Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Nipping into B&Q

Yesterday I took a trip to B&Q to price up concrete making ingredients. Of course I got distracted, and spent 40 minutes of my 10 minute trip perusing the gardening section.

I was pleased to find this little collection in the seed display:

I can't justify buying any of them, I have quite a seed collection already, but it's nice to know that seed companies are catching up with the reality faced by many a budding gardener in this country.

The two seeds that I could - just about - have justified bringing home - California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and Alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca) were out of stock.

This lovely packet caught my eye. Occasionally a bumblebee will pass through our garden in the depths of winter, and they will probably appreciate the flowers as much me.

My first thought was that they are  hellebores - I've never heard of a Christmas Rose - and my first thought was in fact correct; Helleborus niger to be precise.

With all of the other information that they mange to squeeze onto seed packets - including sowing advice broad enough to cover Land's End to John O' Groats - how hard is it to include a botanical name?

Very hard apparently. A quick flick through my seed tin indicated that over half of them were labelled with a common name only; and Suttons was by far the worst offender.

I've met my newest bugbear, apparently. 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Pumpkin woe

The Daily Star has its priorities right. Hell indeed. 

Pumpkins and winter squash are my favourite vegetable; a significant portion of my fantasy acres* is given over to several different varieties. 

Currently we must make do with an annual trip to the local pumpkin farm. We've had to delay it this year and I really hope they have a few curcurbits left for us.

The Telegraph has this slighty less dramatic report, and an explanation as to why we should carve turnips instead, which was interesting. I love the shrunken head effect. If tomorrow turns out to be a disappointment, I will spend the rest of the week experimenting with root vegetables carving.

*That is, the incredibly detailed, farm-size garden plan that I carry around in my mind; all ready for when I find a suitable farm-sized plot here in the real world. Don't judge.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Falling back

So much for an extra hour in bed! I swear children have an internal daylight saving mechanism of their own that means they get up 2 hours earlier when the clocks fall back. Oh well. It was nice to see the garden so early in the morning. We missed the frost, instead the garden is sodden with dew.

I find this time of year a bit depressing on the yardening front. When we had an allotment there was much more to do - and bigger dreams to dream in the quieter months. Here, the herbs have been cut back and the fruit trees pruned. I'm going to scatter some compost, but that's about it.

I have a few modest plans to make and a couple of books I want to read this winter. I have a few guerilla gardening ideas too. Mostly, I will be twiddling my green thumbs and awaiting the return of the sun.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Final orders

The temperature has definitely dropped this past week. I wonder which way winter is going to go in this El Nino year? 

The past decade has been a bumpy ride weather wise. We've had everything from the snowstorms of 2009-2010, to the balmy early spring of 2011 - and then there was the monsoon of 2013-2014, which I hope to never see a repeat of.

Our apple tree seems to be betting on balminess and has burst into bloom. To its credit, it's probably as equally accurate a soothsayer as the Daily Express (Snowpocalyspe. Every. Damn. Year).

Here on the South Coast in our sheltered little yard I know I am luckier than most British gardeners who labour under such uncertainty. I had a non-hardy geranium bloom through the winter last year, and have picked coriander through the year before now.

That said, this isn't spring and things are certainly winding down. The days are ever shorter and the shadows longer. I'm having one last throw of the dice:

I might throw in some salad leaves for good measure. I can't wait until spring.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Autumn fig drop

Our little potted fig tree (Ficus carica 'Brown Turkey') finally began to bear fruit this year - in September.

A few days ago, I noticed that two of the five small fruit had dropped off. The wisdom of the internet suggests that the most common cause is drought or inconsistent watering (guilty!); followed by pest, disease and mechanical damage. Perhaps I can blame it on that blasted snail I've just spotted in the picture?

Still, no matter - after watching the latest episode of Gardener's World, I was both reassured and a bit miffed to have Monty Don tell me to remove any figs larger than a pea because they will never reach maturity.

After running Monty's advice via the RHS's excellent advice section, it would appear that my remaining three figs can (not should - I wonder if there are consequences to leaving them on the plant. They are rather pretty) be removed. Embryonic fruits smaller than a pea should be left to ripen next year.

Which is a real shame, because so far, my little tree is devoid of pea size embryonic fruits. Oh well.


Monday, 19 October 2015

Light reading

I usually steer well clear newspaper gardening articles, especially the ones profiling gardeners and their gardens. I often get a case of green-eyed monster for the garden space that I shall probably never have - tempered only by my utter revulsion at the pretension of many of them.

I'm really enjoying this run of short articles from The Guardian, How Does Your Garden Grow.

Lots of very different gardeners and their very gardens. Just lovely.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The accidental composter

Last month I clipped the privet hedge that was starting to overgrow our rotary washing line - and me being the idle gardener, I left the clippings to bag up 'later'

'Later' finally came this week. Expecting to do battle with a damp and slimy mess, instead I found that my scattered clippings have been transformed by tens of worms into rich, crumbly compost.

I picked out the handful or unrotted twigs and spread my free worm/worm poo/leaf mix around the base of our patio apple and rhubarb. If ever there was a lesson that nature really doesn't need us, it's in seeing just how well she does in our absence.

I want to add more composting capacity to the yard somehow. We have a small yard but a large output of compostable material and our single small compost bin is already full and very slowly rotting down. I'm really looking to cut our waste stream down to size - looking towards zero waste even - though I know that that journey begins long before 'Rot' with the first of the 5 Rs - Reduce.

As always, things are always more complicated when you look deeply at them. I aim to be a person that nature merely has no use for - not one she would be better off without. In my more idealistic moments, usually after a YouTube permaculture documentary binge, I aspire to actively repair the world and be useful and productive - though I know the odds are stacked against me. But change is just a series of small steps taken one after the other; and compost seems a good enough place to start.


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