Autumn gardening

Autumn gardening, for me, mainly seems to be about preparing for the next year.

The Spring bulbs have gone in ready for next year. I had daffodils from last year. They were planted where the bench now sits. These have been redistributed around the border.

I’ve gone with a number of allium varieties. I like alliums for there structural interest and there generally popular with pollinators. Might well be allium overload. We’ll see next year.

Purple sensation says it grows as a cluster up to 80 cm.

Blue drumsticks are a little shorter at 60cm.

Then one giganteum up close to the patio. I’ve planted this with a few drumsticks surrounding. Hopefully have the tall gigantism towering with the blue drumsticks as a lower tier. While a bit pricier it will hopefully come back each year giving a good show.

I’m not a massive fan of tulips, but we saw some lovely varieties when we went to the open gardens. They’ll add a bit of colour before the Summer colours kick in. I’ve gone for tulip alectric; a pretty variety with pink and white petals. I should really wait for tulip planting, so they don’t rot in the ground, but I know I’ve got a lot on with work the next month. But I haven’t had major issues with bulbs rotting in the soil from last year, so hopefully be OK.

 

I’ve neglected the weeding for a few weeks while I’ve got other jobs done, so had a good upheaval. It wasn’t too bad though. Now I’ve got more plant coverage than last year there isn’t as much space for weeds to come up.

In the front the wildflowers that grew these year have died down. I had one patch of lavender growing by the door. I’ve added a second variety at the other end. The stripy leaved plant is a wild plant Lords and ladies. While not something I planted I like the leaves so it can stay for now. As time goes on if the lavender does alright I’ll fill the whole patch. Then it’ll be fairly low maintenance, needing little watering and as it fills the gaps shouldn’t need much weeding. While it may not look very much now it will hopefully develop into a lavender hedge giving lovely scent as you come in the house.

The lavender around the front and back garden has had its hair cut for this year stopping it getting too woody and encouraging a bit more growth next year.

On the patio I’ve filled three pots with some new evergreens giving the patio some foliage and a bit more interest through the winter and into Spring. Two “little leaves” hebes that just have a small spread well suited to starting in a pot.

Then an annual shrub, chamaecynaris pisifera, known as “blue sky”. It will grow a little bigger than the hebes at 50cm. I like the blue tinge to the foliage. Should be good for retaining some seasonal interest through winter.

The birds are starting to return to the feeder. Things can be a bit quiet at the start of Autumn while there is plenty of food to be had naturally, but starting to see a bit more action on the feeders again. This robin was practising its poising ready for the Christmas cards.

The roses are still flowering, although I reckon I might be looking at the last bunch for this year now. Once there done they’ll be needing a trim, then probably a bit further in early Spring. They had quite a harsh cut back this year and did better for it, alongside being fed better.

The leaves on the shrubs and trees are still hanging on in there. Once they drop I’ll be doing the last major Autumn job giving them a

Summer Garden Round Up

We have come to the end of the Summer holidays. It’s time to go back to work, so before I do it’s time to sit back and admire the progress made in the garden this Summer.

Patio

On the patio the pots are doing quite well. I moved one of the fuchsias from the border into a barrel planter as it was getting lost in the border. It seems to be doing well for the change. The night scented stock is doing well bringing in some night time insects.

I put my new mitre saw to use making a corner of decking to cover where the cement ground is uneven. At the back is a dwarf cherry tree that was totally dehydrated at the start of the holiday, but re-potted,  some gravel on the top to keep in moisture and plenty of water over Summer has brought it back.

The poached egg plants are flowering well now.

Our newly refurbished table looks nice on the patio giving us a small table for a cuppa.

My parents have passed on another bigger table. This corner of the patio previously had planters built into the walls. However they’d been built without proper drainage. So the worry was that they were damaging the house. I’ve knocked them out this Summer giving us a much bigger space to eventually build our log store and seating area.

Borders

The rose campion has done well flowering throughout the Summer. Reading Margery Fish she wrote that it should self seed a small number of new plants. So hopefully we will still have a patch next year. I’m keeping some seed heads to try to grow some if it doesn’t self seed.

The alyssum is on its second flowering. Now an area is established like my forget me nots it should self seed around the borders.

The sedum is set for flowering giving the pollinators an Autumn food source.

There are still some daisies left to flower.

The pot marigolds are still going strong.

Planting for bees

The foxgloves, hollyhock and borage are still hanging on in there providing for the bees. I don’t think the hollyhock and foxgloves have much more flowering time left in them, but now they’ve established I should have more growing next year.

Shed shade

Next to the newly painted shed is a corner with plenty of shade. I have a variety of ferns doing pretty well. They’ll give me some year round greenery and they suppress the weeds in an awkward to get to corner. Having watched the fern-atic on gardeners world this week I was inspired to add some more. I’ve got two more British varieties to go in.

Roses

I trimmed back the roses in Spring quite severely and they’ve done better this year. I’ve had flowers from the pink rose through all of Summer and still flowers coming.

They do some from fungal infections though. I’m trying some advice from the Beechgrove Garden to spray with water and a few drops of tree oil. This works on fungus and helps protect the leaves. Just don’t do when it’s too sunny or the oil may burn the leaves.

Composting

The compost heap had been filled with rubbish while the house was rented. I’ve removed what was there and put in two bins donated from my dad. The slabs have been upcycled from the patio planter I removed so nothing goes to waste. While the bins aren’t as effective as an open heap they will still give me some compost to put some goodness back in the borders.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peak into my garden progress.

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Forget me nots

Forget-me-nots cannot be kept out of any garden and no one would want to banish them completely, although they are sometimes too generous with their offspring. I do not feel kindly towards them when I find seedlings coming up everywhere but when later they turn themselves into a haze of blue that fills every space and melts into the flowers around them, I am grateful for their persistence.

Margery Fish-Cottage Garden Flowers 1961

Forget me nots are returning to the garden for the second seeding of the year. I planted a small patch last Autumn knowing they would self seed and fill any gaps. They are fulfilling there role well suppressing weeds that would otherwise grow.

National Allotments Week

This week is National Allotments Week. This is organised by the National Allotment Society. With people having smaller gardens in new builds and pressure to remove allotments for new housing it seems nice to celebrate the allotment. That little space where Brits have escaped to for many years. The first were established in the 1700’s for the use of the poor. By the name Victory Gardens they played a role in digging for victory in the World Wars. Now with a young child I don’t have the time needed for an allotment. I’m still getting on top of my own garden. But my parents do and they have donated various fruit and veg. So to celebrate National Allotment Week I have attempted a rhubarb and apple crumble using the recipe here.

The variety of apples my parents have grown are supposed to be a cross between an eating and a cooking apple depending on when you pick them. So we’ll have to wait and see whether they are tasty or disgusting in the crumble.

The crumble mix felt suitably crumbly before going on.

The finished result. My parents are visiting tomorrow and since they donated the apples and rhubarb I think I will have to save it for them to test. Just crisp it up a little bit more. So we’ll see what do you reckon will it be delicious or totally inedible?

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Apple Picking-Robert Browning

A quick poem linked to the apples.

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Garden update

The long tailed tits have been back again. They are gradually becoming more comfortable with me being around allowing me to get a bit closer for clearer photos than last time.

Bench of happiness

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on several larger garden jobs: building a paved area for the compost heap, knocking out a brick veg planter on the patio, and building a bench area. The planter is knocked out. It didn’t have proper drainage and was up against a wall of the house. It may of caused water damage if left and it’s also give us a bigger space for a table on the patio. The compost heap was dismantled as while the house was rented the renters filled it with rubbish. In its place is a paved area and a compost bin. The bench area hadn’t come on though as we couldn’t find a bench we liked. We wanted a bench down on the lawn so we have somewhere to sit and watch Alice play.

However at the weekend we saw a sign for a yard sale. Not expecting very much we ventured down to have a nosey. We went down the street and found one of the roads had a number of houses having yard sales. Mostly junk they wanted rid of, but one man was selling planters he built and had a bench he’d made for sale. For the bargain price of £35 we got something a little bit more unique.

The area we wanted the bench to go in has been underused. I had some daffodils there in Spring, but apart from that it’s largely been empty meaning weeds have moved in regularly. The area has a slope to it as I think someone at some stage intended a kind of rockery, but never finished it. So I’ve levelled it a bit and then used the stone bricks I had from knocking out the veg planter to build a line at the back to keep the soil slope back. Then tried to level it flush with the lawn at the front.

Alice was keen to help. I laid some sand to help make a better foundation. I think she thought it was some sort of wonderful sandpit for her, but living by the beach we don’t really need a sandpit. She did spread some sand though with the dibber. The dibber is probably her second favourite tool after the watering can mentioned previously.

 

Then weed matting went down and a layer of gravel around the bench legs. Alice is going through a stage of being fascinated by rocks. So she helped get them out the bag. She didn’t cry though that the stones had to stay when we were done.

All in all I’m pretty happy with the end result. I have few practical skills, beyond looking after plants, so this feels like an achievement. The stones at the front are pretty level with the lawn and feel firm.

The bench area looks good from the house with the view through the hydrangeas.

Hopefully we can enjoy sitting watching Alice enjoy the garden and it won’t subside.

My favorite gardening tool

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.

Rudyard Kipling

Gardens can require a lot of work, but I have one tool I probably use more than anything else. My hori hori knife has been invaluable since I bought it last year. Also known as a Japanese soil knife the word hori translates as, “to dig”. Hori hori also works as an onomatopoeia for the sound of digging.

I first saw the hori hori on Gardner’s World used by Monty Don. The knife has a decent six inch blade with a concave shape. One edge is serrated, the other sharp. The blade is almost full tang, going into the handle making it secure.

This is a multifunction tool. Its main purpose is to remove weeds. It does this wonderfully for me. I’d tried a number of different weeding tools and none quite satisfied. When we moved in the garden had been neglected with many deep rooted dandelions. This allows me to cut in deeply and precisely into the lawn to remove weeds down to the roots. 

The knife also acts as a trowel as the curved blade allows you to dig. I use this for digging a lot of the smaller holes for plug plants. It’s also good for digging around plants for moving. The serrated edge can work through roots. It is equally good for splitting perennials.

I also find it works well for edging the lawn where the sharp and serrated edges allow me to mark the line I want and then saw or cut through giving me a neat, precise line.

The blade also marks depth with the ruler on the knife. This can be used for planting bulbs. It goes into the soil easily. A little wriggle and you have a hole ready for a bulb. I prefer it to my traditional dibber as I’ve mainly planted large bulbs like daffodils and aliums where this has worked better.

With the size of the handle and blade it does feel a bit like taking a machete to the weeds, but that is rather satisfying in itself. It is a tool I’ve seen described as, “fun to use,” and it is. It makes an otherwise dull job somewhat pleasurable. Allowing you to lose yourself in the zen of weeding. While not the cheapest tool it has replaced a number of tools in my gardening arsenal. I highly recommend the hori hori to garden lovers. 

Alice on the other hand favours the watering can. Used by her both to water plants and deadhead flowers as she brandishes it in all directions, smiting any flowers in her way.


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Haiths-Niger Seed Bird Feeder review

Last week I was contacted by Haiths-Bird food specialists asking if I would review one of their products. I agreed and I have been sent their niger seed feeder and a bag of their seed mix to go with it. So with the disclaimer out of the way that I received the product for free lets take a look at the feeder.

The feeder itself is well made. A nice solid metal construction. The top comes off when you lift it up with the handle. The bottom also comes off for you to give the feeder a good clean out, which it is important to do. It’s particularly important if you are in an area bad for bird flu as it helps stop the infection spreading.

The feeder comes with a handy plastic pull out sleeve which you put in to make it easier to fill. Niger seed is small and falls through holes in most feeders as you fill. With this you put the sleeve in, fill with niger seed, then remove the sleeve when it’s at the feeder.

The feeder looks smart on the bird station. It’s a good size, so shouldn’t need filling straight away again. It looks attractive and the metal gives it a look of quality rather than some of the flimsy plastic feeders. Not that the birds will care, but nice for me.

The seed itself is Haiths own mix. It looks good quality. The seeds are the rich dark brown/black colour they should be. If you buy bird seed from a shop you’re meant to avoid niger with too many seeds that have dried out to the lighter brown as they’ve lost their oil rich goodness that will help the birds particularly in winter.

The previous niger feeder I had only had a couple of tiny holes and I was never sure all the birds that enjoy niger seed could get in, especially when damp I think it got clogged, so we’ll see if this with multiple holes is better.

Since hanging the feeder today I’ve seen one juvenile goldfinch investigating, but didn’t eat. Goldfinches are one of the main visitors to niger feeders and you couldn’t really ask for a more charming looking bird. Goldfinches didn’t used to eat from tables, but have become more common in the last decade, which makes for a pleasant sight in the garden. Niger seed is popular with other finches and siskin’s. However I’ve never seen siskin’s in the garden so unlikely they’ll suddenly arrive from a new feeder. So we’ll see how popular this feeder is and I will update as we get visitors. It usually takes a few days for new discoveries on the bird station to start seeing regular visitors.

http://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/

http://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

While this was free for me in exchange for a review if you check the website you’ll see a good range of products. The feed is reasonably priced and cheaper if buying if larger quantities. The delivery was quick and products were well packaged. I would try buying from them when I next require some wildlife supplies for my garden. I have my eye on getting a more traditional wooden bird table.