The snowdrop

Coming home from the school run just now, I noticed a white flower at the edge of the front garden. 

Now, baring in mind that this garden is northeast-facing and direct sunlight is blocked by the roofs of houses across the road during December and January, I am particularly pleased to see a little flora appearing.

Hopefully, from now on there will be a swathe of colour to come home to. The hebe is also in its glory, with pink tipped leaves and the yucca has withstood the winter (including strong winds), so I feel I am starting to make some progress out the front.

Incidentally, the kale I planted in the front seems to be doing at least as well as the kale out the back. Whether that is because it is more sheltered or for some other reason, I can’t say, but it’s time I ate some of it!

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The new year itch 

The above photo heralds the start of sowing season. The packet said April for the radish seeds but I’ve sown them outside earlier and had success – albeit on an allotment with different soil.

It’s not that I’m especially wanting radishes, although they are a pleasant enough addition to a salad. It’s more I got the seeds, along with the pot and compost, for Christmas. 

I was actually quite surprised by the number of seeds in the packet, that is, far more than I’d expected in view of the size of the pot. Needless to say, I haven’t used them all.

So, what’s the plan so these radishes, should they germinate? Well, as they would have a hard time in my soil, I will put them in a planter with compost – indoors.

And now the sowing bug has got me, I am going to have a look through the seeds I bought myself and see what else I can start off…..

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Herbs here

It took me a long time to decide what to order from the Kings seed catalogue. Like at least a month. 

I had to be very disciplined and say no to stuff that I know will struggle in my garden or be economically pointless. In view of the limited space available for germination, seeds where possible needed to be of the kind that could go straight in the ground. Also, as far as possible I would like plants that are perennial and/or beneficial for bees etc.

Now, have I achieved that? 

Tomatoes, well, not perennial or renowned for the support they afford beneficial insects. However, much, much cheaper than those from the organic farm and so much more delicious.

Melons, equally not perennial and might fall down on the support issue, especially as they will need to be grown under glass, aka behind the dining room windows. I couldn’t resist something I know my daughter will love, if they grow and produce!

Seakale is perennial but has the disadvantage of being a root crop. Still, I am keen to see if it grows, as it would be nice to have an asparagus type of crop. 

As for the rest, they are either tried and tested, such as runner beans, or it would be great to have my own supply. Caraway seeds, for example, I have newly got into when making rye bread. I have no idea how long, if ever, it will be before I am self-sufficient in them, but it might reduce the number of last minute trips to a distant shop, since this herb is less well-known in these parts.

What are you trying for the first time this year? And what are your criteria for seed selection?

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That archeological feeling

I’d been determined to do some work in the garden today, so was pleased that we had sun rather than snow.

The first job was to dig up some Jerusalem artichokes, which typically were not as abundant as I would like. However, the clay soil no doubt impacts on them as much as it does carrots and beetroot.

The main point of putting on gardening boots and gloves was to find out how easy or otherwise it might be to lift the flag stones on my patio. So, I next started to clear away the soil from one and was at least pleased that this job seemed manageable.

It had been on the back of my mind that the flag stones might have been cemented down – and it is possible as I excavate further this will turn out to be the case. I hope not, though, as the shed will need a base and it makes sense to re-use what is already available.

It would also be nice to have a pergola instead of a patio. I like the idea of vegetation shielding the diningroom doors (south facing) in summer but dying back to let in the light in winter.

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Wasps and strawberries

I’d wondered why forest gardens tended not to have blackberries until through foraging and generally going on genuine country walks I noticed lots of them growing wild. 

They are indeed a fabulous free food and there are plenty only minutes’ walk from my house. So, with my thornless variety producing suckers with thorns I decided that it had to come out last autumn.

But I was a bit gardened out. If anyone noticed a shortfall in my blogging output, this was largely due to the need for a break from gardening matters.

However, it being a sunny and warm (for January) afternoon, it was definitely time to get the spade and lift the blackberry bush out. Which in fact is all I had to do. Getting it into a bag to take to the municipal waste site was harder.

I did disturb a wasp which was presumably in hibernation, although it could be warm enough for her to have been foraging (vainly) for food. This being the case, I might have disturbed her on her deathbed instead.

Suffice to say, by the time I had fetched the phone to take a picture, the wasp had disappeared. On the other hand, it meant it was in my pocket when I cleared a patch of chard in preparation for the next hugel bed. For what did I see but a strawberry. Another of life’s mysteries!

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Sorry Strawberries

As you may recall, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I am deliberating over a garden shed.

Ideally, I would like a potting shed. They are not only expensive but take up quite a lot of space, however. On the other hand, if the shed is to contain bikes, it will need to be big, anyway. Thus, decisions, decisions, decisions…

And while I’ve been deliberating over the type of shed, a simultaneous consideration has been how to break up the Wendy house, which stands right where the shed would be. Actually, the Wendy house is still where the shed would be – but it is no longer standing, at least not in the conventional sense of the word.

Hopefully, someone will take it away soon, so that I can start on the grisly job of moving the paving stones that form the patio to be the base for the shed. Equally, I hope the well and truly down trodden strawberries will recover – I couldn’t help but stand all over them yesterday, in my attempt to pull the playhouse apart.

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World Cafe 

At the Leeds Permaculture Network social on Wednesday I ran my first session. In spite of having been a teacher for 25 years, I was a little nervous about running a workshop in this environment.

In the event, the people who had come along seemed to gain as much as the Network hopefully has. And of course, it was a boost to my confidence.

Guerrilla gardening, urban farming and permablitzing was the theme and now perhaps we have the foundations for such a project of our own.

The ideas on the post-it notes in the above photo were generated by discussion in the form of a World Cafe. Participants are divided into groups, each with a difffernt question. A scribe writes down the group’s ideas. Then all but the scribe move to different groups to discuss the other questions.

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