Friday, February 26

Rhubarb joins the champagne club

The rhubarb producers of West Yorkshire have long been campaigning for their product to gain Protected Designation of Origin status and it has finally been granted by the European Commission. It is the 41st British product to gain this status joining the likes of Cheddar Cheese, Newcastle Brown and Cornish Clotted Cream.

The status only applies to the forced rhubarb grown in the Rhubarb Triangle. Must admit that although forced rhubarb may be a delicacy we prefer to pick it when grown naturally so our plot grown varieties can only look on in envy.

However, we do grow a variety called Champagne along with several others of the amazing number of varieties available. Raspberry Red and Giant Grooveless Crimson are just two other varieties that we grow. The latter keeps its lovely pink colour after cooking.

For more information on rhubarb growing with the rhubarb triangle click here

Thursday, February 25

Slug deterrent?

On a forum that I use, the discussion was of the perennial problem - how to stop slugs and snails eating plants. One of the responses was to use a deterrent which was made from natural granite shards.

According to the blurb here the stuff also acts as a mulch and improves soil condition. It's supposed to be biodegradable, rain resistant and safe to other animals too.

It all just sounds too good to be true so I just wondered whether anyone has used this and whether it works.

Monday, February 22

February's web diary update

As we choose to have the day out on the only really decent day this week so any chance of doing any work on the plot was forfeited. But the soil conditions would have still meant that there was little that could have been done.

It's been interesting looking back on last year's February diary entry to see how different things are this year. Below shows how different a small patch of our garden is looking this year. The weather has definitely had an effect.

2009 - 2010

We won't be sowing any seeds until March - which is when we usually start. We will then have quite a lot to do. A full list of the varieties of seeds that we will be growing this year is listed here.

To view the February diary update click here.

Sunday, February 21

Unwelcome visitors

I had a phone call this morning to say that our allotment site has had unwelcome visitors. Apparently all the water taps have been stolen!

This happened before the snow arrived this morning as there were no footprints.

As we are a council owned and run site, no doubt we will be without water now for ages as it is unlikely that the council will see replacing our taps as a priority! Life is going to be difficult for those who have livestock.

Whatever next?

Saturday, February 20

Oh no ... not more tomato seeds!

Just why do ALL the garden magazines that we subscribe to give away free packets of tomato seeds? Our March issue of Gardeners' World magazine popped through the letterbox yesterday and there it was - ANOTHER packet of tomato seeds - a different variety to tempt us - this time Minibel. It's not that I am not grateful but can't they be a little more imaginative and give away something different? At this rate we will have to open a tomato farm as we had already bought all the varieties that we wanted to grow but how do we resist planting the free seeds too? They were also giving away a packet of sweet peas but we have already bought a couple of packets of those too!

We subscribe to the magazines below click here if you would like to subscribe using Harrod Hortcultural.

All the magazine also have active forums and websites.

Wednesday, February 17

Of trees, sheep and trains!

Even gardeners have to have days out at times so yesterday we spent the day on the North Yorkshire Moors and at Whitby.

As we drove along (I was a passenger so my attention was allowed to wander) I was particularly struck by the number of huge molehills alongside of the road and in fields. Apparently the very cold weather has caused moles to be particularly active as they tunnel deeper to escape from the freezing conditions and in so doing create larger spoil heaps. The size of the molehills reminded me that as a child I imagined moles to be the size of a small bear - courtesy of the illustrations in Wind in the Willows and was amazed when I realised just how small they were.

With the trees denuded of leaves the shapes of the trees are also interesting - especially the really old specimens. Considering the great age of some of these trees it is fascinating to imagine the times they have lived through and the tales they would be able to tell if only they could talk.

The sheep were well equipped to deal with the conditions they must have faced throughout the freezing conditions. Goodness knows how the sheep up on the moors survive searching through the dry grass and heather for enough food to sustain them.

The ones roaming the villages fare better. They make great low maintenance lawn mowers!
One group of people who would have no trouble keeping warm though were the volunteers who work on the North Yorkshire Moors railway. They will have been toasty without the benefit of the sheep's woolly coats.

 To read more about the weather click here

Sunday, February 14

The weather tempted us out!

We were tempted out this week for maybe the first afternoon of the year of proper gardening on the plot. In the sunshine it was quite pleasant, although this condition was maybe only achieved by wearing several layers of clothing.

Once the sun had drifted lower in the sky it become very chilly again. Fortunately the plants seem to be made of hardier stuff than we are so are surviving the conditions and keeping us supplied with winter vegetables.

The days of harvesting fresh carrots and parsnips could soon, however be numbered - they are beginning to sprout new tops and so will soon need harvesting and storing or converting into soups for the freezer.

To read more visit this week's diary entry here

Tuesday, February 9

Valentine's Gifts for gardeners

Just received an email from Blooming Direct with some suggestions for Valentines gifts that I thought I would share with you.

Choca Mocca Gift Pack
Chocolate scented and coloured Cosmos Choca Mocca plant, with 12 handmade Belgian chocolate truffles.

Name a rose gift box
A unique pack of rose seeds they can grow into a beautiful rose bush. The individually named rose bush will be registered on the Amore Rose Registry! The gift comes  presented in a tin containing the seeds, some rose petals, a certificate, introduction letter and everything you need to know to grow and nurture your rose bush.

Adopt a Vine Gift Pack
The recipient will become the adopter of a vine at Carr Taylor Vineyard in Sussex. The vine will be specially allocated and identified by row and vine number. As well as adopting a vine and learning about Carr Taylor wines, the recipient will also be entitled to a free tour of the vineyard and a 10% discount on all purchases made from the vineyard.

If you prefer to send flowers try these links

Monday, February 8

The seed potatoes have arrived

The highlight of last week was the arrival of our seed  potatoes - how sad is that? They had been delayed by the poor weather - the supplier preferred to hang on to them and keep them in storage until conditions improved. Then an email arrived telling us that they had been dispatched and almost before we had time to blink they had arrived.

We have been very impressed by our supplier Alan Romans who specialises in supplying seed potatoes. He has a really wide selection of varieties and what's more his prices are very competitive.

Must admit that although I have written the first diary entry for February that not much has happened garden wise. If you still want to read what I have written please click here.

Saturday, February 6

Do you love potatoes?

Our seed potatoes arrived this week so on browsing the Internet my interest was drawn to this website. It's worth a browse as it tells you everything you may want to know about potatoes including lots of recipes.

Potatoes certainly seem to have plenty of people to love them - some have even set up a petition asking the government to create a 'supercarb' food group for potatoes to reflect the fact that potatoes are both an energy-rich starchy carbohydrate AND a vegetable which is packed-full of essential vitamins and minerals.

Apparently although potatoes are a vegetable they don't count as part of our five a day. The argument is that when eaten as part of a meal they are generally used in place of other sources of carbohydrate, such as bread, pasta or rice. So they are classed as starchy food! However, other root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips do count. That is because they are usually eaten as a vegetable alongside the main starchy food in a meal.

Confusing isn't it? And that isn't all there is to be confused about according to this US website the amount of fruit and vegetables you should eat depends on your sex, age and level of activity. It has an interactive utility to help you calculate how much you should eat! AND other countries appear to give different advice e.g. Denmark suggest 6 a day!

Friday, February 5

But we already have our tickets

It seems that the first Edible Garden show has been postponed. Postponed seems a stange way of putting it as it implies that the show has simply been moved a few weeks or more but now the first Edible Garden show will not take place until March 2011! 

The quote on their website states:
"The painfully slow recovery from recession has forced organisers to postpone next month’s (March 19-21) Edible Garden Show following concerns among potential sponsors and exhibitors over the uncertain economy".

It's strange as I would have thought that the current economic climate was encouraging more people to 'grow their own'. Growing your own has never been more popular has it? - well not for a long time!

Maybe the timing of the show in March didn't encourage people to advance book. Maybe the show hasn't been adequately publicised. Maybe they needed a celebrity to draw the crowds.

Well whatever the reasons, we were looking forward to going and now ... well we're not!

Thursday, February 4

Dove Love.

A dove is a symbol of love and peace. This pair of collared doves resting on our bird table may not be the traditional pure white but they certainly demonstrate love and peace. They seemed to take turns to have a little snooze. When one had its eyes open the other had them tightly closed.

Traditionally birds are supposed to choose their mates on Valentine's day but the birds in our garden seem a little advanced and many species are already paired up.

For ideas for Valentine's flowers click here

or what about this for an unusual Valentine's gift?

This heart shaped trowel from Harrod Horticultural can have a message engraved on the blade of up to 75 characters.

Click here to view details

Wednesday, February 3

Birds take their annual holiday

Last weekend was the annual RSPB Big Birdwatch and as on previous years the number of birds seen in our garden on the two counting days fell considerably. All winter we have been filling bird feeders at least once a day but during the count weekend hardly any birds visited the feeders or the bird tables and the level of seed hardly dropped.

I know others who take part in the bird count also comment on the distinct lack of birds during the count so what is going on? The only thing that I can think of is that more people put out food for the birds during the count weekend to encourage birds into their garden and that the birds are so fickle that they visit new places rather than the boring usual diners!

Two birds that we did notice over the weekend were the pair of bluetits that seemed to spend the day home hunting. They seemed really interested in the sparrow terrace which is fastened to the side of our house. Bought especially for house sparrows to nest in the terrace has been occupied by blue tits every year since we bought it. Another sparrow terrace has housed great tits. No sparrows have shown interest and the houses which are supposed to be ideal for blue tits and great tits remain empty!

Oh ... and by the way once bird watch weekend was over - the birds were back!

My January diary page is now complete - if you are interested in reading it click here for last weeks entry and here for the complete January entry.