The Sound of Spring

Across the land from parks to allotments, gardens to woodlands, there’s a sound gaining volume; a fanfare from the proud trumpets of  daffodils piercing through the soil, heralding spring. 2

I’m sure winter still has a sting in her tail, she’s not done with us yet. But you can’t help but notice the toneless landscapes are finally changing as pockets of Narcissus explode on the scene.

This welcome sight tells me we’re at the gates of a new gardening season with so much hope and excitement ahead of us. It’s a journey we all look forward to. Gardening blogs are crammed with tales of sowing, Instagram is brimming with colour and Twitter is almost at breaking point, enticing us to visit all things RHS-related.

So not to be left out in the cold, I spent my weekend flitting between garden and allotment, getting as much done as I could, while poor Agent Soph was left wondering what had happened to her missing husband.

First job, to pot up my pepper, chilli and aubergine seedlings. They have come on in leaps and bounds, and with their true leaves gaining size they were ready to trade up and move into something a little larger. 1 Collage

I also sowed some spring onions. I grew some last year and was delighted with the results. So this year, I’ve opted for White Lisbon and a red variety called Furio. They’re easy to grow, need little looking after and the taste is wonderful.

Not yet done with the compost, I decided to plant a bag of shallots. They were a freebie from a gardening website, so I was keen to get these growing. However, after last year’s ‘Onion-maggeddon’, where I lost my entire crop of onions to the dreaded onion fly, I planted these in tubs and have left them to grow in the polytunnel. I’m going to try to grow onions on the plot again this year, but this time I’m going to start them off in modules, get a good root system going and when they have some growth and the ground is warmer, I’ll plant them outside.. and firmly cross my fingers.2 Collage

Back from the allotment and straight into the garden, I pruned a couple of my clematis, gave them a feed and mulched them. Then the final job was to pot up my Nerine bulbs, (a lovely christmas gift from Soph’s parents.) I’ve never grown these before, and as an autumn flower they should really add some wonderful pink and white tones to the garden later this year.

But then it was onto the last and most important task of the day.. 1

… some cut flowers for my good lady wife, and home.

AdeSignature

Winter Colours

Dogwood, or Cornus if you’re feeling posh, can really light up the winter months. Plant it alongside a path and you’ve got yourself a winning wall of colour. A few days ago I purchased myself two varieties, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ and Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’, three of each. And with a day in the garden, I got to work planting them. dog

We have a long terrace garden, and when we designed it a few years back, we created a winding path through the section nearest the house. We felt a long straight path would make our narrow garden feel even narrower, and we wanted something to entice the visitor, and the addition of a few dogwoods spread alongside will only improve it come next winter. But I’m not done yet, oh no sir! In the words of that Irish comic wonder Jimmy Cricket, ‘There’s more!’

At the rear of the garden, we have a sunken ‘secret garden’, and last year everything I planted here was either cream or white. This year I’m introducing more colours and have incorporated some dogwood beside the lawn.

I’ve also been growing Rudbeckia Goldblum from seed, and this weekend saw these little beauties potted up and taken to the polytunnel on the allotment. Here, they can stay warm and develop a good root system before being potted up once again and then planted out into their final position.IMG_20160212_133327

Up at the allotment, it seemed the wood chip fairies had visited again, dumping a load of their finest shavings. So I quickly set about chipping more of my allotment paths. Despite very little veg-growing happening in the plots, the soft spring colours from daffodils, crocuses and primroses still make it a cheerful place to be. IMG_20160214_142211

If I do say so myself, the fresh air has got me all giddy and lightheaded, the activities of the day has got my blood pumping.. Or is it St Valentine working his magic? Hmm.. enough gardening for one day, home to Agent Soph methinks for a cosy night in at HQ. AdeSignature

The Plot Thickens

Jack Frost has been running amok over our fair lands these last few days. With temperatures dancing around the zero mark, there’s been a lot of jumper-wearing and hot drinks up on the plot. I’ve probably told you before, I’m a man who likes his seasons, and with the soil turning solid due to the weather, I’m jumping with glee. A cold snap killing off those unwanted pests means less critters nibbling at my tender crops later this year. ‘Bring it on Jack!’ I yell like a loon as I hop and skip across the frozen allotment!Agents snowBut it hasn’t all been singing and dancing up at the allotment this week. I’ve been busy, splitting our compost bin in two. Topping up one side with fresh manure, the other side is the remains of the old manure that, up until two weeks ago, had been composting for nearly a year. I’m also going to lose a path by knocking two plots into one and plant my early potatoes in there. The plot furthest away has always had a bit of an issue with its soil, it’s very heavy, so by turning it into a larger space, the moisture has a bigger area to disperse, and a crop of potatoes will help clean the soil. I’ve also put a layer of manure over the top to improve the soil structure. Snow Collage

Meanwhile, back at Agents of Field HQ, once again I’ve laid claim to the various windowledges with my trays of pepper, chilli and aubergine seeds. But before Agent Soph turns an icy white, fearful of having to deal with excessive crops later this year, I’ve already assured her that a lot of these young plants will go to family, friends and neighbours. (As well as the polytunnel. Sshhh! What she doesn’t know won’t upset her!)

winter CollageBut we’re firmly into the new year, there are daffodils poking through and I’m already chitting my tatties. Two varieties this spring: Kestrel and Kidney. After last year’s potato success, I was thoroughly impressed with Kestrel. Not just for the taste and its firm structure, but because it didn’t succumb to any pests, diseases or scab.

So despite the frost, it’s been a busy week and I’m looking forward to it getting busier. Although we’ve still got a long way to go before the joys of spring, already the days seem a little longer and the sun is hanging around past its bedtime.computer

But time waits for no man, and I need to make haste and finalise my allotment plan for 2016.. All to be revealed soon. AdeSignature