Are we nearly there yet?
‘Depending upon which definition you use, there are actually two different dates that the mark the first day of spring.’
1 March 2018 is the first day of the meteorological spring
20 March 2018 is the first day of the astronomical spring
The skies are still mostly grey and dismal, the temperature outside is still cold but spring is officially here!
However, it’s a joy to see my garden and allotment begin to wake up after winter. The spring bulbs and fruit trees are blossoming…that ‘Spring glow’ is everywhere.
The daffodils are looking stunning!
The willow is sprouting nicely.
The rhubarb has already contributed to a delicious apple and rhubarb crumble.
The perennial Kale tastes delicious and continues to add a ‘punch’ to dinner.
The broad beans and garlic are growing nicely too!
Spring is the busiest time on the allotment and in the garden, so I’m trying my best, despite the weather, to get on with the jobs but I’m still behind in my planting!
The potatoes are still chitting, a second batch of broad beans have just sprouted along with a sowing of ‘Moonlight’ runner beans.
I’ve managed to plant three ‘Gardeners Delight’ tomato plants in the new greenhouse raised bed. Fingers crossed they’ll be ok – no luxury heating in my greenhouse
Tomato plants are looking strong…doing my bit for recycling too by using old labels found in my seed box!
Some of my favourites in the garden at the moment are Honeyberry flowers, Cowslips, Hidcote Pink comfrey, Night Scented Phlox, Anacylus and the gorgeous blue Lithodora (Heavenly Blue)
Hopefully you’re enjoying the ‘spring glow’ and managing to potter on with the planting, despite the gloomy skies 🙂
Over the last 3 years I’ve taken on and worked 3 allotment plots.
- Plot 1 – January 2015
- Plot 2 – May 2015
- Plot 3 – June 2016
All three were in a shocking state of neglect. The photograph below shows the current state of the last plot acquired. The plot is approximately the size of half a tennis court. It was divided into beds by the previous owner but was never really planted or worked. To be honest, I took on plot 5b because the weeds were impacting on my plots but I also fancied a bigger shed to shelter from rain showers and make the odd cup of tea!
The weeds on 5b were shoulder high and tackling the tangled mess was done through hard graft (weed killers are definitely not an option on my plots). Weeds and grass were scythed, burned and finally covered with heavy duty weed suppressant. It’s taken a while but I think plot 5b will finally be fully ready for the growing season.
I’ll eventually remove the wooden sections – I’m not really a fan but we’ll see. The photograph doesn’t show a row of mini raised beds all approximately 4ft in size…they’re currently taking up valuable space so I’ll be ripping them up asap!
The photograph below doesn’t give an accurate idea of the size of the plot but it does show the work still needed.
Plots 5a and 4a still need a little work mostly in the fruit bed and the perennial flower bed. The greenhouse needs a good clean through too…
“Every allotmenteer knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”
Good tools are essential in the garden or allotment. Every gardener knows that well cared for garden tools require far less physical effort to use and more importantly, they’ll cut cleanly. My little collection of snips and secateurs range from a few ‘cheap and cheerfuls’ to the ‘most I could affords’.
During a visit to Jekka’s Herb Farm last year, Jekka advised sharping snips and secateurs after every use! I try to follow her advice at home, however the allotment tools don’t enjoy such a pampering…they’re lucky if they are sharpened a handful of times during the whole season
Anyway… first job was to give them all a good scrub using a metal pan scourer and soapy water to remove ingrained dirt etc. Then thoroughly dry with a kitchen towel. I like to use a little Niwaki twin diamond file for sharpening which is light and really efficient (it is a little expensive but worth every penny in my opinion). Finally I wiped off the blades with an oily cloth. Job done.
Next job will be the cutting edges of hoes and spades after I’ve cleared the mini shed of spiders and mud!
Last Saturday, the sun was out (for a change) and it was a perfect day for beating the winter blues on my plots! Winter is a tough time of year for us gardeners. We want to get out and enjoy all the benefits that gardening brings but the winter weather only permits the odd day of preparation for the growing season.
Preparation is the name of the game on the plots at the moment…ripping up persistent perennial weeds, covering with plastic and mulching. I haven’t dug any of the plots yet. I’m planning not to dig at all to be honest. A foot injury last year prompted me to look into labour saving gardening methods and two of my blog readers pointed me in the direction of Charles Dowding’s books. Now I’m hooked, for two reasons:-
1) Clearly ‘No Dig’ saves time and effort.
2) ‘No Dig’ is better for the plots allowing the soil to develop a good base ideal for planting.
I’m beginning my second year of trialling this method, mimicking nature by building fertility from the top, without damaging the beneficial fungi and soil life underneath (I’m applying the same method to my six 4″x4″ and four mini metal raised beds). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against digging! If a patch needs a good dig over then I’ll do it but I’d rather not 😀 Mulches include, cardboard, wood chips, compost and manure. Usually I buy the odd bag of aged manure for the plots however for the first time, I’m applying a thick mulch of manure.
I’ve had a plot on my allotment site since January 2015 but I kept missing the ‘Who wants manure?’ question asked of key ‘plotters’. This year I was asked. A landmark event for sure…now I’m considered a ‘real’ allotmenteer!
I have my very own heap of poop!
It’s back breaking work – the only way to shift a ton of ‘poop’ is by wheelbarrow and I’ve found that I can manage to fill and unload eight barrows around the plot before I begin to ache. I’m slow but steady. I’ll finish…eventually!
I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of ‘Gladioli Snobbery’… refusing to allow them space in my garden or allotment because of the link to Dame Edna and the ‘tacky tag’! However last autumn I visited the Malvern Show and stumbled across a gladioli stall by Pheasant Acre Plants from Bridgend, South Wales.
The specimens on display were stunning! No hint of tackiness! I fell instantly in love with a Gladiola called Bangladesh.
I placed an order for Gladiolus Antica, Sunshine, Sweet Shadow and Bangladesh. I could have bought loads more.
They were planted into plot 5a using a bulb planter pushed extra deep (around 9″) into the soil around April when the soil had warmed up a little. I also ensured that the bulbs had plenty of drainage by adding a generous scoop of sand to the bottom of each bulb hole.
I then left them to their own devices. I know they need plenty of water to flourish and luckily we had a rather wet growing season here in Wales! They probably could have done with feeding but quite honestly, it didn’t enter my head 😀
I was treated to the most glorious display….
A random ‘pink’ found at a local garden centre.
This was my first year growing gladioli and they caused a sensation on the allotment site…perhaps we’ll see a few more allotmenteers growing Gladioli next year.
I’ve snuggled mine up under a mulch of chippings for the winter ( I confess to being too lazy to dig them up and store!) It’s a risk but hopefully they’ll survive.
I’m not sure what to do with the foliage though. Any advice? Do I cut or leave to die back totally?
I love the look of Willow. It grows quickly, comes in a range of beautiful colours and you can make things with it! I’ve decided that now is the best time to work on a new allotment project using willow.
My plots are on the side of Welsh mountain, consequently crops can suffer from the effects of strong winds, so I’m aiming to grow a living fedge (a cross between a fence and a hedge) to create an informal boundary along the most exposed edges of the plots. The aim is to reduce the wind speed coming down from the top of the mountain. I’ve read that the most effective windbreaks need to be semi-permeable and I’m hoping that my Willow fedge will filter 50-60 percent of the wind!
This weekend we took delivery of 34 twelve inch rods of Willow…17 different types.
1.White Willow 2. Scarlet Willow 3. Flanders Red 4. Golden Willow 5. Candida 6. Goat Willow 7. White Welsh 8. Black Willow 9. Bay Willow 10. Purple Willow 11. Curly Willow 12. Green Dicks 13. Sekka 14. Dicky Meadows 15. Black Maul 16. Viminalis 17. Grey Willow
I’m using one of the larger flower beds on the back allotment plot as a ‘nursery’. The ‘Willow nursery’ has already been covered with weed suppressant which is an absolute must when it comes to growing Willow. Willow can grow up to 6½ft each year but despite their vigorous growth, young Willow trees cannot cope with any competition from weeds or even grass!
I’m hoping my fedge will eventually look something like this…
Photograph from: http://mygarden.rhs.org.uk
Loving my windowsill propagator…
Rosella tomato seeds planted February 27th at 14:21
Germinated March 2nd – (photographed at 11:38)
Romping away March 3rd at 16:11 !!
There’s something really exciting about watching your seeds germinate and grow into strong plants. I’ve been growing from seeds for a few years now and I’m still loving it! I wouldn’t say that I’ve mastered all things ‘germination’ yet but I’m getting closer every growing season 🙂
Late February / early March brings the opportunity to start the growing season – indoors only – my garden is still far too cold and wet! I did check using the ‘squeeze test’ and, yep, the soil forms a soggy mud ball in my hand!
I’ve invested in a windowsill propagator so I’m hoping that the seeds will be kept warm and moist – perfect for germination!
I’m only sowing a few to begin with…sweet peas and tomatoes. Sowing now should allow the plants to reach a decent size before planting out after the last frost, which should be around the end of April in my area of Wales.
- Sweet Peas ‘Spanish Dancer’ – highly fragranced and an unusual tri-colour plus a packet of mixed tall sweet peas that were free on the front of a gardening magazine 🙂
- Rosella tomatoes – part of James Wong’s collection (Sutton Seeds). I grew them last year and I can honestly say that they were the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever tasted! I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to grow this tasty fruit however because they’re a hybrid. In my experience hybrids tend to be offered by seed growers for a few years, then disappear 😦
Early sowing of peas, broad beans and runner beans are next on my list but I think that’ll try to wait another week 🙂
‘At the bottom of the garden there lives a little gnome’
I love my garden. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of a lovely garden buzzing with wildlife and I hope that I’ve managed to pass on that love of nature to my children. However as a grandparent I’m taking ‘gardening’ to another level by trying to create a little magic…
There’s a little gnome house in the old tree stump:-)
‘Tiddler A’ loves stories about fairies and gnomes. A few strategically placed items seem to light up her imagination and keep her interested in the garden as a whole.
I truly believe that we shouldn’t be precious about our gardens…so what if it’s kitsch?!
I always have watering cans ‘dotted’ about the place and ‘Tiddler A’ regularly fills up from the garden tap before helping me with the watering – she knows how plants grow. ‘Tiddler A’ has planted seeds of most vegetables and nurtured her chosen flowers seedlings with joy but sadly she is the only child in her class that understands the process of gardening. None of the other children had ever sown a seed, watered a flower, dug up a home-grown potato or even made rose petal perfume! Sad, very sad!!
My garden is the perfect and most natural place for the ‘Tiddlers’ to play and learn. Why, oh why, is gardening generally ‘discovered’ later in life?! We have a responsibility to be sharing gardening skills with our grandchildren…if necessary with a little sprinkle of fairy dust!
‘What we sow in their minds today will reap a priceless harvest tomorrow.’