Tag Archives: Amateur Gardening Magazine

What a difference a day makes……

What a difference a day makes                                                                                                       Twenty-four little hours                                                                                                                     Brought the sun and the flowers                                                                                                    Where there used to be rain.*                                                                                                                                                                                                            

So sang Dinah Washington, The Temptations, Jamie Cullum, Tony Bennett and all day yesterday, me!

Yes the sun was shining and I embarked on my flower planting marathon which will continue all weekend and probably well into next week. I am keeping a note of how many of each flower I am planting and I think you will all be truly impressed!

However, the reason I am blogging about a day making a difference is that my Jekyll and Hyde personalities (ie my legal brain and my common sense brain) have been wrestling with each other this week about, would you believe, the timing of sowing seeds.

I was passing the garden centre on Wednesday (30 May) and popped in to check there was nothing else I could grow this summer and also to pick up some winter flowering pansy seeds which I read should be sown around now.

I have been reading lots of other gardening blogs and recently many people were talking about harvesting purple sprouting broccoli which had been over-wintered. I thought I would give it a try and looked for the seeds. There were lots to choose from but when reading the instructions a common theme was developing… “sow April to May”. That only left me one more day!

You see this is where my mental tussle began. To my legal brain, used to 20 years of sticking to time limits and deadlines, I only had until midnight on 31 May to sow these seeds.

Thursday 31 May dawned.  It was so wet, even the slugs had umbrellas. I checked the weather forecast. It was due to dry up around 4pm. Perfect, still plenty of time. 4pm came and went and it was still torrential, getting even heavier.  The fire, the lights and the television went on. I kept wandering over to the window and gazing out. No change.

Eventually, Mr Mac asked what was wrong with me. I told him I only had until midnight to sow my purple sprouting broccoli seeds. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realised how totally stupid they sounded. My legal brain had clocked off for the evening and common sense brain was on the backshift – they just hadn’t told me.

Anyway, I can’t publish Mr Mac’s response but it was along the lines of “don’t be so silly, darling, one more day won’t make a difference”. This is from the man who believes sell by dates are a conspiracy and is often heard muttering at an open fridge, “it says ‘best before’, not ‘will kill you’ after”.

So yesterday, Friday 1 June was a beautiful sunny day and guess what? I still didn’t sow my purple sprouting broccoli seeds. I was so busy trying to catch up with flower planting I did not get round to it. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? (That’s the Irish side of my family!).

Then this morning my copy of Amateur Gardening magazine arrived and I eagerly ripped it open to see what free seeds were included (schizanthus, in case you’re interested) and what I should be doing this week. I turned to page 40 to read all about the free seeds and was horrified to read the following:

“Plants from a March sowing can be in flower as early as late May, but, of course, we’re into June now and we’ve missed the sowing deadline for summer flowers this year”.


*Lyrics by Stanley Adams; Maria Grever

My favourite livingstone daisies

Our first few years at this house were spent renovating inside. The garden was neglected other than cutting the grass, some emergency tree surgery and seeing what plants we had inherited.

There was an overgrown bush in front of the kitchen window which blocked our view of the gate. It was also a jaggy bush and as Mr Mac has made it his mission to eliminate all things jaggy from the garden,  it was pulled out and burned.

This did leave us with a large area to fill and so off we went to the garden centre to buy a selection of bedding plants to give us some colour for the summer. After parting with £50 of his hard-earned cash Mr Mac announced that from then on I could grow my own flowers!

We bought a selection of livingstone daisies, calendula and zinnias and I fell in love with them all, especially the livingstone daisies. These are the flowers I chose for my blog banner at the top of the page.

Now some of you may have noticed that there has not been much actual gardening going on over the last week although I have (hopefully) been keeping you entertained with tales of broken pottery and growing chips. There is a reason for this. See below!

A victim of my own succcess! All of these little seedlings need a new home.

I planted a tray of livingstone daisy seeds and look at how they have germinated. I knew they were ready for potting on but I could not face it and kept putting it off. However, I had a word with myself yesterday, cleared a space in the greenhouse, put the radio on and got on with it.

There was a lot of wastage but in the end I stopped after 360!

360 livingstone daisies

I grow so many because we have several long borders and the daisies create a stunning display as well as provide good ground cover. I have also grown some to give to friends.

There were two things that kept me going. The first was knowing how fantastic they will look. When they open their wee smiley faces to the sun my heart just melts. The second was the fact that the garden centre sells 6 plants for £3. So I calculate that for a packet of seeds that cost £1.49 I have saved Mr Mac £180!

As a bonus this year I also got a free packet of livingstone daisy seeds with Amateur Gardening magazine (worth £1.99). They are a different variety but (thankfully!) have not germinated quite as successfully. They should be ready to pot on soon.

If you are tempted to grow some I promise you, you won’t regret it. They are perfect for the edge of borders and seem to be able to grow in any type of soil as long they are in a sunny spot.

Their “Sunday” name is Mesembryanthemum which means midday flowering. They are native to South Africa and are also known as fig marigolds or icicle plant.

This is what they looked like last year.

A little bit about herbs

Herb trough looking sorry for itself

Last year Mr Mac made me a herb trough from some old scaffolding boards he acquired. I painted it with some fence paint and planted lemon and golden thyme, marjoram, rosemary, parsley and chives.

I have just cleaned out the old leaves and twigs and given all the plants a tidy. I seem to have lost the marjoram though – it’s gone. The rest look quite woody and straggly but there is definitely new growth so hopefully they will all come back.

Then I remembered it’s Dougal’s Discount Wednesday at my local garden centre so I popped down and bought these new herbs – curry plant, lemon balm, roman chamomile, mint pineapple, chocolate peppermint and marjoram to replace the one I lost. Six plants for £9 plus Dougal’s 10% discount – a bargain!

I also grow ordinary mint but keep this in its own pot as it is very invasive. I have planted sweet basil and lemon basil seeds which I use for both cooking and as companion plants for the tomatoes and I might try growing coriander from seed – I am still thinking about it.

A funny story about coriander

A friend of Mr Mac’s brought us some chilli plants and herbs last year, one of which was coriander. Neither Mr Mac or myself are big fans of coriander (due to an incident in Goa in 1994!) but it was a gift and it seemed to grow quite happily in the greenhouse. Eventually I felt compelled to do something with it and as I had loads of carrots ready I decided on the old standard, carrot and coriander soup.

The soup was made and I tasted it and tasted it but no hint of coriander. I kept chopping it up and throwing in more and more but still not a hint of coriander.

At the time we had a heating engineer working on the stove in the kitchen and he fancied himself as a bit of a chef.  I asked him what he thought and where I was going wrong. He had a taste of the coriander and promptly killed himself laughing.The reason I could not taste the coriander was because it was flat-leaf parsley! The soup was still lovely, although very well garnished.


Last year I tried growing  lavender from seed. The lavender was successful and it even flowered at the end of the summer. I had plans for a lavender hedge beside the deck where we sit on sunny evenings but I was so precious about planting it out and losing it over the winter that I left it in the greenhouse. Mr Mac covered it all in straw to protect it and it seems to have survived.

Fortunately, this week’s issue of Amateur Gardening magazine has a section on pruning shrubs. Apparently the lavender should have been pruned after it flowered last summer. This allows time to develop new shoots which will carry buds for this year’s flowers.

It does say that any old, dead flowering stems should be cut out but not to cut into old wood. This is where I get confused and I do not know what that means. Some of my plants look as if they are dead. Others are partly dead but with lots of new leaves and a couple are full of new growth. I can’t work out what is “old wood” and “new wood” though.

So this is what I have done. I cut off all the old dead bits right down to the base. Where there was a dead stem but with new leaves at the end, I cut off about a third of the new growth. Where the whole stem was new growth, I cut off about a third. I hope I have not damaged or killed them. I will wait a few weeks and if they look alright I will plant them out. I have sown some more seeds this year, just in case.

Here is what they looked like before and after!

Before pruning

After pruning

A deal too good to be true?

As an academic I learn by reading and research. I have many gardening books but by far the best resource for me is magazines. They are topical and tell you what you should be doing at that particular time. For a novice like me this is invaluable.

However, it soon became apparent that spending over £20 each month on gardening magazines was not going to be sustainable for the long term. Plus Mr Mac was getting suspicious at the spike in the shopping bill at the end of each month!

One publication I discovered that was easy to read, informative and aimed at my novice level was Amateur Gardening. A weekly publication at £2 per issue it gives great advice on what jobs you should be doing that week, lots of illustrative photographs so you can see how you should be doing them and just enough text to be able to flick through and have it finished by the time you’re ready to hit the garden on a Saturday morning.

It covers flowers and vegetables with a bit of hard landscaping and some longer articles to keep for a rainy afternoon.

I had been buying this for a couple of weeks when I noticed that if you subscribed you got a free garden tidy caddy worth £16.95. What’s more the caddy was pink! I picked up the phone at once.

I gave the offer code and was all ready to provide my card details when I was advised there was another offer available. At first I was not interested if I did not get my pink caddy but when I was told I could have 51 issues for £45.90 – less than £1 per issue – even my numerically challenged brain worked out that was too good a deal to pass up. A little while later (and with the help of a calculator) I worked out I could buy 3 pink caddies with the money I would save and still have change.

It gets even better though. Not only am I paying less than £1 each week to be expertly guided through the minefield that is flower and vegetable growing, between the months of March and September there are free seeds each week worth at least £1.99. This week saw a double pack of flower and tomato seeds worth £3.88!

So if you add it all up, Amateur Gardening magazine is actually paying me.

Now where did I see an offer for 6 issues of Gardener’s World magazine for £6?…..I’m off to investigate………