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Archive for the ‘Garden Updates’ Category

So I haven’t been on here for QUITE some time… Almost two years in fact. During the past couple of years James and I have experienced a bit of upheaval, change and a rather large setback which thankfully we have managed to move past.
So to explain … We have moved from Malvern back to Bromsgrove, which is where we are both from originally. The main reason for this is that we both have new jobs!! James now commutes to London where he has a very swanky and important Software Developer job for one of the big consultancies there, and I am now working as a Manager at a rather large and well known chocolate manufacturers based in the midlands.
So unfortunately we left our rural idyll and have moved into a lovely Victorian semi with a lovely long but shadowy garden. We are settled here now and James is home each weekend.
The setback I speak of was a rather nasty horse riding accident that culminated in me fracturing my L1 vertebrae ( the very middle of the back) and needing three months of basic bed rest. So basically no garden action occurred during or in fact after my recovery period, sadly. I did manage to pot up and grow some beautiful orchids from bulbs though …
We also have a new addition to the family. I would like to introduce…. Claude the kitten, affectionately known as ‘Claudey’, ‘Monsieur le Claude’ or claudeyface. He will feature fairly heavily in the blog I should think, particularly as he is quite a character!

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Tulips!

Isn’t spring lovely?? What a lovely weekend we are having so far. To0day James has been weeding the flower beds and moving some plants from shady areas to give them a bit more direct sunlight. He has also planted out our giant sunflowers, which is VERY exciting, cant wait to see how tall these grow this year!!

The tulips and hyacinth bulbs that we planted in the raised bed are looking beautiful, here are a few snaps!

Our hanging basket full of pansies is also looking brilliant…

And I’ve cut some of the hyacinths to use as cut flowers on our conservatory, on account of their lovely fragrance!

Lets hope the weather stays like this!!!

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Well, we have made a good start on our gardening, the weather was lovely yesterday, do I spy the coming of Spring… I do hope so….

First up we checked the compost, which doesnt seem to be quite ready yet, boooo. Oh well, maybe next year…!

Next up, we planted the three peony bulbs, two in the front bed and one in the rockery. We dug a nice deep hole and popped the bulb in, with the fresh new shoots facing upward, and gave them a good water. I cant wait to see how these grow.We also raked up all of the leaves and twigs that had blown onto the vegetable patches. James raked and dug his vegetable patch ready for when the seed potatoes go in.

I meanwhile potted up seeds for: aubergines, two varieties of tomato (super marmande – big beefsteak tomatoes, and rio grande – plum tomatoes), giant sunflowers, romano peppers, sweet basil and lettuce (lollo rosso – red leaved variety). These will now stay in the conservatory and be watered each day until they sprout into little plants big enough to put into the ground. The sunflowers will be grown against the back of the garage to try to disguise it a little.

We also had a little walk around the garden and already we have snowdrops and crocuses sprouting through. The Helibores are budding and we have tulip and hyacinth bulbs coming through. The hollyhock and lupins that I planted last year seem to be doing well and shortly we will need to think about creating a new hanging basket for the front of the house. I might have a go at making one myself.

So all in all, a successful day, the next step will be chitting the seed potatoes ready to go into the vegetable patch. I will do a step by step guide to this when we start to do it.

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Well yesterday was definitely a day of two halves. We had a very successful day in the garden (more on that later) but it didnt start off too well.

Our house is not on mains drainage. which basically means we have a septic tank on our property that has a very infuriating habit of blocking. I can always tell when it has become blocked because I will put the washing machine on and halfway through a cycle, the drain for the washing machine will overflow. So we were getting our wellies on ready to go into the garden yesterday morning when lo and behold, we noticed that the drain was overflowing. ARGH!

So after a trip to B&Q to buy some new drainage rods and forty five minutes of rodding, pouring water into the tank and flushing the toilet repeatedly, we managed to clear it. Brilliant! I thought, now we can get on with the garden work.

So there we were, working away when from the field across the road from our house we could hear a lamb bleating. Nothing unusual there, except it continued for over an hour and steadily became more urgent. So I walked over and peered through the fence. There was a little lamb stuck between the fence and the stream. We dont know who  owns these sheep so I trudged round to see if I could get into the field to try to help it, turns out I couldnt.

Then just to top the day off nicely, on my way back I happened to glance down at the grass and found two young foxes lying on the ground having been shot with half of their insides hanging out.

Sometimes, I really hate living in the countryside.

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This week James is on a course and I have to admit I am getting a bit bored at home without him ( I am off out for dinner with my friend Holly tonight though, to see ‘Black Swan’ – I hope it is as good as the reviews say). However, we have lots to look forward to as this weekend we have decided to start work on the garden!

My sister gave a lovely present this weekend of some poppy seeds from the V&A museum in London, which are an orange, red and yellow variety, so I am going to sow these in the front and side beds mixed in with my red field poppies.

In my head, I want that front bed to look like a portrait by Monet, all bright smudgy colours! I am basically aiming to create this look, but with flowers rather than pre-bought plants and shrubs:

I also want to potentially start looking at potting up some vegetable seeds. I am going to read up a little more on this though as I dont want to start them off too early and then lose them if the conservatory becomes too cold. The weather ‘looks’ as though it is heading towards spring, but you just never know, plus there was a frost on my car this morning.

James will probably start digging in some of our homemade compost into the vegetable patches, in preparation.  We also need to tidy up the shed and prune the weeping willow which has grown into such a monster that we may need to call a Tree-surgeon in!

I also spotted some lovely rose shrubs and some bulbs on offer in Morrisons this week which I may look at purchasing. I cant wait!

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Last year was the first time James and I had ever attempted ‘serious’ gardening, We had some great successes, quite a few failures and we spent an inordinate amount of money. Here are some things that we learnt from the experience:

Make your own compost – It really is a massive cost saver and is sooo easy. If I can refer you back to my previous posts on compost, you can sometimes actually order a compost bin from local councils for about £15 If not, DIY stores, amazon.com, ebay and your local garden centre are all good places to look. Then, just throw your garden waste, old tea bags, vegetable peelings, old fruit and vegetables and egg shells into it, and try to also add layers of cardboard (I used the cardboard from my amazon delivery boxes) and newspaper now and then. We started doing ours last year and it should be ready for us to use this year, meaning we dont have to buy bags of compost and plant feed to dig into the soil, we have our own free supply already!

Growing things from seed is trial and error but cheaper than buying plants! – I started a lot of our vegetable plants from seed last year and the majority of the plants worked well. However, dont do too many lettuce than you need (we did FAR too many and most of them rotted in the ground), spring onions didnt work at all for us last year but that may be due to me planting too many seeds in one tray, and seed tomatoes grew quite weak and spindly ( the actual tomato plants that we bought did much better).

Building a raised bed is EXPENSIVE – Fair play to all those lucky gardeners who salvage big pieces of wood to construct raised beds from, we got ours from a trade gardener’s store and they still cost us almost £150 all in all to buy. You can get smaller ready made ones and if I was to have any more in the garden, I would buy lots of the smaller ready made ones instead. It isnt just the wood either, the cost of the soil, compost etc needed to fill it soon mounts up. I am really glad that we have ours as anything that is planted in there seems to really thrive, but I am not sure we would repeat the experience, not to mention the cost.

Plants cant get enough water, especially in Summertime – Last summer it felt like all we did was constantly walk around the garden watering plants. How our water bill didnt rise extortionately, I do not know. Hanging baskets especially need LOADS of water, particularly in the 25 degree plus heat that sometimes we are lucky enough to get.

Supermarkets are a great source of cheap garden plants, tools and seeds – Morrisons in particular was amazing last year, and our garden is full of plants that we bought which I hope will really flourish this year. Strawberry plants and pumpkin plants are only £1 and packets of seeds about 75p.

 

Timing, position and feeding the soil are really important – By timing I mean what time of year is the best time to plant different things,  by position I mean where you are going to plant something, i.e in sun, partial shade, under a tree etc. By feeding the soil I mean that it is extremely important to ‘dig things in’ to your garden soil, this could be compost,manure or even special plant food. The advice that you receive on these different things should not be ignored.

I hope these bits of advice help you, too.

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Well, after a bitterly cold, snowy winter in which we literally did NOTHING on the garden except occasional half hearted tidying up, it is time to think about what to do on the garden this year.

This year we are going to go to the Malvern Spring Gardening show in May to get some ideas. Tickets are only £15 if you buy them online now from: http://www.threecounties.co.uk/springgardening/ and believe me, they dont half go up in price if you buy them on the day!! We are going on Sunday 15th May and I cant wait!

Anyway…back to ideas for what we are going to concentrate on this year. At the end of the summer I bought LOADS of packets of flower seeds. These include wildflower mixes, sweet williams and some lovely red field poppies. I have decided that rather than spend a fortune at the garden centre buying plants for the beds, I am going to throw all of my seeds into the front bed (which is directly in front of the house as you approach it) and pray for lots of different brightly coloured wildflowers to grow.

you may remember that we planted lots of tulip bulbs in the raised bed as a bit of an experiment. Well I am pleased to say that it looks like they are coming through ALREADY (a wee bit early, but still!) so in the raised bed we should hopefully have lots of brightly coloured tulips for early spring. Once these have come and gone, my plan is to dig up the tubers (the bulbs that they have sprouted from) and to move these to the back bed. That means that the following year we would have an actual flower bed full of tulips.

In february (after the frosts have passed) I am going to start some vegetable seeds off. This year we have decided to do petit pois, sweetcorn, potatoes, onions and rocket, and we will be growing tomatoes in the conservatory again this year.

I will be buying my sweet corn seeds from http://www.simplyseeds.co.uk as their F1 Swift seeds were absolutely brilliant last year.

This year I will start the seedlings off in individual pots right from the beginning as all the moving about from seedling trays to pots to into the ground disturbed a lot of the seeds last year. I will be potting them up in anything from small plastic plant pots to saved yoghurt pots to old teacups!

My most ambitious plan for the garden this year is to create another bed on the other side of the garage, facing the one that James created for his potatoes last year. This will be a full days’ digging at least, so we will have to wait for the better weather to start this I think.

Other plans include buying and painting an old picnic bench, so that we have somewhere to sit and eat on sunny evenings and weekends (lets hope we actually get some of those this year). We also need to buy some plants for the pots and James would also like to plant some rhubarb in the shady part of the garden.

I will update the blog as soon as we start our garden work!

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