Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter Frozen In Time

Ice Hanging From My Conservatory Gutters

Ice Hanging From My Conservatory Gutters

Oh, what a week that was! I think it may be a long time before anyone forgets this Easter. I certainly won’t.  Snow still lies on the garden and fields beyond. The temperature hasn’t risen above about 5 degrees and snow flurries, though small, continued today. It is melting, slowly, but I’m anxious about all the spring work that should have been done and hasn’t. There’s a vegetable bed up by the house to finish digging. It was overgrown, had been covered in plastic in an attempt at weed control and had a weed ash growing in it. There’s not much left to dig, but the whole area, when you scratched below the surface, has builders’ rubble and large stones to get out before anything worth eating would grow. The soil has been air deprived, nutrient deprived and needs some organic matter. Luckily I stacked all the turf moved when we built the greenhouse last spring. I can use that now to improve this important area.

Iced

Icy Conservatory

The best news this week is the arrival of a new member of the family. We have now got our dog from the RSPCA and she turns out to be a wonderful dog. We expected some problems, despite reassurances that she had come from a loving home that simply couldn’t afford to keep her. But we’ve had none. She’s very well trained, placid, calm and doesn’t even have the separation anxiety the RSPCA suspected. As we have a night vision wildlife camera, we left it aimed at her bed last night, thinking she may be spending the nights pacing. But no, she slept well, waking for a stretch, a drink of water and to rearrange her blanket. Otherwise she looks quite happy. We had to build a temporary fence around  the patio to make a safe place for her to be turned out in, as our boundary fence needs work and isn’t secure. As the garden is 120ft long and the base of my hedge needs clearing on my neighbour’s side before I can begin, that’s going to take a while. My son is going to come over and help with that. He has the training and the strength that will be required to get the job done.

daisy1

Isn’t she gorgeous? I am rather optimistically imagining her following me around the garden while I work in the SUNSHINE and WARMTH of summer. In these temperatures, it seems a long time away. Last summer’s wash-out plus this spring’s winter has been a little more than any of us wanted to have to cope with!

Iced Daffodils

Iced Daffodils

I have tomato seedlings, madia seedlings and others through in the conservatory, so I hope that eventually the greenhouse will be warm enough for them. I went in the greenhouse today to check on the trays of sown seed. I was surprised to feel the warmth during sunlight today, but I know how cold it will be tonight. So I’m not expecting miracles in those seed trays. It was a good ploy to put everything in there and not sow in the ground, though. It will mean I have a start on the season once the thaw is complete. There are vegetables and flower seeds that will easily grow on in cold frames, but I only have small ones. That’s something I need to think about as more space will no doubt be needed very soon. I’ll let you know what I end up doing, but it won’t be paying the prices I’ve seen online. More likely, we’ll fashion one out of things we’ve already got.

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Peeling paint, Pot Plants and Charlie

It’s a mixed bag of news today. The snow is beginning to melt, but depressing for most of us. Sheep and cattle are dying, wildlife and birds are struggling and I still have cabin fever. Shopping doesn’t count as an outdoor activity and isn’t my form of therapy!

peeling-paint

So, I thought a bit of cheering up was in order. Firstly, here’s the paint I’m having to strip back before repainting my conservatory windows and door. Fun, eh?  I didn’t get to it today, as we needed to go out for bird food and us food, plus a baby gate to keep Daisy from going upstairs when we finally get her home. We’ve rung again today, had no-one get back to us and are still waiting for a home visit. Maybe tomorrow?

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoe

Indoor plants of course don’t know spring hasn’t arrived, and can give you gorgeous colour for weeks on end. Here’s my latest star performer, a kalanchoe I bought as a very small plant last year. I potted it on, fed it and now look! Cheering me through this horrid weather. They are easy to grow. A succulent, the way to kill them is by too much watering, especially in the winter. Keep them on the dry side, with plenty of light. But do not attempt to grow on a south facing window in summer. It will scorch their leaves. They can be stood on the patio in summer, but for the first week or so you try this, bring them in at night until they’ve acclimatized. And don’t try until AFTER the last frost.

Charlie On His First Birthday

Charlie On His First Birthday

Last, but by no means least, a couple of weeks ago I went to visit family and as I’ve told you saw my grandson learn to walk. He also had his first birthday. I took lots of photos, as you can imagine. Here’s my favourite.

What are you doing to stave off the cold and misery of our absent spring?

Anticipating Daisy

Daisy - soon to be part of the family.

Daisy – soon to be part of the family.

We’ve built a hasty, temporary fence around the patio. Daisy will not be allowed to come home unless we can show a safe ‘turning out’ area for her. We managed, just, to get it up before the snow. The RSPCA volunteer home inspector was meant to phone us by today, but we’re still waiting. It’s frustrating as we want to get her home, but understandable that there may be delays caused by this unprecedented snowfall. We seem to have had it quite bad compared to our immediate neighbour towns and counties, but not as bad a Scotland and Wales, so I guess we should be grateful we have power and heat and can get to the shops.

It’s the heaviest snow I’ve ever seen, and the meteorologists are calling it the coldest March in fifty years. Seeds will have to sit and wait in the greenhouse for the return of spring, as I’m not going to waste fuel heating them. As we don’t know what’s coming next, there seems little point in trying to rush things. I will for now concentrate on finishing the decorating in the conservatory. The woodwork had been badly neglected and terribly painted so I’ve stripped it back and it’s almost ready for repainting. I’ve had to dig away at old paint as the opening lights above the windows had been painted shut. They are now out of their frames so I can sand inside the architrave and free them up for future use. Not exactly fun jobs, but once done will look so much better and the windows will be usable again.

Houseplants are starting to grow as the light levels rise, so I’ve started feeding them again. I’ve also bought a small fatsia japonica, which is a plant I have known all my life. My dad had a small one, once. Of course it grew and grew. I was raised in a bakery, and my dad only had a small backyard in which to satisfy his passion for growing things. He moved the fatsia outside, gradually putting it in larger pots. It was nicknamed Billy. Eventually, Billy flowered and produced seed. My dad germinated the seeds and he propagated it by cuttings. One of them went with him when he and mum moved house after I was married. It was called ‘Son Of Billy’ and still grows in my parent’s garden today, and they’re now in their eighties and I have a grandson. I had a ‘Son Of Billy’, too for ten years in one of my previous homes, but couldn’t bring it with me as it was a mature shrub in the garden, and I hadn’t managed to get a cutting to strike.

Now I have my ‘forever’ home I decided I want a Billy around the place again. He’s in the conservatory until ehem, ‘summer’. He’ll then go on the patio, come in next winter and then, weather permitting, next year, he should be strong enough to survive outside planted in the garden.

Do you have a memory of a particular plant?

The Coldest Spring In Fifty Shades of White?

Conservatory with Ice 24th March 2013

Conservatory with Ice 24th March 2013

Snow. March. It’s pathetic  but I am disappointed. I was hoping to get on the garden this week, not least because our family will soon be extended. I’m getting a rescue dog from the RSPCA, She’s a gorgeous Staffie cross  called Daisy with a very sweet nature. Before I can give her the run of the garden I need my neighbour’s co-operation to clear our boundary and install some fencing behind the hedge, or she could escape. Of course under all the white stuff everything is delayed. So it’s not JUST about the gardening.

Daisy

Daisy

We went to take Daisy for a walk today. She’s already partly trained, and will walk to heel, sit and lie. But her recall is bad, so we really do need the garden to be secure. And the RSPCA won’t let us have her until we have a safe area, so we’ve hastily fenced in the patio for now. That fence will go when the rest of the work is done.

We were surprised when we left Coalville for Leicester to see how much more snow we had compared to slightly lower lying land. There’s grass showing through closer to Leicester, and as you can see we’ve had about 7″. It snowed constantly from Thursday night/Friday morning and was still snowing when I woke up this morning. It’s marked to be the coldest March for fifty years. Since we moved here 16 months ago the weather seems to be determined to break records. First for a hot dry spring, then the wettest summer, which it missed by millimeteres, now the coldest, snowiest March. How about the record for the most perfect, average British summer?

Three Days of Snow

Three Days of Snow

Nobody told the plants about spring refusing to arrive. Seedlings are coming through in the conservatory so I’m having to ensure they get enough light until things warm up. Otherwise, there is very little to do for now. We just have to be patient. At least we are warm safe and dry. It’s been great watching the birds, who of course are coming in droves for food. Don’t forget to feed your flock. They really need it right now.

Weather Or Not It’s Spring?

Snow Slowdown

Snow Slowdown

 

I really cannot believe the weather. Is it spring? Is it winter? Am I still in the UK? I know, we’re all in the same boat, but really! Only days ago I sowed lots and lots of seeds including tomato, annuals for the flower beds and various small quantities of vegetables in the greenhouse. Fortunately I have the conservatory for the tomatoes and other tenders that need a bit of warmth. But after last years’ bad start with late cold and the dry spring, then monsoon conditions for the summer I was frustrated. My first year here and everything was delayed, including the building of my greenhouse. Now snow and appallingly cold winds are keeping temperatures down and nothing will germinate until they rise.

Subdued Daffodils

Subdued Daffodils

Farmers are already looking at a late start and a prediction of rising prices, and no wonder after last year. I will do what I can to grow as much as I can, and everyone would be wise to do the same. If this crazy weather continues who knows what food shortages there could be. There are plenty of examples in history of entire civilisations being wiped out because of climate changes. As we now have a global economy, (which is in admittedly in very bad shape right now) you’d hope things won’t come to that, but food shortages mean hardship financially, and we can all help ourselves by growing more of our own. Even beansprouts on the windowsill are a saving and add some extra vitamins and minerals to your diet.

If you have a windowsill, you can grow beansprouts, radish, herbs, various sprouted seeds, cut and come again baby salad and even a tomato in a hanging basket if the windowsill is in a sunny position. More possibilities are open to those of you with a balcony or yard. Container fruit and vegetables would enhance the space and save you money. There has never been a better time to grow more of your own and be less reliant on outside supplies.

Suspended Seeds

Suspended Seeds

In the greenhouse, I’ve planted four or five new potatoes of different varieties in old compost bags rolled down. The bags will be filled gradually with more compost as the potatoes grow. As temperatures warm they can easily be moved outside, so making way for the tomatoes. I should have the treat of some new potatoes, freshly harvested and NOT costing me a fortune for the privilege!  If you want to try this it’s very easy to do. Just ensure you’ve pierced the bag several at the bottom to allow drainage.

Thank goodness for the wood-burning stove, too, as it’s saved us a fortune. As you know, we’ve been burning old telephone directories, trees we’ve felled from the previously neglected garden and salvaged scrap wood. It has meant keeping the thermostat turned about three degrees down from the temperature we’d have needed without the stove.

Stay warm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Superfood to Grow?

398px-3836_-_Amaranthus_caudatus_(Zieramaranth)

I know, I know. It’s been ages again. Sorry. ‘Nuff said. I had to tell you about my recent discovery, though. It’s obviously time for seed sowing and I’m busy doing just that, filling my greenhouse (that wasn’t up in time for last spring’s sowing). I have grown for many years Love Lies Bleeding or Amaranthus Caudatus. I love the long red tassels. It was  plant I grew in my very first garden a long time ago.

I had two packets of seed which had conflicting advice about growing conditions and went online to check out what the official correct temperatures were, just out of interest. That’s when I found out that this ancient Andean plant is a superfood eaten in India and South America like quinoa. It’s known as kiwicha.  It has one of the best protein contents of any grain and is apparently easy to cook with. Amazing and brilliant! I’m celiac, so finding any grain I can eat is a marvellous new addition to my diet. I can’t find a UK source to buy it, so I might try to harvest the abundant seed from it this year and cook some. Why waste it when I’m growing it anyway? It’s a bonus to grow food that’s so gorgeous!

If anyone has recipes or a source I can order it from in the UK I’d be very grateful for a heads up. The photo I’ve used here is from Wikipedia as I don’t have a decent one of my own to show you. You can find out more about it there.