The Beechgrove Garden 2023 episode 26

The Beechgrove Garden 2023 Episode 26

The Beechgrove Garden 2023 episode 26: In the final heartfelt episode of Beechgrove Garden’s vibrant summer series, our cherished hosts Carole Baxter and George Anderson find themselves enveloped in a serene, reflective mood. They stand amidst the verdant expanses, casting their gazes backward to reminisce about the unfolding of the 2023 growing season. It’s been a year marked by contrast: a sweltering, arid June that parched the earth, a moisture-laden August that brought droplets to petals, and a sudden resurgence of searing heat in the early days of September. With such a diverse weather tapestry, the natural question arises – what impact has this climatic rollercoaster exerted upon the cherished garden?




As Carole and George traverse the garden paths, they eagerly unearth the crop of unique blue potatoes, a vibrant testament to the year’s agricultural endeavors, tenderly planted earlier in the year. The delicate process continues as bulbs are lovingly nestled into the soil, a promise of spring’s renewal in 2024. The duo then thoughtfully guides viewers through a fundamental, back-to-basics demonstration, imparting the age-old wisdom of taking hardwood cuttings.



The episode sweetly culminates with end-of-term updates. We journey to the allotment of Calum Clunie in the picturesque landscapes of Fife, observing the fruits of his labor, and then travel to Old Scone, where Brian Cunningham lovingly surveys his herbaceous border, lush and abounding, reflecting on the season past and the growth yet to come.


The Beechgrove Garden 2023 Episode 26


It’s the last episode of Beechgrove Garden’s summer series, so Carole Baxter and George Anderson are in a reflective mood as they look back at how the 2023 growing season has been. It was a hot, dry June, a damp August, followed by a bloom of hot weather in early September – so what has that done to the garden? Carole and George dig up the crop of blue potatoes planted earlier in the year, there are bulbs going into the ground for spring 2024, and there is a back-to-basics demonstration of how to take hardwood cuttings. There are end-of-term updates from Calum Clunie at his allotment in Fife, and Brian Cunningham goes over his herbaceous border at Old Scone.


How the Hot, Dry June Impacted the Beechgrove Garden

The hot, dry weather in June posed some challenges for the Beechgrove Garden this year. Carole explains that the lack of rainfall meant they had to water the vegetable plots and flower beds frequently to prevent the plants from drying out. The heat also caused some of the leafy crops like lettuce and spinach to bolt early, meaning they went to seed prematurely before producing a full crop. Carole says they had to continuously sow new seeds every couple of weeks to ensure a steady supply of salads throughout the summer.

Flowering annuals like cosmos, zinnias and marigolds loved the hot, sunny conditions and put on a spectacular show of color in the ornamental borders. However, Carole did find the flowers faded more quickly in the heat so deadheading was essential to encourage more blooms. Shallow-rooted plants, especially in containers, really suffered in the dry conditions. Carole was watering the patio pots two or three times a day to stop them from wilting. Adding water retaining gel crystals to the compost helped lock in moisture. There was some pest and disease pressure too with plants weakened by drought. Carole noticed more blackfly, greenfly and powdery mildew than usual. She regularly hosed down or sprayed affected plants to limit the spread.


Coping with the Damp August Weather

After an arid June, August brought a complete switch in the weather for the Beechgrove Garden with lower than average temperatures and higher rainfall. This posed a new set of challenges for the garden as Carole explains. The damper conditions caused an explosion in slug and snail activity overnight, making regular patrols with a torch essential to catch the pests before they damaged young seedlings and juicy perennials.

Fungal diseases also thrived in the cooler, wet weather. Leaf spot and blights affected some plants, particularly tomatoes and potatoes. Carole diligently removed and destroyed any infected leaves to stop it spreading. The lower light levels and humidity limited flowering in August. Many plants went over or stopped blooming altogether. Deadheading faded blooms was vital to encourage more flowers.

Weeds absolutely thrived with all the rain, popping up everywhere. Carole spent hours weeding the vegetable plots and borders to stop weeds smothering slower growing plants. She also used organic mulches to suppress weeds. On the plus side, the rain was welcomed by crops after the dry June. Brassicas like cabbage, kale and broccoli put on plenty of lush, green growth, helped along with a mulch and regular feeding.


Making the Most of the September Hot Snap

After a cool, damp August, the weather turned again in early September bringing another bout of hot, dry conditions. Carole and George made the most of this late burst of summer weather in the garden. The September heat provided a welcome late boost for tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in the greenhouse. Ventilation and watering was vital to prevent the greenhouse overheating. Outdoors, the herbaceous borders enjoyed the September sun. Coneflowers, rudbeckias, sedums and grasses all bloomed again creating a late summer display of fiery colors. Deadheading prolongs flowering.

The vegetable plots also benefited. Courgettes and squashes produced another flush of fruits. Begonias, dahlias and salvias relished the September sunshine, blooming until the first frosts. However, Carole did have to keep an eye out for pests like powdery mildew and late blight in the greenhouse and on potatoes as the hot and humid conditions favored their spread. Prompt removal of affected leaves was essential. Weeding was also important before winter. Carole cleared beds and borders of unwanted plants to prevent them setting seed and spreading. Mulching also suppressed late weeds. Overall, the mixed weather over the 2023 growing season provided ups and downs, challenges and opportunities. But by being adaptable, the Beechgrove Garden weathered the changes and still produced a bountiful harvest.


Digging up the Crop of Blue Potatoes

Early in 2023, Carole and George planted a row of exciting dark blue-fleshed potatoes called Blue Danube. As summer draws to a close, it’s now time to dig them up to see how the crop fared. Blue potatoes contain high levels of antioxidants called anthocyanins which give them their vivid blue color. They have a delicious nutty taste and firm, waxy texture so work well in salads or simply boiled and drizzled with butter. Carole and George head down to the veg plot with their forks, keen to uncover the colorful tubers buried beneath the soil. Gently easing the fork into the ground, they lift up the foliage to gradually reveal the potatoes clustered underneath.

The blue potatoes look amazing with their unusual purple-blue skin and flesh. The crop has produced a plethora of smooth, round tubers. Carole explains blue varieties often yield smaller potatoes than mainstream whites but what they lack in size they make up for in nutrients and visual appeal. Sorting through the crop, Carole and George separate out any potatoes damaged by slugs or blight to use those up first. The rest are stored in paper sacks in a cool, dark place to keep for months. Overall, they are delighted with the excellent crop from this season’s blue potatoes.


Planting Flower Bulbs for a Colorful Spring Display

As summer fades, Carole turns her attention to planting up bulbs for a cheerful spring display next year. She gathers together a selection of hardy flower bulbs including daffodils, tulips, crocuses, hyacinths and alliums. Choosing the right planting spot is important – most bulbs need sunshine to bloom properly. Carole selects a bright, open flowerbed that will allow the spring blooms to shine. She begins by digging over the soil, removing any weeds and working in some bone meal fertilizer which encourages strong root growth. Flower bulbs thrive in nutrient-rich, free-draining soil.

Carole marks out swathes and holes for the different bulbs, spacing them out well so they have room to expand when growth begins. She shows how to plant bulbs the right way up, root side down and tips just poking through the surface. The freshly planted bulbs are given a drink of water to settle them in before the soil is firmed down. It’s important not to plant bulbs too deeply otherwise flowering may be affected. A layer of mulch can be applied to retain moisture and suppress weeds. With some patience over winter, the flowering bulbs will spring into life, rewarding Carole with a cheery, colorful display of blooms in a few months’ time.


Mastering the Art of Taking Hardwood Cuttings

As featured on many episodes over the years, propagation is a key skill for any gardener looking to increase their plant stocks for free. Carole is keen to go back to basics and demonstrate how to take hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are taken from deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers between late autumn and early spring when plants are dormant. Carole looks for healthy stems to take 10-15cm cuttings from. She makes a sloping cut just below a leaf joint using a sharp, clean knife to avoid crushing the stem. Any remaining leaves are trimmed off apart from a few leaves at the top.

After waxing the cut end to seal it, Carole inserts the cuttings into pots of cutting compost. She explains good drainage is important to prevent rotting. The cuttings are watered in well. The pots are placed somewhere cool but frost-free over winter. Carole may use bottom heat to encourage stronger root growth. She checks regularly and discards any rotten cuttings. Come spring, with luck, the cuttings will have formed a decent root system allowing them to be potted up individually. It’s a simple, cost-effective way of increasing plant stocks.


Calum Clunie’s Allotment Update from Fife

It’s time for a final update from passionate allotmenteer Calum Clunie at his productive plot in Fife. Showing Carol around via video link, he reflects on an eventful growing year. Calum’s allotment has produced magnificent crops as usual. Highlights include huge onions, carrots over a foot long and an abundance of juicy strawberries. His potatoes have done particularly well this year after avoiding blight.

However, heavy rain in August did cause some difficulties. plots became waterlogged. Calum had to build raised beds to protect more vulnerable crops. Strong winds also damaged taller plants. Looking ahead, Calum has already sown green manures to nourish the soil over winter. He’ll cover beds with polytunnels too to allow winter growing of salad leaves. His last remaining crops like leeks, kale and squash will sustain him for months. With a passion for experimenting, Calum plans to try growing more unusual crops next year like yellow raspberries, yacon and cranberry beans. His top tip is to keep trying new varieties and make the most of every bit of space.


The Herbaceous Border at Brian Cunningham’s Garden in Old Scone

The Beechgrove Garden visits avid plantsman Brian Cunningham as he evaluates the performance of his impressively large herbaceous border. This diverse, colorful mixed bed contains a huge range of perennials, grasses and shrubs. Brian begins a review by looking at which late perennials have bloomed well into early autumn. Standouts include Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, asters and eupatorium. Some, like anemones, have already died back. Shrubs within the border like hydrangeas and fuchsias brought welcome structure along with interesting bark and leaf color. The foliage contrasts of plants like ferns and grasses also brought depth and textural interest.

Areas of the border that lacked late interest have been highlighted for some tweaks next year. Brian plans to add plants like rudbeckia and echinacea to ensure year-round color. He’ll also lift and split congested clumps of perennials like hostas. As autumn begins, Brian prepares his border for winter. Spent foliage is cleared, plants are cut back and beds mulched. This will nourish the soil and suppress weeds ready for next spring’s fresh growth and new blooms.


Key Tasks for the Beechgrove Garden in June

Early summer is always a busy time in the garden with sowing, planting, weeding and watering to keep on top of. Carole and George run through the essential jobs that need attention in the Beechgrove Garden during June. Seeds sown last month can now be planted out after hardening off – these include tender vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and pumpkins. Carole advises waiting until the risk of frost has passed before transplanting. It’s an important month for staking plants to provide support against winds and heavy rain. Tall perennials, blooming plants like dahlias and delphiniums, as well as vulnerable vegetables can all be staked up.

Weeding is crucial now to stop weeds outpacing slower growing plants. Organic mulches suppress weeds when applied generously around plants after rain. Hoeing regularly also keeps weeds in check. Watering will likely be needed, especially for containers and new plants, if June turns dry. Install irrigation in vegetable plots. Focus on watering early morning or evening to reduce evaporation. Adding water retaining gel crystals to pots also helps reduce watering frequency. Deadheading faded blooms encourages more flowers on annuals, perennials and roses. Pruning spring flowering shrubs like rhododendrons keeps them looking good. Trim hedges too before bird nesting begins.

Greenhouses need ventilating on hot days and shading during very sunny spells. Mist leaves and damp down the floor to create a humid environment beneficial for seedlings.


Top Tips for Gardening Jobs in August

As summer begins to wind down, August brings a slowdown in growth and blooms. Carol and George share their key tips for gardening tasks and upkeep during August. Deadheading is crucial now to encourage late flowers on annuals and perennials like dahlias, agapanthus and echinacea. Cut back the faded blooms just above a leaf joint. Weeds will still thrive in August so be vigilant – hoe borders or mulch well to suppress them. Tackle weeds before they set seed and spread. Harvest fruit, vegetables and herbs promptly to enjoy them fresh or preserve the bounty. Make jams, freeze produce or bottle fruit as juices.

Collect seeds from annuals, perennials and herbs for next year’s garden. Store them correctly in paper envelopes or jars ready for spring. Pruning wisteria, trees and overgrown shrubs can be done but avoid major pruning which stimulates too much soft growth before winter.

Plant autumn flowering bulbs like nerines, autumn crocus and colchicum for autumn color. Prepare bulb planting spots now. Sow hardy vegetables like carrots, turnips, lettuce, chard and oriental greens under cover for harvesting into winter. Lift, dry and store potato tubers before slug damage or blight sets in. Check other root crops like onions and garlic.


The Best Scottish Gardens to Visit

With its diverse landscapes, temperate rain and rich history, Scotland is home to some absolutely stunning gardens well worth a visit. Here are some of the country’s finest gardens recommended by the Beechgrove team.

Inverewe Garden, Wester Ross – This botanical garden nurtures an incredible array of exotic plants thanks to the warm gulf stream. Stroll through the wondrous erected gardens.

Crarae Garden, Argyll – Magnificent Himalayan plants mingle with enchanting sylvan walkways and peaceful pools in these magical woodland gardens.

Pitmedden Garden, Aberdeenshire – Relaxing parterres, shady woodland walks and vibrant herbaceous borders make these formal gardens a true delight to explore.

Cambo Estate, Fife – The extensive woodland gardens here include a stunning winter garden and open aspect with views across the Firth of Forth.

Logan Botanic Garden, Dumfries & Galloway – 14 acres of exotic and tender plants from the Southern hemisphere flourish in this mild climate with glasshouses, lawns and a whimsical walled garden.

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Peeblesshire – This arboretum garden managed by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh boasts a world-renowned tree collection with seasonal interest.


Growing Blue Potatoes Successfully in Scotland

Gardeners in Scotland keen to try something a bit different may want to consider growing blue potatoes. Carole offers her tips for successfully cultivating blue potatoes. Select a sunny, sheltered spot with nutrient-rich soil. Blue potatoes grow well in raised beds or large containers for control over soil quality. Plant tubers in spring once the soil has warmed up. Place seed potatoes 20-30cm apart burying 10-15cm deep.

Blue potatoes are prone to slug and wireworm damage. Use organic controls and avoid overwatering which attracts slugs. High in antioxidants, blue potatoes flourish with occasional feeds of comfrey or seaweed solution to boost nutrients. Blue potatoes are ready for harvesting once the foliage turns yellow. Lift carefully with a fork trying not to damage the potatoes. Cure lifted potatoes by drying them out for 2 weeks before storage. Store them in paper sacks kept somewhere cool, dark and frost-free. Enjoy boiled, roasted or steamed. Their striking blue color fades on cooking but they still retain a wonderful nutty flavor.


When to Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs in Scotland

Timing is everything when it comes to planting bulbs to ensure a bountiful spring display. So when is the optimal time to get spring flowering bulbs planted in Scotland? Most bulbs are planted in the autumn from late September through to early November. However, daffodils can be planted even earlier from late August.

Planting early allows the bulbs to establish roots before winter. But bulbs left in bags or boxes can dry out, so don’t plant too far ahead in autumn. Aim to finish bulb planting 6 to 8 weeks before the ground typically freezes in your local area. This gives them the best chance to root properly before winter dormancy. In very mild parts of Scotland, some bulbs can also be successfully planted as late as December or January as long as the ground isn’t frozen solid. Potted bulbs forced indoors for early blooms should be planted outside after flowering finishes in late winter/early spring when frost risk is low. With the right timing, bulbs will flourish the following year. Just ensure their planting needs are met – sun exposure, well-drained soil and sufficient depth for the variety.


Handy Herbaceous Border Plants for Scottish Gardens

The herbaceous border is a classic element of many gardens. Carole suggests some top performing perennials and shrubs well suited to Scottish herbaceous plantings.

  • Hardy geraniums – Low maintenance, long flowering and elegant. ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Orion’ are recommended varieties.
  • Daylilies – Stunning summer flowers and robust growth. ‘Stafford’ and ‘Hyperion’ are excellent choices.
  • Lavender – Wonderful aromatic foliage and pretty summer blooming. English lavenders like ‘Hidcote’ suit Scotland’s damper climate.
  • Grasses – Add year-round movement and structure e.g. the neat, compact Stipa tenuissima.
  • Astilbe – Plume-like blooms and leafy texture. Grow in moist soil for best results. ‘Sprite’ has vibrant pink plumes.
  • Catmint – ‘Walker’s Low’ has pretty blue-mauve flowers and thrives in sun or partial shade. Deadhead to prolong flowering.
  • Echinacea – Striking daisy flowers from summer into autumn. Grow Echinacea purpurea for maximum impact.

The right plant combinations can create an herbaceous border that evolves beautifully across the seasons.


Caring for Plants in the Greenhouse During Summer

The greenhouse is a hive of activity in summer. George offers his tips on caring for greenhouse plants during the warmer months. Watering is crucial, especially for seedlings and potted plants. Damp down the floor daily and open vents to aid humidity levels. Ensure excellent ventilation on hot days by opening vents, doors and using extractor fans. This prevents overheating. Use blinds, curtains or shade paint on sunny days to limit harsh sunlight. Also move vulnerable plants to shadier spots.

Pinch out side shoots on tomatoes and cucumbers. Train strands upwards as the plants grow bigger. Remove lower leaves. Feed plants weekly with a liquid tomato feed or seaweed fertilizer to nurture growth and fruits. Check for pests like aphids, spider mites and whitefly. Remove affected parts, hose down or use organic sprays if necessary. Reduce watering of overwintered plants like citrus and pelargoniums to avoid root rot issues in the summer heat.


Essential Gardening Jobs for September in Scotland

As summer fades into fall, the Beechgrove experts share the key gardening tasks that should be tackled during September in Scotland:

  • Collect seeds from annuals and perennials. Let seeds fully ripen on the plant before gathering them. Store them in envelopes in a cool, dry spot.
  • Transplant biennials like foxgloves, sweet williams and wallflowers into their blooming positions for next spring.
  • Take cuttings from tender perennials like fuchsia to overwinter plants in the greenhouse. Use tip cuttings or heel cuttings for the best results.
  • Divide congested clumps of perennials like hostas, asters and daylilies to rejuvenate them. Replant divisions elsewhere.
  • Prep vegetable beds for winter by clearing remains of harvested crops and sowing green manures like clover which adds nutrients.
  • Plant out spring cabbages, winter lettuce and oriental brassicas for harvesting during the cooler months.
  • Dig up maincrop potatoes before slug damage or blight destroys the crop. Allow tubers to dry before storing.
  • Prune climbing roses and rambling roses once flowering is over to restrict size. Tie in new stems emerging.
  • Net ponds by early September before leaf fall gets excessive. Remove blanket weed and fading water plants if needed.


Creating a Wildlife-Friendly Garden Pond in Scotland

Garden ponds provide an attractive feature and valuable ecosystem for wildlife. Follow this advice from Beechgrove’s Carole Baxter for creating a balanced, thriving pond environment. Choose a sunny site to allow aquatic plants to flourish. Dig a varied shaped pond allowing 1m depth for wildlife. Add shelves for marginal plants. Line the pond cavity thickly with underlay and a good EPDM pond liner, allowing enough overlap. Protect the liner edge with stone. Gently fill the lined pond and allow 2-3 weeks for the water to settle before introducing plants and wildlife.

Plant oxygenating plants like hornwort in pots buried in the base. Add marginal plants around the edges such as iris, rushes and water mint. Include some floating plants too like water lilies. Install a pond pump and filter to circulate oxygenated water. Part shade the water’s surface with floating plants to prevent algae takeover. Introduce native plants and wildlife gradually over the first year. This allows the pond ecosystem to establish stability and balance first.


Why Leaf Fall is Good for the Garden

As trees shed their leaves in autumn, gardeners must brace themselves for the impending carpet of fall foliage descending on their garden. But should this leaf litter be seen as a nuisance or a valuable resource? Carole explains why naturally falling leaves actually benefit the garden in many ways. Firstly, a layer of rotting leaves on beds and borders provides excellent insulation for plant roots and beneficial soil life over winter. The leaves help regulate soil temperature and moisture. As the fallen leaves break down, they release valuable nutrients back into the soil which saves on mulch and fertilizer costs. Leaves make the perfect natural mulch and compost ingredient. Leaf litter in areas of long grass, below hedges and in garden corners provides vital habitat for insects and hibernating wildlife over winter. Areas can be lightly tidied in spring.

Leaf mould created from rotted down leaves makes a light, moisture retentive soil conditioner that can be used for seed sowing and potting mixes. The woody debris and leaf litter helps to feed and sustain fungal networks in the soil which are vital to support plant health. So be sure to appreciate autumn leaves as an asset rather than a nuisance! Simply sweep pathways and leave the rest to rot down naturally.


Planting a Tree for the Future in Scotland

Planting a tree connects us to the future and the concept of sustainability. Carole offers tips on choosing, planting and caring for trees in Scotland’s gardens:

  • Select trees suited to Scottish conditions like rowan, birch, cherry, eucalyptus, pine and oak. Choose disease-resistant cultivars.
  • Pick the right spot – consider space, sunlight, soil type and drainage. Avoid planting too close to buildings or pipes.
  • Prepare the planting area well in advance by digging in organic matter to aid establishment.
  • Plant from late fall to early spring while dormant. Containerised trees can be planted in autumn or spring.
  • Dig a spacious hole and tease out the roots before backfilling with soil. Firm gently and water well. Stake tall trees.
  • Feed with slow release fertilizer in early spring. Mulch annually but avoid wood chip contacting the bark.
  • Water during dry spells for the first few years until established. Weed and remove any dead or crossing branches regularly.
  • Enjoy your legacy tree for years to come! They support wildlife, enhance air quality and provide joy for generations of gardeners.


Divis and Multiplis: The Twin Keys to Plant Succession

Maintaining a thriving, evolving garden relies heavily on two key techniques – division and multiplication. Carolyn expands on these indispensable methods. Division involves splitting and separating out overgrown perennials, grasses, bulbs and clumping plants. This rejuvenates them by reducing competition and stimulates new healthy growth. The best time to divide plants is either early spring or early fall. Use a spade or knife to split the plant into smaller sections, ensuring each has roots. Replant divisions elsewhere. Multiplication means increasing plant stock. This is achieved by collecting and propagating seeds, taking plant cuttings or through layering low shoots still attached to the parent plant.

These simple methods allow gardeners to sustain plant succession cost-effectively. Plants are gradually propagated and divided before eventually being composted once past their prime. Embrace divis and multiplis as the sustainable, organic approach to keep plants and gardens thriving through self-renewal and regeneration.



Over the course of a typical year, the Beechgrove Garden provides a wonderful insight into the seasonal gardening tasks, challenges and rewards experienced by growers in Scotland. From sowing seeds in spring through to planting bulbs in fall, there are always engaging garden activities to be done. The team demonstrates essential horticultural skills like propagation and pruning within their beautiful garden settings.

While Scottish weather can be temperamental, with the right preparation and responsiveness, a flourishing garden can be crafted and enjoyed. The gardeners constantly experiment with new crops and cultivars whilst sharing the productivity and joy gained from gardening. Above all, Beechgrove inspires viewers to have a go themselves and experience nature’s cycle unfolding through their own garden endeavors. Gardening promotes sustainability, helps people de-stress and brings a profound sense of satisfaction.


FAQ – The Beechgrove Garden 2023 Episode 26


Q: What are some of the main gardening jobs in June?

A: Key June gardening jobs include transplanting tender plants after hardening off, staking tall plants, watering during dry spells, weeding, deadheading spent blooms and pruning spring flowering shrubs.

Q: When is the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs in Scotland?

A: Most spring bulbs are planted in autumn from late September through to early November. Daffodils can be planted from late August. Finish planting 6-8 weeks before ground frosts.

Q: How can I make my garden more wildlife-friendly?

A: Provide shelter, food and water sources to attract wildlife. Plant pollinator-friendly flowers, include bird feeders/boxes, build insect hotels and consider installing a pond. Avoid chemicals.

Q: What are some key tasks for the greenhouse in summer?

A: Essential summer greenhouse care includes excellent ventilation and shading, damping down to increase humidity, regular watering, feeding plants weekly, and controlling pests.

Q: Why is leaf litter good for my garden?

A: Rotting leaves insulate plant roots in winter, release nutrients back into the soil as they decompose and provide vital habitat for insects and wildlife.

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