It is the end of April and it is still really cold. Yes, I am going to mention it again, I do have to work in it, and I’m still wearing my woolley hat.
Although spring is a bit slow, we have had plenty of rain here in Suffolk and things are growing nicely. It’s great to see the tree peonies in flower, it is the first year for 2 of them. I don’t know the varieties I am afraid as they were put in by the customer and only have generic peony labels.
As I drive around I am enjoying the cherry blossom in all its forms, pink, white, single, double, but I also have a fondness for pear blossom with its delicate pink stamens.
This is the first apple tree to flower in the orchard. There is a lot more to come.
I have mostly been weeding and edging this week including edging paving stones in the grass. At least I can see where I have been!
So why did I think I could actually write one a week? Now it’s the beginning of May and it’s been a warm but wet day today and everything is looking lush!
Fast forward and it’s a nearly year since I wrote the last post. I’ve set myself the task of writing a blog post each week while I wait for my daughter to a have a drumming lesson. We’ll see if it happens!
After a cold winter, it’s beginning to feel a bit more spring like with blossom on the trees and daffodils out all over the place.
So the reason for the long gap, not just laziness, shortly after starting the last post my mother passed away suddenly so my time for the last year has been taken up with, ‘dealing with stuff’.
While I am still wading through admin, I have also moved house and there has been a lot of sorting of both mine and my mother’s things. I now have a much smaller garden and I also lost my allotment space, at the pub, if anyone has been following my previous posts!
April seems to have been particularly cold but the blossom is out and I have sowed some seeds. This is big news as I didn’t manage to grow anything last year. I will introduce you to my new garden in another blog post.
….A few days later and it’s still April and still freezing. The grass is growing though and the spring leaves are bursting out in all their greenness. I think I’d better stop procrastinating and actually publish these blog posts.
Hello blog, if I was struggling before, it’s got much worse but it is not motivation that is the problem this time.
At the end of February, my partner had a stroke. It was a big one and I was told it was 50/50 whether he would survive. He did but he’s still in hospital and recovery is going to take a long time.
This also happened. Two days before the stroke we brought our new puppy home, not great timing and it has been very stressful keeping everything going.
This isn’t a blog about how gardening has saved my mental health. I have mixed feelings as I have been enjoying all the new stuff in spring but it marks the time passing and what he is missing stuck in hospital. I have also been so short of time that I have missed all the seed sowing times and the garden has carried on growing by itself.
Luckily all my customers have been brilliant and I am beginning to catch up after the few weeks I had off in March. I just have to make sure that I don’t beat myself up about all the stuff I can’t do. I have managed to cut the grass at home, they are only weeds and this year I will have to buy plants instead. Things catch up. I’m in Ipswich lots have people have got on.
I was writing this on the train and that last bit was supposed to be a text to my daughter. Zoom forward a year to April 2023 to carry on the catch up.
I have been struggling to get motivated in the garden this year, it’s not been the weather, although the last few days with two storms have been pretty grim. In January we had quite a bit of sunshine and some nice crisp days with lots of beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
I have been busy being creative for my customers with new borders and new vistas but my garden hasn’t changed and I have only ordered my seeds for the allotment today. Unfortunately my polytunnel blew over in storm Eunice so I don’t have anywhere to sow them yet, but it’s a start.
I despair when I look at my own patch, there is so much to do, but today I sowed some vegetable seeds in a customer’s, only slightly broken, greenhouse and did a bit more to the allotment.
I have decided to dig up my strawberry bed because strawberry plants don’t really have a very long productive life and they are really diseased as you can see. They came up more easily than I had expected as it turns out they are also suffering with vine weevil grubs eating the roots. I will replace with some new stock somewhere else, probably not as many.
One of my many jobs to do is make compost bins but meanwhile I am combining digging over and turning the compost pile and topping up the raised bed with the good stuff.
I had the before Christmas rush around. Made a wreath from hazel twigs cut from the garden, spare bits of foliage cut off the Christmas tree and ivy from a neighbour who was tidying his hedge up. Tied together with Nutscene string so that I can just compost it when I’m finished with it.
We went on a 2 night visit to Wales to see my daughter’s friend, it’s a long way from Suffolk! Managed to have a visit to the sea at Southerndown Beach and visit the walled garden at Dunraven Castle.
Also made my first ever trip to IKEA, in Cardiff, so appalled by the hundreds of plastic plants that I didn’t take a photo!
I received a few gardening related gifts for Christmas. Can’t wait to read ‘Thoughtful Gardening’ by Robin Lane Fox, gardening gloves are always useful and I bought the flask myself so that I can take soup to work on chilly days.
Although I have already had a week off, eek, today, Monday, was the first day that I didn’t have to get up for something. Usually at this point I would spend some time in my own garden and although I looked around, and found some wasabi mustard that I had forgotten about in the polytunnel, it has been relentlessly wet and grey and not really gardening weather even for me.
Another couple of days on and guess what, it is still grey and raining/drizzling. I still haven’t done any gardening but I have been browsing the seed catalogues and sorting out my random home saved seeds.
So while it remains uninviting, we can enjoy the thinking and planning ahead. I am looking forward to the first snowdrops appearing and already excited by the buds forming on the hellebores. And trying to catch up on blog posts of course.
It has been beautifuly warm this week with a little bit of sunshine here and there. Perfect weather to show off the peak of autumn colour just before a big temperature drop and proper winter sets in. In essence, this time of year is all about the leaves.
There are the ones on the trees, red maples, like this one in one of my gardens, and bright yellow field maple and hazel dotted along the country lanes as I travel around to work.
This Cotinus, probably Cotinus coggyria Royal Purple, looked stunning backlit by the morning sun, was in another customer’s garden.
They look amazing on the trees, but then they fall. When they first come down, leaves can look pretty good on the ground too but they are not great for lawns, where they block out the light to the grass and they are not so welcome on paths and driveways where they become a sticky, slippy mess and get trampled into the house.
Luckily I only have one garden where I rake leaves, the others have someone else with the proper equipment or they deal with them themselves. I don’t mind leaf raking, it’s good exercise and it keeps me warm.
This is a pretty traditional garden for an old lady and I suspect the system has been in place for a long time. The leaves get raked up and narrowed to the leaf pile in the corner.
A few weeks ago I forked last year’s pile over the wall at the back into the bay behind
The pile that was here, so two years old, has mostly been spread on the garden borders but there’s a little bit left and it looks like this.
It’s a bit lumpy because of the conker shells, all the conkers have to be picked out because they tend to grow.
When I look up and all the leaves are gone, it’s a good moment because the leaf raking has taken place over several visits but now it is done for the year and time to leave the leaf pile to work it’s magic.
As we all know, it has been an unusual and difficult year all round but especially for the hospitality industry. The Queen at Brandeston, where I manage the garden has met each new challenge full on, opening a local shop and serving food and drinks as takeaway, then sitting outside and inside, as permitted, at different times.
Last week I was there on Easter bank holiday, trying to catch up with jobs in the vegetable garden to make sure I was ready for the growing season ahead.
Usually the pub would be busy, but this year it was just me and Mr Blackbird feeling the chill of snow showers.
I was weeding the final beds to be done and he was following me, filling his beak with worms. He must have a family in the hedge.
Every year I hope to keep on top of the weeds with a little bit of regular hoeing but once I spend more time planting, watering and sowing seeds, the weeds take overk. So I will just take this moment to enjoy the vegetable patch being under control before it all goes crazy again.
There are already some things coming on. I have winter lettuces and chard under green mesh, which seemed to have survived the recent late frosts.
There are some tiny radish seedlings and peas planted out, having been started off in the the greenhouse in early spring.
The wild garlic, which I planted a few years ago, is looking well and finally spreading. I just have a bit of a problem in that bed with tiny field maple seedlings.
There is lots of self seeded coriander in the herb garden and the chives are romping away as always. The only bed not sorted out yet is the flower patch.
A week on and the flower patch is still waiting to be brought to order but I have planted 14 kg of pink fir apple seed potatoes to be used in the pub kitchen. A main crop variety, they should be ready, once they have flowered, late summer.
With the tables and outside space restored and and the glamping facilities re-vamped and improved, The Queen is ready to welcome people to sit outside to eat and drink and stay. Visit the website here for opening hours.
I’ve been enjoying the sunshine today, with temperatures up to 19°C it seems to have gone from winter to summer over the weekend.
I’ve been looking for wow moments, well I did used to work in early years. These are the moments of the year that I really get excited about, peas ready to go outside is one of them.
The first destruction of seedlings by slugs is not!
Cumin though, last week, nothing, I thought that I’d sown them too early. This week seedlings!
Ah, the crown imperials, always a key, and therefore wow moment for me. They appear with big buds bursting through the soil in early spring and today they were in flower. There are quite a few in this garden so they make a good display.
One of the main highlights at the moment is all the prunus blossom out in gardens, streets and hedgerows, it looked good last week but the sunshine and blue skies made it look amazing today and humming with bees too.
The other notable new flowers out are the daffodils, en masse in the orchard and by the swimming pond.
Other notable mentions looking good today, the anemones and Brunnera but prize for most spectacular, today, goes to the frothy blossom.
It is mid March, and there is an abundance of primroses and violets. They do make a good combination and good to see because, with the exception of a few days, it’s still cold and blossom is late this year.
When I couldn’t resist the urge any longer, I sowed some chilli seeds in a homemade propagator on the windowsill. All 3 have germinated now. The peppers didn’t do anything so I have tried some aubergines instead.
This is my corn salad and rocket, overwintered in the polytunnel, the pots had some good roots so I have planted them, still in clumps, into the ground within a cold frame.
With a bit of space created, I have been able to sow the spring onions, beetroot and various brassicas. Germination has happened albeit slowly.
I’ve held back on my successional sowing while I wait for it to warm up a bit, I may have mentioned it’s been cold! My village seed swap has gone well, I have sent out about 40 packets of seeds and I’m very proud of the sustainability of all those seeds being put to good use.
Last weeks weather included blue sky, strong winds and rain and the curious Cumulus mammatus cloud.
So at the moment, work is picking up and I’m feeling in control of the gardens. It won’t be long before everything starts growing fast, including weeds, and seeds and seedlings will need a lot more care. That’s is when start panicking that I don’t have enough hours in the day. I’m looking forward to it really!
It has taken me so long to write this that at the beginning of another week I have returned to work to find that the cherry plum blossom has finally burst open and the hellebores are getting better and better.
That’s what we are all saying at the moment! The days are really drawing out, I was outside until past 5.00 at the weekend, and sunset is after 17.20.
Since the last post, we have had the predicted cold snap. Lots of snow, drifts, icicles, bitterly cold wind and near or below freezing temperatures for a week. We were snowed in for a couple of days and I couldn’t work for the whole week. Really it was nothing compared to countries that have proper cold winter with snow for much longer but I did get fed up with being cold.
And then just like that, it got warmer and melted, leaving everywhere wet again. But things are looking up, I got given some garlic bulbs that hadn’t sold so I have planted some in pots to use as leaves, some in the garden and some at the pub garden. They are not proper treated bulbs for planting but it’s worth a try.
And my seed potatoes arrived from Pennards Plants . I usually go to my local potato day and have great fun choosing lots of different varieties but it isn’t on this year. Pennards do have a good selection, it just doesn’t have the same buzz as a gathering of lots of people all interested in buying and selling potatoes and other horticultural supplies.
I won’t be planting them until at least April so I will have to keep them cool, I don’t do chitting but they may sprout a bit anyway by then.
Then this weekend, it got a lot warmer, up to 13°C. It felt properly spring like although we mustn’t get too excited, there are probably many more cold and grey days to come. Nevertheless I went grocery shopping and came back with dahlia corms, something else which will have to wait, and peonies in those boxes which are usually full of shrivelled up plants. This time I got lucky, bits of peony roots just starting to grow which I have potted up and put in the polytunnel. No pictures but I might go and get some more while they are still in good condition.
The other thing I have been doing, with the new season in mind, is creating a village seed swap. We are only a small village so it has been easy enough to gather the seeds, make a list, sent out on the village email, and now I am starting to distribute seeds to people that want them. I am charging a small amount, 20p -50p per packet in aid of the woodland see the blog here, if there are no swaps, but it is really to promote sustainability rather than make money. Next year a proper event hopefully.
The salad in the polytunnel survived the snow and I have had the first picking of mustard wasabi leaves.
The flower seeds have also mostly grown well and I have started pricking out Ammi. I have rather a lot.
It has been so nice to have some warmer weather, just to have a few less layers on and get the washing on the line. There will be a few more frosty nights to look out for but there is hope for summer and getting out and about again