Category Archives: GARDEN NEWS

November 2017

No excuse for a proper composting system now!

MY COMPOST HEAP SYSTEM ROCKS!

There comes a time when you have to get down and dirty and back to basics.  I mean getting to grips with the soil and its need for nutrients. This reality hit home after a second year of poor sweetcorn yields and I just knew that the only soil-u-tion was digging in compost or muck. This has caused many a dilemma. For years, because of the bad access at the plot , I’ve used chicken manure pellets tossed about the place randomly. So its time to get serious and crazily enough I have a compost heap already that was full but I couldn’t get in it to dig it out.

Oh cobblers!

A single compost heap will not do either as digging out the lovely stuff underneath meant climbing in and removing the top rotting layer. So I hadn’t basically.
I spied a few pallets at the back of where I worked and so armed with a tape measure was able to pick out three matching palettes. I don’t need massive pallets either as I well never fill them in one season.
I only needed three so that I’d have brilliant access.

Positioning
I placed the new pallets at right angles to the old compost area so that any inter-shoveling between compost areas would be easy. I simply tied them together with a corner stake that I hammered into place.
My original enclosure was modified by sawing the top three rungs so that I could get a shovel in easily. I sorted through what was there and am pleased that loads of lovely crumbly black gold is now ready to use.

Compost rotation

Now that I am sorted with the hardware the system is obvious. New vegetation, kitchen scraps and non-weed matter goes in the new compost enclosure while I dig out the old and use its bounty.

Don’t compost

  • Dog and Cat Poo. But horse, cow, chicken and rabbit droppings are great.
  • Tea and Coffee Bags. Rip open the bags and empty out the grains and discard the bags.
  • Citrus Peels and banana skins.
  • Onions and potatoes if left whole. This is because they might continue to grow so squash them up.
  • Fish and meat scraps.
  • Glossy or coated paper.
  • Sticky Labels on Fruits and Vegetables.
  • Coal fire ash.
  • Sawdust from treated wood.
  • Perennial weed seed heads or roots. I don’t want to risk that pesky bindweed any opportunity to multiply.

A compost recipe

  1. Combine green and brown materials (no poo). Brown being garden soil that will contain microbes and good bacteria and even lovely worms
  2. Sprinkle water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge.
  3. Stir it up as that will get everything in contact with all the good bacteria
  4. When is looks like its rotted down use it! Don’t worry if there are bits of twig etc as you can always sieve that out.
New compost enclosure placed carefully next to a self-seeded, 6ft high cosmos.

October 2017

BULBS, ROBINS AND TRASHING LEEKS

Bulb planting time and I am joined by a cute little robin. I had only recently learned why robins like to accompany you whilst gardening. Obviously I have just disturbed the top layer of soil and by doing so made all those tiny insects and worms available to feed on.
But where did this little chap learn that if it hung around with the humans maybe it’ll get a cheap dinner? In ancient times robins used to follow wild boars as they scavenged the top layer of ground for roots, fruits and maybe a truffle or two for tea. Robins learnt not to be afraid of these large animals and so grew confident with their company. Now don’t you go and compare me to a wild boar though my hair has been particularly ravaged on this gusty October day. You could say I’m sporting a wild look, but that’s where it ends.
I’m happy for my little robin to follow me about. It makes a funny little chirp and curious vibrating flutter when it’s about to join me. I don’t hesitate to talk to it either. That’s not because of modern folklore’s theory that it’s a dead relative visiting. It’s a robin wanting a good old feed before winter and I’m happy to oblige.

Oh leeks why for art thou ruined?
The allium leaf miner is the culprit. It has munched its way through my lovely leeks! i done lots of research and basically I need to destroy the lot to break this little critters life cycle. plus in future not only do I need to cover brassicas and carrots in netting but now alliums too. This teeny little thug reached the UK in 2002 and has spread around the country at an alarming rate.

So how am I going to beat this pest?

Autumn leaf miner has ruined the entire crop!

So how am I going to beat this pest?
This beastie appears in March and April having overwinter in the soil. The female flies lay eggs near the base of young leek plants and makes small punctures in the onion/leek leaves in order to feed on the sap. This is where further rot can get in too and so when I harvested my leeks I notice a brown trail where the grub had munched its way into the juicy fleshy bit. When I pulled off the outer layers a small dark rice-grain-sized brown pupae wedged was between the rotting layers.
Preventing the allium leaf miner from causing damage is to prevent the flies laying eggs. I’m going to cover the crop with insect proof mesh / fleece during the two risk periods that is March to  April and mid September to mid October.
Or plant onion sets and leeks after the first danger period has passed and harvest before the second danger period occurs in September / October.

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Here are the pupae. Do not compost, and if you mistakenly put some in there get them out!

Halloween!
You may have noticed that Halloween has revved up a gear this year. Don’t be tempted to buy one of those fake pumpkins down the garden center, please buy a real one and carve it yourself. Its so much fun, really cheap and a chance to be creative. Plus when you’ve finished you can leave the pumpkin out for the wildlife to feed as squirrels love them. It doesnt stop there either you can plant one up with with plants for a dramatic effect and lastly they make good compost. So just do it!

 

Lets end of a high
Or at least on the vertical….

My pink and grey autumn wall planter!

 

 

 

Summer of 2017

Not everything in life is a bed of roses, so the saying goes, and so the day after the Chelsea Flower Show my step father died. It has been awful witnessing someone slowly be destroyed by Alzheimer’s and so things have been put on hold a little bit. I still had to work but suddenly I had also had a new set of carers to organize for my 91 year old Mum. It didn’t go well as I had to sack two. One for taking my mums bank card and PIN number, the other for allowing the carpet man swindle £240 cash from my vulnerable mum.
The responsibility has been overwhelming and took a toll on my health. But I managed to get though it and out the other side. My salvation is to loose myself in my gardening, it really is the best therapy. Things didn’t stop and I still have issues to solve but the garden soldiered on….

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Heucheras, phormium, blue grass and ferns added to the exotic feel nicely.

I did a bit of a revamp in a dull area of my jungle garden.
Then there wasn’t a shortage of cut flowers. Calendulas and zinnias performing brilliantly…..

Veggies started to yield and often I was badly prepared for harvesting but nothing got wasted…

Ok, I did give away some of the cucumbers but the rest were eaten fresh or baked and frozen.
So strange times came and went. I’ve been sad and stressed by other things, my allotment kept me focused. Even though I had to force myself to go there I always ended up feeling proud and positive and darn right happy! 😀

 

Storm Doris couldn’t put a dampener on February!

However those rabbits days are numbered. But first….

The glorious sight of snow drops spurred me on this month with a little revamp of the front garden. So many passers-by stop and look but that is all they see, just snowdrops. So a bit of ever-green was needed. A few shrubs had perished so they needed digging out and replacing with box balls. These will link with the box that are in the containers. The black grass around the center planter also gives the garden more ordered look and the box will give another texture. This compliments the random carpet of snowdrops and three white hellebore give it an elegant and delicate white theme.

Front garden with white hellebores, box and snowdrops
A triangle of box linking the containers with the test of the garden, giving it some green and some structure.

Back to Doris and those rabbits…

Bamboos tipped over… but nothing serious.
…and fences flew!
But those rabbits threatened my veg, so I put up some protection.
Munjacs had nibbled too and here in the sink it was all to plain to see once they were washed a scrubbed.

Did I mention that I had an garden sink. no…..?

Can I possibly post a pic of pots being washed. YES, so ENJOY!
This truly wonderful sight greeted me. Perfection. I don’t know how it happened but there it is, with its sprouting broccoli friend….
Love. Not forgetting all your other mates….
The wonky veg family.

 

 

 

 

Winter 2016

…and other goings on.
My plot this winter is looking very respectable thanks mainly to the leeks, parsnips, chard and cabbage. Brussel Sprouts look tall but a bit sparse in the brussels department but still plenty for dinner. I mean we are not entering any beauty competitions are we?  Just as well as the parsnips have man-i-fested(see what I did there) much hilarity. I needn’t say any more but it’s still fun to laugh at a suggestively rude food.

The boys are desperate for a leek!
The boys are desperate for a leek!

The sweetest thing
On the last day of October I harvested the sweet potatoes that I grew in a large pot in the green house. It was quite a sight seeing the vine develop but after all the effort only a few shapes imerged. The UK climate is just to chilly for them but mazingly satisfying to unearth them.

The sweetest babies you'll ever taste.
The sweetest babies you’ll ever taste.

And sow on
As always a little late I got to sow some broad beans. Not expecting much, but they still surprised my by germinating. Its so worth it, and they WILL grow so just do it!

Get these in the ground and you wont be disappointed.
Get these in the ground and you wont be disappointed.
Broad beans are poking their heads through under the protective mesh.
Broad beans are poking their heads through under the protective mesh. Mr Munjac Deer likes to snack.

The night before Christmas
This happened.

Well that me sorted. Merry Chritmas
Well that me sorted. Merry Christmas

The week before and I got my garlic in too. Gold star for me!

Garlic is in on the 18th December.
Garlic is in on the 18th December.

Fools gold

What is the point of spraying these beauties?
What is the point of spraying these beauties?

What in the hell are Wilkos and other garden centres doing by selling painted succulents? I only hope it doesn’t harm the plant apart from looking ghastly. EPIC FAIL

So don’t buy these and I’ll see you later,

Gill

August 2016

Helta-sheltas and a trip to RHS Wisley

Not going to hark on too much about the weather but really the rain storms and heat spells have resulted in lots of productive growth at the alottment. My squahes were roaming around the place, and in one of those ‘lets get things done’ moods I battled with the squashes and won!
Giving it careful thought, I wanted my squashes to end up resting in little hammocks. An unused netting pack was the perfect thing and I twisted the netting into a rope and weaved the rope into and onto the wigwam.

An undressed wigwam.
An undressed wigwam.
Ohh don't you scrub up well....
Ohh don’t you scrub up well….

Then the task of persuading four eight foot vines and their babies through the netting. It worked a treat, though I’g reccommend not wearing earings, necklace or a shirt with buttons. I spent more time disentangling myself and feared that I might actually be trapped in the netting.

The final squashy climbing frame dubbed 'The Helta-Shelta'
The final squashy climbing frame dubbed ‘The Helta-Shelta’

Other alottment news was the continuing task of getting the paths between the raised beds in order. So I picked a cool day drank Red Bull and success! I’ve only one more to go, so might leave that for winters job list.

A smarter look with bark paths.
A smarter look with bark paths.

RHS Wisley
A flying trip to Wisely with my sister to take my ninety year old mother out for an airing was lovely. Apart from the compulsory glide round the rose garden, we decided that the wheel chair needed more power that I can bodily give so decided that the downhill path nearby looked convienently interesting. So we discovered the herb gardens with an interesting thyme bed. Also a cute little garden with an interesting tree canopy.

RHS Wisleys herbs
RHS Wisleys herbs
A delightful tree canopy in a small space.
A delightful tree canopy in a small space.

Here my sister and mother waving!

Mothers cardigan blending nicely.
Mothers cardigan blending nicely.

SEPTEMBER 2015

My little garden got a corner revamp this month. I wanted a shaded space to sit and relax and found an area where I could extend the paving by adding gravel. Shabby black chairs got a lick of paint but the table was now so rusty it is destined for the dump. However, as I only wanted a table for coffee cups, and only really needing two chairs, I cut the back and arms off the worst rusty chair and voila, a matching table. I used paint left over from the she-shed french doors too. I am so pleased with the colour as now the chairs really stand out.

Grey colour scheme is very chic.
Grey colour scheme is very chic.

Whilst placing the chairs, I couldn’t resist using the table for a display of grey succulents in terracotta pots. I also have a big pot nicotina that filled gap. Lavender and a pot of the annual Didiscus ‘blue lace’ completed the colour scheme, almost as if I had planned it.

Cupcake with petticoat.
Cupcake with petticoat.

My big ‘annual’ success is Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’. They have a unique flower shape with petals all fused together, forming a bowl. But one rouge plant produced extra petals in the center and so saving the seed of this plant is a must.
I also went on a two-week holiday and actually left my garden properly prepared (for once) by extensively dead-heading practically everything. I was so pleased when I came back to see lots of lovely blooms welcoming me back. The deadheading worked a treat and meant that didn’t really need to do much except admire the view.

Crocosmia and sedum buds looking fab.
Crocosmia and sedum buds looking fab.

I’m also especially proud of the front garden were the combination of crocosmia and sedum buds looking fantastic.

Just hanging with the chilli peppers!
Just hanging with the chilli peppers!

In my green house my cucumber has been roaming around the tomatoes and peppers, using the other plants as support. I finally caught it hanging with the chilli peppers. How cool is that?

Happy trug.
Happy trug.

At the allotment there was plenty to pick including my first head of broccoli. But more problems: this time with a neighbouring gardener putting up a football goal six foot from my plot. It has meant that kids are playing ball games and this doesn’t mix with vegetable growing at all. I also suspect that it’s the kids that have vandalized previously. Very difficult to prove and trying to convince over-protective parents that it might have been their little darlings as resulted in strained relations.

Ball games and veggie growing don't mix.
Ball games and veggie growing don’t mix.

The drawback with privately run allotments is that the rules are often all done on good-will and very casual. Despite reporting the incident to the caretaker, unfortunately the goal is still up a week later.
We will have to see what happens, as I may have to explain more specific detail to the parents what happens when a football destroys a bed of treasured leeks, and how much it will cost them in compensation. Maybe that will help.

Will keep you updated.

JULY 2015

SHE-SHED LOOKS SPLENDED

Before. Horrid, horrid, horrid!
Before. Horrid, horrid, horrid!

At last my garage makeover is now looking nearly finished and is now transformed into the new trend of ‘she-shed’. There are still a never ending list of jobs to make it fully functional, bit one huedle is now complete. Previously I had problems with ivy damaging the building and once stripped off, I decided that I needed to clad it in wood. A set of free French doors meant I had enough in the budget for a magnificent Japanese acer. I painted to doors to reflect the colours in the middle border where salvias, campanulas and Stachys byzantine (lambs ears) grow. The greys and blues look stunning in together with pot of agapanthas ‘Blue Storm’.

Sun shines on the she-shed.
Sun shines on the she-shed.
Bleus and greys look stunning in the sun
Blues and greys look stunning in the sun

My little garden is certainly rammed with leafy shapes, some jungley like fatsia and ferns and some with delicate leaves of such as the acres. Hostas bring in a lush look as well as the never-ending snails.
There’s no shortage of seating ideas too, four places in fact, each area catching the sun at some point during the day.

Roses smothering the Lutyens bench.
Roses smothering the Lutyens bench.

My Lutyens bench has now a canopy of peach and purple roses. They have created a lot of welcome shade and an opportunity to decorate the inside ‘ceiling’ with solar fairy lights.

They've had babies.
They’ve had babies.

On my potting bench I’ve noticed that the little succulents that I had squeezed into shells have produced offspring, it really is so amazing where succulent can grow.

At the allotment only cornflowers are providing cut flowers. Cosmos seem to get too battered and are also infested with flea beetles, and as for the lupins, they seem to be stuck at three inches tall. The sunflowers were meant to grow to 7ft but instead have barely made three. They look particularly small against the 6ft bamboo frame I’d so thoughtfully made them.

Not at all giant!
Not at all giant!

Harvesting now has been Mange tout, some excellent broad beans, courgettes and spinach. Cauliflowers are showing their curds but the variety I have don’t produce many leaves so it’s best to pick them when small before the sun damages them or those dreaded flea beetles.

Abundance of Mange tout
Abundance of Mange tout

Tomato Sorcery
The tomatoes are causing me grief. The ones are the allotment only need watering every other day, as do the gardeners delight in a pot by the backdoor. But the ones in the greenhouse are extra demanding, with constant wilting in this hot weather. I find they need watering twice a day, I can’t put them in bigger pots as they are already at the roof, so I might take them to the allotment, they might not survive the shock, but I’ll take the risk.

Beasties
This is the year of the Flea beetle! The wretched things have invested alot of the produce on allotment including squash flowers. I was so pleased to see the squash climbg its frame and produce a baby, but then a check of the flower and: Grrrr!

Marmalade hoverflies on the other hand are very welcome.

More news will follow soon….

Hoverflies love cosmos
Hoverflies love cosmos
A young clumbing squash.
A young clumbing squash.
....only to be invaded.
….only to be invaded.

Herb Rack gets noticed

GARDEN NEWS FEATURES HERB RACK

Herb rack on the wall
My hand-built bespoke herb rack.

The herb rack has certainly been getting a lot of attention recently! I was delighted when Garden News wanted to feature it in their feature “Designer Style Inspiration”. So in one issue the herb rack got featured twice. Wow! In fact it inspired me to make another one to go by my front door. I was able to get some violas that matched the colour of the door to make it special.

It looks fantastic and has really cheered up an empty space. And before you ask, I’m going to make another for a blank bit of fence that needs cheering up by the back gate.

Pretty purple pansies greet you at the front door
Pretty purple pansies greet you at the front door