Monthly Archives: February 2017

hope springs…

dsc_0029-2Once I see the blossom of the wild plum trees, I know that spring is on its way.  In spite of, or perhaps because of, my neglect of the old orchard, the area is awash with clumps of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis.   All of these, and the crocus, came from a handful I relocated from the grassy area between the house and the vegetable plot.  I split some clumps last year and I will do the same again.  For the first time I will extend the planting into the new orchard.

dsc_0033-2Seeing the honeybees flying amongst the blossom and the snowdrops reminded me on how very important these early flowers are.

dsc_0032We have been toying with the idea of turning the new orchard grassland into a flowering meadow.  The reality is that the rye grass is too dominant to easily replace with a summer flowering meadow so we’ve decided that we shall concentrate on spring flowers.  Last year we made a start and planted over a thousand bulbs.  I spotted the first signs of the Narcissus today.

narcissusorchardThe mowing regime of a spring flowering, (February to May), meadow differs from that of a summer one in that the grass is cut from late June to autumn.  This allows any seed to be deposited and bulbs to gain maximum benefit from allowing their leaves to die back naturally.   I intend to plant more bulbs of those species we put in last year, plus the relocated snowdrops.  I’m also considering Camassia,  foxgloves and perhaps one, (or two!), of the cultivars that Dan Pearson trialled.



on with the sow….

There has been more action in the polytunnel.   I’ve been consulting the excellent sowing timeline from Charles Dowding.  It’s a very useful source if you are in the UK and can be downloaded from his website.   So armed with the guide I’ve sown the next tranche of peas in guttering, (again Pea ‘Douce Provence’),

dsc_0016-2Here, I’m not too precise with the sowing; I scatter the pea seed and then push them into the compost.   In the beds, I try a little harder.  First off I do aim to get a finer tilth…

dsc_0024-2and to sow in straightish rows…(for this I use a cane though it is a little skew)

dsc_0029Consulting the timeline I elected to sow spinach ‘Picasso’, (for baby leaves), parsley, (flat ‘Titan’ and curled ‘Darki’), dill and coriander.  Of course, this is the point where I found out I hadn’t got any coriander seed so I’ll pick up some tomorrow.

dsc_0033As the seed of all of these leaves is quite large I do sow thinly – otherwise, it is a waste.

dsc_0035-2dsc_0038The seed is covered over and then watered in and then, very, very important, labelled.

On to the next row.

The lovely OH is nearing completion of the ironwork for the new ornamental garden,well done lovely OH….


hedge planting starts soon and I have ordered some bare root climbing roses – 6 Bathsheba, a new, (2016), introduction from David Austin.  The description of the scent, ‘a superb myrrh fragrance – floral and warm in character, with hints of honey’ sounds delicious!

false news?…

Earlier this month it was announced in various news streams that some of our larger supermarkets were introducing ‘lettuce rationing‘, to the effect that a shopper couldn’t buy more than 3, yes THREE, icebergs lettuce on a given shopping trip (Tesco) or 2 ‘any lettuce’, (Morrisons).  This was then followed up by the Telegraph reporting that sales of lettuce seeds has soared on the back of ‘lettuce rationing’.

Oh, I believe that there is a restriction on the vegetables coming in from Spain.  Even so, who wants to buy 3 iceberg lettuce per shopping trip? Why would someone buy one when they aren’t even very nice lettuce – even in summer, let alone winter?

As for the rush to buy lettuce seed?  I work in the industry I’ve found that the GYO public isn’t rushing out to purchase lettuce seed at the moment, they are buying their seed potatoes and broad bean seeds like they always do at this time of year.

On the other hand, I did sow lettuce in January in the polytunnel; the variety ‘All the year round’ I recall.  Well, the sowing has rewarded me by producing just one seedling and I’m not even sure it’s a lettuce – it might as easily be a rogue from an adjacent seed tray.  I rather feel that this uncooperative, non germinating seed is reproaching me as if to say – ‘I don’t see you standing around in the nuddy in 0 to 2 degrees so why should we’.

Fair point.

I’ll go back to chitting the potatoes then….

dsc_0047 Reading this week: A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright


undercover growers…

We’re supposed to be heading for warmer temperatures this week.  Hope so, as it’s been brass monkeys round here.  Which is why we’ve switched to clearing the polytunnel.  Of course, if I was Charles Dowding, the tunnel would be full of overwintered salads, rather than a fine crop of chickweed and grass that germinated from the compost added earlier in the year.


dsc_0029and after…

dsc_0034I’ve planted the first broad beans, (Sutton and Crimson flowered), into the polytunnel bed

dsc_0033which means I can sow another batch for outside thereby reducing the loo roll mountain that we’ve accumulated over the last year…

dsc_0043dsc_0046Again I’ve sown ‘Sutton’ and Crimson flowered as well as my last few seeds of ‘Bunyard’s Exhibition’ and a new acquisition ‘Stereo’.  According to Sarah Raven, ‘Stereo’ is ‘famously the best tasting, small, tender broad bean you can grow, excellent raw or cooked’ – so got to give it a go.

The lovely OH spotted this moth or butterfly pupa on the cover…

dsc_0031I’m hoping it’s something fabulous like a Painted Lady and not a cabbage white.  I’ll have to study the pupae on the UK Butterflies site.

It may still be cold but the light is absolutely lovely…





raspberries are red (and gold and black and purple)

We currently grow 4 versions of raspberry Rubus idaeus, – all autumn fruiting.  The reds are ‘Polka’, ‘Joan J’ and ‘Autumn Bliss’, and the gold one, ‘All Gold’.  They crop heavily each year and are no trouble at all.  I hadn’t felt the need to add to them …. until now! I was flicking through James Wong’s website and the posting on black raspberries caught my eye, so I had to track some down.

Black raspberry cultivars are varieties of Rubus occidentalis, a species native to North America. The fruit is grown commercially in the US, (particularly Oregon, Ohio and Vermont), and there was some attempt at commercialisation over here, around 5 years ago, with the fruit being stocked in Tesco but apparently they didn’t take off.  The fruit season is short, only 3 weeks, and the plants very prickly so I expect a punnet was very, very expensive.

The most common cultivar to get here is  ‘Jewel’ so I ordered 5 canes from Blackmoor Nurseries.

black-raspberryThese will be planted in the polytunnel growing area away from the other cultivars as the black raspberries are, apparently,  more susceptible to viruses.

We have finished pruning the apples; if the weather holds we’ll prune the pears.  I’ll then finish off with the gooseberries and then tackle the grape vines.  Today, I sowed the tomatoes, aubergines and sweet peppers in the propagator and did an infill sow of some cells of chilli where germination failed.  This weekend we pick up some more hornbeam hedging and we have a LOT of box to plant out.

It’s beginning to get busy…

Reading this week: The long long life of trees by Fiona Stafford




blueberry thrills…

We have a few blueberry bushes. 3 of them are now 2+years old so hopefully, this year, they’ll get into their cropping stride, (it takes a while for blueberries to produce a decent crop).  Another 2 plants are quite young so I don’t expect much from them for a while.  We grow a number of Vaccinium corymbosum, (northern highbush blueberry), cultivars across the harvesting season:

Patriot (early); Earliblue (early); Chandler (mid) and Brigitta (late).

Today I potted on the 3 largest bushes.  Blueberries like moist, acidic soil so to mimic this I line my pots with one of those disposable compost bin liners into which I have cut slits.  The new pot is just one or two sizes larger than the current one.

dsc_0016The plant is given a quick prune and weed, (I restrict the pruning to taking out any dead wood).

dsc_0017…ericaceous soil is a must and watering with rainwater helps maintain the soil acidity.

dsc_0018dsc_0019(I relocated the hibernating queen wasp!)

dsc_0020I planted the shrub at the same depth and backfilled with the new compost, finishing off with a sprinkle of blood, fish and bone.   I could top dress with gravel to hide the bag, but to be honest I’m not that fussed.

dsc_0022So off I trundled to the fruit cage….

dsc_0024Another late winter job done and dusted!


trumpeting the Jerusalem artichoke…

dsc_0020It’s been a while since we’ve planted Jerusalem Artichokes.  The lovely OH picked up a couple of punnets from a supermarket. I don’t know what variety they are – perhaps ‘Fuseau’. The tubers are a good size and were cheaper than buying from a seed merchant.

I can plant them once the soil dries out a little.  We’ve some trugs which have broken handles so I’ll cut out their bases and sink a row of them into the soil and then plant the tubers inside as this plant is invasive.  I like Jerusalem artichokes but I don’t want a field of them!   If I make a line of trugs along the upper boundary of the polytunnel vegetable growing area the artichokes can form a windbreak.

We’ve grown Jerusalem artichoke before, on our old the allotment.  I remember they had yellow daisy shaped flowers though I didn’t know that they are a species of sunflower, Helianthus tuberosus.  With luck we might get a small harvest this autumn – in anticipation I’ve found some lovely recipes; my favourite is this one with black pudding from Nigel Slater.

It’s still a little quiet on the sowing front but in the next few days I’ll sow the tomatoes, aubergines and sweet peppers in the propagators.  The broad beans and cauliflowers have germinated …

dsc_0017so I’ll succession sow broad beans and I’ve repotted the aloe vera pups!

dsc_0016Tea time!

Reading this week: Rhapsody in Green by Charlotte Mendelson