Our Gardening Year 2023

5 years on from my first record of a year of work in this place, I thought I’d repeat the project. Partly to see how things have changed as areas of the garden have matured, and partly as certain timings have been altered as we’ve worked out how to tweak the management.

This is a simple factual record of what we were up to around the whole property, during the year 2023. It might serve as a prompt to us, as we become more forgetful, about what to do, and when. More importantly in the future, it may be an aid to whoever takes over as custodians of this very special place once we’ve left. Should they ever choose to refer to this.  A vain thought, but one never knows.

The garden won’t stay the same of course in future years – that’s simply never the case with gardens, and things evolve with time. But this record will try to capture some of the practical tips which we’ve learned from trial and error about how to look after this place, and land, in what is sometimes a challenging climate.

This is the un-glamorous and sometimes tedious aspect of living in a place like this. The necessary graft which enables us (and you) to enjoy the views and scenes throughout the year which feature in my blog posts. The few photographs and style of writing on these pages reflect this – snapped quickly as a simple aide-memoire often after the tasks are completed, and simple, typed-up factual notes, before I’ve forgotten what’s been going on.


January – Week 1

In a week of unremitting gloom and continued wet – a very similar start indeed to the weather in 2018 – opportunities for gardening were limited! Rainfall of over 140 mm in the week, means everywhere is waterlogged. However, work still has to be done:

Another big session of lifting and potting up snowdrops for sale to any garden visitors and later re-planting the surplus in the garden. For the first year in ages, I’ve ceased recording the relative flowering times of cultivars – having reached a certain age, I still relish tracking their opening, but the recording has simply become too much of a chore, as numbers have grown, and enjoying the snowdrop vistas, even under grey skies and an umbrella is more important to me now. 2023 has been the slowest start to a season for many years.

Some sessions of logging up previously cut timber and hedge-laying surplus, for firewood use in 2 years. Cutting back the dead Astilbe flower stems which give great interest in the late year, but have to be removed now before the early snowdrops and daffodil foliage gets too tall. Monitor the bee hives for signs of life in any brief weather windows – after the coldest snap in early December for 12 years, followed by incessant wet, I fear few colonies may make it into spring of 2023, although the Daphne bholua, first Hellebore x hybridus, and Crocus ‘Firefly’ flowers all opened in the first week of January in 2023.

Work preparing for my Thought Box idea.

Cut back remaining Miscanthus/grass stems of those varieties which persist for the longest before losing leaves and making a real mess. Spent time replacing multiple large turf divots in the lower wet hay meadow, where a badger had ripped the surface extensively, looking for chafer grubs. Something which only happened for the first time in autumn 2022 in this meadow, and along with greatly increased mole activity, reflects the greater life and invertebrate population in our meadows now. Almost exactly mirroring the progression in our upper meadow, where such damage only occurred about 5 years after we began the journey to wildflower meadow restoration.


January – Week 2

At last a day with a bit of light, and a break from the rain. Empty full green waste into 2 tiers of worm city 1, making up with leaves from the reactor.  As is often the case I then spotted creeping buttercups in the shrubbery, and then ivy creeping in from the rear slope trees,.so a great time to get them out after all this wet using an old kebab skewer I keep in a gap in the slate wall by the front door.

All the wet and activity from blackbirds meant a necessary rake up of leaves from the meadow copse paths, these being dumped on the compost, and then the tyre garden central path. Once again this job morphed into another when I hand-weeded both of the narrow border beds to the side of the central path, mainly for grass seedlings, but the odd Alchemilla and willowherb as well. Worth doing whilst all the bulb shoots are small.

3 Goldoni earth scoops of scalpings for track pothole filling finished off our our afternoon. 2 days later, an unexpected dry hour allowed some mainly grass and ivy hand weeding through areas of the copse – always very easy to do at this time of the year, after all the rain.

A whole day of snowdrop potting up, using our own mixed compost. About 180 pots done in a day. William spends a whole day of raking up leaves from the lower cae efail field into big bags, where Zelkova and oak leaves take forever to rot down. Often I hoover them up with the lawnmower, but last autumn it was just too wet. A useful resource for compost/mulching in due course.

Some short sessions of grass and ivy weeding in the copse, and along the cobbled path in front of the house with my skewer, and in a rare respite from the rain, another stint on hedge laying at the top of the upper hay meadow, where I notice the badger has returned with massive damage – the first time it’s ever done damage this late in the winter. Wee marking is needed asap. Start to replace some massive divots, a tedious job!

All the rain meant that less than a week after our pothole filling, we were back on it again! Sometimes winter rain damage and vehicle traffic can wreak havoc in just a few days. Leave it, and in another week it’ll take 3 times as much stone to fill the holes.

Only 1 bee hive (the hay shed) has shown any activity, and this on a day of a little sunshine, a North westerly wind, and perceived temperatures of just 4 degrees C. At least we still have some honey bees alive! I never feed or treat the on-site bees.

De-fuzz the silver birch, mid-croquet lawn border for the first time, as well as several trees in the meadow copse, and more hand weeding of the cobbles.


January – Week 3:

Begin the day with the regular winter daily task of bringing in a firewood basket, lighting/resurrecting the wood burner, and every 3 days or so a barrow full of 4 bags of wood pellets for the biomass stove.

At last a sunny, chilly January day on the 16th. I continue with another session of laying the top boundary hedge, and nearly make it to the shepherd’s hut. We really need to finish this and clear the debris before the fragile spring bulb shoots begin to emerge in this top part of the meadow.

Later I finish replacing the badger divots. I cheer myself by thinking how fortunate I am to be working outside with such fabulous views on a wonderful chilly sunny (at last) January day. And am pleased to note that so far my efforts with wee distributed from the watering can around the likely entry trail point by Glyn’s gate, and liberally spread around the damaged turf area have put off the badger’s return.

I make time for some photography in the afternoon, and a Thought Box moment timed to perfection to catch the sinking sun shining through a yew-framed window.

The following day with William here, we press on and I manage to finish the hedge laying, and William saws up most of the brash into usable logs, down to 1-inch size, in a hard morning’s work. Snow is forecast for the afternoon, so we stop. The first flurry arrives around 2.30 pm. By evening we have a significant covering.

Some snowdrops arrive the following day, which need planting a.s.a.p. I sweep the snow off the PV panels for the first time, and Fiona and I clear both the yard and the first steep section of our track. We know from past experiences that allowing snow to build up, then freeze can make access in and out impossible.  And forecasts frequently change within hours so can be unreliable. This is exhausting work in the cold, or at least it is now!

Fiona works on fixing lichen fragments to our surplus “Ripples” ring offcuts, for a new mobile idea I’ve just had.

Fiona is also now in daily hay-feeding mode for our ewes in the lower meadows, which is where we try to store most of our hay in the lower shed. Overnight, after a period of melting up until 10 pm, more hail falls and we have another hard frost.

The following day everything is melded snow, ice, and hail. It takes me an hour to clear the PV panels, the worst I’ve ever known, and frankly, I’m knackered after doing this. The yard/paths stay almost unchanged all day. No chance of getting out, even if we wanted to. But lots of fabulous light, which is a relief after the recent gloom.

January – Week 4: 

With a very slow thaw continuing well into this week, there’s little chance for outside work. We finish modifying the lichen mobile, and I end up writing a very long blog post including both a video of this in action, and of foraging honey bees from the hay shed hive, whilst there’s still thick ice, and minus 7 temperatures registered on the croquet lawn.

Finally, on Wednesday, 10 days after it all fell, temperatures warmed slightly, and we had light rain all day, and that did the trick. It’s fascinating to see the last parts of the garden lose their snow after a really cold spell like this – presumably the coldest. I scatter accumulated sacks of wood ash from the stoves across the upper sections of the top hay meadow. By the end of the day, only the cleared piles of snow in the yard remained. I was amazed to find one hive apparently being robbed out at 6 degrees C in the drizzle, and light winds on January 25th. Is this a record early date for witnessing such a thing, I wonder? Plus the better news of signs of life in the Swedish butter churn hive, which following on from its maternal hive of origin, which had pushed out 3 swarms last year, so would have been left very weakened.

William and I had a good day clearing brash into piles ready for burning if we can just get a few dry days and some wind next week. We carry up some replacement fencing posts and dump them by ones that are wobbling in the breeze. This is a necessary regular annual chore to keep the fencing in good order. W. does an excellent job collecting molehills to top off the new growing/propagation beds above the Amelanchier. Exhausted by my morning’s efforts, I potter with finishing hand weeding the cobbled path in front of the house, and tidying up the barn, for potential garden visitors from next week.

With garden visitors potentially visiting in just over a week, it’s time for some final tidying. In the main barn. Sweeping the leaves and debris from the path behind the yard, aided with our small Makita Li-ion blower.

Cutting back the Verbena rigida stems and tidying up the edges of the washing spiral designs. Hand weeding the top of this area.

I finish the week by making a cover for our hay feeder based on 4 hurdles.

A bit more tidying of brash in the top field and a serious session of hand weeding and tidying of both the lower tyre garden and the rose bed. It’s always surprising just how many willowherb seedlings are at quite an advanced stage of growth.

A final tidy-up of dead stems around the terrace garden. In particular, Aquilegia stems are easy to pull out this late in the season, but the dead stems of Euphorbia cyparissias always have to be traced back to their base. They’d probably rot eventually but detract from the Ophiopogon and emerging snowdrops.

Cut back the final ferns at the base of the rose bed slope.

February – Week 1:

Dig out the old rotten timbers from the dais on the croquet lawn and enlarge the trench for new sleeper retainers. Spend some time before lunch shifting trays of pots with seedlings in and then some videoing of snowdrops and honey bees – their first visit of the year today on January 30th. Finish the day with more pot sorting and pot up some more snowdrops for sale/moving.

Chainsaw up replacement sleepers for the dais. Re-locate. Tidy up the Wisteria bed. Move more pots and seedlings up to the new Amelanchier beds. Tidy the Giant Miscanthus leaves and molehill mountain plant debris. Shift more molehill soil to cover the mountain. Pot up more snowdrops/leucojums. Cut back strawberry leaves, and weed out remaining veg beds. W. tidies up sheep feeder hay wastage in the bottom fields, adding it to the big pile.

February – Week 2:

Minimal work this week, apart from photography, with several garden visitors, and suffering from a lurgy. William manages to burn one of our big bonfires of brash and tidy up waste hay.

I continue to manage the snowdrops in pots and complete a lovely YouTube compilation from 4 wonderful sunny days early in the month, which the NGS very kindly features on the national site. Probably the best scenes we’ve ever enjoyed this early in the year, with massive numbers of honey bees active in the garden and the first bumble seen on February 9th

I incorporate this YouTube into a short blog post

February – Week 3:

Start the week with a couple more garden visitors, but have to cancel a large group because of weather forecasts for later in the week, and ongoing lurgy. Cutting back summer flower Clematis stems is about all I can manage. Fortunately towards the end of the week my energy returns, in time for another little flurry of visitors.

We manage to get the remaining brash bonfires burned. I collect all the ash and charcoal bits and sift out the smaller pieces of charcoal for saving for potting compost mixes. The remainder gets spread on the lower hay meadow, where there are yet more badger divots to replace.

I always try to start the BCS machines every month or so and run them for 5 minutes and give them a quick spin, but having left them too long this winter, they won’t start so time for new spark plugs for them both, after 5 years or so.

2 more sessions of track pothole filling, and in a sure sign that I’m feeling better, I get some energy for the long job of placing the huge surplus of snowdrops that I’ve potted up, back into the garden. We’ve had a steady trickle of visitors and sold more bulbs than ever before, but 80% plus will remain to go back in the garden a.s.a.p. Fortunately, we have many gaps still to be infilled, and the display this year has been fabulous. I complete a second seasonal YouTube of how the garden looked between Valentine’s and St David’s days

With a fantastic crop of blossom on our ‘Tomcot’ apricots and the nearest very active hive a little way from the greenhouse, I begin to prop the door ajar towards the end of the week, opening it around 10. am. By Sunday, just a couple of days after the door was first opened, the bees have found the blossom in serious numbers. Standing inside, there must be 100 plus bees at peak times, the buzzing is phenomenal and the scent of the flowers is nearly overwhelming. The last bees don’t leave until 5 pm when the door gets shut. We should have a great crop of fruit this year!

February – Week 4:

Week 4 is largely taken up with a wonderful time with 5 of our grandchildren minus parents staying, as well as more garden visitors. It ends up being the driest February for over 30 years. so although the weather isn’t perfect, apart from one drizzly day, we can get outside, and show them frogspawn, catkins, and primroses. And the snowdrops, as well as the delights of how to work a woodburning stove. I do manage one session of weeding down the meadow copse hedge border, always one of the worst, and most recent areas turned into garden. William finishes raking up leaves from the Southerly aspect of cae efail and filling more big bags with them to rot down.

Sort out some nice potato tubers ready for chitting

March – Week 1: 

More snowdrop pots planted up into the garden. Then at last a serious day of work – with the upper meadow quite dry, we take the tractor up and begin bringing down all the chopped logs from laying the upper hedge, needing to finish this as the first daffodil flowers, grown from scattered seed are poking up.

Later in the day we collect all the molehills from the upper meadow into tubs and add to the giant molehill, and top up the new propagation beds. Finishing with beginning to collect the ash logs from below the shrubbery area.

More garden visitors, and a WHSH snowdrop visit following up on a lovely couple of garden visitors, to a namesake house of beautiful, unusual proportions and fascinating stories, with a quite diverse naturalised snowdrop population planted up along the banked hedgerow.

Plant them up and water them in well on our return.

More photography on a glorious March 2nd. Another day of serious effort, and at last after weeks we seem up to it. I split many of the ash logs, and Fiona does a brilliant job as always of stacking them in discrete bays in the now almost empty log store. It’s always a good feeling to quickly restore our wood stocks, as soon as possible after the winter, and we always try to stack them in dry weather.

Then, with even colder weather forecast for the next fortnight, at last, I get around to sowing saved seeds including lily, meconopsis, primula, and opium poppy. I vacillate with the tomato and leek seeds.

Another day of loading 3 earth scoops of ash logs a.m, followed by splitting them p.m. It’s always pleasing at this time of the year, to get the (second) wood store re-stocked as soon as possible so that we always have about 2 years’ worth of nicely dry split logs ready to go. Something we’ve only managed in the last couple of years. Inside the house, with 4 log baskets waiting to go, and roughly a day’s worth of logs on either side of the wood burner, the wood is really nice and dry before it gets burned, making the burning much more efficient and less smokey since minimal moisture has to be driven from the wood.

I remember to water the snowdrop hunt plantings, which are wilting a bit as well as Fiona’s recent Hellebore acquisitions, now grown in dreadfully light-weight compost.

I just do the mundane fetching and splitting. The real skill, and back-bending hard work come from Fiona’s puzzle solving careful placing of the wood into separate self-supporting stacks, which makes it so much easier to use when needed, without the whole lot falling out in a rush. A joy to behold!

With the forecast jumping around from day to day, it suddenly seems that the dry spell is about to break, so with lambing only a month away, I take down the BCS power scythe to the lower wet meadow and cut about a third of the purple moor grass, around the upper pond. This isn’t as dry as it gets in some years, but it’ll be useful bedding for our ewes. Raking it up yields about 12 big bags which get dragged into the by-now half-empty lower hay shed, and tipped out so that it’ll dry more completely. A tiring morning’s work.

March – Week 2:

Away for a few nights, and wet cold weather with some snow, so limited work. Very late I pre-germinated tomato and leek seeds indoors on a damp kitchen towel, and on return, since a lot more rain was forecast, and snowdrop visitors have finished, began the planting out of the many named snowdrops in pots that were unsold, placing them into areas with none currently, as well as a couple of new forms from old Welsh sites, we were able to visit and get histories on whilst we were away.

March – Week 3:

I painstakingly plant out the pre-germinated leek seed into several large pots, using my Ghillies forceps, in the barn on another day of wet and gloom and put them in the greenhouse. Last year they were planted outside, but it’s still so cold, I reckoned this would be a better plan. Within a day, the first shoots were appearing. With the weather now locked into grey, wet, and windy, it’s perfect for moving snowdrops in the green. Initially, William and I tackled the “bank of peril” behind the house. W picked out holes in the shaley bank, whilst I source large snowdrop clumps and primrose seedlings, then followed behind W with a second ladder, planting both up and backfilling with compost. No need to water in with the rain, and the hope is that in 2 or 3 years, the bank will have rivers of primrose and be carpeting with snowdrops.
Like the current rivulet of self-sown ones, which gave me the idea.

Later on Tuesday, we have our first trial of the recently acquired Pottipukti tree-planting device. It’s transformational. Initially working with W – I created the holes, which he dropped in the small snowdrop clumps, and backfilled. For the rest of the week, I work out a technique where I can do the whole job myself by just heeling the bulbs in with my boot, once dropped down the tube. No back bending, no kneeling, no head bobbing induced vertigo, just upright posture, with minimal rain issues, working from a tub of snowdrops clipped onto our Stihl strimmer shoulder harness clip, separated into small clumps of 5 or 6 bulbs, as I go. Made a YouTube video of using the PottiPutki on Friday, in a rare dry interlude.

More bulb planting later in the week. Potted up pre-germinated tomato seeds. Another session of pothole filling. Wet all week and hospitality limited options. Another session logging up the felled ash with the Stihl Li-ion.

March – Week 4:

More unsold snowdrop pots were planted. Had to switch jobs after a ewe aborted and ended up with a uterine prolapse. With days lengthening, there’s more work to do, only the constant rain and sodden conditions limit efforts.

Another session logging up the last of the felled ash from last year. Sadly far too wet to get the logs off the field yet. Manually rake out the mole hills in the steep hill – surprisingly easy with leaf rakes since the soil is still so soft after all the rain. I make a base for a new hay feeder out of pallets, and Fiona makes up a rainproof cover. Another serious snowdrop planting session with the Pottiputki. Plant out the saved chitted potatoes (Kestrel and Nadine) after weeding out 2 long beds, and arranging the water-filled bottles.

Plant out the last of the snowdrops in pots. Plant out the last potatoes and rig up a new enviromesh hoop and wire cloche type system. Weed out some remaining areas of beds and sow first carrots and lettuce in alternate rows beneath an old window supported on water-filled bottles. Maybe a bit early but worth a try after Adam Alexander’s talk suggestion – Giant Red (Real Seeds) and Red Elephant ( Australian ex Adam Alexander)  as well as Red Iceberg and Jack Ice lettuce seeds (Real Seeds).

Move some shooting rhubarb crowns to make more efficient use of them, by having them all in one area.

March: Week 5 

Another week of deep gloom and rain limited efforts. Another lengthy session of very necessary pothole filling on a rare dryish morning. Pricking out seedlings of several perennials Knautia/Aquilegia grown last year. Re-organising the plant sales areas.

At last, a sunny and dry day allows me to both salt treat many of the paths, as well as mowing all the grass for the first time this year. Germinated seedlings were just beginning to grow away on many of the paths. Any longer, and the hot water/salt/detergent mix won’t prevent re-growth, and it’ll require manual weeding to resolve – always far too labour intensive. Fortunately, the nearly sunny all-day weather window put a massive amount of surplus heat into the immersion, thanks to the Immersun which provides the scalding hot water to do this salting.


I move out some of the cuttings and seeds sown in the greenhouse, to begin to harden them off, in the enviromesh covered stock trailer.

Another session of snowdrop planting in the Malus copse with the Pottiputki. More wood ash spreading on the meadows, and for only the second time this year, a very limited sprinkling of ferric phosphate slug pellets near the shooting Clematis, veg beds, and pots of susceptible seedlings, like Erythronium which seem to have germinated very well.

At last on Sunday, a dry day and an opportunity to cut the grass for a second time in advance of a group visit. A pair of twin lambs arrive safely.

April – Week 1:

Sunshine all day again, so more salting of paths, very necessary hand weeding of some areas, and a chance, at last, to finish topping the Molinia area in the wet hay meadow – without doing this, more interesting plants won’t make it through the thatch of dead material. A general tidy-up in advance of a large group. Despite surface water, the BCS with its double tyres copes brilliantly with this job, even if it’s quite a physical workout.

The small section cut just before the rain arrived in early March –This image shows how the Molinia quickly recovers and yields fresh growth that the sheep will tackle in late summer, to a degree, as well as yielding a lot of almost seed-free, already dry, organic material for bedding/composting.

Rake it and bag it up the following day. Pot on more seedling plants. Sow pre-germinated squash and courgette seed. First, live lambs arrive so dawn till night ewe checks now, feeding and mucking out. 1 lamb dies overnight in an unexplained event, so milking out becomes necessary for one quarter of this ewe.

Lots more hand weeding of areas of the garden. More salting of paths and grass mowing. A large group of garden visitors. Write another blog post. At last, a couple of dry days allows me to drag a hurdle behind the Goldoni tractor in the lower wet meadows to flatten all the molehills. Works brilliantly. The fields don’t look a mess, and we know there are all those wonderful mole tunnels to help with the drainage.

Also, we can move the 5 super heavy bags of Zelkova, etc leaves up on the tractor’s earth scoop, to locate them below the compost beds. They’ll get topped off with molehill soil from cae efail once the weather relents again. Rain is due to return tomorrow. Recharge worm city again.

April – Week 2: 

More ewe/lamb work, and leaf pulling of the thug-like Arum italicum, a weedy plant that seeds around and appears from nowhere at this time of the year. Although it will die down quite early on, it can easily swamp out other more early spring bulb foliage and build into dense clumps. Zero tolerance is required.

More hand weeding. And on a miserable wet morning, another session of snowdrop planting with the Pottipukti in the Sorbus/Malus copse, and William begins moving the mucked-out bedding onto daffodil-free grass zones, to weaken the turf for further daffodil planting in the next 12 months.

As the rain worsens, a session in the barn sieving wood/leaf mould compost for seed sowing/top dressing, and making up our own compost.

In a week with 3 of the grandchildren here, work is limited. But I do manage some photography, Fiona lays an Easter egg hunt, and impressed by the GC’s wish to look at their previous video, we choose some scenes, and I film some of the egg hunt, and then all 3 sit down and jointly edit their own short video.

Once they’ve left, more snowdrop planting – perhaps one more session will get me to the end of the Malus copse, just as the weather looks like drying up a bit. I begin the process of shifting some misplaced daffodils in the Malus copse, whilst they’re still in flower. More hand weeding around the croquet lawn beds, and rather too late, I cut back all the willow and Cornus stems, leaving the ones with fabulous, late pollen-rich flowers below the tyre garden. In some wonderful light, I manage to take some lovely photos and videos of both tulips and daffodils. At last on a sunny and briefly warm morning, I add a single insulated super to the most active, hay shed hive.

April – Week 3:

In drizzly conditions, another chance for snowdrop planting. Bring up more dry Molinia for sheep bedding.

Then finally another brighter day means a burst of activity. Replacing fence posts. Snowdrop planting – finally finished. Watering pots, many plants, and some accessible daffodils with diluted worm juice/camellia feed. Make up another compost bay/tidy up plants. More video footage of daffodils and tulips.

Fiona and I finally decide it’s safe to dead-head all the Hydrangeas.

We’ve learned from experience that doing it too early risks a late frost taking out this year’s flowers on all the macrophylla/mopheads. It’s a tedious job, but the Jakoti shears are ideal for snipping back to just above the new growth, as well as taking out any dead stems missed in the autumnal removal of shoots. We just got away with it! A frost 2 days later scorched the upper leaves of some of the more tender and exposed cultivars.

2 sessions of selective daffodil and erythronium hand pollination. Cut all the grass again. salt some paths. Bring in more logs from the field, split the thick ones, and Fiona stacks them. Produce my first what3Plants video with Clipchamp, and upload it to Youtube. More log collecting/splitting/stacking.

Lots more hand weeding – nearly got around all the garden for the second time this year, and weed levels are pretty low – for now!

2 days with garden visitors. Bring up more Molinia bedding. Dragging a big bag up from the bottom is a good workout. More hand watering.

More log splitting and stacking – we’ve now nearly filled the wood store we emptied this winter – this will give us a winter’s fuel in late 2024/2025.

More hand pollination of Erythronium, Primula sieboldii home-grown seedlings, and some more daffodils.

April – Week 4:

On a wet morning, after sheep duties, potting on small leek seedlings into my new for this year deep cellular planters – really well made and easy to handle even well-filled with our heavy wet soil-based compost. Next year I must save myself the fag, and sow directly the pre-germinated seeds into these.

I manage to fill up the last IBC water container by the hayshed, whilst we still have a plentiful flow in the stream/spring. More Hydrangea dead-heading to complete the job.

More muck/bedding shifting into the Malus/Sorbus copse to create clear planting zones for more daffodils.

Watering plants in the copse – Camellia/Hydrangeas/Rhododendrons/daffodils with either Camellia feed, or diluted worm juice.

Spend the afternoon clearing molehill soil from cae efail to top up the bags of leaf litter, brought up earlier in the year.

W. prunes off the lower scrappy branches of the birch in the lower wet meadow to open up the grass beneath.

I spend a morning shifting this brash to our LWD partial blockage in the stream. Then raking up a whole bag full of twiggy debris from the field pre-hay cutting, and dragging it up the hill. Weed out the remaining veg. big bags, apply wood ash to many of them, and also begin the tedious task of hand weeding from a ladder all the unwanted stuff from the bank of peril – in particular grass, figwort, rosebay, and Alchemilla seedlings.

Continue weeding out the bank of peril. Cut all the grass again. Fiona de-brambles the “bank of death” from a ladder removing any pernicious weeds and sapling blackthorn as she goes. A rare max-out day on the PV means another mini path-salting session. A lot of hand furtling with my large tent peg, of grass and weeds from the front path, yard, and copse areas. Spot dandelion removal. Prick out all my remaining leeks and more Geranium seedlings into my newly found robust cellular root trainer trays, 45 per tray.

Place our Scamp’s daffodil order after jointly trawling his much-reduced selection this year, and jointly work through our hopeless cultivar listing to arrive at an online comprehensive and fairly accurate list. Now all I need is to get photos sorted in the next few years!

Prick out, in a hurry, the too densely sown poppy seedlings onto the giant molehill – sadly frost affected but hopefully some will survive. Another species for direct sowing into the plugs next year. Most of the seed sown direct, which had all germinated, has died off, again due to late frosts, I guess. Pull back encroaching nettles and grass clumps from over the fence along the upper croquet border. Remove a mature Camellia which despite much TLC never thrives and has sickly foliage – the copse is now so mature one doesn’t spot a gap.

Last spot weeding of the upper tyre garden before foliage really covers everything.

The annual effort with striving for placid lambs has worked well this year, with most coming to have chin tickles. We’ve never had such a calm bunch which compensates for the reduced numbers. Less than half the ewes took to the ram lamb. Another few days of bringing them all in at night, and we’ll leave them out, and the early morning starts for me will finish for another year.

May – Week 1:

Prepare the garden for a group visit with more hand weeding, and bank clearing. Put out the signs at the bottom of the track at dusk.

Great small group visit. More sheep bedding shifting to create piles in the Malus/Sorbus copse for future bulb planting. W. starts shifting/turning a compost heap and we then shift lots of compost from the bays up to the veg beds, using tubs and the Goldoni earth scoop. A great job for 2 people to spread the slog. Compost spread around emerging potatoes and to lift the level in another couple of beds. W. pots up some strawberry runners before shifting the strawberry bed later in the year.

Hoping for a benign day after the always tiring lambing period which is now over, I take a ridging hoe to hack out thistles from the top hay meadow, quartering the field, and get exhausted by also dealing with the encroaching brambles on the hedge margins. Moral – cut these back through the year to prevent them from arching down and rooting many feet away from the fence.  Left undone and in a few years you’d end up with only half the size of the field you started with, surrounded by bramble thickets, and in due course tree growth. Such is nature’s preferred default vegetation in this part of the world. It’s a real pain ripping/hacking these out. Give up with only a half-completed task.

Continue the thistle process and brambles in the lower fields the next day – only half a dozen or so thistles in each field, but again in the hay meadow, which is un-grazed through the summer months, the bramble encroachment is a big issue. As light relief, I have a session of hand watering with diluted worm juice on the veg beds, seedling pots, and whole of the terrace daffodils – only once. The very early sown carrots and lettuce, initially sown beneath a glass pane laid directly onto the water bottles, and now covered with enviromesh, show how beneficial the water bottles are in still chilly conditions. The central row is dramatically more advanced and with apparently better germination, than the outer ones without a row of bottles beside them.

I finally get around to another sowing of main crop carrots. Our very simplified veg. plans are now in hand for most areas, I just need to plant out squash and courgettes, sow a few more lettuce, and some kale/harvest the self-sown kale seedlings. I uproot many of the remaining flowering kale plants and dump them in a half barrel – they can still supply bees with some nectar and also set some seed for future years.

Dig out more wood /leaf mould waste from the stored big bags along the green lane. By now a brilliant basis for our homemade compost, after years of rotting down from an exposed log pile which we never got around to keeping dry enough to burn.

More pricking out of Devil’sbit scabious, and Sanguisorba seedlings. Shifting around pots of seedlings, cuttings, and plants to tidy things up and remove many from direct sunshine and high temperatures, should these ever arrive in 2023!

Weed out, again, the bed between the PV panels and plant out 4 courgette and 5 squash plants. Probably too close together, but easier to manage this way. Use torn squares of sheep’s wool bedding as mini plant collars. They might help reduce slugs reaching the young plants and also help root warmth. Plant them in slight depressions, and ring them with water bottles. But use a few judicious slug pellets around these plants – it’s so dispiriting to lose a season’s crop through lack of attention at this time. Cover most of the remaining bed with cardboard sheeting. I hate spending time weeding the bare soil inevitable with veg. growing.

For the same reason, given the damp conditions of late, judicious organic SLUXX slug pellets just around the base of emerging sensitive Clematis, and near the pots of various emerging seedlings. Generally, the garden slug population has massively reduced over the years following climatic change and a much better balance of slug predators.

Cover the newly sown carrots and leek seedlings with a long enviromesh sheet. Take out a grafted Daphne from the copse, which has been dying back over the last year. It might re-shoot, but I doubt it, and if it doesn’t I’ll grub it out, once the bulbs have died back.

May – Week 2:

W and I have a morning session re-filling a couple of big bags with trotted down logs along the green lane. This wonderful resource has come from a huge log pile harvested perhaps 17 years ago which has finally rotted down, complete with annual leaf fall. Mattocking it and sorting out small stones and tree roots, it’s a largely weed free friable compost perfect for special uses and potting plants up with minor additions. It can sit in these out of the way bags and always be on hand as a resource when needed. We no longer buy in any compost.

Make a start on my new idea – digging up daffodils in the green, and “potting” up into recycled wood pellet bags with rolled down tops and cut off corners/small slits. I dig up and label, W back fills/tops up with compost. Water in. Another stint at hedgerow brambles encroaching into field. Uproot the remaining kale plants and heel them into the giant molehill for the bees’ benefit.

Lots more pricking out of seedling DBS. Cut the grass again. Have a session collecting an earth scoop full of small stream stones to fill in the worst depressions on small sections of the access track and then back fill with scalpings. This saves imported scalpings and the larger stone will resist extreme run off better than the small gravel/stone dust. Set up for more garden visitors. Hand weeding.

At last I get round to planting out the tomato plants. Firstly I prune all the exceess growth on the apricots and nectarines, and dump the big bag of prunings for the sheep to browse. Cut back a dead Leycesteriana formosana, and all the dead Hebes in the terrace pots – we won’t replace since all Hebes seem to have been wiped out locally this winter with the two severe cold snaps. Hand pollinate a few daffodil flowers (poeticus recurvus), probably a waste of time since never seem to get seed pods. Hand pollinate the P. sieboldii again. More path/yard salting, pee dribbling, and watering since the temperatures have warmed, and the rain’s stopped for now. Move into the garden some Thalictrum seedlings from 3 years ago, and water in.

Morning photography in perfect light and wonderful Garden warbler singing. Later I turn this into a short YouTube.

More weeding and watering. Fiona starts the annual whitewashing to avoid an end of season rush to beat the weather. It has to be applied after the risk of frost has passed.

May – Week 3:

Another collecting of stream stones and back filling on the track. Cut down nettles in steep field margin with hedge trimmer. Move a small Acer ‘Aconitifoium’ seedling in the lower meadow copse. More whitewashing. Am convinced that the larch copse hive was about to swarm – hopefully into the vacant German butter churn hive, which has been vigorously scouted in recent days.

A long session with W. digging out compost and me shifting it up to the veg beds to top up using the Goldoni. A physical 2 man job, but good progress. We also remove the inter-potato water bottles now, and back fill these  depressions with compost. This all equates to rowing up, and now the risk of frost has nearly gone, I want to maximise new compost in these beds now. Have to cover the squash/courgettes for a couple of very cool nights with F’s white washing sheets. W. trims back around the terrace slabs and paths. We carry up the metal hoops from the tyre garden and I opt to use them to support raspberry canes this year, and see how the tall perennials cope without them. It’s looked so much better through spring without the visual downside of seeing them there!

Now regular daily watering on a 3 day rotation – veg and hay meadow/molehill first, lower meadow copse bags/ plant sales/terrace tubs next, and the rest of terrace and greenhouse on the third day. Try to do in the morning if possible. Re-number the lambs with spray paint on their backs – too young to ear-tag just yet, but we want to remember which is which, once they’re integrated with the rest of the flock. Dag one ewe with soiled rear legs to minimise fly strike risk, before shearing. Fiona clears out some dead wood from Acers and Clematis. I begin to collect seed from snowdrops, snowflakes and wood anemones. All the early spring bulbs come with a rush.

Spend World Bee Day filing all morning – amazing numbers of bees all around the garden and meadows. A swarm is definitely settled into the German Butter churn hive, so spend a bit of time filming this through the week. Have a session weeding out grass from the terrace garden. A vital thing to do as the flower heads emerge. Plant out my Hydrangea cuttings from 9cm pots into molehill/big bags – they look healthier within just a few days, and will be more resilient in the dry weather than left as was.

Light duties on Sunday morning, since Richard sheared the sheep late in the afternoon. A relief to get this done, and we can now amalgamate the ewes with lambs with the rest of the flock and go back to rotating them round the 4 non-hay fields every 3 to 4 days.

Plant out a couple of Clematis ‘Huldine’ cuttings from 2 years ago, water in stake and slug pellet. It’s a really vigorous form once it gets going. Tie in other Clematis around the garden, since winds are strong at the moment and lengthy new shoots are vulnerable at this stage.

May – Week 4: 

Film and edit another What3Plants YouTube of Camassia, Allium and Aquilegia on the front terrace.

Trim back the hedge below the PV to avoid loss of PV output.


Add a part drawn out super taken off last autumn, onto the PV hive. Collect more snowdrop seed, daily watering now in the morning on a 2 part cycle. Fiona does more sterling work wire brushing off the gable wall. Weed out/thin the carrots. Cut some of the grass again. Dead head some of the Welsh poppies and Aquilegia – finessing really but we have a group coming mid-June so it’ll be nice if we can get them to last until then, plus more food for the bees!

Feed in raspberry canes between wires, as I water them.

Another session of stone collection from the stream to fill in a rutted section of the track and top-dress with scalpings. More hand-weeding. Move as many pots/root trainers as possible into at least half-shade. They need less water and seem to grow away much better. Cut the rest of the grass again. Collect some Crocus seed and Daphne bholua berries, for the very first time. They turn black very quickly, and then become soft, so the bushes need careful scanning from below, every day. I’ll save them all until I have enough to sow a batch – they need sowing whilst fresh, apparently.

Fiona finishes scraping off and priming, then painting twice the house gable end. We have our method for this – it’s a constant battle facing the prevailing winds and rain, and sadly whitewash is completely inadequate, so it has always had a more impermeable coating – at least on the outside, the inside finish being breathable.

Collect Dicentra seeds, and more Daphne berries.

Make a YouTube video compilation of World Bee Day 2023 out of footage shot on May 20th. More lifting of daffodils in the green into biomass pellet bags – digging out all of last autumn’s new arrivals from the Amelanchier beds, and handily lining up the  labelled bags in part shade behind the beds. Then, a few sessions collecting more molehills from the top hay meadow and barrowing down to top up these beds. Getting into the meadow like this shows just how much it’s changed again this year – more orchids and pignut, vastly less yellow rattle – at last we seem to be over peak rattle.

A bit more salting. Move more plants in small pots into semi-shade, as the sunshine and drought conditions continue. Daily watering now of all key areas with pots in the garden has to be split into an alternate day rota – veg/upper pots one day; lower pots/terrace pots the next.

Drain out the “Ripples” bird bath, Kurust the metal and double coat with Hammerite – re-fill with slightly salty water – looks much better than having the rust laden water we got before. Rub down and tung oil/Danish oil the wooden and metal terrace table. Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to catch up on all these maintenance jobs, when the weather is dry day, after day…


Late May/June – Week 1:

Rub down and re-paint the external shepherd’s paintwork for the first time in the 5 years since it was constructed – full marks for the Sadolin paints/stains I’d used for lasting so well. Likewise some much overdue re-painting with the surplus Sadolin, of the PV frames – at least those parts most exposed thanks to the panel re-positioning early on, because of incorrect siting causing winter month shading! More photography/filming in glorious weather.

Fiona continues with stalwart dead-heading of poppies and Aquilegia, through much of the terrace and tyre garden and I join in. We never do this in most years, owing to lack of time, but with a few visitors due in the next 10 days, it’ll extend their season and add more flowers for the bees. A benign form of pottering. With continued drought, sunshine and winds, the Chrysosplenium and Saxifrage fortunei are now obviously wilting, so need some water just to keep them going. I’ll have to dip into the IBC’s soon at this rate.

Continue to collect more Daphne bholua and other seeds, including the first wave of early daffodil seed pods. My efforts with hand pollinating several daffodils this year in an entirely random unrecorded way seems to have paid off, with several fat pods appearing on some, but not all forms.