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June-2nd Week

Mr Middleton says: The more you grow, the less you buy.

1. Look to Tomatoes.- Outdoor tomatoes should now be growing satisfactorily. Continue to train indoor tomatoes correctly. Prevent an overgrowth of side shoots. Allow plenty of ventilation to assist the setting of the fruits. Gentle damping down of the plants each day about noon helps pollination considerably. Keep an eye open for tomato mildew attacks. Pale yellow areas first show on the upper surface of the leaves, followed soon by the appearance of the mould on the lower surface, at first yellow and then turning dark brown. Good ventilation helps to prevent it.

2. Puddle Brassicas.- When brassicas of any sort are put out during dry weather it is advisable to puddle the roots. Make a thick mixture of water and clay and dip the roots in it so that it sticks to them, then plant.

3. Runner Beans as Bushes.- If a large number of scarlet runner beans are grown, or if stakes are not available, you can grow them as bushes. They are planted in a single row and the tops pinched off when the plants are about 2 ft. high. This helps them become bushy. The pods are never so long or straight as on trained plants, but they are worthwhile.

4. Feed and Plant Out Cucumbers.- Cucumbers can be given an occasional feed with liquid manure. Once a week would be often enough.

5. Look to Next Year’s Strawberries.- Select good strawberry plants from which to save runners. One year old plants generally give the best results. Do not save from any plants showing signs of disease. Ground beetles often show a partiality for strawberry fruits. They like raw meat even better, so it is possible to trap them by putting a little at the bottom of a glass jar and sinking this to the brim in the soil. It should be examined regularly. Ground beetles or Carabids are beneficial insects and should not be destroyed unnecessarily.

6. General Work.- It will now be possible to begin thinning the fuits of the earliest plums. Earth-up potatoes, first applying fertilizer. Pickling onions may still be sown. Continue to build up the compost heap. Stake Brussels sprouts in windy places. Look out for Woolly aphis.

Mr Middleton’s words ‘the more you grow, the less you buy’ will strike a chord with all of us who are lucky enough to be growing our own food while we are in the midst of yet another food scare. Once again it hits home to us that when we eat our own home-grown food we know what has gone into it and, maybe more importantly, what hasn’t and how it was produced. Nothing can beat that.

I quite like the idea of ‘puddling brassicas’. I suppose by enveloping the roots in mud before planting this will help them to develop, especially in light soils. It might be worth experimenting with some that have had a mud bath and those that haven’t.

The runner beans are about 3 to 4 ft high and are clinging to the supports and have actually started to flower. I am in high hopes for a really early crop. I love runner beans and can quite easily eat a plate of them oozing in melted butter. No real news on the Broad Bean front other than ‘situation normal’ ie. no change from last week, but the Dwarf French beans have taken to a few soakings and are about to start flowering. Peas are flowering too with the first signs of some pods. Looking forward to one of my favourite summer dishes, Pea Risotto. Excellent with a glass of chilled white wine.

Me & Rog on Hare Patrol

We have a new visitor to our garden. A hare! We have seen it sat on the drive and walking up the lane oblivious to any dangers around him or her. So now Roger is on Hare Alert. He has to earn his keep somehow and so will hopefully raise the alarm if he sees the hare approaching the veg plot. Mmm…we’ll see!

Yesterday was a grey, drizzly day. But precisely that, just drizzle. When l checked the soil it had hardly penetrated 1 cm. As a gardener l am getting quite concerned about the lack of rain over the past few months as l am sure you are too. Remember, it is only early June. We have just had the warmest spring on record and the driest in over 100 years. The reservoirs are not critical but are well below the average for this time of the year and if the weather remains as it is then by August we will all be in a very serious situation. Hose pipe bans will be enforced. Think ahead….look at investing in more water butts just in case we do get some proper rain, mulch the soil when it is wet and this will help conserve moisture, try to use water from the kitchen sink ie. water that has been used to clean and peel vegetables and even washing -up water around the beans. I have set up a mini-irrigation system around a lot of my vegetables set on a timer and this is proving to be a great help. Can anyone else think how we can use water wisely in the garden?

Just a note to remember today is the anniversary of D-Day 6th June 1944 and the men who were fighting on the beaches in Normandy to bring lasting peace to Europe. I visited this area once; the beaches and the massive war graves of all nations involved. It left a lasting impact and l recommend everyone to pay a visit and remember these brave, brave men determined to push the Nazis back and rid Europe of one of the most evil regimes this world has ever seen.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in June, June - In Your Garden

 

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Happy Chappy!

Yes, l am a happy chappy because the book l won on ebay was delivered yesterday. Not just any book mind but an original 1945 copy of Middleton’s All The Year Round Gardening Guide.

This is the book that Arum Press published a few years ago under the title of ‘Dig On For Victory’. I had seen a picture of the book but didn’t think l would ever find a copy so thank you ebay! I have been using the Dig for Victory book for my weekly updates on what to do in your garden but now l will be able to refer to the original book as well, not that there is any difference but l love to pick an old book up like this and imagine who else had read it all those years ago. It is not a well worn copy so l doubt it has been used on a daily basis fro reference but it is still 66 years old!

It has a different introduction to the Aurum Press copy and l think is much better, more personal, and as this was written in 1945 it could well have been his last work. In his introduction he talks of ‘my sincere hope that we shall soon be digging for a lasting peace’. I am unsure as to the exact date he died in 1945 but l do hope he did see peace before he went.

I love the last paragraph, ‘Step on the spade rather than the accelerator, and you will reach the end of the journey quicker’.

Introduction


It is full of wonderful adverts ranging from Dettol, Cuprinol, Carters Seeds, Dobbies Seeds, Fisons, Unwins and Qualcast all of which are still going strong today. But l’m not sure about Carters Seeds. Were they the seeds that Woolworths used to stock? Or was it Bees?

On the back page is a Boots the Chemist advert advertising Compost, Insecticides etc all ‘approved and recommended by Mr C. H. Middleton Horticultural Consultant to Boots the Chemist’. This man got about what with working for the BBC on radio and television, writing books and making films he really was the first celebrity gardener.

On that note, there has been an awful lot of debate on who is the best person to front Gardeners World. Firstly, l think it is a shame there is only one gardening programme on the TV, especially when you see so many Home programmes, antiques, relocations, etc. So who is my favourite, well, l love Monty. He is down to earth, energetic, and just gets on with the matter in hand. Toby and Alys were just awful. No wonder the viewing figures plummeted. Carole Klein is nice but l wish she would stop laughing when she is talking!

Who is your favourite TV gardening celeb?

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in May, Mr Middleton

 

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Weeds

An exert from Mr Middleton’s book ‘Your Garden In War-time’:

May

Now for a few jobs in the garden. May is an interesting and pleasant month but it is also a busy one, and among other evil things which come to enjoy its sunny days are the weeds. Weeds of every description, great and small, tough and tender; it’s marvellous where they all come from. Up to this year l’ve been fairy free of creeping convolvulus, or bellbine (bindweed), but now it has got into the gooseberry patch. If you want to punish anyone for being naughty, just give him an hour or two pulling bellbine out of gooseberry bushes, it should prove to be very effective.This is the time of the year to tackle weeds with a will, or rather with a hoe. Keep the Dutch hoe busy among the crops and never allow a weed to flower in the garden if you can help it. If you do, it means seeds and another crop of weeds. But unless the weather is very dry, the Dutch hoe is not very effective unless you follow it with the rake and take the weeds away. Just pushing them about with the hoe from one place to another and leaving them there, merely transplants them and they thrive on it.

He goes on to tell us that weeds growing on paths should be treated with Sodium Chlorate killing anything it touches but warns it is ‘rather combustable, so handle it carefully and avoid friction, or it may go off with a fizz‘!

I am sure l have still seen it for sale but from September 2009 Sodium Chlorate was takken off the EU approved pesticides list but maybe they have taken the ‘fizz’ out of it! Mal from Malsallotment asked me how l keep my paths clear round the veg plot. Well, l do it exactly the same way as Mr Middleton suggests. It is quite therapeutic. Much better than spraying with a fizz bang weedkiller although l do use RoundUp on the main drive,

Now we have had all of this rain it seems you only have to turn your back for two minutes and there are more weeds to pull. I might try making a salad out of a few and eat them just out of spite!

How do you keep your weeds down and does anybody have any recipes using weeds in salads?!

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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Watering

I thought this extract from ‘Mr Middleton Talks About Gardening’ seems quite timely advice for a lot of people at the moment:

I expect some of you will wonder what on earth l am going to talk about. “Watering” may seem a strange subject, but it is a very important one, and one which is not very well understood by garden lovers. I venture to say that more mistakes are made in a garden with the watering can and the hose pipe than with anything else.Indeed, l would go a step further, and say that more than half the laborious watering that is done does a good deal more harm than good. Let us consider it in detail for a few minutes.

In the first place, l am convinced that in a well-cultivated garden very little outdoor watering is ever really necessary, even in the driest weather. During a hot, dry spell last year l took a party round a famous Surrey garden, and it was very noticeable that although the natural soil there is almost pure sand, and the surface appeared to be as dry as dust, the various flowers and plants were standing up fresh and well, and appeared to be suffering no ill effects from the dry weather. Someone remarked on the amount of watering that must be necessary on such a soil, and was surprised when the Head Gardener remarked that no watering at all had been done.

Mr Middleton goes on to explain how the ground was dug deeply in the winter leaving the soil in just the right condition for drawing up water below by what is known as capillary attraction, using a cube of sugar with just a corner dipped in a cup of tea to demonstrate how the tea is absorbed.

In solid, unbroken soil, cracks appear and allow the water to evaporate quickly, but a deeply dug and well-cultivated soil not only lifts sufficient water from below but holds it in the surface layers where it is most wanted. Moreover, in such a soil the roots of plants can descend much easier to the lower regions in search of more abundant supplies.

He talks about the virtues of mulching as a means of conserving water explaining that this is done not only to feed the roots but to keep them cool and moist in hot, dry weather. he states not to do this too early in the year and suggests using manure, hay, straw, leaves or lawn mowings.

I think i should be quite safe in saying that there are far more casualties among greenhouse plants through over-watering than from any other cause. It need not be so, because after all, watering is really a question of judgement and common sense.

My deep-beds

For many years now l have grown my vegetables using deep-beds.These are 4ft wide beds, dug deeply with lots of compost. The idea is that you never walk on them hence the soil is not compacted. The plants can be spaced closer together and develop a good root system and you can see exactly what needs mulching, watering, feeding etc. I don’t think l would ever go back to the conventional method of preparing my plot ie. digging the whole lot and then treading all over it!

So, with the watering l have moved on with technology, and last year l invested in a micro-irrigation system connected to a timer. Mr Middleton would have loved this! I place the piping around the beds, in particular, the beans and peas, salad beds, courgettes, squash and pumpkins. The rest have to take their chance. I still like to use the watering can, however. There is something very ‘hands on’ using a can and you can be more selective. What system of watering do you use?

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in May, Mr Middleton, The garden

 

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The Middleton Garden at The Langham Hotel, London

In-between watching the Royal wedding yesterday l was searching the internet for some more information on the great man himself as l had just received a very interesting message from someone who told me he could remember listening to his radio broadcasts during the war years. This made me wonder what his voice sounded like. I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be very BBC ‘London Calling’ type voice. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when l stumbled across some beautiful old Pathe News film of him talking to a fellow gardener (see previous post). There are several other pieces too, including film of his funeral which l will post soon.

Another piece of news came from The Langham Hotel website and l quote:

On 29 April 2011, to co-incide with the Royal Wedding of HRH Prince William to Kate Middleton, The Langham, London will re-open the eponymously named Middleton Rose Garden as a rare outdoor wedding venue in London.

The south facing Middleton Rose Garden is one of the oldest private garden sites in the West End, dating back to the mid-eighteenth century and thus listed building consent has been granted to upgrade the garden. Since 1961, it has been known as The Middleton Garden, when the BBC, the then occupier of The Langham Hotel, dedicated the garden to its pioneering former gardening presenter Cecil Henry Middleton, who died in 1945.

The Middleton Rose Garden

This courtyard garden will now form a unique outdoor reception venue for up to 250 guests for use in conjunction with the hotel’s historic Grand Ballroom. Measuring 420 square metres, it has been specifically designed to give the impression of an English rose garden whilst also being a flexible venue for weddings and special events. Located at the rear of the hotel, it is accessed directly from the Grand Ballroom. Grand piers and elegant railings will create enticing views, and within the garden, a series of intimate spaces will be created by moveable planters and benches.

Standard bay trees create a structure of evergreen planting giving all season interest while the underplanting of roses and other seasonal plants will give considerable colour, fragrance and charm. The side walls will be planted with free-standing decorative obelisks to clothe climbing roses and jasmines.

The York stone paving will be replaced throughout and a scheme of low voltage lighting will be installed in the planting beds to create subtle mood lighting. Although there is limited scope to create a bio-diverse environment in an urban setting for wildlife, some beds will be planted with some evergreens to provide shelter for insects and birds.

I am really pleased his name will live on through a new rose garden come reception area to the Grand Ballroom and feel this is such a fitting tribute to such a great garden personality.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2011 in Mr Middleton

 

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Mr Middleton talking to a fellow gardener on Pathe Film

PICTORIAL PERSONALITIES – IN YOUR GARDEN – British Pathe.

Hooray, finally found some old film of the great man himself talking to a fellow gardener in his cottage garden. Brilliant!

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Mr Middleton

 

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Kate Middleton, Any Connection l Wonder?

Well, the question has to be asked doesn’t it? Is Mr C H Middleton a relative to our future Queen? There have been one or two programmes on the TV recently looking into her past but they seem to be pointing to the North of England and the mines. But hey, who knows. Maybe she has a deep interest in horticulture and wonders where she gets it from if neither of her parents show any interest? Now wouldn’t that be great!

Me & Roger saluting the flag!

So, l will be raising a glass to the Happy Couple later this morning and wishing them all the very best. Diana would be a proud Mum for sure.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Mr Middleton

 

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My Garden

I thought l would add a few photos of the garden as it is not normally quite so weed free but with the long hot dry spell the weeds are slow in returning.

The potager

The potager takes up half of the garden. The other half is made up of two large round grassed areas suroounded by various shrubs, grasses, trees and flowers. The beehive is actually a compost bin l made some years ago following a Geoff Hamilton design. It fools everybody!

Looking back to the house

The garden is made up of deep-beds with paths made up of crushed sea-shells. I don’t use weed-killer on these paths but hoe them all as and when. The hot, dry April is making it very hard to get the seeds going. I soak the row first before putting in the seeds hoping this gives them a head start but l am having to water every 2 or 3 days or else l would loose most things.

First showing of the peas

The peas are a bit slow emerging but l am sure they will be romping away now. In front l made a small sowing of lettuce ‘cut and come again’.

Bean poles

I have been soaking a load of willow over the past week or so and today l weaved some btween the bean poles to give the beans something extra to climb up and make the whole structure a bit stronger. Mrs Hunt finished off the other side and l have to say she made a far better job of it than l did! Did you know its National Bean Pole Week?

Catch crop of Lettuce

I planted up a catch-crop of lettuce in-between the bean poles. These will be ready by the time the beans have got to the top of the poles. It just uses up what would otherwise be a waste of good soil.

Broad Beans

The broad beans are flowering well and look set to provide a good crop but the leaves are being eaten by something. It’s not the dreaded blackfly so not sure what it is.

Early potatoes

The early potatoes l put in not so long ago keep appearing above the soil l earth up over them. I have almost run out of soil so they will now have to take their chance if there is a frost. My greenhouse is fit to bursting with courgettes, pumpkins, squash, runner beans and tomatoes that really need to be planted out but if there is a frost, and there well could be, l stand to loose the lot!

Sweet-pea wigwam

I made up this willow wigwam today as well. I planted a couple of cucumber plants either side and the rest will be planted up with Sweet Peas. This area still needs a lot of work as it is the herb garden and needs a lot of sorting out. The ground is really hard here so might wait until after it has rained.

The weekly jottings of Mr Middleton for the 4th week in April and the weeks of May were covered last year but l will be looking at the Dig for Victory leaflets and see what they have to tell us.I have been making some purchases on ebay over the past few weeks of old WW2 Dig for Victory memorabilia. There are some serious buyers out there and one small leaflet recently fetched nearly £70.00! More details on another post.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in April, The garden

 

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One Year On…

There is no more peaceful spot on earth than an English garden, and for some years you and l have been building up our little flower gardens, making them more beautiful, more intimate, and more than ever an essential part of our homes. But grim times are with us, and under stress of circumstances we are now called on to reorganise those gardens, and turn them into munition factories; for potatoes and beans are munitions of war as surely as are bullets and shells; and the gardeners of England can do much to help the nation in its hour of need.

And so says Mr Middleton in his introduction to ‘Your Garden in War-Time’ which Aurum Press have just re-printed. It was originally printed back in 1941 and Britain was in the thick of it; Britain’s cities were being bombed and food was becoming increasingly scarce with the Atlantic convoys under attack from German U-Boats. The need to ‘Dig for Victory’ was as necessary as ever before.

Not much has changed in 2011. A new Government coalition and its strict measures to cut the deficit is having a massive knock on effect with the economy in general. Will it work? Who knows. To me it seems to be too much, too soon. For many people the need to make their own cut backs is just as relevant today as it was back then. And for many, so to is their enthusiasm to continue to Grow their Own.

Trends and fads come and go but the sale of vegetable seeds continues to far outstrip the sale of flower seeds as does the increasing demand on councils for new allotments proving this trend is here to stay for some time to come.

With our decision to return to Blighty my vegetable garden will not be in full production this year. Instead, l have decided to grow crops that we will benefit from this season ie. salads, peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, herbs, squash and tomatoes. It’s enough to be going on with! Fingers crossed and with a fair wind we will sell our cottage this year and be able to start a new life in England.

And no, l have no idea what l will do at this stage as to what l will do when l return or where exactly we will return to! We have a few irons in the fire so will see what comes about. We wish we could pick this cottage up and take it back with us! Along with with my veg plot, of course!

The weather here has been exceptionally warm and dry making the ground hard. When it is like this l find it is better, when sowing seeds, to pour water into the channel you make for your seeds first, let it drain then sprinkle your seeds into it and cover as normal. It gives them a good head start and once they have come through you can water as normal if necessary.

So, with that, l am off to sow the rest of my crops. Its a great time of the year. Happy gardening!

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in April

 

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Signs of life

Well, l managed to get an hour or so on my plot yesterday. It really was lovely to be out there with the sun burning my neck! I got a row of peas in as advised by Mr Middleton. The pea sticks were put in at the same time of sowing.

Pea sticks

I will sow another row in about 10 days or so to try and keep a succession of peas going over a longer period rather than sow them all now and have a glut.

Pea sticks 2

I had a quick look at the potatoes l had planted under cover a few weeks ago and was amazed to see several new shoots poking their heads up! Another 5 or 6 weeks and l hope to be eating my first bowl of spuds!

First potato!

I checked the other cloche and all the seeds have germinated. Its a great sight after all this awful weather we have had but there is still so much to do.  I hope you are all able to get out into your gardens this weekend too.

Salad

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2010 in April, The garden

 

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