Friday, September 29, 2006


Well at last! It seems as though the paperwork for the allotment will come through very shortly. Hopefully by Saturday. Even if it doesn't arrive tomorrow, hubby and I will go and do a bit of pre-emptive clearing this weekend anyway - stealth allotmenteering!

Lots of rubbish to pick up, lots of weeds (although some areas are covered with carpet). Still, little by little it will be claimed back and gradually tamed. And then... I can see in my mind's eye what the plot will look like, but hard graft and time will be needed.

In the garden at home, the chard is now growing well, (cultivar: 'Bright Lights'). It's an attractive plant, with the seeds coming up with a mix of stem colours (orange, red and yellow). The Verbena bonariensis are seeding like crazy, as are the forget-me-nots. Ruthless culling will take place in Spring, as I was a bit lax this year and the front garden was rather rampant.

After a rather stressful week at work with an Ofsted inspection, getting tired and dirty in the garden is called for.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Well, any day now I will get the signed agreement back from the council, stating that an allotment is mine for a year! I can't wait. I'm so bad at waiting that I have already bought some autumn planting asparagus. This will be delivered near the end of October, so I should have a bed prepared by then, with the help of half-term time off for good behaviour.

Autumn planted asparagus can be harvested very lightly in the first spring - perhaps one or two spears per plant in the first two years. However, after the second year, it can be harvested more heavily, until the longest day (my birthday! Give it a couple of years and my birthday will be celebrated by the last asparagus of the year - what a birthday present!).

I'm off to the Malvern Autumn Gardening Show this weekend - it's good to see the dahlia exhibits and the vegetables at this time of year. Perhaps the allotment paper will arrive over the weekend, so I can get started on growing my own...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sweet September

A glorious September day yesterday. I spent the afternoon pulling up annuals which had spread all over, and started planting bulbs in the back garden.

I much prefer the miniature daffodils in the garden; I spent some time yesterday planting 'Minnow' and 'Tete a Tete'. Also planted were a range of Alliums, which give excellent value - the flowers last several weeks, and the heads remain all year.

Today, the weather is not so nice, but I will be in the front garden; here, I will be planting more miniature daffies, as well as a Crocus mixture, and some Anenome blanda. I am also going to plant up a couple of pots with pink and blue hyacinths. These should produce a fantastic perfume when they flower; during the dull winter and early spring, the fragrance of hyacinths, the viburnum and the sweet box (Sarcococca) will bring a bit of glamour to the front garden.

Growing bulbs is fantastic - just plant them in the ground (as a general rule at a depth of three times their height), and nature does the rest - the bulb contains embryonic roots, shoots, leaves and flower - just add soil & water! The BBC website has some useful information on planting bulbs, along with some bulbs to try, and aftercare details:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Planning ahead

Yesterday I received a large cardboard box in the post. It contains the bulbs that I will be planting over the next month or two, for spring colour.

As well as the usual daffies and crocuses, I have found that miniature irises can really brighten up a pot or window box in the early spring. So this weekend (as well as peering at the allotment again...) I will be planning & planting the bulbs. The tulips, however, will be kept in a cool, dry place until November before being planted. This reduces the risk of them getting viruses. I always like to plant a few Tulip 'Wendy Love', in memory of my mum; they're a soft apricot and yellow - sounds strange but the colour goes very well with the bark and new leaves of a Japanese Acer in the back garden.

Bulbs are so easy to plant and give you something to look forward to over the dark, cold months of winter.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My ever increasing kingdom...

Well, maybe I've bitten off more than I can chew, but I've just got myself an allotment. Well, a half plot.

It is, apparently, a trendy thing to do now, but I've always had a bit of a hankering. It must have been watching 'The Good Life' when I was young & impressionable. Hubby is pleased - it will mean the end of me trying to use red cabbages and cauliflowers as edging plants in the herbaceous borders.

So, I can't wait to get the piece of paper to sign, and go and take control of my little plot of wilderness. We'll see how well the enthusiasm lasts when waging war against bindweed and brambles.

A wonderful forum on growing your own can be found here:

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Weekend jobs

It's a beautiful sunny weekend, although the mornings are definitely getting cooler. So, this weekend it's a case of:
  • aerating the lawn (one of last weeks jobs not yet done)
  • carry on weeding
  • chopping down the dead heads on some of the Achillea, to try & stop it seeding like it did last year
  • thin out the Cerinthe seedlings - another plant that spreads itself around a bit. Beautiful in early summer.

The insects are getting fewer in the garden, but it's been a great year for butterlies, lke this Peacock on the Buddleia 'Harlequin'.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Great big thistles

I had some free cardoon seeds a couple of years ago. They were relatively easy to grow, and I now have three cardoon plants in the front garden. Well, I say three, sort of more one and three quarters now, as gusts of wind have taken their toll.

The cardoon is a majestic member of the thistle family. One of the specimens out the front must be around 8 feet tall, with around 20 flower heads on it. The flowers are adored by the local invertebrate wildlife. There are bumble bees, honey bees, four or five species of butterfly and also hover flies on the thistle heads.

This end of the season, they are starting to look a little worse for wear, but will make a strong architectural 'statement' through the winter, and their foliage and dead flower heads may act as shelter for resident insects.

I think they are a little overwhelming in our small front garden though - the plant which got blown over in June and has grown back from the base is a far more manageable (although less dramatic) 4 feet. So perhaps if the cardoons are to stay next year, I'll perform a bit of a 'Chelsea chop' on them, to keep them a more manageable size but keep them flowering and providing a little late summer colour.

Details on the 'Chelsea chop' can be found near the bottom of the page on the following link.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An exciting time of year...

...for planning.

It's the time of year for seed catalogues to start dropping through the letterbox.
Lots of planning to do. My husband will laugh at this, as there is still a pile of unopened seed packets sat on top of the microwave, collected through Spring and Summer. To be fair, I didn't buy any of these - they're all free from various magazines, most notably Garden News.

Still, shiny new catalogues with lots of bright new flowers and varieties of veg. A pleasant way to spend a wet autumn evening or weekend.

I've always found Thompson & Morgan to be excellent, but there are lots of other large companies, as well as smaller specialist companies. I like the look of the new Calendula 'Sherbert Fizz' T&M are showcasing this year:

It's cute!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Best Laid Plans

Well, I have failed to aerate the lawn so far, so that's this weekend sorted out. A dull job, but good to reduce compaction and hopefully reduce moss growth.

Mind you, most of the moss in the garden is on the shady border in the back garden, so that needs digging and having some organic matter added, to open up the drainage a bit.

I'm pondering putting in some broad bean seeds to overwinter. I'm not sure if this is a good idea 'up North', but worth a try to get an early crop next year. Mind you, with only growing veg in a small garden, anything is worth an experiment. With the amount of rain we're getting at the moment, it may be worth having a go at cultivating rice...

Monday, September 04, 2006

The sad autumn song of the robin

Yesterday morning I heard the 'ticking' and melancholy song of the robin - a sure sign of impending misty Autumn days.

I like the changing of the seasons: the heavy dew on the spiders webs in the garden; the smell of rotting vegetation; dahlias and asters flowering; even the sudden disintegration of the tender perennials - castor oil plants in particular disintegrate almost instantaneously when the thermometer reaches frost levels.

The chilli plants have done very well this year; I've just used one to make a chile con carne. The only problem being how to gauge the hotness of the first chilli pepper of the season. Well, we'll find out tomorrow, when we will either reach for the tabasco sauce to spice things up a bit, or rush to the kitchen with mouths on fire.

The Royal Society of Chemistry has some interesting information on the chemistry of chilli peppers:

Still no sun to ripen the butternut squashes. We do, however, have an extraordinarily fine crop of slugs. It's a shame that they are not considered a gourmet's invertebrate like the oyster - we'd make a fortune! Slug egg caviar, anyone? I could be onto a winner!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Slowly learning...

I'm currently doing a distance learnig course, leading to the RHS General Certificate in Horticulture. A completely pointless exercise (much like this blog!), but nevertheless enjoyable.

I get a sense of satisfaction from learning, and learning combined with my hobby is better still.

The General Certificate is suitable for all, including hobby gardeners wishing to learn a little more about the whys and wherefores of plant growth and cultivation.

It's something to do in the dark winter evenings, which are quickly coming upon us...

Exotic Caterpillars

I noticed that one of the new apple trees looked a bit depleted of leaves. Closer inspection showed the culprits...
This is the caterpillar of the Eyed Hawkmoth. It likes apple leaves; so much so, that my poor new apple tree has barely half a dozen leaves left thanks to this critter and its siblings.

Still, if you're trying to attract wildlife, you can't pick and choose.

Today's garden tasks are to:
  • rescue the lavatera, which has lurched dramatically over the path after yesterday's wind;
  • aerate the lawn - dull but necessary to reduce compaction;
  • deadhead dahlias, rudbeckias and calendulas, so that they keep on flowering through autumn;
  • weed, weed, weed - the recent rain has caused everything to grow like crazy.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Liquid Snow

The joy of the English weather...

Lush grass, sodden herbaceous border.

Still, an excellent start to my attempt at growing edible and ornamental plants together.

So many crab apples that a branch has snapped - note to self: make sure you thin them out in June next year.

Three apples on the brand new 'supercolumn' tree, and two on the cooking apple tree.

A huge harvest of at least 20 raspberries on the new canes; over 30 blackcurrants. And more courgettes than you can shake a stick at. If the weather Gods could give us three months of warm weather, I may even get a ripe butternut squash.

On the down side: snails & slugs galore on the red cabbages dotted about the garden. I've been using the excuse of specially bred 'lacy' cabbages.

Somehow 'liquid snow' sounds so much better than rain...