25 February 2018

Dorset Garden Diary - Toads in the Pond, Pruning and Seedlings

Hi everyone,

We've had plenty of rain so far this year so it's been nice to have some dry weather over the past week. Last Monday was like summer and we were out in the garden cutting back the grasses in the cottage garden - him indoors took away part of the root of the miscanthus as it was getting too big for it's boots.
It's all looking a bit bare but it will soon fill out again, there are already new shoots on the grasses. I also cut back some of the shrubs and small trees at the back of the garden plus I cut the summer fruiting raspberries down to the ground, pruned the climbing roses and cut back the buddleias.

I cleaned and refilled the bird feeders and bird table. Whilst we were having lunch I saw a large bird trying to balance on the fat ball feeder. It wasn't as big as a magpie but bigger than a blackbird and more upright. As it struggled and flew to the fence I saw it was a woodpecker. That's the first time we've seen one in the garden. Also, since the weekend, the blue tits have been visiting their nesting box regularly and the sparrows have been fluttering round the garden, feeding frantically from the seed feeder and constantly chattering amongst themselves.

Monday is also the day that the first batch of spawn appeared. At first I thought it was frog spawn but it appears the parents are toads
and it was warm enough for some of the fish to put in an appearance and eat some food

Then, on Tuesday morning...
And...later in the day as I was pottering, I heard splashing in the pond, and...

I counted six altogether. They were active again on Wednesday but on Thursday the pond was quiet again. I wonder where they've gone...do they stay in the pond or get out and carry on hibernating? I'm concerned about this cold snap coming in and I'm hoping the spawn will survive.

The seedlings in the propagator have started to grow this week and I've potted on cosmos dazzler and two different types of radish so far.
Tomatoes and sweet peas started coming through this morning and in the kitchen the coriander and parsley have broken through.

Whilst I was out shopping during the week I saw this yellow double primula and gorgeous rose-edged primrose and couldn't resist them

From Friday it's been bitterly cold and we have a cold front coming in from Siberia. Now, we don't often get snow here in this part of Dorset so watch this space. It's been sunny though and we have had some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Yesterday, although there didn't appear to be any frost, parts of the pond were frozen over as was the small cauldron pond and the bird baths but they soon defrosted. This morning all of the surface of the pond was frozen including, unfortunately, the toad spawn
I do hope it's alright. I poured boiling water on the edge of the pond to defrost the ice and let in the oxygen. I also poured boiling water on the bird baths but it didn't have any effect and the small cauldron pond is frozen solid. And this is just the start of the big freeze. I was due to put more pond clear in the pond today but it's going on hold until the spawn has hatched - if they get that far!

I watched Countryfile this evening and the big freeze is set to get a grip from tonight. The temperature is not expected to get much above freezing during the day and dipping very low at night plus we have snow forecast from tomorrow afternoon. In the early part of the week it looks hit and miss but Thursday is the day. My concern will be trying to keep a part of the pond defrosted.

So, it looks like the coming week is going to be a challenge for the garden. Stay warm and safe.



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11 February 2018

Dorset Garden Diary - Seed Sowing Time and Some Colour in the Garden

Hi everyone,

I don't know about you but January has whizzed by. We've had all weathers this winter from Storm Eleanor with high winds (had to secure the pottering shed door as it kept blowing open) and torrential rain (the pond level was close to the top) to frosty nights where even hot water poured onto the bird bath didn't melt the ice, sunny days, snow and thunder and lightning.
Snow was forecast today but it hasn't happened, it's been bitterly cold in the wind though.

For the first time in four years we've had starlings in the garden. For three days running in mid-January, between 12.00 and 12.30pm, a dozen or so landed in the garden and raided the lawn and flower beds for ten minutes or so then flew off. Apparently there's been sightings of large murmurations over the town which is unusual and great news.

I've been keeping the birds well fed - most of the leftover Christmas crumbs went onto the bird table but not the Christmas cake as it was probably 40% proof!!

I'll be honest, I haven't been out and done as much as I normally would but I did cut back some of the dead foliage and trimmed back the cottage garden except for the grasses.

I planted out some bulbs I found in the pottering shed - no idea what they are (as usual!), turned over the veg beds and dug in compost then sprinkled with coffee grounds. I intended covering them to warm up the soil for Spring planting but haven't got round to it yet. I did find a walnut, a spud and two parsnips which happen to be the best parsnips I've grown!

The webs lettuce and fennel have survived the winter

The garlic and onions are doing well

And this is the hazelnut tree - not sure if they are catkins.

There is colour in the garden. The winter jasmine is still in flower - very pretty (never has leaves on it)

the hellebores have flowered in the past couple of days

The bulbs are sprouting, we have a few daffodils and plenty of these gorgeous iris reticulata

And the primulas are emerging

I potted on the purple poppies from the greenhouse and put them outside and pruned back the sweet peas 'tickled pink'. Today I started to get my act together and sowed chillies, peppers, tomatoes, radishes and various flowers in the propagator which I've put in the conservatory where it's warm
and...I've marked up the propagator drills and drawn a chart of what's sown where as last year I put in markers and the writing faded which made life interesting.
I've put the spuds to chit - Charlotte's, Pentland Javelin (my favourite) and Maris Piper (him indoors' favourite)
and sown coriander, basil and parsley for indoors.

One of the jobs I should've got round to and didn't was sorting out the pottering shed - I'll do it when it's warmer.

Twice in the past week I've found feathers strewn over the garden. This is the first time it's happened and I'm wondering what's killing the birds...not sure if it was seagull or pigeon feathers. And talking of birds, the blue tits have been back a couple of times to check their nesting box and we've also had a couple of visits from the heron.
The first time it was strolling across the top of the garden but the second time it was by the pond...I'm glad we've got the netting covering it.
Well I think that's about it. There's plenty of jobs for me to be getting on with for the rest of the month. Stay warm and catch up at the end of February.
Follow me on Twitter @DaisyDigga