Saturday, 26 February 2011


Doing a bit more re-organizing today. Nothing drastic, just lifting and moving a few perennial plants to somewhere more appropriate. It also allows me to sneak a little bit of extra space for growing things to eat. (ulterior motives or what!)

A previous owner of the house just stuck things in the ground anywhere regardless of their eventual size or growth rate. Last year, when grubbing out a particularly nasty shrub, I found a poor azalea struggling to get some light and air. The thug that was strangling it went through the shredder so now it has a chance to produce some lovely flowers for her indoors to gaze at while she’s knitting. That sounds terribly patronizing but she knits and crochets for a living and sends her unique baby clothes all over the world. Looking out through the patio doors from her favourite chair she does like to see some colour other than green. You never know, it might even inspire a new design.

Today's pic is kind of vegetable related. It's one of my wife's pea-pod designs. The baby is not ours!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

a little milder today...

We're back to normal British weather: mild and wet. Mind you, it's far from tropical and the ground is still waterlogged. The germinated leeks, lettuce and calabrese which were growing on a window sill are now in the unheated greenhouse. There are no frosts forecast for the next three or four days at least so they should soon get used to being where it is cooler.

Planted another four Lady Christl potatoes in containers in the greenhouse which makes twenty-two earlies growing under cover. The rest of my spuds will go in the main plot when the ground is workable, at least another three or four weeks yet.

Last year I put some blackcurrant cuttings in a deep pot and noticed today that the buds are starting to open. I don’t need any more blackcurrant bushes but sometimes I just like to do things because I can. Once they’re rooted and potted on I’ll give them away.

No pictures of the garden today so I thought I'd let you see one of our famed Solway sunsets.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Swans and ....more swans

As well as the thousands of overwintering geese we get on the marshes there’s also a lot of swans that come to feed. When there’s a very high tide the salt marsh gets flooded and the birds have to move further inland. Today's pic is of a group of swans in a field by the roadside just out of the village. A neighbour, who is a keen RSPB member, did a count and reckons there’s 124 but not all are in the photo.
Too cold to do much around the garden today. After 18°C in the greenhouse three days ago it was only 6°C today but I did manage to get part of the plot covered with black plastic to try and warm up the soil a bit in readiness for spring....whenever that might be.

Friday, 18 February 2011

more spuds....

Planted five Lady Christl spuds in a big fish box. Because of the rotation I have a smaller area of ground for potatoes this year so will be growing more in containers. With a planting every week I’ll get a nice succession of earlies....if they don’t get frosted. With that in mind I covered each of the containers with a layer of bubble wrap. Hopefully that will help conserve heat and moisture and give some protection to the shoots when they appear.
It was quite cold today and not really suitable for pottering about outside so I tidied up in the shed and greenhouse and also sowed some nasturtium seeds in small pots for planting out after the frosts. I'm going to grow more flowers this year, especially those that can be used for companion planting or to attract bees.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

taking a gamble

A glorious late winter day with wall-to-wall sunshine and a temperature in the greenhouse up to 18C.  I’ve had some big tubs of compost warming up so I decided to take a bit of a gamble and planted three each of Pentland Javelin and Maris Bard first early potatoes. I'll do some more in the greenhouse next week and then the rest can go in during March, with the outside crop last of all.

I hope I don't lose any of them to late frosts but it's a risk you take with any early sowings and plantings. It would be nice, though, to get some a few weeks earlier when they are a silly price in the shops.

Checking last year’s diary I see that the first spuds went in on 4th March and gave me the first picking on 28th May.  Some of the tops did get frosted but I've bought more fleece this year and can give them a double layer of cover if needs be.

Planted another plum tree ‘President’ to go with the Opal I already have and then squeezed another gooseberry bush, a pink-fruited one this time, into the fruit garden.

Unfortunately I’d used the last of my wooden stakes to prop up a dilapidated fence so I had to improvise one for the plum tree. We have some multi-branched ornamental cypress trees so I removed a nice straight limb from one of them, sawed a point on one end and hey presto. I use a long iron bar to drive a hole into the ground so that the stake is about a foot or so below the root level of the tree, thus ensuring that it’s not going to move anywhere. Let’s hope the improvised stake doesn’t think it’s a cutting and decide to take root!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Messing about with compost

Today I have been mostly.....messing about with compost. I emptied bin number two and bagged up approx. 180 litres of good stuff. That's about 320 litres of humus-rich compost from the two daleks and I’ve yet to start on the open heap and the leaf mould. I like to leave the open heap till last as it is a refuge for frogs and hedgehogs during the winter and they are good to have around the garden to eat slugs.

The unrotted material from both bins is now all in one with some partly rotted seaweed and other stuff to start the whole process off again. I add a couple of scoops of chicken manure pellets every now and then to speed things up a bit.

Last November I mulched round the fruit trees with compost but that has all disappeared into the soil so I added some more to keep down some of the weed growth as well as nourish the soil.

In the afternoon I riddled some of the compost to make some of my potting mix for the containers. I know it’s still a bit early for planting/sowing most things but I like to have everything ready for the big push when it comes. Perhaps I should add that gardening is the only aspect of my life where I’m anything like organized before you get the idea that I might be suffering from OCD.

I  have made my own seed compost in the past but it's a bit of a faff and unless everything is sterilized you always get weeds and the chance of disease so I've bought some this year. It's a Westland John Innes no. 1 and seems to be excellent quality with no lumps or twigs in it.

The plot is far too wet to do anything with but there is plenty to do elsewhere. When I was cleaning pots and containers a little while ago I forgot about the grow sacks and polypots that I’d had potatoes in last year. As they’ll have tatties in again this year I washed and disinfected them all and pegged them on the washing line to drain. The neighbours should have got used to seeing odd things in my garden by now!

I didn't think anyone would be interested in pictures of compost so I've included one to show what happens when we get very high tides round here. This happens at several points along the road and makes driving a bit tricky unless you're in a tractor.

Monday, 7 February 2011

green shoots

Walking round the garden today I noticed the first real signs of the new season. The rhubarb is poking its head through the compost mulch and chives have fresh green shoots  up to three inches long. Even some chives in small pots that I split from a clump last year and was sure had succumbed to the frosts are sending up new growth.
In the greenhouse a tub of overwintered onions is well away, as are shallots I planted in pots last November. When the shoots get to about three inches I’ll transplant them to the plot, given the right weather conditions.
Chard is also putting on new growth and we should be getting a small crop soon.
Sowed another dozen broad beans in small pots in the greenhouse for transplanting outside when they are big enough. All the overwintered ones have been lost to the weather which is a bit annoying as they survived the really severe frost in December then bit the dust in January. I suppose they'd just taken too much of a beating to survive a second round.

The sun came out this afternoon and I felt that great surge of optimism that gardeners get at the start of the new year. Heaven knows what the season will bring but you can guarantee it won’t be the same as last year, or the one before. But who cares, that’s what makes growing your own such a fantastically satisfying challenge.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

storm damage....

A tidying-up day after the recent storms. A strip of felt has been ripped from the shed roof, a couple of fence panels are down and there are twigs all over the garden, not to mention plastic pots here, there and everywhere. Got most of it sorted except for the shed roof then potted up some strawberry runners. I’ll probably give the plants away as we don’t really need any more. It's funny, but I can't bring myself to compost or destroy the blooming things. I think if the plant has gone to trouble of reproducing itself it deserves a chance. But then I'm probably mad!!

Lunch was a special treat - fish and chips in Silloth which is about fifteen miles round the coast but well worth the drive.

Daytime temperatures in the greenhouse are getting up into double figures now and there are no frosts forecast for the next few days so I risked sowing some broad beans (Sutton) and peas (early onward) in containers. They’ll stay under glass until the Spring is well under way.

Last October I sowed some AYR lettuce which germinated and then just sat in the greenhouse doing nothing during the cold weather. It has now sprung into life so I pricked out some of the seedlings into individual pots about a week ago and they are now looking quite healthy.

 I don’t sow a lot of lettuce because it’s so easy to end up wasting most of it. Far too often have I seen rows of bolted lettuce in allotments and gardens because people sow masses of the stuff and only eat a couple of heads. In my veg. plot it forms part of the block planted areas and that means there are rarely more than four or five plants ready at any one time. If there is ever any surplus it goes to a neighbour’s hens in exchange for fresh, free-range eggs.