2022 End of year review

The weather in the UK is always unpredictable – that’s why talking about it is a national pastime – but this year it has given us gardeners a rollercoaster of issues to contend with. My village in the South of England made the news twice in 2022 with some of the driest and wettest days on record.


It started with the warmest New Year’s Day since records began, with warm air from the Azores raising temperatures to a high of 16.3oC in central London. It was also the sunniest January on record in England, with the Met Office recording 80.7 hours of sunshine.

As we all (should) know by now, this general increase in temperature is concerning, but on the plus side it meant that my snowdrops, aconites and crocuses were all in bloom by the end of the month.


February was mild too, but brought a cluster of three named storms – Dudley, Eunice and Franklin – which wreaked havoc across the UK. Storm Eunice had the biggest impact in the south of England, bringing down trees, greenhouses and fences, and leaving lots of homes without power.

It brought down part of the conifer hedge that runs the length of my garden, as well as most of the mistletoe in the local cemetery. A lot of the lovely cherry blossom that had started to emerge didn’t hang around for long either, unable to to withstand the gusty weather.


In early March, landmarks across the world were illuminated in yellow and blue to reflect our solidarity with the people of Ukraine who were, and still are, in an unimaginable situation. Ablaze with daffodils and irises, the garden seemed to echo this sentiment.

After all the wind and rain, I managed to start a Spring tidy up, revealing a colourful collection of hellebores.


The borders slowly started to take shape this month, but it was an ongoing battle between me and the weeds, particularly with ground elder. I will keep digging it out, and eventually I will be victorious!

By the end of the month, the garden was looking pretty good, with tulips taking centre stage.


First broods of robins and blue tits both fledged successfully this month, we started to see evidence of hedgehogs, and we were visited by a host of butterflies and bees enjoying the pollinator-friendly planting.

I continued to do battle with the weeds though.

The sowing and growing continued.

Meanwhile, the shrubbery at the bottom of the garden started to get leafy and lush (there’s a husband in there somewhere!).


I managed to get most of the plants that I had grown from seed, plug plants or cuttings planted out this month.

With longer days and warmer evenings we started to sit outside later into the evening, enjoying some al fresco meals, so I gave the ‘dining area’ a bit of a makeover, and added some new lights.

It was a month of celebration, with an extra bank holiday and street parties to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.


The warm dry spell became a hot dry spell, and we were soon making headlines as the driest village in Britain, with no rainfall at all in July.

The garden was at its flowering peak, and watering became a full-time occupation.


As temperatures continued to soar, parts of southern, central and Eastern England officially moved to drought status, and hosepipe bans were introduced in some regions. The watering marathon continued.

On the up side, I started to harvest my tomatoes 4–6 weeks earlier than usual, and began enjoying meals of home-grown deliciousness.

There were also plenty of early, albeit smaller than usual, blackberries to forage in the hedgerows.


This month was a sombre one, with the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A constant in so many of our lives, it hit a lot of us harder than we thought it would, and the nation went into an extended period of respectful mourning.

Life in the garden went on though, with some of my favourite plants starting to go to seed, ready for collection.


The hot dry weather had taken its toll on some of the shrubs and hedges. We’d been talking about it all year, and finally decided to remove the stressed and straggly conifer hedge bordering our neighbours’ garden, leaving us with some exciting planning for that area in 2023.

I harvested the last of the summer vegetables (peppers, chillis and aubergines), and picked the last of the tomatoes – red and green – to make chutneys and soups.

And the first frost arrived.


In November, we made the news again; this time, as the wettest village in Britain with the most rainfall in England falling in one night.

With some decent rainfall, many of the perennials that had struggled during the hot summer had a second flush of flowers.

But the lawn and borders soon became sodden, and mushrooms flourished.


December ended a long run of above-average temperatures, with a prolonged period of freezing conditions.

Even the cobwebs froze and, on several days, we experienced a beautiful hoar frost (crystalline deposits of water vapour).

The Met Office has confirmed that 2022 has been the warmest year in the UK since records began, with every month except December being warmer than average. As gardeners we are the first to see how earlier springs, warmer summers and extreme weather events are affecting plants and wildlife, and there is no doubt that we will have to adapt how we garden in the future.

For now, let’s watch this space and keep talking about what we can each do at a garden level.

All that remains of 2022 is for me to wish you all a very Happy New Year!


Ready, steady sow!

I’ve finally got going with my March indoor sowings, starting as always with three varieties of tomato – Moneymaker, Red Cherry and Maskotka.

The seeds were big enough to handle individually, so this year I started them in small individual pots, in an attempt to reduce the amount of pricking out I need to do (my least favourite of all gardening jobs).

Tomato seeds
Tomato seeds are big enough to handle individually

Germination is always more successful than I expect and I find it hard to discard healthy seedlings, so I usually end up with far too many plants. Last year, I struggled to give them all away (I think everyone was growing their own tomatoes last year!). So, this year I have planted two seeds per pot and reduced the number of seeds I’ve sown.

Two seeds per pot
Two seeds per pot

Aubergines (Black Beauty), chillis and several varieties of lettuce (Cosmic, Little Gem and Iceberg) swiftly followed.

Indoor sowings
Indoor sowings of tomatoes, aubergines, chillis and lettuce

It’s too cold to start any outdoor sowings (of things I like to eat), so our old decorating table will soon be straining under the weight of pots, and my kitchen will become a makeshift greenhouse for the next few months.

I’m always amazed that those tiny seeds can produce such amazing results.

Growing aubergines
Last year’s aubergines

Next on the list are courgettes and leeks, plus Marigolds, Busy Lizzies and Black-eyed Susan. What are you sowing?

Plant of the month – rosemary

With a few days of sunshine (a total of three, I think), generally warmer temperatures (until today) and plenty of rain, this month the garden has at long last burst into life. It’s the end of April and we are finally off and running.

April blooms

Bursting into life … finally!

But which plant has spread the most joy this month? It was a difficult decision.

Cheerful combo

In third place, I have to mention this wonderful Doronicum and Myosotis combo (Leopard’s Bane and Forget-me-not). Each in isolation is far from imposing, but together they cheered up a small corner of my patio and put a smile on my face each time I looked their way.

The cheerful golden daisy-like flowers of Doronicum amid a froth of Forget-me-Nots

The cheerful golden daisy-like flowers of Doronicum amid a froth of Forget-me-Nots

Venetian elegance

Runner-up was this stunning ‘Venetian tulip collection’ from Sarah Raven, which I crammed into pots in early January. With the colours of a sunset, Tulip ‘Prinses Irene’ is superbly complemented by the glossy rich elegance of Tulips ‘National Velvet’ and ‘Havran’. Thank you Sarah – they have brought me much joy on many a grey drizzly April day.

Venetian tulip collection - a very classy combination of colours

Venetian tulip collection – a very classy combination of colours

But the winner is …

… Rosmarinus officinalis, or Rosemary to me and you. Although this woody evergreen perennial herb is better known for its culinary exploits than its prowess in the garden, this year my rosemary is smothered in delightful violet-blue flowers. (Tip: to get your rosemary to flower make sure it is situated in a sunny spot).

Rosemary – deep green needle-covered branches smothered in delicate violet-blue flowers

Rosemary – deep green needle-covered branches smothered in delicate violet-blue flowers

It has taken a few years for it to flower so magnificently, but it has been worth the wait. Not only does it look fantastic, but it is also a magnet for bees. They can’t get enough of it! It is literally buzzing with frenzied bee activity, and for this reason alone it is my plant of the month.

Rosemary grows both upright and trails. Mine is currently sprawling over a path and will need a reshaping prune when it finishes flowering, but until then I am going to enjoy every minute of it.

Rosemary - plant of the month April 2018

Rosemary – my plant of the month April 2018

Hungry hedgehogs

Ironic that it was Hedgehog Awareness Week last week, because here in our small back garden in Hampshire we have been becoming increasingly hedgehog aware. It started as a bit of a mystery. Every morning we would find the cage on top of our bird ground feeder knocked askew, and the remains of the birds’ mealworms and suet devoured. A ratty visitor perhaps?

Who’s poo?

But then, more distinct telltale signs: shiny black droppings, not just one or two, but tens of poops around the lawn. Most of the literature on hedgehogs states that their stools are distinctly cylindrical, sometimes slightly tapered at one end and about 5cm in length, but I can confirm that hedgehog poop comes in all shapes and sizes, and in vast quantities.

Hedgehog poop – shiny, black, generally cylindrical ... and lots of it!

Hedgehog poop – shiny, black, generally cylindrical … and lots of it!

In the flesh

And then we finally caught the culprit in the act. Instantly recognisable – short tail, long legs, small ears, pointed furry face, small black eyes … a lot of spines … and terrible table manners! Those of you who follow this blog will know that our last sighting of a hedgehog was back in the summer of 2015 (see Huffing Hedgehogs), so you can imagine our excitement.

Hedgehog in garden

Instantly recognizable

We immediately got down to the serious business of leaving the right food out.

Feeding hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are omnivores but over 70% of their natural diet comprises beetles and other insects, worms and a tiny number of slugs and snails. You can supplement their evening dinner with:

  • Meaty cat or dog food
  • Specific tinned or dry hedgehog food, available from garden centres and pet shops
  • Cat biscuits

And if the guzzling in our back garden is anything to go by, they will appreciate it!

Do not give them:

  • Bread or milk – they can’t digest them!
  • Salty meats such as bacon or corned beef
  • Dried mealworms. Although they are a good source of protein, they have a poor calcium: phosphorus ratio. Too little calcium/too much phosphorus can lead to metabolic bone disease (which is on the increase in hedgehogs) so it is best to avoid them completely. A healthy calcium: phosphorus ratio is 1:1 or 1:2.

And make sure you provide:

  • Water (no other liquid refreshment) – they drink a lot!
  • A sloping exit out of ponds so they can get out if they fall in.

Lawn of many hedgehogs

So, for the past 4 weeks we have been putting the food direct onto the lawn after dark between 9 and 10pm, when there are fewer marauding moggies around to sneak a crafty snack. This seems to have encouraged more hedgehog visitors to the garden, and as they are not territorial they seem to be content to share the food without too much squabbling. In fact, we have now seen up to four hedgehogs together at any one time on the lawn.

Hedgehogs feeding

Erinaceus europaeus – three caught on camera – enjoying the buffet

Even if they are not around on the lawn, then we can usually hear them through the night, either huffing at each other in our herbaceous borders or in our neighbour’s garden. Yes, the courting rituals have started (hedgehog breeding season is April through to September) and we have our fingers crossed for hoglets later this summer.

Look after your hedgehogs

Hedgehog numbers in the UK are continuing to decline. According to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) 1 in 3 of all British hedgehogs have been lost since the year 2000. They are on the endangered species list, so if you find them in your garden, look after them!

For more information on hedgehogs go to The British Hedgehog Preservation SocietyThe Mammal SocietyPrickles Hedgehog Rescue or Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital.

Do you have hedgehogs in your garden? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter @15greenmins

Chop, shred, mulch!


It’s good to leave the ‘skeletons’ of some herbaceous plants standing over winter. The natural scaffolding and seed heads of Sedum spectabile (ice plant), Eryngium (sea holly) and ornamental grasses help to protect the tender crowns from the sharpest frosts, provide a cosy home for insects and add general winter interest to the garden.

Winter Sedum heads

The seed heads of Sedum spectabile provided great winter interest in the garden

But now that things are warming up, it’s time to remove last year’s debris and let fresh green leafiness take free reign once more.

Get chopping (or pulling)

If you haven’t done so already, don’t delay, get chopping! Secateurs work best for most herbaceous perennials. Cut as close to the crown as you can, cutting at an angle to prevent water collecting inside and rotting the crown, or cut just above any fresh new growth.

In fact, at this time of year, you’ll be able to simply pull some of the hollow dead stems out from the base of the plant without cutting at all.

The joy of shredding

Remove any diseased material, but don’t throw the rest. It’s fabulous organic material that can be put back to use around the garden.

Bag of shredding material

After three 15-minute sessions I had a huge bag of shreddable material

Ideally, shred it. Most domestic shredders will cope with woody stems less than 3–4 cm (1¼-1½ inches) in diameter. I shredded the above bagful of woody material last weekend. The shredder made a hell of a racket (for which I profusely apologise to my neighbours), but within 15 minutes I had reduced one large bag of winter debris to a bucketful of useful chippings; wonderful ‘brown’ material for the compost bin, or a fabulous mulch for the borders.

15 minutes of shredding produced a bucketful of compostable organic material

15 minutes of shredding produced a bucketful of compostable organic material

If you don’t have a shredder, then simply cut up what you can into bitesize pieces. It all helps!

I add all my ‘shreddings’ to the compost bin. Alongside all the kitchen waste, it makes great compost.

A barrowful of homemade compost - great for spring mulching

A barrowful of homemade compost – great for spring mulching

Marvellous mulch

Which brings me to the last of this trio of spring jobs: ‘tis the season to get mulching! According to Monty Don (my husband has been hearing that phrase a lot lately):, mulching is “probably the best single investment of time and money that anyone could put into their garden”* for 3 reasons:

1. Mulching reduces weeds.

2. Mulching retains moisture.

3. Mulching improves the structure of your soil.

Oh, and it makes the garden look tidier too! What’s not to like about mulch? (I love the word ‘mulch’!)

To be honest, until this year my mulching has been rather sporadic, mainly because I only have 2 smallish compost bins and have never produced enough material to get around all the borders. But this year, I went the whole hog and ordered 900 litres of soil conditioner, which I’m currently spreading around my garden with wild abandon.

A mulched flower bed

A mulched border – weed free, water retentive, and the earthworms will be happy too

My garden has been giving me so much pleasure for so many years that I felt like it deserved a treat (and there was a special offer on at B&Q), especially as I have heavy clay soil that needs all the help it can get.

Try to do as much work in your borders as you can before you mulch (weeding, dividing perennials etc.) so that you disturb them as little as possible afterwards. Then pile the mulch on the soil surface and around the bases of your plants to about 2 inches thick, taking care not to smother the crowns. The earthworms will do the rest.

Pile the mulch around your herbaceous plants, up to 2 inches think and up to the bases

Pile the mulch around your herbaceous plants, up to 2 inches thick and up to the bases

Finding the time

It sounds a lot of work, but 15 minutes of cutting, shredding or mulching at a time and you’ll soon have it done. And when you’re sitting back with a glass of wine in the evening sunshine (hmm, we can but hope!), you’ll be glad you did it, 15 minutes of green at a time.

Spring garden

After all that mulching, find the time to enjoy your spring garden

Let me know whether you mulch your garden, and what with.