Tag Archives: climate

Trees Are In Trouble! Join The National Survey

The Great Oak in Nottingham Forest

The Great Oak in Nottingham Forest

A new tree survey has been launched today. It is the first one to involve the public and it needs you. Designed in collaboration with Forest Research and FERA (department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) and run by OPAL (Open Air Laboratories network) a survey pack has been issued for you to download and be a part of saving our trees.

In the past decade at least 17 new pests and diseases have been found in Britain, attacking some of our most iconic trees, including the mighty oak and the chestnut. I for one would be very sad to see our trees dying due to these unwanted pests from the continent. I have a chestnut tree at the end of my garden. It’s a favourite of mine from childhood with its sticky, fat buds and fresh unfurling leaves.

The environment has changed. Our recent years of unusual weather patterns have stressed the trees, and this leaves them even more susceptible to pests and disease. Losing two seasons in the last year (no Autumn and no spring) has further added to their distress. Now we can get involved with conservation in a way we could never have done without the internet, so this is going to be the largest, most extensive tree survey ever.

To take part, click this link which takes you through to OPAL’s tree survey page, but there is lots more on there for you to get involved in if you wish.

Can you help save our trees?

Advertisements

Food Glorious Food

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom

Warmth and sunshine with us at long last. I now have a greenhouse full of seedlings and a new 14′ x 9′ raised vegetable bed. As space is limited for vegetables, I’m aiming to get the most out of it for my money. Kohl Rabi, a root veg said to taste like a cross between cabbage and turnip is over £2 each in the shops. Seed packet to grow plenty, £2. They’re growing well in modules before I plant out to beat the slugs. Also in modules are lettuce, salad leaves, turnip, leeks, cabbage, broccoli and calabrese. I’m growing food we love to eat. I have to have a special diet as I’m celiac and have food allergies to dairy and eggs. Variety in my veg is therefore important. My apple tree is flowering now, and this year there are some bees around, so hopefully there will be pollination and fruit.

There will also be french beans, runner beans and sugar snap peas. I’ll wait until after the forecast gales and rain in the next couple of days before doing much planting, though. Not least because of my back, which has me hobbling around at the moment.

How does your garden grow?

Spring. It’s Surely Now Here!

Spring Violas. They made it through the snow.

Spring Violas. They made it through the snow.

Spring is finally on its way, according to the weather forecast. Warming up this weekend, or at least the Easterly wind reducing in strength. So at last we might be able to contemplate sowing seed outdoors soon. The snow has now gone from the garden, thankfully, though in northerly aspects on the fields it remains.

My son came over yesterday and helped me complete the clearing of the bed near the house I’ve decided will be a good vegetable starting point for this year. It’s higher, being closer to the house, so better drained, easy to access from the patio and therefore easier to water and harvest. There’s a water butt very close by and outdoor tap should I need it. Here I will plant the broad beans I sowed last October and are now desperately in need of planting. I’ve put a tunnel cloche with fleece over the newly invigorated soil. It’s been cleared of builder’s rubble, thoroughly aired, stones and old tree roots removed and every weed removed. It’s also been protected from the cold by covering it loosely with plastic sheeting since before the snow. This has kept it relatively free of frost and will consequently be warmer to put my young plants in.

A Work in progress. Tunnel cloche up.

A Work in progress. Tunnel cloche up.

I then added loam made from last year’s turf stripping that has been stacked and covered with old carpet ever since. So my beans and garlic plants, in modules since October, can finally go in. I’ve also got rhubarb to plant, though that will be in the lower bed that drowned last year. I’m raising it using gravel boards (very cheap) and praying for a better growing year with a more moderate rainfall. There is a lot to do.

I’ve also had a rare brainwave. I’d bought some little plastic balls designed to connect canes together to make a cloche. They didn’t work very well, but I had some old tent poles that link together. With the addition of the plastic balls I’ve made a cloche for the small bed next to my greenhouse, so that’s now covered with a decorating sheet and an old shower curtain just to get the soil warmed before I sow and cover with protection from the pigeons. I’m not sure yet what to plant there, but I’d like to put some meadow flowers in to attract in the bees and other insects. I have plenty of seed, so it’s just a case of making up my mind!

I’ve written this over a couple of days. Today (Sunday) I finally managed to get my garlic out of modules and into actual living soil. Hooray! I’ve put it in the bed near the patio, which has now had some blood, fish and bone added. I’ve spent the last two days on gardening after a long period of cabin fever caused by the cold and snow. It’s been hard work but bliss to be outside. As I’ve been given a power washer by a kind neighbour, I’ve even  started cleaning the filthy, neglected for twenty years patio. The slabs are coming up OK. It all needs re-doing, really but cash is needed for that so it will have to wait. It’s uneven, we think because of the trees that were planted too close to the house, so we will attempt to level it up for now with the help of my son.

Cheery daffodil

Cheery daffodil

Last years’ Spanish Bluebell fight is back on. I’m still digging them out. But my daffodils are open, and look lovely. Strangely, so are snowdrops. They’ve been delayed by the cold, but are a welcome sight. The big hit is my violas, planted last Autumn. They sat under all that snow and flowered as soon as it melted.

The jet stream is still too far south, but tomatoes were ready to be pricked out today, and now sit on my windowsill in the conservatory. Three varieties. More about those next time.

My new dog, Daisy, has really settled in and is determined to help by making sawdust of any stick I’ll throw for her. Here she is after an exhausting game of ball. She’s going to be my very own Nigel, for those who watch Gardeners World. She follows me around as I get on with work out there, and seems to love watching what I’m doing. Or chewing up wood, or watching next door’s chickens through the fence.

Daisy

Daisy

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.

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?

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!