Thursday, 31 March 2011

March tends to be quite productive

More than a little pleased with the amount of time I have spent outside this month.

Turned out nice again

There are some very noticeable weather patterns in our little corner of paradise and one is that it can be unutterably foul first thing but bright and sunny by mid afternoon. Today was one of those days - horizontal rain and driving wind all morning, and around 3.00 the sun came out, the wind dropped and it was glorious for a couple of hours.

Took the opportunity to potter in the greenhouse and sow some seeds, it's a Flower day.

I am trying to keep away from annuals: lots of work and then you have to do it all again next year. However, I cannot ignore sweet peas. It will be interesting to see if mine look anything like the pictures on Sarah Raven's website.

Lathyrrus odoratus - it was hard to select just three varieties but I'm trying to be sensible about how much I grow.


Mrs Collier

Painted Lady

Have also planted two trays of her Blue Borage - would anyone like the rest of the packet, there are LOADS of seeds left?

Filled up some spare pots with an old packet of Mr Fothergill's "Sweet Pea Tall Mixed" which could be anything ... and could not resist a few pots of Ollie's Sunflowers.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

I am so glad it's raining today

Partly because the ground is dry and badly needs it and partly because it forces me to have a day off. Even so, I still didn't get around to catching up on blogs and the stupid pile of paperwork sitting on my desk.

We started on the bathroom refit on 21st February and haven't stopped since. The last six weeks have been more than a little full-on. Not complaining, we have three rooms refurbished - just waiting for electric and plumbing second fix, and for decorating. We've achieved LOADS in the garden and I'm really looking forward to the seed sowing season - perhaps this year I might be able to find growing space for everything I germinate? (Perhaps I will say that every single year at this time .....)

After years of thinking about it, recently I finally purchased a copy of Maria Thun's Biodynamic Planting Calendar and wish I'd done it sooner. Having convinced myself it would be terribly complicated I'm delighted to find easy to read charts telling me whether today is best for Fruit, Flower, Leaf or Root - it makes deciding what to work on much easier. I may always have had green paws and no difficulty in raising plants but if following lunar cycles gives me even better crops and plants, what is to lose?

So, as it was a root day, I escaped to the greenhouse mid-morning and now have Pink Fir Apple and Charlotte new potatoes in tubs. AND, the first seed of the year has germinated - a little Cosmos sown on 24th March from a packet which came free with a magazine (and were sown on a Flower day).

There is something absolutely delightful about being in the greenhouse when it is raining outside. It's a feeling up there with smelling freshly mown grass, wriggling your toes in warm sand or sitting on top of a deserted mountain just being quiet and breathing in the view.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Gravel boards and privacy

Finally got round to putting gravel boards under the trellis panels and managed the top half behind shed and greenhouse (will do the other half later).

Started to add the uber-suburban reed screen to the section which borders the "working area". Our neighbour has been very good about the mess stored around the back of the shed for the last year or so and this is our way of screening it from view.

So I thought I would carry the reed all the way through to the nursery area and screen me from view as well but tiredness prevailed ..... together with the fact that the dratted stuff is awkward to fix single-handed. I'll get Management to help at the next available opportunity and the remaining five panels will be done in less time than it took me to struggle with one.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Making the most of the skip

Before the skip gets taken away I saw an opportunity to be shot of 3 years worth of bonfire ash. As expected, a FILTHY job but remarkably quick (just over an hour) to shovel it all into buckets and tip it into all the nooks and crannies in the skip.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

What sort of day off do you call this?

Whooo hoo - extra hour of daylight! It's obviously gone to our heads because Sunday did not turn out as expected. After the boys left yesterday afternoon Management helped me clear up as much as possible and we had one of those domesticated "tomorrow if we move that bookcase into there, and that chair into there, then ...... bla bla bla" conversations and I thought we'd agreed to spend the day inside straightening up the house a bit and not working too hard.

Silly me - Management came into the kitchen at breakfast time and said "shall we get the chainsaw out and see if we can do anything with those large stumps". Well, why not? Some time later . . . we had removed two huge "discs" from the most accessible stump, had a conversation about the Law of Diminishing Returns and stopped. Yes, with a lot of effort and considerable strain on the Husqvarna engine we could get a couple of weeks worth of fuel from this pile but we're not going to. It pains both of us that instead we will end up paying John to take the ruddy things away but they are too big and too heavy. They are up for grabs if anyone else wants to do the work between now and whenever John arrives ...

Instead we moved onto the big log pile nearest the kitchen window. We're keen for this to go ASAP because the sycamore above has to come down before it falls down and we want to dig a medium sized pond in this area.

Although the view from the house didn't look much different at the end of the day, moving around to the other side told a different story.

Two huge trolley loads already stacked for next winter, one more to be unloaded and a similar sized pile on the floor - we were too tired to pick it up!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Piddling around

No point trying to dig over the fedge bed today - having Wayne & Keith here guarantees enough interruptions that I'd not be able to get stuck into the job and keep going. Also no point in starting to use The Sherpa whilst a certain builders' assistant is on site ..... Keith has already expressed an interest in wanting to see just how much soil can be piled into the rotating drum before it stops turning under the weight. I think the civilised response to that is You're not getting anywhere near it, Sunshine .... I will save The Sherpa until it's just him and me and we can slowly get acquainted and I find out how to get the best from him.

Instead, I had a lovely day messing around with small jobs which have been getting ignored recently. Fixed sturdy willow screen onto the fence near the driveway, looks much better now and covered the 'alpine bed' in sheet mulch until I am ready to work on the soil. Ditto the long fedge bed.

Put up more bird boxes. Two little wren boxes have been tucked into the mature ivy in the nursery area, no idea if they will ever be used but it's worth a try. Also put two larger boxes up, one next to the canopy trellis and one on the leeward side of the arch from the cottage garden.

Exciting stuff like washing all the garden buckets and finding a new home for them. The garlic is growing strongly and got very excited about some poo on the grass which I think is hedgehog.

Oh, and Need has nothing to do with it ...

Friday, 25 March 2011

No gardening today

There wasn't meant to be ANY GARDENING today. Hobbit extremely tired and Management is at home so the plan was that he could supervise building works whilst I took a leisurely trip to Cockermouth and did the weekly shop. Which was a Great Plan until 07.30 when we got a phone call telling us that Wayne wasn't arriving at 8.00 but Keith now had a morning free ....

After a couple of false starts and a lot of messing around and missed phone calls I got Keith firmly ensconced in the Cottage Garden with a spade in his hand. Stripping the turf off the fedge bed was easy, digging it over proved more problematic. Less than one spit down we found an almost continuous layer of big river cobbles.

Suspect at one time in the past there may have been a very 70's Island Bed in the middle of the lawn ...... As Keith's and my ideas of thorough double digging exist in separate universes it was best to cover up the bed and find the man an alternative location for his spade!

That location turned out to be a stupid little bit of grass outside the sitting room where I plan to put the rotary clothes line (which will make sense when when the washing machine is moved to the new room). Management agrees that making this into an alpine bed covered in 'scree' will be low maintenance and will look OK when I'm not drying clothes there. It also gets far more sun than the current whirlygig location.

I now have a huge pile of turf ready to be stacked behind the shed. In a year or so it should be nice crumbly loam BUT until The Sherpa and I move the bulk bag of soil which is blocking the access it will have to stay by the greenhouse. Ruddy dependencies.

In between earth moving Keith also shifted concrete blocks for me and the nursery is up and running! I need to get different planks to put on the block pillars to make better use of the space but for now this is wonderful. Also want to rig up some shade netting over the snowdrops during summer but for now I keep walking into this area and smiling! At some point I want to exchange some of the staging for coldframes but that can wait.

At the end of the day I was grinning even more - after months of waiting Patersons have finally built two of the four obelisks we've ordered. They'll look less in your face when I have put wood preservative on them and even better with Clematis Nelly Moser scrambling all over. They will give some much-needed height in the Potager and Cottage Garden without blocking the view the way a tree or shrub might.
(and they are only temporarily perched on the bed to get an idea of how they'll look)

Too busy to blog?

We're still here - getting loads done thanks to the unexpected good weather.

Completely cream-crackered at the end of every day so blog will have to wait - but there will be loads of progress and pictures when I finally do sit down at the computer!

Too busy to blog?

We're still here - getting loads done thanks to the unexpected good weather.

Completely cream-crackered at the end of every day so blog will have to wait - but there will be loads of progress and pictures when I finally do sit down at the computer!


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Getting tired

The weather is gorgeous and too nice to stay inside. Wayne & Keith back today to build up the missing wall so outside I went. Work-rate definitely down on the previous few days! Putzed around tidying up a couple of raised beds, moving perennials out of the greenhouse,

setting up more staging in the nursery area. Mid afternoon it was 95 degrees in the g/house, far too hot to comfortably (or safely) work in there!

Transplanted the remainder of the snowdrops from the raised bed. Very impressed with how much growth this group have put on since James kindly sent them to us. I confess when they arrived in March last year I was more than a little concerned that the bulbs were too dry but they definitely liked the manure-rich soil in this bed and have done very well.

Started to clean up the Male Ferns. The old fronds have done a good job protecting the crowns over winter and a couple are starting to show signs of green. Am looking forward to getting them in the ground, they have been in pots far too long.

Had a half-hearted attempt at dividing some perennials but both the geraniums and this Alchemilla mollis had a solid mass of root which defied a spade, knife and saw, so they can stay as they are and will be planted next door where they can do what they like!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A long but fabulous day

The amazing weather has finally moved into our little corner of paradise and at times today I wondered if I ought to move out of the greenhouse before I got sunstroke. With the nursery area imminently usable I spent much of the day repotting things which have overwintered in the greenhouse. Added a little more bark chips to the nursery area to level out the top section and moved some shrubs.

The Artemesia doesn't seem to have suffered and I'm glad I did not get to plant it last year. I've decided I don't like it after all (foliage too bright, variegation too 'in your face') but have a cunning plan. I've agreed with elderly neighbour that I'm going to make good all the soil which was trampled when the trellis fence was erected and have promised him "a few plants". This is a mutually beneficial arrangement - he gets to look at something half decent and I get a chance to remove some of the worst weeds on his side before they grow back into our garden again. He's not a gardener, never will be, and is more than happy to leave me to it. Conveniently I now have a home for any surplus plants although there are valid questions about my sanity in taking on part of someone else's garden when I have so much of our own to deal with!

Dug up lots of the snowdrops which have spent a year in one of the raised beds. During a long repotting session I even wondered if it was possible to have too many but once they get replanted in the autumn I am sure I'll complain there are not enough. Still have to move the Bressingham Bulbs from James and I'd like to keep them separate from the "local" ones if I can.

Cleared out the strawberry bed and potted on 22 runners. Sowed Nigella, Lupins, Teasels and Aquilegia.

Mid afternoon the latest delivery of garden materials arrived. Strewth - I'd forgotten just how HEAVY concrete blocks are, even with the sack barrow I can only comfortably move one at a time, thank Dog they were offloaded onto the upper part of the garden, not on the drive.

When we moved to Cumbria I made a conscious decision to stop wearing a watch. Not knowing exactly what time it is can be extremely liberating - and also cause surprises. No wonder the light was going when I packed up tonight - it was 6.45pm.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

It's one way of getting the driveway cleared

What should have been an "easy" day was also incredibly hard work. More levelling of soil, pegging down black membrane and then shifting barrow after barrow of tree surgeon chippings.

I knew Keith was working at a nearby house and after lunch called him and admitted I couldn't manage on my own. Bless him, he turned up for another 1½ hours after he'd finished work and moved everything for me, including filling a spare builders' bag with the remainder.

Monday, 21 March 2011

More soil shifting

If Keith can move 1½ tons of soil in 2 hours and then bounce off as fresh as a daisy, how come moving a similar amount took me the ENTIRE DAY and left me almost unable to walk at the end of it? (On second thoughts, if you've got an answer to that question, please keep it to yourself!)

Monday was great but utterly exhausting. I looked at the soil levels after Keith gone over the nursery area at the weekend and decided, typically, that I wanted to make things more level. Writing this a few days later I am really glad I did but it was very, very hard work.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A game of two halves?

A weekend that was split down the middle.

Saturday: bright, sunny, warm enough to work outside in a shirt, gorgeous Spring day. The bulk of The Sherpa in the shed meant that I could no longer put off sorting out all the tubs and boxes which had made their way onto the shed floor over the winter resulting in absolutely no floor space and difficulty in getting to/finding everything.

Keith arrived for another couple of hours in the Nursery and was able to dig up the yew which I thought I'd have to sacrifice. It may survive - it may not, but for now has been carefully planted in a big tub and put in a sheltered spot behind the house. Fingers crossed, it would be such a shame to lose it. I want to move more soil before I put down membrane and bark, but we're definitely moving in the right direction.

The digging fiend informs me that this is about 1½ tons of soil ... the plan is to clean it up with the assistance of The Sherpa and use it to supplement the (not yet dug) beds in the Cottage Garden. It is lovely soil and would be a shame to "waste" it under the nursery area floor covering.

Management needs to create an enclosure in his garage to prevent muck from the grinder and polishing wheels spraying everywhere. A bit of lateral thinking and I suggested a cheapo plastic greenhouse which he found on offer in Cockermouth. This worked perfectly - except it is too big and takes up more floor space than he wants so it had to be relocated. My "greenhouse within a greenhouse" space has now been tripled although I suspect I'll complain it is still not enough once seed sowing gets going in earnest.

Sunday: damp, windy, low cloud - a continuation of the crappy weather yesterday evening which prevented even a glimpse of the huge new moon. Management wired up the European two-pin plug which came with The Sherpa and we had fun running it in the shed - but with no soil. Looking forward to putting it to work outside. Whilst in tool mode Management also made some adjustments to an old shredder which has never worked particularly well, but I think it might get quite a bit of use in the future because he seems to have improved it's cutting ability considerably.

Despite the rubbish weather, Spring is here. Daffodils are blooming, the rhubarb is heading skywards and after hearing the Curlew for the past week, I have finally seen him above the house. The rhubarb bed also contains the one which got away. An over-wintered garlic is busy growing into something potentially huge - will be interesting to see what it's like when I finally harvest it.

Something is germinating enthusiastically in the fedge bed. There is a distinct possibility that in a moment of madness I dropped some seeds here so I'll leave them a bit longer until I can identify them - who knows, I might want to transplant some of them elsewhere. If nothing else they will be a little easier to pull out when bigger.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Easier than expected

Landfill crisis averted by an early morning phone call to the skip company. A couple of hours later a 6 yard container was delivered instead of the smaller one I'd originally ordered.

I didn't mean to fill it in one afternoon . . . but the debris was easier to move than expected and I worked gently, and all of a sudden the driveway was clear except for the remains of a couple of bulk bags, the contents of which Wayne is going to take for a job he's doing at his own home. The skip has room for the rubbish still to come out of the sewing-room-to-be and I have plans to add some more garden rubbish.