Monday 14th March 2022 – let there be light

We picked a good day to be off work today as the weather was glorious. The Under-Gardener (fresh back from a stay at his holiday home) soaked up the Spring sunshine, as did the daffodils and everything else that is now bursting into life. It was still light at 6pm this evening… just like that, the day length changes dramatically, and it never fails to amaze me how quickly it happens… every single year. You’d think I’d expect it by now, but no, it takes me by surprise every time. It’s a nice surprise, though.

I was out in the garden ready for action before 9am this morning and the sun was just hitting the hedge. In the foreground there are alliums coming up all over the place. We definitely need more daffodils in the long border: I can move some from the bottom of the garden when they’ve finished flowering (that’ll be one less thing to spend money on!)
Tulips coming through everywhere too. Last year I got irritated with the lack of a cohesive colour palette from the Triumph tulips – I thought I had meticulously removed all the pale pink ones so that this bed could have strong yellows and reds only. Clearly at least two escaped me! I’ll try to mark the spots somehow in the hope I can get them out at the end of the season.
That makes three pale pink ones! Grrrrrrrr! Happy to see the red one, though.
He spent most of the day in this position in various spots around the garden.
I love the vivid colour of this aubretia. What would we call it – purple? Maroon? Mauve? Anyway, I borrowed some out of someone’s wall nearby. The same place has a very nice hot pink variety too, actually, I must go and borrow some of that too! (This is a terrible habit which runs in the family. I’ll get caught and told off one day).
These little dog violets usually irritate me by self-seeding everywhere and refusing to flower. This is the first time they have ever flowered for me. And where do they do it? In a pleasing swathe at the front of a border? No of course not. In the pebbles under a table!
I’m not sure he’s moved, actually.

This stachyaurus praecox, above, is beautiful but really difficult to photograph. The flowers are so elegant and delicate. It isn’t fully opened yet, I’ll try again when it has opened its flowers a little more. The reddish brown stems are quite pleasing too. I bought it with some gift vouchers, so I think of it as a gift, and I’m very fond of it. It may get quite a lot bigger – showing unusual foresight on that front, I’ve planted it somewhere where I can clear more space around it as it grows.

I really hate tending to strawberry beds and planters – it’s a mucky job, the plants never really look very nice or very happy, and I always put it off until I have to deal with a soggy matted mess with lots of dead leaves that need to be cleared away. I bit the bullet at last, weeding the planters built by Chief Engineer (above) and applying blood, fish and bone liberally here and in the big strawberry bed. Then I filled in any gaps with the runners I had planted up last year and finished off with a mulch of the spent compost from a decommissioned blueberry planter. I can’t bear to see all the strawberry runners at the end of the season and not do something with them. I have enough left over to start a strawberry bed for a friend. My tactic with these planters and the large bed is essentially to beat voles, mice, rats, birds, slugs, wood lice and any other opportunistic feasters with sheer weight of numbers: when we had an allotment, we had several huge strawberry beds which we never netted, and we always had pounds and pounds of fruit, with plenty spare to give away. Here at home, we are lucky to get a couple of bowls a year for ourselves, nets notwithstanding. Perhaps this year is our lucky year.

Next to the strawberry bed, Chief Engineer erected some supports for the raspberries. My hope is that I might get the wires on here in the next month or so and perhaps manage to contain the raspberries before they go crazy like they did last year, flopping all over the place. Actually, herein may lay the problem with the strawberries: it might be all about the soil. The garden soil is incredibly rich: I think raspberries might be hungrier than strawberries and so perhaps this is why the raspberries are the happier fruit here (on the old allotment it was quite the reverse, the raspberries were ok but didn’t grow like they do here.) Perhaps I should try starving the strawberries a bit and refrain from pampering them too much!
Here’s a very poor photo of Soggy Bottom. The sun was not really in my favour here I think. Anyway, those two fatsia are happy and the pink hellebores are delightful. There’s a little yellow flower bottom left, I think it might be coltsfoot, it’s very jolly. I hope it is coltsfoot as I think that has some herbal medicinal applications. No frogspawn in the pond as yet – I check eagerly and often but I suspect I stand to be disappointed.
Nope, still not moved… or perhaps just moved round to face the sun a little better, like a daisy. Chief Engineer, buoyed by his success on the path behind the long border, is now laying a pebble path between the two veg beds. This will be a massive help in the winter and indeed in wet weather throughout the year, as the grass path turned into a treacherous mud bath and the air went blue several times when my feet went from under me whilst on a sortie to pick Brussels sprouts for dinner. Eventually we’ll probably do this all around the raised veg beds and the lawnmower will become increasingly pointless. I’ve never especially liked lawn anyway. You can’t eat it, for a start.
Here’s something you can eat, though. The Asturian tree cabbage is sprouting – just like sprouting broccoli, really, and the shoots can be treated in just the same way. Or they could, if they actually made it into the kitchen – they’re so delicious that I kept eating them, and the kale, raw. Hopefully I’ve left enough for a stir fry tomorrow.
The Under-Gardener thinks the grass should stay on this path, so that he can disco dance on it in the sunshine. The sun always makes him feel like dancing.
I lifted and divided the miscanthus grass in here, redistributing chunks of it so that we get a nice solid block of it (that’s the idea, anyway). The cornus sibirica ‘Midwinter Fire’ needs to be pruned hard, at least every other year if not yearly, to ensure the stems always have this bright glow. Fortunately it is incredibly easy to strike new plants from cuttings so what I’m attempting here is a row of cornus along the edge of the bed, hopefully they will support the miscanthus and give good winter interest. I’m not sure it’ll work, but I’ve nothing to lose, and I really do hate to waste viable prunings!
This pieris was swamped in the depths of a laurel hedge. I have an intense, possibly even irrational, hatred of Spanish laurel, so I ripped out as much as I could when we first moved in, reclaiming a substantial amount of ground space as I did so (it was incredibly hard work – when I think about it I’m not sure how I managed it, I don’t think I would now!). I like pieris, so I have been pampering this one with ericaceous feed and mulches. I am now a victim of my own success, as it’s about four times bigger than it was and now that I want to plant in the bed behind it, it casts quite a bit of inconvenient shade. I could possibly try lifting it and keeping it in a very big pot, but really I want fewer pots, not more, as the watering is so very boring (and really as an acid lover it would need rainwater not tap, and we don’t always have enough stored in butts in dry spells.). Plus I don’t really want to risk losing it, having nursed it back to health. I can’t do anything with it whilst it’s flowering anyway. This is the first year it’s done that: I’ve obviously pampered it sufficiently at last. I bet I end up trying to grow things in its shade, to avoid moving it.
The original idea when I ripped out the laurel was to create a wildlife hedge in its place, with native plants. This worked to some extent but started to get a bit out of control – I hadn’t really accounted for things growing at different paces, so it transpired I’d put things in the wrong place, and the hawthorn turned out to be a bad choice altogether (it’s called quick thorn for a reason and it threatened to take over the world, as well as casting shade on the veg bed. Sadly it had to come out). I’ve kept half of the wildlife hedge, which now mainly consists of viburnums, lilac, elder, hazel and common dogwood, with nettles, borage and comfrey mixed in, but I’ve also added an apple tree and today I added some blackcurrant cuttings too. They’ll take a while to come to anything much, though. My idea is that there are different ‘storeys’ so there are things going on at different heights – I suspect I’ve overplanted terribly, though. This may be another reason for retaining grass on this side of the veg bed – it might be better for wildlife. Last year I found several froglets hopping from the raised bed into the hedge, across the grass – I’m not sure whether the pebbles might make for a more dangerous, less comfortable journey…
Here’s the finished path. Chief Engineer has also used some spare kitchen tiles to edge the cornus/grass bed, with a view to laying pebbles over this scrappy bit of lawn, too. I’d better come to a decision about the other path quickly!
My last job for the day: sowing carrots. I actually sowed brassicas and some annual flowers today too, but I didn’t bother to photograph those. Here I am sowing carrots in between the garlic – the idea is that the garlic deters carrot fly, but I’ve read lots of articles that say this isn’t really terribly effective. It’s still good use of space, though. The lovely Huw Richards (well worth checking out on You Tube, he is as charming as he is informative) suggests this technique with both parsnips and carrots – laying a piece of wood over the sown seed until germination occurs. This prevents the seed from drying out, I think (though one does wonder whether it encourages slugs). Anyway, all good experiments need a control, so I have covered roughly two thirds of each row in this way and left a third, to compare. This is actually the remains of last year’s seed so it’s highly likely nothing will happen at all – carrot seed loses viability very quickly and its better to buy fresh every year, but I had so much left I couldn’t bring myself to bin it. If it doesn’t have a decent germination rate, I’ll still have time to buy fresh and make another sowing.

Published by Notes from the Under-Gardener

Keen amateur gardener, tending a large home garden growing flowers, fruit and veg, ably supported by husband and dog.

4 thoughts on “Monday 14th March 2022 – let there be light

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