27 September 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Summer Returns and Cheeky Handsome Heron

Evening fellow gardeners,

Well it appears that Summer has come back for a welcome visit. The past few days have been glorious - I even retrieved and donned my gardening shorts (no pic you'll be glad to hear). But don't be fooled, the night's have been cold. It's been a good week with plenty to do:

Monday - came home from work and the fish were waiting eagerly for food. I'm pleased the older goldfish are overcoming their fear of whatever it was that scared them a few months back. I arrived home with yet another carrier bag full of compostable material - the compost bins are nearly full now. Had a walk round to make sure all ok. A couple of cucumbers are steadily growing in the greenhouse yet others are dying after reaching and inch or so...strange. I'll be pleased  to hear from anyone who might know why this is.

Amazing sunset this evening. I took a few photos with my new camera which I will, hopefully, upload and show you soon.

Tuesday - and the fish waiting to be fed again this morning. The pond is healthy, the water crystal clear and it's lovely to see them splashing around for the food. I have a few days off this week so there is a long list of jobs to do. I was going to pickle more gherkins but they are growing slowly and not quite to the size him indoors prefers. All the pots and trays need cleaning but I couldn't get the safety lid off the Jeyes Fluid. Him indoors is away for a few days and it appears my neighbours have all disappeared! So I busied myself tidying up and picking ripe fruit and veg - the tomatoes are suddenly all starting to ripen.. I also collected more fallen leaves for composting then noticed that the apple tree leaves have white mildew on them. Unfortunately I can't compost them or the leaves they came into contact with in case of contamination. I picked all the ripe chillies and this evening made some chilli-infused oil. I think it's going to be hot as my eyes watered when I took the top off the processor. I heated the oil and chillies then left it to cool. Whilst I was sterilising the kilner bottles, one of them cracked which is surprising, I thought they were supposed to withstand heat. Once the oil had cooled I sieved it through muslin and bottled it...looks amazing and hoping it tastes it.

Wednesday - an out of the garden day today. This evening around 6pm I was driving to meet someone and the sky began to fill with v-shaped squadrons of geese travelling back to their night time roost; spectacular. Then, later in the evening I was driving through a local village and we saw a mother duck and four ducklings waddling down the road. I stopped an tried to take a pic but they were intent on their mission and weren't going to stop for anyone.

Thursday - noticed new growth on the rose bush and the cucumbers are growing well. And...I finally managed to get the Jeyes Fluid can opened so that is now a job for the weekend. It's been very windy here this week and this morning quite a few of the potted plants were wilting. I have watered them regularly but obviously the wind is drying them out and I nearly lost some coreopsis. I gave them a good soaking and fingers crossed they'll pull through. I have some plans for the front garden (I'll touch on that soon) so I've decided to try and grow a passion flower. I have some fruit from next door's which aren't ripening, so I've planted some of the seeds and see what happens. I'm also trying a stalk cutting dipped in rooting powder.

Friday - a case of if you don't ask you don't get. For weeks now I've been passing a house that has some rockery stones piled up by the gate leading to their back garden. I walked passed this morning and they were still there so I made the decision that, on the way back, I'd call in and ask if they were spare. Deep breath and rang the bell. I apologised for being cheeky but were the stones spare? The woman called her husband who said yes, they are spare. He was going to use them but doesn't need them now as they have decided to move. He said I would be doing them a favour if I took them, so I went back later this afternoon and although the car groaned under the weight, I am now the proud owner of a boot-full of rockery stones to add to my collection. This evening's Gardener's World was apt for me - I didn't know that scraping sweet pea seeds helps them germinate (glad I haven't already planted some) and also how to plant garlic (this year's crop failed due to leaf rust). Monty also said to trim lavender and roses...typical, just as the rose is sprouting new growth.

Saturday - a very productive day although it started with me bending the spade - obviously don't know my own strength! .

And posing in my new shoes:

The cucumbers appear to have grown overnight and something has been eating my cottage garden plan on the pin board in the pottering shed. I planted 100 allium bulbs plus some unknown bulbs that I came across whilst tidying the pottering shed. They are unlabelled because I obviously thought I'd remember what they are...well obviously not, at my age! I also, finally, got round to washing and cleaning all the pots and seed trays. Think I have enough now:

Sunday - an expected spurt of energy this morning. Sauntered downstairs for a coffee and happened to glance out the conservatory windows in time to see a large heron striding across the lawn towards the pond. You've never seen me move so fast and it's amazing how quickly a heron can take off from a standing start, Harrier Jump Jet eat your heart out!. So another item on my list for today - heron scarer. I fed the fish but the adult fish wouldn't come to the surface, although the fishlings hungry as ever. I hope they haven't been spooked again as it's taken months for them to venture out after the dipped net incident. The heron was beautiful and so graceful but sorry...you're not having my fish! I dug over the veg patch (more on that next week) whilst thinking what to do and I have now cordoned off the pond with string and hung shreds of an old bed sheet on it that I found in him indoors' workshop (for once I'm pleased he's such a hoarder!)
Not aesthetically pleasing, I admit, but hopefully the heron will back off and the fish will be protected. I fed the fish this afternoon and a couple of the oldies appeared so hopefully no lasting damage. Forgot to mention, this weekend the garden has been a-buzz with huge bumble bees, butterflies and dragonflies.

I think that's probably enough excitement for this week. All that's left to do is give everything a good watering after dinner. And if you happen to suffer from insomnia then look out for the total eclipse of the super moon tonight, it's going to turn blood red apparently.

Looks like a great week ahead for gardening!



20 September 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Chutney, Cake and How Much Can a Potting Shed Hold?

The week has started well. It was supposed to rain most of the day but apart from a shower this morning it stayed dry. Extremely windy though, some of the larger pots were blown over. And, of course, I would choose the windiest day for months to take down the runner bean pyramid. There were no more flowers growing and the plants have started to die off, so down it came. Not sure I will plant that variety next year as they haven't cropped as well as I thought; the runner beans grown from last year's beans, however, have been much more fruitful and are still in flower. Not only has the strong wind blown over pots, it's provided some windfall pears which are now wrapped in newspaper and stored in the pottering shed. Him indoors had a couple from last week's windfall and said they are very tasty. I picked the cucumber to have with my salad (fresh from the garden) and not only did it actually taste of cucumber but it smelt amazing - such a difference from mass produced. Rotated both both sides of the composter.

In last week's blog I mentioned that I had planted a rudbeckia in the cottage garden. I lied. I thought I had, but when I was taking down the runner bean pyramid I noticed that it was in position, but still in the pot. I'm beginning to think I should make this a senior moments blog! Anyway, rudbeckia triloba prairie glow now planted in the cottage garden. I picked all the kale and put it on the compost heap as the few remaining leaves were covered in caterpillars. I also picked leeks, parsnips and carrots (some of which I took next door as they always take in parcels for me), and some of the smaller beetroots which I've boiled and pickled. And...I found two pea pods.

Back to my signature carrots!!

With the sun being lower in the sky there is less dazzle on the pond's surface and the fishlings are now visible against the lighter stones on the bottom. They have grown well during the summer, progressing from half the size of my little finger to bigger than my thumb - not surprised with the amount they are eating.

Tuesday - and I finally got round to watching last Friday's Gardener's World. Monty mentioned that the hellebores are flowering out of season and mine have also been in flower for a few weeks (normally Spring). He also mentioned it's time to plant frutillaria bulbs which I shall do this week, and to plant them on their sides and in grit (didn't know that). Actually, I need to plant all the bulbs as this morning my 100 allium bulbs arrived courtesy of Thompson and Morgan through Gardener's World magazine. I also learnt that clematis will grow anywhere as long as the roots are in the shade. Handy to know as I have a north facing fence that needs something to liven it up. And, one more thing I didn't know, carrots don't like rich soil and they will split while growing although still edible. As I'm going to be sowing green manure once the veg have been lifted (Monty said last weekend but missed that deadline) I'll have to rethink where I grow them next year. He also said to take rose cuttings but not sure I can wait two years for them to take!

I went to a garden centre this morning (just for a change!), bought some Jeyes Fluid for cleaning the greenhouse, pots and seed trays and rescued some carrot seedlings that were in the reduced section. Back home I watered and planted them with care into troughs, hopefully they'll take. I then moved the white anemone that has sprung up in the gravel and pot garden to the cottage garden, picked up another windfall of pears (still very windy here). As you can see, not all gone pear-shaped:

And I still have a dis-assembled pagoda in the kitchen. Parts of it are heavy so I am waiting until I work out exactly where it's going then I only have to move it once. This evening I made some mango and ginger chutney (with plenty of garlic and chillies) it smelt divine. I was going to show you a pic of it cooking but probably better not to...it certainly tastes better than it looked whilst cooking!

Wednesday - this morning I decided that I need to reclaim my kitchen and put the pagoda in the garden. So, I had a working breakfast sat in the conservatory, looking out at the garden for the best position. I decided it's going in the gravel and pot section. I went out and moved some of the pots out of the way as I needed a clear run, so to speak, and piece by piece I carried it out and built it up. I have to say it looks grand:
I then thinned out the cucumber leaves and flowers, there's nine cucumbers growing at the moment so not complaining, then the tomatoes had a number one cut and here they are, bald:

Took some blackcurrant sage cuttings and re-potted the pineapple sage for putting in the conservatory over winter as it's not hardy. Then the rain started, great heavy splattering drops of it and continued for the rest of the day. That was the end of the day's gardening.

Friday - home from work and straight out to check the garden and feed the fish. They were just below the surface and pounced as I threw the food in - and here's me thinking it was me they were pleased to see! In the greenhouse the cucumbers are growing well and most of the tomatoes are reddening.

Saturday - started with a perfect sunrise over the mist-covered fields and turned into a gorgeous day, very hot in the back garden, almost like summer again. I fed the fish then went out again with my new camera to practice some shots. The fish dived for cover and I wasn't even that close to the pond. How did they know I had a camera? When I didn't have it with me they were on the surface and as soon as I went in to get it...gone! Even the squirrel, who is impressed with our new fence and travels frequently across it, was camera shy.

Anyway, today is the day I finally decided that I must sort out the pottering shed:
See what I mean??? I made an early start and it took over 4 hours. I moved everything out apart from the heavy bags of tree bark and compost. Amazing how much was in there:

And mustn't forget the onions:

And this is how it looked when I'd finished (although I still have to put the trays and pots in but they need cleaning first):
Much better.

Also today - white feathers were scattered across the lawn and garden, some of the leaves are beginning to turn autumnal. And spiders... well don't talk to me about spiders. At the moment, if something hasn't moved or been moved in ten seconds it has a web on it...including me the cheeky things!  Do you remember the Indiana Jones film where the woman in the jungle screams every time she turns round because of the creatures? Well that was me today with the pesky spiders. Picked more gherkins and pickled them, also picked the remaining beetroot from one of the flower beds and planted green manure to over-winter and covered it with sacking to stop the cats digging up the soil. Cooked the beetroot and froze it. During the week I made a beetroot and chocolate. Unfortunately, I left it a bit too long  and it burnt slightly but I scraped the burnt bits off and covered it in icing. It didn't look aesthetically pleasing but, even though I say so myself, it was nice and moist and delicious.

The lionheart lilies are growing fast:
I then fed the plants in the greenhouse, watered the outside pots then picked veg for dinner. The parsnips are now copying the carrots:

Well that's about it for this week. Rain forecast here for tomorrow but then the week looks friendly for us gardeners.  Have a good one and catch up next weekend.

13 September 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Always Something To Do

I've just spent over an hour writing part of this blog and then lost it all - no idea how or why. So...here goes again.

Evening, it's amazing how quick Sunday comes around, doesn't seem five minutes since the last blog (and I don't mean the one I've just lost!). I hope you've had a productive week in the garden, mine has been busy although not all of it in the garden, but definitely garden related.

Monday - and I found a good home for some of the excess mixed Verbascum and summer berries Achillea I've grown. I took them round to a friend and received in return a carrier bag of windfall cooking apples to go with my blackberries. Whilst on a tour of their garden they showed me how well the delphiniums, geums and coreopsis that I gave them are coming on. Unfortunately, I came away with more than I bargained for; I was bitten on the back of the leg by something that was definitely searching for a good meal. My leg immediately began to swell and I had to stop off on the way home for some antihistamine cream and tablets (just a thought here - what do you do if you're allergic to antihistamine?). Back home and cream applied to a now big lump (no, not him indoors) and tablet taken. I then went out in the garden. First job was to straighten one of the grasses I'd planted in the cottage garden. It was leaning slightly to the left and my OCD couldn't cope. I then blitzed the weeds with weedkiller. Unfortunately, I had a little problem with the spray attachment and inadvertently sprayed a teensy, tiny bit onto the lawn (don't tell him indoors). In the evening I made another batch of blackberry jam - very tasty.

Tuesday - slept well last night. Up early, antihistamine applied and taken, then out in the garden as lots to do. The weather was crisp and clear with the promise of a gorgeous day ahead. I fed the fish which were a bit slow in surfacing this morning, then took a stroll around. A robin was sat on the top of next door's fir tree, beautifully silhouetted against the pale blue sky and singing delightfully. I tried to take a pic but I couldn't zoom in close enough with my phone - such a shame. I need a camera. At 10am a squadron of geese flew over then not fifteen minutes later another approached and as it neared, they broke ranks, changed position, reformed and carried on towards the lake. In the greenhouse I cut the tops off the tomato plants, trimmed off the leaves and removed all the remaining flowers as advised by Monty.

I also trimmed the cucumber leaves and removed quite a few flowers in the hope that, eventually, I will get more than one small cucumber trying to grow. There are so many flowers not fruiting, but the greenhouse does look pretty. Then, as I was going to be away for a couple of days, I fed and watered the greenhouse plants before giving the garden a good soaking as no rain forecast.

Wednesday - in Surrey and a visit to one of the largest and best garden centres I have been to. It was huge, plus there was a large indoor shop, a cafĂ©/restaurant, grocery shop, butchery and in-store bakery. I could've spent all day there and I bet some people do. I bought a fruit loaf that tasted amazing - it was like a huge hot cross bun in the shape of a loaf. We then had a wander round and I made a note of the plants etc I wanted but didn't buy anything because there was somewhere else to visit first.

Thursday - and that somewhere else was the RHS Wisley Flower Show. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks. More about this in a separate blog but just to say we had a fabulous time and didn't come away empty handed. I did visit the 'information and questions answered' marquee. Apparently, one of the plants I have is ragwort so it's on with the weedkiller when I get back. The other question I asked was how to store root vegetables over the winter as I don't want to leave them in the ground (planting green manure). I have to be honest here and say I wasn't totally convinced with the answer about either storing them in the fridge or in damp compost. I'll think about it.

After the show we decided to go back to the garden centre for lunch and buy the things we made a note of yesterday: a wind spinner for the pond area to hopefully keep away the heron, a pagoda statue that thankfully can be dis-assembled then reassembled in situ, an unsual stone sundial - the latter two were heavy, going by him indoors' face as he loaded them onto the trolley! I'll post pics of these when they are in place. We also bought bonemeal, herbs, a terracotta pot for the 'For Your Eyes Only' rose (half price) another grass then headed for the butcher and baker departments where we had a bonemeal incident. Unknown to us, the bottom of the box was broken and we were leaving a trail, then a little (well, actually, not so little) pile when the trolley stood immobile. I gave the leaking box to a member of staff who looked at me as if to say 'what do you expect me to do with it', took another off the shelf and headed for the checkout. We left the nursery with an overladen trolley that, true to form, was programmed with a mind of it's own, then we had the task of fitting it all in the car. I also bought a couple of biodegradable leaf sacks (bogof) and...two large hessian veggie storage sacks - so problem solved.
Left to right: Salvia Elegens 'Scarlet Pineapple', 2 x Mentha Requeinii, Thyme Citrodorus 'Archer's Gold' and dwarf Marjoram

Can you see the tiny blue flowers on the Mentha Requeinii? I am going to plant these and the thyme in cracks on the pathways so hopefully, when we walk around, their scent will be released

Pennissetum al Hameln which is going in the cottage garden

Friday - back home and purchases unloaded and on the patio waiting to be planted and sited. Fed the hungry fish who surfaced immediately (obviously missed me), checked the greenhouse and look what happened when I turned my back for a couple of days:
A cucumber!!! It was only about 3" long when I left on Tuesday

The gherkins have also grown and I picked some more to pickle. And this lovely primula has come into flower:

In the cottage garden I planted Pennisetum al Hanelm (grass), Anemone 'Panima', Verbena Bonariensis 'Lollipop' and Rudbeckia Triloba Prairie Glow (it has burgundy and gold bi-colour flower). I also planted Hypericum 'Miracle Grandeur', a bush-like shrub that bears red berries and yellow flowers at the same time. It's glorious and chosen by him indoors. We bought one for the front garden as well.

The cottage garden from two different perspectives. I have drawn a plan of the garden and written in the name, height, spread and siting of the plants in case my memory deserts me, although I have kept all the name tags in no particular order.

I checked the small compost bag at the top of the garden and the contents have composted down nicely so I can start adding to that again now. Also zapped the ragwort.

Him indoors made a lemon verbena cake which was, in the words of the song, truly scrumptious. Meant to save you some but you know how it is...just one more slice!! I've been at work all weekend so not had a chance to get the rest of the plants in, but at least it will give me something to talk about next week. And, I forgot to mention, I now have a camera. An idiot-proof camera...but I still need to practice with it. Exciting!

Well, I think that's enough for one week. Not sure if it's gardening weather this week but I'll give it my best.

Have a good week.



6 September 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Reap What You Sow and a Senior Moment

Good evening from a gorgeous sunny Dorset. It's been the ideal day for gardening and, as I finished work this morning after a 48hr stint, I've made the most of it.

Monday - and having been advised that the cute little miniature tadpoles in the bucket of water aren't actually cute miniature tadpoles but mosquito larvae - thank you Mr E for that info (and that in parts of the Caribbean it is not advisable to have standing water because of the larvae) I have now disposed of the bucket contents and all other open standing water in the garden. I had intended a day in the garden but it was raining yet again so all that needed doing was feed the greenhouse crops.

Wednesday - a much better day although not without the odd shower, quite windy and autumnal. I did some dead heading of the perennials, picked the few runner beans that were ready - don't think I'll be getting many more. The Razzmatazz chillies are coming along very nicely and the cucumbers are getting there, oh so slowly. Strange because there are, and have been, loads of flowers, just not many cucumbers. Later in the day the weather brightened and the bees and butterflies came out to play. Made an extremely tasty soup from carrots, onions, parsnips and tomatoes from the garden.
Cute carrot!!

Thursday - and a donation of  compost material thank you very much. The second side of the tumbler composter is now also full up. I'm turning each side 8-9 times 3 times a week as instructed. This evening I had a stir fry with carrots, onions, leeks and fennel fresh from the garden and a chilli...well, a little bit of a chilli. I had a tiny, tiny taster and couldn't feel my tongue for ages! Not sure what I'm going to do with the rest of the crop, maybe dry them or make a chutney perhaps (I've given some to a couple of hardened chilli tasters to see how hot they really are or if it's just me...I'll keep you posted).
Sunday - home this morning after a long shift and overtime. I did manage to get out and buy a couple of grasses for the cottage garden though:
Miscanthus Sinensis 'Strictus' starts flowering end of summer although, technically, we are at the end of summer and it hasn't started yet

Miscanthus 'Flamingo' flowers September/October
and here they are in situ in the cottage garden
I also bought some new garden shoes:
How cool (and warm!) are these!!!
So, today. I have pulled up the peas as they are dying off, pruned the runner beans which are flowering again and also removed the netting around them. I then cut back the wild rose and passion fruit climbers that have encroached over the fence from next door as I don't want them shedding autumnal leaves over the pond. I've left the fruiting overhanging blackberry branches though. I dug up the cucamelons as I don't like them. I thought they would be soft and melon-like but they aren't, they are crispy like cucumbers and don't really taste of anything. I also gave the lawn a no.3 cut...looking good:

So...with all the pruning and lawn mowing I have three-quarters filled the 330m litre compost bin
Senior moment alert!! I took the lawn mower and extension lead out of the shed. I plugged the lawn mower into the extension lead, the extension lead into the electric and started mowing the lawn. Half way up the garden the cable tightened, which shouldn't happen because, obviously, there is an extension lead. I switched off the mower and walked back to the extension lead. The plug was in it and there was lots of cable on the path. Strange. I looked at the mower, and I looked at the extension lead and...ah...yes...I see what's happened. The cable and plug on the mower is orange. The cable and plug on the extension lead is orange. Are you there yet???  Yes, that's right. Instead of plugging the mower into the extension lead I had plugged the extension lead into itself! Note to him indoors - please change the extension lead for a different colour!!
The garden is producing well and I have a good crop of leeks, carrots, fennel, parsnips, beetroot and chillies. The gherkins are coming along nicely as well. I also have a surplus of mixed verbascum seedlings (deja vu here) as I planted too many (heard that one before) so hoping to give some away to good homes.
I would like to give a thank you to the RHS who responded to my tweet when I couldn't identify a flower that has appeared in the garden - it is an anemone apparently.
Very pretty, I'll move that to the cottage garden
Fed the fish when I arrived home and the fishlings were straight on it. This afternoon, in the balmy sunshine, the adult goldfish were ducking in and out under the water falling into the pond from the pumphouse, was lovely to see. Haven't had time to catch up with Monty this week but I'll watch him after Countryfile. Dinner tonight is roasted vegetables from the garden.
Countryfile finished and looks like a perfect week ahead for us gardeners to get out and do our stuff. And talking of perfect...the most amazing sunset is happening as I speak and getting more amazing as I edit. One of the things nature does best and money can't buy!
Enjoy your week gardening in the September sunshine and wrap up warm in the chilly nights.
Catch up next week,