Six on Saturday: 27 Feb 2021: action

Wooo-hoooo, it’s almost March! A month that seemed so out of reach in the gloomy depths of January, and the dog days of February. We are the survivors of that long trek to freedom through winter (for me, spring begins on 1st March, at least psychologically). We’ve had stupendously lovely weather in Belgium this week: many sunny days, with Thursday afternoon hitting 19 degrees C, adding to the sense of anticipation. This has propelled me into action, including seriously ODing on gardening on my day off on Wednesday, to the detriment of my non-gardening to-do list and my back. I only wish that we’d finished our winter pruning earlier, as now there’s so much to do.

This leads me on to Six on Saturday, the gardening pick-and-mix where we celebrate or bemoan weekly happenings in our gardens, hosted by the Propagator. PS this week’s photos are all quick snaps on the iphone, as I transition between cameras, apologies for the lack of artistry!

1 Hazel pruning. We have two hazel trees in the garden, giving us valuable privacy from neighbours. These supremely useful sticks will be used to make wigwams for sweet peas, edible peas, beans and morning glory, and maybe even the odd trellis structure if I figure out how – the oracle Youtube may be consulted. It’s been a time-consuming and boring task stripping the side shoots off, but we’re nearly done.

2 Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’. These flowered in time for the first alfresco breakfast of the year on the terrace. I love their intense colours.

3 Mulching. Remember my free supply of wood chips / green trimmings from the farm? I’ve used up the remainder to tidy up the area around the raised veg bed, which was getting weedy and untidy, as this area is impossible to mow. The two-stage process involved firstly laying carboard down (after arduously taking off all the labels and sticky tape), and then covering with a generous layer of mulch. Looks a whole lot better now, phew!

4 Veg bed tidy-up. While I was at the mulching, I decided I could no longer tolerate the mess of decimated chard, slug-munched spinach and feline toilet products that was the veg bed. So out it all came, while the green manure of Phacelia was dug in, and a new protection system against the cats was set up using the hazel rods – inspired by fellow gardening blogger Padraig’s bamboo cane technique. The autumn-sown garlic stayed in.

5 Seed-sowing. This has begun in earnest now, with broad beans, peas ‘Douce de Provence’, parsley and three varieties of tomato all sown. A new batch of sweet peas were sown on Valentine’s Day to replace those destroyed by the freezing weather earlier this month – they were in the unheated mini plastic greenhouse and didn’t make it. This is a pity, as I wanted to do an experiment to see if it really is true that autumn or early winter-sown sweet peas perform better than those sown around this time. Has anyone else tried both?

Sweet peas in the cellar

6 King Edward potatoes. These are being chitted on the window-sill of the cellar. Almost all Belgian houses have cellars, and they are incredibly useful. Stuff can be stowed away in them (nothing sinister mind), citrus consignments from Italy can be stored, and as you see, potatoes can be chitted. Ideal conditions here – cool but light, as the window faces south.

That’s all from me, so have a lovely weekend, thanks for reading and may the weather be with you.

46 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 27 Feb 2021: action

  1. I’m very jealous of those hazel poles! Every year, I bodge something together for the peas, but it’s never that satisfactory. Maybe I’ll have to plant a hazel somewhere on the allotment!

    Everything looks very promising, I agree about Spring: whatever definition you use, it’s feeling like it’s here already 🙂

  2. Those Hazel sticks have come in very useful for you! I’m wondering are Belgian cats as clever as ours here? I’ve witnessed sticks moved about. 😩
    Speaking of Spring, it’s time for me to start watching Belgian Classics cycling.

  3. I love the cardboard and woodchip technique. It looks great as well as being very economical. I’ve not managed breakfast outside yet, but did have a cup of tea in the sunshine yesterday afternoon. Winter is definitely on the way out. The iris are lovely.

    1. Thanks, plenty of cardboard boxes these days – if only they would package them with the gardener in mind, quite a fuss removing those labels and tape. So lovely to have tea outside again.

    1. Oh thank you, but I have a tendency to over do it sometimes! The green manure will hopefully do its magic, I don’t have access to animal manure at the moment so it’s a good substitute.

  4. Great work! I go to the wild for hazel when needed and find it very useful though short-lived. You have put thoughts of getting on with my vegetables into my mind.

  5. Original this protection to avoid cats in the vegetable garden. Let us know if it works.
    For the sweet peas I sowed rather in the spring and it worked. This year I sowed in the autumn
    and I will see. The plants are only starting to come out of the ground because I sowed them outside despite the cold.
    The start of the potato chitting is scheduled for this weekend!

  6. You’ve been busy. Hazel sticks sound as though they have many handy uses. I’ve never tried sowing sweet peas in the autumn/winter before. I’ve had the odd disaster with spring sown ones, although last year’s batch were surprisingly long lived. The iris look a show.

  7. As I can see, you dit a great job in your garden. Good idea to use the hazel sticks, It gives much more natural look than sticks you buy. The mulch looks great and I love those irisses 🙂 Funny to see the potatoes in the empty egg boxes. You have a wonderful inspiration and the potatoes seem to like it too, the look verry happy.

  8. I think we all have hazel pole envy! Its lovely to have such spring beauties as the irises up at eye level.

  9. What a difference the woodchip paths makes. Seeing your feline bamboo deterrent reminds me I must send my gnome out to cut some bamboo to do the same. since returning the pestbye cat deterrent, the cat has returned.

    the iris are beautiful! I love the idea of a small bowl on the table it gives a more personal connection which such wonderful flowers.

    1. It’s worth a try with the bamboo, and since last week’s post I’ve also stuck in vertical sticks of hazel as the cat managed to climb under the chicken wire section – multiple lines of attack will be necessary!!

  10. Cats are certainly a no no for the garden, especially the veggie or herb bed! I am always sticking offcuts in to deter my neighbour’s cat, I might try your idea using my cut down bamboo sticks. Like you I think I shall clear one of my raised beds this year and start afresh. It’s all gone a bit awry!

    1. Cats will usually choose the path of least resistance so am hoping these sticks will prove too annoying for them. I also use chicken wire and even the metal bottle holders from an old fridge but that doesn’t look as nice! Yes it’s most satisfying to clear out old beds: a fresh start.

  11. Both iris and breakfast look lovely. The cat proofing technique is inspired – I will have to implement same as soon as may be with the stack of bamboo poles culled from our grove.

  12. Those hazel branches are so lovely and straight, and so useful. Aren’t the Iris wonderful? 😃 I always forget how early they flower and must plant more as they are totally ignored by our resident mice. That mulching idea with cardboard underneath may well be implemented here once we get our new veg area prepared. Hope you get another sunny week. It’s looking like spring here too. 😎

  13. Hi Sel – I’m keen to know what proportion of your hazel you prune off for those sticks. Presumably you keep some in place for the privacy screen?

    I only ever sow sweet peas in spring now. Autumn ones are a bit of a faff to keep going over winter. Having said that, last time I tried was before I had a decent greenhouse and cold frame so maybe one day I’ll try again.

    1. Hi Katharine, well after some at times tetchy discussion with OH, not helped by difficulty in setting up the ladder properly, we settled on cutting a lot back but leaving what I hope will be enough for privacy. We didn’t prune last year. It grows back fast in any case. But I felt bad because we’ll lose a lot of the lovely hazelnuts.

  14. How lovely to have your own coppiced hazel – perfect for making plant supports. I have never managed to sow sweet peas in winter although last year a few self-sowed in our raised beds.

  15. Thanks for the great idea of using hazel sticks (I’ve just cut a ton down 😉 ) to protect raised beds from cats (also Padraig of course). I will be implementing it too! Hasn’t it been great to see some sun and enjoy a few warm days to do outside jobs? So much nicer with a bit of blue sky! You look like you are really ready for Spring.

  16. Love the iris, Sel. I just saw/photographed a wild iris in a swamp several days ago. 🙂 For me, Spring always arrives March 11-12th when our male Osprey return almost on cue to secure the nest and wait for the Mrs! 🙂

  17. Lovely pictures of the plantation. My favorite is Iris reticulata. The spring is back which and there is a great opportunity and favorable condition for the plantation of different species.

  18. You have been invigorated and become extremely busy! That is a great pile of useful sticks, and put to good use to keep the cats out! When do you plant out your seedlings? Things are so different here in a sub-tropical climate hence the question. Our winters only get down to about 5 degrees C here, and not for long. I’ve been pruning back some of the rampant summer growth and have generated huge piles of pruning, which we mow and put back into the garden beds as mulch. And I’ve been weeding, and weeding, and weeding….Have a great week!

    1. Well it sounds like you’ve been busy too! Keeping all that growth in check must be quite a job, but I like the way you’re reusing it as a mulch. I realise more and more that the garden has so many self-sustaining resources, without the need to spend money at garden centres. Certainly I won’t be buying any canes or supports this year! In answer to your question, the tender seedlings are usually ok to be planted out from mid April. But the local saying in French is to wait until Les Saints de Glace (the Ice Saints): saint Mamert, saint Pancrace and saint Servais, which are celebrated on 11,12 and 13 May.

      1. I’m always learning so much from other gardeners! That’s what I love about theses Six on Saturday posts. Thanks for letting me know about the seedlings. We had a saying that sweet peas had to be planted at Easter or they would not do well! You are lucky with your canes. Since reading your post I have been researching Hazel. We can only buy thin bamboo canes here, or the stronger plastic coated metal, which do last a few years but which are expensive. I want to see if there are other options out there. Have a great week!

  19. The hazel poles are a great hit! I have sown sweet peas in autumn and spring and I think yes the autumn ones are ready to go out a little sooner and seem to flower earlier but often the April weather can be chilly and a cold spell will set them back. This year I have only sown in spring – I said I wouldn’t have sweet peas this year but was tempted. Sadly only three have germinated, perhaps it is fate!

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