Tag Archives: gardening

The Garden

Last summer, I decided to change our front garden. PIL was in full agreement. One side of the driveway had already been done and was established and looking good, even if I do say so myself! It had that packed, cottage garden look that both PIL and I like.20160709_130151

The other side was a tatty bit of lawn that really was a bit of pain with having to drag the mower around from the back garden and mow a bit of lawn covered in bald patches.

Part of the front garden before we went on holiday to Florida at the beginning of July

Part of the front garden before we went on holiday to Florida at the beginning of July 2015

So last year I started on it. Now considering that it was a relatively small area, it’s taken an age to get it sorted but that really came down to time and the fact that a lot needed doing to it. I began by removing the remaining grass.

Front garden two weeks after our return from holiday

Front garden two weeks after our return from holiday

Rather than using chemicals, I just took off the top layer. It would mean that grass would sprout up in a few places again but it would be easy enough to pull out and it would eventually disappear completely.

The front garden just before I went to Wales at the end of August.

The front garden just before I went to Wales at the end of August.

Then I turned the soil over and removed all the rubble that the builders had buried. I then dug in some pea gravel to improve the drainage. It’s London clay around here so it’s like concrete when dry and an absolute bog when wet. After levelling out again, I covered it in half of ton of well rotted horse muck that I got from my sister. I could of done with another ton but I made do with what I had.20150918_134248

Horse muck dug in and ready to plant. It's now mid September!

Horse muck dug in and ready to plant. It’s now mid September 2015!

Then I began the process of planting up. I put in bulbs, I put a couple of hebes in but the main planting was of hardy perennials. I like perennials. You put them in the ground and they grow and they spread so every 3 or 4 years you divide them up and hey presto, free plants! Brilliant.

Planting up begins. It's now October.

Planting up begins. It’s now October 2015

20151007_114408I had an idea in my head of what I was trying to achieve. I was after a cottage garden effect again and that meant lots of plants but I had to be careful as plants spread if they’re happy and I had to leave space for that to happen. For instance, Echinacea or Cone flowers start off with a couple of flowering stems but quickly establish into a clump nearly 2 feet across. I also wanted to attract wild life into the garden. Attract insects and birds follow. Plant open flowers like cone flowers, geraniums and Rudbeckia and bees, butterflies and hover flies arrive in masses.20160803_120828

Now I read somewhere that bees “see” ultra violet as well as other colours and they are drawn towards purples and mauves so a lot of the plants in my garden are purple or mauve along with plenty of red splashed around with blobs of blue and yellow dotted here and there with some white flowers in the mix too. It sounds awful and I must admit I thought it would look terrible. I’ll let you decide.20160803_120839

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There are mistakes that I am in the process of rectifying. When the Lupins and Astibles planted in the centre died back at the end of July, there was no height in that particular section of the garden. I have plants out there that I can divide and replant that flower later in the year and provide some height. Fingers crossed that it works. I need to move the asters which are in flower now but are being crowded out. The sedum is also in flower and both it and asters are an excellent source of late season nectar for bugs. The sedum needs dividing though. Never mind, I’ll get another plant or two out of this!20160802_111236

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The best time to divide plants or move them is either now when the soil is still warm and roots can start to establish or in the spring once the ground has warmed up a bit. Of course, you can plant stuff all during the summer too.20160802_111230

 

20160812_091813Here’s a little snippet of information that I read recently that is of particular interest if you have any apple trees. We don’t, although some years ago we had about an acre of old orchard. We never actually did anything with it and that’s something I regret. One day, I’ll grow an apple tree or two. My sister has a couple so this will be of interest. Listen up Boo. Apples often suffer from “scab”, it doesn’t make the fruit inedible but it doesn’t look very nice. (what scab does?). Planting bulbs under the tree helps to stop scab and if those bulbs happen to be wild garlic, it can completely stop the appearance of scab on apples. Only one problem. Wild garlic spreads like Billy Oh so be careful. Mind you, wild garlic is pretty cool anyway. Eating the leaves raw or cooked is apparently very good for you, tastes good, smells good if you walk on it AND it keeps vampires at bay to boot! A miracle plant if ever there was one. The woods around here are full of it and I love walking through it all in the springtime. Next Spring, I intend cutting some leaves and bringing it home for use in the kitchen. (Mainly to disguise the smell of burning).

One of the nice things about flower gardens and cottage gardens in particular, is the way that a seed will settle somewhere, think to itself, “I like it here” and up pops a plant in the most unexpected and usually brilliant place.20160622_091658

Once I have the front sorted, it will be time to go and sort out the somewhat neglected back garden. Having said that, I quite like the slightly dishevelled look of our lawn. It’s full of daisies and clover and that, in turn, brings lots of bees and bugs into the garden. There is a hedgehog house out there now and a bird box to put up. I’m looking forward to it. Not so sure my back is though!

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On that note, it is time to go. My son is due at the station soon and I need to go pick him up. PIL is busy watching The Great British Bake-Off. She’s discovering new ways to burn stuff I think.

I hope you have a truly fantastic evening. Until the next time peeps…..

More Dick soon.

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The Garden

I must admit to enjoying a bit of gardening. Unfortunately, I don’t spend as much time as I would like pottering around doing gardening stuff like dead heading, planting out new plants, taking cuttings and enjoying the physical effort involved. Some of this is down to work but more often it’s the rubbish English weather on my days off that stop me.gardener cartoon

I have been planning and plotting the other side of our front garden for some months now and progress has been slow.

Part of the front garden before we went on holiday to Florida at the beginning of July

Part of the front garden before we went on holiday to Florida at the beginning of July

Front garden two weeks after our return from holiday

Front garden two weeks after our return from holiday

The front garden just before I went to Wales at the end of August.

The front garden just before I went to Wales at the end of August.

The front garden shortly after my return from Wales with a load of well rotted horse muck ready to be dug in

The front garden shortly after my return from Wales with a load of well rotted horse muck ready to be dug in

Horse muck dug in and ready to plant. It's now mid September!

Horse muck dug in and ready to plant. It’s now mid September!

Planting up begins. It's now October.

Planting up begins. It’s now October.

The dark patches show me where I've planted bulbs.

The dark patches show me where I’ve planted bulbs.

What I want to achieve is a “cottage” garden, which is very relaxed and informal. I think that’s what a garden is all about – somewhere to be relaxed and informal, just like the garden. There is still lots to do. I have 30 odd allium bulbs to plant, daffodils, the big thing you can see in the background in the first few photos with white daisy like flowers is being moved to the centre, there are plants in the back garden I want to move and then once spring has sprung, I’ll fill in gaps and move plants around because it looks like shit with colour clashes all over the place. I want lots of scent so two or three honeysuckles will be added to festoon themselves over the walls. But I’ll enjoy doing it.

I love the informality

I love the informality

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This is what I would like to achieve. A combination of these three would be ideal

This is what I would like to achieve. A combination of these three would be ideal

Other people prefer a more formal and regulated garden. Good for them. If that’s what they like then I’m not going to criticise them. When it comes to gardens, I firmly believe in “Whatever turns you on.” Want gnomes? As many as you want mate. Nothing but roses? Good for you.

One of the things I also try and do is encourage wildlife into our garden, particularly insects and bees. While I have been known to use weed killer on those pernicious perennial weeds like dandelions, I don’t use pesticides. Pesticides don’t discriminate between good bugs and bad bugs. It’s a bug so it dies. Not a good idea. I try to achieve a natural balance in our garden. Doing so, particularly if you have used pesticides, can take a couple of years and you never actually get rid of every bad bug but you do get levels of infestation that are manageable.

A hoverfly

A hoverfly

Hoverfly larvae scoffing an aphid

Hoverfly larvae scoffing an aphid

Taking bees aside, I try to encourage hover flies and lady birds into the garden. If you have roses in your garden or grow vegetables and have a problem with aphids, I suggest you do the same.

Yep. A lady bird

Yep. A lady bird

A ladybird larvae. Do NOT kill

A ladybird larvae. Do NOT kill just because it’s an ugly bastard

Ladybirds and their larvae will scoff upwards of 4000 aphids during their life cycle. That’s right! 4000! Hoverfly larvae will each munch their way through several hundred aphids before eventually becoming nectar eating hoverflies. So they are worth encouraging. Both hoverflies and lady birds like to feed on nectar but they need to do so on plants with fairly open flowers. Plants like ox-eye daisies, coreopsis, marigolds and Rudbeckia are ideal. If you’re happy to suffer a few aphids chomping your roses or lettuce, you will notice the difference in the wildlife attracted into your garden. More insects, often means more and different types of birds, hedgehogs, frogs and toads in the garden and that, to my mind, is a good thing. I have had sparrow hawks chasing blackbirds in my garden and that is a sight to behold.

Gardening can also be dangerous. It’s not just the tools like shears, secateurs, strimmers and mowers involved. It’s bloody zombie gardeners!

Dude. Do you have a spade. I need to dig a big hole

Dude. Do you have a spade? I need to dig a big hole.

They’ll stop at nothing to nick all the good stuff in your garden and transfer to their own.

Gardening can be a dangerous occupation. I always keep a spade handy. Just in case.

Gardening can be a dangerous occupation. I always keep a spade handy. Just in case.

They’ve been known to bump off a gardener or two and they pop up out of nowhere.

I always keep a few tools handy just in case some of the zombies round here start to go into one and launch a surprise raid to try and nick my lobelias.in_case_of_zombies_gardening

So far I’ve been lucky and managed to beat any ZGRs (Zombie Garden Raiders) off with a sharp spade to the head.zombie gardener2

I must admit it’s a bit of a pain disposing of a zombie head but, like with slugs and snails, I usually lob them into next doors garden and they  have a moan and a groan:

“Oi Terry! Them bloody zombies have been fighting in our garden again. There’s fucking zombie heads all over the lawn.”zombie head

“I bloody told you Chardonnay, them bleedin’ hollyhocks you wanted planted up attract those buggers like flies to a dog dump.”

“Are you sayin’ it’s my bloody fault we always find zombie heads in our garden? How come that bloke next door never gets any?”

“Coz he ain’t got any fuckin’ ‘olly’ocks in his garden you silly cow!”

“Silly cow? You bastard. That’s it! I’m staying round me mums. You can sod off.”

“Oh that’s right. Leave it to me to clear up all the bloody gore and brains again, then take it down the council tip and hope they don’t notice. Thanks a bunch you selfish old moo.”

“Stick it up your bum Terry. I’ve had enough. Where are the car keys………”

All over a bloody stray zombie head. See what I mean? Zombie gardeners are bloody dangerous. Pinch your plants, bury a trowel in your head and cause matrimonial conflict. Bastards.

Finally, a quick message for SDG. I’m afraid the slug deterrent experiment will have to wait until next year now. By the time I got round to trying out the nettle juice and smuggling the hostas out of PILs sight, they had all started to die back and slugs wouldn’t have been interested. Looks like we’ll have to wait until 2016 to make our fortunes.

On that note, it is time for me to leave.

Have a great day.

More Dick soon.auto

Updates

I’ve been away working for the last week and I’m still feeling a bit cream crackered and brain activity is at an all time low. However, I will soldier on and hope that some of my few remaining brain cells start to connect while I’m writing this post.

NORMAN.

Sometime in the near future I will write about what my mate Norm did to someones house but for now I just want to show what he experienced taking a swim in the River Dee many years ago. In my last post I mentioned he had jumped into the river to help me with my spray deck without realising how deep the river was and he kind of got swept away and ended up swimming down a rapid known as The Serpents Tail. This is what it looks like:

Norm had to swim down this. Plonker!

Norm had to swim down this. Plonker!

And this is what awaited him at the bottom:

As Norm approached I suspect he may have done a bit in his trousers!

As Norm approached I suspect he may have done a bit in his trousers!

That wave is known as a “stopper” and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Imagine a whirlpool on its side – that’s effectively what a stopper is and they can stop you dead and can be very dangerous to someone forced to swim into it as it will hold you in and keep spinning you around, mostly underwater. Omar and I were in Austria for a Europa Cup event some years ago and we got it slightly wrong on one of our practice runs and hit a huge stopper at an angle. It pulled us under and then spat us out like a Polaris missile. We were vertical and completely clear of the water. Bear in mind we both weighed 11 stone soaking wet, our canoe weighed another 20 kilos, was 16 feet long and that stopper just spat us out. I wish I still had the photo of that!

This guy is free styling and this is deliberate but you get the idea. This stopper is a tiddler! Imagine what a big one can do.

This guy is free styling and this is deliberate but you get the idea. This stopper is a tiddler! Imagine what a big one can do.

GARDENING

I’ve been away from home for a whole week and my garden has gone bloody berserk! I haven’t got any weeds but I do have a great many triffids!KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Just sorting them out is going to take quite a lot of effort and will undoubtedly give me back ache. However, my ornamentals are also doing very well and have suffered very little damage from sl*gs and sn**ls so far.20150513_090412 My experiment with making a concoction from stinging nettles has gone out the window, or more accurately, down the drain. PIL didn’t realise what I was doing so chucked it away. She doesn’t find it odd that there buckets containing various gooey substances dotted around the garden.  Not a drama, lots of stinging nettles around so I can restart that. While I was away, I spent a little time talking to Pete, one of the gardeners who works on the estate where we were and he told me that they use coffee grounds as a sl*g deterrent and it seemed to work reasonably well. He also told me that a feed made from stinging nettles (soak a load in a bucket of water for a couple of weeks and use the resultant liquor) is one of the best natural plant feeds you can get. I’m also hoping that doing this will deter sl*gs as the little buggers never seem to eat nettles and covering my ornamentals with nettle juice may just confuse them. I have to say that Pete has to be one of the most contented men I have ever met.

Pete. On e of the happiest and most content blokes I've ever had the great fortune to meet

Pete. On e of the happiest and most content blokes I’ve ever had the great fortune to meet

He is a retired fireman, a job he always wanted to do and as far as he was concerned he was living the dream and now his dream continues as he gardens, which he loves, and gets paid for doing it. I am soooo jealous!

BEES

I’m still looking into this. There seems to be a major problem with honey bee colonies dying en masse and no one really seems to know why.Honeybees While I was away, we all had to suddenly leg it as a swarm of bees came over where we were working. I let the estate manager know so that he could take action in case they landed inside the buildings and pissed off his guests. My gardener mate Pete came along shortly afterwards looking for them but found no trace and concluded they probably returned to their hive. Now oddly enough, scientists looking into why bee colonies are dying off have been hindered by the lack of bee bodies. Apparently, the bees fly off never to return. Aliens? It would also appear that farmers rent bee colonies to pollinate their crops as and when the crop is ready and in full flower which may explain why I’ve not seen too many honey bees this year. I will report back on this subject later.

HOTEL SERVICES

It’s amazing what’s provided these days. The hotel I stayed in was very pleasant, the staff were nice, the bed lovely and comfy, the shower was good and the TV remote worked. My first morning I got in the lift to get breakfast, pressed the button and a womans voice said;

“Going down”.

“Ooo” I thought, “I think I like this hotel but she’ll need to be quick as I’m only on the third floor”.

man & woman in lift I’m pretty certain I was alone in the lift so there wasn’t a queue but I remained fully zipped up throughout my descent. I did mention it to the reception staff that while the woman had said she was going down, nothing had actually happened. They said they would get an engineer in to sort the problem out but perhaps they had to wait for a spare part as the poor woman remained stuck in her little cupboard somewhere in that lift for the duration of my stay. I hope she’s ok.BH-NwgdCUAI-6yg.jpg-large I am in dire need of a cup of tea so I’m off. I hope you have an absolutely smashing day.

More Dick soon.auto

Gardening

 

Me

Me

 

Perhaps the only thing that can be said about the lawn in our back garden is that it’s generally green! A small percentage of that greenness is caused by grass. The rest of the greenness is made up of moss (18%), clover (23%), buttercups (17%), daisies (16%), dandelions (12%), sundry other weeds etc (11%). I think when all the weeds are flowering it actually looks quite pretty and in my opinion having a garden that pleases your eye is really what it’s all about. The abuse the back lawn gets from the amount of football, basketball, cricket, hockey and rugby that the kids play on it makes maintaining it the way my dad maintained his lawn a bit of a waste of time. However, I have discovered method in my laziness. I have a cunning plan!

I have a cunning plan

I have a cunning plan

My dad used to expend huge amounts of energy, time and money on his lawn. Even when he was getting on a bit he would mow, weed and feed it constantly and it has to be said that 96.87% of his lawn was actually grass. Every year he would grab his lawn rake and spend the day furiously raking up every scrap of moss and dead grass. He would then spend the next week in hospital with a suspected coronary. Each spring he would scatter spring lawn feed over the lawn. Every autumn he would spread autumn lawn feed over his lawn. Every year he would aerate his lawn with his garden fork and chuck lawn sand everywhere. As far as I can make out “lawn sand” is ordinary sand in  bag marked “Lawn sand” enabling the retailer to sell it for three times the price. I could be wrong. My dad used so much weed killer and sundry other chemicals that his lawn would luminesce at night.

Personally, I try not to use chemicals and weed killers. I do use it on the paths where, typically, the grass grows quite happily. It’s the same with pests. I’m not allowed by law to use chemicals on the kids much as I may want to when they destroy my Choisya Ternata. I dislike slugs intensely but now as I grow older I try to think of them as little bunches of DNA sliming around doing what slugs naturally do.slug1-400x301

Which is EATING MY FUCKIN’ GARDEN YOU BASTARDS! DIE! DIE! DIE! KILL! YOU SNOT COVERED DOG TURDS, FUCK OFF AND DIE!hostas-being-terrorized-by-slugs

Ahem. Excuse the little rant. Sorry. Much as I try to remain calm the mere thought of slugs drives me potty. DIE YOU FUCKERS DIE! I wouldn’t mind so much but the fucker slug fucks DIE YOU SHITS DIE! in my garden all seem to look like and are the size of Jabba the Hutt with an appetite to match.review_jabba_1

I do apologise for my outburst. Anyway, generally speaking I’m quite fond of the little garden beasties, so if it’s not a s**g or a sn**l, I try to encourage them. Our back garden is effectively divided into two parts. Last week I gave the whole lawn its first cut of the year. Now I like bees. Hate wasps but like bees. Bees like clover. There’s clover in our lawn and clover when cut, takes about a week to start flowering again. So. Each week, weather permitting, I will mow one half of the lawn so that each half gets cut once every two weeks. That way it looks neat(ish), the bees have a constant supply of food and I get to put my feet up for an additional half hour having done my bit to save the planet! That’s what you call a cunning stunt. (unless you’re my sister Boo, the Queen of spoonerisms, in which case it’s something else entirely).

Boo. My sister. She looks nothing like this

Boo. My sister. She looks nothing like this

Speaking of beaver, Clit Eatswood is regularly ensconced in my beard. It seems to like it there and comes quite often.

I’ve wandered off again haven’t I?

I started gardening and enjoying it relatively late. To me it was something your dad did and therefore gardening was done by old people.gardener

When PIL and I first got together we lived in a nice house overlooking a little copse with a stream running through it. It had a garden. So in an effort to further impress her and to get her kit off as often as possible I started to garden. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing (still don’t). I built a little seat out of bricks and old fence posts at the bottom of the garden where we could sit and look out over the stream. As you would expect with something I built only three buttocks could fit on the seat but this was fine because it meant PIL sat on my lap. I started watching Gardeners World on the Beeb Beeb Ceeb and the presenter, the late Geoff Hamilton, became a bit of a hero to me.

The late Geoff Hamilton

The late Geoff Hamilton

I discovered I enjoyed gardening and even better, that I was quite good at it. I can never remember the name of plants but I can visualise what I want to do and get the plants that achieve my visualisation.

Part of our garden

Part of our garden

The best thing though is that if you cock it up and have a colour clash,  a plant in the wrong place or it doesn’t suit the scheme you’re trying to achieve all you do is dig the bugger up again and plant it somewhere else. Brilliant! It helps that both PIL and I prefer informal planting with lots of colour and form and that is easy to do. For instance, bees like foxgloves. We like foxgloves. Foxgloves self seed like nobodies business so you buy a few and let them seed and you end up with big swathes of purple foxgloves springing up in the most unexpected places.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves

If by chance they arrive where you don’t want them, just dig ’em up and plant them somewhere else.

I think most people know I like wild primroses.

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Dinky little plants with lovely yellow flowers in early spring. If you’re lucky you can get the pink form which is also lovely. You can’t just go and dig up wild flowers in England. Big fines if you’re caught. So I collect the seed which is legal. Not all of it, just enough for what I want. I pot the seeds up, they start to grow, plant them out and hey presto, loads of plants for nothing. Again, brilliant. Or you can take cuttings from your existing plants, pot them up and once again, a short time later, free plants! Herbaceous perennials are the best though. Buy one (or three), plant it immediately and enjoy the flowers. Then a year or two later, dig it up, divide it into two or three bits and replant. Then two or three years later dig each bit out again and divide it again. Bloody marvellous.

One year it wasn't there, the next it was! I did absolutely nothing.

One year it wasn’t there, the next it was! I did absolutely nothing.

The thing to never forget though is that no matter how much you enjoy the physical labour of gardening and the associated aches and pains, take time to actually look at your garden or (someone elses) and enjoy it.

A bit of our garden

A bit of our garden

Have a lovely day.

More Dick soon.auto

 

Emails to my sister 1

Boo. My sister. She looks nothing like his

Boo. My sister. She looks nothing like this

I thought I would post one of the many emails I have sent to my sister. It was these emails that gave her the idea to encourage me to start this blog. The email is dated 24th April 2014.

Funny innit. One part of the back garden hasn’t been touched since we moved in. It’s got shrubs in that corner and a cherry tree and I’ve not paid much attention to it. The shrubs are large now to say the least. One has blackbirds nesting in it every year and I watched a sparrow hawk crash-land into it as it chased one of the blackbirds (the black bird survived). I was standing about 10 feet away at the time and it was one of “those” moments. Not something you get to see every day and when you do, it makes you appreciate the wonders of what goes on outside our little bubbles every day. Anyway, because the dickie birds nest there I’ve just left it. Got a couple of straggly hebes, a heather or two, a purple prickly thing and some leggy old rhododendrons. It’s not just the birdies that like that patch but bees and flutterbys are always foraging there. So I’ve been content to leave it. I was wondering around the garden this morning looking at what was growing, wondering how many days it was going to take to pull out all the poxy weeds and waiting for Dexter to take a crap when I noticed that the rhododendrons were in flower and what magnificent flowers they are. They look fantastic. Naturally, I looked in my RHS Encyclopedia of plants and flowers and I think they might be R.’Beauty of Littleworth’. Then again, they may not. Now I’ve got to figure out how to take care of them and ensure they survive.   20140424_071419 Nice to have a little, pleasant surprise at ten past seven in the morning and I suppose that’s what it’s all about. What needs to happen now is for me to win the euro millions, stop work, potter about in the garden and see what other surprises lay in store although working or not it’s nice to know that surprises are there waiting to pop up and make your day. All you need to do is look. Have a lovely day. 20140424_071328