Get set, onions are go!

I love this time of year, it just seems like anything is possible in the garden.  Plants are popping up, flowers are bursting out and the birds are singing their little hearts out.  The builder also came round to put in the back step and repair the back wall, so miracles do indeed happen.

Its nice having a back step in place, it lessens the chance of me breaking a leg by stepping out the door and forgetting how low the ground is.  It did slow gardening progress this weekend though.  To busy myself, I dug over a patch of border at the very back of the garden to dedicate to onions.  I had bought a packet of onion sets so thought it would be good to get them started.  I had been a bit of a clutz and left them in a cupboard in the house though, so when I brought them outside I saw that they had already started all on their very own…oops!  I carried on anyway, and popped the ones that still had a bit of guts to them, and a good root system on the go, as they might still have enough growth in them to rally round.  The others (poor wee souls) were exhausted with only the papery skin and a great big lean pair of leaves shooting out, so they were consigned to the compost bin.

I’m not sure how friendly our climate here is for onions, I know leeks do well, but in my memory I have no recollection of any of the gardens when I was young having onions.  I’ve maybe not given myself the best start to finding out by letting the sets shoot, but it will be interesting to see, and in the meantime, I’ll investigate a bit more and see if there are any onions suit this neck of the woods…if you have any ideas let me know!

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Pottering about.

It was a really lovely day today, warm and sunny, at the same time…and in March!  It will surely snow tomorrow.

Lots of the seeds I have been planting have started to show – it has to be one of the best bits about gardening, seeing the little push of a brand new plant appearing through the soil.  Most of the brassica seeds have sprouted and one very brave squash seed is showing in my seed tray, also lots of the flowers have come up too, I’m surprised at how quickly they have appeared!  The calendula and the asters are showing, and possible some marigolds are making an effort too.

Whilst the seeds have been working madly away, I managed to acheive very little today except pottering about.  I took some cuttings from the two hydrangea’s in the back garden and put those in some water, so hopefully they will root up.  I also potted on some sunflower seeds that were growing madly after an initially slow start, I’m not sure they are quite up to being left out overnight yet but hopefully they will be soon.  I also planted some basil seeds so that I can companion plant it with some of my tomatoes.

Apart from that I just enjoyed the weather…bliss!

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She wore her yellow sun bonnet…

It feels like spring sprung a bit this morning as the first daffodil in the garden braved popping its yellow head out of its green sheath.  Unfortunately the sun didn’t follow suit and pop its head out, instead, we had a day of drizzle.

Luckily, whilst I was debating whether it was worth going out and pottering in the drizzle, the lovely postman arrived with a most peculiar parcel.  It turned out to be a present from one of my pals who obviously knows me well!  It was a window ledge propagator with six packets of seeds to sow for microgreens that they had got from Dobies of Devon.  With no detail left out, it included 5 of those solid discs of dehydrated compost.  Now whilst window ledge space is at a bit of a premium just now, I jigged all my pots and trays around to make some space and left the compost to soak in some tepid water in the bottom of the propagator tray.  About an hour later there was lots of fluffy compost just waiting for the seeds.  Of the packets that came with it, I decided to sow some broccoli (green); basil (dark opal); cress (curled) and alfalfa.  All of the seed packets say the microgreens are ready to harvest when the seedling is 4cm high..so surely that can’t take too long!

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Early to bed!

My efforts on Friday rendered me exhausted, so an early night was had.  Getting up yesterday, the sun was shining, melting the frost that had developed overnight but the Radio 4 weather forecast warned of rain later in the day.  A quick breakfast and it was on with the work clothes to get out and finish off the front garden borders.

This time, I was armed with an edger which my dad produced from his garage.  Using two wood pegs and some string I marked out my straight edge and got slicing – boys! what a difference it made.  Although I had managed on Friday with the shovel, I can’t entirely claim the first widened border has a straight edge, perhaps more gently scalloped.  But there was no messing with the edger, the second effort is as straight as a die!!  As the day went on, the my speed at the backbreaking work of wheelbarrowing turf and topsoil really did slow.  But, by midafternoon, just as the rainclouds threatened, it was done!

All that was left then, was to quickly plant in a tree peony that I had received that morning from Thompson and Morgan (did they know I was getting my borders ready?).  I’m not convinced the front garden is the absolute best spot, as although it gets lots of sun, it also catches a fairly sharp wind which apparently tree peony’s aren’t too keen on.   However, the back garden isn’t so sunny and also is chaos at the moment so it was pretty much ruled out off the bat.  To try and make the best of it, I planted it in the lee side of the sandstone gate pillar, so hopefully that should offer it some protection.  We’ll see.

After all that, it was another early night last night.

As for today, Monty Don, in his Sunday Times Magazine article, said this was the time to prune blackcurrant bushes.  Since I don’t have one but my mum does, I took the secateurs to hers.  This wasn’t an entirely selfless act of caring for her plants.  I also decided to pot up all the cuttings in the hope that by the summer, there are another 10 blackcurrant plants, which I might keep one of.  Maybe two.  To pot them I put some slate in 10″ pots filled the bottom half with top soil and the top half with compost then just pushed the cuttings in.  I believe (or at least my mum tells me) that this should be enough for some of them to survive and root into plants and since she is rarely long, it could be a bumper crop of blackcurrants for next summer!

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Digging in.

This morning the weather was glorious and sunny although there was still a chill in the air.  It had been a pretty hard frost last night and the frost lingered anywhere that the sun missed.

So it seemed a good day to do some manual labour, to keep the chill off but to get outside and make the most of the day.  Thinking about this over breakfast, I decided that today was the day I would start to widen the front borders.

Now, this morning the front lawn had two borders about 1′ wide which opposed one another across the grass.  The other two borders were about 3″ wide and opposed one another across the grass.   After a fair amount of hard graft, one of the narrow borders is now 1′ wide and filled with new top soil and one of the exisitng wide borders has been completely turned over and weeded and topped up with top soil.

It was handy to be digging in to the depth of the roots of the turf, as quite a lot of dandelions have tried to colonise the front borders, so this was as good a way as any to get quite far down the root and pull as much as possible out.  I doubt that I have seen the last of them though.

I kept all the turf I cut out, as after all the renovation on the house, the back lawn is…well actually, it isn’t.  So now at least I have some healthy turf I can patch on the really, really bare bits.  To keep the turf healthy until I can get it laid, I arranged in on top of the mountain of top soil that is in the side border at the back.  Hopefully it should be okay for the next couple of days.

I must say I did work pretty hard and yet only just managed half the job before having to stop and make tea.

So fingers crossed that tomorrow is another good day, cause I still have the other half of the job to do…

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When the sun is shining, I can do anything…

After the gobstopper size snowflakes of yesterday, today was a complete turn around.  It was sunny!  And warm!  Well, if you stayed out of the shade and kept moving it was warm… but it was just about perfect for getting out in the garden.

So today has been pretty industrious. I didn’t even start off in my garden, instead, I did some work in my sisters, potting on some fuchsia plug plants she had bought for her garden and then putting some bulbs in her borders.  I realise it is massively late to be planting spring bulbs but they had been bought by mail order in the autumn and arrived just about the same time as the temperature decided to fall to minus silly degrees and stay there.  Anyway, I’ve put them in today and they can take their chances, its better that than leaving them to shrivel to nothing.

After that I came back to my garden and planted up some potato bags with seed potatoes I’ve had chitting for a while.  I planted up four different bags with four different varieties: Kestrel; Maris Piper; Vales Emerald and Maris Peer.  The first two varieties came from one of the men from the gardening club who is quite into his potato growing and he tells me they grow brilliantly in our area, so that is promising.  The other two varieties came from Thompson & Morgan, the Vales Emerald were from Scotland and the Maris Peer from England, so it will be interesting to see how they all fair.  Anyway, since frost is still very possible, I decided it was best to plant them in bags as at least that way I can keep them in the outhouse when the temperature is too low.  Like tonight.  Ah well, at least they got an hour or so of heat this afternoon, it may be their last till May!

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What happened to the sun!?

Yesterday, with its lovely weather, was a bit of a tease as today the snow fell again with a vengeance.

This meant my pottering efforts were restricted to indoor work again today.  Luckily, when I was at the shops yesterday afternoon, I picked up some bare root lily of the valley in Aldi.  When I read this months Gardeners World magazine, I noticed a wee bit that said lily of the valley could be quite tricky to establish if planted straight into the cold ground and that it was better to put them in a pot first and when they were stronger (and the ground was warmer) plant them into the spot you want.  Since the ground was undeniably going to be chilly today, putting them in pots seemed a good idea.  Add to that the parcel of bare root Red Gauntlet strawberries that recently arrived from ebay (with many thanks to slegierski2010) and I had a good bit of potting up to be getting on with.

I’m still working my way through the potting compost from my greengrocer, so used 6″ pots for the lily of the valley plants and put in 3 per pot as it should only be a temporary home.  Similarly, I’m planning on creating a strawberry bed in the garden later in the spring, so the pots should only be a temporary home for the strawberry plants too.  However, these were a bit further on, with a couple of leave of growth per plant, so I only planted them 2 per 6″ pot.

Now, it is just a case of waiting for it to get a bit warmer outside…at this rate, it could be a long wait…

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