31 May 2021

Catching up

Shall I be terribly English and talk about the weather? At times it’s felt as though nothing would grow.

As ever with the British spring, the weather veered wildly between glorious blue skies and dismal grey, often teeth chattering cold, wet and very windy - what the weather stations call ‘a moderate breeze’ and I term as a strong pegs needed laundry drying day. Not the best conditions to encourage seeds to germinate, even indoors. So they didn’t. It’s been a stop:start:stop saga for several of my seeds.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, the garden itself has reliably offered up bucketloads of purple sprouting broccoli and kales from the start of January right through until April; by mid-March wild garlic and rhubarb had shown up, and the last of the beetroot and kales were picked as they started to run to seed. 


By the end of March, I was feeling a bit gung-ho and judged it time enough to sow salad leaves and carrots into two of the Veg Trugs - under fleece of course - and tiny broad bean plants went into the soil having been grown in modules on my balcony. Potatoes were also planted; I usually grow these in bags to keep any future harvests clean and slug/bug free but fancied growing a few in the ground this year. I may regret this when I need the space in a few weeks!

As April began, buds opened on the honeyberry and gooseberry bushes, pink kale resprouted prettily from the stump (second helpings, what good value!) and the annual tsunami of blossom from the fruit trees started - pears first, swiftly followed by plum, apple and cherry. Cue gale force winds. Every year I hope for calm weather to keep the blossom on the trees for a while longer; it’s a rare year when the winds don’t blow. But ... tiny fruitlets have duly appeared so all is well, thank you bees.

As April headed towards May, the garden looked very pretty but the weather was still against growing anything. Pots of kale seedlings stayed tucked in the lee of my balcony, tomatoes, chillies, aubergines stayed indoors and grew tall. Outside, violets were overtaken by swathes of self-seeded forget-me-nots and PSB plants drew visitors in (human as well as bees) with the sight of clouds of sunshine yellow blossom - a beautiful sight on a spring day. 


Peony shoots appeared, as did the flowers on mini bay trees, blueberries, sweet cicely, woodland strawberries and wild garlic. And the quince tree prepared to flower, always a special moment to see those pink candy striped buds.


And so here we are at the end of May and it’s beautiful.  My garden spaces have burst into life, every time I go to look, there’s something new to see.  Lots of rain and slightly warmer temperatures have had a dramatic effect on the slow starters; asparagus spears appear daily, broad beans are flowering, as are the large Marshmellow strawberries, raspberry canes have tiny buds and even the elderflower umbels are open! Time to make elderflower cordial! 


In the Veg Trugs, I’ve moved on from peering at just germinated seeds to pulling radishes, and cutting 8” tall plump lettuces and spinach. The fleece has been replaced with enviromesh netting to keep bugs away but, needless to say, a snail found it’s way up to the banquet ... for a short time.  

I’ve emptied the Hotbin composter of its bounty and started again, popping a few of the many worms back into the remaining compost for good measure. I promise to write about the composter in a future post.

Jobs for the week ahead ...

Get those tomatoes and cucumbers planted! It looks like we’re in for some warm weather so it surely must be safe to plant out my tomatoes. The bed has been topped up in readiness, and I’m hoping that whatever is digging up the soil in the beds (birds? Squirrels?) will stay away as I’ll plant through the fleece that I laid over the soil.

I’m terribly behind with sowing seeds, sweet corn and courgettes were done last week, squash, purple broccoli and beans are next. They’ll be sown into small pots to start them off. And, once I’ve figured out where everything will go in the veg patch, I’ll be sowing chard, more carrots, and a few nasturtiums and poppy seeds ... oh yes, and weeding, again. Little and often is my motto when it comes to weeds! 


10 Feb 2021

And the garden slowly wakes

clump of snowdrops lit from behind


Regardless of the number of years that I’ve been gardening, I still thrill to the sight of the garden starting to emerge from its winter inertia. Psychotherapist Sue Stuart-Smith (wife of garden designer Tom) has written (*see below) of how pathways in the human brain respond to green nature by releasing feel good hormones such as endorphins (pain and stress relief), serotonins (happiness) and the love hormone, oxytocin. It’s not too strong a claim to say that the sight of a clump of newly opened snowdrops will literally lift my heart. 

The cycle of the seasons, nature waking and seeds sprouting gives us hope for the future; we feel grounded, safe and calmed. Our connectivity to nature is fundamental for our health and wellbeing which is why gardens provide such effective therapy for mental and physical trauma. 

I find walking across the untamed nearby heath stimulating but it’s the smaller signs, pictured below, of nature waking in my garden last week (before the snow came!) that I find so reassuring.

1 Feb 2021

Gardenwatch: January in my garden

Potatoes being chatted on windowsill

There’s a pair of very muddy boots in my hallway, evidence of my gardening efforts over the past week. Helped by a couple of afternoons of warm winter sunshine, I’ve had a productive week which has been mostly about getting prepared. What have I been up to? Even  in January there are  plenty of garden tasks to tick off the list.

26 Jan 2021

Ice cold in veg land

Pink and green kale growing in snow
It was a snowy day in the London veg patch


It’s winter here in the northern hemisphere so I shouldn’t be surprised when it snows ... or should I? Over the past few years London has experienced only the kindest of winters but, last Sunday morning, a couple of hours of persistent snowfall settled thickly over the gardens.  Very pretty, certainly, but it was a timely reminder not to get too complacent about the weather and to see which of my veg had coped best with the sudden freeze.

9 Jan 2021

Sowing seeds in January

A jumble of seed packets
The cull. Most are only just 'out of date' .. but perhaps good enough for micro leaves?

With the start of a new year heralding a third lockdown, the arrival of seed catalogues is especially welcome, steering my thoughts away from grey sleet-filled skies towards the colourful harvests of spring and summer. And with the itch to hurtle towards spring and embrace the new growing year, it’s exciting to discover a number of crops that can be started off this month. 

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