Saturday 29 January 2011

Raised bed a go-go

OK, not as much progress as I'd hoped, but I have finished filling the second bed and moved the soil where the third one is meant to go. Sadly, I haven't treated the wood for the last two beds, yet - so onwards & upwards - that's a job for today. In fact, now, as soon as I finish scribbling this down.

Just finished my RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. And the results are in...
Blackbird 7, collared dove 3, greenfinch 2, robin 4, blue tit 4, dunnock 3, house sparrow 5, song thrush 2, carrion crow 1, feral pigeon 2, starling 5, chaffinch 1, great tit 3, woodpigeon 1, magpie 2. If I remember rightly the numbers are about the same as last year, but I'm missing goldfinch and long-tailed tits from the previous survey. I have had a couple of visits from a sparrowhawk, so maybe this has dealt with the tits - not sure it would go for goldfinches. I have seen a couple of piles of feathers...!

After 10 years in this house and garden, I've never had any 'mammal issues' in the garden - and I've always boasted about it when people ask me how to deal with squirrels, rabbits, foxes, deer and moles. Well, my boasting has just come back to bite me on the bum - a fox and a squirrel have moved in over the last couple of days. Time to put my own pest control suggestions into practice in my own garden.

Sunday 23 January 2011

The rise of raised beds

Well finally, me and my big mouth. In my blog on November 27 about putting up raised beds I stupidly said we'd have a bad winter - and so we did. All of which meant that I've not been able to get any further with the raised beds - that is, until today.
I bit the bullet and managed to put down the first 1.8m bed, fill it with soil, move the soil where the first 2.4m bed was meant to go, build it, install it and start to fill it. Sadly, rain, bad light and a knackered back have stopped play. So, not quite half way there.
Not to worry, it's still too cold to sow directly outside - a minimum soil temperature of 7C is needed for most seeds to germinate and it's nowhere near that yet.
Hopefully this week I can get away from the computer, sneak outside and start treating the wood for the last two beds with wood preservative. Knowing my luck it'll pour down all week. Aha, will I never learn? Bearing in mind my winter comment I shouldn't have said that.
Also, on my website, I've put up a load of information about square foot or block layout veg growing, which you may find useful interesting. There's a load of info about yields, spacing and how many plants of each veg to grow.

Monday 17 January 2011

Are there any gardeners out there?

Q: What happens when you do a radio gardening phone-in programme on the first nice, dry day of the year?
A: No-one phones in because they're all in the garden!
Well, good for lucky old them.
Sunday's programme on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire was a bit flat since, we only had eight questions in the whole hour. Admittedly, the programme has been moved around a bit recently until it has settled at its current, final slot, due to changes in the station's schedules. Maybe it was because I talked Welsh to the weather presenter? Or maybe it was because everyone was gardening or visiting the local garden centre - for a cup of tea or to buy garden equipment?
Never mind, at least presenter Chris South and guests Philippa Pearson & I can talk for Britain, so we just rabbited on about 'stuff'.
The 'hot' questions (if you can have hot questions in these circumstances) were roses. One caller had had what he thought and had been told was fire blight on a new pyracantha hedge and wanted to replace it with a rose hedge. The other had bought a load from the pound shop and they were in full growth - not surprisingly as I'm sure pound shops are nice and hot and not used to looking after live plants - and wanted to know what to do with them.
Is fire blight still as prevalent as it used to be? Anyone seen it/had it recently? Answers on a postcard please...

Saturday 15 January 2011

ABC of amaryllis, bonsai & cyclamen

I've been guesting on Ken Crowther's gardening programme on BBC Essex again, sorting out the county's problems.
It's odd how questions go around in packs/trends and this time everyone was fretting about their Christmas purchases or Christmas presents.
How to look after amaryllis (don't just chuck them away after flowering but keep them growing), bonsais (by the dozen) dropping leaves - mainly due to overwatering - and cyclamen not flowering - or flowering very well if the callers were showing off. One caller had flowers on 30cm long stems - a tree cyclamen.
One caller wanted my thoughts on composts and fertilisers for his crops on the allotment - not an easy answer to give in two minutes - especially as he had spoken to other people, read several books and they all contradicted each other/gave different advice and his head was in a spin. My 'Hodge's guide to soil & plant feeding in two minutes' seemed to sort things out for him. One of the things he'd read was that he needed to apply ammonium nitrate now, followed by sulphate of potash in February, followed by ... I just told him to chuck a couple of ounces of Growmore around. As you'll see I like to make things simple.
Sadly, we then had follow-up calls asking why I hadn't featured feeds for this situation or that plant or the other condition. My suggestion of a two-hour programme dedicated to compost, manure and fertiliser didn't go down too well with the powers that be at Essex - surprisingly. Some people say I speak a load of old compost all the time anyway.
Another caller then wanted 'Hodge's two-minute guide to potting composts', which opened a whole new can of worms - almost literally!

Tomorrow I'm off to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to do their gardening slot at noon with the lovely Philippa Pearson. More muck & magic?

Sunday 2 January 2011

Trendy gardening

So while I wait for the garden to thaw, dry out, warm up and generally become more pleasant for working in, I thought now's a good time to look at the gardening trends for this year. Ah yes, that old January chestnut. The thing with trends is that anybody can start one - and once started they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Either that or everyone ignores them by February.
Anyhoo, here are mine:

Black & white We'll all be clamoring for flowers in these 'colours'.
Hardy evergreens Following the last winter, we'll be looking for evergreens that survive cold winters. This may include dwarf conifers; gawd, did I really say that?
Dahlias Yes, I know these have been back in favour in recent years, but I believe 2011 is the big one.
Cut your own OK, so I've stolen this one from elsewhere, but after the huge increase in GYO veg (which will continue to grow in 2011, but not as much as in recent years), gardeners will realise they can also save a fortune on visiting the florist.
Growing up with vertical gardening Yes, we all love our climbers, but I think there will be a huge increase in demand for these. And, as gardens get smaller, growing walls, veg walls, green walls etc will finally take off.
Green roofs Similarly, green roofs will start to become popular with gardeners - not just designers, scientists, those with huge estate gardens and 'greenies'.
* Research shows that covering walls and roofs with plants can cut down on your heating bills (see Gardening with a purpose).
Lawns Finally, we'll all get so miffed with our lawns that they'll finally revert to their natural states - or be given a good topdressing - of concrete, and converted to patios.
Gardening with a purpose We'll all wake up and realise that gardens aren't for sitting in and enjoying, but they are a wasted space and so should be used for some higher purpose - biodiversity, wildlife, food supplies and biofuels & green energy (this one is done a bit tongue in cheek!).

Does anyone else have anything better?