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

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Monday, 21 March 2016

Spring has sprung

Yippee, we have passed the Spring equinox, we are now getting longer days than nights, oh joy and the clocks change this weekend so we will have even more time for gardening, and its Easter so we have extra days off. And lots of chocolate eggs. Ok I'd better calm down. Just to temper the excitement, the weather forecasters of doom are suggesting this settled weather is going to break just in time for the Easter holidays. Lets hope they have got that wrong. 
I hope you have all been making the most of the settled weather, I certainly have hence the blog getting neglected as usual. We have had some gloriously sunny days here in Huddersfield but also some grey days where the sun has never made an appearance and its stayed chilly but even those days have been good for gardening in. Especially if like me you have been barrowing muck. Myself and a fellow plot holder got a delivery last year, but it gets dumped in a communal area and we have to barrow it to our plots. I'd put what I needed on my beds and the rest needed to be piled up to store for next year. I thought I had taken my half but chatting to Marion she said she had taken hers so the rest was mine. Well I wasn't going to complain (though my back did a bit) and let anything go to waste so I set to on sunday to get the rest moved onto my plot. This pile never seemed to diminish and backwards and forwards I went, the pile on my plot was getting so big now that I was having to use a spade to put it on top rather than just making a run and tipping it on top. Anyway lets just say I earnt my dinner that day, and a sneaky early Creme Egg. The one good thing is I won't have to do this again next year, I have plenty to see me through for a bit. So the beds just need a bit of a fork over but already for planting when needed. The plot is looking slightly greener and less bleak now.
I did manage to do a few other more pleasant jobs over the weekend. I cut down the old stems on my monster artichoke plants. The fresh foliage looks fabulous in the sunshine.
I pruned the gooseberry and redcurrant bushes and mulched those. Cut back all the dead foliage on the strawberry plants. Gave the over-wintered onions a light feed and removed the few weeds. In the cutting patch I had a big mass of self seeded Briza maxima, which is a lovely grass for foliage in bouquets, it is also good for drying. Also known as quaking grass it has oval-shaped flower heads which dance in the breeze. I dug these up and split them and made two rows in the plot. So that was nice and easy.
I planted some biennials last year but sadly the slugs, which have been so active over the early part of the winter at least, have made a mess of the Sweet Williams and I'm not sure they will recover. The wallflowers look ok. However on a recent trip to B&Q I spotted some nice packs of bedding biennials. I'm never that sure about B&Q plants, they sometimes look neglected and not well watered. But these looked newly arrived and in good condition. You could get 4 packs for £10, so I bought some sweet william, some stocks and some forget-me-nots. They were in little 'teabags'!

So most have gone at my plot, but some of the forget-me-nots have gone into my garden.
Also picked the first crop of the year, some rhubarb. I have two big plants now so will have loads. Last year I had a go at making some rhubarb wine, it should be ready to drink soon....
I've also been getting busy in the greenhouse, potting on a few autumn sown annuals. I've started hardening off the Larkspur plants which have made nice big plants now, I also have some Orlaya grandiflora, some poppies, Ammi majus, Scabious, Echium 'Blue Bedder' and some Calendula plants. Plus some Sweet Pea seedlings. But I've also started sowing some Cornflowers and Nigella. My chilli peppers are growing well and I've just pricked out the Tomato and Aubergine seedlings. The Celeriac and celery seeds have germinated. But I've had a few disasters, the onions that I sowed way back in January have failed, they germinated well and I pricked them out but they've not thrived and most have died. Oh well thank goodness for onion sets. Plus I had some Aeonium cuttings in my greenhouse from my sister and a couple looked sickly and a bit of investigation found the roots had been eaten by vine weevils, yuck so they have been chucked. I've repotted the others and am hoping to get some Nemasys to try and save them, but who knows. I'm worried about other things in the greenhouse now.
I'm starting back working at Bluebell Cottage Nursery this weekend, the gardens are opening for visitors for the new season. The garden is a real showcase for the lovely plants that Sue sells in the nursery. I'm like a kid in a sweetshop when I'm there. Come and visit and say hello!

Monday, 7 March 2016

New garden visitors

Its been a cold weekend but thankfully mostly dry after the snow fall on friday. Here is the snow on the war memorial in Greenhead Park.
To contrast here is the same place but on a recent winter afternoon.
So very different. I've not been able to make the most of the dry weather though really as I've been full of cold and feeling very lethargic. I'm just starting to feel better again today. Thankfully I had a day off today though and its been a gorgeous day, clear and sunny though still cold. But I've made a start on my seed sowing. Tomatoes and aubergines are on the propagator, I've sown celeriac, some lettuce, broad beans and leeks. For the cutting patch I've sown a few hardy annuals, some cornflowers, scabious and nigella. So nice to be back in the greenhouse and pottering. It feels more like spring every day.
I love watching my garden birds, there is a big flock of sparrows which visit each day, fighting and squabbling to get to the feeders, blue tits and coal tits, a robin, and a couple of blackbirds. A couple of bigger birds like magpies and pigeons come along every now and then but I've been excited this week by a couple of new visitors, and the two couldn't be more contrasting. One is a wren which I've seen flitting around the garden not actually on the feeders, such a lovely little bird. But the other was a bit of a shock, and perhaps not surprising that its found my garden because of the number of small garden birds and that is a handsome Sparrowhawk. The first time I saw it I think it just quickly flew through, but this week it was sat in the old apple tree. I did try and take a picture but I wasn't quick enough. I don't think it had anything this time but it looks like I'm inadvertantly also feeding him! The other new visitors I've had in my garden before but not for ages and that is a small flock of long tailed tits, I love these little pink, black and white balls of feathers with long tails. The joyous thing was watching them. They were flitting in and out of my two Japanese maple trees, these are leafless at the moment and so I could watch them easily. They looked like they were feeding on little insects along the branches, they were busy dangling upside down and in and out. Twittering away to each other the whole time. So happy for them to clear up any bugs on my plants.
In my previous blog post I mentioned a visit to Dunham Massey last week so I've added a few pictures from our walk here. Above are the snowdrops highlighting the white stem of the silver birches. Daffodils were the other star plant of the moment

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The plot in February

Ok so I'm running a bit late with this post, though to be fair there is not much to talk about on my plot. Its been a quiet month gardening-wise for me, it was still too wet at the start of the month to do anything. I've only actually been a few times to the plot and on one of those the wind was so biting that I just checked everything and then just headed home to the warmth. But miraculously towards the end of the month we have a some runs of dry days, how exciting is that. We have had some lovely sunny days here though it has been cold with frosts at night. Plus the nights and mornings are getting lighter, spring seems to be on the way. However, I'm looking out of my window now its snowing heavily, we've even had some thunder and lightning today, so spring is on hold for a couple of days. After the really mild days early on in the year where plants were going a bit crazy and flowering madly, we've had some cold here and things seemed to have settled a bit and I think getting back to normal flowering times again.
Here's an example of a crazy combination. I still have some bedding plants left over in a pot and they have continued weakly flowering over the winter, so I had a little vase of my first snowdrops and osteospermum!!
At the allotment, I've also finished top dressing the beds and all looks calm and still. There is some greenery from chives edging the beds and the rhubarb is growing well.
I spent a day pottering there on Friday, pruning the redcurrants and gooseberry bushes and mulching. I also mulched the raspberries and rhubarb plants. I dug up and composted the remaining Chard which was looking a bit worse for wear now after the frosts. I also cut down the green manure I have growing in a couple of beds. Garlic is sprouting well now, though the over-wintering onions look a bit tatty I hope with some sunshine they will perk up. So all poised and ready to go.
In the garden I've also been cutting down the remaining dead foliage on my perennials and I've pruned my few roses. By the way a great tip if you are nervous about pruning your roses. Go and visit a good rose garden at this time of year. Last monday Martin and I went to Dunham Massey, we go most winters to visit the winter garden but we also had a quick wander round the relatively new rose garden that they have there. There for all to see is a masterclass in pruning as they are just starting to sprout and you can see how the gardeners there have pruned mostly to outward facing buds to create an open shape. Not great photos but go and visit and see for yourself.

I know it looks a bit bleak now but this is it at its peak.
So far I've restrained myself from sowing too much, its still too cold. But I will get going soon. My chilli seedlings are coming on strong. In the greenhouse I've lost a few things due to damp and rot I think but its so hard getting the balance between keeping it warm but also keeping it well ventilated. Most days I'm out very early and it would be far to cold to open it then. Oh well my experiment in overwintering annuals was just that an experiment, some things have thrived, like the Larkspur and others like Ammi really not done well.
At home I've taken great pleasure from a lovely Amaryllis which I got for Christmas. Quite a subtle one.