To Sow, To Read … and maybe dream

My potager as it once was, and no amount of dreaming will bring it back again.
There have been some perfect days for gardening this last week, though somehow, other than feed the hens and check the rain gauge, all tasks have been undertaken under cover. Protection on and off my citrus trees on frosty nights (the porch / mini-conservatory has yet to be finished), but otherwise a great deal of planning: seeds all catalogued using a revised system, and others ordered so that as soon as the ground is fit, we’ll be out there with our ‘task board’ and list of tasks. I allow myself to dream of the days when there seemed to be endless time after work and at weekends for pottering in the garden. Working freelance has its disadvantages and time seems to be compressed into segments between commissions.

Broad beans just emerging (I'll be sowing mine next week).
In the Greenhouse: On our heavy clay soil and north-facing plot, we find it advantageous to start the majority of crops under cover in an unheated greenhouse and that is what I will be doing next week – sowing broad bean seeds in pots ready to transplant in rows or blocks. I sow early varieties (those that in milder counties could have been sown in November to overwinter). I’m trialling the new ‘De Monica’, an early-maturing variety which is said to do well in low daylight conditions. Soak the beans overnight and then sow individually in pots – peat, plastic, made from newsprint with the paper-potter. I place trays of pots within deep wooden boxes and cover with stiff sheets of polycarbonate; adds warmth and protects seedlings from mice.

Bookshelf: at this time of year I spend the evening reading and am deep into ‘What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden’ by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth. Just published by Timber Press and subtitled “100% organic solutions for berries, trees, nuts, vines and tropicals”, this will be welcomed by all who prefer to grow crops by organic methods. Beautifully illustrated with the authors’ own photographs, the book is divided into three sections: detailed plant portraits, extensive problem-solving guides and organic solutions to common problems. Much of the latter is actually common sense once you have read it! How to create the best possible growing conditions? I just wish the book had been available when we started planting our own orchard and fruit garden in the early 70s.

Which brings me to my second choice for today, also just published by Timber Press: ‘Plant Conservation – Why it Matters and How it Works’. Written by Timothy Walker, Director of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, it is a scholarly tome, as you would expect from someone who is also a members of the group of conservation biologists helping to develop the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. “Without plants, there is no life. The functioning of the planet, and our survival, depends on plants. … Our vision is of a positive, sustainable future where human activities support the diversity of plant life and where in turn the diversity of plants support and improve our well-being.” Read on, because plants under threat of extinction today might provide tomorrow’s foods, fuels, or health cures.

Feeding on our bird table -
a PAIR of nuthatches

Save the Birds: It’s amazing how quickly a year flies by – it seems but yesterday that I was sitting in the kitchen, looking through the window and counting birds. The 2014 ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ again organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is scheduled for next weekend (Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th January). “Big” does not refer to the size of your garden but to the RSPB’s determination to encourage as many people as possible to identify and record the species – and other creatures visiting their plot or local green space during just one hour. Register online here (free); results can be submitted by post or online. You will be helping with vital research. Check out bird feeders on the Dobies website.

Meanwhile, don't forget to visit the Dobies' website for all your gardening needs and requirements. 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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