Tag Archives: nature

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………


Unidentified Growing Objects!

Last year I planted some dahlia tubers in a flower bed under the livingroom window. Seven out of the eight that I planted grew, but they were a bit late flowering (my fault for planting them late!) and then got obliterated by the strong autumn winds.

Once the leaves had turned black, after the first frosts, I cut them down leaving just a tiny bit of the stem above the soil. They were then covered in a really deep layer of topsoil to protect them from frost.

They looked so lovely I decided to buy some more and create a flower border just full of dahlias. They are all semi-cactus variety and the flowers are huge. The foliage varies from a green-black to lime green so even before the flowers open there is some variety of colour.

Dahlias or pineapples?

It is recommended that dahlia tubers are planted in the ground about 6 weeks before the last frost is expected. This is round about now where I live. I was having a look at the border when I noticed a pineapple shape sticking up out of the ground. As the week has gone on more and more have started to appear. Now if I was a betting woman I would put money on them being dahlias. However, they are not anywhere near where they were last year.

According to Mr Mac the tubers spread and what has popped up are new tubers. This explains why they are in a different place. It is unlikely last year’s tubers will flower which means I will need to wait to see where they are all going to pop up before I can plant the new ones.

It also means that they will have to be protected from the risk of frost so I will be tuned to the weather forecast each night and if it looks like it may be frosty I have some protective fleece to throw over them. It would be a shame to lose them now after they have survived the winter.

Another odd thing that has happened this week is the Morning Glory seedlings I potted on last week look like they have started to burn round the edges! They were growing really well but now most of them look as if they are going to die. I wondered if it was just too hot for them in the greenhouse so I have been taking them outside each morning and putting them back in at night. I have planted some more seeds just in case. I will need them for my blue wall.

Finally, you may remember a few blogs back I had lost my Muscari. Well I found it! It was at the front door.


Mr Mac’s cunning plan

Well what an amazing day. I have been in the garden all day with a t-shirt and sunnies on and actually felt the need to put sun cream on my face! At midday it was 17 degrees outside the greenhouse and 25 degrees inside – and it’s only 22 March. It was just me, woody woodpecker, two ladybirds and the pheasant who has set up home in the field next door while he looks for a girlfriend! Heaven.

The trellis and flower bed where I plan to grow a wall of blue flowers.

I have weeded the flower bed in front of the trellis, potted on the cosmos, osteospermums (all 2 of them!), the gazanias and the dahlia pom poms. I also planted some ladybird poppy seeds in pots. It is something I did last year and it was really effective.

The First Tulips

The best part of the day was seeing the first of the tulips open.

Until this year, all we had in the garden in the spring were snowdrops then daffodils. This year we introduced some crocus. A bag of 20 bulbs was purchased and planted but the 2 small circles of purple crocus was merely a drop in the ocean and hardly made an impact at all. I think we probably need 2,000 bulbs!

We also bought loads of tulip bulbs but never got round to planting them in the ground in time. So we decided to plant them all in pots and once they have flowered and died back, we’ll stick them in the ground for next spring.

An  issue we have had in the past is our pots always crack and break with the frost. We did not want to risk it this winter, especially as most of them had tulip bulbs inside them.

Mr Mac came up with a cunning plan! The reason the pots crack is because the soil gets waterlogged and then expands when it freezes and this cracks the pot. His theory was that if he could create a layer between the pot and the soil inside it that would allow expansion then the pots would not crack.

Can you guess what Mr Mac’s solution was? BUBBLE WRAP!

Bubble wrap between the pot and the soil

Yes, we lined each pot with a layer of bubble wrap then filled it up with soil and planted the bulbs.

This did the trick and all the tulip pots survived the winter intact.

The only pot that did crack is the one that I keep my blueberry bush in. It sits in a large saucer which retains water. Yes, you guessed it – the saucer filled with water, the water froze and cracked the pot! Typical.

Anyway, the bubble wrap design is patent pending and you can look forward to seeing Mr Mac on the next series of Dragon’s Den!


The first cut of 2012!

Well today saw the grass get it’s first cut of 2012. Mr Mac had been trying to put it off for as long as possible. One reason was that we had some serious moss treatment done at the end of last year and wanted to give the grass a chance to grow. However, the main reason the grass had not been cut before now is that after the gale force winds in December and then January the grass was littered with broken twigs and branches and it was my job to pick them up!

Job now done. Back now very sore. Grass cut and looking good I have to say.

If we ever need to buy anything from the garden centre we try to do it on a Wednesday. The reason for this? Dougal’s Discount Wednesday – 10% off all purchases.

Off we went with a list and back we came with more seed compost, seeds for my hanging baskets and maris piper seed potatoes.

I had forgotten about my hanging baskets and have not actually planted anything appropriate. So after a quick look at some seed catalogues I decided on Monopsis, Nicotiana and Trailing Petunia. What I actually bought was pale pink Dascia and fuschia pink Trailing Petunia. The baskets will hang along the “blue wall” I hope to create so hopefully will provide a lovely contrast.

I also decided to pot on my 6 courgette plants. They had been getting quite comfy in the house but 2 of them were starting to keel over! They have now been rehomed and relocated to the greenhouse. I just hope they are still upright in the morning.

Check the size of the tuber on this!



Mr Mac decided to relocate a peony rose which was impeding progress of his new path network. Check the size of the tuber!