Garden update Monday 11th February

So, the weather has been typically changeable and unpredictable and mostly very, very windy! Storm Erik tried to wreak havoc, but it didn’t do more than a little tomfoolery in eastern England. (Like blowing off a chimney cover!)

Nonetheless a few things did manage to happen this week. I decided what tomatoes to grow!

I narrowed it down to these four choices.

Tomato seeds
Tomato seeds

From left to right:

Gardeners delight – an old favourite of many gardeners, reliable large cherry tomatoes with a good flavour.

Yellow delight – this is a new variety to me, yellow, pear shaped fruits. Taste – we will have to wait for the verdict on these but I am looking forward to them.

Gigantomo – I bought these as a bit of fun really, to see if I could grow a whopper! The taste, again, unknown.

Orange Paruche – these are by far my all time favourite tomato. Very sweet cherry tomato, not acidic at all, and early ripening. They also germinate very well.

The heated propagator is warming up slowly, and the seeds will be placed in there until they germinate. Then they can be grown in cooler conditions, like a sunny windowsill.

Fragrant thoughts

I’ve never had a lot of luck with sweet peas. That may be because until last summer I did not have a greenhouse, and I don’t have any south facing windows in my house. Any seedlings that I had would go leggy and weak and were not worthy of planting out.

So, this year I hope to be more successful with a greenhouse. I am also soaking my seeds to help them germinate.

Soaking sweet pea seeds
Soaking sweet pea seeds

The reason for this is that the seed shell is hard, and soaking them for 24 hours or so softens that shell and makes germination easier.

Just 12 hour later they have swelled up nicely.

Swollen sweet pea seeds
Swollen sweet pea seeds

The process is easy, soak a square or two of kitchen towel in water and place in some kind of tub. I used a small plastic food saver tub. Place some seeds on the paper (try to stop them from touching), cover, and leave somewhere warm for 24 hours. If your tub doesn’t have a lid, cover the seeds with another damp piece of kitchen towel, or place the whole thing in a small plastic bag.

You can then sow the seeds. I am going to try some in toilet roll tubes, and some in root trainers. Sweet peas like to put down deep roots and toilet roll tubes are great if you don’t have deep pots or root trainers. I am trying both as a little experiment. I will use ordinary multi purpose compost mixed with a little perlite to open up the compost structure. Seeds generally don’t like to site in wet soil so the perlite will help with drainage. Toilet roll tubes are also degradeable, and you can plant them straight in the ground without disturbing the young roots.

Is there another way?

There are other ways to help sweet peas germinate. One is to “nick” one end with a sharp knife. The other is to file one end of the seed until you just break the shell. I am not convinced I have a steady enough hand or the patience for these methods, why make like any more difficult?

Is spring on the way?

Who knows, the tabloid press would have us believe another “Beast from the East” is coming next week.

But for now, there are a few little signs in the garden.

Crocus in the lawn
Crocus in the lawn

Some pretty little naturalised crocus opened up to say hello. This is amazing considering how windy it has been.

What have you done this week? Remember any progress no matter how small, is still progress.

Garden update Monday 28 January

The weather has been a bit tempestuous over the last week. We have had sun, howling winds, snow, rain, and lots of dull, dull cloud. It’s enough to make anyone want to hibernate!

The garden, however, does want to get going. I can see there are small signs of life out there. A single aubretia flower, a couple of windswept crocus, small buds forming on the currant bushes for example.

I am so desperate for spring arrive, but I must remind myself that I have made progress. I have planted spring bulbs, well, some of them! Onions and garlic are quietly green, broad beans are snug in the raised beds.

The greenhouse has other ideas, it is tropical in there! Of course, as soon as the sun sinks it will be cold. I wonder if the strawberries I have in there will mind?

Greenhouse heatwave
Greenhouse heatwave

You little chits

Chitting potatoes
Small sprouts

I am happy! I have sprouts (chits) on my seed potatoes, tiny little ones, but they will grow. They arrived just a few days ago, see my post here.

In all honesty, I need to get organised. Spring isn’t really that far away, a little more than a month. The days are noticeably longer now, and soon we will be able to sow seeds in the greenhouse, and direct sow. But first some planning. I have four raised beds and lots of pots. And a very small fruit garden.

With snow forecast this week I may not get many opportunities to get in the garden. What I can do, however, sort out my seeds into order of month to be sown. Planning what to put in my remaining two empty beds for an early crop, and planning what to put in all four as a later crop are also a must.

What plans have you made?

Garden update Monday 21st January

Despite threats of freezing weather, it was pleasant enough to get out in the garden today. Lovely and sunny, 6 degrees centigrade and there was no breeze. Almost perfect!

So, I got to work planting tulip bulbs in some fresh multipurpose compost with a few handfuls of horticultural grit to aid drainage. Tulips don’t like wet feet!

Tulip var. Lambada

Firstly I put a layer of the compost/grit mix about 3 inches (7.5cm) deep in the bottom of the pot. I used a fairly big pot, about 12 inches (30cm) deep. Next, I placed the bulbs, pointy side up, on this layer. Can you can see they are raring to go, with little shoots poking out of them already.

Lambada bulbs in pot

Then, cover them gently until you fill the pot up to about one inch (2.5cm) from the top. Tap the pot gently to remove any air pockets, and tamp down the surface lightly. Water well and place in a sunny spot. Don’t forget to label them! I use lolly sticks for plant labels, as they can be composted.

Plant labels

I repeated this with another gorgeous variety, Purple Flag.

Tulip var. Purple Flag

Lastly I fed the birds. The nights have been quite cold, down to -4 degrees centigrade. Its really important that we supplement their food, and keep doing it. Birds do come to rely on food we put out. If we stop then the birds may have wasted a lot of energy to find nothing to eat. Put just enough out for a few days so the food is always fresh. In my garden it never lasts more than a day!

What bulbs are you going to plant for spring?

Cool beans

Today I wanted to spend an hour in the garden. It was sunny and mild, and we get precious few days like that in winter.

So, my target was to tidy up one of my raised beds and plant some seeds. I chose to plant some dwarf broad beans, var. The Sutton.

Apparently, it is a little early or a little late to plant them, January being the only month they say not to on the packet. However with the weather mild, and cold weather forecast, I had a window and I wanted to use it.

Dwarf broad beans var. "The Sutton" from Mr Fothergills

I set to work and cleared the bed, and topped it up with a bag of fresh compost. Next I sowed these little beauties 2 inches deep. To stop them rotting in the soil, plant them on their thin side. If the soil is dry, water before planting. My soil was already moist so it did not need watering.

Then I covered them over with soil. Most importantly, I covered the bed with some horticultural fleece. This has two benefits. Firstly it helps to keep the soil warm. Secondly it helps to keep the wildlife off. Well that’s the plan!

rhdr

I bought four of these raised beds last year. They are brilliant, easy to assemble, won’t rot, and can be assembled in a variety of ways.

Sadly, they don’t seem to be available any more. However, if you want to try and find them they are by an Australian brand called Birdies. You can see the raised bed on the other side with the onions and garlic.

It felt great to spend some time in the garden again, only an hour, but I accomplished something. It’s really important to remind yourself sometimes that achieving something every day, no matter how small, is so beneficial for your well being.

And you get to eat the result, what could be better!

Things to do in the garden now

January

There are quite a few things that you can do in January, weather permitting of course. It may seem cold, and drab, and lifeless, but this is the time to start laying the foundations for the year ahead. I love the cold but sunny days on the rare occasion we get them.

Wildlife

One thing that is really important is to feed the birds. I love watching the birds at the feeder, knowing they have had a decent feed today. It’s tough out there, give them a hand. You’ll reap the rewards in the summer, and they will pick off pesky insects that you don’t need in the garden.

Plants and bulbs

It’s not too late to plant some spring bulbs. Tulips will be happy being planted now. Daffodils may be a bit more reluctant to flower this year, but still worth giving it a go. Bulbs don’t like being out of the ground for too long so my advice is to get them in by the end of the month at the very latest. A few pots of spring flowers will brighten any space, no matter how small.

For instant impact, invest in some hardy pansies or violas, they flower through winter. They also have cheerful little faces. I like to have a couple of pots with these in, near the house. They cheer me up no end, and make the garden feel alive.

Vegetables

If you have some space to grow vegetables, and have never done it before, I highly recommend giving it a go. Some of the easiest vegetables to grow are peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, onions and lettuce. You can give peas an early start by covering the area where you want to plant them with some horticultural fleece, or even black bin liners, to warm the soil. Do this for a couple of weeks and then you can sow the seeds directly where they will grow. They may be slow to start but they are vigorous!

You could even grow them in pots, for example a pot that you see at the supermarket that flowers are displayed in. These are often just thrown away. Just ask if you can have some for free, you never know. Punch some holes in the bottom for drainage, fill with multipurpose compost and leave in a sunny spot in the garden, covered with fleece a bin bag. After a couple of weeks sow in the pot for a nice early crop. You will never believe just how good fresh picked peas taste!

It’s also a good time to start buying seed for anything else you want to grow. This is by far the cheapest way to grow your own, and I recommend only growing what you like to eat, starting with some easy vegetables like those mentioned before. There are plenty more easy vegetables but the ones I mentioned are probably the best ones for a novice.

What else am I doing in January?

I am keeping an eye on the weather. This year it has been very mild, and if we do have a very cold snap I may give the onions and garlic a little protection.

I planted these in a raised bed in October, to give me a nice early crop. I can then use the space for a second crop of fast growing vegetables like peas, or beans. Although they are hardy, I wouldn’t want to lose them if we have a “Beast from the East” again.

I will be topping up my remaining three raised beds and covering them to warm the soil a little. February to April are generally the busiest months for sowing, so I want to be ready.

I will also resist looking at any more seed catalogues, I have more than 100 packets, and think that is plenty for now!

What will you be doing in January in the garden, tell me!

Potatoes, potatoes

I grow potatoes, I have done for about three years now. This time of year is perfect for deciding which ones to grow. I just love potatoes fresh out of the earth!

There are many varieties out there, and it can be confusing to say the least. It doesn’t have to be, with just a little knowledge.

What do I need?

Having said that, potatoes are really, really easy to grow. If you are short on space you can grow them in a bucket, or an empty compost bag. As long as your chosen container has drainage holes, they will grow.

All you need apart from the container is fresh multipurpose compost. Then you need a fertiliser such as fish, blood and bone or chicken manure pellets. And water, and of course time.

What variety to buy?

There are a couple of things to bear in mind. First of all decide whether you want to grow salad, otherwise known as early potatoes. Some examples are Charlotte, or Swift. Alternatively try main crop, which are the ones you would buy for perfect roast potatoes. Popular varieties are Rooster, King Edward, Desiree, etc. etc.

Early potatoes are waxy and good for boiling and salads, as a general rule. Main crop are floury and are best for roasting and baking.

However there are varying degrees of each and some start waxy and become floury if left to grow on for example.

There are many reputable companies selling seed potatoes. Here are some I have used myself:

https://www.jbaseedpotatoes.co.uk/

https://www.thompson-morgan.com/vegetables/potatoes

https://www.vanmeuwen.com/fruit-and-vegetables/vegetables/potatoes

https://www.suttons.co.uk/Gardening/Potatoes+Onions+Garlic/Seed+Potatoes/

What next?

Browse the potatoes and see what will work for you. Try to choose varieties with good overall disease resistance. I am sure that you want to enjoy the growing process, rather than worry about constantly protecting your crop.

After that, wait for the next instalment. I will cover what to do with your potatoes when you receive them.

Here is my very small but perfectly formed first harvest!

Small potatoes!

Are you new to growing potatoes? What questions do you have?

Garden update Monday 14 January

A knock on the door rudely awoke me early this morning. It was a delivery, I was confused. I had no idea what it could be, had I been sleep shopping?

Luckily, sleep shopping it was not. It turned out to be a bulk delivery of bird food. I had bought 25 kilos of sunflower hearts, 150 net free fat balls and 3 kilos of meal worm flavour suet pellets, yum!

Later in the morning, the delivery was taken down to my little shed, where all my bird food supplies are kept. Then, I realised just how pleasant it was outside today, a balmy 9 Centigrade (48 Fahrenheit in old money).

When suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a little glint of orange in the pale winter sun. What on earth could be so bright at this time of the year? Well, it was this:

A beautiful, perfect calendula, in January! What a delight nature is sometimes.

And so to the jobs

Back to the real reason for the post, a garden update. Not a lot to report, however the onions and garlic are still growing well. Slow growth would be the norm, but they are well on their way. The mild winter, so far, has helped. I am growing white onions and soft neck garlic, autumn plantings for both.

rhdr

I’ve had to put a piece of old fencing over the raised bed to stop the local cats and other wildlife using the bed for a toilet/digging patch. I used just a few clothes pegs and sticks to keep it in place.

It was so nice, just for a few minutes, to feel the sun on my face. I also tidied up some pots, removing all the dead foliage. It is amazing how doing just a few minutes on a small project can made you feel better.

How do you find little lifts in your day?

Happy New Year! Happy New Blog!

Happy New Year

So, having thought about this for rather more time that I will admit to, I decided to finally put fingers to keyboard. It all started, just a couple of years ago. I found that gardening was more than just bunging a few bedding plants in pots. A bit more than watering them when I remembered. I realised that it actually helped me in so, so many ways. For example, from growing some potatoes in pots as an experiment, to designing and building a fully fledged mini garden allotment. Also, and very importantly, to giving time for my poor overworked brain to rest and recuperate after a series of highly stressful life events.

You can imagine that this came as a bit of a shock to me, and my family. Having been pretty much a lifetime snubber of anything remotely green and leafy, it was a real about turn. And it came at the right time, really really at the right time. Just when I needed something else, to calm the stressed mind. To focus on something different, to nurture, and to reap the rewards of my efforts.

So, I’d like to share the journey with you, both what has gone before and what is to come. Gentle gardening and a little crafting, for the body and mind!

Glad to have you as company 🙂