• Sunday, March 07th, 2010
This weekend I have been busy picking the last of the Winter vegetables from the garden as the weather has been good and I can get on with digging the vegetable patch.
I collected the last brussel sprouts, most of which have been nibbled by hungry wild rabbits. In my raised bed I also harvested the last carrots and parsnips, which were actually quite small but very tasty in my beef and ale stew.
Cold frame lettuce
My coldframe protected the Winter Lettuce from the worst of the Winter weather including the snow and I was delighted to be able to pick some Lambs Lettuce and Rocket as you can see in the picture below. A few croutons and some fried pancetta accompanied my mixed salad nicely at lunchtime.
I am still enjoying the garlic and shallots which I grew last year but supplies are running out rapidly. And in fact this morning I planted my new shallots (called Red Sun) in the area where I grew potatoes last year. The sun was shining and the crocuses near my greenhouse had opened up their purple petals as a sure sign that we are now coming out of Winter.
• Monday, March 01st, 2010
The Winter weather in the UK has been so cold and wet that even the Daffodils don’t seem to have turned up for St David’s Day. Now I may not have seen any single single Daffodil in bloom but I still need to get ready for spring.
Has Spring been delayed?
So today I have sown a few red Geranium seeds in a pot which I shall keep indoors on a window sill to compensate for last year’s plants which I sheltered in the greenhouse but died due to the cold. I have also sown some Nemesia seeds which are really tiny and not so easy to grow since it’s difficult to see where the seed lands on the compost. Nemesias are small plants with delicate flowers which I find particularly useful for the front of the flower border.
My Chilli seeds were also ready to go in a little terracota pot by my south facing spare bedroom window. The window sills are not all yet filled with pots so there is still more space for this morning’s sowing of Marigolds and Gallardias. Every year I grow Marigolds which I like to plant along the garden path leading to my vegetable patch. They circle the path nicely with their bright yellow compact blooms.
In March I feel like a new life cycle is about to start with so many new plants to sow in time for Spring.
• Sunday, February 21st, 2010
Today we’ve had a mix of all types of weather which has not been favourable to gardening. Snow, rain and sun succeeded throughout the day. As the ground is still too wet to dig I decided to get on with clearing and cleaning the greeenhouse. First I removed all my pots of succulents and autumn cuttings from the greenhouse and cleaned all the window panes. I also removed any old grow bag and leaves left from last summer’s tomato and pepper crops.
Then as it started to rain it was time to bring back my old wooden bench from the shed into the greenhouse and set everything back in place. A little inquisite robin got trapped in the greenhouse as I was preparing a couple of pots for sowing. I sowed some sweet peas (of mixed colours) as well as some passion flower seeds which are both lovely climbers and which I will keep indoors for now.
I am in the process of sorting my seeds and getting all my pots cleaned and ready for the succession of sowings to come. This is probably one of the coldest and longest winters that we’ve had for a few years. In fact I was reading in a gardening magazine that magnolias which traditionally flower earliest in Cornwall are still not in blooms. This is due to the cold snap in that area. Hopefully by March they will be in blooms at Trewithen near Truro.
On this cold day I also bought some potato seeds from an early variety called Red Duke of York which I have never grown before. I intend to start chitting my seeds in the next couple of weeks. It was good to see my local garden center selling so many varieties of loose potatoes sold by weight. Mine only cost 1 pound per kilo.
But right now back at home I am enjoying the blossom of my lovely Amaryllis from a variety called Aphrodite and I look forward to warmer days.
• 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.
• 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.
• Friday, February 06th, 2009
I am so eager to get started and leap into Spring that I tend to start my sowing too early and every year I make the same mistake. So my resolution each year is to not start tomato seeds in particular too early because the plants get leggy and take longer to get started in the ground.
Chilli de Cayenne seeds
Garden centres and shops are partially responsible as they start displaying plants and seeds too early. Potato seeds have been available since early January and in my personal opinion that is too early even if you are planning to chit early varieties. In fact looking at the cold weather that we have just experienced, I wonder if Spring is going to come as early as it did last year. So as far as spuds are concerned I have waited until last week – early February – to buy and start chitting my early variety potato seeds. I plan to purchase my main crop variety a bit later.
This is what I am currently sowing indoors:
– Chillies – are so easy to grow even for beginners and are an essential ingredient of curries and other exotic dishes.
– Geraniums – I have chosen a new variety called Moulin Rouge F1 hybrid by T&M which comes in vibrant red. Geraniums are worthwhile growing from seed since they can be expensive if you buy them as fully grown plants from garden centers.
– Portulaca – I have never grown these before but I chose them because they like a sunny spot and seem to stand the drought more than most plants I know. I have just noticed that the seeds are really tiny so I guess it’s going to be a challenge to grow these.
I may also grow a few cauliflower seeds if I have enough space in the sowing tray.
It feels so good to grow-your-own. Hopefully you will join me too in the sowing frenzy!
My top tip: I recommend sowing the right amount of plants that you need plus a few more just in case germination does not work so well (for whatever reason that it may be). In the case of chilli plants, they have been so popular over the last 2 years that I would recommend growing a few more just for your friends and because the chilli plants also look good!
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• Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
I like to dig my vegetable plot every winter/spring – not only because it is good exercise at this time of year but also because it allows me to give the area a good clean up and prepare for the spring time. It allows me to release any stress or anxiety that may have built up during a busy working week in the office.
Digging my garden
Now you don’t have to dig your garden if you do not want to, particularly since it is now commonly acknowledged amongst experienced gardeners that as an alternative to digging you can mulch and cover your soil with compost or well rotted manure. And you can just let the worms get on with the task of incorporating the organic matter into your soil.
Personally I prefer to dig my vegetable plot every winter because of the nature of my soil – heavy clay which benefits from being broken up and enriched regularly.
As I am writing this I realize that I am behind on my digging and currently I am still tackling the area where my squash, sweet corn and dwarf green beans were grown last year.
Naturally my faithful mascot – Fat ball Rob – will come and join me and seek any little worm which I have exposed in the process.
Obviously any arduous activity such as digging is always followed by a comforting cup of English tea and that’s me for the day!
My top tip: if there has been a lot of rain recently it is best not to dig the ground not just because it will be messy (this has never stopped me!) but trampling over wet ground only compacts it further.
Was it tip-top for you? Please leave a comment.