Pelargoniums are native to South Africa; they were brought to Britain by sailors who made extra money selling them to plant collectors. In the 1700`s the botanists renamed them Pelargoniums from the Greek for Storks Bill. Unlike our native hardy Geranium / Cranesbill, the tender Pelargonium are not frost hardy and require cover in winter.
Brian then demonstrated how to take and strike cuttings:
· First use fresh moist compost to which sharp sand, perlite or vermiculite is added 3 parts to 1 part, then add a slow-release fertilizer
· The best time of year to start taking cuttings is July, August and September they will root in about 10 days, there is no need to use hormone rooting powder,
· Cut the stem below a leaf node, using a sterilized scalpel
· Strips off the lower leaves – just the top 2 remaining with the growing shoot.
· waters from the bottom so the compost uses capillary action to take up water.
· Once the cuttings have roots, pot them on into a 3.5-inch pot first until better established then 4.5 inch pot, don`t stand these pots in water for longer than 5 minutes or the compost gets too soggy, Pelargoniums don`t like to have their roots wet.
· To make the new plants bushy, nip out the growing tip – this will make the plant grow from each axil on the stem.
· To get his plants to show quality standard feed them regularly with various Chempak products – Nitrogen for green soft growth, Potash which encourages flowers and ripens stems and later on a fully balanced feed.
· Pelargoniums like light, however, can succumb to pests such as greenfly and whitefly, you can uses Rose Clear as a spot treatment as it is systemic.
Brian will be taking his best plants to the Pelargonium & Geranium Show at RHS Rosemoor over the weekend of 17th /18thJune.
CLIFF CURD – TIPS ON GROWING GREAT VEGETABLES
Cliff is a longstanding valued member of Dawlish Garden Society. He has previously shared his hints and tips on growing fruit of all varieties on his plot at Middlewood, Cofton.
The north facing steep sloping garden which Cliff and his wife Chris came to 17 years ago, need improvement. He improved the soil with homemade compost and organic matter. He now has 6 compost heaps, a wormery, chickens who provide manure – it`s hard work but definitely pays dividends as the couple are as self-sufficient as possible. The plot gets no sun at all for 6-8 weeks during the year but it`s still amazing what you can grow.
Cliff then went to share his top tips for what works for him time after time.
· Carrot root fly is a perennial problem to veg growers, but Cliff finds that if you grow them in pots above their flying zone and try not to disturb the foliage as the scent attracts the fly, the carrots survive to full term. A good variety for pots is Early Nantes, a large variety for the ground is Autumn King but try not to disturb the ground for best results.
· Parsnips take a long time to germinate but will reward long roots with patience and make great chips when peeled and cooked.
· Beetroot is an easy crop to grow, as seed can go straight into the ground, thinning out seedlings as micro greens. Boltardy is a reliable variety with a good flavour and good for the freezer. It makes excellent crisps when sliced very thinly.
· Celeriac seeds are like dust – sow into pots of compost not into the ground. These seeds take about 6-8 weeks to germinate, when harvested they also make delicious chips and marry well with Parsnips.
· Leaving his bean poles in the same place for years hasn`t compromised his crops. With other vegetables he practises a rotation but finds no need with beans, if it`s a dry summer however they need plenty of water. If the plants are affected by blackfly, hose the flies off, cut back, take off dead leaves and hope for a second crop. Cliff grows French Bean Cobra up a wigwam.
· When sowing Broad Beans in pots, just have the compost slightly damp but not wet as they don`t like to be cold and wet – they may rot before germinating. Again, if blackfly attack, pinch out the growing tip by about 4 inches, Be alert to any infestation and destroy any ants nests nearby as they distribute the blackfly.
· Moving on to more unusual vegetables, Cliff grows Yakon - originally from Soth America this root is sweet, contains Inulin and is used as a calorie free sweetener.
· Sweet Potato grows rampantly so pinch out the growing tips to encourage the roots below ground to swell.
· Okra looks like our native Oxalis in leaf – the roots have a nutty flavour and look like a knobbly salad potato.
Cliff had much more to share with us, so we will invite him back to continue to share his expertise accompanied with topical photos of the produce from his amazing garden.
Becca started her talk with a quote from Rachel Carson 1962 and then controversial book Silent Spring “In nature nothing exists alone”, looking at the effect the use of chemicals has on all life.
In the 1980`s American Ecologist Barry Commoner stated the 4 Laws of Ecology:
1) Everything is connected to everything else
2) Everything must go somewhere
3) Nature knows best
4) There`s no such thing as a free lunch
Becca then went on to explain that the garden is an ecosystem, the more complex the ecosystem the more successfully it can resist stress, such as a period of drought we experienced earlier this year.
· We can create that diversity by choosing plants to attract pollinators. Lilac and purple flowers are particularly attractive to bees, so plant Borage, Lungwort, Verbena and Lavender.
· Ivy, Sedum and Sunflowers add nectar and seeds for birds at the end of the season too.
· Helpful predatory insects prefer umbellifers such as Fennel, Yarrow and any flowers in the Daisy family such as Asters.
· Low growing plants are a haven and provide cover for Ground Beetles e.g., Stonecrop, Creeping Thyme, Sweet Alyssum and Woodruff.
· The Native Americans had a system of growing their staple crops very successfully, called 3 Sisters, planting Maize, which grows tall with Beans that intertwined and Squash on the ground their large leaves preserving the moisture in the earth.
· It has been proven that Companion Planting helps to confuse pests, so crops grow better. For instance, grow Sage to deter flea beetle, grow Marigold to deter whitefly and grow Garlic Chives to deter carrot fly. All these plants have a strong fragrance, or hairy leaf.
· You can also use some plants to lure pests away from your prize crops – Nasturtium and French Marigold attract fly, whereas Chervil and Comfrey attract Slugs and Snails. This method is called Trap Cropping.
· As more knowledge is gained about plants and their biochemical make up, we were informed that Rye Grass is good planted with Cabbages, Phacelia is a magnet for insects and is a nitrogen store and Dandelion`s long tap root brings up nutrients from below to the upper layer of soil so other plants can use it. Fascinating stuff. There is a lot of research into this, especially with commercial farming in mind.
She concluded her talk with a piece about the value of composting green waste, making your own fertilizer from Seaweed or Comfrey and adding all that organic matter to the soil. In winter keep the soil covered with cardboard, compost or a green manure. She told us about the “No Dig” movement as beneficial fungi and mycorrhiza present in the soil improves nutrient efficiency, increases water absorption and root growth.
The message of her talk was - avoid using pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, encourage natural predators - “The Garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet Nature halfway”.