Monday 24 March 2008

Easter - was it really Easter!

What a washout – or snowout this Easter was. This is one of the most unpleasant ones I can remember. Snow, biting cold winds, frosts and cold temperatures. They all combined together to make me feel inclined to stay indoors and eat Easter eggs and hot cross buns. But there were things that had to be done.
Ever hopeful that the Met Office had got the forecast wrong I ordered a tonne of compost for the front garden. We'd decided it needed a complete revamp, so had dug everything out in autumn and dug over the soil for the winter weather to break it down. The weather had certainly done its job and the soil was ready for some invigorating BOM – bulky organic matter. It arrived at 7am on Thursday – which kind of upset the neighbours! It was good stuff, really well rotted, so I started shovelling it in place. I didn’t want to overdo things, so got about half of it moved.
On Saturday it was time to brave the snow, sleet and horrendous driving conditions on the M11 to shoot down to Chelmsford for Gardening Plus on BBC Essex. I think most of the good people of Essex had decided to stay indoors too, as we were really busy with phone calls, texts and e-mails.
We had a range of questions – including plants for an Australian garden and various pest and pruning conundrums. But strangely, most of the discussion was about wildlife – the unwanted sort that can make a mess of the garden – squirrels, foxes and deer. We came up with our stock answers, but the favourite cure of the listeners was male urine. Yes, it has to be male, but apparently to those in the know it really works as a deterrent.
We also had a couple of guests in the studio. The first, Aydin Tanseli, is the Director of Cropaid. The company’s product of the same name is a natural plant antifreeze that increases plants’ resistance to heat, cold and frost – how timely! It contains a mixture of friendly bacteria, minerals and vitamins and is sprayed on the plants. Apparently, it is widely used commercially and so I’m going to give it a whirl at home.
The second guest runs a veg box scheme so we had a big box of organically- grown vegetables to munch on, alongside the hot cross buns and Easter eggs. We ate the purple sprouting broccoli with our Sunday lunch and it was really tasty.
Bank Holiday Monday was spent moving the rest of the BOM onto the front garden – and the back garden, as there was more than we needed just for the front. The rest of the day was spent doing maintenance – mainly watering of plants in the greenhouse and frames, young seedlings in the propagator. Some of the radishes sown last weekend for the RHS radish trial have germinated (well at least ‘Rudi’ has) and so I needed to make a frame to suspend the polythene above them – obviously too cold to remove it completely. Then another snow flurry and a cold northerly squall made me think I'd had enough - time to go inside for more chocolate and buns. Happy Easter!

Sunday 16 March 2008

Getting blown away

Wow, it's windy. And if there's one thing I hate (since experiencing the Great Storm of 1987) it's wind. We've had a few fence panels become dislodged, but managed to rescue them before they completely blew away. Now I'm inside catching up with work - rather than being outside, which is what I'd prefer.
In the lead up to the week before the big gardening weekend - Easter - I've been recording more messages for Garden Radio. Looks like potting compost, young herbaceous plants and a vast array of fertilisers are the big things being promoted in garden centres - and it looks like there are a lot of great offers available.
The broad beans and lettuces in the growing frame are growing at great speed. They even needed a watering this week, as the conditions in there are so warm that the soil had dried out quite a lot. Then typically it started to rain soon afterwards. Never mind, the rain just can't penetrate deep enough, so they needed a good watering. Mind you, according to my Oregon Scientific weather station we had 32mm of rain last night. The pond certainly looks full!
The garlic plants in the lean-to frame, which were meant for the allotment are growing well and have put on a spurt of growth. Sadly, the allotment isn’t quite ready for them yet, so I had a change of heart and have planted out two rows in the raised beds. There’s still a tray of 12 left so these can go out onto the allotment at a later stage. They might need potting up first though as the cells are getting chocka with roots.
I made the first outdoor sowing yesterday of radish - four cultivars in fact as I'm taking part in the RHS radish trial. Can't wait to see how each one grows and, more importantly, eat them.
And I've also managed to sow some chilli and sweet peppers in the propagator.
I’ve just received some young tomato plants from Suttons. These are plants they want to trial. There’s ‘Elegance’ and ‘Hundreds and Thousand’ plus a grafted plant of ‘Elegance’. Suttons are selling grafted plants this year on a rootstock that will give them greater strength to fight off diseases including tomato blight. After last year’s fight with blight I’m looking forward to seeing how they perform – although I’m not looking forward to blight returning as bad as it was last year.