This post is the first in a new allotment themed category that I’m excited to be sharing to my Gardening Ways blog. The thread of posts will track progress on a new allotment plot we’ve taken on which will be tended by my partner in ‘grime’ Ruthie and myself, and our two boys if we can entice or bribe them to play an active part too – good luck with that one did someone say?
Welcome to my garden journal entry for February 29th 2020.
The Intro… I’m a professional gardener/horticulturist and post weekly to record my gardening experiences and activity. My main workplace is in Broadwell, Gloucestershire, and this journal is independent – content does not represent views of my employer or any organisation.
This week’s garden journal entry should be re-titled ‘close encounters of the weather kind,’ for every day has seemingly thrown something different at us. The sharpest of sharp days with temperatures barely above freezing to start the week, which tailed off into the constant rain that moved in for Friday – and looks to be staying very close for the weekend.
If you could have copied my image in the murk that was Friday, you could have pasted me seamlessly on to a Lowry canvas, so was the mood in the garden. However, I shall swiftly say that before the dreariness that became Friday, there were some exquisite hours, minutes and moments that I’ll focus on from here onward.
I started the week in Sunderland – my adopted home in the north east, and whilst I had fostered a somewhat naïve hope to get out and visit one of the many brilliant gardens in the area, this wasn’t a key reason for the trip – and I guess the first image might be giving it away already! (Pardon the selfie – I’m not a comfortable selfie taker!)
Outdoors is where I spend most of my time and as such, I seem to have forever searched for the key item of workwear that is ‘the winter coat’. I’ve tried many types and I don’t know what you’ve found, but I have to say it’s sometimes hard to tell between fashion and working gear.
Well, although I wear a wax jacket for knocking around generally, I had for many years overlooked the option of a wax for workwear, and was genuinely surprised recently to rediscover this as a serious gardening option. If they’re good enough for farmers and all that…
My search for a good supplier started last autumn, and to my joy I was ultimately delivered, last weekend, to the South Shields home of Barbour to make the not insignificant investment. I had become fascinated and lured by the history of Barbour as a British company – a story that began in 1894 in South Shields, where the jackets are still handmade to this day.
Suffice to say that I made the presumption that my new jacket would signal end of winter and it would stay unused for the months ahead, but how wrong I was! My jacket has already been pressed into snowy action on Thursday and in the torrential rain on Friday. I’m certainly no victim of fashion, but all things considered, I’ll be wearing my Barbour Beaufort with pride – and I hope our friendship is a long and productive one!
Back in the garden, the ‘tube of tubes’ in the image below is an item released from its place on the tool room shelf this week, and fixed to a south facing wall to provide a nesting place for some species of bee such as the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis).
I’m always looking for ways to improve a garden’s attraction to wildlife and this little product couldn’t make things any easier, offering perfect nesting tubes for some species of solitary bee. Quite by accident I’ve already discovered ground nesting bees, and many of the walls on nearby buildings are peppered with cavities and potential nesting places, so there’s very likely no need for additional nests such as this one – but if it’s not there we won’t know will we…
The way solitary bees operate, and the benefits they bring for our gardens is incredible. For example, as Grow Wild UK states ‘a single red mason bee is equivalent to 120 worker honeybees in the pollination it provides’. It’s therefore surely not too much trouble to place out an additional nesting opportunity.
Yes, the tube shown above is pre-made and simple to install, but it’s relatively easy to make your own too. For tips on making yours, and for more fascinating information on solitary bees and more, I’ll waste no time in directing you to a website from those knowledgeable folk at Kew. If you love wildlife and gardens, and not visited this site before – you’re in for a treat! (Grow-Wild UK Link at bottom of page).
In terms of gardening, what became the task of the week was a trim of a conifer hedge – whilst being aware at every moment the potential for nesting birds to be present. Along the whole hedge length there was but one redundant twiggy nest long-since consumed by woody growth. There’s a little more to finish yet, but I’m conscious that the grass is growing all around now and for that reason I’ll be glad to leave this hedge to its own devices as we head into March.
The machine pictured above is a very useful tool, and on Thursday morning we became very close as I sharpened every one of its 140 teeth. Whilst it works perfectly, I couldn’t help but wonder that with the establishment of battery powered kit, how long it would be until these machines become silent and smokeless museum exhibits…
The final two images I’ve chosen to remind me of this week in the garden. Above was a photo snapped quickly of this bumblebee spotted crawling across some meadow grass – a ‘Buff-tailed bumblebee‘ I believe – and I’m happy to be corrected if you can tell from my image. Although sunny, it was pretty nippy, which is probably why this bee was keeping on the move!
Lastly, are some decorative primulas growing in a lawn at Broadwell not very far away from where the bumblebee was crawling. Such a pretty sight that can’t help but focus the mind on spring, and especially on a dull day.
To round up my garden journal this week, I have to state that it’s been a tough one. Although not starting my working week until Tuesday, I seemed to fast track into the latter end of the week due to two days of simple but heavy going hedge cutting – and I mean hedge cutting as opposed to hedge trimming!
The week finished with a much needed but weather enforced planning session, where I firmed up my plan for March, at least in terms of the range and scope of known tasks that would need looking at – scheduling these in is another matter entirely! Garden tasks, mixed with project work will ensure next week, the first week of spring, will be a busy one.
Before I finish, I have to return to the weather for one last comment. As a gardener I’ve always been a firm believer that the weather, as Monty says, “just is,” and I’ve always took it as it comes – rain, shine or whatever. This winter though has been one to test my resilience to the core. There have been blindingly sunny moments working in shirtsleeves atop the ladder, and moments of extreme dreariness, in full weather gear, with puddles and gloom all around.
Focus on the ever changing seasons I say, for it will pass, and before long we’ll be knee deep in meadow grass, butterflies will be flitting across flowers, and fruits, if we cherish the pollinators, will grow to feed our souls.
Let’s hope my wellies dry over the weekend! Have a good one. Gary