Gardening and allotments with Pat Duke:
Refreshing the garden borders has taken up much of this week after my wife decided she’s taken a liking to alliums and expressed disappointment that I can’t just magically ‘stick them in’.
In a way you can just stick them in at this time of year, but not in their full beauty which occurs from May to July.
Alliums are overflowing from garden centres at the moment with multiple varieties like ‘Purple sensation’, ‘Purple Rain’ or the absolute leviathan that is ‘Globemaster’, for which you might need a wheelbarrow to get it out of the nursery.
They are worth investing in as they come back every year and will even multiply (not like crocosmia!) over a few years.
Plant them twice the depth of the bulb, as understandably, size varies and three times the width apart.
It really makes a cottage garden complete to have these tall, striking firework heads poking up between the perennials.
Their flowering period lasts well and they are hardy and tolerant of cold and heat as I found out this summer.
They even do better if left well alone, for example, removing leaves or bulbs can weaken the plant.
They look good even when they’ve gone over and then the birds descent on them before actioning a vertical take off.
Put some in a terracotta pot as part of a horticultural ‘bulb lasagne’, layering them with crocuses and daffodils in compost, then you can just leave them outside to flower at will next spring and for several years in the future.
Gardening at its most straightforward and time effective for the laziest/sensible of gardeners.
It’s also time for dragging out dead grass and leaves from ornamentals and perennials.
Not doing this creates an environment for pests and bacteria to thrive and next season might not be so productive as a result.
Start to think about what and how you’re going to mulch the beds later in autumn.
It’s always easier to collect a substrate and then cover it in two separate efforts rather than doing it all in one.
Two days in the garden for the price of one in an attempt to slow our lives down.
On the plot
For some reason I’ve got in my head to be planting perennial vegetables in an effort to have more time staring at the clouds with a mug of tea resting on my lap.
Looking into it, there are quite a few I’m growing already like Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb and globe artichokes.
I’ve also got another perennial in wild garlic making a heavy attempt at irony by actually growing wild.
There are a surprising number of vegetables that can feed us year after year without getting on your hands and knees in spring and sowing them in a drill.
Walking onions can be planted from sets now. They are a three-in-one plant as you can cut them at different times of year for different onions types.
They are chive like in spring, then can be used as a spring onion in summer and later can be as big as a shallot.
They ‘walk’ in a similar way banana plants do but by leaning over and ensuring their bulbs touch the ground and regrow next to the original plant. You should definitely get some.
After the drought we’ve had I’ve been thinking more about plants that will be able to manage more effectively with less water.
Having established roots that run deep will undoubtedly increase their drought resilience.
Thinking in this way is actively drought-proofing your garden as I don’t think we can continue to garden in the same way we always have, given the last three very hot summers and mild winters.
Sustainable perennials that include vegetables might be a glimpse into the future of horticulture, especially for those less mobile.