Sunday, March 29

Space invaders

Recently, along with half of the gardening blogworld I have featured hellebores a few times in my posts. Let's face it there has been little else to shout about. If you are a regular visitor you will have seen shots of our garden like the one below this before.
Originally, back in May 2009, I planted six single and six double varieties bought as young plants.

These were potted up and, as the bed in the garden wasn't ready for planting up, later transferred to the plot to grow on.

In April 2010 the plants were planted in their permanent positions and here they have thrived so much so that they have self seeded with abandon.
Other than trimming off leaves each year prior to them flowering, I have left them to their own devices. New plants have mingled with their parents and some have moved out if their allocated bed.

In the first photograph can you spot the log roll edging that forms a boundary between the bed in which hellebores were planted and the bird bath bed which is planted up with spring bulbs. Below you can see a hellebore nestling up to a clump of spring bulbs, having jumped the boundary.
What's more it isn't alone as here is another ...
... and another is growing almost from under the bird bath.
I think some action may be required in the near future. Maybe an assessment of the flower quality and then I need to decide whether to move them back amongst the rest of their family or to the plot.

I did plant some more varieties last year but didn't expect them to flower this year but one has defied expectation.
A final photo before they fade.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Friday, March 27

Video Tour of the Plot - A joint venture,

Although Martyn and I garden together we  try to write our blogs from a different angle or to focus on different things.

Although some of you visit both of our blogs we each have some visitors that are unique to our blog so today we are unashamedly posting the same video. Martyn shot the video and we decided to record our mutterings as we watched it back together. 

Be warned the video is about 8 minutes long. Little editing of the original film has been carried out and it strays into the less tidy areas of the plot so some of the scenes may shock those of you who think we have a pristine plot. Hopefully you will get a better impression of our plot and even understand our mutterings well enough to pick up some additional information.

I hope that you enjoyed viewing if so we may repeat this at a later date.

Wednesday, March 25

Ready, Steady Plot

Tuesday, March 24

Nesting box action

In a previous post I wrote about the nest box with a web can attachment that was being used to stream video to a laptop indoors.
If you are interested we have put together some web pages that will record the main activity. You can access it using this link and I have also posted a link near the top of the blog sidebar.

I'm afraid it isn't live action but it will give an insight into what has been happening.

I have been asked about the kit that we use and so the link to the site that we bought it from is here.

Monday, March 23

Coming to the end

We have now started the 2015-16 season in earnest. The first broad beans have been sown in modules, some experimental early tomatoes have been sown. I'm busily playing at being a bee and pollinating the stone fruit and the new strawberry plants will soon need planting out. Onions and shallots are shooting in modules and spring brassicas, bought as plug plants, have also been planted in modules to grow on.

The start of a new growing season also marks the end of the last and our winter harvest is seriously winding down.

The carrots and parsnips that remain in the ground are beginning to grow, many are now past their sell by date and only a few leeks remain.
Last week I managed to retrieve a few remaining sprouts and we also cut a couple of small savoy cabbages to accompany the leeks and jumbo carrots.
I also managed a floral harvest. The daffodils seem rather late this year but better late than never.
The flowers seem to have reduced in number - maybe the bulbs have become overcrowded and need replanting. In that rough ground it will be no mean feat. Picked in bud the flowers soon opened once in a vase.
So as we bid a sad goodbye to last year's crops, maybe out first crop of the new season will be ...
Looking forward to the first rhubarb crumble of 2015.

This week I am linking to Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions.

Sunday, March 22

Cutting it

Last year on one of our many visits to local garden centres we spotted some pelargoniums that were being sold off. We needed something to prettify the summer house and so we decided to buy some. We also bought a couple for a pot on the patio.

The patio pot was taken into the greenhouse for over winter and the others were just left in the summer house. They all survived so I decided that the time had come to cut them back.
The benefits of cutting back are twofold - it rejuvenates the parent plant to stop it becoming leggy and it produces cutting material.
The trimmings were tidied up. Any dead leaves and flowers were removed and the pieces were shortened by cutting just below a leaf node, (the area where the leaves join the stem). All the leaf stipules - the small leafy bits at the base of the leaf stems - that would otherwise be buried were removed and most of the leaves.
Each plant produced between four and six cuttings.
To provide good drainage I like to place cuttings in a mix of half compost and half vermiculite.
The cuttings from each variety were placed around the edge if a small pot and placed in the house on a windowsill.
The compost will be kept slightly damp as pelargoniums don't like to be too wet.
The parent plants look rather sorry but should soon start to grow away.
A digression:

Copyright: Origieggl post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Friday, March 20

Getting it right this time

As you will know if you read Martyn's blog post we were surprised to find frog spawn in an usual place. Either the frogs were sporting L plates or passions were so high that they couldn't make it to the pond. There were no sign of any frogs which was unusual. The spawning period is a time of frenetic froggy action most years with some frogs hanging around to guard the spawn for a while.

This morning when I went into the garden I heard a tell-tale plop so went for a closer look. No frog but ...
Can you spot it? Let's look closer ...
On first sight the clump looks quite small but if you look closer to the left of the clump you can see there is lots more beneath the surface. What's more there is a second clump.
Then as I turned away I heard a second unmistakable sound and spotted him.
A lone male frog was singing (well it is singing to a female frogs ears). He is ever hopeful so maybe things are only just getting started.

Thursday, March 19

Spring is in the air...

My last blog post showed photos of spring lambs which are always lovely to see but evidence of spring animal activity is occurring much closer to home too.

If you read Martyn's earlier post you will know that we are monitoring activity in one of our nest boxes that is fitted with a web cam that feeds live images to our laptop.

In the past we have watched a pair of blue tits rear a brood but this time a pair of great tits have taken possession. They haven't started nest building yet but each evening between 17:30 and 18:00 one bird arrives and settles down to roost.

It seems to blow up its feathers into a fluffy ball and tucks it head in.
From time to time it has a shuffle and it may pop its head up but generally it snuggles down until about 6:00 when it begins to stir and deflate the feathery ball.

At one point a shadow is cast which we think may be its mate looking in to give it a wake up call.

As light levels improve the camera switches to colour mode. Between 7:00 and 8:00 the resident bird seems to be stretching up to peer out of the hole (on the left of the photo). We think it is maybe waiting for its mate to return.
Soon there is a superfast nest swap and one bird leaves and the other comes in. It is so fast that I didn't manage to grab a still of both birds together.
The second bird appears to do a bit of tidying as it hunts at the bottom of the box, picks items up and removes them. It's difficult to tell whether these are droppings or bugs.

For the rest of the day birds pop in on occasion but whether these are the ones that appear to have taken up residence or other birds checking out the box we don't know. On one occasion a blue tit popped in and on another occasion a great tit appeared to be sent on its way by a second great tit.
We don't know whether the same bird roosts each night or the pair take turns. The black stripe down the bird's chest is wider in the male but so far we haven't been able to see the chest as most of the activity is seen from above. 

The last time that we watched nest building the actual constructing began on 22 March so hopefully we will see something happening soon. We plan to create a separate set of web pages  on which we will share the progress. We would liked to stream the web cam images but haven't worked out how to do this.

It's not only the birds that are starting to turn their heads towards breeding. Although we haven't seen or heard any frogs in the garden, yesterday Martyn spotted this:
I wonder whether you will be as surprised as to where the frogs had decided to deposit their spawn. To find out more pop along to read Martyn's blog post

Wednesday, March 18

It's suddenly become very noisy around here!

Sunday, March 15

Brought indoors

As you will be aware from my last post at the beginning of last winter we moved our peach, apricot and nectarine trees inside the garden greenhouse.
The three trees are planted in large pots and originally lived just outside of the greenhouse.

The main reason for the move indoors is that we haven't found a way of controlling the peach leaf curl that has badly affected the peach and nectarine.
Using a preventative spray didn't work. I tried picking off affected leaves but that didn't stop the spread and left the trees almost denuded. The last option was to cover the trees but it seemed to us a better option to move the trees under cover.

Another factor is that the apricot - Flavourcot - flowers really early. In early March the flowers are already going over.
Last year a lack of insect pollinators meant that I had to try hand pollinating and this did result in some fruit setting.

We eagerly watched the fruit swell but in the end we were disappointed as the tree dropped the fruit. This followed a period of very windy weather but I can't be certain that this was the cause.
The peach tree - Avalon Pride -was off to a good start and promised much. In it's very first year it produced a few fruits and they were delicious.
Since then peach leaf curl has put paid to any thought of fruit. As you can tell from the photos the height of both these trees and the width of the apricot had to be reduce so they would fit inside the greenhouse.

Last year the nectarine  - Fantasia -did produce a couple of fruits in spite of the peach leaf curl attack. Unfortunately something ate the fruit before it had chance to swell. It looked as though it was already quite juicy.
The fruit was quite near the greenhouse glass and I suspect an opportunistic snail took advantage of this.

The nectarine has beautiful autumn colour.
I've already done my best hand pollinating the apricot and am now busy with the nectarine. Flower buds are swelling on the peach so its turn will be next.

Just to give myself he best chance of success I am pollinating every day - I bet someone says this is too often.
I'm just hoping that the law of averages works in my favour and that my pollination techniques don't fail completely. Just a couple of fruits from each tree as a taster and we will be happy but if we manage more well that would be just great.