New Year Update

Happy New Year! I haven’t blogged for a while because Charles and I have been away. Before dawn on Christmas day we were at Heathrow airport and spent the day flying across Africa, to Cape Town. See how quiet the airport is at 4 in the morning!

A Christmas tree at Heathrow airport

I will be writing blog posts about our adventures as soon as I can, which included visits to wonderful gardens, vineyards, nature reserves and growing projects. Thank you for all of your lovely feedback on the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter photos I posted and the messages requesting more news about the trip. We arrived home late afternoon on January 9th and then were off again to Wales the following day so that Charles could give two talks. I helped with the driving, it was a long way; the return drive home after 10pm in fog so thick I was really rather scared at times, like something from a horror film!

The first venue in Wales – Bleddfa!

Two weeks of sunshine, wearing shorts and flip flops, sunrise before 5am and dusk around 9pm … coming back to the depths of an English winter has taken a bit of getting used to (!) Lovely to see signs of the spring to come and feel the energy gradually stirring… gardening is magical.

Whilst I was away there were some severe storms across much of the UK. My garden is looking bedraggled and I have lost 3 fence panels. It’s clear that my sons didn’t go down to the bottom of the garden the whole time I was away as they were oblivious to this damage! I have quote for repairs, just waiting to find out when they are able to come – the weather is rather horrible this week and there is more wind forecast, so I am hoping nothing else blows down! On Sunday I cleared as much as I could to prepare the area for repairs. Some of my fruit bushes were flattened but I’m hopeful they’ll recover. A plum tree may not be so lucky.

not quite what I had planned for this part of my garden

This robin made the most of my work, foraging for insects. Occasionally he burst into song, it was beautiful.


Oh for a shredder! I have to chop all of the prunings into 3 inch pieces for the compost heap, using secateurs, time consuming and achey for the hands – but I don’t want to waste any potential composting materials.

Fortunately the polytunnel survived the storms almost unscathed –  the door needs some repairs. Seeing the lush green leaves makes my heart sing! A few of the orientals had bolted, but almost everything else is growing beautifully. The dead plants next to the fennel in the middle of the photos are gem marigolds for seed.

Glad to see the calendula glowing brightly!

Under the “ghost” towards the rear, heavily mulched with hay, the lemongrass might still be alive, there’s some green. I will know for sure in the spring. I have more in pots in my house.

Hay is not an ideal choice for mulch because it contains a lot of seeds. However it’s what I had, left from when we still had our little house rabbit. Hay and straw mulches also provide a habitat for slugs, snails and potentially mice too. Not much of a problem here as slugs don’t eat lemongrass (afaik….) I’ll be removing the mulch in a few weeks (it’ll go in the compost heaps) and replacing with layers of fleece over a cloche. I used this mulch because I knew I would be away for several weeks in the winter and wouldn’t be able to add extra insulating layers if the temperatures dropped dramatically. It is an experiment – I don’t know if it will work.

Mostly it’s looking good. The carrot seedlings haven’t germinated as well as they did last year – this could be the seed or perhaps woodlice or other pests eating the new shoots. Most plants need a ‘tidy’ – not for aesthetic reasons but to keep the plants healthy, cropping for longer and to reduce habitat. That’s a job for this afternoon – rain is forecast, but the polytunnel is cosy and dry.

There’s some weeding to do, too. Most of the ‘weeds’ in the polytunnel are self seeded edible flowers and herbs; useful, but I don’t want all of them. These are a bit too big to hoe off (they clearly took full advantage of my holiday!) so I’ll hand weed with a trowel. Everything of course is composted.

Outside, I’m happy to see garlic and broadbeans sprouting after rather a late planting. I still haven’t had time to clear last year’s sweetcorn – the wild weather has done a great job breaking it down for me! Jobs this week (weather and lurgie permitting, I have some kind of wintry chest bug) include weeding the invasive grass creeping in at the front of the plot, tidying dead leaves from the brassicas and harvesting more beetroot. The experiment has worked so far – I usually harvest and store in the autumn, but tried fleecing instead (a double layer of fleece, topped with enviromesh). More news on this experiment when I harvest the beets.

The sun is shining now, blue skies too, so outside to make the most of this break in the weather. More heavy rain forecast soon….!

9 thoughts on “New Year Update

  1. Have you tried Ebay for shredders? I got a Titan, the one that’s called silent and is in fact quite quiet, for well under £100 including postage. It’s got sort of cogs which crunch and chip, rather than a rotating blade, and is very good for woody stuff. It managed the Christmas tree with ease!

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  2. Oh ! That sweet little Robin is so glad that you are back ! 🙂 Yes It is wild outside here tonight in Cornwall !..Hope my little greenhouse can stand up to it ! Light the fire , keep cosy,warm .

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  3. I’ll be looking forward to reading more about your SA trip. Really enjoyed seeing the photos from all those amazing gardens on your Instragram feed.

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