Blooming Lovely

Truth be told, I was a bit put off after our little hedgehog had to be put down. I still left out food but the only thing nibbling at it was next doors’ cat, so I’ve only been leaving the camera out sporadically since. I’ve also been lax with the food, but then there’s plenty to eat in our garden. We’ve had a couple of rainy days, and the slugs have been out in force. I haven’t seen a single snail though…

Unlike some gardeners who will literally go out every midnight for a slug and snail cull, if I see one the first thing I grab is my camera.

This critter was climbing (sliming?) up one of several thyme plants but that’s ok. I don’t cook with thyme all that much, and there’s plenty to go around in any case. I do believe that the hedgehogs have been keeping our slug and snail population under control, because most of my plant damage is definitely done by the birds.

On Wednesday I went to bed quite late, and since it was warm I had the window thrown wide open. Some neighbours were having a party, and amongst the aural assault of the most awful bloody music, I could just about hear a regular cronch, cronch, cronch.

I ran downstairs and very quietly opened the back door, to discover a hedgehog eating seed that had fallen from the bird feeders. I wasn’t sure if that was healthy so I went in to get a bowl of special hedgehog food, of which I always have a supply. The little creature just froze while I put the bowl down and sat a short distance away, but soon realised I wasn’t a threat and tucked in. Since then I’ve been leaving both food and camera out regularly, which has resulted in a regular visitation.

Last night I looked out of the window and could just make out a small shadow by the food bowl, then from the corner of my eye I noticed something else – next doors’ cat stalking across the grass.

I don’t think cats are a threat to hedgehogs, but I didn’t want my one being disturbed so I made a noise. Me and the cat then had a stare-off, after which the cat ignored me and carried on towards they hedgehog. That’s cats for you, they give zero f**ks. I popped downstairs and shooed it off though, so the hedgehog could eat dinner in peace. The cat no doubt headed straight to the front garden to do a retaliatory poop, but there’s not much I can do about that.

In the last couple of days the squash is really showing me what it’s made of. I came home from work Saturday morning to find the first male flower fully opened.This is pretty much as good as it gets with the males, it would seem.

That same day one of the females was showing promising signs.

Less than 24 hours later she was fully open (and a lot nicer on the eye than the male, I must say).

I opened up the male and got my paintbrush in there to collect the pollen, and deposited it onto the sticky stigma of the female.

Hopefully, hopefully, this means I’ll have a least one good butternut squash! The other three females I have look like they’re almost ready to bloom, but the rest of the males are a little behind. So we’ll see how it goes with the others. In any case it was exciting to do my first ever hand pollination.

It’s pay day tomorrow and now that masks are mandatory, I’ll risk a trip to the garden centre. Buying peat-free compost online is prohibitively expensive, but I can get a lot more for my money if I go and get it myself. I’m out of everything really, I need more Pearlite, more compost, more seaweed feed, horticultural grit… It’s amazing how quickly you get through the stuff.

I think mother thinks I’m joking when I say I want another compost bin and at least two more water butts, but I’m not. I have plans to hide them in the garden so they don’t look out of place, but I think it’s essential. Now my tomatoes are really going for it, I used up a whole water butt in less than two days. Imagine if all of that water had come from the tap… Luckily after that we’ve had a good bit of rain and everything is topped up again, including various containers I’ve left out around the garden.

Being less wasteful makes me very happy.

Finally, my sunflower has had yet another growth spurt and is now taller than me. Every day I speak to it, saying ‘come on!’, willing it to flower. I can’t be long now!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Sexing the Squash

Not long after I’d hit publish on the last post, I did a walk around the garden. I probably do this dozens of times a day, sometimes seeing what needs to be done, sometimes just looking on adoringly at all the beautiful flowers and veg babies.

As they saying goes, a watched squash never grows. Ok that isn’t a saying, at least it wasn’t until now. Hopefully it’ll catch on. I swear they waited until my back was turned then my squash plants pushed out some baby butternuts.

I knew that squashes have male and female flowers, but I couldn’t spot any difference in mine. Until now! I’ve been reading up about these things but seeing it with your own eyes is always much better.

Even though the flowers aren’t yet open, the difference between the male and female parts is now distinct. The male flowers are on the end of a long stalk, whereas the female flowers are on the end of the ovary, which in this case will hopefully one day be the actual butternut squash.

How I didn’t spot them earlier on in the day I do not know, because I counted a total of four females on my plants so far. There will most likely be even more to come.

When the flowers open I will help with the pollination process, just in case. Otherwise the babies may not develop into grown-up butternuts, especially if the flowers open on a grim day and the bees don’t feel like coming out and doing their thing. Just call me Cupid.

I started writing this on Wednesday, and a mere two days later there are even further developments. My morning squash check didn’t reveal any changes, however when I got up this evening we have CLEAR FLOWER EVIDENCE!

This was the first bud to grow so he’s much further along than the rest, but I’m delighted he’s ok. When I saw browning at the tips I was worried he wouldn’t bloom at all but now I’m sure he’s going to be amazing.

The tomatoes are progressing wonderfully, although I have learned it’s best not to mention you’re growing them to anyone – already several people have called dibs on a portion of my harvest. There was me thinking 46 plants was overkill, now I’m not so sure…

In other news, some Lavender I’ve been growing hasn’t done so well. It didn’t seem to like being moved on from the propagator and I only have a couple of seedlings that look like they’re going to make it. Perhaps I rushed it and they couldn’t handle the change in humidity, but then that’s what this is all about, learning as I go.

My second batch of Violas (Midnight Runner) are coming along much stronger than the previous, and the same can be said for my Chinese Lanterns.

My sunflower, the one not so long ago I wasn’t sure was going to survive, is now taller than me. You can expect an update the very second that beast flowers!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x