Oslo Garden

A blog about gardening in Oslo, Norway


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Springing into action

The air is alive with the sounds and smells of late spring- early summer. Birds chatter, insects buzz. Bright days follow rain showers that leave everything looking lush and intensify the intoxicating scent of Syringa, apple blossom and Spiraea, to name but a few. Days are longer with nights that never quite get dark and a dawn chorus that starts from about 2am!

It’s hard to keep up with what’s happening in the garden.

So far it’s a good year for the strawberries in the trough. Compared to this time last year the strawberries seem much healthier and are producing lots of flowers that promise lots of juicy fruits later this summer. As soon as they begin to send out runners I’ll cut them back so the plants can focus on fruit production.   20160526_091339

Apparently strawberries can be good companion plants to bush beans, lettuce, onion, spinach and thyme. So since I’ve got a few odd lettuce seedlings left to transplant, I’ve filled a couple of gaps in the container to see how they get on.

One of the earliest plants to flower is the Lamprocapnos spectabilis. Now in its second year with me, it is looking much happier than it did last year and it has produced some lovely delicate pink flowers. It’s in a pot on its own so I can keep it especially moist in dryer spells. It sits alongside the Geranium whose own pink flower buds are waiting in the wings.

Two other plants that definitely look better second year in are the Comfrey and Aquilegia. The Comfrey has just started to open its purple bell-like flowers. The Aquilegia next to it that I bought as a unidentifiable small clump at an end of season sale suffered from powdery mildew last year but this year has emerged from winter much more invigorated. Buds have formed so I can’t wait to see what the flowers are like. The long winters here do seem to be helpful when rejuvenating plants that may ordinarily be plagued with diseases over a longer period.

The salads I’ve been growing have been enjoying the temperatures (12-19 degrees C) and rain we’ve been having lately. The Red Giant leaf, true to its name with its incredible foliage, looks fantastic. Its leaves also prove to be tasty, with a wonderful spicy mustard flavour. These are the very same ones that emerged as tiny plants from the winter so I’m very happy with how things have turned out. I expect it won’t be long now before they go to seed as temperatures rise, so I’m making the most of them while I can.  

Lettuce and watercress that I sowed in mid April are coming along well. It’s time to feed the watercress some liquid feed, so I use some of the home-made nettle feed that I made last year that has been maturing in a sealed bucket ever since.

Some of the kale and cabbage are now ready to plant out at the school garden this week. The chard, in contrast, has suffered a bit from damping off this year. So this week I’ll go through the seedlings and rescue the strongest ones to pot on and probably end up sowing some chard seeds directly into the raised beds as well.  The Helianthus seedlings (shown here in front of a pot with carrot and radish seeds I’ve just sown) have just been potted on and will be transplanted into the school garden in a week or two.

The Lathyrus odoratus and Cosmos bipinnatus seedlings are really overdue for planting out. Both need supports: for the Sweet peas something to climb on and for the Cosmos to keep the stems upright, essential if I want to use it as a cutting flower.

At the beginning of May I sowed another batch of broad beans and peas in root trainers outside (keeping the lid on to maintain high humidity until they germinated, and thereafter initially just at night times). They’ll be ready to transplant into my tubs once they’re a bit more bushy, which shouldn’t be too long if they keep growing at this rate.

The squash could do with being re-potted or transplanted but are being stretched out as they are in the cold frame for a little while longer. Last year the squash weren’t a success at the school garden which may have been, in part, because they were planted out too young and subsequently weren’t able to deal with the weather that turned windy and rainy. Though I’m not sure whether larger plants would have particularly relished that forecast either to be honest.

The fennel is outgrowing its pot and should be planted out this week which, along with the mysterious fruit bush, needs a deep container- still looking! In the meantime, the fruit bush is flowering.

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I’m still none the wiser as to the species but I guess time will tell.

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May garden update

A burst of warm spring weather has got the plants romping full steam ahead leaving me trying to play catch up. Here’s a summary of what’s what, and all the jobs I’ve been busy with.

My windowsills had become jammed packed full of seedlings and a few days ago I decided to transfer as many as possible into the cold frame. To make some room I took out lettuce, beans and peas that I’d sowed at the end of March/beginning of April. They had been hardening off gradually in the cold frame, but as it’s been so warm, I took a chance and moved them outside.

I added a light protective layer for the first few nights and gradually got them used to the sun but essentially they’ve been out all the time. I pricked out the little lettuce seedlings and replanted them in one of the large tubs outside the cold frame, planting them close together as they’ll be grown as a cut and come again crop. Either side of the lettuce tub, are the salads I over-wintered. There’s a tub of Lambs Lettuce that managed to survive the winter outside and a tub of Red Giant Mustard (Asian) salad that was sown at the same time but never made it outdoors until I transferred it out in early April. In the Red Giant tub there are signs of some more quick-growing lettuces that I have sown recently to fill the gaps.

The Watercress seeds I sowed in mid April inside the cold frame have now germinated but I haven’t moved them outside. So they’ll stay inside for the time being, permanently sitting in water, keeping nice and moist (top right).

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I’ve started potting on some seedlings, such as the Helianthus annuus, Cosmos bipinnatus, Fennel and Kale but more need to be done over the coming weeks. Many seedlings have grown a little leggy, and some are still very small, particularly the beetroot. The warm and dry conditions inside the house won’t have been good for them, so I’m hoping they’ll improve in time in their new positions.

Now that the beans and peas that I sowed earlier in the cold frame were doing well, I couldn’t help sowing another batch, to get another crop later in the summer. Here they are side by side. When sowing the new ones I’ve used a multi purpose compost rather than a seedling compost in order to provide them with a bit more sustenance as they develop over time.

In the area outside, the plants have really picked up the pace of growth over the last month. 

The Lamprocapnos spectabilis (top right) has shot up and little pink flower buds have already begun to appear, being one of the earliest to bloom. In the oblong planter, the dwarf Astilbe, Geranium Rozanne and Corydalis are doing well. I thought I’d lost the Geranium but it’s popped up again. I’m finally hoping to see some blue Corydalis flowers this year; it’s not flowered in the 2 years I’ve had it!

The Coreopsis grandiflora is still a mass of dry stalks and by now has usually shown some signs of some new growth. I’ll wait a while longer before I take any drastic action, as it may just be late developing this year.  The Geranium macrorrhizum in the large round pot is already running riot and had already overshadowed the Salvia nemorosa. So I’ve put the Salvia in with the smaller mound-forming Geranium sanguineum that had been growing with the Coreopsis. Its new pot sits on the bench (shown below) alongside the Aquilegia vulgaris, and the re-potted Comfrey and Euphorbia epithymoides.

Below them is the long planter of strawberries, that I will continue to propagate this year.

I am a bit late erecting a climbing frame around the Clematis, which is just romping away. This is one of my next jobs to do.

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The Aubrieta at the base of the clematis, whose beautiful deep violet flowers were just beginning to form a few weeks ago (picture left), is now blossoming. I gave it quite a hard cut back in the autumn to rejuvinate it and it seems to have resonded well.

 

I have done well to resist the charms of new plants at the local garden centre up to now but it seems a plant has sought me out…..A wooden planter was being given away and the bush came with it….Well, how could I resist?!!

20160509_102322All I know is it’s an edible fruit bush and it has lovely reddish-green leaves. As it happens, I’m no longer keeping the planter but I love the idea of growing some fruit this year, so it stays. My mission is to identify the variety and get it out of the bin bag into a more suitable container very soon.

And finally, here is my finished Bee hotel.

20160506_132448I want to add a little overhang to the roof to protect it from rain, as I have kept it rustic and haven’t cut all the tubes precisely to fit flush with the sides, but essentially it’s done and I’ll hang it up soon. I can’t wait to see if any guests visit it over the next few months.


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The F word

It feels like I’ve been on the starting blocks waiting for the full force of Spring to arrive for a couple of weeks now. Every time there are clear blue skies, temperatures rise a few notches, I get ready to shoot out of the blocks and go into gardening overdrive. But then the big F re-appears….Frost that is. Overnight. Once or twice. Just to remind you not to be too hasty….

While waiting, I can use the time to begin hardening off my seedlings, so that they will be ready to be planted out in their final location. This will, hopefully, coincide nicely with all risk of frost having passed.

Hardening off involves gradually preparing seedlings that have been nurtured under a protected environment, to be outside. They physically have to toughen up. So it begins with leaving them out for an hour or two on their first day, somewhere sheltered, out of the sun and preferably covered with a light fleece. Then they go back inside and return outside the following day, for a little more time. This is repeated each day, increasing it over successive days and in time exposing them to sunlight little by little until eventually you can leave them outside overnight covered with a light fleece. Finally a few days before they are planted out, you leave them out all day and night without any cover. This process should take a couple of weeks.

This year I have also carried forward the School Project I began last year and have been busy making plans for a planting scheme for the school garden’s raised beds.

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I have simplified the system this year, basing it on a three-year rotation (this now being the second) and growing fewer family groups of vegetables but more variety within each group. For instance within the Legume family, I’ve picked three varieties of Bean alongside one Pea.

Salads – Lollo Rosso, Iceberg, Maravilla de Verano- form the borders between the sections of crops in each bed. The lettuces will be continually harvested until late August/September, after which they will be replaced with a sowing of a green manure crop. This will add valuable nutrients back into the soil before the frosts return.

Flowers- some edible, some to attract pollinators and some to distract the pests from the juicy veg! Calendular, Nasturtiums and Sweet peas.

Bed A:

Wigwam with Climbing Beans- Runner Bean, Blauhilde, Cobra.

Ambrosia Peas

Carrots- Purple Haze, Cosmic Purple, Atomic Red, Milan- surrounded by Garlic Chives

Bed B:

Kales- Westlander Winter Kale, Redbor

Chard- Rhubarb, Rainbow

Radish interspersed with the lettuce

Bed C:

Wigwam with climbing beans (as in Bed A)

Summer Squash- Gold Rush (Yellow courgette), Sunbeam (Pattypan)