Saturday, 26 October 2013

Autumn is here – and with it a Catalogue Trawl

I've spent more time in the garden recently than I have all summer
I’m now back from my travels and busy in the garden whenever I can, taking advantage of the warm weather despite blustery showers. And with impending gale force winds over the next few days, I’ve been checking structures to ensure they aren’t uprooted and sent bowling down the garden or over the neighbour’s fence. The willow wigwam that had supported my honeysuckle had finally disintegrated – it was a question of pruning, and supporting temporarily with iron stakes.

These grapes for wine making have colonised our holly tree
Apples have been gathered in, or left in heaps for visiting fieldfares if the weather turns really cold, and if I don’t take steps down to the farm hedgerow, I will not be able to enjoy the fattest quince I have ever grown. It will scent the living room for weeks to come; a fruit that is reminiscent of times past. Then there’s a magnificent crop of grapes this year. Most of our vines were grubbed out this spring as the varieties I had selected years ago are not suited to our high location in the north Cotswolds, but one has really come into its own. We can either make grape juice, or wine, or leave the fruit for wild-life that is now sadly lacking from our garden as the surrounding properties become ever more suburbanised.

Knowing it would be wet whilst we were away last week in Shropshire, I took with me a copy of the latest Dobies catalogue and spent some happy hours trawling through its 114 pages. It covers Flower and Vegetable Seeds for 2014 – and a whole lot more – and is subtitled “A-Z Flower and Vegetable Seeds, Fruit, Flower Plants & Garden Equipment”. And you have to remember that Dobies seed prices show a massive saving over other major seed suppliers as the packets do not have to carry the costs of printing pretty pictures. Flower seeds are up to 42% cheaper, and you will save up to 49% on vegetable seeds – based on 2013 prices.

Before I guide you through some aspects of the catalogue, meet Dobies’ Vegetable Specialist, Peter Moreton. He is part of the team working for you, developing a range of seeds and plants which involves selections from field trials, testing of seeds for purity and germination, plus planning and quality checking plant production. A huge team effort.

Just to give you an idea - read in conjunction with the catalogue
Particularly useful are two charts provided to help you get the most from your vegetable plot. The first will assist you in planning cropping rotation – not just vegetable groupings but advice on fertilising, and growing veg all year round without shortage or gluts.

Again, this is best read alongside the Dobies 2014 catalogue
For which the seasonal Vegetable Growing Chart will be invaluable, for it tells you when to sow or transplant, harvesting times and distances between plants and rows. These charts are followed by six new ‘harvest selections’ – seed varieties that mean you can be harvesting something every month of the year.

'Hunter' Butternut Squash - tasty right now
Looking through what I might have been harvesting now, I wish I had thought to plant some Butternut Squash, for we have family joining us for lunch tomorrow and I know they love my dish of mixed vegetables roasted in olive oil. I have potatoes and parsnips but the lovely soft orangey flesh of  ‘Hunter’ would really appeal to the youngsters, as well as us adults!

Makes my mouth water - and my tree is flourishing
And thinking ‘orange’ made me think of oranges and lemons! I am so pleased with my large potted lemon – still in flower and with an increasing number of baby fruit – that I have also acquired an orange tree. It’s catalogued (ref 231365) as a strong-growing variety which produces a compact, round-shaped tree that will bear large fruits of a delicious flavour. A superb plant arrived, complete with protective shroud for the winter months – all I really need now is for my husband to complete the covered porch. Or else I need to clear over-wintering space in the greenhouse. Weekly feeding throughout the year is advised and Dobies also offer a summer and winter citrus feed (ref 581868 & 581874).

Really useful on the potting bench
Now that I can plan my 2014 productive garden with ease, I turned my attention to the equipment section of the catalogue. Always fascinating, I selected three items that will prove particularly useful. The first is a ‘2-in-1 Sieve’ measuring 35x35x12.5cm (or 14x14x5” in proper measurements!) with two interchangeable and tough woven wire screens – with 6mm and 12mm square holes. Perfect in the potting shed or greenhouse if, like me, you like to mix your own compost according to whether you are sowing seed or potting on. (Ref: 578750).

These are really rather special, and perfect for use on the kitchen windowsill
With the ever-increasing cost of supermarket winter salads that shrivel the moment you open the bag, I am determined this year to sow and grow my own on the kitchen windowsill. So I was pleased to find that the ‘Seed Trays & Propagator Lids’ now have strengthened rims for extra rigidity and improved 2-tier drainage. The lids are available separately if you don’t need both, or at a reduced rate when bought with trays if you do. Four sizes of trays are available, so depending on space, and sill width, you should be able to have a a continual supply of fresh salad snippings. A suitable variety for growing throughout the winter on a windowsill is ‘Winter Mix’ (ref  436589) which looks quite delicious.

So tasty ...
Of course, you will no doubt have other winter veg and may like to benefit from recipes devised by Dobies Food Ambassadeur, Simon Hulstone (Michelin Star award-winning chef of ‘The Elephant’ restaurant in Torquay). I particularly like the sound of his ‘Savoy Cabbage with Smoked Duck and Cumin’ (you will also need a couple of shallots and a clove of garlic. And if it isn’t sacrilegious to say so, I grow extra perpetual spinach and winter cabbage to feed my hens. Green vegetables help to keep them healthy when the grass in the orchard is inaccessible. Include these green-leaved veg into your cropping plan if you keep poultry. Additionally, I grow chard and sorrel, and in the summer the hens also enjoy the tops of harvested beetroot.

Re-purposing
I’ve left until last a job for winter evenings: recycling old newspapers into seed containers using an ‘Eco Pot Maker’ – a nifty device from which you can make a limitless supply of sturdy but biodegradable pots for all your seeds, seedlings and young plants. It’s so easy to use and is supplied in three sizes – diameters of 3cm, 4.75cm & 6cm (1.25in, 2in & 2.5in). Perfect when you want to raise a few seedlings at a time in succession, from a pinch of seed. Equally good for flower seeds of course, and I’ll be returning to a catalogue-trawl of flowers next time.

A surprise and an honour
Finally, a little personal trumpet blowing. I reached the finals of the 2013 RHS Garden Blog Competition with my post ‘Falling in Love’ on one of my personal blogs (a condition of entry). Anything I have written for Dobies would not qualify, so I wrote my own gardening story (well a bit of it) and hope you enjoy reading it. Please click here if you would like to do so. And if you were one of the people who kindly voted for me, thankyou so much.

Don't forget to  visit the Dobies' website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don't forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don't miss anything special. 

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