Six on Saturday: 4.1.20-Six for a New Year

Welcome to a new year of six on Saturday. I made it through the last year and  I think I managed to post each week giving me an amazing record I can look back through. I thoroughly recommend taking part. There is a great community through the blogs and Twitter and I’ve learnt so much. I am still off work currently so I’ve had a productive week tidying the garden and getting a few bits planted. I’ve still got my front garden bin tidy to do, but I’ve made lots of progress in other areas. I’ve also had a tidy of a few of the blog pages and started adding a gardening contents page as I’ve noticed lots of traffic to particular blogs. It needs more work but nice to have quick access to particular blogs I refer back to quite often.

1. Bargain tulips

We popped out a few days ago to the garden centre for a family trip out. The bargain bulb trolley is out now with bulbs reduced to £1 each. So each picked a bag. I thought Amy was going to go for the pheasant’s eye daffodils but she opted for the sealing wax daffodils. I’m not a fan of daffodils as they don’t offer much benefit to wildlife and I’m not a great fan of the colours. Most of the ones we have are wilco’s specials so these will be some of the few I know the names of. Alice went with the Red Riding Hood tulips. I’ve grown these before. They have nice stripy foliage and bright red flowers. The alliums were my choice. Three very tall summer drummers. I had said last week I was done with bulb planting, but what I obviously meant was done until I see a bargain.

Alice helped plant her tulips, then lost interest as the other bulbs aren’t her taste. The crowbar came in use again for making nice targetted holes in the border.

2. Muddy puddle

Then Alice got on with the more important work of making a muddy puddle. She used the rainwater from her mud kitchen to soak a section of the lawn.

The lawn is in a pretty bad condition after builders last year but Alice had fun jumping up and down in her puddle.

3. Homebrew nematodes

This week I had found the book outwitting squirrels was free through Kindle to borrow. The book tackles different ways to tackle different “pests”. On the whole, I let nature take its course and allow the wildlife to find an equilibrium. But I have planted several hostas I would like to protect. In the book, it talks about making your own nematodes. Nematodes are a microscopic worm that preys on slugs and snails. It’s a natural way to keep slug and snails down. It costs about £16 and needs applying about every 6 weeks.  So it is quite a pricey way to combat them. By collecting up slugs and snails in a confined area you can create conditions for nematodes to build. The water at the bottom can then be added to a watering can to add the nematodes into your soil. It is unlikely to be that effective in the cold weather during winter but it’s free for me to try so can’t do any harm. If nothing else I’ve got the kit ready to try again when the seasons change.

A washbasin has been filled with a layer of water, then an island of plant material has been placed on top for the slugs to sit on.

Slug collecting has commenced.

Then the washtub is covered with a tile.

4. Kokedama

Earlier in the week, I’d made a kokedama. It is still sitting looking dumpy but I found a grey saucer which I think suits it better. While I imagine this doesn’t look that amazing to any of you I could see the process of making these being quite addictive. If I had enough materials I could easily encase many more plants in this way. I have one more fern and may dig out some of the ivy seedlings to try wrapping.

5. Fairy house

Yesterday I made Alice another addition to her growing fairy garden. The house has had a chance to dry overnight and I found it a space near the mushrooms put in last week. I think it’s looking quite nice if a bit rustic. Alice wants me to make more so I’m going to need to get the saw back out. Before long we’ll have a whole happy village going on.

6. Burgon & Ball photo competition

And for my final six some exciting news. I won the Burgon & Ball garden photo of the year competition. I will be receiving a lovely bundle of gardening bundles worth a few quid. I had a choice between a garden pack or an allotment pack. The garden pack had some nice secateurs and forks, but as I already own Niwaki secateurs I’ve gone for the allotment options.

Avid Allotmenteer:

So I can add an award-winning photographer to my egotistical over-exaggerated CV along with being a published poet. The photo I entered was one of my favourite dahlia pictures of the year combined with one of my favourite garden insects. I could happily watch the dragonflies for hours. When one landed on the dahlia, my favourite dahlia I grew last year, I went a bit snap happy. But I did get some stunners. So, I’ll be waiting on the postman to deliver me my Burgon & Ball goodies. Then I’ll be itching to get the dahlias started again, but that’s a good few months off despite what Gardener’s World magazine was advising this month.

It’s been a good holiday off and I’ve enjoyed plenty of time with family. Still shaking off my stupid cough, but gradually getting better. I’ve got a little time left to try and get a few more garden jobs done and we’re planning to get out for my dad’s birthday today and another walk on the beach. Enjoy your weekends. I hope the start of the year has been gentle to those who have returned to work.

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Turning Japanese: Making a kokedama

For a while, I’ve been after making a kokedama. I’ve had all the materials for a while but not got round to doing it. With the holidays here and the winter job list going down I thought I’d give it a try. The idea of kokedama originates from Japan. Kokedama translates as moss ball, though sometimes known as poor man’s bonsai. They’ve become a bit of a craze in houseplant circles. Though I’m more interested in making one for outside. The basic idea is an ornamental plants roots wrapped in a ball of soil, then moss, tied up with string. They are often hung, so can be used as an alternative to hanging baskets. Ferns are popular choices for the plants as well as growing bonsai trees within. I recently saw one with ivy in, which I quite like the idea of as it would trail nicely. Gardeners World did a demonstration of making one last year, so they are becoming more common.

I’d bought a kokedama kit a while ago without thinking about the peat content. The kits normally contain bonsai compost and peat compost. You mix the two together and add water steadily. This year I have tried to buy purely peat-free compost, though many of the plants I’ve bought will have been grown in peat. I think I’ve done pretty well buying from seed, growing from cuttings and buying from peat-free sellers. If I make another kokedama I may try and make my own mix. You are aiming for a mix which will hold its shape when pushed together that still has some aeration. I might try making a mix with akadama, grit, leaf mould and my own compost and see how I get on, but that’s something to think about in the future. I mixed the two soils together and added water gradually. If it gets too wet it will be harder to dry it out than to make it wetter. As it is I think I went too wet. It needs to be able to be squeezed into a ball, you can squeeze some of the moisture out in this process.

I’ve gone with a Blechnum Spicant fern for the plant. I’ve put a few of these in the ground recently so will be nice to have some on the patio as well to mirror elements of the border. It’s a fairly tolerant evergreen fern that should stay looking nice for a while. I doubt that the kokedama can be kept indefinitely. After a while, the plant can be moved onto a pot or the ground. But it should make for a nice little temporary feature like most hanging baskets.

I took the fern out of the pot and shook soil off and washed more off carefully, trying not to damage roots.

Then, taking the soil mix I moulded two handfuls to make half the balls. These were then pressed around the roots. I think my mix was either too wet or else lacked enough clay content as it didn’t hold its shape that well. I then wrapped the root ball in a sheet of moss. Twine is then wrapped around starting from the top to hold it together and tied off.

My end result is a bit dumpy. It certainly doesn’t have the perfect Japanese arts of an ikebana arrangement but it encapsulates the concept of wabi-sabi perfectly. It certainly isn’t perfect, permanent and is full of imperfection but I accept this and really like it. Currently, I’m sitting it in a pot saucer so it can soak up water as a common issue is that they dry out. You can test if they need watering by holding them. If it feels light give it water. They are often hung as I already mentioned or can be elegantly displayed on a slate or bonsai pot. The moss should green up again for some moisture.

I have enough materials to try one more, so I will give it another go and see if I can get something more rounded. But overall I am happy with my little dumpy arrangement. I like moss and ferns, so it’s a good combination to me. Now to find a good spot to display it. Within recent changes, to the garden, I think I can find a nice spot for it. I’ll leave you with the random Kirsten Dunst cover of turning Japanese by the vapors created for a pop-art display at the Tate.

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