Friday 26 March 2021

A time to plant

This week's offer
Our initial focus this week is on planting. Readers will have felt the rather modest temperatures this month - but you may have also noticed that this has been no great deterrent to the weeds! 

Growth is well underway and it is safe to begin planting out those plants that will brave a bit of frost - we still need to keep that possibility in mind

However, you may prefer a head's start so we begin with an easy winner. I have planted up a pot of Spring flowers - a primula surrounded by violas - as a 'come and get me' offer. Please let me know if you would like it - as usual: first come, first served

Please note that there will be a similar fruit & veg offer next week - already planted up and coming on in the greenhouse

Turning now to plants that are ready and eager to find a place in your border ...

The peony in bud and flower May 2020

I have one, just one, really well-established plant that I potted up last autumn (see photo below)

As you can see it has just come into growth and should give great flowers this season. This photo from 2020 shows how it looked last year. . Codger would really love this strong plant to go to a good home. As you see, the flower has a lovely colour

As it looks right now
The photo was taken last May. So, plant it now and you enjoy a great display in just a couple of months. Thinking about it, you have a two-way choice: plant it in the garden or leave it in the pot - or I could pot it on for you if you would like it in a larger container


You may have noticed that Codger likes his hellebores. Why? Simple, you get three months of colour when nothing else is in flower! (January to March, ours are still in flower).

Added to this you have a plant that is reliable and easy to maintain. I'll put another photo in the tailpeice so you have an idea of the colour range available

My hellebores in February (also see tailpiece)

I already have a good stock of plants which will be further increased when my hellebore patch has done flowering - that will be sometime next month

Please get in touch if interested - plants are available now with more coming on-stream soon


Right now is a very good time to get to the back of the border - something more difficult as the season advances. We have some excellent plants that will look fine there: chrysanthemums

How one plant looked at the end of November
Last year I found that they flowered continuously for months - right through the autumn and well into the winter

Despite their reputation as rather specialist plants, I have been surprised to find them fairly easy - just let them grow and cut back at the end of the season. They are available as yellow, white and various bronze shades

All the plants that I am mentioning today are perennials - that is, they come into flower again year after year. Worth noting that they make excellent cut flowers

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun - photographed September 2020


In a month or two, I will have some new varieties. Available, right now, I have plenty of the really sturdy Rudbeckia Prairie Sun. Last year they gave a splendid display. Again, really good value in that they flower for months on end

Codger strongly recommends these really reliable plants

Jane Phillips (AGM) - loved by robins!


The one bloom that invariably gets admiring glances in our garden is a lovely powder blue iris. Codger is 99% sure it is Jane Phillips - the label showing the variety disappeared many years ago. It proved very popular last year so I propagated more and these are now available

They are potted up and ready to go - as you can see here (below)

Potted up and ready to go

Many more

Old Codger's Nursery is already bursting at the seams. We have far more plants than listed here. I have started to update the Plants for You page and will continue to do so. (Reminder: you will find Plants for You at the top right of this page)

However, nothing is better than taking a look yourself and we are hoping that, as Covid restrictions are eased, that will be possible again

You may gain some impression of this from the photo of the new plastic greenhouse (below). As I mentioned last week, extra shelving has been installed. Those shelves are now filled as you can see here. So, next week, I'll be promoting some more flowering plants

No room - plastic greenhouse full!
I also intend to tell you about fruit and veg plants that will become available. Orders for tomatoes are already coming in, so we will be explaining about the different varieties that you can choose from

That plastic job!

Remember my cautionary comments about plastic greenhouses? One thing I forgot to say was that seams and zips are the most vulnerable points

Yes, I have already had experience of a seam popping. Rather than the upheaval of dismantling and sending the thing back, I've risked a repair - and it seems (seams?) to be holding up - see below. I'll spare you the details but anyone wanting to know the best adhesive and so forth - just get in touch

The repair. Clips needed - and the correct adhesive

Another tip

I recently mentioned that, for reasons of cost, I have switched to perlite from vermiculite. So, another tip: don't breathe in when handling perlite - there's a very fine dusk, invisible to my eyes, that gets my chest. Otherwise, I've been happy with the stuff

Interesting to note, though, that cuttings I took last year have done better in vermiculite. More on this topic another time

Well, it's a busy time of year so need to wind up now. Please get in touch if you are interested in any of the plant offers - there will be more next week

Best wishes from the old Garden Codger

A few flower photos

Our camellia flowered yesterday

Here are some of the hellebores I'm so pleased with (we have a range of colours available)

... and, easily overlooked - the humble pulmonaria (lungwort)

Tuesday 16 March 2021

A time to sow ...

The supermarkets go big with primulas this time of year
A glimmer of sunshine, a slight rise in temperature, a hint of growth - and the urge to sow and plant become irresistible. Perhaps that is the definition of a gardener, one who sows in hope ...

It will not surprise you to learn that Codger has been busy sowing and today's edition has this as its main focus. There is plenty of advice on the web but we have one or two tips of our own

A couple of websites first. I mentioned Charles Dowding last week - you'll find his site here. There are many, many others including Grow Veg which I came across only recently - you can try it here. Here are a few brief propagation pointers of my own ...

Seeds available in multiple outlets - often good value

Buying seeds

You don't need to spend a mint on seeds. Often a packet of seeds contains far more than you can use. The photo shows seeds I bought a few days ago from Lidl (ignoring the expensive packet from elsewhere, bottom right). The five packets from Lidl cost less than £2.00 in total (upon checking the receipt just £1.65 - not bad!)

Many online suppliers do good offers, too.  Mind you, I often weaken when I see something that takes my fancy. The fancy in the picture is Purple Bell Vine, something new to me that I want to try

Codger likes to lighten the sowing mix
This year we are trying Perlite

On Saturday I noticed that Homebase was selling six 50 litre bags for £22. I find I cannot now cope with the big (120 litre) bags (it comes to us all). I was pleased to see that the instructions on the bad advocated lightening the mix with something like vermiculite or perlite. Coarse sand can also work. Improving drainage by such additions gives better germination

Most of the covers here are recycled -
mainly from food containers

Read the instructions

Seed packets always have instructions on the back. The bit I always look for is the germination temperature, usually 15-20℃. A sunny window ledge will easily achieve this. You can create a micro-climate by covering with a plastic bag. I also find bubble-wrap works well. Obviously, Codger is working to a bigger scale in the greenhouse


Recycle trays and pots that you already have. I try not to purchase flimsy trays that won't last. I also use disposable food containers that come from the supermarket (plastic re-use, again). Of course, it is necessary to drill drainage holes

My new addition, somewhat squashed in
being used as a cold frame 
Plastic greenhouses

I sometimes get asked about the cheap greenhouses that are available at retail outfits. Dare I say it but I have had many years experience of these contraptions and have accumulated a bit of advice

Let me first explain that my recent purchase is being deployed more as a cold frame - Codger needs the space as seedlings develop. So, with its assembly fresh in my mind, let me pass on a few pointers. First, a don't - don't buy one with a flimsy see-through cover (see last week's photo). Go for the sort where the cover has meshed reinforcement. With regard to assembly:

1: Don't rush, take your time - it's easy to get in a mix. 

The structure is formed from steel tubing
joined by plastic corner pieces

2: Push the tubing fully home - a tap with a Brummagem screwdriver may be needed. 

3: You need level hardstanding - in my case slabs - this means that the thing stands square. 

4: Secure the beast - otherwise the wind will take it in spectacular fashion! 

5: Finally, persuade the cover into place - don't force it, otherwise the zips will give way. I could say a lot more - I've made many, many mistakes in the past

A final and vital point: do not expect it to last forever but, remember, replacement covers may be available (you can check this on purchase).

A bit of DIY

Extra shelving made from old parts
Do you have the remains of an old plastic greenhouse? Great, you have a kit of parts that can be reused! I needed to increase the amount of shelving in the new one and built a unit from old parts. The metal tubing and plastic joints seem to be made to a standard size - I have combined different makes quite successfully in the past

The tubing is made of thin steel and can be cut to size. The best way of doing this is to use a plumber's cutter - I find a hacksaw less good because the material is very thin and snags. Take a look at the photos and you'll be able to work out how I did the job. (Yes, you've guessed - old Codger grew up with Meccano. You'll find a few more shots as a tailpiece, below.) Incidentally, all the staging (shelving) in my proper glasshouse is constructed from old plastic greenhouse bits

An unexpected donation

We are almost ready to supply plants for this season - very close, in fact. See the next edition for details - out in about ten days time

But I can risk telling you that we should have some nice geraniums. I spent yesterday afternoon potting-on 72 plug plants that were not required by the person who ordered them. They have been kindly passed on to us so that BCM gets the benefit

The variety is is Bull's Eye and there will be a mixture of colours - or so the delivery note says. Just as well that I bought those six bags of potting compost!

Very healthy geranium cuttings - now transplanted and growing away

Something a bit different

You may have worked out that Codger is fascinated by the way plants grow. The unseen microscopic action that is continually taking place in the soil is vital to this process. Fungi play a key part. They can be strangely beautiful, too - as you can see here. The photo is courtesy of Wiki - a Japanese photographer, I believe

If this fascinates you, too - then you are sure to appreciate the work of an Australian photographer, Stephen Axford. You may well have seen his time-lapse photography on television. The BBC have incorporated his work in recent David Attenborough films. You can view a wonderful video of the world of fungi here - and meet Steve Axford at the same time:

(If you are viewing on a mobile phone, you may need to click here)

A time to sow ...

To me, all of this demonstrates the absolute wonder of creation. Illustrated, again, every time a seed germinates. When I checked out the quotation "A time to sow .." I found I had got it wrong in that the Biblical original is "A time to plant ..." ( Ecclesiastes 3:2)

I like to get quotes correct and was digging around the lyrics of "Turn, turn, turn" - remember - Pete Seeger and many other followers? Then, in that strange serendipitous way of the internet, hit upon this. Join me for a quiet moment before you rush on today:

(If you are viewing on a mobile phone, you may need to click here)

If you are still with me, you'll find a few more photos below. Best wishes!

... from the old Garden Codger

Extras: first, if you are interested in plastic greenhouse reuse ...

Pipe cutter used to shorten or clean up reused tubing - gives a nice clean cut - and is quick

Then, if you want to see how a new structure (or old!) goes together:

Slabs give a firm footing. I was squeezing into a tight space. But, this protects from wind

Meanwhile, the tomato seedling are coming on. Photo just taken (noon today). Almost ready to prick out - my next big job

Tomato seedlings sown three weeks ago in my DIY propagator set at 19 degrees Celsius
The bubble-wrap is rolled back - this covers at night - we are still getting low temperatures

Signs of life - the frogs have been busy in the pond doing what frogs do

And, finally, a bit of aubretia brightness


Friday 5 March 2021

A dull day ... (continued)

We're back! Our blogpost on Wednesday was interrupted by the delivery of a greenhouse - perhaps surprising in view of the fact that we already have one which is adequate for our needs. Well, an explanation is called for - but that can wait until next week

I had a wildlife task to perform this morning so I was off to the local nature reserve so, I am now giving away the location of the photograph in Wednesday's edition: The Sanna! Otherwise, Moorcroft Wood

Courtesy of Google's clever photo/text software, the information shown above is set out at the foot of today's blog. You may be interested to read about this multiply-used piece of land - it has a long industrial history. Incidentally. 'Sanna' is derived from sanatorium - read all about it in the tailpiece

More jobs!

Awaiting the restoration of the water butt
which also sustained some damage
I got back to a long list garden of jobs that seems to get longer the more I do. Although it is very dull and rather cold again, I'm happy that the plants are not racing ahead. Old Codger needs the time to catch up on the ravages of winter. You don't think of plastic perishing, do you? This box usually supports a water butt which was leaning unsteadily - obviously, 100 litres was beyond it's limit. Let's see if this Peak District roofing slab is up to the job

Tune in next week to find out

Finding that a cold frame uses too much space, I had deployed a cheap plastic greenhouse last year. Alas, too cheap. The clear plastic covering did not last even one season. I tried to do a repair in the autumn but winter won, underlining the point: buy only the type that has a reinforced plastic cover

It occurs to me that there may be readers about to make such a purchase. Since I've a fair bit of experience - good and bad - with these products, I will try to pass on some tips next week. In the meantime, if you are doing essential shopping at B&Q, you might like to look at their range. Nothing like seeing before you buy. Having said that, because of size considerations, I bought mine online. As I say, more about this topic next week

NOT Codger's garden
(needless to say)
More shopping

Observant readers will have spotted that we usually patronise our local Asda - thus the recent mention of their pots at good prices. Having reason to call in at Morrisons' early this week, I noticed their latest garden range. Again, very well priced pots and troughs. They even had sleepers, as in railway sleepers. A one metre job was priced at £10 - I wonder how well these will sell. I might pop back to find out. (Worth adding that I have also found Morrisons' good for plants)

Our local weather forecast
More cold to come

We keep being told that Spring has sprung. Does not feel like it! I think the message is commercial - the shops are stocking up. I find that folk still like to moan about the weather forecast: 'they never get it right!' - on the contrary, I am impressed by the accuracy. It is worth looking at the monthly forecast - you can see it here

Simeon & dad did the Sleep Out last week

Speaking of cold

We are glad to report that father and son coped with a rather cold night last Friday. Although rumour has it that they snook back inside a little before dawn. All the money raised to BCM, of course

And we are told by Shefali (above) to expect three degrees of frost tonight. So, it may be wise to stay in the warm for a little longer yet - but you have still two weeks to wait for the return of Gardeners' World. Monty has told me that the 2021 series is due is to start on Friday 19th March (actually, he said 18th March - but can't be right)

The film crew arrive at Longmeadow
He has tweeted a photograph of a Covid protected crew setting up at Longmeadow. They require no less than three shipping containers and operate the cameras remotely. How many shipping containers could you get in your garden, I wonder

Codger has not been tempted by the latest BBC garden programme - Your Garden Made Perfect - it's the last word that puts me off. However, we did spend some time with Carol Klein watching her new Channel 5 series - practical and helpful

We have also tried to work out what BBC Scotland are doing with Beechgrove Garden but the information is unhelpful. Has the series been abandoned?

Television apart, in my book the best source information, inspiration and advice is Charles Dowding. His excellent website is here. You can sample one of his many videos below:

(Technical note: if video does not show, please click here)

And finally ...

Despite being behind with jobs, we have managed to start sowing. Plus some of our over-wintered plants are looking for a good home. We'll tell you about them next week ...

... and I am also pleased to tell you that our good friend, Angela Webb (assisted by hubby Keith) is planning her annual charity plant sale. Covid-19 restrictions allowing, it is being booked for July - precise date to be announced - watch this space

Best wishes from the old (and creaking) Garden Codger

Tailpiece. This is the text from the Moorcroft Wood noticeboard - first a couple of photos I took in January

These are not natural rocks but the result of earlier iron working

Moorcroft Wood Local Nature Reserve

Welcome to the Sanna!

Woodland Wildlife

Moorcroft Wood is an urban nature reserve covering 12.2 hectares, the Walsall Canal and a branch canal (Bradley Locks) form the north eastern and south eastern boundaries to the site.

The woodland here is broadleaved, dominated by Sycamore with some False Acacia trees. These trees are part of the original 1904 planting and can be seen throughout the woodland. The trees are now fully mature providing a dense canopy which is being thinned and maintain the ground flora and encourage new growth to form woodland with a mixture of different aged trees, to provide as many habitats for wildlife as possible. The woodland habitat goes from the woodland floor to the tree canopy and it is these differing levels that provide different habitat niches that provide for many wildlife species which is why woodlands can support so many different species of flora and fauna.

Wildlife inhabiting a wood may only do so for part of the time, often using other habitats such as grassland or wetland for finding food. It is the habitats and wildlife of Moorcroft Wood that make it special with areas of open water, woodland, grassland and scrub. Over 40 species of bird have been recorded at Moorcroft Wood, along with numerous invertebrates including aquatic species, amphibians and mammals.

The wood was given Local Nature Reserve status in 1996 and due to its cultural and biological value is also designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. It is a valued local nature site and there is an active 'Friends of Moorcroft Wood' group who work closely with Walsall Countryside Services, and are actively involved in helping to manage the site. The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and Black Country work with both Walsall Countryside Services and the 'Friends of Moorcroft Wood' to support improvements to the site for both people and wildlife.

If you would like further information about Moorcroft Wood LNR or about countryside in Walsall or to find out how you can get involved with the Friends of Moorcroft Wood or to join in with volunteering activities contact Walsall Countryside Services Tel: 01922 458328 or visit for information on events, at Moorcroft Wood LNR and elsewhere in Walsall.


Moorcroft Wood was once part of the grounds of the Moxley Hospital or Sanatorium. When the hospital closed in 1995 the hospital site was sold for housing, whilst ownership of the wood was transferred from West Midlands Health Authority to Walsall Council. The wood is now declared a Local Nature Reserve in recognition of its value to nature conservation, and still often called the 'Sanna' in reference to the Sanatorium.

Until the start of the 20th Century, Moorcroft Wood had been a mix of farm land and factories. Following the Industrial Revolution, industry had flourished on site due to abundant coal and iron ore deposits. This industrial activity had ceased by 1904, when Wednesbury Hospital Board bought the site as the recreation grounds for the convalescing patients from Moxley Hospital. To improve the site numerous trees were planted including False Acacia and Sycamore

As the incidence of isolation diseases such as Cholera and Small pox declined, the hospital made less use of the woodland and it became largely abandoned. In the early 1980's work started to both conserve Moorcroft Wood for wildlife and improve access for visitors.

Please enjoy the wood responsibly and respect the wildlife, clean up after your dog and dispose of litter in a bin or take it home to dispose of there.

Wednesday 3 March 2021

A dull day ...

My favourite local walk - secret!
There's cold - and there's cold. Don't you agree? This photograph was taken two months ago. It was pleasant to be out. But not today - it is so dull - and feels miserable. So, I'm driven indoors

In any case, I owe you a blog episode. But, don't worry, I am not about to remind you of the jobs you have not yet done. There is still plenty of time before Spring really gets sprung

Magazines and newspapers will tell you to get going and sowing - but there is time yet. I am struggling to catch up with the jobs I have planned to do over the winter. So, yesterday found me moving a young apple tree

Yes, I know ... the working area
More like a junk yard than a garden
I planted it eleven months ago with the intention of training it espalier fashion but it refused to cooperate - gardening can be like that - it's all an experiment really. So, I decided to move it. But to where? That I cannot decide as I know other changes are necessary. So, the solution is to pot it up and see if it can cope like that for a year. I think it will be happy - it has good root ball and I used a good planting mix with plenty of well-rotted compost. Katie (the variety) will think she is on holiday!

Incidentally, the spade with the uncharacteristic yellow handle is one of my very favourite tools. It was made just down the road at Spear and Jackson's for the Dutch market - they are taller than us - note the long handle. Sadly, S&J is no longer 'just down the road' - perhaps a story for another day

More jobs!

An over-engineered containment method!

One of the jobs I did get done was to box in the roots of my fig tree. Although the variety (Brown Turkey) will grow outside, mine is in the greenhouse. When I pulled up the tomatoes in November I noticed that the fig's roots were taking over. I had read that is is wise to contain them - so I did. I could have used a couple of slabs but, instead, I recycled some plastic sheet material that was spare (from my old DIY greenhouse)

The first picture shows the work in progress - we were down into the water table, hence the shingle. You can also see another favourite spade of mine. It is designed to dig out narrow

Job done and room for tomatoes

holes for fencing posts. I find it very useful when planting in the border. You can see the final result of the operation here

What else has held me up? Well, just as I am starting to get some seeds sown the wind takes out a fencing panel. There are thirteen panels down the one side. I did running repairs last year in the hope of replacing the lot next year. I'll spare you boring photographs! Instead, take a look at these ...

Spring bulbs

It has been good to hear from readers / supporters / patrons that the Spring bulb containers are already looking good. Here are a selection of photographs that have been sent in - thank you Bobbie, Hilary (spot the bee) and Jill

But, please excuse me, the front doorbell and a big parcel! I've got a delivery of a new greenhouse - must break off. I'll explain later ...

... best wishes from the Garden Codger (to be continued soon ...)