• Sunday, January 31st, 2010
Planning my sowings for spring is one of my favourite activities in the winter time. It’s been too cold to dig my vegetable plot, and the new seed catalogues have arrived full of new ideas for growing flowers and vegetables. One newcomer in the 2010 seed catalogues is the sweet potato, which is available as cuttings or slips. Last year sweet potatoes were very much in fashion with gardening tv presenters like Joe Swift keen to give them a try on his new allotment plant.
Unfortunately it strikes me that the sweet potato cuttings are rather expensive so I shall wait until next year when they have become a more widely grown crop.
I’ve been scouring through my seed boxes and I still have a wide selection of flowers and vegetables which I shall use again this year.
I intend to start sowing later in the year. Chilli seeds can already been sown in February but since we still have negative temperatures in the garden I fear that my window sills are too cold for germination.
I have also pencilled in broad beans, peas, and sweet peas in the coming months, to be followed by tomato seeds which I will start off indoors. I may also sow a few passion flower seeds which develop into an exotic climber. And garlic is also next on the agenda. There is still plenty of time to consider all the other seeds that I would like to grow during the month of February.
Early spring is calling already with the first few lesser celandines starting to sprout from the snow (I have spotted a few growing in at the back of the university colleges in Cambridge). For now I am enjoying the yellow hyacinths which I forced back in autumn and which are signaling the gardening joy of the months to come.
• Monday, January 11th, 2010
Long-tailed tits have become more accustomed to gardens and this year it’s been particularly noticeable. Going back 3 years ago they were hardly ever seen, but now I spot them on a daily basis on my bird feeders. Apparently the long-tailed tits entered the RSPB Big Garden watch top 10 list of most common garden birds for the first time last year. Long tailed tits are small insectivorous birds with, as the name suggest a long tail (see the pictures taken in my garden below).
Long Tailed Tit
They didn’t used to be so common in gardens and preferred hedgerows and woodlands as their natural habitat but bird experts say that the long run of mild winters has resulted in fewer deaths each year which means that there are more of them able to breed in spring. And they also seem to have adapted and learned to feed from tables or feeders.
They are one of the most graceful little birds I have seen in my garden and I enjoy watching them mostly at the weekend. Long-tailed tits normally travel as a group and this year I have been able to count groups of 6 coming all together to feed on my feeders. Having obeserved them on a daily basis I get the impression that one of the birds of the group is in charge of keeping an eye out for danger whilst the other can feed safely.
Long Tailed Tit on feeder
They are very sociable birds indeed and not too scared of humans.
They seem to enjoy the fat balls as well as the special robin grain feed which I have included against a south facing wall near the house.
I may not be doing much gardening at present due to the cold weather but there are many birds to take care of and feed.
• Sunday, January 03rd, 2010
I’m really looking forward to a new gardening year and preparing a calendar with garden activities for the months to come. I haven’t been very active in the garden over the last month of December as the winter frost caught me by surprise. In East Anglia we got 2 inches of snow and this morning, as I ventured in the garden lured by the sunny sky, I was unable to dig the rest of my vegetable plot as the ground was frozen and hard.
Holly in the snow
So instead I set about trimming back the pampas grass which is next to my line of redcurrants and becoming too invasive. I came across a few brambles which needed pulling out promptly before they start spreading around my redcurrants.
I have also topped up the bird feeders and water supply in the garden as we’ve enjoyed watching the birds from the cosy lounge window. Even though the garden activity seems more limited at this time of year, it’s good to be outdoors roughing it out in the cold and keeping busy to get warm.
One last thing for me to do before I head back indoors for a well deserved cuppa is to force the rhubarb plant by covering it and get an early crop like I did last year with a simple cardboard box filled with straw.