BBC Radio Kent's Andy Garland in Kent Life

The BBC Radio Kent broadcaster and producer on a challenging gardening year for grown ups but a great one for the next generation

On the mic ...

BBC Radio Kent broadcaster and producer Andy Garland on a challenging gardening year for grown ups but a great one for the next generation

 I’m reflecting on the growing season...

Several of you have asked why I’ve not written about gardening as yet. The simple answer is that I’ve been having far too much fun writing about anything I choose to; but as this is October and effectively the end of the season then it offers the opportunity for every gardener to look back and assess what went well and what in the immortal words of every school report could have been done better. 

Let’s start with the good news, fruit growing, mostly excellent. Despite gloomy predictions from Kent’s apple growers earlier in the season my own cordon-trained trees have produced a heavy crop.

Interestingly, all the varieties sourced from the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale have performed well in their third year in their new home.

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The one tree (Charles Ross) that I bought on impulse from Woolworths in Sevenoaks High Street before their demise has yet to yield a single apple. It’s been fed, pruned correctly, has bulked up…but not sign of fruit despite blossoming well.

Talking of pruning, my confidence in this area is sky high after attending one of the fabulous courses at East Malling Research. I’ll be back there for a session on winter pruning in the next few months for sure.

Other positives have been my colour-wheel planting scheme beginning to actually resemble a colour wheel, from a selection of ‘Darwin’ tulips in the spring, through the roses and dahlias giving me the blocks of specific colour I’m aiming for and a move of three pre-existing shrubs this month will help that even more.

"I thought I could play horticultural god with my camomile lawn and somehow get it to survive through simple willpower"

The bad news has been a non-existent crop of sweetcorn. Planting direct into the ground is usually a sure fire hit but this year with the cold and wet spring I think may have done for the seed before it could even germinate.

Other losses have included a camomile lawn (far too shady - I knew it would be but I thought I could play horticultural god with it anyway and somehow get it to survive through simple willpower), every sweet pea seed bar one, meaning none of that gorgeous, heady scent this year and probably most annoyingly on the failure front, a laziness to get to grips with the lawn which in my mind is the perfect green sward but in reality is riddled with two of the pernicious lawn weeds – Speedwell and Selfheal.

Despite sporadic attempts at manually removing them (in a big lawn – good for zen-like meditation, but a bad use of three or four hours precious gardening time) they persist and a resort to chemical control is surely not far away. 

Pleasant gardening surprise of the year though, has to be my three months gardening with a group of four and five year olds at a local school. Despite my initial misgivings, their enthusiasm for the simple tasks of planting seeds, watering and watching plants grow has been a joy that I now look forward to each week.

And their shrieks of delight when pulling their first radishes, carrots and munching on fresh peas from the pods reminds me that this crop of the next generation of gardeners is without doubt my finest achievement in the garden this year.