Thursday 12 April 2012

Doing the Bare Minimum

It has been a hectic few weeks since we stepped into spring and somehow, despite the sunshine a couple of weeks back, the garden didn't quite get the attention it deserved. We have sown a few seeds. Everything we planned to sow in March has been done, but nothing more. Then, as Easter approached we decided it was probably best to wait till we returned from a trip to visit Grandma and Grandad North, before we sowed anymore. We were remembering last years destruction of our seedlings by a little mouse and some very hot sunshine which left our crops eaten or shrivelled.

We returned from a lovely trip up north yesterday and so are now ready to get serious in the garden. Starting, I think, with a first haircut for the lawn. I'm hoping it will be a dry day so by the time Garden Dad gets home from work it will be dry enough to mow. And while our Little Garden Helpers make menus for their cafe, I'm going to find all the seeds we will plant at the weekend and make sure I know where and how I am sowing them.

And until I have news from the garden I will post about some of the fun things we have been doing while we haven't been in the garden...    

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Snapshots of Spring

Today was the first day of spring so this afternoon I took Garden Lass and Garden Boy on a walk around our garden to look for the signs of spring. There are lots of little buds waiting to burst forth, healthy new leaves and sycamore seedlings appearing at every moment. Here are some snapshots of spring in our garden:

Monday 19 March 2012

Relaxing in the Sun

I'm just taking a peaceful break for a cuppa in the garden. Garden Lass has been helping me pull out the weeds in the patio cracks. The beautiful sunshine has encouraged me to make the patio a little more inviting so once all the weeds are packed into the green bin we will wash down the garden table and chairs. When Garden Dad and I were making our plans for the garden this year one of the things we decided was that we needed to spend more time relaxing and playing in the garden. It is easy, especially early in the season, to throw ourselves into the planting and we are determined this year to enjoy the garden as a place to relax this year as well.

Tidying up the patio is just the start of the preparations. Garden Girl and Garden Boy are growing out of the slide we have in the garden so we thought it was time to look for some new garden toys. We are also going to make sure we furnish the two seating areas we created at the bottom of the garden. One of these catches the evening sun, so will be perfect for a glass of wine at the end of the day, while the other is in the shadiest corner of the garden and therefore ideal for the children to escape to the hot midday sun for a picnic.

I hope very much that the sun we have today is here to stay so we can pull out our sunglasses and suun hats and begin to enjoy the garden on a daily basis. In the meantime I'm heading back to inspect worms and ladybirds with
Garden Lass.

Saturday 10 March 2012

First Sowings

Last weekend was a weekend of all weathers. The sun chose to shine while I was accompanying Garden Girl to a birthday party but after that we had rain, sleet and even snow. For all the motivation I had, opening the door and heading out into the garden was a task not to be. Determined to remain motivated, I drew a plan of the garden, marking out where each of the seeds will be sown. I also started to put together a monthly list of things to do, which I will pop up here each month. I wanted a list that I could use again each year and which would be specifically relevant to my garden and the things we grow.

I had a couple of opportunities during the week to pop out and sow broad beans but these were during the school day and whilst I often do work in the garden during this time I did not want to exclude our Little Garden Helpers from the very first sowings of the year. Thankfully, today has been perfect for a day in the garden and we made the most of it.

Our three Little Garden Helpers delighted in helping with the first sowings of the year, measuring out the distance between beans and pushing the beans themselves into the soil, before covering them up and watering them. Garden Lass eagerly joined in and when she had run out of beans she continued to happily push stones from the pathway into the raised bed. This was in total opposite to last year, when she happily spent her time scooping soil from the raised bed onto the pathway!

I was also able to weed the herb bed, which is always hard work because of all the weeds tangling themselves around the thyme and oregano. Those that grow up through the middle of these woody herbs should perhaps be admired for their persistence but it is frustratingly difficult to get at their roots without pulling up the thyme and oregano as well. And then there is all the moss growing at the shady end of the bed which I am never quite certain whether I should totally remove or just break up and dig in. I usually end up going for a bit of a mix of the two.

While I was working my way along the herb bed I was disappointed to find so many snails, nestled and sheltered by the herbs, undisturbed over winter. I removed as many as I could but I am sure there are more hiding in the warmth of the low growing herbs. Our Little Garden Helpers had the opportunity to see a variety of different snail shells however, and one brave little snail tried to make an escape from my bucket and gave them a delightful peek at its body and antennae as it tried to slither slowly away.

On a more pleasing note I saw a lot of seven spotted ladybirds and not a single harlequin. I'm not sure if this is because the latter species tend to come out later in the year but I am taking it as a good sign that there are so many seven spotted ones in the garden at the moment. And our Little Garden Helpers were absolutely thrilled to see one of them residing in the ladybird house we put up last year.

I have never had much success getting my little ones to help with weeding so while I was busy pulling up unwanted green things, our Little Garden Helpers were playing hide and seek amongst the plant pots and having watering can races. I'm not sure how a watering can race works but it involved running about with a watering can, getting wet and lots of laughter!

We came inside for dinner, wet but satisfied with our day in the garden.

Friday 2 March 2012

March Sowings

I have a plan for the garden, although my plans are always relatively vague. I order my seed packets according to the month in which they can first be sown and then, within that month, I prioritise according to personal preference. I do try to make sure that the varieties which can only be sown in a particular month are at the front of the pile but beyond that it is really a whimsical plan.

Thus the plan I lay out for March is liable to change. If the weather becomes warmer and the night frosts subside I am likely to add a few packets from my April pile to March, however I will definately sow the following in March:

Broad Beans Crimson Flowered The first time we grew broad beans they became quite heavily infested with black fly and they cropped for only a short period before they were ruined. We had sown them in the autumn prior to the growing season and so the next time we grew them we waited till February to sow the seeds and, although we had to wait a little longer for the crop, we had a much more fruitful season. Since then, we have saved our seeds to make early spring sowings and the broad beans are now the first crops to be put in the ground each year.

Tomatoes Tigerella, Mirabelle Bianche, Sungold F1 Hybrid, Gartenperle, Ruby F1 Hybrid, Vilma, Harbinger You can perhaps gather, from the long list of varities, that tomatoes are one of the things we enjoy growing the most. Homegrown tomatoes taste delicious and with the children helping themselves to fruit whenever they want we can't help but grow lots of tomato plants. The greenhouse, in summer, is filled with that delicious tomato scent, the hanging baskets drip with bursting fruits and our meal times have an added luxury of taste. I did promise myself that we would try to be sensible this year, but as you can see, when it actually came to choosing, we failed in our efforts. Though in my defence, we only have a few Tigerella and Mirabelle Bianche seeds left over from last year and the Harbinger seeds were free!

Cucumber Burpless Tasty Green F1 Hybrid Garden Boy loves cucumbers and was very excited to help me choose the variety at the garden centre. He looked at the pictures and I read out the names. Once I had read out the name of this variety there was no looking back. With lots of giggles the Burpless Cucumber was declared the winner! We will let you know later in the year if they live up to their name or not!

Cress Fine Curled and Extra Curled These are probably the same thing, but we already had some seeds and Garden Boy really wanted the packet with cress heads pictured on the front, so given the frequency we sow cress we bought the extra packet. We will continually sow these throughout the year, but it is always good to get some in early so that the children see some early growth and retain the excitement they have at this time of year.

Salad Leaves Stir Fry Mixed, Mixed Lettuce Leaves We eat a lot of lettuce and having had disastrous crops outdoors, with the birds eating the lot, we now stick to eating young leaves grown in trays, inside the greenhouse. We might have to grow more this year though, as Garden Boy has started to eat lots of lettuce. He decided one day he would be a snail throughout dinner and as a result would only eat lettuce during that meal. Since then, he has happily munched away on various types of lettuce and I suspect the indoor crops will be in as much danger from Garden Boy this year, as the outdoor crops have been from the birds.

Sweet Basil, Plain Leaved Parsley and Coriander With no appropriate windowsills in our house we struggle to grow herbs indoors, so as soon as it is warm enough to start them up in the greenhouse we are keen to get the herb seeds sown. Basil in particular, is a favourite, although Garden Girl is eagerly awaiting the coriander.

Cornflower Snowman We are growing these because the seed packets came free as part of a promotion and they do look beautiful. We will probably grow them in pots to keep beside the greenhouse door and provide a cheerful welcome. Garden Girl, who is determined to add more flowers to our garden, is particularly delighted to be growing these and there is no way I would have got away with leaving this seed packet in the tin till April! 

What are you growing this month?

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Is this a Queen Bee?

Over winter we store empty plant pots and outdoor toys in the greenhouse and when we came to clear them out this year we found this bee in one of the toy boxes.

Garden Dad thinks it might be a Queen Bee and I'm feeling a bit sorry that I have displaced it from its hibernation. I hope I haven't exposed it too early to cold nights but I am also a little concerned that it will try to return to the greenhouse toy store and end up stinging one of the children. From my brief exploration online I believe that at this time of year a mated Queen bee will be busy looking for a suitable hive and beginning to gather nectar, so perhaps the warmth of the greenhouse will no longer be needed and a new home will soon be found. I have my fingers crossed.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Back with a Burst of Colour

It feels as if winter is coming to a close and spring is just starting to emerge. After a long winter break, this weekend seemed the right time to re-open the shutters, dust away the cobwebs and once again pick up my garden trowel and keyboard.

The garden has been nothing more than a play area over the winter months this year. Ordinarily you wouldn't find us to be fair weather gardeners but we really did put the garden to bed around October time. We had no winter vegetables because we were only using up seeds we already had last year and a cheeky little mouse, with the help of a scorching sun, early in the 2011 season left us with an empty winter store. We consequently moved our attentions to the house, enjoying Christmas and settling into school. But we are back, with a burst of colour!

Garden Boy was so keen to start planting that he was ripping open seed pods that had fallen from our neighbours tree, planting the seeds carefully in our herb patch. A trip to the garden centre was in order, so today, having tidied the garage and cleaned the greenhouse yesterday, we went along to stock up on compost, get our little garden helpers some new watering cans and buy some colourful flowers to bring instant colour to the garden.

Having refuelled with a cuppa on our return home, we spent a happy afternoon planting up old wellies, the narrow bed behind our seating area and a basket to cheerfully welcome visitors.

I even had eager helpers to pull up the first set of weeds, daring to emerge! And with a tin full of new seed varieties I feel ready and raring to go...