Category Archives: Gardening

Day Off

Well, this is vexing. I wrote this post and pressed the buttons and sat back as it loaded. I had added (Part 1) to the title, but when I switched on to write Part 2 I tried to link it to Part 1 and found it wasn’t there. This means that, for the first time in 72 days I have failed to post.

I am not happy. Ah well…

It was a day off today, and instead of making me drive to a distant tourist spot Julia allowed me to relax with a short trip to the Mencap garden.

We managed to fit in a Harvester Unlimited Breakfast on the way – so it wasn’t an entirely bad start.

At the garden, instead of making me walk round and look at things, and probably enjoy myself, she allowed me to do a number of jobs including refilling bug boxes (using hollow stems from the scabious we’d cut back a couple of months ago) and putting some bird boxes together.

I fear I may have seemed a little ungrateful for the opportunity to spend our day off working for an organisation that won’t allow me to volunteer officially. (For those of you new to the story I’m not allowed to volunteer to work with my wife, as I’ve been doing for the last five years, because of “conflict of interests”.)

We had a fig each after that, and I took some photos of the vine leaves.

It wasn’t one of my better days, though building nest boxes is always a good thing to do. So is eating fresh figs.

After that, we returned home for a cup of tea. I downloaded photos and, whilst snoozing happily in my chair, dreamed of Derbyshire.

At that point Julia demonstrated the depths of depravity to which a wife can stoop, waking me up to remind me I’d said I’d give her a lift to Wilkos to buy paint for nest boxes. Obviously I’d meant I’d give her a lift if I wasn’t asleep and it wasn’t too close to Pointless. I don’t ask much from life and a snooze and a TV quiz seem quite modest requirements. So does freedom from being woken up to go shopping.

We went to Arnold, and I took some photos from the rooftop car parks at Wilkos and ASDA (who are currently renovating their car park). They aren’t great photos, but they didn’t offer much in the way of scenery. The main theme is Rain, with a secondary motif of More Rain.

 

 

Tractors, Tribulations and Old Men

After dropping Julia off yesterday I went to see Men in Sheds on the farm. As you know, I don’t really like going, but I wanted to see them before Flintham Show to check on the Little Grey Fergie and to let them know Julia would be round with a group from the Mencap gardens.

There was a covey of four red-legged partridges in the lane, all taking different ways ape and avoid having their photo taken – flying through a gateway, flying over the top of the hedge, running through a hole in the hedge or running along the lane and diving into long grass. I prophesy that in the next few months one will be run over and at least one shot unless they work on their survival techniques.

The Men in Sheds were a bit thin on the ground, with just four of them, plus two women. Women? Whatever next? Two were in Llandudno, one at the doctor and nobody was sure about the others. I hope I’m still driving to Llandudno in my 80s.

The tractor is still in bits, but will be going to Flintham in bits as a display to show the sort of things they get up to. They were actually clearing out a barn today, in their role of cheap labour for the farm, though they have been making nest boxes for owls.

On the way I took some photos of the air crash memorial, which will be covered in another post soon, and while I was there (after having a nice cup of tea) I had a look round at the gardens.

It’s interesting to see things like the anenomes and osteospermum, which were donated as straggly transplants by neighbours, giving a big splash of colour to the garden. Same with the choisya (Mexican Orange Blossom). It was a straggly twig when we planted it (50 pence from a garden centre rescue bin) and now it’s a glossy bright green bush. Same goes for the dog roses – mere whips when we planted the four years ago – full of flowers and fruit now.

It may not be our garden anymore, but it still gives me a sense of achievement to see it, particularly when you think how cheaply we did it.

Things are pretty much as they were last time I visited. The only difference is that instead of merely being absent, the last tenant is now being referred to as having “done a runner”. The barn that is currently being cleared is being cleared of his property to defray costs.

Ironic, I said, that after evicting us to maximise income, there has been no income.

Greed does not pay.

 

 

 

Polytunnel Problems

Intermittent drizzle today. Not the best start.

Julia suffered a large split in the polytunnel yesterday. It’s the one they use for growing, so is really the more important of the two. It hasn’t been re-skinned for years, if ever, and is now both opaque and delicate. All it needed was a gust of wind and it gave way. She used the last of the mending tape on it, but even so, it may not last the winter. It’s quite probable she will open up one day to find a web of mending tape and a few shreds of plastic.

There is a certain amount of suspicion about the role of the Magpie family in all this, as they do treat the tunnels as if they own them (often having to be chased out) and there are areas of damage that could be blamed on them.

The plan is to gather a band of volunteers (maybe persuading a local company to let us have some of their staff as part of their community programme) and to have a re-skinning day next spring. It needs to be a warm, and preferably windless, day, as the plastic is better when warm and flexible. . That’s only half the story of course, and the fund-raising is now looking more urgent than ever.

The other tunnel is used as a workshop and it isn’t so important that you have a proper clear cover on that. Last time we needed a patch we used some plastic sheet that had blown in from a building site. It’s not elegant but it does work and it is frugal, which is one of the guiding principles of running the garden.

We have some seeds for next year, which we have been taking off the front of gardening magazines, and I took a couple of pictures of them this morning. They will be appearing on the group’s Facebook page later, as an example of seeds donated to the group. It’s a subtle way of letting people know that we are looking for donations.

There is a little colour in the beds, though a lot of it comes from grasses, and it is a far cry from the gardens of derrickjknight and tootlepedal . (For the sake of fairness I really should point out that the gardeners are actually Jackie and Mrs T). Next year the plan is to have more flowers – Julia has already planted some rudebekia and verbena bonariensis for next year and is adding winter pansies for spot colour at the moment. . This is partly because colour is always good, and partly because flowers mean pollen, which is good for pollinators. I was interested to see the verbena is said to rival buddleia for feeding butterflies. It’s definitely attractive to them but with its poor flower density compared to buddleia I can’t see it as a serious alternative

That leads on to something we were discussing this morning – the role of the garden.

It has to provide a service for the users, because that’s what it’s there for. That is, in turn, part of the problem, as it would be nice to grow produce for use by users and the cafe. Unfortunately this isn’t a priority – they like having their own bed, they like mowing, they  like painting and they like seeing friends. They will, when pushed, work, but it isn’t a priority and it isn’t overly productive.

If there is fruit or veg to eat at some point they like that, but it isn’t really why they go.

Indeed, the garden is designed round leisure rather than production. With so many small beds and sweeping paths it’s difficult fitting productive beds in, particularly as one polytunnel is used for activities rather than growing.

It’s going to be an interesting year of reconciling different ideas about garden use. And there was Julia thinking she applied for a job involving digging not diplomacy.

More Planters

We managed to get one of the waste bins partially dismantled, which gives us the basis for a planter trough.

There were eight screws on the hinge and five came out easily. Two came out less easily. And the final one wouldn’t budge. I applied my jemmy. It still didn’t budge. Eventually I had to drill the head of the screw, which finally worked. Only two more to go, plus a bit of internal remodelling.

I feel a bit retro using the term jemmy, it’s one of those words from the world of pea soupers and mysterious foreigners in Limehouse, along with rozzers, darbies and petermen. A lifetime of reading classic crime has certainly broadened my vocabulary.

It’s an on-going process, and we’re going to have a bit of work to do yet, but it seems a shame to throw them out.

 

Planters

Julia’s group has finished painting the metal bins so they now have a fine selection of planters on the verandah. There’s a fig in one, a conifer in another and a strange combination of Echeveria Duchess of Nuremberg, thyme and chives in a third. Echeveria and thyme are fine but I have my reservation about the chives. Time will tell.

“Those slate chippings look familiar.” I said, vaguely remembering she’d mentioned them last week.

“They’ve been on the patio for years,” she replied,”you weren’t using them.”

Wives don’t understand the concept of keeping things in case they come in useful later.

 

They aren’t just a garden task, they have provided a useful art and design project too.

She has been given some wooden bins too. The school has made some into trough planters and that’s Julia’s plan too. All we need to do is get the screws out of the hinges. Eight screws. Eight tight screws. Then we need to shorten them and dismantle the doors to re-use them as ends.

It sounds so simple…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The Morning so Far

It is grey, I can see parents taking children to school, but at least it isn’t raining.

I had a strange dream last night, involving stone-built houses, planning permission and failure. The first two came, I think, because I had fallen asleep in front of the TV during an episode of Grand Designs.  The feeling of failure, on the other hand, seems to have been creeping more and more into my thoughts recently.

It’s strange how negative thoughts are the ones that seem to persist. Yesterday I thought about plans for earning a living, new sweets for Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts and, by association, growing liquorice.  I then thought of other exotic crops, how James Wong has always disappointed me and gave serious thought to a seed bombing campaign.

I have no personal animosity towards James Wong, in case you are wondering, it’s just that when I’ve tried to grow his alternative crops they have never seemed worth the trouble.

I bought, for instance, two kiwi berry vines when we started Quercus Community. They are hardy, prolific and vigorous to the point of being invasive. Not mine. Mine are like a couple of stroppy teenagers, sulking and refusing to cooperate. When we did get fruit, which was not often, we didn’t get much and my dreams of selling bags of unusual fruit to boost our funds all came to nothing.

I keep telling myself that seed bombing is not the way forwards for my dream to make Nottingham the Butterfly Capital of the world, as it will invariably involve a lot of buddleia and make the locality look like a bomb site. Somehow I always come back to the idea though…

So there you are – my morning has consisted of blogging about yesterday.

 

Fortunately it is only ten o’clock so I still have time to pull things round. Has it really taken an hour to write this?

I must learn to type faster.

Summary

In the past week I have, again, fallen behind with my reading.

This is true of WordPress, where I have once again not found time to keep up with everyone. It has also been true of my book reading. Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that I haven’t actually picked a book up, which is unusual. I did read part of a crime novel this week, but that was because I had three medical appointments and needed something to fill the waiting time.

I have been doing a bit on the net, and have read a couple of gardening magazines but that has been it. I also read part of a Daily Mail a neighbour lent me, but that proved to be a miserable experience.

Ebay, as you can probably tell from my recent ramblings, has been taking up too much of my time. I’ll cover that at length in a later post.

Medically speaking, everything seems to be going well. I’m not going to say too much as you never know what’s around the corner.

So, that just leaves the dustbins. Our bin day is Friday. This Friday is was the recycling and garden waste bins. I picked Julia up from work and we went for a coffee. When we returned home they were still on the pavement and the garden waste bin had a sticker on top.

It seems that the bin had not been emptied because it contained either bricks, breeze blocks, rubble, rope, trellis, treated timber, animal waste, plant pots, soil, wood chipboard, bagged garden waste, bagged domestic waste or food waste.

This seemed strange because when I looked at it I couldn’t see any of that. This is only the second time we’ve put the garden waste bin out this year, and it was only about 25% full and there wasn’t much for the heinous contraband to hide behind.

That’s why I ended up with the Daily Mail. It seems that local councils are taking a hard line on such things, even to the point of fitting up to seven cameras on a bin lorry. I won’t talk about litter, poor school standards or any other council issue, because all that is important is that they issue their quota of stickers.

I know that recycling is important, and needs to be monitored, but I think this is a bit over the top. I will be discussing it with them next week.

This isn’t just an idle threat, I really will get on with this one.

I’m fairly sure that they have opened the bin, looked at the hedge clippings and mouldy plums and decided that the plums are food waste.  In fact, with them coming straight off the tree they are garden waste. I would probably just have composted them, but Julia took them off and she tends to get rid of them so the mould doesn’t cause further problems. She’s more professional than I am.

I can see why they wouldn’t want food waste in there, but if a few mouldy plums are a problem where do you draw the line? Will yellowing cabbage leaves, ground elder and nettle tops all be seen as contraband? You can eat them so I would suggest they should be. What about rhubarb leaves? They are poisonous, but they are also waste from food. And tomatoes with blight?

The world has gone mad.

Of course, there’s a little voice at the back of my head suggesting that if we had better schools in Nottingham council employees might be bright enough to work out that mouldy plums are garden waste.

I probably won’t mention that in my email.