21 Feb 2017

On with the plot

~ Rosemary flowering at the allotment ~

I couldn't resist a quick visit to the allotment this morning.  The sun was shining, the air was warm and having cleared the veg patch yesterday afternoon, I couldn't wait to see what was happening up at the plots.  Having not been up for a while, I half expected to see a fair bit of chickweed and couch grass.

I needn't have worried. The hoeing and weed clearing that I did in late November had paid off and there were very few weeds to be seen - although I'm sure continued vigilance is needed. And I still have to tackle a few tenacious brambles. By the way, when does bindweed show itself?  Does it hibernate over winter? I dug out tons of the stuff - and as many roots as I could find - last year but I read on other blogs what a persistent nuisance it is.  Today there were no visible signs of any; I suspect my optimism is getting the better of me.

It was great to wander slowly past other plots and see what everyone else is up to. There's nothing like having keen plot neighbours to keep you on your toes! There were lots of beds that had been cleared and were waiting to be mulched, judging by the stacks of commercially bagged horse manure. A few plots had already got onion sets with 6 inch leaves and healthy looking broad beans. I was intrigued with this idea...

Several plotters had done this, growing broad beans in bottomless tubs - wind protection or slug deterrent, I wonder. Any thoughts? For small overwintering plants, it would be easy to throw fleece over the top without damaging the leaves, definitely one to remember.  Better start keeping a lookout for pots in the recycling. Despite the random placing, these pots are definitely placed over plants, rather than used for growing the plants in before transplanting; I saw them when the plants were tiny at soil level. Personally, I grow my beans in a tight grid having got straight edged raised beds. My plot neighbour has a circular bed in the middle of his plot and is growing beans in amphitheatre pattern which looks rather wonderful, actually. What do others do?

Another of nature's quirky combinations - rhubarb and primroses 

Back on my shared plot, I was delighted to see native primroses sprinkled across the plot - in the grass, nestling up to the rhubarb, peeking out from the paths. How do they spread themselves so far? They looked so pretty on this lovely spring day.  On the walk over to the plot, the hedgerows were studded with clumps of crocus, yellow as well as purple, and snowdrops.  I hope this means an early spring; technically, we're still in the last month of winter for another couple of weeks but temperatures (in London, at least) are forecast to be in the mid to high fifties fahrenheit this week. With rain, apparently.

So, what's growing at the moment? A couple of the beds on my shared plot are still (in theory) tended by the last helpers. There's no evidence of them having visited recently (loads of weeds and dried beanstalks still to be taken down from last year) but, under nets, they've grown some nicely hearted cabbage, Russian kale, cavalo nero and a very promising looking broccoli - a sort of homage to winter veg. It would be a pity to waste it. That's all I'm saying... *smacks lips*

The rhubarb is looking imminent with 3 inch stems which I'm tempted to force and the jostaberry bushes are covered in buds.  In my cut flower bed, the anemones are all showing (leaves only) but, interestingly, none of the tulips that I planted at the same time. Interesting because, by comparison, all the tulips planted in the veg patch gardens in previous years are showing leaves - yes, even before the daffs have opened, although that's only a matter of days.  This will be the fourth year for the tulips, if they flower - and, probably, the last. It's kinda exciting and I would be waiting with bated breath except I'm trying not to hurry my life along since my niece asked if time went more quickly when you get older. (I told her only if you're a gardener. Although I'm not sure that's true.)

19 Feb 2017

Never mind the roses

Hellebore atrorubens
~ Wisley borders, Valentine's Day - Hellebore atrorubens aka the Lenten Rose ~

It's rare that I can look back on a week so positively plumped with gardening goodness but the past seven days have been  just that - filled with gardening hygge, the feel good vibe that I get when surrounded by nature, chatting to fellow garden enthusiasts or getting my hands into the soil or around a pair of secateurs.

I'll have to do separate posts in more detail but it all started on Valentine's Day (Tuesday) when I woke to blue-ish skies and made a spur of the moment decision to go to the gardens at RHS Wisley - no air flown roses there, but lots of Lenten roses, plentiful signs of spring and the uplifting sight of the winter walk. The scents and splashes of colour at this time of year are extraordinary - with the added treat of butterflies in the glasshouse.  I vetoed a visit to the RHS Early Spring show in Westminster in favour of the Wisley visit but don't regret it for a minute - even with the traffic on the M25 to get there and back!

Ginger lily
~ Ginger plant, I presume? Wisley glasshouse. Gotta love a bit of tropical in February. ~
In the evening I headed out to the first of the Chelsea Fringe meetings - my first time of (hopefully) being involved in this event. I wasn't sure about it before I went but came away fired with enthusiasm and inspired by projects from previous years. 

Wednesday was a normal workday, recharging the gardening batteries somewhat, receiving a review copy of Anne Wareham's new book 'The Deckchair Gardener' and getting ready for the highlight of my week ...

... the big day out to the Garden Press Event at the Barbican on Thursday. It was my first time there and really was an amazing day, so many lovely people to talk to about seeds, sheds, planters, plants, tools, shoes, gloves ... and blogging. Yes, bloggers are a force to be reckoned with these days, such is the power of the internet, and garden suppliers treat us almost like gods - amazing.  As rewarding as that is, one of the best bits of the day was an impromptu bloggers meet up after lunch. Suddenly I was able to put faces to familiar names like the Gardening Shoe, the Physic blogger, the Cynical Gardener, Mud and Gluts, the Chatty Gardener, the Unconventional Gardener as well as saying hello again to familiar faces. What a fabulous, friendly and generous bunch of people!  And, of course, the traders made sure that everyone who wanted went home laden with goodies. Top day for so many reasons. 

Friday was back to normal but with a new pair of swanky leather gardening gloves from the previous day's event to tackle the mahonia pruning in a client garden ... before heading out to Oxfordshire to collect a new Stihl compact cordless hedge trimmer given to me for review.  I have a large privet hedge surrounding the middle gated garden so I can't wait to give that a whirl - or rather safe and controlled trim!

Tiger Longwing butterfly
~ Tiger Longwing butterfly in Wisley glasshouse ~

And so to the weekend, head buzzing with ideas, heart glowing with good gardening vibes from this lovely gardening community that we're all a part of and good weather to get out into the garden. There's lots to catch up on after last weekend's snowflakes and bitter winds but at the very least I plan to sow some broad beans, mulch some beds and get that hedge under control!  What's everyone else up to - has your gardening year started yet?

PS.  Next week I'm off to Kew Gardens and the snowdrop weekend at Waterperry Gardens near Thame in Oxfordshire.  And keeping my fingers busy by blogging more details of all of the above!

17 Jan 2017

Pig Latin for gardeners

(Photo: Looking back on the glory years!) 

I'm fascinated how language constantly evolves and new words pop up. I discovered an amazing new-to-me word the other day - 'veganuary'. Heard of it?  I hadn't until I spotted the term in a vegetarian magazine. That should have given me the clue but of course I read it as VEG-anuary - what a brilliant word to start the food gardening year, I thought!  After reading the article, I realised the word was coined to adopt January as the month when people are challenged to try vegan (animal free) eating habits.

Ah well. Bubble burst. The upside to vegan-uary is that delicious healthy veg based recipes have been cropping up (pun intended) in a number of newspapers, supermarkets and magazines. This is a good thing as I need to refocus my diet on wholesome grub after christmas indulgences and, because I'm so enjoying the soups and salads that I've been eating in the past week, those meals are providing veg inspiration when choosing what to grow this year.  Always grow veg that will excite and inspire you to eat your produce.  So why not think in terms of veg-anuary!

Seed catalogues have been popping through my letterbox for a while now and plans for the growing year ahead are pretty much constantly in my thoughts.  The term veg-anuary perfectly suits my January pre-occupations and IMHO should be reclaimed for the month that veg growers choose their seeds.  It's now firmly taken root in my brain. (Second pun intended.)

Extending the concept, how about adulterating some more gardener's gibberish? I could veg-azzle and veg-ewel the garden this year with annuals and cut flowers among the veg. It will all be very veg-olly as I veg-uggle my time to tend my plants. And I'll be positively veg-oyful as I wander the plot in a veg-aunty fashion in the summer evenings. Too silly? Probably.

So back to the seed catalogues to hone my selection.  The list so far includes the basics - carrots, chard, beetroot, kale, broccoli, climbing beans, spring onions, salad leaves, tomatoes (pink ones are tempting me) peas and shallots; chillies and peppers in a mini-greenhouse. I have to work out how much I can fit in but I also rather fancy growing edamame (soya) beans, leeks, maybe some sweetcorn and more cape gooseberries this year. The jury's still out on courgettes but maybe just the one. And then there are the flowers ... I've seen a gorgeous old rose coloured Cosmos in the Chiltern Seeds catalogue and that's just for starters.  Ah, yes ... the start of a new gardening year; the love affair continues ...

- - - - - - - - - - - -

How's everyone else doing in their seed choices this year?  Keeping to the same-old or trying anything new? And who agrees that the word should be veg-anuary rather than vegan-uary!?

10 Jan 2017

Digging up the past


Hello and Happy New Year!  I'm wondering should I retitle my blog 'The Absent Blogger'?  I've not been around much recently! My 2016 stats show that I started twice the number of posts as were finished and published, leaving lots of good ideas and lovely experiences still sitting in my intray. Hmmm, not good. Writing went on the back burner for a number of reasons, the most recent of which was making the time to clear my parents' home before it was sold just before Christmas.  So why 'digging up the past'? Because I was allowed to dig up several plants to bring back to London as a living reminder of the garden that my mum loved.

25 Nov 2016

Let's hear it for ugly fruit!

Windfall apples

Given that the meagre fruit from my veg patch apple trees has long gone, I could hardly believe my eyes when I walked into my niece's garden the weekend before last; at the far far end of the garden, the branches of the two eating apple trees were still weighed down with fruit. Not only that but the grass all around was littered with windfalls so the fruit was definitely ready for picking.

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