Met Office chart, Sun 27th January 2013
Met Office chart, Sun 27th January 2013

Well the snow has gone, around here at least, but with closely packed isobars and a complex series of warm and cold fronts, we’re already experiencing strong winds. It’s set to continue over the whole of the British Isles, with more areas of intense low pressure approaching us from the Atlantic, so check any newly planted trees to see that they are well staked. Wind-rock now will lessen their chances of establishing a good root structure, and there is always the risk that excess rainwater will puddle around the planting hole.

woodpecker on feeder

Don’t forget the birds! There is still time if you are reading this today (Sunday 27th January) to participate in the RSPB’s ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’. ‘Big’ does not stand for ‘big  garden’ but big in the sense of  their desire that many, many people will participate. We did our stint yesterday: nothing out of the ordinary other than a jay, but the increasingly rare mistle thrush was on the village green just a stone’s throw from our bird table, and two song thrushes were feeding on the mix of currants, suet and stale biscuit that I had put out during the below-zero daytime temperatures. We also had a flock of long-tailed tits, three other species of tit, male and female chaffinches, a pair of greater-spotted woodpeckers and starlings, dunnocks, sparrows and jackdaws. (Image shows a juvenile greater-spotted woodpecker taken Summer 2011.)

It's surprising that pigeons have not attacked these brassicas
It’s surprising that pigeons have not attacked these brassicas

With warmer weather the possible pattern for the coming week, it would be sensible to check that the allotment has not suffered; pigeons need to be discouraged from attacking cabbage and broccoli for they can devastate crops in a very short space of time. Cover with netting, if possible by erecting a frame so the mesh does not touch the foliage. Plant protection is always important, and readers who are on the Dobies mailing list will have received updated 2013 catalogues and a new ’Protect Your Plants’ leaflet in the last week  – take a look, for there are some really good new products therein.

‘Hot Beds’ cover
‘Hot Beds’

For early crops, why not try an ancient system – if you have the space – by creating ‘hot beds’, a method utilised as far back as the Romans! It’s a highly productive, low-cost, year-round, natural and eco-friendly process and consists of a series of growing frames and organic material that produces heat as it decomposes. Traditionally this is horse manure and stable litter, but for those without access to such a commodity, there are alternatives. And it is all described in a new book just published by Green Books. ‘Hot Beds’ is written by experienced horticulturalist, Jack First, and his hot beds have featured on BBC TV’s Gardeners’ World.

Introducing Simon Hulstone, food ambassador for Dobies of Devon
Introducing Simon Hulstone, food ambassador for Dobies of Devon

All this thought of food and early crops brings us to Dobies of Devon’s Food Ambassador. The Dobies of Devon team are very excited to be welcoming Simon Hulstone (Michelin Star chef) as the ‘Dobies of Devon Food Ambassador’.  Simon is in charge of the kitchen at Torquay’s Michelin Star restaurant ‘The Elephant’; and last year, together with Heston Blumenthal, he created the menus for British Airways customers during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Simon Hulstone harvesting potatoes with Dobies' vegetable specialist, Peter Morton.
Simon Hulstone harvesting
potatoes with Dobies’
vegetable specialist,
Peter Morton.

The Elephant Restaurant has its own farm which encompasses two acres of land with stunning views of the Devon landscape.  At the farm, Simon and his team rear free range pigs and sheep and grow a range of seasonal fruit, herbs, flowers and vegetables which are then expertly prepared and served at the restaurant and brasserie. Simon is a great advocate of home growing and foraging, and Dobies are proud to be joining forces with him in order to help you get the best out of your own home produce.  Each of the new catalogues being sent to Dobies customers throughout the year will include recipes from Simon. Time to get sowing and growing so as to be able to take advantage of what Simon suggests – there are three that sound delicious in the 2013 ‘Potatoes, Onions, Garlic & Shallots’ catalogue.


Links for this post: bird-feeding; RSPB’s ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’; fleece, netting, cloches, book ‘Hot Beds’.

And in general, check for all seeds, plants and other topics on the Dobies website by clicking on the generic links. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don’t forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don’t miss anything special.

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