February

22nd February - The start of Spring really is only a few weeks away now, and Mother Nature is certainly stirring, with green shoots appearing, early flowers in bloom and birds singing.Early sown seeds under cover are germinating, like these Peas, which will soon be ready for planting in the polytunnel 

Lots of plot-holder activitiy on site this week in the communal areas, which strenghtens our friendships despite not actually working at the same time! Pictures follow so you'll see what has been achieved

Harvest Monday will be short and sweet: Red Cabbage  

This jewel-like beauty was hidden under some tatty looking frost-burned outer leaves, and is a very welcome addition to the tbale this week. There will be enough for some coleslaw, using some of the few remaining Carrots and an Onion, as well as a dish of Winter Spiced Braised Red Cabbage

Out On The Plots This Week:

You might remember last week I said that Jon had obtained 200+ whips of native species of tree, to replace our boundary hedge and enhance the nvironmental value of some of the other areas around the site. The plan was to have a kind of "Working Weekend", where anyone wanting to help could just turn up, to clear the ground and plant the whips

Obviously Lock Down intervened, but not to be detered, people turned up, individually or with their families, at lots of different times over the past week.... and, as they say... Job Done!!

There is now a new baby hedgerow along the farm boundary, planted two or three rows deep by today, a long row of Willows bounding the wettest area down near the Sportts Centre and various other small copses planted in various suitable spaces, such as at the end of one of the communal plots where there are now Rowan, Crab Apple and Bird Cherry tree-lets. The final job is the careful placing of the Dog Roses that came too, so that they can flourish without injuring anyone!

 

Several dogs also came along to lend support, one at a time, obviously

And some of the original Hazel Copse has now been cut, with plenty of pea sticks and Bean Poles available. 

A possible spot for a second Hazel Copse has been identified, along with some tree clearance required around the fairly large pond,  and the renovation of a small orchard area, so there is plenty to keep people busy when they are not working on their own plots!

Of course, our own plots do need our time too. This week my son re-covered the leaking roof of one of the sheds (Thank you!) which I have now painted, and planted some variagated Ivy by the back wall, as well as the Phlomis shrub Hopefully this will climb up and provide plenty of cover for insects  and birds (The second Phlomis is now planted on the Comminuty plot)

The two Robin nest boxes are up... one under the overhanging Clematis on this shed and one on the other plot, part way behind the green shed there

This Robin spends a long time sitting up above that second box, singing away in the Hawthorn hedge, so I hope he spots the box and entices a lady Robin to visit

There is much more warmth in the sunshine now, and a few insects are starting to show themselves, with the occassional bee flying past. The first Butterfly and the first Ladybird were spotted on Saturday.

I have re-sited the Bumblebee nest box to ground level, because if they often use old mouse nests as sites to begin their own brood, this makes more sense than having it on the shed. I have made suree it is not facing a path, to avoid any risk of walking into flying bees as they come and go, assuming a queen likes the look of it and moves in of course

  • A male Brimstone Butterfly
    on the search for early nectar

  • and a Seven-Spot Ladybird basking in the sun

I have carted more woodchip than I care to think about, and the piles on  site are reduced to mere crumbs, although I managed to scrape up some this morning to finish of the Cucumber enclosure, covering the sheet of plastic on this edge, so that I don't slip when it is wet. The large white sheet of polycarbonate fits just right across the edge of the bed so I think I might use it to protect the plants when they are first put in, probably in late May time. Both plots are looking pretty neat now, and there are only two long paths that need "chipping": one along the edge of the fruit cage and one along the Blackberry hedge. 

With dry weather forecast for the rest of this week, I may be able to paint this shelf unit for the herb troughs to sit on, and some of the wooden planters could do with another coat too. I hope there is some green paint left in the tin!

The pale blue Iris reticulata in the very small bed around the end leg of the roofed area are flowering,a nd they are such a beautiful clear colour. 

There is still a bit of clearing up to do under this covered section, but gradually it is all coming together. and will hopefully provide somewhere to sit and contemplate, much needed between bouts of hard work

At Home This Week:

In the greenhouse, the Peas are germinating. The un-named Early Dwarf is looking promising but sadly no Kent Blues as yet. Early Onward is as good as its name, and both varieties of Mangetout have a good germination rate. I must make sure there is space in the polytunnel for them to be hardened off before planting!

Both varieties are Broad Bean have had roots poking out through the holes in their modules for days now, and at last they have shoots as well. They are also destined for the polytunnel to be hardened off, once they have two or three pairs of leaves, before being planted outside, probably in early April

The Chilli plants are enjoying their life of luxury, sitting on the new heated mat ... a birthday present for my daughter (Thank You!). My son installed the electrics for it, using the double waterproof socket I had ordered.. double, as there is also a heater plugged in., so another Thank You there.

I did double take when the maximum-minimum thermometer read -40C this morning, but after a re-set it showed a more realistic 15C . Not quite sure what happened there, some sort of glitch, who knows?

The Sweet Peppers are looking healthy, with Gogorez now up,: still hoping for Frigatello and Rose de Mallorca though. And I should really be thinking about feeding the Aubergines now, to give them a boost... there is not a lot of nutrition in the sowing mix

I haven't had time to pot on the Onions, although I have found the tray unit of small pots I used last year. I could do with a second one really but so far haven't seen one anywhere. Alternatively I could buy a set of those small fibre pots I guess.

In the garden, purple Crocuses open up when the sun shines, and the earliest bees enjoy a meal. I am especially pleased to see so many flowers on this clump of pale Daffodils, as for three years in a row they have only had the occasional bud. I gave them a good sprinkle of Blood Fish & Bone last Spring and again during the Summer before their leaves died down, and it seems to have done the trick!

 

I have a new plant!

Many years ago, one of these lived in our bathroom, and it grew amazingly long strings of these pea-like leaves, and i really liked it. I have no idea how or when it left the bathroom, I really can't remember what happened to it, but I have never seen one since. OK< this is where you tell me they are all over the place, but really, I haven't actually seen one, until yesterday.

This now proudly sits on a shelf in the porch, my very own String of Pearls plant (Curio rowleyanus aka Senecio rowleyanus) Yes, it came with a label!! Apparently it likes a bright spot, so the front porch fits that bill, so let's hope it grows into a magnificent waterfall of pea green pearls

Other than gazing in admiration at my new plant, there are of course, as aways the

Jobs This Week

I feel quite pleased that some of the big jobs from last week are done, especially the woodchip carrying and spreading, but as always, more reveal themselves:

- finish painting the brown sheds and fix the loose slats

- paint the Herb trough stand and wooden planters

- tidy the ends of both polytunnels to ensure there is secure space for hardening off trays of seedlings during the next three months

- pot on both lots of Onion seedlings (need to get more small pots)

- pot up the two Korean Fir bareroot plants so they can live on the Bonsai bench ... forgot to mention I had bought these!

- check over the Bonsais to see if any need fresh compost this year: deal with any that do

- prune the Fig tree so that I can hang washing out on the line at the far end of the garden this year, and walk along the stepping stones in the lawn to get to the greenhouse

- sow Lobelia in tray, in propagator

- re-organise the planting plan on both plots to take better account of how long PSB will crop, how much space will be needed for Peas and Mangetout and how many Spring planting Onion sets I now have

- feed (half strength) Aubergine seedlings

And if I have time I shall be pruning the fruit trees in the litte orchard, which haven't been touched for years. Badly needs attention, including dealing with trees slumped at odd angles

I hope you are enjoying the start of the growing season wherever you live. I know "Up North" conditions are still pretty cold, but the days are lengthening and things will soon get going.

I shall be back next Monday, probably indespair over this week's list, but it helps keep me on track and anything not done, well, it's not a disasater really, is it?

 

 

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

 

Just had the share the photo of my birthday flowers, as then the friends who gave them to me can see what they look like! So thank you very much to Chris & Colin, and to Theresa & Clive. They bring a welcome splash of colour mid-Winter!

15th March - Most of this week the ground has been well and truly frozen, so I was very glad I had harvested so much as part of my flood preparations, as I would not have wnated to try to pry out any Leeks or Parsnips from their icy depths! It has been very pleasant walking round the site in the snow flurries though, warmly wrapped up and hands in pockets. Always something new to see, including my friends' dog Jasper, also togged up for the weather. He always enthusiastically dashes about explaoring... you never know what his nose tells him has passed by! There was certainly a Roe Deer passing though.. footprints showed very clearly in the soft mud alongside the retreating ice sheets.

This morning things have warmed up a lot and the ice has gone completely, at least for now. It is still only mid February so there is plenty of time for further freezes this Winter, so let's not get complacent. 

Blue Irises were blooming even in the snow

Out On The Plots This Week:

The floods have receded, and apart from some damp sheds, everyone's plots are back to normal again! Even the ice sheets have thawed this morning in the milder temperatures.

The tree "whips" promised by an environmental charity have been delivered, together with that essential kit... rabbit guards! There is an outline plan for where to plant them, and volunteers to wield a spade too. Hopefully next week some will get into the ground. In the meanwhile they are safely heeled in , in a neighbour's polytunnel

Fixing up the roof of the shed, is organised too, with waterproof covering donated by Clive (Thank you!) and the required wood and labour donated by my son (another thank you there!) so assuming we do not have torrential rain next Thursday, the roof will once again be watertight. I can then give the back of the shed a couple of coats of paint, before planting the Phlomis shrubs donated by my daughter.. further thanks of course... a family effort all round!!

And I found out just now that woodchip has been delivered to the rear of my plots... hurrayy!!! I can continue with path maintenance during this mild spell too. 

 

At Home This Week:

Given the weather, I have focussed mainly on work at home this week I don't remember seeing ice hanging of the end of the water pipe over the pond for a very long time. The pond didn't full freeze, thanks to the movement of the water running from the pipe, which gave the birds somewhere to drink when the birdbaths were frozen to blocks of ice

In the windowsill propagator, the Sweet Peppers are starting to come up: Cabenaras were first, closely followed by Long Red Marconi. Monarch Celeriac have also germinated, as has Peruvian Black Mint. More to move to the greenhouse, and of course more space then in the propagator for flower seeds!! 

I expect to see more up in the next few days too. All good, so far

My daughter gave me lots of Chilli seedlings, a few of each of these: Malawi Piquante (aka Peppadew) Biquino Red & Yellow, Aleppo, Jalapeno M, Numex Purple Spice, Tangerine Dream, Bere Bere, Costa Rica Orange, Kambouzi, Grif 9238 (yes this really is a Chilli name!) & Mettupalayam. I have checked out the potential sizes of these, so some of the smaller, decorative cultivars can be grown in pots in the Cucumber enclosure, and hopefully the larger ones will have enough space in the polytunnel. I always underestimate the space they need, so am trying hard this year not to squish them up so much. 

They are not all for me of course: I shall be sharing the love, for sure!

The Perennial Cauliflower germinated in three days, so off to the greenhouse they then went. The All The Year Round Cauliflowers are now up as well. They are a little bit crowded, as you can see,  so I shall prick them out into small individual pots as soon as they have a set of true leaves. If they all survive, I shall have more plants than I need, so new homes will be being sought

Once they are established in their pots, they can either go to the polytunnel on the plot or the unheated temporary greenhouse in the garden to grow on. They will make stronger plants grown in cooler temperatures

The Ailsa Craig Onions, and the Elisha & Karminka (which will both develop long, narrow bulbs) are ready to pot on, one per 5cm pot. They will stay in the greenhouse until the weather is milder, perhaps mid March, and then they can transfer to the polytunnel, still in their pots, to grow on a bit longer. I have not grown thse long shaped Onions before, so am looking forward to seeing how they do. As yet, I haven't decided whereabouts I shall eventually plant them, perhaps alongside the Early Leeks, as they can benefit from the netting cover. 


A few of the yellow Crocuses have managed to last long enough to open in this morning's sunshine, a very welcome sight indeed! I can see more leaves growing, which will be the large purple ones which follow on, so I do hope they get some sun then too

Jobs for This Week:

- have the shed roof repaired

- put up new nest boxes

- plant Phlomis shrubs

- continue with path maintenance on #146

- sow some flower seeds in propagator modules

- pot on Onion & Early Leek seedlings

- take Celeriac & Peruvian Black Mint seedlings to greenhouse

- re-organise greenhouse to accommodate newly potted on seedlings etc and ensure space for others in a few weeks..just do the job once!

And that is all for this week... plenty of promises of crops to come.... and little glimpses of Spring being just around the corner. I'll be back next week. Hope you have some sunshine to enjoy too

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

8th February - This poem sums up the weather this past week alright, even down to the seagulls here

February fills dikes, overflows fields
and streams, turns paths to slippery ooze.
Petulant winds crease the surface of the lake
and agitate the fast flowing river.
Hail and sunshine play follow-my-leader
across a shifting sky where lazy seagulls swing.

                                               William Barton

The melting snow and the rain that followed raised the water level still further, and I was mightily relieved when we could safely get the the site again, and even more reileved that my plots were not underwater, unlike these two areas here. This is not overspill flooding from the river, but ground water unable to soak away because the ground water level is so high

  • A friends' plot, with their rhubarb under water and shed saturated

  • And the adjoining path, where the water was part-frozen this morning

To make sure that if my plots were submerged I still had fresh vegetables, I harvested a goodly amount to store at home, so Harvest Monday begins with a larger-than-usual weekly bounty

Cabbage: This is the last of the large white ballhead Cabbages, although there are some Savoys left still. It will store well, and I can cut large slices off it as needed. Braised Cabbage, Coleslaw, Curry with Potatoes and Coconut, Bubble and Squeak Cakes and so on... always a tasty use for Cabbage

Carrots: The box in which I grew the "Show" Carrots was right on the edge of the water-line, so I emptied out the last dozen or so, most of which were undamaged by rodents, so that they can rest at home in the garage fridge, to be eaten as needed. So far they  been added to Chicken Casserole and used to accompany a Roast Dinner, with Coleslaw on the list for this coming week. They will store for at least a month, by which time i shall probably have eaten them all

Leeks: Leeks are one of those vegetables that are ssown for the next season whilst still harvesting from the previous year, and what lovely Leeks they are this time too!  A base for a succulent Vegetable Pie used up one really large one. I didn't dig up all thta were left though, as their bed was some way from the water line and they are hardy enought through any weather

Swede: As with the Leeks, I didn't harvest all of the ones left in the ground, just the two nearest the the edge: one for myself and one for my plot neighbours, who in return gave me some Beetroot. A very welcome swap!

Parsnips: Once the leaves have dies down it is hard to tell how many there are left in the ground, never mind what size they miught be! These ones are pretty good, and I think there should be several more to dig once I have eaten these. I do like roasted Parnips, or n fact mashed Parsnips... or Parsnip Soup... just as well Ithere are some left then!

Not in the photo are Rosemary -- to go with roast Potatoes or Parsley, which went in a herb omelette

Just an aside on Potatoes: The Setanta blight resistant maincrops I grew this year are still storing well depiste weeks of mildish weather, and make really goof fluffy roast Potatoes, so if you are looking for a good one to choose to grow this year, look no further! I have already bought mine!!

Out On The Plots This Week:

Fortunately lower-lying # 146 escaped the floods, although the ground is very wet. This is the view from the upper end, with the new Herb Bed behind me and the one in front being the Wild Flower Bed begun last year. The covered bed to the right is to be planted with early Leeks and First early Potatoes, with the later Leeks to then follow these. 

The path down through the Forest Garden still looks quite tidy, and I am looking forward to the Muscari and Forget-me-nots planted along the righthand side of this path as Spring unfolds

Some flowers are already out, including these deep purple Iris reticulata, so called because their small bulbs have a golden netted appearance. These ones are planted in a trough and in four years have made a sizeable clump from one bulb. The patterns on the petals are beautiful and their nectar provides a welcome meal for any insects coming out on warmer days. I saw a White Tailed Bumblebee queen on Saturday afternoon, which reminded me I need to re-site the purpose built nest box as it is too high for large BUmblees to find inviting

This week over on #145, I cleared away the rest of the Nettles and Docks behnd the shed next to the gate, although I know that even the tiniest piece of remaining Nettle root will spring back into life as soon as my back is turned. The Docks however are well and truly out. I just need to keep an eye open for inevitable seedlings and remove them before their roots delve too deeply

Before I plant up this area howeve, the she needs some serious maintenace work, as the roofing felt is beginning to break up and let water through, and the shed walls need a coat of wood preserving paint to keep them sound. I am hoping my son will be able to give me a hand in re-covering the roof during half term week, and then once the back of the shed is painted I can start planting. My daughter is making a welcome donation of a shrub to start things off!

Most days I walk round the site, as there are few people about and it feels very safe there, and there are always interesting things to see...apart from huge, lake-like puddles!

This morning I spotted these Snowdrops noddng away on the verge outside someone's plot, and a very welcome sight they were. Snowdrops always remind me of our Wedding Day, as my Mum made me a little buttonhole to wear, of Snowdrops and Ivy leaves from her garden. They don't thrive well in my own garden, although a few struggle along, but where my daughter lives in Hampshire they line the verges and river banks at this time in the year. A beautiful sight they are, too, worthy of their country name of Fair Maids of February

This cluster of brightly coloured Velvet Shanks  (Flammulina velutipes) near the base of a tree in the hedgerow caught my eye. There are not too many fungi that fruit at this time in the year, so I am sure of the ID. It is an edible species, at least the caps are, as the stems are a bit tough, said to make good mushroom soup or risotto, but with such a small group it seems mean to pick any of them. Maybe next year?

And the Hazel Catkins hanging down, full of golden pollen were a beautiful sight against the pale sky

At Home This Week:

All three varieties of Aubergine are now up: Black Beauty, Long Purple and the more recently sown Emerald Isle. They have "graduated" to the greenhouse now, which of course has freed up space in the propagator on the kitchen windowsill

Peruvian Black Mint ...photo from advert

 

That space was very soon filled with more Chillies: Havana Gold, Yellow Drop, Cayennetta, Razzamataz and Alberto's Locoto Rococo, plus this year's choice of Sweet Peppers: Cabanero and Gialli de Cuneo... both  with large, blocky fruits ... Ros de Mallorca (seeds bought in Barcelona in 2017) Frigitello (wrinkled lime green Italian variety) and my old favourite, Long Red Marconi

I am attempting to grow Celeriac this year,havinf enjoyed the ones my neighbour Clive shared with me, and have sown some seeds of Monarch. following the instructions on the packet and not covering them. Let's hope I get a few plants!

I aim to have some early Cauliflowers, so have in a few seeds of All The Year Round, and seeds sent to me at Christmas by a friend, Perennial Cauliflower, are also sown. As soon as a single seedling pokes up, these will both be going to the greenhouse, as they don't need heat really.I just want them off to a rapid start if possible

The last to be sown was Peruvian Black Mint aka Huatacay (Tagetes minuta) the seeds of which look just like thos of its cousins, French Marigolds and Tagetes. This is new to me, and I decided to grow it as part of my quest for different culinary herbs this year. It sounds really interesting, descibed as a zest citrus flavour with a mint undertone, and used in its native Peruvian Andes regions to make sauces and tisanes. I hope it is as undemanding to grow as its more well known cousins

The Lemon Grass stalks have started to grow roots. I followed my daughter's advice and stood their little jar (a shot glass actually) on the propagator, cut back the tops to about 12-15cm, and kept them covered with  a plastic bag... so far, so good!

  • Here are the little white roots sprouting from the root plates

  • The green tops have continued to grow vigorously

This weekend my youngest grandaughter Rowan helped with sowing more seeds: Onward Early Peas, Sweet Sensation Mnagetout and Aquadulce Claudia & Red Flowered Broad Beans.  She has put them in the modules good and deep, so we may not see them for a little while!

I sowed Mangetout Snow Wind, which is a variety new to me, and it will be good to compare with Sweet Sensation, which was a success last year. I also put in the last few on my precious Kent Blue seeds, which  can be used bith as a Mangetout and a podding Pea, and has the most beautiful flowers, that open bright pink and then within a day turn blue. This is an old and rare variety, so should these grow, I shall be saving seed to share with other growers.

I also put in some Peas of an un-named dwarf variety sent to me by an on-line acquaintance two years ago... again, I hope these grow... that has been in his family for three generations. I wish I had sown them last year, but in all the trauma of Abi's death, they stayed in the seed box. Hopefully they will still be viable

These modules are all in the greenhouse, accompanied by some snappy traps after last year's mouse invasion

 

We also carefully planted some roots of two kinds of GInger: Brazilian, which had huge, fat, pinky coloured growth buds, and the more modest looking Asian Ginger. I had also managed to buy some fresh Turmeric roots with visible growth buds, so in they went too.

Ideally the pots would be in the propagator to hasten their growth, but it is already full, so they are sitting in the greenhouse instead. The night time temperature doesn't fall below 10C, so hopefully they will stir before too long

PS Sweet Pea seeds are soaking and will be sown tomorrow

In the garden, the one Christmas Box (Sarcococca humilis) is in flower. This does exceptionally well in the shade alongside (and now partly underneath) the Rhododendrons, flowering profusely and producing little black shiny berries. Last year's are still on the plant lower down. The flowers smell honey-like and definitely earn their place

As the plant can reproduce through suckers, I shall have a search round when the weather warms up a bit to see if this is why the shrub suddenly seems not just taller, which is what you might expect, but more dense as well

The yellow Crocuses at the end of the garden are desperate for some sunshine to help them open. They won't last much longer before they finish, so I do hope we get an hour or two soon

Jobs for This Week:

. keep an eye on the Brassica modules in the propagator, to move these to the greehouse at the first seedlings stirring

- sort out the flower seeds which will be the next occupants of the propagator, )mainly perennials I think) before it is the turn of Tomatoes and Okra

- find a more suitable site for the Bumblebee nest box

Anything else is really weather dependent and with sub zero temperatures forecast even during the day time for the next week, i shall have to satisfy myself with the occasioal walk round the site to get some fresh air!

Hope you are stay safe, and warm too of coure. I shall be back next Monday to see hwo things have gone

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

1st February - Olde English names for February include Mud-Month and Kale-Month, and indeed there is plenty of mud about. Many local footpaths have turned into mud-slicks and on our Allotment Site water is slowly seeping though the mud on the lower-standing plots alongside the river meadow, to now have huge puddles on them. One or two are really underwater now and this will only be increasing with more rain forecast. The River Thames draws its water for many miles before reaching us, and our water meadows are already full, so further overspill is into the flood plains: our site sits on one of these, but there are also hundreds of home locally that are on flood plain land... red flood alerts have been issued along some sections of the Thames already, and as I said, more wet weather is forecast. I hope recently improved flood defences are up to the job

And Kale-Month, well, there is a lot of Kale still growing well, but as the month goes on, it may be the only Brassica left to eat before Spring Cabbages are full enough to harvest. Another pertinent name from the past

 

Fortunately I am not only relying on Kale for fresh food, as you can see from the view through the polyunnel (The other on has Winter Radishes and  Raddiccio in it, with most beds being covered)

Harvest Monday this week includes two harvests from the tunnel. Mustard Greens are in full production now, so can be harevsted to use in the same way a Spinach. When cooked, their spicy flavour is greatly reduced, but the young leaves, eatn raw in salad, certainly have a bite to them. This whole bunch, with thicker stems removed, went into a Sweet Potato and Butternut Tagine. I did not grow the Sweet Potatoes though. I have not ever had much success with them, so just accet this is a vegetabke I shall buy from time to time

Flat-leaf Parsley is one of those herbs I get through in large quantities, as a garnish, in mixed green salad and even the base for pesto sometimes too. This bunch was chopped into couscous, along with some Winter Savory, which I forgot to photograph

Parsley grows like a weed out on the plots, but I moved a few seedlings in under cover in October, to make sure I had some to use even in the Winter freeze

The single Winter Savory plant was moved to the new herb bed at the end of the Summer and it seems to have survived very well, despite being a very large plant. It's flavour is similar to Thyme, slightly more resinous perhaps, and its small pink flowers later in the year look similar too, and are just as much enjoyed by bees.

Parsnips are still plentiful, and, once peeled, are great roasted or used in soup. Their very distinctive taste is one of the joys of Wintertime

Out On The Plots This Week:

I have been looking ahead to the coming season, planning what each area wll be used for. The Giant Cloche-Thingy that Abi built has never been used to full advantage. It is a sunny, sheltered growing space that has almost been used as an afterthought  each year, so I thought it was time to change that, so...

... I am going to use it to grow Cucumbers, and also position the Herb bench there too, so that they can take avantage of the extra protection

I added the weldmesh support last year, growing Sweetpeas there, which did work well, so I might add a few this year. Unfortunately Stinging Nettled had invaded from next door, a Buddleia had introduced itself and numerous annual weeds had also sprung up

Here is the result of several hours of work, weldmesh back in place and all the weeds etc taken out. I added a two inch layer of compost from the bin, which as quite dry so I shall leave it uncovered on the bed for the rain to give it  a good watering, before covering it up for the rest of the Winter.

Isn't it great when you open up the compost bin and find such lovely looking brown crumbly compost inside?  I am leaving the front on for now, as I can shovel it out from the top for a while as the bin is so full, and I don't want it to spill all over the paving

I attached wires to the shed to support the Chaenomeles, and planted a Winter flowering Clematis there too. It had come as afree gift last year, but there is no space in the garden at home for it: now at least it has a home and a chnace of growing properly. 

I decided to enlarge the whole bed and get rid of the scrabby piece of grass alongside it, so I moved the little wooden pales along its edge out quite a bit. So that I could access the plants, I put a couple of broken slabs in for stepping stones, then planted the Alliums and Lilies, transplanted some Forget-me-nots, tidied up the Armandii Clematis and suddenly it all looked rather good!

Once the dense mat of Nettles and Dock behind the shed is cleared... which may take some time... there will be space to plant some of the shrubs I have grown from cuttings

The buds on the Armandii Clematis are enormous! They look as though they should open pretty soon too. It is  entwined with the branches of the Fig tree,which is not ideal, but  it seems to be managing. I need to give some thought to it though, as the prevailing wind constantly blows the new growth down off the shed roof onto the tree, so I need to come up with a solution that allows it to grow in the direction it wants, but that doesn't suffocate the Fig tree

In The Polytunnels:

I planted oiut some of the Lettuce seedlings in the space I left for them alongside The Broad Beans, and spent an hour weeding out all the Chickweed that was starting to build up again. It is a real nuisance, and I despair of ever getting rid of it

There were some tiny new shoots visible on the Tenderstem Brocolli, so I hope they don't take too long to grow large enough to harvest

At Home This Week:

I sorted through the seed tins and took out packets which I can sow seeds from now - not outside, I mean in modules in the greenhouse:

Peas: Meteor (home saved, from a friend)

Mangetout: Snow Wind

Broad Bean: Aquadulce Claudi & Crimson Flowered

Sweet Peas

Lobelia ... given that these germinate in cracks in the patio, surely they will be OK in a tray?

I grew Crimson Flowered Broad Beans years ago, and I remember them being stunning to look at, but having quite short pods. The plan for these is to plant them out along the flower bed near the tap, with French Marigolds amongst them to fill up the ground as the beans finish and get cut down. Always good to have a plan! It is a little early yet to think about sowing French Marigolds, but I do have some seed to use towards the end of Spring. These Red flowered Beans will be an extra crop, not the main event though

The Black Beauty Aubergine seeds have all germinated in the propagator. I am hoping for some Long Purples to appear as they were sown on the same day. So far, none of the green Emerald Isles are up but they were sown on 19th January, so perhaps a few more days are needed before I start to worry!

 Another good thing this week has been Rowan's Living Stone seed. On the packet it said they could take several weeks  to come up, but a week later, she was excited to see nine little green dots. 

The Ailsa Craig Onions, Oarsman Leeks and Early Jalepeno seedlings are now all in the greenhouse, with some great light reflecting material around them (which came as food packaging). There are also three Padrons now struggling to poke their heads up, which is quite a relief. The seeds are fairly old: I bought them in Barcelona in 2017, and although it said viable until 2021 I was starting to worry. My neighbour Clive asked for some seed, so I can now give them to him, confident they should grow! I'd hate to give someone something not likely to come up

 

Even the birds looked cold this week! I am hoping this little fluffed up Wren is spying out potential nest sites after last year's brood was so successful. I might add another nest box with a smaller than usual hole to try to entice them in. They haven't really started singing yet, but it won't be long before the males are staking out their territorries, and good nest sites are vital of course

Jobs For The Coming Week:

- sow the early Peas, Mangetout & both lots of Broad Beans (Both for eventual outdoor growing) in modules in the greenhouse

- soak the Sweetpea seed overnight and then sow in 9cm pots, five to a pot and keep in greenhouse until they germinate

- sow Lobelia seeds in a tray, in propagator

- put up Robin nest boxes

I think my main job will be staying warm in this coming week, as unless I am doing something fairly strenuous, the cold soon bites and I need to head off home

Hope your week goes well and you are safe from flooding. I shall be back next Monday, with more seeds sown by then

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com