' and you can see it's got that lovely

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purply, grape-ish hue

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and one of the special things about penstemons at this time of year

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is they give you a huge range of colour from the darkness

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of ones like 'Blackbird' to a pink, like this one,

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which is 'Macpenny's Pink' -

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got a little raspberry touch to the inside.

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And that range of colour flowering from July through to November

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is really the power of penstemons that will go on.

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If you keep deadheading them, they'll just produce more

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and more flowers till the first frost.

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They come from North America, they're not particularly hardy,

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but they are very floriferous.

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I think there's no garden

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that can't find a home for some penstemons.

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Now, when you buy them, obviously you're going

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to look for the flower colour and that's natural and you

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go to a nursery or a garden centre and you see something like this

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and you say, "Yeah, that will work well."

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But just consider the plant itself.

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I've got another 'Blackbird' here,

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both bought from the same nursery, both the same price,

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whereas this is a much better plant, even though it hasn't got

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a single flower on it, partly because there's more of it

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and partly because this is also going to give me

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lots of material for cuttings.

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Of course, the cuttings you take now will give a plant this big

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next year, so very, very cheap.

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Get a potting compost mix and add something to lighten it.

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I've got some perlite here, but grit would do just as well.

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Then put some into a small pot.

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At this point, you need sharp secateurs and also,

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if you're old and blind like me, you need glasses.

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What we're looking for is fresh, new growth and this is perfect here.

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So, if I cut about four or five inches long, take that,

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and that's another good one there. Take that.

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Here's a shorter growth, but that doesn't matter.

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Perfect, and that's left plenty of material for planting out,

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so I haven't damaged the plant or weakened it in any way.

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With a cutting like that,

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you have a lot of foliage and that's all losing moisture

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and because it doesn't have any roots it's not taking up

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any moisture, or at least hardly any from the base,

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so what you need to do is get balance whereby it's not

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losing too much moisture,

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but it's also got enough leaves to feed it and so it can stay alive.

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So, what we need to do is just reduce some of these leaves

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and these can just pull of or cut off with a knife, you don't

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want to damage the stem, so just take that off there.

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In fact, I'm going to take off most of the leaves...

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..leaving a bare stem

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and I'm going to just push that down in the corner.

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It's also important to do it quickly.

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If you can't take the cutting inside a shed from the parent plant,

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always have a polythene bag to pop them into

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because they're losing moisture by the second.

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Now I'm burying these about two or three inches down.

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In fact, I'm pushing them

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down to more or less the bottom of the pot,

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but, essentially, you want at least an inch under the soil

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and if it can be two inches, so much the better.

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These will take a few weeks to root and you'll know they've rooted

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because you'll see new growth and then you can either leave them

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in the pots and they can spend the winter protected from the frost

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and be potted on in the spring.

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Or if you've got a bit more space, as soon as they rooted,

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put them into individual pots and then store them

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in an old frame or greenhouse where they're reliably frost free

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and they will grow next spring into nice big plants.

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Now this bed is getting pretty full, but I have got a little

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corner here which I can get one of these plants into at least.

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I've got two, so there's

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'Macpenny's Pink' that I've taken my five cuttings from

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and also 'Thorn' which is paler, more delicate,

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which I think I'll plant in another bed.

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So, we'll put 'Macpenny's Pink' in there.

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It doesn't matter what colour your penstemon is, or what species

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or variety, it will want drainage.

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They really do need good drainage,

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so unless you've got very light soil, then add some drainage to it.

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I'm going to add a little bit of grit just to improve it,

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won't do any harm at all.

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Dig that in the ground

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and that will help not just the plant to grow in the conditions that

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it likes best, but particularly it'll help it over winter.

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What they hate is sitting in wet, cold soil and here at Long Meadow

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it's guaranteed to be wet and cold for months on end in winter.

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And then just pop it in the ground.

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And just in you go.

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Now other than watering it in once you've planted it,

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there's really nothing else to do.

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Deadhead them as the flowers fade

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and they will go on flowering right into autumn.

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Right, let's find a home for this.

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Now I haven't taken cuttings from this yet, but if I plant it,

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and let the roots establish, I'll get a new flush of growth which

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will provide me really good cutting material by the end of September.

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Now its home could be here amongst the borders,

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it could be amongst the vegetables.

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The whole point of this cottage garden that I'm creating,

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it's very much work-in-progress, is to get that mix,

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let them all jumble in together -

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and as long as the feeling is right, it doesn't actually matter

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weather it's edible, floral, herbal, medicinal -

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it can all work in.

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We went to visit a couple in North London who've taken

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the spirit of the cottage garden and applied it to their allotment.

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We've only been here about five years

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and we feel we've done a huge amount in that space of time.

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Well, we're partners for the last 25-odd years

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and, erm, we only started gardening together...

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When we came here. ..when we came here.

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Well, the allotment really is the centre of our life now.

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We enjoy the company of the other allotmenteers and...

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We celebrate our families' birthdays,

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and dinners, coffees, barbecues...

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It's always great fun to come up and have the company

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and what else would two old retired layabouts be doing?

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Keeps us very active and keeps us happy.

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We grow a huge range of fruit and veg, believe it or not.

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We have the usual things - cabbages and beans and onions

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and all the usual stuff that people grow -

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but we also like to experiment with things for fun

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and our favourite is shark-fin melon

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because it's a real heavyweight thug. It runs all over the place

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where nothing else will, produces huge gourds and looks fantastic.

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And then the rose obsession began.

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# I beg your pardon I never promised you a... #

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We're never going to get to James Galway up there.

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# Along with sunshine

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# There's got to be a little rain sometimes... #

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We're both very interested in roses,

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and here was a great opportunity to grow the roses we wanted.

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Every rose smells of roses, but they all smell differently.

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The history of the rose is wonderful, the romance of the stories

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behind the roses is wonderful, and they're rather beautiful, as well.

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We've got what we call an exotic border,

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and it's full of huge plants in a very big border.

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Things like Tetrapanax, and Paulownias.

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We particularly like those,

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cos they're so different from everything else,

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and it gives a lovely wild exotic feel to the allotment.

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We've done a pond for wildlife.

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I can tell you a story about the pond,

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cos I wasn't feeling too good one day and I went home at lunchtime

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and I came back the next day and we had a pond.

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Serge dug one out while I was away.

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He's very good at building stuff, and things like that,

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which I'm rubbish at.

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The nice thing about it is we both seem to have a project going

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at any given time, and we just get on with it

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and leave each other alone to do it.

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So, we don't have too many arguments about what's what.

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He tells me what to do, and I do it.

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That is so unfair, but true. It's true. Erm... No.

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# Keep young and beautiful

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# It's your duty to be beautiful

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# Keep young and beautiful

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# If you want to be loved

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# Don't fail to do your stuff

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# With a little powder... #

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It's fabulous, but that's disputed whether or not it's...

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# If you want to be loved!

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# Oobie-doo! Oh! #

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You can visit Serge and George's plot,

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because the Golf Course Allotments on Muswell Hill are open

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on September 1st, and if you want details

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and of other gardens open, then go to our website.

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Hedges are a really important part of this garden.

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When we came here, there were none.

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Just a couple of small scrubby trees, and that was it.

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So, to plant hedges was to create protection

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and to divide the garden up into spaces and, in fact,

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it's not that big a garden.

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It's just having lots of different spaces makes it seems much bigger.

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I framed views and created drama around the garden

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by contrasting low hedges with some very tall ones.

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Now, it follows that tall hedges are more hedge-cutting.

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But the principles of cutting a hedge is exactly the same,

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whether it's that tall or 30-foot tall.

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With a tall hedge, the big thing to watch out for is at the top,

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which is going to grow faster cos it gets more sunlight

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and because you prune it, therefore it'll grow vigorously,

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will shade out the bottom.

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And you can very quickly

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and easily get bare patches in the bottom of the hedge.

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The only way around that is to have a batter,

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and that means cutting it at a slope.

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So, the taller the hedge,

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the more important it is that it's wider at the bottom than the top.

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So, that's the main thing to bear in mind.

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Right, let's get going.

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Over 3,000 people per year are treated after accidents

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with hedge-trimmers.

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So, it's worth taking some trouble, particularly to protect your eyes.

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As you cut, work slowly forwards, going from the bottom upwards.

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And take your time.

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It's worth just keeping checking that you've got the batter,

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and that the line is reasonably straight,

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cos obviously you can't see it when you're close up.

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And just keep going back. Just go on until you're happy with it.

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And not until you've got the sides exactly right

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do you take the top off, but if you've got a cypress hedge,

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something like that, don't cut into old wood, cos it won't regrow,

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so just leave a little bit of new growth.

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Well, that's a start.

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Although hedge-cutting is quite a big job

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and if it's a big hedge, it's an even bigger one, but it's worth it.

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It looks good for nearly the whole year.

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Now, our gardens are full of plants from all over the world.

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That's the joy of them.

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But plant hunting is not something that used to happen in the past.

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Carol has been to meet a 21st-century plant hunter

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and his incredible collection of plants.

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When you step inside an ancient walled garden,

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you expect to be greeted by row upon row of carefully-tended vegetables.

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You expect the high brick walls to be festooned

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in every imaginable exotic fruit. But not here.

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This 18th-century walled garden in the heart of the Scottish borders

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is home to more than 4,000 different varieties

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of really special plants, gathered together from all over the world.

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You usually think about plant hunters

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as being people from the past.

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But I've come to meet a modern-day plant hunter.

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Michael Wickenden has travelled the globe visiting five continents

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and 15 different countries to discover new and exotic plants.

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He's brought them here to Cally Gardens.

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So, how on earth did you start plant hunting?

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Did you just sit there one day and think, "Oh, I'm going to go off."

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Not quite. I'd been gardening and collecting plants

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and had already started the nursery. I'd sold some plants.

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I had some money at last,

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and the first thing I wanted to do was go and see the plants

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in the wild, and perhaps collect some seed and get some new stuff.

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The thing about plant hunting is that it takes you to places

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that no tourist is ever going to go near.

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I suppose it's travelling with a purpose,

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and that's the exciting thing.

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And this, it's a dianthus, isn't it?

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Yes, it is, Carol. It's Dianthus amurensis

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from the Russian Far East.

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That was collected on my trip to Vladivostok in 1996.

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It's a wonderful part of the world for plants,

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because very, very hardy plants there. The sea freezes in the winter.

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Did you know what it was going to be like? No, I didn't.

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I knew it was a dianthus,

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I didn't know what colour it was going to be and it was great,

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because it's a beautiful luminous mauve, and it flowers after

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the other dianthus - pinks, as people call them - have finished.

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Yeah. There it is.

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Dianthus amurensis 'Andrey.'

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Andrey Gonchorev was my Russian botanical guide.

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Right. So I named...

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On your trip to Vladivostok. Yeah.

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I named it after my guide, cos he was such a great chap.

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Just over here next door, this is a poppy called Papaver triniifolium.

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There's the flowers. How pretty. Rather nice apricot flowers.

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I've been keeping this

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because I'm hoping that in here

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there will be the seed. And there it is.

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Oh, look at that. So, out of those...

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They're like little pepper pots, aren't they? They are, yeah.

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Out of that, lots and lots of seed. Wonderful.

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That's just what we do when we're plant hunting,

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and that goes into a paper bag and then back home.

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This is something that we collected in the Eastern Himalayas,

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and this is a kind of buckwheat.

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There's quite a lot to recommend it cos it flowers like this

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from some time in June, right through to the autumn.

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Beautiful background for this Eryngium, isn't it?

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But I don't think I've seen this one before.

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This is, um, Eryngium serbicum from Serbia,

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and we got that in an exchange.

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Botanic Gardens Worldwide

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have a wonderful, non-commercial seed exchange system.

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It's still going strong, it's a bit less than it used to be,

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because of something called the Biodiversity Convention.

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Since Michael first started plant-hunting,

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the laws on collecting from the wild

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to breed new plants have become much more stringent.

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He feels strongly that one aspect of the Biodiversity Convention,

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the current legislation that governs modern-day plant hunting,

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means that anyone starting out today

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simply wouldn't be able to develop a garden like this one.

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I just like the feeling of connectedness

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with the rest of the world... Yes. ..through plants.

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Because we are, aren't we? We are.

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You know, someone said that the world is an inhabited garden...

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Yes! ..which is a bit romantic, but I suppose you could see it that way.

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I bet you agree with that really! Deep down. Yes, yes.

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So, here's a plant I wanted to show you, Carol.

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This is Paris polyphylla, and there's a direct connection here with

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one of my great plant-hunting heroes, George Forrest. Yes.

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Because he collected the first plant of this in 1915,

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and then he brought it to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh,

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and this is a seedling of it.

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So, direct connection to 100 years ago, and George Forrest.

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And doesn't it look wonderful with this Rodgersia?

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Well, this is a Rodgersia that I collected in the Himalayas,

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perhaps not so far from where George Forrest was.

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CAROL GASPS

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And this is in fruit, actually. What a beautiful planting idea.

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Pure chance, pure chance. Like all the best combinations here.

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Yeah, but two great plant hunters in this one combination.

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One great plant hunter and...

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You're not great until you've died, remember. Of course.

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Please don't do that yet.

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Aspiring. All right. Not quite yet. MICHAEL CHUCKLES

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I love the way Michael puts plants together.

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It's a real inspiration to all gardeners.

0:21:420:21:46

But the point is that he really sort of exemplifies

0:21:460:21:50

that whole spirit of plant exploration,

0:21:500:21:53

bringing all these plants together

0:21:530:21:56

so that we can use them in our gardens.

0:21:560:21:59

SHEEP BLEATS

0:22:090:22:10

Now, I've been doing an informal trial

0:22:180:22:21

based upon an experience that I had last year

0:22:210:22:24

of seeing tomatoes growing in terracotta pots

0:22:240:22:27

with very little soil.

0:22:270:22:29

I had quite a lot of response, actually, from you,

0:22:290:22:32

because a number of you have also tried to grow

0:22:320:22:34

tomatoes in a terracotta pot half-filled with soil,

0:22:340:22:37

and, in general, the reaction has been surprise

0:22:370:22:41

and indeed delight, that they've grown so well.

0:22:410:22:44

But no-one has yet reported on how they taste.

0:22:440:22:47

Now, I've got two Gardener's Delight plants growing in a grow bag,

0:22:470:22:52

two growing in what I call normal-size plastic pots,

0:22:520:22:56

and then two growing in much smaller terracotta pots

0:22:560:22:59

which are half full of the same compost.

0:22:590:23:02

So, let's go for taste.

0:23:020:23:04

Now, obviously, this is subjective,

0:23:040:23:07

but I promise to report accurately and faithfully what I taste.

0:23:070:23:12

So, this is the grow bag.

0:23:120:23:15

And, by the way, you can see that these are large, healthy plants

0:23:150:23:18

with a really good crop.

0:23:180:23:20

It's a good tomato.

0:23:280:23:30

It's well-flavoured, round. The skin is quite tough.

0:23:300:23:34

Right, well, let's go on to the way that I often grow them,

0:23:360:23:39

which is a largish plastic pot.

0:23:450:23:48

Very similar. No better, no worse. No difference between the two.

0:23:570:24:01

Therefore you have to say that if you're measuring just these two,

0:24:010:24:05

the grow bag wins hands down,

0:24:050:24:07

because there's more of them, and the taste is just as good.

0:24:070:24:10

So, finally, we come to the terracotta pots,

0:24:100:24:12

which have got far fewer tomatoes.

0:24:120:24:14

I'm willing it on, I want it to be good.

0:24:160:24:19

And it is good.

0:24:250:24:26

But it's no better than the other two.

0:24:260:24:29

So, I have to say that that at this stage if the year,

0:24:290:24:32

and there's another month, at least, of tomato harvest ahead...

0:24:320:24:36

..the grow bag is winning hands-down.

0:24:370:24:40

Which is not the result I either expected or wanted,

0:24:410:24:44

but that's the truth.

0:24:440:24:45

The tomato trial is my subjective, rather unscientific look

0:24:460:24:51

at different methods of growing tomato plants in containers.

0:24:510:24:55

In my old greenhouse, I'm still growing my main crop,

0:24:550:24:58

planted directly into the ground.

0:24:580:25:01

There's much more fruit, and we've been eating them all summer.

0:25:010:25:04

And I can tell you, the taste...

0:25:040:25:06

..is better. It's fantastic.

0:25:080:25:10

You've got a little bit more acidity that adds a depth to the sweetness.

0:25:100:25:15

And there's more of a sort of growing aftertaste.

0:25:170:25:20

Now, I don't quite know why that is, but certainly, in my experience,

0:25:200:25:24

to get the best from tomatoes, grow them in soil, in a bed, undercover.

0:25:240:25:32

This is my asparagus bed.

0:25:450:25:48

And it's giving me causes for concern.

0:25:480:25:52

It's not doing terribly well.

0:25:520:25:54

I planted it a couple of years ago in April 2011.

0:25:540:25:59

I did lots of grit, dug the whole bed,

0:25:590:26:02

and then planted the asparagus in a grid system.

0:26:020:26:05

It really didn't establish very well.

0:26:050:26:07

We had a few spears this year, but nothing much.

0:26:070:26:11

And it's got nothing like the vigour that I would expect

0:26:110:26:14

from an asparagus bed that is in its third year.

0:26:140:26:18

Now, what I want to know is,

0:26:180:26:19

is this a result of the bad weather we've had,

0:26:190:26:22

or something that's going wrong?

0:26:220:26:25

So if any of you have been growing asparagus

0:26:250:26:27

and have got problems with it,

0:26:270:26:28

or even great success over the last couple of years,

0:26:280:26:31

I'd be really interested to hear.

0:26:310:26:33

Now, if you're not an asparagus grower,

0:26:330:26:35

there's still lots you can do in the garden.

0:26:350:26:37

And here are some jobs for you to be getting on with this weekend.

0:26:370:26:40

It's not uncommon for camellias, and rhododendrons and azaleas,

0:26:480:26:52

to drop unopened buds in spring, before flowering.

0:26:520:26:56

And that's because they're too dry,

0:26:560:26:59

so water them well now and for the next few months,

0:26:590:27:02

especially if they're in pots,

0:27:020:27:03

and then the buds will form properly

0:27:030:27:06

and should guarantee a good display next year.

0:27:060:27:08

Vine weevils can become a major problem for plants in pots.

0:27:120:27:16

But if you apply nematodes now, it can help get rid of them.

0:27:160:27:20

Adult vine weevils cause typical notches on leaves,

0:27:200:27:24

but the real damage is done by the larvae

0:27:240:27:27

that feed on the roots of the plants in autumn, winter and spring.

0:27:270:27:30

Follow the instructions on the packet to dilute the nematode mix.

0:27:310:27:35

Don't treat the plants with notched leaves,

0:27:370:27:40

but water the nematodes into all pots

0:27:400:27:43

where plants are living permanently,

0:27:430:27:45

as it is here that the eggs are laid.

0:27:450:27:48

As we come now to the end of August, the time

0:27:510:27:53

left for tomato plants to form and ripen new fruit is diminishing.

0:27:530:27:59

So, it's a good idea to "stop" them, or cut them off.

0:27:590:28:02

Use a knife or secateurs, and don't worry about losing some flowers,

0:28:030:28:06

or even a few fruit.

0:28:060:28:08

The result will be that the plant will focus its energy

0:28:100:28:14

into swelling and ripening the existing fruit.

0:28:140:28:17

There we are. Another job done.

0:28:210:28:23

And that's it for this week.

0:28:230:28:25

We'll be back next week here at Long Meadow, of course,

0:28:250:28:27

but have a really good bank holiday weekend, and I'll see you next week.

0:28:270:28:32

Bye-bye.

0:28:320:28:33

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:410:28:44

Monty Don serves up an extra big helping of timely jobs to keep gardeners busy over the Bank Holiday weekend. He also makes a start on cutting his hedges, with plenty of advice on how to go about it and the right tools to use for the job.

Carol Klein steps back in time when she visits an 18th century walled garden in the Scottish Borders. It belongs to Michael Wickenden who has turned it into a very special home for his enormous collection of rare and unusual plants gathered from across the globe.

There is also a visit to a couple of allotmenteers in London who have turned their plot into a paradise. Fruit and veg aside, it's become the home to their absolute obsession for roses.

Back at Longmeadow, thrift is the order of the day when Monty shows how to take cuttings from his newly acquired penstemons.


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