flowers, Garden design, Grow Your Own, Plants, Raised Beds, Secret Garden, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Planning…

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It’s time to get planning.  For the past few weeks and months, a lot of ideas, plans and wish lists have been floating about in my head or, when possible, noted on my phone (Notes, Reminders and Evernote are the gardener’s friends for recording these on-the-go).  I’ve also sorted through the seeds I have left from last year as well as ordering a few to sow this year.  Now the moment has come to commit these to paper and decide when to plant it all and where to put it all.

I’ve made use of this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch year planner and made myself a visual guide – each packet’s been placed on the month which is the earliest they can be planted. If I follow the plan exactly, the next couple of months are going to be busy!  However, I suspect the timings will be very much dependent on climate and opportunity.  I hope that I’ll get a few peas (sweet and savoury) off to a start in the greenhouse by the end of this month, however where we are (East Scotland) it may be worth waiting until a little later to sow many of these plants, so that by the time they are ready for planting out, the weather will also be ready to welcome them.

Until then, I’ll keep tweaking The Planting Plan and I have some work to do in the front garden – I’ve begun moving a few shrubs to clear various areas for new planting.  I’ve been reading quite a bit about garden design and collecting a few resources to help with this task (more on these in another post) and am looking forward to giving the front beds a serious overhaul.

We’re still in the middle of winter…but Spring is coming!

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Chickens, Garden Birds, Garden design, Grow Your Own, Nature & Wildlife, Secret Garden, Vegetables

Catching up…

Well it seems it’s been a busy couple of weeks since I last wrote a post.  Thankfully, part of the reason for that has been some lovely weather – when the sun’s shining I’m not inclined to stay in the house and stare at a computer screen, I want to get outside and garden!

Some updates on what’s happening out there:

Sad news first – the blackbird nest which was in the ivy on the back wall has failed.  I went out one morning about a week ago to discover it was on the ground.  I don’t know what happened, perhaps it simply collapsed, or perhaps a fox or bigger bird came along and attacked.  I investigated briefly using a stick (it was hard to reach!) and couldn’t see any eggs but it was surprisingly solid to try to turn over.  Here’s a photo of Mrs Blackbird which I took literally the day before the nest came down…

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I felt quite sad for the pair – they spent so long building the nest and she’d been sitting in it for a few days before it failed.  However, it seems that this is common with blackbirds as their nests are so open and therefore vulnerable to predators and the elements.  The good news is that I think they are now building another nest inside a large conifer nearby.  Will it be third time lucky?  We’ll have to wait and see.

I have been watering like mad over the past few days.  The sunny and warm weather means the veg beds have been looking parched and the seedlings (cosmos, marigolds and zinnia) which are now outside in the growhouse need a drink almost twice a day!  They’re getting quite large now and I’m hoping to start planting them out in the next few days.

The raised beds are looking good – every one now has a little row or sprig of green appearing, with the peas/carrots/lettuce bed looking the most healthy of all.  I have high hopes for the peas, especially after they did so poorly last year.  The potatoes are now all sprouting, after my worry that they were nowhere to be seen, and even the little leeks are popping up…

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…I noticed these yesterday morning and could have sworn they were about a centimetre bigger by the evening after a day of sunshine and a liberal hosing!

I’m also making a fairly sizeable change in the front garden; I’ve removed a large ceonothus and another unidentified shrub which have been taking over a large section close to the driveway.  I plan to extend the rose bed and perhaps also use the space for bedding and dahlias.  It was a bit of a gamble as they took up quite a lot of room, but the space looks nice and clear now and is another corner to play with, so I’m happy.  Sorry no before/after photos because I forgot to take them!

Lastly, a chicken update: we are now getting three eggs a day, as Iona has joined her two friends and begun laying – hurrah!  She’s also developing her comb and her voice and likes a good cluck when you go into the run or if she thinks something’s amiss.  Perhaps the quietest hen will turn out to be the noisiest?!

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New layer Iona gets extra cuddles from Biggest Daughter 

 

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flowers, Grow Your Own, Plants, Pots and containers, Raised Beds, Vegetables

Sunshine and snow

It has been a week of VERY mixed weather, with the past couple of days seeing glorious sunshine…while little flakes of snow gently drift down from above.  Beautiful but c-c-c-cold.

So I’ve been wrapping up some of my tender plants or bringing in those in pots which I’ve been hardening off, like geraniums and fuschia.  The passiflora I planted up in a lovely blue pot just last week is currently ‘dressed’ in one of my husband’s old t-shirts pinned together with clothes pegs.  And my pea seedlings, which are showing signs of slight frost damage have most recently been protected by a free fleece cover which I got when I  recently bought a little growhouse.

I chose the wrong week to move my seedlings from the utility/greenhouse into their new growhouse (I got it partly for hardening them off and to make watering easier, and partly to get some space back in the utility room!) because I think they’ll be ok inside their little plastic cocoon but I’ve been worrying about them during the snowy days – maybe it’s just too cold for them to be outside??  I’d be frustrated to lose them after spending the last few weeks watching them grow.  But I suppose that’s the joy/despair of gardening! Fingers crossed they are protected enough and will survive this cold snap.

Checking the raised beds in the secret garden, I discovered signs of germination – hurrah!  The purple sprouting broccolli is emerging, along with a few pea shoots and some rocket and lettuce.  I am slightly worried about my potatoes – not a sign yet, although my dad, who planted his just the day before I did, has already got green tops showing.

Back in the main back garden, the blossom on the apple and plum trees is there, tightly wadded up, just waiting for the next warm and sunny day to burst out and really show off.  I love blossom.  One or two little flowers are already emerging – a hint of what’s to come…

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Chickens, flowers, Garden design, Grass and lawncare, Plants, Pots and containers, Raised Beds

Lobelia learning curve

I sowed lobelia last year, directly into the raised bed I used to grow cut flowers* and they did quite well, but flowered fairly late in the season and are not really great for cutting, they’re better for baskets or pots.  So this year I sowed early under cover, with the aim of using the plants for two large wire hanging baskets which we inherited with the house.  I have a vision of these lovely trailing purple flowers decorating the front of our house and making visitors ‘ooh’ appreciatively when they visit.

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Lobelia erinus

However.  Lobelia seeds and indeed their seedlings are ickle tiny wee things and quite tricky to prick out, as I have discovered!  It’s not impossible, and I did manage to transfer most of the delicate little plants from the seed tray in clumps into a slightly bigger modular tray.  I’m hoping from here they will grow big enough to then plant into baskets so that they can look beautiful at the front of the house, visitors will ‘ooh’, etc etc… However.  Having dragged the wire baskets from the back of the shed to have a good look at them, they are BIG.  60cm each in fact, and I’m pretty sure my little crop of lobelias will only fill one of these at best.

I will definitely keep growing them anyway, they’ll do for a smaller basket or pot – but perhaps in the meantime I might have to invest in some pre-grown bedding plants for the hanging baskets, especially if I want them on display any time soon!

In other garden news, I did the first grass cut of the season – yay!  I observed two things:

1) the chickens didn’t freak out as much as I thought they might at the sound of the lawnmower. This is good, as I really didn’t want to have to cut the grass fortnightly during the summer under cover of darkness after they’d gone to bed to avoid scaring them!

2) The grass is in a pretty crappy state.  What with scarifying, plus a bit of extra treading around fixing up a chicken run, plus a lot of rain recently, it’s not exactly looking green and lush and is still very mossy.  This will be a long-running battle I think, to restore it to a healthy state.

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My grass does NOT look like this <sob>

*This sounds impressive, but didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, apart from the cornflowers and a few snapdragons.  I am giving it another bash this year and have sowed earlier so hopefully will get better results!

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flowers, Grow Your Own, Plants, Secret Garden, Vegetables

Mr Smith

As promised in my previous post, just a few hours ago, I grabbed the opportunity to get out into the garden and I’m pleased to say it was a productive afternoon and evening.

I had to dodge a few showers but I managed to plant out pea seedlings, as well as sowing new pea seeds.  I also sowed early carrots, lettuce and rocket under a fleece mini-tunnel (the only one of two which survived the recent high winds).  In the same bed there was one square space remaining so I constructed a makeshift obelisk from some branches foraged from the woods just behind us (fallen, not cut!) and sowed a few remaining sweet pea seeds beneath it, with the help of my smallest daughter, who loves to pick the flowers.

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Pea seedlings

AND just before the light fell, I also filled in some space at the top of the potato bed with a few broccoli seeds – a bit of an experiment as I haven’t grown it before and, to be honest, we don’t eat much broccoli.  I reckon whether it’s successful or not, the chickens will benefit from these plants the most!

Phew – I got quite a lot done with the bit of time I had and am feeling quite satisfied that I’ve got a few seeds and seedlings into the earth today.

A word about my companion when I am sowing or growing vegetables – Mr Smith.  After we moved in here and I acquired the raised beds in the Secret Garden, my Dad bestowed upon me his copy of ‘Mr Smith’s Vegetable Garden’.

My Dad has been using this book since he began growing his own vegetables many years ago and swears by it as a very simple, straightforward guide to how to grow most veggies in your garden or allotment.  For each vegetable, Mr Smith lists the basic guidelines for How to Grow, possible Pests and Diseases and Storage and Kitchen Hints, plus a few simple line drawings for a bit of illustration.  I have just checked the front cover and the book was first published in 1976 (as well as a reprint in 1977 – the year I was born!) and the advice and guidance in it is as relevant now as it was then.  The book looks old-fashioned, but then I have a weak spot for ‘vintage’ gardening books – something I will definitely share in a future post…

Clearly Dad thought I could find the book as useful as he did as a reference point – and I do. Every year at this time I know I will bring out the book to check guidance for sowing my veg.  I don’t know who Mr Smith was – the Monty Don of his day perhaps – but he’s an excellent guide and adviser when it comes to growing your own vegetables.

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Secret Garden, Vegetables

What a load of crap…

Literally.

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I have recently acquired a fairly large quantity of horse manure, via the Head Gardener (aka Dad) whose village, apparently, has a Dung Day, when local farmers will pitch up with bags of fertilizer which you can buy at a very reasonable price.  Et voila – horse manure for my raised beds!

It’s a little bit of last-minute enrichment for the soil here, which I think could do with some help.  Last year’s crops were mostly poor and while the weather probably had some part to play, I think the beds have probably been dormant for a while prior to us moving in and the soil may be lacking in nutrients.  So I’m hopeful that chucking in a sizeable amount of poo – both horse and chicken – will help them on their way to becoming fertile containers of lush vegetables, fruit and flowers.

As well as digging some of the manure into a currently vacant bed, I also planted my potatoes – ten earlies (Duke of York) have gone into the top bed.  These beds are really big (I didn’t make them, I’m just the lucky soul who’s managed to inherit them from the previous owners!) so there’s still a bit of room in it for something else – I think I’ll probably also add some peas or sweet peas in the space that’s left.

So – currently in the beds at the moment:

Bed 1 – potatoes (10 Duke of York)

Bed 2 – empty (+ cloche to warm soil)

Bed 3 – empty (+ cloche to warm soil)

Bed 4 – 2 x raspberry canes planted last year (Autumn Bliss)

Bed 5 – 2 x rhubarb (inherited and moved from a different part of the garden); 4 x young strawberry plants grown from the runners of a large old plant; 6 x raspberry canes (Tulameen and Glen Something) and the re-sprouting Tayberry plant which I thought I had previously removed

Bed 6 – empty (+ generous amount of horse dung)

The Easter holidays are imminent – I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for some good weather to warm the soil so I can start sowing a few more seeds and filling all those empty spaces.

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The rhubarb is coming along – it’s already looking a bit healthier since its move to the bed.

 

 

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Garden design, Secret Garden, Vegetables

10 minutes digging

Sometimes spending just 10 minutes in the garden can be just as satisfying as a whole day.

This afternoon I grabbed the opportunity to do some digging – I’m anxious to prepare the raised beds for the new growing season and had a few spare minutes, so grabbed a spade and fork and got to work in the late afternoon sun.

10 minutes was enough to dig over one raised bed, incorporating a trug-ful of homemade compost.  It’s the bed I’m using for fruit and rhubarb.  There are two crowns already pushing up a number of vivid pink stalks , four small strawberry plants I grew from the runners of a very old one which has since been composted, plus the resurrected shoots of a tayberry which I (mistakenly) pulled out last year. There are now six raspberry canes soaking in a bucket overnight, ready to join this bed as soon as I get the chance to plant them tomorrow.

Look how good this soil looks – ready to grow lots of great stuff!

strawberry plant in the foreground – rhubarb at the back!

And here’s a reminder of just what my raised beds look like at the beginning of the year…


A bit bare at the moment, but I have big plans for this area – lots of fruit, veg and flowers in the short-term and hopefully a potting shed, maybe a greenhouse in the future.  I call it the Secret Garden, because it’s hidden behind a door to the side of the main garden, and there’s so much potential in it, both for growing things and for creating a very special private allotment.  Watch this space.

 

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