Tag Archives: lifestyle

Compost. Choose The Best.

Healthy Plants In Clover Compost

Healthy Plants In Clover Compost

compost2

Cheap Compost, Small, Unhealthy Plants

I’ve put two photos before you today, having noticed the difference between two lots of seedlings treated in exactly the same way. They were sown in the same seed tray, then pricked out into modules. They are verbascum seedlings which I’ve never grown before. That doesn’t matter. What does is the noticeable difference in size, development and vigour. The only thing making a difference here is the compost. One is Clover, the best I can find and recommended by my favourite garden centre. The plants growing in this are coming along well and the difference between them and the supermarket, three bags for a tenner compost is marked. The plants grown in this are small,  pale and not growing well at all. It has very little nutrient and the plants don’t like it. Fortunately I have plenty of healthy plants and can afford to throw out the weaklings if needed. I’ve noticed a lower germination rate in seed trays, too, with the cheap compost.

When choosing compost, make sure it’s the right one for the job. Seeds don’t need food to germinate, and at first you want good root development, so making the roots stretch looking for them is no bad thing. But once they are pricked out to grow on, they need more food. So start them in a GOOD QUALITY seed and cutting cxompost, then pot them on into more appropriate, again quality compost. Standard all purpose will be fine for young vegetables, garden annuals and perennials that don’t have specific requirements such as being acid lovers. We can delve more into the mysteries of acid and alkali loving plants in another post. For now, just remember that poor quality compost will waste your time, money and seeds. Buy the best you can afford and avoid disappointment.

Have you experienced problems with your growing medium?

Best Laid Garden Plans

Daisy surveying the work to be done.

Daisy surveying the work to be done.

Well, I thought I had it all organised. So much for thought. The men I’m employing to do the heavy work of laying a path, shed bases and  building a pond came to let me know they couldn’t start until Monday. They believed Thursday’s weather forecast and didn’t come then because of the heavy rain due. It turned out a lovely afternoon. Then they couldn’t come today. So now it’s Monday. On top of that, I got back from shopping yesterday to find the company I bought my pond from hadn’t delivered in the time slot they’d given me. Then they rang. Their courier had lost seven 6ft 8” x 4ft 6” ponds. How or where no-one seems to know. How do you lose seven large plastic objects the size of a car? Anyway, by last night mine had been found. It is now stashed in a depot somewhere. But as it happens, I’m not worried. It’s better in a depot than the back garden in high wind. Apparently, according to the man from the water garden supplier they make enormous impressive kites in high wind! So it’s all coming together next week instead of this week. Hopefully it WILL all come together.

Path in progress

Path in progress

In the meantime, all my special perennial seeds have been sown, relevant instructions followed and fingers crossed.

It's All Being Cleared!

It’s All Being Cleared!

UPDATE – The workmen have started! The landscaping is underway. I’m thrilled. And my pond, all the gravel for the paths and the accompanying bits and pieces arrive tomorrow. I’ll see massive progress, as the path is dug, the rubbish cleared and a shed base has been laid. Despite gale force wind and despite rain, hail and sleet over the past couple of days, they’ve got on with the job and I’m very pleased so far. Seedlings are emerging from the compost and all is well in my gardening world.

The Path

The Path

So I’ve spent today clearing out my shed, cleaning and oiling tools and throwing out anything broken, rubbish or no longer needed. I can now find a rake, shears or plant food without breaking my neck! Ready for the season of plenty.

Fabulous Parsnips

Fabulous Parsnips

I’m spurred on by parsnips. Yes, parsnips. I planted some last year and we ate them over Christmas. Or so I thought. There was another row and they’ve continued to grow. I had to clear the ground ready for the landscapers. These are just some of them. They’re over 12” long and the largest weighs 750g. That’s a 1 1/2 lb parsnip! We ate one roasted last night. The scent and taste are FAR superior to shop bought, so I’m convinced I must fill the three 10’ x 4’ beds going in very soon and kept full ( though of course not all with parsnips) for our dining pleasure. Roll on harvests.

Growing Magic

Khol Rabi

Kohl Rabi

As I left my desk yesterday, having published my blog, I went to check a seed tray for the fourth time that day. I knew germination wouldn’t take long IF the seed was viable. I’d left pots last autumn in the greenhouse that hadn’t been tidied up at all, as I couldn’t do it. There were seeds on the dahlia Coltness Hybrids dead stalks. Now I’ve no idea what I’ll get from them crossing naturally, but free dahlias? The bees love them and so do I. Anyway, as I was saying, I checked the seed rather obsessively again as I left my desk. The first loop of seed leaf stem had pushed through. So exciting! Well, I’m now on an adventure through the season with my seedlings. How tall will they grow? Will I get anything new? Different? I’m willing to see what nature has done.

Migraine has scuppered most progress today, but I have discovered that the mother dahlias from last year from which I harvested the seed have survived total neglect. I’ve taken off the dead tops, potted them up and watered, so they should start back into growth. It’s such a magical process. Roots forming on cuttings, plants laying dormant all winter, seed germinating. I’ve been gardening all my life and it’s still seems like magic to me. Nature battles hard to survive!

Some fuchsias are hanging in there too so they’ve been given the same treatment. Sat on the sofa, I’ve been through my entire burgeoning seed collection and sorted it out. With free seeds out of magazines, Christmas gifts of vegetable seeds and those I’ve bought I could, if I sowed them all, feed the whole of Coalville! So I’ve given some away to a friend with an allotment and at the end of this season will thin them out even more. I’m just not sure yet which will get used up and which will still be a massive surplus. But I’m in a position now to choose from several varieties of fresh greens, Chinese veg and many others. My friend has given me a couple of artichoke roots, so I’m going to try growing them for the first time. I’ve never eaten one, either, so this is entirely experimental. Nothing ventured!

The first kohl rabi seed have made their appearance this morning. Every day new life, more excitement for the growing season. If only my health would improve! I could do so much more.

My mum has requested plants for her garden as she’s banished some that were thugs. So, I guess I’ll be sowing more perennials so I can share out the results later this year. That for the most part is seed I’ll need to buy. Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow and will be able to continue sowing and sorting out the greenhouse, which I’m going to reorganise. I want to make more space for tomatoes, ornamental gourds and of course that continuous supply of veg.

Samhain Makeover New Problems, New Solutions

Most of this blog so far has been about growing food, gardening and outdoor stuff. Recent changes to my health have kind of grounded me. I’ve had to accept I just can’t do a lot of the things I used to be able to. My muscles are weak, so I can’t lift, I don’t have much stamina and of course my broken ribs have left me sore. Since then I caught flu which led to a chest infection, so since August I’ve felt pretty useless. Until I started up and old hobby, as something to do during my enforced rest. I’ve taken up crochet again. And I can’t stop! Fortunately now it’s winter, the garden is going to sleep anyway, no doubt happily, and full of wildlife as I have left things pretty untidy, the way the critters like it.

I’ve already started showing off my crochet, so if you want a peek here’s a link to my Facebook page. Here’s a taster.

All My Own Work

All My Own Work

I also love patchwork and sewing, so as my son has now vacated my spare bedroom my ambition is to turn it into a craft room. ALL the furniture came to me for free! I mentioned I wanted a drop leaf table to a friend. ‘Oh, I’ve got one gathering dust, he said.’ A neighbour is clearing her house and has a large wall unit perfect for storage. She wants rid of it so has given it to me. The friend I visited in Chippenham I mentioned in my last post has given me a little table with a life up top, perfect to go by my machine to hold scissors and cutting wheels etc. The rest I’ve got from Freegle. It’s all mismatched and old, but solid wood and sturdy, so I’m not only decorating the room, but up-cycling lots of furniture. My plan is a silvery grey wallpaper, Mossy green curtains, grey muslin curtains to mask my partners bookshelves then Royal purple furniture. I’m hoping it will look absolutely fabulous. The room faces almost north and has a big bay window. Here is where my table will sit, and is great light for sewing or photography.

You can see the state of the room I’m tackling. Vacated but certainly not sorted. So I have my work cut out, but it will be fun and worth it. I hope to set up my own little craft business on Etsy in a few weeks. So this space will become my workroom. I’ve done patchwork for most of my adult life and have crochet enough hats to keep the whole town warm. So it’s time to make my craft skills pay.I’m hoping to be able to post some tutorials here, so watch this space. See me develop the room, convert the furniture and make the crafts, as well as updates on the veggies. I do have some beet for its leaves and salad in the greenhouse, and we’re still eating broccoli, chard, and have turnips and Hamburg parsley to harvest, despite my health problems. Here are some photos of the room and stuff that I want to up-cycle. I’m going to see my mum for a few days before I make a start, so don’t expect overnight miracles!

My Potential Craft Room

My Potential Craft Room

The Well Lit Bay Window For My Sewing Machine

The Well Lit Bay Window For My Sewing Machine

The Freecycle Chest Of Drawers

The Freecycle Chest Of Drawers

My Sewing Machine Table, Ready For its Makeover

My Sewing Machine Table, Ready For its Makeover

Cute little table for my scissors etc

Cute little table for my scissors etc

Pine, Soon To Be Purple Chair

Pine, Soon To Be Purple Chair

My Mega Trip And Progress

It’s been a while since I posted here and for very good reasons. I told you I was going away to see some old friends, and on the lookout for new ideas. The trip started out just fine, going down to Chippenham in Wiltshire, where one of my oldest friends now lives. He’s partially sighted and works with the parks and gardens department there. He took me around his place of work, a beautiful park with the river Avon running through it. My dog, Daisy was thrilled, as every time we walked into town we had to cross the park, throwing her ball all the way. He lives so close I could easily take her there for more exercise. There were some interesting sculptures in the park, one inscribed by local children. I like ornamentation in the garden, especially if it can include a smile or a scream, as you’ll see from my earlier posts. Chippenham is an ancient town, and on one of the walls I spotted some ferns, proving that plants are opportunists and will grow wherever they can.

Ferns growing in an old wall

Ferns growing in an old wall

I then moved a bit further on and visited someone in Warminster, a military town. My friend there has a new allotment, where I went to see what she was up to, and ended up spending some time helping her thin out her overgrown tomatoes. Outside she grows her vegetables alongside flowers, promoting a healthier balance and keeping the pests at bay, as she’s bringing in the pollinators and the pest controllers.

Lettuce and marigolds

Lettuce and marigolds

 

She had a lovely garden, too, complete with a Buddah. It was a very tranquil space, with wind chimes, but not the high pitched twinkly type. The low, resonating sound was very calming and peaceful.

Buddha

Buddha

Unfortunately, while I was there, just after taking this shot, I dropped my camera. It broke the UV filter, but that saved my lens! The nearest place to get a replacement filter happened to be Taunton, on my way down to Oakhampton. The shop was very friendly and I soon had my replacement filter. Then the problems started. There were road works. It was a hot day. I got stuck in a huge traffic jam lasting for hours. So tired and hot, by the time I got off the motorway, I didn’t realise it, but I was getting confused. And lost. A two hour journey turned out to take ten. And while looking for my directions, leaning over the back seat whilst parked in the wrong village eight miles away, I broke two ribs. I can’t tell you how scary that was at ten o’clock at night, alone and in the dark on the edge of Dartmoor.

Anyway, to cut a long story as short as possible, I eventually made it to my friends. I proved I can still cut it independently. And this is what I woke up to the following morning.

Village pond

Village pond

I watched wrens flitting around in the climbers at the back of the pond, only feet away. They wouldn’t see me. The camper makes a great hide. I tried to get photos, but my sore ribs prevented me from getting into the right position and staying still.

Church Cottage

Church Cottage

I didn’t see as much as I would have liked of my friend or the area, as I had to cut my visit short and make my way home to recover. He grows peaches on his smallholding, keeps a rare breed of sheep and has a wonderful tepee on the land. His philosophy is the same as mine – as carbon neutral and organic as humanly possible. He’s trying forest style gardening for the first time, and I’ve asked him to keep me abreast of developments. Not many photos, I’m afraid. Walking Daisy was painful, and carrying camera equipment impossible, but I’ve included one photo of the pond on my ‘doorstep’ and of my friend’s lovely home, an ancient church cottage. With a spiral staircase and lovely deep, rib soaking bath!

My trip turned out to be one of 700 miles. It’s a shame I couldn’t see more of Dartmoor, of the gardens in the area and take more photos, but certainly showed me I’m more capable of coping alone than I thought I was. My ribs are beginning to mend, though all this only happened 2 ½ weeks ago. So I’m only just starting to do things in the garden again, starting with the blight ridden tomato removal and taking off the shading ready for winter crops. The greenhouse is getting a very thorough clean, slowly, and someone else is doing any heavy lifting, but gingerly I’m getting on with it as I want my winter salads, such as lettuce and spring onions. More next time…..

Holiday, Wildlife, The Garden and Photography

I’m getting my final packing for my holiday done today. Once the camper is packed and my bed in the back made up, I’ll be able to do the last bit of watering, feeding and harvesting of vegetables to take with me. Thereafter, I’ll be on the road. But I’ll be looking out for inspiration, ideas for my plot. I’ll be spotting wildlife (I hope) with my camera, my binoculars and my scope. With any luck, I’ll be able to keep you informed along the way. If I can’t get an internet connection, I’ll catch up with you when I get home. The camera battery is fully charged and I can’t wait to get out there and take some great shots. I’m after wildlife, flowers, insects etc. I’m learning as I go and every shot of a creature helps me identify them, and in some instances add to general knowledge by including them in the various surveys being done by researchers. You could, too.

Home And Studio For The Next Couple Of Weeks.

Home And Studio For The Next Couple Of Weeks.

 

I’ve found some very interesting areas to survey, and we can all take part. Children would love to join in. Springwatch made the point that all you have to do is show a child a bug and they are instantly interested and fascinated by it. They want to know more. Why not help them learn by looking up the bug? Then add it to a survey, and further conservation efforts, becoming part of the solution. Here’s a list of links you can check out for yourself.

Buglife are looking for a rare beetle, an Oak aphid and more. Their site also offers links to other key wildlife surveys. Suffolk Wildlife Trust need you to record with them hedgehog sitings, anywhere in the UK. Hedgehogs are in big trouble. You’ll also find on this site information about how to help them. Their numbers have dropped considerably, but they’re a great garden friend, so this is one creature we should all be trying to help. Also, The Guardian have published a useful list of links to various surveys and ways to get involved with conservation and wildlife. It was published last year but the links are still relevant. Natures Spot is loaded with information, including great identification photos for insects, tree, birds mammals and anything else you want to find out more about. I have a photo of a fly I’m still trying to ID. It settled on ragwort, as many insects do. It’s a nectar rich plant! Do you know what the fly is? The photo’s at the end of this blog.

Hedgehog

hedgehog

One of the friends I’m going to see is working hard on his new plot of land to create as close to sustainable living for himself as possible. I’m dying to see what he’s up to. He’s on the edge of Dartmoor and has very different circumstances and problems to deal with, including rabbits and deer. I’ll let you know what solutions he’s finding.

Magpie Moth

Magpie Moth

I’ll spend a lot of this holiday taking photos. My interests happily co-exist. Gardening, wildlife, photography all come together for me now. After a lifetime of following them as separate activities, I now combine them all. The photography gives me a way to pass on my experience via my blogs, a chance to identify species that won’t hang around while I get the books out, or a plant I want to ID when I get home, without picking it. It’s also part of my income via iStock, where most of my photos are flower or insect photographs, many of them macro. I love to peer into the tiny world I can’t see with the naked eye. There is beauty in macro form! It’s amazing what can be seen through a macro lens or magnifying glass. That hedgerow or leaf can reveal some amazing detail. Bees dusted in pollen, tiny beetles you didn’t know were there. Stamens on flowers show their shape and form. It’s a whole other world from the one we live in most of the time. The gardening itself provides the material to photo, the space for wildlife to come to, so more things to photo and food for the table!

Unidentified Fly Visitor On Ragwort Flower. Can you help with an ID?

Unidentified Fly Visitor On Ragwort Flower. Can you help with an ID?

 

 

Harvest, Eat, Enjoy

I’ve just Harvested the last few plants of my Charlotte new Potatoes. They’ve been wonderful. I haven’t bought any potatoes for weeks now. And they’ve been delicious. What a change from the stale, shop bought, plastic bagged ones. I’ve also worked out the savings in cost. Price of my seed potatoes, £1 per bag, and I bought 2. That was 20 plants, and each have yielded 2lgs or 1 k of produce. At Tesco prices currently set at £1.25 per kilo, and they’re cheaper now than when I began harvesting, the cost of shop bought is £25 so I’ve saved £23 and had  some really good eating. Can’t be bad!

Now I’m taking cuttings of all those perennials I bought this year. I started with the pinks and lavenders. They require a nice, well drained compost, so I added plenty of grit to the compost and mixed it all before I began, so I could take the cuttings and get them straight in the compost to avoid dehydration. These plants don’t like too much humidity, so I’ll be leaving the pots in a shady spot to root but won’t cover them as they’ll be prone to moulds.

Cuttings Of Lavender And Pinks

Cuttings Of Lavender And Pinks

We’ve also been eating French beans for a few weeks now, and the runners have started to crop. I picked up a great tip recently for runner beans. They apperently don’t like hot nights, and need cooler nights than we’d been having for pods to set. So the answer is to water late evening, and I give them a thorough soaking, then spray the plants as well as the roots, as the humidity also aids pod set. Now I can’t wait to eat them. I sowed some French beans in a container way after the original sowing, and that’s now payinf dividends. I knew I wouldn’t have more space in the ground, but even a container full is a great addition to our plates. The results speak for themselves. French beans are easier to crop in hot weather, too!

French Beans Containerised

French Beans Containerised

I’m a little nervous. I’m going away for a couple of weeks this Thursday, and leaving my partner in charge of the garden. I know he’ll do his best to keep everything watered, but will he remember to cut the sweet peas? Pick the beans to keep them cropping? I can only keep my fingers crossed. I shouldn’t leave it at this time of year, but I’m travelling to see friends in my camper van, so winter visits are not really feasible!

Of course, before I go I’ll do all I can to prepare the garden for my desertion, and hope that August does not become a drought month. I haven’t yet got an automatic watering system, but maybe in the future this will be the answer.

How do you cope with going away?