Autumn tidy up

With the summer drawing to a close and autumn well and truly getting a hold, the garden is showing the signs of the season switch. After a summer of delivering the goods, some plants are looking a bit worse for wear and most definitely past their best. So this weekend was devoted to a bit of a tidy up. First job was to whip off any dead flower heads and dump them in the brown bin.

Next up was the patio: the pots have given all they have to give, and the pallet planters I made earlier in the year were now looking decidedly tatty. The strawberry plants looked dejected and unloved, and the herbs would probably thank me for a tad more root room.

In next to no time I’d whipped out all the plants. The herbs were replanted straight into the border and any strawberry plants that looked like they had potential to perk up, got potted up and put in a sheltered spot near the shed. If they recover for next year, that can only be a bonus.

With an empty planter, and spaces to fill, off I went in search of some new plants.

Now, people of Hinckley, I bring you great news. There are currently great bargains to be had in that there town. In their eagerness in getting the Christmas stuff on the shelves (don’t get me started on that one – we’ve not even had Halloween yet) the shops are clearing out the gardening stuff – and practically giving it away. In one shop I was delighted to find that seeds were down by 75%. Yes, 75%! After a good rummage through, my basket was quickly filled with an assortment of flower seeds: some cottage garden annuals, some that attract butterflies and others that are night-scented. The garden should be an absolute riot of colour and insect activity next year.

In another shop, I spotted some trays of pansies and violas on a trolley. They looked a bit droopy, but nothing a good old drink couldn’t sort out. But my attention was grabbed by the price tag… 20p a tray. Yes, you did hear that correctly. A penny a plant. It would be madness not to take them up on the kind offer!

Chuffed to bits with my garden on a budget, I trotted off back home to finish the project.

Into all the planting pockets went new compost, and into that went the violas and pansies. A good watering has seen them come back to life, and there were even enough plants left to fill some big tubs.

Once they get established and start filling out, they should look amazing. So, for the grand total of 60p, I should have a cheerful display of flowers all through the winter – right outside my back door.

Pallet planters

Pallet planters



Potatoes are all in

This week, I’m happy to report that my potatoes have all been planted.

You can get three types of potato: first earlies, second earlies and maincrops – which is also the order that they’re ready to come out of the ground. First and seconds are normally new potatoes, and maincrops are the bigger varieties used for jackets and the like. I understand all that, but for some reason get absolutely bamboozled by the sheer number of different varieties when I see them for sale.

The first year, I happily whizzed round the garden centre, with not a clue what I was after, but reasoned that one from each type would do the job just nicely. Just one problem with this – by the time I had got them home, I hadn’t the faintest idea what type or varieties I had. Nonetheless, they all went in, and it was a tense summer of guessing which order they should be dug up. I’m not convinced we got it right, but we ended up with some potatoes, which was a bonus at least.

The following year I paid extra care, selecting them in separate bags. This didn’t work either, as the woman on the checkout mixed the bags up for me!

This time, I decided on just two varieties to hopefully cut down any confusion, and a month or so ago eagerly took delivery of some International Kidney for the first crop and some Cara for the main crop. It would seem that International Kidney are tasty little new potatoes, but if they are left in, produce large, floury all-purpose potatoes – ideal if you have history like mine. Cara was picked as it’s a good all-rounder and is resistant to drought and blight. Both seemed like no-nonsense spuds that wouldn’t need a whole lot of looking after.

Determined not to mix them up, I split the two varieties into opposite ends of a cardboard box, and left them in a cool, light place, (ie the conservatory) to chit. Chitting is where the spuds throw up a couple of purply green shoots, and by doing this, they apparently get off to the best possible start. I guarded the box with the eye of a hawk. No-one was allowed within an inch of it, and most certainly, those potatoes were not touched by human hands. There was no way on earth they were getting muddled up this year!

The shoots were soon visible, showing they were ready to go off into the big wide garden, so I took on the task of planting them out at the weekend. I’d prepared the bed a while back, so it was just a case of carefully getting them in the ground without knocking off the new shoots.

I’m trying a new idea too this year. I have three old car tyres that have been lurking around in the garden for a while. I’ve planted some potatoes in the bottom tyre and covered them over. The theory is, that each time the new growth appears, you add more soil and another tyre, until you’re left with three tyres stacked up, full of soil and hopefully, gazillions of potatoes. It’s worth a try, just to see how they fare.

I’m looking forward to the day where I can saunter off down the patch and dig up a few for a salad.

This article appeared in The Hinckley Times on 5 April 2012:

Releasing my inner ‘nerd’

I think I may have done it this time. I will wear my ‘nerd’ crown with no shame…

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll be aware that I’m a slight fan of the Wilkinson’s end of season seed sale. I rush in at the end of summer, battling past all who cross my path, and exit the shop with packet upon packet of seeds; some of which I’ve never eaten/fancied/tried…. but they were CHEAP!

Hence, I’d amassed a mighty array of seeds in the potting shed. There was no order to my collection – my purchases were all rattling around in a drawer together. I hadn’t a clue what was in there, so last year a lot of time was spent idly flicking through the packets and planting stuff randomly. Maybe that would explain why my beetroot never reached their full potential… perhaps they were a couple of months late going in.

So, in a bid to be more organised, I have compiled a spreadsheet of all my seeds. Yes, you heard that correctly… a seed database, no less! I got a bit carried away with the detail, but now I can see at a glance what I have, how big it grows, when to plant it, whether it’s a vegetable or a flower – I’ve even colour coded what vegetable bed it goes in, and everything’s in alphabetical order!

This year will not be a case of ‘shove it in and hope it grows’ – oh no… I’ll be gardening with the precision of a military operation.

How I have changed…

This is only part of the spreadsheet. It goes on further, but I couldn't get it all on the screen shot