Thursday, 29 November 2012

Packing A Punch

My wild strawberry plant just isn't giving up this year, it's still blooming away. I only have one plant, so I don't get many berries from it, though those which I do get are extremely tasty. The flavour of the small, sweet fruit explodes in the mouth and gives a real punch. This plant is in my garden, but I'm considering growing more of these plants at the allotment, as the tiny fruit is ideal to add to a morning bowl of cereal.

I'm hoping to get down to the allotment this weekend, just to check things over. It will be my first visit for quite some time, it's just been so wet lately. I've got some leeks in the ground, but that's it. Last year, I did really well with brassicas over winter, but the plants I was trying to raise this year all got eating by slugs at the seedling stage and I never got round to sowing any more. I really must do better next year.

I think we can safely say that no fruit will develop from the wild strawberry flower, it's far too cold now.  The temperatures have plummeted this week and I've heard it mentioned that we're due to have our coldest winter for 100 years. Not only that but some experts are expecting the temperatures to drop as low as minus 20C during December and January. Goodness, I may have to invest in some thermals, I hate being cold.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

And So It Starts Again

It isn't long after one gardening season finishes that I start getting the urge to sow seeds again. I've already had the longing this year, so I decided that I would start some broad beans off in pots, which I'll plant out in spring. They've been on the windowsill in the unheated conservatory, but I shall move them in to the cold greenhouse to overwinter in there. The variety I've chosen is Aquadulce Claudia. Last year was the first year I'd grown broad beans, so I only raised a dozen plants as I was unsure if we'd like them. We did enjoy them, so this year I've sown three dozen plants and hope to get a decent harvest from them.

Back in March 2010, Hubby laid a drainage pipe down one side of our plot. Our site does tend to get rather waterlogged, to say the least, and the rest of the plots had already had this done. Since then, we've seen a remarkable improvement, though I have to say that the other side of the plot does still get standing water on it. Hubby has made the decision to install another drainage pipe, this time across the centre of the plot. It will run in to the original pipe which was laid, and hopefully, help with the area which continues to hold water. After the difference we've seen since the first pipe was installed, I'm sure it will help.

It doesn't look as though much will be getting done again this weekend. We had lots of rain yesterday, which I'm sure the plot will be hanging on to, making it too claggy to dig, and I think I've got the makings of a cold starting. I definitely won't feel like venturing out with a runny nose, I don't make a good patient.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Ebony And Ivory

I saw a gorgeous tulip display at RHS Harlow Carr when I visited last spring. There were some really dark coloured tulips in a container with cream ones and they looked really good together, so I wanted to replicate the display on a smaller scale. I've managed to find the darker ones but haven't come across any cream ones in the places I've looked. I did find these bulbs in Wilkinson's yesterday though, Tulips Single Late Queen of Night and Anemone White. They're sold together to be planted together to create an Ebony and Ivory display. Wilkinson's were selling off their bulbs at buy one get one free, so I bought two packs of the same which will give me twenty bulbs of each variety, enough for a good display. I think the tulips and anemones will look good together, something a little different.

The days are noticably cooler just lately and there isn't much flowering in the garden now. The only things hanging on are the pelargoniums, a primrose and a geranium. I really want to try and get more interest in the garden next year, things which will continue to bloom until the first frosts and extend the flowering season.

We haven't managed to get anything done in the garden or at the allotment this weekend owing to other commitments, though I doubt the digging would have got done anyway. We had rain overnight on Friday, which I'm sure will have left the plot waterlogged. It's getting rather late in the year now so I think some of the digging will be left for spring. I'm pleased that we did at least manage to get some of the plot dug over a few weeks back as there's always so many other things to be doing at the start of the year, it's always busy, so every little bit that can be done now will certainly help.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Velvety Fungi

I read a post recently on Mark's Veg Plot blog titled My insect hotel. It was all about creating a habitat in the garden for insects. I have a very small pond in my garden, and at the side of the pond, amongst the plants, I have a couple of pieces of old wood which is slowly rotting down. Insects and creepy crawlies love this type of habitat, so this is why it's there. Reading Mark's post prompted me to have a look at the wood when I was pottering in the garden this morning. On it, I noticed some unusual fungi, I haven't come across anything like this before. It's brown, and looks velvety, though I don't know if it's velvety to the touch, I didn't go that far. It's almost bubble like, but if you look at it from the back, it's hollow. I don't know much about fungi at all, but I'm fascinated with all the different types.

The grass didn't get cut at the weekend as I'd hoped it would, nor have I done any more digging over of the allotment yet. Although we haven't had much rain this week, the ground just doesn't seem to be drying out. The atmosphere seems to be damp at the moment, so perhaps this has something to do with it. I'm hoping that the rain stays away for the rest of the week, then I'll have at least some chance of getting on with these jobs at the weekend.

I've noticed that my little robin red breast is around again. He seems to go off for periods of time, but then returns, assuming it's the same robin. Whilst walking Archie this morning, I saw a few robins, they're such inquisitive little birds and don't show much fear. They allowed me within touching distance before they flew away. I must remember to put some mealworms out, that might tempt him to hang around.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Bulbs Potted Up

Every year, I say that I'm going to plant some bulbs. Many years I actually buy some bulbs, but most years I never get round to planting them. This year is an exception. I bought some bulbs on Saturday, and forced myself to get them planted up the minute I got home, otherwise they'd probably still be in their packets waiting to be put in some soil now. I saw the crocus Cream Beauty on many blogs last year and fell in love with their buttery yellow colour, so they were the first bulbs I picked up. I love iris's, and Reticulata are a miniature or dwarf type which I've wanted to grow for a number of years, so they were a must. The daffodil variety I chose is Carlton. There's so many different daffodils on the market, but I don't think you can beat a simple yellow variety. I had been looking for tulips too, but there weren't any which really took my fancy so I shall have a look for some elsewhere. We popped in to a local farm shop on the way home and they were selling 1kg nets of daffodils for £1.39. There was no variety stated, just yellow, but at that price I couldn't resist. There were twenty nine bulbs in the net. I've planted all the bulbs in containers so that I can move them near the house and enjoy their blooms in spring once they flower.

I had intended to go to the allotment yesterday, but other commitments prevailed. There's still lots of ground waiting to be dug over, and I really want to get it done before winter so that the frosts will break the soil down. I need to make an effort to get down there as soon as possible to get it done.

It was a lovely morning when I took Archie for his walk. I'm glad I took him first thing as it's raining now, though it's considerably warmer today than it was at the beginning of last week. I hope we're not in for a dull, wet week.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Blooming Good

I mentioned in my last post that I had emptied the flower containers in the garden. Despite the frost which we had at the start of the week, this pot of Zonal Pelargoniums are still blooming, so they got a reprieve. As you can see, there's still buds waiting to open, but I fear it's too late for them now with the colder weather around. I bought these plants from my local nursery as tiny seedlings and potted them on until they were big enough to plant out. I've bought my bedding plants this way for a few years now, but the nursery in question has closed down this year so I may have to revert back to growing my own from seed next year. I shall definitely grow these plants again, often mistakenly referred to as geraniums, they're really hard working plants flowering all summer long. I had a bright red variety in some tall blue pots at each side of my back door, and they looked stunning, so I shall repeat this again next year.

I was hoping that the lawnmower had been put away for the last time this year, but it seems we'll have to get it out again. The grass was cut nearly three weeks ago, but it's grown so much since then that it's definitely going to have to have another mow before winter comes. That's a job that my son can do this weekend if the weather stays fine, he can earn his keep.

We had high winds at the start of the week, which have helped the lilac tree outside my window shed it's leaves. There's only a few leaves still hanging on now, which signals that winter is on it's way. With this in mind, I'm making sure that the bird feeders are kept topped up, firstly so that the birds are well fed ready to take on the cold months ahead, and also so that they know where to come to get a regular meal. Suet blocks are a favourite and are devoured in no time at all.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Wildlife Garden

I always try to garden with wildlife in mind. Next year, I'm hoping to attract even more bees, butterflies and birds to my garden with the seeds which I picked up in the Wyevale sale. Suttons do a Wildlife Attracting Collection, in fact, they do two, so I picked up one of each. In one pack there's Lavender - Provence Blue, Honesty - Mix, Sweet Rocket - Mix, Aster - Single Mix and Sunflower - Tall Yellow. In the other pack there's Marigold - Corn, Daisy - Ox-eye, Pansy - Wild, Scabious - Field and Poppy - Field. At only 50p per pack, I think I got a good deal and I hope to have lots of colour in the garden as well as lots of wildlife.

The garden has just about been put to bed for winter now. The greenhouse has been cleared out and all the tender plants have been moved in there. Containers have been emptied of their summer blooms, and the compost from them has been taken to the allotment to improve the soil in the beds down there. The rabbit hutches usually get moved down from the grass on to the patio for winter, but I'd decided to leave them where they are for this year. I think that may have been a bad idea as the grass is already getting muddy, so I may have a change of heart on this.

The weather has changed wintery over the last couple of days. We had our first proper frost yesterday morning, the car even had to be de-iced, but it was a lovely clear day. Another frost has followed this morning so I think it's time to get the gloves and scarf out.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Planning For Next Year

I haven't yet shown you the seeds I purchased in the Wyevale sale, so I thought I would do that today. It isn't actually called Wyevale any more, it's The Garden Centre Group, and they usually have a sale just after the August bank holiday where they reduce all their seeds to 50p per packet. I'm never one to resist a bargain, so I stock up for the following year. This year, I bought some old favourites such as climbing French bean - Blue Lake, dwarf French bean - Safari, pea - Early Onward and courgette - Parthenon, but I also came away with lots of other vegetable varieties which I haven't tried before. I'll tell you more about those at a later date, but it will be interesting to see how they do compared to varieties which I've grown in the past.

As well as the seeds I bought in the sale, I've also put an order in with the allotment association. I've usually bought my seed potatoes from the local nursery, but it closed down this year so I thought I would see what the association had to offer. I've never bought from them in the past, and was pleasantly surprised at what I found when I made enquiries. It turns out that quite a few allotment holders had ordered Arran Pilot, the variety of my choice, from the association so they'll be able to buy in bulk and cut costs. I won't know exactly how much they'll be until they're delivered, but it seems it will be cheaper than I'm used to paying. The association also runs a seed scheme where I'm able to order from Kings Seeds at a discounted price, which is very competitive. I've ordered a few packets of things I'm missing, and both the potatoes and seeds will be available for me to collect in the new year.

Now that we're at the end of one growing season, I'm itching to get going again. With this in mind, I've made the decision to have a go at growing onions from seed again next year. I can't really make a comparison between seeds and sets from my experience this year as it turned out to be so bad, weather wise, so I'll give growing from seed another chance. It means that my growing season will get off to an early start as seed should be started off early in the year. I may even get them going in the period between Christmas and New Year so they can get a long growing period. I shall still put some sets in next year as well, I learnt my lesson this year and now I'm without onions.

Just to let you know, Archie was back at the vets yesterday and his infection has now cleared up. He's such a happy little dog again, which makes me very happy too.
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