Colin’s Northern Update No 5

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From Colin Hewitt, your Northern correspondent.

Hi everybody,

 I am pleased to report that at last I have managed to plant the two rose bushes that you all kindly gave to Janette and myself, which I had potted on as soon as we arrived here last July. They have been pruned and planted out in a crescent shaped bed in the middle of the front lawn. I have also sown seeds for plants that will accompany the roses and the hardy geraniums planned for this bed.


Planning a new Garden

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As many of you know Colin Hewitt has moved to Derbyshire and we suggested that this venture should be recorded because it presents a whole new set of problems that many of us have encountered.  Starting from scratch and in an alien environment. 

Part three of our Northern correspondents garden exploits

Hi everybody,

During this, our first Autumn and as we have no real plants in the back garden, it all looked bare when viewed from the house so I set about planting up some of the many pots that came up with us. We now have two half baskets attached to the back of the house and a small pot on the garden wall at the edge of the patio. All of these are planted up with winter pansies both ordinary and trailing varieties.  Also some spring flowering bulbs have been planted in various pots and pans.

We have a large blue pot (which had a large Hosta in it in Sussex) and into this I have placed some Hyacinths which have a strong perfume, some dwarf Iris and a mixture of Crocus. All should flower between February and April.

Into pans on their own I have planted some Fritillaria meleagris, Iris ‘J.S.Dyt’ and some more Crocus. Then into large clay pots I have some Lily ‘Tiger Babies’ and in another large clay pot Allium ‘Pink Jewel’ these will flower between May and August. This means that we will have a floral display from February to August and once they have flowered and become dormant I will incorporate them into the garden beds proper.

Also I have made a four foot square raised bed which at the moment is being used as a cold frame and rather than being filled with soil the pots have been placed to keep them through the winter with some protection.  **See below in January to February ‘Things to do’ section for constructing your own raised bed.

Once the bulbs start poking through the soil they will be placed onto the patio on pot feet so that any heavy rain will drain out.

As to my foray into getting a compost heap hotter than the normal temperature, it has so far obtained a temperature of 40C. This means that when I add some green waste the volume will have halved by the next time I add some more. In November (90 days after starting the compost heap) I harvested some of the compost and it was as dark as treacle and crumbled in the hand, moist but not wet, so added to the border under the front room window. We will see how the plants grow in the spring when they get added to this blank border.       

To help with watering in the summer two water buts have been installed to collect water off the garage roof and will be used to water plants in the greenhouse lean to which is attached to the back of the garage to use the stored heat in the bricks overnight. This is south facing and should have good light levels even in winter.

As you can see I am still getting the hard landscaping in place in the back garden before I start thinking about flower beds and lawn shapes etc. This I will worry about in the late Spring as my focus for early Spring is the front garden as mentioned last time.  

In the meantime, as the weather has not been kind to me here so far, I have volunteered at RHS Bridgewater and it has been fun but hard work. I have met some like minded people and when chatting during the lunch break have picked their brains as to the average weather conditions I can expect during the growing season. 

Some of the jobs I have been involved in are tree clearing (diseased and poor specimen’s only), soil preparation and bulb planting on a massive scale and lastly stone picking on the beds around the car park and walkway to the entrance.

This last task reminded me of my early professional days when you were sent out to do this if you had been naughty or cheeky to the foreman. I mentioned this to the RHS staff gardener who was overseeing the operation and he also had the same punishment. Little did I think then that 50 plus years later I would be doing the same back breaking work, but this time I had volunteered …………………. I must be mad.    

That is all for now and I hope all of your gardens are behaving themselves.

Look out for more from you northern correspondent as the gardening year progresses.