13 November 2018

Dorset Garden Diary - 2018 Draws to a Close

Hi everyone,

Ok...so where has this year gone? It's absolutely flown by and it's been a diverse one as far as the weather is concerned. The beast from the east in March that caught the garden unawares with the frogs laying their spawn just days before it hit yet the tadpoles survived despite being frozen for days and the dahlia that all the gardening books tell me to lift every autumn survived and is still in flower.

But what did have an impact was the early heavy rain followed by the unusually hot summer and near-drought conditions. The flowers and shrubs weren't affected so much (apart from the sweet peas that failed miserably) but it definitely had an impact on the vegetables, especially the root veg. We had a good crop of early Charlotte potatoes but the Pentland Javelin and King Edwards were a disappointment despite regular watering - just these from 6 plants...

Although the carrots fared slightly better they were also a diminished crop as were the beetroot and fennel. Even the radishes and spring onions struggled.

There were no pears at all this year. The first crop of plums wizened as they ripened due to no rain but towards the end of august we had some days of heavy rain and an abundant second crop appeared and they were fat and juicy.

The peas and French beans did well as did the spinach and lettuce crops which was surprising. But it was in the greenhouse where the magic happened. The tomatoes were bountiful as always but this year the cucumbers joined in. Last year three plants only produced five cucumbers, this year we had over a dozen. The razzmatazz and padron chillies thrived in the heat and...this is the first year I have successfully grown peppers.

The lemon tree has excelled itself this year with it's flowers and has even produced a couple of lemons. They have stayed green but at least they're there!

Over the past few weeks we've had abnormally high temperatures for the time of year, we've had below average temperatures for the time of year including frost and we've had high winds and torrential rain. The fish are happy as the water level in the pond is high and they are lazily swimming around, there's got to be over thirty in there now. Him indoors has given the lawn its last cut - it's  trying to recover from the summer but is still a bit bald in places. He's cut back the tall grass growing on the edge of the pond, scooped the fallen leaves out of the pond and pruned back the fir tree in the front garden. I've cut back some of the dying plants and shrubs but I've left most of then as food and cover for the birds and small animals over winter. The other job was to put the vulnerable plant pots in the greenhouse for the winter, although with some of the warm days we've been having the temperature in there has been up into the 70'sF (21+C).

But the saddest thing to happen this year was the loss of one of the  blue tits. They were fine early in the year. They inspected their home and began nesting. It's always been a pleasure to sit in the conservatory watching them go in and out. Then we had the big freeze. It was after that that I noticed the activity around the nesting box was sporadic. One blue tit would fly up, peer in but not actually go in. This kept happening then as the spring and summer progressed, all day every day it was calling from the trees and then it would fly down and flutter around the greenhouse, seemingly hitting it's head against glass. I didn't understand why it was doing this, and it was quite distressing to watch and not being able to do anything.

Last weekend, him indoors took the nesting box down to clean it out and inside were half a dozen tiny eggs nestling in the bedding. So sad. At least they hadn't hatched. No wonder the remaining blue tit was distraught. I hope he finds another mate this year and comes back as they give us so much pleasure to watch.

The garden is looking lovely and autumnal at the moment
The squirrel is already rooting around in the veg beds and the pots so no doubt there will be walnuts everywhere again. I hope it doesn't dig up the garlic and onion bulbs we planted a couple of weeks ago.
Well that's it for this year. The garden is slowly preparing itself for winter and there are plenty of bug hotels and hideaway places for the wildlife to keep cosy. Catch up in 2019.
Follow me on Twitter @daisydigga

7 October 2018

Dorset Garden Diary - Carrot-shaped Carrots and a Giant Radish

Hi everyone,

Greetings from sunny Dorset. It was a chilly 6C 43F this morning but it's quite warm now in the sun. We've had some spectacular sunrises and sunsets and it's been quite balmy during the day. The temperature has been steadily dropping during the nights which has led to some early morning low lying fog

Yesterday we had much needed rain. The garden is still looking good although autumn is creeping in and the leaves are falling. The grass is growing again from the summer drought but it's all patchy and the ground is now uneven so him indoors will be sorting that out in the spring.

I've been clearing the leaves from the pond (to help keep the water healthy) and I've left the netting cover off a few times during the day because there are a lot of (huge - 5-6 inches long) blue dragonflies hovering around trying to get to the water.

I pruned the goji berry and buddleia at the top right of the garden that had become entangled
it still looks a bit of a mess but at least it's a pruned mess! I've given the quince tree it's first pruning
and cleared away all the stinging nettles and brambles that were growing round the base. I was going to prune the hazelnut tree but there are some fruits on it so I'll have to do it in the winter.

Today I've picked the last of the tomatoes and cut down the plants. I was going to do the same with the cucumber plants but they are still producing as are the padron peppers. I've put the lemon tree in the greenhouse because of the chilly nights. Not sure if these will develop into actual lemons but it's looking healthy

I need to put next year's onion and garlic crop in this month so I started to empty and dig over the veg beds. The beetroot haven't been brilliant this year
There are still some carrots left (straight and carrot-shaped!)

I will dig up the rest next week. The radishes have sort of run away with me, the large one is around 9 inches long
but unfortunately too woody to eat.

This is the time of year that we are advised to lift dahlia tubers for over-wintering. I've never done that, yet despite the freezing snap in March mine has survived and the yellow flowers are striking against the chocolate leaves
We have other colour in the garden - the sunflowers are persevering

beautiful antirrhnums (snapdragons)

Russian sage
the geums are back in flower
and I've not seen the dwarf lilac this colour before, it's usually shed it's leaves while they're still green

Red berries on a shrub that's peeking through from next door
and the gentiana in the pond garden has come into flower again

There is plenty to do over the next couple of weeks. The shading cover needs to come off the top of the greenhouse; I need to clean and disinfect the greenhouse when the cucumbers and peppers have finished; dig up the rest of the carrots; dig compost into the veg beds and plant the onions and garlic; put the tender pot plants in the greenhouse once I've cleaned it; clean the pots and trays for next spring and, of course, tidy up the pottering shed...oops!

And this is the view down the garden from the kitchen

It's going to be another cold one tonight then it's going to warm up during the week with rain coming in towards the weekend. Happy gardening...



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23 September 2018

Dorset Garden Diary - Can't Believe It's Nearly October

Hi everyone,

Just back from a couple of weeks in Madeira and a bit of a shock to the system leaving 78-82F (25-27C) and coming back to 57F (14C)...and rain.

It appears that once again the garden hasn't missed me but more surprisingly, neither have the cucumbers, chillies and tomatoes in the greenhouse. I gave them all a good water before we went, stripped off most of the leaves and left a bowl of water in the greenhouse to keep it humid. One cucumber is growing and there are more in flower

I picked all the chillies before we went away
and these have grown since
and the tomatoes just keep on coming
The outside tomatoes have rallied as well despite the cool temperatures
The fish are happy with a full pond again (I topped it up before we went away as the level had gone down quite a bit) after all the rain we've had over the past couple of days
Apparently it's been really windy - one of the covers on the outside table has been torn
and the goji berry has collapsed onto one of the buddleias so I'll have to untangle it next week
The two dwarf buddleias are in flower - I will need to prune those soon

the tall grass in the cottage garden now has it's flowery feathers
the daphne has come into flower
and there are plenty of buds on the lemon tree
and despite nearly being blown down the sunflowers are persisting

I have been worried about the bird of paradise plant I'd bought a couple of weeks before we went away as I didn't want to lose it, but it appears to have survived and is looking healthy
I took this photo in the hotel grounds in Madeira - hopefully this is what it's going to look like when it flowers

Although it's been chilly this weekend, apart from a couple of cold nights at the beginning of the week the temperature is going to rise again and it looks like we're in for a warm and sunny week - that'll make the weeds grow!



Follow me on Twitter @daisydigga

27 August 2018

Dorset Garden Diary - Can't Believe It's Nearly September

Hi everyone,

Hard to believe we're on the road to autumn...where did the summer go? Over the past couple of weeks it's been warm but not so humid and we've had a couple of good downpours to start replenishing the garden after the drought. It's also been quite windy over the past few days.

The sparrows, blue tits and blackbirds have disappeared from the garden leaving just the magpies, pigeons and doves. Him indoors discovered something has been burrowing under the back fence again, probably a fox as the gap was too small for a badger. The fish have been surfacing more frequently and we've been feeding them 3-4 times a day. The other day he counted between 30-40!

We've been tidying up the garden - I wish the plants and veg grew as quickly as the weeds - and him indoors pulled out some of the oxygenating weed from the pond that was taking over. The cauldron pond isn't doing too well so it will have to have a makeover in the autumn.

I came across this geranium that I saved last year...it is happy and rewarding me well
The radishes appear to have got out of hand, impressive but inedible unfortunately
And...drum roll...there are three lemons growing. They probably won't develop into full blown fruit but hey, still impressive
Yesterday I picked French and runner beans, a pepper and plums
The veg beds are getting a bit sparse now but the second sowing of beetroot is coming on and the perpetual spinach is getting it's second wind
and the fennel and kale are coming along. The carrots are still a bit hit and miss though
In the greenhouse the padron and razzmatazz chillies are turning a lovely shade of fiery red
and the indoor and outdoor cucumbers are still producing

The pond garden is looking colourful with the rudbeckia
and the grasses in the cottage garden never fail to delight

That's it for this week. The forecast for the coming week is, and I quote, 'summer is returning'. Hope so.



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