Posts Tagged ‘gardening’


Things I have learnt about parenting (part 2)

July 26, 2011

If there’s one thing I’m learning about parenting it’s that something’s got to give — there is no way at this stage in life that I can get everything done to the standard I’d previously have liked.

Our little garden is one of the things that are feeling the pinch. I’ve still put some flowers in pots and a few in the borders, but vegetable growing has been a bit of a disappointment. Considering the harvests I used to manage to get from my balcony when I was a flat-dweller and the crops from our garden last summer, this year has been a bit of a disaster. My courgette plant (grown from seed) died from some kind of mould/infection when it wasn’t planted out soon enough. The replacement courgette (bought as a little plant from the garden centre) was demolished by slugs. The salad leaves have bolted and need re-sowing. The beans failed to germinate. The beetroot seedlings baked in the greenhouse when I was in hospital. The blueberry bush flowered but failed to produce any fruit and the strawberry plants gave us a total of seven berries.

The one thing that seems to be doing okay this year is my tomatoes (replacement plants, picked up cheap from Wilkinson’s since my grown-from-seed plants were another casualty in the greenhouse while I was in hospital giving birth!). Fingers crossed I won’t destroy them yet.

Our lawn is also sadly neglected at the moment — we only seem to manage to mow it about once a month. It seems to flourish on its own though — not as a lush, bowling-green smart lawn but as a little haven for the insects. In April it was a field of daisies. In May through to June it was a blanket of buttercups. And now, clover covers it. The bees seem very happy about this. I’m glad that not mowing the lawn too regularly benefits someone!


Tomato feast

August 21, 2010

J and I both love tomatoes. We love, Love, LOVE them, in fact.

This year, our first with a garden, I decided to grow three different varieties to see how they all got on and which we prefer.

The picture above is of one of our Gardener’s Delight plants. I got the seeds free from the BBC’s Dig In scheme last year but didn’t have space to grow them on the balcony at my old flat. They’ve become huge plants – we had to cut their tops off when they hit about six foot as the plants were getting way too top-heavy and kept blowing over. They’re doing really well though – just look at those toms!

We’re also growing Minibel (more free seeds – these ones were on the front of the BBC Gardener’s World magazine earlier this spring), as well as Tumbling Tom, which I’ve been growing for a few years now, since J’s sister gave me my first tomato plant as a birthday gift.

The Minibel is an extremely compact little plant. It doesn’t seem to need as much watering as the others and forms these tight little mounds of foliage which you have to push out of the way and peer under to find the tomatoes.

The Tumbling Toms are big and sprawling – I’ve had to raise their pots up on bricks so that they’re not lying their fruits all over the ground. They’re prolific fruiters but annoyingly seem to be dropping their fruits this year – sometimes before they’re ripe. They’re still lovely to eat, but need a bit of ripening on the kitchen windowsill first.

As for our favourites? We can’t decide!


First courgette

July 3, 2010

We just ate our first home-grown courgette.

It was delish!

It always amazes me that with a little tiny seed and a bit of TLC we can grow food.

The flowers look pretty amazing too!


Goings on in the garden

May 18, 2010

I love May. The weather’s warming up and things are really starting to go on in the garden. Each day brings noticeable changes — a leaf unfurling, a new shoot appearing, a flower blooming or a seedling pushing up through the soil.

Today saw the first flowers on our potted strawberries…

…the Campanula covered in star-shaped buds, ready to burst into bloom…

…the Rudbeckia seedlings putting on a growth spurt, nearly ready for pricking out into pots…

…these Aquilegia plants from the Malvern Spring Gardening Show which we planted out at the weekend, making a much needed splash of colour at the bottom of the garden…

…and there’s all kinds of growing going on in the greenhouse.

But strangest of all is the bees.

A few weeks ago we bought a small hydrangea plant. J dug up some turf to make a new flowerbed and we planted the hydrangea, watered it in well and thought nothing much more about it. Within a day or two the bees had arrived. There aren’t any flowers on the plant yet — it’s too little and young for that — but it’s not the plant itself they seem interested in. It’s the ground below it.

I didn’t manage to get any particularly good photos but I’m sure you will see here what I mean.

Funny little wild-looking, burrowing bees.

Lots of them — going back and forth between my hydrangea and who knows where? Digging in the ground and then buzzing away again.

A quick Google tells me that they are probably solitary/mining bees — possibly tawny mining bees or maybe these red mason bees. What a nice surprise visitor! I was worried at first that they might damage the plant, but if I’ve identified them correctly they’re unlikely to do much damage and are an excellent pollinator — and they can’t sting humans. Welcome, little bees!


Malvern Spring Gardening Show

May 13, 2010

One of the things I look forward to with eager anticipation every year is the Malvern Spring Gardening Show. While it’s quite a journey for us to get there it’s well worth the long drive. It’s a snip compared with the price of tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show and it’s always a great day out in such beautiful surroundings.

One of the first things you see when you arrive are the plant stalls and it’s quite an overload for the senses. It’s difficult not to buy one of everything before you’ve barely arrived at the show.

There are rather a lot of the “Wellies & Wind chimes” types of stalls too, more than I really care for, but they all seemed to be doing a great trade so maybe I’m in the minority with that one.

The show gardens this year were great — I liked the emphasis on recycling/upcycling in some of them — there were great ideas like converting drinks bottles into plant hangers, or this cute little path made from the bottoms of water bottles.

The huge floral marquee stalls offered an amazing choice of beautiful plants from some specialist nurseries, in varieties that you just don’t seem to find anywhere else. And lots of the plants from the displays are on sale here too, if you can wait until 4pm on the Sunday.

For me personally, one of the most exciting things to see were the vast displays of auriculas. I have never dreamed of so many varieties — I may have brought one of these home with me, along with a packet of seeds which are now quietly chilling in the fridge before I plant them, to simulate the snowy Alpine conditions they would grow in.

Aren’t they beautiful?

We came home loaded with plants which are mostly now hiding from any late frosts in my greenhouse, waiting for the right time to be planted outside. Maybe another week or so before we risk it. The garden still looks a little bit bare, especially now the daffodils have died off, so I can’t wait to get a bit of colour out there.

I’m looking forward to next year’s show already, but think that maybe we should take a few days to explore the Malvern Hills while we’re visiting for the show. Make a little holiday of it in the lovely countryside rather than spending so many hours driving in one day. Yes, I’m looking forward to it already!


Potting up the upcycling way

April 22, 2010

It’s busy, busy in the garden and today I’m quite excited because it was finally time to pot up some of my tomato seedlings!

I was determined not to buy any more flower pots this year and remembered this great idea from an episode of Gardeners’ World a year or so ago. The trick is to save up your old tin cans and pot into those. You need to use the ring-pull type, and ones with a nice smooth painted inside — I found that chopped tomato cans seem to be the right kind.

Discard the ring-pull lid part (put it in the recycling), carefully wash the can and dry it, then turn it upside down and remove the base with a tin-opener. You’re left with a tin tube and a flat circle. Drop the circle back inside and it sits nicely on the rim of what was previously the top of the can. The result is a bit like a loose-bottomed sponge-cake tin. It’s great for drainage, and when you’re ready to plant your little plant out into a grow-bag or into the garden, you can push it up out of the can from the bottom without damaging the roots. And once you’re done you can put the cans out to be recycled. How nifty is that?

As well as the tomatoes, everything’s growing and growing. The plants seem to be really enjoying the lovely spell of warm, sunny weather we’re having at the moment. We’ve already had one mini-harvest from the mixed salad and there will be loads for this weekend.

The little nasturtiums I grew from seed collected from my balcony last year are shooting up particularly fast. I’ve been interested to read about Life on the Balcony’s Nasturtium Seed Scarification Experiment as I had no idea that soaking or scarification of the seeds was recommended. I didn’t do either of these things and five out of my ten seeds germinated which I don’t think is too bad a result really. As you can see they’re turning into thriving little plants!

But maybe the most exciting of all is my little courgette plant! Well, I say little — here it is with just two days’ growth! If it carries on growing at this speed I will need a bigger greenhouse! Can’t wait to get some home-grown courgettes to eat. Delish.


March winds and April showers

April 1, 2010

It’s almost a month already since our mammoth greenhouse-building session. I’ve been pottering in the garden almost every day since then — if only for a few minutes after work — planting seeds, watering the pots sparingly and checking to see if there have been any developments — signs of life — since the last time I impatiently checked.

After a couple of slow weeks where nothing much seemed to change, things are starting to happen in flurries. Of the three different varieties of tomatoes I planted, two keen tumbling tom seedlings are racing ahead to show the others the way.

The sweet peas (seeds I got free with the BBC Gardeners’ World magazine last month) are doing rather well — I’ve never had much luck with growing sweet peas from seed in the past. Five of the eight are poking their heads up for air and hopefully the rest will join in a few days.

The carrots are looking particularly keen — much more so than the ones planted outside in the little metre-square veg bed we’ve built. That’s also got garlic planted, and radishes, spinach and lettuce seeds sown but there’s precious little life there to show you of that yet.

Keenest of all, inside the greenhouse at least, is the mixed salad, which took less than a week to produce shoots, giving it a full week’s head start on anything else.

Also on the go — nasturtiums (sown from seeds saved from last year), beetroot, marigolds, cosmos (on the kitchen window sill), geraniums, and also on the kitchen window sill there is a tray of aubrieta seedlings, another one grow from last year’s collected seed.

But it’s still cold outisde. Or rather, the coldness has returned. And it’s still wet. So just for a bit of instant gratification while everything else is pushing up seeds — some pretty potted primulas. Voila!