New Year, New Start

Icy Greenhouse

Icy Greenhouse

I’m back and big apologies for the long break. I won’t go into details, but family, health and other commitments caused this blog to drop off the bottom of my list of things that had to be done. Anyway, it goes almost without saying, but for the record, it’s been very cold! Another snowy winter week has had Britain struggling to cope. Beautiful, but hard work. Ice, snow and freezing fog conspired to make me feel like hibernating.

And it was a strange year last year, which totally threw me. A new house, a new start, and more rain than I ever remember seeing. Hopes for a great harvest were literally washed away. I, like most gardeners, was thoroughly discouraged. For those who had established gardens on high enough ground some crops did very well. Runner beans, apparently, gave bumper crops. My few, once they survived the slug attacks, did give me a late harvest, but onions rotted in the soil, cabbages were destroyed by pigeons and it was nigh on impossible to get any new cultivation underway as the land was so wet for so long. This year (I write with fingers crossed – not an easy task!) things will be better for growing.

Monkey Puzzle Tree with Iced Spiders Web

Monkey Puzzle Tree with Iced Spiders Web

Not least because I now have a functioning greenhouse, complete with heater, should I need it. I’ve also managed to remove twenty years of neglect from a border close to the house, which is slightly higher than the rest of the garden, and take all the overgrown plants out. It’s covered with tarpaulin at the moment, protecting it from the frost, snow and rain we’ve been experiencing. This will make it easier to work and should enable slightly earlier planting, with the help of a tunnel cloche. I’ve decided to make this my first vegetable bed this year, so I can grow crops that won’t drown if we have lots of rain, and I can protect from slugs and pigeons  more easily. A torch and bucket containing salt, plus my dedication should keep things under control. I’m also going to order some biological control in the form of nematodes, a natural slug parasite that won’t harm anything else.

Hoar Frost From My Window

I’m more prepared for pigeons, now, too. As I’ve always lived in more urban gardens in the past, the scourge of pigeons eating crops is new to me. Everything will be protected this year. We learn by our mistakes! I’m saving milk cartons, which will be butchered to put over my early broad beans, which are currently in the cold greenhouse in modules and will go out as soon as possible for a hopeful June crop. I’ve invested in a tunnel cloche, too, and my cabbage family will be protected with that against marauding birds. The cloche can be used with net, fleece or clear sheeting depending on what I want it to do. We’ll see how I get on with it once the thaw has taken place and planting can begin.

I now have a zombie and a skull in the garden. My partner bought Gregor for me when we went to the Cotswolds last year. He was sitting in The Herb Centre when I fell in love with him but didn’t expect to bring him home. By the time I got back from the camper having loaded up some plants he was paid for. Maximillion was found under the patio (only joking). Really, he was a Christmas present for Jon. He writes horror fiction, amongst other things, and loves skulls. He’d hinted he wanted one and I was lucky enough to get the last one in stock. I love his grin!

Gregor the Zombie

Gregor the Zombie

The wood burning stove has been an absolute gem. Despite this very cold snap, we’ve been able to keep warm using very little gas and electricity. We’ve kept the thermostat low and used the stove to pump out constant heat. Trees we felled last year and old telephone directories destined for the skip have fed the fire, so it’s all free.

Maximillion, Our Latest Resident

Maximillion, Our Latest Resident

It’s the last of the snow today. It is already melting under the sunshine and change of wind direction, but tonight we’re forecast rain and a rapid thaw, which may cause flooding for some. I hope it doesn’t, but it looks very likely. I must say, pretty though it’s been, I’m getting rather stir crazy stuck in the house, so milder weather will help, although lots of rain won’t. How about a ‘normal’ English year, please, the gods/goddesses that be? Please!!

Winter in the fields

Winter In the Fields

I have big plans for this year. The shed is being moved, as we placed it wrongly and I want that spot for veg. We’re trying new crops, such as kohlrabi, which we like and cost £1.50 each. The seed packet contains about 50 seeds, so there’s a potential £75 worth of food, though we won’t need all those! I want turnips, French, broad and runner beans, kale, broccoli, romanesco, salad and of course tomatoes. Last year I grew beefsteaks for the first time and loved them. Because of the lack of sunshine they were late, but did crop and we enjoyed them. Three types of tomato are going in the greenhouse. A salad one I adore called Gardeners Delight, a beefsteak and an Italian plum variety for sauces. With food prices going up daily I think we can save ourselves a fortune. In face, investment rates with banks are running at less than 1%, investment in seeds, if you look at my kholrabi example should yield a return of 3,750%. Wow! Even cheaper vegetables like tomatoes are going to be so worthwhile.

What will you grow this year? Let’s compare notes.

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