Saturday 31 May 2014

Slug Patrol

I was in the garden last night hunting for slugs by torchlight. My garden doesn't usually suffer too badly with them, but I've found lots just recently, perhaps because of the very wet weather. Every bit of my parsley has been munched by the slimy molluscs.

I'm pleased I wasn't the only one on slug patrol last night, look who I came across.

My pond is only tiny but it provides a home for all manner of wildlife which keeps the ecosystem in balance. Perhaps that's why I don't find too many slugs in my garden, thank goodness.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Living Rabbit Food

You may remember, last year when I was purchasing seeds in The Garden Centre Group sale, I came across a seed mixture especially for rabbits. Having two pet rabbits ourselves, I decided to have a go at growing it.

On the back of the packet, it says: "A mixture of seeds for sowing as living pet food which has been specially formulated to supplement the diet and suit the natural and nutritional needs of rabbits. The seeds can be sown in containers or in the ground and the rabbit can eat the plants directly or they can be harvested, washed and dried before being given to eat".

I decided to sow the seed in to seed trays. There looked to be lots of different seed included in the mix, however, once it had grown, all I could see was what looked like clover.

Monty didn't seem to mind, he enjoyed his snack very much.

So did Sammy. He made short work of his treat.

You can see how much they enjoyed it, it was nibbled right down to the soil.

I've grown more than a dozen of these quarter size seed trays full of living rabbit food from the one packet of seed, so Monty and Sammy have enjoyed lots of extra treats. There's food available for guinea pigs, hamsters, budgies, dogs, cats and more in the same range. I shall definitely be looking out for the rabbit variety again as my two bunnies seemed to love it.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Plant Progress

You may remember that last year I visited a nursery or garden centre each month and bought a plant which was in flower. I was taking the late Geoff Hamilton's advice, he said that doing this would ensure that there was something flowering in the garden every month of the year.

I have to confess that I've lost a couple of the plants. The plant I bought last March was pulmonaria angustifolia Blaues Meer and that was one of the casualties, there's also no sign of the scabiosa columbaria which I bought in June.

Some things have surprised me though, the cyclamen which I bought right at the start of the year have survived, even though there was a bit of a debate whether they would or not. They've bloomed right the way through the early months of 2014 giving me colour in the garden when little else was flowering.

I bought Lewisia For July and wondered whether it would survive or not as apparently, they don't like water to sit in the crown so it's a good idea to plant them on a tilt so that any water can drain away. I didn't do this but it's managed to survive and it's blooming its socks off. This one is Special Mix.

It was an Aquilegia For May and as you can see, it's blooming again at the same time this year. This variety is Clementine Purple, a double which I'm not usually keen on. I much prefer single flowered aquilegias but I'll make an exception in this case as I love the upward facing flowers on this short, bushy plant.

I wouldn't expect my later in the year purchases to be flowering yet, but the Sedum For November  which I bought has grown really well. This is Brilliant, a pink flowered variety which is attractive to butterflies and insects, so it should provide some nectar for them later in the year when other things are winding down.

I should have really photographed each of the surviving plants I purchased last year and then done a progress post at the end of the year, perhaps I'll do that next year.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Just Peachy

Do you remember the Crimson Leaf Patio Peach Tree which I reviewed last year for Gardening Express? I was really pleased with it but wondered how it would over winter and whether it would look as good this year. I can tell you that I shouldn't have worried, this is it now, in my opinion, looking better than ever.

It's got beautiful, glossy leaves and looks stunning. But what's that I spy?

Lots of little peaches which seem to be growing well.

The branches were literally covered with tiny fruit but many have dropped off, still leaving a good number which are growing by the day. Hopefully, we'll be harvesting our own peaches this year.

I just wanted to show you how my tiny fig twig is getting on. It was A Bargain Fig which I bought from Morrisons for the princely sum of £2, and though it looked little better than a twig when I purchased it, it's now put on some growth and is looking very healthy indeed.

It may take a few years before I get any figs, but I'm happy that it's looking so healthy and growing well.

Friday 23 May 2014

Blooming Beautiful

Do you remember my Waiting In The Wings post from the 1st of May? I told of how my Golden Wings rose had, at last, been planted in the garden. I didn't notice the little bud on it at the time, but looking back at one of the photos, you can see it quite clearly. Here it is on the right hand side of the bush.

It didn't take long for that bud to open and here it is, taken on the 4th of May, in all its glory.

Isn't it beautiful? Such a pale yellow, just as I like, and the scent is fabulous, so sweet.

There's no sign of any more flowers at the moment, but I don't mind, this one will keep me going for a while.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

A Bit Of A Risk

I got some things planted out at the allotment last Friday. Actually, I was taking a bit of a risk as I wondered if the nights would still be too cold for them, but I'm glad I got them out of the greenhouse when I did otherwise they may have suffered the same fate as my tomatoes which I wrote about in my last post.

My beans were growing very well so I didn't want to keep them in their pots much longer.

I've got four wigwams so far, just one of runner beans - St. George and three of French beans - Blue Lake, Cobra and a purple variety, Purple Cascade.

I sowed the beans in a different way this year taking Monty Don's advice when I saw him sow his on Gardener's World. I sowed three beans to each pot and then when they were ready to be planted out, the whole pot, minus the plant pot, was placed at the bottom of a cane. Some of the seeds I sowed were from old packs so a few didn't germinate, but most did.

I also planted out a courgette - Parthenon, a summer patty pan type squash - Custard White and a winter squash - Autumn Crown. I've got more of these waiting in the wings but I wanted to test the water, weather wise, first.

The first batch of potatoes I planted out at the allotment was on the 14th of April, and more have been planted at various dates since. There's just one more row of Pink Fir Apple to go in now, a little late but they should be ok. The earlier plantings are growing well but I forgot to take a photo of them so you'll just have to take my word for it. Of course, I've still got plenty of potatoes potted up in containers too, it shouldn't be long until the first lot are ready to be eaten.

It looks like the strawberry plants I inherited are going to give me a good crop, there's plenty of flowers on the plants and I shall have to think about netting them soon to prevent the birds from taking the harvest. The patch needs a bit of a weed around the plants, a job for next time.

There's going to be a good gooseberry harvest too.

This blackbird sat and watched me disturb the earth where I did my planting before swooping down to pinch a worm just as soon as I moved away. It carried the worm in its beak for ages whilst it hopped around the plot, presumably while it looked for more. I expect it's got babies to be fed somewhere.

Right next to my plot is a huge hawthorn tree. It looks fabulous at the moment as it's covered with a profusion of flowers.

We were working on the plot until the sun started to set, it was so peaceful listening to the birdsong while we were busy. Evening is definitely my favourite time to visit the allotment.

We had a chat with an allotment neighbour and then we had a wander around looking at the other plots before heading home. Such a lovely evening.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Arggghhhhhhh. Disaster!

If you read my last post, you'd know that due to the potting compost I used, my tomato plants got off to quite a poor and shaky start this year. I managed to nurse them back to health by repotting them using a different compost, and then giving them lots of tlc. I was pleased at how well they were responding, their leaves were a beautiful shade of green, quite different from the anaemic yellow they had become, and the plants had grown considerably.

Yesterday, the unthinkable happened, my poor tomato plants were left to bake in a swealtering greenhouse with no ventilation. I'm not going to blame anyone, Mick, as it was an accident, but I could scream after all the effort I put in to aid their recovery. It just obviously wasn't meant to be this year, I should have cut my losses when the plants were small and yellow.

Luckily, there was a plant sale in the nearby community centre this morning which the local gardening group were hosting, so we hotfooted it down there to see what was on offer. I was a bit disappointed in their cordon tomato plants, there was only one variety for sale, Alicante, so I only bought one plant. There was more of a choice in bush tomato plants so I came away with a Gartenperle and two Maskotkas. The bush varieties were only 50p each but the Alicante was £1.00, I presume because it was in a larger pot.

I want another four cordon plants and perhaps another bush variety, that should do me for this year, though I've still got the smaller plants which I sowed a few weeks ago so if they put on enough growth, I'll have those too. They escaped the swealtering greenhouse as they're still on a windowsill at the moment. I should mention that all the other plants in the greenhouse were fine, it was just the tomatoes which suffered any damage, I think we got there in the nick of time to save the rest of my plants from the same fate.

I also made some other purchases from the sale this morning. I loved the look of these terracotta pots, just £1.00 each. They'll look great with a geranium or pelargonium planted in them.

Some ornamental plants were also bought, geum - Koi, a dwarf variety with orangey red flowers £1.50, agastache - Apricot Sprite £1.25, foxglove - unnamed 50p and marjoram - (oregano) Variegated Leaf £1.00.

Talking of herbs, I meant to do a post about a few I bought back in April to add to my small collection. These are Moss Curled parsley, Curled spearmint and rosemary. They were bought from a garden centre at 3 for £5.00. I'm enjoying having a go at growing herbs, though I still need more practice at incorporating them in my cooking.

Fingers crossed that nothing happens to these tomato plants now, I think I've had enough drama with them for one year.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Tomato Update

You may remember my Tomato Troubles post from three weeks ago. I explained how I'd sown my tomatoes on the 8th of March and pricked them out on the 26th of March, after which they'd hardly grown and looked quite pale and yellowing. I thought it may be down to the compost not having enough nutrients in it, so I bought some new compost and repotted them.

Since then, they've come on leaps and bounds. This is what they looked like on the 4th of May, they'd really got their colour back after being given fresh compost and they'd started growing again too. This is just a fortnight after the original photos of the anaemic looking plants were taken.

They'd grown so well in that fortnight that they were ready to be potted on again. Here they are in their slightly larger pots.

It doesn't look as though their ordeal has held them back much, in fact, they're growing at such a pace that they're nearly ready for potting on again. This photo was taken ten days ago and the growth spurt since then is amazing.

I wasn't sure if the plants would ever recover, and I also lost three of them when I originally repotted them, it looked like damping off, so I quickly sowed some more seed.

They've also grown well, have been pricked out and have got a few true leaves now, but they're lagging behind the other plants so I don't know if they'll mature in time to give me a harvest, but at least most of the original plants have survived. Fingers crossed that it's a great year for tomatoes.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Garden Visiting In May - Part Two

You can read about Part One of our visit to Cannon Hall and our visit to the walled garden there in my previous post. As we came out of the walled garden, we saw a very intriguing sign which directed us to Fairyland. How could we resist?

Fairyland was laid out in the 1870's by Sir Walter Spencer-Stanhope using stone arches from the Cawthorne and Silkstone churches.

Looking back through the arch we'd just walked through.

As well as the stone arches, there's winding paths, fish ponds, yew trees and a stream with a stone bridge. There wasn't very much water flowing in the stream on Sunday.

Fairyland was laid out for the children to play in. I couldn't think of a nicer garden in which to spend my childhood.

I think there's a romantic feel to this garden.

Rhododendrons are planted here, they're just coming in to bloom so I think the garden will take on a different feel once they're flowering and more colour is to be seen.

Looking out to the grounds.

This garden was so different to the walled garden we'd visited earlier. I do enjoy looking round gardens which have different areas to them, it certainly keeps you interested.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Garden Visiting In May - Part One

I'm visiting a garden each month during 2014 and last weekend, Mick came up with the idea to visit Cannon Hall. It's a country house museum about five miles from Barnsley, and has its own Georgian walled garden which has been restored to show the working gardens that would have served the Hall during the Georgian and Victorian periods.

As we walked through the gate in to the walled garden, I could see that it's well tended. What I didn't realise was just how big it is. It's thought to have been built around 1699 and around 1760, it was expanded to the size it is today.

On the wall to my right were espaliered trees.

I love these old brick coldframes, there's plenty of space there to harden off seedlings.

They were being well used. There's lots of seedlings waiting their turn to be planted out.

Some beds have already been planted up. The wire cages which cover the brassicas are a good idea to stop any plants from being nibbled by rabbits.

The greenhouse is obviously well used, but out of bounds to the public.

This greenhouse houses a cactus collection.

A few areas are still awaiting some attention, including this old greenhouse.

This espaliered tree is impressive, they must harvest plenty of fruit from it, it's huge.

More espaliered fruit trees, they really make use of every bit of space. The gardens house a grand array of fruit trees and bushes including plums, cherries, gooseberries, currants, hazelnuts, peaches, nectarines, quince, strawberries, raspberries and pears.

There's ornamental areas within the walls too, with plenty of space for a stroll.

Pretty pink tulips and polyanthus.

The clematis was flowering over the brick arbour.

Hundreds of tadpoles were swimming about in the pond. I'm sure the frog population will be welcomed in a garden this size to help keep the slugs under control.

They even welcome deer here, of the willow variety.

A guardian angel.

As well as being functional, the garden has some really pretty areas.

A lovely place to sit and ponder, looking out across the garden.

This is a rain gauge. It's linked to a computer through a telephone line, all clever stuff.

We noticed the huge number of pear trees growing in the garden. The collection contains nearly forty varieties, some of which are thought to be nearly two hundred years old, such as Williams' Bon Chretien, Laxton's Early Market, Pitmaston Duchess and Conference.

I can recommend this garden to anyone with an interest in fruit and vegetable growing, and everyone else too as there's more to Cannon Hall than just the walled garden. Check out my Cannon Hall post on my Through The Keyhole blog.

Admission to the museum, grounds and gardens is free, though there's a nominal £3 charge to park the car. Dogs are allowed, which is great as we had Archie with us, but they have to be kept on a lead in the walled garden. There's a garden centre across the road from the car park which is worth a look round. The prices there were on par with other garden centres, though I didn't buy anything on this occasion. There's also a few plants for sale in the walled garden but nothing took my fancy.

I'll be taking you on a magical garden visit in my next post. Something a bit different.

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