My Favourite Gardening Programmes No 2

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I came across this series via YouTube and loved it straight away – I had the book and didn’t realise a TV series accompanied it so it was, for me, a very lucky find. It’s a vintage Monty Don series called Fork to Fork which was first shown on Channel 4 in 1999. I think with Monty it’s a bit of a Marmite scenario – you either love or hate him but I quite like watching him and I love this series for the fact that you get to see him and his family at his home in Longmeadow doing normal, everyday stuff. (Well, kind of normal if you also live in a big, old Tudor house with a mahoosive garden).

The first episode is weirdly dubbed over (why I don’t know but the programmes’ producers saw sense thankfully and stopped after the first episode and used Monty’s voice throughout).

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Meteorologically Speaking ……

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SL275442…. for me tomorrow the First of March is the beginning of Spring. I’m not interested in the fact that it begins towards the end of March – that’s not good enough. I want Spring and I want it on the First of March so my calendar with regards to my gardening is always set meteorologically with Spring being the months of March, April and May – hence my title.

So, in celebration of Spring and all the wonderful promise it brings and with fingers crossed for good weather for us all this year, I’ll leave you with a selection of photos from my garden from previous years in anticipation of all that’s good to come now that Spring is almost here ….

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My Favourite Gardening Programmes

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I thought I would share with you over the next few weeks some of my favourite TV programmes that are, of course, gardening related.

First up is Sarah Raven’s Bees, Butterflies and Blooms which was shown last year on the BBC. It’s an area of major importance as far as I am concerned  in that I think it’s essential for us as gardeners to grow plants that as well as looking pretty are beneficial to insect life and pollinators. It’s a three parter series, each about an hour long, but it’s great viewing to help you make some decisions about what to plant in your own garden to assist our much needed pollinating insects before the growing season really kicks off.

Must Try Harder

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I’m finding that it’s all too easy to forget about the actual posting part when it comes to blogging hence the title of this post. Must. Try. Harder. Indeed.

February has whizzed past me in a kind of cold blur – I started the volunteer job up at the High School and am totally loving it but it has left me short on time for blogging what with all the jobs I want to get done in my own garden as well as the school allotment. Up at the school, I’ve helped with organising two new sheds full of tools, helping with a polytunnel construction, and we’ve still got a plastic bottle greenhouse project to complete and that’s before any planting gets underway! I’ve also been asked if I would help with the gardening club which is scary but exciting at the same time!

So, what’s been happening here at Back Garden Growing since we last spoke? Well, lots! Let me show you ….

Orange Thyme

Orange Thyme

Flat Leaf Parsley

Flat Leaf Parsley

Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil

Coriander

Coriander

Mint

Mint

My herbs on the kitchen windowsill are growing beautifully and it’s great to see such a lot of green every time I go into the kitchen.

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Plantville on the lounge windowsill

It’s been a case of  “Propagation Nation” here – both in the greenhouse and on the lounge windowsill.  My chillis and peppers above have had their propagating lids taken off as it’s plenty warm enough in the lounge for them to continue growing – I’ve just repotted then up into larger pots.

Morning Glory - Grandpa Otts

Morning Glory – Grandpa Otts

Lupin - Russell Mixed

Lupin – Russell Mixed

I’m also experimenting with sowing early Lupin and Morning Glory seeds.  We’ll see what happens with these.

Verbena Bonariensis

Verbena Bonariensis

Likewise, I’m also experimenting with an early sowing of Verbena.  If you squint hard enough you can just make out a teeny tiny shoot that’s germinated.

Tomatos looking good!

Tomatos looking good!

My tomatos are coming on well too – Yellow Pear, Marmande, Black Krim, Roma Plum and Tigerella.

Yet More!

It’s busy in the greenhouse too – kale, purple sprouting broccoli and some lettuce seeds have been sown.

I’ve planted gooseberries – Hinnonmaki Green and Red ….

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Blackcurrants – three bushes in total, the variety Ben Lomond …

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And finally a blueberry bush – complete with a 2012 Christmas Tree mulch!  I bought this from my local Home Bargains store for a mere £1.49!  If this bush crops for me I’ll be pretty damn happy for that price!

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And finally, I don’t think I’ve actually shown you the real “Back Garden Growing” area that is my back garden.  It’s a bit bleak for February but at least you can get an idea of where I grow.

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Feeding The Addiction

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As are most gardeners I am a seed addict.  I can’t resist buying them.  I know I have lots that I need to use up but it doesn’t stop me buying more.  This little lot arrived through my letterbox this morning.

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I did a bit of an internet trawl last week and came across www.seedparade.co.uk which is a new to me Company that I hadn’t come across before so I thought I’d buy a few packets to “supplement” what I’m growing this year (who am I kidding, I just like buying seeds).

I bought Chervil, Greek Oregano and more Coriander for the herb garden (I grow coriander indoors in the kitchen as well as outside).  I also bought Lemon cucumber seed which really intrigued me as instead of your usual cucumber shape these cucumbers grow into yellow, lemon shaped round cucumbers and I thought they would be great in the greenhouse and it’s not something you can get in the supermarket.  I’ve also purchased some Gherkin seeds as I love them and shall hopefully grow a few to pickle later in the year.

Along with these, I’ve bought Japanese Spring Onions, organic Red Cherry Tomatos, Purple Podded Peas, more Rainbow Chard as it’s one of my favourites, some interesting tomatos called Black Krim which look like beefsteak tomatos but with a fantastic black colouring to them and Mignonette Strawberry – a wild, runnerless strawberry.  I have regular strawberry plants but have never tried growing wild ones so again, another one to have a go at growing.

Let’s hope they all grow well for me this year.

Becoming Organised

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Draft one on the left with second draft on the right.

In previous years I confess I haven’t been too organised when it comes to planting – my approach has always been “find a space and put in something there to grow”.  For the most part, it has kind of worked (not including factors beyond my control such as the weather or vile slugs and snails).  But this year I intend to try and plan more and be more organised, mainly because I need to get to grips with successional planting if I want to grow more food for most of the year which is what hasn’t happened in previous years.

As you can see from the above plans, I don’t go in for fancy computer programmes – pencil and paper works just fine for me (if you click on the photos, you’ll see my plans a lot clearer).  My garden faces East,West and the right hand side of my garden is a newly brick edged, shaped lawn (I did it myself and I am rather proud of it) which has a flower border that can be quite shaded for the most part – most of my perennials and annuals go in here.  The top end of the lawn gets a reasonable amount of sun and I’ve reshaped that part of the lawn to incorporate a herb garden which will run all the way around until it hits the shady part at the top by the compost area (a couple of large trees in a neighbours garden provide the shade).  All my vegetable beds are in the sun for pretty much most of the day.  The one in front of the greenhouse is a new bed.  It used to be in front of the compost area and worked for a couple of years but became too shaded for things to grow properly so I moved it last Autumn and this position should provide much more sunlight for growing.  The above plans are my first couple of drafts but still don’t really provide enough for crop rotation between my veg beds so I’ve drafted up this plan to see if this will work.

draft number three

draft number three

Again, it’s a very rough and ready plan but it works for me and the best thing is is that nothing is set in stone.  As you can see from the three sketches, I’ve also made some rough lists of what I want to grow.  Space is not a premium in my garden (the largest bed is 2m x 3m) but I’m determined to fit in as much as I possibly can into my little garden.  I have three small vegetable beds, the greenhouse and plenty of containers so I should, with some careful planning, be able to grow a reasonable amount of food with the space I have.  I’m also hoping that my growing space might increase as I’ve volunteered to run the small allotment area and look after the chickens at my daughters’ high school which is just down the road.  In return they’ve offered me some of the allotment space in which to grow some crops so naturally I jumped at the chance, plus I’m hoping that I can bring a bit of chicken manure back home for the compost heap!!

Grow, My Seedlings – Grow!!!

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Things are looking pretty damn fab on the seedling front, which makes me super happy!!!

My thyme is looking brill!

Thyme

Thyme

I’ve sown a few Musselburgh leek seeds too and these are up and at ’em after being sown Sunday …

Teeny, tiny leeks

Teeny, tiny leeks

I’m experimenting with some tomato seeds too – just a few to see if sowing a little earlier makes any difference. These are Yellow Pear, Black Cherry and Roma plum varieties – four seeds of each. If they don’t work out I don’t lose anything really and if you don’t try you never find out, do you?

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato Seedlings

My parsley has finally germinated too ….

Parsley finally on its' way

Parsley finally on its’ way

My chillis and aubergines are sprouting well too, and I’m pleased about this. Let’s see if the early sowing makes a difference here too…

Aubergine seedlings

Aubergine seedlings

chilli seedlings

chilli seedlings

It’s funny that every year that I sow seeds, I always get the same excited feeling when I start to see them all emerge.  For me watching your seedlings emerge and grow day by day is a great way to cheer up miserable Winter days when you can’t get outside much.

 

Roots

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Back in November I decided to take some cuttings from a few of my herbs for rooting.  I took cuttings from thyme, rosemary, lemon balm and mint.  I’ve kept them in my greenhouse since potting them up and am delighted to find this morning that all the thyme cuttings have developed roots!

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roots!!

My mint and lemon balm has also taken root but I’m still waiting on my rosemary to do anything but as rosemary is a slow grower anyway I think I’ll be waiting a little longer.

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rosemary cuttings

I like taking cuttings for rooting – it’s an effective and cheap way of boosting your supply of plants. Have a go if you’ve never tried it as it’s actually pretty easy to do.

Growing Season 2013 Has Begun

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I set about last weekend tidying the greenhouse and getting my propagators ready for seed sowing. I used to sow things like sweet peppers, chillis and aubergines in February but for the last couple of years (and also due to poor UK summers) I’ve brought sowing for these forward to January, hopefully to give them a bit of a head start. So far, it seems to be working for me as I grow them all on either on my kitchen windowsills or in the large bay window in my lounge until such time they can go out into the greenhouse. This year, I’ve decided to also bring sowing my aubergines forward as I struggle with getting crops from them and I think it’s all down to poor weather and them just not being able to get going enough so I’ll try and sow them earlier and see what happens. I’ve only sown half a dozen seeds or so, so if all else fails I can just resow. I also like to sow my chilli seeds early as some of the hotter ones I grow can take up to a month to germinate so I like to try and get a head start on these plus it gives me some extra time if they fail and need to be resown.

I sowed two rows of Long Slim Chilli, Black Beauty Aubergine, Sweet Pepper and a bush Patio Chilli on Sunday in my unheated propagator and put it in the bay window in the lounge. There’s a radiator underneath which provides a gentle heat for them all and surprisingly, I already have signs of life!

Signs of Life!

That’s an aubergine seed starting to germinate and I have to say I’m surprised to see them up so quickly!!

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I’ve also got the Long Slim chillis starting to appear too!  Nothing on the Bush Patio Chillis yet but there’s plenty of time.

I also decided to start sowing a few herbs – just some common thyme, some orange scented thyme and flat leaf parsley. No show from the parsley yet but the thymes are up and at ’em already also!  Again, I only sowed these on Sunday so I am amazed at how quickly they have germinated.

Common Thyme

Orange Scented Thyme

So far, things are going well…..

New Year, New Blog

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Well, a brand New Year seems as good as any a point to start a gardening journal. I don’t have a lot for my first post but I have written an About Me section which kind of outlines what I am about in terms of how I garden.

I’m very much intending to use this blog as an online journal to keep both a written and photographic record of how my garden progresses throughout the year and I hope you’ll stick around over the coming year to see how I get on. I’m very open and welcome to any advice or words of wisdom from other gardeners along the way – that’s the great thing about gardening – you can always learn something new.

In addition to the gardening stuff, I’ll also be posting recipes that utilise my produce in addition to a few yummy baking recipes too.

So, a warm welcome and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about what I get up to throughout 2013!