Monday, 27 February 2012

A Good Weekend for Weeding

This weekend was perfect for gardening so I set to and managed to do quite a bit of clearing up of dead leaves that I had left as protection over winter - the blackbirds had been scuffling them about looking for worms and it was starting to look a bit messy - I filled a big trug with them.  Unfortunately there were lots of ladybirds hiding in amongst the leaves, so they will have to find alternative hidey holes, like this:-

Can you spot them - two ladybirds snuggled up together in the flower-cup of a Hellebore - I am always amazed how these little insects can survive over winter.

google images

When you are kneeling down weeding and getting close to the soil it is good to see what is actually happening at ground level.  I was thinking that all the Anemone Blanda that I planted last year had been accidentally dug up in a weeding frenzy - but I spotted one or two emerging (too small to photograph) so I was rather pleased. I always forget where I planted things as I don't leave any markers near the plants, it is always a surprise when they finally show up.

I kept four new Hebe plants in the greenhouse over winter to try and help them survive - but I think it was even too cold in the greenhouse for them and they look in a sorry state - I have planted them out into their final positions in the hope that they will perk up - this is their last chance, if the don't put on any new growth then I shall give up on Hebes altogether, much as I love them.

Although there are lots of leaves of tulips and daffodils coming through, the only bulbs I have with flowers, are a few crocus:-

These are in the ground, the ones I planted in containers, still have to make a show.  Slowly but surely the garden is coming back to life I will just have to contain my impatience.  But checking daily on the gardens' progress is very satisfying.

On Friday, as the beloved had a day off, we  decided to go for lunch at Foxton Locks.  This pub and restaurant overlooks the canal basin and is favourite stop-off for walkers and boaters in the summer.  It has a glassed-in verandah area for eating, with overhead heaters and blankets available if you should need them.  It is great fun to watch all the ducks racing about trying to be the first  to get to the bread that the walkers bring especially for them.

Now that my greenhouse is cleared out I have begun sowing seed - broad beans and peas have been planted and hopefully this week I will begin re-potting overwintered plants.  I think I can safely say 'the gardening season has begun' - about time too!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Greenhouse - Mission Accomplished

With the advent of warmer weather over the last couple of days a concerted effort was made to finally clear out the greenhouse.  I was moaning about the chaos in there last week, which was 'doin' my 'ed in'. 
Mission Impossible has now become Mission Accomplished.

The beloved made a start by making more mess and shifting everything to one side - and the glass was washed, inside and out, and the moss removed from inbetween the panes of glass.  The moss is a pain as it pushes the glass out so that it leaks.   Then today we finished the job between us by cleaning the back of the greenhouse and clearing the work bench, disinfecting, getting rid of lots of rubbish, and putting everything back neatly.  Voila!  Now I can get down to the real business of seed-sowing, instead of trying to find a bit of space.  We didn't bother cleaning the roof because we cover it with Cool Glass as the weather gets warmer, so that the plants don't get scorched.

Seed Box
I am always on the look out for practical containers to keep my seed packets in.  The large packets of peas and beans are kept in a shoe box, the veg seeds in a flip-top filing box and the flower seeds in a margarine carton.  They are all fine - just not very nice to look at.  I still wanted something to put my home-saved seed in - and the other day in a charity shop, I found this:-

a pretty, carved wooden box just the right size for my little envelopes of seeds.  Much better than a margarine carton wouldn't you say?

Backdoor Shoes
You know how it is - you need a lettuce for your lunchtime salad and you can't be bothered putting your wellies on when you go and fetch it - well, here is a solution - backdoor shoes:-
 they are ideal for leaving by the back door to slip into and wander about the garden.  There are all sorts of patterns - I chose the vegetable pattern, naturally - but you can get them in Rose or Chilli, Daisy or Bluebell, Strawberry or Tomato - there are 12 patterns to choose from.  Pop over to their site and have a look I'm sure you'll love them. 

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A Slice of the Good Life

I can't resist a bargain, this pretty buttercup yellow Kalanchoe houseplant was reduced from £4 to 40p in our local shop - now that's what I call a bargain.  A few other 'sale' items I have picked up just recently

Two large hanging baskets for this years Tumbling Toms reduced to £7
A metre long Grow Cover reduced from £30 to £10
A mesh cloche for £5 reduced from £15
and a propagator for £5 from £15

You just have to be in the right place at the right time, and if you are lucky you find a new pair of wellies for £4.

I also picked up a great book in the sale at our local garden centre

which is full of really useful information from growing to cooking, preserving to making your own products.  So although I have had a little spending spree the total cost didn't actually amount to very much and I am delighted with all my purchases.

Friday, 17 February 2012

What's Happening in February?

I have been having a bit of bother with the new Blogger format - it actually published my post whilst I was still typing it yesterday, so I have gone back to the old familiar format where I can at least access my dashboard.  New and improved isn't always better Blogger!

Thank goodness for the rise in temperature over the last couple of days - our central heating decided to go on the blink on Monday, it hasn't been working too well in the cold weather and when the plumber removed the pump we found out why.  It was totally blocked up with gunk and corrosion.  So, new pump installed, we now have proper heat at last - trouble is, we have got so used to the house being on the chilly side, we are now finding it too hot, even with the temp. gauge turned down to practically nothing.   Well at least it will save on heating costs.

There are one or two jobs that I would like to complete before the end of the month
*spreading and incorporating compost, and
*placing cloches or sheets of plastic to warm the soil ready for sowing seeds

Due to the cold snap most plants have been held back from flowering but as the weather warms up towards the end of the month we should be seeing


February is merely as long as is needed to pass the time until March
Dr. J.R. Stockton


The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size
Gertrude S. Wister


Every gardener know that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle ... a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl
And the anticipation nurtures our dream
Barbara Winkler


Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.
John Boswell


From December to March there are for many of us, three gardens:
The garden outdoors
The garden of pots and bowls in the house
and the garden of the mind's eye
Katherine S. White

and big fat red buds of the Peony should be developing

In the animal kingdom I shall be keeping a watch out for wood pigeons on my broccoli

and some moth caterpillars will start feeding especially angle shades and lesser yellow underwing

and blotches caused by holly leaf miners will become conspicuous

For more information of what is going on in February and jobs to be getting on with ,click on to the BBC's Gardening Calendar.

Quote from Mr. Middleton's Garden Book
"February is, in some respects, a dangerous month.  The love songs of the birds, and the sudden bursts of sunshine, often bring on the gardening fever and tempt us to do those things which, for the time being, are better left undone."

Friday, 10 February 2012

Greenhouse Chaos

My greenhouse is in a right old state at the moment.  When it is not in use during the winter it tends to become a dumping ground for anything and everything . 

It needs a really good clear out so I can wash all glass and benches and get it ready for filling up with plants and seedlings, but the weather has held me back, and it is driving me nuts.  I am by nature a tidy person, but lack of space means that I am forever re-arranging things so I can get it all in without it looking like a tip.
Normally, in the spring, it looks like this

Spot the difference - nice and tidy - plenty of room for my tomato plants - just the way it should be.  I don't know how I have accumulated so much stuff in there, and where am I going to put in all when the gardening season starts. 

I have an idealistic fantasy greenhouse in my mind - that looks something like this

Pinned Image
via Pinterest
or this

Pinned Image
via Pinterest
Now they are what I call lovely growing places - so, suitably inspired - I resolve to get the greenhouse sorted out so that it looks as though I mean business - gardening business!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

In Praise of the Crocus

Crocus speciosa in enamel container

I wish now I had had the foresight to plant some crocus bulbs in containers for inside use.  I always remember to buy hyacinths and paper white narcissus but never remember the smaller bulbs like crocus and scillas.

These small plants are much better seen  at eye level, when you can observe the finer markings on their petals - of course, they still look beautiful planted out in the garden, but I am getting a little creaky in the joints to really get down that far to have a good look.

Crocus in ceramic bowl

Crocus tommasininanus

Blue Bowl with Crocus
Eithne Roberts

Any sort of container will do - but I think a shallow ceramic bowl would be perfect.  In the depths of winter these exquisite little beauties are enough to bring a smile on a dreary day.

How to force Crocus flower bulbs for inside use

Fill a bowl with gravel until it is three-quarters full
Press the bulbs down firmly  - they should be able to stand up without falling over
Carefully fill the bowl with water until it just reaches the top of the gravel and only just skims the bottom of the bulb
Place in a cool, dark place for six weeks to allow the roots to form
Gently remove the bulbs from the gravel and transplant to a pot containing potting compost
Completely cover the bulb with soil allowing any green shoots to remain uncovered
Place newly potted bulbs in a warm, sunny location for flowers to bloom in approx. 4 to 6 weeks.

Of course, I am giving this advice a little too late, it is only the thought of my outdoor crocus pushing their way through the soil outdoors, that made me wish I had potted some up sooner.

Have you  been more organised than me and had the forethought to plant up some bulbs in August to be reaping the benefits now?

Friday, 3 February 2012

Chillin' Out (literally)

The cows in the back field are all lined
up against the hedge
where the sun is warmest

I don't know whether you can remember as far back as last Saturday, but compared to the freezing cold weather we are having at the moment, it was positively balmy.  I actually did some proper gardening - something I haven't done for quite a while.    I worked outside (without a coat) emptying the compost bin and spreading the remaining compost over the raised beds.  Then I turned the second bin and was left with about two feet in depth of lovely, crumbly compost from last year which I will spread once the weather  warms up a bit.  I pruned a climbing rose and the hardy fuschia and a buddleia.  I was pleased with all the jobs I managed to get done - but then the weather turned, and we have had hard frosts all week - it really has been bitterly cold.

The good news is that we had an oil delivery, so even if it does snow or whatever, at least we will be warm - the bad news is that the price of oil has soared and it cost over £300 to half fill the tank.  Sadly, we have no gas supply in the village, so the oil suppliers can charge what they want, and we can do nothing about it.  We do have a communal delivery which is supposed to keep the price down - heaven knows what it would have cost otherwise!

So, wondering what I could do a post about today I wandered (well not exactly wandered, it is definitely too cold for wandering) - let's say I purposefully went outside to see if there was anything worth photographing - the answer is practically nothing - everything has flopped with the cold and the ground is rock hard - below are one or two plants that I found.

Euphorbia - Fireglow
 This plant was new to the garden last year and seems to be doing very well - the new growth is a striking red and looks pretty good amongst all the dead brown stuff.

Perennial Wallflower
  Despite everything, this plant just keeps on sending out flowers, and I am so grateful to it for adding grey foliage and purple flowers for so many months of the year.

  There are loads of buds on this blush-pink hellebore but nothing showing on the claret coloured one at all - I hope it hasn't decided to give up the ghost.

 The leeks in the raised beds are doing ok, these are the ones that I have been cutting off at ground level, and  are re-growing, hopefully into proper leeks and not just foliage.

Scarlet Kale
 The kale is sending out new shoots all along the stem, which should make nice eating, as the older leaves are now getting a bit tough.

Indoor hyacinth
This is one of three hyacinth bulbs that I planted with the sole purpose of them flowering for Christmas - they are only a month late!  When they have finished I will plant them outside, which I do every year, and I have a really nice collection out there now.

And that's it, pathetic isn't it - nothing else to show you.   At least the days are lengthening slowly, so it isn't all doom and gloom.  Plus my seeds arrived from Moreveg, a seed company I found out about through Flighty they were ones I was having difficulty sourcing elsewhere, and include Turks Turban and Spaghetti Squash, Chervil, Hyssop, Red Clover, Celery Leaves, Bronze Fennel and one or two others.  My order arrived within two days, lovely little seed packets with not so many seeds that I won't know what to do with them all.  Excellent, and if they all germinate, I shall definitely be going back to Moreveg next year.