December 2008

Monday 1/12/08
November ended with a couple of very cold days when the temperature hardly rose above zero and mist or fog during the day keeping the temperature down. Ivernight a -3°C frost penetrated the polytunnel since it was now no warmer than outside after several days of no sun. This killed off the remaining peppers and the potatoes I had only recently moved into larger pots also collapsed.

It is unlikely there will be any early potatoes for Christmas and the New Year. This is always a chancy business but I will continue to try it. Perhaps if I leave them in the pots they will sprout again in the Spring and still provide an earlier crop than ones planted next year?

The weather however has improved and it was quite sunny in the afternoon though still around freezing. We finally managed to clear the ground of ivy along the road behind the cypress hedge now cut down so I can plant new one. This time I am going to use traditional hedging plants instead. There is a firm in Scotland,, which sells hedging by the metre. I have decided to buy 10metres of what they call edible hedging (hazel, cherry plum, wild rose, blackthorn and crab apple) and 10metres of wildlife hedging (hawthorn, blackthorn, dog wood, dog rose, hazel, green beech) mix them together and add 5 blackberry bushes as well. There are already several musk roses growing here planted over 20 years ago so this should provide a really nice mixture of edible fruits, seeds and cover for the local wildlife and flowers and coloured fruits for us to see.

Tuesday 2/12/08
Back to cold overcast drizzly weather. I started clearing the dead plants from the polytunnel. The grape vines I ordered last month arrived, two black Boskoop Glory and two white Madeleine Sylvaner. I will plant these into 5L pots and keep them in the greenhouse till spring when they will go in front of the south facing sheltered wall of the house to flower and hopefully fruit.

Wednesday 3/12/08
Another overnight frost but the weather is quite sunny and I managed to dig over the area where we are to plant the new hedge. Continued to clear the polytunnel

Thursday 4/12/08
Back to cold misty weather but warm enough to clear more of the polytunnel.

Friday 5/12/08
Rained all day, sometimes heavy, and temperatures only just above freezing. Couldn't really do anything outside at all. However the forecast for the next few day is much more promising

Saturday 6/12/08
Woke up to a very different day. Cold and sunny with not a cloud in the sky but a little early morning mist. We decided to have an early lunch and go for a walk round Whixall Moss. It was rather muddy after the recent rain but the early winter landscape was wonderful in the bright sunshine. Hardly a sound except for the calling of rooks and geese and the occasional and inevitable light airplane from Sleap and helicopters from Shawbury.

We stayed until 4pm to watch the sun go down over the Marches and the temperature dropped rapidly after dusk. A really enjoyable afternoon, even more so given the terrible weather we have had during the last few weeks.

Sunday 7/12/08
The temperature fell below -4 during the night and we woke up to hoar frost glittering on the hedges and white across the fields. What I call 'Mulberry Bush weather'. Looks like we may be going to have some proper Winter weather for a change. It has killed off the last of the celery so the only vegetables in the garden now are leeks, parsley, cabbage and sprouts.

Too cold to do any gardening so I cut up some more of last years logs in the morning and then in the afternoon Pat and I continued to move the remaining logs and branches from the cleared patch by the road. Had an e-mail to say the hedging plants were on their way. Should come tomorrow or Tuesday.

Monday 8/12/08
After the glorious weekend back to almost continuous ratin again. Too cold to work in the polytunnel since the main task is removing the plastic clops holding the no dead peppers and tomatoes from their canes and strings.

Tuesday 9/12/08
A much better day. Cold and sunny with a light wind after a frosty start. A man came to the door at lunchtime and asked if we wanted the logs stacked at the bottom of the garden. He is the second person to ask this. Obviously they can see the value in them as a fuel - signs of the times?
I started to move more of them to the other end of the garden but we are running out of places to stack them. There is plenty of room in the wood shed but they need cutting up first.

The hedging plants came so hopefully the weather will stay fine for a couple of days while I plant them.

Wednesday 10/12/08
It did stay fine though only just above freezing so I made a start on planting the hedge.

There are a lot more hedging plants than I was expecting but obviously I am not complaining. Looking again on the website it says 'The mix will contain ...' and so it does but with a least another 15 or so extras in each 10m collection.
I spread out the species where there were only 5 or 6 of each and then randomly mixed the more common ones to make up two rows with 30cm spacing between each plant. There were already several musk roses and a couple of holly already growing there and when I had finished I had nearlu 30 plants left over. I will decide tomorrow what to do with these

Thursday 11/12/08
Still fine and cold but partly overcast. Rain and gales are forecast for the weekend.

There are several gaps in existing hedges round the garden where those extra plants can go but they need clearing, so I have temporarlly put them in 7.5L pots till I can get round to doing this.

The leaf mold which I moved away while I planted the hedge can now be drawn back - it will make a good mulch till it gets established. I have a large number of daffodil bulbs which I cleared from another part of the garden last year which need a new permanent home - beneath this mulch seems an ideal place. I might mix in a few bluebells as well and top it off with eome spare primroses still in pots wating to be planted somewhere.

I am a great believer in serendipitous gardening and this is another good example. When I started clearing this part of the garden I had no idea what I was going to do but I now have a spring display of bulbs and flowers followed by the young green leaves of the hedge and fruits in the autumn. Far better than the awful shade producing Leylandii and the wood from that will keep us warm for maybe two winters.

Now to decide what to do with the rest of the space. First I need to clear the ivy which has completely covered most of it and move the rest of the logs and branches nearer to the woodshed and compost heaps for cutting and shredding over the next few months. I will then leave it till the spring to find out where the bulbs are which have survived from before it went wild. There are also several very leggy shrubs which I cut right back and with the extra light might start to grow again. Trouble is there are also a lot of thistles, docks and nettles which will need to be dug up when they reappear in the spring.

Friday 12 - Sunday 14/12/08
I started to feel unwell Thursday evening with the usual asthma, aching, fatigue, irritable bowel and dizziness. Treating the asthma has used up nearly a wholer canister of Salbutamol and even then my peak flow was never above 50% and often below 20% of normal. This has continued till Sunday evening though I am now starting to feel a little better.

The weather has been cold and wet most of the time so even if I was well I probably would not have done very much. Hopefully both I and the weather will improve tomorrow.

Monday 15/12/08
Woke up to a bright frosty morning and starting to feel better. The temperature never went much above zero but I managed to saw up some more wood for a couple of hours in the afternoon

Tuesday 16/12/08
Back to dull and drizzly weather but somewhat milder. Started to clear the rest of the pepper and tomato plants from the polytunnel.

Wednesday 17/12/08
Back to bright and cold so moved some more logs from the cleared area nearer to the wood shed.

Thursday-Friday 18-19/12/08
Milder but dull so continued clearing the polytunnel

Saturday 20/12/08
A really dull and drizzly day. Too wet to work outside and too cold to work without gloves in the polytunnel

Sunday 21/12/08
At last a mild, dry and sunny day but rather windy. Cleared most of the flower beds of weeds and started to plant out the spring bedding. This needs to be done bare handed - hence the need for a milder day. Finally planted out the Aquadulce broad beans which have been patiently growing in cell trays since early November waiting for a day like this. They have good roots on them which shoiuld give them a good chance of a large early crop next spring.

Monday 22/12/08
Back to cold and damp but managed to move some more debris from the bottom of the garden and started to chip and shred some of it.

Tuesday 23/12/08
A really nice day. Mild and sunny with very little wind. Sawed up the remaining logs and Pat moved them up to the woodshed, including some which are dry enough to use. In the afternoon we planted out the spring bedding, pansies, wallflowers and sweet william down the drive.

Wednesday 24/12/08
Cloudy but still and dry. We continued to shred the twigs and branches from the cut-down hedge. Discovered that this could be done much more efficiently with two of us. I fed the chipper hopper while Pat either cut up the larger branches from the pile to hand to me, fed the twigs and small branches into the shredder hopper or shovelled the chippings from the outlet onto the compost heap.  We had never tried this before and it worked really well, and saved petrol since the motor was never idle while I was finding more branches or shovelling the chippings when the outlet became blocked.

Thursday 25/12/08
Cloudy, cold and still but quite bright. Did some more shredding in the morning and then had our Christmas Dinner. Everything except the chicken was out of the garden: sprouts, potatoes, parsnips, onions, sage, rosemary and parsley

In the afternoon went for a walk round the back lanes and never saw a soul apart from the dog which is always sitting near the post box next to the garage. No helicopters or aeroplanes to disturb the peace either.

Friday 26/12/08
The weather continues settled with temperatures just above freezing and the odd sunny interval. Continued to move the rest of the brash from the cleared area, There are a lot of bulbs in the ground down there and some are already peeping through - it would be shame to damage them.

Saturday 27/12/08
The bottom of the garden in finally clear. We had to pile some of the brash in temporary places further up the garden while it can be shredded. We have already filled one 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.2m compost bin with the shreddings and it is steaming away nicely.
Went for a walk in the afternoon. There were quite a few people about with the same idea.

Sunday 28/12/08
Temperatures still around freezing but a brisk breeze made it feel much colder. Decided to saw up and split some of the drier logs and the exercise kept us warm.

Monday 29/12/08

Temperature around freezing, Another good day for sawing and splitting logs.
The forecast is for this to continue for at least another week. At last some proper winter weather!!

Tuesday 30/12/08
Back to shredding but the shredder kept almost stalling, even when not under load. Probably the carburetor but temperatures below freezing all day makes it too cold to investigate.

Wednesday 31/12/08

Freezing fog with temperatures below zero all day. Too cold to work even in the polytunnel.

Ordered my summer bedding plugplants from Begonisas, Petunias, Impatiens in 160 cell trays and Celosia and Gazania in 80 cell trays for £9.99 each. Also a mystery tray for £2..99. Could be anything but whatever it is it will be good. These should all arrive around the start of March for moving into larger cells to grow on for planting out in late May. I find it easier and cheaper to do this than growing them from seed myself. However I do grow the larger seeded plants like Marigolds and Dahlias and also Nicotinia, which have small seeds but germinate well, from seed myself.

Something to llok forward to in the middle of what is so far a colder winter than we have been used to in the last decade. The temperature as I write this at 11pm is -3°C and it is still foggy

Happy New Year.

I will start a new diary tomorrow with the resolution to try and keep it up to date.