Showing posts with label Spring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spring. Show all posts

19 Apr 2020

Spring progress ... but not as we know it

Mid-April, even in the southern counties of the UK, can be cold, wet and windy. This year though, there have been some joyously warm days when spring has overlapped with summer and brought vibrant colour to the garden.

There’s nothing like a few days of warm sunshine to bring everything out in the garden - me, the flowers, germinating veg seeds and, of course, more seed sowing! A little garden update is due ...


Deep pink cyclamen lit up by evening light in the garden
Gosh.
Evening light, setting sun and ... pink.  I may have stopped breathing for a moment.

Let’s start with some colour.

19 Feb 2020

Springing up in the veg patch



There hasn't been a lot to crow about in the winter veg patch but with the sun shining this morning, I found myself muttering 'This is a lovely day' (despite a 'fresh breeze' as the Met Office like to call it).  A little bit of sunshine makes everything look more promising. Making my way towards home, I diverted my steps for a quick look at the veg garden; every day makes a difference especially after the two recent storms. Plants were noticeably doing their planty growing thing and, with a spring in my step, I resolved to spend an hour in the garden before lunch.

Somewhere between the veg patch and home (only a few minutes walk), I switched to thinking about doing a bit more work on the hedge in the car park garden. (I really must think up another name for that space, Car Park Garden doesn't quite do it justice.) The Euonymus hedge needs some very severe restorative pruning to encourage it to bush up from the base and I need to tidy up the space to see if there's room for a mini greenhouse.

What started as a sunny but breezy moment of pruning soon turned into a battle against a gale force wind. And then it rained. Time for lunch, I told myself, and packed my tools away. I had managed a couple of hours but, admitting defeat for the day, I headed back indoors and turned my thoughts back to the veg garden - surely spring can't be far off, if only the weather would make up its mind.  I'm wondering if I should sow some chilli seeds.

Despite the changeable weather, the UK winter has been kind to us namby-pamby Southerners. On my earlier walk round the veg patch I'd snapped a few photos:


I was surprised to see wild garlic already well under way ...  Wild garlic has such a reputation for spreading that some might think me foolhardy for deliberately growing it. Not to worry, so far it's been remarkably self-restrained and seems happy to occupy just a few feet of soil under the cherry tree. Possibly the lack of regular watering (no nearby hosepipe) makes things inhospitable for new seedlings.


And so to broad beans. A bit of an experiment this as it's the first time I've tried over wintering beans. I set them out next to support sticks last December; tying them in now that they've grown is on the to-do list, although not being secured to stakes might have saved them from being ripped in half during the strong winds of Storms Ciara and Dennis. What I did notice (with not a little excitement) was that flower buds are starting to form on the plants and not a aphid in sight. Hopefully I'm not jinxing things with that last observation.



Kale is one of my winter veg patch staples, a vegetable I add to stir fries, soups, smoothies and, when the mood takes me, an omelette. It keeps going even in the harshest winter and it looks pretty. Even if it's covered with an ugly trellis to keep foxes off.  The Cavolo Nero plant that has kept going for so long has started to form flower buds - these are still edible but this is the second time the plant has run to seed; it has served me well. It feels very fitting that new plants will be raised from last summer's saved seed.

Looking ahead, the weather forecast is looking predictably gloomy (possibility of hail tomorrow!). So any gardening will be in short bursts while I go back to planning my seed sowing calendar indoors.

So let me leave you with this thought - aren't spring flowers just awesome?

Self seeded and so pretty. 

Tulips that I thought I'd dug up last year. Can't remember how many years these have been in.

First forget-me-nots are starting to flower. Some blue, some pink. And in profusion.

Ever reliable cowslips. 
Now I'm thinking I should move some of these to the Car Park Garden

14 Apr 2019

A Sunday stroll around the Veg Patch

A quick blog post from me this chilly but sunny Sunday morning as I have strawberries to plant and a herb garden to sort out.

Huge sage in a pot at the southern end of the veg patch this morning

We've certainly had some weather this week - warm sunshine, chill winds, blue skies, grey skies, rain and even hail, all in the last few days. There may have been thunder at one point. I keep humming that Disney song about April Showers and hoping for another warm summer like last year.

I woke early to a chill, blue-ish sky sort of day and, given recent unpredictable weather, thought I'd start with a stroll around the veg patch with my camera. A lot can happen in a week and I've not spent much time there as I've been planting up the new layout of the other garden I look after, the Car Park Garden, a space that I can actually look out onto.

So what's happened while my eyes were averted? The veg patch is looking lovely having positively burst into blossom. Chive and wild garlic buds are shooting up, peony stems are now about 12 inches high, sweet cicely herb is in flower, and lovage and comfrey are growing with a vengeance. I say vengeance because both really need to be kept in check. 

There was a lot of colour from spring flowers (although the tulips have mostly come up blind this year and the daffs are pretty much finished), a few bees and ladybirds, and a surprise in the form of my first asparagus spears popping their heads up.  It won't be long before I'm enjoying fresh purple spears with a poached egg for breakfast - yum! It seems early for asparagus but it's only a week ahead of last year, when we'd already had a couple of weeks of very warm weather to tempt the spears into action.

Purple broccoli has now finished. I was buzzed by several bees as I dug them up - they'd been enjoying the flowers but I need to clear the space for this year's crops. And I've left a kale plant to flower for them. I'll collect the kale seeds to grow some micro greens later on.



As expected, the Morello cherry trees are now smothered in white blossom, as are the pear and quince trees. Some calm weather to encourage pollinators to linger would be good but with a ground level nectar bar from forget me nots, honeywort, honesty, achillea and erysimum flowers to feed on, would they notice the clouds of blossom above?

I spotted the Honesty (Lunaria annua) seedlings last summer and gave them room to grow.  Lunaria was introduced to the garden a few years ago because I love the papery seed pods at the end of the year and bees love the flowers. And as they're a biennial, the plants flower much earlier than annuals - one way to have a succession of flowers in the garden!

A little bit of Honesty ... 

I'm very behind with seed sowing but now that warmer weather is promised (at least for the next couple of weeks), I'll be opening up the seed box this week and possibly also planting out my overwintered sweet peas.  It's supposed to be 19°C/69°F by next weekend - I don't want to tempt fate but I think I'll leave my sunhat within easy reach.

30 Mar 2019

March in the veg patch garden

White blossom in springtime
Regular as clockwork - blossom on the plum tree. 

Tonight the clocks go forward in the UK, heralding the start of British Summer Time. Tomorrow I'll wake as usual at 7am and change the hands on all the clocks to 8am and feel that the day has stolen a march on me.  It's all very unsettling but, despite my curmudgeonly attitude, at least I'll feel one step closer to summer!

The first quince blossom this year

Now that April is only a day or two away, the garden is really coming alive.  Mostly with flowers, to be fair, but when those flowers are sparkling on the pear and plum trees, you know you can start to get excited. There's even one small blossom bud on the quince tree planted at the northern end of the veg patch; the other quince (a patio variety in a pot) has never flowered and I'll be pleasantly surprised if I see any blooms this year.  I'm not sure why it's never flowered but no flowers means no fruit.  More feeding is needed I guess.

And so to rhubarb. Choosing the best cultivar is key; I've already indulged in some delicious stewed rhubarb a few weeks ago thanks to a friend who grows a large patch of Timperley Early and, serendipitously for me, doesn't like rhubarb!  Regular readers may remember that I got rid of my Glaskins Perpetual clump last year. It was too big and too green - but fantastic if you want stems for most of the year.  I like a nice red stem (a must for fruit fools or stewed fruit) so pinned my hopes on a new Siruparber plant from Lubera in Switzerland as well as the two Red Champagne plants struggling to survive under the apple trees.

Red Champagne rhubarb - and a matching tulip

In the past few weeks I'd convinced myself that the Siruparber was a goner as there was nothing to indicate where it had been last year, but this week I've spotted a couple of tiny leaves poking up and quickly put a wire basket over the top for protection against fox cubs.  The Champagne plants have produced a towering flower stem in the past, (not a good thing for rhubarb), clearly demonstrating that they are Not Happy.  And this is where you learn by doing - I'd read that rhubarb could be grown in light shade ... or apparently not in this case. I have two Champagne crowns so one will be carefully dug up and moved into the light - or as much as it can get with a four storey block of flats in close proximity on either side of the veg patch. (The patch gets around 6 hours of sun on a good day, which is fine for most veg and annuals.)


Spring flowers - Honeywort, Bleeding Heart plant, Starflower
Cerinthe / Honeywort
Lamprocapnos / Bleeding Heart
Borage / Starflower

I do think colour is so lush in spring - I have primulas, cowslips, daffodils, forget-me-nots, tulips and muscari (grape hyacinths) to keep bees happy. I've only seen a couple so far but they'll buzz over once they know the nectar bar is open. This year self-seeded Cerinthe (honeywort) and Borage are blooming under the fruit trees - perfectly placed for pollinators - and one or two calendula plants have over-wintered. I don't even mind that the purple sprouting broccoli has finished and started to flower.  It's possibly the prettiest time in the veg patch and all part of the circle of life.

Last year's tulips return. Did I put those colours together?



4 Mar 2019

Come into the garden! Spring thoughts about an urban veg patch

Hello again, I'm back. Did you miss me? Well I've only been outside in the garden. I've had a winter break from blogging to sort out both the veg patch and the second garden under my window - and read, amongst other things. It was a wonderfully relaxing time but now, with the weather getting warmer, it's time to get back to business.

Early purple sprouting broccoli shoots

Coming up in future posts are new products seen at last week's Garden Press Event (it was a good one!), my thoughts on how and why to spark joy in your garden, what to grow in containers, and a couple of book reviews. Busy, busy.

But, to welcome readers back into this space, let's see what's been happening here.  Spring is definitely underway, even if temperatures plummet to a March norm from now on (lashing rain and cold winds as I write); in the garden rhubarb stalks are appearing, purple sprouting broccoli is regularly on the menu, first pickings of chives and wild garlic are almost ready, quince major has its first spring leaves, rosemary is blooming, and flowerbeds are filled with colour from the usual spring fare of crocuses, hellebores, daffodils, primroses, violets, and honeywort. Okay, maybe that last one isn't usual but it shows how mild our winter has been.

You'd think that February's warm sunshine would have prompted some early sowing but, no, not for me. I read Allan Jenkins' book 'Plot 29, A Memoir' over Christmas; he sows all seeds direct into well mulched soil and believes that his plants are stronger for it (unless slugs get them first). That's how the first seeds were sown in the early Veg Patch years, and it's how I'm gardening this year, at the appropriate time, leaving my windowsills clear for tomato seedlings and micro leaves.

What will be growing in the balcony garden this year?

  • Bush tomatoes and chillies
  • Salad leaves 
  • Herbs - curly and flat leaf parsley, coriander, mint, chives, maybe some thyme
  • Spring onions (scallions)
  • Scented pelargoniums
Bush tomatoes container grown
~ Last summer, on the balcony ~

I'm lucky to have the use of a larger growing space as well as my balcony but, even though my balcony is tiny, I still make the most of that small space. I love that certain plants are to hand - tomatoes, salad leaves, herbs - so, as usual, I'll continue to grow as much of those as I can fit onto the balcony in planters and pots.  

Balcony growing is not without it's challenges; my balcony is closed off on the south side so is shaded in the morning and very windy but I've found that parsley, chives and mint all do well. Cross winds can damage plants and wick moisture away from the soil so regular watering and feeding is important; last summer I watered every day, sometimes twice a day, (but always checking first to see what was needed) and was reminded to feed the plants with the hashtag #feedonfriday. 

But the absolute best thing last year was having several cherry tomato plants in pots on my balcony to pick at from July through to December. Seeds were sown later than usual in April, due to an extreme winter, and I also bought a couple of small plants from the garden centre (just to make sure I didn't go without!). It worked so well that I'm going to do the same this year.

What will be growing in the veg garden this year?

  • Sweet corn and squash
  • Asparagus and spinach (possibly Malabar, a climbing spinach-like alternative)
  • Carrots and garlic
  • French climbing beans and leeks
  • Courgette and kales
  • Broad beans, PSB and Brussels sprouts
  • Strawberries, raspberries
  • Redcurrants and sweet red gooseberries
  • Sweet Peas
  • ... and there will be flowers!

Growing wild garlic in the garden
~ Wild Garlic at the end of February this year ~

All those seed catalogues are so tempting, aren't they? The descriptions conjure up visions of such deliciousness and beauty that my seed list can double after dipping into their pages. So far I've resisted the seed catalogues, preferring to think first about growing what I really enjoy - and only then dipping in to see which varieties I need to replace after checking my seed box.

I've made a list of the veg that makes home grown worthwhile for me: sweetcorn and asparagus that are at their finest freshly picked, carrots because they're fun, rocket because I never need a whole bagful, ditto spinach, garlic because last year's harvest has seen me through the winter, purple sprouting broccoli because seeing those purple sprouts make me happy that winter is nearly over, French beans and one courgette because I didn't grow any last year, tomatoes and chillies - the essence of summer! - and kale, the workhorse of the veg garden.  And perhaps some bulb fennel if there's space.

Having sorted that out, I found that I already had most of the seeds I need without any unnecessary additional spending, although I'm going to replace all of the strawberry plants this year as the old plants were unreliable and tasteless. I've read that renowned chef Raymond Blanc recommends Marshmello strawberries for flavour so I've put an order in to Marshall's who supply both bare root and plug plants.

Being sensible and seasonal!

Instagram is currently awash with images of seedlings growing fast on windowsills and greenhouse shelves, especially during the last few weeks of unseasonably warm sunshine. I can totally relate to the urge to start sowing seeds at the very first sign of warmer weather but would advise caution!  

The weather from February through to the end of April can be very unreliable, warm one day and snowing the next (I jest not), so early sowing is a gamble. Seedlings grow weak and leggy without good light and, if planted out too soon, may just become slug fodder. Better to have strong plants that have a greater chance of survival. Plus, it's not a race - do what feels right for your growing environment.

My post tomorrow is about what you can and should be doing in March. Tune in?

19 Apr 2018

New for 2018: The Ascot Spring Garden Show



I nearly didn't go. The weather has been so poor recently that I found myself questioning the sanity of anyone staging a garden show in mid April. At the eleventh hour though, my own sanity prevailed and I contacted the organisers for a pass which they produced with lightning speed.

10 Mar 2018

A Winter's Tail

UrbanVegPatch: Crocus in snow, spring flowers
~ What a difference a week makes! ~

Dare I say that I'm moving on from winter?  Too soon? I hope not.  This time last week the garden was still under a couple of inches of snow and the wind froze water into long icicles on street signs. For London, that's very unusual - the last settled snow was in 2012.  I didn't dare hope that open flowers or tender leaf buds on fruit trees would survive the big freeze but it seems that a week of winter followed by a few days of mild sunshine has kickstarted the garden into spring.

So far I've identified only one casualty and that's a 3 year old pineapple sage. Being a half-hardy perennial, it really doesn't like temperatures to drop below 10ÂșC and, growing quite large, had been planted into the washing line/drought garden borders, ie, out in the open. Having now defrosted, it's now looking rather, well, dead. I'll probably need to replace it but will try pruning it to see if that promotes any new growth. Both my aromatic sages (Blackcurrant and pineapple) were bought as small plants in 9cm pots and quickly grew to several feet in size so I'm not feeling the loss too much.

Bizarrely, the blackcurrant sage not far away in a corner of the veg patch seems to have survived, possibly because it has a low wall on two sides. At the northern end of the veg patch, tender scented pelargoniums will need to be pruned back but are also showing new growth in the shelter of the low wall.  Such a small thing but it makes a big difference.  Urban gardens and small spaces can often provide just enough warmth and shelter for less hardy plants to survive, even without a greenhouse.

UrbanVegPatch Kerria japonica flower buds in March
~ Kerria japonica, reliably early with buds of pompom flowers ~
In the new garden where many of the plants are still in pots, I grouped the pots together in the shelter of a hedge to maximise chances of survival. It seems to have worked as my Mum's agapanthus have perked up along with herbs such as lemon balm, mint and celery leaf. Bay, of course, is reliably tough but even the quince-in-a-pot has got tiny buds about to unfurl. Tiny details but I can't help it, I still find it so exciting when the garden wakes up in spring!

~ Lemon Balm in the sheltered garden, not in leaf yet in the veg patch ~ 

During the past week it's been lovely to see that hellebores, crocuses and daffodils have bounced back and I'm amazed at the speed that other plants have shown themselves. Wild garlic leaves are now about 3 inches tall (not long before they'll be added to pesto), broad bean seedlings have peeked above the soil and sweet pea seedlings, not there yesterday, are suddenly an inch tall.  When did that happen!?

It looks as though with just over a week to the spring equinox, winter might finally be moving on after one last lash of its icy tail. Perfect timing to start sowing some brassicas. What's everyone else up to in the garden this week?

Wild garlic, aka Ransoms or Allium ursinum (Bear Garlic)


6 May 2017

April in the Veg Patch - End of Month




May already!  It's a time I subconsciously look forward to every year.  In my head it symbolises the turning of a corner weather wise, putting a first foot on the path to summer's lush colourful gardens and prodigious (or not) amounts of home grown food. It should be the start of being able to plant out. Did I mention that I was an optimist?

Back in the real world, the weather has been very disappointing this past week. I've unpacked my winter coat and pressed it into service. And my gloves. If I used an umbrella, that would have seen action this week too. I'm not complaining about the rain (after a dry spell, rainfall always makes me feel like dancing about) but I'd like the sort that's followed by sunshine (and rainbows, please).

I've remained resolute in the face of warm weather earlier in the month and sown seeds indoors only. No rushing around flinging protective fleece over plants for me. I'm trusting that plants catch up and have therefore only sown inside. (Broad beans being the exception as they're made of sterner stuff.)

Windowsills are now filling up with seedlings - I get almost giddy with excitement at seeing seeds germinate and check on my little babies daily. A few of the seedlings are almost ready to pot on before being planted out mid to end of May and I've started a cut and come again salad bar which will live on my balcony for ease of access. (There will be bigger salad leaves in the garden.) I'll be doing Facebook updates on the salad bar as I fully intend to embrace the Veg Plotting 52 week salad challenge this year. The original salad challenge took place in 2012 but I eat a lot of salad so I want to try and keep it going throughout the year and will be looking to Veg Plotting for guidance.



The veg patch garden is looking pretty lush with all the perennials that were transplanted last year.  I had meant to have a cut flower patch but that space was quickly taken up with several pollinator friendly perennial or biennial plants that I moved. A year on and I'm having second thoughts. As pretty as Centaurea montana is, I'd rather have swathes of California poppies ... and I'll have room in the middle garden for the Centaurea. It's essential to keep a few bee-friendly plants in the veg garden so I need to find a balance between annuals and evergreen perennials.  I'll park that thought until the autumn as both the bees and I are enjoying the colour fest of Cerinthe, Erysimum Bowles' Mauve, alliums and Honesty. Foxgloves will soon be flowering and achilleas, antirrhinums and geums are also already in flower.

On the veg front, kale, chard, wild rocket and purple sprouting are still providing supper ingredients; I've also shared a total of eight asparagus spears (with 3 more being cut tomorrow for a tart). I don't think they're entirely happy where they are as I expected to have more spears than that! I suspect regular watering is fairly crucial. Hopefully by next month I can add broad beans, peas and yellow podded mange tout to the list as I've been nurturing some very healthy plants on my balcony.


What I'm most excited about this month though is the appearance of fruitlets on the pear trees!  It won't be a huge amount (no surprises there, then) but I counted at least 12 pears just standing in one spot.  I'm not sure that the plum trees will rise to the challenge but soft fruit is looking very promising. The gooseberry bush is teeming with fruit (first time on a 4 year old bush!!) and the strawberries are covered in flowers so hopefully there'll be a happy tale to tell there in a few weeks. Blossom on strawberry plants is a good indication that it's time to mulch around the plants. I'm going to try Strulch this year; I'm told it's a mineralised straw mulch with a texture that helps to deter slugs and snails. Might be good around beans and other veg too.  It's not available everywhere but luckily there's a garden centre, fairly local to me, that stocks it.

This is such a busy time but I absolutely love seeing it all coming together and throwing off the winter drabness - it seems that the garden knows we're heading towards summer even if the weather can't make up its mind.

Apologies if I've got behind in reading other blogs - 
I often read but am too tired to comment! I hope to have a big catch up this weekend.



19 Apr 2017

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Perennial tulips

There's a corner of the veg patch garden where, in late 2013, I planted tulips that I'd bought during a visit to Sarah Raven's Perch Hill Farm.  Her shop is unbelievably tempting so I was very restrained in coming away with just two bags of bulbs.  One set didn't do at all well but these, her 'Apricot Beauty' set have come back and flowered every year since - now in their fourth year of flowering.  That's very good value.

The Exotic Emperor's are aptly named - they open in the form that we'd expect from a tulip but, as the flowers age the petals widen fully to resemble Chinese water lilies. It's quite spectacular and they seem to last for a good month.  The other two varieties in the set let the Emperor have his day then Apricot Beauty opens to support the now open-petalled show before Spring Green thrusts up to counterpoint the final lily-like days of the Emperor.  It's a great display, subtle but showstopping. The Emperor still rules but there are a few less of the other two.  Reinforcements will be acquired this autumn. I'll put it in my garden diary now in case that thought slips away over the summer.




Top to bottom:  Spring Green, Apricot Beauty, Exotic Emperor

6 Apr 2017

Thoughts on a sunny day

For a week forecast to be cloudy but mild, it's turning out rather splendidly.  I've seen bright warm sunshine every day. I was so enjoying the garden yesterday, looking at some of the amazing colour juxtapositions and  making the most of a dry and bright day to get some more gardening done,  that I ran out of time to post these Almost Wordless Wednesday photos. These are just iphone pics, snapped while wandering in the sunshine but I hope they give a flavour of what I enjoyed. I'm loving this spring weather - the perfect climate for me, not too hot!


So worth going out in the cold to plant bulbs in November - although these are the cheap ones planted three years ago and now coming back for their fourth showing. Bargain!


Drought border - so dubbed because the hose won't reach that far.
Lavender is coming back so strongly next to the Erysimum Bowles' Mauve that it's squeezing out a bronze Carex in between the two. Iris 'Edith Wolford' at the back gets a nice baking heat on its rhizomes, Cerinthe (left of pic) self seeded for which I'm always grateful, Euphorbia behind the Cordyline australis (trunk seen) will be interspersed with grasses when they reshoot and there's a curry plant and Stachys byzantina to echo the silvery leaves of the Erysimum just out of shot.  And I found my nemesis, the Rosemary Beetle, sunbathing on the Perovskia (behind the lavender)! 


Nice calm Anemone blanda and Galium odoratum in the shady border.


Mmmm, zingy!
Schiaparelli pink Pineapple sage flowers against euphorbia in the 'washing line' drought border.


Can anyone shed light on what this is? It's a cuckoo in the nest of my Sambucus nigra pot. Looks quite interesting though!


And, of course, frothy blossom everywhere! Cherry blossom (left), apple blossom (right)

How's the week shaping up in your spring garden?


2 Apr 2017

Ransoms, rhubarb + rosemary beetles - My March Garden



The garden has really come alive in the past few weeks so this End of Month look-back makes for a really useful record for future years. March is the first month of spring in the gardening calendar but I don't remember seeing spring unfurl quite this quickly before. By mid-March, February's hellebores, snowdrops and crocuses had given way to primroses and daffodils. The little violets that I look forward to each year have been and gone but primulas, muscari, wood anemones and forget-me-nots have opened in their place. I breathed a sigh of relief that winter was over and spring beginning with all the anticipation for getting the garden started again.

~ Some of the tulips in the spring border ... All from a £5 supermarket bag
except, top left, 'Exotic Emperor' from Sarah Raven ~


But that rapid turnover wasn't the end of it. By 20th March, I was posting photos of open tulips on my Instagram feed. The crocuses in the sieve planter had been replaced by bright red dwarf tulips, the borders were brightened by purple wallflowers, honesty, cerinthe, cowslips, primulas and lungwort (a name that does no justice to pretty Pulmonaria) - even the pear tree had buds about to blossom.

Main pic pear blossom
Right row from top: blueberries, honeyberries, strawberries
Bottom row from left: quince, gooseberries, apple, plum

In the last week of March tulips were in full swing, beautiful white daffodils had bloomed and died (so quick!), petal confetti from fruit tree blossom covered the garden and regular pickings could be taken from rhubarb stems and purple sprouting broccoli.  (As well as overwintered kale and chard.)



The weather of course has been all over the place which explains the early arrival of so many flowers. Temperatures up and down like yoyos, clear blue skies tempting us outside into bitingly cold winds only to be followed by mild cloudy days. We've even had a couple of days when it felt hot like early summer. No wonder spring is rushing by! Hopefully April will be a steadying influence on the garden - I've already had to get the hosepipe out for the plants in the middle garden waiting to go into the soil. I'm also on a daily watch for rosemary beetle - there have been nibblings on my lavender (I can't grow rosemary here anymore thanks to these brutes) and I must have squished 30+ beetles in the past few weeks, with bonus points for the ones getting busy with the baby making.




I was curious to see whether spring was this early last year and checked back on photos.  The first tulip opened on the 2nd April but it took until the 11th before the display had any impact. A similar story is repeated throughout the garden - asparagus shoots, ransom buds, cherry and apple blossom are all a good two weeks ahead of last year as is the rhubarb (first pickings were on 16th April last year).

Spring has definitely come a good two to three weeks early here in the South of England. Mild winter? Climate change? All I know is that four years ago settling snow fell in the run up to a bloggers meet up at Great Dixter on the 28th March. I remember it clearly because the meet up was two days after my birthday and it was my first visit to Dixter. I was desperate to go and, serendipitously, the snow melted away on the day.  This year, I'd have driven down to Sussex in warm sunshine. It will be very interesting to see what effect this has on the garden in weeks to come. Let's hope that it doesn't mean we'll get autumn in July!

Linking to 
Helen's End of Month View for March at the Patient Gardener
and to Sarah's Through the Garden Gate at Down by the Sea

and looking forward to reading how everyone else's plots and gardens are faring.




15 Mar 2017

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Spring looks Pretty in Pink

~ Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
Never mind yellow - Spring is also full of pink.
Although I'm not sure that tulip should be in bud in mid-March.

21 Feb 2017

On with the plot

~ Rosemary flowering at the allotment ~


I couldn't resist a quick visit to the allotment this morning.  The sun was shining, the air was warm and having cleared the veg patch yesterday afternoon, I couldn't wait to see what was happening up at the plots.  Having not been up for a while, I half expected to see a fair bit of chickweed and couch grass.

5 Jun 2016

Bumble and Pod

Garden gathered
Not much, but at least there were flowers!
Supper of mint tabbouleh, steamed asparagus, salad + chive flowers, yoghurt and rhubarb compote. 


I've been struck by the 'hungry gap'.  I had this covered last year with plenty of kale, broccoli and chard to pick but this year I have failed abysmally. Blame has to lie somewhere so, yes, I am going to point my finger at the weather.  The mild winter encouraged my broccoli and kale to bolt in January, leaving me with nothing. Still, the bees enjoyed the early nectar-fest from the yellow flowers. The plants have now all been ripped out and composted leaving beds ready for the next crop.

But that same mild winter meant that broad beans sown in early February grew well in modules on my balcony. Although they were slightly sheltered from the cold wind, it was a chancy experiment as Karmazyn beans are not as winter hardy as, say, 'The Sutton' or 'Aquadulce', beans that are bred to be sown in November.  My beans were planted out in mid-April and have been flowering for the past few weeks - some of them already have small two inch pods among the flowers and the bumbles are all over them.  (This is unusual for me but perhaps less so for other gardeners; I've checked my notebooks and see that I usually sow later in mid-April.)



I've been checking on them regularly, not for pods but for the dreaded black aphids.  And this is where (finally) it gets interesting. I have squished a tiny amount of aphids on a couple of the plants but (dare I put this in writing?) they're otherwise aphid free. (For now.) This is excellent news as I haven't yet pinched off the top leaves of my plants which are insanely delicious steamed and served with a knob of melting butter and a grind of pepper.  The meal appeal dwindles if you have to wash a large colony of black insects off first.

Bizarrely, just across the path in my herb bed, less than a metre distant, the angelica is clogged with black aphids as is a nearby feverfew plant. Has anyone else experienced this selective colonisation or are your beans under attack?  Or is this one of the benefits of planting earlier?  If that's true, then early sowing is an experiment worth repeating.

Disgusting, right?  I'll spare you the extra large view of these photos. 

One difference that I've noticed is that my beans are radically shorter than in previous years when I've sown direct into the ground in mid-to-late April.  Karmazyn bean plants last year were a good metre plus tall by the time they podded, even after having their top growth removed.  This year, the plants are about 60cm (24 inches).  I've sown another few rows of beans as I was sent some Red Epicure beans by Marshalls to trial plus I had some crimson flowered beans leftover in my seed box. Let's see what will happen with those ... I'm guessing I won't be so lucky next time.

Oh, hey - the sun has come out since I've been typing!  Looks like it's going to be a fine day (at last!) so I'm nipping off to the garden to make the most of it.  Happy gardening Sunday!



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