January is such a bleak and dreary month, it also happens to be the month of our birthdays. Oh I do envy the summer-born, the endless possibilities for outdoor celebrations. The ground is sodden in our garden at the moment, it’s bitterly cold too – no garden birthday parties for us.
I do try my hardest to stay off the squelchy garden paths but I’m weak, I love to mooch around the garden prodding and poking for signs of life. I took a quick peek at the raised beds, trying to be as light-footed as possible.
Snug under the tunnel cloches the first seeds of the new growing year are up, six rows with two rows per tunnel of baby broad beans. I find using tunnel cloches so useful for overwintering and keeping crops safe from pigeons and our chickens. Only a couple of seeds failed to set but that’s fine, I always sow more than necessary and thin out later if need be.
Caulk Wight garlic we planted in November is very noticeable now, with Red Duke just starting to push through. If they all come up we’ll have around 90 bulbs of garlic to harvest in summer.
I’m giddy with excitement for the growing year ahead. There are a couple of hurdles for me to get over first but I’m so looking forward to being outside, sowing seeds and drinking tea in the sunshine.
This month has flown by for me and I’m quite late putting this post together. The photos were taken just over a week ago, since then, everything has put on more growth.
Inspired by Charles Dowding, the four no dig beds we planned are finished (no dig = cardboard to smother the lawn/weeds, topped with a deep layer of compost), onions occupy one of these beds and doing well. Sweet pea scramble up an obelisk in another of the beds and these will soon be joined by courgettes, with butternut squash, pumpkins and beans going in the larger beds in the middle of the garden.
Broad beans overwintered from November (‘Aquadulce Claudia’) are almost ready to pick and ‘Bunyards Exhibition’ started off in spring are flowering already. I’m giving a heritage variety of broad bean called ‘Crimson Flowered’ a go this year, as the name suggests, the flowers are crimson and should look really pretty.
Garlic ‘Red Duke’ is looking really good with thick necks and no sign of rust (yet!), probably the best-looking garlic I’ve ever grown. I just hope the bulbs are a decent size because the leaves are extremely healthy and leafy!
Quick crops such as radish, mustard frills, spring onions, rocket and salad mixes are all providing plenty of pickings for meals. We grow these in containers and wooden crates. The herb patch is thriving, along with thyme plants that are doing brilliantly in a spot that doesn’t receive much sun at all. Experimenting with gardening sometimes pays off.
Peas are growing strong and flowering now, variety ‘Jaguar’. More peas have since been planted out including my favourite purple varieties ‘Blauwschokker’ and ‘Shiraz’, the flowers are just as stunning as sweet pea. Sweetcorn is now in position after hardening off, I prefer to start the seeds off in pots and keep them in the conservatory where it’s always warm.
Beets, chard, carrots and parsnips are popping up and potatoes are looking very good and almost ready to start flowering. Plenty of tiny fruits on the blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes to look forward to and the strawberries, wild strawbs and raspberries are all in flower with small fruits forming.
The veg garden looks like a proper veg garden now, the bunting is up on the shed and flowers in troughs and hanging baskets soften it. It’s hard to believe this garden is less than a year old, I’m very proud of it and looking forward to seeing it evolve and change even more over the coming months.
I thought it would be interesting to share a monthly photo of the new veg garden, to document how it changes throughout the year. I might stick to this viewpoint each month or show another angle, perhaps include more photos when there’s more to see, later in the year.
I’ve missed January out but little has changed since anyway, so here we are in February and this is how things are looking now. I put another raised bed together today, in front of the shed over the other side of the garden. Another will join it soon and a few more to the section you can see from the photo. The wildlife pond, herb bed, rhubarb patch, raspberry bed, broad beans and garlic currently growing by the shed and the fruit bushes behind me are not in shot, I’ll share photos of these areas as the year progresses.
Today I noticed movement in the wildlife pond, frogs are waking!
The new kitchen garden has been a joy to work on, it’s great to finally see my plans before me, rather than on paper. Each raised bed will be filled with compost rich in chicken manure straight from the compost bins, it’s lovely stuff with a beautiful earthy smell. I’ve decided to try the no dig method used by Charles Dowding for most of the beds, although due to timing, one bed has already been dug over and prepared for planting garlic in autumn.
The rhubarb bed is looking great, this is a young crown of Timperley Early which is a favourite of mine to grow because it’s super early and great for forcing. I resisted the urge to pull a few sticks this year, leaving it to grow strong and healthy for future harvests.
Squeezed into a sheltered corner of the kitchen garden is a wildlife pond, our garden is full of frogs and newts and you can never have too many wildlife ponds and areas in my opinion. I planted herbs around the edges to grow wild and unruly for a natural look, most are flowering herbs to attract bees and pollinators.
I used potted ivy and wood logs at the very back of the pond for a natural, rustic look. The new kitchen garden is pulling plenty of wildlife in already, including these little guys…
In the centre of the kitchen garden is a mature apple tree with a little table and chair set underneath, every kitchen garden needs a place to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
Below is the view from the kitchen garden, back towards the house.
I’m looking forward to working with my soil and improving it with plenty of organic matter over time, the texture appears to be a light sandy type which is just perfect for root veg.
The chickens seem to like the kitchen garden, although I’ll have to find a way to keep them out soon!
I spent a lovely afternoon at the allotment yesterday. A dull and chilly day but I didn’t feel the chill working on the plot. It was a day of weeding, harvesting (carrots, potatoes and a few pumpkins) and generally mooching around in the shed, tidying up and sipping hot tea.
We’re almost half way into October and the plot still offers plenty of Cosmos for wildlife and picking, the flowers just keep going and going until a hard frost arrives.
I have a couple of rows of potatoes still to lift and I’ll get that done before the ground freezes.
I’m very pleased with my carrots, they’re a lovely size with straight roots and the best I’ve ever grown. Putting rabbit fencing around the plot certainly helped matters. As much as I enjoy the comedy value of pulling misshapen carrots (you do get some strange and wonderful shapes), I was determined to grow some decent carrots this year. And I did, yay!
Sunflowers hang their heads, ripe with seeds, I’ll cut the heads soon and lay them flat for birds to help themselves.
This lovely pumpkin will be used for carving at the end of the month for Halloween! I finished painting the inside of the shed door before I left for home, I’m so pleased with the colour, it looks stunning against the colour of the Cosmos and pumpkins don’t you think? I’ve decided to paint the inside of my shed ‘Country Cream'(Cuprinol) and add a few finishing touches, some of which I sourced from artisans including lovely bunting which I just can’t wait to put up. I just need the paint and away I go!
We’ve made a start on extending the vegetable garden, adding three 10 x 4 ft double height raised beds. After years of being part of a well-worn lawn, the soil would benefit from being improved with organic matter. We emptied most of the contents from one of the large pallet compost bins into a waiting wheelbarrow, the compost wasn’t quite ready but it was lovely all the same – just perfect for mulching and adding nutrients to the dry, hungry soil in our new beds.
One of our German Shepherd dogs certainly likes our compost, I guess she can smell rotting chicken poop. Eww.
I still find it amazing to see the contents of a compost bin change into earthy compost, we add lots of organic matter to our bins such as chicken manure mixed with straw, kitchen waste (vegetable peelings etc), used tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, cardboard, paper, green waste from the vegetable garden, grass clippings, nettle tops, comfrey leaves and horse manure from our village stables when we can get it.
Our bins are full of tiger worms, they’re perfect little composting machines. They adore kitchen scraps and if you watch your compost bin carefully you will see them surface to feed, starting the magical process.
The contents of our compost bin became darker and more like compost towards the bottom, we had to be really cautious with the spade and fork, lots of toads hide in and around our compost bins! I almost speared one by accident, just goes to show how careful you have to be. Now is a good time to empty your compost bins before creatures such as toads and hedgehogs start to look for places to hibernate over winter. Don’t empty them completely, leave some material in the bins for them.
Another magical ingredient for compost bins is leaves. The huge old oak provides these for free, they rot down faster than other leaves. We have a leaf bin too, taking longer to rot down but lovely as a mulch.
Isn’t it a magical, majestic tree? I think it’s wonderful, it makes me think of the green man or ‘The Oak King’. I love to listen to the wind whistling through the branches, at the moment it’s home to lots of nesting wood pigeons.
I mainly use raised beds to grow fruit and vegetables in my garden, for the last 2 years I’ve been using what I call ‘veg frames’, to prevent my seeds, seedlings and onion sets being disturbed by cats, birds and rodents, giving them protection during the vulnerable early weeks of growing. The frames sit on top of my raised beds allowing essential light, water and air flow through but little else. Obviously, I remove the frames once my seedlings grow taller, by this point the crops are usually strong enough to handle what nature throws at them. I use 4 frames side by side along the length of a 10 ft x 4 ft raised bed, each frame can be removed or lifted with ease to allow for weeding etc.
To make a veg frame, simply nail, screw or glue together a simple rectangle or square wooden frame, (any wood will do) then staple chicken wire or aviary mesh to the frame. Using veg frames with raised beds is really handy to prevent cats from messing empty beds, I also use my frames to hold a covering of fleece securely over a raised bed if an overnight frost is forecast, particularly useful during blustery weather. The possibilities are endless, have a rummage around your shed or garage for materials (check out skips too) and see if you can rustle something up.