Sunday, May 27, 2018

02 Mar

First year of gardening in the Northumbrian hills

This is my first year of gardening in the Northumbrian hills, thirty miles west of Newcastle. I am an enthusiastic gardener and flower arranger, but my commitment to the garden has always had to fit around the needs of three young boys, a dog and husband, all of who make varying demands on my time. Having spent the last ten years trying to tame the clay of East Anglia, I now find myself taking over the reins of my parents- in – law’s garden, which they have tended with care and precision for the past 17 years. The formal area of the garden lies, snugly walled in, in front of the stone farmhouse. To the back is an acre of paddock which now houses a chicken run, duck pen and my newly erected polytunnel. Old floor joists from the barn have been used to create two large raised beds and this, along with the tractor tyre, sentimentally brought with us on the move, will form the vegetable patch. This is all presided over by the shed, also transported from the south, which affords fabulous views as far as the Cheviot. This week the snow has finally melted away to reveal a mass of sturdy and resilient snowdrops. In the few days that they have been exposed to the spring sunshine, they have grown an inch and are now perfect for picking to put in small vases dotted around the house – little reminders that the winter is on its way out.

It has warmed up this week and with the birds tuning up, I am at last spurred into action in the garden. This is our first year in northern climes, in a new (to us) garden and so every new shoot that pops up is a surprise. I know that I am going to have to adjust my gardening calendar to take account of the latitude and hope that my newly erected poly-tunnel will help extend the season somewhat. I am new to the business of growing under polythene and expect that this year will be one of new experiences, triumphs and disasters alike.

I have this week planted my broad bean and sweet pea seeds and hope with a little extra heat from the propagator that they will soon be emerging. The great excitement has been, at last, ordering my vegetable and flower plugs from Gardening Direct. I have chosen plugs in the main, which I hope will circumvent some of the frustrations and disappointments of seed growing and importantly enable me to be more productive with my limited time. Browsing through the Gardening Direct website brings back memories of being a child in a sweetie shop, and as usual I have got carried away. The selection is amazing, with all sorts of unusual plants, and hopefully, as plugs they will give me the head start that I need this far north. I can’t wait for their arrival and need to get busy preparing the soil. My friendly farmer, Jim, is going to deliver a front loader of manure this week – an advantage of living in the depths of rural Northumberland – so I should be kept busy distributing that around the borders and beds. Till next week then – good gardening. The Gardener in the North


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