Waking up to spring

spring primroses

It’s been a while. I’ve been in a state of semi-hibernation these past few weeks, dealing with all sorts of issues and a few life milestones as well. I’m hoping as spring is arriving, I’m through the fog of deep winter blues. I felt so much better yesterday, pottering around my local plant nursery, looking for some colourful primroses to brighten the back door step. The first time I’ve felt vaguely normal since around Christmas.

I think I can almost smell spring in the air. It’s so nice to be able to fling the windows open and hear the birds, to see them tripping about the garden, or to walk with my daughter in the woods and parks without feeling like my face is going to freeze off. The daffodil bulbs that I’ve been planting in every year are starting to bloom, a great burst of sunshine and cheer in the borders. The primroses that once sat in my containers and then replanted under the fruit trees are now beginning to bud and burst into life. All around me, the garden is waking up, and it feels like it’s bringing me back to life too. 

I’ve been doing bits and pieces in the garden as and when I can; clearing borders of perennial weeds, cutting borders back in and doing some last minute pruning before spring really sets in. We’re getting back to the bare bones of the garden and I’m seeing pockets of space that, hopefully, come summer, will be crammed with colour.

I always have great plans for what I’ll achieve during the year, but the last 18 months have been a lesson in managing expectations; my daughter has now achieved full-on toddler status and although she absolutely adores being outside and in the garden, I still don’t get to spend hours pottering as I used to. Still, there’s plenty to keep me busy, even without any grand schemes or plans, and I look forward to doing some sowing in the next few weeks. 

Last year, I missed growing cosmos, so I’ll be getting those sown early this year. I’ve missed the boat for garlic I think, but I might just fling a few in and see how we go. I haven’t really sat down with a pen and paper and planned what will happen in the veg patches and flower borders, but it’s something I think I’m going to let happen organically this year. I’m feeling like I just need to go with the flow, and see where it takes me. 

pink primrose

Seed Shoestring Budgeting: a £20 spend

The seed catalogues have been arriving in earnest and I’ve starting idly thumbing through them. I need to sit down and have a proper planning session, and decide what seeds to grow this year in the flower borders and the vegetable patches. There are some really fantastic new specimens around, including some stunning dahlias in Sarah Raven’s catalogue. But I must be disciplined – my seed spend has got to be done a shoestring for 2018!

This year I’ve got a small seed spending budget; around £20. This includes buying things like seed potatoes, onion sets and any packets of flower seeds that I decide on. I was given some gardening vouchers for my birthday, and I want to spend them wisely. As ever, I’ve got to be realistic – having a toddler who hasn’t got through the putting-everything-in-her-mouth stage (and who always finds a way to go somewhere or do something she’s not supposed to) doesn’t afford me much time in the garden at all. So I want to avoid otherwise simple but time-consuming things like potting on, if I can help it. And I need reliable growers that don’t need buckets of TLC to survive! Then there’s budgeting for the long-lasting companion plants like nasturtiums and marigolds…

shallots in the greenhouse

There’s one thing that I am set on already, though. This year I really want to try again with shallots. I ADORE cooking with shallots, but whilst my homegrown efforts always taste great, they seem a bit miserly compared to the bags of big banana shallots that I like to buy in bulk. I also like to have some homegrown potatoes too. Picasso and Charlotte are my go-to potatoes, so I might try finding space for one or the other. Or both. I’m still on the fence about whether to do onions. I haven’t had much success with them over the last three or four years. Again, they taste wonderful, but the actual size and yield has been woeful. I need to look into feeding again and make sure that I’m on top of any feed schedules for this year, otherwise I just shouldn’t bother!

Morning light

The only exception to my rule about fuss-free growing, are Spanish Flag flowers (ipomoea lobata). The first year I grew them, they were a stonking success, but in the two attempts since, they have been an abject failure. I suspect this is because I started them off too late and they prefer a long period of warmth and regular watering to flourish, neither of which they were serviced with over the last couple of growing seasons. But I still hang on to the memories of the arch covered in cascading, climbing vines that stood proud, adorned with flashes of cream, orange and flame red. I’d like to try again this year, to see if I can recapture the success of 2015. 

As I’m having to become ever more thrifty and manage my finances properly, I’m thinking about how to get more on a shoestring budget. Seed saving and cuttings are, of course, the first thing that come to mind. I might try taking some rosemary cuttings from my mum’s thriving plants, and lavendar from my own, and growing them on. This will have to happen a little later in the year when the plants are throwing out new growth, but it should save me a few pounds in the long run!

So my next task is to get my calculator out, get a pen and work out what I can do with £20, to get my growing season started… what’ve you got planned for this growing season?

2018 – Living With Less Plastic

In years gone by I would have sat down at my laptop today and made a huge long list of New Year resolutions, most of which I wouldn’t even get close to achieving. I’m an idealist, but in my old age (I turned 35 since last posting) I have come to realise that life is a journey and sometimes it takes a whole to get to where you want to go. Also, as a parent, there’s also this thing called extreme lack of free time.

winter garden

So whilst I could easily list 20 goals for 2018, for this year I’ve decided to keep it simple:

 – Work hard to reduce my personal debt
– Start a saving fund for emergencies (so no credit card spends)
– Work on decluttering our house
– Live with less plastic

I was aware that there were a couple of programmes airing on TV fairly recently that highlighted the plight of the oceans due to our addiction to plastic. Whilst I didn’t catch the programmes, I have seen a few related clips and infographics floating around on social media. It’s been enough to inspire me to try and make a change. 

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I see how pervasive plastic has become in our lives. Especially the non-recyclable stuff that goes straight in the bin, into landfill, and who knows where after that. 

As much as I would love to declare January as a “plastic free month”, in my heart of hearts I know this isn’t possible. So I will start to make a few changes to begin to build momentum:

9 Tips Less Plastic

This is a start, and I hope you’ll join me in living with less plastic 🙂