Saturday, June 30

Dead tree fern?

I posted quite a while back that our tree fern had been killed during the winter on 2010/11. In spite of being shrouded in fleece the cold had really hammered it and all seemed to be lost.

We had a fern in a pot nearby that had chosen the tub in which the tree fern is growing as a nursery in which to raise its offspring.
Then around the 'back' of the tree fern stump I noticed more ferny growth that looked different. The young ferns were growing out of the stump and looked very much like tree fern fronds.
It seems that the tree fern stump is sprouting new growth so isn't actually dead. The top of the stump, however hasn't shown any signs of growth and doesn't actually look attractive so something needed to be done.

I decided to try to scoop out the core of the stump in order to use it as a planting pockets in which I could plant a fern that would pretend to be tree fern growth. Easier said than done. Armed with drill, chisel, scissors, secateurs in fact anything that came to hand I have cut, hammered and scooped for weeks to achive a hollow like this.
The aim was to scoop out a hollow large enough in which to plant an athyrium filix-femina bought especialy for this purpose. However, it became apparent that there was no way that I was going to scoop out a large enough hole to accommodate it. The fern would probably grow faster than I could achieve a suitable size of planting pocket.
A rethink was necessary and it just so happened that I had noticed more self sown ferns growing under a large shuttlecock type fern. Can you spot the youngster growing against the edging at the bottom of the photo below?
Here's a closer look. There were in fact several babies.
I reasoned that growing where they were probably would mean that they didn't have a particularly large root ball and also that they must be survivors that could cope with less (much less) than perfect conditions. The fern was also the right sort of shape so I dug one out.

I placed this in the tree fern hollow and it was a Cinderella moment - it fit! I filled around it with compost and topped with a few bark chipping to try to prevent the compost from washing away and voila!
The tree fern stump now has a brand new 'head of hair'. So will the fern survive in it's new home? - Who knows we'll just have to wait and see. Note to self - must remember to keep it watered.

Oh! and where shall I plant the athyrium filix-femina? - Another decision needed.

Friday, June 29


You may have missed the hint in an earlier post where I said that I had plans for the ferns that I had dug up from the various areas of the garden that were being replanted. The evicted ferns were potted up to await their fate.

I also had a fern that, for several years, had been living in a pot on the patio and was pleading for more space.

My aim was to plant all the homeless ferns into a small bed to one side of the summerhouse. This bed is fairly shady being shaded on one side by the summerhouse and on another side by a willow screen. One fern was living happily here prior to the construction and happily avoided being trampled on by the joiners who came to erect the summerhouse.

Maybe to call this area a fernery is stretching it a bit but now I can reveal our - well let's call it a mini fernery.
I just need to add a bark mulch, maybe one or two more small ferns and possibly some pieces of log then that's another makeover finished.

Last reminder:The closing date for the flower competition is fast approaching - last date for entries is this Saturday - TOMORROW!

Thursday, June 28

The back view is a bit boring

Here's the view from the back of our summerhouse.
It's a bit boring isn't it? The plant on the left is a climbing rose that managed to survive, against all odds, when the base was built and summerhouse erected. This was cut down, almost to the ground, but is making a valiant attempt to regrow.

My plan is to have some sort of trellis erected but not fixed to the summerhouse. No doubt the summerhouse will need painting from time to time so the trellis will have to be removeable.

This means any plants growing up it will have to be either annuals or plants such as the type of clematis that can be cut back to ground level. The back of the summerhouse faces East so gets morning sun. I can feel more browsing coming on.

Oh and don't tell Martyn but I think the pathway leading to the greenhouse will need some adjustment too to make way for a planting pocket!

And just look what a friend bought us as a summerhouse warmimg gift.
We'd been pondering what type of plant we could have in there and just look what we were given. It's just perfect - thanks Hop!

Tuesday, June 26

Is that a wink?

As you may have read from Martyn's blog, we have a pair of resident wood pigeons. Fortunately we don't grow vegetables in the garden so the only real problem of having them around is the interference that they cause to Martyn's weather station. But what's this? Is this bird winking at me?
The hoards on the plot are less welcome as this year they seem to be more voracious than ever - stripping any brassicas left unprotected of leaf.

If you want to read more about wood pigeons I've written about them here on my website.

Sunday, June 24

It's happened again

Last year I planted a dianthus and a phlox in a stone pot. The phlox flowered earlier.
Now it's the turn of the dianthus to do it's stuff.
So what's all this about?
The tub is full of tiny white dianthus? flowers. They don't have any noticeable perfume and each flower is fairly nondescript but they do produce a frothy effect.
So where have they come from these tiny white flowers? (Note the theme here remember how my ladybird poppies seem to have produced a white offspring? - see here) The only explanation that I have is that the dianthus has self seeded and doesn't produce seeds true to form but this flower is as different from the possible parent as can be! Any other explanations? And what about the dianthus that I planted can it compete with it's possible offspring or should I weed them out - decisions, decisions.

PS: Just another reminder to enter the flower competition as June will whizz by faster than you think - the closing date is next Saturday

Friday, June 22

One of the good days

Good weather days are precious when they arrive and so on our last visit to the plot I took lots of photos and have created a tour of the plot. (If you want to view larger photos with a few extras too then you could view the album on my website here).

The grass had been newly cut and the beds were planted up. Some areas still need a bit of attention but on the whole this was a good day.

Sadly the good spell of weather was short lived so what will greet us on our next visit - your guess is as good as mine!

Just a little question now:
A while ago I removed the need to use the irritating Captcha tool that Blogger had implemented and for a while no spam - other than what Blogger quarantined - came through, but recently I seem to be getting comments obviously designed to place links to various websites that have absolutely no connection to my blog postings.

These come to me for moderation and I can delete them before they are published so that isn't a problem - but what I want to know is whether anyone who subscribes to follow-up comments on my blog has been receiving these spammy comments. I'm hoping not as my set up should prevent this happening. Could you let me know if you are receiving spam comments from my blog so I can deal with it if this is the case!

Wednesday, June 20

Annual event?

You know how one thing can often lead to another. You change one thing and it spills into something else. Well it just keeps on happening in the garden. The white and blue bed that I planted up this year curves round and joins another bed that was looking distinctively shabby.

It all started when Martyn chopped back the camellia which created a large bare space. We also realigned the bed which made it a bit larger. This area contained a hotch potch of plants including a large clump of yellow flowered crocosmia, that seems to be vying for garden domination by increasing its girth at a frightening rate, a ligularia that the slugs reduce to tatters each year, some slow growing banana plants, a ginger and one or two other bits and pieces.
Martyn had already been let loose with the secateurs again as he posted on his blog. I know I never learn do I? But I had to admit that the bamboo at one end of the bed did need some attention - I think it may even have been me that suggested that it needed 'dealing with'

The next job was deciding what to keep, what to move and what to 'let go'.  We kept the bananas which are making a valiant attempt to grow, the ginger, the small pieris and the crocosmia Lucifer (a more restrained variety) which was planted towards the back of the bed were also allowed to remain in situ.

The yellow crocosmia was dug up and still awaits a decision on its fate. Despite it being a slug magnet, we really like the ligularia so this was moved to another spot in the garden with the hope that it may not attract as much molluscy attention. Probably a vane hope but at least where it is it doesn't flaunt its lacy leaves quite as much. The heuchera was moved but, as they tend to do, when it was dug up it split into several small plants. The clump of Lucifer growing nearer to the front of the bed was moved back.

All this created an empty area to work on. Having done much replanting, restructuring - call it what you may - of the garden this year, we decided on a temporary fix. This will give us a breathing space during which we can decide just what we want to do with this bed.

The fix is to plant some of the variety of annuals that we have grown to plant on the plot. They may not grow, they may not fill the gap, it may end up looking boring but maybe, just maybe we will decide we like it!

Tuesday, June 19

It was plant, plant, plant ...

How glad were we that we didn't have to go to work on Monday and we could make the most of the good weather. I do feel sorry for those of you who are stuck at work during the rare  spells of good weather.

I spent the morning planting in the garden (but that can wait for now) and we spent the afternoon planting and sowing on the plot. At last things are beginning to fill up nicely.

Martyn planted lots of bean and pea seeds. For some reason we are struggling to get peas to grow this year and we do like garden peas. In desparation Martyn has planted as many peas as he could fit in.

If you remember we sowed two lots of carrots - one lot was sown in 'holes' cut into weed control fabric and the other lot just, as we normally do, into trenches of compost. The ones growing in the bed covered in weed control germinated and although one patch has been munched by slugs - despite watering with nematodes - are continuing to grow fairly well. The other bed was quite a different story. The seeds germinated but the growth had been strimmed off by slugs or snails. Strange - as if anything I would have thought the weed control fabric would be more likely to cause a slug problem in that the slugs would be able to hide under the covering. Martyn has resown the munched area and will not be a happy bunny if the slugs repeat their attacks - in fact any repeat performance and we will both be very angry bunnies.

We planted lots of sweetcorn - we will need it as a pea replacement if the peas remain reluctant to grow. Two patches have been planted - one lot was planted alongside runner and French beans. Unfortunately we only have a two sisters' bed as none of our squash seeds have germinated which is very strange. Of the two varieties sown not a single seed has made any effort.
The runner and some French beans had been planted earlier but I planted a second lot in the bed above and another lot at one end of the bed that Martyn has filled with pea and bean seeds.
The photo was taken at an angle - the beans were lined up properly - honest.

I also planted come cauliflowers in the brassica bed so hoed the rest of the bed whilst the net was off. No butterflies were about and the wood pigeons could only watch from the 'safety' of the power lines - I wonder why they don't end up with sizzling feet!
Martyn planted lots of courgettes - more than usual but this year who knows whether they will survive never mind actually grow and fruit.
He also planted our outdoor cucumbers which will grow up the canes at the opposite side of the sweet pea frame.
Oh and I nearly forgot we planted some lettuce too! The ones at the far end were planted earlier so hopefully we will have a succession to harvest.
Then our efforts were rewarded with a little treat!

Sunday, June 17

So what would you do?

Against all odds, (taking into account our poor weather), the peach tree planted in a large pot just outside our garden greenhouse door has set fruit.

I'm hoping these go on to develop into the same delicious fruits that we experienced for the first time last year.

But there is a problem - apparently peach fruitlets are supposed to be thinned out so that there is a hand's breadth between each of the fruits.
Typically the fruits on our tree are growing in pairs or clusters of three. Others are much closer together than even the tiniest handspan.

So we have a dilemma - to thin or not to thin? How can we bear to pick off prospective peaches?
You may remember that our peach tree was sent to us by mistake as we had ordered a nectarine. Thompson & Morgan sent us a nectarine as a replacement when I informed them of the mistake. See here for the full story. We also decided to add an apricot to our collection.

The apricot and nectarine trees are both planted in large pots and are growing really well although neither have fruit this year. The apricot didn't flower so it is hardly surprising. The nectarine did have a few flowers but at the time it was newly planted and in the greenhouse having a bit of protection and I obviously didn't make as good a job of pollinating as the insects do.
Sorry the photos are a bit dull but it is a bit dull! So what would you do thin or not?

Friday, June 15

At least that's one job less!

One problem that we usually have when planting seeds directly on the plot is keeping them watered. Well this hasn't been a problem this year and in spite of the awful weather the seeds have germinated well.

The first seeds directly planted were the parsnips which now look like this.
They are just developing their first lot of true leaves which will change shape as the plant grows larger. I have a section of my website that describes the parsnip lifecycle - it's here if you are interested.

The second lot of seeds were the carrots. You may remember that last year we had a carrot disaster mainly caused by the carrots growing so slowly in the dry conditions that they were smothered by the faster growing weeds. (Why is it that weeds manage to grow whether it is dry, wet, hot or cold?) Being under the protective enviromesh we failed to keep a close enough eye on them. To be fair we were too busy ferrying watering cans about trying to prevent plants from shrivelling up.

This year in an attempt to prevent a repeat we have sown carrot seeds in channels cut into weed control fabric.
This bed was then covered with enviromesh to try and keep out the carrot fly.
You may notice that the enviromesh is in two parts as we sowed some seeds later without the weed control - just in case the first lot of carrots were unhappy! We really can't be without home grown carrots for a second year!

So far the carrots are doing well.
The radish and spring onions have also germinated. I was surprised at how quickly the spring onions came through as usually for some reason they can be a bit of a challenge.

We haven't forgotten the bees and have sown a mixture of meadow type flowers. The mixture has various hardy annuals and also seeds from packets supplied for the purpose of creating a bee/butterfly type meadow effect. The seeds have been sown in shallow drills of compost. Really the compost is just being used to demarcate the lines of flowers seeds and the weeds so I can hoe between them. All  sorts of varieties of seedling have germinated. I may have to transplant some where they are in too thick a clump.
We have also sown beetroot and garden peas but so far there is no sign of activity above soil level - then again they were only sown a day or two ago!

If you are interested in vegetable life cycles I have written about quite a lot of vegetable lifecycles on my website here. Just scroll down the page the find the links.

By the way - don't forget to enter the flower competition here After this there will only be one more chance to win a Field Guide.

Wednesday, June 13

It has the bee's vote.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you may remember that last year I planted up our front garden bed with perennials.

If you are a fairly new visitor you can catch up with the story so far here.

At the moment this bed is at the transition stage as each plant starts to produce flowers - a bit like a floral dawn chorus.

Most of the plants have survived the winter with the exception of a couple of veronicas and salvia Amistad. Even the cuttings of Amistad kept in the cold greenhouse died!

At the moment the heucheras that I dotted along the edge of the bed are in full flower. Unless you get close up these tiny flowers look insignificant but the bees absolutely love them and whenever the weather conditions are favourable the flowers are alive with bee diners.
What heuchera flowers lack in size is made up for by the frothy effect of the hundreds of tiny flowers on each spike.

There are one or two gaps and so I've popped a few snapdragons in which will hopefully self seed in future years. We already have one or two that seem to have arrived out of nowhere. I've also added a few nemophila.
I bought a collection of ten coreopsis from Hayloft. I was attracted by the unusual colour range - one or two will find their way into this bed when they have grown a little and others are destined for other parts of the garden.

The geraniums have been flowering for quite a while and I was thinking of giving geranium Phaeum Raven the Chelsea chop as the main flush of flowers were fading. So what stopped me? Well those bees - they were making the most of the remaining flowers so the Chelsea chop is on hold!
Here's a sort of panorama of the bed - it's actually three photos 'sewn' together. can you see the joins?

And here are just some of the stars of the moment.
The honeysuckle, a rose, some winter jasmine and a flowering quince are growing in a sort of tangle in the corner at the far left

Tuesday, June 12

One thousand and still going

This is my 1000th blog post - Can you believe it?
It seemed like a good time to thank everyone who has regularly visited and stuck with reading everything that I have written.

According to my blog counter 108,203 visits have been made - I wonder how many have been accidental -just people clicking on next blog and hurrying on finding absolutely nothing of interest!
According to Blogger stats my all time visits are just 90,483 but as I remember Blogger hasn't produced stats from the very start of my blogging life whereas the counter above was installed on day 1.

Apparently the most visited post was about Buying Compost written in May of this year. It has had 1,514 page views.  I had expected that it would have been a post written much earlier as this would have been around for longer but I guess it was a subject that touched a nerve. We were planting up tomatoes this week and in one grow bag found this. Its a chunk of 40mm x 15mm by about 150mm long (about 1.5 ins x 3/4 ins and 6 ins long). We wre using the bag to top uo the growing rings - I guess if we had just been using it as a grow bag we would have never noticed it.
But I digress so back on subject. Thanks to Mark from Marks Veg Plot  - his blog has referred the highest number of visits at 571.

The most often used key word search to direct visitors to my blog is sweet piccallili which is rather surprising.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on posts too - again accoding to Blogger Stats there have been 5524 comments dating to when Blogger started counting so in fact this number doesn't reflect everyone's comment. Sorry I can't tell you who the most prolific commenter is as I don't fancy trwling through and manually counting

Then thanks to everyone who visits quietly - it's great to see the number of followers going up and always a bit sad when the number actually goes down to indicate that someone has had enough! I wonder if I'll make it to 200 this year?

Then there is the fascination of realising just where all the vistors come from. This map covers 42,744 made between 25 Jan 2010 to 6 Jun 2012.
Reading the detailed breakdown of where visitors come from is mind boggling.

Numbers were accurate yesterday morning when I wrote this post but have gone up since then! It's made me realise how quickly the numbers rise!

Monday, June 11

Going red

At last I no longer need to look on enviously as other blogs proudly display photographs of the newly ripened strawberries that they have just harvested. Now we too have joined their ranks.
These berries are from Marshmarvel our earliest variety. It has been trying it's best to produce fruit since the beginning of April but the flowers kept falling foul of the cold weather which blackened the centres.

You may remember that last year we covered the strawberry bed (avoiding the plants of course) with a biodegradable mulch which we then covered with straw.
This was successful but the mulching fabric was very difficult to work with. Not only was it extremely lightweight but being thin and stretchy it wasn't easy to cut. So we had a rethink. We didn't want to just use straw as we have in the past. We have found that the straw still contains lots of seeds that are just dying to grow at the first opportunity and we have also previously suffered from weedy strawberry beds and don't want to go there again.

This year we've settled on using weed control fabric. So as not the damage the plants we cut the fabric into long strips to place between them - (sort of grid fashion).
The strips are held in place using old bricks.

We've also decided that we won't use any straw at all. To try to control the slugs we have watered the bed with slug nematodes, a biological control, that will need to be applied another twice during the season. The nematodes are posted out at appropriate times. It would be good to be able to treat the whole plot and garden with nematodes but this would prove far too expensive. We thought the strawberries and one or two other things were worth it.

So the weed and slug defences were in place that left the beady eyed birds who just see red as an invitation to dine. Before the first hint of red bird defences had to be in place before the berries turned. Net has been streched across the bed and also tucked under the brick.
The plants are producing lots and lots of berries so all we can do now is hope that our defences work! No doubt there will be some slugs and snails that bypass our defences so one tip that I read somewhere was not to remove any berries that have been slug nibbled. Apparently slugs and snails will retrace their movements back to a tasty meal and continue nibbling the spoiled berries whereas if it is removed they will move on to a new fruit. We've tried this and it does seem to work.

Strawberries weren't the only things turning red. The redcurrants were joining in and as always the blackbirds were on sentry duty looking out for the first sign of any redness. So much to their displeasure, which they demonstrated by chortling at us form the nearly trees, we have also netted these. We have used chicken wire near the ground, to hopefully prevent any birds trying to sneak under the wire from becoming trapped, and netting across the top.
We're feeling rather pessimistic about our prospective fruit harvest this year, hardly any plums (maybe in single figures), a handful of cherries, (if that - in spite of a mass of blossom) on top of which something is munching on the cherry tree leaves and the baby pear fruitlets have been jumping off the trees!

So we really do need to protect whatever manages to be produced!

Saturday, June 9

Not the best place to set up home

Karen - one of the plot holders on our site had quite a surprise when harvesting rhubarb.
A blackbird had decided that this was a good place in which to build a nest. Having laid four lovely eggs it obviously had second thoughts and abandoned this clutch.

Not only was this nest built at almost ground level but it was also right alongside the 'road' that runs around our site.

For a photo of the layout of our site click here

I sould have mentioned it earlier but there is still time to take part in the RSPB Nature Count this weekend. Although in this weather the birds seem to be staying indoors. It must be really difficult rearing chicks this 'spring'.

Thursday, June 7

White ladybird?

I usually plant flowers around the base of the pear trees and the year before last I grew some ladybird poppies. The blurb in the seed catalogue said that once you had grown these poppies that you would never be without as, just like other poppies, they are prolific self seeders. With this in mind I was surprised that not one ladybird poppy grew last year.

It could have been the dry season (what a difference this year is) or it could have been that they were just teasing me but not one ladybird poppy made an appearance.

This year when weeding around the pear trees I noticed leaves that looked very familiar and sure enough this year we have some large clumps of bright red poppies. The clumps grew and produced masses of flower buds.
Can you spot the cluster of aphids that seem to have set up home. Here's a closer look.
The poppies didn't seem to mind and hopefully the aphids were settling down here rather than amongst our fruit and  vegetables.
It's not difficult to guess why they are called ladybird poppies is it?
Maybe it's all the talk about diamond jubilee's but is it only me that thinks the seed head looks like the top of a crown?

Back to the clump of poppies though - did you notice something white in amongst the sea of red? Surprisingly we seem to have a single white poppy!
It's certainly not one that we have ever sown - I must remember to check out the leaves on my next plot visit to see whether it has the same distinctive leaf shape as the ladybirds.