• Sunday, February 05th, 2012
Today in my fen garden we have had 4 inches of snow, as predicted by the weather forecast. There is not a lot to do in the garden other than clearing the path and feeding the birds. I also tried cleaning my greenhouse with the snow, as I read on the internet that it was an easy way to clean the glass panels. However I think that I will still need to use Jeyes cleaning fluid in the Spring to desinfect the glass panels.
The deep layer of snow makes everything look even and peaceful. I hope that the crocus which were starting to sprout don’t get too damaged by the heavy snow. Similarly the echium which I have left in a pot covered in fleece may not make it through this winter.
Today Spring seems far away as the cold weather front is expected to persist in East Anglia in the week to come.
• Friday, February 11th, 2011
Gardening in February always starts with some ungrateful tasks such as cleaning the greenhouse and fixing the water butt (which collapsed on the floor due to the amount of ice in the worst of the winter cold). However the sense of anticipation of the new season to come has kept me going on a grey and blustery weekend.
Top of the agenda was pruning the red grape vine which is climbing alongside my shed. I had to borrow a ladder and started to cut down the excess of shoots back to 2 buds. I have also managed to secure a plastic bucket on my rhubarb with the help of a few stones – which offers a basic alternative to fancy rhubarb terracotta pots designed for forcing the vegetable.
I have also pruned my blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes and weeded the base of the bush. Hopefully when the wind eases off and weather allowing I shall be able to feed my bushes a sprinkling of sulphate of potash. This should help them get a kick start in Spring and stimulate the bush to produce a good crop of fruits.
Getting on with the digging is a key task at this time of the year, as I start looking into my sowing plans for the year taking into account plant rotation. I actually found a few rotten beetroots which had been missed from the harvest in autumn, as well as a few baby carrots which I have managed to use in a beef stew. I also wish I had harvested the last of my celery stalks earlier as the plant didn’t fare well in the cold and snow.
I have observed a few crocuses starting to emerge and I guess a warm spell is all they need to burst into blossom. The garden looks like a battle field with the vestiges of faded flower heads, worn out lawn and broken plants seemingly struggling in the wind.
As I contemplate my bare garden and consider alternative crops and flowers I really look forward to the Spring to come.
• 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.
• Thursday, November 26th, 2009
You can save a lot of money by checking out the gardening discounts at this time of the year. I went to my local garden centre and found some reduced price packets of seeds which actually don’t expire until 2011. For a mere 10p I was able to pick up some unusual flower and herb seeds such as Borage and Gypsophilia. I would not normally consider buying these seeds but at that price it’s worth a try.
Strawberry plants are also reduced to half price at this time of year and although it is probably late in the season to be planting them, there is a good chance that they will be fine next year if they can survive the winter. The two varieties which I found were: Hapil and Elsanta, which I have never grown before.
Similarly bulbs like Alliums (Mars) which normally cost about £3 were 50% off as it is getting a bit wet to get planting in the garden. This variety of allium grows really tall flowers (48″) which look lovely in a mixed border and dry out nicely as they fade out. I noticed on their instructions that these alliums can actually be planted successfully right until the end of autumn. Many garden centres also have offers on other spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips.
Finally I have also bought some broad beans (100 grms for 80p) and although these should have been planted earlier in the month, I have sown them in modules and placed them in the greenhouse to help with germination.
So when you next visit your garden centre to find some Christmas decorations check out the seasonal discounts on seeds, bulbs and plants, and you could save yourself a lot of money.
• Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
As I spend more time in the garden and outdoors generally I find that I am becoming more attuned with the changes in the seasons. And recently I have become aware that we have reached the height of summer. I can feel it in the change of colours and light – the bright mornings with their azure sky blue skies have given way to indigo hues – just like the sky blue Corydalis flower has given way to the darker violet Agapanthus in my garden. The lavender is in full bloom and filling the air with its potent fragrance.
I have also noticed a return of the ladybirds which first came early spring to take care of the aphids on the early spring shoots and are now back in time for the second rose blossoms.
Today in my East Anglian garden the sun is strong and temperatures are making the air seem a bit stuffy. We are enjoying summer with its abundance of flowers and fresh vegetables readily picked from the garden.
As I watch the combine harvester collecting the wheat in the local fields, it feels like we are preparing for the winter to come.
A new transition is on its way as morning mists and soft dews will soon bring us into a wetter season to come: Autumn.
• Sunday, August 16th, 2009
The revelation that some allotment plots can reach up to £300 in annual rent in Britain is probably a sign of changes in the allotment world. This may seem like a high price to pay for an allotment plot but the Scotlandwell allotments in Perthshire near Kinross believe that their ‘super’ allotment bring excellent value for money.
Indeed for that price you get access to the following facilities according to Garden News:
a club house with fully fitted kitchen including a bread oven, a gardening library, 3 barbecues, car parking spaces, regular events, security, and free tea, coffee and juice for children. An artesian well has also been sunk to ensure that alloment holders have easy access to water. But most of all each plot has been dug over and is guaranteed stone free! Now that’s a luxury you wouldn’t get with a standard £15 rent a year council allotment.
• Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
I am currently growing garlic in my garden and since I found out last year that it was not so easy to grow in my heavy clay soil I decided to do a garlic trial.
English Garden Garlic
Following from my last post on my garlic trial I am having mixed results at present. I guess the weather and the type of soil have had a lot to do with the results.
So far I can report that the garlic in my English garden is struggling as you can see in the picture on the right hand side with the tiny cloves and some onions in the background; in fact some of them seem to have died out.
I am not sure if the cause of this failure was the wet winter followed by a really dry spring.
French Garden Garlic
It also looks like the dreaded rust affected some of the garlic bulbs.
Even the cloves which I planted in modules a while ago and were given a head start in spring suffered badly. And it looks like the garlic variety Thermidrome was mostly affected.
In the meantime the garlic in my French garden was doing fine last month but I have now left it to its own devices and I know that it is getting really hot down there. The harvest time shouldn’t be too far away now and only time will tell.
• Sunday, June 07th, 2009
Following a comment on this website regarding removing side shoots from tomatoes plants, here is an update post on how I look after my tomato plants in order to get a good crop.
My Greenhouse Tomatoes
By now your tomato plants are likely to be of an average height of 9 inches (depending on when you sowed or planted them and where they are growing and care for). The tomatoes grown in my greenhouse are actually taller than the other outdoor specimen which I planted not that long ago and both are bearing flowers. The size of the plant is not a concern since it will all come in good time with the warm summer which we shall hopefully continue to enjoy (although it is cold and raining heavily today!).
So what do I need to do now to make sure that I get a delicious crop of tomatoes? For me just a bit of maintenance is enough as follows :
1. Removing side shoots:
Early on I try to make sure that I remember to remove the side shoots as they appear on cordon tomatoes only. I tend to focus on the shoots that start from the bottom part of the tomato plant stem. I often forget some side shoots but in my personal experience it doesn’t do any harm and I still get a good crop.
I am really looking forward to the strawberry season which will start in June. The best part of growing your own strawberries is wandering in the garden and picking and eating the fruits on the spot. And they taste so much better than the fruits which you can buy from the supermarkets.
Strawberries in blossom
Strawberries are not that difficult to grow even for a gardening novice like me. I have a small patch where I cultivate the following varieties: Honeye and Cambridge Favourite, the latter one being my favourite variety indeed.
I have been a bit disappointed with the honeye variety which turned out to be not so sweet. One reason for this could be the origin of my plants which I bought from a local village fair as bare rooted home grown specimens.
I have also tried and enjoyed the following varieties: Royal sovereign strawberries (a popular well tried variety) and Gariguette (French variety).
My tips on how to grow strawberries