After days of rain when the rain gauge has overflowed and the surface of the veg plot has taken a battering, it has at last been sufficiently warm to wander around the garden and orchard taking stock. Little things trigger big ideas. My potted Cha-Cha Chive plants
in a sheltered spot by the back door are already shooting, and that set me to thinking of the re-vamp I want to do within my ‘Physic Garden’ – herbs of all types, culinary, medicinal, scented (for potpourri) and as a source of dye. Onto the Dobies website to source herb seeds for infilling gaps – and discovered also a handy Herb Dryer.
Thinking of plant dyes had me rushing back indoors to consult a favourite book – ‘The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes’ by Sasha Duerr (Timber Press). There are so many plants within the garden or home (from tea and coffee to blackberries and acorns), all of which can add subtle colour to cloth or even paper. Perfect for craft projects inspired by the garden or local hedgerows. Another walk outside had me listing what I already grow. Surprising what is there already; or what I could grow from seed, once I have compared my list with the catalogue. The Flower Seed and Perennial Plants sections proved to be a good starting point. Much experimental fun to be had come Summer.
Back outside and my Potager Beds are ready for young salads. I’ve sorted my packets of seed and decided that I will start some indoors, for we invariably encounter extremes of weather in the north Cotswolds in late January, even in the sheltered raised beds. So I order a couple of ‘Jiffy 7 Windowsill Propagator Kits’ which will just fit on my kitchen windowsill above the radiator. These seem perfect for raising small quantities and come with spare pellets. I will report progress as I have never used ‘Jiffy 7’ pellets before, and until the kits arrive, will use my tried and trusted DIY method of ‘polycups’. These rely on cutting drainage slits in one ‘cup’ and standing it within another. As for salad seeds, take a look at this selection.
It really does feel as if Spring is on its way and nowhere more so than in the orchard where the hazel is resplendent with catkins that are just starting to ‘elongate’. The pollen (male) will be blown onto the tiny red ‘shaving brush’ female flowers, and we will have another mass of cobnuts come the Autumn. Enough for us and the greater spotted woodpeckers that snatch them before they are ever ready to pick. They wedge them into crevices in the adjacent plum tree and hammer them with their powerful beak. The hazel serves many purposes – every year we coppice some of the limbs for bean sticks, or wattle hurdles around some of my raised beds. Why not try a Purple Filbert which has attractive coppery foliage, deep red catkins, and of course, nuts.
A ritual every morning for us before breakfast is to refill the bird feeders which hang just outside the kitchen window on the edge of the Potager. Visitors are numerous and range at this time of year from long-tailed tits, a pair of robins and woodpeckers to blackbirds, nuthatch and collar doves, whilst in the orchard a pair of fieldfares feed on fallen apples. Sadly, increasing traffic through the village has driven many species into the woods and fields beyond our roadside plot. Ideal for storing bird food is the ‘Haws 7-litre Storage Caddy’ available in sage green or duck egg blue.
The RHS Garden Show Season will soon start in earnest, with Shows around the country at various prestigious venues. Not to be missed – always – is the Malvern Spring Show which has undergone a sea-change since 2013 taking on a new dimension for both gardening and food. Not least is that it has been re-titled and has become ‘The RHS Malvern Spring Festival’, solidifying the strong connections between the Malvern Show and the Royal Horticultural Society. The ‘RHS Malvern Spring Festival’ will take place from Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th May and previews will start to appear shortly on Ann’s Malvern Jotter (written by yours truly).
Meanwhile, don’t forget to visit the Dobies’ website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seeds, vegetable 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. NB Text appears with tint overlay. The links are already embedded.