Brambles and Guinea pig runs

January has been a quiet month for ‘Produce from the Garden’. All child free time has been dedicated to two causes, the first cutting back and clearing brambles, a job I’ve not enjoyed. The result, thorn splitters in my hands (despite good quality leather gloves) and I’ve gained an extra four metres of front garden. A friend did question the merits of my bramble quest suggesting that I’ve now got another 4 metres of garden to maintain and tend, obviously not a keen gardener, who can say no to a bit more space.

My second January cause has been building a guinea pig run for my middle son who’s getting guinea pigs for his birthday in early February. The project was driven by my shock at the cost of guinea pig runs in the shops and the need to go off the shelf to sandwich the run in winter months between my green house staging in the conservatory. As normal I started the project with zest and enthusiasm, unusually my passion waned after a week, by week three, I was ‘completely over guinea pigs’ and in awe of all carpenters skills. Finally the run is finished and waiting for its occupants to move in. I have just realised that guinea pigs are incompatible with the ‘Produce from the Garden’ ethos of garden productivity for the home, I consol myself with the thought that their poo must be beneficial for the compost heap!

Guinea pig run

Whatever the weather I’m back in the garden next week clearing old compost heaps, oh the joys of winter gardening, roll on spring.

A tiny bit of snow

On cue, following my moan about the mild weather, a cold spell has set in. Today, to my three boy’s excitement, we woke to a sprinkling of snow. By 7.30am they’d dressed, put on scarves, hats and gloves and were out in the dim early morning light making the most of what little snow there was. Sadly for them it only stayed a few hours. Hopefully we’ll get one proper day of snow this year. A day off school and 6 inches of snow are the makings of magical childhood memories we all cherish.

On a gardening note I’m keeping my fingers crossed that multiple frosts have put paid to the hungry caterpillars, slugs and white fly who’ve been languishing in my vegetable beds.

A sprinkling of snow in the lower vegetable beds

A sprinkling of snow

Seeds to sow in January/February

Most of my vegetable and flower seeds are sown in March and April, if sown earlier the plants will become leggy specimens whilst waiting under glass for the frosts to subside, when planted out they won’t grow into healthy bushy plants, restricting productivity. However, there are a few seeds which I do like to sow now (January / February) that need a longer growing season, these include, onions and shallots, chilli’s and aubergines.

I always feel an enthusiastic buzz when sowing the first seeds of the season, it signals the start of the gardening year as the dormant seeds spring into life. My youngest son (the 4 year old) was also excited to be back in the potting shed, playing with compost, filling pots and to my vague concern sowing the seeds, some a little deeper than I’d have liked, so fingers crossed for successful germination. After successfully decorating the pots with labels and windmills, we popped them into a propagator, all seeds sown this early do need a little extra heat to give them a kick start. In the next week or so we should see baby shoots appear.

filling pots with compostMy four year old actually being a genuine help filling the pots with compost

Accessorizing the potsPots must be accessorized!

PropogatorFinally put to rest in the propagator.

A simple winter posy

Winter posy from the gardenA winter posy from the garden. The new fresh green Echinops foliage, clusters of white and pale pink flowers from Viburnum tinus, blue periwinkles and purple wallflowers ‘Bowles Mauve’, intersected with green dogwood twigs. A winter pick me up for the sitting room coffee table.

The Kitchen garden in December (and early January)

Happy New Year! The kids are back at school and I’ve spent a lovely day in the garden tidying winter debris and moving daffodil bulbs. During the Christmas period I’ve only set foot in the kitchen garden to harvest winter salad and vegetables. It was a refreshing change to be back outside, the rain held off and there were patches of blue sky. Sometimes I garden with Radio 4, but today it was to bird song and my thoughts, plotting and planning the next batch of garden projects to be completed over the coming months. High on the agenda is a new composting area and the landscaping of my main lawn.

Veg patch in early JanuaryThe winter vegetable patch

It’s not all rosy in the kitchen garden though. So far we’ve had a mild and wet winter with only three frosts (yup, I’m counting), the result, my kale is covered in white fly, I’m sharing my spinach with hungry caterpillars and the thriving slug population is munching its way through anything green. Early daffodils which usually flower in mid February started blooming in late December, my Japanese Quince is putting on a beautiful display of blossom, but my snowdrops, generally the first blooms of winter are still little shoots. It is all wrong. I fear that without a cold spell, gardening next year will be an uphill battle, the slugs and snail population will be enormous, pests and diseases rife. My fruit trees have a tendency to attract brown rot, last year we had very little, but I suspect it will be back with vengeance without a cold spell to cleanse our gardens of ills.

All this doom and gloom was soon swept to the back of my mind as the husband presented me with a package this afternoon. He’d been tidying up his studio and discovered my main Christmas present which he’d completely forgotten about, a tripod for my camera. I’m thrilled with it; no more balancing the camera on make shift structures attempting to keep it still and the subject in focus. The husband is definitely in my good books, he’s even finished painting the wood inside and out of my conservatory/potting shed, the colour is Grey Moss by Little Green Company and it looks smashing, a little bit of kitchen garden chic.

Conservatory, potting shedThe newly painted potting shed/conservatory

Now for the usual monthly garden summary in pictures:


Pelargonium sidoides in a vasePelargonium sidoides still flowering in the potting shed

Snowdrop shootsSnow drop shoots

Japanese Quince blossomJapanese Quince blossom

Daffodils flowering in DecemberDaffodils flowering in December

Caterpillar eaten hardy geraniumHardy Geranium leaves yet to die back for winter, nibbled by caterpillars and slugs

Cockerel statueChristmas present from my middle son, in pride of place looking over the kitchen garden

Braodbean plantsAutumn sown broadbeans growing well in this mild weather, we could be in for an early crop this year – not all bad!

Garlic and SpinachGarlic and Spinach

Green ManureOne of my beds of Green manure, a vetch and rye grass mix

Purple Srpouting BrocolliMy favourite delicacy at this time of year, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, and it’s pest free!