Monday, 30 April 2012

First sunny day

Monday 30th April and this is the first sunny day we have had since coming home on 30th March. Easy for us to remember and not just be guessing at it.

The blossom on the amelanchier has finished.......

 and given way to my little cherry tree.  The crab apple still has to do its thing..

In a month of being at home despite all our dreadful weather the changes in the garden are phenomenal.  

I've optimistically planted out my dwarf bean plants.  I was tempted to madness by the sight of the seeds I planted beginning to sprout.  

It is happening in all three places which I find surprising.  The greenhouse you would kind of expect as it manages to get to eighteen degrees or so most days in there.  Maybe, also, not too surprising that the lettuce under the cloches are doing OK.  The big surprise for me is that the salad leaves and radishes and beetroots I put in very wet and cold soil have also made it.

I am pretty sure I read somewhere that germination depends more on light than on air temperature and this seems to support that theory.

This is the blue pre-planted disc from the pound shop.

The salad leaves under the cloche.

A bargain to point you towards this week is the May issue of Gardeners World magazine.  Every year they produce a card and booklet which lists gardens you can get into for two-for-one with this GW card.  Truly useful if you are someone who likes mooching gardens.  The link if you want to find out more is

Here's hoping the weather has turned (ever the optimist) and we can all get out in our gardens for some long stretches instead of dodging the raindrops.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Rain stopped play

I intended to get out into the garden today come what may.  I thought I could at least get into the greenhouse and fiddle around with stuff in there.  I also intended to take some photos to show the progress of the seeds I planted.  Clearly I am a fair-weather gardener; I've refused to put a toe over the doorstep.  It is like mid-winter out there - very cool, grey, raining and very windy.  Fingers crossed for some change soon, the weeds are advancing up the garden like Great Birnham Wood up Dunsinane Hill, and we all know what happened next!

So having taken time to tell you about all the things I haven't done ... the point of this post is...

Bolton Hospice is trying to organise some Open gardens this summer.  Check out this link Open Garden Appeal  If you sign up quickly you might also get a free rose from Barton Grange!  You don't have to have a stupendous garden or open it to all and sundry you could just invite family and friends to tea and cakes (or a BBQ or whatever floats your boat) and ask for a donation for the hospice.  There's tons of other stuff you could do too.  Just have a look and see if you think you could manage something 'botanical' for a really good cause.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Help Wanted

I have just received an email for someone looking for help:

I am looking for a retired person to tend my garden for a couple of hours a week..

Would you know anyone? Gigg Lane area.

If you can help or know someone who would be interested please get in touch with me by email and I'll 'connect' you.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sort of sorted...

Ten days on from my last proper post and I've just about made a start on the gardening.  In a good/bad way the weather hasn't exactly been conducive to Spring planting since we got back.

I've managed to get the four veggie beds weeded, dug over and chicken pelleted.  The potatoes are planted.  I couldn't get International Kidney without trawling round numerous places so I just bought the first early I recognised - even though I've not grown it before - Foremost.  this was the first thing I did in the garden and managed to do it wrong!  I planted them in the wrong place.  I rotate crops each year and they went in the wrong space.  Being fussy I dug them up the next day and moved them to their proper home.  For a woman who has moved the same tree four times this is small beer.  Not much to see in this picture but reading from the bottom up....  Bed 1. Rhubarb coming on nicely.  Two cloches at the front with salad leaves (seeds) under them.  Hopefully the cloches will add warmth enough to produce something soon.  The two black pots at the back need half filling with styrene as they are far too deep for the parsley and land cress which will go in there when the weather warms up a little.  Not sure if I will just sow straight into the pots or start off in the greenhouse.  Opinions welcome.  I am hoping that being raised in pots they might get a bit more light than just in the ground behind the rhubarb; it also makes it easier to pick.  Bed 2. has two 'covers' on it the square foot gardening frame and on top of that is one of my mesh covers that I use until stuff comes through to stop the local cats using the beds as a toilet.  So this one will be my square foot garden.  I liked that last year and still think it is a good idea for small spaces and high yield as you can harvest a square and plant up again immediately with something else and with 16 squares you can have a variety of stuff.  I am intending to only plant up 12 of the squares this year as they are reachable.  Four feet is too deep to get to the back of the beds without treading on them (I have the same problem with the flower borders, more on that later).  Right now there are two radish and two beetroot squares on the go... might be too cold and wet??  Bed 3. The potatoes  Bed 4. will be dwarf runner beans, dwarf French beans and dwarf peas, but there is no point in putting those out until May up here in Bury they will just rot off in the ground.  I have got them started in the greenhouse.

I had a bit of a tidy up in the greenhouse and started the seed trays off.  I have a stack of pots and spare seeds to offload on the community centre (hopefully).

I need to swap the potting table and right-hand staging shelves around as the best of the sun is on the potting bench most of the time!  My little greenhouse is in just about the worse position it could be but it still has a reasonable amount of light and more to the point heat so I am hopeful it will be useful.  This is its first year really as I got it too late last year to do much with it.

I used my potting bench for the first time too and what a joy that was; no more back-breaking bending over a trug and making a mess everywhere.  Why oh why didn't I make a space for one years ago?  The job was done in half the time.

I haven't done half of what I need to do but I've made a start.  

From top left..  a tray of dwarf French beans called Speedy.  It will be nice if they live up to their name. I think it was a mistake sowing them in small modules - they would probably have been better in individual pots.  All the empty trays on their right will have hanging basket plants in them - Bidens, Felicia etc.  This is my first attempt to start off those for myself. I spend a fortune on plants in May to make up all the pots and baskets I have and I thought this might save some money.  Even if they all work I will probably still have to buy some things to add to them but its at least worth a go although I am actually thinking it might be nice to plant a single variety in abundance in each container rather than the mixed mayhem that we've come to love. That way I won't need to buy and add the 'feature' plants such as fuchsia and geraniums. It might be worth a try for one summer any way. (what do you think? let me know)

On the second shelf down I have a tray with nine pots of dwarf runner beans called Hestia which I have grown before and they did OK.  Naturally they didn't produce anything like the quantity of beans the six-foot runners do but that's a blessing as there is a point where even I get fed up of beans.  That said we are enjoying coming home to our freezer stock of them from last summer.  

In the same tray are six pots (with three seeds in each) of tomatoes.  These are a small tumbling variety called Sweet Million.  Again this variety is new to me.  I intend to grow about three pots of them in the greenhouse in hopes of actually getting a red instead of a green harvest for once.  If I decide to try some outside I might actually load up my shepherds crook bird feeder with hanging tomato pots.  I am pretty sick of never having any birds in this garden however much food I put out for them.  It is a complete mystery to me.  It costs me an arm and a leg and, with the exception of meal worms, it sits out there rotting.  Ken suggests its because of the local cats but I have had my own cats most of my life (not now of course) and I still had birds in the garden.  I can only put it down to not being here in the winter to feed them.

The other tray has 20 individual pots of a Sugar Snap dwarf pea .  I potted these on from a strip of seedlings  I bought at Summerseat for something like £1.25  I think.  Whatever they cost it was far less than a packet of seeds and, again, more peas than I need/want. 

If they all these seeds (and others yet to be planted) take, I will have the usual problem of to much and what to do with them.  PLEASE, if you want my excess plants or leftover seeds, in about a month's time keep your eye on this blog and I'll let you know what's going begging and you can arrange to come and pick them up from me. 

These couple of pots will be interesting to watch.  I bought a packet containing two pre-sown ten-inch discs of paper to go in hanging baskets from our local Pound-stretcher.  The green plastic pot contains the blue mix of plants; this is for my chimney by the summerhouse.  The Hessian-lined hanging basket has a yellow mix in it for my front garden.  The mix of plants are very nice and well-chosen so if they work they will be brilliant.  Again, I am sorry not to have noted the price but I think this one packet only cost £1.99.  What a bargain if they work.  If they don't it will just be a case of slinging it out and planting up as normal - no great loss and I may as well have a go instead of having pots sitting there empty waiting for stuff to go in.  Watch this space.   Have any of you used these?  Were they any good? 

The experienced gardeners among you will get the irony of this photo.  My gravelled utility area is absolutely full of baby foxgloves.  This is a very small example from a very big area.  Sadly they will all have to come up.  I am hoping I can transplant a few of them successfully which is why I am waiting for some warmer weather before doing it.  The irony is the cussedness of mother nature. I have scattered packets of foxglove seeds around in the borders quite a few times over the years and maybe got a successful three or four plants from them.  I probably do weed them out to be truthful, but I really don't have a great success rate with any seed sowing in the borders since I've lived up here.  It seemed to work in the balmy Midlands quite well.  I certainly didn't scatter these here.  The only thing I can think is that I have carried a foxglove seed head to the bin and they have self-sown everywhere.  Even this is odd as I leave all my seed heads on my plants over winter if I can for the birds (!!) and I live in hopes of a few free plants in the Spring, so it is unlikely I'd be binning a ripe seed head.  It is all very odd, slightly amusing and also rather annoying.

So.... as I claimed at the beginning of this, I am on my way to Summer 2012.....  and dreams of warmer weather.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Message for the community centre

This is a photo of two chimney pots and some Mignonette strawberry plants which are currently on offer to the local playgroup.  I posted it here so they can have a look at them to help them decide if they want them or not.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Oh to be in England.....

Oh, to be in England
Now that April 's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

Browning and his 'Home Thoughts from Abroad' has a lot to answer for.  This bit of bucolic meandering hardly describes my particular spot on England's soil but it, and others like it,  colour my thoughts of 'home' for sure. 

The reality is a lot harsher.  I got back to Bury on Friday and before I even went into the house I did a tour of the garden.  My husband thinks this neatly avoids helping with four pieces of luggage.  I was happy to see all the survivors of another British winter but sad to see the things I'd already missed such as the crocus and the snowdrops.  Yes, I realise it is crackpot to plant them when I know I won't be here but the traditionalist in me says they must be in an English garden somewhere.  That said, I have tried and tried to grow snowdrops with no success for years and now they seem to be doing just fine without me.  We have kind friends who pander to me and send me the occasional photo so I have seen them second hand.

Then there was the WEEDS... never seen anything as bad as the amount I've got this year. Serves me right. I smugly sat back last Spring and said I'd do the minimum and let the plants hide the rest...  mmm.. not a good plan as they are now well and truly 'at home' and multiplying like fury.  

I also have a ton of greenfly and rust and a general sort of tiredness that does concern me.  Basically it looks like a neglected garden of some years standing not just six months.  I wonder what I wasn't doing right last summer to let it get so run down?  Maybe needs feeding more?  The other thought is that it is coming into its fifth/sixth year perhaps it needs a really good sorting out.  Phew that's one to put off for another year.   I have massive excuses to do so as we have another 'garden project' which needs our attention almost as fast as the weeds and planting does.

I want to turn the summerhouse (aka shed with glass!) into a workshop for me.  This means we have to get to B & Q and get something ordered to put at the side of the house where the greenhouse is, to take the gardening stuff from the summerhouse.  That will then need building and painting and then the the bigger one will have to be cleaned and painted and shelved and desked and whatever else before I can move in.  I am in a hurry to get in there and crack on with my other passion - miniatures (glorified dolls houses) especially as I have been commissioned to write six articles for a magazine so I am genuinely under a time constraint. Refurbishing the garden will really have to take a back-seat.

That said I have compiled my list of garden chores ready to start.  We have a trip to Summerseat planned for Monday (cheese pie day!) and B & Q on Wednesday (discount day!) so by the end of next week I should be ticking things off - weather permitting.

The general weeding is about five days work in itself; each border length takes a day. I hope I can also squeeze in some time to weed and dig over the vegetable patch and get the potatoes and some other stuff in.  There is a day's work just sorting stuff out and putting things back to rights - the furniture and pots and greenhouse staging areas etc.  So there is at least two weeks non-stop work which in our climate will easily become four (if I am lucky!)

This is the link to what to do and when at Gardeners World but, for me, it always runs at least a couple of weeks ahead of what we can do up here.  The soil should be at least 7 degrees C before planting and warmer than that for some things.  For me, I will be planting my spuds - I hope to get International Kidney but I will settle for any first early I can find.  I will plant peas and beans in the (cold) greenhouse and set them out in a few weeks time rather than plant seed to sit and rot in the probable cold and wet.  I found if you are lucky and the seed does make it outside there is very little difference in the harvesting time between outside and inside sowing.  I just think if I sow under glass their survival rate is better.  I'll also sow some salad leaves in the greenhouse as they will come up quicker and cleaner without the rain splashes we will almost certainly get.  Not sure about tomatoes - may sow some tumblers to grow in pots under glass.

If you haven't done it, this is the last chance to cut back the roses and clematis - you should know your groups and some you cut back to 36 inches and some to 9 inches.  I don't know my serratifolia from my whatever so I just do 9 inches on the spindly straggly things and 36 inches on the big bushy vigorous stuff and it seems to work fine for me.  My climbing roses should go back to flowering shoots of 3 - 4 buds (about 6 inches).  I did all mine at Christmas so they are fine.

The lawn could be scarified and weed and feed put on if it gets warm enough but I honestly probably won't do either - lack of time and money.

Roses need feeding with an all purpose like Growmore or a rose food.  Clematis and star jasmine need a dose of bonemeal and I will probably chicken pellet the veggie patch and then stand well back from the pong for a couple of days.  The rhubarb also needs a feed - chicken again I think, I'll have to look that up.

I am thinking about sowing seeds for the hanging baskets this year to save some money now I have a greenhouse.  I'll let you know how that goes.

So, there you go, that's my list to be cracking on with - I wonder what your's is like?  Feel free to share any thoughts and suggestions to help each other.  

I will keep you posted as to my progress.  I intended to take a photo of the weeds and bugs to go with this post but only remembered about four(ish) it is too dark!!