Meteors and Ghosts at the Allotment.

Astrophotography is something I’ve dabbled in before. ( Not that it’s a taboo or anything.)

Let’s be honest: We’ve all dabbled in it, even if it’s just trying to capture a full moon on your smart phone whilst walking home from the pub. #guilty 

Despite not having the best equipment, I’ve sometimes managed to get some good results:

Last Quarter
Meteor during 2015’s Perseid Meteor shower

Partial eclipse in March 2015
 

Star Trail

Eclipses, Certain phases of the Moon, the night sky in general; anything to do with astrology in fact, are all thing I know nothing about. Absolutely zilch. But they do intrigue me. The night sky is a beautiful thing. 

The Perseid Meteor Shower which happens every year in August also falls into that category of things about the night sky that I know nothing about yet intrigue me. 

I missed it last, but as you can see above I did try and capture it the year before. 

Since getting an allotment, I’ve always wanted to go up and have a look at night; I imagined there’d be a much better view of the stars than in the middle of a light polluted estate and since the weatherman said on the local news that the Meteor Shower was going to be the best show in years, I finally had an excuse. 

Only later, the same Weatherman was telling me there was a chance of being clouded out for it. It was an umming and ahhing situation. But finally at about 9 last night, and seeing several breaks in the clouds, I decided I’d go up. Still light I set up my camera and taking some test shots, I wasn’t enthusiastic, the clouds were getting thicker:


Camera set up on it’s tripod, chair dug out of the greenhouse, all I could do now was wait for darkness to fall. It dragged out; and very quickly I decided that I didn’t want to be here; the allotments, surrounded by woodland, are a very scary place at night I’ve found: I’ve never seen or heard as many ghosts, this got worse as it got darker. At one point I thought I heard the sound of a spade cutting into the earth. The ghost of an old Gardener who once had a plot here. Endlessly digging. It had to be. There’s no other explanation. I turned on my radio for comfort. It didn’t help much.

It was still cloudy by the time It got dark. But there were enough breaks to still come out with interesting results. Setting the camera to its longest shutter speed (30 seconds) and locking it in with a remote shutter I left it to do its thing: taking one 30 second exposure after another for around 20 minute to half an hour each time. I’d normally set my shutter speed to around 8 seconds for this sort of thing as at 30 seconds the stars start to trail ( something to do with the speed of the earths orbit) , but in this case it was what I wanted. Here’s some of the results:




This last one I prefer without the star-trail as it’s the only one in which I captured an actual meteor:


The clouds, although annoying, did mean you could do some interesting things: 



If you missed it last night , there’s still a good chance of catching 2017’s Perseid Meteor shower tonight; just hope for clear skies.

As I said above, these were certainly never going to be professional quality;but I’m happy with them. Light pollution in most places is unavoidable. Clouds can’t be controlled and you have to have decent, expensive equipment if your hoping for something that NASA may want to buy off you.

Anyone who wants to give astrophotography a go can. All you need is a camera that has the ability to shoot in manual mode; it doesn’t have to be a DSLR. You’ll need a tripod or a steady surface though. I use a remote shutter control to avoid shaking the camera but if you don’t have one of these you can just set a 5 second delay so that you don’t wobble the camera when taking the picture. 

The star trail effect is made by ‘ glueing’ lots of photos on top of each other. The last one shows half an hour in one image. Lots of free programmes will do this for you. I use starstax for windows.

You might not want to photograph them either. Just watch them. Your cameras almost always facing the wrong way anyway. But simply Seeing the meteors is a breathtaking experience. They’re a bit like them fireworks that go up silently and then just fizzle away. What are they called? Look out for falling stars too.

 You might not be interested what so ever. That’s okay too. At the end of the day, they’re just stars. 

An evening stroll.

‘Greening Grey Britain’ isn’t a campaign that I think my local town really needs. It is already colourful, in both it’s buildings and its characters (how cliche.) 


But where Gardening is concerned, our town doesn’t do to bad either. There’s Some wonderful gardens in the side streets and the wynds and under the arches of the viaduct. 


Most of the hanging baskets on the high street are looked after splendidly by the shops that they are outside of. I think I managed to get photos from each side of the Town Hall with a hanger in the foreground.

 I think it is our local pub that does us most proud. Always a fabulous display. The Landlord, as my allotment neighbour once told me, is ‘ a hell of a gardener.’ Round the back, in the beer garden, there is espalier fruit trees. ( I resisted the temptation to visit it though.)

These were all taken tonight on a walk down during the golden hour. The walk back up involved fish and chips and a setting sun: 

Dreaming of Dreaming in Autumn.

Summer isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

Don’t get me wrong. When it’s good, it’s second to none. But for me, this year at least, it’s been a season of disappointment in a lot of things: not just the weather. But if you’re clever about it, It can also be a season of learning lessons from disappointment. 

It’s a season where you realise that those things which were so full of promise in Spring, are fragile. And if they’re not fragile, then they’re often temperamental. 

But most of all It’s season of waking up. 

The other seasons, to me, are all about hope. Dreaming and hoping. Seasons of lessons learnt and trying again. 

I think I’m done now, with being disappointed in this Summer. I’m done with verging on the brink of bitterness: The harvests from the allotment haven’t been the greatest this year – Okay, they haven’t been terrible, but they certainly haven’t matched up to what I dreamed was to come when I first started ground preparations way back in Autumn. Seeing that the Potatoes have Blight has probably been the most disappointing thing: I knew it was coming long before the physical signs appeared on the leaves. The weather was the warning, but there was nothing I could do about it. And now the only potatoes without the dreaded Blight, are the ones that grow out of the side of my composter.

I love summer, and I’m not wishing time away; I can wait and make the most of what’s left of it, but I crave a new air and a new light. I think this means I’m ready for Autumn: Ready, when the time comes, to wave goodbye to summer and start afresh – like leaping into a new year, shrugging off the last.

I’m looking forward to a future that is, to a point, certain: The shortening of the days and being able to watch the Sunrise at a reasonable hour – The crunching of crispy leaves underfoot, waiting to be collected for the making of leaf mould – Late harvests and late blooms  – The smell of smoke from a crackling bonfire as a well sharpened spade makes contact with an earth hardened from those first frosts; A Robin for company.

But most of all, I’m looking forward to dreaming and hoping again. 

To Autumn 🍂 

A Long Overdue Plot Update.

We’re nearly half way through July.

How did we get half way through July?

I mean all I did was blink!

How?
HOW?

Despite probable neglect, things in the garden seem to be happening, whether I want it too or not.

(I mean HOW? Last I remember we were still in the aftermath of Christmas. We were all looking forward to the great coming of the snowdrops! And now we’re in MID-JULY! THE SHOPS’LL HAVE HALLOWEEN OUT SOON!!!)

Some of this happening, is good:


But there are other happenings, that I wish weren’t. *Cough* WEEDS. *Sneeze* Pardon me.

Said ‘neglect’, came in the form of a holiday. 11 Nights, All-Inclusive,  Ice cream coming out of my eyes, Beer on Tap, 99% lying down, sun turned up high and lots of books. Heaven. HEAVEN.

The Plants, Lamp posts and Stairs of Majorca. Book out in August.

A post shared by Jack (@jackontheplot) on

And in a flash. Even quicker than the speed of 2017 so far,  it was over.

And I was home and it was wet and it was cold,

But at least I didn’t moan about it.

Wet and cold and hiding in the greenhouse #gardening #rain

A post shared by Jack (@jackontheplot) on

It probably wasn’t even that cold, but after a bit of time spent in a hot country…

It’s bit like getting out of a hot bath in the middle of winter.

I was pleased when I was away, to see that the weather at home was brutal. None stop rain, for nearly a week. Over the moon. Sorry people, our gardens needed it. I’m not being selfish, honest I’m not.

The gardens needed it.

It’s refreshing anyway, after weeks of torturous high humidity.
And now, in the garden things certainly are happening:

The cut flower patch, as you can see on the Instagram post above is doing far better than I ever hoped it would. Far better than anything else on the plot is doing in fact.

They seemed to have thrived on the neglect.

The only thing they ask for is to be cut.

Need more Vases.

A post shared by Jack (@jackontheplot) on

And you’ll be rewarded well into late summer.

I did also actually steal some plants from the allotment for home. There was a surplus, and I’m not actually sure Nicotiana does best as a cut flower?


The potatoes, seem to be romping away, as they do.

As are the Cabbages and sprouts.
Some harvesting has been happening as well. That’s nice.

First of the season. Late ?

A post shared by Jack (@jackontheplot) on

Beetroot


Lettuce.


Garlic and Onions drying in the log store.

The French beans last year, were the highest performers. What a bloody let down this year. They’re growing up wigwams alongside the sweet peas ( far right and far left of this image). In my head this looked great. It should look great. But them bloody French beans have let us all down.

The Carrots may also be destined for the naughty step.


The squash patch is a mixed bag.

The courgettes are doing grand. Pumpkins? Nothing so far.


When I was away, the Greenhouse, was looked after splendidly by two of my allotment neighbours, proving once again, that the allotment community cannot be beat (unless of course, you have a plot on this allotment site, which actually is just down the road from where I live. It’s full out war. How sad. How pathetic. How not what allotments are about.) I gifted my two neighbours with bottles of ale upon my return (once I had made sure everything was still alive, of course. )

I think that takes us up to now. I’ve got a few days off work this week, which actually means I don’t have any days off at all. Cos’ there’s a hell of a lot of weeding to be done.

 

But what else would I rather be doing?

IMG_0973.JPG

The Rhododendrons of May and more, at RHS Harlow Carr.

The day started as I wish it always would; an English Breakfast, delivered to our room, with this view.

The trip to Harlow Carr was a spontaneous decision; after struggling to decide which National Trust property to visit ( a bit like arguing over what to watch on Netflix) we turned to the local attraction recommendations listed in the guest book in the hotel room. Rhs Harlow Carr was first on the list.  The decision was made. And the weather, as indicated in my tweet, was perfect for it.

So less than a year since our first visit in high summer, we returned. Paying for our ticket (rather begrudgingly on my behalf, having gotten used to flashing my National Trust card at their properties like a Police Detective would show his ID badge before swanning into a crime scene.) We were told for another 20 quid we could have annual RHS membership, I politely declined. We entered and like the  last time we visited we instinctively headed left out of the doors towards the Western side of the garden. Although there’s no official route, this is the direction we headed. Why do we always go the same way? Routine?

Anyway, My first thought upon entering:

‘Can I change my mind? Yes I do want RHS membership for an extra £20.00?’

No, I was told.


Going this way, past the Stream-side, and faux potting sheds ( I’m not sure I see the point in these. I want to see the real thing.) 

…You’ll reach the lakeside garden, arguably my favourite part of the gardens. In fact, I think I’d like this to be my back garden. It wouldn’t be that hard to replicate neither. Inspirational.

This is the lake, ’tis lovely. Lovelier without that building perhaps? Carrying on through the woodland, you’ll be greeted by scent it self. If ever I wasn’t convinced by the small, shrubby, Rhododendrons I knew before, I’m now a complete convert. Oh, and if scent doesn’t float your boat (Voldermort?)

What about sheer beauty?

This one was my favourite, a den and a Rhododendron in one. A RhodoDENdron. It was Rhododendron ‘Moonlight.’

By this stage, I had been utterly convinced.

Gone to seed. Maybe not one for people who suffer Arachnophobia. 

Carrying on, you will pass the wild flower meadow, with beauty only the eyes can appreciate. 

Further into the meadow, past randomly placed (but irresistible) musical instruments, you’ll  find this. The Pollinators lawn. A simple concept capable of being very effective. I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I like it. Anyway, it’s not there to be liked.

And now, when walking past apparently scruffy unkempt front lawns on the estate, full o’ Daisies and Dandelions, like the bees, I shall see a meadow. 

Moving on through the woodland.

This is the first glimpse you’ll get of the main borders. But we’ll come back to them later.

IMG_1798.jpg…Past now invasive Skunk cabbage, you’ll reach the Cafe and a drink was definitely needed.

And if the words ‘Skunk Cabbage’ weren’t enough to get your appetite going, I don’t know what is.

Studying the various varieties of Tea they had on offer, In the end I opted for, erm, well, just Tea.

After tea, the sky started to spit and hoods went up everywhere. I could sense a level of panic. 

Just as we reached the main borders, the heavens opened and people began to disappear. Of all the grey days in May, it was one of the sunniest and most promising on which it pissed down. Typical. I of course blame my self, for the Sod’s law that tweets like mine above always provide. ‘ You hope it’s not gunna rain eh? I’ll teach you for hoping !’ 

 And so From the Main border, we headed for this pond.

Here, whilst sat huddled under a brolly, suitably sheltered and wondering where everyone else had gone for shelter, the work went on for one poor gardener.

I think it would be fair to say he got rained on. And I feel guilty to admit that it added a certain amount of comfort to watch him work, us glad not to be in his shoes at that particular moment in time.

IMG_1824IMG_1827

We watched as the rain drops made contact with the pool of water. I tried and failed to photograph the circular patterns it made. It was peaceful, and right then I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

And after being held in peaceful trance by water, we headed back through the main border, and admired the Alliums, which, 1 week later to the day, in my back garden anyway, are making way for Verbena Bonariensis.

img_5412img_5409

with one last look back,

img_5405

We headed, through the vegetable garden ( I insisted, ‘Just to see what’s going on.’) and into the ‘Alpine House.’ Finally winning the game of ‘us VS everyone else in the gardens hide and seek.

By the time we were due to leave I  was utterly convinced that I had to claim that membership we were offered at the ticket desk. So I did, and I got a free bag shopping bag.

If that’s not winning, what is?

Photo Gallery – Alnwick Garden and Beningbrough Hall.

I thought I’d share some photos with you that were taken over the bank holiday weekend at two gardens over two separate days. The first, on the last day of April, my Birthday, was the Alnwick Garden, roughly an hour north from where I live. The second was Benningbrough Hall, roughly an hour south, on May Day.

Alnwick Garden – 30th April 2017

The Alnwick garden is huge. It’s also wonderful; a perfect day out. A fun fair for adults (Kids’ll love it too – especially the poison garden, which is absolutely fascinating) (I hope that doesn’t too sinister.). If you want to read a more in depth write up of the gardens, please head over to this post by fellow garden blogger, Lou Nicholls. Disappointingly, I forgot to pack a spare battery for my DSLR, so after half an hour, I was using my phone, which might mean the quality of the photos is a bit inconsistent.

Alnwick Gardens Gallery.

34362699526_fd7615e5fc_o-1
Before entering
34273642971_392e3a06e7_o-1
Clematis in the Rose Garden
34362825096_a7c6c2b797_o-1
Rose Garden
34273665721_9beefd53bc_o-1
Cherry Orchard
33562536244_d61eda5325_o-1
Tulips
34245482282_5ee7522993_o-1
Towards the ornamental gardens
34245467882_139c99020a_o-134404265435_76f834c90a_o-1

34245433692_58ab8e0102_o-2
Ornamental Gardens
34019526820_6dbe9fac4b_o-134245419562_5e02b91646_o-133594491803_9f2f41a4ba_o-134245470322_fb336beb12_o-134273688311_5b90688619_o-1

34019480190_2e28d86938_o-1
The Poison Garden
34404366005_905d44d465_o-1

Beningbrough Hall – 1st May 2017

Beningbrough hall was a more spontaneous trip, we decided to go and were half way there within an hour – might as well get some more use out of our National Trust membership, we thought to our selves ( which, at under a tenner a month, is worth every penny.) To be quite honest we weren’t expecting much from the gardens, I don’t think they are really advertised as much as they should be on the NT website. All formal lawns, was what we expected. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The Beningbrough gardens are beautiful. Magical even. They’re the type of gardens that you can fall in love with. I have. They remind me of the Country House garden my Dad looked after when I was a child – Full of little nooks and crannies, long garden corridors, different ‘Rooms’, Beautiful walled gardens with espalier trained fruit. There is something of interest around every corner, and what’s more it feels just as preserved as the big house itself – a complete contrast to the Alnwick garden which definitely has a more modern feel about it – despite being a renovation of a garden as old as the hills. But is also equally as breathtaking.

Beningbrough is a proper working garden, and is truly charming because of it.

Beningbrough Hall Gallery.

Bluebell woods on the way in.

34404664985_dfb743e8ee_o
Beningbrough Hall
34363057776_96c5332376_o
Walled Garden
33562754064_7d14c64692_o
Clematis


33562762834_7c96cb8b5d_o

33562779734_36bbd9be97_o
Greenhouse
33594719173_3e005283f8_o
Walled Garden
34404672125_cd90f34d39_o
Walled Garden
34363054146_98ee199485_o
Walled Garden
34019801880_479e6230c3_o33562751524_d33abe49dd_o34245673012_671bbb25e1_o

34363001706_fa86e4817d_o
Blossom
34404600895_602c2c878e_o33562787364_039901fda8_o34404648705_250aa3e94e_o

34273978191_df5f8f6956_o
Gardener at work
IMG_4723IMG_4855IMG_4901

Because I wasn’t expecting Beningbrough to be as brilliant as it was, I decided not to bother to pack my good camera, so these are all taken on my I Phone. My own rule for photography is that if you have to ask your self ‘should I bring my camera?’ then the answer is always ‘YES you absolutely should’, but on this day, I broke the rule. Next time I will be better prepared. Despite this, I’m actually quite pleased with the quality of these.

For all the photos I’ve taken on my phone I now use the Adobe Lightroom mobile app for editing, which is a surprisingly powerful piece of software that does nearly everything the Desktop version of the software does. The Mobile version of Photoshop has also come a long way since it’s first release, and I highly recommend anyone who already subscribes to Adobe to try them out.

The Last Days of April

This last week has been quite the contrast to those balmy days we experienced earlier in the month, where spring did the finest impression of summer. The ‘Halcyon days’ as I now refer to them as. These past few days however, have acted despicably; we need rain! Lots of rain! But what do we get? Days of hail and nights of frost. Not exceptionally damaging frosts though, thank heavens. Nonetheless it’s been bloody cold.

Today armed mostly with a 50mm lens, I went out into the garden, and to the allotment, to capture what is going on, and to find out what shines, when the sun doesn’t, in The Last Days of April.

For the last few weeks, the Clematis that grows up the side fence has been full of promise. A star in waiting.

Clematis Montana Rubens, early April.
Well this morning, expecting some sort of frost damage, I was pleased. It had finally delivered.

IMG_1550.jpg

IMG_1551.jpg

IMG_1553.jpg

The cheap and cheerful 50mm F1.8 lens (Nifty Fifty) that I’m mainly using here is an awkward sod – it mostly refuses to focus on anything, but on the rare occasion it obeys me it’s brilliant. This is considered a cheap lens. But even the Cheap lenses are bloody expensive, so I try to get the best out of the few I own, usually resorting to the Kit lens (18-55mm) that came with my camera.

IMG_1569.jpgIMG_1571.jpg

IMG_1555.jpg

IMG_1570

…Very pleased indeed.

There are also other Gems to be found in the garden, the Poppies are doing well.

IMG_1577IMG_1578

IMG_1560

The Tulips not so; not in terms of quantity. But at least it gives me a chance to focus on their individualistic qualities.

IMG_1559

Bluebells are also doing their thing.

IMG_1573IMG_1575

as are Hostas and Ferns.

IMG_1567IMG_1565

And now to plot 12,

IMG_1625

IMG_1638

Where there’s no real stars at the moment. But the Alliums ( purple sensation) will soon take that crown.

IMG_1612

IMG_1584

And because of this, the last of the daffodils sulks amongst it’s mushy mates.

IMG_1596

There is a bit of frost damage here – the Blossom of the apples doesn’t look overly fantastic.

IMG_1619


 

But it’s okay – I wasn’t expecting any apples this year anyway.

The peas I planted out last week have been nibbled. I don’t know what by but I suspect Pea Weevil?

IMG_1621

The Sweet peas seem to have survived the frost – but they are relatively tough anyway.

IMG_1633

In the Greenhouse the Tomatoes are doing well.

IMG_1639

…And not so well.

IMG_1641

The ones that are doing well were a gift. The ones that are doing not so well were sown and grown by me. Hey-Ho.

The Sunflowers aren’t doing at all.

IMG_1642

But the Dahlias are doing all right.

IMG_1650

As is the Nicotiana.

IMG_1644

…If a little nibbled here and there.

And back outside the weeds are doing whatever they want, whenever they want. Undeterred by Hoe wielding gardener.

IMG_1581

It’s been too long since I’ve been out into the garden solely to take photographs. I shall try to make more of an effort there.

It’s also been over a month now since my last blog post – no real reason for this other than the fact that nothing really ‘came’ to me – I don’t really plan my posts, they are almost always spontaneous – off the cuff. Ideas usually come to me when they like, usually at stupid-o-clock in the night. Sometimes I’ll have a light bulb moment where the wording of a particular paragraph – or even a sentence that I’ve been struggling with will come to me whilst I’m in the shower. Notebookless, it’s needless to say that by the time I’m out, it’s completely gone. And For the last month, nothing came to me. No ideas whatsoever. Not that it’s a problem but Perhaps I do need to start planning these more – brainstorming?

I’d be interested to know if any of you Garden Bloggers also Suffer from mild bouts writers block ? Or is it Bloggers Block? Is that a thing?

Anyhow, it’s been a funny old month. Kind of. Well actually, it hasn’t. Not really. Not for this country. And there’s two full days left yet! So whatever you’re doing, I hope you enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend!

 

#amsowing

…Sow I am now.

It started in January with Sweet Peas. ‘Old Fashion Mix’ , ‘Erewhon’ and ‘ Almost Black’. A bit Like choosing a horse in the Grand National, I chose them because I liked their names. ( Second time I’ve made that Joke now, still only me laughing.)

Pinched out, they’re fattening up nicely. 

A few weeks passed by till the next sowing. That was erm. Erm. (checking my diary) Nicotiana ‘Sensation Mix’ ! And Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy.’

Nicotiana Seeds

Sown thinly in module trays filled with seed compost, then placed on a windowsill, They germinated in about 10 days.

Best photo I have of the seedlings. Might help to use a magnifying glass.
Around the same time I also planted some tomato seeds. Gardeners Delight, Moneymaker and ‘Mountain Magic Hybrid’. Opening the seed packet of the latter I was a bit shocked to find only 5 seeds. But they were in the sale at the garden centre so one musn’t complain too much. Still, they most be bloody good Tomatoes.
On the seed packets for the Tomatoes it said 21 days for germination. After 26 days I wondered for a moment if it meant 21 working days. Hmm. Nearly a month later and after realising the problem was me – (I was using a spray bottle to water the trays and the seed compost was drying out too quickly – rectified by using a gravel tray to water from below.) –  they are now starting to pop up. 


They’re coming up a bit leggy, but at least they’re coming up. Finally.

This week, after a break in sowing, it was back too it. Yesterday I put in a tray of ‘Stuttgarter’ Onion Sets, with any left overs put straight into the ground alongside the rows of Onion and Garlic planted back in Autumn. French Beans (Cobra) and Peas (Kelvedon Wonder) were also sown into module trays. 


Both of these I normally sow direct but it doesn’t hurt to experiment a bit. 

These are the first lot of seeds I’ve tried to start in the greenhouse, the rest have been started on windowsills above radiators and only after germination have they went in the greenhouse. But it’s still too cold in there. Especially with my defective automatic ventilation system ( Smashed Window Pane). Yesterday morning we were back down to freezing, which isn’t too good for the tender seedlings of Nicotiana and Rudbeckia. They needed further protection from the elements. so I decided to modify this cloche into a sort of mini greenhouse / coldframe. 


It’s protecting a mixture of things: Dahlias, Rudbeckia, Nicotiana, Strawberry plants and Pelargonium Cuttings. 

It doesn’t look much but I think it’ll do the job. 

Typically when I visited today the greenhouse thermometer was showing 20C. Freezing again tonight though.

Today I managed to get a couple of rows sown direct to ground: Beetroot Boltardy and a row of Lettuce ‘Lakeland’. Being quite far north, I’m probably getting a head of myself with direct sowings – we shall see.

Looking through my seed collection yesterday I realised I still have a lot to do. 


Luckily it’s still early days. 

Some things to be getting on with.

It’s that time of year where it’s not always obvious what we should be doing in the garden. In between winter and spring. Springter?

 The winter digging regime by now ( for me at least ) is completed. At home a list of pruning tasks are also complete (these included Wisteria, Climbing Roses, Buddleja and Late Flowering Clematis amongst others.) You might start to think about taking up the ancient art of thumb twiddling.  

Climbing Rose on Trellis freshly pruned.

The grass hasn’t really got going yet, and the ground is still too cold to plant anything out for at least a few weeks yet (barring Garlic and Onion Sets.) You’re potatoes are chitting away nicely, and you might even have some seedlings on the windowsill. Or you might not. You might be of the mind set that it’s still to early to be sowing seeds. There’s no right or wrong here. But what else can we be doing in our gardens ?

Well apart from twiddling your thumbs ( it’s an art form that can be practiced anywhere), quite a lot.

 Here are just a few thing’s that I have been getting up to over the past couple of days.

1. Preparing the ground.

Although the main winter digging is complete, You might, like me wan’t to achieve a fine tilth, especially if you are going to direct sow anything ( About 60 % of my seeds are sown directly) This means to achieve a Crumbly, fine texture in the soil. For heavy clumpy clay ( I’m not sure about other soil types as clay is all I know.) it can seem daunting, near impossible perhaps, to achieve this without the use of a tiller or a Rotovator. Rototiller if you’re from the states, I believe. (And that was my initial plan; a bloke on our site, known as Ronnie the Rotovator, will do it for you for 60 quid – I’m not sure if that’s a nationwide service he provides or just on our site.), but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted the job to be my own, without the use of heavy, loud, polluting machinery.
 
The way I do it is (…the hard way, just use a tiller, the end….) the way I do it, is by taking an old rake and absolutely abusing it, bashing, thrashing and whacking lumps of clay with in an inch of their lives. Keep going over it until the clumps start to break down and then by using the rake how it was intended to be used, you will get there. It’s actually relatively easy once you get going, and something I enjoy. 

Perhaps one day I will be known as ‘master of the tilth’. The neighbours will ask ‘ Did Ronnie the Rotovator do that for you?’ And I shall say ‘ No! It was I, with bare hand and rake’ and across the site Jaws will drop. Looking at these pictures perhaps not. But I am pleased none the less. And I saved 60 quid. 

Bashing, Thrashing and Whacking. In that order.
Slowly getting there.

2. Keep on Weeding.

They never stop. They literally never stop, and if you don’t stop weeding they’ll quickly get on top of you. Although It’s also good idea to leave some of the flowering weeds for the bees. With sunny days becoming more frequent ( Hoorah!) Bee’s are tricked out of hibernation (Booo) at this time of year and there’s not a lot of flowers out there at the moment for them to feed on. The same goes for our birds: keep on feeding as there’s still a lack of natural sources of food for them at this time of year. It’s nice to be nice. They’ll never return the favour though , if that’s what you’re hoping. They probably won’t even thank you for it. Rude.


Ungrateful Tit. ( Coal Tit, that is)

Weeding.

3. Repair and replace.Check over everything. This way you will be fully prepared for the coming season and you won’t be caught out by that broken cloche you forgot about or that smashed pane of glass in the greenhouse. Also keeping on top of your tools is an essential part of good husbandry. I try to clean mine after every use, especially with things like secateurs which can quite easily spread diseases if you’re not careful. 

Pots to be cleaned.
Cleaned and Sharpened.

4. Relax.

Go on, have a brew, sit down. KitKat? You’ve worked hard over the winter. You can afford to take a bit of time out, in a few weeks it’s going to be wonderfully hectic. Take a bit of time to plan and take stock. Even if it’s just in your head. Think things over. It’s what I’m doing right now as a write this, sitting at the plot in-between achieving that jaw-droppingly good tilth ( Ha!).  

Taking a quick break.
 

Sipping. Planning. Plotting.

These are just a few of the things that have been keeping me busy recently. I’d love to hear what you’ve been getting up to in the garden and how you’ve avoided the old thumb twiddle. 

The Signs of spring are increasing daily; just this morning I head the first croak of a frog in the pond. Soon the to-do list will be through the roof and you won’t know whether you’re coming or going. What an exciting prospect!

Ribbit.