Tag Archives: weather

Early Summer Border

Early Summer Border

What a spring it’s been. Warmer than normal, and a high contrast to last year, when snow laid on the ground here until May. The garden has progressed greatly. We had an old ‘rockery’ neglected for the last ten years at least, and bound together by our native fern. It was a nightmare that took dedication and a lot of muscle to remove, but I now have about one and a half tons of gypsum rock to sell. That might pay for the path I want to lay down the 120’ length of the garden. Vegetable growing is now well underway. I have runner and French beans installed on their wigwams, new potatoes flowering in their rows and komatsuna, ruby chard beetroot, turnip and other veg coming along nicely. It’s so much better to nip outside and pick what we need than to get out the vehicle, go to the shops, buy stuff in plastic bags covered in whatever they decided it’s OK to wash them in and then have to pay for it, drag it home and unwrap it, dispose of the packaging, prepare and eat it. We bought some pork chops a while ago from a supermarket.

I have, due to an auto-immune health problem, a lot of sensitivity to foods and chemicals. Plain old pork chops, I thought. A safe meal. I got ill after eating one. The symptoms felt like a reaction to gluten, normally found in grains such as wheat. We checked the packaging. THEY PUT GLUTEN IN PORK! The chops were adulterated with wheat, but still put in plain packaging so you think you’re just buying meat. Now I take glasses and a magnifying glass shopping and have to check EVERYTHING. So the more I can grow at home the better, though I can’t raise my own pigs! So, carry on planting. The food production will continue at this venue! But so will developing the rest of the garden, and my flower collection has increased hugely. I’ve sown seeds, bought young plants and propagated them, taken cuttings from friend’s gardens and treated myself to the odd little gem. Then there are the self sown foxgloves, poached egg plants and columbines, which are just lovely at the moment. The rockery disaster is now a newly planted border and is beginning to look just fine. As for the house, decorating has slowed to a halt since the weather picked up. There are only so many hours in a day! But the conservatory looks good now, and is dripping with more plants. It served well in spring to start the tender stuff, and saved heating the greenhouse. Four varieties of tomato now grace the greenhouse border, and I’m trying aubergines for the first time. So far they look good. Fuchsias and geraniums abound! I bought some very cheaply last year from a charity event, and kept them over winter. Cuttings took readily and are now lined up in rows in the greenhouse.

The front garden has had a makeover, new gravel and looks smart but a bit flat as it’s newly planted. Chimney pots are to be filled with fuchsias and trailing plants. Containers will contain more. Colour will light up the front to welcome us home. We live on a busy main road, though you wouldn’t know it when in the back garden. It’s also quite shaded for much of the day, so my shot of colour will lift it, and passers – by can enjoy my bargain plants.

I hope to continue this blog, but please forgive my absence if I periodically disappear. My health is precarious and can prevent me from having a clear enough head to write. But I want to share my experiences, and pass on knowledge if I can , so I’ll try to keep posting. Here’s an idea for you. Re-cycling combined with desperation after last year’s Glut of cabbage white butterflies and demise of my crops, an old bed base was strip0ped and recovered-with butterfly netting. Now wood pigeons and cabbage whites can only LOOK at my well protected vegetables.

Plant Protection re-cycled stlye

Plant Protection re-cycled stlye

I’m off now to sow more salads and some biennials for next year. Keep you posted.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, Slugs. Do I have to buy a BB gun?

New garden and home. Lots of hope for a new life. So slugs, when are you going to let something grow? I know it’s wet, but the ravages at the moment are destroying basil in the greenhouse, dahlias, and my second lot of runner beans. Torches, slug collections, copper tape, collars smeared in vaseline, nothing seems to work. I’m sure I can’t be the only one. So I’m frustrated enough to have remarked, while buying a white Agapanthus, that I was off to buy a BB gun. Do you blame me? Only joking of course, but really, wildlife should leave my runners alone. They can nibble at other things, but I need to eat, too!

Container with bee friendly plants. Marguerite, lobelia and verbena (still in bud)

Soooo, I’ve relented and used a FEW slug pellets in the greenhouse where I can gleefully collect dead bodies before hedgehogs get anywhere near them. Thankfully I’ve found frogs and toads in the garden, but even they couldn’t manage the slug I found earlier this week. It had a body the size of a mouse!

On the plus side, I’ve now got tomatoes ripening  and peppers growing quite strongly inside the greenhouse. I also had room for a couple of courgette plants in a grow bag, so I’ve kept them in there this year. Normally I’d expect to have them outside, but the weather or slugs would prevent a decent crop and I’m taking no chances.

Sweet Williams and Snapdragons in the new border

Containers on the patio are now starting to flower, I’ve had visits from bees and the new border is beginning to come to life. So despite the slugs, some progress is being made. We have three rain barrels up and running (overflowing this summer) so there’s been no need to run the tap for the greenhouse and I don’t have to carry heavy cans down to it. My partner did a nifty connection to the greenhouse barrel, as we couldn’t source the correct connection. He siliconed into the gutter a pipe which is fashioned to feed the water straight into the barrel, and overnight it was half full.

Herbs are doing well, too. I can now make a full bouquet garni fresh whenever I want one. Parsley, sage rosemary, thyme and bay are all growing strongly. Too tasty and astringent for slugs! I’ve added some wildflowers and good bee plants to the borders, including Jacob’s Ladder, doronicum and Welsh poppies. The bees seem to like the tiny flowers of my dark purple heuchera and the large-flowered blue clematis, too! I’ve spotted white-tailed bumble bees, honey bees, buff tailed bumblebees and a couple of other species I don’t know the names of. This summer, I’m glad to see them at all. Naturally, there haven’t been many butterflies around, but when I have seen any, they’ve been small common blues, a cabbage white and a fritillary. Birds have been grateful for feeding them, and have made extensive use of the food I put out, especially when the rain has been heavy.

Newly planted alpine trough

It’s not all about conservation. I’ve also been renovating my alpine sinks. I’ve turned old Belfast sinks and polystyrene boxes into troughs for them, as I’ve always adored them. Now I have space for more! There have to be some things in this garden that are just purely for pleasure, and these are one of my indulgencies. What do you indulge yourself with in the garden?

Squirrel thief charms my garden

I woke this morning and as usual took my coffee through to the conservatory and peered out of the window. It’s raining, again, but there on my bird feeder was another visitor. We’ve seen this squirrel around before, but he’s never sat for half an hour helping himself to a bird food in such a blatant way. Local ecology in action! It’s a good job we like all our garden wildlife. He’s a charming little chap! I took the photo through the window, from about 20 metres away, but it seems to have come out quite well.

squirrel thief

squirrel thief

The second he ran off all the birds descended from the apple tree just behind the feeder and in glorious full bloom and the moment.

We’ve had, like a lot of the country, the heaviest rain in a long time. Water, water everywhere! On Sunday my weather station registered 1 3/4″ of the stuff in 24 hours. Of course we need it, and our gardens will benefit greatly. That was a lot of rain all at once, though. We’re fortunately not on a flood plain! Also fortunately, this soil seems to be very well-drained, as yesterday I was actually able to go out and use my new mower for the first time, so the rough grass has had a haircut.

If you need a mower, choose an electric model, as petrol ones are much less energy-efficient, and of course petrol is rocketing in price. You can do without the extra expense! Plus petrol mowers are three times heavier than electric ones. If, like me, you want a natural, rambling look to your garden and care for the wildlife, you only need a hover mower. This will trim the grass, but not give you stripes and a perfect finish. As we don’t want that, hover was the obvious choice.

The rain has now delayed my greenhouse build three times. At the moment I can barely get into my conservatory for towering tomato plants and seedlings that should by now be planted up in the greenhouse, but what can I do? Hopefully this rain will die out by the end of the week and I’ll finally see a glass house I can use instead of a potential swimming pool!

April Snow Blizzard Stops Progress

April 4th 2012. A date I won’t forget in a hurry. Not only was it the day my son finally moved into his own flat, it was also the day I woke to see cherry blossom and willow trees in leaf in a blizzard of snow!

snow blizzard in april

Snow in April

So of course all my gardening plans went on hold. The trellis I had started to construct for my flower bed lies unfinished, my greenhouse is still a Meccano set and my veg bed is covered by fleece and a snowy, icy layer. I was very grateful for the log burner! That was yesterday. But having spent the day helping my son move and re-arranging the house after he moved out his furniture, stored here, I’m now tired but happy, and the garden is having to wait.

Of course, extra rations went out for the wildlife, especially the birds. I hope it didn’t cause too many problems for the bees and other insects I’ve seen flying around recently!

snow in april

Snow in April Cherry blossom

Today I must catch up with blogs, email and others such sedentary tasks. But the tomatos I sowed back in February are in bud, and the french beans sown in pots in the conservatory are in flower. I’ll show you them in my next post. We’ll be eating french beans before any UK ones are ready, and while they are still expensive. Success!

The weather should warm up again in the next couple of days, and once I’ve rested I’ll be back out there, fixing, digging and progressing.