Saturday, 30 June 2018

The garden in June

A random selection of favourite images, not many words.

Not nearly enough of these:

I am certain a pair of Pied Wagtails are nesting in the big log pile, cannot get any pictures and don't want to poke around and risk disturbing them.

Clematis 'Fond Memories'

The 'meadow' in our Cottage Garden lawn


Too much sun . . . in West Cumbria, who would ever imagine I'd say that?

Friday, 29 June 2018

Net-house, and a hosta update

When a bed looks like this it makes my heart soar.  The possibilities, the potential, the greenery and growth - there's nothing like it and this is what makes me love gardening.  Unfortunately my track record in the food production department has been "Jayne 0, Slugs 876 . . ." but with little blue pellets in a protected space that birds cannot get to I might just be tipping the balance back in my favour.

When a bed looks like this . . . it's just flippin' depressing.

The two areas where I dug the soil were my little archaeological test pits and confirmed that there was not a single shred of asparagus plant, not even a tiny part of a decaying root system.  Dead.  Gone.  Eaten to extinction.   So I put some of the runner bean plants in this area and threw little blue pellets around.

Thanks to Management's help (cutting weld mesh) I now have a set of runner bean/climbing plant supports which are strong but portable & light enough that I can move them around without help.

Typically, far more beans germinated than I really needed, so I've planted them in two blocks, one at each end of the net-house, on the north side (but facing south) where they will get the most light.

On the south side I've already got garlic which is not doing very well this year.  I thought the problem was the dry spell and my not watering sufficiently but when I did a 'test dig' of some plants which had died back there is nothing beneath the stalk - no garlic bulb and the soil is remarkably moist.

Did I get around to blogging that I moved the strawberries this Spring when the fruit cage was cleared out?  They seem to be settling into their new home quite well and have been absolutely delicious this season.  I took three boxes with me on holiday, Management ate 'generously' whilst I was away, and we're having fresh berries with double cream nearly every night,  food miles approximately 25 metres 😊

The smaller plants are, predictably, producing smaller fruits.  The larger ones are just showing off:

The day before I went to Scotland I tipped bags of unused potting compost onto the remaining beds and sowed a variety of seeds:  spinach, baby carrots, cavelo nero and swiss chard.  Finally, the remains of a packet of globe artichoke - any plants I have germinated in previous years have been eaten to nothing but this time I am hoping that I can get them big enough and resilient enough to transplant outside next Spring.  Here goes nothing . . .

Finally, the asparagus, which is where this all started.  Originally I planted 20 crowns, ten each of two varieties.  All of the "Purple Pacific" variety have gone, BUT, either happily or heartbreakingly - depending on your perspective - as soon as the slug pellets went down, the remaining five "Gijnlim" plants started growing, and growing, and growing and are really doing well.

These are the latest pictures (today):

Moving to the other end of the garden - a hosta update.

At the end of April when I realised the new hosta shoots were under attack I surrounded each plant with a ring of crushed eggshells and sprayed them liberally with a garlic solution.  The garlic spray has been repeated every three weeks or so and the result is astounding.  There is some nibbling and after nearly two months without rain they are getting a bit tired, but overall the plants have never been so good.

At the time it occurred to me that if I was being structured and scientific I would run this as a proper test with four plants of the same variety, and:

1.  Use garlic and eggshells
2.  Use eggshells only
3.  Use garlic only
4.  Do nothing.

Well I didn't do anything of the sort because I was going for Option 1 on every single plant, wanting the best growth possible.  Only it didn't turn out like that because I completely forgot one lone little hosta at the other end of the Coppice. Poor little thing - I have apologised profusely to it and promised that it will get much love and cosseting for the rest of the year.  It's not a scientific control or a proper test (different variety) but THIS is what happens when you give no assistance whatsoever.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Settle down, buckle up, this is going to be a long ride


Fashionable bloggers often select a word as their theme for the year, heck, I tried it once myself but not being remotely fashionable it did work very well for me 😊   But if I had to have a word to describe May and June it would most certainly be RELENTLESS.

There you go, all those little words in blue.  That has been the last two months.

When I was writing this post in my head one of the possible intro's was "Be careful what you wish for".  Oh yes, be very careful about that!  At the end of April, I had a grumble in my 'comments'.  I wrote:

my problem is the weather. If I knew I could go outside for an hour every morning after breakfast
then gardening at Bag End would be perfect. 
In a month or two I would have virtually nothing to do!! 
The problem here is that more often than not the weather doesn’t let me do what I want when I want/need to do it, 
so when we can get outside there’s always a backlog to catch up with

For the past few weeks I have been chuckling to myself about this little statement.  Because I ~have~ had the weather to enable going outside every morning and would you "Adam and Eve it", I now have virtually nothing to do except mow the grass, water things, and do 'elective' gardening, rather than the constant fire-fighting which has been my horticultural life for so long.

It has not been gardening 24/7.  Management had to make two trips down to his Mum to help when she broke her hip, and I had a bug on one of those occasions and used the second to have a damn good rest, but even so we have been outside nearly every other day, tackled big long-overdue jobs, and lots of small "never got to them because there wasn't time" jobs, and all of a sudden I can stop, look around and instead of the shoulders going down because "all" I can see is the endless litany of work not done, I now see a GARDEN.  I have to confess, it is Pretty.Bloody.Amazing.  Only taken ten long years . . .

One of the Big Wins was making a huge decision to use slug pellets, progress in the Net House will get its own post after this one.

In mid-May I wrote myself another list, which I unearthed this morning and it's as good a place to start as any (because I'm struggling to remember everything that's been done!)

I planted up a new bed near the drive; one of the cotoneasters has died (it was a self-seeded plant, fortunately there are others) and the rowan appeared out of the compost heap earlier this year.  It was Management's idea to put a small tree here, and we have it's twin in the staggered beds.  This morning I put shade net around both, it might help a little in this current ludicrous weather and I will probably leave the netting in place until next Spring to give some protection over winter.

I have some Crocosmia growing on in the cold frames which will be planted into the gap at the back of the heathers, but not until the weather settles down.  Aside from the Crocosmia, nearly everything from the cold frames has been planted out so that's another 'tick' off the list 😊.

Management helped me secure the obelisks; two are in the fruit cage supporting Honeyberry plants.  Someone told me I would not get any fruit, cannot remember the reason she gave, but whatever it was it was wrong;  there are a few small berries.  Tried some this morning but they are not quite ready and still a little sharp, even for my taste.  Interesting flavour, will have to work out what it reminds me of.

The other two obelisks are in the big border at the side of the Cottage Garden.  No idea (yet) what I will grow up them, but that's not important right now.

I brewed up some exceptionally pungent garlic spray and gave the hostas a good drenching, that little anti-mollusc topic deserves a post of its own . . . to follow :)

I had to do more tweaking at The Bag End Buffet.  Some months back I got fed up of the larger birds (corvids) hogging all the food and lifting the peanut feeders off their hooks and throwing them on the ground to get at the contents.  The endlessly useful protection cages from Gardman found a new use; small songbirds, blackies, starlings and woodpeckers can all get inside - the magpies, jackdaws, rooks and crows cannot.

But never under-estimate the intelligence of corvid species who worked out they could STILL displace the peanut holders.  Even when I'd used spring clamps . . . little sods!

Enter a couple of sheets of perspex, left over from goodness knows what, and some carefully drilled holes & a few cable ties.  The cages now have clear 'lids' which not only keep the corvids out, but will also act as a see-through roof if we ever get any rain.

After the BIG achievement getting our soil heap moved, I covered all of the bed with a very thick layer of chippings.  Six tubs per trip - ten trips . . . that's a lot of mulch.  The bucket near the black trellis marks a hole ready for a tree (when the weather breaks).  Jury is split between the lovely Himalayan white birch, Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, which looks stunning all year round, or the temptation of a Prunus 'Amanogawa' which is another favourite.  I already have three of the birch . . . decisions, decisions.

Management then raked and smoothed, and raked some more and just before I went to Scotland we took the risk of seeding the whole area.  The section at the back has a mixture of native plants, some Yellow Rattle seed I saved last year (which should really be sown fresh) and a couple of odd packets of "wildflower meadow mix" that had been sitting in the seed box for far too long.  The front section is ordinary grass seed.   I hate to have to do it, but yes, the hose had been out when this picture was taken 😞.

At the same time Management moved more of the bark chip into a storage bin, hot work in this weather.  We still have a pile the size of a small car waiting to be relocated!

That will do for now :)   I am off to sit in the shade and read.