Cold and snowy, but the birds are feasting
Cold and snowy, but the birds are feasting

Not much has been happening in my mini kitchen garden of late here in the north Cotswolds – not so much the covering of snow but the fact the raised beds are all frozen. And I omitted to follow my own advice and forgot to protect the self-set rocket with fleece; it’s looking distinctly sorry for itself! Can’t wait for the purple sprouting to ‘sprout’ (really the emerging flower spikes). I turned my attention instead to feeding the birds, checking that the feeders were filled with seed, nuts and suet fat balls, which seem to be the most popular in times of hard weather. Water dishes had to be thawed each morning (I even spotted birds eating snow), but what brought unusual species down into this little patch was a feast of apples – bought specially as an experiment in what we could attract.

female blackcap
female blackcap

Apart from the usual tits, finches and blackbirds we were visited by the female blackcap, female greater spotted woodpecker, a pair of mistle thrushes, yellowhammers, long-tailed tits, and fieldfares, but not the male pheasant who was a constant visitor last year; I fear he may have fallen prey to a wandering fox. Seeing birds so close to the kitchen window was quite amazing – you do not appreciate the size or beautiful plumage of birds normally seen at a distance. The blackcap is fiercer than she looks!

My 'Red Love' apple growing in a pot
My ‘Red Love’ apple
growing in a pot (the
ribbons prevent
accidental pruning

It wasn’t just the food that brought them into the garden but the close proximity of the shrubs that surround this little plot – the one I call my ‘Dobies Potager’ in which I trial new varieties, not just vegetables and salads but flowers to attract pollinating insects, plus a potted apple tree and, heeled in ready to plant when the weather is fit, Mirabelle de Nancy – a mouth-watering plum-like fruit which has been cultivated in France since the 15th Century. (Read more about it in my Christmas Day post, here.)

Personal pages from my garden journal
Personal pages from my garden journal (double-click if you want to read my jottings)

Time to review my 2012 garden plans, at present just so many notes on scraps of paper, and even more ideas running through my head. I’m running out of space in the Dobies Potager, but have other areas – each a mini-garden, too; one where I trial other varieties of fruit, the other a mix of herbs and annual flowers – and both in need of care and attention. Out this morning as I write comes my suede-covered garden diary; more a journal of jottings with scribbled diagrams and sketches. Good to refresh the memory and assess progress over the last two years of success, and failure; and somewhere to pull together what I want, and need, to do.

Dandelion leaves make a delicious wine
Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, hens love them; the flowers make a delicious wine

I am reminded, not so much of the weedy state of most of my beds, but of the importance of many weeds in attracting early pollinating insects; and chickweed is much appreciated by hens. Some, such as the dandelion, are edible and will provide an early addition to a salad; simply cover a plant with a flower-pot to blanch the leaves (and thus remove a little of the bitterness) and serve with an oil and vinegar dressing.

If you’ve stumbled upon this post by accident, or from one of my other blogs, and would like a copy of the 2012 Dobies catalogue, easy to use, full of good things and very well set out, then click here to request a copy.

One thought on “Kitchen Garden Update”
  1. Oh yes – hens LOVE dandelions. Mine also like goosegrass, which is very handy when I need to clear a new patch.

    We too have had blackcaps in the garden over the past week. Last Sunday we had both male and female birds feeding on the berries on the honeysuckle. This week they have been feasting on Ivy berries. We also had Goldcrests in the honeysuckle – right outside our back door too!

    The flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares have grown in size since the snow fell. This weekend they have been flying between the big trees constantly, with some dropping in to feed from a tray feeder I set up in the uncovered frame of a mini greenhouse. I guessed it would allow enough space for thrushes to feed, but be too tight a space for Magpies and Woodpigeons. So far that seems to be the case.

    There seems to have been the beginnings of a thaw here today. Hopefully we’ll actually be able to get some work done soon.

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