Thursday, 9 December 2010

A useful contact

I received the following email from a reader and thought it would be useful if I passed it on in its entirety (don't worry I do ask permission before I do this).

 I have just stumbled upon your Blog and found it really interesting. It's great to find that more people are talking about gardening locally instead of using the south as the template for all gardening. I've added the blog to my bookmarks and intend to check back regularly as spring comes round. Also, I'd like to suggest a company for your useful links section. A few years ago, I went to the flower show at greenmount held by tottington horticultral society, hoping to get some guidance with issues I was having on my vegetable patch where I was introduced to their chairman, Graham. His advice proved invaluable and much more suited to my issues than any book I could find. Since then, my wife discovered that he was in business as Hortivation horticultral services, he has undertaken several jobs for us displaying the highest level of competence in gardening, his website has some useful guides that yourself or other of your readers might find interesting. It might be worth mentioning the society on your blog for as I've found them most helpful and a great source of plants.

I am more than happy to provide the links:

address:  2 Heathfield Road, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 8HB
phone: 0161 820 8606

Thanks to a bury gardener for the tip.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Wintery thoughts

Hello from sunny Florida.  Now you didn't need that did you?  I am aware it is getting far too cold far too soon in Bury as we (or at least him indoors) do read the UK papers and news sites on line.

Gardening for me is non-existent over here as we live in a condo and the landscaping is managed to within an inch of its life by a swarm of gardeners.  I miss it dreadfully.  Yes, I know, because I keep being reminded by everyone and his brother, that there's not much gardening to be done in Bury in the winter.  Nevertheless I miss my romantic notion of puttering around outside now and again on a nice crisp sunny day inspecting this and that.  As I've not done that for the best part of ten years I suspect it isn't at all how I imagine it.

OK, to the point of this missive....  As you've gathered I can't do anything very much for the blog until about April so I want anyone who is reading this (and there have been 661 visits to this since it started) to take up the cudgel and start a dialogue.  That is why I started it.  Just answer this piece and I'll post it and maybe we can get some conversations going.  Failing that I guess there's not a lot of point in doing it.

Come on let's get local gardeners sharing thoughts and info, maybe just chatting......  Gardeners are nice people!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Sad continued

 The rest of the garden has now had its tidy up too and, yes, this is also sad as I have to empty perfectly good pots and baskets.  The flowering pots and baskets have done really well this year and they looked to be going to last a while yet but, as I said, I have to do my tidying up earlier than I would like.

If, like me, you are enjoying a second flush of roses (and strawberries!) remember not to deadhead them like you would do the rest of the year.  If you do this it stimulates the hormones which tell the plant to make more flowers (to produce seed) and it will not give the rose a chance to beef up for the winter.  So enjoy the rose hips until the birds get them.

This season I've done battle with the mini pasture I inherited in my garden when we bought the house and after three years TLC it is beginning to look something like a lawn.  I did two weed and feeds and some scarifying and moss kill and a couple of additional feeds.  Strictly speaking I should be doing another scarifying and spiking to let air into the roots but it is a killing job and I don't have time or energy for it but for those of you who do this is the time to crack on.  What I will definitely do tomorrow rain or shine is scatter some bonemeal over it.  Again this is a bit early; next month would be better.  It gives it a good strengthening root boost for the winter.  Don't do a general purpose feed it will make too much soft growth.

The other thing which still needs doing and is important for the next couple of months (especially if they are mild) is killing slugs.  I use organic pellets which are deemed safe and work better in the rain  than the nasty ones - I start 14 February and do it 14th of every month for as long as I am around.  The last couple of months going into winter are really important as you want to get the population as small as possible so even less survive the winter and don't come back in force next year.  Again it is a battle being slowly won.  That said I found my first snail a few weeks ago so I'm not thrilled with that newcomer.

I've also planted my Spring bulbs.  It is OK to do that for daffodils but too early for the tulips.  That said I do it each year and still get results.  The tulips possibly flower a bit earlier than they should.

So everywhere is tidy and put away and ready for the snow!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Saddest time of year for me

September is the saddest time of the year for me.  We spend most of the winter hiding in the sunshine elsewhere so I am a truly fair-weather gardener and my garden is 'put to bed' early and pretty finally until next April. This means pulling up and throwing away the last of any veg which are still struggling on.  

Tons of green tomatoes hit the bin.  Freezing them isn't an option as the freezer gets turned off and green tomato chutney is a pain to make for just two people - I would have a small grocer's shop full if I used all the tomatoes I had.  It is patently silly to grow them for the dozen or so we manage to eat before they succumb to the genocide.  I plan on trying to resist growing them next year; but then I've said that before!  The banana skin experiment didn't show any difference between ripening of ones with it and ones without.  To be fair it might well work because I started it a bit late probably.

We had beautiful lettuces - green and red and celtuce - all massacred too.  

Fortunately the beans had given up the ghost pretty much and we managed to harvest and eat the last of them.  I grew Hestia dwarf runners and dwarf purple tepee French.  I complained they weren't brilliant but when I think about it they are only one sixth the size of our usual six foot tall runners and French beans so logically they produce one sixth of the crop.  Seen sensibly this is really an advantage - we aren't up to our armpits in beans and they don't blow over in any strong winds, so I may actually consider them again next year.

The peas were delightful but never enough at one time to make a meal - we just munched them from the pods - still worth growing again just to do that.

We have also eaten the last of our potatoes.  We never ate a single Swift they were hit with blight before they even began to thrive - totally useless.  They were the middle row in three rows of spuds - on either side were International Kidney (jersey royals).  They have been fantastic and I can't recommend them enough.  Not only did they not catch their close neighbour's blight but they were perfect from early babies to full size potatoes later, which could still be scraped just by rubbing the skins off.  

My green peppers were rubbish and no loss when they hit the bin.  

Courgettes were uprooted early on in the season because we were fed up of eating them.

The beetroots were tiny hard golf balls in the main and I'm reconsidering giving them any space next season.  

An interesting decision on carrot growing has been made.  I grew two lots in the ground - staggered for different cropping times and one lot in a large (Potato) pot/bin.  Both lots in the ground were ruined by carrot fly (like last year and the year before) and the ones in the pot - growing two feet above ground - were just perfect.  So that's a no-brainer.  Carrot pots next year.  I do know the carrot fly apparantly can't fly or smell carrots over two feet above the ground and that you should protect them with a fleece wall but I want to always find the simplest/cheapest method of growing things and potting of carrots seems to be the answer.

The ground cress is still romping away alongside the rhubarb which is settling itself down for the winter - I shall leave those to just do their thing.  The other three beds are now cleared out, dug over and the cat deterrent netting frames are covering them ready for what a Bury winter can throw at them.

This is the point now where anyone who is doing the veg thing properly and planting their winter/spring crops might want to share information with anyone else reading this who is doing the same - over to you..................

For example do you plant garlic - does it work up here? Do you plant your broad beans this side of winter to get an early start - does that work this far North?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

This sounds like a great tip to get tomatoes to ripen faster

I know blogs are supposed to work by folk answering Posts back and forth but if you don't keep checking through them (and why should you) you miss useful stuff like this.....

Lee Worrall said...

Hi, love the blog. I've been growing tomatoes outside for a few years, all the plants produce a decent crop but as you've already said the challenge is getting them to ripen before the dreaded blight or winter gets them.
I got a great tip a couple of years ago and it seems to do the trick, buy a large bag of bananas each week from July onwards, eat a banana a day (healthy for the gardener too) and then hang the banana skins on the tomato plant branches, i believe they give off ethylene which triggers the ripening process on any surrounding fruit, (has also worked with sweet peppers and chilli peppers). It does look a bit odd but they soon dry and turn black. I started doing the banana skins a few weeks ago and nearly all the plants have ripe tomatoes on them now. Unfortunately the first signs of blight have also appeared, may battle commence :)
I planted them out as soon as the weather allowed which was very late this year. I grow the plants against a west facing garage wall in Brandlesholme, 3 plants to a 'decent size' grow bag, with 2 empty 6" plant pots sunk into the grow bags inbetween the plants for easy watering, I fill each pot once a week with tomorite/water and that seems to keep them happy. I pinch out regularly and trim about half the original foliage off. They're supported with 6 ft canes lent against the wall. In previous years, i've followed advice to cut the top off the plant above the 4th or 5th truss, as this was also supposed to encourage earlier ripening but i'm leaving them this year as i've been given the opposite advice!
Hope this info is helpful in some way. I'll upload some current photos of them and post a link so everyone can see my strange tomatobanana plants.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Large green caterpillar

Anyone know what caterpillar this is? 
It was perched on our front door mat.  I think it is a Hawk-moth as is was pretty huge.  This isn't the greatest photo as it has a blue hook on its tail end which you can't see here.  I am guessing something this size lives on trees and shrubs; is that right?  I don't want to go round massacring everything in sight on the assumption it eats my plants, so this is one that got away.  When I looked out a little while later it was gone.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Dead-heading and what to leave

By the beginning of August my borders in the back garden are past their prime and need dead-heading and generally tidying up.  Rather than the one day given over to this I've had to do it in fits and starts this year thanks to the miserable August weather so far.

All the fences have climbing roses against them which need clipping back (removing the spent blooms) and tying in.  If I do it early enough and boost them with a feed ( an ounce of Toprose each) - weather permitting - I usually get a second flush of blooms. I can already see signs of fresh new growth, so fingers crossed.

Generally I cut back any perennials which have finished flowering and are looking scruffy to the point where they look 'tidier'.  This means cutting the flowering stem almost down to the base and taking out any dead/dying leaves and sometimes a bit of a haircut to let the fresh new growth through.   With some plants like geraniums and delphiniums this encourages a second flush of smaller flowers. The borders get a slight sprinkling of bonemeal after this clean up. 

Always the hardest decision is what I want to leave to run to seed.  The obvious answer is to leave anything I want to scatter its seed randomly around such as aquilegia, astrantia, foxgloves and some of my small ground cover geraniums.  That said, this year, I decided only to leave a few of these as I have enough of them already.  A few extras won't go amiss if we have a hard winter and I lose some of the parents. They can always be weeded out, moved to a gap or potted on for anyone who wants them come the spring.  

I don't think it is possible to make a definitive list of what to deadhead and what to leave.  Removing the seed heads should strengthen the parent plant as it will put its energy into making a better root system instead of trying to reproduce.  Some easy (almost wild) perennials like poppies and granny bonnets and geraniums don't need the same degree of coddling and they can seed hither and yon and still reappear next year.  As I said it seems to be a matter of trial and error and striking the balance of what you want to see in your borders.

An example of 'reading the books' and finding it doesn't work for me was verbena bonariensis.  I bought four superb plants last year and they did wonderfully.  Everything I read on them said they 'seed liberally'; indeed some even said cut off the seed heads to prevent this as they were something of a thug.  I happily left on the seed heads as I wanted more plants for my garden.  This spring there was no sign of the parent plants having survived the winter and not a single baby. Perhaps this is another Southern view of a plant which doesn't ring true for  fifty-three degrees North.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Courgette Fritters

Trouble with courgettes is they do too well.  This is the third year I've grown them and probably the last.  I grow three of them in very large pots.  As they aren't the world's most exciting veg him-indoors and me get very fed up of them pretty quickly.  We are all ratatouilled out right now.  I know you can grate and serve them in salads and make chocolate (and other cakes) with them but I never seem to do it.  Frittered is good though.  I have added a very basic starting point recipe (click on Recipes above).  You can add just about anything you like - grated carrot, potato, chilli pepper, feta cheese, any herb you fancy - wherever your imagination takes you.  They make a veggie meal, a posh starter, a light lunch or just a nibble.  Many happy courgettes to you.

Gardens on the Isle of Wight

I mentioned I'd just got back from a holiday on the Isle of Wight.  While we were there we visited Osborne House, Carisbrooke Castle, Mottistone Manor and Ventnor Botanical gardens.  I've posted some photos of each.  If you want to check them out click on the Photo link on the left.

Land Cress

One very easy plant to grow is land cress.  If you are a bit of a water cress fan this is a brilliant alternative.  Water cress to buy is never cheap and often I don't use it all and it doesn't keep, which makes it even more expensive.  For the price of a packet of seeds (I scattered these in June to fill a space by the rhubarb) you have more cress than you can shake a stick at.  I grew it last year with exactly the same ease and success.  It seems to stay bug-free too. I suppose you could grow it in a pot too if you don't have a spare corner.  Cress to hand whenever your sandwich needs it.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Help from Colin G

Just in case you aren't tracking old posts and attached comments I thought I'd put this one in as a post.  It is a comment from Colin G attached to Why a Blog.  

This may be one step too far for you - it is for me.

Did you know Hugh Fearnley setup a 'Landshare' site a few years ago. I just had thought - I wonder if it is still going and low and behold it is. Also if you are interested or any other visitors there is a growing plot available in Hawkshaw, off Ramsbottom Road. Take a look - it can be found at this web site:

I tried looking for further information about the plot, but it said I need to register with the site. 

Thanks Colin - it made me go back and check out the Landshare site and there are lots of bits of land and people all round the Bury area looking for each other.  It is well worth checking out if you've outgrown (or don't have) your own garden.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Filling in Gaps in the flower border

When I plant up chimneys and hanging baskets in the Spring I often have a few plants left over which I stuff in odds and ends of pots.  They come in very handy for filling gaps in the borders as the summer goes on.  Stuff dies down or new stuff isn't as big as I want it in its first year and I get odd spaces so I shove in a pot of annuals to fill the gap.  I noticed a space around the bird table this year so I hung two very small pots from it (with S hooks) with just one Surfina in each and stood a clay pot with a white geranium in it at the base and it looks much better for it. 

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Do you grow tomatoes outdoors?

Do you grow tomatoes outdoors?  If so do you have any success?  How?

I grew a couple of varieties last year - Tumbling Toms and Moneymaker (maybe also Gardeners Delight).  They all grew well and put on loads of fruit but being this far north the fruit came on too late to ripen before the end of the season.  I tried to start them off earlier this year but they seem to have have arrived at the same point, i.e. end of July and loads of flowers and small fruit forming. I am growing Tumbling Toms again and four bush tomatoes called Amateur.  (see their picture in the post on Potting on Plants)  We seem to have hit another cool and wet period which has 'stopped them' again, so I don't hold out much hope of getting the fruit ripe before they have to be ripped up.  Down south they are,of course, being picked now!
The photo above shows Tumbling Toms in two window box type troughs standing on bricks on the edge of the patio.  They were hung on the fence but had to be moved when I bought my 'greenhouse'.  The photo on the right is a close up of the fruit and flowers - prolific but, as I said, probably too far behind where they should be at this point in the season.

Please tell me if you have any success with tomatoes outside and, if you do, is the secret in the variety, your planting routines or  what.

Slugs and snails and ..... frogs

When we came back from our break and had the front door open to unpack the car - this chap let himself in.  I suspect he lives pretty near the front door as he often leaves a tiny present on the doorstep.  We have quite a lot of frogs and toads in our garden which is pretty surprising as I don't have any areas which don't get fettled by me at one time or another (no peace for the wicked); also I don't have any water in the garden, unless you count the bird bath!  Nevertheless, as I said, I'm pleased to say our friendly slug eaters live here.  We also see the scat of a hedgehog now and again who visits fairly regularly and must do his bit.  I still suffer pretty badly from slugs and last week I found my first snail!  To add insult to injury it was a huge one with brown and orange striped shell.  I do use organic pellets without which the garden wouldn't stand a chance.  I've reduced the population dramatically from that which I inherited in the football pitch outside the back door when we bought the house three years ago.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Hacking back the jungle

I suspect the test of a totally obsessed gardener is his/her refusal to go away on holiday at least between April and September.  I've just got back from a week away and the garden looks like Miss Havisham's.  I also managed to arrive back complete with gammy foot and drizzly weather so am doubly frustrated staring out at it rather than tackling it.  I did manage a pirouette (a one-footed balancing act)  in a raincoat and gathered the veg which needed picking.  I know the photo looks remarkably like one I did earlier but the observant amongst you will notice the addition of runner beans and four (!) baby beetroots. I roasted the baby beets (cut in half) and discovered I liked beetroot!  It was sweet and delicious.  I've always hated boiled beetroots as they are either totally tasteless or fusty.  So if there's a beetroot hater out there I'd recommend trying growing your own, picking, cleaning, cutting to reasonable size, rolling in a little oil (I also dusted mine with smoked paprika as they were being roasted alongside some haddock steaks) and roasting for about 30 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade.

This leads me to the real purpose of this note - I thought I might add recipes as I go along.  They will be filed as a page rather than a post and can be found by clicking 'Recipes' on the tab at the top of the page.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Fill the gaps in the veggie garden

When I pull up something like today's potatoes it leaves a space in the garden which the local cats like to use as a toilet so I always try to fill it in some way to prevent this.  Sometimes I cover it with plastic mesh, or poke in numerous sticks but recently I've just cottoned on to a more useful method.  I plant something.

I grow trays of cut and come again salad leaves and drop those all over the place (also to cover gaps).  I thought if I transplanted some of the sad looking plants which have been cut a couple of times it wouldn't matter if they thrived or not, they were just there to 'cover' the loose soil.  So I hack out a lump and separate out a few plants and shove them in.

.... and, wouldn't you know it, they thrive on neglect and up they come!  I know you can keep planting radishes and lettuces and stuff to fill gaps but sometimes it isn't a workable space. It would be a problem trying to dig up the next potato plant with decent crops in the way, but I am going to plant some baby gem lettuces in a tray and move them on as the spaces grow and also plant some more radishes.

Chickens next?

As always I am picking things too soon.  I must be the most impatient gardener.  This is today's lunch.... International kidney potatoes (aka Jersey Royals), Defender F1 courgettes, Purple tepee dwarf French beans, Sutton dwarf broad beans.  The pudding is a rhubarb crumble just literally put together in the dish - made from a bag of chopped rhubarb and a bag of crumble from the freezer.  So the only thing not made or grown by me is the chicken!  Actually something's missing - I intend to go out and thin the carrots some more and that will give me fingerlings (baby carrots) for the summer veggie mix.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Three steps for planting up pots

I planted out four bush tomatoes today.  It is probably too late to get anything off them this far North but I started them very late as I bought a bargain three packets of seeds and pots and growing medium kit from B & Q about three weeks ago; I couldn't resist as it was only a pound and I'd never grown bush tomatoes or cucumbers so thought I'd give them a shot to see if I wanted to do them next year.

This potting on led me to think about how I/we do stuff without thinking about it and how anyone new to gardening might be struggling with the basics.... so...

1. To crock or not to crock?  Most books, programmes etc. tell you to put broken pots (crocks) in the bottom of your pot to partially cover the hole to retain the compost and still allow for drainage.  This instruction came from a pre-plastic pot time of large gardens and people having loads of broken pots around.  It is totally unnecessary.  If you think about it, any plant you buy in a pot is not 'crocked'.  Sometimes I do want to partially fill my pot to save on compost (if the plant isn't going to need all the volume) and I break up polystyrene packaging and use that.  It also keeps large pots lighter to lift and insulates a little.  I also have little bags of small stones/large gravel.  They are made by cutting up a pair of tights and knotting the leg, then filling with stones and knotting again - these are great as they are easy to fish out of the roots when the plants is moved on later.  I also cut circles from left over weed suppressing membrane and put that in the bottom of a pot sometimes if I am using a sandy compost and the hole is large - again you can retrieve this for multiple uses.  That said you needn't do any of this; just simply put in the compost in the pot and get on with the job.   Does anyone else use anything weird or wonderful for 'crocking' or, like me, usually don't you bother?

2. Move from pot to pot with no mess and no guessing.  Sometimes when you're moving a potted plant to to its new home, you put the compost in the new pot, tap out the plant and then discover you didn't put enough in or there's too much and you end up fiddling around with the poor exposed plant going in and out of the pot  several times until you get it right and usually making a right mess doing it. Foolproof method is to judge roughly where you think the bottom of your plant will be in your new pot and fill the compost a little above that level. Compress it gently with your fingertips and stand your plant and pot in the new pot.  If you have an empty pot the same size that's even better  as you won't accidentally bash your plant.  Fill up around the sides of the pot pressing into place as you go and when you get to the top of your inner pot gently remove it.  You will now have a perfectly moulded shape of the plant roots you are about to put in.  Tap out your plant gently and lower it into its new home.  Firm in gently.

3.  Always water well after potting.  You should always allow a space at the top of your pot for watering; don't completely fill the pot with compost.  I work on half to a thumb's length depending on the size of the pot. Watering after potting is essential even if your plant was well-watered before moving on (as it should have been) and even if your compost is moist (as it should be).  It will settle the soil particles around the roots and make sure there's no large air pockets and it will give your plant easy access to a drink while it is in its 'shocked' state.  

Friday, 9 July 2010

Free Plants

I have a couple of dozen lovely baby Aquilegias  (Columbines/Granny Bonnets) for anyone who wants to collect them.  I am in Brandlesholme. They were grown from seed which came from Monet's Garden in Giverny, France.  Just email me at

Hose-pipe ban

First of all the useful stuff... if you click here it will show you a chart of what you can and can't do when a hosepipe ban is in effect. Hozelock

This is another political manoeuvre to demonstrate that someone is doing something about a water shortage.  Closing barn doors after the horse has bolted comes to mind.  Why isn't our high level of rainfall 'harvested' and stored properly?  Just think back to the floods earlier this year and weep over the amount of rain wasted.  Why aren't water companies compelled to monitor and repair their leaking pipes?

So here we are, in one of the wettest areas of the country, experiencing yet another water shortage.  That said - just read the following statement from the RHS:
Domestic consumption of water only accounts for 21% of the overall demand with less than 1% of the total being used in domestic gardens for watering plants, washing cars etc. Professionally installed irrigation systems are highly water efficient, they apply exactly the right amount of water, where and when it is required – no more, no less. The water is applied overnight to minimise evaporation and when installed in conjunction with good horticultural practices such as mulching, provides the most efficient means of watering plants
Gardeners must use the smallest amount of the 'less than 1%' domestic outdoor use, yet we are banned from looking after our plants using a hand-held hose and spray gun or irrigation system whilst Joe Bloggs across the road is allowed to power wash his patio and wash his car. Indeed one of our neighbours washes his car with an open ended hose (no gun) which he leaves to run down the drain between the various stages of wetting, brushing etc.  Infuriating even when there isn't a hosepipe ban.

I have a super-efficient irrigation system in my garden which only waters precisely what needs watering; at its 'worst' it might be used to water all the borders and vegetables (not lawns)   for twenty minutes, twice a week, during the night (no evaporation and wastage).  Generally I manage without using it by using the hosepipe (only) where needed and watering cans for pots.  It is really in place for any time we might be in a hot spell and I might be away and not able to do my selective watering.  Being on a water meter, believe me I am frugal.

I'd like someone to test the allowance for children's water play.  Does this mean you can have a full sized oscillator sprinkler going while children play under it?  Can I borrow some children?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


I'm feeling my way round this at the moment, but I did think that if we recommend (or otherwise) suppliers the information would be scattered around the blog and difficult to find.  it seems sensible to have a page that we can add to as we go and people could find easily if they wanted to.  I've started it off with my initial thoughts on places I've used a few times.  If you look at the top of the blog you'll see where the pages are.  Tell me your opinions of companies you've dealt with and I'll happily add them to the to the 'reviews'.

I speak the truth not so much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little more as I grow older. -Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592) 

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Anti-cat contraptions

This is a photo  taken in May when I'd just planted the seeds.  I thought I'd share our cat contraptions.  We have problems with neighbours' cats who love to use freshly dug areas of the garden for their loo.  I devised a zillion things last year to keep them off my organic (!) seed bed and none of them were successful.  I had an inspired moment this year and we threaded canes through mesh a bit bigger than the beds and placed them on top.  Plants still get light and rain and can grow four inches or so by which time it is OK to remove the covers as the cats seem to like an open space. They are light so are easy to move about if you want to thin out seedlings or weed and they are easy to store.  They are now standing on their edges against the wall inside my summerhouse/shed taking up about two inches of room.  Again please share your anti-cat solutions.  PS - the bottle is a (free recycle) mini-cloche (!) covering basil seeds.

My Garden

Perhaps I should get the ball rolling by introducing my garden and share anything I think might be useful.

When we moved in three years ago we had fence to fence grass (not a lawn!) on a surface which sloped diagonally from the house top right to the garden's bottom left corner.  The difference in height being well over two feet.  We began with a huge level patio area so we could at least access the side path, dustbins and the rest of the garden without breaking our necks. We dug out a four foot border all round and I began planting.  I know the 'design' is utterly boring but I wanted something really simple to access and not too much area to actually garden as we are now at the retired stage of our lives.  That said the garden has had three planting plans in its three years.  Year one I planted trees and shrubs for least work. Year two, I couldn't be without flowers so out came the shrubs and in went perennials.  As I always want every plant I see I thought it was a great idea to work through the complete colour spectrum starting with the hot colours - reds, oranges, yellows and working my way through the four borders until I finished with the cool colours of pinks and blues and whites. By  year three I decided it looked like a complete mish-mash and it was changed to three borders of the cool colours and a veggie bed.  The hots have migrated to the front garden. It is now the garden's fourth Summer and other than stripping out the East facing bed in April and replanting it I think it might finally be settled and may even be allowed to grow. Him indoors did suggest I just cultivated triffids and be done with it.

During all this chopping and changing even the poor trees have moved position each year, with the exception of the potentially lovely Chinese Rowan which sat and sulked in the boggy end of my garden. The only part of the Rowan which grew was was the canker. This year I took it out and chucked it away!  Well actually I made labels for my veggie bed with it.   If anyone has any ideas for a small tree which doesn't mind its feet in a lot of water for a longish time each year please let me know. Willows are too large other than the Kilmarnock willow and that's too small. Like Goldilocks I'm looking for one that's just right.

Here's some bits and pieces which I hope might spark off some conversations.

We use strips of decking along the edges of the lawn so the strimmer doesn't hack the plants and I don't have to keep edging up the lawn.  It also allows me to build up the soil bit by bit to improve on the rubbish we seem to have.

The chimney pot is the sort that has two parts to it - the top section lifts off (if you have muscles like Desperate Dan).  To fill it I plant up a 12" pointed hanging basket which then just lowers inside the top.  I've fiddled about with all sorts of ways of planting this pot over the years and this is definitely the simplest and most successful.

Incidentally Home Bargains at the bottom of Brandlesholme Road, near B & Q had those baskets for just £1.99.  Bargain!  Check out their garden stuff.

I have two more chimneys which I've painted green but these have six holes around them so have to be planted through those as well as the top.  My other half, or labourer as he is known, cut three strips of wood to fit across a ledge inside the pot.  I then lined the space with a piece of  weed suppressing fabric making a rough shaped bag to put the compost in.  I cut holes in the fabric where the side holes of the pot are and poked plants through.  An easy way to do this (useful when planting hanging baskets too) is to wrap the plant (not the root) in some thin cardboard making a tube small enough to push the through the hole.  Take the tube off on the other side and, voilà, no damage done to the plant.  I took a risk on the May frost and planted them early.  The garden Gods were good to me and they survived. These pictures were taken 11th June so by now they are coming into their own. I'll post a picture in a couple of weeks when they come to fruition.

We also use decking strips to make the veggie boxes.  I wanted four raised boxes rather than a border because I thought the slope might make it difficult, plus I could add lashings of compost and improve the soil/builders rubble.  It has also turned out handy for crop rotation. The beans were terrific last year but there was a bit of a battle with the wind and six foot wigwams. This year I am trying dwarf runner, French and broad beans and petis pois; as yet I'm not impressed.  The small tripod is for three cucumbers. One box has permanent planting.  It has Timperly rhubarb and I plant herbs in part-buried pots to contain them.

And this is what it is all about!  Today's rhubarb pickings. This is my third harvest this year and there is enough here for three puddings for two people.  I washed and chopped and divided it into three.  Put two portions in the freezer and used the third for a crumble.  (Always make double the topping and freeze half of that too).  So whilst typing this I am replete with rhubarb crumble and cream.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Why a blog?

Every year I am frustrated with the amount of seeds I have to buy, at about £1.99 a packet, to get the dozen or so plants I might want.  Seed will keep (in a cool place) for a year or so but to be honest, when it comes to vegetable seeds, they are better bought fresh each year.  As I am gardening for two, hundreds of the same lettuce seed are not needed.  Multiply this by a couple of dozen different vegetables and I end up with thousands of seeds going to waste.

I am also a belt and braces type person and therefore sow double the number I need in case any any duff transplants need replacing.  For example I sow a dozen runner beans individually in pots for the six I really want. Multiply this by a couple of dozen and a few weeks later I have hundreds of beautiful baby plants going begging.

I need to find people locally who could make use of them.  How to find them?

A blog?  I've come up with the idea of a gardening blog for gardeners who live in and around Bury where we could arrange to swap seeds, plants, ideas, information etc..  

I have gardened for getting on for fifty years and am happy to help people with gardening advice and, hopefully, this blog will become a forum for helping each other.  It is the best kind of help because it is local.  Much of what you find on TV, in magazines, and on-line is very 'Southern' based; up here we are as much as a month behind their timing.  Also locally grown/sourced plants thrive much better and we have a knowledge of what does and doesn't flourish in this area.

I've started a collection of 'useful links' which we can add to.  I also thought people might like to recommend local companies who have proved reliable.  I'm very keen on Summerseat for example as my local garden centre but maybe you prefer somewhere else?  Have you had any landscaping done by a good company?  Do you have anyone doing gardening work for you on a regular basis that you could recommend?.... and so on.

As this blog is in its embryonic stage I'd love you to check it out and send me any suggestions as to how we can make it work.  Who knows, by next Spring, we can have something really useful up and running.