Saturday, 14 March 2015

I'm now a writer for something else!!!

I have been asked to write gardening articles based on frugal living for the Frugality Hub website, which is a great website that I heartily recommend. It was lovely to be asked to do this and do please check me out under 'Grow Your Own' and leave me comments over there if you like them as I am still a newbie with no followers commenting. I have just submitted a new article to them which should appear in the next few days as well.

This is the first article that I wrote for them last January so I thought that I would repost it here now that a couple of months have passed. I won't usually repost but wanted to let you know that I am writing over there as well as continuing over here on my blog.

Gardening – the original frugal pastime.

Amongst gardeners there has always been an unspoken rule that it should be cost cutting and it is only in recent years that it has become an expensive hobby. Thanks to the birth of the Garden Centre and TV shows that inform you how to ‘transform your garden in a weekend’ we have somewhat lost the way and want instant results with none of the patience. 



True gardening is, I think, an exercise in patience and that has always been the joy of it for me, instant gardening while giving you impressive results is expensive and a lot less rewarding in the long run.
The first garden centres opened in Britain in the 1950’s and up until the 70’s they were still few and far between. My grandmother had a wonderful cottage garden and never visited a garden centre in her life. Instead she relied on collecting seeds, taking cuttings and swapping all sorts of these with friends and neighbours. I have memories of her porch, always filled with wonderful red pelargoniums with their rich scents. She never bought new plants when she lost one, rather she took cuttings and produced more so she had a constant and free supply. Nowadays it has become the norm to visit the garden centre and buy 4 trays of these lovely plants every year, throwing out last years. Taking a cutting from pelargonuims and many other plants is child’s play and you could easily have more than you could use with just a little time, effort and patience.

Growing from seed is a pure joy.

There are two occasions in the gardening year from which I gain a special happiness. One is in late Autumn when I start thinking about what I want to grow from seed the following year and the next is in Spring when the seeds I have planted begin to show their first small shoots. Instant garden centre planting means you completely miss out on this joy. With the latest advent of online seed shopping and seed swapping it has never been easier to get your hands on relatively inexpensive seeds in varieties you could never buy as plants, however hard you searched. The brilliance of it is that at the end of a season you can collect the seeds and start the whole process again for free the following year. There are also plenty of people online willing to swap seeds (or in fact just give them away) for the price of a stamp. Just a quick search on the internet for ‘seed swapping’ will find you numerous results.
So next time you are thinking of going to a garden centre to spend plenty of money take a moment to think if, with some patience, you could grow the plants from seed or from a cutting instead, the satisfaction is unbeatable. You don’t even need a greenhouse, they can be started off on a window sill or you can get (or make) yourself a small cold frame. You just have to think a little in advance of Summer and start them off around March or April.


Thursday, 12 February 2015

In Need of my Spring Fix

The weather seems to have subtly changed here in East Lancashire. It is still cold, but finally all the snow is melted and there have been no frosts for a few days now. When this happens I find my mind turning towards Spring time and all that joy to come. I love seeing the first snowdrops, which are nodding their white heads in my garden now.



My small narcissus are  growing nicely too although my daffodils are yet to appear.



At this point I would usually be reaching for the compost and seed packets, desperate to get growing things, but I am forcing myself to wait this year as I am always too early. I have decided that the first week of March will be my first planting, desperate though I am. For someone who isn't interested in gardening this itching to start planting must seem like a strange desire, but anyone who has grown plants from seeds knows that this is one of the most exciting times of the gardening year.

I have given into my planting fix by buying an azalea which is going to go in a pot. One afternoon I was sitting in my arbour with a cuppa looking at the garden from a different angle and I realised I was misssing a trick. At one end of my deck is a lovely azalea that has rich purple flowers when they come and on the other side of the deck was nothing. I thought a pair would look nice at opposite ends. I am not usually one for symmetry but this appealed to my gardening eye. The other factor was that it is in a very pretty pot that I got for free from freecycle and I had another one exactly the same with nothing in it currently so they really will be symmetrical. Just to mix it up I got one with pink flowers though instead. It is currently residing in my greenhouse awaiting potting up - this afternoons job so photos will follow.


Has anyone else given in to the planting temptation?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Any ideas anyone?

I have a gardening dilemma.
I have a planter with trellis attached that I have had for 2 years. It is a cheap and nasty thing but if I could get something to climb up it then it could look really nice over Summer.
Here is a photo of it:


The problem with it is that it only fits a window box planter in so I can't use it to grow anything that needs lots of space for deep roots, so I am looking for annual climbers that don't need lots of root space. So far over the last two years I have had zero success with it - first year I planted sweet peas and because they grow deep they did absolutely nothing, second year I planted morning glory and black eyed susan and these were both also a complete non starter.

So it is time to ask the people who follow my blog if they have any good ideas, I do want to grow annuals in it and am planning growing from seed.
Here are some ideas I got off the internet:

Spanish Flag
Cup and Saucer Plant
Twining snap dragon
Purple bell vine.
Nasturtiam

I have never grown any off these before so rather than make a mistake for a third year running and end up with nothing has anyone any experience of growing these or any other annuals in fairly shallow planters?

All ideas welcome.


Friday, 30 January 2015

Gardening Books

I absolutely adore books and have literally hundreds. But I have a large bookshelf devoted entirely to gardening books. I can't get enough of them. People sometimes say to me 'but why do you have so many? most of them must tell you the same thing' and in some cases this is true, but lots of them contain wisdom that you find nowhere else.
I know that nothing really beats hands on experience in the garden but on a cold winter's evening, browsing through a lovely book, reading about all the things that are possibilities come spring, looking at some photos of a beautiful border or flower and, well, it brings a little bit of Spring or Summer into my house.
However, I think that only a very small handful of 3 or 4 books were actually bought new, the joy of gardening books is that other people seem to throw them out! Most of mine have come from charity shops and I have yet to go into a charity shop that hasn't got a single book on the subject. Mostly they are priced around £1.50 to £2 and this is really a bargain when you consider the a gardening magazine will set you back about £4 and won't contain nearly as much information or photographs as most of these books.

These are my two latest acquisitions:




The price of each was £1.50 and at over 200 pages each that's a lot of book for your money.

So you know what I'll be doing this evening!

Snowed in again here. SO pretty but SO annoying.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The resilience of plants

Earlier this month I cleaned out my greenhouse because I had found some fungus growing on old tomato plants, I cleared everything up and then I let off a sulpher bomb (which gets right up your nose if you don't leave the greenhouse quickly enough after letting it off) which effectively smoked everything in there and should have killed off all that fungus.

It was only as I was putting everything back in and sorting it all out that I discovered, hidden under a bench 4 pots of three hyacinths each. A year ago I forced these and they gave me a beautiful (and beautifully scented) display for a few weeks over winter. When they were finished I put them in the greenhouse under a bench and promptly forgot about them completely. So it came as a complete surprise to me to find that they were growing again considering that I had not given them a drop of water for a whole year (yes I am very ashamed) and they had been fumigated by sulpher.

I promptly gave them a bit of a drink and brought them inside. Two in one of the pots did succumb but all the others are still growing and one is, dare I say it, really thriving!


I have no doubt that the majority of the bulbs will actually flower as three of the pots are nearly as far along as this pot!

It just goes to show that a plant can thrive when all the odds are stacked against it and I can't help but be slightly proud of them.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

January 2015

Thank you to all of you who sent me get well messages. As you can tell, 2014 didn't exactly end well for me but now it is the New Year and I'm ready for the Spring to come and the gardening to start. My face is just about healed too now except a small scar.
I have already started buying some seeds - I'm going for less varieties this year as last year I was a bit overwhelmed by just how much I grew. Also I am not not not going to make the mistake of starting my seedlings too early, so tempting when the winter is seemingly endless and you are impatient for Spring.
I have been snowed in for a couple of days here but the garden always looks so pretty. The woods are covered in ice and snow and no photograph (especially one taken by me) can do it justice.


I have taken the decision to use my raised bed for flowers this year rather than veg, I am going to keep veg growing to pots and anything large I will squash into a flowerbed somewhere in true cottage garden style. As you know I like that messy style of planting (for want of a better word) and find it very attractive. 
Seeds bought so far:

Sweet peas - Alan Titchmarsh
Cosmos - mixed
Zinnias - purple prince - my first attempt at growing these
Panicum - frosted explosion - my first grass
Snap dragons mixed

Also I have some Dahlia White Onesta and Berger's Rekord tubors which I thought would look nice coming up amongst the grass, which is lovely clouds of white.

This is an exciting time of year for planning in the garden. I have cleaned my greenhouse thoroughly and let off a sulpher candle in there as I think I had some fungus growing so the sulpher should sort that out. I have mended my cold frames as a cat had jumped on to one of them from the fence and gone through (luckily for the cat it was perspex and not glass!) He made a right mess but I hope he learnt a lesson.

Thank you all again for your messages.

Dan



Sunday, 30 November 2014

Not looking my prettiest

Hello everyone,
So much for my vow to blog more, Since my last post things have not gone altogether to plan as I have been in hospital. I'm now recovering gently at home. It was nothing too major, just a small operation that made me look quite awful, don't worry, but I am certainly not at my prettiest best right now. Big aaaawwww


As I say, everything is fine although I did a concert looking like this last Friday (actually looking slightly worse) and horrified the audience I think - probably should have cancelled but I don't like to let people down if I can help it :-)

All that remains is for me to horrify my students this week with my frankenstein look.

Hopefully I can now continue my blogging as I vowed to.

See you all soon.