A peek into my garden and a to do list

After the wind blew the protective fleece off the agapanthus I was tempted out into the garden to tie it back on.  And actually, when I got out there it wasn’t as bad as thought - I managed to time it between the rain and the hail, which helped!  Sunday was definitely a day with four seasons, but even so it was just a quick peek to check to see if the wind had caused any more damage. 

Thankfully the answer was not much, there were a couple of small tree branches down, one from the large tree at the back of our garden and the plastic trugs needed rounding up. It’s not clear if the branch was dipue to the wind or to squirrel damage.  That’s a real thing, sometimes they get a tasting for a type of tree and nibble of the bark weakening branches, which eventually die and then fall.  I’m hoping it is the wind, not the squirrels - I think it’s a bit early for them, so it could be ok.  When we’ve experuthis before it’s been expensive, mainly because the tree man has to come in and work on all three of the larger trees.

While I was out there it was clear there are a few jobs to do, ones we should be doing and I’m sure you’ll have similar jobs too, so far on my list there’s:

  1. Pick up the leaves from the beds, there’s some by the hare but there’s also some further up the garden where one of the foxes split the black sacks.

  2. Start thinning the forget-me-nots, ours are prolific and if we don’t thin some now I dread to think how many there’ll be next year.

A hare with a leaf hat and a leaf bed

The forget-me-nots are starting to come through - there’s a clump of them in front of the grape hyacinth, and marching over the edging into the grass. This spot clearly gets the sun, and no doubt that’s encouraged them to start their takeover bid.

grape hyacinths and ornamental quince in the sun
I spy forget-me-nots

See those leaves behind those lime green euphorbias? Yes they need to come up too - they’re the ones there courtesy of the foxes. It’s a dry spot so I suspect they thought about setting up home, or even a daytime snooze spot there, but thankfully thought better of it. We’re hearing the foxes screeching again in the garden at night, another thing for the list is:

3. Check/change the battery in the fox scarer.

I don’t want them settling in the garden, they make a dreadful mess and I want to be able to leave the doors open when the weather’s good confident that we won’t have unwanted visitors. I’ve a feeling that next door’s cat won’t be shy about coming in.

elephants ears and euphorbia
The kerria that came from next door

There’s plenty of yellow blooms appearing too, which you’ll know will please me. There’s the Kerria (above) that’s popped through from next door and is really getting established in a number of spots. It’s easy to see why it’s often called the pom-pom plant isn’t it?

Our forsythia tree is also in full bloom and we can see this blaze of yellow from the house. When it stops flowering though, then it’s time to give it a trim. I think we missed this one last year, so this one is definitely going on the list, and now I’ve got my new ladder, that will get an outing too.

4. Trim the forsythia tree when it finishes flowering.

Forsythia reaching for the sky

And yes, here’s a peek into the greenhouse. Peek in is about all we can do at the moment as it’s rather full. The trugs have been rounded up and stored here to avoid recovering them from wherever the wind fancies. I didn’t get to do as much in the greenhouse last year as I hoped, but this year I’m hoping to put those plans into place, rearranging the inside to provide more growing space, moving some of the storage space to the small shed we brought back from the allotment (which should be going on the list, but I’m saving that one until it’s a bit warmer and we don’t mind spending more hours out there).

A greenhouse to clear out

5. Fight my way into the greenhouse, sort it out and rearrange it to provide more growing space.

6. Tidy the hellebores when they’re past their best, and nurture new seedlings that I discover while doing this.

pretty hellebores to admire

At the back of the garden the rhubarb in the pot is already doing well and looking, well, looking like rhubarb.  Though by rights, this should be a relatively light rhubarb year as the advice is to not cut the stems in the year after it’s been moved, which when they’re looking this good already, is a real shame.

7.  Collect the fallen branches for the green bin.

8. Trim the pyracantha which seems to have two antennae heading straight for the cherry tree.

9. Cut the ivy out of the cherry tree, which has taken hold again.

10. Sort out some seeds to sow!

rhubarb in a pot

I’m sure though there’s plenty more to add, but for now let’s keep it to ten. What’s on your gardening list right now?

Life at 139a is 6 years old...

Well, I’m not quite sure how that happened and I’d like to say it was well and truly celebrated - well it was with pink champers and a couple of nights away, but that might have been more to do with Valentine’s Day in reality.

But when I realised I’d reached another milestone with my blog I didn’t want to let the event go completely unnoticed here, and so I’ve raided Unsplash for a suitably stylish six photo, which I’m sharing along with six facts blog-gy facts.

Photo by  Clem Onojeghuo  on  Unsplash
  1. I still enjoy writing my blog, six years on. I’m not sure I ever thought about it long-term, but over the years it’s evolved and grown with me and I’ve grown with it. More than ever I relaxed about the various ranking and stats, and more about what I’m writing about and who’s reading and interacting with my blog. I’m much more likely to use my stats to see what’s working and what’s being read, rather than to compare myself to other blogs.

  2. I’m happy with my ‘brand’ too. There’s been a few tweaks to the layout, but since I moved to Squarespace, the look and feel have been pretty much constant. I’ve no desire to change it (and quite frankly, probably not the time to either), so that’s just as well. I’m more certain than ever that Life at 139a will live on whenever the time comes to move house because…

  3. Blogging is now ingrained in what I do. So unintentionally leaving home without my phone for a day out on Saturday was quite strange, mildly liberating and quite frustrating all at the same time, especially as there were pictures I wanted to take (cue commandeering MOH’s phone).

  4. I’ve more plans for this space than I’m sure I’ll be able to put into practice, but the same could be said of my home-life, work-life, holiday-planning-self, craft to do list and almost everything I’m involved with. I guess that means I like things to be busy and am open to change, but don’t always have the time, and perhaps confidence, to make them all happen. But at least some of them make it through.

  5. I’m a night owl who often runs out of ‘night owl hours’ so it seems I can be sensible at times too, as I know I have to get up for work in the morning. So while I could (and do) spend time on my blog each evening and into the small hours, there’s never enough time, as there has to be sleep.

  6. I value each and every comment and interaction with my blog, it might take me a while to reply (see number 4 above) but I will. I’m working out how I can catch up, stay on top and even stay ahead of myself at times too so I don’t always feel like I’m chasing my tail, though I think that’s a symptom of modern day living.

So happy sixth blog birthday to me, here’s to many, many more.

Sow & Grow: May

Today I'm sharing my new monthly round-up of what I'm growing right now, and comparing that to the list published in the Grow your own fruit and veg magazine, as well as sharing an allotment update - so quite a functional post from me today, but hopefully useful nonetheless.

At a glance the magazine list looks a little shorter this month - there seems to be bigger pictures than last month - and that's welcome, although I think my sow & grow list is probably just as long as last month. I am starting to make space in the greenhouse though, and I have another 75 litres of seed compost so hopefully there'll be no stopping me - or my seedlings - soon!

Sow

  • Broad beans: Yay! Mine are on the allotment, we planted them out in a team effort as our almost-the-last-job-before-we-packed-up-and-came-home on Sunday.  It was a glorious day to spend on the allotment, but there's still so much more to do.  I'm tempted to add another row or two, when we manage to clear a bit more space to the left of this picture.
BROAD BEANS PLANTED OUT ALONGSIDE A NEWLY WEEDED PATH

BROAD BEANS PLANTED OUT ALONGSIDE A NEWLY WEEDED PATH

  • Cabbages: A lack of greenhouse space has meant I've still not sowed these yet. They're still on my list, and hopefully once the warmer weather comes along (soon please!) they'll catch up.
  • Carrots: I do have a tyre at the allotment - long story, but it's off my car as the wrong size tyre was put on when I had a flat at some point, and rather than leave a hardly worn tyre with the garage, I brought it home for the allotment - so maybe I could use that. Hmmmn.
  • Courgettes and squash:  I'll definitely be planting these. I've no idea where I'll put them on the allotment but these are one of my go to crops.
  • Cucumbers: I'm getting quite impatient about the cucumber seeds I've planted.  None of the six have germinated yet. Maybe they will soon. Please.
  • Florence fennel: I still plan to give these a go, if I have space. My seeds could be past it though, so I'm not holding out too much hope.
  • Herbs: I'll be sowing more Basil, Coriander and Chives, as well as a first sowing of Angelica as one of my existing plants is flowering and I suspect that means it will be all over soon.
FLOWERING ANGELICA

FLOWERING ANGELICA

  • Kohl rabi:  No, not ever. This isn't a vegetable I'll eat.
  • Peas: Yes, because you can't beat home grown peas. And some of them may even make it into the saucepan. I've got some lengths of drainpipe which I grow peas in (so I don't disturb the roots when planting on) and I also grow a pot full in the greenhouse which I use as a steady supply of pea shoots for salads. If you like pea shoots you should definitely do this, it's one of the easiest things to grow.
  • Potatoes: Phew, I'm glad to hear that these can still be sown, as mine are still out of the soil. We took them to the allotment on Sunday, not so they can see where they'll end up, but to plant them, but we ran out of time and dug space.  Soon though!
  • Radishes: I'm in two minds about these - they're quick to grow and the rainbow varieties are such pretty colours, but there's only so many radishes we can eat, and as usual I do the glut thing and they all come at once and I get all radished out. I should look to buy some of those lovely French-style radishes, I think I'd tire of these less quickly.
  • Salad leaves: I thought the other night that I don't have any of these on the go yet either, and that I really should. Again moderation and frequent sowings are key, both things that sadly I'm not so good at!
  • Sprouting broccoli: still my most favourite veg I think, and definitely something I should grow. We haven't eaten much of it this year as our local greengrocer has started to sell it in packets rather than loose, so I've sort of been boycotting the packeted stuff. If I grew my own then I wouldn't have this problem, would I?
  • Sweetcorn: I'll be growing this again this year, despite our mixed success last year. Why? Because the success we did have provided the tastiest, sweetest sweetcorn - and the smaller cobs, well I took the corn off the cob and I've still got some in the freezer, which is great for adding to stirfrys.
  • Sweet peppers: I'm still a probably not for these this year, but I would like my chillies to germinate.  I hit on a brainwave of an idea yesterday too, and that's to put my chilli seed tray on the parcel shelf of my car so they can get the heat they need, as when it's warm it's much hotter in our front garden than the back. I'll just need to remember I put them there or else they could frazzle or more likely end up over the backseat if I braked suddenly.
  • Turnips: The advice here is little and often, so while I will be growing some, I could struggle with the little and often bit. We'll see.

Plant

  • Aubergine: I'm not growing these this year, they're MOH's least favourite vegetable - although he still eats them - maybe these are ones for when we've got the allotment under control.
  • Blueberries: My plant is still doing relatively well, the flowers have gone and I'm still waiting to see how many of the fruits develop.
  • Brussels sprouts: Hmnn, I never got any sown last month, so maybe these will be off my list this year. 
  • Cauliflowers: Oh dear, I think I must have missed the sow these prompt. I had some great success with cauliflower plants last year so maybe I'll pop up the garden centre. Remember the cauliflower as big as my head?!
CAULIFLOWER SUCCESS IN 2016

CAULIFLOWER SUCCESS IN 2016

  • Celeriac:  I'm still tempted to give these another go, and I think our new approach to the allotment may help.

As we've struggled to control and tame the weeds, after watching a recent episode of Gardener's World we're attempting the 'no-dig' approach. Well almost 'no-dig'.  We're having a bit of a dig, because it's what we do and then we're chucking in a load of compost to new raised beds, in a "we're-bringing-the-level-of-the-soil-up" kind of approach. I didn't really want to put raised beds into our plot, but equally I don't want to have that despondent feeling of having to start again each time we visit the allotment either, so hopefully it'll help our progress.

Even though we're using some old shelves, it's a more expensive approach, especially for such a large bed. We started as we planted the onions out, not that you can really see it as it's well hidden beneath this netting.

USING THE BLACK SACKS FULL OF WEEDS AS WEIGHTS FOR OUR NETTING

USING THE BLACK SACKS FULL OF WEEDS AS WEIGHTS FOR OUR NETTING

  • Celery:  For me, this is on the advanced list. 
  • Courgettes and squash: A different sort of advanced list, if I had some already I'd plant them out, if I could.
  • Globe artichoke:  Our randomly growing artichoke is thriving under the crab apple tree. I'm not sure it's supposed to do so well there, and I really should take some cuttings from it this year, just in case it doesn't cope with the move I have planned for it well.
  • Marrows: I don't dislike marrows, but I don't tend to grow these. Dad usually does though and they're a must for any chutney maker.  Sorry if you're a chutney-lover and marrow-hater and I've just spoilt chutneys for you!
  • Pumpkins: Mine are still in the seed packet, but I've plans to grow some so I'd better get a move on.
  • Sweetcorn:  I noticed one of my fellow plot-holders already has her sweetcorn out and they're about six inches tall already. No wonder hers were always ahead of mine last year!

Harvest

  • Asparagus: I've none to harvest, but I'll happily eat any English grown asparagus.
  • Cauliflowers: No none of those either.
  • Endive:  I do like these, and we brought some back from our trip to France, but I don't think I can count those as harvested.
  • Kale: My kale was finished last month, and we enjoyed that added to some vegetable soup.
  • Radishes:  I've already shared my views on radishes earlier in this post!
  • Rhubarb: Our rhubarb is done, as is others on the allotment. I knew we wouldn't get much off of ours this year as you're not supposed to cut it in its first year. But next year, I'm going to be all about the rhubarb!
  • Salad leaves:  Ooh I wish.
  • Spring cabbage:  Again, I wish - I'm rather partial to those hispi cabbages.
  • Spring onions: Aha! I found some of these while I was clearing a space for the broad beans. MOH was having none of them because they were red, but they were red because they were the North Holland Blood Red type, we ate them for our late lunch yesterday evening. And their flavour was well developed, even though they were tiny!
  • Swiss chard: I still have a few plants on the allotment, and I'd noticed that the white variety seemed to have resurgence. I'm very tempted to pop back over there and cut some of those leaves, and slightly overlook that this is another of MOH's less favoured veg.

So there you go, I told you the list was shorter didn't I?  And I don't feel anywhere near as bad - or as behind - as I thought I might. I am though looking forward to some pottering in the greenhouse sowing some more seeds.  WE've also got some more digging to do as despite getting two seed trays of onions out, I've another four (yes four) to plant out.

Another of my greenhouse successes is my sunflowers. I sowed some from a packet and some from the sunflower heads I saved from the plot, unsure how they'd fare. And guess what? They're doing just as well, perhaps better than the packet seed.  I read somewhere too, can't remember where, of someone that grew sunflowers and cucumbers together, and I'm hoping to do that (if my cucumber seeds germinate), as I can see that working really well.  

That's one for another day though - how's your growing month been?