Gardening around bees

I was having a conversation with my bees this morning.  I was doing all the talking, needless to say, but I could tell from their body language what they were saying in reply. It was like when you go into your teenage son or daughter's room and ask them if those T-shirts on the floor need washing, or if they are ever going to pick up that plate with the pizza crust on it. That "It's fine, Mum, just leave it" look.
The bees have come through the winter well, thanks to the mild weather. At the first sign of sunshine, they are out and about, foraging among their favourite flowers. Hellebores are high on this list, as is any kind of prunus blossom. They also love euphorbia.

Anyway, having sorted out the bees (I was putting supers on for honey), I still had my bee-suit on so I thought I'd do a bit of tidying around the apiary, if that isn't too grand a name for three hives. There was a huge flower spike on the phormium left over from last year, which was annoying…

George says: Grow tender carrots in a container

Thanks to our stony soil, the Cotswolds could well be nicknamed The Land of the Forked Carrot.
We have what's known as Cotswolds Brash, which means every time you put your spade into the soil, it goes "doinggg" on what feels like some huge boulder, but is probably only 3ins big.
My former neighbour, Peter Benson, who used to win prizes at the village show for his veg, used to make holes for carrots in his kitchen garden by driving wooden tree supports into the soil, then after he'd removed the stake, filling up the hole with fresh compost.
This sounds (and looked) like WAY too much work. Much easier to grow carrots in a potato bag. George Blackwell explains how.

Fresh Pulled Carrots are a Taste to Enjoy 1 Turn the rim of a potato bag down one third. This strengthens the bag and keeps it sturdy. 2 Fill with 50 per cent John Innes No 3 at the base of the bag and then 50 per cent of multi-purpose compost on the top, the reasoning being the carrot root will go down into th…

George says: Plant a hanging basket

When I worked for the Evening Standard in London, our offices were opposite Kensington Church Street. At the other end of Kensington Church Street - at the Notting Hill end - was a restaurant called Kensington Place, which was a favourite lunch venue for Standard hacks. (Those were the days ...) On the way to Kensington Place, you passed the Churchill Arms pub, which has to be London's most beautiful hostelry. It's shut at the moment, of course, but normally it has the most spectacular display of hanging baskets I have ever seen. I always had to be dragged past it by colleagues who were less horticulturally obsessed.
I love hanging baskets, but I am useless at looking after them. I once bought one of those gadgets that raise and lower them so you can water them more easily, but even that didn't help. However, this year I have no excuse. I have all the time in the world to water, and even though my garden is shut to visitors, I can enjoy my hanging baskets and so can my neighb…

Plants in a time of coronavirus

For gardeners, one of the most frustrating things about the lockdown are not the restrictions, but the lack of gardening kit. It's fantastic having time at home at this time of year, but not so fantastic when you can't get hold of compost, or aggregates, or even seeds.
Most of the big seed companies have been swamped with orders for vegetable seeds, and are struggling to cope. The local builder's merchant where I order things like soil conditioner and gravel has closed for the duration.
However, you can still buy plants. There are lots of small independent nurseries continuing to do mail order, mainly because they are run by just one or two people, who can run the business despite social distancing.
"Small is beautiful" is a theme of the coronavirus crisis here in the UK. The small shops have stepped up very quickly to meet demand. Our village post office and the trout farm shop, which usually make a lot of their money selling souvenirs to tourists, now stock tin…

Waiting for blossom, and happy birthday, Rory!

My son is 30 today. We had planned to spend his birthday here in the Cotswolds, with his girlfriend and my daughter and his grandmother and whoever else wanted to come, but of course we can't. We are FaceTiming instead. Happy birthday, Rory!
I feel a bit sad about this, but I'm trying to stay cheerful. The family is all well, albeit spread out across southern England, and I don't really have much to complain about.
So I took myself into the garden this morning to see if any blossom had appeared yet. Boy, was it cold! The temperature is actually 8C (46F) but with a blustery north-east wind blowing, it feels more like -8C (17F). I had to keep scuttling back inside to get my fingers warm.
I always think I have two mature ornamental cherry trees in the garden, but in fact I inherited three. One has grown horizontally over the paddock next door after being crowded out for years by a horse chestnut and a beech, so it doesn't look as if it's actually in my garden. My nick…

George Says: Grow your own tomatoes

How can staying at home take up so much time? I meant to post this yesterday, but didn't get round to it, thanks to various chores which took longer than expected. The UK is in lockdown because of the coronavirus, so when you go to the supermarket at the moment, the stores are only allowing so many customers in at a time, and spacing out the queue so people don't have to stand next to each other. As you enter the store, you're given a trolley by one of the staff, who has wiped it with hand sanitiser. At the checkout, the queue is spread out again to leave at least a metre between each customer. This is very sensible, but means a shopping trip takes three times as long as normal. Then I had to deliver shopping to the three people who asked me to pick stuff up for them because they are unable to leave the house. It was great to think I was doing my bit to help - I felt like the Pony Express! So here is the Bibury Gardening Club newsletter on growing tomatoes. I'm going to ca…