March 2011


Tuesday 1st

2 to 9 to 2°C. Sunny intervals but still with a cold breeze.


St Davids day but not a single daffodil is open, though some of the miniature narcissus on the raised bed are very close.


Some of the plants I ordered arrrived today so I spent most of the afternoon potting them.

15 gloxinias of three different varieties, 3 paeonies which were free, and 10 dwarf lillies which were also free.


There are also 5 different varieties of blueberries but I haven't planted these yet as they need acid compost. I don't usually use peat to make compost but I need to make an exception here because coir, leafmold or seived composted shreddings are not acid enough. However we do have some old blocks of peat from many years ago which we used to burn in the stove when we first came down here, in the days when Whixall Moss was still being cut for peat rather than preserved as a nature reserve as it is now. The blocks are very dry so I have cut them up with a hatchet and put the crumbs in water to soak for a few days. I notice the pots the plants came in contain a very coarse peaty soil so I obviously don't need to break it into very small pieces to make the compost.


There are plenty more plants yet to come from this order later in the month.


Pat continued to weed the raspberries. She is doing a superb job as always.


Wednesday 2nd

1 to 5 to -1°C. Cloudy in the morning but sunny and cold in the afternoon but the wind has dropped.


Spent most of the afternoon flattening and raking the parts of the kitchen garden I dug over last week and then covered some of it with woven black plastic to warm up the soil and stop any weeds growing until it is time to plant.

Put 4 blocks of coir to soak in preparation for making some fresh potting compost and seed sowing compost.  Two blocks of coir + 10L of water and either 5L of perlite for potting compost or 5L of vermiculite for seed compost. Mix together, add JI 1 or 0 base and seive through a coarse or fine riddle. Makes around 25L of each.


Thursday 3rd

-2 to 5 to -2°C. Mist and frost in morning becoming sunny but still with a cold breeze in the afternoon.


The first miniature narcissus are beginning to open and the larger daffodils in front of the conservatory won't be long. We might have our first rhubarb at the weekend - something I always look forward to.


The peas and nasturtiums I sowed last week have now germinated and are big enough to move out of the propagator. So I have turned up the temperature to 20°C and sowed the next batch of seeds:

Tomato: Shirley, Koralik, Bejbino and Big Boy.   Aubergine Moneymaker,

Hot Pepper mixed (from very hot small chillis to the larger yellow only slightly hot ones).

Sweet Pepper Antohi Romanian.

Cabbage Minicole (small cabbage ready by July if you start it indoors, and doesn't usually bolt). Broccolli Early Purple, Borecole Dwarf Green Curled (Curly Kale - my favourite winter greens)


Last year we lost all our brassicas, even the kale, in the November and December frosts. Hopefully this won't happen again.


Friday 4th

-2 to 4 to -2°C. Cold, damp and miserable with the odd sunny interval in the afternoon.


Finally got round to digging out the last four stumps from the land I cleared between the fruit trees and the road. Flattened out the soil and covered it with another sheet of black polythene.


Saturday 5th

-2 to 5 to 3°C. Even more miserable than yesterday. Mist and drizzle in the morning, slowed down enough for me to go for a damp cold bike ride at midday and then back to light rain and mist in the afternoon and evening. So dull that the hens emerged an hour late in the morning and were back in their house half an hour earlier than recently.


Sunday 6th

0 to 6 to -2°C. A much better day. Sunny most of the afternoon but still with a cold wind. It actually felt quite warm in the polytunnel at 3pm.


Mixed the peat I broke up and soaked a couple of days ago 3 to 1 with some spent potato compost and used this to plant the blueberries.The calabrese seedlings were big enough to transplant. Replaced these in the propagator with Parsley Aphrodite - a triple curled variety.


Pat wondered if she cut mow the lawn. She removed all the fallen leaves and twigs and raked out some of the moss in preparation to do this, only to find the drive belt had gone on the mower. So ti will have to wait till we can fix this.


Monday 7th

-4 to 7 to -2°C. Clear and sunny. Cold except for a short period in the afternoon.


Took delivery of some more large pots (100 of 7.5L, 5L and 2.5L) and 125 6ft and 3ft canes and also a collection of 25 heathers.


Spent part of the afternoon trying to get the mower apart to see if it was worth getting a new drive belt to fix it. It is very old and does have other problems so finally decided it might be more sensible to but a new one, especially as there are usally special offers on garden equipment at this time of year.


Spent the rest deciding how to connect up two more water butts to the downpipe on the east of the house and the gutter round the conservatory. These are the two areas we don't collect water from at the moment and potentially could provide around 35% more. Might be useful to get these fitted soon if we end up with a dry Spring like last year when we ran out of rainwater for all the small plants in the polytunnel and greenhouse. I prefer not to use the water from the well as it is not as soft.


Tuesday 8th

-6 to 8 to 5°C. The day started with thick freezing mist but the sun soon broke through and it felt quite mild in the afternoon with only a light Southerly breeze. Hopefully that is the last of the bad frosts for this Spring?


Spent the afternoon shredding the raspberry canes and the shrub and fruit tree prunings plus a lot od hedge pruning and herbaceous borders left over from last year (too cold or too wet to do it earlier). A boring job but it needs to be done as we still have some more hedges to cut back and there was no more room to stack it. The only bonus was the nice aromas from some of the debris, pine, cypress, spruce, laurel, cherry, even some of the woody stems from the mint and fennel in the herb garden.


Wednesday 9th

6 to 9 to 7°C. Rained overnight. Sunny first thing but increasingly windy with drizzle in the afternoon.


Transplanted the Minicol cabbage and Early Sprouting Broccoli into 12 cell trays and sowed Cornflower and Godetia to replace them in the propagator.


The tomatoes, peppers and aubergine are starting to germinate so I will need to switch on the propagator light to give them 3 or 4 more hours of artificial sunshine to stop them getting too spindly before they are big enough to transplant. This looks like an energy saving bulb but gives wavelengths more towards the UV end of the spectrum. Only 11W but very powerful; it is not a good idea to look straight at it.


Thursday 10th

7 to 11 to 2°C. Rained overnight. Very windy with sunny intervals and heavy showers. Felt cold in the wind.


Friday 11th

3 to 11 to 9°C.  Warming up but still windy but from the south. Slight drizzle early afternoon but cleared up later.


Pat tried out the new lawn-mower she bought on Wednesday. I was right; they were on special offer. Did a good job but the lawn itself is in a sorry state after all the rain and frost.


Planted some potatoes from those in store which had started to sprout. Vivaldi, a second early, and Vales Sovereign, an early main crop. I do this most years but don't rely on it working so still buy in seed potatoes as well. I suppose if there was a global disaster and we survived it would be then be important to do this. Just like saving bean and pea seeds and even letting some cabbages bolt and set seed. You don't do it because it is a lot of extra work and not completely reliable; much easier just to buy them in.


Spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up some concrete blocks to use as stands for the two new water butts. Hopefully I will finish this tomorrow before it rains again. I worked it out we will then have over 2000L of rainwater storage. Enough to cope with a dry spell like the one we had last April/May?


Saturday 12th

7 to 11 to 7°C. Sunny in the morning, becoming overcast by lunchtime and rained late afternoon.


Planted the maincrop potatoes, Vales Emerald, King Edward and Golden Wonder, in the land I dug over between the fruit trees and the road earlier this year. A bit early but they were sprouting so much I was worried they would be damaged if I didn't get them in the ground. They should be OK since the soil has been covered with black woven polythene for a couple of weeks and this has gone back on now they are planted till they come through.


Took some cuttings off some of the short stemmed chrysanthemums to give to my children later in the year. I will  take some off the larger varieties later.


The miniature narcissus are flowering on the raised bed. Pat cut some narcissus from various parts of the garden to bring inside to open.


Sunday 13th

7 to 9 to 0°C. rained all night but cleared by dawn for a really sunny day. A lot of rain; three of the water butts which act as overflow from the rest and hold around 800L between them were half empty yesterday and are now overflowing.


Felt warm in the sheltered parts of the garden and the polytunnel, where I took the covers off the propagator for a time to give the seedlings some air - it helps to prevent damping off. Most of the tomatoes, peppers and aubergine are through but not big enough to transplant yet. The celery is doing well too.


Spent part of the morning and most of the afternoon building stands for the two new water-butts and connecting them to the down pipes with diverters. Too bad it rained before they were installed. Pat weeded the bed along the drive near the road.


Monday 14th

-4 to 10 to 5°C. Quite frosty overnight but doesn't appear to have harmed anything. Sunny first thing but low heavy cloud by late afternoon


Got back to finishing cutting the cypress hedge shorter. This needs to be done soon before any birds start building nests in it.  Parts of the hedge on the south side (away from the drive are very brown and may be dead. Could be the prolonged frosts after the waterlogged ground in the late summer. Hopefully it will recover. If not we may need to replace it.


Tuesday 15th

6 to 9 to 6°C. Misty all day with low heavy clouds but no rain.


Continued attempting to cut the cypress hedge back to only 2m high. Some of it is more like 3m, mainly because the weather last autumn was so wet I couldn't do it and after that it was too cold. Not easy since it isn't hedge trimmer work, more loppers and saw. Hopefully there is only another couple of days work to do on it.


Wednesday 16th

5 to 9 to 7°C. Almost the same as yesterday but with maybe a little less mist.


Two lots of the plug plants I ordered came in the post, Geraniums and Antirrhinums. Spent most of the afternoon moving them into 12 cell trays.

They sell as 100 + 60 free but there are actually 180 cells in the tray and most have a tiny plant in them, sometimes 2 or even 3. Being mixed colours they need to be reduced to one but will a little teasing or the roots you can often separate them rather than plucking out all but the best so you usually end up with more than 160. The best I have managed was 211.


Until today that is. There were 169 Geraniums but 271 Antirrhinums, even though I didn't bother with quite a few of the smaller ones. So many I needed to make some more compost to plant them into.


Pat spent the afternoon shredding the cuttings off the hedge from yesterday.


Thursday 17th

5 to 9 to 3°C. Slightly brighter day with higher thinner clouds and some sunshine in the morning but overcast by afternoon with a cold wind.


Moved the early peas and beans out of the inner box into the open part of the polytunnel to start to harden them off. Replaced them with the geraniums and antirrhinums I transplanted yesterday. The other half of the box contains the early potatoes which are now through and needed watering.


Pricked out the borecole and cornflowers and replaced them in the propagator with Nicotinia Perfume and Nicotinia Lime Green and Coleus. All three have tiny seeds like dust and need light to germinate so these are sowed on the surface of finely seived seed compost and covered with a light scattering of vermiculite. This lets the light through and stops them drying out.


Pat continued with the shredding.


Friday 18th

0 to 9 to 0°C. A really sunny day, feeling warm in the sun but still a cold wihd in the shade. temperature reached 18°C in the polytunnel.


Continued cutting back the hedge. I have now reached the really bad bit which hasn't been properly cut back for several years and is around 8m in places. It needs a saw tot cut it, maybe even the chain saw but I don't like using that up a ladder.


Saturday 19th

1 to 12 to 7°C. Another sunny day and no wind so felt even warmer.


Finally finished cutting back the hedge, except for a little bit behind the garage whihc is difficult to get to.


Sunday 20th

5 to 12 to 8°C. Ovecast with some drizzle in the morning. Felt mild despite the lack of sun.


No frost forecast for a few days so planted out the early broad beans and peas.


Monday 21st

8 to 14 to 10°C. Spring day and very springlike with sunshine in the morning and high thin cloud in the afternoon.


Rose to 21°C in the polytunnel where I sowed the next batch of broad beans (Imperial Green Windsor) and peas (Early Onward) into 9 cell trays; 1 per cell for the beans, 3 for the peas.


Transplanted the nasturtiums into deep 10cm pots with a stick to climb up and the cornflower into 12 cell trays. Also some pansies in 12 cell trays from last autumn into 12 cm pots; they are starting to flower.


Pat did even more shredding. The compost bins with the newly shredded cypress and shrub debris are waming up nicely, too hot to the bear touching only a few cm below the surface, and the smell of the conifer oil permeates the whole garden, mixing with the perfume of the narcissus and hyacinths in front of the conservatory and the primroses, primulas and polyanthus down the side of the drive.


Tuesday 22nd

2 to 13 to 5°C. Another really nice sunny day. Went up to 26°C in the polytunnel!!


Today is my sister's birthday. Happy Birthday Denise Margaret




More plug plants came. Petunia Lake Garda. Only 184 this time but that is more than enough. Finished potting on the pansies.


Pat continued with the shredding.










Wednesday 23rd

5 to 16 to 6°C. Another mild sunny day.


Dental appointment at 2pm so didn't have time to do a lot in the garden. Did manage to start spot weeding the wild garden; it may be wild but we don't want it to be full of nothing but dandelions, nettles, docks, dead nettle, ladies bedstraw, thistles and cow parsley.


Moved the early potato pots out of the inner box into the middle of the polytunnel; I need the box for tomatoes and bedding plants. The potatoes will be covered with fleece at night if necessary. Growing fast in this warm weather and will soon need more soil in pots, the equivalent of earthing up in outdoor planted ones. Pat is getting to the end of the stored potatoes from last year, partly because we lost the second crop to the frost late last year. So we may have to buy in a few till these are ready.


Thursday 24th

4 to 17 to 8°C. Another very sunny day.


Went up to 26°C in the polytunnel. A bit too warm to work in there but things need doing.


Seived some soil from the mature turf mound and mixed it 4:1 with seived rotted compost to earth up the potato pots. Then made a start on pottting on the tomatoes and peppers into 3.5in pots. I will finish this tomorrow.


More shredding for Pat.


Friday 25th

4 to 16 to 8°C. Another sunny day but with a chilly wind by evening. Saw several bunble bees, a Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral in the garden and more bees and butterflies on my bike ride.


The heat treated onion sets arrived: Red Baron and Hytech. Planted them in 12 cell trays to start in the polytunnel, mainly to stop the birds pulling them up before they root.


Planted this years free trial potato seed, Rudolph an early maincrop which keeps till Christmas (hence the name?). In 17.5L polybags in the polytunnel. Same mix as for yesterdays earthing up.


Carried on potting on the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.


Pat still shredding. Has used 5L of petrol in the last few days and we have several more cubic metres of shreddings in the compost bins.


Filled in the 2011 census on line.


Saturday 26th

2 to 8 to 6°C. A very different day. Overcast with a chilly easterly wind.


Planted the last of the seed potatoes, Kestrel and Rubesse, both early main crops, outside next to the already planted maincrop potatoes. Covered them again with woven black polythene.


Some room in the propagator so sowed Courgette Floridor, yellow and round, Courgette Satelite, green and round.  Also sweet peppers, african marigold Crackerjack and french marigold Bonita.


Sunday 27th

5 to 9 to 5. Started dull  but brightened in the afternoon. Wind lighter and from west.


Summer time begins today so will get an extra hour to work in the garden.

Planted the summer bulbs and corms we have been keeping in the conservatory to save them from the frost; certainly needed this last November-December. Tigridia divided between 5 7.5L pots, Calla and Begonia in 3 litre pots apart from some small ones which I placed all together in seed trays filled with soil.. Some of the arger begonia corms are getting quite big. I bought them as 3 year old corms 3 years ago and they now only just fit in a 3L pot. There are other bulbs still in their pots in the polytunnel. mainly Nerine and Ixia. Normally these can stand some cold weather so I never thought to move them inside. I will wait to see if they have.


Guess what Pat did.Laughing


Monday 28th

1 to 14 to 7°C. Misty till lunchtime and then came sunny in the afternoon, feeling quite warm.


Moved part of the chicken run from the area between the house and the fruit cage so I can plant the onions which are getting quite big. Extended the run into the far corner of the kitchen garden which pleased the chickens as this is a very rough area, ideal for scratching up tasty morsels!!


Earthed up the potato pots again. Some of them, especially the Lady Christl, are now full of soil. Surprisingly the least advanced is the Swift which is supposed to be a super early.


Tuesday 29th

4 to 13 to 11°C. Misty in morning but sunny by afternoon with very little wind.


While on my bike ride I saw the pair of goshawks doing their courting dance. Very spectacular dive-bombing each other, even flying upside down. Let's hope they mate successfully and feed lots of rats, mice, rabbits and squirrels to their chicks.


Spent all afternoon digging over the recently vacated chicken run, raking it to a fine tilth and then planting the onions, around 240 of them in 9 rows. Just in time for the forecast overnight rain.


Wednesday 30th

10 to 12 to 9°C. The rain didn't arrive till mid morning but there was enough to fill the new conservatory water butt nearly 2/3 full!! Looks like I may need to keep an eye on this and move the water elsewhere if I can't use it all any time. Alternatively I might investigate how to connect it to the main array of 6 butts behind the house but it is rather a long way and I am not sure if they are on the same level.


Too damp to work outside but there is plenty to do in the polytunnel.


Thursday 31st

9 to 15 to 12°C. Rained overnight though not heavily. Very windy around lunchtime for my bike ride - a struggle when going South and West but very easy coming back.. Sunny intervals in the afternoon, feeling warm.


Still lots of work in the polytunnel even though it was really two warmamd humid to work in there (28°C maximum). Transplanted the rest of the tomatoes and peppers into 8cm pots and then the oriental poppies, parsley and celery into 12 cell trays.


Pat continued the shredding and has nearly finished. I can soon fix that since there is still some more pruning and hedge trimming to do yet.


Go to April 2011