Gardening, the Big Sky and our clever acrostic crossword
It is around this time of year I am advising how to prolong the growing season, particularly of flowers. Fruit and vegetables will be ripening and a few quick crops can still be planted.
This is also the time that seeds can be gathered for next year. Allow a few beans and peas to mature on the plant being careful not to leave too many on each plant as they may stop producing any more. This can also be done very successfully with chillies, chives, tomatoes and perhaps a courgette. They may not grow true to variety but it is always fun experimenting! Flower seeds are also worth harvesting; sweet peas, any annual flowers, especially pansies, nigella, nemesia, poppies, even geraniums, will all grow easily from home grown seeds and don’t forget to gather some herbs for drying to use in the winter before they finish.
Feeding is essential now since any commercial compost will be becoming exhausted. On the boat I try to be especially environmentally aware and so I have started to make my own plant feed. There are a number of plants that grow wild in the hedgerow which can be used to make a great natural organic feed including comfrey and nettles. Both of these make an excellent (and free) feed suitable for both flowers and vegetables. Comfrey water is a great all round and balanced feed whilst nettles have a higher nitrogen content which would be especially good for tomatoes.
To make your own plant food, definitely using gloves, pick the mature leaves from either comfrey or nettle plants, chop them up and put them in a bucket with a lid, cover with rain or river water, put something heavy such as a stone or brick on top to keep them submerged, pop on the lid and leave to rot down for two – three weeks. You will be left with a rather ‘fragrant’ brown liquid which can be bottled for easy storage. Dilute this 1 – 10 with water and voila! Free organic plant food.
To squeeze a few more flowers from your plants deadheading is essential and a bit of gentle pruning should encourage a bit of re growth. Watch out for dead and decaying leaves close to the soil as this will become a breeding ground for grey mould and rot your plants at their base.
But summer is not quite over and plenty of boats are still enjoying a cruise here and there so it is still well worth keeping everything growing for as long as possible. The evenings might be drawing in a little but pleasure of seeing all the brightly coloured boat gardens makes the little bit of effort required all the more worthwhile.