In My Garden with Francis O’Neill

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I am a great fan of television garden programmes, so this week I am particularly pleased to see an old favourite back on the box doing what he does best.

I am talking, of course, about Alan Titchmarsh and his new programme “Love Your Garden”. This is all the more pleasing in that it diversifies a little insofar as it not only shows you how to grow but also give recipes and hints of cooking the produce of the garden. In another sector wildlife is catered for, and it all gels into a very pleasing show. I also watched Gardeners World with Monty Don and was intrigued to see on the internet that Monty and Alan were billed in “the contest of the gardening greats—who is top!”. Well, the results of the viewing figures show that Love your Garden polled 3.9 million viewers (18 per cent of the available audience) while Monty got 2.2 million votes (10 per cent of the available audience). There was no mention at all of the programme I find the best of all - “The Beechgrove Garden”

‘Love Your Garden’, with its cookery spot, takes me back to a programme I used to watch called “The Wartime Kitchen Garden” with Harry Dodson, as it showed how to garden on a very low budget and how to cook cheaply in those trying times. Harry also hosted “The Victorian Kitchen Garden”, again in the old fashioned vein, with all the weird and wonderful concoctions such as tar and nicotine washes and Bordeaux mixture, the latter effective on potato blight.

The weather lately really has been a bit of a mixed bag. Nights have been very cold and with only a few hot days struggling through it is not at all like June should be. Indeed some of the plants in the garden have been caught by the wind chill factor and browned a bit at the edges, and growth is certainly a bit slower than you might expect at this time of the year. Watering is a must and you must really be prepared to lash it on, and not just colour the surface of the soil. A lot of water is needed to penetrate the soil and get down to the roots of the plants. Only watering the surface of the soil tends to make the roots turn upwards in their search for moisture, and as such do not form a good strong root system. As an example, I was talking to a friend in his garden the other day and he had some dahlia plants that had arrived in the post. He had the watering can out and was fairly whizzing over the plants in their pots! There was no way that the water was getting anywhere near the root and I told him so. He was sceptical so I gently teased a plant out of its little pot to reveal that it was bone dry under the surface. He had been watering in this way for days. The only remedy when plants were that dry was to fill a bucket with water and hold the top of the pot under the surface until the bubbles stops forming. The compost will now be thoroughly wetted and the plant able to take up the moisture. It is said that the dahlia is 95 per cent water so need to be kept hydrated at all times. They are also gross feeders. and need feeding with a liquid food once a week when growing.