4 May - In a nutshell

It has been a couple of months now since I put pen to paper, so to speak, and a lot has happened during the time. It only seems right to bring you up to date, but I will try to make it brief.

Every year this gets coppiced to about eighteen inches high and is generally done in March. This serves a couple of purposes. The first is so that we obtain a different perspective of the garden from the house, as it opens up the view. The second is to retain the winter colour of the stems, which look best on one year old stems. The third reason is to obtain cuttings to go on and produce more plants, although it can be a year before you know if they have taken.


These have really come along in a short space of time, from small plants that have been potted on a couple of times to now being planted into their final positions in the greenhouse only yesterday. As soon as the weather started to improve they were put in the greenhouse every day for about a week, before then being left in there overnight with a fleece to ward off the cooler overnight temperatures. There was one slightly cooler night when I completely forgot about the fleece and the next morning the tomatoes were found in shock with their leaves slightly curled. With a bit of TLC they soon came around and have recovered well. They now have their first flowers starting to open.

Peas, Beans and Mangetout
These all grew well and soon as they were garden ready, planted out into their final position. Giving the tactics of the sparrows and their taste for peas, all of these have been netted with extra care taken not to leave any gaps, so that birds do not get caught up in the netting.

Flower Seedlings
All these are growing well and have been pricked out and potted on at least once. Some, like the ox-eye daisies are have grown reasonably quickly and are now garden ready. The cosmos are not very far behind and have now been place in the cold frame with the ox-eye daisies. As for the others they are taking up room in the greenhouse now and will soon need potting on again before they are hardened off ready for planting out in the garden.

Vegetable Seed Sowing
During the last month the seed of turnips, swede, spinach beet and beetroot have all been sown direct and the seedlings are now up and growing strong. Parsnips that were sown earlier in the year have also now finally started to grow.

The lawn
Early April saw the grass being given ins annual treatment, first a cut then a weed and  feed. This is then followed a week or two later with the grass be scarified to remove any dead moss and thatch build up. Finally a generous scattering of grass seed, particularly in those areas looking a bit sparse. It looks a bit worse for wear initially, but it soon greens up ready for the summer.

Back in December I bought around 100 bulbs from the Manchester Christmas market, there was a dutch bulb stand their from Holland and I managed to get a carrier bag full of bulbs for £5. Anyway, the majority of these bulbs were specialist tulips and were planted out in the garden. They have been flowering for the last couple of weeks and continue to do so. I also purchased some larger tulips for the greenhouse borders and these were to be treated as cut flowers for the house. These have now finished, but they did provide several bunches of flowers.

The Bird Box
The blue-tits have been busy building the next over the period of a few weeks and have now laid their eggs. There are nine eggs again this year and hopefully we will get to see them hatch, especially after last year. It was noticed today that for some reason the top of the box was no longer attached to the tree. We don't know how this has happened, but the box was hanging on by one screw and leaning at an angle. Unable to leave  alone, as it would have fallen if we had, it had to be judged when best to stabilise. Keeping an eye on Mrs Bluetit in the box, my husband managed to climb up to the next, block the entrance and refix to the tree. Whilst Mrs Bluetit new something was going on she did not appear to get stressed and now her and her unborn are safe again.

4 March - An afternoon off work.

Resigned to the fact that the weather was possibly only going to get worse this afternoon, I decided to call it a day and go home. The weather in fact didn't get worse, the snow turned to rain and the roads to mush! This didn't prevent me however from clearing the snow from the bamboo and evergreen shrubs in the garden when I got  home. If  any of the wet stuff froze overnight the weight on any shrubs would increase and potentially could cause some damage. So what to do with a few hours that I didn't have before, I needed no convincing, a spot of gardening. Of the indoor variety of course.
I have now managed to pot on the seedlings of Echinacea, Vebenea, and Antirrhinum. I had sown the seed for these a couple of weeks ago indoors. I have also sown the seed for Courgette 'Defender' and Cucumber 'Emily'. Again these have initially been placed in a heated propagator indoors.
In the greenhouse we now have the first batch of peas 'Kelvdon Wonder' sown. I normally use root trainers, but I have so many peas to sow that I have started to use empty toilet roll tubes! They do the same job and needs must.

A couple of weeks ago I also had sown the seed of Aquilegia, a yellow variety with long spurs, the seed was collected from the garden last year, and some ox eye daisies. These are all growing well and will soon need potting on.
Last week I had sown the seed for Cosmos 'sensation', Rudbeckia 'Prarie Sun' and Rudbeckia 'Sputnik'. Again, these are all growing well.
Last year my attempts at growing parsnips were poor. Last week I had sown the first row of parsnips direct, this are of the bed had been covered by a cloche and was recovered again once the parsnip seeds were sown. However, I am not holding out much hope at present, so I have placed some seed onto damp kitchen towel and once there is any indication of germination I will plant the seed outside. Other than that I will sow a row every couple of weeks for the next month and hopefully will hit lucky with the timing.

25 February - Expansion

Looking forward to the new season with plenty of vegetable and flowers seeds purchased ready and waiting. Last year I grew a few flowers for picking and although on a very small scale it was enjoyable and rewarding, having bunches of flowers for the house. I have decided to do the same again this year, but this time I am planning to make better use of the kitchen garden.

Whilst the seed box is full to busting, I have also purchased this year a light box. basically a setup to grow plants indoors with the light they need to prevent them from getting too leggy. It came with capillary matting and seed trays so fingers crossed this will help ensure I grow better plants.

Also, as I am going to need as much space in the greenhouse as I can get for all these plants I am going to be growing, so have also purchased some extra staging. This is different to that already across the back of the greenhouse in  that it is suspended from the wall and roof of the greenhouse and does not take up floor space. This is ideal for me as it maximises space whilst I can still make use of the borders in the greenhouse.

21 February - Tomatoes potted on

Well its been a couple of weeks now since the first tomato seeds were sown and they are coming on a treat. Granted they were getting a little bit leggy, but when potting them on into individual pots I planted them deep! By planting them up to their seedling leaves it encourages the plant to produce more roots up the stem and hopefully produces a stronger root system. They are now growing on in slightly cooler conditions, but it is too early yet for them to be put out in the unheated greenhouse.

19 February - Bees

For the last few  years I have ordered bees for the garden. Sounds a little  weird I know. However, our native bee population is declining and I feel that I am giving nature a helping hand. 

I initially purchased a small hive with bees and each year purchase a new nest. These are not honey bees, will not swarm or stay with the best indefinitely. They are purely pollinators and at the end of the life of the nest the queens produced will go their own separate ways and hopefully produce bees for the following year.

I am upgrading my hive to one which is larger, will produce a bigger colony of bees and hopefully the adaptions made to the larger hive will keep the bees happy.

Roll on May for their arrival.

19 February - Frosty weather

Another frosty morning with clear skies, and where the frost covered flat surfaces it was glistening like diamonds in the sun.

Thankfully any plants that may have succumbed to the cold were tucked away either in the greenhouse or under protective cloches. Whilst I am keen to get the gardening season underway I am still wary of the frosts that can continue until at least May.

The ground is still too cold for direct sowing, but I have been keeping areas covered with black sheeting to keep the soil that little bit warmer and dryer for when the time is right. In the meantime I will just have to make do with a window sill or two indoors.


26 January - Snowdrops

When we moved into the house back in the summer of 2008, the garden was in need of a little imagination. For a plant lover such as myself the garden was showing very little in the way of planting. The one plant we did inherit from previous owners that has slowly grown over time and is welcomed every year, are the snowdrops. These are mainly in the border just outside the back window, and as the ground slopes gentle upwards it means we get a good view from the house. Not content with what is probably hundreds of snowdrops already, a couple of days ago I ordered some more and these arrived in the green today! These are "Elwesii" and these will be planted in large pots either side of the back door. I know that snowdrops don't like to dry out, even in the summer months, but plans assured this should not happed and they will still get their respite from the summer sun.

23 January - Roses and Onions

Getting really fed up now with these dark grim days and cannot wait for the longer days to arrive where I can get out in the garden after work. At least it wasn't raining today and got to spend some time outdoors even if I didn't really have much that needed to be done.
I decided to cut back the roses in the garden, I usually do this in another months time, but with the weather generally on the mild side they are already budding up for the year ahead. Sticking to the three D's theory I remove any dead, dying or diseased wood, then give the whole plant a general cut back of about a third. The climbing roses I have just shortened the side shoots to an outward growing bud to keep them tidy. I had already pruned the roses by half last autumn to prevent any wind-rock over the winter period.
I usually grow onions twice a year, the first being planted back in September for a June/July crop, and the second in the March for cropping around September. The bed the onions are to be grown in this year is smaller than the others, so I only planted shallot sets in September followed later by some garlic bulbs. After the hard frosts of late these are still slowly growing away and won't really get going for another month. The other day I received my onion sets through the post for those to be planted out in March, however I did read recently that you can plant onions in module trays in the greenhouse in January for planting out later. Seeing as I have plenty of onion sets I thought I would give this a go a see if it made any difference, but still leave some to plant out later as I would do normally. The onion being used is Stuttgarter
Meanwhile it has been a couple of weeks since the tomato seeds were sown, these have now germinated and are starting to show signs of growing the first true leaf. Once these have a couple of true leaves they will be potted on to individual pots. I just need to ensure that the pots are turned every day as with the plants being on a windowsill they have a tendancy to lean towards the light.

16 January - Bamboo

At the last house we had a bamboo and although we had a very small garden we bought the biggest we could afford in order to give impact in the garden. It wasn't planted in the ideal location, but once it settled in it grew every year very well and every winter I would give a prune to show off its coloured stems. When we moved it was not a plant I could have dug up easily and brought with us, so we bought another for the current garden.
The current plant is about four years old and it does have a tendency to send out a runner once in a while. The first two years I let the plant be and last year was the first time it had a trim. I have done the same again this year. Basically I have completely removed all of the thin straggly stems from the plant by cutting back to ground level. then for the remaining stems the bottom two to three feet of each have been stripped of side shoots. This enable the bamboo to become a feature plant during the winter months, with the coloured stems singing out, especially if caught by the evening sun.

9 January - Seed Sowing off to an Early Start

Today was the first time I got chance to spend in the garden this year and whilst the weather stayed dry in the main, the only task I got done outside was turning the compost heap!
The real task for the day was to get started on sowing seeds for the year ahead. As the ground is generally wet and cold I decided to sow a batch of broad beans "Aquadulce Claudia" into individual pots.  Had I sown these direct into the soil, they probably would have sulked and eventually rotted off. These will be left in the cold greenhouse to germinate and grow on for planting out later in March.
Last year was not a good year for our tomatoes and it seems that other people were in a similar position. I got fewer trusses and later ripening of the fruits. This may have been in part to the fact that I had sown the seed later than usual, so this year I am getting started early again. I am trying two varieties that are new to me, "Big Mama" and "Tangerine", so we will see how we get on.
Another crop that I grow every year without a lot of success are peppers. I think that the problem I have is that the growing season is just not long enough here. I would probably be best ordering small plants and growing them on, but that kind of takes the fun out of it a little for me. So not to be beaten, I am trying again this year, starting now! I will be growing Pepper "Topepo Rosso" and Chilli "Trinidad Perfume".
In respect of the garden, rather than the veg plot, I have some seeds that are now out of date according to the packet, but I have decided to see if any will still germinate. These are Gaura Lindheimeri "The Bride" and some Giant Scabious. If these do germinate and I get several plants I am not sure I have any room in my garden, but I am certain someone will take them off my hands.

7 January - Hellebore

A few years ago we were given a hellebore as a gift and I managed to collect a few seeds after it had finished flowering. It is now two and half years on and whilst I gave some of the original young plants away I did keep one for myself. It is now a reasonable size plant and has just flowered for the first time. I always thought that hellebores did not come true from seed, but the single flower looks surprisingly similar to the plant it originated. I have already found it a spot in the garden, just waiting now for the rain to subside before planting it in its new home.

1 January - Young Sparrow

There has been quite a few birds visiting the feeder in the garden this week and it was really nice to see a group of long tail tits pay a visit. Generally speaking we get a lot of sparrows and this time of the year they can be hard to spot whilst hopping along the ground. Imagine our surprise yesterday morning when one was spotted taking a nap! He was sat under the feeder with head under wing completely oblivious to everything going on around him. Not only was it a unusual place for a power nap, but the sparrow looked quite young. Sure it was all fluffed up, but some of the feathers looked as they would on a young fledgling. Not to worry though, he was feeding ok and looked like he could handle himself. Hope we see him again soon.