Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Two For Joy

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.

Photo taken at Temple Newsam on Saturday.

Wishing you all a joyful, happy and healthy 2014. Hope it's a great growing year for us all.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Blog Of The Month - Review

This year, I dedicated one post each month to Blog Of The Month. This is where I featured a blog I was enjoying reading. Some of the blogs I featured were new to me, others were ones I'd been reading for a while. I hoped that by doing this, I might introduce some of my readers to other, interesting blogs, though I know that many of you already read the blogs I featured.

I thought I'd list the blogs I featured each month in case any of you missed the original posts. They're all definitely worth a read.

January - A Whole Plot of Love
February - Annie's Little Plot
March - Gardens and Wildlife
April - A Rich Tapestry
May - Dig The Outside
June - Rusty Duck
July - Above The River
August - An Urban Veg Patch
September - Living On The Edge
October - The Urban Cottage
November - Grow My Own Eden
December - A Gardener's Weather Diary

If you haven't yet visited any of the blogs I've mentioned, I can highly recommend them. Do pay them a visit, and don't forget to tell them that I sent you.

I should just mention that the photo which accompanies this post has nothing to do with my Blogs Of The Month. I snapped these daisies yesterday at Temple Newsam, the grass there is covered in them.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Monthly Plants 2013

This year, I took the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and purchased a plant each month which was in flower for my garden. I hoped that by doing this, I would have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

I thought I'd list the plants I chose, firstly so I've got a record all in one place, but also to give other people an idea of plants which will be flowering in any particular month.

January - Cyclamen
February - Primrose
March - Pulmonaria Angustifolia Blaues Meer
April - Arabis Spring Charm
May - Aquilegia Vulgaris Clementine Purple
June - Scabiosa Columbaria Barocca
July - Lewisia Special Mix
August - Liriope Royal Purple
September - Dianthus Sunflor Charmy
October - Salvia Nemorosa Ostfriesland
November - Sedum Spectabile Brilliant
December - Hellebore

I'm pleased with the plants I've chosen throughout the year, they've added more variety in to the garden as well as plenty of colour.

As you can see from the photo, the cyclamen which I bought last January have survived and are ready to burst in to flower again ready for January 2014 so my plan is really working.

I've enjoyed visiting a nursery each month and choosing which plant to buy. It's definitely worth doing if you want year round colour in the garden.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Holly, snapped on our walk at Lotherton yesterday.

I'd like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas. Hope it's a good one.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Hellebore For December

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.

I've seen snowdrops in flower starting to appear on blogs, and as I have very few of them in my own garden, I thought it might be nice to acquire a few more as my December plant. However, after visiting numerous garden centres and nurseries, I've been unable to find any which are already blooming. In fact, only one of the garden centres I visited had any at all. It was time for plan B.

I had to go in to Leeds today, very last minute Christmas shopping. It wasn't as busy as I'd expected actually, which was good, and I'd only got a couple of things to buy so I wasn't there long. I decided to pop in to the market and I managed to find this beautiful hellebore for the princely sum of £2.45. I'm not very knowledgeable where hellebores are concerned, so I don't know the variety, but as the sign stated it was a Christmas Rose, it may be helleborus niger. With only a few days to go until Christmas and with a name such as Christmas rose, I thought it would be fitting as my December plant.

There are very few seasonal flowers for sale in garden centres and nurseries in December, at least in the ones I've visited, but it's at this time of year that my garden needs something to brighten it up. I think the best place to look for plants at this time of year could possibly be the internet, unless I travel further afield to specialist nurseries.

I knew that December would be a challenge in itself with this challenge and I was right.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

An Early Christmas Gift

A friend called round on Tuesday to drop off some Christmas gifts. Among the gifts for me was one I had to open immediately, this beautiful orchid. I already have two orchids, they've been in flower every Christmas for the last five years, but this is the first Christmas they haven't flowered so it's nice to have a new plant which is blooming for the festive period. It's a Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid, and contrary to what many people believe, they're so easy to care for. I water mine once a week by allowing the water to run straight through and drain off, they don't like to stand in water, and when they've finished flowering I cut the flower spike right down to the base. This encourages them to send up another flower spike and they begin to bloom all over again.

We haven't spent any time at the allotment lately. November and December always seems to be such a busy time of year for us, not only with Christmas on the way but there's always lots of family commitments around this time too. I'm hoping that the weather stays mild over the festive period, with Hubby off work, we should then be able to get a few jobs done.

The wind's back again. We had some big gusts last night as well as a torrential downpour, and it seems as though the windy weather is here to stay for a while yet. A couple of panels have blown out of the greenhouse again, but I don't think it's worth putting it back together just yet, no doubt it'll only blow out again in the coming days with the wind that's forecast. It's lovely and sunny here today though, but very cold.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Self Watering Planters

I've been eyeing up Mark's tomato planters for a while now. Mark blogs on Mark's Veg Plot blog and has mentioned these planters a few times. They're self watering planters and are supplied with a feeder tube and reservoir. They work by holding water in the reservoir which is then delivered in to the compost by capillary action keeping it consistently moist. At the beginning of November, I noticed that there was an offer on Amazon, the 40cm planters were reduced to £5.87 each from £7.99 and the matching drip trays which they stand on were reduced to £2.99 each from £3.99. Hubby said he'd treat me, so I ordered three and I'm now looking forward to trying them out next year. I have to say that this size is quite large and will take quite a bit of compost to fill them, I think I could have possibly gone for the 35cm and they'd still be large enough to house a healthy tomato plant. Anyway, there should be no excuse for my plants under performing next year, certainly not down to watering anyway, these containers should ensure that the plants get exactly the right amount of water when they need it.

The wind did get up again over the weekend, though it was only in the early hours of Sunday morning and it was nowhere near as bad as we'd had it the week before. It's a bit gusty again today, but not too bad, and the greenhouse is still standing, thank goodness.

I've noticed lots of blue tits around again just recently. They seemed to disappear for a time but there's plenty of them back on the feeders again. They're a regular visitor to my window feeder, it's lovely to see them at such close quarters. I got my window feeder for Christmas last year and I can highly recommend them. There's lots of different types, but they all cling to the window with suction cups and once filled with a little bit of seed, the birds just can't keep away. I've had blue tits, coal tits, great tits and robins on mine, and even gold finches on a couple of occasions. A regular visitor is the collared dove, I have them queueing up for a turn. I'm so impressed that I've bought a couple of them as gifts this Christmas, I hope the recipients enjoy them as much as I enjoy mine.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thinking Ahead

I've already bought or ordered just about all the seeds I need for next year, so I already know what I'll be growing. I suppose there'll be one or two extras which creep in nearer the time, but the staples are already chosen. I've decided to cut down on tomatoes next year, not the number of plants I'm going to grow but the different varieties. There's only three types which I've bought, though an extra one or two more might be added later. The first is Ailsa Craig. This is a medium sized tomato and one which is known for having a good taste. My dad is a fan of this one and always used to grow it, so I'm sure he'll be pleased to see this on my list. The second is Gardener's Delight, a must have as it's a variety which rarely lets me down, either in yield or in taste. This one is a cherry tomato and delicious when picked from the vine and popped straight in the mouth while still warm from the sun. The last one I've chosen is Totem, a bush variety. I grew this last year and was so impressed with the yield that I'm growing it again. The plants were literally covered in medium sized fruit which had a good flavour. I also like the fact that bush varieties require much less maintenance than cordons. I still had to give the plants some support by the way of a cane as the huge amount of fruit produced on the plants made them inclined to be top heavy and topple over, but there was no pinching out of side shoots or tying in as they grew. I usually grow a plum variety but haven't been very successful with any I've tried in the past. San Marzano are a favourite but they always ripen very late in the season and have never given me a very big crop so I'm not going to bother next year. One which I may grow again is Costoluto Fiorentino, a beefsteak variety which I grew for the first time this year. It was just like biting in to a very ripe peach, it was so juicy and sweet. I have a few seeds left so I may give them another go.

Hubby had some trees tidied up at work so he asked the tree surgeon if he would bag up some of the resulting wood chips for him. I've now got quite a few bags of the stuff which I'll be able to lay out some paths at the allotment with. I know that some sites have wood chip delivered free of charge, I wish this happened on our site as I could certainly make use of some more.

The fence panel which got blown out in the high winds last week wasn't as damaged as I first thought. After Hubby nailed the top back on, it slotted back in to place between the concrete posts, so that's saved us a bit of money. We managed to find all the bits of the greenhouse which had blown in to various neighbour's gardens and that's also been put back together. How long it will stay that way for remains to be seen. More wind has been forecast for this weekend, though I'm not sure if it will hit this part of the country, but stay safe, wherever you are.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Blog Of The Month - December

This year, I'm dedicating one 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.

It's a two for one this month. My Blog Of The Month for December is A Gardener's Weather Diary which is written by Martyn. Martyn is the husband of Sue who writes Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments. Many of you will know Sue already but if you don't, you're in for a treat this month as there's links here to two great blogs.

There's so many topics which crop up on Martyn's blog. As you might imagine going by the title of the blog, Martyn follows the weather quite closely and he blogs about the trends he's noticing. It's really interesting, we don't live very far away from each other yet we can often experience very different weather. Martyn sometimes blogs about things which Sue's already blogged about, or vice versa, yet the posts come from very different angles which are always interesting to read.

One of the things I love to read about on Martyn's blog are the birds which he and Sue encourage in to their garden. There's even a camera rigged up to one of the bird boxes so that the babies can be observed hatching from their eggs. Unfortunately, this particular bird box was unoccupied this year, but I'm hoping that a bird takes up residence ready for the next batch of eggs to be laid.

Martyn sometimes touches on his other hobby, steam engines. There's some fabulous photography on the blog of engines he's captured chugging through the beautiful Yorkshire (and beyond) countryside, though I should point out that Sue takes many of these photos too, she's a dab hand with the camera.

If you haven't yet acquainted yourself with Martyn's blog, do pop over, you're in for a treat. I've only touched on a few of the topics which Martyn blogs about here, there's also lots of posts on days out which he and Sue have had, and of course, lots of things about the allotment. Don't forget to tell Martyn that I sent you.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


You may remember the post I did in October about the squash I managed to harvest this year. I'd grown Crown Prince and Queensland Blue and managed two of one variety and one of the other. The Crown Prince squash didn't actually look the colour they should, so I think the seeds I sowed were from a totally different variety, though which, I don't know. I decided that I'd still give them a go and see what they tasted like, I didn't know if they'd be edible or not. You can see that there were lots of seeds, but once scraped out, there was also plenty of flesh. It was cubed and roasted and it tasted delicious. It's a shame I don't know what variety it is as I'd grow it again. I suppose I could save some seeds, but there's no guarantee that they'd come true.

I've had a couple of trips to garden centres recently but you'd think you were in Santa's grotto rather than a place which sells plants. Most things have been pushed aside to accommodate everything you need for Christmas. I do enjoy looking around all the seasonal paraphernalia but I just wish that they'd remember that they're there to sell plants and gardening equipment too. Christmas seems to take over and there's very little else for sale.

The weather here today is terrible. We've got high winds and rain and it doesn't look as though it's going to let up any time soon. The wind got up during the night and we woke to a greenhouse without a door, a side panel out and half the roof missing. I suppose it'll be in one of the neighbour's gardens but I'll wait for the wind to subside before I go looking for it. There's also a broken fence panel so we'll have that to replace. I don't think we've got it as bad as the people in Scotland, and it's expected to hit East Anglia quite bad later on today. I hope everyone's safe.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Up Too Soon

These crocuses aren't supposed to wake up until late winter or early spring, yet here they are poking their heads out of the soil already. This variety is Advance, one I haven't grown before, but its lilac outside and yellow inner drew me to it. It looks like I might get to see it sooner than I thought at this rate. They're tough little things so I'm sure they'll survive whatever winter throws at them, even though they're already shooting.

Last week was a busy week here so nothing at all got done in the garden or on the allotment. I haven't even started digging it over for winter, behind with everything again, as usual. Getting the digging done in autumn is a good idea if the soil is clay as it is on my allotment, as the frost over winter helps to break up the clods of earth. It's something that I don't stress about these days though, I know from past years that whatever doesn't get done now will get done later.

We've only had a couple of frosts so far this year, November seemed to be mild in comparison to other years. I wonder if we're going to be hit with a cold spell soon, it doesn't look as if the next few days are going to change at all going by the five day forecast.
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