31 May 2015

Greetings from chilly Dorset...

Sunday 31st May (and feels like March!)


Firstly...I am determined not to put the heating on so excuse any typing errors due to lack of feeling in my fingers!

There is still no sign of the fish. Tuesday morning I went out at silly o'clock to check but nothing, just the tadpoles and nearly frogs a'leaping. And there are literally hundreds of them. What if they all come back next year to breed? The garden, let alone the pond, isn't big enough! Pulled out quite a bit of blanket weed (thanks Gardener's World, handy info in the latest issue) from the pond and put the bemused airborne tadpoles caught up in it back in the water. The miniature water lily I bought is definitely not miniature and growing fast. The resident water lily is also growing fast and looks like a flower bud forming. Both plants are home to the amphibians. On Wednesday I sat by the pond in the sun (yes, we have seen it this week) relaxing. There are some baby brown frogs which are actually smaller than the majority of the tadpoles. Freddie/Freda not been seen this week.

Tuesday and Wednesday I planted out yet more beetroot seedlings and that's it now, no more. I also removed the rest of the plastic sheeting from the veg patch and boy, was it smelly...had to lay it out on the patio to air for a couple of days before I could pack it away. But the soil was lovely and warm and covered in worms. I planted one of the Japanese squash and I'm leaving the other one in a pot to see which grows best. This week I'll plant out the second batch of parsnip seedlings (the first batch having been commandeered by the snails).

The potatoes are now resembling a small tree, I hope potatoes grow and it's not just bags of compost, stalks and leaves. The tomato plants are doing well and have flowers forming, I staked them up yesterday. Watercress, peppers and chillis getting there albeit slowly. I have oversown the cucamelon seeds as they have all taken. I think I'm going to be on a varied and weird diet this summer but at least I'll be healthy.

The strawberry flowers are dying off and the fruit is forming so I covered them with netting yesterday. Oh...and yes, before I forget, I heard the blue tit chicks chirping for the first time yesterday. The cd's I've hung on the cherry tree to protect fruit aren't working...does nothing scare the birds nowadays?

Something big in the bird world was happening in next door's garden the other day. The blackbirds were going bonkers screeching, flying and dive bombing, running up and down branches...serious stuff.

One last thing...I was looking out at the garden one evening during the week. It was just getting dark, the sky was clear and  the moon and Venus (I think) were straight ahead.  Later, when I went out to close the blinds the moon had moved - obviously - but it had moved anti-clockwise yet in the winter it moves clockwise. I must find out why this is.

It's getting very windy outside now but the sun has come out briefly so I think I'll have a stroll and check everything is battened down.

Until next week,



25 May 2015

Who's been sitting on my pond....

Good afternoon,

Sorry this is late but I was working all weekend. It's been a strange week. Friday morning I went out to feed the fish and the netting over the pond was bowed in the middle and in the water...very puzzling. I don't think it was the heron as a) it would be difficult for it to balance on the netting and b) the holes are too small for the fish. Plus...no fish this morning. I tightened the netting again, still puzzled. I checked the pond later that day and there was one solitary fish lurking in the pond weed...2 hours later it hadn't moved apart from listing slightly to the right...dead fish, I thought glumly. I fetched the fishing net and manoeuvred it under the netting towards the fish. The fish jumped, I jumped, then it dived into the weed. Definitely not dead then.

Saturday morning the netting was bowed again but not so far...and still no fish, just lots of rapidly growing tadpoles with miniature back legs splashing around. It then clicked...maybe it was Freddie (or Freda) from the micro pond wanting a dip. I lifted and secured the apron of the netting for easy access just in case and set off for work. I'd love to set up a night camera.

Back from work yesterday evening and straight out into the garden - the netting was still in place and there was mud on the frame so I think I was right about the frog.

On Tuesday I  took delivery of some cottage plant plugs I'd forgotten I'd ordered. These were from Thompson and Morgan through Gardener's World: 12 each of delphinium black knight, geum queen of orange, digitalis excelsior and coreopsis golden joy. As usual, they arrived just as I was going out so that evening I was searching for pots to re-pot them. Best part of an hour later all re-potted and each group labelled. As of today they have more than doubled in size and I am well pleased.  Gone are the days when I used to get excited over handbags, shoes and bling...now it's plant deliveries, Gardener's World and garden centres!

On Wednesday 3 flowers appeared on the strawberry plants, now it's 9 and 3 on one of the pea plants. The runner beans are growing well and I have had to secure them again and also the peas and sweet peas. By the way, there is a sweet pea growing amongst the shade loving plants - I haven't planted it.  Likewise at the top of the garden a clematis is growing alongside the honeysuckle cut back last year. It wasn't there last year and the flowers are huge.

Another strange thing happened on Tuesday. On Monday it rained. And I mean heavy rain as I set off for work. It also rained on Tuesday, not as much but the showers, when they came, were substantial. So...I come home from work, go out into the garden to check on everything and ended up having to water it. Not only was the bird bath devoid of water but the soil was bone dry! How? Why? It rained...hard!

Something has been rooting through my pots and on Friday afternoon I saw the culprit -- a blackbird. Hopefully it's just after the slugs and not the plants. It hasn't happened so far this year but last year I'd go out in the morning and the lawn would be peppered with tree bark mulch; early one morning I saw a pigeon picking up the bark piece by piece off the garden and throwing it on the lawn!

Friday was not a good day for my back. It took me ages to plant out the carrot seedlings (the ones sown straight into the veg bed have yet to emerge. Aware of carrot fly syndrome I separated the seedlings in the potting shed and I have planted them in between the rows of onions and leeks - took me ages.

Slimy weed has been forming on top of the pond where the waterfall is. It's weird stuff - flat, solid but stringy. I started to hook it out with the net and more just kept coming from the sides and bottom of the pond. Hmmm...maybe that's why the fish are sulking!

Last year the morello cherry crop was disappointing, 3 to be precise and they were sour. This year the tree was laden with flowers and small fruits are now starting to sprout. To keep the birds away I have hung cd's in the tree- I'm hoping the eagles and albatross will do it otherwise I'll have to resort to the birdie song (ouch...I know, shut up!).

Today I have transferred some flowers into the front garden, potted up pepper and chilli seedlings and planted more tomatoes. The watercress is doing nicely, thank you, as is the second batch of parsnips (now protected from those pesky slugs and snails). I have also spent over an hour planting our beetroot seedlings. To say I have o/d'd on these is an understatement. I have had to plant a lot of them in the flower beds...remind me not to grow any next year, it's going to take me a couple of years to eat all these.

This is clematis that's appeared this year -- stunning eh!

Well, I  think that's all. I do have 2 bags of compost in the garage that were a bargain and dropped off for me, unfortunately they are 100 litre bags and I can't move them wimp that I am!

Hope you've enjoyed your Bank Holiday, have a good week, take care...



17 May 2015

All jobs on list completed..yesss!!

Hi All,

I was spoilt for choice for a title this week but this one sums it up. The first title was going to be 'The Year of the Frog' as the surface of the pond is bubbling with the splashing of extremely large tadpoles - and they are huge and numerous...probably because they keep nibbling at the fish food.  The fish have been a bit elusive this week, obviously sulking because the tadpoles are eating their food! The huge frog, nicknamed Freddie (original!) has not been in the mini pond for a couple of days andI keep waiting for him to jump out at me as I'm weeding.

Another title was going too be 'The Highs and the Lows' as I discovered yesterday that the garlic has garlic rust. I was devastated as it only seems to have taken hold in the last week.  My initial reaction was to pull the plants up (as I had seen a couple of months ago on the TV) but I didn't want to lose the crop so I went on the internet and found a site called gardenbetty.com.  The virus is air borne (it has been extremely windy here this year) and can affect leeks and onions as well. Thankfully, the onions don't appear to have been infected. Anyway, I did as the website advised and stripped all the leaves off just leaving the stems - apparently the plant will still photosynthesise and send goodness to the bulb so we'll see...I'll keep you posted.

It's also been a week of strange discoveries....I found a rogue lettuce growing amongst the primulas, perfectly healthy (must be from last year) so I've repotted it and it's doing nicely. Also, whilst dead heading the daffs I came across what appeared to be leeks. I thought can't be...can it? The stem were certainly thick enough to be leeks and there were seed heads on the top. I pulled one out and yes, it was a leek - goodness knows how they got there, I pulled out six. I won't be eating them but I've saved the seeds. And, further along in the same bed I found parsnip tops growing, again these must be from last year. I pulled them out but the parsnips weren't very well formed.

I think I've gone a bit mad with the beetroot and am overrun with seedlings - good job I like it. The carrot seedlings in the greenhouse have grown about 2" but the ones in the garden are yet to show.  Thanks to the snails I have a sum total of three parsnip seedlings at the moment but a new batch are slowly, and I mean very slowly, sprouting.  The peppers and chillies are also taking their time, may have to sow another batch of these as well. But the cucumbers are doing well and they are now in their growing position in the greenhouse, the gherkins have also sprouted nicely, they are an outdoor type so I am hardening them off along with the courgettes. The Japanese squash are growing very fast but I think these don't go outside until end of May...not sure where I will put these - don't think I've thought this through properly lol! The potatoes have gone totally bonkers and all four varieties ((early and late growers) are all nearly a foot above the top of the potato growing bags.

There are lots of pale blue damselflies in the garden at the moment along with various breeds of butterflies and bees. And talking of bees and butterflies ((no, not that sort of talk!) I went to the garden centre this morning to get some more spinach seeds (current batch doing very well and extremely tasty) and I also bought from the wild garden section some red campion, scabious, wild marjoram (which the bees love apparently) and wild basil so I am doing my bit for the environment. Still no bees in the bee box or the two new nesting boxes but the blue tits are very active in the original bird box...if I had a pound for every time they flew in and out of that box every day I would probably be able to retire, it's incredible. I sit in the conservatory every morning with my hot, thickly buttered toast and watch them flying in and out and bombing around the garden. Yesterday morning they were picking off the early morning bugs off the greenhouse.

For a few weeks now I have been diligently filling the bird feeders with peanuts and putting out fat balls but not any more. Why, you ask. Well, yesterday I was sat in the conservatory having lunch (smoked salmon and cucumber Panini) when I saw a fluffy tail strolling down the path then veering off to the right where the feeders are. I abandoned the Panini and crept across the lawn and there was the thief...a grey squirrel hanging off one of the feeders! He was cute though. I've now moved the feeders.

I'm not sure what too do with the morello cherry tree...it had masses of flowers on it and now, of course, it's due to produce masses of cherries. I am wondering whether or not to cover the tree to protect it from the birds, not sure netting will stop them plus they could get caught up, maybe I should try the white fleece material.

This is the white azalea that I rescued from a garden centre, it was on it's last roots and totally dehydrated and now.... And yes, I know the pic is sideways but  I don't know how to turn it round...I will inquire.

I have a thing about taking pics of trees and whilst on holiday in Mexico recently I came across this...I think it's amazing. It also looks like something out of a sci-fi film!
Right, I think that's it. The sun is still shining albeit clouding over and the wind is getting up...but a least the washing's drying!
Have a good week, catch up next weekend,

10 May 2015

Wow...what a week!

Evening everyone,

Well...what a week it's been yet again. I just love this time of year. So...here goes (actually, apologies now for lack of pics - I'll sort it!):
I was working all weekend so Friday evening I watered the garden and pots and Saturday morning I watered the greenhouse and checked the status of things...no sign of courgettes or the runner beans I'd found and planted from last year's growth, despite the fact that the runner beans seeds I bought were already a couple inches tall. So... off to work I go. Came home this evening and went for a stroll to survey the progress - a couple of fennel seeds have broken through, some more beetroot are on their way (talking of beetroot...I panicked last week that I had undersown so I soaked and planted more seeds only too find a couple days later a tray of red leaves sprouting in the greenhouse so..errmmm..if anyone wants any beetroot!), the leeks are coming on nicely and so are the onions and garlic.

Went into the greenhouse and, well, do you remember playing a game called statues at school? One person stood in front with their back to everyone who had to try and reach them without being seen moving when the person turned around. Well, I think my seedlings are playing statues. As I said, there was no sign of them when I went to work yesterday morning yet this evening three of the runner beans have broken through and grown a couple of inches, the courgettes have also broken through and grown about an inch and the original runner beans are now over 6"high!

During the week I planted up the tomato plants in the greenhouse along with a marigold too keep the bugs away. I have sown kale, spicy salad leaves, radishes and spring onions. I also moved some plants from the back garden to the front as I haven't had time to prepare the bed for them (work is getting in the way - now where's that lottery ticket?) and I planted out the zinnia, flaxand the poppies and cornflowers I have grown from last year's seeds.

The potatoes...well...the maris bard are now a good six inches above the top of the potato grower, it's so exciting. The azaleas - bright red, deep purple and white - are all in flower and look stunning, I will post pic next week. Oh...and the one downer is the pesky snails ate the tops off my parsnip seedlings, hoping I can salvage them. I have also had my first success at micro greens and have been enjoying tasty micro rocket.

And to the ponds. The bigger pond is flourishing bearing in mind, as I said previously, we were unaware there were fish in it. We are now leaving the pump on for 6 hours every day and the water is much clearer...the poor fish must wonder what's going on! The tadpoles are growing nicely and it looks like there may be some newts as well. I bought a pigmy water lily for the micro pond but it's too big so I've put it in the bigger pond. And talking of the micro pond, the tadpoles are tiny and underdeveloped compared to the other pond so I'm now wondering did I do the right thing in putting some spawn in there? On Friday I was pottering and I always check on the micro pond which is now surrounded by grasses and aquilegia. Normally I approach it from the lawn but as I was at the bottom of the garden I approached it from the other side...I peered over and jumped back. Sitting on one of the small rocks was a frog the size of my palm. It looked out of place in the small cauldron but appeared happy sat there. I'm glad I didn't approach the pond from my usual direction as I would have come face to face with it and then, I'm ashamed to say, I would have screamed!!

Well that's it for this week. Off to Dublin for a couple of days so watched Countryfile earlier to see what I needed to do with the garden before I go and, of course, I need to know what too pack!

Take care and catch up next week,


2 May 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow....Quickly!!

Hi All,

I've just come back from a couple weeks in Mexico and can't believe how much the garden has grown. Apparently we had a warm spell for the first week I was away, thankfully I had someone to water the plants and top up the pond (loads of tadpoles splashing around) and the micro pond (tiny tadpoles in here as well which I am pleased about as I wasn't sure they would survive. Anyway, I digress. The second week I was away it rained quite a bit so everything has shot up.  When we arrived back, before unpacking, it was straight out into the garden!

Probably the most dramatic is the onions which have grown over a foot and secondly the potatoes which, in the two weeks since I planted them, have sprouted about 6-7 inches so my first job was to raise the soil around them and I had to do it again yesterday...they are obviously happy where they are.  Thankfully the pigeons didn't eat all the grass seed so the lawn is looking lush and green; the peas and sweet peas seem to have come to a standstill but hopefully they'll start growing again once the weather warms up; the garlic is taller and thicker; the leeks and beetroot in the veg patch are slow to come through...definitely not growing as fast as the weeds!

The plants in the greenhouse just about survived our rigged up watering system. The Japanese squash have grown about 6 inches; the leeks looked good and so did most of the flower and the tomato plants. One strange thing.....I can't find the pepper seedlings. I hope they don't look like zinnia seedlings otherwise they'll be growing in the front garden. The propagator parsnips have come on well compared to the seeds in the veg patch which aren't showing any signs of growing yet.

So...it's been a busy week catching up with the garden in between life as we know it. I have cleared a lot of the weeds from the veg and flower beds, potted on the squash and tomatoes, hardening off the zinnia (and possible peppers), cornflowers, globe thistle and flax, planted out the greenhouse grown leeks and sown the carrots in between them, fennel has been sown as has more beetroot.  I went into town yesterday and bought some plastic plant pots for the veg and I have sown spicy salad leaves, spring onions and radishes, little gem lettuce, basil and parsley. In the propagator I have more peppers, chillies, cucamelon, courgettes, gherkins, cucumber and runner beans.

The blue tits are busy flying in and out of their bird box. The other bird box and robin box remain empty as does the bee house but early days.

Rain has been forecast today and still not arrived...looks like I'm on standby to water the garden later...

Enjoy your bank holiday weekend and catch up next week,

Take care,