26 January 2017

Dorset Garden Diary - Pruning, Sowing and the Greenhouse Has Gone

Hi everyone,

An early blog this week as I have commitments today. It's been a busy week tidying up the garden, together with the greenhouse and top shed coming down.

Monday - I wasn't expecting such a thick frost, everything in the garden was frozen

and it didn't start to thaw until late morning when the sun came round. We had patches of freezing fog as well which didn't help. There was a plethora of blackbirds, sparrows and our pair of blue tits feeding in the shrubs. The blue tits were in and out of their nesting box most of the morning and at one point the sparrows were taking an interest in it as well! I boiled the kettle and defrosted the bird baths and part of the pond then I spent the best part of an hour removing about three-quarters of the gravel from the floor of the greenhouse and put it on the cleared herb garden area.

Tuesday - another frosty morning with freezing fog which lasted all day. Late afternoon we moved the small plants from the greenhouse into him indoors' workshop.

Wednesday - a hard frost overnight and bitterly cold this morning but it didn't deter us, we braved the cold and spent the morning in the garden. Him indoors assembled my new barrow that goes easily up and down steps, he emptied ash on to one of the veg patches and dug it in then we both tidied up the shade garden and he put all the cuttings out the back

It's looking better and I found cyclamen growing under dead leaves (top pic). We have cut back the clematis as it was growing in clumps rather than across the trellis so we can now re-train it. I also cut back the hydrangea by the greenhouse as it's going to be dug out, then I pruned the pear tree.
Not sure if I've done it right but it's fairly aesthetically pleasing and I've left new growth on it. Him indoors removed the big pots from the greenhouse and put them in his workshop so the greenhouse is now empty and ready to come down

My next job was sowing seeds in the propagator - red basil, garlic seeds, rudbeckia, flax, 2 x pepper varieties, tomato and verbena (tall variety) - which is now in the conservatory. These seeds were taken from last year's crop so it's more of an experiment.

The cress and coriander micro greens are on the kitchen windowsill

By this time we were frozen so after lunch we headed for the local garden centre where I bought a peanut feeder and peanuts for the birds and more seeds - mustard and cress, radish micro greens, radish sparkler, lettuce sweetheart, spinach (I've not been successful so far with this), French bean opera and dwarf runner bean Hestia. On the way out we passed a shrub in a large pot with wonderful ground cover underneath it...cuttings are already potted up! Oh...and we have buds on one of the 'for your eyes only' roses

Thursday - and still bitterly cold with a biting wind. By mid-morning the greenhouse held together with duct tape was down and by early afternoon the shed at the bottom of the garden that has been defying gravity for the past year or so was also down.

Him indoors' workshop smells of white spirit so we kept the door open all day to try and clear it. I watched Winterwatch this evening. They had conducted an experiment with different colour bird feeders and the result was that the birds did not like the red feeder as apparently it means danger to them. So...the new red ladybird peanut feeder I bought yesterday will be going back and exchanged for a different one!

Friday - and not so cold today. A skip arrived just after 9am and the builders worked tirelessly all day digging out the old foundations, fuelled by coffee and digestive biscuits. They even worked all afternoon in the rain.

Saturday - 8.30 this morning four tons of hardcore (the biscuit-crumb base of the new foundations as the builder described it) arrived together with cement and breeze blocks.
I couldn't get out in the garden apart from feeding the fish, which is a shame because it was a lovely day until late afternoon so I potted up the parsley seedlings
then re-potted the two indoor orchids. This job was long overdue and they were in a sorry state but hopefully they will perk up now. I mustn't water them for 7-10 days to let them settle.
Sunday - raining this morning. Yesterday the builders moved three of the four tons of hardcore and the breeze blocks. The bases for the new greenhouse and new top shed are now ready for concreting. They plan to start tomorrow but it's forecast rain all week...typical. The cress is starting to sprout but not the coriander yet.
That's it for this week. Although the garden needs the rain I'm hoping the forecast is wrong for the next couple of days. Have a good week and catch up next Sunday.
Follow me on Twitter @DaisyDigga

22 January 2017

Dorset Garden Diary - A Bitterly Cold Week and Blackbirds Have Returned to the Bird Table

Evening everyone,

Last week I said the weather for this week was going to start wet then be dry, mild and cloudy. Well, that didn't happen as it only became milder today. It's been very cold with daytime temperatures only just above freezing with frosty nights. And of course, because it was supposed to be getting milder I moved the onion and garlic troughs and the swiss chard out of the greenhouse and uncovered the onions in the garden. Thankfully, they all appear to have survived. We have had different types of frost...at the beginning of the week the frost was white like a light snowfall but Friday and Saturday there was no obvious sign of frost but the water in the birdbaths and pond were still frozen. The days have been bright and sunny but often not enough to melt the ice, but on the plus side we have had some cracking sunrises and sunsets.

I was away for a couple of days during the week so not much was done in the garden apart from defrosting the bird baths and pond and topping up the bird feeders. The small birds are still managing to make a mess even with the suet balls, so I've put the feeder into a square mesh holder that came with the bird feeding station I bought last year. Anyway, it appears to be working as it's stopping the bits of feed falling to the ground and attracting unwanted visitors.
Sparrows, blue tits and even the robins are feeding from it.

On Thursday I hung out a small bird feeder containing mealworms, shredded suet and seeds but so far the food hasn't been touched - maybe the bright lid is putting them off although it does brighten up the garden

That's all I did during the week. Yesterday I'd planned to sow seeds in the propagator and clear out the greenhouse as it's coming down next week (sooner than I thought) which is good because it means not only will the new one be up in time for the main sowing, but the blue tits won't have started nesting (their nesting box is near the greenhouse). I am not normally a fair weather gardener, or a fair weather anything, but yesterday was cold cold cold, bitter and raw and bleak and generally not pleasant. I topped up the feeders, defrosted a small part of the pond and spent the rest of the day in the warm.

Sunday - no frost, much warmer and sunny. Joy! First thing, I went for a walk after having been indoors all yesterday, then I started on the greenhouse.

I took down the bamboo frames that were used for supporting the tomatoes, cucumbers and gherkins, took out the watering cans and unused seed trays and pots under the shelving unit then put the seedling pots in trays ready to be moved into him indoors' workshop when the greenhouse comes down.
All that needs to be done now is rake up and save the gravel and put the plants currently on the floor outside and cover them against frost. I also cleared the herb garden space outside the greenhouse
This needs a good sort out, the gravel removing and a new weed blanket putting down. Him indoors will have to sort out the trellis on the back and sides of the greenhouse. The back should be ok
but the side trellis has the root to the clematis that grows over the arch growing through it.

At least my make-shift duct tape repairs have stayed in place this time, albeit unsightly (check out that blue sky!)

The calendula art shades are doing very well. I've re-potted some of them into individual pots and left the rest in one pot...we'll see if there's any difference in growth

I planted some raspberry bush root cuttings. Not deliberately...the roots were growing through the bottom of the pot when I moved it and one of the strands broke off. I also planted some gooseberry cuttings as Monty Don says they are easy to propagate.

Yesterday there was hardly any activity in the garden, just one blackbird, a dejected pigeon staring at the birdbath that had frozen over again (I felt sorry for it and went out with the kettle to defrost it again) and a lone squirrel ran along the back fence which was appropriate as, apparently, it was 'squirrel appreciation day'. What is that all about? In contrast, today the garden was buzzing with bird activity. Sparrows were darting in and out of the clematis on the arch and the garden shrubs and feeding from the suet feeder; the blue tit briefly checked out its nesting box and there were many blackbirds. I am happy about this because they were feeding off the bird table which is brilliant...not a magpie in sight!
In fact, there was a pair of blackbirds taking it in turns to feed. I was only a couple of feet away...unfortunately with no phone on me to take a pic!

That's about it for this week. Phew, I was starting to worry I hadn't done enough in the garden to write about. The weather for the coming week for us here in Dorset is still cold with freezing fog over the next couple of days, then windier then becoming warmer for the weekend...we'll see. Have a good week and catch up next weekend.



Follow me on Twitter @DaisyDigga

15 January 2017

Dorset Garden Diary - A New Greenhouse On The Way

Evening everyone,

It's been a chilly week here in Dorset and very windy but we have been luckier than most of the country.

Monday - today started sunny but cold and I thought, this looks promising but by mid-morning we were deluged with heavy rain then by early afternoon a strong northerly wind had picked up. The bubble wrap I'd put over the greenhouse glass was peeling off so I have duct taped it back up. I took the defunct bird feeder back to the shop and the assistants had no joy with it either. They didn't have any more in stock so they've ordered another one for me. I liked it because it was small, the top could be adjusted to stop the larger birds feeding and the seed went into a plastic bowl which would hopefully stop the birds throwing it everywhere.

Tuesday- him indoors has ordered a new greenhouse (big smile). We still have the smaller one purchased from a good friend last year but that's allocated for elsewhere in the garden. The new greenhouse will be delivered towards the end of February as we need to put down a concrete base - the existing one is compacted soil with gravel on top (by the previous owners). It will depend on the weather when that can be done but the new greenhouse needs to be in situ by March when I start the majority of the seed sowings. Normally I would be sowing some seeds now but I don't know when the existing greenhouse will be dismantled although I can utilise one end of the kitchen and the conservatory temporarily.

Wednesday - Very cold and very windy. The seedlings are coming along nicely in the greenhouse, and rudbeckia and verbascum have broken through the soil.  I have taken another cutting from the for your eyes only rose. The suet balls in the new bird feeder have been nibbled at so that is good news and the food on the bird table has been eaten but not sure what by. I hung up a plastic string-type feeder of peanuts next to the suet ball feeder. The fish were waiting to be fed, some of the adults have grown a lot over the summer and one in particular is looking huge...maybe the next batch of fishlings are on their way??? I covered the outside onion frame as heavy frost and snow are forecast over the next couple of days and I don't want to lose them
and I moved the troughs of swiss chard, garlic and onions into the greenhouse just in case

and also the hellebore and gardenia recently purchased which are looking very healthy, the gardenia has doubled in size over the last couple of months (on the right next to the pot).

Thursday - today started with proper rain...thick, heavy drops. It was also ridiculously windy and blew the bird feeder over. Thankfully it landed in the honeysuckle over the arch near the cottage garden so I left it there for the time being, but I removed the peanut feeder as it's not squirrel proof. After the awful weather during the day the night was clear, the moon was nearly full and so bright I could nearly see to the bottom of the garden.

Friday - I woke just after five this morning and the room was bright like someone's security light had been triggered. When I looked out the window the full moon had moved round to the west and was still amazingly bright in the clear sky. We didn't have the snow that was forecast (probably the only place in the UK that didn't get any) but it was bitterly cold with the wind chill from the north. The netting was dipped in the pond again - this is really weird. Anyway, I've tightened it up yet again, not sure how much more tightening it will take though. I righted the bird feeder this morning and stuck it back in the ground but by the afternoon it had been blown over again so I've taken it down and hung the suet ball feeder on the arch near the patio.

Sunday - no gardening yesterday as I was working but I did a quick check of everything when I got home. The birds have been feeding from the feeder in its new position. Today was forecast heavy rain but it only drizzled and cleared up by lunchtime but stayed cloudy. I moved the swiss chard, garlic and onions out of the greenhouse and uncovered the onions in the veg patch as the threat of frost and snow has gone. Had a stroll round the garden and the scabious is still flowering valiantly although a bit tatty, various bulbs are poking through the soil and the aubretia is beginning to flower

The fish were swimming around lazily so I fed them a couple of times.

As there's not much to take a pic of at the moment, here's a few from the past couple of years to brighten up the winter.

And finally...roll on summer!!!
As usual I watched Countryfile for the week's weather and apart from rain tomorrow it's going to be dry, mild and cloudy. Well, that's it for this week. Stay warm and catch up next Sunday.
Follow me on Twitter @DaisyDigga

8 January 2017

Dorset Garden Diary - A Frosty Week, Seeds Sorted and Early Potatoes Chitting

Evening everyone,

It's been cold and frosty most of the week then turned milder this weekend. I sometimes wonder what I'm going to find to do and write about during the winter months, but there's always plenty to be done.

Monday - and a frosty start to the day. The netting was dipping in the pond again. I've thought maybe it's a frog but I would have thought it was too cold for them to be out and about. I don't think it's the heron, I hope not. Anyway, I pulled it tight again. By 10pm this evening everything was covered in frost.

Tuesday - the frost was so thick this morning it looked like it had been snowing. The bird baths and pond were frozen over. I carefully defrosted a small part of the pond and I have now put a plastic disc on the surface so if the water freezes again there will be an air hole for the fish. I had some apricots for breakfast (yes, it's that healthy month again) and I put the stones in water to soak as an experiment before planting them to see if they'll grow.

Wednesday - pond frozen again so I'm glad I put the plastic disc in. The pane of glass in the greenhouse that him indoors has tried to secure had slipped again this morning so before I went out I stuck an empty compost bag over the gap. Not very elegant I know, but more frost was forecast this evening and I needed to protect the plants.

I potted up the apricot stones that had been soaking overnight and put them on the kitchen windowsill.

Saturday - I was too busy to get out in the garden the last couple of days but I've made up for it today. Thursday and Friday were cold, even the fish didn't surface but today is milder and cloudy and has an autumnal feel about it. Some of the fish were waiting for an early breakfast. I went out to the garden centre this morning and bought a squirrel-proof bird feeder, an adjustable small bird feeder that's jammed as I was assembling it so I'll have to take it back, razzmatazz chilli seeds, carrot seeds on tape (to see how they grow compared to loose seeds) and potatoes - red Duke of York (first early), Charlotte (salad) and King Edward (main crop). I have some second early's arriving by post hopefully at the end of the month. I've put the first early's in an egg box in the pottering shed to chit as they can be planted out from February.

I had more apricots yesterday and potted up the stones, but this time I haven't soaked them so I'll see which, if any, of the two groups grow best. I've done the first sowing of the razzmatazz chillies as apparently they can take quite a while to germinate then I decided I might as well sort out the seed packets and get them organised into months ready for sowing

And then still on a roll, I cleaned the propagator and the indoor tray I use for mustard, cress etc. I checked the greenhouse and watered the pots. I'll probably need to re-pot the calendula next week as they are crowded in their pots. The hypericum (miracle grandeur) that has yellow flowers and red berries in the summer is now sporting deep purple berries

There is new growth on the For Your Eyes Only rose bought last year

I'm pleased this primula is on the verge of blooming, the whole plant is less than 3 inches across as it's a cutting I took last year.

Sunday - today felt like spring had arrived in the warm sun. I was sorting through the bamboo canes that are stored higgledy-piggledy behind the pottering shed and I leant forward to get some, putting my hand out to steady myself. Not a good idea to lean on a composter that tumbles round, but no harm done, it was just a bit of a surprise when it moved. I saw a bumble bee, heard the woodpecker again plus the hedge sparrows were squabbling all morning and the blackbirds were singing. The makeshift cover I'd put over the slipped glass in the greenhouse had come loose and was hanging down so I carefully took it down and replaced it with bubble wrap. It looks much better, but not as good as a greenhouse that doesn't need bubble wrap...

I counted around 15-20 fish (they kept moving) when I fed them this morning. No doubt there'll be loads more in the spring! Not bad considering two years ago there were only five.

I raked the leaves off the lawn and swept the pathways and now have another bag of leaves composting. The honeysuckle over the arch at the top of the garden has new growth on it.

My next job was the bird table. Yep, the ongoing battle to keep the magpies and pigeons off. This is my latest attempt - watch this space.

In the pottering shed I prepared the potting compost and perlite mix with the fine gravel next to it ready for seed sowing

As it was prepared I again sowed laburnum seeds (third year lucky maybe, hopefully, please) to see if they will take and also parsley. I watched Countryfile this evening for the weather, looks like it's starting off mild and wet then becoming colder with maybe some snow towards the end of the week. Not often we have that in this part of Dorset. Have a good week, stay warm and catch up next Sunday.



Follow me on Twitter @DaisyDigga