A tidy mind means a tidy shed…

A tidy mind means a tidy shed…

…and my shed is a real mess. Is that an old gardening saying or have I just made it up?   Anyway, I decided it was time to put a couple of cloches over the perpetual spinach in the vegetable cage.  If I’m lucky this will produce some lovely tender new leaves in the early spring when other green veg in the garden are at a bit of a premium.

Now six-foot-long cloches with clear corrugated plastic covers are not exactly the sort of things you can lose easily and I distinctly remember putting them on a shelf at the back of my pots and seed box shed.  Approximately 40 minutes later I found them in the old dog kennel.  I had serious words with myself and where did that distinct memory of putting them on the shelf come from?  Both are now in position over the said spinach beet.

Muddy vegetables

Now that the deep penetrating frost has come out of the ground, aided and abetted by a not insignificant amount of rain, my vegetable cage now looks very much like the hollow “where we can wallow in glorious mud.”

Picking vegetables in such conditions is a thoroughly miserable affair.  Everything, even the purple sprouting, which is a good two feet off the ground, is filthy, as are the sprouts.   I have to thoroughly clean up the leeks under a tap before Mrs GG will even have them in the kitchen.

Signs of growth

On the upbeat side of things my seedlings are all doing well and the Vanessa and Alicante tomatoes and the aubergines have been taken out of the heated propagator in the unheated greenhouse and, much to Mrs GG’s irritation, are in trays with clear plastic covers in the dining room.

A box of Rocket first early potatoes are supposed to be chitting in an outhouse.  They are covered religiously at night with fleece and they’ve already been there a good fortnight with no sign of any shoots.  I didn’t want to grow them in the first place but was talked into it by you know who.  I selected five that were at least showing basic signs of life, and have planted them in compost in a bag in the greenhouse.   However, I’m not optimistic.

A spot of pruning

I had a good laugh a few days ago when I completed the rose pruning.  There is a gigantic New Dawn rose bush outside the kitchen window.  It must be eight or nine feet high and is one side of a very high and thick yew hedge, forming a passing place to the herbaceous border and lawn on the other side.  It’s about six feet from the bird feeders and the blue and great tit diners sit in it all day, darting over to the sunflower hearts or seeing off the goldfinches.

Anyway, it was the last rose in that particular part of the garden and there I was with the long-handled shears trying the remove dead and spindly growth.  I wasn’t actually being attacked by them but the braver ones were certainly buzzing me.   The others sat in another rose a few feet away quite literally swearing at me and telling me to stop.  Mrs GG was in fits of laughter watching this pantomime through the kitchen window.

A wet winter

Going back to my mud patch of a vegetable cage, the volume of rain we have already had in 2021 is worrying.   Ours is a very well-drained garden but this year we have has surface water accumulating where I have never seen it before in 34 years.  The brook at the bottom of the field has been over the banks two or three times since October.  I’ve planted so many trees in an effort to soak up some of the water, but the impact of global warming is now clearly evident.

Saving the trees

The importance of growing trees and maintaining mature ones is clear to everyone.  I wrote recently about the oak trees adjacent to my drive.   They were identified as having to be retained as part of granting the planning permission for the 142 houses on either side of our drive.

Last week we heard chainsawing from down the field and, looking out of our bedroom window, Mrs GG saw three men in bright orange jackets up one of the oaks.  I was in my 4×4 like Usain Bolt – carrying a slight injury.  When I got to the tree, I recognised one of the men who came over and confirmed they were simply removing dead wood.  He did, however, tell me that the whole process of granting protection for trees as part of a contested planning consent lasts just three years and, in his own words, “after that, it’s a free for all”.  So much for protecting much-loved and old trees.

Happy Gardening

The Grumpy Gardener

Idle hands and all that

Idle hands and all that

I need to be active and on the move so this recent spell of extremely cold weather caused me a lot of problems.    I couldn’t get onto the garden, other than to pick vegetables, as it was frozen, so I set off for the greenhouse.

Garden during winter

Keeping busy

As I do keep up to date with work in there, the potential for jobs was severely limited.  I swept the quarry tiled floor – twice – brushed any soil or other debris off the working surfaces, checked all the plants, did a tiny tad of watering and that was it.  All over in about an hour.

I mooched around the garden, picking up the odd leaf and tree branch from the recent winds, and after an hour I was cold and miserable.  I know, I’ll sort my seeds out.

Vegetable and flower seed packetsOnly to find that I completed that in the last cold spell.  I’ve got tomato seedlings growing under cover in the dining room.  They’ll definitely need some attention.  Well, apart from wishing them good morning, nothing else was needed.

The sheds, they need a good tidy up.  No, they didn’t nor the garages.   In the end I went upstairs to the attic room where I keep all my fishing equipment.  My fly box is a real mess.  But it wasn’t.

For the second time I asked Mrs GG which vegetables she wanted, only to be told that I got them in first thing in the morning.   Quite clearly my memory as well as my temper was declining.   Then she asked, with a wry smile, why I didn’t sort out all my old gardening magazines?  I usually take the really old copies to my doctors’ surgery but as they’ve been closed for the best part of a year, what’s the point – and in any event Covid restrictions means they couldn’t accept them. 

Magazines galore

Pile of gardening magazines

So, I lumbered around the house, collecting up magazines from loos, bedrooms and back up in my attic.  In no time at all I had a gigantic pile.  I intended to get them into date order first, but before I got to March 2019 there was a fascinating article on something or other, I forget precisely what.  Anyway, I idled away the morning and best part of the afternoon reading various articles I had either missed or completely forgotten I’d read.   Before I knew it, I was being told to go and change for supper.

The big freeze

In the end, I’d actually enjoyed my day and felt a sort of sense of achievement, and so sat down, after the meal, with a smile to watch the news and weather report.

That was a big mistake.

The news was utterly depressing and the weather lady confirmed that the cold weather was here to stay – for the rest of the week at least.  Gloom descended on me so I went back to the pile of gardening magazines, rummaged down towards the bottom, and picked up a February 2018 edition.  There it was, emblazoned across the front page “What to do in the garden during the big freeze”.  The smile did come back but I really wish the sun would.  Now, that really would make me smile.

Happy gardening.

The Grumpy Gardener

Winter hasn’t done with us just yet

Winter hasn’t done with us just yet

At the risk of sounding even more grumpy than usual, I have to say that this ridiculously warm weather is really not good news for the garden.

Insects and invertebrates – including slugs and snails – are active in the open garden when they should be hiding from the cold. If the warm weather continues, it means that many of the more devastating pests will have an extended breeding season and our plants will be at risk throughout the season. So, begin to take remedial action now.

Nematodes

I am now watering nematodes, specifically Nemaslug, around the outside of plants and pots, and also inside the greenhouse, as many of the awful little pests will have emigrated into the warmth of the greenhouse in pots, brought in for over wintering.

Many of the pots now look as though they are ready to go back outside and the root and plant munching critters living in their containers are coming back to active life.

In addition to Nemaslug, I am watering larger containers in the greenhouse with Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer. Pests must be brought to book now, before they start breeding.

In bloom

My lawns got their third full mow of 2020 over the weekend – which is a good three months earlier than normal. Snowdrops, crocuses and even daffodils are now in bloom and the magnolia tree looks as though it isn’t far off blooming.

Being a pessimist as well as grumpy, I really do think there will be a price to pay. I really do believe there will be some cold weather around the corner and this will risk damaging everything, including any early nesting birds.

Seed boxes

Friends tell me with glee how many planted seed boxes they now have in their greenhouses. Mine are still in their pre-season disinfected state in the potting shed, where they’ll stay until the end of February at the earliest.

I know that we are all experiencing climate change but, personally, I don’t think winter has done with us just yet.

And on that note, happy gardening from the Grumpy Gardener!