I’ve just prepared my bean trench and sown broad beans and peas – all quite straightforward and enjoyable. I then spent double the time erecting barricades to keep the foxes at bay. I used to find that twiggy branches laid across the soil was all that was needed to deter cats, but foxes will just view them as playthings to drag round the garden, especially once the cubs arrive.
So hurdles and fences all round the edge and netting over the top to stop them jumping in. Fingers crossed the badgers stay away or further reinforcing will be necessary.
These few weeks before the weeds really get going and the slugs and snails start to munch everything in sight is such an optimistic time. Each year I find myself thinking that I’ve really got it all sorted this year and the garden is going to be particularly flower-filled and productive. Then, just when the weather is at its most balmy, I will walk out one morning to find that the weeds have staged an overnight invasion and that the slugs and snails have discovered a salad bar of deliciousness in my cold frames, leaving me with bare stems and shredded leaves. I’m trying to deal with the weeds whilst they are tiny, but I know they will get the upper hand before long and as for the slugs and snails, I’ve just invested in a roll of Slug Shocka, the matting that is coated with copper to protect my strawberries and most vulnerable vegetables. Sheep wool pellets will also be part of my armoury and soon it will be time to recommence the nightly patrols armed with a torch and a bucket. In the meantime I’m enjoying the lull before the storm!
I love the many colour variations you get with hellebores – even the less successful natural crosses that pop up in the garden look good when tucked in amongst the star performers. Many years ago I had the good fortune to visit Elizabeth Strangman at Washfield Nursery (sadly long gone) and was entrusted with a few plants (buying one was a bit like adopting one of her children). I’m not sure she was entirely confident that I was worthy of the task, but most have survived and thrived. I did lose a double, but I think they are generally trickier and less inclined to thrive. Of them all, I think it is the picotee with the strongly veined markings that is my favourite – just don’t ask me the varietal names – I would need to consult an expert.
Until recently the overwintering seedlings and early sown seeds have shown very little above soil activity, but as the days lengthen and (sometimes) the temperatures rise, there are definite signs of growth. It’s time to clean the grimy windows and get sowing in earnest. Now that I have some modest heat in the greenhouse everything is a lot less vulnerable to fluctuating temperatures.
Our dilapidated old garage might have been pretty useless for housing our car, but its ivy-smothered exterior was popular with the birds who found many suitable nesting places. Our new weather boarded garage is very smart and is perfect for parking the car but it currently lacks foliage – so our birds need new homes. With this in mind – and with National Nest Box Week coming up from the 14th-21st February – I have bought a couple of new nestboxes. I’m still pondering where to put them – the north side of the garage would be ideal but the lack of cover may well put the birds off. Time to get planting I think, but in the meantime I will find other spots in the garden that are well out of the way of cats, sheltered from the prevailing wind and out of direct sun.