The Orange Tip

Category: spring

Ferns Emerging



Makeshift Cold Frame

20130424-224935.jpgNo better growing tool than a cold frame, no matter what size or shape. I found some old wood under some nettles in the back of the wooded area of the garden and made a box, sitting two old reclaimed window-panelled doors on top.





Integrated Growing


After last year’s let down in the cutting garden I have vowed to give it my all during the coming spring and early summer. The failures, of which were many, I put down to a handful of combined problems. We had a warm spring and dim, wet summer; great for the bulbs, but less than ideal for seed grown annuals. I made mistakes also with the preliminary growing stages; not enough room to harden off young seedlings and therefore taking too long to move them from greenhouse (where they put on fast, tall and leggy growth) to ground. My watering regimes were also too sporadic and often too frequent; leading to rotting tubers and damping off of seedlings.

So, this year I am taking the following measures: 1. Careful and detailed approach to watering – making sure not to water when unnecessary. 2. Moving seedlings quickly on through the new cold frames and out into the beds, starting each day with an hour or so in the greenhouse/propagation area. And most importantly, 3. Getting started early. This means making the most of the warm spring rather than depending on a hot and bright summer.

Therefore, for the first time in my three years with the cutting garden, I am sowing annuals into the spaces between the bulbs before they have even begun flowering. In both years past I have waited to get the bulbs out prior to planting in the annual flowers. The flowers were started in the greenhouse and ready to go in by this point (usually around late May to mid June), but they were limited in number according to how many I had been able to store or pot on. They were also at the mercy of a hot greenhouse. This time I have been moving the plants on quickly through the greenhouse, hardening them off in the cold frames and then getting them into the gaps between the bulbs. It has meant paying more attention to the plants in all stages; watching for the signs and adjusting the temperatures in the growing spaces accordingly, but the results should (hopefully) be worth the effort.

I have also begun direct-sowing some of the seeds. So far these have included: Ammi majus, Papaver somniferum, Calendula ‘Indian Prince’, Californian poppy, Nigella, quaking grass (Briza maxima) and cornflowers. I have planted out a first row of Ammi majus seedlings, as well as Cosmos and white Larkspur. Next will be the Cleome followed by Zinnias and Dahlias.





Burr Seed


Collecting seed from the last standing burdock stems along the wood edges. Sealed inside the needle-spurred oval cases there are usually still a few viable seeds this late on in the season; having a go at sowing a few for the first time in the hope of increasing the numbers for next year.

Photo by Roo Lewis –

Hatched 2

Switching on the television this morning in the shed I was surprised to see that the eggs had all hatched over night. Really pleased. Baby blue tits are not pretty. I’m glad that they all made it though. I’m now enjoying my tea breaks to the sounds of chirping and regular parental feeding intermissions.


Salad Pots

I’m at last getting round to replacing the Spring flowers in some of the pots with salads from the greenhouse. ‘Green Oak Leaf’ in one, and, ‘Valdor’ in the other. After fighting the good fight with the persistent slugs last year, I’ve surrendered my ground and opted for using pots instead. Although not mollusc-proof, it presents them with a much greater challenge.






Although Summer isn’t revealing any early signs just yet, it’s not far round the corner. Rain has been falling continuously for over a week now and it couldn’t have arrived at a more essential time in the garden. The beds are looking better and the younger shrubs are recovering from long months of dry, breezy weather. Much unlike last year, we’re getting true April showers.

It’s been a varied but enveloping Spring, packed with new things as in each year, seen for the first time and bringing new understanding with a wider context.  The lilacs are now ready to open and next into flower  will come the philadelphus’, foxgloves and robinias, continuing a succession all the the way back round to the beginning.

Now that the earlier bulbs in the cutting beds, such as the tulips and daffodils, are going over, I’ll begin removing the rows, replanting the bulbs and replacing the stock. So my attention turns to the dahlias, cosmos, zinnias, cornflowers, marigolds, asters, cleomes and the many other annuals, as well as focussing on the vegetables.

View over long border

New Arrivals

A pair of Mandarin ducks have visited the pond on numerous occasions over the last few weeks. Since adding a few clumps of geraniums and logs to the island it has become a little less exposed and therefore more attractive to the passing ducks.

Space for Potatoes

Due to the usual designated area for my vegetables being otherwise engaged at the moment with bulbs for display and cut flowers, my potatoes are having to wait just a bit longer than usual to be planted. It’s not ideal, but more time to chit is never a bad thing.

It’s been a really fantastic Spring for the cutting beds this year and the tulips and species daffodils have created a staggering view from the front door. In about 2 weeks time the best will be long over and I’ll begin removing the rows one by one. In the mean time however, as well as the those I’ve forced in the greenhouse in bags (for super-early cropping), I’m planting potatoes into one of the compost bins by the shed.

So often with gardening the best results come unexpectedly and unplanned, as is so often commented. When digging over my compost bins last Autumn I had to frequently stop to remove enormous, perfectly formed potato tubers. These can only have sprung from the previous year’s waste crop, which would have been sprouting unnoticed early in the Spring, along with those intentionally cultivated in the vegetable beds. So, given their success last year and my need for space being greater than my need for well-rotted compost, I spent this morning going about planting up the end compost bin, making use of it’s own finished-product growing media. Tomorrow I think I’ll broadcast some early salads on top, just to make full use of the space, and I’ll just have to keep it weeded in the mean time.