Category Archives: Gardening

March/April 2021: garden diary

Well, at long last, after around a year’s work on and off, I finally completed the conversion of the Amazonian tangle of brambles, ivy, tree roots, and general vegetative mayhem into what may pass as a vegetable patch. The ornamental gravel has made a massive difference.


veg patch 2

veg patch 3

veg patch 4

veg patch 5

veg patch 6

veg patch 7

Here’s a snapshot of part of the project half way through …

The sprouting broccoli (six plants) are currently producing a glut of delicious sprouts, while the spinach and Swiss chard have been available all through the winter. 





Very pleased to report that our two small, first year pear trees, just sort of “thrown in” against the back wall of the summerhouse, have produced quite a lot of blossom, which bodes well for fruit during the summer.  More news later.





Meanwhile the eating apple and Bramley (see above) cooking apple trees, which didn’t do very well last year, are both absolutely covered in blossom. We’ve often had apples in previous gardens but I reckon this is the best show of flowers I’ve ever seen. Next question: how many baby fruit will we lose in the June fall?



Mahonia are providing vibrant yellow highlights in various places around the garden. The one shown above was left in when I cleared the ground for what we’re calling the Ivy Tree border.

I never really think of Laurel as a flower-producing shrub … but look at this! “They look like candelabra!”, said Lynn.




This flowering currant (Ribes Sanguineum, I believe) is a very pretty specimen and adds early colour in the Spring …



… while the Forsythia in the hedge seems to be taking up more and more territory and is certainly a striking asset in lighting up the path. 

bay tree blossom

Who’d have thought that a Bay tree could produce flowers? I’ve certainly never seen them before. Not exactly spectacular … not so far, anyway … but an unexpected bonus from a bush which makes regular contributions to our stews!

bt border 1

In the Bay Tree border, things are getting a bit wild. But that’s okay – we’re letting things grow, to see what happens, with a mix of (so far) Alpine strawberries, forget-me-nots, various ground covering plants (some variegated) and – there in the middle – our one and only paeony. We’ll probably add some Cosmos (direct sowing) and a wild flower mix, as well as some nasturtiums. Clashing colours are not a problem, as far as we’re concerned.

I decided to try to add a bit of humus to the soil in this border; so I mowed a stripe of the lawn, laid out the leaves from four black plastic bags (because only some, not all, had rotted) and mowed the whole lot with the rotary mower. Then I emptied the bag into a wheelbarrow and forked garden soil and compost into the mix, together with a few handfuls of Growmore fertiliser. It’ll be interesting to see how it all settles down. 

I had a couple of spare foxgloves I’d already already grown in some flowerpots. But then I discovered some more that had self-seeded in another pot. There’s quite a bit of dappled shade in the border, so I plonked all the foxgloves together in a kind of drift. Fingers crossed … 



We identified these lovely little flowers by chance. There’s a long line of them down the edge of the front path and we’ve found out that they’re Scilla, also known as the Siberian Squill or Wood Squill. What a lovely shade of blue! And who would have thought they’re a member of the asparagus family? 



Quite pleased with these Doronicums (grown on from bought plug plants), though yes – I agree! – they do bear more than a passing resemblance to dandelions, though they’re bushing out as time goes by and becoming much more elegant.



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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 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 … 



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