Being Realistic ...


Flood defences on the River Mole, near Hampton Court, Surrey
I did not intend to refer to the weather yet again, for the rain has been incessant; the wind up to gale force at times and a constant grey pall hanging over this part of the Cotswolds. Actually today is actually quite pleasant, though the ground is far too wet for gardening out of doors. With the sun shining, is does provide a moment of opportunity to take photos, which is an ongoing requirement for any journalist. Last weekend we were taking images elsewhere in the Cotswolds – I’m always on the lookout for images that I can stitch into the booklets I make, and bare trees are a recurring subject – which have to be taken before bud-burst.

Fascinating to watch ongoing dredging
operations on the River Parrett in
Somerset (you can see high ground in
the distance from whence water drains
into the river valley and the Levels
Thoughts of Spring will be far away no doubt from all those poor souls who are still suffering the effects of flooding – whether coastal or inland. Looking back through a history of natural weather-related disasters, records go back to 1091 and have been continuous throughout the centuries. None of which information is of any comfort to those whose homes, businesses and livelihoods are under threat. As for gardens once the floods DO recede; the state they will be in hardly bears thinking about. Our own garden has only been affected by overmuch wet with water oozing up through the orchard and the ridged veg plot a series of watery runnels.

Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) on the kitchen windowsill today
So I’ve taken to looking ahead at what I want to make sure I order and plant in 2014. Rather than the hot-loving plants that were possible in the 80s, I’m going for shrubs and bulbs, perennials flowers and veg in raised beds, which I will be increasing in depth so that excess water will more easily drain away. I’m looking to decorative plants that can be brought indoors and those suitable for a ‘cutting patch’. We have such a short season with very late springs; in some years with hardly sufficient time for certain veg to mature.

Destined to become a gardening
'bible' - now and in the future
So even though I have been gardening since our first home when we married in 1958, I am always thrilled to discover a book that tackles vegetable production from the perspective that we do not all have a perfect garden, or site. ‘Charles Dowding’s Veg Journal’ (just published by Frances Lincoln Ltd) is a remarkable book based on the admirable and proven no-dig principle, and features a series of monthly essays packed with information and advice with suggestions on what can be grown according to situation. There is space for your own notes, but above all, it’s the philosophy that is so appealing. Don’t wait – order yourself a copy today!

'Microgreens' - sown on Sunday, photographed today (snipping next week?)
I may not have been able to be working out of doors, but have been keeping a beady eye on my ‘Microgreens’ – “young seedlings with only their first couple of leaves grown. They are more commonly associated with the plants we would usually harvest when more mature (beetroot, radish, broccoli, coriander etc)”. Grown in shallow trays on pre-supplied mats – no mess – they can be harvested in as little as three weeks after sowing; perfect for adding a healthy touch to other dishes. I sowed mine on Sunday, they were germinating already on Monday and today have grown at least 1cm in the bright sunshine; the tray sits on the windowsill above the radiator, and I turn it every day to keep the seedlings ‘upright’.

Where have all the wild birds gone?
I’ve also been keeping an eye on the bird-life in the garden; so pleased to see that a blackcap (female) has already made an appearance this year. How creatures must be suffering – or dead – in the areas worst-affected by the endless wet. I know I keep on about birds, bees and other wildlife – but they, along with us, are all part of the world’s eco-system, and it behoves us to remember that.



And finally for this week, a note from the clever guy down at the Dobies headquarters down in Devon who has spent weeks perfecting a new – and better – BLOG PLATFORM. So this is most likely the last of my posts in the present format, and I will be migrating to the new scenario (and no doubt encountering a steep learning curve. But then, as for so many gardeners, challenges are a good thing!)

And 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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