The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

March allotment update

So I have been to the allotment a few times but just not had chance to write a blog about it for a while. Most of my time there has been spent clearing any old crops from last year and spreading compost and digging over the beds in preparation for this year. In particular I'm digging over a part of the plot which I didn't use last year which is always a bit harder to dig over and has plenty of dandelions and some thistles but I'm getting there. I need to get it finished this week though as I'm a bit behind in putting my spuds in.
In the fruit bed I've tidied my strawberries and the alpine strawberries were cut back to allow new growth, they look better now and are starting to flower already. I have a whole row of these and the lovely thing about them is they will flower and fruit all summer and autumn, providing small fruits with an intense flavour of strawberries with a hint of sherbert, I love them. They are very easy to grow from seed and I've sown some more this year. The variety is 'Mignonette' and they are edging my whole fruit bed.
I've planted a dwarf apple tree 'James Grieve' which I'd heeled in in my garden over the winter but hopefully will get established now. 
The redcurrant which I planted last year is looking good and I should get quite a reasonable crop I hope. 
The rhubarb, which I also planted last year, is coming on well, I'm not sure whether to harvest any this year or give it another year to get established, will see how it looks.
I have planted my garlic, which I had started off in modules at home, my shallots 'Golden Gourmet' and the autumn planted onions are coming on well after the winter. I've planted my red onions in modules as these took ages to get going in the dry spring last year so going to give them a bit of a head start. I've also sowed some leeks so the onion family is all under control.
In the rest of the allotment there is not much else in, apart from a few kale plants and some globe artichokes which I sowed and planted last year. They have survived the winter and though looking a bit straggling now, with a bit of a mulch I'm hoping they will get growing and send some flower shoots up this year.
The broad beans that I sowed in autumn as a bit of an experiment was a bit hit and miss, there are 6 plants which have survived the winter out of 10 seeds that I sowed. They need a bit of a feed to get them growing again I think but I've also sown some more anyway.
But I guess the rest of time has been spent sowing seeds, the usual things at this time of year, chilli peppers, aubergines, tomatoes, half-hardy annuals, kale, calabrese, leeks, more broad beans, peas, and salads (which I resolve to sow little and often this year), think I'm just about in control of that but its the pricking out and potting on stages when it starts getting busy and a bit of a juggling act. The back bedroom is turning into its usual greenhouse at this time of year for the tender things and then I have three 4-tiered greenhouses outside which I use as coldframes to sow and protect other things. I had a lovely day in the garden on sunday sat in the sunshine sowing seeds.
It was too much like hard work for some though.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The east-west divide of sunshine!

Sometimes I get frustrated living in Huddersfield. This morning is one of those days. The weather forecast last night was proclaiming beautiful warm sunshine and temperatures balmy for this time in spring, so I set the alarm to get up early at the weekend and open my curtains to dense fog!! I'm writing this now at 11.00 and its still here, think we are going to miss this lovely day. This happens often, I work in Manchester, the other side of the Pennines and I often set off for work all wrapped up, with umbrella in hand and as soon as we get through Stanage tunnel on the train, the amazing Saddleworth scenery is now bathed in sunshine. It can work the other way occasionally, it will be gorgeous in Huddersfield and I have my summer clothes on and then Manchester is cloud-covered and cool. I've just sent a message to my friend, Tracy, in Cheadle (on the other side) and she is out there weeding in glorious sunshine. Boo.
Oh well, the plants seem to be enjoying the extra moisture though. My lovely delicate prunus blossom.

Some potted up Sedum plants.
The new leaves on the Honeysuckle.
And the lovely vibrant foliage of an Acer. All glistening with moisture.
I'm sure it will brighten up eventually this afternoon, but in the meantime I think I'll get to with some seed sowing.....

Monday, 12 March 2012

A fun distraction

I've had a couple of manic weeks getting some stock ready for myself and my two lovely friends Amy and Tracy to have a stall at a craft fair at my local garden centre. Its the first time that we have ever done one, we meet up every couple of months and try out a new craft. We've had a go at making soap, candles, cards, jewellery, mosaic pots and had a go at silk painting, sugarcraft, glass etching and glass painting. Its great fun, some crafts have been more successful than others but we decided that between us we could make the things we most enjoyed and try and make enough to fill a stall. So I've spent many a recent evening decoupaging pots and picture frames, I've made some soaps and bath bombs and a few cards. Amy is fantastic at making cards and had a wide selection, including a lovely personalised one which was popular. Tracy made some delicious jam, some chocolate bath milk, some leather notebooks and some brooches. A bit of a mixture of everything, hence our name the Dolly Mixtures!
Here is our stall.
It wasn't quite as busy as we were hoping and we did sell quite a lot to people we knew but it was a start and I think it will get easier if we decide to do another one now that we have a bit of stock and we saw what people liked. We are not going to make our fortune but crafting is a lovely way to spend time together with your friends.
It was a beautiful day on sunday when we did the fair and part of me was yearning to be at the allotment or in my garden.....
However I have managed to get to the allotment a few times and busy getting the plots ready for the big sowing and planting season ahead. I can put all my efforts into this now.
I've had a couple of seed sowing sessions, chillis, aubergines, some half-hardy annuals on the propagator in the back bedroom. Some broad beans, peas, salad leaves, sweet peas, nasturtiums, chives and some annuals in the cold-frame mini-greenhouse outside.
Bob loves to help.
In my garden there are two star plants, the euphorbias and hellebores. I have a gem of a plant called Euphorbia amygdaloides var robbiae, which grows in dry shade and is spreading nicely in the soil under the rhododendron bush at the bottom of my garden where nothing else seems to grow. It maybe a bit thuggish in some gardens but for me it grows where I need it to.
Then there is lovely Euphorbia X martinii with maroon tinged leaves but the classic vibrant acid green bracts.
But I love Hellebores and I have three plants in my garden, all varieties of Helleborus x hybridus (the Lenten rose) one cream flowered with purple speckles, one a dark purple almost black flowers and the last a smaller plant that I got last year a dark pink flowered. 
They never seem to self-seed in my garden so inspired by Carol Klein I collected some seed from my first two Hellebores last year. I thought I had made a mistake as I collected it while it was still green and not black which I read later was what you were supposed to do. I sowed in compost and just left them in a sheltered corner of my garden. I was very excited earlier this year to see some small seedlings. Anyway I have just potted some of them on into trays. Lets hope they are Hellebore seedlings!
I know that it will be a long time before they actually flower and they may turn out to be less good plants than the parents but you never know. Maybe I will try taking proper crosses of my three plants next year and see what happens.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Lovely lichens

I'm going to post with an update about my allotment over the weekend (I finally made it back there today after 3 weeks) but I just wanted to put a second post about another Scotland walk
This time to the RSPB Insh Marshes, and I've become fascinated by the lichens that live on many of the silver birch trees. In some cases completely covering the tree so that they look ghost like. There were not many other wild flowers to photograph but I hope you'll agree these look amazing.

Some seemed to completely cover the branches.

You can see in many cases that there are different types of lichen on the same branch.
According to the British lichen website, Lichens are a dual organism, two life forms living together symbiotically, the main partner is the fungus and the other partner is usually a green algae. Most of the ones that I was seeing were fructicose shrubby lichens! Lichens absorb water and minerals, over their entire surface area, from rainwater and directly from the atmosphere. This makes them extremely sensitive to atmospheric pollution. So are good indicators of levels of pollution. We were breathing good clean air in Scotland.