With the summer holidays about to start, it’s not always easy to get children away from their toys and out into the fresh air. However, inspired by the youngsters in our family, here is the A-Z of things to do right now!
A – Acting a play. Let their imagination run wild, will they be Ballerinas or Pirates? Get them to put their teddies on a blanket to be the audience as well as the grown ups and pay admission with chocolate coins.
B – Bug Hunting. Print off the names (or pictures) or write a list or of popular Insects and see how many you can find. Older children might like to build a bee hotel using old bamboo canes and a tin can.
C – Camping. Children love to make dens and pretend to be a lost princesses or explorers. A beach tent, Wendy house or a material gazebo make great places to hide. If you don’t have any of these, a sheet spread across two dining chairs are just as effective.
D – Digging. This can be in a sandpit,or even in a Trug. Give older children a border of their own an encourage them to grow easy plants such as sunflowers, beans, and peas. Let them choose the seeds to make it their own. Or let them dig up the potatoes.
E – Eating. There’s nothing like fresh produce, get them to pick things you/they have grown and design their own menus. Strawberries, raspberries and a crushed biscuit with a dollop of ice cream, yoghurt or cream makes for a tasty treat, Or use tomatoes and peppers from the greenhouse to make pizza toppings. Alternatively, just eat outside. Either on the patio table or a blanket on the grass.
F – Flower Pressing. Children like to learn, so help them identify trees, plants and flowers in the garden, parks or nature walks, by collecting leaves and flowers. Flower presses can be bought online or in shops, but a cheaper alternative is to put the foliage in between two sheets of tracing/baking paper and put it in the centre of a heavy book for a few weeks to dry out fully. Don’t forget to write the names of what you have found on the paper first!
G -Games. Hold a sports day. Simple games like how far can you throw a frisbee, jump a skipping rope, or run a race can get them moving. Invite their friends and have a football match, play rounders or tug of war. Hide and Seek too. Award small prizes such as stickers or badges, and let the overall winner choose what the next outing or evening meal will be.
H – Hopscotch. Although an old fashioned thing, youngsters love to jump around so by playing hopscotch it can help them to learn their numbers as well as have fun. Get the older children to draw the grid on the patio with chalk. Alternatively, think of other games that can be drawn on the ground such as hangman or noughts and crosses. A bucket of water will soon get rid of the drawings, or just wait for the rain!
I – Inside out. Don’t let rain stop play. If it’s too wet to go out why not create an indoor garden? Use Lego bricks to build paths to lead you to a pretend garden. Draw flowers and trees on an old cereal box, colour and cut them out. Use loo rolls and kitchen rolls to make people working in the garden.
J – Jewel Hunt. Use pretty glass stones or pebbles as treasure and hide them in the garden. Draw a map and and tell your children to follow the route on the map to find all the treasure. Or ask the children to hide the treasure and draw you the map.
K – Kicking a ball on the grass is fun for girls and boys. Set out an area safe from buildings and windows.
L – Looking. Get up close to nature with a magnifying glass. Insects like ladybirds and caterpillars can look like giant monsters under the glass. Alternatively, look at how a strawberry or other soft fruits look when magnified, as well as leaves and trees.
M – Make Mud Pies. Mix soil (clay soil is good for this,) with water and use your hands to make pretend pies. Leave them dry in the sun for a really authentic look. Older children can make a small pond using an old bucket or washing up bowl sunk into the ground. Don’t forget to put a large stone in it for frogs to have somewhere to sit, and birds have places to land.
N – Name all the birds that visit your garden. Print out a list from the Internet or borrow a book from the library. Keep a diary for one week to see if different birds visit on different days, or different weather conditions. Can you guess which bird will visit you the most, and what is its favourite food.
O – Obstacle Course. Build a course using the toys in your garden. Have you got a swing to climb over, a bike or scooter to get to the end of the garden with? Maybe a hedge tunnel to run through or a stepping stone path to jump across? Who can run up the steps the fastest, around the tree, and back to the start first. Lay hula hoops on the lawn in a pattern and jump from one to another.Put an old blanket in the grass and peg it down with heavy stores then scramble under it as quick as you can. Splash through a paddling pool. The only limit is your imagination.
P – Pop Music in the sun. Create your own dance festival using your iPod or radio. Have a dancing competition or play musical statues. Maybe even make your own band using old saucepans for drums and an old spade for your guitar.
Q – Quizzes. Write down questions for each child and answers on separate pieces of paper, then ask them to go outside to find the answers. You could pin the answers to the questions on the objects outside. For example the question “Where do the bikes go into at night?” And the answer could be pinned to the shed saying ” In here”. Or do it the other way around give your children the answers and pin the questions outside. Older children might just enjoy some quiet time on their own. Maybe give them a space of their own for the summer, like the shed or secluded part of the garden.
R – Royal Queens and Kings. Younger children can pretend to be royalty for the day. Let them pick what to do outside, such as play or make a new garden feature. The grown ups can pretend to be their servant and do everything the children say.
S – Soil Testing and other experiments. Use an old glass for this – mix a tablespoon of your garden soil with some water. Leave it for an hour or so, then look to see what the different layers of sediment are made up or. Is it tiny stones or sand, or clay. Is there still bits floating in the water? Set up a weather station and record which way the wind is blowing, or how hot it is today. Cheap thermometers can be found in 99p shops, or order a more robust one from Thompson and Morgan.
T – Tumbling or rolling down a hill in the garden can be fun. No hill? Then do head over heels or other gymnastics gently on the lawn. Older children can try handstands against a wall or cartwheels on the grass. Playing on an outdoor trampoline can be exciting too.
U – Understanding Rabbits and other pets. Animals make great companions for children, teaching them ownership, responsibility and love. Always consider how much time as a family you have to care for a pet. Cats are more independent than dogs, and caged animals need to be kept clean. If you do have an animal , consider something that can play outside with the children. Encourage the family to grow some pet food for their rabbit or tortoise like dandelions.
V – Visit other gardens, even if it’s just friends next door, Can you borrow ideas from their garden and do the same at home? Perhaps you can make a new feature with the children then ask their friends to visit you and give it marks out of ten. Or get together for a BBQ or hotdogs and drinks outside.
W – Wheelbarrow races, Grown ups can push younger people around the garden in a wheelbarrow for fun. Who is the quickest ? Mum, dad, or grandad? If you don’t have a wheelbarrow do it the old fashioned way, by getting someone to hold onto your ankles raised slightly in the air, while you crawl on your hands. Who can go the furthest or the fastest?
X – X marks the spot. Gently collect some snails for a race, put an X on their shell with different coloured nail varnish for each one, and an X in the ground, (use chalk on the patio to do this.) Next put your snail, on the start line and see which one gets to your X first.
Y – Yellow Up! Yellow is such a happy colour, why not make the most of it by growing sunflowers in pots or borders. Have a competition on who can grow the tallest one. If it’s massive why not enter it in the T&M sunflower competition too!
Z -ZZZ. If all of the fresh air has made you tired, and it’s a nice night, why not set up a tent in your backyard and sleep under the stars. If you don’t fancy that, then just do a bit of star gazing when the sun goes down.
Whatever you do this summer, let me know how you get on, by leaving a comment below.
Firstly may I apologise for the lack of a May blog, I’ve been busy in the garden, but I also had a major setback. As some of my regular readers would know for the past year I’ve been fighting ovarian cancer, but many of you might not know I was born with a life limiting condition known as Fallots Tretology. It basically means I have four things wrong with my heart and although I had surgery as a child, I was still left with two heart murmurs and some dodgy heart valves.
Whilst the chemotherapy did its job in killing my cancer sadly it severely damaged my heart. Two and a half weeks ago a blood clot formed in one of the heart chambers causing long term dysfunctional heart failure and temporary kidney failure. To say I’m lucky to be here is an understatement. I’ve never felt so rough in my life. But I’m back home and I’m in the garden, and I’ve got an awful lot to be thankful for. My cardiologist says I have to rest and take things easy, but with the gorgeous weather we are having this week, I find it way to difficult to sit around, so I’m doing lots of supervising and planning and possibly nagging poor Mark to do stuff as well as and talking to the plants, setting of new seeds, transplanting, misting and pollinating.
The greenhouses have gone mad, I have absolutely no idea what Mark did, but when I came out of hospital the plants had gone ballistic- maybe they were just happy to see me – because within two weeks they had grown a hundredfold. I asked Mark had he given them liquid feed – he said no, apparently his secret is to open all the doors and vents, hang the sock airer or small clothes horse in there, with lavender scented conditioner on the clothes to attract pollinating insects, (poor things being tricked like this) water just before dusk, as he still has to do all the housework, eat, have a shower, visit the patient and do everything else that needs doing, and that’s it – simple! I think he deserves a medal, or a holiday poor man.
So in May the little greenhouse was full to the brim with seedlings, and baby flowers, I had also ordered Lucky Dip annual plug plants, and dahlia plug plants from T&M as well as Gardeners World perennial plug plants. There were close to 500 things growing on the shelves. Not to mention new pots of germinating grasses, veg, flowers and fruit. I was in my element, I was getting ready to return to work and I was really excited about the plant sale I would be holding the second week in June.
Then it went all went a bit wrong….. Mark had no option but to plant the bigger flowers outside, move them to the cold frame or sheltered positions – However, he doesn’t know a Phlox from a Nepeta, or a Carrot from a Cornflower, so my plants for sale were planted in our garden by mistake. I gave mum about 144 plug plants for her garden, as well as tomatoes, aubergine, and pepper. What’s left are pot bound and in dire need of planting but there’s not enough left for a good sale and I don’t feel like I can charge people for something that I know will grow perfectly but looks past it’s best. My lovely friend Trisha from work has said she would deliver any plants to my other colleagues if need be so maybe there’s a solution after all.
This month in the little greenhouse I have pots of germinating grass seeds, English Marigolds, Liatris plus mixed grass seedlings, geranium, phlox and begonia plug plants left to move to the cold frame or plant out. I have spinach beet, and cornflowers that need transplanting, as well as a very slow T&M aubergine, hollyhocks and hyssop. The greenhouse border is full of Aloe Vera flowers, the cacti is growing slowly and the money tree is bigger too. There are a number of seeds that I can start off in June, but I think I have enough for the moment. The only thing I will continue sowing are my Radish – they are delicious – they have a mild peppery flavour and we have recently been using them with our new potatoes and a red onion to make potato salad. I also want to try my hand at Beetroot, but I appear to have lost the seeds. I am wondering if I gave them to my niece, but I don’t think I have.
The big greenhouse has turned into one of the best and interesting places I can get to at the moment. But it misbehaves when I’m not at home, the watermelons are trying to get into bed with the tomatoes, and the peppers think it’s fun to push up amaranthus seeds. I’ve never grown amaranthus in the big greenhouse so the peppers must have decided to do some gardening for themselves.
There is equal growth between the yellow stuffer and sweet aperitif tomatoes. They are only about two and a half feet at present, but they are exceptionally strong. Although tied to a framework they appear to have better roots than the ones I grew last year. The tomatoes are situated on the left border and under planted with French Marigolds to deter whitefly.
The back border is filled with aubergines; I am doing an experiment to see which grows best, a normal purple skinned type, a green and white type and a pale purple type. Unfortunately the one from T&M is still in its three centimetre pot as it’s extremely slow growing – I think it’s gone dormant as the temperature soared.
The right border has two Sweet Peppers and a Chilli, plus a watermelon and a cantaloupe melon. The melons, might not be a good idea, not that I don’t want them, because I do, but because they are putting tendrils everywhere. They are climbing and flowering well, but left to their own devices I fear they will take over the ten foot greenhouse no problem. On the shelves of the same greenhouse, I have Zinnia Red Spider that have not germinated as successfully as I hoped, out of forty seeds only ten have popped up. I think the reason for this was the unexpected frost towards the end of April that knocked everything back and caught out lots of gardeners. There are also a few pot bound tomatoes, a spider plant, a Poinsettia, an orchid, two money trees that have successfully rooted, some hyacinth bulbs that still haven’t died off and a massive Begonia. Although I seem to have lost my Banksia Hookerina seeds.
And finally there are pots of dahlia tubers baking in the heat on the path of the greenhouse. I usually bake them until the first flower buds start to appear, then they get put in a sheltered position for a few days, before being moved to their final place. My cold frame is full of pumpkin plants needing a home I have enough for myself and some for the family so I might contact the secretary of the allotmenteers here and see if they want some free plants. I also have tree seedlings from The Woodland Trust, that are putting on strong growth.
Finally, I have six Hyssops that are big enough to be planted in the grassy knoll. Speaking of which, my neighbour’s gave us a lovely blue grass to add to it. It’s a stunning plant, the colour compliments the red Acer and it will look amazing when it seeds. The lady said to Mark that as her and her husband are no longer well enough to garden; they enjoy walking past ours and seeing what’s in flower, or what’s looking good in the greenhouse. It’s such a compliment when someone gives you something for your garden, or says that your garden cheers them up, it’s especially nice to think that we have inadvertently enriched their lives.
I have been banned from growing or buying any more plants until the autumn and I have been asked by Mark to “just grow fruit and veg next year!” The thing is, I’m sort of addicted to the thrill of nurturing seeds and seeing something grow – I can’t promise I won’t buy anything, but I might just stop growing seeds until September. Oh and I definitely need flowers in my life, so I won’t be growing just fruit and vegetables either. Sorry!
Until next time,
Love Amanda xx
What a completely manic month April has been! The clocks have gone forward, Easter has been and gone and I’m back to my normal self – My cancer is in remission and I can walk around the garden, go up the steps and lift little watering cans or pots of seedlings now. I’m still not allowed to lift heavy stuff or dig with a spade, or use a mower, but luckily for me, Mark doesn’t mind doing these jobs.
Where to start? We’ve done so much that I hardly know where to begin. I guess as this is a greenhouse blog, I shouldn’t prattle on about other areas of the garden, but as we are developing a new ornamental grassy knoll area I’d just like to mention that I have added a Bronze Carex and a pink Corederia and Euphorbia Martinii to it. My brother gave me a Criodendron (Lantern Tree) and this has been placed in our second wildlife border just behind the pampas grass. This is a triangular border that has dappled shade so it’s perfect for the shrub as it’s protected on two sides by our boundary walls.
My little greenhouse was getting too much shade from an overgrown Hebe so Mark has cut that right back; the sparrows weren’t too impressed as they like to hide in its branches. However it’s a fast growing shrub so it won’t be long before it greens up again. It’s really surprising how much extra light I have in there now and the plants love it; so much so that I had to take the transplanted radishes off the shelf and put them in the cold frame for fear of bolting. They are doing much better in there, along with two sacks of potatoes (the third is outside already), a hanging basket filled with French Marigolds that germinated rapidly, several pots of marigolds, a trough of mint and mum’s helenium that was in my box of shrubs from the garden centre. I need the potatoes out of there by next week as I have sixteen trees that germinated from seed from the Woodland Trust and they need to harden up. I was told there would be five seeds and four varieties -I had many seeds and three varieties including beautiful Dog Rose and Mountain Ash, I think the other seedlings are Alder Buckthorn. I am keeping one of each variety and my auntie in Scotland said she would take some for her garden when they visit in the summer so the rest may end up in my charity plant sale. Along with whatever else I have too much of.
I tried to have a theme this year of growing just orange coloured flowers but I’ve also added a few yellow varieties of Sunflowers and white Aster, black Cornflowers, and green Bells of Ireland. I made a list of everything I’m trying to grow from seed and was shocked at the number. Thirty-three at the last count. Most are hopefully to share with my friends who have supported me over the previous twelve months, and to use in my plant sale. Although it’s debatable if all my things will grow as it’s gone from warm spring days to cold northerly Arctic winds and rain; and even though the days are getting longer there’s not a great quality to the light. The following paragraph is everything on the shelves in the little greenhouse. So this is the progress so far – Pumpkins just sown, Spinach Beet just sown but seedlings showing within forty-eight hours. Carnations, just sown, Cornflowers sown and germinating within forty-eight hours. Carrots sown two days ago. Radish successional sowings so various degrees of growth from seedlings to plug size. French Marigolds, mostly in cold frame after being sown at beginning of April, a few stragglers on the
staging in the greenhouse. Cosmos sown at start of month, still thinking about it. Rudbeckia, a few brave souls have popped up in the last week from mid month sowing. Aster not even thinking of germinating even though they sown same time as Rudbeckia. Sunflowers, no sign of them from a March sowing. Mid April showings of Bells of Ireland, Venidum, Helianthas Maximilianii, Banksia Hookerenia, Star of Veldt, (rela
tion to Osteospermum) and Californian Poppies have yet to show. I didn’t have any T&M aubergine seeds left so got some from the garden centre who only stock a different company’s seeds so I am growing them, but also trailing them with a German Supermarket’s own brand aubergine seeds. I have had amazing results with T&M’s aubergines so I can also compare it to last year’s crop, in terms of how well they grow etc. The pots of Hollyhock have been only half successful from a late April sowing. There are no signs of the dahlias I sowed, and this happened last year too. I wait in vain for them as they may just turn up. I had eight packets of Free T&M Seeds from a magazine and they included Hyssop, I sowed about a quarter of the packet three weeks ago and there are baby seedlings already. The Chilli Peppers and Alderman Peas Mark started off in January was an epic fail even though I can start them off in the winter, with success. However, this year was milder than most winters so damping off may have been the issue. I’ve re-sown them in the hope they will grow, but so far no chillies and only two peas. Incidentally, the Sweet Peppers Mark did in
January germinated brilliantly and there is one left on the staging for mum after I gave a few to my brother.
My grass Oryza Satvia has germinated, I sowed six seeds and all have come, I’m waiting for grasses Panicum Virgatum, Stipia Pony Tails and Grass Tail Feathers as well as Anemanthele Lessonia. I sowed Liatris the same time as these. Finally there are a few tomato plants of both varieties left over after the family picked what they needed. The worst thing about growing all of the above was having to label the pots. Usually I use the Dymo machine, but it’s getting on now and I have to really press down hard on the plastic clicker bit to get the letters on the tape. I got really frustrated after half the labels came out with missing or Ill-formed letters. One came out as Rude Becki instead of Rudbeckia and as for Bells of Ireland…….
Outside the large greenhouse I have two deep flowerpots with wigwam supports filled with Runner Beans that I swapped with my Uncle Raff for an Aubergine plant and Peas given to me by a friend from work. Inside the greenhouse I have a lovely crop of curly leaved Parsley that needs to be potted up as I don’t want it spreading there. On the hanging shelves, getting used to the heat and light of what will be their permanent home in the borders when they get bigger, are my tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines, along with an Orchid, a Spider Plant a Poinsettia that’s still dying back, a Rosemary cutting and Christmas Cacti cuttings. There are also hyacinth bulbs that still want water so I can’t dry them and store them yet. Lastly on the shelf there is a potted Begonia Apricot Shades. It’s the last bulb I have left, I have no idea what happened to the others last year – I fear they were not dug up and stored. The begonia is starting to sprout – it loves the heat. In the greenhouse borders Mark has set me some grafted plants – each year I like to try something new so this year I’m trying a Watermelon and a Cantaloupe Melon, these are not from Thompson and Morgan, neither is the hot Chilli that came as part of the offer, The only reason why I went to a different place was because unfortunately T&M don’t do grafted Watermelon, and I really want to see if I can grow Watermelons in Pembrokeshire.
However, I have put in an order with T&M, well two orders actually. The first was an offer of 36 free plants with them through Gardeners’ World magazine, and the second order was for 224 Lucky Dip Annual plants for a couple of pounds that I will split with my mum. These won’t be in my charity sale – sorry people! Oh and I ordered Dahlia Fire and Ice as it looks stunning, as well as some Bronze English Marigolds and Petunia Easy-wave. The both orders for what will be 288 plants in all worked out to something ridiculous like eight pence a plant – you wouldn’t get that at a DIY or chain garden centre.
I love the way you can track and order to see if it’s been dispatched. Or look back on previous orders if there’s something I want to order again but can’t remember the variety name. So while I wait for my own seeds to grow and the postman to deliver my goods, I think I will amuse myself by reading a new gardening book. I’ve just finished reading The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden written in 1906; the countryside she grew up in has changed so much. Last month I discovered from Margery Fish (Cottage Garden Plants) what a Tussie Mussie is, so I think I shall gather one for myself. There’s always something new to learn.
Oh and I’ve decided to join the “Solar Light Brigade” that seems to be dominating back gardens in our street, instead of putting pole lights or fairy lights in paths or trellis or trees, I’ve strung up tiny LED string lights in the greenhouses. Blue in the large greenhouse, red in the small. I also bought glow in the dark stakes with a butterfly, a dragonfly and a wasp on top to use as plant markers too. I promise it doesn’t look garish -I’ll take a photo for next time to let you decide.
Until next time,
Love Amanda X
This may seem random, but I was lying in bed last night unable to sleep, thinking about what type of gardener am I. Inexperienced? Maybe. Enthusiastic? Definitely! Probably a bit messy or as I prefer to say wildlife friendly. Do I follow specific gardening rules? Not always. Don’t get me wrong I do follow the rules with the germination and cultivation of plants, but when it cones to design or style ideas, I can’t stand to be told that I should group things in threes or fives, or I should limit my colour palette to on-trend shades or only grow seven kinds of plants in the whole garden.
So what type of gardener am I?
I love cottage gardens, with its vibrant mixture of fruits, veg and flowers growing in the same beds, but then I also love a minimalist coastal garden. I watch Chelsea each year and think ooh I like that garden, but if I tried to emulate it, I know after a while I would get bored of its not really practical landscaping or limited coloured design. And why was I thinking of gardening n the middle of the night? Because I had just finished reading a fictional book about a childlike lady hoarder and the chaos that surrounds her and her family from her lack of ability to throw anything away. And that’s when it hit me I’m a hoarder in garden terms. Just like the main character of the book I can’t seem to throw anything away. I can prove this not only by the number of ornaments, pots, baskets and seating I have cluttering up the garden, two sheds and two greenhouses, but also by the plants and who they came from, or specifically, whose garden they came from.
Take for example our Rose Garden, there are species in there as old, if not older than me, they came from Mark’s grandparents’ garden. We inherited them when Marks parents dug them up for a second time when they themselves moved to a smaller place. My other Roses are Valentines gifts from Mark, or presents from my family and friends.
Apart from the Roses from Mark’s grandparents we also have their Peony. From my paternal grandmother we have the Periwinkle and Aloe Vera’s . From Mark’s parents we got the Rosemary, the Elephant Ears, The Lambs Ears, the Honesty the Aquilegia , the Lavender, the Cotton Lavender, the Mint, Azaleas, Hydrangea, Sedums, Pinks, Mums, Margarita Daisies and some Fuchsia. We have Poppies from Percy next door, and Honeysuckle, from a lady down the road. We have a beautiful Maple that Mark’s son bought us the year he left home to join the army. The Weeping Cherry has been here since Easter 2003, a gift from mum six months after we moved in. A standard cherry that Mark gave me for Valentines the year Woolies closed down. Last of the romantics he said it was going cheap. Grape Hyacinths, daffodils and Crocosmias from people I worked with over ten years ago. An Aspidistra from someone who moved away from the area and the plant grew too big for the house. That is just some of the many many living things we have been given that grows in the garden.
Sadly , like the character in the book, I may have attached feelings to inanimate objects, and it’s quite ridiculous to think that I will forget the person, or place in time if I throw the dang thing out. For instance here is a picture of a pot of winter bulbs and sedums sitting on an old stool. This stool is from my childhood home. We had a set of five one each for mum, dad, my two brothers and me I have no idea when or how I even took it from my old home to this one, as I lived in a one bedroomed bungalow before i moved to my current place and I don’t remember owning it for the first five years after moving. And why would I only have one stool – if mum gave it to me after I moved to my new place, I would have been with Mark then so surely two stools would have been more appropriate? I don’t think I’ve even sat on the stool inside, it’s always been in the garden holding a plant pot. Why have I got this stool? It’s that weathered you couldn’t sit on it now – It would crack in two. And if you think that’s bad, the next picture shows a lovely 1970’s plastic plant pot. It belonged my maternal grandmother, the only thing I took from her garden when she died and I was thirteen. In the greenhouse I have a 1980’s kettle another relic from my childhood, it was supposed to go into the charity box when we emptied dads house, but it somehow need up in mine. I also spot my dads colander which I was going to grow strawberries in. His ancient rescued plough sits on our
front drive, along with yet more ceramic pots.
And that’s not all, unfortunately our garden is peppered with objects from people who are no longer alive. Like my favourite garden bench, it belonged to my good friends, who were, incidentally, Mark’s ex in-laws. My set of four square planters from my neighbour who passed away the same time as my dad. Dad’s collection of garden ornaments, the owl, the badger, a duck, a toad, and a sad collection of gnomes mingle with my three cement dogs and a penguin. I don’t like gnomes, but I still keep them. Like Tessa’s plastic ball. The ball has a hole in it that treats used to fall out of when it was rolled across the lawn. Tessa was my beautiful, clumsy collie who died years ago, yet her ball sits near the compost bins as if awaiting her return. The ball never got thrown out because visiting dogs (and their owners) would play with it, and now it seems to be home to a colony of snails and woodlice. I really should throw out this ball. I should also bury Tess, her ashes are still in her tiny casket in the back of my wardrobe.
Yes, I’m certainly a garden hoarder and I believe it’s about time I addressed this issue. I have absolutely no intention of getting rid of anything living, unless it becomes diseased or dies, but I’m sure I don’t need all of the plastic pots or baskets that are knocking around. At the last count I had four bin bags stuffed with them in the sheds. The bigger containers are stacked outside the shed. There are plastic propagators with missing or broken lids just screaming to be chucked. I don’t need to keep all of the broken bits of terracotta for drainage. I’m sure that bubble wrap is useful for insulating plants, but everything in my garden is hardy anyway. Do I really need dads colander? Seriously? And the kettle? So its most obvious I need to have a spring clean. The only problem is what if I throw away something that could have been useful? I can’t bear to think of myself as hoarder, as I am not like this indoors (although I do have a collection of stuffed pandas and an attic full of childhood memories and probably too many cookery books in storage boxes under the bed,) but if I can make a start in the garden, then it will give me the impetus to clean out the attic and the boxes under the bed. So instead of being labelled as a hoarder I suppose I could think of myself as The Sentimental Gardener.
Until next time,
Love Amanda xx
Hope you are all well and making progress in your gardens. I recently remembered an old saying that goes “A dry March and a wet May, fills barns and bays with corn and hay. I don’t know if it’s true but we seem to have a lot of corn sprouting up under our bird feeding station thanks to the House Sparrows throwing it out of the feeders. Usually the Collard Doves or the Wood Pigeons eat it, but they have missed some of the grains.
The garden is in bloom with Crocuses, Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths, Tulips and Cherry Blossom on the trees. Mark has planted my 40 mixed Gladioli bulbs as well as the flowering shrubs, and two bags of potatoes. The rhubarb has started to sprout. He has also split a big pot of Black Mondo Grass into 4 pieces and dug them into what will be our new grassy knoll area. We took our ancient petrol mower out of the shed so we could service it, only to find after nearly fifteen years of use it has finally given up the ghost. Mark did try to fix it – as he has so many other times, but in this instance it was beyond repair, so we set out to the shops to buy a replacement, taking the old one to the recycling centre after breaking it up into piles of plastic and metal bits. The new petrol mower looks like Bumblebee from the film Transformers, it’s yellow and black and insect-looking, and I half expect it to morph into something else. It was on the sale so fingers crossed we have a bargain. I just hope it doesn’t sound too much like a mad wasp when the grass is cut next week.
Mark has been taking good care of the greenhouses for me, as up until the end of last week I hadn’t been able to get into them. I had a huge smile on my face when I finally got into them for the first time since last September when my chemo started. During that time I would stand outside the glass and ask mum or Mark to pick, cut, water or plant things for me. I only had a two week break before my chemo ended and my operation took place in early February, so I didn’t do as much sowing as I would have liked to, so I feel like I’m trying to catch up. Usually I would have sunflowers and sweetpeas germinating, but hopefully I will make progress soon.
My mobility is still not good enough to get me up the steps to the greenhouses so I have to go the long way around. It’s like an obstacle course, out of the back door down the path, into the front garden, across the grass then through the hedge tunnel and along what will be the grassy knoll and into back garden. Meanwhile I’m holding onto Mark and using a walking stick for balance – but I’m getting stronger so it won’t be long before I can get up the steps.
Anyway enough about my health, when I got into the mall greenhouse I was pleased to find that 4 Sweet Bonita Peppers have germinated and so have 9 tree seedlings. As yet there is no sign of the Bullhorn Peppers, Chilli Prairie Fire, or the Alderman Peas. But I do have a good pot of Mint plants that need pricking out and I found a Begonia Tuber sprouting that needs to be potted up. The Aloe Vera’s look like they are on steroids, and I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before they outgrow their space. The Money Tree looks so much healthier than last month.
In the large greenhouse I have a slightly neglected Spider plant that has luckily survived being forgotten about and only just watered, since who knows when, and some indoor hyacinths. I also found the Stephanotis plant that I had Christmas time. Unfortunately it didn’t like our house and the flowers fell off and the leaves turned yellow. It’s starting to recover now. Our bags of potatoes are also in there, and also a bunch of parsley plants. I think the parsley got into the borders accidentally when I thought I had lost all my seeds last May and I chucked the pots of dried out compost onto the tomato plants. The seeds must have lay dormant until the conditions were right. I’ve never had parsley grow really big in March before.
As it was a really warm Spring day today (23/03/17), I decided a trip to our local garden centre was in order, as I wanted to crack on and plant my tomato Yellow Stuffer and Sweet Aperitif seeds but I hadn’t any compost left. So off we went to buy a few bags, I also bought a packet of aubergine seeds as my trial seeds haven’t arrived yet – although I was shocked at the price – there times as much as T&M seeds. As I’m still not allowed to do strenuous activities, poor Mark had to sieve the compost while I spoke to mum on the phone. I also made him wash some plastic growing pots. I was determined to do some actual gardening myself though, so Mark put my potting tray onto my storage box seat just outside the greenhouse in the sun so I could plant my seeds in three inch pots. I then used different coloured lolly sticks to label each seed variety and gently watered them. I also rearranged the shelves although it’s still too untidy for me, as last year I let things slide, including stacking things neatly.
Whilst I was sowing my seeds Mark weeded around the blueberry and pink blueberry bushes and gave them an ericcasious feed, he dug the beds over in the large greenhouse, fertilised the soil, and then erected the cane, wire and string supports ready for the tomatoes in May. Too many times we have been caught out and the support frames have not ready in time and it’s a mad rush to do them.
Other things we have done over the last month was cutting the Autumn Fruiting Raspberries down to ground level. They have already put out new growth. Removing the flower spikes from the pampas grass and leaving them near the hedge for a few days to allow insects to escape, before putting them into the compost bin, and direct sowing a free packet of wildlife seeds from Grow Wild in the wildlife border. Talking of wildlife, the Blackbirds are feasting on the last of the Ivy berries, the Magpies are nesting in the tree that overlooks our garden, and the Sparrows are doing their best to chase them off. We have earlyBees on the flowers, Ladybirds in the leaves of the Knifophias and a Green Shield bug walking on the grass outside the greenhouse looking as if he is inspecting the glass for cleanliness. Soon the Blue Tits will be chasing each other in the cherry tree blossoms and I really hope I can be quick with my camera and capture their antics.
My brother still hasn’t built his greenhouse, but he has got herbs and potatoes growing in pots. Mum still hasn’t decided on her front garden renovation design, but she has decided to buy herself a small polythene greenhouse that can be taken down after the summer. The weather here promises to be nice over the weekend, (although we may be in for a few frosty nights), and into early next week so I plan to get on with more sowing. I still need to grow a plethora of flowers for my charity plant sale so I’m going to start with things that germinate quickly like French Marigolds and Amaranthus and Cornflowers. I may even do some Lettuces and Basil.
Finally I want mention that the trial trailing Antirhinums (still unnamed) have survived on pure neglect over the winter, the hanging basket was left where it originally hung in the summer, and astonishingly the plants have come back. I need to tidy up the soil in the basket by pulling out the weeds and giving the poor plant some food as well as a quick prune, but I am seriously impressed. Has anyone else who trials for T&M had their Antirhinums come back?
I hope the weather is kind to you.
Until next time, Happy Gardening,
Love Amanda X