Thank goodness for Helen’s End of Month View meme for dragging me back to blogging! Between family staying, an ME relapse and lousy weather, I have been remiss. It is good to take a look back at what has changed over the past few weeks though, with so many projects on the go it often feels as if I am not making any progress. Actually things are moving along nicely. For one thing, I have my little greenhouse up and working again, which fills me with delight. Pottering around sowing seed with the rain hammering down on the roof is a special kind of magic. It helps that the greenhouse is so close to the door out to the garden from the conservatory, so I barely get wet moving from one to the other.

greenhouse

The beetroot growing away, sown in the other greenhouse (“other greenhouse”! Hark at me!), will probably only provide salad leaves. Since lots of the perennial seed I sowed is old, I am not expecting much from them, but it feels so very good to be properly up and running again, with greenhouse, cold frames, compost bins, all working away.

beetroot

The one problem with the greenhouse placement is that it is quite vulnerable to careless knocks as you walk around to and from the shed carrying things. We are still debating whether to block the path that runs between greenhouse and garage completely, with some combination of water butts and plants, but I think a border of some sort at the back and garden side will help remind people that the greenhouse is there. In the meantime some of the plants I have rescued from clearing borders are potted up and sheltering – some of the wild orange montbretia I removed from the corner of the front garden by the gate, the lovely orange rose that was in that same area, a fuchsia that I am saving for fil.

rescued plants

Quite why I am carefully preserving pots of crocosmia when I still have several other large clumps elsewhere I am not entirely sure. Maybe because I felt a little guilty at ripping out such an enormous patch of the stuff. It was in a good cause though – it meant I was able to move the escallonia macrantha that will form the basis for the evergreen stretch of hedge in the front garden in to place.

escallonia hedge

It looks a little lonely at present, but I have promised myself – and TNG – that I won’t buy plants until I have cleared the space they are destined for. It should limit the number of plants that languish in pots waiting for some combination of the weather, my health, and other projects to align in such a way that I get around to planting them… Clearing that area means I am now licensed to order!

But I digress. Back in the back (!), the weird half circle bed that I sowed with a variety of salads, oriental leaves and spring onions is filling out and providing sandwich fillings.

salad bed

I say filling out – the golden pak choi has romped away, and although there are some nibbles to the leaves, it is clearly very happy. The weeds have romped away too, and I never seem to quite get around to doing more than a half hearted quick weed in passing, which may be why few of the other oriental leaves have made any kind of showing. The purple pak choi is much less vigorous, and had a lower germination rate, and of the salad leaves only the mustard mix has done anything. The salad onions are doing quite well, but unless I do a thorough weeding are not going to amount to much. Still, it feels good to have something edible growing away.

On which subject, the other back garden project that I have made some headway on is the raised beds. After lots of umming, ahing, internet searching and then consultataion with a very helpful keen veg grower at the local builder’s merchants, I have used 6×2 sawn and planed timber to make 4 beds, each 1.2m wide and 2.4m long.

raised beds

I say “make”. The timber is all cut to length and stained, but I ran out of screws after completing just one raised bed! I’ve rectified that, but since I have already missed the opportunity to sow much for over wintering, and since I am still finalising where to get a suitable filling for the beds from, completing them has dropped down the priority list. I have decided that finishing these is the kind of job I can do on a cold but clear autumn day when it has been raining too hard to be able to work on the borders without destroying the soil structure. Which pretty much guarantees that there won’t be any such days between now and shallot planting time.

Still, I am happy with the way they are turning out. They aren’t particularly deep, but I can always add a layer later if I want to. I like the way the black stain contrasts with the grass, it should set off all the many wonderful crops I will grow in them beautifully! Well, come on, you have to be optimistic as a gardener, or you would never sow seed and expect anything to happen, particularly after they year we have just had here in the UK.

It has been an interesting process, deciding how large to make the beds and the paths between them. Do you ever have conversations with someone, believing you are both on the same page, and then suddenly realise that you are working from completely different assumptions? A few weeks ago now TNG and I were sat with mugs of tea in hand debating the size of deck it would make sense to have, when I realised that we had somewhat different expectations where the back garden was concerned. I had promised an area of grass would be left, large enough to pitch a tent, but I was envisaging a riot of planting, edible and ornamental, where he was dreaming of space, a sense of freedom, of not feeling restricted as to where to walk by lots of paths and big shouty planting. Clearly better communication was required…

I completely understand that desire for a sense of space and freedom, and I have the whole of that enormous front garden to play with, so it was back to the drawing board. Fewer raised beds with wider paths between, a goal of “bare foot gardening”, where you can walk around and weed, pick etc. without having to bother with shoes, and plenty of open space has become the order of the day. We don’t intend to have much of a lawn, as such. Instead we will try naturalising bulbs and encouraging wildflowers, leaving lots of the grass long, adding a plum tree and hopefully some cordon apples and pears. A wide, straight, mown path will hopefully stop it all just looking uncared for, but it will be a big experiment – and one that will have me pestering Kate at beagenie.com with questions, as she has a wonderful meadow.

All this means I have had to re-think what I am trying to do, growing edibles, too. I had fallen into the assumption that I had to try and grow as much of our fresh veg as I could, hence the tendency to space-grab and have narrower paths. With less space I will be concentrating on the things that we really love, broad beans, runner beans, peas, mange-tout, salad leaves, anything I can stir-fry, purple sprouting broccoli, sweetcorn. No potatoes or garlic, though I may get tempted to grow just a small number of new potatoes, no onions, but I will try shallots, and I can see myself experimenting more and more with perennial veg too. Putting currants and gooseberries in the main borders, along with alpine strawberries, will help make up the space deficit, and as long as I always find room for sweet peas, dahlias, cosmos and ammi I will be happy.

Back in the front garden (!), I am gradually turning the circle bed into a rescue home for the plants I discover languishing under the conifers and evergreens I am clearing.

circle bed nursery

Just a little grass and some sad-looking hebes so far, but there are lots of grasses I want to rescue and re-use lurking elsewhere.

My main efforts, now that the space for the escallonia hedge is clear, have been concentrated on clearing enough of the fence border to be able to get rid of that hideous red colour so that I can start planting. I’m sure I can hear the little kojo-no-mai cherry and the cotinus whispering to me as I pass them – “Help! Get us out of our pots!”. Well, I’m working on it.

red fence corner

Still lots of rootballs to dig out before I can plant, but large sections of the fence are now clear enough to paint.

rhododendron corner

The pampass grass has been hacked back but not yet removed. Daft place to plant such a thing, poor fil had a nasty fall because of it. His feet got tangled up in the leaves that crossed the path. Unfortunately he was carrying a loo we had picked up on freecycle at the time, and went flying, hurting his chest against said loo and his head against the fence post. We were very worried for a while, but happily he seems to have recovered. The pampass grass is history, despite the sparrows’ love of the seed heads.

So that’s the current state of play here. Plenty of progress, plenty to do. I hope I never start taking living here for granted. It is such a privilege to be able to garden to the sound of the waves, and yet be sufficiently sheltered from the salt spray to not really have to worry, and knowing that we are here for the long term means I can rip out great chunks of border and look forward to watching it gradually transformed as new plants fill the space over the coming years. I will leave you with a bit of beach porn, and the suggestion that you nose around what other people are up to in the gardens by checking out the patient gardener’s blog.
Traeth Bach

48 thoughts on “End of Month View September 2012

  1. Strange you should mention saving crocosmia. I dug up a couple of overgrown clumps this year. I replanted some of the larger tubers and the rest of the clump was popped in any available container. Nor planted just popped. There the pieces have sat all ‘summer’ and flowered away. I just have so much but can’t seem to just dump it.

    1. Hi Sue, they are almost scarily robust plants, aren’t they! I’m not kidding myself about having cleared them out, I am sure they will keep popping up in amongst the yet-to-be-planted hedge for years to come!

  2. Hi Janet,

    You certainly are getting to grips with the garden! Plenty of work done already :)

    I know how you feel re: throwing plants away. I’m the same. I need to divide up various plants – mostly large Geraniums but know I won’t want to throw away the divisions but don’t have the space for even more Geraniums… Considered giving some to my neighbour but then I’d just end up filling her garden!
    Last Autumn I dug up lots of Crocosmia, one large clump in fested with couch grass was left dumped down the side of the house and yet it’s still managed to grow and bloom happily! They just don’t die. I had intended to chop up the clump slowly and throw it away but I’m not sure I have the heart now………………. lol

    1. Rats, I wish I lived nearer, I would love loads of geraniums! I am looking forward to doing a higher proportion of planting soon, it gets a bit wearing, always digging out things, not to mention the fact that TNG gets overwhelmed by the ever-growing shredding mountain!

      1. Hi Janet,

        Ah, that is a shame – I will give some to my parents, but I already gave them some last year…
        But yes I can well imagine you’re itching to get planting!
        Last weekend I borrowed dad’s shredder… They’re a bit useless aren’t they???! Only good for big, straight branches, small ones just don’t work. Or do you have one that’s actually good?

  3. Everything is coming along nicely Janet. I also have another greenhouse but like yourself play it down, when I show pictures of it, it must look odd when some show an interior with a wooden frame and the other aluminium. Also like yourself I have pots of perennials which I have divided and very likely will find no use for, can always give them away. The wooden fence looks nice and sturdy, but yes it is a hellish colour.

    1. Hi Alistair, I really must get on to Alton and find out how best to mend the wooden greenhouse, as it isn’t currently water tight at all thanks to a slipped pane caused by some rotten wood. yes, it is a sturdy fence, for which I am grateful – more money for plants! I shall hope to be doing some plant swapping with one of my neighbours soon, all this clearance is producing lots of room for new goodies, and divisions from neighbours would be lovely, at least that way I know the plants will thrive in the conditions!

  4. Wow, I am impressed with all that you have accomplished in the past month, Janet! The frames for your new raised beds look so good–did you make them yourself? This is something I have been wanting to add for my vegetable garden for some time, but doing it myself always seems rather daunting. Glad your father-in-law is okay; that sounded like quite a nasty fall.

    1. Hi Rose, thank you, but the raised beds were actually very easy to build – I used metal brackets to join the sides together rather than the more conventional wooden stakes, as I wanted to be able to experiment with different placement before committing. I used decking screws, which are designed to hold softwood together well, and which don’t need pilot holes, which speeds things up. Those and a good cordless drill, and it was easy.

  5. Sorry to read that you have been under the weather in more ways than one Janet. Hope that both your health and elements are soon on an upward spiral. Despite the setbacks you seem to have achieved much. It must be great to get the greenhouses up and running. Mine is a but a short hop out from our dining room which has been most fortunate this year. Look forward to reading more about your veggie growing plans especially any perennial veg plantings. Great news that you have cleared that space and have license to thrill :)

    1. Hi Anna, my own fault on the health front, I just pushed myself too hard, I was having too much fun – and wanted to get to the plant-buying and planting stage… I have been reading about your perennial veg experiments with great interest, but I have lots of research to do before I work out what to try, I think. So maybe a project for next year!

  6. With being in a new place I can imagine you have long list of projects to do. Nice recap of what you’ve been up to in the garden lately!

  7. depite the weather you have achived a lot Janet, I love your black stained raised beds, I think using the centre round bed for saved plants is a good idea as they have more room to move so to speak, I’ve done that with the centre bed of my front garden last year as the 2 other beds are over grown, I can now move some plants when the weather allows, it is interesting how we can think we are thiking/imagining the same but are not, good to find out while still at the planning stage, less veggies means you will have more time to enjoy your garden instead of feeling harassed, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I like the sound of not being harassed! And yes, the center bed is making an excellent plant nursery, one I will need to use to the max as I recover yet more treasures that have been half buried by other plants!

  8. Wow, you have been busy.
    I notice in a few of the pictures the soil looks quite dry, have you had much rain in Sept..?

    I also like how tall your greenhouse is, no ducking for you. Also in the pics of your greenhouse, you’ve given me an idea about new flooring using gravel.

    Nice blog.

    1. Hi June, the soil is mostly very well draining, so the rain we had – and there was lots – all tends to disappear quite swiftly. I am planning lots of soil enrichment to help the drier areas hang on to more of it for longer. The extra height in the greenhouse is wonderful, I am really glad I spent the extra to get it. I can’t claim any credit for the gravel in the greenhouse, it was mostly there already, though I did swap some of it for some that was elsewhere! There were two kinds, one of which I really like, the other, not so much. The “not so much” one got used in the greenhouse to release the type I do like and hope to re-use out the front, eventually.

  9. You have achieved so much since your last post, sorry to hear that you’ve not been good, it does put a stop to all the plans doesn’t it, take care and don’t overdo it! I’m very envious of all your empty spaces, at the moment I am redoing the border at the side by the field and am trying to get empty spaces to replant! Some wild montbretia that I just flung in a corner in the woodland, didn’t plant it, has flowered beautifully this year, now why can’t all plants be like that!!

    1. Hi Pauline, am really trying not to over do things, but I am having so much fun! I know exactly what you mean about lusting after empty spaces to plant, it was exactly the situation I wound up with in my previous garden, so I am luxuriating in being able to edit this new one so much.

  10. Janet my you have been very busy. I love all the ideas you have. You may want to build up the veg beds only to save your lower back. I made sure mine were 12 inches at least and then I have a garden bench so I can sit and garden…I love the idea of picking veggies in my bare feet…may be an idea I could do here but I already have perennials all around them for the pollinators. The greenhouse up was such a pleasant sight and makes me still want one….maybe someday. The front wall now exposed is just beautiful and looking forward to seeing all the progress next month. Take Care!!

    1. Hi Donna, I would certainly like to increase the height of the beds eventually, but at least this gives me a way to get going without breaking the bank, which is already groaning under the strain of the move… Hope you get your greenhouse, I know you would really enjoy the extra dimension it gives to gardening. I so love being able to potter around in the rain, and yet be dry!

  11. What a busy month you’ve had! Huge progress once again. The raised beds do look good, and there’s no hurry to finish them, even if you miss autumn planting there will be plenty to go in soon after!
    Have you seen Tom Stuart Smith’s latest meadow planting (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/9555597/How-to-sow-your-own-exotic-meadow.html). I almost swooned when I saw it – the penstemon and dianthus are quite wonderful. I’ve dozens of Dianthus carthusianorum seedlings at the minute, having given some to my mum I’ll still be left with too many to plant, and as you say I hate throwing things away… :( If only we had some space to create an exotic meadow too!

    1. Hi Sara, that meadow of TSS’s is very beautiful, but there again, he has the acreage to be able to do it properly! I think the trick here will be to find a way to do something that doesn’t look a mess or out of scale. I predict lots of trial and error… Maybe you could buy the field next door? Gets rid of the “cows eating the hedge” problem and gives you the space for a meadow, an orchard, a polytunnel… Go on, you know it makes sense…

      1. Don’t think that idea didn’t strike us very early on! It would be lovely, we even speculatively broached the subject with the council while putting in our planning for the work on the house, but apparently they are very strict on retaining agricultural land so we were told we would never have permission to change its use to domestic, so even if we managed to stump up cash and persuade the farmer to part with a strip, we couldn’t use it… it’s still a rainy-day thought to dream of if things ever change.

  12. So much is happening! You have done a huge amount! Don’t overdo it, I don’t want you laid up helpless and not blogging! I do know exactly what you mean about conversations that you think are just a summing up of jointly held views only to discover that isn’t the case at all! I sympathise. That last shot is just too wonderful, you are very, very lucky! Christina

    1. Hi Christina, am doing my best on the energy management front, but I am having so much fun, it is hard to stop! I am very glad TNG and I realised the gulf in ideas before I got too far, and happily we are now both on board with the new plan. As to the beach, I have just come back from sitting on a rock down there, which never fails to fill me with a sense of peace and wonder. Very, very lucky indeed.

  13. I know what you mean about how exhausting it is to plan for new beds. There seems to be so many things to consider. They will look nice and hopefully make it easier.

    1. Hope so! Am all for things that make gardening more pleasure and less chore, particularly as I have so much more garden here than I have had before.

  14. I know you want it all ‘just so’ quickly. I understand completely!! You have really made some great improvements in the garden already! I imagine you and your husband will want to have a lovely spot to sit out there to enjoy your water views.
    Hope your fil is ok, always scary when someone falls.

    1. Hi Janet, thank you! Fil will be back here tomorrow, so hopefully we can stop him from hurting himself this time, he seems to have recovered OK. And yes, we definitely want a good seating area out the front, the trick will be to make sure it doesn’t block the view from the house. I think we will be doing lots of experiments with chairs, boards, shouting and gestures next year, to work out where is best for a slightly raised deck for a couple of chairs to sit.

  15. That is indeed one beautiful photo of the beach. What a lovely spot you’ve found yourself in. I’m amazed at the amount of work you’ve done in short time. Digging out those borders is no small feat. I like your idea of no buying until the space is dug. I wish I had kept to that rule more than a few times.

    1. Hi Marguerite, I’m finding the “make the space to plant them first” rule really helpful, as it stops me getting all anxious about plants languishing in pots when I haven’t got around to putting them in the ground, so here’s hoping I can stick to it. I must admit I am relieved to find that I do enjoy the process almost as much as the finished (as if anything in a garden is ever finished) article. Just as well, as there is years of work ahead of me…

  16. How wonderful to have all that gardening time after the summer is over! My garden is just about done for the season, as we’ll have our first hard freeze later this week! Sorry to hear you’ve been feeling under the weather, but it sounds like you’re perking up a little bit. Nice greenhouse! My husband bought me a tiny one, but I won’t be using it until spring now. :(

    1. Goodness, I’m not sure I could cope with a big freeze just yet! Instead we seem to be having a run of really mild weather, which is great as I should have some new plants arriving next week, and it looks as if I will be able to get them into the ground. Hope you enjoy your winter “rest”, I always love the period in which the weather forces us to do minimal gardening, as it is an ideal time to plan and dream for next year.

  17. Janet, I’m always amazed at your energy and inventiveness. I’ll keep watching this space to see if you and TNG will both manage to realise your ideas somehow. I’m sure you will!

    1. Hi b-a-g, here’s hoping! In the meant time I am just grateful that he is still willing to shred all the plant material I keep digging up/cutting back, it is almost a full time job!

  18. Sorry to hear you haven’t been well but hoping you’re feeling better. It can be hard sometimes to accommodate the needs and ideas of everyone who may use a garden. Wellyman and I have pretty similar ideas about how the garden should look but we do often like different plants and he is much more willing to stick with ailing or out of control plants than I am. Loving the idea of a meadow. That is on my list of dream projects.

    1. Ah yes, the “but it might come back from the dead” dilemma. My fil is more of your Wellyman’s persuasion, where as I am pretty rutheless. Happily for me, so long as I leave enough space for TNG to feel a sense of freedom, he really couldn’t care less what plants I grow where! Of course, that also means the choices, and the results of those choices, are all on me…

  19. So much to do but with so much opportunity! Exciting! I had a friend who once had to use a truck and a chain tied around their pampas grass to get it out of the ground. It was a beast!

    1. We did think about using the van’s tow hitch, but we couldn’t get a good angle – then bil just got rid of it in 5mins flat, without even breaking a sweat! Wish he lived nearer…

  20. As always a most enjoyable post to read and good pictures to look at.
    I’m impressed with the progress you’ve made although I’m sure that it seems little to you.
    Take care. xx

    1. Thanks Flighty, I’m having a lot of fun, and keep reminding myself that I am in this for the long haul. Fortunately I enjoy the process, not just the end results!

    1. Dreadful, isn’t it? Mind you, not sure what the neighbours will make of my solution…

  21. I love your idea of a rescue garden. What person with a real love of plants could discard them or let them languish when a little TLC could nurse them back to health and happiness? And begin a rescue space, it might end up with some surprises for plant combinations that you might not have thought of previously.

    1. Hi James, yes, you are absolutely right, I’m almost bound to come across combinations I would never have thought of myself.

  22. I’m feeling a bit bereft of greenhouses here. Although I guess I do have um a few polytunnels to play in so I shouldn’t moan! Looking good here Janet. Regarding plants you don’t want. I work in a local recycling centre and we accept old plant and also often get loads on freegle/freecycle locally. I wonder if you can offer some of yours up. Folks will be grateful for free bits and bobs.

    BTW I hope your FIL isn’t traumitised now by the formerly rampant pamphas. Naughty plant.

  23. PS I did lol about the beach porn! We’ve been overindulging ourselves too!

    PPS – have you considered sneaking some veggies amoung the front garden they can be quite decorative too………then again I’m obsessed with eating.

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