Meet the people – Judi the gardener!

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I love meeting and talking to fellow gardeners and so my new series ‘meet the people’ is a perfect way to do more of it! I’m going to attempt to conduct interviews and publish tips from expert gardeners and fellow allotmenters over the next few weeks.  My first interview is with blogger Judi Samuels from ‘judithegardener.co.uk’. I enjoy reading Judi’s blog and am intrigued by her day job as a professional gardener, which I assume is far more exciting than my office job. On Judi’s ‘about’ page she introduces herself as, “bonkers mad about plants” and her passion for them even comes with a warning!

Q. Hi Judi! I’m intrigued to know more about your passion for gardening? Can you tell us a bit about how and when it all started?
I was about ten when I first put my hands in the soil, my mother used to ask me to pick the stones out from the flower beds. Ever since, I have developed a relationship with gardens. Wherever I’ve lived I have always nurtured whatever there was in a garden and enjoyed adding plants. I have turned a passion, which has grown and grown, into a profession. I studied garden and planting design at Capel Manor in 2008 and this really helped me to build horticultural knowledge and the studying process completely immersed me in my love affair with gardening.

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Why did you choose gardening as a career?
Gardening was the natural progression for me after redundancy in 2010 from an office-based communications job. It was a scary leap but I knew I wanted and needed to make it. I have never looked back and I learn so much each and every day, because there are so many discoveries to make. I also love working with the diversity of people, who I share the joy of gardening and horticulture with.

I do thrive on the independence of running my own small business, I even enjoy all the background work and sometimes it feels like ‘playing shops’, just as I did when I was a young child. There’s always marketing and paperwork, monthly accounts and keeping a constant eye on all the online communications and reading to be done. Believe me, updating my web presence alone could be a full-time job in itself.  I manage my professional profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Shoot Gardening, Landscape Juice Network (LJN), LinkedIn, Skills Pages, Google Place Page and my own blog. Using all these communications seems an integral part of any business these days and is expected, maybe that’s my marketing communications background coming through

Was it expensive to start your own business?
Setting up a business takes time and money.  I have begged and borrowed tools, books and equipment and slowly over time I have replaced them. I try to be diligent about cleaning and sharpening my tools to keep them in good shape for as long as possible. I have developed a penchant for old wooden tools and treated myself to two good pairs of Felco secateurs, which I lovingly look after. I have spent money on marketing, but do use as many free opportunities as possible, most of my work comes to me by word of mouth. I have always felt that if you give people a good experience, then people will want to talk about that with friends and family.

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What’s it like being a gardener in winter?
Winter is a really tough time. I still have the usual bills to pay but without the same level of income. I am currently developing my gardening workshops and would love to secure some more teaching and writing work. I have kept myself busy this winter by working on promoting the Dingly Dells ™ and planting plans, as well blogging and giving gardening workshops. I advise anyone thinking about setting up a gardening business to think about their expenses during the winter and identifying possible income streams. It is a wonderfully comforting feeling when the phone starts ringing again and email notifications of new opportunities start flooding the inbox.

How much time do you spend on your own gardening projects?
I am always developing my own garden in my mind and whenever I’m not working on other people’s gardens, I am longing to get into it. There is a great crossing over between labouring and loving in my own and clients’ gardens. I take just as much pleasure in working in a client’s garden, (especially when I am commissioned to develop it by adding new plants species or creating a Dingly Dell), as I do with my own garden. I enjoy encouraging and enthusing about the relationship clients develop with their gardens. ‘I am bonkers mad about plants and my enthusiasm for them is infectious you have been warned’. This is not just my brand message; this is how I genuinely feel!

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Do you grow any vegetables or herbs? If so, why is that important to you?
In November 2012 I began working with the Prospects Project (a recovery and reintegration project) based at the Welcome Centre (a homeless charity) in Ilford. I am helping them with their allotment site. It’s a huge project that I love and I’ve been giving classroom based learning in basic horticulture along with inside and outside gardening tasks. I asked fellow Twitterers for some seed sponsorship recently and people were amazingly generous with their seed donations.

We are planning on growing herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers at the plot and just last week made our first indoor sowings of tomatoes, chillies, jalepenos, aubergine and onions. We do have many more seeds to sow over the coming weeks and months. I keep a photo diary of the classroom-based workshops and outdoor activity, which I turn into a blog post each week. I often wonder if anyone reads what I write (still feels a bit self-indulgent) and I am reassured that I am being read, by the fact that you [Anna B] wrote to me after reading my blog and invited me to be interviewed…and here I am!

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Do you think gardeners should plant for wildlife, i.e. bees, birds and butterflies and what do you feel about UK gardeners planting more UK native plants?
In my own and client’s gardens, (when making recommendations for pollen-rich plants) I compile plants lists that includes both native and non-native species, plants that will attract pollinators, such as: Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow Parsley), Osteospermum (Cape Daisies), Scabiosa (Scabious), Astrantias (Masterwort), Echinacea (Coneflower), Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) , Buddjela davidii (Butterfly Bush) but to name just a few. I am a great fan of Graham Stuart Thomas and his book ‘Colour in the Winter Garden’ which in its essence, provides an abundance of plants (including trees) recommendations, that will supply the winter garden with not only scented blooms and coloured stems, but berries and over-wintering insects, so that birds have access to food during the harshest season.

What are your top tips for this year?
I think planting for all seasons would be my greatest wish (therefore, my top tip) I do believe in the richness of diversity and the abundant joy that it brings. Happy Gardening!

Thank you Judi! I hope you enjoy the spring and I look forward to reading more about your projects.

~ ~ ~
I’ve picked up some great tips there on planting for wildlife and about what to consider if you’re going to set up your own business. I hope you enjoyed the interview!

It’s snowing again here today, not quite what I had in mind for the start of spring! I think I’ll do some more seed sowing and hope that by the time they’re through I can pot them on, move them to the greenhouse and then get them outside. What’s the weather like where you are? What will you be doing this week?

Growing and going local – the journey begins

horsforth_honeyHorsforth Blossom Honey. Bill described his honey as being made by bees in his ‘own garden’.

A few weeks ago, disgruntled with not having my own crops to eat I set myself a challenge to buy more local produce. I want to be able to trace the source of my food. With my own harvest incredibly low at the minute I’m keen to buy veg from local suppliers who’ve put the effort in to grow their own.

Well, I’ve found it. Not just vegetables, I’ve found the lot. You name it, it’s being sold at a market about 2 miles away from me!

b_whitely_stall_horsforth_marketeggs_horsforth_marketAmazing eggs from Church View Farm

Running since October 2012 Horsforth farmers market takes place on the first Saturday of each month and it’s brilliant! All the sellers are local to Yorkshire and some are local to Horsforth itself.

I discovered that Leeds has a few farmers markets and to help me remember the dates I’ve popped a recurring ‘appointment’ into my outlook calendar.

I thought my challenge was going to be really tough. First off, I thought it would be difficult to source local suppliers and secondly, I thought it would be hard to fit the gathering of the local produce into my busy life, but it’s not.

oragnic_pantry_horsforth_market‘Proper fresh veg’ from The Organic Pantry

When I was growing up I enjoyed shopping on a Saturday morning in town with my mum. We’d visit the butchers, the bakers and the veg shop and she would chat to tons of people along the way. Now I’m the one chatting to the locals and having a great time. A morning at the market beats doing ‘a big shop’ at the supermarket hands down.

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The market also has a fair trade stall run by a really friendly bunch of people and I bought myself a Traidcraft version of nutella. Ok, so it might not be made in Yorkshire but I still know where it’s from and I know that my money goes to the people who made it.

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I was thrilled to meet Vicky from B. Whiteley Farm Shop who had a stall selling plants and veg. The farm is about 2 miles from my house in the opposite direction but I never knew they were there. They grow and sell veg, have their own hen eggs and also run a plant nursery.

I purchased my first rhubarb plant from Vicky’s stall and she gave me some top tips about not harvesting it for a couple of years and to plant it into some well fertilised soil. She also advised me against forcing the rhubarb because it weakens the plant, it’s better to just let it grow naturally and do its thing.

rhubarb_horsforth_marketraspberry_canes_b_whitely_horsforth_marketseed_potatoes_b_whitely_horsforth_marketGreat selection of plants and veg from Vicky at B. Whiteley Farm, she only brings the veg she’s grown herself.

I got some top tips from the apple juice stall about what I can mix with my apples and how to make an elder flower syrup and freeze it until I need it. My two favourite hobbies, gardening and eating are combined at the market.

apple_juice_horsforth_marketApple juices from Yorkshire Orchard

I read a cool article recently where the writer claims that Leeds has some great organic shops but they’re all rather ‘top secret’. I think this sums up how I feel about all that I’ve newly discovered, it’s been right on my doorstep all along but I just never knew about it.

I found all the produce at the market very reasonably priced and I just hope I’m in Leeds for the next one in April so I can go back for a natter and a re-stock.

Do you shop for local products? Do you find that it fits into your lifestyle?

Spring is nearly here – what’s growing on?

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I’m so happy that spring is round the corner but in terms of it ‘feeling like spring’ I’m as confused as the weather! It’s snowing one minute and mild and sunny the next. Very random! On the milder days it’s been great getting outside into the garden. Adam’s been tidying the greenhouse and I’ve been doing the weeding and having a general potter around. The weeds have really started growing now and I enjoy trying to get rid of them as soon as possible.

weeds-3What is this plant? Is it a weed?

My soil is lovely and I wonder if the minimal digging we did in the autumn combined with a bit of mulching has helped it achieve a soft and crumbly texture. I really can’t remember what it was like this time last year – warmer and drier I think so I’m not going to be able to pin point exactly why my soil texture feels great but it’s very easy to spruce up and keep neat, which is good in my books!

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A few weeks back I planted out my broad beans. I started them off indoors and then popped them into the greenhouse in big tubs until I felt the weather was a bit more stable. I’ve covered them with a net-box and sprinkled coffee grounds around them. One of my favourite local Cafes – The Cheerful Chili gives them away and they claim it works! So far, so good.

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Inside the greenhouse I have pots and pots of tulips. When they come into flower I’ll take them outside and most of them will go by my front door. I also have my ornamental kale which has bolted a bit. I’ve never grown this plant before so I’ve got no idea what I’m doing with it to be honest!

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Inside the house things are also growing and I’m starting to sow all my seeds for March.

My lettuces are still tiny but looking really healthy and I expect to be potting it on very soon and starting my next batch.

mini_lettuce_2chilies_sowing_2

A couple of weeks ago I sowed my chilies in expandable coir pellets. I bought a kit with the propagator included for around £4.95, which is quite expensive compared to a big bag of seed sowing compost. I’ve never used these pellets before but they seem to be really popular. My chilies are still germinating (they take ages) so I have no real view yet on how good these modules are. They are extremely quick, easy and clean to use though, which is a bonus. I just hope the seeds grow well, I’m hoping they’ll pop through any day now.

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My mammoth leeks are potted on and still look like little stalks. I’ve never grown this large variety before so I’m just keeping them in the light, well watered and I’m hoping for the best!

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My irises have been lovely this year but some are already on their way out, which is quite sad. I have another variety to come up next and I can’t wait for my daffodils and tulips to flower. The lavender is looking very healthy and once spring is established I’ll be looking forward to that taking hold.

I spent the day at Harlow Carr on a photography course today. I discovered that I’ve pretty much been doing everything wrong! I’m looking forward to downloading the photos I took and I’ll post any good ones. I’m really looking forward to getting out in the garden tomorrow.

Have you started sowing anything yet? What have you been doing in your gardens and allotments?

Month by month – gardening in March

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March is the month of real hope for gardeners as we start to see some sunshine (in amongst the rain and possibly even snow)! If you enjoy growing from seed then this is the month to really get sowing.

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Outside in the veg garden your over winter harvest can be both finishing and just starting, for example, if you planted in the late summer and autumn you could be now be eating spring onions, Swiss chard, winter lettuces, spring cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli in addition to any leeks, parsnips, sprouts and kale that you might still have left.

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In the main garden early irises and snowdrops will be in full bloom, tulips will be pushing through, crocus and daffodils are starting to flower. Primulas will be looking good and shops will be stacked full of gardening equipment and plants.

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It’s a great month for sorting and planting as well as sowing. If you’re sowing in a greenhouse some protection against frosts will be required. In the UK we’ve been known to have frosts until June, so although spring is in the air it can be cold.

It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast so you don’t plant out or prune just before a cold spell.

Here’s a list of things I’ll be doing and some ideas for things you can do:

  • My potatoes are chitting and I’ll plant out at Easter. Early varieties can be planted in now.
  • My windowsills are covered in seed trays and I’m sowing indoors. I’ve sown everything from beetroot to tomatoes. If you haven’t yet sown your chilies or peppers do so now because they can take ages to germinate.
  • I’ll be planting my onion sets either next weekend or the one after. Some of my fellow allotmenteers have them in already and they’ve covered them with green mesh. If you haven’t done so already, you can still plant shallots this month.
  • I’ve just bought a lovely new rhubarb plant and I dug it in this weekend. They love fertile soil so if you have any manure, ‘chicken-poo’ pellets or similar, then plant that in with it and water well. Don’t eat the rhubarb for a couple of years. It will be tempting to eat it next year and especially the year after but it will weaken the plant.
  • Plant raspberry canes and cut any dead canes right down to the ground.
  • Plant strawberries
  • Protect new shoots from slugs – I’m trying spent coffee beans from my local café. Fingers crossed it works!
  • Planning my summer borders. I’m stocking up on summer bulbs to plant out on nice days.
  • Looking after perennials by tidying round them, dividing and ensuring they’re in the right place. A bit of a nudge/move at this time of year will be fine.
  • The lawn is growing so if it’s dry it can be mown.
  • The weeds are also growing and I’ve started hoeing them down before they grow too big.
  • On fresh days I open the greenhouse to air it so it stays mould free.
  • If you’ve got winter shrubs such as dogwood (Cornus) and willow (Salix) cut them back this month and you’ll soon see new shoots coming through.
  • Cut old leaves off hellebores. This helps keep them disease free. I would encourage this because this is probably how I lost mine this year. I just didn’t look after them well enough at all.
  • Keep deadheading pansies and they will last through summer.
  • You can deadhead any daffodills that have finished flowering but don’t cut the foliage down, I tie mine in a loop to keep them tidy.
  • Warm up your soil and keep yourself warm too. It’s really easy to get cold outside at this time of year so wrap up and enjoy :)

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The Garden Smallholder and Not Just Green Fingers  have done some excellent to-do guides this month and if you’re thinking about ideas for your summer borders then Garden in a City has posted some inspiration.

What will you be doing this month? Have you got any top tips for gardening in spring?

Good gardening reads

beancropGardeners are often happy to share..

Something I think gardeners have in common isn’t just a love of gardening itself, but a love of collecting gardening books! I’ve got more gardening books than I have room for. In my early days of gardening I went for ‘how-to’ books but now my collection ranges from 101 easy ideas for your veg garden to learning Latin plant names! So, when I heard that fellow garden blogger Ricki Grady had published a book, I jumped at the chance to add another one to my collection. I ‘met’ Ricki through Blooming Blogs community and downloaded her book Bebop Garden for my kindle.

Bebop Garden

Ricki starts her book with an interesting comparison between gardening and jazz and I must say I really had no idea what to expect at that point but I was happy that this wouldn’t be any ordinary gardening book! I thought it might turn out to be a full on novel but it’s not that and yet it’s not an instructional book either. Ricki glides her way through her past, blending stories from her garden with the things she’s learned. I particularly loved reading about her early days and how she made her garden into what sounds like a wild and creative artistic haven, inspiring her local community with her choice of plants, including some edibles.

Another thing I think gardeners have in common is that they love sharing. From the moment I started mixing with fellow gardeners on my allotment the seeds, plants, veg produce and advice came flooding. Whether gardeners are new and enthusiastic, or older and experienced the passion for their hobby comes across. This is the same for Ricki, she shares her experiences making this an interesting book for beginners and seasoned gardeners.

I could really sense how gardening has nourished Ricki’s life, from the plants she’s grown and collected, to the friends she’s made and even the animals who share her space. She emphasizes the fun of gardening over hard work, promoting gardening for pleasure which is a means for her to become lost in her own world for an hour or for an entire weekend. I would love to actually see Ricki’s garden back then and now, photos are missing from the kindle but I’m not sure if there are photos in the paperback version.

I really enjoyed reading Ricki’s book and I’m always happy to hear about fellow bloggers projects. So, on that subject my next read will be by garden blogger Out of My Shed, her book Veg Street comes out on March 7th and if you want an early insight then Wellywoman has just reviewed it and so has Veg Plotting.

Are you a ‘gardening book collector’ too?

Snooping around allotments in February

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The weekend was rather sunny and at my parents’ allotments things were starting to stir.

I was staying with my parents last weekend and I took the opportunity to have a good old snoop around their allotments yet again! I last visited their plot properly in November and established that being a nosey gardener is in my nature.

There was a lot of activity, people barrowing compost and wood chippings, constructing paths and building structures. Jobs like that are very popular at this time of year with allotmenters and gardeners alike because there’s so many bare areas that you can tend to, unlike in the summer where they could be overgrown with foliage, flowers and weeds.

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kale_february

There was still an abundance of kale and it’s looking like the stuff at RHS Harlow Carr with the pickings gone from the bottom leaving young leaves at the top of long stalks. It is still my No.1 favourite veg that I have never grown!! Can’t wait to start sowing it soon.
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A rare sighting of me, still obsessed with kale!

I also made a beeline for last year’s allotment winner, lots of neat bare beds but I was impressed by the quality of the veg she’s still got growing and looking so healthy.

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The cabbage man has eaten the majority of his giant crop but a few remain, still looking impressive.

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I also noticed a huge net box! Plus, one that is still covering carrots from last year and I spied some seedlings in a greenhouse – could they be monster leeks and onions!

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It was nice to spend time at my folks allotments and I sensed a really good vibe among the allotmenteers. I’m looking forward to visiting again and seeing what happens over the next few months.

This weekend has been grey and slightly snowy so far and I’ve had to dig the indoors today! I’ve finally been able to catch up Monty Don’s French Gardens series that Wellywoman reminded me of in her recent post. The Gourmet Garden episode was of particular interest to me because it covers the topic of my latest challenge, which is to more carefully buy food products that I can trace the source of.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend and have had better weather than me. Have you been spending more time outside in your gardens lately?


How do your products grow?

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During my trip to Amsterdam last year I visited the Botanical Gardens and took some photos of a display in their main greenhouse. It was probably created for children and I didn’t think too much about it at the time, other than how cool the plants looked in the colourful packaging. Now though, I’m really beginning to think more and more about the food I eat and I feel it’s not what I eat that’s important, it’s about where my food comes from.

growing_carrots
During the summer (and for as long as I can make my growing season last) I love the fact that I’m eating my own veg. However, I don’t think I’ve fully understood why I love it so much, until now.

Is it the satisfaction I feel from the actual growing act itself, is it the superior flavour, is it the money saving, is it the convenience of having food to hand and not needing to go to the shop, is it the environmental benefits such as providing a haven for bees and other wildlife, or is it all of these things?

It’s definitely all of these things but the biggest thing for me right now is that I know the origin of that food.

growing_food_2
I can’t grow everything I eat though and I’m becoming more and more into the idea of changing my buying habits and choosing food and products that I can trace back to a source that I feel happy about. This will mean cutting down on trips to the supermarket in favour of local producers. It will also affect where I choose to eat out, so cafés and restaurants will have to be carefully selected. This will be a big shift for me as eating out is one of my favourite pastimes and I don’t have a local high street with small retailers.

I’m excited about changing my buying habits but this is going to be a massive challenge.

growing_food
Don’t get me wrong, I do try to consciously buy good food from local sellers and markets already but I wouldn’t say that accounts for even 30% of my weekly shopping in the months that I don’t have a big harvest of my own. So, I’m busy googling local farm shops and researching like mad in the hope that I’ll be able to change and support the people who grow food for the same reasons that I do. I’m also working out how I can have a lot more crops available all year round.

Barter_Board

This weekend whilst walking in North Yorkshire I noticed a pub in Malham offering ‘money off vouchers’ in exchange for any surplus home grown produce. I don’t think there’s a shortage of veg and flowers in this area so I can only assume that being able to tell customers that their products have been locally sourced is a big plus point.

Do you choose to buy food from local producers because you want to know where it originates from? Do you ‘grow your own’ for any of these reasons?

 

Quick DIY for the garden – the net box

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If you’re a bit of a handy man, handy girl or you’re living with one then I highly recommend having a go at making something Adam made for me a couple of years ago. The net box! It’s got so many uses all year round. I’ve got a couple of these in different sizes for different plants.

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I often throw netting over my crops and stake it in place with canes but I find having ready made boxes really useful, for example, covering pots of bulbs that aren’t through yet to protect them from pesky squirrels. They’re also brilliant  for warming up sections of soil ready for planting and for protecting any newly planted crops. Later in the year I’ll use them to protect crops from birds and to provide toasty micro climates. I also find it puts cats off from using freshly raked beds and beds with small seedlings, as litter trays.

Garden centres do sell a range of netting, fleece and plastic cloches which are also useful around the garden and now is good time of year to get these things in place, warming up the soil for spring. I have a couple of those too but don’t find them quite as handy as these boxes. A colleague was telling me about his neighbour who’s made a massive version that covers a much bigger area (around the size of two of my biggest raised beds) and it’s head height so he can get inside! Now that’s some serious veggie protection!

squirel_in_the_garden

Adam made the boxes by screwing together 12 lengths of 2×1 batons and he stapled on the netting with a staple gun. Other allotment folk make some brilliant curved ones by using plumbing piping. One important tip, don’t double the netting up and create any gaps, bees can easily get trapped in between so it’s best to just use one layer. Adam used scaffolding netting which is available in 2m wide lengths, most garden centres sell something similar.

Do you have any net-boxes or cloches? What kind of things do you make for your garden?

Month by month – gardening in February

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I always remember back to a job I had years ago when I used to drive up the motorway home every night. I benchmarked February 10th as being light when I hit the slip road. It doesn’t always happen on that date though but in February I basically live in hope of the light! At the end of this month I’ve usually managed to get up to my allotment after work and I start airing and cleaning the BBQ ready for March, when cooking and eating my evening meal up there becomes normal. This month could bring more snow and bad weather though, so we’re not out of the woods yet…

  1. Buy your seed potatoes and start ‘chitting‘ them by standing them up in trays (egg boxes are perfect) on your windowsill or anywhere light so they start sprouting.
  2. Start warming up the ground where you’ll be planting this year. Cover in polythene, mini poly tunnels or net boxes.
  3. Keep protecting pots of bulbs that haven’t come up yet from squirrels and water-logging. Keep them in your greenhouse, cold frame or a sheltered spot.
  4. Divide up any big clumps of bulbs after they have passed their best – snowdrops are the ideal candidates followed by clumps of grape hyacinths and daffodils next month.
  5. Start sowing chilies, peppers and early tomato varieties indoors or in a greenhouse that you can heat if temperatures plummet.
  6. Once they’ve finished flowering, prune winter flowering shrubs.
  7. Carefully prune fruit trees and certain types of clematis – don’t hard prune anything that flowers in spring.
  8. If your ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged you can plant garlic.
  9. As above, sow broad beans and/or plant out any well-established young broad bean plants that you’ve previously sown under cover.
  10. Go shopping for onion and shallot sets ready for next month, if your ground looks good though you could plant shallots in February. I tend to wait. You can also start sowing onion seeds now, although I prefer planting sets.

If it snows, clear it off tree branches and shrubs (Adam finds this hilarious but just shake the shrubs and use a brush if need be to clear it from tree branches) and if all else fails stay inside and do some sowing! My seed sowing list this month is:

  • Chilies – Anaheim, Jalapeno, Cayenne and ‘Hot Thai Culinary’ from World Kitchen
  • Peppers – Californian Wonder and Ingrid sweet pepper varieties
  • Lobelia – String of Pearls
  • Tomato – Black Russian from Seed Parade
  • Cucumber – Beth Alpha
  • Broad beans – I’ll be sowing straight into the ground outside and planting out the ones I started off in December

The important thing to remember about planting out is that the ground must not be frozen or waterlogged. Don’t do any pruning or planting out just before a period of very cold weather – check the weather forecast for the week ahead first.

The most comprehensive guide I’ve seen this month is on Woolly Green. There’s a video on pruning wisteria if you’ve not done that already and some advice about lawns. I know that some bloggers pruned their wisteria before Christmas. Not Just Green Fingers also has a great guide for the kitchen gardener.

Talking of bloggers, Sue from Green Lane Allotments has listed what she’s sown so far and also done a great post about her new seed delivery. Jo from the Good Life has sown her pepper seeds and onion seeds. My complete seed list for the year is here

Please feel free to add your own February tips and advice. What will you be doing this month?

Ideas and inspiration from garden visits

harlow_carr_alpine_greenhouse_viewWhen I renewed my RHS membership last year I made a vow to visit Harlow Carr at least once a month. This isn’t just so I can have a nice wander and a treat from Betty’s but it means that I can pay far more attention to what they’re doing each month and come away with some good ideas.

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I find Harlow Carr really inspirational and contrary to popular belief I do feel you can get ideas to take back to your own gardens and veggie patches. For example, their alpine greenhouse has always inspired me to keep my own little alpine area and get more involved with alpine plants. I also joined the Alpine Garden Society last year as a result of a growing interest that stemmed from Harlow Carr.

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The neatness of their veg planting is something I also aspire to achieving and with my new row markers that I got for Christmas I have no excuse!

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During my visit last weekend I saw them creating new pathways. Marking them out with sticks and laying black anti weed membrane down first. Another really neat job but definitely something anyone could do. They’ll no doubt weave willow between the sticks to create nice borders.

harlow_carr_kale_january

It also gives me yet another opportunity to plug the wonder plant Kale, still looking pristine even though 2 days earlier we had the biggest snow dump of the month. Their planters of pak choi, which I first saw in November, have lasted perfectly. I’d have never thought about growing pak choi if I hadn’t seen theirs.

harlow_carr_pak_choi

I was delighted to see their pots of garlic in cold frames. Last year I struggled to get my garlic planted due to water-logging so to solve the problem I planted some in pots as a bit of an experiment, but I see they’ve done the exact same thing!

harlow_carr_garlic_planters_2

It’s great seeing how they work and I think visiting gardens, big or small, professional or amateur is a must for any keen or budding gardener. If they can do it, so can you!

harlow_carr_strawberryOk, so I don’t know how they have a strawberry in January?

Have you ever tried doing new things as a result of a garden visit? Have you got any good tips that you picked up from a garden visit?

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