More bells

I mean of the blue variety. I was in the garden on Tuesday morning with the main object of putting some of the left-over pebbles into the raised bed in the area we call ‘The Plot’ at the side of the house. We sometimes refer to it as the secret garden because it hides between the garage and the laurel trees next to the patio. It is accessed through a gate I constructed almost two years ago and is therefore ‘out of the way’. It didn’t take long to spread the pebbles.

Although it doesn’t look a lot there are plenty of pebbles in there. What is left in the bag in the garage I hope will be enough to put in the long raised bed on the patio. Before that can happen I have to remove the cyclamen plants which are growing there. The other plants will be left.

Once I had finished that work I went around the garden borders digging out bluebells. Those which were remaining after the purge a couple of years ago cannot easily be removed for the bulbs are deep beneath the roots of other plants so all I can do is pull out any shoots which appear by digging down as far as I am able. At least now they are manageable but in places they are still quite numerous. I spent only an hour or so in the garden even though there were other jobs I could have done. There is no hurry, I’ve all the time in the world.

Shirley Anne

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Finally it eased

I did a swap between days at the weekend. I rested on Saturday but did a little on Sunday instead. The wind had finally eased off and I was able to get into the garden to begin the jobs I had lined-up. First though it was ‘clean sheet day’, I changed the bedclothes and put the soiled ones in the washing machine before eating breakfast. After breakfast I placed one of the duvets in the bath and hand washed it. Have you ever washed a duvet? They are very heavy when wet. Following the wash was the rinsing, all very tiring work. How then to dry it? We have a plastic linen basket in the bathroom and I used that on which to put the now folded duvet to allow the water to slowly drip from it. It took hours for that to happen but as the bath wasn’t needed it could stay there all day. Then it was time to put on my overalls and get outdoors, first of all to replace the flag now that the high winds had ceased and then into the rear garden to saw off the remaining tree stumps at ground level. Four of them stood one to two metres high and two were nearer the ground. My arms were aching somewhat after I had finished. I might decide not to saw through those stored tree trunks I mentioned in yesterdays’s post but take them to the recycling centre instead.

Sawing them is too much like hard work! By the time I had done with the work outside it was almost time for lunch but first I had to hang the washing on the line in the boiler/gym room. Whilst down there I spent some time on the cross-trainer. Time to cook lunch. It was two o’clock and I spent the rest of the day just relaxing and as it was a bright and sunny afternoon I spent some time in the garden.

Shirley Anne

….in the morning

I mean Christmas day in the morning, I did this….

…..this…

…this..

…and this….

That is giving the whole room, the walls and ceiling its first coat of white emulsion. Bright isn’t it? I think so. The room had been in an awful state very much as the other rooms I had refurbished during the year. By the time you are reading this at the end of January hopefully the work in the cellar will have been completed. It wasn’t the only thing I did that day for I spent a little time in the rear garden cleaning and hosing down the area in the Plot where we keep the composting bin. It had been looking a little neglected when I went to tip more compost in the bin.

Moss loves the area and leaves get trapped too. In all I spent around five hours working before I decided I’d had enough.

Shirley Anne

Energy

My neighbour, the lady who has been poorly these last six months, often asks me where it is I get my energy from. She isn’t referring to a utility provider but why it is I seem to be on the go all the time. I am not really on the go all the time but it sure feels that way sometimes. Take Wednesday (7 th Nov) for instance, I took a five-mile walk before breakfast at 5 o’clock. After breakfast I continued the work in the utility room first of all finishing the filling-in and then giving all the woodwork its first coat of white emulsion. That took me three hours. Later in the morning after a snack I went into the garden to cut back the fruit (damson/plum) trees in The Mound. If you remember earlier in the year I mentioned I was going to remove some of them and cut back the remainder. Here is how it looked during the summer….

All of them were cut and the intention was to remove the smaller ones completely but having done the pruning we might decide to remove them all before Spring. Here is The Mound photographed from a downstairs window soon after I had finished work because it had begun to rain heavily.

The trunks I placed near the small plot across the garden whilst the branches and twigs I cut into small pieces and placed them in a large industrial bag until I can dispose of them. 

That work took another three hours and I had just about finished when the rain began to fall. In fact I had to spend the last ten minutes working in the rain. The roots would be dug out another day.  Yes I don’t know where I get the energy from either!

Shirley Anne

No excuses

During the last months of the year I have no excuses for being idle as there is much to do. The truth is though that I have been pretty much busy throughout the year! As at the time of writing this Oct 21 st (Trafalgar day here in the UK) I am engaged with the utility room project and waiting for the pebbles to finish the lawn project. In the pipeline of things to do are the removal of some of the fruit trees and the pruning back of others in The Mound and setting up the frost protection for some of the plants. I also have in mind the uprooting and replanting of a few plants and other general garden duties in both front and rear gardens. This year though I will not be sweeping up the fallen leaves in the front garden except to keep them away from the garage doors and drains. Last year the council did not empty out the two wheelie bins properly leaving them both still half-filled on the last collection day. I emptied them out onto the driveway and let nature do the rest. They disappeared after a day or two just as they would do in the wild!  

No doubt if I run out of things to do I will find something, it’s in my nature. As long as I can take a break occasionally I will be happy doing whatever comes my way. It is funny to think that once upon a time I wouldn’t consider doing some of the things I do now but being retired from formal work gives me more time on my hands and it must be filled somehow. I treat my projects as hobbies rather than chores and indeed they are more as a hobby to me. 

Shirley Anne

Better ideas

Do you find yourself discovering a way to do something but later on find out there might have been a better way to do it? During my experiences in the electrical industry that was often the case for me. I have to say though after years of working in the industry the better way to do things came naturally, well for most of the time. Last winter we had some really nasty weather for a couple of weeks and some of the garden plants suffered as a result. I was therefore determined to find a better solution or an easier way of implementing the precautions I had taken at that time. The plants which suffered were those where the protection I had provided had come adrift. During the year I have been giving much consideration in regards to finding that easier solution. I had fixed some anchoring points by which to secure the protection around the two small beds on the patio but they were the easy ones to protect. One is shown below and the plant at risk from frost damage is the fan palm.

The longer of the three beds shown below is the one most difficult to protect as wrapping the two fan palms isn’t as easy at it sounds especially if the older leaves are to be protected from wind damage too.

I had purchased some bubble wrap and bamboo canes earlier this year and was going to use them to construct a makeshift frame to cover the whole bed but having given that idea much thought since then I think I have come up with a better idea, I decided to purchase a walk-in ‘tunnel’ to place over the top of the bed. Designed for use as an alternative to a greenhouse for growing certain plants under cover the tunnel would be the ideal solution and probably much sturdier. As the one I have purchased is two metres in width it will overhang the bed on the inside and make access to the bed possible if required. Of course it will need support beneath the overhang and some fixing points with which to tie it down. 

As far as the bubble wrap and canes are concerned they will still be used in the bed adjacent to the patio as planned.

Shirley Anne

Weeds and stuff

A gardener’s life is a constant battle with weeds or should I say wild flowers or wild plants. I’m good at laying out gardens placing plants in them and then looking after them but I get a little frustrated when each time I go into the garden I end up picking out weeds. They grow absolutely everywhere don’t they? Short of plucking them out or maybe spraying them if they are not close to wanted plants there is little else that can be done. Some weeds behave themselves and are easily controlled whilst others can be very difficult if not impossible to eradicate. I’m no gardener in a professional sense and probably only an average amateur but I do know how much hard work is necessary for the upkeep of a garden especially if the garden is larger than the average. We have two gardens at home, one front and one in the rear and both are reasonably large in area though the front garden has less planting area and is also the smaller of the two. Although it is smaller it has the greater weed problem both by variety and volume. However I have to admit that a large part of the front garden namely what I call the front mound where the flag pole stands has been deliberately left to grow a little wild. It is covered in rocks with a few bushes in it so it looks natural and wild. There are some weeds I pluck out and some I leave but the problem is the ones I leave like spreading themselves all over the place and indeed that is how they grow by blanketing the ground. During the summer one of them has tiny pink/purple flowers which attract bees and other pollinators…see above. Below is the same plant as it was on Saturday now with less flowers.

It is I admit quite attractive but it does grow anywhere it finds a foothold, on the walls, in cracks in the concrete, and just about anywhere else. We call it Southport Weed for it is prolific here. On Saturday (25 th) I lifted so much of it that I had left growing on top of the raised white gravel area behind the plants in the front garden it half-filled the wheelie bin. it had almost covered the gravel completely.

Despite the amount there it was fairly easy to lift as it puts roots down in one spot and spreads from there though there were a few spots where it had done so. I sprayed the area afterward with a herbicide. Unfortunately the herbicide has a limited effect and I know the weed will return, it always does. In the flower borders other small weeds constantly appear and if left they too pop up all over the place. There must be thousands of invisible seeds waiting to germinate just to annoy me! Who said gardening was easy?

Shirley Anne

Just in time

It had been quite a few weeks since I last mowed the lawn, well it seemed that long anyway. I don’t keep tabs on such things. I had watered the garden soon after breakfast on Friday instead of doing it the other way around. I wanted to go for a walk but needed some space after eating. It was just after four o’clock when I’d finished the watering and still very much dark. It wouldn’t get light until after six o’clock at this time of year. No, I didn’t water the garden in darkness as we have switchable lighting at one end which pretty much illuminates the whole garden though the floodlights illuminate automatically because of their motion detectors. The lights over the patio can be switched on too but there is little point if all the others are switched on, suffice to say it was light enough without them. Anyway I digress. So I went for my walk just after four o’clock and it was dry and windy but a little cool, especially in the wind. Soon I would have to think about wearing warmer clothing on these outings though I had on this occasion been well wrapped up too. I took the walk through the back streets to town and beyond and was well-sheltered from the wind. When I reached the seafront however it was a different story, bracing but enjoyable nevertheless. It stayed dry until I reached home when I could see the odd spatter of rain by the front door entrance. When I went indoors I prepared what I would be having for lunch later, another chilli. It was around ten-thirty when I decided to mow the lawn as it had remained dry until then. The odd spattering earlier must have been just a passing cloud which had decided to hold on to its load. I mowed the lawn, which took about twenty minutes and just as I had put the mower back in storage it began to rain.

Even so that didn’t last long either but we had been promised more persistent rain later in the day and into the night. On Thursday, the day before, our next-door neighbour was having the scaffolding around his house dismantled, well almost all of it. Evidently the work of re-pointing the brickwork and carrying out roof repairs had ended. The guys had been fortunate for it not to have been raining whilst doing that job. How do they manage to work safely if it is pouring down with rain? Anyway on looking at the work that has been done the front aspect of the house looks really nice but when I looked at the side and rear all that has happened has been a little patching up here and there. I would have though it better to have the whole house done while the scaffolding was there. I know how much it costs to have scaffolding erected having had it around my house and it isn’t cheap! I even asked the guys why they were dismantling it as I didn’t think the work was finished. It didn’t look finished to me.

Shirley Anne

Return to normal

What is normal for you? There are many areas in my life where I am comfortable and that for me is normality. I speak though about the weather in this case. For a few weeks it has been unusually warm even hot at times and that for me wasn’t normal. I often felt uncomfortable and longed for things to return the way I like it, cooler! Yesterday, that is Monday (6 th) was for me a lovely day, not too warm and not too cool, just right in fact. Today as I write it is even cooler than yesterday and perfect for me. It is around 18 deg C and although the humidity is very high it is comfortable. Now is the time for working outdoors but at the moment that only means gardening maintenance which is an all year round chore anyway. I am eager to work on the lawn project but there is little movement regarding that as I am waiting for the supply of materials. I am therefore concentrating on finishing the gym floor and today the extra floor paint is to be delivered. I won’t be doing any work however, not today anyway for I have shopping to do. So as far as I am concerned all is returning to normal. Nice as Summer is it gets boring after a while and all I want to do is keep myself occupied with a project or two. This morning in the early hours of daylight I was out in the garden doing maintenance, digging out weeds and pruning here and there as well as watering the plants. We are informed that rain will be the order of the day towards the end of the week ……..definitely back to normal!

Shirley Anne

Same again please?

Practically the whole month of May was fine and sunny with high unseasonal temperatures too. The month of June has been less so. We have had warm spells in June though they have been few. As I write this on the 22 nd we are told to expect a mini-heatwave for a few days. Today it is struggling to reach 20 deg C, pleasant enough but the wind is making it feel cooler. Do we really need high temperatures and humidity and little or no rain? No we don’t if we are being honest even though the warm days are welcomed. I have been spending a lot of my time just watering the gardens for if I leave off doing it for more than a day or so the plants begin to wilt, even those which are well established. None of the trees have been suffering of course for their roots reach much further below the ground toward the water table. The land around these parts is sand below the first metre so it doesn’t hold the moisture for very long. Our gardens have a fair amount of top-soil  but I think it could be more substantial, heavier like it would be if there was some clay in the mix. There are alternatives of course, vermiculite for instance could be mixed in to help retain more water and a surface covering of bark and/or mulch is beneficial.  We have been spreading both on the more exposed flowerbeds which has helped but when the weather is constantly very warm it isn’t enough and I have to water the ground more often. As the bushes and shrubs grow and develop they cover over more of the soil and that certainly helps it to stay wet longer. I have noticed that to be the case in the front garden where the bushes seem oblivious to the lack of rain. I do water them but less often than I water the rest of the garden. So yes, I do welcome the warmer weather as long as we can have some rain once in a while too!

Shirley Anne