Sunday, 15 February 2015

Spring Approaching!

 These primroses started flowering in January, the earliest ever!  Of course they then got battered by snow and very low temperatures so are looking a little bit raggedy.  I put them on the doorstep out of the worst of the weather to encourage them.  But they are a harbinger of spring.
 As are these snowdrops, which will be flowering fully later this week.  These have been in my windowsill pots for years, but last year I rejuvenated the compost somewhat and they are repaying my kindness.  I do think that snowdrops are best appreciated in either two ways - a long drift in a field or border, or a bunch nearer head height like these, where you can see them well.
 These miniature daffodils are also rather further ahead than they should be.  They normally flower in March, but it looks like these will be out by the end of the month.
In regards to the vegetable garden, I have got my seeds, my potatoes and my garlic ready to go.  I'm itching to get out there and after my very busy 2014 when I had little time for gardening, am hoping to have a better year this year.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Gardening Year!

 It's been a very busy year for me which has left me with little time for gardening.  But I did manage to organise some winter blooms.  I have tried hard this year to get my christmas cacti to actually flower at christmas, and two of them are now in full bloom, with one budding as we speak.  Getting the summer rest period right is the key, and what I realised this year was that my plants go into hibernation a bit later than the books say.  When I reawakened them, I kept them on cool windowsills for a while, then moved one to a warmer sill so as to get it budding.  I now have them flowering nicely in sequence.                
 There's nothing better than a splash of bright pink at Christmas.
 I haven't grown hyacinths for a while, but do love their perfume so decided to get some pink ones and some white ones.  They went into the pots at the beginning of October, put outside and covered to keep them dark.  We had a very warm autumn this year which was not helpful as warm and wet = mould.
 Though they did have some mould growing on them, it did not seem to cause any problems.  I brought these pink ones in when they were this high.  Strangely the white ones are well behind despite receiving the same treatment, but that does mean that I will have hyacinths flowering for several weeks which is a good thing.
I love the powerful and natural scent, and at this time of year it is a pleasure to walk into the house and breathe in the hyacinth aroma.

Have a great holiday!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

September Fruits

 A long gap since my last post, mainly due to the fact I mislaid the cable to connect my camera to my computer!  So a catch up on the summer produce.  Here is a basket of Cosmo potatoes, a good crop this year with little damage.  These will keep us going to the end of October, following the Desiree potatoes earlier.
 As beds are emptied, we are clearing and doing preparation for next year.  We have an ample supply of horse manure on the plots, and some years ago I did an experiment with using fresh horse manure on beds and found that as long as it goes on before Christmas, it rots down well and is ready for planting in spring.  Normally you have to rot down manure before using it, but this method saves you that job.
 A bumper year for peas, despite the pigeons having a go at them earlier. They are actually still going, never had peas in September before!
 It has also been a very good year for blackberries, and I now have a quantity in the freezer.
 The apples and other soft fruit got hit by late frosts and so the quantity is down but the quality of fruit is good. Here are the Katy apples.
 The Victoria plums have also produced but not as much as last year, they were also adversely affected by the damp weather in August.
It was very wet in August, I left a tub out in the rain and after a few days discovered a newt swimming around in it!  He must have fallen in by accident one night.  We put some branches and twigs in one corner for him to climb out, and the next day he was gone.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Late July in the Vegetable Garden

 A lot happens in a month, including the birth and growth of these caterpillars, these are the cinnabar moth which is a pretty bright red moth.   It lays its eggs on ragweed, a wild plant poisonous to horses but delicious to cinnabar moth caterpillars.  I usually keep a couple of plants in corners of my plot just so I can watch these lovely creatures.

 A month ago these Alderman peas were only a few inches tall, having had their heads nipped off by woodpigeons.  In just a few weeks they have reached their full height...
 .,..well over a metre tall they are now obstructing the path.  Picked the first pods today, full of sweet fresh peas.  The second crop which is behind them is coming on too.
 It was a good year for strawberries, we have had pounds of them, the first full crop from the bed I planted up last year.
 Blackcurrants too have been abundant, the whitecurrants and redcurrants did not do so well as last year they had some kind of disease so I had to cut a lot of the wood out.  But they look healthy which is the main thing.

 The first pumpkin is now set, with more to come.  The marrows have completely failed this year, I suspect a bad batch of seed was responsible as they mostly failed to germinate and the couple that did are very poor specimens.
 At this time of year with everything growing fast, the problem you have is if you turn your back for a minute.  I left a couple of courgettes on the plant to fill out, but they filled out more than expected!  In the centre of the picture is a normal size vegetable, the monsters either side are what happens when you leave them too long!  A few of the onions in the drier part of the bed have died back so I took them up, but there are more for later in the year.
 And I have taken up the first of the potatoes, early maincrop Desiree.  Still have two more beds of potatoes, but they are still growing and will benefit from the rain which is due this weekend.
 These are the Desiree, a nice red potato.  Not as big as they can get due to the dry weather, but completely slug free which is nice.
This is a field of meadowsweet shining in the evening sun.  A plant used in medieval times to make rooms smell nice.
I forget the name of these flowers, but they grow wild in abundance round here, no attention required!  

We have had very dry and hot weather, rain to come which I am looking forward to as I hate watering the vegetables, so here's to a cool, wet weekend!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Moving into summer

With the rain behind us for a couple of weeks, the garden work has been mainly weeding and grass cutting to get back on top of things after the wet weather.  It is still early in the summer but my New Dawn rose is now at its best.

 The weight of the blooms has dropped it slightly over the door, but it is having an excellent year.
 In the vegetable garden, the peas have recovered from the attack of the wood pigeons and are now growing quickly.  I have re-used the apple tree prunings from the winter to provide support for the peas.  Because the pigeons are still around (though they have moved to a neighbouring plot for their meals) I have left a barrier of netting around the peas and beans which extends above pigeon head height so they cannot get at the plants.  Working well so far!  There is another sowing of peas behind this batch so plenty to come yet.
 The strawberries have started cropping and there is a lot of fruit.  The plants were put in new last spring (2013) and this is their first good cropping.  You generally get 4-5 good crops before replanting is required.  The dry weather means the slugs and snails get fewer strawberries than they would like, good for us...
 My peony has just two blooms this year, I will have to ensure I feed it a bit more, to get more flowers.  But they are lovely.
 Not sure whether I like the flowers more closed or open, with  splash of yellow.
 This is actually a wildflower, purple toadflax, which seeds itself.  Pretty and interesting at this time of year as it is quite tall.

A few days ago I went collecting elderflowers to make elderflower cordial.  Do it on a dry day, shake the insects off them, then put them in  large pan.  Pour over boiling water and let them steep for an hours.  Sieve the liquour off, then let it settle in a large, wide jug as some vegetative matter does get through the sieve.  Once that has dropped to the bottom, pour off the clear liquid at the top, put in a pan and heat with some sugar to taste, add a splash of lemon juice and hey presto elderflower cordial.  Keeps around a week or two.