28 February 2016

Dorset Garden Diary - New Growth, Hungry Birds and a Busy Month to Come

Hi everyone,

I hope you've all had a good week. I'm sending this out a little earlier today as I have a non-exciting commitment later on. It's been a cold week here in Dorset with hardly any rain.  Unbelievably, after all the rain we've had over the past month or so, the pots are already starting to dry out.

Monday - the day started drizzly but quite warm. The fish were on the surface early this morning so I fed them. The robin feeder, bird table and seed feeder were all empty and needed topping up (soaked the bread in melted lard as cold weather coming in). The sparrows were straight on to the seed feeder, vying for the perches. A pigeon lurked beneath waiting for any scraps that fell it's way. I did all this at 8.30am and by 4pm the seed feeder was empty and most of the food on the bird table had gone. A pair of blackbirds on the back fence watched eagerly as I topped up the food. I potted up the cherry tomato, cerinthe, chives and broccoli seedlings that have come through over the past week.

My neighbour popped round with my delivery of clematis I'd ordered from Gardeners' World (why is it that parcels always arrive when you're out?). I potted them into larger pots and leaving them indoors until they are ready to plant out as frosty weather is forecast for the next few days and maybe the rest of the week. The clematis are: Blue Dancer, Ernest Markham, Montana Rubens and Cirrhosa Freckles. My next job was to hang up the thermometer in the greenhouse - even I can see that without my glasses!

I put all the composting material into the bin near the back shed and noticed this growing amongst the daffodils...I don't know what it is or where it's come from as I didn't plant it:

I didn't have time to plant out the redcurrant bush so I've put it in the greenhouse for the time being.

Tuesday - very frosty this morning but the pond hadn't frozen over. Clear blue sky and later in the day it felt warm...well, warmer than it did first thing anyway! I pricked out the tops of the sweet peas so they will grow more bushy and then topped up the bird food (yet again) as we were going to be away for a couple of days...him indoors is getting cabin fever not being able to get out and about much at the moment.

Thursday - the first thing I did on getting back home was to check the garden. Then I unpacked! The red chilli seedlings have grown and a couple of cherry tomato seedlings have come through. There are more daffodils in bloom and the honeysuckle is in leaf.

Indoors, the amaryllis has another flower - it's so pretty.
And this is the one that I grew from last year's bulb...huge but no flowers...maybe next year, hopefully.

Friday - another cold morning but no frost, just a bitter wind. I was pleased to see a pair of blackbirds in the garden, I think they are nesting next door. The blue tit was in and out of it's house a couple of times before flying off. I sorted through all the seed packets and put them in month order for sowing - it appears I'm going to be busy in March. I then checked Gardeners' World magazine for jobs to do in March and now I'm going to be even busier! I started spiking/aerating the lawn - normally this would be a job for him indoors. And finally, I made a list of all the jobs that need doing once his foot has healed and he's no longer incapacitated!

Saturday - a bit cloudier today with a few sunny spells. Very cold in the wind. There was an abundance of sparrows early in the morning on the seed feeder and even the blue tits were joining in. A pigeon had a few abortive attempts at trying to get onto the bird table then flew off and left it to the blackbirds. More tomato and chilli seedlings have broken through overnight - they will need potting up next week.

I braved the cold and spent an hour or so aerating more of the lawn watched by a chirping robin. Not much more to do now. Unfortunately, I won't have time to put down sharp sand and top soil but at least the spiking will help with the drainage. It is quite stony 3-4 inches below the grass. The fish were visible but I didn't feed them as the temperature was below six degrees.

More plants that have grown since last week are: this sweet pea from last year's roots.
A primula just coming into bud,
and a saxifrage over-wintering in a small bed until the rockery is built.

And a general winter view of the garden so far this year, the grass will need cutting soon I think.

Sunday - at 6.38 this morning there were four blackbirds breakfasting on the bird table but no signs of other bird activity, not even seagulls.
Well, that's all for this week. Apart from rain coming in on Tuesday I'm not sure what the weather will be until I watch Countryfile this evening, but I'm hoping it's going to be decent gardening weather as I'd like to dig out all the weeds in the flower beds. I hope you all have a good week and catch up next weekend.
Follow me on Twitter @DaisyDigga

21 February 2016

Dorset Garden Diary - Not Enough Hours in the Day

Hi Everyone,

I hope you've all had a good week. It's been a bit frustrating for me with regard to the garden. When I was busy and unable to get out there the weather was dry and sunny then, when I had some free time, it rained.

Monday - today was bitterly cold and very windy. I went out early morning to top up the bird feeders and hang out some more of the lard cakes I'd made. I didn't feed the fish as it was too cold. The basil and chive seeds have started to sprout and I noticed that last year's parsley has new growth on it. I  went shopping to stock up on more bird food and as I made my way to the checkout I passed the seed stands. So, of course, I had to look. I bought a packet of Chard (bright lights) and a packet of Mung Beans.

I have sooo much to sow this year...wonder if you can get fat on eating too many vegetables???

Tuesday - came home from work this evening and another flower has come into bloom on the amaryllis.

Unfortunately it was dark when I arrived home so I couldn't check the garden.

Wednesday - woke up this morning, drew back the curtains and there was a pigeon looking at me. Hmmm...wonder if it's stalking me for booby-trapping the bird seed!

There was a light frost this morning but not enough to freeze the pond. I was delighted to see that my efforts to stop the basket over the robin food being tipped over have paid off - it's still in situ.

And...whilst I was having my breakfast a female blackbird fed from the bird table whilst the pigeons jealously wandered around underneath, so that deterrent worked as well. There was a lot of sparrow activity at the top of the garden. The seed feeder was nearly empty so I replenished it and the sparrows were straight on it as I walked away. I fed the fish a bit later in the morning and they surfaced after a few minutes to eat. Another cherry tomato seedling has emerged which I will pot up, hopefully at the weekend. Bought a redcurrant bush this evening, some plant tags and a thermometer for the greenhouse...I used to shop for clothes and shoes! This afternoon clouded over and we had torrential rain on already saturated ground.

Thursday - today was sunny all day but very cold. Unfortunately I had plans so couldn't make the most of the weather.

Friday - it was initially forecast to be a day of heavy rain, then it changed to be a sunny morning and heavy rain in the afternoon, but all that happened was a steady light drizzle from around 4pm. I couldn't feed the fish this morning because it was too cold, but fed them early afternoon when the temperature had risen. The adult fish were near the surface and the food soon disappeared. The seed feeder was empty again this morning (only filled it up on Wednesday) so I topped that up amidst the chattering of the watching sparrows. I topped up the robin feeder and the bird table with bread, sunflower seeds and suet meal worm pellets. When I came indoors there was a blackbird sat on the roof of the bird table. By the time I came home later in the afternoon most of the food had been eaten. In the greenhouse there are more buds on the freesias; the kale and radish seedlings are coming along nicely, as are the broccoli and kale seedlings in the kitchen. In the garden, the growing bluebells have forced through a thyme plant and pulled it out of the ground:

and one of the primula's I bought last year has come into flower -pretty and delicate (like me, of course!).

The one job I haven't had time or this week, and I must do soon, is sort out all the veg and flower seeds that need planting in the next week or so.

Sunday - I haven't managed to get out in the garden this weekend due to work commitments (I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms) but I have come home with more composting material and some stale bread for the birds. I haven't even had time to pot up the cherry tomato seedling. I was having breakfast in the conservatory yesterday and noticed a female blackbird on the bird table. It sat there for ages and I wondered if it was injured, hoping it hadn't hurt itself on the pigeon-deterrent wire. I went outside and cautiously checked but it appeared to be fine. I needed to top up the food on the table but first I wanted to take a pic of the blackbird. I managed to get quite close and into focus and it appeared to be posing for me. As soon as I went to take the pic it flew away. I topped up the food and also fed the fish, turned the composter and put the redcurrant bush outside to be watered by the rain.

Lovely clear sky tonight illuminated by an almost full moon (which is tomorrow night). I doubt if there'll be a sight of it as the weather here in Dorset for tomorrow is rain, then it's getting cold and sunny with some night frosts...and we could be getting some snow by next weekend.

I hope your week goes well - it's nearly time for some serious seed sowing! Catch up next Sunday.



Follow me on Twitter @DaisyDigga

14 February 2016

Dorset Garden Diary - New Growth, Chilly Nights and Longer Days

Hi everyone,

Where has the week gone...it doesn't seem five minutes since I last sat down to write my blog. It's been a mixed week with the weather, the only constant is that it has been cold. One thing that is noticeable is the days are gradually getting longer. On the sunny days it's still light until 5.45pm.

Monday - Storm Imogen arrived overnight and we were buffeted by 60mph-plus winds. Thankfully, there was no damage to either the house or garden; the greenhouse survived and the bird table was still standing. Imogen started to calm down towards the end of the day.

Tuesday - It was dark when I arrived home from work yesterday so the first thing I did this morning was to check for any damage from yesterday...all ok apart from the lid to the housing for the pond pump, it had been blown off so I secured it back on again. Lucky it didn't land in the pond. A flower on the amaryllis I was given for Christmas is starting to open:

The hanging basket covering the robin food has been dislodged again so I am going to have to secure it somehow. Has to be a squirrel? Surely a magpie or pigeon couldn't move it that far.

Wednesday - the antirrhinum and cerinthe seeds have broken through overnight but too small to take a pic. The amaryllis has opened more overnight - spectacular.

The younger of the fish were near the surface when I went out to check the garden (which I do every morning) so I fed them a small amount. Sunny today but cold. I put the freesias and garlic pots in the greenhouse because a frost was forecast. We were treated to a stunning sunset late afternoon.

Thursday - there was a heavy frost overnight, but only parts of the garden were frosty:

Strangely enough, the pond and a shallow, uncovered container of rain water had not frozen over. I put more food out for the birds, watched by a pair of blackbirds on the top shed roof. There was a pigeon on the bird table so I am going to have to sort out how to try and stop them - and the magpies - getting on there. The amaryllis is now fully open:
Saturday - yesterday was sunny, dry and cold - and would have been a good day for gardening if I hadn't been at work. Today started with high winds blowing heavy rain against the windows, it even sounded cold outside. When I finally ventured out it was bitter. I did a quick inspection of the garden and found another whole walnut on the lawn...very strange. Six sparrows were perched in a row along the back fence taking it in turns to feed from the seed feeder. It was nearly empty so I refilled it and then made up some more lard cakes and hung out bread soaked in lard. There was some sleet in the wind and contrasting against the dark clouds was a rainbow.

Sunday - not as cold today but still cold; quite nice in the sunny spells though. Some of the fish, including a couple of the larger ones, were on the surface this morning so, as the temperature was above 6 degrees (just) I fed them. Whilst I was having my breakfast in the conservatory one of the blue tits went in and out of the nesting box a few times. The sparrows returned and were joined by some blue tits and they all took it in turns to feed. A few of the seedlings in the propogator have grown so I have potted them on - one cherry tomato, three tomato tigerella and a red chilli. There are more starting to come through. I re-potted the broccoli and the kale seedlings. The kale I have put into two pots - one is in the kitchen with the other seedlings (no heater in the greenhouse and it's forecast to get colder this week) and the other is in the greenhouse; I will see which ones do best. I picked the remaining leeks from last year's sowing although I think some of them may be overgrown spring onions!

In the greenhouse the radishes are growing well

and so are the parsnip tops I planted a couple of weeks ago - wonder if they will actually grow into parsnips.

I have secured (hopefully) the hanging basket over the robin food

and I have put some gardening wire around the bird table to try and stop the pigeons and magpies eating all the food.

I will have to experiment with the height. And, perfect timing, as I was typing this, a magpie flew towards the bird table, flapped it's wings frantically and veered away, it's attempts thwarted. Hah! Yeesss! Fingers crossed it will keep working.

And there has been some new growth since last week despite the cold.
I thought it was an anemone but now I'm not so sure
And I have no idea what this is so I have tweeted the RHS who always come up trumps.
Watched Countryfile this evening and it looks like the cold weather is set to continue. Down to -6 here in Dorset Monday night and maybe a sprinkling of snow Wednesday. But not as cold as it has been in New England, USA...-28 apparently!!
I hope you all have a good week and wrap up well if you're out in the garden. Catch up next Sunday with the next instalment of me vs magpies and pigeons!


7 February 2016

Dorset Garden Diary - It's Been a Wild and Stormy Week

Hi all,

Firstly, apologies for the small typeface last week, I hope you all managed to read it ok. I don't know what happened, I think the laptop was having a senior moment!

It's been a bit of a rough ride with the weather this week. Lots of rain and high winds, reaching gale force this weekend. So...it's not been a good week for gardening, but it didn't matter (for me, anyway) as I was away for a few days.

I worked Monday and Tuesday so all I managed was to top up the bird feeders. I think most of the food is being eaten by the magpies and the wood pigeons at the moment. There doesn't seem to be many small birds around in these windy conditions although some of the hanging fruit I put out has been eaten.

Wednesday - the day started dry and sunny for a change and not as windy. I walked round the garden checking that all was ok after the winds...a blackbird sat on the back fence watching me, head cocked to one side with interest. As I was going away for a few days I cleaned the top of the bird table and refreshed the food, fed the fish even though I thought it might be a bit too cold. I came in to make a coffee, went back outside with it and the fish had eaten all the food (not too cold then) so I fed them again just before I left. I planted some radish seedlings in the garden, they seem to sprout up overnight!

The radishes I planted in the greenhouse are coming on and so is the one lemon - not very big but it's yellow and it hasn't died yet! The daffs are budding and on the verge of opening out.

Saturday - I arrived back early afternoon and the gale force winds were just starting to build up, driving the rain horizontal. I dashed out to check everything was safe in the garden - which it was - and checked that the netting was still undisturbed over the pond...I don't trust that heron. The kale seedlings have broken through

and so have a few of the broccoli

also one red chilli and one cherry tomato seedling. The amaryllis is not only on the verge of breaking into flower but has grown another stem and two more buds:

Something had manoeuvred the upturned hanging basket off the robin food so it's back to the drawing board. I'm presuming it must have been a squirrel - could a bird have moved it, it's quite heavy? I will not be beaten!

Sunday - last night was a wild night, woken at 2.40am by hail being blown against the back windows - it sounded like someone was throwing gravel. I checked the garden this morning and the bird table had blown over in the night and the top had come off

As him indoors is incapacitated after an operation on his foot, it was down to me to set it upright and screw the top back on. I also weighed down the base with bricks...it is now re-stocked and in full working order again; hopefully it will withstand the gales that are forecast. Some of the daffs have come into bloom and the rest are on the verge of opening.

The rose bush, hazelnut, quince, cherry and pear trees have buds on; I peeked under the plastic bin but no sign of the rhubarb yet. In the greenhouse the sweet peas are doing well.

I popped into town this morning and bought some seeds - leeks (lyon 2 prizetaker), carrot (Norfolk giant 2) and also carrot (Amsterdam 2 amice) which are good for growing in containers. March is going to be a very busy planting month! And one more thing...the amaryllis has opened up since yesterday afternoon - beautiful.
Well, it appears that the gales this weekend were just the warm-up act. Storm Imogen is on her way and, according to the BBC weather map, she's heading straight for my back garden tonight and tomorrow! It's sounding pretty rough out there already and the rain is lashing against the windows. As for the rest of the week, it appears that only Wednesday and Thursday are going to be suitable for gardening. Have a good week...stay safe, dry and warm and catch up next Sunday.