Author:
• 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.

Author:
• Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

East Anglia has received its fair share of rain in the last month or so and it certainly feels like a new season is approaching.

Cucumber in the Greenhouse

Cucumber in the Greenhouse

In between showers and cloudy/wintry days I have been able to harvest my first crop of potatoes from a variety called Red Duke of York. The 2010 crop was not as bountiful as previous years due to the extremely dry weather which we experienced at the beginning of the summers and the late spring.

My tomatoes are ripening nicely in the greenhouse and also outdoors. In fact I have been busy feeding the plants with organic tomato feed as these plants are rather greedy. I had a nice crop of cucumbers in the greenhouse but it’s coming to the end as some of my plants have really dried out. I haven’t had as much success with peppers as I have in previous years and I am not sure of the reasons why. There is a possibility that I have overfed the plants and encouraged them to grow leaves as opposed to flowers. The peppers are still small and green but this could be due to the fact that this is a different variety from my usual favouriate Tasty Grill Red F1 Hybrid variety.

I have managed to cope with my courgette glut by sharing my crop and also using them extensively in risottos and in roast. My courgettes are truly relishing the wet weather and it is showing. Likewise the lawn is starting to recover from the draught which completely burnt out the green expanse of grass.

I will have to keep an eye on potato blight and tomato diseases if the wet weather continues for too long. The gardening season is not over for me yet as I am preparing my final sowing of beans and lettuces to come.

Author:
• Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

The gardening activity picked up during the months of May and June, and I have been busy planting my seedlings in the garden and the greenhouse. The flower borders saw a succession of Spring flowers and bulbs soon to be replaced by the Summer annuals which I have recently planted. This includes petunias, antirhinums and geraniums.

Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

I think that it’s fair to say that although spring was late, it has been rather good and was soon followed by a lovely sunny Summer so far. I have quickly ran out of water from my recycled water butt and the lawn is looking rather yellow and dry but I don’t intend to water it since I know that it will recover as soon as the rain comes again.

My greenhouse is packed with tomato, cucumber and pepper plants which I visit daily to make sure that the cucumbers are climbing nicely against the twine which I have hung from the greenhouse ceiling. Tomato plants need to be staked regularly as they develop more flowers and fruits rapidly in summer and may collapse otherwise. I have 2 different grow bags, one of which is peat free and was purchased from B&Q. I have noticed that the 3 peppers in that bag aren’t doing so well as the other ones.

I have enjoyed the cherries from the half of the tree which I protected from birds although they appeared to be rather small this year. I have noticed some particularly big bumble bees flying around my fruit trees and shrubs and I have been wondering why.

This year I have managed to dig over and plant the whole of the garden which is now full of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Gardening has been very rewarding so far, what with the weather being so good and the crops coming on nicely, so bring on July!

Author:
• Friday, April 30th, 2010

Many amateur gardeners like myself are likely to have a cherry tree in their garden, whether it is a decorative type or fruit bearing variety. And at this time of the year you cannot fail to spot them with their beautiful blossoms. Like me you can take part in the urban cherry survey which is planned to run for 3 years and is organised by the National History Museum. The aim of this survey is to find out more about the changes to the urban landscape. The cherry tree survey is anonymous and can help the National History Museum and other research organisations gain useful information about the biodiversity of the wildlife in urban areas where the trees are growing. And since the United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity this initiative is a good opportunity for the public to be involved at a local level.

Cherry Tree Survey

Cherry Tree Survey

Taking part in the survey is easy and only takes a few seconds. You just need to enter the postcode of the area where you have spotted the cherry tree and give a few details about the type of cherry tree which you have identified. There are some guidelines on the website for people who are not sure about types of cherry tree. My cherry tree is a fruit tree from a Morello variety which I planted in my garden 5 years ago, and it looks magnificent at present (as you can see in the header of this website). But I need to remember to put a net on top of my tree to prevent the birds from eating all the fruits later in the year. Some birds like the black bird or thrush do manage to get in the net anyway but all is not lost.

By taking part in this survey you will contribute to developing a greater understanding of how changes in the climate may affect where and how trees grow as part of the overall biodiversity picture.

Author:
• 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

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.
more…

Author:
• 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?

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.

Author:
• 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.

Amaryllis Aphrodite

Amaryllis Aphrodite

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.

Author:
• 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.

Hyacinth

Hyacinth

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.

Author:
• 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

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

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.

Author:
• 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

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.