It’s been a little wet recently. By which I mean, it has rained a lot, for several months now, and the ground is sodden. Something brought home to me courtesy of a photo taken by TNG – I think he thought he might finally get a swimming pool…

Flooded Kitchen Garden

It appears I may have a few drainage issues in the Kitchen garden. I am so glad I opted for raised beds!

Anyway, despite the delights of indoor sowing I have been champing at the bit to get outdoors and garden. With the ground so very wet actual digging, planting etc. is not terribly advisable, but I had ordered Autumn fruiting raspberry canes so I had to at least create somewhere for them to go. Rather than have 3.5m deep beds at the back of the kitchen garden I have inserted a narrow (60cm/2′) border, enriched the soil with the last of the manure, and hey presto, no sooner had I finished digging it all over than TNG stuck his head outdoors to announce the arrival of plants – raspberry canes (‘Polka’). Which were duly planted, just before it started raining. Again.

New raspberry bed

The scaffold boards mark where one of the two “entrance” borders to the kitchen garden will be, if it ever dries up enough for me to lift the turf. Eventually I’d like to grow cordon fruit to divide the two areas of the back garden, but for now these borders will be a mini cutting garden and nectar bar. I also managed to barrow compost onto the raised beds, topping the manure with a fine(ish) layer suitable for sowing in to. No weeds so far, thanks to the cardboard mulch at the bottom, but I will be “weeding” small pieces of polystyrene for a while, I think. I collected 6 litres of it from 8 barrow loads, but hey, it could be worse – it could be glass, as Dave would tell you, and anyway, it was free in the end.

So, no planting, no moving of shrubs, no fencing, as ground was too wet. What to do? Pruning. More like a massacre, actually. There are three buddleja growing at the entrance to the little close of houses we live in. I originally assumed that they were planted in a bed, but further investigation shows that actually the path goes right up to the wall, they have just done what buddlejas do so well, and inserted themselves into cracks and grown. A lot. They were lovely while in flower, but soon looked tatty, and we wondered how much of the view they cut off.

Buddlejas growing at entrance to close

It was dry and sunny yesterday, so given that I couldn’t do any of the gardening I really wanted to do I took my our reciprocating saw to them. It was great fun, but of course after the fun bit comes the tidying. I generated huge mounds of waste, which we were determined would not go to waste, so gradually it is all being turned in to kindling, wood to dry off and burn, or shredded material I can use to make a path at the back of the new raspberry bed. The shredder is very effective, but brutally noisy and has a tendency to throw branches around which can easily whip you in the face, so it was not much fun, and totally destroyed what had been a still and quiet day. I cheered myself up by stopping for frequent tea breaks and admiring the newly acquired view, but of course Sod’s Law being what it is, by the time I had finished (well, done as much as I could manage anyway) it was cold and overcast. But if you look carefully in the following photo, you should just about be able to see the sea to left of the roof of the white house at the bottom of the hill.

Buddlejas removed

From inside the house the change is even more dramatic, as we get to see out towards the Isle of Man now, and get more of the headland in view. Likewise as you walk down the road towards the beach from the village the view opens up in a rather magical way. The problem being that in a couple of months these buddlejas will be bouncing back into very enthusiastic growth. I’ve already talked to most of the neighbours about them, and everyone I have spoken to would be more than happy for them to go and be replaced with something smaller and better behaved. I think this is a job for BIL and the mattock he has proven to be so adept at wielding…

I still have a large pile of buddleja prunings to deal with, and tomorrow the rain returns, but at least I have daffodils. Walking through the front garden on my way to inspect my own buddleja I caught a glimpse of gold out of the corner of my eye. And there, in the middle of a fuchsia, was a lovely little clump of miniature narcissus. Spring is on the way. I only hope it is accompanied by some drier weather.

Surprise daffodils in the middle of a fuchsia
First daffodils of the year

47 thoughts on “Shaping Up

  1. The ground is still well sodden here, never having a real chance to dry out for months.
    The lack of sunshine has been telling, and I’m so looking forward to seeing some colour on the plot when the crocus and daffodils appear. xx

    1. It does feel a little relentless at the moment doesn’t it, all this grey wet weather, spring bulbs are much needed!

  2. Tha tis some serious water-logging between the vegetable beds. If the soil hold the water it could be good in summer but as youy say it’s a good job you chose raised beds. those sea views are certainly worth making the most of, who could resist such a wonderful view. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, if this is “normal” I will have to rethink the grass paths, they will just turn to mud! The view never ceases to delight, though it does make things complex. I am still trying to work out which views from which angles I definitely want to preserver and therefore where I can and can’t plant taller things. There is something magical about rounding the corner of the house and suddenly getting a wide expanse, but equally I’d rather work out how to frame a succession of views than end up with little privacy for fear of the occasional leaf obscuring a wave or two!

    1. If it doesn’t I shall just grit my teeth and plant anyway Sue! At least the front garden is very free draining. The back is another matter… I find myself wanting to sing that children’s rhyme, “rain, rain, go away, come again another day”…

  3. Your sodden lawn looks like ours at the moment, goodness knows when we will be able to get onto it to cut it. Like you, we decided to make raised beds for our veggies, even though it is in the highest part of the garden, it always gets waterlogged there. What a lovely view you have found hiding behind your buddleia, certainly to be saved!

    1. HI Pauline, now I just have to work out the easiest way of getting rid of the buddlejas permanently! I am worrying about cutting the grass too, it is getting distinctly shaggy, but oh, so very very wet…

  4. Such pretty Narcissus – spring absolutely HAS to be around the corner. Of course, if you get a large pile of wood ready to burn, winter will immediately end and the warmest spring on record will begin, which means that you will have to get a wriggle on with cutting that kindling. At least I think that’s how it works…

    I am very excited about the development of your kitchen garden – I can already see that it will be wonderful!

    1. Oh I do hope you are right about winter disappearing due to my enormous kindling pile! I am excited about the kitchen garden too, though I’d feel happier if my broad beans would germinate. They are being very slow.

  5. What beautiful blue skies you had on Monday – and good to be able to see past the Blessed Buddlejas to your lovely sea. I’m with your neighbours on those – yank them out I say! There were several dotted around the garden when we came here (the only decorative plant in fact), and every year there were a few more – they may be good for butterflies but they were more of a weed in our garden and except when they were flowering were nothing to look at anyway, so out they came! This year and the end of last year has made me appreciate the meaning of waterlogged ground, and the speed at which the fields flood around us after every recent rainfall clearly demonstrates this too. We don’t have a lot of grass in our garden and are fortunate to have generally deep and well drained soil, but we certainly have puddles on the paths which are not draining away. Prefeferable to have the wet rather than the cold for your newly-arrived raspberries, though – not like Dec 2011 when I had raspberries and roses arrive in the midst of that long freezing and snowy spell! Are you going to try double-cropping your raspberries?

    1. Hi Cathy, by double cropping do you mean cutting some stems back more than others? In future years yes, but these are only short sticks at present. When I was reading up about getting rid of buddlejas I came across several references to types that don’t self seed as vigorously, but I think I will abjure them altogether, there are so many around here anyway that I will be permanently weeding out the seedlings as it is, without adding to the problem deliberately. As to the sodden ground, I think there may be gravel or brick paths in my future, at least in the kitchen garden…

      1. Hi again – I have only had my autumn raspberries since last year but am following Which? Gardening advice on double cropping – leaving them uncut over winter, letting them fruit in summer then cutting these fruited canes down and allowing the newer canes to fruit in autumn. It has been shown to increase the total crop – I’ll let you know how I get on.

  6. A gardener always finds something productive to do even if weather is not cooperative, like pruning! Your kitchen garden looks so neat and tidy, granted that its new and and it’s still winter, the layout is fab and looking forward to seeing its progress in the coming months as well :)

    1. Hi guys, it was good to be able to get on and do things despite the sodden ground. I am really pleased with the way the kitchen garden is shaping up, can’t wait to see more things growing in it though. Most of all I want to plant up the area around the acer. When the rain stops for long enough. How do you like that for optimism, “when” not “if”!

  7. We inherited just one overgrown buddleia here, but it was such a pretty deep pink that we moved it safe from the building works and replanted it afterwards. I pruned it back, late and very heavily, and was amazed by how soon it responded – and how well. The following spring I took it back even further, and take it back to that point each winter/spring now, so it stands like a fairly well-behaved lollipop, pollarded about 2-3 foot high to a stem that is as broad as my wrist. It is compact, beautiful and covered in butterflies through the summer – an ideal solution in our case.

    You have reclaimed quite a stretch of sea view from your buddleias though, which were definitely ready for some attention. And such pretty narcissi. Your kitchen garden looks very tidy and ready for action, despite the mis-placed swimming pool. I suspect your autumn raspberries will reach out beyond their allotted space, though, if they’re anything like ours, as well as sending up suckers for miles around. It’s a nice ‘problem’ to have though! :)

    1. Hi Sara, it was really satisfying to reclaim that view, and know that everyone that walks down our road will get the benefit, not just us. Your buddleja solution sounds excellent, there are plenty of types that are very garden worthy, but you do have to be able to keep on top of the pruning or they rapidly outgrow their welcome. As to the raspberries, I grew them in the same size beds up at the allotment, and although I know I will have to keep thinning the canes, at least the paths to either side are not main thoroughfares. We’ll see, nowhere else for them to go at the moment! Can’t wait to pick my first, seems an impossible dream sat here listening to the torrential rain.

  8. It’s been raining a lot here, too. Which I don’t mind – I never complain about the rain! – but it does make it difficult to get out and work when we’re itching to do so! Your raised beds are beautiful, and your narcissus are so cheerful! Spring will be here soon!

    1. Oh, I do – complain about the rain, that is. Until we hit a drought, when I reverse rapidly. I am fickle, like so many gardeners! And yes, roll on Spring and lovely fresh growth and flowers everywhere…

  9. Hi Janet,

    We haven’t had so much rain here, thankfully. Instead we’ve been hit repeatedly by snow, which is far more annoying. Just as it all melts, we have a day or two of dry weather and then the next lot comes along!
    Lovely little mini daffs; my tete-a-tete are almost blooming which i think is much earlier than last year! But yes, I’d really love spring to arrive right about now.

    Those Buddleja will definitely be back in the next few months. I floor mine every single year and by the end of the season they’re back to their full size again. i thin them out in winter, and then do the full chop in Feb/march but stagger them so they bloom at different times. I’d be tempted to keep at least one because of how brilliant they are for butterflies and bees, not to mention the tits and sparrows that like to hunt in them.

    1. HI Liz, somehow I knew you would be a (semi) buddleja advocate! My repost is that I do have one in my garden, there are lots in the neighboring park, and I will be adding lots of non view destroying butterfly friendly plants to the front garden…

  10. Yes its been almost constant rain with a few bits of snow in between here in Huddersfield, its the first time since I’ve had my garden here that I’ve had some lying water like you have, so think just an exceptionally wet winter. But I have been hearing whisperings of a relatively long (more than a day) dry spell coming up, could that be correct? We’ll have to wait and see.
    Like Sara says it may be a challenge keeping the raspberries in that patch, mine ended up sprouting quite a long way from the original canes, but they are shallow rooting so relatively easy to dig up, in the end I took mine out of the garden and up to the allotment but thats more because my garden is not very big and I needed the space.

    1. Hi Annie, I heard rumours of that short dry patch too, and am struggling not to get excited about it… I am hoping that by the time the raspberries start to get out of hand I will have cleared some space in the side garden and can plant extra canes there too. Just a rather larger viburnum to prune back and move, plus a lot of rocks to shift! They should be fine there for a couple of years judging by what happened on my allotment before we moved.

    1. Hi Elaine, yes, worth thinking about, although not sure where I then put my perennial veg, rhubarb and comfrey! So many questions…

  11. Ah, Daffodils! It’s that time of year, is it? I had to chuckle when you wrote about pruning/massacring the shrubs. Sometimes that is good for them. ;-) Very impressive layout with the raised beds.

    1. There is something so very cheery about daffs, isn’t there! I do enjoy the occasional good massacre…

    1. Thank you Carolyn, that worked, I actually ate lunch outside today it was so warm and sunny!!

    1. Hi Catherine, hands off my raised beds!! They were delightfully easy to make, I am so glad I listened to the man at the timber yard, it was he who persuaded me to pay a little more for sturdier timber. His personal test is “can I use the edge of the bed to lever a spade against”…

    1. Thank you! I am looking forward to getting the kitchen garden going properly.

  12. as I was reading I was wondering what you were going to use for the path at the back of the raspberries – the ‘pick and go trail’. Intrigued by a nectar bar?! p.s. I can now see the sea but more of the telegraph pole too which I presume has restrictions on what can be grown up it?

    1. Hi Laura, for now, the “pick and go trail” (love that name) will be covered in buddleja shreddings, but I am hoping to edge the beds nicely and then use gravel as the ground gets very wet there… The nectar bar is just a strip of flowers to attract pollinators, in the hope that they will pay attention to the beans etc. as well as the borage…

      The telegraph pole is a bit of a shame, but we think the rest of it is worth it, more so from inside the house perhaps. Can’t grow anything up it – though some ivy is having a good go!

    1. Hi Donna, thanks, it does feel as if it is gradually coming together, and at least I have places to grow veges – the edging and tidying can happen around it as and when I get time!

  13. It’s most definitely wet Janet – I went to the allotment today and heard a distinct squelch every time I took a step on the path up to my plot. Mind you today was more like spring than winter so hopefully you enjoyed similar weather. Lovely to see little daffies out – they are not quite at that point here yet. ‘Polka’ is the raspberry I grow at the allotment and it’s most, most tasty and goes on producing well into the autumn :)

    1. Hi Anna, I do hate that squelchy noise! We’ve been having some lovely warm days, not so much today, but two days in a row I had lunch outside without shivering!! I am so glad to hear good things about ‘Polka’, it was a bit of a flyer really as I have only ever grown ‘Autumn Bliss’ before. Now I am looking forward to them even more!

  14. Oh dear that is quite wet. Hopefully this weekend’s weather will help and it seems like next week should be dry too. I’ve got quite a few plants that need to go into the ground now so I’m hoping the ground is workable by next weekend. Polka is a star. We planted some canes and in the first year had an amazing crop from Polka. The fruit are much bigger and I think tastier than autumn bliss.
    The first daffs. :) My February Gold are poised to open but are probably a week or so off.

    1. The past few dry days have made a big difference, thought there is still a certain amount of squelch in the worst areas. Some planting has happened here, so I hope you have managed to get some done too, definitely the best bit. Great to hear about ‘Polka’, I was unsure, I have only grown ‘Autumn Bliss’ before, can’t wait to taste them now… Patience, Janet, patience…

  15. This rain and soggyness needs to clear up soon! I’ve had enough! Your raised beds look really smart and like you say, good for avoiding the puddles!

    1. Hi Anna, we’ve been spoilt here, clear sunny days, no rain, for 5 days now. Amazing. Cold, lots of frost on the ground each morning, but goodness the sun makes a difference. Mind you, my boggy patch is still very boggy!

  16. When it is so wet, I call it Swamp Season. Our yard is quite soupy as well. Our soil is red clay, nothing is absorbed. I have had to amend everywhere I plan on planting. Our property doesn’t percolate so septic drain field has to be across the street. With all the rain, the water just sits on top of the soil.
    I sure wish I had a shredder, that would be a treat….maybe one day. We just throw our clippings from pruning into the woods.

    1. Swamp season – yep, that’s perfect! Its strange though, the underlying soil here isn’t particularly heavy, there is enough sand in it to keep it fairly open. I think the groundwater level is quite high, and that one area has been heavily compacted too. it is delightfully easy to dig. I thoroughly recommend a shredder, a cheap one still works well enough to turn most of the garden prunings into something ready to compost, which seems a wonderful way to recycle.

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