Thursday 31 March 2016


There's a clump of frogs-spawn in the bottom level of the fountain. There's none in the pond yet. I haven't heard the frogs croaking this year though, but obviously things are happening. At the weekend I disturbed a few frogs in the orchard and when clearing the raspberries so hopefully the frog population is getting back again. When we first came here there were frogs everywhere and large black toads living in the ivy. But over the last few years there haven't been so many. A few more newts though. I guess clearing the ivy and Russian vine which were choking the house and damaging the render means there isn't so much living space for the frogs. And with the damp around the house (now mostly cleared), there were slugs everywhere, which I suppose provided frog and toad dinner. Looking forward to seeing the tadpoles!

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Who's been eating the Tulips?

Last weekend - lovely, calm and very warm for mid-March - I noticed a lot of holes in the grass. This is fairly normal up in the orchard. We're surrounded by fields and get rabbits, mice, occasional foxes and of course squirrels. The squirrels plunder the hazel trees and bury nuts all over, so at the end of the winter they are busy digging them up. There has also been digging around tree roots especially the roots of the now-dead Dawn Redwood. The redwood died a few years ago but we keep it because the birds love to sit at the top and sing, the wood-peckers still find grubs and stuff under the soft bark and the squirrels play up there and also use it as an escape from the neighbourhood cats.

However, the earthworks are much more extensive than usual. On Saturday I was admiring a group of tulips emerging from the grass below the big cherry tree. On Monday morning they had gone - just a muddy pit and shredded leaves and bits of bulbs. The tulip thieves have made  a real mess of the bed outside the kitchen window, where there are some beautiful red and yellow tulips which delight us every year. The holes are about 10 ins deep and across and nothing left. Although the bed is full of all kinds of bulbs - hyacinths, crocusses, bluebells - they seem to have targeted the tulips.

I consulted the Collins pests and diseases book about eaten tulip bulbs and they suggested only one culprit - SQUIRRELS. We've been here nearly 10 years and they've never done this before. Maybe with the mild weather they've started breeding early and are hungry. It's interesting that they seem to know where the tulips are from the leaves - they don't dig all over.

Anyway, on the basis they may be hungry I put out some seeds and nuts. But they are hardly touched this morning.

Maybe just a memory!

Friday 18 March 2016

Sowing seeds

It the sowing season.  It's still quite cold, but we've had some sunshine and the rain has held off for a couple of weeks. So the ground is drier and easy to dig.

The broad beans I sowed in pots in the greenhouse 5 weeks ago have finally germinated. They'll probably be ready to plant out after Easter,

I've sowed beetroot (Boltardy) in modules, and onions (Aisla Craig) and leeks in trays. Also a few seeds from a lovely plant that grows in the front garden with bright pink leaves and bluey-grey furry leaves.

This weekend I'll sow some more vegetables and salad - sprouts, chard, lettuce and maybe get the tomatoes started.

I've got potatoes chitting nicely and if weather over Easter is good I'll start digging them in. I've got quite a selection this year:

  • Sante
  • Orla
  • Colleen
  • Maris Peer
  • Kestrels saved from last year
  • Maybe some Desirees from last year - haven't yet checked the box in the garage. 
The Kestrels were a bit small but they have kept very well. They are still OK for boiling unpeeled.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Winter update

The strange weather is continuing. It's been more normal winter with some frosts and a few flakes of snow, but interspersed with heavy rain and winds. But spring is creeping nearer and the daffodils are starting to brighten things up. The soil is still pretty wet, although last weekend I managed to finish digging over the old asparagus bed. Since Christmas it's either been horribly wet and heavy or frozen.

"Digging over" is a bit of a euphemism. It's been shifting and sifting networks of couch grass roots, old asparagus roots, buttercups and dandelions. I also discovered a large colony of horseradish. There are patches all over the garden which I plunder from time to time to make horseradish sauce from the roots. But it's pretty invasive. The huge roots spread and it seeds if you're not quick enough to dead-head the pretty white flowers. Had to dig really deep to try to remove it - but like dandelions, a little bit of root left in will generate a nice big plant in a couple of months.

This bed is going to be a new rhubarb bed. The existing rhubarb patch (8 plants plus a few off-shoots) are completely infested with couch grass. Every year we try to get rid of it but with only short-term success. The couch grass roots have sharp growing tips, like bamboo, and grow right through the rhubarb roots. So although the rhubarb plants are still producing a reasonable crop there is a definite gradual reduction in quality and quantity.

So the plan is to lift 4 or 5 plants, clean up the roots, and then place them in their new bed. Then dig over and clean up part of the current rhubarb patch and transplant the remaining plants.

So the next job is to shift a barrow or two of compost over and dig into the bed to give the rhubarb a really good feed. The sun is shining now - so I'm getting out in the garden while I can!