The Beechgrove Garden 2016 ep.5

In the Beechgrove garden, Jim is hoping that the soil is now warm enough to plant tatties in the main veggie plot, while on the decking garden Carole is also planting tatties on a tiny scale.
Chris and Carole are going on very different fungal forays in Beechgrove this year. Chris is creating a whole Jurassic Park fungal valley with ancient timbers and all manner of edible mushrooms. Again on the other end of the scale, Carole tries out some windowsill mushroom-growing kits.
George visits Alan Shamash's impressive hillside garden full of an extensive collection of rhododendrons in Kirkudbright.
It was a gorgeous sunny spring day at Beechgrove this week. Jim and Carole were in the Fruit House looking at the cracking, cherry blossom.
The variety is ‘Sweetheart’ and it was laden with blossom. It has been a reliable variety at Beechgrove and there was lots of promise for a bowl of cherries in the summer. A few bees and butterflies have already been into the Fruit House to pollinate the blossom.
Jim explained that if the blossom was sprayed with water, this would ripen the pollen grains.
This variety was self-fertile so would pollinate easily. You could also use a paintbrush to pollinate each of the flowers.

The Beechgrove Garden 2016 ep.5
The Beechgrove Garden 2016 ep.5

Windowsill Gardening: Part One

Carole was starting a 3 part mini-series on how to go about productive gardening in the tiniest of all spaces, by growing crops on your windowsill.
First up there were sprouting seeds. Carole explained that these can be grains, nuts or pulses. Examples were red clover, alfalfa, and mung beans. The resultant sprouts can be eaten raw in salads or sandwiches or added to stir fries. To get them to grow, the first stage is to soak them overnight in water. This can be anything from 8-24 hours (check seed packets for recommended time). Carole had chickpeas, sunflower seeds and lentils soaking in bowls of water. These are then easy to grow as not much equipment is required –only a jam jar, an elastic band and a pair of tights. Approximately 1 tablespoon of the soaked seeds should be put into the jar. These then need to be rinsed and drained twice a day to stop the seeds becoming mouldy. Once they start to sprout, they can be eaten raw or cooked.
Carole also showed a couple of other systems you can buy –a jar with a sieve lid and 2 tiered growing systems. She then moved onto mushroom growing kits for growing white and chestnut mushrooms. These are made up of a trough, a lid, a small bag of compost and straw holding the mycelium of the mushrooms (the growing parts of the fungi). Carole explained that the straw needs to be white before starting to grow as sometimes when you get the kits it is not, so she advised placing it in a warm place ( up to 25C) to allow the mycelium to grow on.
You then need to pierce the compost bag and soak it in ½ litre of water.

Fungal Valley

Whereas Carole was growing her mushrooms intensively on the window sill, Chris has a bigger project in mind for a damp and deeply shaded area near to the stumpery which he created 3 years ago: a fungal valley for Beechgrove so that we can grow and harvest our own mushrooms outside at Beechgrove. Fungi in the wild occur mostly in wooded areas because of all of the rotting wood and leaf litter, and many fungi have a mutually beneficial association with tree roots.
At Beechgrove Chris found an example of these beneficial mycorrhizal fungi in the more wild and unmanaged part of the garden. There are around 15000 species of fungi resident in the UK, and if you delve just over an inch below the surface of leaf litter in a wood environment you can find them really easily.