This is the journal of my endeavours to grow a range of fruit, veg and flowers from seed, grow organically, and my attempts to create a personal paradise with 1/2 acre of maintained gardens and 1/2 acre wild meadows. Northern Ireland's average daily high temperatures are 18 °C (64 °F) in July and 6 °C (43 °F) in January. Soil type: Clay

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Bird Watch

I took part in the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) bird watch this weekend. The task was to spend an hour watching for birds and forwarding the results to the RSPB. I thought it would be fun to take part. I keep a bird feeder filled with peanuts over the Winter and the birds seem to take turns by bird type i.e. the chaffinch eat, then the sparrows, etc (with the occasional bird argument over who's turn it is). I spotted 1 goldfinch, 3 great tits, 1 robin, 8 chaffinch, 8 house sparrows. Further from the house: 7 blackbird, 9 wood pigeon and 2 magpies.
Above: Goldfinch.
Above: An action shot of a great tit and sparrows.
Great Tit 
 A little robin followed me around the garden over the weekend.
I spotted the first of the flowering snowdrops this weekend...
and more snowdrops pushing up through the ground. I also found quite a number of bulbs laying on top of the ground like the one pictured in the middle of this clump so I replanted about 30 bulbs.
I prepared one of my beds and dug in some homemade compost & manure; the birds enjoyed this task. One of my last jobs at the weekend was moving some redcurrant plants to a new location. So much more to do before Spring!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Its been rather FROSTY

My little garden helper (pictured left) has been missing me out in the garden. We had hard frost most days last week and at the weekend. I'm wondering when I'll get a descent day to do a few jobs outside.

Inside... the dehumidifiers are still churning away taking the damp out of the walls from the burst pipes at the end of Dec. It has almost dried completely.

Below are a few frosty photos from the weekend.
Above: A frost covered wild foxglove.
Above: Frosty fern fronds.
Frost covered lawn has been this way for several days.
Above & Below: Just outside the front door little junks of ice have appeared from somewhere?
About twenty little ice chunks within a few metres (feet) of each other... maybe they've fallen from the top of the house or guttering? Hmmm.

Burrrr! It's cold. Time for a cuppa & to watch Carol Klein's cottage garden programme which I've taped.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Best Bloomer 2010

This time of year I think about my 'worthy' & 'unworthy' plants - those that did me proud; those I feel like chopping to the ground but will probably just re-home when the weather improves (we've had hard frost most of this week). 
Thinking back over the year, I've named my Best Bloomer for 2010... an Azalea (topiary style) given to me by a friend back in May. It was in full bloom during May-June, homed in my conservatory/sun room. It then went on a little vacation outside from July to early Sept.

Below: photo taken 14 Nov 2010.
Doing a tidy up around the patio in Sept, I came across my little potted topiary azalea to discover it was covered in buds. I brought it back into the conservatory/ sun room and it began blooming from October through to the end of December - lovely giant pink flowers.

I fed it regularly in the summer with Phostrogen All Purpose Plant Food for flowers, fruit & veg.

Left: photo taken 16 Oct 2010.

Above: still blooming; photo taken 11 Dec 2010. But then....
Above: With the hustle and bustle of the holidays and new year... I hate to admit it... but I got a little careless and didn't pinch out the dead flowers and maybe forgot to water.
 So I gave my 'Best Bloomer' a little TLC and took off all the dead blooms. I'm not liking the leaf colour but will see what I can do. Photo: 9 Jan 2011.
After, I even found a few buds and will see what happens. Are more flowers to come... or does this plant need a little Winter sleep? 

Friday, 14 January 2011

Water water everywhere...

I had six burst pipes over the holidays (boo hoo) so most of my spare time has been cleaning and clearing (four rooms plus hallway affected). The big dehydrating machines are on as I blog. All is under control and I'm lucky compared to the horrible floods happening in Australia.
Did you know...
BBC Newsline reports that December 2010 in Northern Ireland was:
  • the coldest December on record
  • the average temperature was -0.6C
  • the first sub-zero month since 1963
  • the sunniest December on record.
Looking forward to getting out into the garden soon!

Friday, 7 January 2011

happy birthday bloggers

I recieved a fab gift for my birthday & thought I'd share it with fellow bloggers as it may be of interest to you as well. I received a published version of my blog... what fun! It's great to be able to flick through my blog posts in a little published book (8.5"x11"). Its a great record of what I've grown and what I've put on my blog (much easier than searching the blog). I can also show it to non-bloggers. Here are a few random pictures...

It was published by:  You can view an electronic copy of your blog on this site.

Happy Birthday!
Thanks for the really great gift (you know who you are).

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

2011 cold damage

Our big snow over Christmas caused a few problems - many people had burst pipes & there have been water shortages in NI affecting thousands of homes. I've been without water for awhile and had some problems with pipes and a little flooding. The weather also affected some areas of the garden. Pictured left is a water fountain; the base didn't take the cold very well and crumbled.

Pictured below: a few months ago the fountain was beginning to crumble a little... if only I'd sealed it before the weather got bad. Too late now!
Over the cold days I've been catching up on my reading. I came across an article entitled 'What does your hobby say about you?"  Here's what it said if you love gardening (a nice little compliment to all gardeners!):

'Gardening: You're a profound thinker!'
'When you garden, you're challenging yourself physically, and your planning and visualising, especially now that winter's here. No wonder cultivating a green thumb is one of the best ways to stay sharp and stave off degenerative diseases like dementia. You're super smart, and more than that, you're wise. After all, tending to your garden helps you develop a sense of inner calm and allows you to give back to the Earth at the same time.'  (source: Woman's World, 1/10/11).

Best wishes for 2011