Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Toon Crescent Allotments

This is a message to all the folk who have plots on the Lotty.

When I was there it occurred to me that it might be useful if we all swapped names and some way of contacting each other in case one of us is there and spots something not right with someone's plot.  For example I noticed there is a plot where a few of the seed potatoes are on the surface of the soil.  I don't know if they weren't planted deeply enough  and have just got exposed by rain or they have been dug up by some critter.  Basically I just want to let the person know in case they weren't planning to go to the lotty for a while.

There is no need to give out a load of information, just a name (even a nickname would do), the number(s) of your plot and a way you could be contacted.  If all seven of us exchange them we can help each other out in this way.  If you want to you could send the information to me by email and I will pass the list on to everyone so you don't have to post your email address publicly here. 

I don't mind doing that as I am already 'public' so you can contact me at mormson@gmail.com and my name is Marilyn and I have the three concrete plots in the middle that don't seem to have numbers.

I would love you to use this blog as a place to 'chat' to each other and swap ideas - please do if you'd like to.

PS - spuds should be planted 3 - 5 inches deep depending on variety and then be earthed up a couple of times to protect from frost, so they end up at least 8 inches down.  I am trying an alternative (lazier) way this year - plant 8 inches deep and they take longer to come up (but are starting to develop) and they don't get frosted - well that's the theory - if I lose them all I shall cuss!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Fulton's Strawberry Surprise and pansies

Yesterday (Saturday) we had breakfast and, looking through the window, we solemnly swore we would not be going to the lotty for a while.  Easy promise to make as the weather has turned really cold and is actually managing to sleet occasionally never mind the April showers and impending frost. Then the postie turned up and the last part of my Thompson and Morgan order arrived - my rhubarb.  It looked so bonny it seemed a shame to just park it outside to wait for a better day.  So..... we filled the two water containers - remember we are filling the water butt in episodes each time we go - gathered up all the other necessary stuff and got in the car.  Then the French farce began.  We backed off the drive pointed forward and down came the rain.  Having spent more time in the shed than on the lotty on our previous visit we decided to go round the block and back home. That was fun.  Off with all the gear and, yes you guessed it, the sun came out.  Back in the car and a quick dash to check the bird netting - all OK and plant Fulton's Strawberry Surprise.  I have visions of it and the strawberries lushly filling this bed by high summer...... well maybe next summer.

Photo Album: Garden - The Lotty - 2013

On Friday I snared another B & Q bargain with the benefit of the B & Q Club membership.  They had various spring flowering shrubs and all their hanging baskets on offer for half price with the card.  This is cheap and cheerful at a few pennies over six pounds and will do until the summer one can take its place.

Photo Album: Garden - 2013

Friday, 26 April 2013


We went to the lotty today to put up some netting to protect the all-purpose bed from the birds. 
 When we went a couple of days ago all the carrots and some of the beans I had planted were pulled up and the solar butterfly (I was using as a bird scarer!) was in three pieces.  The plastic had been snapped.  A couple of the green pegs had been pulled out of the strawberry bed.   Initially we thought it was vandals but then, on consideration, it seemed very unlikely as they didn't do a very impressive job.  All my pea sticks were still in place and the water butt still standing.  I am pretty convinced it was pigeons or squirrels - both are extremely destructive.  if you want to see what remains of my forty-odd carrots have a look in the Garden - The Lotty 2013 album

So I bought 4 metres of 4 metre wide bird netting (£1 a metre) from Stephen H. Smiths garden centre yesterday and picked up the cane connecting balls from Summerseat today (cheese pie day!).  We nipped over to the lotty after lunch and slung up a 'cage'.  I'll just have to see how this goes.  It might come in handy again later in the summer if the birds attack the strawberries.

We are also expecting a ground frost tonight so this might add a little protection?

It isn't a super beautiful construction as it was freezing cold and within a few minutes of arriving it was belting with sleet and rain.  We sheltered for a while in the shed but then just came out and got on with it, so it is a bit of a rush job.  If it works and keeps the birds off i can mess about improving it another time.

This is the lovely cheap compost bin from Primrose that Ken put together for me and lugged round a couple of days ago.  I was a bit worried that the wood was wet and a bit green inside its packaging - fingers crossed it lasts a while.  As I said if it does OK I will get another one further down the line.  I am trying not to spend too much too soon as I need to see if (a) my enthusiasm lasts and (b) if stuff gets wrecked.....  not pessimism on my part just trying to be realistic.  So far I just love it and I can't wait to see all my stuff coming up.  There are signs of the lettuce and the radishes already so this cold weather isn't holding them back.  Actually today I noticed the soil in the beds was very warm but that might have been because my hands were freezing!

This final picture is just a shot of my little area - all beds planted and the butt and bin in place.  The runner beans and other fruit and vegetables will be arriving through the summer as the weather warms up but that is pretty much it for now until about mid May.

My next task when there is nice weather is to start working on clearing up round the beds and making it tidy.  I will probably have wood chip paths.  Whatever I do won't be cheap.  The membrane to go under the wood chips costs an arm and a leg.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

All spruced up

before and after
One of the jobs that has to be done fairly soon after we get home is cleaning the patio so we can get the furniture out of the summerhouse/shed.  I am ambivalent about it as I always thought the slabs were a bit to too yellow and very patchy so I quite like them all smothered in dirt and mossy, mouldy bits.  Ken thinks this is yet another sign of insanity and has been noted on the list of reasons why she should be locked up.  So, he wins and out came the pressure thingy.  I was reminded that every year I say the same thing and every year it is followed by - "Crikey, that looks better!"

Meanwhile I cracked on with deadheading and clearing the rest of the borders and trimming and tying in the roses.  Also a case of, "Crikey, that looks better". 

Here's some flowers that were strutting their stuff today.

The lovely primulas I bought at a show in Edinburgh years ago

One of my favourites - anemones - the wind flower.  They look so dainty and are as tough as old boots - bit like me really.....

More photos as usual in Garden - 2013

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Photos as promised

Sun shining and over to the lotty again today.  I bought three veg strips yesterday in B & Q, they were not what we were in there for, but at 3 strips for the price of two and 20% off that thanks to my B & Q club card - how can I not?  So, I had to pootle over and get them planted.


Two strips of carrots with sixteen plants per strip.  In fact I got a total of 46 plants from the two boxes rather than the thirty-two that were promised.  I think I like doing it this way because I am useless at sowing seed thinly which then means I am equally useless at thinning stuff out, so I may as well cut to the chase.


I also bought a strip of broad beans.  These have all gone in the all-purpose bed.  They are encroaching on the runner bean and pea space but I am hoping they will have done their thing by the time the beans and peas need it.  If not I will just have to think again.  I am already considering putting the beans in large pots.  The problem I had with that when I did it once before was the constant watering and worse than that they kept blowing over.  I'll see when it comes to it.

better than nothing
This is the water butt doing its thing.  I hope my plants appreciated pure bottled water!  I bought two of the big bottles of water from Tesco yesterday so I would have something to carry water over to the lotty in.  I reckoned at £1.10 each it was probably cheaper than buying any other sort of container.  It would have taken us until Christmas to use the water so I decided the plants might as well have it.  Ken topped up the butt and then I pretty much used up the same amount watering the newly planted veg!  We are promised rain tomorrow and we are 'working on' a rain-catcher idea.


This is a purchase from Summerseat which (I suppose) wasn't too expensive.  Ten fabric pegs.  I am hoping ten will do it and will hold the fabric down so the wind doesn't get under it and lift it.  Time will tell.  At least for now they look a lot better than the lumps of debris we had been using for the job.

Meanwhile back at the ranch .... in the greenhouse I planted some seeds.  A dozen runner beans (Scarlet Empire), six courgettes, a couple of dozen tomatoes (Maskotka) and a tray of peas for pea shoots.  Someone suggested it in their blog and I thought it was a great idea.  I have a ton of pea seeds left over every year so why not; I like pea shoots.  Apologies for not crediting him with the idea - I am rubbish with names.  If he reads this, let me know and I'll point folk to your blog.

I left a couple of chairs and a bag of stuff in the shed.  It has a lot of broken glass on the floor which someone has covered with builders bags, probably as protection.  Do I clear it up or not?

There are photos of the the greenhouse pots - but basically that's it - pots with dirt in!  If you do look at the Garden - The Lotty - 2013 album I do know they need watering and yes, I did do it after taking the shot.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Decision, what decision?

449 litres

I am the best at making rock solid five minute decisions...  forget the compost bin idea, I have just bought this one from Primrose.  for £26.95.  It is cheaper than buying the timber and a whole lot less trouble.  I also like the fact you can remove the bottom slats if you get any good compost to use at the bottom.  I hope they still have them next year as I would like two but the budget won't run to that right now.

storage and seat
I've also ordered a storage bin which doubles up as a seat - useful for cup of tea time!.  I needed a decent size box to leave basic stuff in the shed so that fits the bill nicely and I can haul it over to my veggie beds easily and then park myself on it if I want to.

I have also ordered 8 foot canes for my beans.  They are always a pain to transport and there is a single delivery charge however much you order so they may as well be sent along with the other things.  I think £5.95 for ten (1.8m) is a good price as well???

I stole these photos from the Primrose site which I hope they won't mind as it is a bit of advertising for them. 

Ken and I went to the lotty again today to check that everything was as it should be as we have had some real gales yesterday, overnight and into today.  It was all fine.  

It was also an opportunity to take the water butt over.  Good old Ken took it with a load of water in it - half way there it broke the small garden dolly he had it balanced on, so the rest of the journey was a bit of a nightmare but those that know him, know he won't quit.  It is in place on its bricks and I know it will come in really handy on two levels.  Firstly, even though there will be water butts on the site - they aren't there as yet and I have stuff planted.  Most of it will be fine but the salad crops can't be left to dry out even for a short while.  Secondly even when we have the butts in place, if we get some serious sun they will be used up pretty quickly if everyone is keenly growing so I am hoping mine will help as it will be one less person drawing off the shared water.  The plan is to take water in a couple of one gallon containers every time I go  and so keep the butt topped up for when it is needed.  Hopefully there will be enough trips in between needing to use it to keep it full. 

When you realise that just 1" of rain on a 2' x 1' area is a gallon of water, just think what we are wasting down the drains with the rain coming off our roofs. Unfortunately I don't have a roof available to me on the lotty.  There is a great kit called a rain bowl for when you don't have gutters available to you; take a look at http://www.guttermate.co.uk/shop/rainbowl/rainbowl     

I am racking my brains as to how to construct something similar to do the job - some sort of upturned umbrella system.  Right now I am thinking on the lines of a tarp or better still butyl pond liner (except I don't have any of that) hammered to a rectangular frame on legs with a bit of slack in it and the centre over the open butt, weighted down with gravel (also that will keep out any rubbish) and small holes punched in it to let the water through??????  We'll see.

It was also worth the trip because I was comforted in that the strawberry bed didn't have any water on it, so the membrane did let last night's rain through without a problem.  We also topped up the fruit tree planting with some more compost.

I was curious as to the soil temperature and remembered to take the thermometer - it is 10 degrees so is OK (ish) for planting.  This is another plus for raised beds, the soil warms up more quickly.  The covered bed (strawberries) is already a couple of degrees higher in just in 24 hours of a cool day.  Now I worry it will get too warm for the rhubarb.  Actually even strawberries quite like the cool I think.  Aaaaarrrggh! trust me to overthink gardening!

Incidentally I took my camera with me as I intend to record this year inch by inch... it does help if you also put the memory card back in it before you go.  Hey ho.

All lotty photos I have actually taken are at Garden - Allotment 2013 in my web albums and the 'arrival of the butt' one will make it to there after my next trip.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Compost box made of a series of stackable sections

This is the compost bin I  want to get soon.... hope you are reading this Ken.  If you are interested in how to make it - dead, dead simple - go and have a look here:  http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/factsheets/gg24.php

It is the best of designs because it isn't fixed anywhere and could be moved to another position easily.  Each section is light enough to lift on and off.  You build the height of the bin section by section as you fill it so no having to lob stuff over the side of a tall bin until you need to, even better the reverse is true - as you take out the compost to use you can take off a section of wood so, again, you are not having to shovel stuff up from the bottom of a three foot deep bin.  You can make it the height to suit yourself.  You can run two bins (which is the ideal) and by sharing the pieces it is unlikely you will need to build enough sections for two complete bins.  It is likely while the contents of one are being used up, the other is being made.  If you can get hold of some old floorboards or an old pallet cheaply it shouldn't cost much.

You don't have to have a bin to compost but it is easier and there are a zillion ways to make one.  Also just mounding stuff on the ground doesn't create the same amount of heat for a lot of the stuff as it will if squished into a confined space.  Four hefty posts hammered into the ground and wrapped round with chicken wire is perhaps the simplest.

If you don't know about composting there is a ton of stuff on the web.  You could start here:

I really recommend you consider it other wise you will have a ton of rubbish to cart of somewhere at the end of the growing season and that is such a shame because it is pure gold for growing your own and costs nothing once the bin is made.  I am a control freak and would like my own bin so I know what's in it as I am only growing stuff to eat and I don't use any chemical controls.  Also a domestic small compost bin won't kill some perrrenial weeds or weed seeds so I'd rather avoid compost with those in it.  It matters less if you are growing flowers of course and you don't mind a bit of weeding.  I found our shredded office paper made good brown waste.  I have left a little pile of soil and weeds on some cardboard at the lotty until I can get a bin to put it in, so don't worry about it being the beginning of an eyesore, it will end up in a bin soon(ish).

Made a start

We had something resembling a nice day on Monday so I was off to the local cheapy shops at Crostons Park - known to the rest of us as 'where B &Q is'.

We had been there last week and, as I was leaving Poundstretcher (no time to check it out properly), I had noticed fruit trees for £5.99.  In we went.  I bought a Bramley apple and a Braeburn and the thing I went for was a plum.  They were all suffering a bit from being in a shop for however long but the plum looked very unpromising   Being cheeky when I got to the till I asked if I could bring it back if it hadn't shown signs of life in a couple of months time.  The manager could see the problems that involved so asked if I wanted it for £3 and take my chances.  Sorted.  I also bought two more lots of potatoes.  I know one was Charlotte and think the other was Estima.  If you read this and rush off to do the same - nip into Home Bargains first as their seed spuds were reduced to 99p we discovered later.  I picked up some more veggie seeds in B & Q and we were off home for a quick sandwich and then to the lotty.

Ken and I spent about four hours there getting sorted. Here's the result.  This is the Bramley; the one behind is the plum and the Braeburn is by the other box.

I wasn't around at the beginning of getting this sorted but I do remember conversations about whether the soil is OK to plant in directly because of the site having been garages? Plus putting in trees or anything permanent needs to be considered as to where they should go and does everyone else agree?  I am in no rush and not bothered at all if they just stay in their pots.

The two apples probably won't do any good any way as they need a cox's for cross pollination.  Again I have a Marilyn theory that they may produce a few fruits without (???) and that's all the two of us want.  So these are in the lap of the Gods.

 This looks like a bomb site in this photo but it is actually the neatest of beds.  I bought some weed suppressant fabric and Ken laid down two strips of it to cover the whole bed.  You can get a roll (20m) for £3.99 in Home Goods and it will do three of these boxes.  My idea is that this is the strawberry and rhubarb bed so it might keep down the weeding and help keep the strawberries out of the dirt.  My concern is that when I watered them in, the fabric didn't seem to let the water through.  The blurb claims it not only does that but it also then goes on to stop a lot of the evaporation therefore keeping your beds moist.  It would be pretty useless if it didn't; maybe it will get better when the newness wears off.  The worst case scenario is that I have to take it off and bin it.  Not a big deal.  Meanwhile nineteen (one short!) ever-bearer strawberries are happily bedded in and the rhubarb is on order for delivery May/June.

This is my all and sundry box and my version of pea sticks.  Not exactly hazel trimmings but found on site and look as though they will do the job.  The concern is that they look like willow and they will therefore probably take root quite happily.  It is really easy to take and start cuttings of willow.  I am living in hopes the hard winter has killed them off and they just stand there and help out my peas.  I have also planted a row of cut and come again salad leaves, a row of radishes and a row of red spring onions.  The runner beans will go down the centre but it is too cold up here to get those in before the end of May, so short cropping salads can use the space for now.

Even less to show you here as it is my potato bed.  I know there is a good argument against growing potatoes as they are cheap and easily available BUT I really do think they are worth it.  They are super easy and such a thrill when you put one spud in and take dozens out.  The biggest reason to grow them is they taste ten times better than any shop bought and they still do save you money.  At the worst a bag of ten spuds (for 99p!!) will do 30 -40 dinners for the two of us which is probably about £10 at supermarket prices - no brainer. OK you save more if you grow more exotic veg but they will take a good deal more looking after, which is great if you enjoy that.  I also get fed up of the same veg day after day because they are 'ready now' so I am happy with the simple approach.

I have planted my rows North/South.  There are heated debates about whether you should go for East/West or North/South but professional growers generally go North/South.  I think the important thing is that you think about not shading out plants that like the sun with your taller stuff.  So, to keep it easy for myself I go North/South and that way I worry less about what might be shading out what.  If I had to consider it I would then plant tall stuff on the North side but for what I am doing it is fine just going with North/South rows and all the stuff will get morning and afternoon sun pretty much equally.  We have fences and trees on our site that will play their part in the shade question.  It is a matter of making a mental note as the year goes on.  Even better take photos pretty much every time you go and that way you will have a lot to refer to so you can see what is happening at different times of the day through the year.

So...... those are my boxes and fruit trees.  I will be planting some large pots with courgettes and I don't know what else and they will get sited here.  I may just try the tomatoes this year in the greenhouse as I never get them to ripen in time outdoors.  I will probably have one bush outside at the lotty just as a trial.

You might know I gave away all my veg stuff  last summer - pots, small greenhouse, cloches etc because I took out my veggie bed and put it back to a flower border..... then I heard about the lotty....Curses!!

Right now I am trying to come up with some way of trapping rain water and diverting it to a water butt as that is going to be the big issue if we get a good summer.  My garden and pots and baskets are on an irrigation system and timers so I never have to think about them and can go away now and again without any worries.  I can see I shall be fretting about my veg.

More photos in Garden - The Lotty - 2013....  go and have a look at the bargain string and holder.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Save money

I know we all have our own opinions on how best to go about things and that is how it should be but that is the point of blathering in a blog; it is a way of sharing those opinions.  So anything I write isn't the 'law' and meant to be followed, it is just a record of how I go about my doings and might help someone very new and now and again spark an idea for someone else, if only to go in the opposite direction!

So, for what it is worth, here's how I save a bit of money on plant food.

I don't buy propriety boxed stuff that is easily available in B & Q and all the garden centres and, over the years, I have stopped buying specialised food for particular plants.  I am SURE that is the way to go for a 'show' garden or a treasured plant but I have reverted to exactly what my mom used to do and she always had a great garden.

I buy bone-meal and a general purpose fertiliser (Growmore) by the pound from wherever I can find it for the cheapest.  I think Diggle Lane beats my next recommendation in price but it is not so easy to get to it at a time when there is someone there to sell it to you.

I store it in a couple of airtight kitchen containers.  Do this even if you do buy the boxed stuff as the cardboard boxes are useless at keeping stuff fresh.  They suck up moisture like blotting paper.

I then write on the lid how I use it. If you enlarge the photo you will see the Growmore is used a week before sowing - when I remember!! and then scattered anywhere and everywhere once a month through the growing season - veg garden and flower borders alike.  The rain does the rest.  My mom actually swore by Phostrogen but I haven't found that loose yet.

The Bone-meal gets used when I plant as I just said in the post about the roses.  It is also flung around as my last ritual in the autumn on the garden and lawn, basically it is to make good strong root growth to make plants tougher for the winter.

I bought my last lot from Gordon Riggs at their Rochdale branch.  I was a huge fan of Riggs some thirty years ago - the Todmorden one.  It was a very rough and ready nursery that grew its own stuff, so I knew it would survive Bury blasts and it was cheap.  It was a regular outing for me, my husband and the kids.  They were always on a promise of an ice cream (all weathers) from the van outside if they were 'good'  and at about half-time the non-gardening trio would buy a drink and maybe some chocolate from the machine they had 'under glass'.  So everyone came home happy.  It is still known in my family as Griggs - when you wrote a cheque (remember those?) you wrote G.Riggs and it sort of read as Griggs!  Well it worked for us.

Sadly like Summerseat and New Bank and just about everybody else these days most of the stuff is bought in (from Holland?).  A bit like the High Street, the nurseries that were now all look the same.  I suppose there is more money to be made in Restaurants and nick-knacks and they get you through the bad weather times, not to mention you don't have three generations of family pricking out thousands of seedlings any more.

Beat the rain drops

We were driving back from Leeds yesterday in the pouring rain and I must have been the only person for miles around who said - "I am glad its raining".  A couple of days ago I had planted a couple of things out and had done some weeding and discovered that parts of my garden are bone dry; not many parts I must admit but it did make me wonder if I should water the pots and the narrow dry border round the front of the house.  So thanks to the Rain God for one job saved.

That said, no miracle occurred on the weeds and the dead stuff.  I managed to get out there this morning and finish weeding and tidying the new (last year) border.  I still have the rest of the borders to do which is about three times this strip.

Here's the result:

Not sorted
I thought I would label the photos in case you were in any doubt!

It actually got done because I received the two roses I won last year in a Spalding Plant and Bulb Company competition (the post about that is 15 December 2012).  I particularly wanted to get them in the ground while they were still looking fantastic and the chickweed was in the way! 

The roses were delivered yesterday while we were out and the cardboard box had been left round the back of the house in the bucketing rain; opening the box was like trying to open soup, but the roses inside were pristine in their completely sealed bag.  

Two here, fresh and ready to go
There was a lot of paperwork guff inside including one of their wonderful Planting and Gardening Tips Book.  It is like a bit of a bonus as you can look up the information you need for the plant you just got, but there are thirty plus pages of other information.

To plant a bare root rose properly - you soak it in luke-warm water overnight.  Dig a hole bigger than you think you will need and mix the soil with well rotted manure.  You plant it a bit deeper (5 cms) than the place where all the stems join up.  Put the soil back in the hole and heel it in (tread gently right round it).  Soak with water and then mound up a bit of soil around the stem.

Now for the truth... I rarely bother to soak if the plant looks fresh, green with nice shoots and the roots feel moist, although soaking can still be helpful as it helps 'unfold' the roots.  I just ease them out gently into the right position when I plant.  I never have any well-rotted manure to hand (!) so anything really woody like a shrub or a rose or big tough perennial gets a sprinkling of bone-meal to kick start it.  Also, this time, I let nature do the watering.

Thank you Spaldings.  I can't wait to see them do their thing.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Work for April

I was just looking at my list of jobs for April and thought I might share them with you as a prompt for stuff you might need to do.  You will find a lot of things on my year round list appear something like four weeks after seeing them on Gardeners World or in a magazine, not because it takes me that long to cotton on but because I find my garden (up here) is about that far behind theirs.  I have the jobs blocked out week by week in my little scribbly garden notebook.

(Last week of March if I was here I would try to plant out parsnip and potatoes - technically the ideal ground temperature should be 7 degrees!!  Trim the lavender hedges - I actually don't don't have them any more! and scarify the lawn)

Here comes the four weeks of April (in my garden) ...

Week 1
Sow beetroot outdoors (ideal soil temp 15 degrees/joke!!)
Feed roses - just the cheapest all-purpose feed like Phostrogen or Growmore - buy it by weight from somewhere like an allotment - I think I got the last lot from Diggle Lane allotment.  I need some more so I will check it out soonish and let you know. 
Feed clematis with bone meal - same source again to save money
Feed start Jasmine with bone meal

Week 2
Sow runner beans indoors
Bug spray the roses - I use an all-purpose one that includes treatment for black spot etc
Begin weeding the lawn and fill with grass plugs or just weed and feed it

Week 3
Sow carrots outdoors (ideal soil temperature 15 degrees)

Week 4
Sow tomatoes indoors
Feed Rhubarb

All this is over ridden in my plot by just trying to get back on top of clearing up dead stuff and weeding - basically six months of no-one touching it.

That said I have just planted some Glory of the Snow (Chinodoxa)  (this isn't my garden photo) and some Bluebells. 

My friend gave me some tête a tête in a lovely pot for Easter and they have just about finished in the house so they will find a place in the garden soon.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Here comes the sun....

......  well, for a day at least.  It was lovely and warm this morning - in the sun!  I was astounded by the difference in the shade and discovered I need a cardigan and coat for that.  The air temperature must be pretty low.  Fortunately my front garden gets a bit of sun in the morning so most of the time it was nice out there and I was actually out side in a t-shirt for a couple of hours, tidying up.  You can actually see how much the sun/shade has moved round in two hours in these photos.

............and after.

The two hour constraint turned out to be purely physical.  I was jiggered!  I do absolutely nothing for six months in America so the first garden stint creases me.  I hope I get back in my stride and soon as I have a lot to go at this year.  Two hours was just enough to get the front sorted out.  All kippers and curtains me - as long as the neighbours think I have a tidy garden that will do for now.  Look at the mud splashes up the wall from all the rain.

and after on this one

Round on the side wall, I hacked the rose and clematis back into shape and tied the rose back onto the wires.  We have to get out and find some better system before it really starts its 2013 growing.  I said that last year so I am determined to get it done in the next week or two.  

I don't want a trellis behind it and the eyes and wires we have in now are a pain as the wires always slack off.  I know there are tensioning systems but my other half says our sort of brickwork/mortar won't take that sort of thing (???)  So, as I said. I need a rummage round a good garden centre to see what's what.

I came back in for lunch and then toddled off to B & Q for a few bits and pieces as they were having a three for two offer this weekend.  Incidentally if you are over 60 you should get a diamond card for a 10% discount every Wednesday.  In addition to this anyone can join the B & Q club which works any day and gives you special offers for anyone with a membership number.  You also get entered into a £10,000 draw every time you shop there.  Today I got 20% of a hanging basket and some plants.  The discount was also on grow your own plants, seeds and bulbs and pots and planters; so it is well worth doing. 

Another bargain

Yesterday my seeds arrived from Thompson and Morgan.  The order from them was a bargain as it came post free which is generous as it is, seemingly, arriving in separate parts.  The seeds are the same price as in the shops and they gave me the radishes for free.  The catalogue must have said somewhere that you got the cheapest free but I never noticed; so that was another two quid saved.

I only realised when they came that I had chosen Alan T's selection... always nice to know he agrees with me.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Follow up on Spalding Plant & Bulb Company's bulbs

When we came home for a couple of weeks at Christmas I took a look at how the bulbs I had from Spaldings were getting on (see my post dated 5 January).  There was little or nothing to tell other than there were signs of life.  I expected most of them to be done and dusted by the time I got back.  I am pleasantly surprised to find they had waited for me.  

Your winter has been so cold and extended that everything is miles behind.  I actually have three lots of snow drops which I find utterly thrilling as it has taken me many years and several gardens to actually produce.  Thanks to my friend H who gave them me 'in the green', fresh from her garden, two years ago.  Here they are amongst the dross of last years crocosmias.  Yes, I know it badly needs a tidy up but it is too cold, I have too much else to do and I would be disturbing the critters who might need it all...... greenfly and slugs (!!!) come to mind.

How English and full of Spring promise are these wonderful tête-a-têtes - from Spaldings.  I had ten bulbs and they certainly have  all appeared in full bounce.  They are my long-standing favourite and I have them dotted all around the garden.  I have moved a few of them from garden to garden each time we have moved house.  Again it is a flower from a friend.  My friend D used to turn up at school at regular intervals at this time of year with a pot of dead daffs for me, which everyone thought was odd and/or funny. They had done their thing in her apartment and came to me to go in the garden.  They do really well and multiply year on year.  I keep any large daffs in separate beds as I don't like the looks of either when the sizes are mixed.  However fancy the big ones are these are still the ones I love best.

To tell the truth I am not sure if these are the Iris.  (Spaldings too)  I had 20 Iris and 20 Allium and I didn't put a label in.  I never learn.  I always think I will know what something is when I see it and then ..... I don't.

Here are photos of both pots.  The ones I think are alliums are looking great.  Maybe the poorer pot will come into its own later.  Maybe I should have not left such a big gap above the soil.  Why did I do that?

I had 10 Tulips (Darwin Hybrids) and again everyone has produced a great looking plant, full of promise. 

Have you noticed how bulbs move around a little?  I promise you they were evenly set out in the pot but have shifted slightly as they grew.

These are kind of doubly exciting as I haven't a clue as to what the flowers will be like.  The pink edged ones will be a warm colour for sure.  Watch this space.

The 20 muscari are great looking too.  I am assuming they are the common blue variety which I adore but I know there are all sorts of shades now and white are very popular.  I have even seen a sort of lime green colour and a yellow with pinkish tops!!  It is a good job the horticultural world doesn't depend on me as I love the simplest version of pretty much every plant - plain yellow daffs, no frilly tulips, things that 'should be blue' need to be blue etc.  So, if I ruled the world, I would have robbed myself of some glorious roses and peonies and camellias to name but a few.  Still, I just hope these are blue.

Finally the last of Spaldings bulbs are the lovely, lovely anemone blanda.  These really are a woodland plant.  When they find a happy place they make carpets of blue through the trees and look just wonderful.  I don't have Monty Don's garden so a handful (20) in a pot will have to do it for me.... and it sort of does.  These are on the table immediately outside my patio window so I see them several times a day and they make me smile.  I try to do this inside as I do begin to look like a loony grinning at a bowl of plants.

They have clearly come out in a good spell of weather and have got knocked back by some frost, but they are struggling back and I think they will be great if we can get a bit of gentle into this dreadful cold we are having.

So thank you Spalding Plant and Bulb Company for a great gift and I hope I am doing OK with them.

If you want to see these pictures larger just click on them.  If you want to see them for any reason without the nattering along with a handful of others showing some more things making their way in the garden, go to photo albums - link in the right hand column.  Garden - 2013.  I am sorry Picasa Web albums are rubbish and don't let you nest albums into a few main headings.  This means a bit of a search if you want something.  Its default position is by date order so usually if you go there from a Blog the album I am sending you to is pretty much at the beginning of the stack.  If you ever want to just look at Garden albums they are all preceded with the word 'Garden' so if you click on sort by album title they are all bunched together at 'Garden'.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

I will have been back in Bury one week tomorrow and there is so much to do it is frightening.  I am dreadful for wanting it all done immediately - as if it matters!

I had a quiet moment just before we left the States to order (most of) my veg from Thompson and Morgan.... they had a couple of days with free postage.

My three six foot by six foot lotty boxes will be planted as follows:

International Kidney
Box one - just potatoes.  I have chosen International Kidney because they have been the best of the six varieties I have grown these past three years.  No blight and they go right through our stay here. They start as small new potatoes and grow on to some really nice, good size spuds that you can pretty much do anything with.  They were scab free, smooth and thin-skinned - all round good.

Fulton's Strawberry Surprise

Box two - will be a pretty much permanent bed.  It will have rhubarb in the middle. I have settled on Fulton's Strawberry Surprise.  I did a lot of reading around on varieties and hope I have chosen a good one.  I grew Timperley but I was never happy with it.  It has gone on to another's care where it might do better.  I was heading towards the traditional Victoria but my childhood memory of it is that it was pretty sour and could be tough.  Maybe my grown-up taste buds would think differently?  

Now this is where this blog could be useful if other folk who grow stuff up here around Bury (and anyone else!)  would share anything with us that works.  Is anyone having great success with rhubarb?  What variety is it?  How do you grow it? 

Appropriately, it has strawberry in its name and I shall be growing strawberries around it.  I have some ever-bearers that have done quite well in pots and I am hoping they will really come into their stride when they can escape in the ground and take a deep breath..... always think pots work like corsets!  I haven't included a photo as I had three varieties - Albion, Calypso and Elsanta and now I have no idea which is what.  I will do my best to identify them as they grow and fruit.  Apologies for sloppy gardening.

Box three - will be the one which swaps around with the potato bed each year and will grow my runner beans and peas etc.  Right now I have on order:
Runner Bean 'Scarlett Empire'
Radish 'French Breakfast'
Salad Leaves 'All seasons'
Pea 'Hurst Green Shaft' (second early)

There will be enough space left to shove in anything that catches my eye.  Maybe ONE courgette plant!  I learned very quickly two people don't need six of those.

Hurst Green Shaft
Here comes my next question - how do you support your peas?  I know you should use the old (pea stick) trimmings from pruning your hazels but, as I don't own a country estate, that won't be happening.  So far I have only grown dwarf varieties of peas and have just scrabbled them through a mish-mash of canes and strings.  This won't work on a larger scale.

I can't wait to get started, but I think I will probably hold off until the middle of the month.  There is a meeting for the lotty users on

10th April at 6.30 pm
Brandlesholme Library (next to the shops)

Won't it be great if we have gardening weather with us by then.

Come back tomorrow when I hope to do an update on the bulbs I had from Spaldings.