Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A foretaste of spring

Well, I think we are all scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find things to blog about at this time of year. I'm just trying to pass the time until it's time to start DIGGING. Not long now. These hyacinths were supposed to flower for Christmas - obviously I planted a few weeks too late. Unfortunately as I didn't make a note of when I did plant them, I will probably make the same mistake this year.

And just to prove my point, here is something completely unrelated: our cat, Leonard, looking thoughtful. He is a very deep thinker, and he likes digging too.

Monday, 19 January 2009


On Soilman's advice I have sown my celeriac today. It is on the kitchen windowsill wrapped in bubblewrap. I have done them in modules as I imagine they will be quite big by the time I plant them out. Normally I scatter them in a seed tray and plant them out directly from there.

Another gardening-related-but-not-actual-gardening thing I have done is re-homing my seed packets in a very organised shoe-box. The 'no-stress' logo seemed very appropriate.

The seed potato shoots are turning a much healthier greeny-purple now that they have been out in the light for a few days. It still seems very early to be starting them off, but thinking about it, 8 weeks or so will take me to early/mid-March which is not too early for earlies is it? Anyone else started chitting yet?

My greenhouse lettuces have had a growth spurt recently - there will soon be enough for a single portion of salad!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Enforced early chitting programme

My seed potatoes, which as you know, arrived well before Christmas, were unable to hold back any longer from sprouting in their box, and when I checked them the other day found long sickly white shoots emerging, some up to 2 inches long. On the advice of an 'expert' at Thomson and Morgan I brought them out and put them out to chit, removing the very long shoots (anything of 1" or more). This is a good couple of weeks earlier than I had planned to start them off, so goodness knows what they will look like by the time I'm ready for planting. The main crop - Sarpo Mira - have held back a bit so I have left them in the box, but I could see they would soon start sprouting too. Here are the 1st earlies, Mimi, on a north-facing windowsill:

And here are the 2nd earlies: Charlotte and Anya, sitting in a shower caddy I got from Wilkos for about £2.99 last year and which fits perfectly on the north-facing landing windowsill.

This morning I am in the process of making Seville orange marmalade. I wish I had given myself more than a morning to do it, I have to go out at 1pm and I am still softening the peel at 20 to 11. It is such a large quantity - 1.5kg of oranges, 9 pints of water, 4kg of sugar, I think I will have to divide it between two preserving pans otherwise it might take all day. I have washed and prepared about 20 jars. I hope it sets as I would hate to waste that amount of ingredients.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Plans for ungrateful birds

I'm a bit miffed that the birds have still not shown the slightest interest in my lovely new feeding post. It's been up since Christmas day. The apples and scraps of bread on the ground get gobbled up by blackbirds, starlings and pigeons (sorry, but boring birds!), but not so much as a sparrow has even looked at the nuts and seeds hanging on the post. I would have thought they'd be queuing up in this weather. I wonder whether my garden is hospitable enough? I have a couple of smallish trees and some small shrubs, but the only hedging I have is coniferous. I am thinking about putting in some native hedging such as hawthorne, and some dense ivy, in a nice thick clump down at the end of the garden, along the fence, which is pretty bare at the moment. Also, I could probably get a little pond in somewhere. That might help.

On the allotment front, I phoned the site manager last week to find out whether any action has been taken with the vandals. Apparently the police have been patrolling regularly, and they have identified and traced several cars seen discharging 'youngsters' onto the rec next to the plots. She has requested a quote for security fencing, but thinks this would be prohibitively expensive, as well as unsightly, which is the reason why it has not been put up before. I visited the other day but couldn't get the spade to penetrate the rock hard frozen soil - it practically bounced back in my face - so I came home empty handed. However, no more damage had been done, and the broad beans are coming up!! The onions are making a very valiant effort as well, despite having been trampled all over by pesky size 5s. The purple sprouting brocolli is looking quite sorry for itself, but you never know, I might get a few sprouts. I'm going to try a new variety this year.

I'm going to have a seed stock-take this week, working out what I've got, what I'm going to sow and what I still need etc, and then putting in my order, all over a large pot of coffee and listening to the radio. This is one of the few nice things you can do in January.