Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Flighty's Favourites

My allotment is, hopefully, going to be a riot of colour this year. I've often admired how Flighty from Flighty's Plot mixes flowers in with his veg on his allotment, and though I do have a few flowers on the plot, such as borage, the colour on my own allotment just doesn't compare. Recently, Flighty has, very generously, sent me some pot marigold seeds, Flighty's Favourites. These seeds were collected from his own plants, so I hope they bring some much needed colour to my plot this year. I know that quite a few other people have been gifted the same variety of seeds, so it will be lovely to see photos of the blooms appear on quite a few blogs over summer. Thank you, Flighty, I shall enjoy growing them.

Back in January, I did a blog post, Stumped, about the amaryllis I was growing. I've never grown one before, and this was a Christmas present. It took it's time growing, but it's eventually bloomed. It's a beautiful red colour, and I blogged about it on A Waiting Game post on my Through The Keyhole blog if you'd like to see it.

Some say it's traditional to plant potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, other's say it's traditional to plant on Good Friday. We've had snow again this week, and it's still trying it's best to snow again today, though it isn't settling, so I don't think that my potatoes will be planted for a while yet. I'm growing the majority of my potatoes in containers as I always seem to have too much slug damage when I grow them at the allotment, but Flighty left me a comment on a previous post saying that the red skinned Desiree potatoes seemed to do well in the ground with little slug damage, so I thought I'd try them at the plot. I bought a bag of ten tubers for just £1.49, so it's definitely worth a try. I've set them out to chit, so I just need the weather to cooperate now. The weather over the Easter weekend looks set to be cold, but it's a case of waiting to see what else it throws at us.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Blog Of The Month - March

This year, I've decided to do a monthly Blog Of The Month post where I feature a blog I'm enjoying reading. Some blogs will be new to me, others may be blogs I've been reading for a while. I hope that by doing this, I can introduce some of my readers to other, interesting blogs, though I know that some of you will already read the blogs I feature.

The blog of the month for March is Gardens and Wildlife. Snow Bird lives in Liverpool and has a garden like no other. Who else, for example, has a set of wooden stocks knocking about outside their door, or has a living trampoline? I'm fascinated and wonder what's coming next.

As well as blogging about her garden, Snow Bird gives regular updates on the volunteering work she does in the local wildlife rescue centre. Not only is wildlife cared for at the shelter, but also domestic and farm animals. There are some very sad tales of how the animals have come to be in the centre, but also very many happy outcomes, and I love to read these uplifting posts. Snow Bird also cares for Herbie, a special needs hedgehog, and Curly, a stray cat, in her own garden. It's wonderful to read that animals who can't be released back in to the wild can still live a happy life.

Snow Bird has two very playful young dogs, Sam and Annie, and they both came from the rescue. If you read the most recent post, you will see how Sam's life has been transformed. He had such a sad start in life, but now has Annie as his partner in crime, and is a happy, carefree pooch.

I'm enjoying reading back through all the previous posts that Snow Bird has written, I'm about half way through now, and all I can say is that it's like a good book, very hard to put down. I'm sure I'll have caught up in no time. If you don't already know Snow Bird, do pop over to her blog and have a read, and don't forget to tell her that I sent you.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Recent Shopping Trips

I've picked up a few new plants on some recent shopping trips. A couple of weeks ago, I asked Hubby to tidy up the border for me as I'm adding some new plants to it this year. Unfortunately, he's not very good at identifying which are weeds and which are plants, and he dug up my clematis. I'm not too bothered as it was never a star performer, but it meant that I needed something new to grow up the trellis. When I was in Wilkinson's last week, I noticed they had quite a good selection of clematis, and they were a good price too. I chose Bees Jubilee, firstly because I love the name, and secondly because I think it's such a pretty colour. The thing I'm not too keen on is that it's a group 2 clematis. The clematis which was weeded out was a group 3, and it was so easy to prune. It was just a case of pruning all the old stems back to a healthy pair of buds about a foot off the ground in February or March. Pruning involves more work with group 2 clematis, but it's such a lovely plant that I don't mind. I've since looked up Bees Jubilee on the internet, it has a compact habit and is ideal for growing in containers, so I may change my mind from growing it up the trellis and grow it in a pot. I was bought a couple of climbing roses for Mother's Day which I may grow up the trellis instead. Something else which I picked up in Wilkinsons was a dahlia - Topmix Orange. It was Hubby who liked this, and as he doesn't usually have an opinion on most flowers, I indulged him and bought it. I shall start it off in a pot but then transfer it to the border. I couldn't resist the primula - Glorious Laced Silver when I was buying the Pulmonaria from a local nursery, so that came home with me too.

I'm very happy to report that I'm seeing more goldfinches in the garden now. I posted last week that I only ever see one goldfinch at a time, but no sooner as I'd done that post, I saw a pair on the feeders. Since then, another one has joined them. They stay for ages on the feeders, and it seems that the other birds are a bit wary of them, they must have a temper if their meal gets interrupted. It's lovely that they're starting to bring their friends with them.

I don't think anything will get done at the allotment again this weekend. We've got snow here today and more is forecast, though this first lot is already starting to thaw. The temperature has dropped, it took my breath away when I ventured outside to take Archie for a walk. I think some armchair gardening in called for this weekend, thank goodness Gardeners World is back on tv, that will give me my gardening fix.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Rust Linear Lanterns

When I was contacted by Jo Alexander asking if I'd like to review a pair of their Rust Linear Lanterns, I jumped at the chance. We love to sit outside on an evening, if we're lucky enough to get any decent weather, so I thought these would be a lovely addition to the garden.

Delivery of the item was swift, and they came well packaged. Bubble wrap was used for extra protection. I was impressed by how well made the lanterns are, they're quite sturdy and look as though they're made to last.

The lanterns are 90cm tall and can be placed in the ground or a plant pot. They have a clear glass cup which sits inside the lantern in to which a tea light is placed.

I think the metal work is especially attractive.

I tried the lanterns out in the dark, and they give off a lovely glow. The glass cup is tall enough to protect the tea light from any breeze, so there shouldn't be any problems with the flame being blown out. They gave off a lovely glow.

I'm looking forward to having some warmer weather now so that I can sit in the garden and take full advantage of the lanterns.

If you fancy a pair yourself, they retail at £14.99, or they'd make a lovely gift.

Jo Alexander is a small privately owned, family run business which is located just west of Cambridge. They sell all manner of garden products, ranging from furniture to wildlife boxes and planters. Do take a look at their website, they have a spring sale on at the moment.

I should just mention that the product was sent to me free of charge, but I have not been paid for writing this review.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Pulmonaria For March

This year, I'm taking the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and visiting a nursery each month with a view to buying a plant which is in flower for my garden. Doing this should ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

The plant I've decided to add in March is Pulmonaria Angustifolia Blaues Meer, or Blue Cowslip. This plant is supposed to be good as a ground cover, and can be grown in moist shade. It flowers from March till May, and is attractive to bees and butterflies, which is good news, as I try to plant with wildlife in mind. It's a hardy perennial so it'll be able to survive the harsh winters which we seem to be getting these days.

As you can see, it's already in bloom. It has bright blue funnel shaped flowers which are held on upright stems. I'm looking forward to it settling in and increasing in size as I'm sure the flowers will look stunning en masse.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

I've had the odd goldfinch visit my garden on a few occasions, but they're never regular visitors and I could go months without seeing one. They're such lovely little birds, tiny and colourful, so it became my mission to attract them to the garden on a regular basis. I'd heard that goldfinches like niger seed above all else, though some people mentioned that in their experience, they tend to prefer sunflower hearts. I'd already got mixed seed and also sunflower hearts in feeders and they weren't tempting them, so I bought some niger seed. They're tiny seeds so they have to be held in a special feeder especially for them, the feeder has tiny slits in it. It had been hung for quite some time before I noticed a goldfinch on it last week. I've still only seen the one goldfinch at a time, he doesn't bring any friends with him, but he's been back every day since, and he sits on the feeder for ages having his fill. I'm hoping that in time, he'll tell his friends where a good meal can be found and bring them along with him. The sunflower hearts aren't wasted, I've got lots of chaffinches who visit and they seem to like them best, as well as a cheeky robin who has his fair share.

I didn't get anything done on the allotment this weekend. Hubby went down there and said there was standing water again due to all the rain. He's started digging out a trench ready to lay the extra drainage pipe through the middle of the allotment. This should help the water to run away in to the beck at the side of the site. He also covered the squash bed which has already been dug over. This should help keep the weeds down and also warm up the soil. It'll be some time yet before any squash are planted out, I haven't even sown the seeds yet, so this should help keep the bed in a decent state in the meantime. Last weekend he covered part of the legume bed with a cloche to warm the soil ready for the broad beans to be planted out. I'd hoped to have done that by now, but I'll hold back a while longer until the weather warms up a little.

I woke to a smattering of snow this morning, though it didn't look as though it would last long as the sun was shining. What a difference a few hours can make, the sky's now grey and it's snowing, in fact, we're forecast light snow showers all day. If only it was a bit warmer, it's was bitterly cold when I took Archie for his walk this morning.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Giveaway Win Number 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been very lucky this past week. Not only did I win the lovely Kitchen Garden Herb Planter set which I've already blogged about, but I won this wonderful tool set. Forgive the photo, I took the set outside in the rain to take the photo. I don't think they'll be getting much use today.

I entered the giveaway on VP's Veg Plotting blog and I was lucky enough to have my name chosen as the winner by the random number generator.

My prize is this fantastic Draper fork, spade, mini trowel and fork set, which I have to say is a most welcome prize as Hubby managed somehow to break his spade last year and hasn't yet got round to buying a new one.

VP had teamed up with Gardens Galore, a family company, when she ran this competition, and I have to say that the experience I've had with dealing with them has been very good. I had a prompt, friendly email from Joel asking for my address so that they could deliver the tool set, and after I replied, the delivery was super quick.

Joel also mentioned in his email that they're working very hard on a 'sensory gardens' guide, and I particularly enjoyed reading about their previous sensory garden projects at Bridge of Earn Care Home and Braehill Lodge Nursing Home. Just click on the links if you'd like to read about these projects for yourself.

Thank you very much VP, it's a wonderful prize. I'm so lucky to have won.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Giveaway Win Number 1

I've been very lucky over the last week and have won not one but two giveaways, so I thought I'd tell you about them.

The first giveaway I won was this Kitchen Garden Herb Planter from Sharon from Wigglywoo and Chickens too. Until last year, I only grew the odd herb plant, and they were mainly for the bees. I've never used many herbs in cooking. Last year, I decided that I'd quite like to add to my herb collection, so I bought a few more plants, parsley, marjoram, mint, sage and thyme. You can read about it on my Inspired post from May last year.

Since adding to my collection, I've been a bit more adventurous in using herbs in cooking, so this giveaway prize is very welcome. It means I'll now be able to grow some herbs on my kitchen windowsill and they'll all be on hand when I want to add something to a dish. There's room in it to grow four different herbs, and it comes with seeds for basil, parsley, chives and coriander.

Thank you, Sharon, this is a very welcome prize and it's greatly appreciated.

I'll tell you about my other giveaway prize soon.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Allotment Site

After showing a photo of my allotment in my last post, I thought I'd show you a photo of the whole site. Unfortunately, you can't see much of it due to the very high brambles half way down, but you can get an idea of it. There are four allotment sites in our area and the one which my allotment is on is the smallest. There are only six plots which are two thirds of the size of a full plot. The first allotment is to my left as I'm taking the photo. It has a row of raspberry canes on it, but apart from that, there are only potatoes, and sometimes onions, grown on it. My plot is the next one along, then the one after belongs to the chap who lives behind it. He has a large rhubarb patch, which you can see, though I don't think you can really judge the scale from the photo. He didn't grow anything on the plot last year, but he's started clearing it ready for the coming season. The next plot is in a bit of a state, and I've just heard that it's become vacant. I don't envy whoever takes it on as there's some major clearing to be done. There's another plot after that, and then the very last plot is divided in to two halves. As you can see, there's room at the top of the site to bring the car in, which is really handy as we don't leave any tools down there.

Last week, I potted up my onion and shallot sets. They've gone in to modules and they'll stay in the cold greenhouse until they've started shooting, then they can be transferred to the plot. I've started them off like this for the last couple of years. I got a great harvest two years ago, but they were rubbish last year, which I'm putting down to the weather. I've also moved the onions which I've started from seed in to the greenhouse. My peppers have now been potted on and are residing on my son's bedroom windowsill, which is the sunniest in the house. He hates this time of year as he has to share his room with many seedlings. Some more seeds have also been started off, pea - Early Onward, leek - Autumn Giant 2 Argenta and sweet pea - New Horizons Mix. All these are in the greenhouse, so I hope they manage to germinate out there in the cold.

I've started a couple of containers of potatoes off. They're in the greenhouse but wrapped in fleece to give them a bit of added protection. I'm hoping that they manage to get going as it would be lovely to have an early harvest. I always look forward to the first new potatoes of the season, covered in lashings of butter and mint. Yum.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

My Allotment

This blog is all about my allotment, but I've never shown any photos of the whole plot, apart from those when I first started blogging. Many of you have asked to see a photo of the full allotment, and I finally remembered to take one when I was down there yesterday. As you can see, there's nothing growing at the moment. I'd just pulled up the last of the leeks, which weren't up to much so were composted, before I took the photo. It's about two thirds of the size of a full plot, and this is reflected in the rent, which was £28.00 this year. This includes the Allotment Association subs. I don't pay for water as there's no water on the site, but you can see that I have three blue water butts at the top of the allotment, I have to make sure I collect the rain water. I also have three compost bins, two wooden ones made from pallets and a black plastic one. Also at the top of the allotment is an old bath which was left on the plot when we took it on. We grow carrots in the bath, it's elevated just enough to avoid any damage from the carrot root fly. After the photo was taken, we managed to get some of the beds dug over. When I first got the allotment, we made the bed sizes ten foot by four foot but soon realised that this size wasn't very efficient. We now have beds which measure ten foot by ten foot. The ground has dried out somewhat, which is good news, but it's still a little claggy.

The only fruit I've got on the allotment at the moment are strawberries, but I've got some other fruit waiting to go in. There's a red thornless gooseberry, a blackcurrant and a rhubarb crown. I've also got a tayberry, but Hubby is going to have to build some sort of support for that. I'm still deciding where abouts they should all be planted.

It's been a lovely weekend and we've managed to get quite a bit done. I really wish they'd leave the clocks where they are instead of putting them back an hour in winter as there'd be time on an evening for Hubby to pop down after work, but it won't be long now until they spring forward again and give us that extra hour of daylight on an evening. Let's hope we get some more weekends like this one, then we may be able to get on top of things before the onslaught of the sowing season.

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