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