Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Nicole

Fog starting to lift on distant hills
I was woken up earlier than usual the other morning by the rumbling of thunder and crack of lightning. Daring a peek outside, I was greeted by the sight of a torrential downpour. The sky was darkened by thick grey clouds and an eerie fog had settled over the distant hills creating a rather gloomy atmosphere. I reckoned that it was far too early to get up, being 6.30 AM. Plus, the weather wasn’t exactly good for gardening, let alone pegging out the washing, so I headed back to bed.

After finally dropping back off to sleep with the sound of the rain lulling me into a deep slumber, I was rudely awoken by something bashing off my blind. Reaching for my specs, still half-asleep, I got up to investigate. Upon moving the blind out a little to look I found myself face to face with a little blue tit. I don’t know which one of us was more shocked – my squeak of fright was drowned out by a loud chirping.

I closed the curtain over sure I was dreaming and had another peek; nope! There was definitely a wee bird inside my bedroom sitting on my window ledge! Leaning over slowly so I didn’t scare it I lifted the latch and let it outside watching as it flew away to the shelter of the trees. I think it may have come in during the bad bit of the thunderstorm and the poor thing couldn’t get back out. I’m relieved that it didn’t injure itself and I didn’t dare try to take a picture because I think it would’ve scared it more than it already was.
Thunder clouds forming over my garden
Who needs an alarm clock when the wildlife pops in for an early morning visit? I was now thoroughly awake so I decided to venture outside regardless of the weather. My back garden was waterlogged so I didn’t bother trekking up it to check on my roses and butterfly bush which from the window look like they’re blooming; I’ll check those when the risk of my shoes getting stuck in mud is gone. The word ‘quagmire’ may be more appropriate to describe the waterlogged mess that is my garden at the moment.
Sweetpea experiment - a complete flop
I was happy to notice that the sweetpeas are blooming and were ready to cut although my experiment of growing a dwarf variety in a two-tier planter is a complete flop. Next year my sweetpeas will be grown in the traditional way, climbing up a support instead of hanging down! Despite another rumble of thunder and black clouds rolling in I nipped inside for my pruners and cut some to put in a vase. If I can’t get out to garden then what the heck, I might as well bring some of the garden indoors to brighten up my living room on yet another wet and washed out day.

My cut bunch of sweetpeas

I noticed that the carrots are almost ready to harvest so I’m hoping that they have remained pest free in the coldframe but we shall see. There’s not a lot that I can do in this weather so I think it’s a great opportunity to start planning things for next year, time to get the plant catalogues out!

Happy gardening!
Nicole

Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Jackie

While I’m happy growing all sorts of flowers and shrubs, I’ve never really gotten into growing vegetables, until this year – apart from tomatoes that is.
Jackie's potato patch
What triggered me off was my new greenhouse. OK, I just got that for tomatoes (I must be psychic as I’ve a feeling outdoor toms will be struggling a bit this year), but there was a £50 voucher with the greenhouse kit and having spent some on a water butt, there was a bit left over for a plastic 3-tier potato planter.

I ordered seed potatoes from my favourite supplier and, following the instructions, planted 5 into the bottom tier. It was early and frosts were still hovering around the Kent countryside, so we started in the greenhouse. In next to no time leaves were peeping out. So, time for the next tier and more compost. Once the leaves were above the final tier, it was mid May and the planter was moved outside.
Potato plants in flower
The potatoes did splendidly, although a few wayward shoots forced themselves in between the tiers – I think I’d better cut these off next time. Last week, I harvested the crop as the flowers were over and the haulms were flopping every which way. Harvesting was easy: I chopped the stalks off, removed the top tier and scraped the compost into one bucket and the potatoes into another, taking just enough for our supper. I went back over the next few days, garnering the crop as I needed it.
Homegrown potatoes in bowl
The potatoes were small and quite delicious, but I think if/when I do it again, I’ll make sure I use some fertiliser. I’m planning to get a crop in for Christmas. I might try a couple of the more unusual varieties – which means I’ll have to get another planter. The Victorian Potato Barrel looks interesting.
Potato plant growing in potato planter
But, of course, I’d purchased more than 5 seed potatoes – there were another 15, beautifully chitted and wanting attention. These went into the ground – I’d created a new vegetable bed near the greenhouse on almost pure clay at the start of winter. We’d had a weeping willow pollarded a couple of years ago and the resultant bark had been rotting down. Some of this I dug into the new bed together with soot from the chimney. The bed had wintered well and took the remaining potatoes in May in two, fairly close rows – just wide enough to weed and earth up (at least in the early stages). I also gave them a good covering with some of last year’s compost heap and are good, healthy looking plants.
Potatoes from potato planter
This morning I lifted one plant – and they are fine, large, potatoes about 1kg in total. A better crop than from the potato planter, but I’d not used any fertiliser in the planter. (Note to self: add Growmore to the compost in the planter next time.)

But it’s not just potatoes that I’m growing – there are runner beans, courgettes, garlic, and peppers – but that’s another story…

Jackie

Children in the garden, Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Nicole

Potting Lavender Plugs in the Rain

For the first time ever, I found myself grateful for the overhanging trees on our neighbour’s property. Having received a package of lavender plants as part of our pledge to have more bee-friendly plants in the garden, my boys and I were adamant they were getting potted up despite the threat of rain.
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