Sunday-Tuesday 1st-3rd February
Well it did snow but nothing like as much as forecast or as much as elsewhere in the UK. Less than a centimetre, enough to prevent me doing anything in the garden and not enough to give the opportunity of some pretty wintry photographs - you can still see the grass in the fields and most of the hedges are uncovered. What there was melted during the day and froze at night making it very slippery underfoot.

At least my cold seems to be improving so maybe I can start preparing the propagators in the polytunnel for striking cuttings and sowing seeds once the weather improves. A couple of hours of sun to warm up the air inside the polytunnel would be useful.

Wednesday 4th February
Another cold day with a little more snow which melted in the afternoon

Thursday 5th February
Snowed overnight and they rang Pat in the morning to say the school was closed. Neither of us thought it was bad enough for that to happen. I can remember when I was a child pushing my way through snow drifts up to my waist to get to school. The only time it closed was when the coke was frozen in the yard and they couldn't heat the buildings.Trouble is we just don;t get winters like in those days and no-one knows how to cope.

Friday 6th February
Cold with the odd snow shower in the morning. Sun in the afternoon melted most of the lying snow. We went for a walk round the back roads but there were no opportunities for any snow photography so just enjoyed the exercise.

Saturday 7th February
Cold with a few snow showers but dry most of the time. We are running out of wood for the log stove so spent most of the day sawing up the rest of an old shed we demolished last year and the remaining dry logs.

Sunday 8th February
A cold and miserable day. I intended to do some shredding but there was still snow lying on the pile of brash. It was too muddy to do much else in the garden

Monday 9th February
Snowed overnight but melted by the afternoon

Tuesday 10th February
Another miserable day. Overcast and drizzly

Wednesday 11th February
Another miserable day with intermittent rain. I am getting so far behind with work in the garden I decided the shredding would need to be done whatever the weather so I wrapped up well and worked at it for most of the afternoon. I was rather wet but still warm by the time I came in as it was getting dark. Another reason for doing this is that I have organised to have the big ash tree pollarded later this month while it is still dormant. I need to clear enough space for the men to stack the logs and branches.

Thursday 12th February
Still cold and showery. Decided to start digging over the soil inside the polytunnel rather earlier than I usually do it. At least it is dry inside there.

Friday 13th February
A much better day. Sunny and quite warm compared with recently. A thrush was singing in the willow tree at the bottom of the garden, a woodpecker was hammering his favourite sounding tree in the distance and the rookd were squabbling in their rookery. The snowdrops and aconites are in full flower with crocus, narcissus and hyacinth poking their noses through the soil. Spring is definitely on its way!!

In the fruit and vegatable garden the broad beans and brocolli have survived the frost and snow  and the rhubarb is starting to sprout, especially the the root I covered with a large tub a couple of weeks ago. I always look froward to the first stewed rhubarb of the year mixed with greek yogurt - delicious!!

The men came to pollard the ash tree and now we have even more logs to cut and split and even more brash to shred and chip. We certainly won't be short of fuel or compost for a couple of years!!

Saturday 14th February
The weather continues to improve but less sun than yesterday. Specnt most of the afternoon cutting up the branches from the ash tree; the larger pieces for burning and the smaller for shredding. Rather boring but good exercise nevertheless.

Sunday 15th February
Overcast but dry and mild for the time of year. Continued to clear the logs and brash from the ash tree.

Pat and I make a great team. I grow the vegetables and fruit and she turns them into delicious meals. Today for instance we had parsnip soup for lunch and a leek and cheese souffle for dinner followed by rice pudding and stewed Bramley apples. We still have a few remaining russet apples to put in my porridge every morning and when these run out the Bramleys are sweet enough to use instead right up to the end of March or maybe even later.

Monday 16th February
The weather remains settled but overcast.
Spent most of the afternoon making a new door for the polytunnel. Not as easy as you might think. The usual method of a wooden frame covered with polythene sheeting has the drawback of requiring holes to be made through the plastic to nail it on and even if you can use tape to do this for the door itself attaching it to the polytunnel requires nailing though the main sheet to either hinge it to the vertical door frame or attaching a sliding pole to the top part of the frame. Any holes in the plastic eventually get bigger and might turn into rips.

This time we are trying something more like a shower curtain by using a single sheet of 500 gauge polythene folded over on all the edges and taped down to strengthen and stiffen it. An elastic luggage cable threaded through the top and attached to the sides of the door frame not covered by the cover plastic hang the curtain and three more cables stretched across lower down keep it in place.

We will have to wait for a windy day to see how well this works.

Tuesday - Wednesday 17th-18th February

Finally got round to reattaching the electric cable to supply power to the woodshed and polytunnel only to immediately cause it to trip when switched on.  Removed all attached power sockets and switches one by one to find out the cause only to find that it still was shorting even when nothing was attached. Obviously the cable itself must have a fault so I will need to lay a new one. A big job which I can't do right away and in any case I will first need to buy some more cable. So a job which should have taken half an hour has taken two days and ended with me taking a temporary extension across from the house anyway.

I am not having a good day. Decided to pump some water from the main water butts near the house across to the one outside polytunnel which is slightly higher so can't be fed by gravity. I discovered that the stop tap attaching the pump to the pipe had been split by the frost. Fortunately I found that the pipe from the old washing machine had exactly the same thread as the two ends of the tap. Just shows you should never throw anything away. You never know what might be useful later.

Thursday 19th February
Pat went shopping yesterday and must have brought something into the house which has made me ill. I awoke at 4 am feeling very short of breath and aching all over. Needed over 20 puffs of salbutamol just to get my peak flow back to 50% of normal and have needed at least another 20 puffs to keep it that way during the following day. I have also been taking alternate ibuprofen and paracetamol which takes the edge off the pain but does nothing for the tiredness and dizziness.

I did manage to water the spring bedding and bulbs down the drive and round the rose bed with liquid fertiliser but just the little bit of walking and carrying to do this wore me out. The primroses, primulas, crocuses and other bulbs are just starting to flower. The fertiliser should encourage a really good show in a couple of weeks time.

Pat gave the lawn its first mow of the year. It is full of moss and weeds after the wet weather last summer and autumn so will need a lot of work later in the spring.

Friday 20th February
Feeling a little better but not up to any heavy work. Went for a walk in the afternoon. Some of the trees are showing signs of spring with buds starting to swell and catkins on the hazel and willow already ripening. The birds also thing spring is here with plenty of them starting to sing to claim their territory. Heard chaffinch, greenfinch, blue coal and great tits, robins thrushes blackbirds and wrens. A woodpecker was hammering at his favourite dead branch and a buzzard was calling overhead.  Earlier in the week a lapwing was swooping over the field behind the garden with its familiar peewit call and I think I saw a heron flying over the garden too. Last night I heard a barn owl calling too.

Saturday 21st February

Exactly one month to the equinox and therefore what I consider to be the first day of spring. And what a good day it was too!!. Sunny and quite mild, around 10°C. 

Time to prune the fruit tress, some of which already have swollen buds. We planted some new trees three years ago, three apples, two plums and a pear and these are now ready for their final initial pruning, removing the growth buds from the ends of the tertiary shoots and cutting out any crossing branches. This is the first year to really expect a reasonable crop from these new trees and by the looks of the amount of healthy flower buds, barring late frosts they should fulfil this expectation.

The older Laxtons and Russet trees also need a hard prune on the opposite side to last year but I will only lightly prune the Bramley since it was cut back hard last time. All three produced good crops, despite the poor weather. We still have some Bramley apples sound enough to make apple crumble or slice into my morning porrridge.

The older plum trees produced nothing last year, having prematurely flowered in the early spring and losing most of its embryo fruit to a late frost. Hopefully that won't happen this year.

Made a start on cutting back the Buddleia 'forest' at the bottom of the garden. These need to be cut nearly down to the ground and always flower well as my butterfly photos showed last year

Sunday 22nd February

Still mild but mainly overcast. Shredded most of the fruit tree prunings and more of the ash tree brash. Eventually filled the 4th compost bin so I needed to turn the earlier bins before I can continue. The first bin was nearly empty, having been mainly used for earthing up the potatoes and general mulching last year so the contents of the 2nd went into this and the contents of the 3rd into the 2nd.  A big job, considering each bin holds around 4 cu.m. though it shrinks as it composts. I did think about buying a rotary bin at one time but the largest I could find was 850 litres,- about one fifth of a single bin, and they claimed this was for a large garden!!  I will leave the last one to turn another day.

Monday 23rd February
Went to the dentists for a filling to be replaced and a new crown to be prepared on another tooth. Took over an hour by which time I was reacting to the fragrances and chemicals inevitaby present in such a place. They do their best to reduce my exposure by opening the windows and not wearing recently washed clothing but that doesn;t stop the artificial fragrances wafting in from other buildings and lines of washing nearby. I wasn't really well enough to do anything when I returned around 3:30 pm. Fortunately the expected secondary reaction in the middle of the night never happened.

Tuesday 24th February

The lily, begonia and gloxinia bulbs and corms I had ordered arrived today so spent most of the afternoon in the polytunnel planting them in pots for growth in the conservatory or outside on the patio. I will finish this tomorrow. Though overcast the temperature inside reached nearly 20°C in the afternoon, partly due to the new door; more than 10 degrees warmer than outside.

Wednesday-Thursday 35-26th February
Weather continues overcast with the odd glimpse of the sun, dry and fairly mild
Though not feeling very well ccontinued and finally finished potting the begonias (30 large, 36 small), 18 gloxinias, 18 lilies and 25 tigridias. These will stay in the polytunnel to start their growth. As usual the company I bought them off sent some free gifts, a ceanothus and 6 mixed pulsillatas; these I also potted on for the time being.

The rhubarb crown I covered some weeks ago with a large tub has forced very nicely with strong 30cm stems. I will l;eave it uncovered for a few days for the leaves to green up and sweeten the stems and then we can have our first dish of delicious stewed rhubarb; something I look forward to every year!!

Friday 27th February
The weather continues mild and overcast.

Though still not well I decided to start sowing seeds for germination in the propagators. There are three of them, each with a large plastic dome on top, and they sit on a  heating mat. A thermostat inside one of the propagators allows me to control the temperature at around 20°C. Most seeds I sow in small trays which fit 8 to the propagator. So  in theory I could have 24 different seeds germinating at once though in practice some need to be sown in larger trays or cell trays because of their size, quantity or their dislike of transplanting when small.

Once they have germinated I have a propagating lamp which I suspend over the cetre propagator. This looks like an energy saving light bulb, and indeed only consumes 15 watts, but it has a different light spectrum, with more UV and blue light (it hurts your eyes if you look directly at it. By switching this on between 6 - 10am and 4 - 8pm I can prolong the light and reduce the risk of the seedlings growing too drawn and thin. This is a problem if you give them more heat than light this early in the year.

Some reading this might criticise me, in these times of worries about Climate Change, for using electricity to heat the propagators and provide this extra light. In my defense I might point out that our use of fuel in all other parts of our life is considerably less than most. We don't have central heating, hardly use the car and never go on holiday. The heating mat consumes 60 watts of electricity and is probably not on all the time for the 6-8 weeks I use it. I think I might use a consumption meter on the light and mat to find out how much we use in total over this period..

So far I have sown
Tomato: Shirley (salad), Marmande (cooking and freezing) and Bejbino (mini)
Peppers: Antohi (Roumanian sweet), Hungarian Hot Wax (sweet when green, spicy when red), Mixed hot peppers and Super Chilli.
Aubergine Early Long Purple

Saturday 28th February
Continued to sow seeds for the propagator

Squash: Patty Pan. green and flat with scalloped edge, Delicious sliced and braised
Squash Sunburst. Like Patty Pan but golden yellow.
Squash Butterboy . Small 1kg butternuts which keep for months when ripe. Take up a lot of room but very prolific. For soup and stuffing,
Squash Crown Prince. Small 2-3kg pumpkins which also keep well
Squash Sweet Dumpling. Small 0.5- 1kg round with green stripes. A summer, non-storing squash
Courgette Floridor and Courgette Satelite. Earlier than squashes but just as versatile

Basil. Large leaved variety and also a mix of smaller leaved varieties with differnet colours and aromas.

Flowers. We grow a large number of flowers for our summer bedding, around 1000 to 1500 individual plants each year. I used to grow these all from seed but I now find that some kinds are cheaper to buy as plug plants. For instance it is cheaper to buy 160 petunia or impatients plantlets than 200 seeds to germinate them from and they also need a higher temperature to germinate than some other species. In other cases the seeds are cheaper and easier to germinate so I still grow these from seed myself. Either way the plantlets all end up in 9 12 or 20 cell half-trays, sometimes needing transplanting more than once before they are big enough or hardy enough to plant outside in late April and May.

Marigold African Crackerjack
Marigold French Bonita
Arctotis. Good for cutting

Mesembryanthemum. Likes a sunny spot at the front of a bed. A bit hit and miss as it doesn't like wet summers like we had last year!!

Nicotinia Lime Green. The first time I saw this it seemed a rather strange idea ti grow a plant with green flowers. It is now one of our favourites. The flowers are bright yellow-green, very fragrant, especially in an evening and very prolific without requiring much dead heading.
Nicotinia Perfume Mixed, A wonderful mixture of bright colours and heady perfume. Again needs very little dead heading.

Rudbeckia. Plenty of different coloured flowers for cutting and the more you cut them the more they come again
Coleus. These are a foliage plant which you can grow either for the front of the border or as a pot plant for the conservatory. It is amazing the variations in the colours of the leaves from almost white zones and edges through pale yellow and green to reds of every hue almost to black. Every one is different.

Godetia. You probably think of this as a hardy annual and therefore should be sown directly where it is to flower in early April. However in a large garden like ours surrounded by weed infested hedges and ditches it is almost impossible to grow flowers in this way. I prefer to get rid of the weeds before I plant the flowers rather than trying to pull them out from between them.  Also because it is a hardy annual it flowers quicker and earlier than the half-hardy species and gives some colour in the garden between the wallflowers, sweet williams and the first of the summer flowers.