Six On Saturday: Last of the winter jobs, moving into spring

A cold week with several foggy mornings ended with some welcome warmth.  The sunshine lifts the human spirit and that of the plants.  The last of the winter cut back needs to be done, excepting the penstemons which I will leave until April.  I did cut the grapevine back last week, just in time.  The tomato seeds did not get sown.  This first sowing is destined for the greenhouse and I must get them done this weekend.  Sowing for plants to be grown outside can be left for a little longer.  While reading the comments on Jim Steven’s SOS for last week I came across his link to a blog by The Laid Back Gardener and found my way to  Goldilocks and the three seedlings which is a great story about sowing tomato seeds.  I recommend it and hope that this year I’ve got my sowing just right.

Here’s my six for the week:



The first sowing of sweet peas have germinated.  ‘Midnight Blue’ with a 56% success rate and ‘April in Paris’ achieving 94%.  There may be a few laggards to come through for ‘Midnight Blue’ but they’ll have to get a move on as this weekend they will go out into the cooler potting shed.



Mr P who hosts this blog, and does us all a wonderful service, is a great grower of plants from seeds.  His latest success is lupins and I am much put to shame by his efforts.  By coincidence this week I received three small pots of lupins for planting out.  This is my first foray into lupins, previously not one of my favourites but  I was tempted by a twitter post of ‘The Pages’ and decided to order a few.  The colour is carmine red – let’s see what they look like in a few months time.  Of course, they will have to survive slug attacks first.


IMG_3304Speaking of twitter, I have already shared my labours of last weekend there but I am happy to share the success with you all here.  The compost bins were finally built.  The bins are a slot-in build and took hardly anytime at all.  I will have to tidy up the front surface which will require nice words to delightful builder again!  In the meantime I have some compost heap turning to do.


IMG_3325The deciduous shrubs are beginning to leaf up.  I love the fresh green colours.  This is my mystery shrub in the front garden.  It has black berries over the winter but unfortunately I can’t remember the flower type.  I’ll watch it carefully this year and see if I can identify it.


img_3323.jpgThese hyacinths were going to be my forced hyacinths for Christmas but when they were brought into the warm they came with a plague of flies and were banished to the garden.  It’s good to see them in flower now.




This is my long border.  The plants left standing over winter for their seed heads will be cut down now.  I’m going to post a photo each month taken from the same spot to record the wonderful transformation that takes place over the summer months.  It’s all very gloomy today as this was another foggy morning but there is much potential!

If you’d like to join the SOS band of gardeners that go immediately to the participant guide on Mr P’s site.  SOS is a mix of the pottering gardener like myself, the adventurous like Mr Propagator and many more lovely people all willing to share their experience and knowledge.  Take the plunge!





Six on Saturday: Ready, steady, go!

Life became busy last week and the balance tipped away from things gardening focused.  These times come along and all will pass – soon I hope!  It was good to feel the warmth of the sun again but the sunny days were followed by cold nights and the greenhouse temperatures were down to -1.  The garden is straining at the leash, the March surge is coming and I still have winter jobs to do.



The grapevine over the pergola must be pruned this weekend.  It’s a job I normally do in November.  What was I doing then? Or in December or January?



The tulips and bluebells are coming through well.  I spotted this bulb strangely lying on the surface.  I bent to pick it up, cursing squirrels, but no.  It was well rooted into the ground.  I don’t have an explanation.  Could it be an allium bulb that didn’t get planted deeply enough and has wriggled its way upwards?  I decided to bury it rather than dig it up and plant it deeper as I didn’t have the time to sort it out.  Maybe a job for the weekend.


The onion sets are in their modules in the greenhouse.  I am hoping to have the time to plant the shallots out this weekend.  That ‘to do’ list is getting longer.



The garden doesn’t have a single crocus or iris reticulata in it, something to be rectified in the next bulb buying session but the primroses look cheerful enough for now.



And the first flowers of pulmonaria officinalis planted in a north facing border are coming out.  It’s also good to see their spotted leaves.  The common pulmonaria doesn’t seem to fall prey to attack by slugs.



The lovely leaves of aquilegia are unfurling.

I have some final preparation of a bed on the north facing border to finish off ready for the March plant out.  Plants have to be ordered and I know I will be tempted to add in a few extras for elsewhere in the garden.  I’m getting ready but need to be steady for a while longer before it’s all go in March.

I hope your garden preparations are going well.  Mr P is, as usual, hosting this group and all the links to gardens around the world can be found on his site.





Six on Saturday: Plan, plan and then cross fingers

Things are definitely on the move in the garden.  The bulbs are poking up their first leaves and here in London some of the perennials are beginning to stir.  Storm Eric poured in yesterday and is blowing itself out today.  The sun is shining and optimism is rising.



There was a brief lull in the weather this week.  The snow disappeared and the ground wasn’t too wet so the opportunity was taken to plant out the asparagus crowns.  I dug out the trench, created the ‘w’ shaped profile and elegantly draped the crowns across the top.  The trench was then back-filled to just cover the crowns and over the coming weeks as the crowns send out shoots there will  be more back filling to ensure the crowns are well buried.  A scattering of fish bone and blood also went into the mix.  I opted for one long trench and I think I have space for a border of companion plants. Recommendations are to plant tomatoes and basil in an attempt to fend off asparagus beetle.  I am growing tomatoes from seed this year and I’m sure I will have some spare plants.  The extras can go by the side of the asparagus as a first barrier.  I’m happy to sow a few basil seeds as well.  That’s the first plan.  We’ll see if it works.



The potatoes have been bought and chitting is underway.  The second plan is where to put the potatoes this year.  My veg plot has a three year rotation plot.  (I don’t grow brassicas).  Potatoes are followed by onions followed by root crops.  The lay out of the veg plot gives me two larger beds and then three thinner strips.  There is also one medium sized raised bed.  I have to decide if  I use the raised bed for half the potatoes and one of the larger smaller strips for the remainder.  You may be a little confused by now – as I am.  I have a few weeks to sort this all out.



Beans will also have to fit into the plan and this year I am forgoing the climbing bean ‘Blue Lake’ in favour of a dwarf french bean.  The simple reason is I don’t enjoy untangling the beans and twine from the wig wam at the end of the season.  I also reasoned that the dwarf beans would fit very nicely into one of the thin strips.  A long term plan is to combine two of the thin strips, but that’s on the wish list.



My final purchase of sweet peas seeds has been made.  Let’s see how ‘Iris’ and ‘Gwendoline’ get on with ‘April in Paris’.  The first batch of sweet peas was sown last weekend.  These will be sown in a week or two.



Onion choices have also been made.  Sturon, Red Baron and Longor shallots.  I am going to start off the onions in modules this year ready to transplant as the weather becomes warmer.  A first time of trying this for me so fingers crossed here too.



The first flower on the Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’  has appeared.  It is nestled under a Mahonia in the front garden.  Yes, Spring is on its way.


Six On Saturday: How does your asparagus grow?

It has been a very cold week here with heavy frosts and snow on Thursday evening. February has arrived and plans for the year to come are gathering pace.  Seeds have been delivered and also, unexpectedly, asparagus crowns.



I ordered them on the understanding that despatch would be in February for planting out in March.  They arrived a few days ago during the coldest spell of the winter.  Much as I prefer to stay in the warm at these times I did plant out 125 snowdrops on a very sleety day in February a few years ago, I have form for gardening in the winter.  This time I feel misled.  I registered my concerns with the supplier who assures me that the majority of UK asparagus can now be planted any time over winter when the ground is not frozen.  But my ground is frozen.  I am therefore advised to store them temporarily with a covering of dry sand or compost which stops them drying out completely.  This I have done.  I now have my fingers very much crossed.  Wish me luck.  The supplier will be updating their website and I could be digging trenches this weekend.




As February has arrived I feel it is time to show a snow drop or two.  As mentioned, I did have fun planting these!  I planted them at the base of the fruit trees in the garden.  One hundred and twenty five snowdrops do not go very far but they do take a long time to plant.  I was hoping they would naturalise and spread themselves out into the empty spaces, but it looks as though that is going to take some time and I am sure that if I count them up I would be noting some as AWOL. Having said that they do look good in the snow.



A view of one section of the soft fruit beds in the snow and more evidence of winter gardening madness.  Last weekend I decided it was time to cut back the autumn fruiting raspberries.  It was a sunny morning and I was lured outside.  I failed to factor in the wind chill – it was freezing but I pushed on.  Once the secateurs were in action it was hard not to stop and the gooseberries also got some attention.  They succumbed to a sawfly attack last year so I focused on opening up the middle of each bush.   I still have the blackcurrants to do, they are budding up already.



Whilst stowing the asparagus crowns in the greenhouse I checked in on the overwintering pelagoniums.  They seem to be looking okay.  This is the first time I’ve tried overwintering and the gardening fingers are crossed for them too.



The delightful builder was very industrious when he visited recently and used up the wood left over from facing the breeze block walls of a raised bed to spruce up the large water storage tank.  I’d always thought it was an ugly thing but it was functional.  However I had coffee with my neighbour recently and realised she had a perfect sight line from her window direct to the water tank.  It was not a pretty sight.   I am pleased the left over wood got used up and perhaps the Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ that is hiding under the snow will be more inclined to creep up the sides now.



Lastly some variegated box capped with snow.  Plain and simple.  It forms one end of a hedge line separating the garden from the veg plot.

Interesting times these, for the SOS crowd.  What is going on in their gardens or in their gardening minds?  Mr P’s site will have all the answers.  It may be February but there will be much to discover.  Share your experiences too – here’s a participant guide.