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Tomatoes, potatoes and yoghurt pots

 

Theresa's vegetable garden

tomatoes in growing bag

The tomato plants in the conservatory have started to produce their first flowers so it is time to move them into their growing space.  I use re- useable Tomato growing bags and fill them with good quality compost mixed with some home grown compost, I like them because they give plenty of depth to plant deeply. This encourages the plants to put down extra roots which in turn makes for a stronger more productive plant. I also use collars around each plant this acts as a reservoir when you water and allows the water to seep into the bag slowly. I can fit 12 plants in the greenhouse and then have pots outside with about five more plants including my favourite bush tomato Red Alert.

The cucumbers, squash and courgettes have all germinated over the last week. I use large yoghurt pots for sowing in; this gives them plenty of depth to get a good root system going. They can stay indoors for a bit longer, until at least the end of May when we can be sure there will not be hard frost.

Having covered the potatoes last week because of the expected cold spell, they needed uncovering today, plenty of new growth so I shall be out there tomorrow ‘earthing up’.  There was a little frost damage on a few of the leaves but nothing serious.

 

We are eating fresh asparagus almost every day, if you have the patience to wait for two years it is a very rewarding crop to grow. A little weeding feeding and mulching in the winter and it will be growing for the next 15- years.

The flower beds are looking lovely, the Perennial Wallflowers with the Forget me Nots are one of my favourite sights. Two years ago I started off a Wisteria to grow into a free standing tree.  It has flowered this year for the first time and looks a picture.  When it has reached a respectable size I shall transfer it to the garden, maybe near the replacement pond we are constructing but that is another story……

Theresa Bloomfield
I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

Potatoes, Full Fruit Cages and Chickens!

planted potatoes

I have taken advantage of the long weekend to get more of my potatoes in the ground. One of my favourites is Mayan Gold, lovely knobbly potatoes with yellow flesh and ideal hot or cold. My insurance is two rows of Sarpo Mira as they are blight resistant and can stay in the ground until September. I like to grow lots of potatoes as everyone likes them and they store well all through the winter.

Fruit Cage

The fruit cage is full of flower now on all the currants , blueberries and gooseberries. Luckily one of my neighbours keeps bees so they have been busy pollinating them and the apples, plums and cherries in our very small orchard.  There are lots of small weeds in the fruit cage so an hour spent weeding now will save a lot of time later in the season.  The chickens live in the fruit cage in the winter where they are safe from Buzzards and foxes and they do a very good job of cleaning out all the pests that live in the soil and manure the ground at the same time.  At the moment they are eyeing up the asparagus ( Connover’s Colossal and Purple Pacific) so they are confined to quarters for a while.

chickens eating weeds

In the conservatory  the tomato plants are really growing on well and I have put in my Squash,( Harrier and Crown Prince) Courgette(Defender and Parador) and Cucumber ( Burpless, Bella and Cucino)seeds.  These will be ready to go into the green house in a couple of weeks. but we are forecasted some cold weather in the next few days so I have fleece and plastic to hand to protect inside and outside.

plants in conservatory

Theresa Bloomfield
I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

………..and so it begins !!

One of the new begonias I am going to try this season is Daffadowndilly.  I have five corms which are just starting to shoot and will put them into a tray to develop.  My first plants – Fairy Blue Fuchsia – have arrived and are growing well in the greenhouse, hopefully it won`t be long before I can plant them out into containers and patiently wait for the beautiful blue fuchsia to appear.

plastic greenhouse - fullAt the moment I have filled one greenhouse with plants and Alan has now erected the hexagonal one to take the more advanced plants. This is one of those greenhouses that have a plastic cover and they like the extra light they get from all round, although I do put the green sunshade netting over the top when it starts to get hot.

Andre Rieu TulipsOn the front decking I have my Andre Rieu pink/purple tulips which are so straight and tall.  The daffodils are extremely tall this year, unfortunately a very high wind knocked them flat and broke the stems.  I picked about a dozen broken ones and put them in a vase inside and they looked really spring like. I must remember next time I buy any to check the height before buying.

basket standMy eldest son and his wife bought me a `Welcome` hanging basket stand for Mothers` Day and I filled it with polyanthus and daffodils which looked lovely by the front door and very welcoming.  The Raspberry Ruby Falls which I have in a hanging basket was kept in the front porch until it started to grow and then outside just by the kitchen window.  It is growing very well and is now starting to grow from the bottom making it look a lot fuller.  I do cover it every evening, although I don`t think it is absolutely necessary but a couple of nights we had a frost – so better safe than sorry!

strawberry irrisistibleLast year my `Irristible` strawberries which originally were trial plants in 2012 and were in their fourth year produced a lot of runners – as well as plenty of delicious strawberries.  I decided not to just cut them off as I have done in other years but to plant them up in another trough and over winter they have grown very well.   At the present time there have been flowers on the plants and now strawberries are forming.  This year I have ordered `Just Add Cream` strawberries so it will be interesting to taste the difference.

tinkerbirdI bought Rhododendron Tinkerbird from Thompson & Morgan, when I received it it was full of very tight buds which are now turning into beautiful flowers, very pale pink/white.  I can hardly believe that it is so small and yet produced these gorgeous flowers.  I also purchased two pink Annabelle Hydrangeas which were dormant when I received them.  I potted both up and kept them in my sunny porch for a couple of weeks until there were signs of growth.  They are now around 12” high and have given one to my Daughter in Law who loves gardening.

Alan has been busy painting the fencing and also the small edging alongside the path in the back and front garden which is blue.  Everywhere looks very fresh now and ready for the plants to flower.  He has also helped me generally tidy everything as with three fractures in my spine I am unable to lift anything very heavy.  We transplanted four roses which were in containers to the raised part of the garden alongside the fence.  Thankfully because they didn`t get disturbed roots they have taken to their new home very well and are looking healthy.  We also cleared out a garden box so we could move it and discovered a metal arch in its box still.  Goodness knows how long it has been there but I do remember it was buy one get one free.   We put it up across a corner and put my Hydrangea Saori under it with a Clematis each side that is now growing round the arch.

The fountain I bought with vouchers I won in a well known daily newspaper gardening competition, is working well, It is lovely to see the sun light catching the water, there is something satisfying about listening to water.  Mr. Roadrunner has been put back next to the fountain and alongside a small Acer tree. I have two other Acers which are in full leaf and look wonderful in the sun.

Mandie – you asked if anyone had any of their trial plants from last year –I don`t have the Antirrhinum like you but I do have one of the Icing Sugar fuchsias which is growing well at the moment.  I also bought some this year so it will be interesting to see the difference – if any – with one being in its second year.  I have also noticed that the Fuchsia Berry I had last year is also producing many new shoots and leaves.  Did you ever try the berries Mandie??

That`s about all the news for now Gardeners, enjoy the lovely weather that we are having at the moment and  enjoy Easter………..also any Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns that come your way!!

Jean

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

The Sentimental Gardener

Hi Everyone,

This may seem random, but I was lying in bed last night unable to sleep, thinking about what type of gardener am I. Inexperienced? Maybe. Enthusiastic? Definitely! Probably a bit messy or as I prefer to say wildlife friendly. Do I follow specific gardening rules? Not always. Don’t get me wrong I do follow the rules with the germination and cultivation of plants, but when it cones to design or style ideas, I can’t stand to be told that I should group things in threes or fives, or I should limit my colour palette to on-trend shades or only grow seven kinds of plants in the whole garden.

So what type of gardener am I?

I love cottage gardens, with its vibrant mixture of fruits, veg and flowers growing in the same beds, but then I also love a minimalist coastal garden. I watch Chelsea each year and think ooh I like that garden, but if I tried to emulate it, I know after a while I would get bored of its not really practical landscaping or limited coloured design. And why was I thinking of gardening n the middle of the night? Because I had just finished reading a fictional book about a childlike lady hoarder and the chaos that surrounds her and her family from her lack of ability to throw anything away. And that’s when it hit me I’m a hoarder in garden terms. Just like the main character of the book I can’t seem to throw anything away. I can prove this not only by the number of ornaments, pots, baskets and seating I have cluttering up the garden, two sheds and two greenhouses, but also by the plants and who they came from, or specifically, whose garden they came from.

Take for example our Rose Garden, there are species in there as old, if not older than me, they came from Mark’s grandparents’ garden. We inherited them when Marks parents dug them up for a second time when they themselves moved to a smaller place. My other Roses are Valentines gifts from Mark, or presents from my family and friends.

Rose garden

Apart from the Roses from Mark’s grandparents we also have their Peony. From my paternal grandmother we have the Periwinkle and Aloe Vera’s . From Mark’s parents we got the Rosemary, the Elephant Ears, The Lambs Ears, the Honesty the Aquilegia , the Lavender, the Cotton Lavender, the Mint, Azaleas, Hydrangea, Sedums, Pinks, Mums, Margarita Daisies and some Fuchsia. We have Poppies from Percy next door, and Honeysuckle, from a lady down the road. We have a beautiful Maple that Mark’s son bought us the year he left home to join the army. The Weeping Cherry has been here since Easter 2003, a gift from mum six months after we moved in. A standard cherry that Mark gave me for Valentines the year Woolies closed down. Last of the romantics he said it was going cheap. Grape Hyacinths, daffodils and Crocosmias from people I worked with over ten years ago. An Aspidistra from someone who moved away from the area and the plant grew too big for the house. That is just some of the many many living things we have been given that grows in the garden.

stool, basket, kettle

Sadly , like the character in the book, I may have attached feelings to inanimate objects, and it’s quite ridiculous to think that I will forget the person, or place in time if I throw the dang thing out. For instance here is a picture of a pot of winter bulbs and sedums sitting on an old stool. This stool is from my childhood home. We had a set of five one each for mum, dad, my two brothers and me I have no idea when or how I even took it from my old home to this one, as I lived in a one bedroomed bungalow before i moved to my current place and I don’t remember owning it for the first five years after moving. And why would I only have one stool – if mum gave it to me after I moved to my new place, I would have been with Mark then so surely two stools would have been more appropriate? I don’t think I’ve even sat on the stool inside, it’s always been in the garden holding a plant pot. Why have I got this stool? It’s that weathered you couldn’t sit on it now – It would crack in two. And if you think that’s bad, the next picture shows a lovely 1970’s plastic plant pot. It belonged my maternal grandmother, the only thing I took from her garden when she died and I was thirteen. In the greenhouse I have a 1980’s kettle another relic from my childhood, it was supposed to go into the charity box when we emptied dads house, but it somehow need up in mine. I also spot my dads colander which I was going to grow strawberries in. His ancient rescued plough sits on our
front drive, along with yet more ceramic pots.

plough, gnome, plastic owl

And that’s not all, unfortunately our garden is peppered with objects from people who are no longer alive. Like my favourite garden bench, it belonged to my good friends, who were, incidentally, Mark’s ex in-laws. My set of four square planters from my neighbour who passed away the same time as my dad. Dad’s collection of garden ornaments, the owl, the badger, a duck, a toad, and a sad collection of gnomes mingle with my three cement dogs and a penguin. I don’t like gnomes, but I still keep them. Like Tessa’s plastic ball. The ball has a hole in it that treats used to fall out of when it was rolled across the lawn. Tessa was my beautiful, clumsy collie who died years ago, yet her ball sits near the compost bins as if awaiting her return. The ball never got thrown out because visiting dogs (and their owners) would play with it, and now it seems to be home to a colony of snails and woodlice. I really should throw out this ball. I should also bury Tess, her ashes are still in her tiny casket in the back of my wardrobe.

Yes, I’m certainly a garden hoarder and I believe it’s about time I addressed this issue. I have absolutely no intention of getting rid of anything living, unless it becomes diseased or dies, but I’m sure I don’t need all of the plastic pots or baskets that are knocking around. At the last count I had four bin bags stuffed with them in the sheds. The bigger containers are stacked outside the shed. There are plastic propagators with missing or broken lids just screaming to be chucked. I don’t need to keep all of the broken bits of terracotta for drainage. I’m sure that bubble wrap is useful for insulating plants, but everything in my garden is hardy anyway. Do I really need dads colander? Seriously? And the kettle? So its most obvious I need to have a spring clean. The only problem is what if I throw away something that could have been useful? I can’t bear to think of myself as hoarder, as I am not like this indoors (although I do have a collection of stuffed pandas and an attic full of childhood memories and probably too many cookery books in storage boxes under the bed,) but if I can make a start in the garden, then it will give me the impetus to clean out the attic and the boxes under the bed. So instead of being labelled as a hoarder I suppose I could think of myself as The Sentimental Gardener.

Until next time,
Love Amanda xx

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Compost, Slow-worms and Beans

Taking advantage of the dry weather this week to empty and turn my compost heaps.  Always a satisfying job.

One now vacant for this year, one cooking and one cooked ready for the autumn.

Our resident slow-worms have emerged and are basking in the sun against the fence, they produce live young which will be happy in the warm compost heap where they will not now be disturbed for the whole of the summer.

compost bins and sloworm

The onions Red Barron and Golden Ball are in now, nothing much to do now with those except keep weed free and watered. Thinking of putting in the first early peas thus week as the ground has warmed up quite a bit.  I will start them in old gutters covered with cloches to keep the mice out.

Last year every runner bean seed was carefully removed from the gutter over night, I imagined an enormous mouse in the garden, but found the stash later behind a pile of old pots at the back of the greenhouse.  Lesson learned.

The flowers beds are now coming to life as the hardy perennials green up and the spring flowers put on a wonderful show.  The trees and shrubs are leafing up with that wonderful lime green that you only get in spring. The buds are beginning to open on the tree peony, more buds than ever this year it just gets better and better as it establishes(its been there now for 5 years).

mixed flower bed

Theresa Bloomfield
I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

Amanda’s update – March, mowers and sowing seeds

Hello Gardeners,

Hope you are all well and making progress in your gardens. I recently remembered an old saying that goes “A dry March and a wet May, fills barns and bays with corn and hay. I don’t know if it’s true but we seem to have a lot of corn sprouting up under our bird feeding station thanks to the House Sparrows throwing it out of the feeders. Usually the Collard Doves or the Wood Pigeons eat it, but they have missed some of the grains.

black mondo grass in lawn - MarchThe garden is in bloom with Crocuses, Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths, Tulips and Cherry Blossom on the trees. Mark has planted my 40 mixed Gladioli bulbs as well as the flowering shrubs, and two bags of potatoes. The rhubarb has started to sprout. He has also split a big pot of Black Mondo Grass into 4 pieces and dug them into what will be our new grassy knoll area. We took our ancient petrol mower out of the shed so we could service it, only to find after nearly fifteen years of use it has finally given up the ghost. Mark did try to fix it – as he has so many other times, but in this instance it was beyond repair, so we set out to the shops to buy a replacement, taking the old one to the recycling centre after breaking it up into piles of plastic and metal bits. The new petrol mower looks like Bumblebee from the film Transformers, it’s yellow and black and insect-looking, and I half expect it to morph into something else. It was on the sale so fingers crossed we have a bargain. I just hope it doesn’t sound too much like a mad wasp when the grass is cut next week.

Mark has been taking good care of the greenhouses for me, as up until the end of last week I hadn’t been able to get into them. I had a huge smile on my face when I finally got into them for the first time since last September when my chemo started. During that time I would stand outside the glass and ask mum or Mark to pick, cut, water or plant things for me. I only had a two week break before my chemo ended and my operation took place in early February, so I didn’t do as much sowing as I would have liked to, so I feel like I’m trying to catch up. Usually I would have sunflowers and sweetpeas germinating, but hopefully I will make progress soon.


peppers sown in potsMy mobility is still not good enough to get me up the steps to the greenhouses so I have to go the long way around. It’s like an obstacle course, out of the back door down the path, into the front garden, across the grass then through the hedge tunnel and along what will be the grassy knoll and into back garden. Meanwhile I’m holding onto Mark and using a walking stick for balance – but I’m getting stronger so it won’t be long before I can get up the steps.

Anyway enough about my health, when I got into the mall greenhouse I was pleased to find that 4 Sweet Bonita Peppers have germinated and so have 9 tree seedlings. As yet there is no sign of the Bullhorn Peppers, Chilli Prairie Fire, or the Alderman Peas. But I do have a good pot of Mint plants that need pricking out and I found a Begonia Tuber sprouting that needs to be potted up. The Aloe Vera’s look like they are on steroids, and I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before they outgrow their space. The Money Tree looks so much healthier than last month.

In the large greenhouse I have a slightly neglected Spider plant that has luckily survived being forgotten about and only just watered, since who knows when, and some indoor hyacinths. I also found the Stephanotis plant that I had Christmas time. Unfortunately it didn’t like our house and the flowers fell off and the leaves turned yellow. It’s starting to recover now. Our bags of potatoes are also in there, and also a bunch of parsley plants. I think the parsley got into the borders  accidentally when I thought I had lost all my seeds last May and I chucked the pots of dried out compost onto the tomato plants. The seeds must have lay dormant until the conditions were right. I’ve never had parsley grow really big in March before.

tomato seeds sownAs it was a really warm Spring day today (23/03/17), I decided a trip to our local garden centre was in order, as I wanted to crack on and plant my tomato Yellow Stuffer and Sweet Aperitif seeds but I hadn’t any compost left. So off we went to buy a few bags, I also bought a packet of aubergine seeds as my trial seeds haven’t arrived yet – although I was shocked at the price – there times as much as T&M seeds. As I’m still not allowed to do strenuous activities, poor Mark had to sieve the compost while I spoke to mum on the phone. I also made him wash some plastic growing pots. I was determined to do some actual gardening myself though, so Mark put my potting tray onto my storage box seat just outside the greenhouse in the sun so I could plant my seeds in three inch pots. I then used different coloured lolly sticks to label each seed variety and gently watered them. I also rearranged the shelves although it’s still too untidy for me, as last year I let things slide, including stacking things neatly.

 

tomato frames in greenhouseWhilst I was sowing my seeds Mark weeded around the blueberry and pink blueberry bushes and gave them an ericcasious feed, he dug the beds over in the large greenhouse, fertilised the soil, and then erected the cane, wire and string supports ready for the tomatoes in May. Too many times we have been caught out and the support frames have not ready in time and it’s a mad rush to do them.

Other things we have done over the last month was cutting the Autumn Fruiting Raspberries down to ground level. They have already put out new growth. Removing the flower spikes from the pampas grass and leaving them near the hedge for a few days to allow insects to escape, before putting them into the compost bin, and direct sowing a free packet of wildlife seeds from Grow Wild in the wildlife border. Talking of wildlife, the Blackbirds are feasting on the last of the Ivy berries, the Magpies are nesting in the tree that overlooks our garden, and the Sparrows are doing their best to chase them off. We have earlyBees on the flowers, Ladybirds in the leaves of the Knifophias and a Green Shield bug walking on the grass outside the greenhouse looking as if he is inspecting the glass for cleanliness. Soon the Blue Tits will be chasing each other in the cherry tree blossoms and I really hope I can be quick with my camera and capture their antics.

My brother still hasn’t built his greenhouse, but he has got herbs and potatoes growing in pots. Mum still hasn’t decided on her front garden renovation design, but she has decided to buy herself a small polythene greenhouse that can be taken down after the summer. The weather here promises to be nice over the weekend, (although we may be in for a few frosty nights), and into early next week so I plan to get on with more sowing. I still need to grow a plethora of flowers for my charity plant sale so I’m going to start with things that germinate quickly like French Marigolds and Amaranthus and Cornflowers. I may even do some Lettuces and Basil.

AntirhinumsFinally I want mention that the trial trailing Antirhinums (still unnamed) have survived on pure neglect over the winter, the hanging basket was left where it originally hung in the summer, and astonishingly the plants have come back. I need to tidy up the soil in the basket by pulling out the weeds and giving the poor plant some food as well as a quick prune, but I am seriously impressed. Has anyone else who trials for T&M had their Antirhinums come back?
I hope the weather is kind to you.

Until next time, Happy Gardening,
Love Amanda X

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Potting on tomato plants

Tomato seedlings

I have just potted on thirty six tomato seedlings of seven varieties. Mountain Magic for its blight resistance, Country Taste for those big tasty fruits, Sweet Aperitif and Sungold for the delicious little mouthfuls, Red Alert a bush tomato that fruits very early on the bench outside and San Marzano for the best tasting pasta sauce to see me through the year.

I also spent some time in the sunshine yesterday digging bean trenches and filling them with compost from the heap, it will have time to settle before putting in the canes.  The chickens enjoyed that, pulling out a few worms, wireworms, ants and those tiny black slugs that only they seem to see.

water wizard nozzleMore compost was laid on the flower beds around the herbaceous perennials and shrubs to help keep down the weeds and retain moisture. We do have very dry summers here in East Anglia and every drop of water is precious.  Three IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) tanks with a watering system attached are in the fruit and vegetable garden but the flowers have to fend for themselves so mulching is a great help.  We channel all our surface water collected in water butts to a large underground storage tank and from there it can be pumped into the IBC’s throughout the season.  How lucky am I to have a very practical husband!

 

Theresa Bloomfield
I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

Chickens, slugs and clearing up the vegetable plot

Theresa's Garden

The vegetable garden is looking a little sorry for itself at the moment.  The last of the winter roots and leeks and brassicas are waiting to be harvested and there are a few weeds showing now.  Nothing that a dry, sunny winters day cannot sort out. I have heavy clay soil so I use long planks resting on the side of the raised beds to work on to prevent compacting  the soil, which has had some good productive frosts this year breaking up the clods.

broad beans, garlic, shallots

The autumn planted garlic and shallots have benefited from  the frosts as well and are looking good. So too are the autumn sown Aquadulce Claudia Broad beans.  I always get a nice early crop which means some for us and the rest for the freezer and the ground can then be used for the spring onionslettuces and radishes which I plant in the spaces between the old bean stalks that stay in the ground making nitrogen nodules on their roots to feed the brassicas next year.

I am eagerly awaiting  the arrival of my potato tubers, egg boxes are ready for chitting on the conservatory window sill, The ground for these will be dug over after the last red cabbage and sprouts have gone.

The garden has suffered with plenty of slugs over the last couple of years so I am very diligent about cleaning up leaves weeds and old plant stems where they like to hide.  Any that I do find go straight into the chicken run where they are devoured with relish!  Chickens are very good re-cyclers, they love all the outside leaves from the brassicas , swede tops and fallen fruit which they instantly turn into quality manure which is added to the compost along with the nest box material and newspapers I use to line their sleeping quarters.  My reward lovely fresh eggs every day to share with family and friends.

sowing, propogating, thinning out

Seeds for the season have arrived so I must dust off the propagator to set the peppers and tomatoes at the end of the month. How quickly it all comes round!

Theresa Bloomfield
I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

Anyone out there looking for left hand gloves?

Gloves

Why oh why don’t they make gardening gloves reversible? Being right handed I have a drawer full of superfluous intact left hand gloves as all my right hand ones get ripped and worn with monotonous regularity. As I value my nails I opt to double glove, that is, to don surgical gloves first (well, I do come from a medical family) followed by fine weave gardening gloves with reinforced palms and fingers. I find this way I can actually feel what I am doing! But it seems such a waste to throw a whole pair away just because one glove has had it. So if there are any dainty size 6½ left handed gardeners out there in need of spares please do get in touch!

And so…….Spring is here, that is if you are of the meteorological persuasion. Personally I feel like that’s cheating and am opting for Monday March 20th before I celebrate the demise of Winter. But the frogs are definitely in the first category! Having sluiced out the fermenting rill (oh boy did we stink; even after our clothes had gone in the wash the smell lingered on in our olfactory senses) we decided not to refill it straightaway. (Why not, David? You still haven’t given me a viable explanation.) So when David came running in from the garden a couple of days later, lamenting that it was, “Too late, too late”, I wondered what on earth had happened. I should have put two and two together when the previous evening friend Lesley reported hearing strange throbbing noises whilst sneaking a fag on the patio, during our pancake eating Shrove Tuesday Book Club: Frogspawn in the rill! One centimetre of rainwater was all the encouragement they needed. So now what? Do we gently fill it up and hope the frog spawn rises with the tide, or run the risk of evaporation if we leave it be? And how would they climb out? Eventually, having watched a group of five milling around (is that what they call it in polite society?) amongst the frogspawn, David came up with a makeshift ladder cut from a piece of tongue and groove floorboard. They queued up to use it but slid down again, so he then applied a piece of fine grade abrasive anti-slip tape. Lo and behold, off they went to find fresh fields, croaking away happily…..

frogspawn

Accident prone as ever, I dove into the flower bed to prune a clematis, only to catch my toe on the irrigation pipe coming out, and landed knee to shin on the stone path. Dear me, the air was blue and so were the bruises! Undeterred I soldiered on (back of hand to forehead) until rain sent me under cover. Oh the inevitability of my seed sewing failures: Basil nothing, leeks eaten by mice (you’ve overstayed your welcome folks), broad beans etiolated under protective tray cover, sweet peas dying of thirst. However all is not lost. I have managed to prick out three each of T & M tomato Garnet & Indigo Cherry Drops but alas no sign of Artisan Mixed. Perhaps a few cells of tomato Mountain Magic will produce better results. So the next lot of greenhouse sowings for March are as follows:

Sweet pepper Gourmet
Pepper Sweet Boneta
Courgette de Nice a Fruit Rond
Nasturtium Troika Spotty Dotty (surely these can’t go wrong)

And then there is the allotment. When it comes to The Good Life I am definitely a fair weather gardener. My first visit since last November was relatively painless. Hardly any weeds, a few brave broad bean seedlings valiantly growing away in splendid isolation. So I achieved my objective of pruning the blackberry hedge and the strawberry patch, with the welcome help of the allotment tortie cat. Originally from an adjacent semi, said cat opted for the outdoor life by adopting a plot holder who now provides bed and board. He feeds her twice a day and makes alternative arrangements in his absence, and has provided shelter in his shed with access via a cat flap. She has the hump right now because the local vixen has taken up temporary residence whilst in confinement with her two cubs. Obviously I didn’t hear this from her (!) but she did share my hessian ground sheet for a good hour, purring away as I struggled with the thorny brambles. (Who’s the mug here?) Anyway I digress. On my next visit I shall sow T & M Pea Terrain and Pea Eddy direct: I always surprise myself with the success of peas and beans. I have decided that I shall relocate the T & M tree lilies from the front garden to the allotment, to join the existing half dozen four year olds that flower so profusely you could see them from space. As I can’t grow them at home (as all parts of lilies are poisonous to cats) I might as well enjoy them on the plot. I wonder if the dahlias Fox Mixed and Trebbiano have survived, this being the coldest winter since transferring them three years ago. Plenty of daffs coming up though, good for cutting. All the flowers and bulbs on the allotment are from previous T& M trials, which reminds me that I have been on the Plant Triallists’ panel since its inception in 2010.

dahlias peony tree lili

So with the growing season well under way, David and I have really got stuck in. Clearly not satisfied with the mess created by Rill-Gate, David pressure washed every hard surface in the garden. So traumatised am I by the inevitable mud splashes and sodden border edges that I won’t set foot outside until it’s all dried off and swept away. For my part, having completed all the heavy duty tasks – top dressing the borders with manure, successfully liberating T & M Tree Peony Hong Xia (2011) from its container to the pastel border, replacing aucuba with outrageously expensive cornus Kousa (and it’s not even my birthday for another month) and lifting & dividing monstrous miscanthus – I can smugly look forward to pottering about over the next few weeks. Who am I kidding; it’s almost time to hard prune the fuchsia and the hardy salvias, bring the giant cannas out of hibernation, and so the list goes on……..still, it keeps me off the streets! Love, Caroline

My first T&M blog…….

Hello Everyone. This is my first blog for T&M and I approached them because I want to try something new and grow something edible in my vastly overcrowded cottage garden.

We live in a 1920’s terrace house in North London and have a cottage garden front and back. We feel very fortunate to have a long front garden path and a back garden big enough to eat out in.

This is how it looked in 1988 when we moved in.

the garden in 1988

And this is how it looks now.

Here is a picture of the front

front garden now

And here is the back

back garden now

I fell in love with this style when I saw Geoff Hamilton on TV years ago building his Paradise Garden at Barnsdale. I was hooked. My style is to cram everything I like in to the borders and pots including scented shrubs, easy perennials, simple herbs, clematis and honeysuckle, Spring bulbs and autumn colour. Some of my favourites are hardy geraniums, pulmonaria, primroses, euphorbia of all kinds, heleniums and sedums.

Ideas for this year

So now my idea is to start small and grow something I can eat. After hours of browsing I’ve decided salad crops and maybe strawberries might be the best to start with. I don’t think I get enough sun for tomatoes and as you can see I have no greenhouse or cold frame.
Two problems spring to mind. As the borders become so abundant in summer any crops in the beds would surely get smothered. Secondly I do have to contend with rats, squirrels and pigeons running around the beds and pots. I don’t have a problem with slugs as I avoid growing anything they like to eat but if I want to grow salad crops how will I manage?

I intend to get all the advice I can from T&M and elsewhere and in my next blog I shall report my progress.

Until then, lots of research and planning awaits me but it will be worth it in the end!

Julie

 

Julie Quinn
I love the cottage garden style – it affects me emotionally where other styles I can admire and enjoy but they might not move me. Now in my sixties I only started gardening at 40 when we moved to our house with a front and back garden. To see what it looked like then and now you might like to look at my blog at www.Londoncottagegarden.com
We look out on it every single day so this garden needs to lift our hearts all year round. It teeters between abundant fabulousness and chaos. My gardening efforts aim to keep that balance but I’m against trying to control too much. I control other areas of my life but the garden gives me a place to let go and leave things alone to do their own thing.

My inspirations began with Geoff Hamilton on TV as well as Dan Pearson on TV and Anna Pavord in print. I learned some basics by trial and error and by working alongside professional gardeners who helped me. I found my style by visiting other gardens both grand ones around the south of England and local NGS ones here in North London who might share the same soil and conditions.

I look forward to sharing with you our garden through the year

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