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.
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
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.
On this first of August 2020 I am resolved to winnow down my collection of books on gardening and related subjects. I want to separate the wheat from the chaff and boy is there a lot of chaff to sort, probably 500+ tomes plus related ephemera. Not all of this winnowing activity will lead to new posts on this site but my first effort has done.
The most recent book I have read from cover to cover was the entertaining ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben. To me it is a master piece of accessible writing about trees, what they feel, how they communicate and how nature interacts with them. It is based on years of experience as a forester. Peter has acute observational and analytical ability that is well reasoned and simply communicated. The main themes I have taken into my wider gardening and ecological understanding include:
Trees show we can take the long view and there is no need to rush, in fact time may create a far better and sustainable result.
There is a place for everything and with everything in its place we disrupt it at our peril.
We don’t know what we don’t know and there are more things in heaven and earth ( but what the Hamlet to mix my metaphors.)
If trees have social networking with many skills similar to human abilities and traits, then what else can our gardens teach us.
Look at what is easily visible and look again to develop understanding.
Fired with this enthusiasm I looked through for further enlightenment before I pass on the books to others as part of winnowing down from my book shelves. I came across a 1974 book ‘Plants and Environment’ by R F Daubenmire a self professed Textbook of Plant Autecology. The book’s definition of Autecology is wider than a dictionary definition claiming it considers: geology, soils, climatology, zoology, chemistry and physics which are connected to the welfare of living organism and evolution of species. Not dissimilar to Wohlleben’s offering. As I have only read the preface and introduction in detail some chapers have been dipped into to suit my mood at the time. These include; soil, water, temperature, light, atmospheric, biotic, fire, evolution and complex environmental chapters.
As a text book it is more detailed and less apocryphal than the Hidden Life of Trees but aims at ‘the intelligent management of plant life (and trees in particular) for the good on mankind’. Both books have excellent notes and references.
There are a lot of earwigs around this year or so it seems. Typical in a year when I had decided to grow more dahlias than usual but I guess the earwigs must have known that and got on with early breeding.
Facts about Earwigs
Earwigs chew on live shoots, flowers or decaying vegetation and like damp secluded conditions.
In my garden they do most noticeable damage on Chrysanthemums and Dahlias.
Earwigs are attracted to lights when they move around at dusk and nighttime.
Females lay between 30 and 50 small, round, translucent eggs.
Some Control Tips
Good housekeeping, dry areas and removing leaf litter restricts an earwigs desired living conditions
Placing hollow canes around dahlias act as a trap as can grass clippings or mulch removed regularly
Soapy water sprays or chemical formulas can reduce infestations
The Evening Primrose is one of my favourite, limeish yellow, summer, biennial flowers.
Evening Primrose Oenothera glazioviana
Evening Primrose Growing
These plants are capable of seeding profusely
The large-flowered evening-primrose Oenothera glazioviana is one of 4 common UK species
There are another dozen species and many hybrids and crosses.
Evening primrose flower from June to September. and seeds are produced in mid-August
There is a fragrant evening-primrose Oenothera stricta.
Evening Primrose Medical Benefits
The plant is common and popular in the USA and its roots are eaten and used for various purposes. Gardeners Path say it can ‘help a number of conditions including eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, and osteoporosis and oil of Evening primrose can be used to regulate blood pressure and to keep the immune system functioning’.