Kick starting the year.

Tomato "Alicante"
The weather outside has not been kind so far this year, we have had snow, frosts and bitter winds thrown our way, but it is that time of year again and the seed sowing frenzy has begun. There is already a line up of small seed trays containing the seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, chillies and cabbage on a windowsill in the house.  As the weeks progress and the seedlings are potted on, more and more seeds will be sown and space inside will be at a premium.   It could be a while yet before any of the young seedlings make it to the greenhouse.
Despite the weather, to get our peas off to an early start I have planted these three seeds to a three inch pot, one inch deep, and left these in the greenhouse. These will be ready to be planted out in about a month’s time, hopefully the weather conditions will be better by then. If you fancy your luck at growing sweetpeas from seed, you can also sow these now using the same method.
It is also now time to be thinking about getting onion sets and shallots planted out for later in the year. Whilst preparing the bed in which they are to be grown I did get a bit of a surprise when I uncovered a parsnip that had been left in the ground over winter.  It was still in good condition, despite the weather, but it wasn’t long before it was added to a warming winter casserole. 

Snowdrops at
Burton Agnus Hall
Whilst I have been busy kick starting the veg growing year the garden has quietly gone ahead and done its own thing. The native primroses have been flowing none stop for weeks, and the buds on the trees and shrubs are slowly fattening up. The snow drops have put on a good show and already the first of the daffodils are flowering. The garden still needs a helping hand on occasion and it is now the ideal time to prune roses and dogwoods.

We recently removed our old bird box which was sited in the cherry tree and replaced it with a new one. It’s in pretty much the same place as the old one and to encourage birds to nest we added a little nesting material. Despite changing the box the blue tits still took an interest and seem to check it out every now and again. However, what we didn’t count on was the fact that they took an immediate dislike to our choice of nesting material. The blue tits actually went into the box and removed it bit by bit. They are still visiting the box and now the nesting material has gone they have now taken to pecking at the entrance way, maybe this is their way of marking their territory and warning others to stay away. Who knows?  Hopefully they will decide to nest again in the garden this year.

Shed shame

Generally, I would like to think that I am a tidy, reasonably organised person. However, this cannot be said for the way in which I garden. The garden is not immaculately trimmed and pruned without a single weed in sight, nor are all the leaves swept neatly away and all spent flower heads removed. The simple reason being that I garden to encourage wildlife and the consequence is that tidiness goes straight out of the window, but thats okay, because I am doing my bit for nature.

Then there is the shed. At the start of the gardening year it is looking good with all the pots neatly stacked, tools hung in their allocated positions and netting etc all folded away tidy. In all, the shed looks organised and dare I say it, even loved. As the year unfolds the shed holds its own, staying in a reasonable state with enough room to squeeze inside to do the occasional potting on of plants. I would like to point out that it is not a very large shed, hence the squeezing. By the time the season is drawing to a close, any would be visitor in the garden would see me promptly shut the shed door on their approach and steer them quickly away from said shed. Out of sheer embarrassment no one can see the shed in its current state. Plant pots are strewn around the shed along with the netting and other bits and bobs . It has got to the stage where when something is to be put away the door is opened and the said object is cast inside to land wherever before the door is firmly closed before it falls back out again. A few weeks or so of this and soon there is no space to stand and all items are precariously balanced on top of one another. I could blame the state of the shed on the lack of space, but we all know that this isn’t strictly true.
Having said that I have now acquired a slightly larger shed with a work bench and shelving. It was time to bite the bullet and sort out the mess from last season and reorganise everything in the newer shed. It took blood, sweat and tears and needless to say it took a while. So there you have it once again at the start of the season the shed is looking good. I will try and keep things tidy and organised this year, but I can’t make any promises.

November 2012

This time of the year is my least favourite, its dark, cold and most of all I don’t see what is happening in the garden from one week end to the next. The annual bedding plants will have succumbed to the frosts and the perennials will have retreated underground till next year, and yet believe it or not there are still jobs that need to be done.
Now is the perfect time to be planting bare root roses, shrubs and trees whilst they are dormant.  Whilst on the subject of roses, high winds can catch the tall stems of shrub and standard roses, rocking them right down to their roots, which can cause permanent damage. To reduce wind rock cut them back by a third now and then wait until February or March before giving the roses their hard annual prune.

In the garden this month the dogwoods are looking good with their striking red stems. Now is a good time to take cuttings of these if you want to boost numbers or give them away to friends and family. It’s easy, you basically cut a length of the stem about 18 inches long with a sloping cut at the top and a straight cut across the bottom. Insert the stem into a gritty soil, so that about half of the stem is buried. Then do not disturb until next Autumn. I took a few cuttings of our own last year, but it will be another year before they will be ready to be planted in the garden.

The shallots that were planted in the kitchen garden last month are starting to show green shoots, don’t worry if you haven’t got yours planted yet, they can usually planted right up to Christmas and still produce a good crop next summer.
The last of the leaves which have fallen from the trees should be swept up and composted. Don’t, just throw them on the compost heap or take them to the local tip, put them in a bin liner with a few holes in the side, tie up the bag and leave in a corner for a year or two. Leaves produce the best loam based compost, the type which money just cannot buy.
As the temperature drops it is a good time to ensure that all outside taps are insulated and that all frost tender plants are also insulated against the cold, those plants in pots should placed in a sheltered position and slightly raised off the ground.
If you have time, there is always the garden shed to sort out. With pots to clean, tools to be sharpened and oiled and odds and ends to tidied away, have I sorted mine out yet, no! There’s still plenty of time for that before the start of the new season. Maybe for now I’ll stay indoors where it’s warm and cosy, with a drink in hand, and pour over the seed catalogues for next year.

October 2012 - The growing season slows to an end.

As the daylight hours shorten and nature all around us slowly winds down for the end of the season there has still been plenty of interest in the garden. The late summer border has quite literally flowered its socks off and the last of the bees and butterflies have had their fill of nectar before they retire until next spring.  Whilst the plants in the shadier border have long since finished flowering and are dying back, the white anemones cheerfully stand out demanding attention.
We have seen the trees put on a fantastic display of colours over the last few weeks and if the latest gusts of wind have not yet brought the leaves down, then it won’t be long before they fall of their own accord. We have a couple of rowan trees in our garden whose leaves turn a fantastic shade of red, they also produce berries, and within days of taking a photograph Mr Blackbird had demolished the lot. The dogwoods and blueberry bushes have also given us a fantastic display of deep red leaves this year.

A lot of perennial plants in the garden will soon stop flowering and die back, at one time this was seen to be the time to tidy up the garden by cutting them down to the ground and disposing of the dead plant remains. However, more and more gardeners are seeing the benefit of leaving the plants in situ for as long as possible. The right plants can still make the garden look good well into the new year and they can provide shelter for small insects such ladybirds and lacewing as well as food for the local birds.
For those of you that have tried, you will already know that it has not been a great year for growing crops and it has been quite a challenge. The veg from the kitchen garden has now just about come to an end and the greenhouse has also been cleared.  We did manage to harvest a few parsnips and cabbage this month and the leeks are growing well and will be ready to start pulling in a couple of months. It is still not too late to make use of some of the now empty spaces, shallots and garlic will happily grow through the winter months without requiring any attention and will be ready for harvesting next summer. 
This year in the greenhouse the tomatoes cropped poorly and generally did not ripen, but we did manage to make a batch of delicious tomato soup from them. We were also picking raspberries right up until the end of October.  Those fruit that are slightly past their best are excellent for using in cakes and we have been enjoying a Raspberry Bakewell, or two, or maybe three!

September 2012 - Autumn is in the air.

Summer has quietly been and gone without many of us realising that it had ever actually arrived. The weather over the summer has been a rollercoaster ride going from one extreme to another and back again.  Almost overnight the September temperatures have dropped and there is a feeling in the air, Autumn is on its way.
Despite all that the weather has thrown at us this year the late summer borders are looking their best and are full of vibrant yellows, oranges and reds. If you have borders in full sun the best plants for late flower colour are Rudbeckia, Helenium, Crocosmia and Sedums. They look even better when intermingled with grasses, in our garden we use stipa tenuissima and deschampsia which turns a lovely golden colour in the autumn.  
A lot of the plants that we use in the garden attract a variety of bees and hoverflies. This time of year the garden is literally buzzing, with every available plant covered in insects busy collecting pollen and nectar. I am not a great fan of ivy and it is growing on one of the boundary walls, but at this time of year when it is in flower, the bees cannot get enough of it. It is a great sight to see.
Unfortunately, the volatile summer weather has done no favours for our wildlife.  According to the RSBP the wet, cold spring has taken its toll on the number of young birds this year. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but the sustained rain and colder than usual temperatures could have made it more difficult for chicks to survive. It has also been a bad year for bumblebees especially in flooded areas. Many species nest in the ground so their nests are likely to have been destroyed. Whilst the warm, dry spell in parts of the country will have been too late for many bees, it would have been a welcome relief for others. It is also thought to be the worst year for butterflies as they can’t fly in the rain and they need warmth to fly and breed, so little sunshine and lots of rain will disrupt their breeding, putting local populations at risk of dying out.
So what can we do to help? We can ensure that birds get fit for the breeding season by putting out food for them, leaving piles of leaves under shrubs so that the birds can find beetles and insect larvae, and maybe plant a shrub for its berries. Also, plant flowers now to boost food availability for bees and butterflies, or plan ahead and increase food supplies for next year. If you want to help further, you could keep a patch of long grass for meadow brown, speckled wood and ringlet butterflies to breed in next year.
Spring seems to be a long way off, but it will soon be here and now is the time to be planting your daffodils if you have not already done so. They need a long growing season, so the sooner they are in the ground the better the flowers will be come spring. Tulips however can be planted right up to Christmas and will still flower well next year.

August 2012 - New garden at the Kirklees Light Railway

The 8th and 9th of September marked the seventh annual gala of the friends of the Kirklees Light Railway. The gala is organised and run by the volunteers and I usually go along for the weekend to take photographs of the event.
Last year the theme was festival engines and as a bit of fun we included a garden train, comprising of the box van being done up like a garden shed, complete with its own Alan Titchmarsh, and a wagon full of plants. Like all events there is always a budget and the majority of the one for the gala is taken up by the cost of transporting the visiting engines to the gala, so needless to say there wasn’t really much, if anything, for the garden train. Most of the plants were either grown from seed, or cuttings from my own garden, with one or two plants being purchased at discounted prices. The mock up garden shed was kitted out with items borrowed from my own garden.
Throughout the year the plants were cared for at home and with some amount of planning I tried to hold back or speed up their flowering as necessary for them to be looking their best for the weekend of the gala. I was beginning to gain an insight of what it must be like to be involved in designing a garden for the Chelsea Flower Show. With only weeks to go I laid out the plants as I envisaged them looking in the wagon and hoped that they would survive all that the train and weather would throw at them.
It was decided in the months before the event that the best way to plan the wagon was to plant everything in plant pots and if possible group certain plants together so that they sat side by side. All the pots would then sit on a temporary shelf built inside the wagon, this way there would be the least amount of disturbance to the plants and also meant that the wagon could be put together quickly and later emptied at the end of the weekend. The day before the gala all the plants had to be transported to the railway and the frame was built to sit inside the wagon for the plants to sit on.
In the autumn prior to the gala I obtained permission from the railway to create a garden at Shelley Station. When the idea for running a garden train at the gala was first conceived, it was also decided that the plants used in the train would be used to start the garden. The initial task back in October 2010 was to dig off the turf and rough dig the whole area. This was then left for the winter weather to break down the soil. Nothing much changed then until the end of the 2011 gala. Before the garden train made its final departure back to Clayton West it was emptied of all its plants and it was then a race against time for me to get them all planted before the “Shelley or Bust” train arrived about an hour later. They were all planted in the nick of time, as the last of the plants went in, I could hear the whistling of the engines as they left the tunnel and I even had a few spare moments to get in position and take a couple of photographs of the train arriving at Shelley.
During the last year I have been on occasion to tend to the garden and notably other people have also contributed by keeping the edging tidy and also introducing the odd plant or two. The plants used in the garden were chosen for their ability to withstand the open aspect, are low maintenance and do not look out of place in an area surrounded by countryside.
One year on and the plants are already starting to bulk up and it is looking like the garden will need to be extended next year. I am already gathering plants that will be at home there and the process of digging the turf off and letting the winter weather help out will begin again.

July 2012

Anyone who grows their own fruit and vegetables will already know that it is a constant learning curve, sometimes quite a frustrating and disheartening one!  In my own garden I have found through bitter experience that I have to cover the brassicas with netting, otherwise the cabbage white butterflies lay their eggs and the resulting caterpillars munch through the lot. 
I now also have to net off the peas as the local sparrow population seem to have developed a taste for the young shoots and can destroy the years crop before they’ve even managed to flower.  Considering that pea shoots are now served in the top restaurants, its obvious that the sparrows know when they are onto a good thing.  This year instead of watching them destroy the plants we have watched them trying to eat through the twine holding the netting in place and picking off any shoots that have managed to grow through.
Unhappy at not being able to get at the peas the sparrows have now started taking dust baths in my onion bed and as a result have started filling in all the holes left for the young leeks to grow into.  So now I am having to put twiggy pea sticks across the area until the leeks are more established.  Slowly the vegetable beds are starting to resemble a maximum security prison!

As for fruit, the blueberries also need to be netted off, usually from mid June until they stop cropping. Not the sparrows this time, but the blackbirds, which will quite happily eat them before they are even ripe.  So far they have been so busy trying to figure out how to get to the blueberries that they haven’t noticed the raspberries yet, which are just on the other side of the path. One important thing to note however is that when you are using netting in the garden you have to ensure that it is taught and is tied down so that no birds can get into or trapped by in it.
This year has been testing in the kitchen garden, not because of the birds (I’m prepared this time) but the weather and the amount of slugs which seem to be enjoying the damper climate.  The first peas that were sown around March/April never germinated so I had to sow another batch in root trainers and planted these out in May.  The unexpected cold weather then meant that I had to cover them with fleece until conditions improved.  I’ve picked my first crop of peas this week and having got them this far I’ve now got to prevent my other half from eating them before they make it to the pan, there is no better taste than a fresh pea straight from the pod, and netting isn’t going to hold him back.  The courgettes that I planted out in May have started fruiting later than in previous years and so far the fruit have been small, hopefully this warmer weather will see them on their way and I can look forward to better cropping during August.  I am now on my third attempt at growing climbing beans, which are usually no bother.  The slugs and snails have destroyed the last two attempts, so similarly to the peas, this time I’ve grown them in root trainers, and planted them out when they were a reasonable size.  Fingers crossed this time they will take off and we’ll enjoy a good crop later in the year.

Just about every seed that was direct sown this year has been a disaster they have either drowned in the amount of rain we have had or the erratic temperatures have meant that they haven’t germinated, those that did have had a battle for survival with the slugs and snails.  Having said all of this we are now enjoying the onions and garlic planted last autumn, their space has now been taken by the leeks mentioned earlier.  Elsewhere the tomatoes and peppers are starting to form fruit and the mangetout is cropping well.
There have been plenty of birds in the garden over the last month, with quite a number being new fledglings with their parents. Our resident blackbirds had a new addition to their family and the blue tits that were nesting in the bird box also had two youngsters. We have also had young sparrows and starlings. These birds may not be anything out of the ordinary, but as our garden starts to mature more birds visit on a regular basis. This in turn helps to keep the garden in balance with pests and the reason why I don’t use slug pellets to kill the pesky slugs.
Meanwhile the garden itself is starting to bulk up and despite the weather is looking good for what is only its second year in flower. Although the planting is geared to be at its best later in the year there is still plenty in flower now that can be enjoyed.

June 2012

For those of us fortunate enough to have a garden, there will inevitably be an area which is in shade at some point in the day. This could simply be created by a boundary wall/fence or by trees and hedges, or given that the size of gardens are getting smaller as more houses are being built, could simply be from the house itself. More often than not, those of us that are faced with a shady area in the garden see them as difficult and uninspiring, rather than an opportunity to grow a variety of plants that would otherwise be overlooked.
In my own garden shade is created in an area that receives sunlight for only a few hours a day, and is generally an area of ground which is open to sunlight earlier in the year, but as summer draws nearer and the hedge gains leaves the sunlight is blocked out. In this instance it may be best to grow spring loving plants, which will take advantage of light and moisture in the ground whilst it is available. When the border was created it was found that the ground was full of roots, but you can get around this by raising the soil level a few inches and then planting up the border. By the time the roots of the trees have grown into the new space, the plants will be established and will be able to survive through the months when the soil would be much drier.
I recently read a book by Keith Wiley, called “Shade, Ideas and inspiration for shady gardens”. The book basically covers all different types of shade and the characteristics of shade loving plants. He turns all the familiar preconceptions on their heads by presenting garden shade in a positive light, showing how you can create tapestries of colour using wild woodland flowers from around the world, as well as modern varieties derived from them.
Keith Wiley’s passion for plants is obvious throughout the book and it gave me the boost to sort out my own shady border, which I had already made a start on. What I decided was to mimic a woodland edge. All this basically meant was that rather than have a few large clumps of the same plant, which would look unnatural for a woodland edge, I would plant in a more singular fashion, but more frequent throughout the border.
The border in question starts the year off with Cyclamen and Primula Vulgaris (the native primrose). Then the Rhododendrons come into flower early May followed by Aquilegias, Dicentra and Brunnera. These are then joined by Astrantia, Violas, Clover and Foxgloves in June. The border is generally looking its best at this time but will remain green over the summer months until September/October when the Japanese anemones will come into flower. So what was once a dry, root filled area is now full of plants and interest for the majority of the year.

It just goes to show that if you assess the conditions of your garden you could grow a larger range of plants than you would ever have expected.




May 2012

It is always busy this time of year in the kitchen garden and the cold spell at the beginning of May proved to make the simplest of tasks more difficult. The direct sowing of vegetable seeds had to be delayed until the weather, and the soil, warmed up. Peas, mangetout, cabbage and courgettes were all planted out under the cover of horticultural fleece, and tomatoes were potted on to prevent them becoming pot bound.
Young flowering plants of echinops, eryngiums, lupins, knautia and aquilegia also had to be potted on this month, before they are hardened off ready to be planted out into their final positions.
As soon as the weather improved it was every plant for itself as the race was on for which plant could put the most growth on in the shortest amount of time. It was also time to catch up on the direct sowing of vegetables, give the box balls a clip over and do the Chelsea chop. The Chelsea chop, for those of you that do not already know, is basically a procedure whereby you reduce the height of a perennial plant by up to a third. This is done is around the time of the Chelsea flower show, hence the name Chelsea chop. It can be undertaken on plants such as heleniums and sedum and it produces a shorter, stockier plant with more flowers, albeit a little later.
One particular warm day I checked on the plants in the greenhouse before leaving for work to find that some were looking rather sorry for themselves and were in need of a stiff drink and some shade from the sun. The warmer, sunnier spell had caught me off guard and I had to get the greenhouse shading up quick smart in order to give the young plants in there some protective cover, otherwise I could have lost the lot.
Despite the temperatures improving there has been a lack of bees and butterflies in the garden, but
the cold temperatures do not appear to have affected the birds. The blue tits are nesting in the box and have been busy feeding their young. Whilst they were going through a period when the adult blue tits were moulting, the sparrows seem to take a liking for their feathers and collected what they could find for their own nests. They have also been busy trying to obtain the twine which ties the canes together in the kitchen garden for the peas and beans, thankfully without much success to date. And for those of you that are interested, the young blackbird that was mentioned last month, grew the rest of its wing and tail feathers and left after a about a week to fend for itself.  Mrs  Blackbird has been collecting nesting material again of late, so who knows; maybe we will see more young blackbirds before the summer is out.

April 2012

I have been known to do a spot of gardening in the rain so April showers don’t bother me in the slightest. However, back to back April downpours, forget it!
Before the rain settled in I managed to get the compost bins sorted out for the year. Ok, not an exciting task, but none the less an important one for the garden. We have two compost bins and every year I empty bin 1 and use the contents for mulching the garden borders. The contents of bin 2 are then transferred into the now empty bin 1, which is then topped off and left for another year. This now leaves an empty bin 2 ready to be filled and starts the cycle again. The compost bin generally gets filled with green waste from the garden, including grass clippings, tea bags and vegetable peelings from the kitchen and the old bedding from the guinea pigs cage for brown waste. Cardboard and shredded paper can also be used so long as the mix in the bin has the correct ratio of green to brown waste. An incorrect ratio can make the compost too dry or too wet and smelly, but can be easily rectified. Two years later I have a free soil improver to put nutrients back into the garden soil.
It is also the time of year when a little lawn care is required.  Our lawn is by no means a bowling green, but we try to keep it healthy enough to fend off the majority of weeds and moss. All I have managed to do so far is to get some weed and feed down, this had a few days to get working before the rain set in. Once the weather fines up again the lawn will need to be scarified with a lawn rake to remove all the dead moss and thatch, then random holes about an inch deep will be made with a fork all over the lawn to relieve compaction. Gritty sand will then be brushed into the holes to assist with drainage. The lawn will look a bit of mess for a while, but in the long run it will be better for it.  By all accounts this is a great workout for the body, and it really does get the blood pumping. Who needs a gym when you have a garden!
The greenhouse is starting to fill up with small plants that were sown from seed last autumn as well as those which have been sown in the last couple of months.  Whilst the mangetout are waiting for the weather conditions to improve in order to be planted out into the kitchen garden, it is looking like the peas that were sown direct may have drowned as there has been no sighting of them so far! We have also been able to eat some of the spinach beet and spring onions that were sown in the greenhouse border on a trial basis last year. Encouraging results mean that I will try this again this coming autumn.
Whilst pottering around the garden this last weekend I came face to face with a baby blackbird, before it scurried behind the water butt to hide.  It was obvious from its appearance that it was too young to be out of its nest, its tail and wing feathers had not fully formed, in fact it had no tail at all! The blackbird eventually came out from hiding and with several attempts managed to get itself up into the hedge at the back of the garden.  Within about half an hour the blackbirds parents had located the baby and for the remainder of the day stayed close by, taking it things to eat. It is times like these that make you smile and glad that you garden with nature in mind.

March 2012


The ground is covered in a blanket of white and the branches of the shrubs are laden with snow.
That said, I do love this time of year, although looking out of the window it is hard to remember why.  The days are getting longer and generally warmer, there have been bees buzzing around the garden, even a butterfly or two. On warmer days groups of ladybirds have been seen sunning themselves and the great tits have been checking out the nest box again. Last year the great tits nested in the box and we managed to see a couple of their fledglings in the garden.  The garden is changing by the day, buds are forming on the trees and shrubs, perennials are putting on growth for flowering later in the year and bulbs are now beginning to flower.
You will see daffodils everywhere this time of year and one place to visit for a spectacular show is Thorpe Perrow in Bedale. In our garden we just have one type of narcissi and these flower over a sea of blue anemone blande. Well, I say a sea, more like puddles at the minute, but they self seed freely and given time they will multiply and eventually cover the whole bed. In the shady part of the garden we have clumps of primula vulgaris (native primrose)growing amongst brunnera macrophilia. We only ever purchased one of each of these plants, but with division over time they are really bulking up.  The primula really come into their own at dusk and light up the bed with their pale yellow flowers. A couple of the shrubs are also looking good, with the flowering currant flowering a very vibrant raspberry pink and the camellia covered in large white blooms.
Unfortunately, as the shrubs and plants grow, so do the weeds. As mentioned in an earlier blog, when we bought the house, the garden was a little on the overgrown side and as a result there are plenty of weed seeds. These lie dormant in the soil until the growing conditions are right, and some weeds can produce hundreds of seeds per any one plant. I have a long battle ahead of me, as they say; one year’s seed is seven years of weed. However, a plant growing in the wrong place can also be classified as a weed and I tend to steer clear of any plants that can become invasive and a nucience. That said, I do have some raspberry canes popping up in the green house that shouldn’t be there! March is generally a busy month for sowing vegetable seeds and I haven’t got as far with this as I had hoped. It doesn’t really matter though as there is still plenty of time to get this done.
The tomatoes and peppers that were sown last month are now growing strong, as are the mangetout peas that were sown in root trainers, at the same time. The early peas that were sown last November have overwintered in the greenhouse and after being hardened off are now planted in the garden. With the spell of warm weather these are in flower and hopefully there will be a few peas to eat in May.  In the meantime, the peas, spring onions and leeks have been sown direct into the ground and the onion sets have been planted for later in the year. Recently I managed to sow a couple of courgette seeds in small pots and already these are growing strong, these will be planted in he garden in late May when the risks of frosts have passed.
Outside the snow is still falling and it is hard to believe that in a couple of month’s time the garden will be full of flowers and vegetables ready for the picking.

February 2012

The first half of February saw some cold mornings with temperatures dropping below zero and the ground frozen solid. It is mornings like these that bring the birds into our gardens looking for food and I for one am always happy to oblige and put food out. One particular morning  I counted nine blackbirds waiting just outside the kitchen window where I had been leaving the food. Now I know that robins are very territorial birds, but blackbirds! There was one in particular that kept standing guard over the food and whoa by tide any other bird that came near as it would soon see them off. One of the funniest things I have ever seen is a blackbird running round the garden chasing another blackbird, literally! 

The last few weeks of February have been a lot milder, although at the time of writing this I am told that wintry showers are expected. The milder temperatures have awoken the winter flowering plants and the likes of snowdrops and hellebores come into their own. It’s a good time of year to get out and about and visit some spring gardens and get some ideas.

 It also the right time of year when deciduous shrubs can be moved and mature clumps of perennials can be lifted and divided. There isn’t really much maintenance work in my own garden at present as its fairly new, but I do need to relocate a couple of shrubs, which with hindsight were planted in the wrong place. I also need to reduce the height of the deciduous hedge in the next few weeks as the sap is rising and it won’t be long before the birds start nesting again.

Indoors I have managed to sow seeds for the tomatoes and peppers which will be grown in the greenhouse this summer. They need a long growing season so it is best to get these started as early as possible. However, if growing these outside it is always best to delay the sowing time until at least late March. This for me is where the fun begins, as March is the time when the majority of flower and vegetable seeds can be sown and is really the start of my gardening year.