As you know from previous September blogs I love this month. I love the last of the warm sunny days, before the transformation of of Autumn, with its crisp mornings, wood-smoke, and crunchy colourful leaves.
Though this September has not been the gloriously warm and sunny days it usually is here in Pembrokeshire. Instead we have had muggy, mild and wet days. Perfect blight inducing days – yet surprisingly I haven’t had blight in the greenhouses yet.
I feel so privileged to be able to be able to go out in the greenhouses this September – such a change from last year when I was fighting for my life. I genuinely believe that gardening and writing got me through one of the most stressful and scariest parts of my life.
So many seeds to sow!
So what’s been happening in my greenhouses? Plenty! I don’t really know where to start. Last month I asked for suggestions for naming the greenhouses; unfortunately no one has given me any so I’ll just have to name them myself. So in “The Office” (little greenhouse) I have been busy sowing and transplanting many many seeds. I am sure my staging is more abundant with plants now than it was in the spring. It seems to me that putting the red LED string lights in there is helping the seeds to germinate quicker. They seem to react to the lights which come on at dusk. These lights were less than £3 for 50 bulbs from a high street value store. They run by solar power and on really sunny days the charge lasts until dawn.
Seedlings and Hardening off
I started Calendula and Violas off at the start of the month and these have already being hardened off in the cold frame, and now planted out for my autumn and winter displays. The second lot that I did of these two varieties in the second week of September are now in the cold frame, and I’m halfway through transplanting my third batch to individual bigger pots, that I started off on in the third week of the month.As well as them, I have Calendula Snow Princess that T&M gave me to trial in the Spring. They didn’t germinate then, but have more than made up for it now when I sowed the remainder of the packet two weeks ago. There are many many plants that are hardy enough to start in September and October; and it appears that Autumn now seems to be the optimum time for greenhouse growers to get ahead of the game and prepare for their early spring beds and borders. So with this in mind I have started off the following varieties: Cornflower, Foxglove, Helenium, Kniphofia, Lavender, Larkspur, Lupin, Malva Moschata, and Nigella, As well as Radish, Turnip, Calabrese and Cabbage.
The Aloes are taking over!
So far I have seedlings of Cornflower, Helenium, Lavender, Larkspur, Malva Moschata, Radish,Turnip and one Cabbage to transplant. I try to spend an hour a day, watering, transplanting and shelf arranging each day, though my energy levels are rubbish so sometimes they only get a water and a chat. I usually thank them for growing and brightening my day. Also in The Office, the aloes have gone all thuggy. I almost have a carpet of them in the border. I am so tempted to give them as Christmas Presents to people, along with some baked goodies, as a proper old fashioned, but more personal gift The indoor house plants that were evicted to The Office in spring are a lush dark green and look like they are about to send up flower spikes.
Finally, the White Lavender Edelweiss cuttings I accidentally rescued, when they fell off a plant I was looking at in the local garden centre on my birthday, have rooted. I told the person at the desk and I asked if I could take the broken bits home to save them. The actual plant was £8.99 for a 5cm pot so was worried I would have to pay for damages. I dropped the pot thanks to chemo nerve damage. (I didn’t have to pay.) They just looked at me like I was mad. Especially, as I had them wrapped in a bit of wet tissue. I now have a plant for me and a plant for mum for free. The actual potted plant I dropped didn’t look damaged so it was still able to be sold to someone.The tiny Christmas Cacti cutting I took in the spring from my dads plant has sprouted lots of little new leaves.So that’s all that’s happening there.
A bumper harvest!
Meanwhile at Ty Mawr (big greenhouse) there is so far an endless supply of tomatoes, and aubergines. The peppers have not been that great sadly, only five peppers off two plants. They were tasty though.I wish I had counted how many toms I had altogether. I would say to any new tomato growers, for sheer numbers of sweet cherries Sweet Aperitif does not fail. To try something more unexpected grow Yellow Stuffer, they get huge, are best eaten cooked as it brings out the flavour, and are still cropping at the end of the month.
Jewel Jade Aubergines have a fig like texture and are much sweeter than normal dark skinned ones. Although I found the skin inedible. I’m not sure if your meant to eat the skin on this one, or if I needed to let it mature for longer. They felt ripe though. The normal aubergines (Celine) have not performed as well as the greens. The chillies are making an aggressive comeback with many new flowers and fruit
The Garlic I planted from the fridge at the end of last month have shot up and have three leaves each. I’ve never grown garlic in the greenhouse, and have no idea if it will work or not.The amaranthus are starting to get seedy (oops that sounds a bit wrong,) and I must get to them before they droop and I end up with an amaranthus issue next year. The Nicotianas are flowering like mad under glass too. I have no idea if they will become a problem next year, but I am sure I will find out. The marigolds are still flowering and keeping the pests at bay.
Similarly, I have solar lights in Ty Mawr too. Only these are blue, and I really do feel that they contribute to the vigour and health of the plants. The green of the leaves is still succulent and rich,the flowers continue to being pollinated and the fruits still growing. I’m not sure if it helps to turn the fruits different colours, but they certainly seem to be more disease resistant and although I had blight on my tomato outside, so far the greenhouse appears to be blight free.
As it is time to start watering hyacinths for Christmas Blooms, I recently moved the bulbs to The Office, as they have more chance of staying warmer on the staging than on the shelves on their own in the other one. Also if Mark decides to tidy up the shelves of the big greenhouse when we finally pull up the summer crops, he might think it’s a pot of non existent plants and chuck it out.
So that’s what’s happening at Ty Mawr. Lastly, in the cold frame are my weaker plug plants I got from T&M last month, that have finally decided to grow, and hardening off, plus trays of calendula
and violas. I need to rescue my two baby money plants and the spider plant that are still out by the front bench and need somewhere warmer to overwinter.
That’s it from me this month. I’m off to go and collect colourful leaves – not to make leaf mould -although they will end up in the compost bin after, but to take photos as inspired by Andy
Goldsworthy. If you don’t know who he is just ask the ” tinternet,” as I call it!
Love Amanda xx
Where to start? What a month – the weather has been just awful, heavy rain, westerly winds and foggy overcast days. The perfect way to ruin a summer garden and then just when you’ve decided to pack up the patio furniture for next year, guess what the sun comes out!
August has been really hit and miss when it comes to seed germination. I planted up some 2008 Viola seeds that have germinated perfectly, I have planted up fresh from my future Mum-in-Law’s garden, bright orange, English Marigold seeds that grew almost instantly, yet a new packet of cabbage seeds germinated and then died, same for the Stevia, Lavender and a few of the turnips.
As the grass seeds take between one and four months to germinate I’m not sure what the success rate will be. The Liatris appear to have failed entirely. Even though I have tried different composts, different sowing months, and different conditions. It’s a shame because I really liked the look of these plants.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – I have had great success with my food plants – but more about that later. First I need your help. I am a bit bored with writing the names “Big Greenhouse” and “Little Greenhouse” each month so I want to call them something different. I thought of calling the big one Ty Mawr which is Welsh for the big house, but then I would have to call the little one Ty Bach which although translates to little house, it actually refers to visiting the toilet.
In Pembrokeshire a lot of people speak Wenglish! (Welsh-English) for example, “I’m just going to the Ty Bach” or Put it in the Popty-Ping” meaning use the microwave. Although Popty-ping is a nickname that seems to have stuck. The real word for Microwave in Welsh is Meicrodon -phonetically pronounced as Micro Don and easy to remember as it sounds like a tiny Italian Mobster. So please help me out and suggest some names.
In the little greenhouse, I have germinating seeds, some plug plants that I had free from Thompson and Morgan, via a Gardeners World special offer and many empty pots waiting to filled when my seedlings get larger.
Unfortunately, a quarter of my twelve free plants are in a bad state and will possibly fail, the box was slightly crushed when it was delivered, and the plants were very dry, which makes me wonder how long they had taken to get to me once they had been despatched. I haven’t complained as they were free to begin with. I was also disappointed that some of the plants stated in the magazine offer (Hensol Poppies) were not actually in the collection, but they were substituted for Geranium Splish Splash – which although pretty is not what I wanted. However, as I’ve never grown these before perhaps I’m in for a treat. And it clearly states on the offer that they can substitute plants at any time – so again not complaining, but I really only took up the offer because of the poppies (sad sulky face).
The other plants in the offer were Digitalis Alba, Digitalis Sugar Plum and Digitalis Candy Mountain plus Primula Denticulata. The primula looks exciting to grow so I really hope I don’t loose any more of these plants.
On the shelves I also have a Christmas Cacti cutting that has finally rooted, a sickly looking dog rose and two buckthorn alders, again in a sorry state. The reason being we put the trees in the cold frame and then I totally forgot about them.
In the border there’s the usual aloes and cacti and money tree, along with a yellow stuffer tomato plant. Its nice to have an annual plant in there again. I’m sort of missing the annual borders there, but it is really nice to have permanent evergreen plants to look at all year round. Plus it only needs a light weed and feed, so is easy to maintain.
In the cold frame I now have two baby money trees and a spider plant, as they have been evicted from the big greenhouse for the summer.
Whilst sorting out the little greenhouse a few days ago I found a flowerpot with small bulbs in it. No, compost, no, label so no idea what they are. I asked Mark if he put them there, he said: “Yes I did ages ago. I forgot about them.”
“What are they?” I asked. Meaning have you any idea what bulbs they are.
Shrugging he helpfully replied “You are the gardener not me. I don’t know what they are.”
“Where did you get them from?” I tried. Hoping he would say which border or bit in the garden he had accidentally dug them out from.
“One of your pots in the garden.” Was his reply.
As we say in Welsh “Fel Rhech Mewn Pot Jam……”*
It’s used to describe something or someone as Useless – but you may want to google the phrase for the exact translation!
*I mean his reply was not helpful not that he is useless.
And so to the big greenhouse……
I have so many Sweet Aperitif tomatoes, I can pick fresh ones every day. The lowest number per pick per day was seven, the highest is currently at sixty six. The Yellow Stuffers are a bit more reasonable, in that they produce one or two a day, which is ideal. The Bonica Aubergines are slow, but they have flowered and I can just see the fruits forming. The Patio Mix ones are awesome, they are giving me one or two fruits per week since the second week of August. But so far only dark purple ones, the green type from the mix (Jewel Jade) have fruit, but they are not ripe enough to pick.
The Marigolds and Amaranthus and Nicotianas are still keeping the pests at bay, except for a giant slug, that I quickly evicted. I left the Hunter Spider in the foliage as he can help out with pest control.
The Sweet Bonita peppers have many fruits on them, they are large but still too hard, and they are refusing to turn any other colour, they are staying a pale creamy yellow. I took a single pepper off each plant to encourage them to keep flowering. I have put said peppers on the kitchen windowsill to ripen.
The Medina chilli stopped growing for a while, but has since recovered, and thanks to the pollinators there are now more chillies growing. Mark wants us to make a sweet chilli sauce with them – I think he’s forgotten how hot they are! Regretfully, I lost my watermelon to powdery mildew last month before its fruits were big enough to recuse, and annoyingly the cantaloupe melon has done the same. The fruits would grow to no bigger than a tomato then fall to the floor. Then I noticed powdery mildew on its leaves and stalks, so I had to have Mark rip it out. So frustrating, as it was a total waste of time and money buying them from a different supplier. Thankfully T&M gave me some melon seeds to trial this year, but because they were posted to me after their recommended sow by month, I can’t trial them until next year.
The greenhouse pumpkin succumbed to mildew too. The outdoor one is fine. I wish I lived near to Ian and Stuart Paton, the champion pumpkin growers as I would love to ask them for some handy tips. I don’t think I could afford their electricity bill though to keep the pumpkins at a constant eighteen degrees both day and night, nor the gallons of water needed for the pumpkins to grow six stone a day.
The gaps left by the melons were dug over, and fresh fertiliser was added to the soil, in the form of compost and tomato feed, and we have now put in the two spare tomatoes that were in spud growing sacks in the smaller greenhouse. They have established and continue to form fruit and flowers.
Mark still has to do all the heavy watering, lifting and digging,for me, as I continue to recover from the cancer and learn my new limitations with the heart failure. But compared to this time last year, things are 100% better.
Finally, there was nothing better than to see the smile on my oncologists face, when I presented him with a bag of home grown tomatoes at my last check-up. A tiny thank you from me for everything he and his team have done.
Until next month.
Love Amanda xx
What’s happened to the summer sun? Honestly it’s more like autumn in Pembrokeshire! The days are usually overcast, with a fair chance of a shower. The wind makes it impossible some days to open the greenhouse doors or windows for fear of damage, and the sawflies are out in force.
On days it is actually sunny, my poor plants get caught out as temperatures soar. The other day it was too wet and wild to open the greenhouse and we had to go out. When we got back at lunchtime the weather had brightened up and inside the greenhouse was 38 degrees. Thankfully the plants didn’t suffer too much stress. There’s an old trick to getting the temperature down quickly under the glass, which is to open all doors and windows and then damp down the path with a can of water. Then the use a mister to slightly wet the foliage. Each year I think about buying shade paint, but then promptly forget to get it, so I’ve now taken to taping split orange plastic recycling bags to the outside of the greenhouse on really hot days.
This month has been particularly busy in the garden; I’ve harvested peas, beans, strawberries, red currents, raspberries and red gooseberries. These plants are low maintenance and give so much in return every garden should have them! I’ve also grown cut flowers for a vase everyday; this is often an ecclesiastical mix of perennial and annual flowers, herbs, wildflowers and foliage. I’m dahlia mad and a currently have two favourites growing. Ice and Fire from T&M and I love Life, that I bought as a sad dried out little tuber in a local shop for £1.49. My favourite wildflower at the moment is Scarlet Pimpernel – but many would class this as a weed.
The grassy knoll is starting to take shape, but there is room for more ornamental grasses as well as some herbs. Unfortunately, the slugs ate all of my Hyssops after they were put in their final growing positions, so I’ve set off more grass seeds as well as Stevia and Lavender. There are some grasses that require a cold snap before germination, and some that just need a consistent temperature, and there are many varieties that can be grown in July. Some are just sprinkled on the surface of good compost, while others need a layer of vermiculite and then sealed in a plastic bag before they start to grow. Hopefully within one to six months I should see Pony Tail, Tail Feathers, and Rainbow Phornium seedlings appear. These seeds are in the small greenhouse along with a new batch of freshly sown Liatris, Hollyhock, Cabbage, Turnip, Forget-me-not, Foxglove, Viola, and an Olive. The Turnips were eager, germinating in only forty-eight hours. Followed closely by the Stevia, Lavender and a pot of Violas. I’m looking forward to the Heartsease as it’s an old fashioned variety called Jonny Jump Up.
I’ve squeezed three extra tomato plants into the small greenhouse too. One in the border nestled between the money tree and a giant aloe. The other two are on the path in potato grow bags. I have no idea if they will be deep enough in the bags, but they seem to be flowering so fingers crossed. Another tomato is in the spent pea container outside. I’m experimenting with the theory that the Nitrogen left behind in the pea roots (which stay in the used compost) will give enough nutrients to grow a tomato plant in. It’s also only being watered by the rain. It seems to be standing without supports at the moment; I’ll let you know how it goes.
The aloes have finished flowering, the cacti has had a few babies, and the money tree is still putting on lots of new growth. The three house plants that people gave me in work are still green, but as yet there are no new flowers on them. I can’t remember what they are called, but they have strappy leaves and a flower spike comes out off the middle, similar to a flaming Katie. Hopefully the picture will help.
The big greenhouse is full to the rafters, literally! On the shelves we have spider plant in full flower, pretty little white things, but so pot bound we are will have to cut the pot for it to be replanted, I am wondering if it’s hardy enough to go outside in our sheltered bit, between the house, shed and maple tree, next to another houseplant ,(mother in laws tongue) the spider plant belonged to dad, so I don’t want to kill it, or give it away, but it’s too big for the house. Perhaps I will thin the aloes and stick it in the small greenhouse after all. There are also baby money trees in pots which I am looking for homes for. I have cuttings of Christmas cacti on the shelves too. In the left border, we have three highly prolific Sweet Aperitif tomatoes, these cherry ones, certainly live up to their name. It’s so hard not to eat them all walking back to the kitchen. Alternatively, they are absolutely delicious in a cheese, onion, and tomato toasty, sprinkled with turmeric, black pepper, basil and oregano. We also have two large Yellow Stuffer tomato plants growing there too. These are yet to change colour, they are about the size of an apple at the moment, and getting bigger. I’m surprised at how many there are; wrongly assumed that as they were bigger fruits there would be less of them. Under planting the tomatoes with Marigolds, and many rouge Amaranthus, (we have transferred half a dozen outside) has attracted many pollinators, which means more fruits for us, and absolutely no white or greenfly. We do seem to have an ant problem in both greenhouses though. (The sparrows usually sort this out for us by comically hanging off the guttering or doors and grabbing the ants midair. Occasionally the blackbird is in the foliage digging for the grubs.)
The back border is where my aubergine trial is taking place. The normal Celine ones are flowering profusely, and I have already had one tasty aubergine from an early plant. The Patio Mix are just starting to fruit. One is called Jewel Jade and is just starting to form green fruits. I’m still waiting to see if I have a white and purple stripy one come up. The right border contains a pumpkin, (another is in a container outside, another experiment.) as I couldn’t find anyone to take it. It seems to be behaving by not spreading too much, and putting up beautiful yellow flowers. Next to it are two Pepper Sweet Bonita plants, which have fruits that are slowly starting to ripen. There are plenty of new flowers coming too. I absolutely love this pepper as it’s very mild and juicy.
Next to the peppers is a Chilli Medina. I don’t like chillies but grew it for Mark. The first chilli to come off it was a dark green beast, but as I left it on the kitchen worktop for two days it turned bright red. One night making supper, Mark decided to fry some mushrooms with the chilli, I told him to try it first before adding it to the pan. I shouldn’t laugh, but it was hilarious, he went from white to red, to purple in about three seconds. He did a little jumping around on the spot before muttering something I dare not repeat! He would have drunk straight from the tap if he could have. Apparently his tongue was still burning fifteen minutes later, (even though it was de-seeded.) His lasting memory of that chilli was “an unpleasant experience, never to be repeated!). Luckily my friend Trisha’s partner is part dragon so he can easily tolerate the heat in them.
Next to the chilli, and taking up at least six feet of the greenhouse including wrapping itself around its trellis the shelf and the lead for the solar lights is the cantaloupe melon. It has at least four melons growing. I have to keep picking off the flowers, as advice from T&M and one of my mum’s friends, is to allow only a few fruits to develop, as these will be bigger and better quality. Try telling the plant that! Everyday, a new flower appears. I have to keep pinching out growing tips that are as annoying as the tomato ones. I have to untangle it from the lights, and occasionally cut off a few yellow leaves. The stems are hairy and can irritate like a tomato, but otherwise it’s easy to look after.
Oh I forgot, there’s also a purple Nicotiana between the chilli and the pepper. It’s so pretty I don’t want to dig it up and transfer it in case I accidentally kill it. Trouble is, it may decide to seed itself like the Amaranthus did, and then I will be cursing next year, when I end up with a greenhouse full of flowers instead of edibles – though surprisingly the French eat Amaranthus leaves like spinach.
Until next time.
Love Amanda xx
With the summer holidays about to start, it’s not always easy to get children away from their toys and out into the fresh air. However, inspired by the youngsters in our family, here is the A-Z of things to do right now!
A – Acting a play. Let their imagination run wild, will they be Ballerinas or Pirates? Get them to put their teddies on a blanket to be the audience as well as the grown ups and pay admission with chocolate coins.
B – Bug Hunting. Print off the names (or pictures) or write a list or of popular Insects and see how many you can find. Older children might like to build a bee hotel using old bamboo canes and a tin can.
C – Camping. Children love to make dens and pretend to be a lost princesses or explorers. A beach tent, Wendy house or a material gazebo make great places to hide. If you don’t have any of these, a sheet spread across two dining chairs are just as effective.
D – Digging. This can be in a sandpit,or even in a Trug. Give older children a border of their own an encourage them to grow easy plants such as sunflowers, beans, and peas. Let them choose the seeds to make it their own. Or let them dig up the potatoes.
E – Eating. There’s nothing like fresh produce, get them to pick things you/they have grown and design their own menus. Strawberries, raspberries and a crushed biscuit with a dollop of ice cream, yoghurt or cream makes for a tasty treat, Or use tomatoes and peppers from the greenhouse to make pizza toppings. Alternatively, just eat outside. Either on the patio table or a blanket on the grass.
F – Flower Pressing. Children like to learn, so help them identify trees, plants and flowers in the garden, parks or nature walks, by collecting leaves and flowers. Flower presses can be bought online or in shops, but a cheaper alternative is to put the foliage in between two sheets of tracing/baking paper and put it in the centre of a heavy book for a few weeks to dry out fully. Don’t forget to write the names of what you have found on the paper first!
G -Games. Hold a sports day. Simple games like how far can you throw a frisbee, jump a skipping rope, or run a race can get them moving. Invite their friends and have a football match, play rounders or tug of war. Hide and Seek too. Award small prizes such as stickers or badges, and let the overall winner choose what the next outing or evening meal will be.
H – Hopscotch. Although an old fashioned thing, youngsters love to jump around so by playing hopscotch it can help them to learn their numbers as well as have fun. Get the older children to draw the grid on the patio with chalk. Alternatively, think of other games that can be drawn on the ground such as hangman or noughts and crosses. A bucket of water will soon get rid of the drawings, or just wait for the rain!
I – Inside out. Don’t let rain stop play. If it’s too wet to go out why not create an indoor garden? Use Lego bricks to build paths to lead you to a pretend garden. Draw flowers and trees on an old cereal box, colour and cut them out. Use loo rolls and kitchen rolls to make people working in the garden.
J – Jewel Hunt. Use pretty glass stones or pebbles as treasure and hide them in the garden. Draw a map and and tell your children to follow the route on the map to find all the treasure. Or ask the children to hide the treasure and draw you the map.
K – Kicking a ball on the grass is fun for girls and boys. Set out an area safe from buildings and windows.
L – Looking. Get up close to nature with a magnifying glass. Insects like ladybirds and caterpillars can look like giant monsters under the glass. Alternatively, look at how a strawberry or other soft fruits look when magnified, as well as leaves and trees.
M – Make Mud Pies. Mix soil (clay soil is good for this,) with water and use your hands to make pretend pies. Leave them dry in the sun for a really authentic look. Older children can make a small pond using an old bucket or washing up bowl sunk into the ground. Don’t forget to put a large stone in it for frogs to have somewhere to sit, and birds have places to land.
N – Name all the birds that visit your garden. Print out a list from the Internet or borrow a book from the library. Keep a diary for one week to see if different birds visit on different days, or different weather conditions. Can you guess which bird will visit you the most, and what is its favourite food.
O – Obstacle Course. Build a course using the toys in your garden. Have you got a swing to climb over, a bike or scooter to get to the end of the garden with? Maybe a hedge tunnel to run through or a stepping stone path to jump across? Who can run up the steps the fastest, around the tree, and back to the start first. Lay hula hoops on the lawn in a pattern and jump from one to another.Put an old blanket in the grass and peg it down with heavy stores then scramble under it as quick as you can. Splash through a paddling pool. The only limit is your imagination.
P – Pop Music in the sun. Create your own dance festival using your iPod or radio. Have a dancing competition or play musical statues. Maybe even make your own band using old saucepans for drums and an old spade for your guitar.
Q – Quizzes. Write down questions for each child and answers on separate pieces of paper, then ask them to go outside to find the answers. You could pin the answers to the questions on the objects outside. For example the question “Where do the bikes go into at night?” And the answer could be pinned to the shed saying ” In here”. Or do it the other way around give your children the answers and pin the questions outside. Older children might just enjoy some quiet time on their own. Maybe give them a space of their own for the summer, like the shed or secluded part of the garden.
R – Royal Queens and Kings. Younger children can pretend to be royalty for the day. Let them pick what to do outside, such as play or make a new garden feature. The grown ups can pretend to be their servant and do everything the children say.
S – Soil Testing and other experiments. Use an old glass for this – mix a tablespoon of your garden soil with some water. Leave it for an hour or so, then look to see what the different layers of sediment are made up or. Is it tiny stones or sand, or clay. Is there still bits floating in the water? Set up a weather station and record which way the wind is blowing, or how hot it is today. Cheap thermometers can be found in 99p shops, or order a more robust one from Thompson and Morgan.
T – Tumbling or rolling down a hill in the garden can be fun. No hill? Then do head over heels or other gymnastics gently on the lawn. Older children can try handstands against a wall or cartwheels on the grass. Playing on an outdoor trampoline can be exciting too.
U – Understanding Rabbits and other pets. Animals make great companions for children, teaching them ownership, responsibility and love. Always consider how much time as a family you have to care for a pet. Cats are more independent than dogs, and caged animals need to be kept clean. If you do have an animal , consider something that can play outside with the children. Encourage the family to grow some pet food for their rabbit or tortoise like dandelions.
V – Visit other gardens, even if it’s just friends next door, Can you borrow ideas from their garden and do the same at home? Perhaps you can make a new feature with the children then ask their friends to visit you and give it marks out of ten. Or get together for a BBQ or hotdogs and drinks outside.
W – Wheelbarrow races, Grown ups can push younger people around the garden in a wheelbarrow for fun. Who is the quickest ? Mum, dad, or grandad? If you don’t have a wheelbarrow do it the old fashioned way, by getting someone to hold onto your ankles raised slightly in the air, while you crawl on your hands. Who can go the furthest or the fastest?
X – X marks the spot. Gently collect some snails for a race, put an X on their shell with different coloured nail varnish for each one, and an X in the ground, (use chalk on the patio to do this.) Next put your snail, on the start line and see which one gets to your X first.
Y – Yellow Up! Yellow is such a happy colour, why not make the most of it by growing sunflowers in pots or borders. Have a competition on who can grow the tallest one. If it’s massive why not enter it in the T&M sunflower competition too!
Z -ZZZ. If all of the fresh air has made you tired, and it’s a nice night, why not set up a tent in your backyard and sleep under the stars. If you don’t fancy that, then just do a bit of star gazing when the sun goes down.
Whatever you do this summer, let me know how you get on, by leaving a comment below.
Firstly may I apologise for the lack of a May blog, I’ve been busy in the garden, but I also had a major setback. As some of my regular readers would know for the past year I’ve been fighting ovarian cancer, but many of you might not know I was born with a life limiting condition known as Fallots Tretology. It basically means I have four things wrong with my heart and although I had surgery as a child, I was still left with two heart murmurs and some dodgy heart valves.
Whilst the chemotherapy did its job in killing my cancer sadly it severely damaged my heart. Two and a half weeks ago a blood clot formed in one of the heart chambers causing long term dysfunctional heart failure and temporary kidney failure. To say I’m lucky to be here is an understatement. I’ve never felt so rough in my life. But I’m back home and I’m in the garden, and I’ve got an awful lot to be thankful for. My cardiologist says I have to rest and take things easy, but with the gorgeous weather we are having this week, I find it way to difficult to sit around, so I’m doing lots of supervising and planning and possibly nagging poor Mark to do stuff as well as and talking to the plants, setting of new seeds, transplanting, misting and pollinating.
The greenhouses have gone mad, I have absolutely no idea what Mark did, but when I came out of hospital the plants had gone ballistic- maybe they were just happy to see me – because within two weeks they had grown a hundredfold. I asked Mark had he given them liquid feed – he said no, apparently his secret is to open all the doors and vents, hang the sock airer or small clothes horse in there, with lavender scented conditioner on the clothes to attract pollinating insects, (poor things being tricked like this) water just before dusk, as he still has to do all the housework, eat, have a shower, visit the patient and do everything else that needs doing, and that’s it – simple! I think he deserves a medal, or a holiday poor man.
So in May the little greenhouse was full to the brim with seedlings, and baby flowers, I had also ordered Lucky Dip annual plug plants, and dahlia plug plants from T&M as well as Gardeners World perennial plug plants. There were close to 500 things growing on the shelves. Not to mention new pots of germinating grasses, veg, flowers and fruit. I was in my element, I was getting ready to return to work and I was really excited about the plant sale I would be holding the second week in June.
Then it went all went a bit wrong….. Mark had no option but to plant the bigger flowers outside, move them to the cold frame or sheltered positions – However, he doesn’t know a Phlox from a Nepeta, or a Carrot from a Cornflower, so my plants for sale were planted in our garden by mistake. I gave mum about 144 plug plants for her garden, as well as tomatoes, aubergine, and pepper. What’s left are pot bound and in dire need of planting but there’s not enough left for a good sale and I don’t feel like I can charge people for something that I know will grow perfectly but looks past it’s best. My lovely friend Trisha from work has said she would deliver any plants to my other colleagues if need be so maybe there’s a solution after all.
This month in the little greenhouse I have pots of germinating grass seeds, English Marigolds, Liatris plus mixed grass seedlings, geranium, phlox and begonia plug plants left to move to the cold frame or plant out. I have spinach beet, and cornflowers that need transplanting, as well as a very slow T&M aubergine, hollyhocks and hyssop. The greenhouse border is full of Aloe Vera flowers, the cacti is growing slowly and the money tree is bigger too. There are a number of seeds that I can start off in June, but I think I have enough for the moment. The only thing I will continue sowing are my Radish – they are delicious – they have a mild peppery flavour and we have recently been using them with our new potatoes and a red onion to make potato salad. I also want to try my hand at Beetroot, but I appear to have lost the seeds. I am wondering if I gave them to my niece, but I don’t think I have.
The big greenhouse has turned into one of the best and interesting places I can get to at the moment. But it misbehaves when I’m not at home, the watermelons are trying to get into bed with the tomatoes, and the peppers think it’s fun to push up amaranthus seeds. I’ve never grown amaranthus in the big greenhouse so the peppers must have decided to do some gardening for themselves.
There is equal growth between the yellow stuffer and sweet aperitif tomatoes. They are only about two and a half feet at present, but they are exceptionally strong. Although tied to a framework they appear to have better roots than the ones I grew last year. The tomatoes are situated on the left border and under planted with French Marigolds to deter whitefly.
The back border is filled with aubergines; I am doing an experiment to see which grows best, a normal purple skinned type, a green and white type and a pale purple type. Unfortunately the one from T&M is still in its three centimetre pot as it’s extremely slow growing – I think it’s gone dormant as the temperature soared.
The right border has two Sweet Peppers and a Chilli, plus a watermelon and a cantaloupe melon. The melons, might not be a good idea, not that I don’t want them, because I do, but because they are putting tendrils everywhere. They are climbing and flowering well, but left to their own devices I fear they will take over the ten foot greenhouse no problem. On the shelves of the same greenhouse, I have Zinnia Red Spider that have not germinated as successfully as I hoped, out of forty seeds only ten have popped up. I think the reason for this was the unexpected frost towards the end of April that knocked everything back and caught out lots of gardeners. There are also a few pot bound tomatoes, a spider plant, a Poinsettia, an orchid, two money trees that have successfully rooted, some hyacinth bulbs that still haven’t died off and a massive Begonia. Although I seem to have lost my Banksia Hookerina seeds.
And finally there are pots of dahlia tubers baking in the heat on the path of the greenhouse. I usually bake them until the first flower buds start to appear, then they get put in a sheltered position for a few days, before being moved to their final place. My cold frame is full of pumpkin plants needing a home I have enough for myself and some for the family so I might contact the secretary of the allotmenteers here and see if they want some free plants. I also have tree seedlings from The Woodland Trust, that are putting on strong growth.
Finally, I have six Hyssops that are big enough to be planted in the grassy knoll. Speaking of which, my neighbour’s gave us a lovely blue grass to add to it. It’s a stunning plant, the colour compliments the red Acer and it will look amazing when it seeds. The lady said to Mark that as her and her husband are no longer well enough to garden; they enjoy walking past ours and seeing what’s in flower, or what’s looking good in the greenhouse. It’s such a compliment when someone gives you something for your garden, or says that your garden cheers them up, it’s especially nice to think that we have inadvertently enriched their lives.
I have been banned from growing or buying any more plants until the autumn and I have been asked by Mark to “just grow fruit and veg next year!” The thing is, I’m sort of addicted to the thrill of nurturing seeds and seeing something grow – I can’t promise I won’t buy anything, but I might just stop growing seeds until September. Oh and I definitely need flowers in my life, so I won’t be growing just fruit and vegetables either. Sorry!
Until next time,
Love Amanda xx