Inkwell’s Guide to Gardening #7

Growing plants whether they be flowers, trees, fruits or vegetables is very rewarding. I take a laid-back approach to it and do not really tend to do much in the garden over winter. This is mostly due to my dislike of being out in cold weather. This winter though I would like to change this, so I have been looking at what to do to create a year-round garden and I wanted to share my findings with you. Over the next few blogs, I will discuss what to plant in the flower and the vegetable gardens for year-round garden activity alongside other tips and hints.

Now is a good time to plant autumn flowering bulbs. The ground is warm, and these bulbs will take quickly with the right care. When planting bulbs into the garden it is a good idea to sprinkle some compost onto the top of the bulb before filling with garden soil and then water well. This will give them a kick start. Planting in pots is great as you can layer them inside the pot and have bulbs flowering in each season. To name a few you could be planting autumn flowering cyclamen hederifolium, nerine, oxalis, crocus and snowdrops. If you are wanting to plant these into the garden, then it is a good idea to get hardy varieties.

The sweet Williams and campanula seeds that were planted in spring in the greenhouse are now fairly established and ready to be planted into the garden. These will flower next year. I also planted foxgloves in the greenhouse, as I knew the chickens would destroy them if the seeds were planted straight into the garden soil. They are ready to be pricked on and will be grown over winter in the greenhouse.

The wild birds continue to visit the garden in their droves, and it has been wonderful to see the young birds grow and mature. Last week I finally got round to making my own fat balls and they seem to be loving them. I was amazed at how cheap they were to make. Why not have a go yourself?

https://www.inkwellarts.org.uk/bird-food-fat-balls/

Vegetable patch

The sun has been shy recently with rain and wind taking president in the weather reports and although rain is great for keeping plants growing it can bring problems such as root and bulb rot and those pesky slime beasts AKA slugs and snails. It is good for a gardener to keep this in mind. The wind is also a challenge and one of my raspberry bushes came loose from its props. Subsequently fruit was somewhat suffocated resulting in losing some raspberries to mould. On the upside, the raspberry bushes have been prolific this year and so some loss has not seemed to make much of a dent in the crop.

Keep picking the berries in your garden and if you have more than you can eat, share them, freeze them and get inventive with preserves. The following link takes you through the steps to make a mixed berry syrup. It is a versatile ingredient which can be used as a cordial, an addition to mocktails and cocktails or as a syrup for sweet deserts such as pancakes, waffles and ice cream.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ajCS1H5ZQM

It is the season to pick cherries and Leeds has plenty of cherry trees planted in its parks and on its roadsides. They are hard to miss now as the fruits vivid colour shows. If the fruit bearing branches are low enough then simply pick the cherry, stalk attached and enjoy! There will still be plenty of fruit high up for the birds and insects to enjoy. I recently went out and picked some cherries and used them to make a delicious tiffin.

Some peas are ready to harvest now and if you have been succession planting then you should have a constant run of pods for the remainder of summer. Carrots and beetroot could be ready to pull up now and if you have a glut of carrots then chutneys, pickles and syrups are great things to make and store to give for presents through the year. The following recipe shows you how to make a carrot chutney that pairs deliciously with some Wensleydale cheese.

https://www.inkwellarts.org.uk/how-to-make-carrot-chutney/

Early summer is a good time to plant winter vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, leeks, swede and parsnips. My reluctance to growing in the colder months means that I have never grown these vegetables, but with my newfound desire to grow yearlong I am looking at planting potatoes for a Christmas harvest, swiss chard and kohlrabi. Other vegetables that could be planted for over winter harvests include perpetual spinach, pak choi and turnips. When growing vegetables over winter it is a good idea to protect them with fleece, or if you have a cold frame or greenhouse then you could use them. This will protect them against frost.

Chickens

For any plants to have a good chance in a garden where chickens free range it is good to think about ways to protect them. Chicken wire is your friend! Making simple cloches and cages will keep chickens away. This would also work to deter wild birds and rabbits.

Fourteen weeks of the chicken’s lives have passed now and as the birds have matured, we have come to accept that Mavis is in fact a boy. This leaves us in an unfortunate situation for the second time! Cockerels can be very noisy birds and upsetting the neighbours is not something we want to do. Cockerels do not lay eggs and we had not intended ever breeding chickens, so we are currently on the hunt for a replacement. We would like to find a hen breed with attributes such as friendliness and good egg laying. For the new lady to join the flock it would also be preferable for her to be of a similar age to Belle and Chicky.

The chickens love free ranging and when I watch them, I notice how much time they spend pecking around and eating. It seems almost constant. With all this activity in mind we have been trialling out different boredom busters in the run. Along with branches in the run that they can perch on I have made them a swing which Belle and Chicky often occupy. I have grown trays of grass seed and often thread various fruit and vegetables on a length of string to hang up in the run, which seem to keep them occupied. They will happily peck a cabbage head to its stalk and sweetcorn down to the cob.

Please join us again for another instalment of this gardening blog, which is posted biweekly. We would love to see pictures of your gardens so please do send them to us vis Facebook  https://en-gb.facebook.com/Inkwellarts , Instagram https://www.instagram.com/inkwell_artscafe/?hl=en  or email [email protected]