In the eye of the beeholder!

Bees have been enjoying a very shady character at our house.

I’ve struggled to find pollinator-friendly plants for my South-facing window boxes amongst the usual garden centre offerings. But, by-chance, the northerly one seems to contain a beaut for the bees.
A shade-tolerant heuchera (‘Apple Crisp’) is doing nicely in the frankly dank window box outside our living room. Since early spring – and some new compost – it’s sent up its spindly spikes of teeny tiny white/green bell-shaped flowers.

They really don’t look particularly impressive (though I take what I can get in the north-facing planters!) but buzzing things seem to enjoy them.

Heuchera ‘apple crisp’

I’m hoping for a bit of colour from trailing fuschias in these boxes this year, but I’m actually coming around to the idea of giving up the fight against the conditions and trying a foliage-based display.
Next spring I will divide some of my smaller hostas (which, are so far still snail-free!!!) to add in, and I’ve just bought a few ferns to try.


This one (common polypody) should reach 35cm if it does well, which would look fab alongside the heuchera.

Any other tips for shade-loving plants that would suit a window box or three???

(Ps The strange pink thing behind the fern is Miss MBaF’s toy saucepan on the windowsill inside!)

Nap-time efficiency

Miss MBaF turned 3 yesterday and I turned 3-something last week (at one point I was informed her due-date was on my birthday – but there was NO WAY I was going to be sharing!). With the palava of birthdays and a few days away, I haven’t got much gardening done for a fortnight.

Despite now being a “big girl” Miss MBaF still needs a nap some days, and I like to make the most of these halcyon afternoon hours!

So when little miss was settled in bed I grabbed my gear and headed to the allotment with a list of urgent jobs. (No need to call social services, I didn’t leave her on her own. Mr MBaF was home after a night shift.)

First was to call it quits on the early sowings of carrots, beetroot and peas that haven’t done much. I hoed-up the few shoots that had appeared and started over.

In again went carrots (Amsterdam forcing) and beetroot (Rainbow mix), and peas (Kelvedon Wonder). You may remember that Miss MBaF was ‘in charge’ of sowing the peas the first time. Whether this has anything to do with their poor germination, I wouldn’t like to say, but to be fair the mangetout she sowed/plonked is looking better.

Pathetic peas

Pathetic peas put out of their misery (not the one on the right, that’s a weed)

Next up was to get some sweet peas and climbing French beans in the ground. The former have been doing well in my coldframe, and I’ve left the lid half open for the past week, so I figure they’re sturdy enough to go out now.

Sweet peas join the cut flower patch

Sweet peas join the cut flower patch

First climbing French beans (Cobra) in the ground

First climbing French beans (Cobra) in the ground

I’m running a little trial with the beans. I forgot/didn’t get around to digging muck into the ground they were destined for. However, after the supports went up I dug a trench on one side (nearside in the picture) and filled it with manure. I couldn’t do the same on t’other side because it’s too close to the path – and hence my carefully planned (!) scientific experiment began. If I remember/can be faffed, I’ll weigh the takings from each side and report back later in the season.

Finally I earthed up my spuds (Arran Pilot and Sharpe’s Express) for the final time. I find the earthy architecture of potato ridges very pleasing for some reason – fingers crossed there are lots of tasty morsels fattening up within.

Ravishing ridges

Ravishing ridges

A bit of watering and some hoeing of weeds, and I was done. With just enough time on my way out to snap the strangely different appearance and behaviour of my purple sprouting plants. Both came as seedlings from my Dad, who sowed them from the same packet. One is rather green, tall, with long spindly stems and loose florets – and has already gone to flower. The other is deeply purple, squat, with thicker dark stems and tighter broccoli heads, and still has a few edible pickings left on it! Whatever the mix-up, I know which one I’d rather have again.

Spot the difference

Spot the difference

(And the two wierd fluffy white things in between are excuses for cauliflowers!)

One last chance

Returning home today from a short-but-sweet family break, I discovered the postie had left an exciting parcel. 

My sweetcorn (Swift) plugs have arrived! 

 

Could’ve done with a reminder email from Suttons (maybe it’s in my spam?) – imagine if we’d been away for a week! 

But no harm done, they look plenty verdant still. 

This is truly the very last chance I’m giving sweetcorn on the allotment. For the last two years I’ve been thwarted by poor germination, and poor performance from the remaining few plants. 

So I’ve resorted to buying seedlings instead. They’re a short variety, which I thought might cope better with our exposed location, and I’ve planned the plot to shield them with climbing beans. 

First I’ll pot them up, so I can wait a week or so for it to get a touch warmer before planting out. 

But mark my words sweetcorn, this is absolutely your last chance. 

Pea muncher

I’ve not had much time for the allotment or garden in the last coupla-weeks. But we’re off for a short break from Wednesday, and there are a few urgent jobs to get done.

My lovely healthy Hispi seedlings have been shouting “Plant me out, plant me out!” for a week or so. 

 

hefty hispi seedlings

 
Tonight I took pity on them and got them in the ground.

 

hispis in the ground…at last

 
Brassicas like to be planted firmly – they don’t enjoy their roots rocking about in the wind. So when planting my cabbages I pop them in a hole, backfill with soil and then stand carefully with a boot either side of the seedlings – close to the plants – and do a little half-jump. This firms them in securely, and creates a bonus dip that holds water – reducing run-off and wastage during the summer evening rounds of watering.

Once planted and watered well I covered my cabbages with butterfly netting, slung over the fancy U-shaped supports my Dad bought me.  I have high hopes for my Hispis – the plot tends to ‘do’ brassicas quite well, and homegrown cabbage is yummy.

I had loads of seedlings left, so my favourite neighbour got those.

After the cabbages, I moved up the plot to break open my pea sticks and put them up around the up-coming peas and mangetout. I quickly spotted the telltale signs that something’s been enjoying the tender young shoots already. 

pea weevil damage on the mangetout seedlings. My soil looks dreadful close up!

Pigeons are always under suspicion, but I’ve seen these notches around the edges of the leaves before. Last year, in fact. I’m pretty sure it’s pea weevils again – the little blighters.

The RHS says that chemical control is usually unnecessary because the plants can withstand the damage, but that’s not my experience from last year – so tomorrow I’ll be taking my spray to them I’m afraid.

overly tall pea sticks to keep the pigeons out – i think the weevils may still squeeze through!

 
It’s tempting to shove the sweet peas and climbing beans in the ground before we go away – avoiding the problem of working out how to keep them watered while we’re gone. 

Maybe I’ll hedge my bets and plant half tomorrow and keep the rest under cover just in case of a last frost. 

How did we ever manage?

Suddenly our little greenhouse is full of seedlings cowering from the cold (including my tomatoes that are looking rather sad, the poor loves).  

 

In the little greenhouse: tomatoes, french beans, sunflowers, cosmos purity

 
We don’t have any shelves in there yet, so there’s plenty of room to expand. And I’m wondering how on earth we managed without it before…maybe we just took a tough-love approach and left it to survival of the fittest.