Gardening magazine. Jim and Carole begin their tomato trials, while Brian Cunningham is back at Beechgrove continuing with the next phase of development for the alpine garden.
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Well, now, what do you make of this weather?
We almost had to have volunteers to get in the greenhouse today.
Welcome to Beechgrove, on a beautiful day,
and we're thinking about bedding plants, or baskets.
Yes, we're getting ahead of the game,
because I think it's really important we don't put these out
until, say the end of May, beginning of June,
presumably it's the same with you at Scone.
Oh, yeah, without a doubt.
-You know, just because of the frost, so...
-So, what's this then?
OK, well, I did feature this a few years ago, now this
has been potted on, but it came as a jumbo plug,
three plants in one plug.
Three for the price of one.
Yeah, but, you know, this is easy, easy gardening,
because all you've got to do is plunge that.
-I mean, if you wanted to, when the plug came, you could have put it straight into the basket.
Would some people be tempted to separate them, thinking that...?
Well, they maybe would, but don't.
Just leave it like that. Because look how these are settling in.
So what have you got in there then?
Well, we've got a lobelia, a bidens,
which has lovely yellow, daisy-like flowers.
And we've got a white babina as well.
-And I've got the same selection...
-In this basket here.
-..in individual plants.
-Yes, and Brian?
I am trying a couple of new things.
-I thought a petunia, Queen of Hearts...
-Mm-hmm, sounds promising.
And a minitunia, Strawberry Star.
Don't believe it. Don't believe it, that's awful. LAUGHTER
And of course, in the rest of the programme, it's Tomato Day.
You can see them all laid out behind there.
And I've been down to Motherwell to visit two inspirational schools
who use practical gardening as the root of their learning.
Today I'm in Banchory on Royal Deeside,
just on the outskirts of the town,
and I've come to visit Sheila Harper.
Now, Sheila recently moved to a garden here, small garden,
inherited two wonderful old apple trees, but they're overgrown
and she doesn't quite know what to do with them.
So when did you move here, Sheila?
-I moved here a year-and-a-half ago.
-Had a garden before?
-But this has been the biggest one.
These are fabulous little cottages, aren't they?
I know, in the 1800s, they were poorhouses.
Wonderful old apple trees.
They've been here almost since day one.
70, 80, 90-year-old maybe.
I mean, they're pretty old trees.
And they look as though they've been trained along
a fence or something like that. Was there a fence here?
Yeah, I do believe there was a fence and they were trained against it, and then the fence was lifted.
They've been trained as espalier trees, where they've had one chute
going out and then the other chutes go up from that.
-And the idea there is that you spur-prune them.
You prune them quite hard,
containing the growth around this one chute.
They're doing something else now. They're almost like combs when you see them, aren't they?
-The way they...
-..the way they're sticking up in the air.
What happens when an apple tree grows like that is
all the apples are at the top.
-You've recently had a hip operation,
you can't go up steps to pick apples, can you?
So what we should do really is to reduce the height of them but
we don't want to destroy the shape.
-I've brought Calum with me.
We will do the cutting and trimming, you're the supervisor, OK?
-I don't want too much taken off as in right down to the bottom.
-I can trust you?
-Have you seen me doing pruning?
So the idea is we're thinning out some of these spur growths
that are here. They're going in all sorts of directions.
Lots of twisted growth and the idea is to prune out some of
what's there to give the tree a chance to breathe.
We'll let air in roundabout and that helps it to grow better,
helps the shoots to develop better.
And then we'll get the structure back.
It looks quite drastic when you stand back and look at it but
the structure is still there and that will grow and develop.
We'll possibly get a lot of shoots from the top where we've just
These will have to be pruned back and what we do is we prune
these back to one or two buds and then we start to build up the
whole structure again.
And in another 20 years we'll have to do the same thing again.
I'll clean my glasses so I can see what you're doing.
Can't put them back up, can you?
Here's the boss. Here's the boss. Watch what you're doing.
-What have you done?
-Let me show you what's going to happen.
If you can imagine...
..that this shoot has been cut, that's the
big cut we've made on the top.
There's the growth which we're going to get.
That's what's going to happen by next year,
that's the strong growth which we'll have from that tree.
So you're going to get growth like that from just below those
What you get is lots of dormant buds which are in this area
down here and these produce shoots and then they grow away.
-What you've got to do then is select out the bit that you want.
What you're selecting out is that shoot there,
that's the one you want to be the leader.
And then you would prune it back there.
Where you prune it is half or two thirds of the way up.
So you're taking off half or one third of the shoot.
What you're trying to do is produce that where what you've got is
the young shoot at the top which has not got any flowers in it,
that's vegetative growth.
And then you're got the flower buds further down.
And these then slow down the growth because that's into fruit
production, it doesn't have time to do vegetative production
so the whole thing slows down.
-So eventually this tree will settle down again.
But in this next year, year and a half, that thing is going to
motor on because all of a sudden it's been released.
Lots of energy, lots of new growth which it's going to make
so it will make long shoots.
-And then we'll have to think about how we prune it.
It's about managing the shape. And we've kept the shape.
-It does look a bit drastic.
-It's a bit drastic.
The shape is still there of the original.
-And all we've done is renewed it.
-Trust me, I'm a gardener.
-This tree has had a major operation.
So what we need to do is keep it well fed.
-Something like fish blood and bone.
Sprinkle that round the base. OK, perfect. That's it, OK?
OK, that's perfect.
Keep it well-watered and the thing will recover.
-Honestly, I'm telling you.
-So that's your work done here, is it?
-That's my work done now.
I'm glad you're going.
As we start the tomato season each year I'm very conscious of
the fact that we're joined by many more who might be growing for
the very first time under glass and so first of all start off
with some cracking good plants.
But let's get back to basics cos I'll run through the system
we use here.
We use, basically, grow bags or augmented grow bags or we use
grow bag compost for filling pots and other containers.
In other words, all the plants are being grown in the same medium,
which helps when you start to look at differences and so on.
Going back to basics, grow bag, my problem with them is they get
flatter and flatter and flatter because of the shape of them.
And you've seen us try different things over the years but basically
when you buy them,
actually warm them up in the greenhouse before you plant
and give them a real banging about before you open them up like
you were doing a bolster.
And then three plants to the bag.
But I don't quite like that so the first move you might consider
is to use one of these.
A ring on the top of the bag.
You'll see it's perforated there so you cut
a hole in the bag and you plonk this down inside.
It's filled with soil and you notice the holes round the side here,
that's for irrigation purposes.
And there you have it in position
with the plants there and the important thing is that
you've doubled the depth of soil because it's all about the
drainage of moisture through the compost as the season progresses.
Basically, grow bag, it gets very flattened,
very compacted and plant roots die.
So you've got to get them off to a good start and give them
a bit more space.
Here we have the young plant taken out of the pot into compost
and as I say, you've added about 15 centimetres of extra compost.
And while we're talking about the compost, it's expensive stuff.
And what we discovered was from one grow bag worth of compost you can
fill 3.5 of these big pots and that is
a far better way of growing in my estimation.
So we've got the examples of a gradation here like that
across with a variety of varieties, as well.
If you'll pardon the pun.
Over on the other side we've got two automatic systems.
That's the one I use at home, fed from a reservoir,
the green tank there, through the microhoses.
Then this new one came in a couple of years ago and you can see
one set up, ready to go.
There is the tray itself which has a reservoir.
The spiky bits there with the strips so when you plonk the
bag down on top it cuts through and they can draw the moisture out
So all things being equal these systems are less troublesome,
especially if you're going away for a weekend.
Your plants will be well looked after.
As far as varieties are concerned the normal tomato variety
that you would buy, we call it a bilocular, it's two bits.
Shirley is the standard variety I've used for a lot of years
so we use others to compare with Shirley.
One of the new ones we discovered a couple years ago is Rosella
which is a smaller variety, doesn't look very good.
I like that because people are not inclined to nick it.
But when you put it in your mouth it explodes with flavour.
So we've got others to compare with Rosella so the starting pistol
has gone, it's ready to go.
From time to time through the season we'll check on progress.
I have to say, Jim, the plants are looking really healthy at the moment
but I want to get a little bit of fresh air because I'm going
into the polytunnel as well and I think it's going to be rather warm.
And first of all it's more tomatoes,
starting off with a very popular variety, it's Sungold.
I grew it last year because it is meant to be one of the
best ones for flavour.
And that's what we found last year,
we were comparing it with a small cherry red tomato.
This year I found another one that is the same colour and it's
called Golden Cherry.
A Japanese-bred variety, it is said to out-yield, out-flavour and
it doesn't seem to crack either so it will be interesting to see.
When it comes to the planting I have used these bags, the same bags,
for several years.
So they have worn really well.
Lots of compost in them so Jim was talking about using the grow bag,
this is a bit more expensive and I think, with the space here,
what we might do is add in a few salad crops or a few herbs.
When it comes to the planting itself, put the strings in and then
what you do is take this out of the pot, again, lovely, healthy plants.
And the string goes underneath the root system.
And as the root starts to grow, that holds in the string.
And then right next door to it, I plunge one of these pots
and that's what we water through.
I think that's particularly important when you're growing
cucumbers because they can rot at the neck if you get water
But it works well with tomatoes, as well.
So apart from those two varieties of tomatoes I've also got another one.
One I've never grown before, it's called Indigo Pear Drops.
They look like little pears and the claim to fame with these ones
is that on one plant you can get from 600-1,000 fruit.
So we'll have to do a little bit of counting there.
Onto the cucumbers, I've got three varieties.
This one is called Delistar.
Quite a few people suffer with indigestion if they eat
cucumbers so this is the one you might like to grow,
small cucumbers and the skin is almost translucent.
So you don't need to peel it and the other two varieties,
both female varieties so you don't have to pick off those male flowers.
We've got Bangkok which is a ribbed variety.
And we've also got another one called Swing which is
a nice smooth variety so we'll have that comparison when we have
the taste test with those as well.
And finally over this side we're growing a couple of squashes.
And the system that we'll do with these,
because they are climbers or trailing plants,
we will put up a net.
We did that last year and it worked really well.
Varieties Pink Banana and we've also got Sunshine and I think George
might have his eye on this one for salads because I think you
can grate it raw as well as cooking it.
Since we were last here the gardeners have been putting some
stepping stones through the Heather Garden and they lead us into
the Secret Garden.
There's a bit of deja vu for Calum,
a year ago we were working together to revamp the Alpine Garden.
And now Calum's continuing the wall,
going to take it up and round and then in a couple of weeks' time
myself and George will be back and we're going to plant up
this area and marry the two zones together.
But at this time of year we're certainly at peak flowering time
for the Alpine Garden.
It's only a year old but look at the colour.
Over on the woodland side we've got meconopsis and anemones.
In the middle we've got our pulsatilla. This one here...
A cracking colour.
But down here the oxalis, they're really happy.
But not as good as up in the wall in amongst the cracks and crevices.
Look at that, that's only a year and already it's starting to run
and follow the cracks.
We've also been looking at a few containers today, as well.
Just to make it a wee bit different.
We've taken the plants out of the specialised areas into more
So what we've got here, nice bit of advertising.
We've got it planted up with a lovely buttercup.
You may recognise this cuckoo flower from the side of the road,
growing amongst the grass.
And in front of it, on its own, we've got a nice little sempervivum.
This one's the cobweb houseleek, bit of a mouthful.
It looks nice when it's in its own little pot.
What you can see is they're both topped with gravel
so the principles are exactly the same, helps conserve the moisture.
we've got a nice, little table decoration which I saw in
a magazine and I was quite keen to try it myself.
With all these containers we've used the same potted medium which
is 50/50 John Innes and grit.
It's going to give it plenty of drainage.
And for here we've put a wee pot inside a bigger pot.
We've then got our compost, put it around.
If you go to the garden centres, you can be quite lucky
and you'll get a plant like this
so you're maybe paying for that one but you're going to get
all these ones for free.
So the mother plant, we've popped that one in the centre.
And then all you have to do is take off these rosettes,
give them a wee tidy.
Just pinch off that tail.
And then that...
should go quite nicely into the compost.
Looks nice as part of the decoration but also that's going to root
and you're going to get a whole load of new plants.
So you're making them work for their money.
You've got a nice decoration and you're getting more plants.
And then finally we've got this bit of bric-a-brac.
This is a lovely, cracked, old chimney pot.
We've managed to work it into the area and then we've just used
it to plant up around it.
So we've got the purple foliage of this ajuga.
We've got Lemon Fizz Santolina which is absolutely gorgeous and again
we're using these sempervivums.
I think it's the foliage as much as anything.
And to top it off we've got a pulsatilla.
So we'll have the purple flowers but then afterwards you can see
the seed head forming and that's going to look just beautiful.
Last year, as part of the Beechgrove programme, I did
a series of visits relating to how to grow a gardener.
I want to know how young people get enthralled with the subject,
how they go on to work on it and we're going to carry on this year.
We've travelled all the way down from Aberdeen to Motherwell
to Firpark Secondary School because it
has got a very particular role to play.
To find out more of what it's all about I've come to speak to
head teacher John Morley.
Four years ago, Jim, we introduced horticulture here.
That started with a polytunnel and some raised beds in the
polytunnel and it grew from there.
Very quickly we had some of our senior phase pupils building
their own raised beds and then we bought in 20 tonnes of green compost
which the pupils hand-barrowed into these beds.
So real commitment from the kids straight away.
The kids here have all got learning difficulties
but we focus on what they CAN do.
-A very positive attitude.
-It's a very positive attitude.
There's no pressure on them. They work through at their own pace.
There's nobody demanding that something has to be done at
a pace or rate. It's as they can cope with it.
And they see a result at the end of the day,
they've got a very clear product, what they're achieved and how
wonderful is it to have planted something and nurtured it and
watched it grow?
I know you stopped it there but if you look underneath there
it's still bone dry.
Remember there's no rain in here so it's up to us to keep it moist,
ready for planting.
Now then, Pat, the job's looking quite good.
-What are you putting on now?
-I'm putting on chicken pellets.
It gives the nutrients to the plants so they grow better.
-Do you like kale?
Have you ever tasted it?
-How do you know you don't like it then?
-Because of the smell of it.
-What's your favourite vegetable then?
-No? Are you sure?
-Any kind of potatoes?
-I quite like the standard one.
-I like, what is it, the King Georges?
You were nearly right.
The first time you come to cultivate it you'll be pushing these into
the soil and watering them will also take the food down into the plants.
-So I tell you want, you'll want to eat these when they get big.
Keep up the good work cos if you stick to being a gardener
you'll be a success all your days.
See you later.
So you enjoy growing tomatoes, then? Is that the story?
-They're one of the more fun types of plants to grow.
Do you enjoy eating them?
I do enjoy eating them but I would prefer to sell them
so I could get money from it but they don't exactly allow that.
All right, so there's a bit of a financial incentive here.
-Supermarkets and all that. Beat them out.
-That's the stuff.
So you're not fond of the supermarkets?
They're good for most things but not for the fruit and veg.
You can easily grow your own for free, essentially.
Better than the prices that they give it.
Every week the Firpark pupils link up with Bothwell Park High School
whose sensory garden helps motivate the pupils.
Most of whom have more complex support needs.
This cooperative gardening project has been
a real boon according to head teacher Maria Neill.
The young folks behind us,
some of them would not like to be in the outdoors,
wouldn't like to be exercising but this does it in a real situation.
-They're learning in real contexts.
So a young person is maybe sitting in the classroom,
working in that classroom environment.
As soon as they come out into an environment like this they
can open up, it just opens up all the senses and all our young
-people learn very much through their senses.
Giving them those different experiences helps them to
find their way, helps them to find what it is they like.
So where they might be quite class-based,
-when they come out here they're physical, they're active.
-It's all about the health and wellbeing.
-It really is.
I'm going to find an Oatridge man to see where he fits into it.
He's wonderful. He really has made a difference for our young people.
Brian Miller from the Oatridge campus of Scotland's Rural College
supports children throughout North Lanarkshire,
tailoring the training to suit the children's individual abilities.
We're just going to weave it in and out.
We'll slowly do this over the next couple of years.
And hopefully it will be all covered by leaves and shoots.
-Now then, Brian, are you happy with progress?
-It's looking good.
It's brilliant and the young folk have actually taken to that
-They got it up just before the Easter holidays.
And it's just odd shoots that's coming out but it's slowly
-It's going nicely.
The kids are playing in it when they do get in here.
We've been working with them on some bespoke courses and skills
for work programmes and what we have produced over maybe the last
ten years working with
North Lanarkshire has been tremendous.
What's your own garden like at home?
Quite a big garden, I've got 1.5 acres but my wife does it all, Jim.
She'll to 90% of it. I look after the raised beds with the veg.
-You're doing a brilliant job with these guys.
-OK, no problem.
Long may you stay at it.
Wow, you're doing a good job.
Well, everywhere I look I'm surrounded by young gardeners.
Meanwhile, back at Firpark, the lunchtime gardening club is
in full swing.
-Now then, Andrew, how are you doing?
-I'm happy the now.
-You're enjoying your gardening, aren't you?
This is what we call hoeing up the potatoes.
Take the stuff away from the edge and throw it up. Like that.
That will cover up the wee potatoes that are starting to grow.
You've got a better tool for the job. Turn it around backwards.
That's it. And flick it away from the edge.
That's the stuff. Have you taken to gardening at home as well?
Yes, I like gardening with my mum. I like to plant more plants.
What's your favourite?
My favourite was the...
-Oh, the gladioli.
-The bulbs and the big long spikes.
-Gorgeous colours, aren't they?
-Yeah, I like the pinks and the purples.
Aye. What would you like to do?
Would you like to have a greenhouse in the future?
Yeah, I'm thinking to get a greenhouse and plant loads of
That's good stuff.
We should be talking and working at the same time or the boss
will be after us.
Well, here endeth the first lesson at Firpark School.
It's been absolutely tremendous. Everybody's so helpful.
Everybody's in such good humour.
The youngsters are enjoying what they're doing.
You can tell they're willing to do it and you know,
every one of them is going to discover something in
themselves they didn't think they could do
and they'll surprise the adults.
I tell you, if you think that's all, you'll have to join us next week.
The taste buds will be tested.
Here we have the classic woodland combination,
in front of us an epimedium where the flowers look like bishops' hats.
And I'm surrounded by erythroniums. This is a gorgeous yellow one.
What I like about this white one is
the lovely marble effect in the foliage.
And further up this woodland garden we have some more woodland
gems starting off with the omphalodes.
Perfectly happy in the shade and fairly dry there as well.
Then you really have to look for this one...
Three petals, three leaves. A gorgeous specimen.
And finally a plant that's really happy here because it's spreading...
Plants are a bit like people, they keep changing their mind.
One part of the year,
dull weather, the plants want all the light they can get.
And then you get a few sunny days like this and it's too much.
The best way to deal with that is with shading which is removable
when it's not necessary.
We use this netting on the 8x6, works a treat.
If tomorrow's wet and miserable roll it up out of the way.
It's versatile, that's the good thing about it.
This is one of my favourite jobs, planting all of the
sweet peas because it has to be my number one cut flower.
But before we talk a little more about them I just want to go
back and have a look at the verbena.
It was said to be hearty down to -10 so we left some of the stock
plants in the bed but look - there's just nothing.
I thought I'd leave them for a wee while. They're totally dead.
But we had the insurance policy of keeping
a stock plant over winter in the greenhouse.
These are the rooted cuttings. They rooted in five weeks.
So it just shows you, you need to be a bit careful with these
-Brian, sweet peas, do you like them?
-I do love them.
These ones did well last year.
They've got good roots to give them a good start but...
you reckoned it was this fertilizer we had last year.
I think it helped.
It is a specialist fertilizer for sweet peas and I think it gave
it a good start and we got lots and lots of blooms.
They were good.
Fingers crossed they do well but, Jim, you're on the chrysanths?
Yes, indeed. Chrysanths and dahlias we talk about at the same time.
The chrysanths are hardened off,
ready to go in now but the dahlias are only half-hardy,
it will be the end of the month before they go in, that's for sure.
I tell you the other thing, this ground is quite dry.
Once these plants have been put in they'll need a real good soak.
They will, won't they?
And if you'd like any more information about this week's
programme it's all in the fact sheet
and the easiest way to access
that is online.
Jim, what are you doing next week?
For me it's back to chapter two of the Motherwell story and I
Until then... ALL: Goodbye.
In the Beechgrove Garden, it's tomato time as Jim and Carole both start off their own tomato trials. Brian Cunningham is back at Beechgrove and he continues with the next phase of development for the alpine garden. George packs his loppers and cuts a dash to see Sheila Harper in Banchory. Sheila's garden boasts two old, unruly apple trees which George brings back down to earth.
Jim is visiting the inspirational Firpark School in Motherwell and finds that horticulture is at the very root of the school's success. Firpark has 150 pupils with a range of additional support needs, and pupils learn to take produce from fork to fork and from garden to bistro.