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.

Lady Delphinium & The head gardener

Whats it like to have ‘grounds’ rather than a garden? Is your space so vast that you go out for a fag round the back of the maze? Staff is almost always required and so we take a peak at Lady Delphinium and her days instructions for the head gardener Benson.

The problem of keeping the birds off your potager.
The problem of keeping the birds off your potager.
Lady D must keep up with the times.
Lady D must keep up with the times.

Springwatch is all the rage, Lady D didn’t want to miss out….

Chelsea cartoon plums
Benson tries not to snigger.

 

 

 

 

 

Design Solutions

Design Solutions
My favourite ten…
Got a design problem with your garden? is it an awkward shape, too shady or overlooked? Or would you prefer a particular theme like a jungle look, or seaside feel? All these questions are answered by Dawn Issac* in Garden Answers magazine and I’m the lucky one that illustrates Dawns vision. Enjoy my favourite ten below…

The Gallery: tap on an image to see the full picture.

Back to the drawing board!

I took this opportunity to hone my illustration skills when Garden Answers needed  to illustrate the garden plans. The editor, the fabulous Liz Potter, commissions Dawn to come up with a design tackling a specific problem. Dawn supplies a simple sketch that I use as the basis of the illustration then I embellish it like a giant digital collage.
Giant! I am not joking. Each object, whether it’s a plant or a chair, is carefully cutout from my archive of images.
Textures, watercolour washes and ink-work are done the old fashioned way on paper. Then I photograph it and import it into photoshop so that I can get the hand-done look.  Organization, hours of picture research and a tiny grasp of perspective is all you need. Plus knowing the odd retouching trick, messing about with filters, the odd bit of warping and colour replacing. Below you can see how I’ve used Dawns initial sketch as a template then slowly built up the plants, building and water feature. 

Dawn Issac
Dawn is an RHS Chelsea medal-winning garden designer and author of Garden Crafts for Children, Things For Kids To Do On A Rainy Day, 101 Briliant Things for Kids to do with Science as well as contributing to Garden Answers magazine.
http://www.dawn-isaac.com

Hello and welcome to my garden

407914_10151301884339931_1667417092_nHello, you’ve somehow stumbled onto my blog! Well done, but don’t go, even if you were searching for something else. Stay awhile and have a little browse of what I’ve been up to.
First warning is this blog is about gardening and so if you are up for it and have a mild interest in gardens, then you may not die of boredom. Insomniacs, you have found Eldorado and I’ll have you off to sleep in a jiffy.

Obviously I’m an enthusiastic gardener and vegetable grower and I earn my living as a graphic designer and illustrator. I work on Garden Answers magazine in the UK which is officially the fastest growing magazine in the country. But this blog is my personal journey through the perils and triumphs, tantrums and miracles of gardening.

Visual treats
I also couldn’t resist showing you the illustrations that I do for Garden Answers. They are all about bringing to life Dawn Issac (Gold medal award-winning designer) magnificent garden ideas so that readers can get her idea in glorious technicolor.

Veggies
I have and allotment and a small town garden in Northamptonshire in the UK. I love my little garden because it is easy to adapt to whatever my current obsession is.  I don’t know about you, but gardening never stops. It’s not the up-keep so much but the design and desire for something new. The knowledge of plants grows too and this stimulates ideas for all seasons.

It’s not all about the plants
The space is small and private and place that I can express myself that’s different from my home interior. It’s obviously seasonal but not if you have a she-shed too.

The she-shed
The she-shed

The shed is part of the garden and a focal point. It’s a place of creativity that’s not only about gardening but other projects with stuff on-the-go and stuff in progress. It is the engine room for my creativity and brilliant place to go when its raining.

 

The day I first clapped eyes on my little garden.
The day I first clapped eyes on my little garden.

The garden
People think its easy-peasy having a small garden. It is in a way but its a much more intense as it really is all about the detail.
My deck area measures 8 square meters, the main area 33 square meters with a side bit of 15 square meters, where I have the green house. Its 56 square meters in all.
Just like your favorite room in your home, you want it to look gorgeous, maybe neat and tidy, possibly a little too ordered if you are like me.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing as you will see in the before photo here. Before pic what the builders didBut the builders could have done worse. I have ended up with a lot of walls. Other people walls. So its these that I am gradually making the most of with trellis that I have built myself, obviously in the she-shed! See below my herb rack that has been a delight outside the kitchen.

Herbs are thriving and look great all together.
Herbs are thriving and look great on my trellis.

Growing my own
I have an allotment too and although demanding it is educational, but also a place of peace, it’s why I have loads of stories to share with you. From the promising baby seedlings in the green house to the grandeur of the summer spectacle to the ultimate harvest.

Everyone needs bunting in their lives.
The start of something big, fingers crossed.
Allotment August 2014
Time for a sit down and a cup of tea, and admire my handy work.

Gill Lockhart

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! 😀

 

How to make a pumpkin hedgehog

Its pumpkin time and time for you to get creative.

Goards make funny faces with the hog.
Goards make funny faces with the hog.

 

 

 

So proud of my hogs.
So proud of my hogs.

Meet the the happy hogs Harriette and Henry Horatio-Hogg of Spikey Bottom, Splottlands, Cardiff….

1. Get yourself some pumpkins that have a good pointy stalk. Then lots of cheap ball point pens from Wilko that cost 28p a pachet of ten. Undo the pen bottoms and get the inky bits out. Keep the clear plastic shaft as this is the bit the light shines up.

Who would have thought that pens could be this useful.
Who would have thought that pens could be this useful.

 

2. Now cut a slice from the side of your pumpkin as this is the base. Then clean out the spew of seeds and yukky stuff. Do a good job as you want it as dry as possible in there.

What a mess, but be sure to keep the seeds.
What a mess, but be sure to keep the seeds.

 

3. Now get your weapon (the drill). Don’t be shy. Start at the ‘hairline’ and follow the natural creases of the pumpkin over its back holding the pumpkin firmly with your other hand.

There's something very satisfying about drilling a pumpkin! But please be careful.
There’s something very satisfying about drilling a pumpkin! But please be careful.

 

4. Now admire your handy-work, even though it did make a bit of a mess.

Scene of the crime.
Scene of the crime.

5. Now get your empty pen shafts and stick them in the holes.

It will take shape now....
It will take shape now….

6. Add a low-voltage light. I got this one from Ikea. Do not use a candle as the plastic pens will melt.

8. Add Light
Use a light thats neat and safe as possible as pumpkins can be damp inside.

7. For the eyes I inserted some of the spare pen ends. Black ones looked best.

You’re done! Sit back and admire your work.

The hedgehogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EVEN IF DISASTER STRIKES…

What do you do when your pumpkins, that you spent all summer growing, don’t make the grade? Plant them up and they’ll last all though November!

Funky pumpkins
Funky pumpkins

You will love them for longer.

Smokey-grey paint and mirrors

A whirl of planting the plot, painting and inspo at Chelsea

Busy it always is in Spring what with the veggie plot being so demanding. But it was now or never to get the fence painted before new foliage made it impossible. To say I’m pleased with it is an understatement! To top it off I bought a six foot garden mirror to go with the other charity-shop finds. Now it looks like a secret opening is beckoning you into a secret garden.

A grey backdrop makes the plants zing.
I made use of my old windows up at the plot.
Gate-crashers partying in the front garden. I’m cool with that.

Next I made good use of my old sash windows by screwing then together to make a cold frame for my beans while they were hardening off.
My front garden is looking lovely and fluffy with red tulips popping up to say “Hi”. Though not as many bloomed as I expected. As consolation some blue bells and for-get-me-nots gate crashed the garden. Your welcome!

Did I mention that I went to the Chelsea flower show?
My absolute favourite garden was the Japanese garden: Gosho No Niwa by Ishihara Kazuyuk.

The perfect garden. Acers, moss, water and somewhere tranquil to relax
Bins can be beautiful too.

Next was a saucey look for bins. I really must do this!
But in terms of gorgeous planting Sarah Raven knows a thing or too about the cottage look.

I don’t have a cottage garden but if I did I’d want it to be like this!

So that is all from me until we get stuck into high summer!

Chelsea Flower Show 2017

A privileged saunter round the gardens at Chelsea

I was lucky enough to get a golden ticket on press day! Trying not to get all giddy as it was my birthday too. So I took my camera and just absorbed it all. Best birthday present EVER!
The weather was glorious the planting sensational I just wanted it to never end. It was lovely to talk to some of the designers about their gardens and I came away with so many ideas for my little garden at home.

‘Beneath a Mexican’ Sky by Manoj Malde
‘Gosho No Niwa’ by Ishihara Kazuyuki
‘The Jeremy Vine Texture Garden’ by Matt Keightley
M&G Maltese quarry by James Basson
‘Hagakure – Hidden Leaves’ by Shuko Noda
‘Walker’s Wharf Garden’ by Graham Bodle
‘Through the Microscope Garden; by Ruth Willmott
‘The Poetry Lover’s Garden’ by Fiona Cadwallader
‘The Morgan Stanley Garden’ Chris Beardshaw
‘The Morgan Stanley Garden’ Chris Beardshaw
‘The Jo Whiley Scent Garden’ by Tamara Bridge and Kate Savill
‘The Chris Evans Taste Garden’ by Jon Wheatley
The Chengdu Silk Road Garden by Laurie Chetwood & Patrick Collin
‘The Anneka Rice Colour Cutting Garden ‘ by Sarah Raven
Mind trap by Ian Price
‘500 Years of Covent Garden’ by Lee Bestall
‘RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden 2017’ by Professor Nigel Dunnett
The Jeremy Vine Texture Garden by Matt Keightley

A blog about my gardening exploits to inspire, even if its looking like its all about go wrong. (Which it does, alot)