Purple sprouting broccoli is coming along nicely. It has been occupying the ground for quite some time and has a lax habit needing more space. The old sprout stalks are ready to be dug out (they are too firmly in the ground just to pull out). They take less space and produce more food per square yard than broccoli which is consistently good at our greengrocer. A tip for this years growing plans – more sprouts firmly planted and well staked.
Kale is now flowering and running to seed. I am less keen on this vegetable so the plants get no tlc. The purple leaved version that I grew from a mixed packet of seed was worthwhile for its individuality. I am not a brassica free growing garden but I wont be rushed into cabbages just at the moment so my 5 a day will be sprouts.
It is Mid February and the milder weather encouraged me to focus on my greenhouse in preparation for the new year. For once I made a list of more than a dozen greenhouse related actions and as I progressed down the list more items were added. Without the list I would drift off to do other jobs with lower priority but higher instant gratification.
I started by read a couple of books on ‘cold greenhouse & conservatory’ and ‘greenhouse gardening’ and picked up some obvious and less obvious tips.
Plants need air, water, a medium to root into and sustenance. For the air part I turned the soil in the bed where I may grow direct into the soil but resolved, henceforth to provide more ventilation. A disaster struck when I left the door open and a pheasant walked in and was too thick to find its way out without my firm handed help. Jumping and flapping its wings it managed to break a pane of glass and I spent ages doing unplanned reglazing and there was no pheasant for supper.
As you may see in the before photo above I had suffered an excess of algae and moss. This was caused by lack on regular ventilation, an excess of nutrients and low levels of winter gardening. Using water from an old water barrel may not have helped. I now plan to feed little and often and to keep the soil aerated.
Planned Uses for my cold Greenhouse
Overwintering and care for delicate plants needing shielding. I had few losses except a couple of chrysanth stools and with care could have contained more items and grown early Daffodils, Vallota, & Fucshias
Just visible is some of the paving I have placed under the staging. I will use this for keeping dry goods, tools and fertilizers together and accessible.
The 4 station tomato growing box with a fertiliser sump is in place for later . I may add some ring cultured plants or, like previous years have tumbler tomatoes in pots on the bench. I had potted up some strawberry plants to try on the staging but am still thinking about that.
I have left a strip between the path and staging where I will grow lettuce and may be the odd sweetpea like the weedy example
Gizzmos for my Greenhouse
On the diagonal struts I have a collection of household pegs that I use for lots of holding purposes during the year. Currently open, half used packets are pegged closed.
As an aluminium greenhouse the frame has grooves to accept support devices to string moveable plant ties. I also wire across the length of the greenhouse at varying heights for more support or for short strings
I may move the bench below to go across the end of the greenhouse to support seed trays when the need for temporary benching arises. So the next job is to sort the items currently overwintering by the fence.
When theft and wanton damage happens you and your garden suffer so safeguard your property. You do not need to be paranoid but take appropriate care by just walking around your garden and see what you can improve in the way of prevention
Power tools and lawn mowers have a high theft value as they are easy to steal and turn into cash.
To stop opportunist thefts do not leave tools in the garden unattended or visible in open sheds or garages.
Mark your tools with your postcode and name. Keep a record on serial numbers and identifying marks.
When not in use chain them down so they are harder to take.
Secure Sheds and Outbuildings
Fit good quality, strong locks and use them not just last thing at night.
Use secure hinges on doors
Fit locks or grills on windows
Only store valuable items in the shed if it is fully secure.
With time on my hands and nowhere to go there was plenty of time to mess around in the garden. Messing can be a negative when I fiddle too much and forget the basics. On seedlings I pricked out and cosset the weaklings rather than aiming for strong likely good doers.
I give away many plants and unwanted ceramic pots by leaving them on the garden wall for passers by. Surprisingly, gardening books were not as popular and I still have hundreds which I will no longer read.(that may be a clue why they were unclaimed).
I had some dwarf Hostas in good flower and the whole collection went one evening. I was a bit miffed as I would have liked to give each one to a different gardener. Then when clearing up I found a nice note from the grateful recipient and keen Hosta admirer.
Covid Year Winners
Early successes were the cheerful colours of primulas in pots and the garden flower beds. I saved the large pots full of plants through summer and have just started splitting them to reinvigorate the stock. Some varieties are flowering again right now (September). Regrettably there has been an infestation of vine weevil and the compost/soil is contaminated. They do not seem to have eaten into the roots yet so I may have caught it in time but I am vary of the hatching and spread next year.
Serendipity struck when I decided last year to plant some patio roses in long tom pots and other terracotta plant pots. They have been the stand out summer flowers and have been in continious bloom right through. Deadheading, feeding and watering have contributed but I rate them top of the 2020 season.
An unsung success has been the conifers which have provided cover for numerous birds and a visual range of colour, form and shape. The variety is more noticeable as I have looked more carefully at plants from several years ago when I planted dwarf conifers of many varieties. Some larger plants were turfed out to make space or as they were just wrong for the garden.
It is a new gardening year resolution to give the conifers some tlc with fewer competitors and a more natural habitat. I have named the main zone the conifery. Growth on the larger specimens has been substantial and I will practice pruning and topiary on these outliers in the back garden.
Part of the Conifery
Dahlias deserve an honourable mention and I tried hard with geraniums, violas and sweetpeas which provided bunches of cut flowers and now I await the chrysanthemum display.
I liked the colour combination of this garden center penstemon and for less than £4 I thought it a bargain. The main reason it seemed a bargain, compared to others available for sale, was the lush growth from the base of the root. I have tried with stem cuttings with some success but usually achieved more failures. On this stock plant I could see I would be able to tease stems from the base by the root. I have got now 10 potential plants several with small roots already growing. With luck there are also two stock plants from halving the root ball, .
Reasons Why I Grow Penstemon
These semi evergreen plant have a long and colourful flowering season from summer until autumn
They are colourful perennials very popular with bees.
Penstemon are easy to grow and generally reliable.
They are easy to propagate from cuttings and benefit from keeping your garden stock quite young by regular replenishment.
My garden helps some wild life but I recognise eco-disasters are all my fault when I consider how I am contributing to environmental problems. I do try make adjustments to my consumption of resources but in reality it is a net failure.
Some of my 2020 ecological disasters
I use a lot of water with 2 outside taps, 2 very small ponds, 2 equally small water butts and lots and lots of hand watering.
Plant miles created by me have hitherto been quite excessive. I drive to garden centers on a regular basis buying plants that have probably been raise abroad in electrically enhanced hothouse conditions then driven 100’s of miles to market.Packaging will generally be in plastic pots or some similar wrapping
Most of the seeds I buy are in multicoloured packets and contents are progressively fewer in number.
This year there are no frogs visible in my main pond despite early frog spawn. Do adult frogs find it too hard to get out of the water from this plastic molded version that replaced a leaky cement home made version. Either that or the major temperature changes this year have had an effect.
Dare I admit I use peat!
It may be unfair to blame corvid for the weather which confused lots of plants with an early dry summer, sharp frosts, droughts and then torrents of rain. On balance flowering plants have held their own with my patio roses managing three good flushes so far!
Htdrangeas did less well and I allowed perennial sweet peas to grow through the shrubs for a bit of colour.
Delphiniums failed but first early potatoes did well
Walled gardens make great spaces for your special kitchen garden. Traditionally associated with larger estates, country houses and stately homes many were designed to provide a continual supply of fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables for the ‘big house’. It is the micro climate that walled gardens induce thus creating the facility to grow more exotic fruit trees against walls or with the aide of heated glasshouses.
There are many more discrete kitchen gardens where you can model your own food producing plot with ideas in this National Trust book. Even one well situated wall can provide shelter climbing space and support within a kitchen garden.
I know I can use all sorts of materials as a mulch but I like the organic versions. Here I have piled it high well before it is ready as a mulch much less a compost
To help me with another problem, that of too much compost, I am going to try combining the two issues to solve both problems and use partially rotted compost as mulch. I have 3 large compost bins and a wheely bin for large wooden items but due to 2020 output this capacity has been far too little. Thankfully I can now book a slot at the council waste refuse site to take my tree stumps and larger items.
Mulch v Compost Issues
I need to be wary of seed infestations as the mulch has not had time to generate enough heat to kill off annual weeds.
I also hope to benefit from disturbing rats because they seem to have taken a liking to my compost that often generally kitchen waste.
It my be just my feelings but I like organic much to be damp and able to hold moisture. This means mulchable compost is good for the soil & (soul).
The best place for rabbits, if it is not in a pie, is in the wild meadows and byways of the countryside. There they can do as their mum tells them and ‘eat up their greens’. As a vegetarian this is what rabbits do and that is why gardeners start to worry about them eating cultivated greens.
Peter Rabbit sneaks into Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat as many vegetables as he can before Mr. McGregor tries to catch him. Peter manages to escape as other rabbits do in my garden.
Then there is the image of Bugs Bunny eating a never-ending carrot. What a way to encourage kids to become gardeners.
Tar-Baby is about a doll made of tar and turpentine used by Br’er Fox to trap Br’er Rabbit. The more that Br’er Rabbit fights the Tar-Baby the more entangled he becomes:- a modern metaphor? This is not a recommended control method for gardeners.
White Rabbit is a character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland wearing a waistcoat like many gardeners from that era.
Roger Rabbit and Jessica bred a film franchise as quickly as rabbits seem to do when feeding on lettuce.
2020 has been a year of walking and observing nature in the raw. As autumn approaches the mushrooms and toadstools or fungi will be out in force. This will provide you with new observation opportunities on your nature walks. This week I spotted this gigantic fungi over 2 feet in diameter growing in a local graveyard.
These photographs are from previous autumn walks. Even if I had found them in the garden it would not be a cause for concern as they are part of natures support for the environment and many specific species.
See also Fungus comes in all colours, shapes and sizes with most under the soil. The largest living organism in the world is arguably a honey fungus growing 2.4 miles across in the USA.