January/February 2021: garden diary

I’ve begun to make progress with finishing off the structure of the veg. patch; by which I mean putting down the gravel on top of weed suppressant sheeting which I’ve cut to size and laid on the pathways and spaces between the raised vegetable beds. It’s proving to be quite a task to calculate the best way to cut the sheet to use it in the most efficient way. I first laid it out on the lawn (having done some complicated long division sums to work out the required shapes and sizes!). 

 
 

Having initially purchased twelve bags, I began by noting the area covered by one bag of gravel and from that made an estimate of how many bags I’d need in total. The answer was far more than I expected – forty-four.  

 

The sheeting comes with special nails to hold it in place. I’m only using the sheeting because I’ve laid gravel without it previously and invariably had a constant battle with weeds breaking through. Because of lockdown and the bad weather my timing plan has been pushed way back; but I’d hope to have the whole area completed quite soon now. Here’s the situation with twelve bags of gravel already laid … 



As can sometimes be the case in these wintry months, the weather has made it difficult to do much of a horticultural nature in the garden. This year we seem to have had far more than our usual fair share of high winds, rain, frost and snow. Three shortish bouts of snow, coupled with some extremely low temperatures, killed off some plants, though there were some surprise survivors.

 
snow

 
Snow and ice made conditions hazardous for the Tesco delivery people on occasion as we stayed in during lockdown, though I did what I could to clear the path when possible.

 

 

One significant effect of the high winds most areas in Britain experience in winter is that the roots of shrubs, fruit and young trees become loosened. I’ve been checking our roses and blackcurrants in particular and firming them in. This is always a good idea at this time of year; but these first two months of the new year have been much windier than usual. Not only did I find that many shrubs were “rocky” but a huge number of twigs and branches fell down from the birch trees and doubled the size of our woodpile.

 
I suppose the snow is very pretty and a Cambridgeshire sunset once again made it onto the national weather forecast.

 

 
 

Some time ago I put thick twigs into the soil on the north-east side of the broccoli plants, and tied them in, to provide each of them with a ‘leaning post’. They’re very resilient plants, in my experience, and I assumed a supporting post would be enough to get them through the bad weather. But no. It was the cold that saw off one of them (see below), a measure of the very harsh conditions this year.

 

I’m hoping that we manage to move house later this year so that I’ll have the size of vegetable garden I’ve grown used to over the years – then I’ll be able to grow a range of brassicas. For the time being, although the sprouting broccoli is the main event on the winter greens front, our Swiss chard is still doing well and the spinach, which had suffered quite badly at the hands (or rather, the teeth) of slugs and snails, is showing good signs of recovery since I gave it a trim a month or two back.

 

Twelve of the twenty-five celeriac I raised from seed are still available at the end of February. They’re a very under-rated vegetable in my opinion. Although their root systems require a bit of work to cut off, their mild but unusual flavour makes a useful addition to stews, along with parsnips, for instance.  

 

I’m finding carrots grown in pots (which I’ve never done to any great extent before) are a great success. And my leeks are coming to maturity just in time for St David’s Day

 

As an experiment, I tried allowing a small trough of summer lettuce to carry on growing. Normally I’d have sown special winter lettuce, such as Winter Density. They did survive quite well through January …  

 

… but a particulary severe frost one early February night completely flattened them. 

We’ve made sure to keep enough seed and peanuts in our birdfeeders to attract the local population of blue tits, great tits, robins, a variety of sparrows, wood pigeons, blackbirds and magpies. Occasional piles of feathers remind us that the sparrow hawk can also find our garden a happy hunting ground. 

 

As our garden backs onto a farmer’s field, we also become accustomed to visits from pheasants, though it’s always a nice surprise to see them strutting their stuff. They’re never going to be very tame but they occasionally wander right up to the conservatory door. 

Our feathered visitors are amusing but it’s also interesting to see furry friends. I’m not only referring to squirrels. I read recently that the number of rats in cities is increasing rapidly during the pandemic. Well here in the countryside we’re being visited by a rat quite frequently now, drawn to the free food available in the bird feeder.  

 

 

They don’t get a very good press, in view of their association with disease and their speed of reproduction – justified in my opinion. I’m taking steps to try and catch the little varmint and take him on holiday much further out into the countryside, where I’ll release him. I certainly can’t contemplate poisoning the little chap (or chapess), as I’ve seen the agonising death rat poison inflicts. 

Just in time for March 1st, that other national symbol from my home country, Wales, is a reminder that Spring is not far away … 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Gardening

One response to “January/February 2021: garden diary

  1. Really enjoyed this post, and your new paths are making such a lovely difference in the veg garden. Not too crazy about the rat though…..

    Liked by 1 person

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