© Our Plot on Green Lane Allotments -
Archive for previous years' diaries dating from 2007 can be accessed by clicking here
Wherever you have turned this week the topic on everyone’s lips has been the white stuff. The predicted snow came at the beginning of the week but, in our area, not anything like as much as was predicted. It didn’t seem enough to cause the ensuing chaos but was enough to keep us indoors. The nearest we got to any gardening was to read the gardening magazine that was popped through the letterbox. The editor must have been kicking himself for bad timing as one main article was on climate change. It included the subheadings Longer hotter summers and Warmer shorter winters. I do wonder how many gardeners have taken advice and restyled their gardens to take into account the predicted global warming and what effects our recent weather has had on their cactus and succulent displays. On the right are two of our plots photographed by Alastair at 7:45 one morning.
Our newly arrived garden magazine also came complete with a free packet of three types of tomato seeds, Moneymaker, Roma and Gardeners’ Delight. We had already bought seven packets of tomato seeds and one of those is a mixture of varieties. We also collected seed from some tomatoes grown last year. Don’t you just love when magazines do that and mess up your planning! Blight permitting we could have quite a supply of tomatoes this year.
Although we didn’t have much of a snowfall the freezing temperatures have meant the snow that fell has lingered. Newly emerged and budding plants have been covered but fortunately seem to be gradually reviving as the snow disappears, although growth has slowed down considerably. One plant that isn’t enjoying the conditions is the tree fern which is definitely looking worse for wear and sporting browned fronds. Each year I worry whether it has made it through winter but this year the odds may be against it!
The conditions warranted an increase in the amount of food put out for the garden birds and the need to keep thawing the ice in the birdbaths. Birds were lining up to take a bath in the icy water – it’s just incredible that the little creatures don’t just freeze to death especially when wearing sodden feathers in below 0 temperatures. In theory they should turn into ice balls.
The numbers of visitors to feeding areas have increased since the low numbers recorded during BirdWatch weekend – now there’s a surprise! We have placed food under the small covered area right by our patio window and many birds are coming very close to the window for food. The female blackbirds seem a lot more confident to do this than the males though. The females happily tuck in turning their backs on us but the males are very wary. The robins and collared doves are also very happy to come right up to the window too and the blue/great tits do a quick smash and grab. Blackbirds are everywhere and becoming very territorial – chasing one another round the garden. We have also had a song thrush foraging under one of our evergreen shrubs in a snow free area. This was a very welcome sight as we haven’t seen a thrush in the garden for a long time. Time to make another batch of fat cakes!
One feathered visitor which was not welcome was the heron. It paid us a return visit after helping itself to breakfast from our pond last month. This time it left with an empty beak and stomach. We had covered the pond with black netting after its last raid. I do realise that it is just as in need of food as the other birds but draw the line when it comes to sacrificing our fish.
Folklore has it that the birds choose their mates on Valentine’s day! It seems that is the reason that birds feature on many Valentine’s cards. A bit of a tall story but our nesting boxes are cleared out and ready for action just in case! I wonder if the blue and great tits will leave the sparrow terraces to the sparrows this year. All advice points out that three nesting holes close together in the terrace and the holes being too large and close together would deter any self respecting member of the tit family from taking up residence. Obviously our birds don’t read the same articles as I do!
Nothing much has moved this week as far as the garden and allotment is concerned except thankfully the snow, although remnants have stayed behind in sunless places. The weather has been very variable, cold but with some lovely sunny periods. Still everywhere is very soggy with standing water in many of the fields.
Again the visit to the allotment was confined to collecting vegetables, leek, carrots, cabbage, kale and sprouts. Still it is testimony to growing your own that fresh produce is available on the plot even in the midst of winter when the conditions have been as bad as they have.
In the garden greenhouse the garlic planted in pots is now growing strongly too. Other than that, trays of seed potatoes protected by fleece, a few cuttings and overwintering plants it looks very empty.
In the garden the plants that were flattened by the snow have perked up and the snowdrops and hellebores are looking more their usual self. The garrya has developed its long tassels and the flower buds of other shrubs such as the rhododendron and camellia are swelling. Moving the pile of dead magnolia leaves I also noticed that the wild primroses are just coming into bud.
*** STOP PRESS!!! ***
Just as I was finishing the diary entry, we noticed this visitor just outside of
our window. I know it’s a sparrowhawk and think it’s one of last year’s juveniles
It had landed on a large plant pot on a wall just outside of our window where it proceeded to devour an unfortunate sparrow. As we watched it, the bird seemed to look directly from one of us to the other but seemed unperturbed. It seemed more annoyed with the feathers that kept sticking to its beak.
The photograph and video show just how close it was!
Bright sunny periods have been a feature of this week but these have often been accompanied by fierce winds that have managed to keep the temperature chilly. Let’s just hope that the winds have gone some way towards drying the soil.
The sunshine on the now fully opened clumps of snowdrops has tempted us into thinking we are heading into spring but we have to keep our desire to rush out and garden on a tight rein. To fulfil the urge to get going we have sown some carrot seeds in a large trough in the garden greenhouse. Working in there is far more pleasant than being outside and the conditions should also be more conducive to seed germination. The jostaberry that we bought last year grew rather leggy before we were able to plant it on the plot and so cuttings were taken. These are all now beginning to bud so we could end up with a jostaberry forest. The penstemon cuttings that were taken last year are also flourishing and the fig is budding. We have a small tree fern in the greenhouse (it could in fact be a cluster of tree ferns) which is looking really healthy but will probably take years to develop any sort of trunk. To the unsuspecting eye it looks just like an ordinary fern, albeit a very attractive ordinary fern though. Its outdoor cousin has brown and frazzled fronds but hopefully the fleece tucked into the crown will have given it enough protection to make it through.
Under our magnolia tree a clump of wild primrose flowers were hiding under a carpet of leaves. Hopefully having had their heads exposed to the light they will now begin to flourish. The seeds taken from them last year are continuing to germinate in the greenhouse.
The photograph below shows my favourite bit of the garden this month. What’s even better is that this is the view from one of my house windows so I don’t even have to go out to enjoy it!
In the greenhouse the garlic is growing quickly with all the shoots standing up to attention.
Also gathering speed is the growth of garden bulbs – just one of two miniature daffodils on flower but things are really on the move. I was determined that I wouldn’t take any more photographs of the snowdrops but now the flower are opened they look just too good to ignore!
The buds on the shrubs are continuing to swell. The ivy berries are also swelling and the green berries of the aucuba are ripening. The mahonia is now in full flower in spite of the attempts of the birds to denude it of flower buds.
Tucked snugly in the house, like us, the banana ‘Ice cream’ is growing as fast as only bananas seem to know how. In the garden the hardier varieties are still shrouded in straw.
We managed to put in some time on the allotment plot, mainly belatedly tidying up. At least the ground wasn’t as soggy as it has been and we were able to stand in one spot without sinking. The blackcurrant and blueberry bushes are in bud as is the cherry; it’s at this time when I start to hope that a bumper fruit crop will follow. The hazels are also beginning to be festooned with catkins.
The last of the leeks were harvested, along with carrots, sprouts and the first fresh sprigs of white sprouting broccoli. The garlic in the greenhouse is continuing to grow well as are the winter onions and shallots growing in less comfort outside. Rhubarb is starting to grow strongly.
Whilst pulling up the remains of the sunflowers from the cut flower borders I came
across a dahlia tuber that we had missed. This was still firm and plump and so was
placed in some compost in the greenhouse. It has survived keen frosts and soggy soil!
It just goes to show that gardening will never be an exact science! We also dug up
potatoes that we had left in the soil hoping that they would rot in the wet conditions.
That must sound very strange but these were potatoes that had been affected by the
contaminated manure. We harvested plenty from non-
The shrub rose and sambucus nigra cuttings that I took last year have buds and so I hope this is a sign that they have rooted. Other cuttings of blackcurrant and whitecurrant that had already rooted last year also seem to have survived everything that winter threw at them. The blackcurrant cuttings have buds. There are no signs of buds on the whitecurrant cuttings so I scraped back a tiny bit of bark with a fingernail and was glad to note that it was still green and healthy. Just like us soon it will be time to step up the pace!
The photos in the album below just give some idea of how things looked this week on the plot.
The weather warmed up a little this week and so have the birds’ singing voices. Maybe
singing voice isn’t accurate though when applied to the collared doves. In the garden
and on the plot the birds are preparing for the nesting season. Some birds have already
paired up and on the look-
In the garden the miniature daffodils are in bloom whilst their larger cousins are now in bud. We have a lone crocus so need to make a mental note to buy some more for next spring. Most of the fruit bushes and shrubs on the plot and in the garden are now showing buds and more perennial plants are joining in the race to show they are willing and able to grow again this year. The magnolia is full of bud – just hope that this year the weather doesn’t ruin the flowers.
The greenhouse in the garden is entering into old age and so has had a bit of a renovation this week ready for another year’s service. The wild primrose seeds are continuing to germinate; there is even sign of one seedling in the tray of bought seeds. I also gathered seeds from snakeshead fritillaries last year which I had almost given up on and are now showing signs of germination.
We managed a couple of visits to the plot. The bin containing the well rotted compost has now been emptied and spread on beds to enrich the soil. The buddleia bushes have also been pruned hard to encourage strong new growth. We have a row of
these on the plot; this is as a result of having too great a success rate when taking cuttings. Anything that can’t find room in the garden ends up on the allotment. This not only makes the plot look less functional but encourages lots of wildlife; in the case of the buddleias lots of butterflies and bees.
The autumn/late summer fruiting raspberries have been cut back to ground level, already the new shoots that will provide this year’s fruit are growing. These raspberries unlike those that fruit earlier in the season fruit on this year’s canes. (Click here for more on pruning raspberries). Whilst cutting back last years old canes I revealed one of the brightest green frogs I had seen for a long time. Fortunately it soon found an alternative home.
The hazel bushes are dripping with catkins; before the leaves grow we need to choose which branches are going to be cut out to provide us with beanpoles.
Oh and we had delivery of another garden magazine this week and guess what one of the packets seeds it was giving away was. Another variety of tomato!