30 April 2016

Dorset Garden Diary - Frostbite on the Potatoes and Finally Some Planting Out

Evening everyone,

How's your week been? A mixed one here with a whole spectrum of weather. Plenty going on in the garden but for most of the week still too cold to plant out.

Monday - well  it appears my rain dance did the trick, rained overnight and throughout most of the day. Don't think that much was forecast but not complaining. It was also cold (48F 8C) and only warmed up to 52F 10C by late afternoon when sun came out. I had taken the cloche covers off late yesterday - even though they're perforated the rain wasn't getting through to the seedlings. I was in two minds as there was possible frost overnight during the week but I'm glad I did as they had a good soaking. I de-snailed the greenhouse and checked the sowings - chop suey greens coming along nicely so is the watercress. Once the rain had stopped I cleared the blanket weed from the pond, planted up the raspberry bush and re-potted a blackcurrant sucker that will hopefully grow into another bush. There are a lot of bumble bees around at the moment and they are huge!

Tuesday - sunny, cold and early temperature of 40F 4C yet by 9am it was 60F 15C in the greenhouse.  I sat in the conservatory watching the birds...have you ever seen a pigeon trying to run? It's hilarious from behind! I planted out the cottage garden plants I bought last week, hopefully it's not too cold for them. The sweet peas I planted out a few weeks ago are doing well and surviving the cold snap.

I was going to plant out more this week but I think I'll wait until the weekend along with the peas and beetroot. The samphire is growing slowly and the leaves are a lovely shape

Apart from frost (thankfully) we had all weathers today; sunny and windy early morning, showers midday followed by sun then the sky darkened and we had sleet, hail and thunder and lightning followed by a few minutes of snow. Saw a pigeon on the bird table this evening...aaaarrgghhh!! Back to the drawing board. I watered the tomatoes and courgettes in the greenhouse with liquid feed.

Wednesday - another cold and sunny start 40F 4C then a day of sunshine and heavy showers. In between them I fed the birds, checked the garden and adapted the bird table yet again - I'll see if it works first before I take a pic. Four pigeons were sat on the fence watching me with interest. There was a robin in the gravel garden near the patio today so I'm trying to think how I can leave food there without the pigeons eating it. I sowed aquilegia seeds viridiflora (chocolate soldier), potted up more marigolds to grow with the tomato plants to deter aphids, and hung a fly trap in the greenhouse.

Thursday -  even colder this morning 38F 3C and a frost. And I didn't cover anything, fingers crossed I haven't lost any plants. It grew very windy today and the temperature only rose to 51F 10C.

Friday - cold 43F 6C cloudy and windy and stayed cold all day. Although we had a short shower just after lunch I had to water the garden this evening as the wind has dried the soil and the pots. I secured the sweet peas that the wind had blown over. It appears that everything survived the frost except a couple of the potato plants. I've removed the damaged leaves and hopefully they will survive. This evening I covered all the potato bags just in case we have another frost. Still no sign of the fish, the frogs or any tadpoles.

Saturday - 38F 3C again this morning and sunny, the wind has dropped and thankfully no frost. I checked the damaged potato plants and there are already new leaves forming...phew! I put weedkiller on the front drive again - the weeds are proving persistent - then I topped up the bird feeders. It appears my adaptation on the bird table has worked - there is still food on there! Hah...take that pigeons and magpies!

Plenty to do over this weekend. I planted up the cucumbers, gherkins, chillies and peppers in the greenhouse, potted up the basil seedlings and the outdoor gherkins:

I planted out some of the sturdier and hardened off sweet pea plants, topped up the pentland javelin potatoes and moved the echinacea into the cottage garden. I protected the newly planted sweet peas and the seedlings from the greenhouse which I was leaving out overnight.

Sunday - sunny, cold 43F 6C. The wind picked up around lunchtime then died down again mid afternoon. A busy day today: planted out the pot grown peas (they were planted after the seeds sown direct into the ground and are much bigger), some of the larger celeriac, rainbow beetroot, the remaining sweet peas, kale, radishes and pak choi (think I've over sown on these two!), zinnias and tree spinach. I re-potted the chop suey greens, sowed more peas and spring onions, cut back the hellebores then tied back the daffodils as the stems were draping over the cottage garden and smothering the newly growing plants

After all that I needed a long soak in a hot bath! Not many birds around today, plenty of bees this morning and then early afternoon there were a lot of butterflies. Oh, forgot to mention...the runner beans still haven't started growing yet.

Saxifraga that was hidden by the bluebells,
A primula that has flowered this week
Maris peer potatoes

Garlic,courgettes and pak choi

Azalea, cherry tree and the veg beds

This sweet pea grows every year, not only that it's on a north facing wall so doesn't get any direct sunlight. See... nature will always find a way
Well, apart from some much needed rain tomorrow and an unwanted cold, maybe frosty, night on Tuesday the week ahead is looking good for gardening with the temperature steadily rising...yesss! I hope the weather is as promising where you are, have a good week and catch up next weekend.
Follow me on Twitter @daisydigga

24 April 2016

Dorset Garden Diary - Did I Sow the Runner Beans or Did I Dream It!

Evening everyone,

It's been a productive week but I've still not been able to plant out most of the seedlings as the temperature has dipped at nights - hopefully next week.

Monday - the day started cold and sunny (42F 5C ) but the promised warm up never happened and by the afternoon it was cloudy and cold. Even the greenhouse didn't get past 58F. The radishes I'd planted in a large pot are being eaten by slugs, so I've now planted them in the garden. I sowed sea kale, chop suey greens and verbena bonarienses and did second sowings of pak choi and kale. I was going to plant out the sweet peas that are raring to go but in the end decided against it. The unknown potatoes and the maris peer are growing nearly two inches a day whereas the pentland javelin I planted a couple of weeks after are yet to show.

The results of my potato growing experiment so far are that there is no difference in growth between the potatoes in the garden compost, the potatoes in fertiliser and those without. There is also no difference between those started outside and those started in the greenhouse.

Tuesday - sunny and slightly warmer by one degree at 43F 5C and by 10am it was 53F 11C. The garden was full of small birds during the morning - robins, blackbirds, house sparrows and blue tits - and the air was filled with song - maybe it was National Birdsong Day! I planted out the spring onion seedlings (I hope they survive the cold nights), made a second sowing and did the fourth sowing of radishes. Hardly a cloud in the sky all day. The primroses are looking great:

Wednesday - another sunny day 48F 8C but there was a bitterly cold wind. Still no sign of the fish. This happened last year, a dip in the netting covering the pond and then we didn't see the fish for weeks - we thought the heron had got them. When they finally reappeared they had the fishlings in tow. I covered the potatoes with soil again as they had grown through overnight.

Thursday - and yet another sunny day, we're being spoilt here, and a little warmer at 48F 8C. I just pottered today as a cold snap is forecast for the weekend so can't plant anything out; the greenhouse is full up with seedlings trying to break free. Plum blossom appeared overnight, it's so pretty (bluebells in the background)
and the quince blossom has opened up - again very pretty
there is activity on the hazelnut tree.

and we have one tulip - yes, just the one.

 At 5pm it was still 60F 15C in the greenhouse.

Friday - a cold one today 43F 6C and a bit of a shock after the past couple of days. We had heavy rain for most of the day. The garden certainly needed it and it saved me a job. The unknown and maris peer potatoes had pushed up through the two inches of soil again last night so now I'm letting them grow on (as per Monty Don's instructions). I watched Gardeners' World this evening and the only job for the weekend that applied to me was cut back the sage and I've already done that. My free Grow Wild seeds arrived from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew today so that will be a job for next week

Saturday - another cold one 43F 6C. A day out of the garden today but I did top up the bird feeders around 9.30am before I went out and when I came back at 7pm both feeders were empty - it's amazing how much small birds can eat in such a short time

Sunday - cold, sunny 43F 6C and a chilly wind. My day started with a senior moment. I was convinced I had sown the runner beans, but I couldn't find them anywhere. I checked the trays in the greenhouse - nothing. I thought, maybe I'd just dreamt I'd sown them, but I was sure I had actually done it. When I checked the seed packet it had been opened so yes, I had sown them. I checked the greenhouse again but couldn't see them. I stood there looking at the pots and trays, willing them to appear, then I spotted the lid of the propagator covering a seed tray on the bottom shelf. I lifted it up and there they were. Thank goodness for that - I thought I was losing the plot!

My plan for the morning was to visit the garden centre to get more bird seed (it seems I spend more on their food than ours, but they're worth it!), weedkiller and a couple of plants for the cottage garden. I put the first two in the trolley then went outside to browse...and this was the result:

Well...they were on offer and...they are good for attracting bees and butterflies:- scabious (pink mist), potentilla (monardi velvet), lupin (chandelier), salvia (snowmound), penstemon (husker red) two of, agapanthus (blue prince), sidalcia (starks), pyrethrum ((james kelway), echium (russicum), doronicum (little leo), sneezewort and raspberry (ruby beauty) which is a patio bush with no thorns and produces masses of fruit - apparently. Lucky I had some gift vouchers!

Back home I opened the greenhouse and put the seed trays outside then sprayed the front drive with weedkiller, washed and cleaned the bird feeders and topped them up. The temperature reached 65F 18C in the greenhouse. It's been a lovely day but chilly when the sun went behind  the clouds. I pottered for a few hours tidying up and taking note of what I need to do next week. I had to water the pots as they were dry even though it had rained on Friday.

I watched Countryfile this evening which had an interesting Shakespearian theme to it. The weather for the week ahead generally is not good, much colder than it should be but it looks like we could be lucky here in Dorset although I may have to give the garden a good water as not much rain coming this way.  Have a good week, stay warm and catch up next Sunday. I'll leave you with tonight's sunset:


Follow me on Twitter @daisydigga

16 April 2016

Dorset Garden Diary - A Waiting Game and There Was This Huge Bee...

Evening everyone,

I can't believe it's Sunday again - where does the time go? It's been a pleasant Spring week here in Dorset, the weather has been balmy, in fact quite warm at times, which is great for the garden.

Monday - started cloudy but mild (53F 11C ) before blossoming into a sunny day reaching 70F 21C in the greenhouse at midday. I potted on half the pak choi seedlings and put the other half direct into the garden - we'll see which does best. The same with the radish seedlings. I did the second sowing of the chard and was going to the same with the broccoli but yet again the first sowings have died on me, I remember last year I didn't have much success with it so I think I'll give it a miss. I was pottering at the top of the garden, within a couple of feet of the seed feeder, and a blue tit flew over and started feeding, not at all bothered that I was there...they're beautiful close up. My next job was  covering the pea and runner bean pyramids in netting and securing the crossbar between the two. The potatoes are pushing up through the soil so I covered them with more soil. I moved the two potato bags that were in the greenhouse outside.

The mixed onions are now growing well so I decided to take off the cloche protector but still leave it over the carrot, beetroot and parsnip seeds. Whilst I was doing this a huge bumble bee was buzzing around the rosemary and campanula nearby. I went to get some tent pegs to secure the covering and when I came back I could hear persistent buzzing - the bumble bee had flown under the covering. Keeping my distance, I used a long bamboo cane to try and lift the plastic so it could escape but it chose to go further under. Then it discovered the holes in the plastic and tried to escape through one. It got stuck halfway, caught round it's middle. And it got angry. And I didn't know what to do. It was stuck fast. The phrase 'who ate all the pies' came to mind! This is just the front half of it and the holes are large enough to put a thick bamboo cane through.

Obviously I didn't want to get too close in case it freed itself and stung me, so I tried to rip the plastic with the bamboo cane but that just made the bee even angrier. I fetched the long-handled shears and started cutting away at the plastic around it but I couldn't cut the hole where it was stuck because it was jammed in. By this time it was 'hell hath no fury like a bee stuck in a hole too small for it'. I decided there wasn't much else I could do so left it for ten minutes or so. When I came back the bee had stopped buzzing and was feebly trying to pull itself through. I tried again with the bamboo cane, pulling at the holes in the plastic. This time it worked and the bee managed to free itself and fly off. I read somewhere that bees can recognise human faces, I'm just hoping that, if this is true, it recognises me as it's saviour and not it's captor!

Tuesday - foggy early this morning and only 40F 4C but by 8am it was clear, sunny and warm. I fed the fish and the birds (they are still getting through two tube seed feeders a day) then I took the sweet pea, pea and flower seedlings out of the greenhouse into the garden to harden off. I still haven't solved the magpie on the bird table problem but they aren't going on there as frequently since I stopped putting bread and suet treats on it. Second sowings of radish, chard, rainbow beetroot and little gem lettuce complete. Up to 72F 22C in the greenhouse today. I picked some daffodils for the house as they are so pretty and we have quite a few different varieties that have appeared this year.

One variety (white outer petals and pale apricot inner) has a heady perfume; after I'd put them in the vase my neck started to itch, then burn. I put lavender oil on it and after a few minutes it calmed, I think it must have been a reaction to the perfumed daffodil.

Wednesday - the day started grey and misty again, slightly warmer than yesterday at 43F 6C. Usual feeding routine and putting the pots outside to harden off. It was then I noticed the clematis over the arch - it's all in bud and some flowers have opened:

and the plum tree has burst into life.
The pulsatilla halleri grandis (pic last week) has now come into flower
and this plant - I think it's a veronica - has seeded itself in the gravel, very pretty:
and this is an inside view of the fritillaria snakes head

The potatoes have already pushed through the soil I put over on Monday so I covered them again. I think this is what went wrong last year, the spuds grew but I didn't cover them in enough soil. I'm on top of it now (no pun intended). The fish are enjoying the balmy weather...the adults spending their days lazily drifting near the surface whilst the teenage fishlings are splashing and darting around, the water constantly rippling with their activity. One thing I've noticed, the fish don't like the pond pump  on. We have a small fountain and a trickle waterfall which we use to keep the water oxygenated. It's on regularly in the summer but only now and again this time of year. As soon as I switch it on the fish dive to the bottom of the pond. As soon as I switch it off they surface again!

Friday - yesterday was another gloriously warm spring day but unfortunately, I was unable to make the most of it. Today started with heavy rain (although much warmer 50F 10C) which lasted until mid afternoon and much needed by the garden. I went out late afternoon and couldn't believe it, the potatoes had grown through the soil I covered them with yesterday! I checked the greenhouse and fed the tomato seedlings. Later in the day the sparrows and blue tits were having a feeding frenzy. I have nearly run out of bird seed. Watched Gardeners' World this evening and jobs for the weekend are prune back gooseberries and redcurrants but not blackcurrants.

Saturday - cold but sunny spells (42F 5C) and a bit of a chilly east wind. The blue tit parents were in and out of their nesting box all morning, the sparrows were feeding most of the day and the pigeons waddled around looking for scraps. I've now run out of bird food.

Sunday - a cold start (38F 3C) and sunny. We narrowly missed a frost although I did cover some of the tender plants late yesterday just in case. I went shopping first thing for more bird seed and a couple of pots and received this cape marigold/rain daisy free:
I've decided I need a bigger pottering shed, I'll just add it to him indoors' to-do list! I sowed runner beans and re-potted the gherkins, ragged robin, mixed verbena and quaking grass. I made holes in the new pots ready for the chillies and peppers and I assembled the plant halos (watering system) over the grow bags ready for the tomato plants.
Amazingly, the potatoes have grown another inch or so since yesterday. In the greenhouse the courgettes have nearly doubled in size since last week
the tomatoes and cucumbers are coming on
and so are the peppers, chillies and gherkins
and outside hardening off are the peas, sweet peas, radish, beetroot, leeks, spring onions and flower seedlings.
One of the azaleas has come into flower
the lionheart lilies are growing again

the quince tree is in bud (planted last year)
my new seed feeder

and this is a general view of garden

It's a bit of a waiting game at the moment. There are plants ready to be planted out but there is still  the possibility of frost. This week the weather is dry and fairly mild up until Thursday, then the rain comes in, then there's a cold front coming for next weekend bringing frosts. Looks like the greenhouse is going to be crowded for another week at least. But there's still plenty to be getting on with, I haven't even touched the front garden yet.
Have a good week, hope the weather is gardening-friendly wherever you are and catch up next Sunday.
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10 April 2016

Dorset Garden Diary - The Garden's Coming to Life and Adopted a Donkey

Evening everyone,

I hope your week has gone well...it's been an interesting one here, not all gardening but plenty of it concentrated into a three or four days. The weather turned milder for most of the week, ending on a windy note - just for a change!

Sunday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon we were away, so there was plenty to do Sunday morning. Him indoors adapted the bird table yet again to (hopefully) stop the pigeons and magpies getting on it.
I planted some of the sweet peas along the bottom of the back fence and by the greenhouse, put  mixed achillea plants grown from seed in the cottage garden and planted out a few early parsnip seedlings then watered them in. Checked the new seedlings, watered the greenhouse, gave the fish plenty of food then topped up the bird table and the seed feeders.

All done and first stop was the donkey sanctuary near Sidmouth, Devon. Meet Walter, our newly adopted donkey:
Apparently he is a fun-loving, cheeky, lovable chap with a half-brother named Timothy. Not only does he try to break into the food shed, he's also their star footballer, often showing off his skills in the paddock. Cute eh!

It was then off to Somerset for an overnight stay before visiting Slimbridge water and wildfowl centre. It's an amazing place which deserves a separate blog. I took pictures of these bug houses which I thought were ingenious:

Tuesday we visited Stourhead in Wiltshire. It has mature gardens, magnificent trees and a wide variety of rhododendron bushes, magnolias, a large lake and a stately house. Again, this merits a separate blog. Back home late afternoon and straight out into the garden. Since we left on Sunday we now have apple blossom

and the radishes are poking through.

I planted the dahlias in the cottage garden plus verbascum (mixed and arctic). Sowed flaxseeds and re-potted the azalea I've grown from a cutting. I had to top up the potato bag with the 'unknowns' in as they were already poking through the soil.

Wednesday - him indoors stood looking at the dismantled greenhouse that had been kindly delivered last week by a friend for a reasonable price and a plentiful supply of chocolate and hazelnut Danish pastries! Hopefully, it will be assembled during the summer once we've decided where it's going. Having a cuppa in the conservatory (it's thirsty work looking at a dismantled greenhouse), him indoors watched a cheeky magpie penetrating our defences and get on the bird table, so it's back to the drawing board...again! But at least the pigeons haven't worked it out...yet.

And that was it until yesterday. Him indoors has had another operation on his foot so will be out of action for yet another few weeks - just imagine how long that to-do list is going to be!!

Saturday - sunshine and showers and back in the garden, temperature rose to 56F 13C early afternoon. First job, as always, check the fish are still there and feed them (yes they are, but the frog spawn has gone), fed the birds then checked on the garden. It's amazing how quickly plants grow when you don't check on them every day. The fritillaria are taller:
This is Pulsatilla Halleri Grandis - looks interesting. Bought it last year and this is the first time it's coming into flower.
The apple, pear and cherry trees - still waiting for growth on the plum tree

The unnamed potato breaking through again after three days
The shallots are doing very well
 The quince tree is looking healthy (hollyhock in the background to the right)
 The redcurrant bush appears to like it's position in the sun
And the first pea shoot has appeared from the outdoor sowing.

Sunday - cold and chilly this morning (45F 7C). Clouded over this afternoon, only up to 48F 9C. Very windy and rain came in late afternoon. As I was hanging out the washing this morning, the heron flew in and hovered over the top shed in the wind before landing, not at all bothered I was in the garden. The seagulls soon chased it away though. There was a lot of fishling activity this morning, I hope they're not eating the newly forming tadpoles. The freesias are looking lovely, I picked some for the kitchen.

The second sowing of basil has come through, thankfully, I think I overwatered the first batch. I potted on the celeriac from the propagator, sowed more outdoor gherkins as the first sowing has disappeared as have the tomato 100. For some reason, some of the seeds in the propagator had fallen through the soil and were trying to grow on the mat. I've now emptied the propagator and potted up the stray seedlings, hopefully they will grow but, at the moment, I have no idea what they are (you've heard that before). I put the rest of the small seedling pots in the greenhouse and have reclaimed back my kitchen. The greenhouse is filling up...love it:
And look how the courgettes, pak choi and radish have come on:

Next week I will have to start potting on and planting out. The acer and the olive are thriving in the greenhouse. The acer doesn't do well outside, I think the south west facing garden is too windy for it.

And...the apple seed that started to grow from seeds I planted last year has not only doubled in size but been joined by another one:

I've been watching The Masters from Augusta - I wish my lawn was as lush as the fairways there. I'm sure once him indoors is up and about again it will be!

According to Countryfile this evening, the weather for the coming week here in Dorset is a mixture of sunshine and showers, mild for the first half then becoming colder and drier, so looking good for getting the planting done. Wild and windy here at the moment. I hope the weather is kind to you this week, have a good one and catch up next Sunday.



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