Katherine Crouch


Grow your own wine

I cannot instantly recall a more tiresome spring for raising plants. The frosty nights and dry days of April slowed down seedling growth to near standstill, tender plants like tomatoes suffered when put outside only for the day, then the constant rain and cold of May set the whole season back by a good two weeks.

Wisteria is usually well in flower in the last week in April and this year some of the buds got blasted by the frost, so there are fewer flowers than last year. Worst of all, the vines in Bordeaux and Burgundy got hit hard by the frost, turning emerging buds to powder. To stir up the air, bonfires were lit in the vineyards and army helicopters deployed, but with limited success. The grape harvest is forecast to be the lowest for 70 years, 40% below normal years. The Champagne region was not affected so badly, so civilisation as we know it will continue a while longer. Read more

orange dahlia David Howard


Dahlias for Cut Flowers

My name is Katherine and I am an addict. It is harmless and doesn’t hurt anyone. I am addicted to dahlias and currently all my windowsills are full of trays of my favourites just starting to sprout.

I’ve been clean for 12 years since I grew 40 dahlias in a field and had no end of fun selling them outside my house opposite Donyatt church. I also grew zinnias, cleome, Euphorbia oblongata and golden rod to bulk out the bunches.

I resisted temptation for long enough and had a fix online. JRG Dahlias is my favourite dealer. It is so easy just to keep pressing buttons on internet orders but I have promised myself this habit won’t get out of hand this time. There are hundreds of varieties available. The information is seldom more than a picture and an indication of height. You have to grow rather a lot of them to find which ones are best for cutting. Read more

vegetable garden


A rainbow of soft fruit

I promised to write about more soft fruit this month, and it is the turn of cane fruit. It is still too wet for serious gardening. I potter out to look at the early snowdrops in the drizzle and potter back in again sharpish.  I will spend more time planning new varieties of plants for the allotment and home garden. Cane fruit mostly have lax growth that requires either a hedge to sprawl through, or post and wire supports, or a fence to be trained against. Read more