Sunshine and rainbows

Despite a busy weekend, I found some time for the allotment this afternoon. We surveyed the plot again and now have our plan down in writing. There is blossom on the plum tree and birds flying all round the plot. Our overwintered onions are doing well and we are still harvesting purple sprouting broccoli and some baby kale.  The autumn sown broad beans have been almost completely hopeless: old seed, pests? We’re not sure why but one brave little plant has survived:

20190324_160136This should give us lovely beans in early summer. We sowed a whole lot more today to keep it company. In between the rows, I sowed some saved seeds from the magnificent radish ‘purple plum’:

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I’ll see whether they are any better at producing radishes in the allotment than they are in the garden but, if not, we, and the bees, can always enjoy the flowers:

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Meanwhile, back at the house,  my tomato seeds have germinated and are now queuing up on the windowsill, waiting for the warmth so that they can go out to the seed palace in a couple of months (oh dear – sown too soon again).

There was a cold wind alongside the sunshine and some icy showers. This late wintry combination brought us a rainbow, lighting up the trees:

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The season  is really beginning.

 

Plotting

I made it along to the allotment today, for the first time in a few weeks. Time and weather has been against me. It’s just a little too early to plant anything, so today we did some more weeding to try and keep on top of the couch grass and surveyed our plot, looking forward to good things to come. Meanwhile the overwintering onions are looking mighty fine and the daffodils are in full bloom

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Some brave nasturtiums have appeared beside the compost bins, ready to race all over them in the summer:

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Back at the garden, my first salads have germinated in the seed palace

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and the pigeons have eaten all my broccoli. Inside, I have my first germinated tomatoes and potatoes are chitting nicely in an absent musician’s bedroom.

The gardening season is truly underway

Rain, hail, seeds and holly

It’s twenty past ten on a Sunday night and I STILL haven’t got round to sowing the seeds I was going to sow this weekend. It’s been a weekend of storms and snow and hail and sleet and rain and the odd sunny spell, during which I cut back my awesome autumn fruiting raspberries and mulch them with lots of yummy compost. While doing this I noticed tiny signs of growth in the seeds in the seed palace and I spotted a baby holly growing in one of my many ‘wildlife patches’ aka, messy bits, in the garden:

20190309_122824.jpgDuring a hail storm I managed to wash my seed trays, pots, propagator lids and my collection of seed labels – formed from plastic milk bottles, tubs and other miscellaneous ‘single use’ plastics. All ready to be used for one more year.

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I didn’t make it to the allotment today and ended up playing scrabble instead but right now I am going to get off the computer and sow some seeds!

Seeds

The seed palace is now populated! I had a small window of time this morning to sow some seeds, resulting in two small trays of oriental salad and one of sweet peas:

I also sowed some broad beans and spinach in the surprisingly warm ground. The sun is deceptive though and I have covered these with a cloche:

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Just to show that I don’t always, or even usually, rush out and buy new stuff, you will be pleased to know that this cloche is constructed from a twenty-five year old frame and has a cover from another defunct plastic seed house. It is tied down against gales using old bicycle inner tubes and the whole thing is protected with metal shelves from same defunct seed house to deter any cats who might think that this is just one big cat toilet or sunbathing spot.

I didn’t have time for any more gardening today but I did go to the big seed swap at Gorgie City Farm. I spent many happy days with my sons there when they were small and am always pleased to visit the chickens, pigs, goats and, of course, vegetables. I deposited countless unwanted packets of free seeds from the front of gardening magazines, collected by me and my allotment buddy. In return I got these gems:

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Three varieties of heritage pea including one ‘mystery pea’, some runner beans and some sweet peas. It is a scientific fact that you cannot have too many peas, beans or sweet peas, not in my garden anyway.

A good day and an important start to the growing season.

Seed Palace

First of all, here are my quick, let’s compare the garden to this time last year, pictures. Here is the pond this year, complete with daffodils and the cowometer showing a no snow reading, and how it was during the Beast from the East, with the cowometer fully charged:

But on to the seed palace. I’ve had my trusty seed house for about ten years but it is really beginning to show its age and it doesn’t seem to be possible to buy a replacement cover

20190302_103831When I suggested to the other household members that I might upgrade to give my seedlings a new home and make the area look a bit nicer, the response was ‘it could hardly look any worse’. It doesn’t help that it’s full of old pots and dead plants. I took that to mean ‘go ahead’. So I have invested in what has come to be known as the seed palace. This meant the arrival of a very big box, delivered by a rather grumpy man who complained about its size. Then I had to wait until this morning before I could put it up. First of all I had to remove the old seedhouse and tidy up some of the dreadful weeds and mess that had built up around it. An old kitchen bread knife came in handy for some of the weeds embedded between the paving stones:20190302_104907

I still need to decide what to do with the old seedhouse. I do have plans, but for the moment I have tied it to a garden chair to stop it blowing away. Then I was able to start the joyful meccano exercise of putting the new one together. I read the instructions carefully, checking I had all the bits and pieces and necessary tools:

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I decided to do the actual construction inside. It’s a bit cold today and I knew I would end up getting very frustrated and probably break something if I had to fiddle with all of these bits and pieces out in the cold and wind. The only distraction was the cats, who apart from their daily mission to kill each other, also wanted to inspect this new piece of furniture. Because of the killing thing, they are still having to take turns at being in or out. This was Chelsea’s turn to be in and to inspect the palace:

After a little bit of swearing when I found some screw holes missing, and the use of our trusty handdrill – it has been mocked by visiting nephews but is very handy for small jobs like this – the thing was finally finished. With the help of an assistant, I carried it outside and set it up in its new home:

20190302_150649Then it started to absolutely pour with rain, which we need, but I was glad I had done most of the work inside.  Now all I need is to tidy up all those buckets and things, crowding out its beauty and starting sowing some SEEDS for this new palace!

Big garden no bird watch

Today was the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch day. I’ve counting the birds in my garden at the end of January for over twenty years and have found that the birds vary enormously from one year to the next. One of the variables has been the change in garden. My old garden attracted the usual sparrows and blue tits, blackbirds and robins but also starlings.  In this garden, where I’ve now been counting birds for nearly ten years, there is a wider variety, including magpies and wrens, but I’ve never seen a starling.  The other variables include the weather, the time of day but, most of all, whether or not I put out bird food. I used to feed the birds and took great pleasure in watching them but a few years ago I noticed that the bird food also attracted mice, squirrels, and at least one rat. The mice I can live with, the squirrels, I thought were harmless and the rat, I have only seen once when polite guests were visiting and we all looked out into the garden. ‘Oh what’s that?’ ‘There’s some kind of animal in your garden’. Cue ‘how about some more tea? let’s go into the kitchen’. I’ve never seen it since.  I  quite liked the squirrels.

Squirrel

They were fun and acrobatic but my sympathy for them disappeared the year that they broke into our roof space, ate their way through our electric wiring and built a nest above the bathroom ceiling. It’s a long story but the bathroom and the lights in the upstairs landing were out of action for months (pressure from my fellow residents meant that we had to wait until the baby squirrels had grown up before we could attend to them*) and getting all the repairs done cost a small fortune. So I stopped feeding the birds and the squirrels and the birds stopped coming into my garden in such great numbers. The squirrels also took the hint and have, so far, gone elsewhere to cause chaos in someone else’s house.

I still try to support the wildlife by gardening organically, leaving a lot of wild stuff, weeds, berries, seeds and what not in the undergrowth and providing a water supply with the pond. I’ve also got a bird bath in the front garden for any passing wildlife there.

For today’s bird watch I went into the garden, suitably dressed with several layers of thermal clothing (thanks to my lovely Norwegian friend who sends us thermal underwear every Christmas), a woolly hat, fingerless gloves and a big cup of coffee. I sat patiently for nearly an hour (until it started to rain). I heard lots of birds and I saw several seagulls, pigeons and crows soaring overhead but the only birds to land in the garden were one blackbird, one pigeon and a tiny bluetit in a tree. A pretty dismal collection this year. While I waited for the non-existent birds, I looked at my garden,  and made several plans for its development. While I was waiting for the birds, I noticed this ridiculous sweet pea, which is growing away bravely despite some recent very cold weather:

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Then I came inside and did my annual seed census from my trusty seed box:

Seed box

I did a little fantasising about this year’s peas and tomatoes, sweet peas and marrows but it seems I have nearly all the seeds I need for this year’s vegetables. I’ll just have to be patient before I can start sowing them.

In the mean time, I spotted a fox in the garden earlier in the week, when we had a heavy frost:

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So we may not have so many birds but we do have foxes and some silly sweet peas.

*no squirrels were harmed in the eviction – we just chased them away before destroying the nest and getting the ceiling rebuilt.

Radishes

I dug up these radishes in the garden today:

I know they don’t look very appetising but I’m not proposing to eat them. These are what is left of the summer’s super flowering purple radishes, ‘purple plum’,which produce lovely flowers but are tricky for actual radishes:

These impressive flowers have finally succumbed to frost so I dug them out. While I was doing this, I discovered that they still had some impressive seed pods:

20190105_141710.jpgYou can eat the seed pods but not when they are dried out like this. Each pod is full of tiny new seeds:

20190105_141021So that’s this year’s supply of flowers sorted. Maybe some will even turn into radishes.

Meanwhile, I did some weeding, was delighted to see onions coming up and rainbow chard still hanging in there;

Then I relaid all my cat protection devices: cardboard, freezer baskets, twiggy prunings and, new for this year, an abandoned shopping basket which my son rescued from a local cycle path and brought home:

A rewarding first day in the garden for 2019.

November sunshine

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Earlier this year I had some monstrous conifers removed from the back of the garden – here in mid-removal:

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Behind them the privet hedge is  recovering slowly but surely. This photo is from June:

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I had this idea that I would make a place to sit in the sun as this is the sunniest part of the garden but that plan was foiled somewhat by three things: the arm injury in early July (now almost fully recovered); life and work being even busier than usual and the amazing tomato and cucumber harvest in what I planned to be temporary new raised beds where the conifers used to be:

These beds have produced the most bountiful tomato and cucumber harvest that I have ever had (helped of course by the hot summer) but still:

So I’m tempted to the leave the raised beds where they are to catch the sun at its height. Today I went out to the garden to clear the beds and cover them with cardboard (to keep the multiplying cats off) and think about what to do with the space. I was struck by the beauty of the oak tree in the corner:

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It has been there, growing slowly, for about five years, after several years in a pot. It is my millennium oak, grown from an acorn collected by two very small boys in 2000 – you’ll find that story here 

Today I sat on a garden chair, bathed in the oak tree’s autumn glory, and remembered that the real value of this part of the garden is that the sun reaches it in November.

Saving seeds

Despite today’s rain, I went along to the allotment this afternoon to see what was up. The apples have now all been harvested though there are several bags sitting waiting to be consumed. The courgettes are still coming slowly, there are handfuls of raspberries each week and there are winter brassicas waiting their turn. But most of the harvesting is now over. So today I planted some autumn onion sets and overwintering broad beans.  I did take a photo:

WP_20181007_16_43_58_Pro[1]That’s an onion bed with anti-bunny wire netting.  I admit it’s not very exciting but it excites me to think that next year’s onion crop is lurking beneath the soil and that there are broad beans in the bed next to it. There’s nothing like thinking about next year’s crop to get you through a damp dreary Sunday.. unless it’s looking at seeds:

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These are my saved seeds from the pink pea plant. This was a heritage variety – Pea Salmon Pink – which I originally picked up at a seed swap event a couple of years ago. They have lovely flowers and a very unusual growing habit, with the peas all growing at the top of the plant. Oh and the bees seem to like them too:

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You can’t buy these beauties and I was worrying about what would happen when I ran out of seeds, so decided to try and save some. Those in the picture are the result. I’ve dried them out carefully on a sunny windowsill and put them away in a labelled envelope. While I was at it, I saved some sweet pea seeds too. Crossed fingers they will grow ok next year. Now that is almost more exciting than sowing next year’s beans and onions.

Fig

I have a fig tree in a pot, given to us for our silver wedding by a much loved and much missed cousin. Every year I worry that the winter will finish it off, but every year it has survived:

WP_20180804_12_13_47_Pro[1]It even made it through the snow this year, when we had more snow than I can ever remember in Edinburgh. I think it may be the twiggy things you can see in this picture:

WP_20180301_07_48_59_Pro.jpgBut this summer, what with heatwaves and such, it has not only survived but is producing actual figs:

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How exciting is that? I’m not holding out for a fig glut, but you never know.

Meanwhile we had our first ripe tomato for tea last night:

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We ate it with some chopped garden cucumbers and a little salt and vinegar, to accompany a Friday night Indian takeaway.

We should really be working our way through the courgette and broad bean glut but last night we were all too tired. Today I’ve just harvested the last of the broad beans from last autumn’s cardboard experiment and will do something improving with them:

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Here’s how they looked in the autumn, planted through the smiley cardboard, and in the spring after all that snow:

Hard to believe but the changing seasons and the surprising survivals are what makes it all worth it.