Tag Archives: growing

Welcome to the jungle – the garden has taken off!

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Since my last post from the garden in late June/early July things have developed drastically! While I’ve been away on holiday the plants have grown, or should I say over-grown in the remarkable British weather!

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Adam was a little worried that the sprinkler system he set up would not work…but it did.

We returned to an abundance of foliage, crops and what I can only describe as a jungle in the pumpkin patch!

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We have lots of crops to harvest and a great big yellow courgette! The first of many.

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The higgledy-piggledy wildlife border is a bit of a mess now the foxgloves have died off. Looking forward to the teasel and echinops coming out though and the persicaria is still looking good.

I’ve got some late summer planting ideas for this border and can’t wait to get started.

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Unfortunately we didn’t have a sprinkler system for the front garden but we took all the containers, including window boxes up the road to the allotment so they would be watered. My pots of dahlias have come out while we were away and look great.

Out front the clematis has suffered, so has the rose and the rosemary plant actually died. Wow it must have been hot!

The day lilies are amazing though and have really spread since last year so they’re providing some lovely colour.

Day-lilies

I’m full of inspiration from our holiday in Provence and decided to take the opportunity to have a bit of an overhaul at the front anyway for my late summer display, by moving some containers around and buying some new plants – there’s nothing like a bit of retail therapy!

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How are your gardens doing? Do you have a good harvest this year? Do you have any tips for keeping your gardens in shape while you’re away on holiday?

 

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?

Forced Hyacinths – an accidental surprise

blanched_hyacinthsUntil today I had no idea that you could ‘force’ hyacinths. I know all about forcing rhubarb since I live in close proximity to the ‘Rhubarb Triangle‘ in Yorkshire, but hyacinths?

Yesterday Adam ventured into the cellar and returned with two pots of them, looking anemic and almost plastic like. What a spectacle! They were much paler yesterday than this photo above and looked totally bizarre and alien but a lack of time and battery power meant I couldn’t photograph them in all their weirdness. They’re looking a lot greener now and apparently in just a few days of being in a cool but light spot in the house they should start producing more flower buds.

It was only when I started to think about this oddity that I discovered that forcing hyacinths is actually a real practice. Keeping them in the dark to bring them on early is apparently wide known. Adam said he’d put them in the cellar for this very reason but forgot all about them and was meant to retrieve them when the tips started to show. It would seem that I’ve been in the dark about this as much as the bulbs have.

second_lot_of_vases_out_of_the_cellar_5-12-2011_thImage from http://www.hyacinthvases.org.uk/

I found a whole blog dedicated to this practice and looking at their amazing collection of antique vessels I can see why someone would want to create a display of these bulbs as soon as they could. I’ve also found tons of information online about forcing all sorts of bulbs. Here’s Monty with his little yellow trug – apparently the episode that inspired Adam to stash the bulbs in the first place. There’s even loads of people on Pinterest who are keen on collecting the lovely glass vases as well as growing the hyacinths. I’ve quickly become obsessed and even created my own board.

I love interesting plant containers and planted some bulbs in teapots a few months back. I really think these hyacinths look cool in the colourful vases. I’m inspired to create my own collection. My only problem is space! I sometimes feel like plants are taking over my life!

Have you started growing hyacinths in the dark before? Do you have any ideas about interesting ways to display bulbs?

The Allotment in December – what’s happenin?

frozen_allotmentIt’s a bit grim up north

Last week we had freezing rain and a day that never seemed to get light, 9am seemed more like midnight, it was dreary. During this spell I visited the allotment before work to check that I’d properly fleeced everything in the greenhouse.

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It was foggy on the plot and as I looked around all I saw was mess and all the jobs that need doing. I also saw that the frost was killing off my flowers, which have been very confused until now. I love frosty mornings but I must admit that morning was quite grim!
allotment_december_thawedIt’s still a bit grim up north

Only a few days later and the big freeze has gone! Today was much milder and it seems strange to think that we’re only a week away from Christmas. I wanted to take these photos of the allotment so I can start recording it through the months ahead. So much of it is really untidy and I have a lot of general chores to do. To be perfectly honest, I could be growing more but I prefer to grow just enough and then clear out the veg beds over winter and concentrate on bulbs and planning for the following year. Today I noticed a lot of rotting vegetables in the other plots and I’m glad I’m not in that position. However, I really do wish that I’d grown kale and I wish I still had leeks and broccoli left but I’ve eaten it, leaving me with only three sprout plants, just enough for Christmas dinner!

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Rather embarrassingly untidy plot

my_sproutsThese are up next for the chop

I aim to start January with a bang and aside from sowing leeks for the giant leek competition I’ve got involved in, I will also start sowing peppers. The best peppers I had this year were ones that fellow allotmenteer Michaela gave me. I know she starts sowing them early at home and I think that’s why she is such a rock star at growing veg. She doesn’t wait until the spring, she gets a good head start. I’ll definitely have my leeks in a heated propagator to get them going for the competition. If you have any tips for growing ‘mammoths’ I would be most grateful. I usually grow them close together to keep them small so this is going to be a real challenge!

What do you do this time of year and what are your thoughts on starting off seeds at home before the spring?

Reasons to love Yorkshire – RHS Harlow Carr

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It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit RHS Harlow Carr – it’s always inspiring.

We took Adam’s parents for a stroll around on Saturday, it was their first visit and despite it being December 1st the gardens still looked amazing.

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It’s hard to choose a favourite part of Harlow Carr but the areas that inspire me the most are the ultra neat and well thought out vegetable plots, with their recycled plastic raised beds, willow edging and perfectly planted rows. How do they do that?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8174HarlowCarr_IMG_8172HarlowCarr_IMG_8161HarlowCarr_IMG_8158HarlowCarr_IMG_8156HarlowCarr_IMG_8165Adam’s Mum – Tina

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The alpine greenhouse is fascinating with an array of delicate plants in sunken pots inside and interesting troughs dotted around the outside. I always spend hours in the alpine zone and it sparked an idea to do an alpine advent on Instagram where I’ll be posting a different alpine each day.

A nice surprise was finding a new greenhouse. Check out the cool chilli and tiny apple decorations inside! The ideas coming out of this place are just endless.

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I highly recommend a visit to Harlow Carr. I just think these guys really know what they’re doing and I come away with new ideas and good intentions of planting my vegetables in perfect rows each time…but for some reason I just can’t quite get the look?!

Have you been to Harlow Carr or any of the other RHS gardens?

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Talk about matching greenhouse, cold frame, container and water butt envy!

Fancy a Pot of Spring Bulbs?

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I was over the moon when I started my new gardening blog because Spalding Plant & Bulb Co. accepted me into their bloggers club.

As a welcome gift Spalding sent me 100 spring bulbs. They recently arrived and strangely enough I’m feeling rather guilty at accepting them? It seems I much prefer to share the love and give things away in the hope that budding gardeners or keen readers will benefit, after all gardening is my passion and I just love it when others find enjoyment in it too. Anyway, it got me thinking about what to do. Should I just give these bulbs away? But I’m already giving away some seeds. Then a flash of inspiration from Pinterest and suddenly I’m thinking about teapots and Christmas presents! Yes, there’s the answer. A teapot or other unusual vessels and nice pots will be given to family and friends as Christmas presents pre-planted with Spalding spring bulbs! After a shopping therapy trip to Leeds I returned with a selection of interesting items including a classic Wedgwood milk jug. All guilty feelings have now gone.

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Then a few days ago I received another email from Spalding asking me to take part in their challenge to pick 5 of their bulbs that I think would make a lovely Spring patio tub display. On further inspection of the fabulous bulbs they sent me, they seem like the perfect bulbs already.

My 100 bulbs consist of:
Mixed Iris, Mixed Darwin Hybrid Tulips, Grape Hyacinths – my absolute favourite bulbs of all time and one of the first I ever grew in my little garden 10 years ago, Tete-a-Tete Daffodils (which must have sold out on Spalding but they have a wide selection of very interesting Daffodil varieties left), Mixed Anemones and Mixed Alliums – again, these must have gone but check this out for an unusual Allium!

So this is how I’ve planted them up – the little Wedgwood jug and the Greek teapot simply contain the Anemones and the terracotta teapot is planted up with the Tete-a-Tete and the Mixed Iris.pot5

Thinking specifically about the patio tub, I have omitted the Anemone’s and used the remaining 5 varieties from my 100 spring bulbs pack. Now this is somewhat of a challenge because these bulbs won’t all come up and flower at the same time. Either a problem, or an opportunity. I see this as the latter, a way to keep a container of bulbs in bloom for longer. So I planted two large terracotta containers with Grape Hyacinth round the edges interspersed with Tete-a-Tete but with those flowing in towards the middle and the Iris, which will throw up greenery but flower later, then the Alliums and Tulips as the primadonna flowers in the middle. Now I predict that the Tete-a-Tete will come up first with a flash of greenery, if I look after them and keep them partly shaded then before they fade the Grape Hyacinth should follow suit along with the Tulips. If I’d planted the Grape Hyacinths earlier though these would be up now because they’re already confused and coming up in my garden. The Iris and Alliums will be the last to flower. I think the combination of colours will look great and I think my pots will last me right up until the end of July. What do you guys think?

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I really enjoy planting bulbs as you will know if you read my recent night planting post. So, thank you Spalding for the lovely gift. All the bulbs are absolute beauties and I can’t wait to see them flower. I just need some ribbons now and to choose who I will give them to….although now I’ve planted them I’ve got rather fond of the pots and think they would look great in my garden. Hmm? Can I keep them? ;)

Nightlife in the garden – a new definition


Like so many of my fellow garden enthusiasts with full time jobs I struggle to find time to do all my winter gardening with the dark nights and weekends often filled with chores, days out or hangovers.

Despite it being winter there’s still a lot of gardening to do, in fact there is always something to do in the garden at any time of the year.

A few weeks ago Adam wanted to plant up our window boxes and he did this around 6pm in the evening with a headtorch on. Inspired by his creativity and a burning desire to get more and more of my bulbs planted we planned a night out at the greenhouse!

Armed with a thermos flask full of hot chocolate & Baileys, thermals, candles, torches and our portable digital radio, we boogied on down with the bulbs.

The moon was near full and lit up the garden as much as our torches and we managed to get a lot done! We planted loads of bulb tubs and decided to store them in the greenhouse for a while because of the pesky resident squirrel who likes to chew on them.

I tend to plant bigger bulbs in layers in big tubs. Adam opts for the ‘cramming them all in together method’. I’m looking forward to seeing them come up.

I also planted a row of alliums in my front raised bed, spread out a load of new bark chippings which have been in a pile for a couple of weeks, picked the last of my broccoli, took my pelargoniums into the greenhouse and fleeced them up, had a general potter and more importantly a really good time! The weather was quite mild considering and the hot chocolate/Baileys combo definitely warmed us up.

Adam rocked out his new special compost mix – comprising 3 year old leaf mulch and soil that he scavenged from moles!


I have to say that I will definitely be doing this again, not just out of necessity but because I really enjoyed it! I’m thinking of new ideas for lighting because that was the only minor problem we encountered. Any suggestions are welcome!

Move over Thailand, the new Full Moon Party is happening in the garden!

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