Saturday 1 May 2021

May Day

View from the pond back towards the house
Codger cannot let another day go past without putting metaphorical pen to imaginary paper. This blog post is long overdue; circumstances have conspired to keep me doing other things. However, May Day rain has driven me in from the garden (see photo left) so we are seizing the chance to update our readers

Actually, that is not quite correct. It is more that I have been driven in from the greenhouse ratherha tn the garden itself. Every square inch is taken, there's hardly room to stand. Despite the low outside temperatures, germination has been good - particularly the tomatoes. Old Codger reckons he has got through 400 litres of bought compost. Result: we have goot some good healthy plants looking for a new home - we hope there will be something to interest you

Full to overflowing greenhouse
- and soon to be available
Compost quality
By bought compost I mean the stuff you buy in bags from the DIY store, supermarket or garden centre - as opposed to the material generated by rotting down green and brown waste on your own compost heap. As regular readers know, I usually refer to this latter product as garden compost

Bought compost is often sold as multi-purpose compost - seed-sowing and potting being key uses. I try not to be obsessive about this but I continue to be surprised at how variable these products are

Under the first lockdown, it was difficult getting hold of multi-purpose compost. I bought whatever I could, wherever I could and found, to my surprise, that paying more did not always get better quality - judging by results, that is

The product we are currently using
(note we have no pecuniary interest)
Experience and a reminder
 Last month, seeing an offer at Homebase, Codger thought he would try their compost. As with most stores, they carry a range. I'm talking about the product seen here on the left. Verdict? I've found it very good!

It is not perfect, you will encounter some lumpiness. I can live with that. I found it light but not too fluffy and a pleasure to use - somewhat like the professional product (Bulrush) that gets promoted on the gardening sales channels like QVC. I shall certainly stick with the Homebase product for the moment

Now, a reminder from grumpy old Codger. Using the material straight out of the bag is OK when sowing large seed like runner beans but needs lightening for most seed-sowing. Add vermiculate or perlite - I've swapped to the latter because it is cheaper. Main point: most bought compost does not drain freely and needs improving

Getting a good mix
So, for example, here is my rough recipe when potting on. Only rough - I vary as the case demands: two parts bought compost, one part perlite and one part sieved garden compost (perlite improves drainage, garden compost adds goodness). For seed sowing, the latter addition is not needed

To glove or not to glove
Handling compost raises an issue: gloves or no gloves? Last week's GQT (Gardeners' Question Time on BBC Radio 4) raised this question. Here is Codger's carefully crafted answer (skip to next item if not interested)

Found in the bought compost!
By and large, I go gloveless - moreso as the season develops. It takes a while for winter softness to toughen up so I'm careful at first. I know when my hands are run in - my phone no longer recognises my fingerprint!

The one time I tend to wear gloves is when sieving. Gloves allow me to push the material (eg bought compost!) through the grid

Incidentally, I usually only bother with the sieve if I am preparing a seed mix for sowing fine seeds such as violas or petunias. If you don't enjoy handling the soil there is a cheap alternative to gardening gloves - PPE! Yes, disposable gloves - box of 100 costs only £4 at B&Q! (But go for a size bigger than you think - I don't have big hands but find anything below XL too small)

Another reason to be careful
There are examples I prefer not to advertise!

To be honest, I used to be a bit too nonchalant about tough hands. But a new consideration has come into play which has made me think a bit more deeply about the matter

A change in our family circumstances means that I am busy in the kitchen three times a day, so food hygiene is now a consideration. Mind you, I could wear gloves for food prep - but the idea does not appeal

And another tip: when you wash your hands, keep the water and use it on the garden. Better on the border, though - prevents any chemical build-up with containers

Time for some flowers
The April weather has been well out of the normal range. I imagine the cold wind has kept many folk indoors but, worse than the cold, the contsat wind has been a drying wind. Here, the hose has been deployed a couple of times a week. Added to this rainfall has been minimal. I heard on the forecast that we have only had one tenth of the normal level

We were also informed that the night frost has been the worst for 60 years. Even when the temperature has stayed above zero that has been by the barest margin. My digital thermometer showed 0.5 last night and 0.3 the night before and we are to expect more of the same tonight

The cherry blossom is prolific
Gladly, some plants are triggered more by daylength than warmth so we have a grand display from the cherry at the moment. Best ever, I'd say. And the camellias have been great, despite a bit of frost damage. I have been particularly pleased by the Dog-tooth violets (see above left). For once I seem to be ahead of the trend - Monty Don was singing their praises in last night's Gardeners' World

[Excuse me - I have just discovered that a parcel has been left in the porch. I need to investigate. A mystery has been solved - see the postscript]

Healthy strawberry plants
Open for business
Since the relaxation of Covid rules a couple of weeks ago, it has been possible to receive visitors at Codger's Nursery. Sorry, no cream teas yet! But you can have rhubarb without custard, strawberries without cream and, even, fish without chips

Yes, I know I have mentioned it before but rhubarb is terribly under-rated and we have some excellent plants available. And, unashamed, I'm pushing hellebores again. Is your garden lacking winter colour? - here's the answer! I've also got one, just one, mahonia looking for a home. It's a good variety - Winter Sun

A lovely double hellebore
 - others also available
Despite the cool conditions, perennials of various sorts are waking up, too. Rudbeckia, anyone - or echinacea? You are welcome to take a look. Book first and beat the crowds! 

What about the fish without chips? Only half joking. The heron seems to have had his fill so we are somewhat overstocked so free fish are available. First come, first served

 And advance notice. Unlike last year, we have a large quantity of bedding plants coming on - petunias, violas, zinnias, dahlias, calibrachoa and plenty more

We allow visitors to feed the fish, including the shark
Business matters
Just a reminder. Every penny received goes to BCM for the excellent work they do. I have only just discovered that my online giving channel has made some changes so I need to study them and report back next time (no time to do it today)

In any case, many supporters prefer cash - and I have a new receipt book ready to go. Looking at last year's figures, nearly half the donations were in cash. So, cash is welcome. (Some donors report finding the online method a bit cumbersome so we will take a look to see if that has been made more smooth)

At a location in Shropshire
Secret walk
When restrictions were eased a couple of weeks ago, Mrs Codger asked if we could do our secret walk - the first time in many months. Not exactly secret, but we don't spread the word too widely. It's about half-an-hour's drive away. We sneak into Shropshire and follow a track by the side of a wood. On this occasion The sun came out just as we started and the temperature suddenly lifted - idyllic, as you can see here

It seems that the County has some sort of access scheme as, to our surprise, the landowner had extended the walk. We followed the track. It took us through a magical boggy woodland area

I've never seen such tall alders - and the marsh marigolds sparkled in the dappled light. It felt as though lockdown had finally come to an end

Well, our time has run out. I shall do my best to update you soon about the many plants that are busy growing away. Many would do well in your garden. I certainly won't have room for them all so I do hope that I am growing plants that you can enjoy in your own garden

See you soon ...

... from your old friend, the Garden Codger

Post Script: Brexit harmony stored!
A couple of months ago, our Dutch friends enquired about a grape vine we had seen at Packwood House. I trawled back and found a photo - here it is:

They had seen the original vine at Hampton Court during one of their early visits to the UK

Then, to our surprise, three weeks ago, they mentioned that a package was on its way to us. There was no connection in my mind with the Hamburg photo, nor the vine. What could they be sending?

Subsequently, there were several concerned calls - has the parcel arrived yet? Eventually, they confessed the truth - the package contained a Black Hamburg vine! 

(Here, I should mention that Jan was originally a nurseryman - and one who could track down such a rarity.) So, several visits to our local sorting office. A chat with our postman (who is a very nice lady) - all to no avail. Then, today, a delivery - three weeks in the post! Had the contents survived?

I carefully cut open the envelope ...

... to be continued ...

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