What a month it’s been! What February lacked in days, it certainly made up for in weather. We went from rain to snow, back to rain again, severe frosts, gales, more snow and now double digit temperatures and enough sunshine to make us all start to unfurl.
A big fall of powder snow transformed the garden for a couple of days early in the month. It was astonishingly beautiful, with alpine light and every twig and branch sparkling with snow. Snowfall in the garden always makes me wish I had more topiary and the lollipop bay trees looked their best. We had a badger visit us one night who left his tracks across the lawn, as well as the usual foxes and squirrels. The bamboo bounced back after being flattened, but my lovely myrtle bush wasn’t so fortunate and I had to amputate a few limbs where the branches split. It’s now very lopsided and could take a while to recover its shape.
My first greenhouse winter was a bit of a learning curve and I didn’t ventilate nearly enough over the winter months. The echiums caught a bad dose of black mould, which then spread to all the greenhouse surfaces and it took a serious spring clean to scrub it off the woodwork and disinfect.
Giant icicles pulled away a section of guttering, fortunately easily repaired, and it prompted me to finally fix the downpipes into position – a job I have been putting off for a while. This means I can start work on my next garden project, which may be a soakaway or may be a rill depending on how artistic the end result looks.
Here are the guinea pigs enjoying a munch of the winter lettuces while I do some spring cleaning. There was not much left when they had done!
Temperatures dropped to minus seven for a few nights causing a few worries about my more tender plants. I gave my Tetrapanax rex a deep mulch of leaves and it seems to have pulled through, as did the potted echiums overwintering in the greenhouse. Last summer’s cerinthe self seeds soldiered on through the frost and snow; fortunately no one has told them they are supposed to be tender. I stopped growing these from seed a few years ago and now let them get on with it by themselves as it seems to suit them very well. The photo on the left shows the badger footprints.
As lockdown slogged on, I cheered myself up one afternoon by digging over my Dalek compost bins. The larger bin was started in September 2020 and is rotting down well but needed turning, and the smaller bin was fully composted and contained an astonishing amount of worms. This went onto the front garden as mulch and the small bin started afresh. I also installed my new toy – a Hotbin – which I had treated myself to in the New Year sales. These are contained, insulated bins which compost at high temperatures and are supposed to be less attractive to rats than regular bins. Hot composting seems as much of an art as science, and I’m a bit intimidated by the amount of information available. Starting in winter isn’t ideal as it needs grass clippings to generate the initial heat. Without them the in-built thermometer has been stubbornly reading 15 degrees and looks like it will remain that way until I cut the lawn.
Much as I like to run a pesticide free garden, I find that the new delphiniums shoots are just too irresistible to slugs and don’t make it through their first few weeks of life without some chemical help. Tiny black slugs a few millimetres long eat the underground shoots before they even emerge. I have put bottomless plastic pots round each plant and a sprinkling of pellets inside to get them through the first few weeks until they are big enough to look after themselves. It’s not the most picturesque look but should stop any frogs or other wildlife getting to the pellets, and will also stopping me trampling the new shoots.
After sitting on my hands for most of February I cracked and sowed my first seeds of the year on the 17th. Three sorts of tomato (Gardeners’ Delight, Tumbling Tom and a beefsteak), miniature cucumber ‘Diva’, plus an old packet of sweet peas that I found in the greenhouse are all on the windowsill. The tomatoes germinated exactly seven days after sowing, and the cucumber shortly after. Only the sweet peas are still waiting for germination fairy to wave her magic wand.
Finally, on the last day of February I spotted the first frog of the year in the pond. I have not had any frogspawn since moving the pond two years ago and I have my fingers crossed for 2021.