Killing slugs with kindness

The one where I turn to drink to solve my sluggish problems.

My vegan friend Gabriel realised how I deploy my effective slug and snail ‘meet and great’ campaign in early evening each year, and he wasn’t that impressed.

I tried to point out that it meant that I would be able to have fresh homegrown vegetables and a bee-friendly flower garden, but still, his mock-upset at my slug and snail social calendar made me wonder whether those squishy pests could be persuaded to stop their destructive deeds by some other means.

I admit that I’ve also used pellets in the past, but with the increase of birds, cats, and that hedgehog in my garden, I decided that I needed to try to find an alternative solution.

I’d often thought of beer traps, but as a non-drinker, buying beer felt sickening, but the idea of pouring it into the garden felt like justice, so I thought that I would give it a go. Would it work?

Then came a timely email offer from Suttons..

Beer Traps

I snapped up four green plastic beer traps from Suttons Seeds, and reluctantly bought some Carlsberg from a supermarket, and then set out to plant the traps in my garden.

They’re pretty simple in construction – a tube, with an inner sleeve. The inner sleeve has a small hole in the bottom, and a little tilting top flap connected to it.

Green plastic beer trap for slugs
The plastic beer trap

The hole allows you to lift out the inner sleeve and drain the beer into the bottom tube, so that you can tip out your drunken slug and snail victims. You can then place the inner sleeve back in, and the beer re-enters it.

The little plastic flap, which looks like some kind of parasol, is actually to stop the rain getting in a diluting the beer, but might also stop birds and slow down evaporation a little.

I used a dibber to make the holes for each trap, setting them in areas of the garden where I’d seen the most brazen slugs, or where I’d planted things that were at risk of slug damage.

Slug beer trap set in garden
The beer traps were easy to insert into the ground with a dibber.

With the traps in position, I poured the Carlsberg in up to about half-way level, and clicked the flap/lid back into position.

beer trap with carlsberg inside.
The slug beer trap with Carlsberg added. I’ll never make a barman.

I then tweeted that the new Slug Bar was open, with free beer for slugs and snails (so that word was out!).

The traps were set…

I returned a few days later.

After draining out the four traps, and tipping the contents out onto the sunny path, I think there must have been about 120 slugs of all colours and sizes. They were dead. Their brief alcohol addiction and caused them to get drunk and fall into the beer – drowning them with kindness.

This also taught me that snails were not susceptible to the beer traps, so the joy of the ‘meet and greet’ can resume (in secret obvs), in a bid to actually have any plants in the garden.

As for the slug corpses, the birds didn’t seem that excited by them, and i eventually swept them into the border, ironically to feed the plants they would have otherwise eaten.

I’ve only ever seen/heard the hedgehog in the garden once, long after I’d stopped using pellets, so hopefully it’ll return and help to keep the slug population down.

How do you combat slugs and snails in your garden? Surely we’re not all throwing them over our neighbours’ fences?

Thanks for reading, and happy gardening!


Slug photo by David Short via CreativeCommons

The buds and blooms begin to brighten the garden

With buds fit to burst, and flowers opening all over the garden, there’s something new to see in the garden every day.

I had a walk around my garden this morning – the birds were singing, it was pretty mild even though the weather had cooled a little and there was some overnight rain/drizzle, but as I sipped my tea, I noticed that there were lots of new flowers open and plenty more buds beginning to swell.

Summer is en route, and my garden is ready for it.

The Foxgloves

I transplanted into the garden, some of the Foxgloves that had self-seeded into pots at my previous home a year or so ago. There’s lots of them – once you get a foxglove, then you’ve probably got them for life. These plants are descendants of the Foxgloves ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ plants that I grew from seed back in 2011.

Foxglove plants
The Foxgloves only a few weeks ago – no sign of the flower spires.

Thankfully they tolerate shade, and my back garden gets shaded at various times of the day either by the shadow of the house, or by one of the side fences. There’s one spot where I don’t think it gets the sun for very long at all, so these Foxgloves were perfect for this spot.

A foxglove flower stalk
A Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ plant sends it’s flower spire skywards.

The bees love foxgloves, and soon rush to enter their bell-shaped flowers as they uncurl their colourful spires towards the sun. I suspect that in about 10 days, many of the foxgloves will be open or right on the verge of being open.

From memory, I’ve only ever had pinks and cream coloured foxgloves, with the pink colour seemingly more common in my gardens.

A pink Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrid Mixed' on flower
A transplanted pink Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’ in 2017.

Despite their beauty, foxgloves are of course poisonous to humans, cats, and dogs, so use gloves when touching these plants, or make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

The Roses

Last year, when I broke the tired lawn, in the blank garden, I planted some roses. One of these, Rose ‘Just Joey’, led the way with the flowering and had opened a wonderfully fragrant peach-coloured flower by the start of the second week of June.

This rose, which I’m not entirely convinced particularly enjoys it’s spot in the garden, has budded up again for a second flowering year.

A Rose 'Just Joey' fragrant flower.
The fragrant bloom of Rose ‘Just Joey’ was the first rose to flower in the garden.

I’ll be pleased to see it on flower, and hope that it also puts effort into growing its structure a bit more – it looks a bit weedy. In contrast, the other Rose ‘Ernest H Morse’, has grown very large but shows no sign yet of any buds.

The purple Geranium Himalayense

In the corner of my garden is a Geranium ‘Himalayense’. I planted this last year and it sent out a number of bluey-purple flowers. My parents have always had one of these in their gardens, so I decided that I should get one too.

I wasn’t overly convinced that I’d planted it in the correct spot, and even though they die right back during the winter (and what a winter it was!), I was pleased to see the emergence of green shoots just a few weeks ago.

Geranium 'Himalayense' on flower
The Geranium ‘Himalayense’ has emerged and flowered again.

This morning I caught it with two flowers, and I’m really pleased to welcome it back into this corner of the garden – right near my backdoor.


I bought three Aquilegia plants from my local market a week or so ago, and I’m still yet to plant them out (the hot weather has put me off planting them out, as they’re shade-tolerant).

However, two of them have begun flowering. Aquilegia ‘Spring Magic White’ has thrown out some delicate-looking white flowers, and it is joined by Aquilegia ‘Winky Red-White’.

Aquilegia Spring Magic White plant
Aquilegia ‘Spring Magic White’ with its delicate flowers.

I think it must have been a slow day when they chose ‘Winky Red-White’ in the Aquilegia department. Honestly?! Crimson? Love? Blush? Heart…? Surely they could have done better.

Aquilegia Winky Red-White plant
Aquilegia ‘Winky Red-White’ on flower,

The remaining Aquilegia plant (Aquilegia ‘McKana Group’) is not yet on flower, and it is also the same variety that I attempted to grow from seed at the back of my fridge months ago.

I saw a butterfly the other day – not sure what variety as it swiftly fluttered along in the sunshine, but hopefully it won’t be long before I can plant out all the plants that are making my windowsills creak, and fill the garden with flowers, veg, and fruit.

As ever, happy gardening, and thanks a lot for reading. If you’re using instagram, go ahead and join me over there for a few extra photos of the garden 🙂


The Parsnips, Carrots, Turnips… and Cats

The root vegetables are growing happily in the raised beds, whilst I devise a method to divert cat bums elsewhere.

This year I’m growing three types of vegetables that I’ve never grown before – parsnips, carrots, and turnips.

Parsnip ‘F1 Gladiator’

I love a roast parsnip, and so after realising that I was buying several of these, I thought that I would try growing them myself.

parsnip seedlings and a row of turnips
The Parsnips were transplanted out, whilst the Turnips were direct-sown.

I sowed the parsnip seed back in February, so I’d hope to start being able to pull them in about September.

Rather than sowing direct, as per the packet, I sowed mine in a small tray – only about a dozen seeds – and then transplanted them out in early April. These were the first plants out the door and into the ground, so I’m hoping that they’ll grow into something worthwhile.

Parsnip and Turnip plants in a raised bed
The Parsnip and Turnips have grown well in the raised bed.

The plants are looking healthy at least, and apparently they are ‘full of hybrid vigour’.

Carrot ‘Flyaway F1 Hybrid’ and ‘Sweet Imperator Mix F1’

I honestly don’t remember ever growing carrots before – not even as a child. They’re pretty much a vegetable 101, but it took me many years of childhood to begin to appreciate them.

These days I can’t get enough of them – not so much raw (yet) but I love them steamed, boiled, and roasted, and I’ve been using lots of them to create Carrot and Lentil Soup. They’re packed full of Vitamin A, and so I thought that I would try to stop buying them, and grow them instead.

I sowed two small rows (one of each) in my raised bed.

The Carrot ‘Sweet Imperator Mix F1’ was first – these could be sown in April, and they should produce those ‘vintage’ kinds that you see in the likes of Waitrose and M&S adverts – purple, red, orange, yellow etc, and the Carrot ‘Flyaway F1 Hybrid’ variety are just the standard modern orange colour, but have been developed to be carrot fly resistant (apparently). We’ll see – but I sowed them next to the others in a hope that they mask those too.

Turnip ‘Snowball’ and ‘Armand’

I’ve never knowingly eaten a turnip, but that hasn’t stopped me wanting to try them for myself. I now have two rows of turnips in my raised bed – the first, Turnip ‘Armand’ was sown weeks ago on XXXX and these are now showing lush green tops.

The Turnip ‘Snowball’ variety were sown this morning, so should follow up in a few weeks with their lush greenery.

If you have any interesting recipe ideas for turnips, then please leave them in the comments, but even the Snowball packet suggests that I ‘try glazed turnips – boil the roots then caramelize in sugar’, which sounds a little bit calorific and luxurious. I was thinking of soups, salads, and roasts?

Within 3 months I should have some ready to harvest.

Sowing into the raised bed

The raised bed is certainly making growing these easier, as the root vegetables need the depth. I have some pretty heavy clay soil in most of the back garden, so this will help the veg to head downwards, and should help me to get them back out again without a pickaxe.

I’m not very good at sowing thinly, and can’t quite reach across safely without risk of falling in.

I found that I had to construct some simple removable wire frames over the top, as RubyCat and her feline foes see every single raised bed as a convenient toilet.

anti-cat frame on raised bed to protect from cats
One of the anti-cat frames on the raised bed stops it being a full-time toilet.

Her fat bum has despatched broad beans, raspberry plants, and squash plants in the past, so by cutting some hard wire mesh that I picked up for £1 from poundland, and then using little plastic cable ties to secure the long edges to two wooden beams across the raised bed, means that I can guard them with a simple solution.

I’ve also fashioned a moveable board to block the edge, so that nothing gets under them, and more importantly, the cat excavations don’t creep into the veg rows.

Black cat Ruby with her tongue out
RubyCat will have to find somewhere else to dig for victory.

This allows the veg to grow happily without cat or bird interruption, and eventually I will be able to move them when the plants are big enough.

How have you managed to deter cats from permanently digging up your raised beds? I’d love to hear your ideas.

It’s a roasting bank holiday Monday, and so I’m not doing any gardening in the sunshine. I hope you’ve had a happy gardening weekend. Thanks for reading!


Sowing Courgette, Squash, and Nasturtium seeds

With Spring in full force, it’s time to get the courgette and squash seeds sown.

The weather has been much more spring-like these last few days, with a few days of sunshine, and nature is bounding ahead with lush green foliage. I’m even potentially going to need to cut my lawn again.

Apparently there’s a ‘heat wave’ (by UK standards) next week. Although it’s chilly today, I headed to the shed with some more seeds, to get a few more sown.

Sowing Squash

First up was my Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ – I grew this for the first time last year, and whilst it completely invaded my garden – grabbing every plant, twig, and blade of grass in the garden as it spread 20 feet, it gave me about a dozen big yellow squashes to eat. In fact, I’ve still got two in storage, and they seem fine.

The largest Squash 'Spaghetti Stripetti' a few weeks ago.
The first Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ early July 2017.

My initial sowing last year saw me grow two, but after one being snapped by wind within hours of putting it out, and a second one being re-sown, it was really only the one surviving original plant that I needed – and it took over.

This year, I’ve sown just one seed on its edge (apparently helping to avoid it rotting off when being watered from above) in some multipurpose compost. I expect this to germinate in just a couple of days.

Sowing Courgettes

This is joined by 3 Courgette ‘Zucchini F1 Hybrid’ seeds. This is the first time I have grown this variety, as I’d always stuck to growing the ‘Black Beauty’ type, but let’s see how this one gets on.

a courgette and flower growing
Some sunshine and rain are all it needs to swell the fruit and open that Courgette flower.

Last year, I sowed 6 plants, and had a total glut of 45 courgettes weighing in at more than 15.5kg.

Whilst I’d like some courgettes, I don’t think i’ve eaten a single one since the end of last year!

Sowing Nasturtiums

I like nasturtiums, but have had trouble growing them in the past. Their bright yellows, oranges, and red flowers, with their greeny-blue waxy leaves attract a lot of useful insects into the garden – namely the hoverflies – which can then help address any aphid issues.

Sadly, they also attract the Cabbage White Butterfly, and their caterpillars can demolish a soft and tender nasturtium plant in a few hours.

A caterpillar eating a Nasturtium leaf
Caterpillars soon much their way through Nasturtiums.

I’ve found an older packet of Nasturtium ‘Whirlybird Mix’ seeds, so I’ve planted a dozen of these, hoping that at least a few will make it up out of the compost and eventually into the garden where they can climb and flower, bringing in those important hoverflies, without getting gobbled up too quickly by caterpillars.

Thanks again for reading, and I hope that you’ve had a happy weekend of gardening.


Pricking out the Swiss Chard and Sweet Sultan seedlings

It’s time to be ‘pricking out’ my Sweet Sultant flowers and the brightly coloured Swiss Chard seedlings, and get them ready for their next stage of growing.

Yes, the garden is driving on towards summer, and there’s not much you can do to stop it.

My windowsills are full of trays of seedlings, and so I have been busily pricking out and potting them into pots/plugs in preparation for their final planting out from late May.

What is ‘pricking out’?

‘Pricking out’ or ‘to prick out’ is a term used to describe taking an individual seedling from the tray or pot it germinated in, and then carefully planting it in its own pot or plug so that it can continue growing without having to compete with other seedlings.

The ‘pricking’ part refers to the precision needed to separate seedlings, and usually requires a small hand device, a bit like a needle, but usually (in my case) an old pencil.

The Sweet Sultan

Last year was the first time that I had ever grown Sweet Sultan flowers, after family friend (and keen gardener) Anne, gave me a bundle of seed packets that she’d had from the front of her magazine subscriptions. I’d picked out a few bee-friendly looking plants and sown them.

Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ were amongst these and they were fantastic, and they looked lovely alongside my Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ plants.

Sweet Sultan Mixed purple flower
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ were wonderful – and a new plant for me in 2017.

I sowed these flower seeds at the same time as my Swiss Chard, and so they are ready to ‘prick out’.


My Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' seedlings ready to prick out.
My Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings ready to prick out.

With the seedlings all pricked out, they will now be able to continue growing on to their next stage. I managed to grow 22 seedlings in that pot, and so i added two more seeds to fill my 24-plug tray. That will be plenty.

Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' seedlings all pricked out
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings all pricked out and ready to grow on.

The Swiss Chard

My Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ have been a delight to grow. This is my first year growing them, and I have undoubtedly sown far too many and will probably become sick of Swiss Chard by the time I’ve got to about July.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
The Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings were soon up out of the compost. Here they are at 10 days old.

However, their brightly multi-coloured stems (almost Rhubarb-like) make them a fun addition to the garden. They’re far from ready to go out yet (they’re too small and tender), but they had to be carefully pricked out so that they could grow on.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings

I think these can often be sown direct, but I didn’t have my raised beds built until I’d been able to get outside to demolish the old shed (that provided the wood, and the ground space for the raised beds) first.

Armed with my trusty HB pencil, I dibbered out the seedlings one-by-one, and put them into a plug tray where they can grow into individual plug plants.

Most of the Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings pricked out
Most of the Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings pricked out

Once these plants get outside, they’ll soon straighten up, as they’ll grow upwards aiming for the sunshine. Right now, they’ve grown a lean like most seedlings, as they chase the light on a windowsill.

My parents have just moved house into a bare garden, and like me it has an unbroken lawn. Their plan is to have a load of raised beds and containers… so I know exactly where to smuggle some brightly coloured spare Chard plants in to 😉

I’ve already pricked out a load of Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seedlings, and the Parsley ‘Laura’ seedlings are now potted on too. It’s a productive time, and it’s so important to keep on top of growing as we head through April, otherwise they’ll get behind, or too leggy to be any good.

As ever, thanks for reading, and I hope you have a happy gardening week ahead (despite the rain).


The Garden Springs Forward

We’ve just had a mild week here in the East of England, and so the garden has woken up to throw lush green leaves skywards. It’s been the perfect time to get out there.

The sunshine arrived this week, and it’s been gently warming the soil and luring some of the spring plants out of winter hibernation, and for some, this has been the signal to open their flowers.

I even cut the back lawn for the first time since about September.

Now that my shed is pretty much in order, I can begin using it as a space to sow and harden off (that means, getting them used to cooler temperatures) plants. My Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ plants have already been through this process and are doing well in their new raised bed outside.

Having saved the cardboard toilet roll middles over the last few months, I have collected these up, filled them with a multipurpose compost and sown a French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ seed into each one.

Sowing french beans in toilet rolls
Above: Tea, Shed, Toilet Rolls, Beans and Compost – a winning combination.

French Beans (like Peas and Sweet Peas) like to send their roots down deep, and therefore these cardboard tubes are perfect for them to grow in over the next few weeks. They won’t go out until late May, but this should give them a perfect start, and the cardboard tube will rot down when it gets planted out with them.

Meanwhile, the Crocuses and Tulips are out, helping to provide the early-emerging bees with food. I’ve seen a few bees around so far, so hopefully the bulb flowers are going to help sustain them long enough for more flowers to open.

The first tulip opens its flower.
The first tulip opens its flower.

This tulip is one of a trough of Tulip ‘Mixed Garden’ bulbs that I planted up last year. It’s the first in the trough to open, but the others (which are bigger) should be along soon.

I also found a (what i think is the last of the) Erin seed kits that I was given back in about 2011. This time, the kit is for Rocket, so I have once again opened the kit up and sown the seeds that should be sown ‘by 2012’. Let’s see how this goes!

Erin Wild Rocket seed kit
An old Erin Wild Rocket seed kit – should have been sown ‘by 2012’.

Last time I sowed an old Erin seed kit, a forest grew, that gave me lettuces throughout the summer, despite being 5 years beyond their ‘sow by’ date. Sometimes nature deserves a chance, as it has other plans!

I think some wetter weather is now on its way, but I hope that you’ve been able to do something in your garden. I know that I shall be busy pricking out seedlings over the next few days.

As ever, thank you for reading, and happy gardening!


Recycling the old shed and raising the broad beans and raspberries

With the old shed down, I’m turning the space into productive raised beds for a range of fruit and vegetables.

A few weeks ago I got round to dismantling the rickety little old spare shed in the corner of my garden. This has opened my garden up somewhat – not just to more gardening space, but also to the view of the neighbours who back up to my garden.

The shed was full of rot, woodworm and ivy.

The fence at the bottom of my garden is my responsibility and appears to be the original 1950s galvanised metal fence. It’s in a fairly good condition, but has seemingly had a snip in the top supporting wire that will no doubt speed up its inevitable unraveled sag. However the inhabitance of the houses behind me (they were empty when I bought mine) makes me aware that now that the Blackberry brambles and ivy, and now the shed, have all gone – it’s all a bit exposed. I can sit in my lounge and have clear line of sight right into their houses 😮

I’ve decided to get some screening from my local garden centre – either Willow or Bamboo should do the job – giving me and both of them – some privacy in their gardens. They both have dogs, and I have a RubyCat, so this should also ease any tension there.

I had a rummage through the wood of the deconstructed shed and have pulled out some pretty solid planks, and have turned them into a couple of raised beds. I also took the door and a few other planks and turned them into shelving in the shed.

Two raised beds for growing fruit and veg
The old shed has been recycled into 2 raised beds.

I then put the rest of the shed into the boot of my car and took it to the timber section of my local recycling centre.

I’d already decided what’s going in the raised beds, and planted the first plants a few weeks ago. First up were  5 Raspberry ‘Glen Ample’ bare-root plants that I bought from Bunkers Hill Garden Shop (via eBay), and after adding some freshly dug soil and a 125 litre bag of compost, I watered them in.

These raspberries should grow upwards, and become established here, so a raised bed at the bottom of the garden should be the perfect spot for them.. even if I’m fairly sure the blackbirds will get most of them!

Thankfully, at least some of the raspberries appear to be coming alive.

Raspberry 'Glen Ample' plants shooting out
New shoots from the bare-root Raspberry ‘Glen Ample’ canes.

Next to those, but not in the raised bed, is my new Redcurrant ‘Rovada’ bush. Apparently this copes with partial shade, which is good because this is now planted in the corner of the garden where the sunshine reaches for a few hours a day. It’s budding up, but the leaves are yet to break out.

When the old shed stood here, I had success with Lettuce, and growing French Beans ‘Blue Lake’ up canes in this area. I shall be doing this again, and have now planted out my Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ plants, which I have been hardening off in the shed this last couple of weeks.

The raised bed contains a mixture of rotting leaves, multipurpose compost, coir compost, and some smelly compost from a council green garden waste centre.

Broad Bean 'Crimson Flowered' plants
The Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ plants are the first in the raised bed.

A couple of days ago I sowed the Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’ seeds indoors, so I should have quite a few of these germinate. I’m growing this variety because I’m pretty sure they were the variety in a mixed leaf pack that the slugs and snails left alone. Fingers crossed!

The garden is really sticky at the moment – the weeks of snow, drizzle, and rain, has left everywhere (including my trainers) a bit squelchy. With a bit more sunshine it should start to make gardening a little easier.

I have plenty of pricking out and more seed sowing to do in the next few days. What are you up to in the garden? Let me know in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading, and happy gardening!


A snowless Saturday and a windowsill of seedlings

It’s a busy Saturday in the garden as Winter eases off. There’s sowing, pricking out, and shed sorting to do!

Finally! A weekend day where it isn’t raining, snowing, or icy cold with the remnants of freezing temperatures and winds that chill you to the bone.

I was very pleased to be up and outside in the garden with RubyCat by 9am AND without a coat. I had loads of jobs to get done.

I was pleased to finally find a Daffodil that hadn’t been flattened by wind, rain, or snow. A cheery lone fanfare of Spring’s arrival.

A container-grown yellow Daffodil
A container-grown yellow Daffodil celebrates a lack of snow.

First up, was to finish putting up some more shelves in my shed. When i moved in, this shed was shelf-free, and I brought some cheap pine shelving with me, but with the demolition of the rickety old shed, this has given me enough planks to turn into shelving. The most significant shelf being the full length one that runs under the shed window.

To make this, I bought some inexpensive brackets from my local DIY store, and then took the old shed door and cut it down the length – thankfully it was 6 planks wide – so it made the perfect 3 plank wide shelves. I put those up with my new drill/screwdriver, and was then able to start pricking out some seedlings.

I planted some Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seeds a few days ago, and they have shot up, so I took the opportunity to use this new-found workspace to start potting them into individual plugs.

Cleome ' ' seedlings (left) with Cosmos 'Seashells Mixed'
Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seedlings (left) with Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ (right) have been pricked out.

I also took the four surviving Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ seedlings (RubyCat had been pulling them out of the pot and spitting them on the carpet until I moved them out of reach!!). I potted these on, and sowed some more as they were so pretty last summer.

Cosmos flowers in garden
Some of the Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ reached about 4 feet tall.

I found a little pot of Honesty seeds that I must have collected from my parents garden a few years back. I added these to a pot of compost – not expecting much – but they had been stored carefully in a sealed container. You never know! Once you’ve got Honesty, you tend to have it forever seeding itself all over the place.

I also sowed some Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’ seeds. I think that these were the variety that grew from that old out-of-date Erin seed kit. I’m growing these again because the slugs and snails did not touch them.

Ten days ago I also sowed some Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ – my first ever time growing these – having been completely inspired to by the blog and videos by Katie at Lavender & Leeks (thanks, Katie!) and it turns out they’re packed with nutrients.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings showing their coloured stems.

These seedlings were up within a couple of days and now I’m staring at the pot thinking that I might have too many! 😀

In addition to my first-time Chard, my first-time Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ seeds have been growing on a cool windowsill in my spare room.

Broad Bean 'Crimson Flowered' plants
Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ plants are doing well

Whilst I’m only growing half a dozen, I’ve done two sowings and gotten 5 plants! The first 3 plants shot up, and the next 2 did too. Are Broad Beans usually temperamental?

The plants are now in the shed to begin a hardening-off process, and they joined the Lupin ‘Band Of Nobles Mixed’ (remember them?) which I sowed a year ago in 2017. These plants take a while to mature, and somehow they’ve survived a year on windowsills, despite the recurring threats of central heating. Hopefully the slugs and snails won’t eat them in the first evening.

My windowsills are now covered in trays, propagators, and seedlings. It finally feels like spring has arrived and the garden of 2018 is coming.

What jobs did you get done in the garden this weekend?

As ever, thank you for reading. Go-on, share this blog post somewhere, and have a happy gardening weekend!


The Crocuses and Daffodils awake

The snow reminds the Spring flowering bulbs that Winter hasn’t quite finished with us yet.

Over the last couple of days there’s been a lot of snow in the UK, and whilst my garden is somewhere under this icy white blanket, I feel like I’ve gotten off lightly with just a few inches compared to other places in the UK or Europe.

Bursting out of the snow are little dashes of colour in the garden this week, as yellow Crocuses begin to flower. I managed to catch the crocuses before the snow fell. I planted these Crocus ‘Golden Bunch’ bulbs back in about October/November.

Yellow Crocuses on flower before the snow.
Yellow Crocuses on flower before the snow.

They’re being closely followed by the Daffodils, which I was hoping would be on flower in time for St. David’s Day, but whilst they have a tinge of yellow, they are still tightly in bud.

Daffodil buds
The Daffodils are beginning to turn yellow.

But for now, they are all but buried under the soft, cold, white carpet. A few more days, and we’ll be back on track for Spring (hopefully).


Yellow crocuses in snow
Yellow crocuses begin to get surrounded by snow.


Crocus in snow
The yellow flowers of Crocus lay buried in the snow.

I don’t think my part of England is due any or much more snow, so it looks like those bright yellow flowers will escape being completely buried.

I have planted loads of other Crocus varieties in the garden, and transported some in pots from my previous house, but these yellow ones are the first out, and it’s a welcome sight.

Looking back to 2017 and 2012, I can see that the crocuses are fairly close to previous flowering times, albeit without the snow. However, this same variety flowered in mid-February in 2013, even after the -11C temperatures.

Feed the birds

I’ve also been making sure that my garden birds have fresh water and filled feeders during this snowy weather. They’re pretty desperate right now, and I’ve seen a load of species in the garden tucking into the peanuts, sunflower seeds, niger seed, banana, wild bird seed, and the fat balls. I’m trying to put out as many types as possible, so that there’s something for all kinds of bird.

If you’ve got any fruit that’s beginning to turn in the house, pop it out for the birds – you’ll please the blackbirds at least, but probably a few other species too.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, keep safe and warm, and happy dreaming about all that warmer Spring weather!

Thanks for reading,


Planning for the shaded garden

Whilst most of us are dreaming about the sunshine, I’m thinking about the shade.

There’s a part of my garden that spends a fair amount of time in the shade. The clay soil is pretty tough here – like the stickiest glue in the winter, and like concrete in summer. I’m hoping to improve this with compost, bark, a little sand and grit, but this will take time to accomplish.

When I moved in, nothing but weeds lived in this corner of the garden, which is up against a tall perimeter fence, and bordering the side of my patio and instantly visible from my lounge window.

I realised that it was shady, and transplanted a number of young Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ seedlings into this space. I first sowed these back at my old house in 2011, and they have self-sown into my garden pots from my old garden, and come along for the ride when I moved house.

A pink Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrid Mixed' on flower
This Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ seedling survived the garden transplantation in 2017.

These are growing well, and I added a fern too (they’re so ancient and elegant!).

The uncurling fronds of a lush green fern.
I’ve had this Fern in a pot for years – I love its curled fronds of lush green foliage.

Now it’s time to add another shade-coping flower – i’ve opted for Thompson & Morgan’s Aquilegia ‘McKana Giants’.  Strangely their website says ‘full sun’ yet the packet reads ‘full sun or semi-shade’, so I’m going to hope the latter works.

These come in a range of colours, and apparently they can reach a height of 1 metre, and so alongside the foxgloves, they should add a nice bit of height against the fence.

This afternoon I sowed these tiny black seeds into some multipurpose compost, lightly dusted some on top, and then sealed them in a bag and put them at the back of my fridge. Yes, you read that correctly. The fridge.

Apparently, they have to stay there for about 3 weeks (or at least until they begin to germinate, after which they can hop out and into my propagator. I assume that this simulates Winter, as my mother has many that happily self-sow in her garden each year, so they’re not fussy about the cold.

Seeing as we have a new ice age branded ‘polar vortex‘ coming this week (I guess it sells newspapers, right?), I could probably just put them outside instead!

Whatever your weather, stay safe and warm, and happy gardening.

Thanks for reading,