Wednesday, January 16

Clivia




Monday, January 14

Welcome weeds?

It's amazing just how many plants growing in our garden and on the plot have just arrived without any action on my part.

According to the adage that 'a weed is a plant growing in the wrong place', I guess many of these plants could be classed as weeds.

Verbena bonariensis is an exceptionally prolific self seeder in both our garden and on the plot.

The clump below is growing up against our front window where there is no soil at all. It's growing in gaps between the paving bricks but what is more surprising is that the bricks are bedded onto concrete.
Seedlings spring up in gaps in the bricks on the drive too and most are truly weeds and have to be removed. On the plot verbena also self seeds at will.

Several years ago we planted some antirrhinums which if I remember rightly didn't really do very well, however each year new plants pop up in the front garden and on the plot. Again they will grow between gaps in the paving stones.
 We never know what colours will emerge.

When we first planted up the bed of hellebores the plants were well spaced but again they are a plant that seems to seed freely.
This area is now thickly carpeted with plants.

Another prolific self seeder is the aquilegia. Somehow a colony of white aquilegias have established themselves under our trachycarpus. Surprising on two counts. Firstly we have never grown a white variety and two, we had never grown aquilegias anywhere near this area before this lot sprung up. 
Aquilegias have also popped up on the plot in the pear tree bed. I think seeds may have been transferred from the garden with old compost. Various other shapes and colours are now growing in other areas of the garden.

It isn't only herbaceous plants that pop up unannounced. The daphne above appeared over nine years ago. I suspected the the seedling was different when I first saw it but it wasn't until 2009 when it first flowered that it was identified as a daphne. No doubt a bird had been sitting on the arch, above where it is now growing, had deposited a seed. It was lucky that I didn't whip it out when weeding as I recently noticed that plants only 25cm high are selling for £14 or more.

We have a row of buddleias on the plot and it will come as no surprise to anyone that has noticed buddleias springing up in the most inhospitable of places that they self seed. Last year we spotted at least five plants that had managed to establish themselves in areas that were uncultivated last year. 

The shrubs below were lifted and some will end up in my sister's garden and the others hopefully will find a home elsewhere.
Growing alongside the buddleia in the photo above right was a lovely borage plant. The only time that we have grown borage was on a part of the plot nowhere near where this plant appeared.
On the plot, the bed where our pear trees are planted houses a multitude of self sown plants. The dominant species is candytuft, but also popping up are calendula, eschscholtzia, hardy cyclamen, foxgloves, aquilegias, and probably quite a few other plants that I have forgotten about until they reappear next year.
Cyclamen hederifolium appears all over the garden, often in tiny crevices. We originally had one pink and one white plant. Now we have a countless number in white and various shades of pink. The seeds are supposedly spread by ants.  If you like long unpronounceable words, this ant activity is called myrmecochory. All I can say is that the ants have been very busy. I think we may have helped things along a little as I am sure ants can't be responsible for transporting seeds from the garden to the plot.
Although self sown cyclamen verge on the point of weed status they don't usually cause a problem. There are, however, some self sown plants that really can become quite a nuisance and choke other more desirable plants. 

In the garden, chief amongst these is the innocent looking violet. In the dim and distant past we planted one Bowles Black violet. This plant has produced generations of offspring. As in the case of the cyclamen, ants are involved in the spreading of violet seeds. Violet seedlings cause problems by growing in amongst other plants including in tubs and prove very difficult to evict.

Another plant that I would place in the weed category is limnanthes or the poached egg plant. When we first sowed seeds of this annual only six plants resulted. These went on to produce carpets of plants in the rose border on the plot. As the bed became overgrown the poached egg plants disappeared. Then after the border was renovated this year the seeds have once more sprung into action. They will now need controlling before they take over again.

Another unlikely nuisance is cerinthe. Whole swathes of self sown plants pop up and last year they killed some sweet rocket plants that were sown the previous year. The sweet rocket were growing well until a mass of cerinthe sprung up in the middle of the row.
Foxgloves pop up in the garden and on the plot and again are left when they decide to grow in convenient places. The flowers are all sorts of colours. The white one at the bottom right of the collage above appeared in the red and yellow border but I couldn't bring myself to evict it.
The same strategy is used for the annual poppies that spring up all over the plot and in the front garden. As with the foxgloves, we sowed a packet of the double pink variety many years ago and since then have never been without. Some single poppies in a variety of colours and the small yellow  poppies which I think are Welsh poppies have arrived from elsewhere.
I have often tried growing both native and cultivated primroses from bought seed with very limited success. I once managed to germinate six native primrose seedlings. These fortunately included both thrum and pin headed varieties and went on to produce seeds. I collected some and sowed immediately and achieved a good success rate but since then they have managed to procreate themselves. Any growing in the grass where they may meet an unfortunate end are transplanted to a safer location.

A couple of years ago I bought four cultivated primroses for a tub in the garden and they too self seeded generously and produced mature flowering plants.  You should be able to spot the baby plants in the photo on the top right of the collage. Strangely the new plants are mainly blue flowered if anything I would have expected them to revert to yellow.

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Then their are the little violas that sometimes pop up in the most unexpected places
This one appeared on the plot at the foot of a newly planted black raspberry.

To sum up, all weeds are not equal, some are more welcome than others.




Wednesday, January 9

First hellebores








Monday, January 7

Gradually ticking off winter jobs.

Over winter, if the weather is co-operative we like to get some jobs done that we just don't have a chance of doing when we are busy planting, watering, harvesting and generally busy with other things. Some we manage to complete and others just move on to the next year's plans.

In an earlier post I mentioned that we have reposted our raspberry cane framework. Last week we managed a couple more winter tasks.
 Can you spot what is missing in the photo below.
Back in 2014, when we bought some new cold frames for the garden, we moved the metal frames, that we used previously, to the allotment.
Unfortunately the glass side panels were loose so that they could be slid on top of one another to gain access, I say unfortunately as this design did not stand up to the winds that, at times, pound our plot. As a temporary measure we wrapped the frame in enviromesh to protect the glass which was being broken when the wind rattled the panes.
As often happens, we were busy with other things and the temporary measure became increasingly permanent and various pernicious weeds took advantage of the cosy environment, flourished and entangled themselves in the mesh. It desperately needed sorting out but we kept trying to ignore it. That was until we took the proverbial bull by the horns last week.
The photo on the left where the mesh has almost been removed doesn't show the worst state, as at this stage the mesh had almost been untangled and the brambles etc growing through it had been hacked back. Believe it or not, the ground under the frame was covered by two layers of weed control fabric. Weeds will eventually grow though the fabric if it is left in place for too long, so not only did the mesh need reclaiming but weeds needed removing from the weed control too so it could be reused. The glass from the frame has been popped into the greenhouse for storage and the frame placed on another part of the plot until we decide where its new home will be and how to reglaze it.

Now the bed has been dug over, and as many of the weed roots as possible have been removed, leaving us with a new planting area.

I must admit this task took less time to complete than we had anticipated. Whilst, Martyn was digging over this area, I set to emptying some growing bags. These hadn't performed very well, maybe due to the shade cast by the fruit trees, so we need to pop on our thinking caps to decide where they can be used to better effect.
When emptying the bags, I shifted eight barrow loads of compost that was spread on one of the rougher beds.
This only thinly and partially covered one third of one of the beds. You can imagine how much we would need to produce if we were to try no dig gardening. On the right of the photos you can just see part of the pile of weed roots taken from the cold frame bed and waiting to be burned.

Some rhubarb is beginning to sprout, although no doubt this will soon be checked by the winter weather. I tidied it up though.
Of course we couldn't come away from the plot without some vegetables.
i January
The parsnips harvested last week were a really good size. The cabbages although small were really solid and produced far more that it looked as though they would. The varieties were savoy - Sabrosa and Kilaton.
3 January
We didn't manage to eat a bucketful of carrots by 3 January. One lot was given to my sister. The varieties of carrots were Autumn King and Flakkee and the parsnips are Gladiator.

This week I am linking to Harvest Monday which this month is being hosted on 
Michelles's blog From Seed to Table 

Wednesday, January 2

December in pictures






Monday, December 31

Christmas harvest

We paid a visit to the allotment on Christmas Eve to gather together some fresh vegetables to see us through the Christmas period.

The allotment certainly looked Christmasy as two thirds of the plot were still covered in frost.
The problem is that the property adjacent to our site has a huge leylandii hedge which for much of the winter shades about two thirds of our plot.
You can spot it in the background of the photo above. Not only does it shade most  of the plots on our site at this time of year but it also provides an ideal habitat for the wood pigeons that just love to plague us. 

The sun was shining on Christmas Eve but was so low that it didn't make any impression on one side of our plot and half way across the other side. It also meant that in the shade it was bitterly cold. Where the sun peeped over the hedge it blazed into our faces blinding us when walking towards it. As my eyes  are sensitive to bright sunshine at the best of times this is very unpleasant.
You can just make out in the photo above the line where the sun has reached and melted the frost. At this time of year we are envious of Jan, our neighbour, who has his plot to the left of this photo. His plot is out of the shade cast by the hedge and was working in the sunshine.

As we didn't intend staying longer than we needed to harvest a few vegetables and take a few photos and video we didn't end up too cold but it was good to arrive back home and into the warmth.

So what did we manage to harvest?
We replenished our stock of carrots and parsnips.
We had harvested all of the Below Zero leeks and so moved on to the second variety - Oarsman. These leeks had grown much bigger than the ones harvested from the previous variety and were more the size we would expect.
Rather earlier than intended - these cabbages were meant to be harvested early next spring - we cut our first Savoy cabbage. The variety is Sabrosa. It wasn't very large but the head was solid and provided us with a couple of meals.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this year our sprouts have been a big disappointment. We really didn't expect to harvest any at all but we did manage to pick enough tiny sprouts to have with Christmas dinner. Maybe we will manage to harvest a few more, but really they only provide a taster. It's better than nothing though.

Finally, I'd like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and fruitful new year.




This week I am linking to Harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres