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 now 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.

Six on Saturday: 20 Feb 2021

There are multiple reasons to be cheerful this morning: waking up to the sound of bird song, looking out of the window at 7 am to see light already seeping into the sky, getting out into the garden at 8 am when it’s already light enough to take photos for Six on Saturday and looking at the weather forecast to see a continuous list of sunny days. The tide has turned! The tempo is quickening! Gardening is afoot, seeds need to be sowed, there’s lots to do. I’ll be visiting a chateau garden known as ‘the Versailles of Belgium’ that has opened this week for the school holidays, so there’s the added excitement of an outing today. Am writing this speedily before I head out, so let’s get started with Six on Saturday:

1 Wood chippings and green strimmings. Very lucky to have a free supply of these provided by our local urban farm. I’ve filled 8 compost-bags and am using them to line the chicken run paths, and to mulch around the compost area and the veg patch. Here I am shovelling away earlier this week.

The chicken run path, newly mulched

2 Casualties. The big freeze we had recently, when night-time temperatures dropped to -11 degrees C, has inevitably resulted in a few plant victims, though not as many as I had feared. I think this pot of cyclamen on the terrace table has bitten the dust. Then again, I do see a couple of upright new shoots, so perhaps I should give it a chance before chucking it on the compost.

Cyclamen in distress

3 Survivors. This Fatsia japonica, hardy to -10 degrees, was one of the plants that I didn’t want to risk losing, so it got molly-coddled with a nice fleece wrap during the cold spell, and looks absolutely fine. The sage in little tubs was also protected, but I’m not yet sure if my ornamental salvias made it (they got covered in old leaves and fern fronds). What about the little Agapanthus, given to me as a baby plant last summer? I think it’s tougher than it looks right now. Fingers crossed…

4 First primrose. I have a little collection of self-seeded primroses in a bit of lawn near the front door. We are planning to remove this lawn area to make room for a mini-gravel patio and a gravel path leading round to the back of the house. Work is due to start at the beginning of March, so I’m going to have to dig as many primroses up as possible and rehouse them. Soon!

5 Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’. Unusually-coloured foliage with red tips, looking ready to get going along the shadier side of the front path. There are wallflowers behind it in bright orangey shades, so I hope this will make a nice combo in the spring.

6 Trapaeolum tuberosum: a tuberous meal. In the pot is the first shoot of edible nasturtium. I bought three tubers earlier this year, and was surprised to see that this one has decided to sprout already. By this autumn, I might be able to harvest the tubers and eat them in a meal like this, made for a mid-week supper with tubers from the local market. Adds an interesting sweet almond flavour to roast vegetables. You can also eat Dahlia tubers, but I’m not sure how tasty they are: it might be better just to enjoy the flowers!

That’s all for this week. I’ll be back later in the day after my sortie to the Belgian Versailles to check out the other contributions from Six on Saturday regulars, who can be found at our host The Propagator’s site. Have a great weekend everyone, thanks for reading!