Friday, 31 May 2013

My Bleeding Heart

My Bleeding Heart, or Dicentra Spectabilis, has grown huge this year. I've had it a few years now and it's gradually increased in size year on year, but I think it's a tad too large for my border now so it's time to divide it. I've read different opinions on when's best to divide the plant, some say March to May, others say straight after it's finished flowering and others advise early autumn. It should give me some free plants which I'll be able to grow in the front garden.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a poster advertising a plant sale in the local community centre. It was on a Sunday morning when I didn't have anything else planned, so I decided to have a look. I've never seen a plant sale held here before, so I don't know if it was the first one or whether it's something which happens regularly, but we arrived about ten minutes after it's start time and it was jam packed. There was a great variety of plants, both bedding plants and perennials, and people had boxes full of them, it was a very popular sale. I came away with an Echinacea and a yellow Sedum. I'll definitely look out for plant sales here in the future.

There's lots of fledglings around at the moment. I was watching a sparrow feeding her baby with seeds she was taking from the feeder yesterday. Unfortunately, there's lots of cats around where we live too. Don't get me wrong, I do like cats, but they're such a pain where birds are concerned. I just hope they leave them alone whilst they're so young.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013


Own up, who read the title of this post Keith Lemon style? These are just some of my potato containers, I've got twenty in total so they should give me a nice little haul. I use all kinds of pots, buckets, trugs, potato bags, you can use anything really. As you can see, they're all at different stages of growth as I staggered the planting to give a staggered harvest, though they do tend to keep ok in the containers once they're ready for harvesting. Some of the containers have now been earthed up to the top, so it shouldn't be long until they're ready to empty out, something I look forward to every year. I do enjoy home grown potatoes smothered in butter and mint.

I got plenty done on Monday. First of all we visited the plot where I got all the new strawberry plants tucked up in their bed. They've already got lots of flowers on them so I should get some kind of harvest even if it's not huge. I also noticed the first green strawberry. I've gone for three different varieties, Honeoye, Cambridge Favourite and Symphony, they all produce fruit at different times so it should prolong the cropping season. I also got the purple sprouting broccoli plants which I bought planted out, as well as two wigwams of mange tout. In the garden, I've started potting up my tomato plants in to their final positions. I've got some plants which I'm growing in the greenhouse and some which I'm trying outdoors this year.

There's lots of different birds visiting the garden at the moment, the feeders are being well used. I suppose they're busy feeding their young at this time of year. Greenfinches seemed to stop coming to the garden, but they're back now in large numbers. It's costing me a fortune keeping the feeders well stocked.

Monday, 27 May 2013

The End Of It's Life

A wheelbarrow had been left on the plot when we took it on, a little over four years ago. It had seen better days, but as we didn't have a wheelbarrow of our own, we were very grateful of it. Not long after, it developed a puncture, but Hubby managed to fix it and it was good to go again. Since then, it's got rustier and rustier and more and more holes have appeared in it. It's now at the point that when you tip it up to empty out a load, the main body of the barrow slides off it's frame and has to be picked back up off the floor and repositioned. It's come to the end of it's life and it's now time for it to be replaced, but it's served us well for the past four years. Perhaps I could use it as a planter, the drainage holes are already there, and I don't like to dispose of something which can be given another use.

I'm not very good at growing brassicas from seed. I was without completely last year after slugs devoured all my seedlings, and I've had to resow this year after many of my seedlings withered and died. One of my favourite brassicas is purple sprouting broccoli, so to make sure that I'm not without again come spring, I've invested in some small plants. They only cost me £1.99 for ten plants, not a bad price at all. I've got some more seedlings just growing, so I could be inundated at harvest time, but I'd rather have too much than too little, or none at all.

I haven't done much gardening over the weekend as we've had a couple of days out, so I'm hoping that I can get to the plot today. The weather is beautiful again so I really need to make the most of it. There's lots of jobs to be done in the garden too, so it looks like it's going to be a busy day.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Aquilegia For May

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.

Although I've already got aquilegias in my garden, I couldn't resist this variety when I visited the garden centre today. It's aquilegia vulgaris Clementine Purple, and though I'm not really a lover of double flowers because they make it so much harder for bees to get to the nectar, I thought this variety looked so different to the others I've got in my garden.

My other aquilegias have downward facing flowers, whereas this is a short, bushy plant with upward facing flowers.

It will be very interesting to see if this plant self seeds as prolifically as the other aquilegias in my garden do. If so, I doubt any will resemble the parent plant, they all seem to revert to type.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Parks And Countryside Nursery

The weekend before last saw the local Parks and Countryside Nursery at Redhall in Leeds stage an open day. This nursery produces over three million plants each year for use in parks, roundabouts, school grounds, and city centre flowerbeds. There were lots of displays and activities which demonstrated the work conducted by the service, and also birds of prey from Lotherton Hall, donkeys from Temple Newsam and reptiles from Tropical World, just some of the city's parks. It was really interesting to have a look round, but we didn't come away empty handed. The nursery sells off it's surplus plants and is now open seven days a week between February and October. I bought some very healthy looking parsley and thyme plants, just 50p for four, and though we don't eat very much salad, I couldn't resist these lovely looking Lollo Rosso lettuces at the same price. As well as veg plants and herbs, there were also lots of bedding plants as well as perennials and even trees for sale. We'll definitely visit again.

I'm really disappointed by the amount of blossom this year, I don't think it's going to be a very good fruit year for me. After flowering early last year, the cherries spoilt and I didn't harvest one, so I was hoping that this year would be different. Unfortunately, there wasn't much blossom at all, so I'm not holding out much hope now. There's flowers on only one of my three blueberry plants, the other two don't look as though they're going to do anything at all. My two apple trees and plum tree have produced one flower between them, though I only bought them last year so I don't mind that too much as I didn't expect anything from them this year anyway. I've seen plenty of blossom on other people's trees so I think it's just mine which are under performing, I'll wait and see what happens.

All the potatoes are now planted up in to their containers and look to be growing well. I've got a total of twenty pots, all at various stages of growth, so they should keep me well supplied.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Outgrowing Their Pots

I finally managed to get the onions and shallots planted at the allotment yesterday. As you can see from the photo, they were in desperate need of transplanting, in fact, some of the shallots are already starting to divide. I also planted out the onions - Bedfordshire Champion which I've grown from seed. It's a bit of an experiment to see how they do compared to the sets, so I've only transplanted fifteen. They look very weedy in comparison to the sets, but we'll see how they do. I also sowed my parsnip seed and planted the potatoes - Desiree. I wasn't going to bother growing potatoes at the allotment as I've got many containers of them growing in the garden, but I'm seeing how this variety does in the ground.

I've had mixed success with germination of my seeds this year, some things have shot up within a couple of days of being sown, whereas others just haven't germinated at all. I sowed another batch of seeds yesterday so we'll see how they do. Most of the seeds are new so I can't put it down to using old seed. Perhaps I'll use the excuse I often use these days and blame the weather.

It's the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this week and it's celebrating it's centenary. I'm not lucky enough to have tickets to go, but I'll be glued to the tv watching. I've heard many people who have been to the show say that it's so crowded that you can't get very good views of the gardens, so perhaps the best place to see it is from the comfort of the sofa.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Apple Blossom

Last year, I bought two dwarf apple trees, a red one - Gloster and a green one - Golden Delicious. This blossom has appeared on the Gloster, though it looks to be one of a kind, there doesn't appear to be any more blossom to come, nor is there any on the Golden Delicious. I wasn't expecting any fruit this year as they're only young trees, but it's nice to have a glimpse, no matter how sparse, of the blossom I'm to expect in future years. Isn't it pretty?

Blogs are great for picking up on ideas or for sharing information. After visiting Jo's A Whole Plot of Love blog and reading about how she was growing her loganberry up a metal arch, I hit on the idea that an arch could be just the thing for the tayberry which I bought last year to grow up. I've been putting off planting it out at the plot until some sort of structure could be made to support it, but I think this will save us a load of work. I managed to pick up a metal arch for £7.00 when we visited Wilkinsons at the weekend. I'd popped in as Anna from Green Tapestry had alerted me to the fact that they had a sale on in the bulb and grow your own section. I love a bargain, and managed to pick up a couple of dahlias - Duet and Seattle, and a crinum - Powellii. Everything was reduced to just 75p, so there were definitely bargains to be had. Thank you to Jo and Anna for the inspiration and information.

I had problems with my squash plants last year, they either didn't want to germinate or didn't want to produce any fruit. I got a couple of patty pans off the Sunburst plants, and discovered we really liked them, so we decided we'd grow them, as well as a couple of other varieties, again this year. Unfortunately, not one seed has germinated. It was seed I had left over from last year, but it's still within it's use by date. I shall sow some more this weekend and see what happens, I really do hope I manage to grow them as they were on my list to grow this year as soon as I tasted them. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Blog Of The Month - May

This year, I'm dedicating a post each month to Blog Of The Month. This is 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.

May's Blog Of The Month is Dig The Outside. This is another blog which hails from Yorkshire, Anna doesn't live very far from me, in fact, she's just over the other side of Leeds.

The blog was born in the latter months of last year, when Anna's first post gave us some background on her life up to then, where her passion for gardening came from, and what her aspirations for the future are.

As well as regular updates on her own allotment, Anna enjoys 'snooping around' her parent's allotment in Lancashire, which she regularly features on her blog. She also takes us on outings. There was a recent bloggers meet at Great Dixter which she attended and followed up with a wonderful post. Having never been to Great Dixter myself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all about it, and hearing Anna's enthusiasm for the place shining through.

Adam, Anna's husband, also features on the blog. It seems he can turn a piece of wood in to almost anything, and actually built Anna's greenhouse from scratch.

Anna is a passionate gardener, and this shines through in every post she writes. If you haven't yet discovered Dig The Outside, do pop along and have a read for yourself, and don't forget to tell Anna that I sent you.

Friday, 10 May 2013

New Strawberry Plants

My strawberry bed didn't fare very well over winter and I lost many of the plants. I'd created a new bed last year, but the plants never really took off, I suppose because of all the wet weather we had. I decided to cut my losses and start from scratch again this year. I'd seen some nice looking plants at Poppleton Garden Centre, but when I came across some plants in Wilkos which were very reasonable, I decided to go with those. I've gone for three varieties, Honeoye, an early season variety which I've grown before and which I've been happy with, Cambridge Favourite, a mid season variety and Symphony, a late variety. They were £1 each or two for £1.50. I've started off with twenty plants, but I'll increase my stock from runners later on in the season. I'm not expecting much of a harvest this year, but if I can get them established, they should do well next year. There's already a few flowers on them, as you can see.

I sowed my sweet peas - New Horizons Mix at the beginning of March and they've made nice sturdy plants. I was going to grow them at the allotment, but a climbing rose which I was bought for Mother's Day and which I planted in the garden hasn't grown, so it's been pulled out and the sweet peas have gone in there. The rose will be taken back to where it was bought from. I was bought a second rose for Mother's Day, and that looks to be growing ok, it's got some leaves, so I suppose that's a good sign that it's taken.

The seeds which I sowed last weekend have started to germinate. The more tender ones are on a windowsill indoors, whereas the more hardy things are out in the greenhouse fending for themselves. I haven't managed to get any more jobs ticked off my list yet, so I'm hoping to get a few things done over the weekend. Fingers crossed that the weather stays fine.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


I sowed my broad beans back in autumn and overwintered them in the cold greenhouse. They were sturdy plants at the start of the year, and in a normal year, would have been planted out much earlier than they actually were, but because of the cold start to 2013, they were held back in their pots much longer than I liked. This encouraged them to grow rather leggy and they weren't the best specimens when they were eventually transferred to the plot at the beginning of April. Nevertheless, they seem to have rallied, they look much stronger than they did when planted out, and they're now flowering. It won't be long until I'm prising each bean from it's velvety bed.

It's been a busy bank holiday weekend here. Although there's plenty of jobs to be getting on with, both in the garden and at the allotment, we also like to have days out, and there's other jobs around the house to do too, so it's always a juggle to get the balance right. We did have some days out, but we also managed to get both the back and the front gardens tidied up, and the grass also got another cut, it's second of the year. It's grown so quickly since it was last mowed. The fruit bushes have finally been transferred to the plot. A bed was prepared and a blackcurrant bush, gooseberry bush and two rhubarb crowns now reside in it. I also got lots of sowing and potting on done. The five pepper plants are now in their final pots and look to be producing their first flowers. I've only grown one or two pepper plants at once before so I'm hoping for a better harvest than usual from them. I had a mammoth sowing session, two kinds of climbing French beans - Cobra and Blue Lake, dwarf French bean - Safari, runner bean - St George, mangetout, Golden Sweet, broccoli - Rudolph, swede - Brora, three varieties of squash - (summer) Sunburst, (winter) Crown Prince and Queensland Blue, two varieties of courgette - One Ball and Mikinos, sweet corn - Early Extra Sweet, five varieties of sunflower - Tall Single, Irish Eyes, Autumn Beauty, Paquito and Teddy Bear, and morning glory - Heavenly Blue. I also resowed my three varieties of cucumber - Crystal Lemon, Fanfare and Mini Munch, as the ones which germinated previously had grown rather leggy, and Fanfare didn't germinate at all, so I hope this batch do better. More containers were planted up with potatoes, there's now thirteen pots at various stages of growth and more yet to plant up.

I've got a list of jobs which should be done very soon. The tomato plants are growing nicely and should be potted on in to their final positions within the next couple of weeks. The Desiree potatoes which I bought to try at the allotment still need to be planted. The bed is all prepared so it's just a case of getting them in to the ground. A trench has been dug and filled with compost ready for the parsnips to be sown, so that's something else which I'll hopefully get round to this week. It's such a busy time of year, but with weather like we've had over the weekend, jobs seem to get done so much quicker. I hope you've all had a productive weekend too.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A Fruitful Year

The blossom on my cherry tree is just starting to open. I'm hoping that I manage a better year than I did last year, I didn't get one cherry. The tree's five years old now, so it should really be giving me a decent crop. Last year, I added to my fruit trees and bushes with two apple trees - Gloster and Golden Delicious, a plum tree - Czar, a gooseberry - Uva-Crispa Pax and a tayberry. It will be nice to harvest my own fruit as well as my own veggies.

I've got a bird feeder which attaches to my window with suction pads. It's not a favourite of the birds, but I do occasionally have a taker. This morning, a coal tit was eating from it, other times I've had great tits, blue tits and robins. It's a great photo opportunity when the birds are literally right there on the other side of the glass, but I daren't reach for my camera for fear of frightening them off. I must think of a way round it.

The May Day bank holiday weekend is approaching, and as I've got lots of jobs which need doing, I'm hoping that the gorgeous weather we've got today continues. The sun is shining, the breeze has dropped so it's really quite warm, and the birds are chirruping away. There's sowing, pricking out and potting on to do, so even if the weather isn't so good, there's plenty of things I can be getting on with. I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

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