Digging and planting early potatoes

First day of ‘heavy lifting’ in the allotment today. And it was a lovely day for it. 

I’m sharing the hire of a rotavator in mid-April, but I didn’t think my well-chitted first early potatoes (Lady Cristl and Anya) could wait that long to get in the ground. 

Three hours of weeding, digging, raking, furrowing and planting and I am a WRECK! Aching, stiff and exhausted. 

Before – the designated spud patch

After – two rows of Lady Cristl and two of Anya, ready for their muddy blankets

Though my body is crying, I’m dead pleased to have got that job done for another year!


The annual invasion

It’s that time of year again when the impatience to get growing forces us to cram windowsills with those sissy species that insist on home comforts.

My home was clearly not designed by horticultural enthusiasts. It has a woeful lack of windowsills, so I am mostly trying to sit on my hands until we’re risk-of-frost-free and I can sow outside.

But I wouldn’t want to avoid the annual(s) invasion altogether, so IN MY NEW POTTING SHED (!!!) I sowed a tray of modules with zinnias and cosmos. All of these seeds were free; mixed zinnias and cosmos from Gardeners World magazine this year and last, and white cosmos purity collected from my garden (in 2014 – time will tell if they’ll still be viable).

I really must clean those windows…

That tray of annuals is balanced – half on the windowsill and half on ‘The Idiots Guide to the Internet’ (circa late-1990s) – in my office.

The zinnias shot up in days, and are now squishing themselves leggily against the polythene cover, waiting for the cosmos to catch up!

Next to them is a lasagne dish of plug plants, which are balanced on the Good Beer Guide 2012. It sure is a professional horticultural outfit here!

These are my money-saving windowbox solutions. With a lack of space and time for bringing on loads of annuals from seeds, I buy the early annual plugs from the garden centre (£1.49 each, and less if you multibuy) and grow them on inside and then in our unheated greenhouse.

I’ve chosen trailing fuschias once again for our tricky north-facing window boxes. I dislike the other obvious choice for shade – begonias – and fuscias did pretty well last summer.

For the sunny side of the house, I’ve gone with bright red trailing geraniums. It’s a real sun trap and I think it deserves a hot colour. Petunias have done brilliantly in the past, but the process of dead-heading them is such a horribly sticky job that I’m changing my allegiance.

Despite my dislike for begonias I’ve bought a few apricot-coloured ones to go in hanging planters at Miss MBaF’s Preschool. It’s a semi-shaded spot, and I needed something that would flower before the children break up for summer hols.

To tide us over until the begonias go in I’ve chosen some pretty nemesia. It’s too cold for them outside now, but they’re already flowering away happily on the windowsill.

Next up I’ll have to clear the kitchen windowsill and get the tomatoes started!

A light February flurry

…of gardening, at last!

It sure has been a quiet winter on the MBaF front. I’m a fair-season gardener for sure, and even my Gardener’s World magazines festered largely untouched some months.

But for a few hours, on a couple of recent days, the feeling of spring’s approach has begun to cajole these green fingers to flex.

Today has been one of those days, and it happened to coincide with no work and Miss MBaF at nursery. I couldn’t deny it any longer. Seeds. Were. Sown.

Hello 2016, and in Delia Smith’s immortal words: Let’s be avenue!


Pea Douche Provence sown. Over-wintered Nigella potted on.



Planting sweet peas. Part 1.

Today was the first I’ve had in ages when I could hit the allotment with more than a glancing blow.

We’ve had a run of beautiful sunny and warm days here. It’s put a spring in everyone’s step and I feel like we’re closer than a gnat’s whisker to getting loads of stuff in the ground.

I’ve made an allotment plan, but there are still some details to iron out – like where to put the sweetpeas.

Sweet Peas are lovely to grow; pretty, prolific, great for cut flowers. I had thought about mixing them in with my climbing French beans, but then I noticed some convenient gaps in my little cut flower patch.

Welcoming spaces in the flower patch

Welcoming spaces in the flower patch

The flower patch currently contains sweet williams and achillea cassis, shortly to be joined by a sowing of nigella. It used to have echinacea too, but these seem to be irresistable to critters and were quickly munched. The echinacea-sized gaps looked just right for sweet pea wigwams.

Sweet peas are pretty greedy for goodness and water, and our soil is very free-draining so here’s what I did:

Step 1: dig a hole, about 2 feet across

Step 1: dig a hole, about 2 feet across

Step 2: find a load of couch grass roots, swear profusely and spend 10 minutes teasing them out of the soil (This step is optional)

Step 2: find a load of couch grass roots, swear profusely and spend 10 minutes teasing them out of the soil (This step is optional)

Step 3: chuck in a bucket load of manure

Step 3: chuck in a bucket load of manure

Step 4: backfill with soil, tamp down, rake smooth

Step 4: backfill with soil, tamp down, rake smooth

Step 5: sink 5 canes in a circle and tie them securely at the top to form a wigwam

Step 5: sink 5 canes in a circle and tie them securely at the top to form a wigwam

I put up a second wigwam too, completing all the steps the same, except finding bindweed roots instead. Gah!

Two wigwams awaiting their climbers

Two wigwams awaiting their climbers

The RHS recommend adding manure at least 4 weeks before planting. I’m not sure I’ll wait quite that long, it depends how the seedlings get on and what the weather’s like. The first sowing – with the exception of no-shows from the Solway Blue Vein – is looking good. I’ve pinched out the tips to make them branch out, and they look strong and healthy. And the second sowing are all up.

First sweet pea sowing looking good.

First sweet pea sowing looking good.

Easter bunny brings purple sprouting broccoli

I spied with my little eyes a few florets of purple sprouting broccoli appearing a few days ago. 

I must admit I find harvesting PSB a bit confusing. Is it ok to chop them while they’re still really leafy and stubby, or if I’m supposed to wait until the stems are slimmer and longer or summink??

The RHS website said wait til they’re fully formed, but before the mini flowers that make up the floret head start to open. Well the latter bit is clear, but ‘fully formed’ is open to interpretation. 

Anyway, sod it, this afternoon I harvested a handful of short leafy stubby stems and they tasted bloody good in my linguine with anchovies, chilli, garlic and parmesan. 

luckily I was only cooking for one tonight!

Happy Easter. X 

Blind daffs


All but three of the daffodil bulbs I planted in the front garden with Miss MBaF have come up ‘blind’ i.e. They haven’t flowered. 

‘Blind’ non-flowering daffodils

They’d been recycled from pots, where they’d languished for a few years, not flowering. 

I thought it was a problem of overcrowding, and that separating them and planting them in the border would cure all ills. 

Nope. Nothing doing. 

Dug up, binned, new bulbs in the autumn. 

On the upside:

-the new daffs in the back garden are lovely. And they’re on short stems – so better suited to our windy spot. 

– the primroses are going great guns everywhere  

– I noticed the first magnolia flower bud peeping through its downy jacket today

magnolia peepage, and the sea of primroses below