Saturday, 28 February 2015

Gardening jobs for March

Empty Common Garden in late January

Volunteers are still finishing off the polytunnel (pictures to come) and doing all sorts of jobs around the Community Garden. It's quite a green space considering we are still in winter, but spring is not far now. The photo above, taken in late January, shows you how lush a winter garden can still be here in England. We had no snow last year and little snow this year.

Photo: JamesDeMers 

Today is the first of March, which is very exciting for all gardeners, whether you have a plot or a balcony to flex your green thumbs. For those who like blooms, it's time to plant summer bulbs (in the ground or in a pot). A handy tip for a heavy clay soil is to place a bit of sand under each bulb to improve drainage. Other jobs and tasks for March include:

  • Planting lilies, they are generally hardy and can go in now. Other summer bulbs to grow are Homeria, Gladiolus and Dahlia (the latter is best protected from frosts and started in a pot)
  • Planting tomatoes in grow bag if you have a greenhouse or conservatory
  • Cutting your lawn and give it some TLC, identify and repair bare patches
  • Stocking up on slug and snail control products.

Have a good weekend!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Wild garlic... green shoots of spring

Wild garlic at Empty Common Community Garden
This week I was sent a picture of the wild garlic. The team of volunteers have been hard at work preparing the ground for the polytunnel. After spending some time to get the measurements right, they dug the anchor poles in the right spots, so it should be going up soon.

New volunteers have joined in the past two months but there is still space for more helping hands. As the weather improves, there will be more to do and crops to grow. The polytunnel will really help with early growing and protect young plants from the elements and, hopefully, some unwanted visitors. 

We will publish a photo as soon as the polytunnel is up. I am also hoping to get a few photos of the garden so you can see what it looks like now.

If you'd like to join us, please refer to the first blog post, which has a contact number and a map.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Getting ready for spring - gardening jobs for February

Photo from Wikipedia

Snowdrops have been joined by crocuses and primroses in many gardens. Daffodils are going to follow pretty soon here in Cambridge. At the Empty Common Community Garden, volunteers have prepared the space where the polytunnel will be located. We will publish a picture as soon as it's up!

If you have a gardening diary, you will find that February can be a busy month. Many gardeners will be buying seeds and plants. If you came to the Seedy Sunday, you will have a big batch of seeds and be ready for action! 

You can start mowing a lawn if the weather is mild and dry or prepare the ground for a new lawn. It's also a good month to:
  • plant bare-root trees/shrubs such as roses
  • move deciduous woody plants
  • cut down dogwood to get lovely red stems next winter. 
If you have a greenhouse or warm windowsill, you can start planting seeds, if you have not already! Hope you had a Happy Valentine's day. I always enjoy getting a plant rather than cut flowers.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Wild garlic - tough like old boots, or should we say wellies?

Wild garlic. Photo: Geograph, Creative Commons
Some of the wild garlic has grown, against all odds,  a couple of inches, even though it was only planted two weeks ago. It's in a shaded area and the ground has been virtually frozen ever since, so you have to admire the power of this humble plant.

Wild garlic in bloom. Photo: Albert Bridge, CC
The foragers among you might be interested in a wild garlic pesto recipe from River Cottage. Simone, who is of Italian origins, has a variant in mind: replace onions/leeks with basil, use extra virgin olive oil, replace walnuts with pine nuts (the traditional ingredient) or cheaper cashew nuts. A red pesto would also be very nice, add a bit of tomato puree or tomato sauce. And if you are a pesto purist, replace food processor with pestle and mortar.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Seeds, growing, snails...

Photo: Kathy Cassidy

I hope you all enjoyed the Seedy Sunday event in Trumpington. Charlotte set up a stall and some of us popped in on the day to say hello and pick up some seeds. It got really busy at one point, with adults crowding around the tables, children doing crafts with seeds, twigs and pine cones, and people of all ages enjoying the delicious cakes and savoury bites sold by the WI institute. 

Growing and dealing with snails

Now we have our seeds, we are lining up pots and compost, perhaps with some help from young gardeners. For those without a heated greenhouse, it's all about placing pots on windowsills and perhaps a sunny corner in the conservatory. Towards late May, usually after the Chelsea Gardening Show, you can start planting outside - that's what programmes like Gardeners' World advise us to do every year. Of course if you have a polytunnel (and one is planned for the Empty Common Garden) it can be earlier... 

Whether it's May or before, there is one issue that is already on our mind: snails and slugs. They are a big nuisance and if you, like me, tried multiple ways unsuccessfully - beer, nut shells, grit, egg shells, pellets (not suitable for organic gardening though), an inverted melon with flesh scooped out (yes, it sounds crazy but somebody advised that) - you will know how frustrating it is. Personally there is nothing more effective than picking snails up and disposing of them, but you have to get out early in the morning to catch them at it. Another way I discovered recently is to combine pellets with plastic bird nets, I don't know why it works, but I managed to grow salad and rocket in the autumn and throughout the winter with very little damage to the leaves.

A spot of unusual recycling

At the Empty Common Garden we have come up with an alternative solution to protecting young plants, using recycled plastic bottles. Empty snail shells are also coming in handy - in this picture of our young mulberry bush - as a top for spiky sticks. 

If you have any recycling or snail tip, we would like to hear it. Please leave a comment or a link to your blog post on the subject. Thank you.