Monday, August 11, 2014

How to grow Strawberries from Runners

My strawberry plants have thrown an impressive amount of runners during the Summer. One of the most frequent questions people ask is how to grow new Strawberry plants from runners? I have done it in three ways, so there is more than one answer to this question.

If you do nothing and your strawberries are growing in a raised border, chances are the runners will find a cosy spot elsewhere and root there. No work involved :-)
In fact this may happen even if your strawberries grow in a container and you locate your container right next to the spot where you want them to grow in. I have placed my strawberry containers right next to a raised border and voila the strawberries have now successfully migrated to a raised border. This saved work as I don't have to dig holes - which would have been the case if I had transplanted them from a pot.

The other technique I have used is to fill a small pot with a dirt and then press the tip of the strawberry runner which is growing the new leaves against the pot. For this I used small sticks as I didn't have any wire at hand. Most bloggers on the internet recommend wire. But in truth you can use just about anything that is at hand and can do the job - use your imagination.
After the new strawberry plant roots into the pot you can cut the runner and then transplant the strawberry to a new container or another border - or why not offer it as a gift?

In summary - growing strawberries from runners is the easiest job in the world and can save you a lot of money in new plants.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Strawberry and Cherry harvest

I haven't written for a while. That's because I have been collecting the fruits of my winter labour.
The strawberries  have been plenty and I have been having strawberries for breakfast every day.

However what really surprised me were the cherry trees. We have started eating the most delicious cherries at the end of May. Even though we are incapable of waiting for the cherries to be fully red, the cherries are still very sweet and juicy. Not even a tint of sour.
Delicious strawberries waiting to be picked

Another surprise is that even though my garden is full of birds they seem to be ignoring the cherries. I like to think that it is God watching for our cherries. But there may be a more scientific explanation like they already have plenty of cherries elsewhere.  

The squirrel that terrorised our cherry tree last summer is nowhere to be seen which is a bit odd too.
My advice for anyone living in London and with a garden is if you want to have cherries plenty for years to come buy a cherry tree.

Cherries almost ready to be plucked
Strawberries are easy too - both in compost or planted in dirt.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Making Hawthorn Tea

This week our hawthorn is in full bloom and as planned, we wanted to make Hawthorn tea.
Three wood pigeons are devouring the blossom non-stop so I can't leave it for next week.
Hawthorn in bloom you spot the pigeon?

The process to make Hawthorn tea is pretty simple: cut the branches, nip off the leaves and flowers and place them in a food dehydrator tray flat. A food dehydrator comes with 5 or six trays, which stack on top of each other. So even though the process is simple, it requires a bit of tedious manual labour.

Finally you need to switch the food dehydrator to the lowest setting(35 celcius) and wait approximately 12 hours. You will know when its done because the leaves will crumble when you touch them.

My son doing the hard work

The tray after its full

The Hawthorn tea is supposed to have lots of health benefits. For a start it can increase the blood supply to the heart which is very beneficial for those who suffered from heart attack.
Obviously don't take my word, as I am not a doctor. I am just doing this tea for fun and I am not looking to use it as medicine.

I have tried the tea and the taste is nothing to blog about - not bitter - just not much taste. However it is the first tea I have made with my son - which kind of makes it special and especially fun.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter day and Spring week 4

Today is Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of our Lord. A day to celebrate. Believe it or not today I was relieved that it rained. It hasn't rained for almost two weeks now and the garden was needing it. Mind that I got wet just when I came back from church.

The strawberries are thriving, at least for now while they aren't ripe yet. I am starting to search for bird nets on the internet as I suspect that as soon as the strawberries ripen they will disappear.

My other strawberries seem to have a sticky substance in the leaves. I found the bug that seems to be responsible for this - but I yet do not know its name. It is some kind of green larva. It seems to prefer strawberries as other plants are nearby with no visible sticky substance.

The apple trees are still in blossom and the cherry trees started doing what they do best: to produce cherries. I am yet to buy tree nets as I struggle to find the right kind on Ebay.

In the meantime I have started some tomatos, string beans and french dwarf beans from seed. They are still indoors and growing well. I will have to wait until May to plant them as right now is too cold.
Bardsey apple tree in blossom

The Lilac tree is more Lilac than ever. Quite beautiful actually. 

Lilac tree blossom
The May tree(also known as Hawthorn) is getting there. I can already see the flower buds. But not worth a picture yet.

Finally, the Quince tree is also in blossom now.  Currently I am not happy with the tree shape but I will wait until its in full leaf to see how I am going to prune it.

Quince tree blossom

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring In Action - Week 3

This is Spring week 3 - and here is my garden update.

The Stella cherry trees blossom is nearly gone. So now it is just the question of waiting for the fruit.

Mini Sylvia Cherry tree with cherries growing

The Morello cherry tree, the only cherry tree that I am growing in a pot, surprised me as it is also in flower! I bought it over winter and I am not disappointed.
Morello Cherry tree in blossom - I
Morello Cherry tree in blossom - II

Now I need to work out tactics for defending the cherries. This week I spotted the resident squirrel. I was starting to think that may be the local cats scared him off. That was wishful thinking I am afraid. If I want to taste any of the cherries I need to net the trees and maybe distract the squirrels with peanuts. Will that work? I guess that I will find out.

The quince tree hasn't flowered yet - but I am certain that it will. I have to confess - that I am a bit disappointed with the look of the tree - the shape is very odd. I am still trying to figure out how I can prune it to an appropriate shape.

Quince tree with odd shape

The  potted Brown Turkey fig trees are doing very well. I am hoping that with a warm weather I will be able to enjoy some nice figs in July. Unfortunately that will also mean that I need to net the trees to protect the figs against birds.

The apple trees are in blossom! For me it is the most spectacular blossom of all. I have two types: James grieve and Bardsey apple. The reason that I have two varieties is because apples are not self-fertile.  The Bardsey apple is a rare type - which is supposed to be disease resistant. The point is that the two cultivars flower roughly at the same time and can cross pollinate. The question is, will the same bee find the two trees in one go? The James grieve is in the front garden and the Bardsey apple is in the backyard. Perhaps I need to put up a sign? :-)

Bardsey apple tree in bloom
James Grieve apple in bloom

The Czar plum tree still has shown no signs of life. I will give it another month. I did plant it a bit late in March, furthermore all the shade doesn't seem to be doing any good.

On the other hand the Victoriam plum tree is doing very well, despite not having a lot of blossom. But its the first year only.

The strawberries are doing very well. Plenty of flowers which hopefully means plenty of strawberries. I am hoping to get some extra pots. Strawberries seem to thrive in pots. A lot easier than growing on the ground.

Elsanta strawberries thriving in pot

The Lillac tree has started flowering.
Hawthorn on the left, lilac tree in the middle

The Hawthorn is in full leaf. It should flower soon. I think I mentioned this before. I will try to make some herbal tea out of the hawthorn leaves and flowers. I have already had a go at eating the leaves and don't seem to taste anything like cheese. The leaves of the Hawthorn are called the bread and cheese. See earlier post.

The raspberry canes are also showing signs of life. I learned my lesson. It is best not to cut the canes immediately after planting. It is better to leave the canes alone and wait until they establish themselves first. This is of course my personal experience. Other gardeners may find that the exact opposite is true. I have very little experience, don't forget that.

I am really loving it. Three weeks of spring and so much has changed.

And I was going to forget. The mulberry tree is awake. I am certain there will be no mulberries this year, but miracles do happen.

God knows how my garden will look in 10 years time, but one thing is certain. If every tree thrives I will be doing a lot of pruning.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Greenwich Park, Shard and the Walkie talkie Sky Garden

In the morning I took my family to Greenwich park in Greenwich. We go there regularly as it is close to us. Now it is the right time to visit the flower garden and enjoy the flowers, especially the Cherry blossom. We were not disappointed. It was great to see the park full of colour.

Pink Cherry blossom

Cherry tree with pink and white blossom???

It is  the first time that I notice that the same cherry tree can have white and pink blossoms. This is likely the result of grafting two varieties of Cherry together. The result is quite spectacular.

Parakeet eating blossom

I was also pleased to see that the Deer park site was cleared up. I spotted two parakeets on top of a cherry tree eating the blossoms. At least that's what it looked like. The floor was awash with petals...

Greenwich park as usual was teeming with tourists eager to visit the meridian line.

Finally I took a picture of the most famous tree in Greenwich park: the Queen Elizabeth Oak
This tree was planted in the 12th century and it was standing until 1991 when it was brought down by rain. The tree is thought to have died in the 19th century but it was able to stand until 1991 because it was supported by Holly and Ivy. It is completely hollow in the inside and apparently it was use to lock up for the day any park visitor that broke the rules.

Queen Elizabeth's Oak

In the afternoon mywife and I visited the Oblix at the Shard as we wanted to do something different. In London there is always plenty of choice :-)

The Oblix is a sleek restaurant on the 32nd floor of the Shard. We didn't go for the food but just for the view and the drinks.

The cocktails, coffee, tea and beers were quite reasonably priced taking into account the view of the London skyline. £3.50 for a tea? That's a bargain taking into account the cost of the ticket to the top of the Shard(£22).

I went for a Martini Americano, a rather strong cocktail which instantly warmed me up.

The Walkie-talkie and Tower 42
Canary Wharf and river thames

The Walki-talkie above is a special building. Not only because of its Walkie-talkie shape, which is derived from the fact that it gets wider at the top, but also because it will have a rooftop sub-tropical garden i.e. sky garden. This sub-tropical paradise will be free to the public!
You will need to book a time slot before visiting as there a limited number of visitors allowed per day.
In addition to the sky garden, there will be a view to match. I am really looking forward to the opening in December this year. Recently there has been a lot of negative press about an excess number of skyscrapers planned for London, which to be honest is deserved. But for me the Walkie talking is going to become a top London attraction.
It will definitely give the Shard a run for its money. Did I already mention that its free??!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pineapple Guava or what?

Just before Christmas I bought some pineapple guava seeds. For those who don't know what a pineapple guava is, here is a brief introduction. The pineapple guava tree originates from Brazil and it is very popular in New Zealand where it is sometimes called the New Zealand banana. The fruit tastes like a pineapple mixed with strawberry. But in all honestly I've never eaten one so I am only saying that because that's what I read on the internet. The pineapple guava favours a subtropical and low humidity climate. So not exactly the match for a London garden?

Well I decided that I didn't want to spend too much money buying a pineapple guava tree but that it would be worth trying to grow it from seed - it only costed a couple of pounds. Only two of the seeds germinated properly.
Now three months later, I have two tiny plants. Trouble is that they should look similar but they don't. One is a pineapple guava and the other is obviously an impostor.
Feijoa Sellowiana or what?

Feijoa Sellowiana or what?

The second question is then what is the other mysterious plant? I am really curious so I will let it grow for a couple of more months and hopefully I will discover the mystery plant. Any specialist in Pineapple guavas please let me know :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cherry Blossom - Spring week 2

So the second week of spring is full on. It is early April now, and three out of four of the cherry trees are in bloom.

Stella Cherry tree in blossom - backgarden
Stella Cherry tree in blossom - front garden
The Morello cherry tree hasn't flowered yet and I don't know if it will flower - fingers crossed. I bought it this winter and its the only cherry tree that is in a pot.
Every time I ask myself why I bought so many cherry trees all I have to keep in my mind is the cherry blossom. Also there can't be an easier tree to grow in England.

Another tree that is flowering but not in a dramatic way is the Victoria plum. I can see now two lonely flowers. But this is the first year that I planted the tree and I am confident that next year it will do far better.

The pear tree is another spring surprise. For the first time - the second year after purchase, I can see flower buds! Only a month ago I was doubting that I would ever see any flowers. I am not exactly the patient type.

On other developments in the backyard orchard. The strawberries plants that I planted a couple of weeks ago have been half eaten. The other half is ok. I suspect slugs - the strawberries that suffered the most are at the ground level. The strawberries in the raised bed are almost intact.

This past weekend I went on a trip to B&Q and saw some really healthy looking Elsanta strawberries - and couldn't resist buying them. I have placed them in a pot rather than planting in the ground. Proud to say that they are doing really well so far - i.e. not yet eaten by slugs.

I have also planted plenty of autumn bliss raspberry canes with mixed success. The instructions I saw on the internet quite often call for trimming the canes to ground level after planting. However the canes that so far haven't shown any life are all trimmed to the ground level. The majority of the canes that already show some sign of growth haven't been trimmed. So is it really a good idea to trim newly planted raspberry canes to the ground level? Or perhaps it is better to give the canes sometime to adjust to new soil before before trimming....
If you know the answer please let me know.

Friday, March 28, 2014

London Fog

After living a few years I have somehow gotten used to the London fog. It is not that frequent but it does happen. This past year we had fog more than previously. So much so that this year I had my flight cancelled twice because of fog.

Fog can be quite disruptive to air traffic but at the same time is an opportunity for some great pictures.

Tower bridge covered in fog on a sunny morning - I 
Tower bridge covered in fog on a sunny morning - II

Canary wharf surrounded by fog

Very foggy in our garden - my flight was cancelled on that day

Spring in Action - Week 1

Just a quick post to share some of the events this week.
The cherry trees are starting to blossom. But then weather suddenly turned cold so they kind of slowed down.

The Quince tree is still stubbornly waiting for the right time. It looks to me that it is about to blossom, however I am no expert in quince trees. Please let me know your opinion.

The Victoria plum also looks like it has waken up from hibernation and I can see what look like flower buds.

The alpine strawberries look like they are doing good and seem to be multiplying surprising well in the small pot where I planted them. I am really positive about getting some strawberries :-)

The dwarf apricot tree seems to be doing well as well.

The mulberry tree is still in dormancy. I think I read somewhere that they normally wake up pretty late. So I am not worried yet.

The raspberries - most of them have showed no signs of life. But some of them definitely have adapter to to our garden. I hope the rest will wake up once Spring is in full swing.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cherry Blossom - Sylvia Mini Cherry tree

Spring officially started on March the 20th. On that day our Sylvia mini cherry tree started flowering. In the past two weeks we have had a good amount of sunshine, almost too good to be true. After such a tough winter all this sunshine really helps to be cheerful.

I also wanted to remember the fact that we are going through Lent which started on Ash Wednesday(5th of March). This is an important time for every Christian and myself as a Catholic. For 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert in preparation for his ministry. By the time lent has finished, Spring will be at its best. So  a lot to look forward.

Just today we planted a Czar plum, in our shadiest spot. Also we planted a kiwi tree which we are training against a trellis fence. This was the last tree that we planted. Our garden is now full of fruit trees but only God can allow it to thrive. In God we hope for plenty of fruits to enjoy in the summer and years to come.

Below you can see pictures of our mini cherry tree, Czar plum and Kiwi.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hawthorn Tree

The Hawthorn tree in our garden looks very scruffy in winter. But in May when it blooms, its one of the prettiest in our garden. This tree is also know as May tree for that reason.

The tree is often used as hedges around England because of its thorns. They are very thorny. And the thorns are not aways easy to spot. I also find it very attractive the way the tree leans. Completely the opposite to the Cordyline which looks unnaturally straight.

I always loved this tree since I moved in, but only recently I found out about its history.
The Hawthorn is also called the bread and cheese tree. Why the name? It turns out that in the old days the leaves were eaten and referred as bread and cheese.
It doesn't stop here - if you search for Hawthorn on youtube or google you will find that the Hawthorn is also famous in medicine. The berries, leaves and flowers are good for the heart and circulation.

This spring I already have a plan. I will eat the young leaves and make a tea out of the blossoms. Obviously I will definitely write about the experience.

The picture below shows how the Hawthorn looks now in winter.

If you want to learn more about the Hawthorn tree, check out this website:

There are also some videos on yotube which talk about the Hawthorn tree. One even teaches how to make tea out of the flowers:

Do check it out.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cordyline Australis

One of my favorite trees in the garden is Cordyline Australis. This tree is tall, at least 5 meters tall, with a very straight trunk. It never loses its leaves and provides a sanctuary for birds that quite often nest there.

It looks like a palm tree but it isn't one. It is able to withstand frosts and cold weather. My garden is north facing which makes it even more impressive, as it looks like it is thriving next to the Eucalyptus.

Initially I thought this was an Australian tree(because of the name), but thankfully I checked wikipedia first before writing this article. This tree is native from New Zealand where it is known as the Cabbage tree.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Spring is definitely here

Today was a special day for two reasons. Besides trying to be a gardener, I am a software developer. I have last year started programming in a new language called Scala. So for that reason I decided to join a Meetup group on Scala. The meetup was today and at the Heron tower. The event was appropriately called hack the tower.  It was organised by Salesforce at their amazing offices in Liverpool street. I loved the event and I am very thankful to the organiser and Salesforce.
The views from the Heron tower are amazing and of course I couldn't miss a chance to take some pictures. See below.

Today it was also special for another reason. It was a sunny day in London. For me it feels like the official start of spring.

As soon as I got home from the meetup group I jumped to the garden with my son to plant some Autumn bliss red raspberries bought from RHS.

Autumn bliss raspberries like the name suggest fruit in Autumn on the first year of planting(primocanes). If unpruned over winter the same canes will provide a second crop. But after the second crop you need to cut the canes to the ground, and from there the cycle starts again. Below is a picture of my son digging.

It is the first time I grow raspberries - so I don't know how well they will grow in our north facing garden. I will keep everyone updated.