Monday, February 28, 2011

Late Winter Changes

Winter is nearly over now. The days are getting longer, and I have been inspired. Two things in this photo are going to be changed.
The fence on the gardens right hand side (from the back door) had seen better days. It had started rotting and was falling to bits.
I agreed to pay half of the total cost of replacing it. The neighbour bought the fence panels for trade price.
I helped him on Saturday morning take out the rotting old fence and replace it with a new one. Nine panels were renewed. The fence is a golden orange colour now and is much brighter than the drab left hand fence.
The second things we are going to change is the pond. The experimental Turtle shaped pool is being replaced by a blacker, deeper pond liner.
We went to Hampsons first, then to Spring Green Nursery on Saturday. There was a 250 litre pond liner there, rectangular in shape, with shelves for pond plants, and rocks for the birds to stand on to drink and bath.
A job on my days off is to make the second pond. I need to take the pond plants out, and my rocks (bricks) ready to be used in the new Pond. It will take a lot more digging though to excavate a hole for the liner.
It is deeper so hopefully will not freeze all the way through when it gets below freezing. I want to attract Frogs and Dragonflies to the garden.
I will go to the allotment tomorrow to continue the big dig. Tomorrows weather is forecast to be dry. I hope to make more progress there...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rainbows And Rain

Growing by the shed is the mini Dutch Iris I planted around October. It is beautifully striped with yellow, black, and white on the petals throat. There are a mixture of purple ones, and white ones I think. This is the first Iris to flower, and it made me smile.

Iris is Greek for Rainbow, and they come in many colours (except Red). After Roses they are my favourite plant. They have six petals that unfold from a centre flower bud. They are lofted above the green stems like colourful kites.
In February with the Sky's leaden with grey clouds a little burst of colour brightens up the gardeners heart. Spring is only a few weeks away. The Crocuses and Snowdrops have witnessed the changing light and bloomed. The Daffodils and Narcissus are madly growing away ready for an explosion of their nodding yellow faces.

I got an email from the Wildfowl And Wetlands Trust (WWT). They are doing a campaign called "Work Your Butt". It is to try to encourage people to buy rain butts and to use the collected water in the garden.
We are on a water metre here so I cannot use the mains water to water the garden. The plan is to have water butts connected to the downpipes from the roof, and the shed.
The allotment gardeners know the value of rainwater, and most sheds have Butts or baths to collect the precious rain. It saves walking to and from the water hole with heavy watering cans.
Ponds need topping up with fresh rainwater as it does not contain the chemicals that the mains water is cleaned with at water treatment plants.
The WWT has a competition for people to photograph their water butts who have them and to show them in action (watering the garden, or washing the car etc), and a competition for people who are inspired and will start saving water.
The stats show that the average rainfall of a typical UK roof could fill 450 water butts. This run off has led to flooding in the UK before as drains fail to cope with the rapid influx of water.
Details of their Work your butt competitions are on their website:
The WWT are also running a survey of gardeners which takes five minutes to do (I have just done it):
The pink tub in the photo is on the corner of the shed. I placed it there as i saw rain water dripping from a join in the down pipe. The water has filled it several times and it is used to replenish the birds water and the pond.
I have four water butts from the old house at Fishponds Drive. They need to be connected up here ready for the summer. Another job to do in the garden this year.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Biscuit Tin Blues

One of the emerging signs of spring is these Hyacinths growing up from the ground. The Aquilegia Fruit And Nut is also regrowing from the base of the plants.
It rained for my two days off. I have been going through my biscuit tin full of Vegetable seed packets. I never knew I had collected so many packets of seeds!
I have varieties from America, and all the ones that I have bought over the last few years.
I pulled out Pumpkins, Courgettes, Parsnips, and Purple Carrot seeds, two wild flower mixes, My Chilli seeds (including Jalapeno, Habanero, and Scotch Bonnett), and Herb seeds..
I want to grow all my Vegetables from Seeds this year. The only three things not grown for seed are Seed Potatoes, Onion Sets, and Garlic Cloves..
The lengthening days and occasional sunshine inspire you to get outside to see whats growing. Its always good when something has grown a little more. Sowing seeds is part of the cycle of the growing season.
I hope to have a new camera soon to capture the emerging seedlings, plants and flowers of Spring..

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cherry Tree Ghost

I was back at the allotment yesterday continuing the digging over. It took me over five hours to clear the area that I marked out with the wood. The couch grass roots were imbedded deep in the cloggy clay soil. All the rain made the clay stick tenaciously to the grass and dock leaf roots. I can see progress though in the dark brown colour of the freshly dug over soil.

Before I took over the plot they must have cut down a Cherry Tree. There were loads of branches buried amongst all the weeds and grass that covered the plot when I got it. I collected the Cherry Tree branches and formed a little log pile besides the water Butt. The rain has fallen and the logs have sprouted the strangest funguses. Semi Circular plates growing in splits within the wooden branch. I think they looked very magical. Like Fairy houses from the ghostly remains of a long dead Tree.

If wood is left then these kind of things grow. Even in death the Cherry Tree has provided an ideal environment for these strange looking growths! The sun was drying them out, so they will have a short existence on the plot.

This Blackbird was hopping around the dug earth and posing for a picture. He got within four feet of me. He was singing away the whole time that he was on the soil. I loved the closeness of the birds at the allotment. They are always singing in the trees and flying between the plots.
Talking of Wildlife I got an email from the Wild Fowl and Wetland Trust (WWT), an organisation that promotes conservation of natural wetland here in the UK and abroad.
They are promoting Wildlife Gardening during the month of March, and also how water conservation can help a garden. They have a variety of events going on at their nine visitor Centres like nature walks, how to attract Wildlife to your garden, or how to build a Butterfly garden. This runs from March 1st-31st.
Information is here:
If you live near any of the Visitor centres try to go to them. I am a big fan of Wildlife Gardening and trying to make the garden as accessible to Wildlife as possible.
I'm back to working nights from today so the plot will have to wait for any more digging.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Digging Blitz

I spent another few hours up at the allotment trying to continue my digging blitz. I am trying to go from one side to the other and have bare soil to plant all over. The beds were too much like hard work, trying to keep the paths cleared between the beds. The weeds and grasses sprung up and started to invade the dug beds. This Rhubarb was buried under a few feet of grass before. I have dug around the crowns, and they are the only colour at the moment. The red and greens are quite vivid against the earthy soil.

The Long shot shows the four areas that have been dug over. The small right square will reach the top right hand soil. The black tarpaulin has killed off a lot of the weeds and grass, but the roots still need removing. As quick as I'm digging it new weed growth bursts through the turned soil.
My idea is that every year it should get easier to dig over the soil. I have a large compost heap and a green refuse bin that will be used for composting. Once it has broken down it will be dug back into the plot.

The power house overlooking the plot. You can see the seats (for summer time sit downs), and the table in the shed with the gas stove. Coffee is made every few hours to help me keep my energy levels up.
The Water Butt has collected up to the top. I need a second Butt to collect the overflow. The roof slopes back into some guttering. In the summer it will be good to use rainwater to water the plot. The water hole is half way across the allotment.
Yesterday I went to Wilkos and bought the allotment supplies for this coming growing season.
I have Cabbages and Leeks growing in the coldframe back at the garden. I bought smaller Seed Potatoes for the gardens grow bags( Charlotte, and Pink Fir).
The Allotment spuds will be Rocket first early crop, and Maris Piper main crop. I bought some Garlic cloves, and Red and White Onion Sets. Cat bought some Herb seeds in pots ready to make a Herb Planter. Basil, Parsley,Chives, and Coriander. We have little ceramic labels too.
I need to try to get back tomorrow to continue the digging over. The rain has turned the soil claggy, and the clay sticks to your boots and the fork!
It was very peaceful today with the wind blowing some chimes on next doors plot, and the birds singing away. All I wanted was some warm sunshine.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Snowdrop Suprise

These Snowdrops were growing under the front room window on the grass. They are such innocent, happy flowers that brighten up the winter garden.
They seem to have naturalised across the grass from the neighbours garden.
I spent yesterday digging at the allotment. I am trying to clear away the winter weeds. I want to buy some Onion, and some Seed Potato's.
It was raining lots today so we went shopping and then I was domesticated. I made some Red Pepper and Sweet Potato soup, and some Scones afterwards.
I'm hopeful my Crocus will flower soon. The Daffodils, Narcissus, and Tulips are a month away from blooming. I have been making grand plans for the garden.
I need to work this weekend, so there will be no digging until Monday. The Snowdrops have cheered me up, with their suprise appearance. When I walked to the allotment I go past a lot of gardens that were bursting with Snowdrops.Its nice to have some near the front door.

Monday, February 07, 2011

In The Lilacs Pot

Growing in the Lilac tree pot this Crocus has sneaked up and developed flower buds. There are three plants growing around the base of the Lilac tree. The Brown and yellow stripes are my little harbingers of Spring.
The Lilac Tree's buds remain perky but dormant. The little surprise of colour gives you a thrill when you spy it for the first time.
The wind is howling again outside destroying the neighbours temporary fence panel. It has blown the bird table into the pond.
My Clematis has been knocked over and rolled across the decking. I hope it has not broken the base of the plant. Clematis is very brittle. The old growth gets very woody, and this means it snaps too easily.I do not seem to have much luck with Clematis. I hope that the winter freeze has not killed off the plant. It does not show any signs of regrowth yet.
Elsewhere in the garden the Spring Bulbs are gathering momentum.They are peeking up through the soil, and some Tulips are growing well. I think there will be masses of colour by the start of March.
I went to Hil's Time For a Cuppa today at a local church. It is a fund raiser for Dementia Care. I bought some Honey,Walnut, and Date Cake. Cakes and Coffee will warm you up after wind swept day, with some suprising colour.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

After The Gale

The howling winds have abated now that battered the garden for two days. Gusts of up to seventy miles an hour wreaked havoc in Yorkshire blowing roofs off, and trees down.
My bird table was blown over and the fence on the right was broken. The panel got blown out. Next week the neighbour is going to replace the right hand fence panels. We will pay for half of the fence..
The clay pot with the leaf has some bulbs that were present in the sunken border when we moved in. I wander if they are Crocuses? They were placed in a pot and were growing away under a Hebe plant. I repotted them and they have started to grow away..
The Mexican frog pot has been damaged by the freezing weather in December/January. His back paint has started to fall off. I think that he expanded during the cold splitting the lacquer paint finish.
I bought him from the Autumn Flower Show from a vendor that sells these Mexican inspired designs.
The rain that followed the gale forced winds has made it impossible to get to the allotment. After my night shift tonight I hope to get down Tuesday.
I have been reading a book called "Fifty Plants That Changed The World". Its a short guide to fifty of the most influential plants that have been grown over time. Plants have been used by mankind for thousands of years. Its an interesting book to read when the weather is too inclement to get outside..

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Febuary First

This is the only Camellia that survived the move to this house. It has many layered red flowers held above the glossy shiny leaves. It is growing quietly behind the decking in the sunken border. I am watching the buds growing on it. I cleaned off all the fallen bird food that has dropped on it. It is a great plant for late Winter colour. The green leaves make it attractive all year around. It does not seem to succumb to the hard frosts and freezing nights. It is naturally found growing in Japan and China.
I want to buy some more Camellias with different colour flowers. When I go to the Flower shows this year I will see if I can buy some with white, yellow, or pink flowers.
I swept up fallen debris off our concrete path today. The bird feeders were topped up, and all the water bowls topped up. There are more spring bulbs growing through the soil now. I have got ready to sow some Cabbage seeds to grow in the dilapidated cold frame. I will do a tray of Leeks tomorrow. I will get to the allotment tomorrow after a long break..
I'm writing this in the kitchen with the smell of Chocolate Chip Muffins cooking in the oven. I have done a lot of baking with the natural break from gardening in the winter. I hope that the Camellia will flower this Springtime.
I need a new camera as the old one is a bit battered from constant usage.