One Cactus, Two Cacti, Three Cacti, Four……..

On our kitchen windowsill is a not wholly intended collection of Cacti……….

A couple of years ago my in-laws moved house and gifted their Cacti to us. Well, to be exact, my mother-in-law rang and asked if we wanted the cacti that were sitting on her study windowsill as she didn’t want to take them with her to their new home.

“Oh yes” says Hubby “It would be fun “to have something growing on the windowsill and duly went to collect them.

Now, I am not all that keen on Cacti but as I am not all that good with houseplants, cacti stand a better chance of survival. I thought what harm would it do to have them….as long as I could avoid the prickles?

Then Hubby walked in with three small plastic flower pots with the sickest, most neglected Cacti you have ever seen! How they had survived at all beats me. Mum has raised the standard of Plant neglect to an all-time high. (Its ok, she knows what we think of her Cacti care! And I do get on with her really well!)

We went out and bought Cactus compost and found a nice big bowl to plant them in. We settled down on the Kitchen floor with newspaper and gloves and all the equipment needed for the delicate procedure of potting up Cacti, as well as the necessary implements for surgery –  a knife to cut off the dead bits, and tweezers for us to remove the prickle from our fingers. (I wish I had a photo of those poor things when they first arrived). Surgery over, the Cacti took up residence on the Bathroom windowsill and grew…and grew…and grew! All except one that finally gave up the ghost. We potted the Cacti on into other pots and somehow they looked ”lonely” and needed others to balance out the planting.

We realised that Cacti need more sunlight than they were getting in the Bathroom so moved them to the Kitchen windowsill. …..and bought some more…… and potted them on again. And now every evening I have to watch that I don’t knock them off the sill as I gingerly lower the blind, doing my best to avoid the prickles as I guide it down.

And so the collection has grown….. we have more than the three plants we were given, and I suppose as they grow and we pot on, we shall end up with a windowsill full.

They are not my favourite plants but they do look happy and healthy. My husband diligently waters them, which I suppose is all the care they need. However I know of a couple living in our village who’s son started collecting Cacti when he was a lad, he left them in the care of his parents whilst he went to University…..they still have them….. and he is now 40 years old!!!

What’s Been Happening…..

Hello dear Followers

I don’t usually post personal stuff but I just thought I should let you know why I haven’t been here for a couple of weeks. I was away for a weekend and had plenty in the Diary to do when I came back, and then one of these two fur-babies has been poorly which has meant various visits to the Vets and , at times, a complicated medication timetable!

We discovered he had a heart problem at the end of January. Last weekend he had a bad tummy upset. Then yesterday…blood in his urine. The vets at Stalbridge and Marnhull Veterinary Surgery  have been brilliant but we still don’t know for sure what the problem is, we should have the latest Lab report by Monday and I will let you know how he is. Normal blogging will resume again as soon as possible.

PS I have managed to have a few moments to tweak the website design – Do let me know what you think

The New Garden – Part Two

At the end of 2014 I began to formulate our ideas for the new Garden onto paper. We were going to create a completely new layout for the ground at the rear of the property.

The Garden as it was in March 2015

On my/our wish list for the New Garden was

  • Raised Beds
  • Fruit trees
  • Vegetable garden
  • Compost area
  • Greenhouse
  • Lawn – a level lawn!

What I ended up with was a year of very hard work as we, mostly I, hand filled 28 Dumpy Bags with subsoil and rubble to be lifted out by the Hi-ab Lorry. We started by demolishing the raised square bed in the centre of the lawn, which meant I was faced with disposing of the rubble we had ‘hidden’ in the bottom of it years before! The Acer had been felled, it was a lovely tree but had really grown too big for the garden. I had had the crown reduced twice and only really drastic work would have kept it within reasonable bounds but would probably have spoilt its shape.

 

As the plot slopes downwards east to west as well as on the diagonal towards the northwest corner we had agreed that the plot would need levelling. We realised too that we had wasted land on the northern boundary, and decided to have  the shrubs grubbed out, and the fence moved as safely as possible nearer the top edge of the  wall. That gained us another 3 feet/1 metre of ground. That might have seemed like a big expense for little gain but when you have a small garden every extra bit of ground is worth it. Then  I levelled a 12 foot /3 metre strip right across the garden, along side the fence, to create the raised veg beds, compost area and a base for the Greenhouse. Of course had we known that there would be SO much spoil we might have approached the job differently and got a micro digger in with a trailer on the roadside but it’s easy to be wise with hindsight. Some Dumpy bags had to be filled, emptied and re-filled as we moved materials around, and the couple of bags of materials we brought in, spread, so I probably moved  30+ tonnes of stuff during 2015/2016.

 

 

I  hand dug 23 post holes for the uprights of the Park rail fencing, the fruit cage supports, and the oak posts of the Orchard beds.  I levelled the paths, and dug the trench for the electric cable to the greenhouse, to a depth of 3-4 feet  at one point. The digging for this garden was much harder than the three days I took to dig the ground out for the Pond and Stream in the Norwegian garden but I just kept pegging away at it. However, I was running out of steam by the time it came to levelling the lawn, which was to be achieved  by dropping the level of soil on one side of the proposed area and bringing it up on the other. However, I did lifted all the turf. Then some family friends kindly came to the rescue and we had a mammoth Saturday workout as they all helped to rotavate and level the soil.

 

Tour of inspection by the dogs

This new lawn area is surrounded by raised beds to not only make my future gardening easier (at my husband’s suggestion) but also to retain the soil where the levels are different.  We have used some old park railing for dividing the beds from the paths to the east and west of the lawn. My husband kindly built a framework of oak posts and copper pipes to the north side to divide the lawn from what has become the lower part of the garden, and against this we have planted fruit tree cordons. So what we have ended up with is

  • a level lawn surrounded by raised beds
  • a woodland garden bed
  • a fruit cage
  • a three-bin compost area
  • four raised beds:- two for veggies, one for Loganberries and one for Asparagus
  • an Orchard (apparently 10 fruit trees = an orchard, and we have planted 12!)
  • a Greenhouse with a cold frame/hardening off area
  • raised beds for mixed herbaceous planting
  • a seating area
  • and a utility area with a garden sink!
Plan of the Garden on the north side of Dovewood – not drawn to scale

 

The details of each area will no doubt appear in future posts. One thing that has become apparent though, is the different aspects of the planting areas will give me the opportunity to grow a diverse range of plants. Which all goes to prove that you can have your cake and eat it!

 

 

The New Garden – Part One

No, I am not talking about the Norwegian garden this time, (anyway, its not new, its been here 3 years this summer). Well not much but it does come into the story…..What I want to tell you about today is the garden that is on the other side of our property. Its not huge its about 43 x 30 feet but what we have been able to create within that space since has been amazing. That is not meant to sound like a boast, just surprising what we have managed to fit in. When I moved here 15 years ago (this August) there was a lawn, a huge cotoneaster right along the back of the building, an old conifer stump, a Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and along the top of the boundary wall a few shrubs . No fence.


Which was a bit crazy, as the sheer drop down to the road is 4-5 feet, so I had a picket fence constructed along the back of the shrubs. I took out the cotoneaster, marked out two borders along the eastern and western boundaries, and a bed along the back of the property wall. In the western bed I grew a few veg and planted cordon apple trees. The other beds were mixed shrubbery. So not very exciting but cared for, and the dogs had plenty of grass to run around on.


By 2008 we added a raised bed to the centre of the lawn made with reclaimed sleepers, and partly filled the base with rubble that came from the base we were digging out for the new Green Shed on the other side of the plot – more of that later- again we planted a mix of low shrubs and perennials.

In 2012 we added a small extension to the property, the garden was neglected for a while whilst we concentrated on the building work. We had a huge pile of rubble from the demolished porch and internal wall, as well as dumpy bags of spoil stacked there. Because our driveway is narrow we have to fill dumpy bags with spoil and get them lifted out over the fence by a lorry with a Hi-ab.This happened again in 2014 when we had spoil from the making of the Norwegian garden (oops! there it is again!) I was rather ashamed to catch Monty Don have a peak at the rear garden during a break in filming and seeing it in such a sorry state and not the well-cared for garden it had been.

It wasn’t an unwanted space just badly neglected during a very hectic time. But by the end of the filming for Big Dreams,Small Spaces, and inspired but what we had achieved for the programme, we had a plan brewing…….

(Look out for Part two of the story of the construction of our new garden in the next couple of days)

 

Inspirational Quote No.4

There is a definite change in the air… The birds have noticed it and are singing more throughout the day.  The pond is alive with amorous frogs. More and more flowers are beginning to open their faces to the sun when it shines. And, at last, my Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ has opened its hitherto tightly closed buds

The photo may not show Spring flowers but all the colours and freshness remind me of this special time of year. Today as I walked the dogs I saw the first of the Blackthorn blossom…..so is it too much to hope for……….that Spring is on its way?

 

New Vegetable Garden

From the previous post about making net frames, you will see that I have raised vegetable beds. This is all part of the re-designed  garden behind our property.

To be honest I’ve never grown much in the way of veg, mostly Peas, Runner Beans and Courgettes. Odd that, considering my Grandfather was a Market Gardener and sold his produce through Covent Garden. Anyway, to cut a long story short when I planned the new garden I  included raised beds for veggies. Why? Because I had come across a book about Square Metre Gardening (SMG) by Mel Bartholomew  (sometimes called Square Foot Gardening – known as SFG) and it seemed to make a lot of sense. Of course it seems to be everywhere now I know about it, just as when you choose the colour of your new car  then you see it everywhere, everyone has one that colour! Basically the Principles of SMG  are

  • No Dig
  • Intensive planting
  • Intercropping
  • Successional Planting/Cropping avoiding gluts
  • Grow only what you want to eat

 

This also explains why I have a wood grid on one of the beds (should be on both but hasn’t happened …yet!) It helps to be able to see the planting areas.

Charles Dowding  champions the no dig approach, and his trials show there is very little difference between dug bed and no-dig beds in the harvest results. So with all this new found knowledge I thought I would give it a try, my only problem is my DH is not a veggie man and definitely not into Salads! The veg he likes are Cauli, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Carrots and Potatoes, most of which take up a lot of space. I’ve found a variety of Cauli that produces several small heads per plant. The Potatoes I will grow in bags elsewhere. The Carrots and Sprouts I can probably manage. As for the Broccoli we both agreed at dinner last night that we could manage without it. To date I have planted Autumn onions, Garlic and Shallots, although I’ve never used fresh garlic in my cooking before! I’ve also planted Broad Beans this week but stupidly forgot the bit about successional planting so the whole allotted spot has been sown ! I’ve consoled myself with the thought that they might not all sprout or the mice will have them, (also mentioned in my previous post).

I have worked out what else I want to grow and whereabouts they will go in the bed. Mel Bartholomew rather contradicts himself in saying you can ignore crop rotation and then suggesting which crops do best for follow-on planting. The idea of SMG is that every time you harvest a square you add a trowel full of compost and plant the next crop immediately, preferably with seeds/seedlings you have waiting to go in. I can’t quite get my head around that but once the beds are functioning, and I have the greenhouse to bring stuff on, I expect I shall get the hang of it.

The West bed netted and partially planted

 

I didn’t have the beds set up in time to plant much last year but I did have courgettes and made some lovely jars of pickled courgettes which have livened up my winter salads. I also had Mange tout and then Peas, Carrots, Beetroot, Radish, Spring Onions,Salad leaves,Rocket, a Swede and a Leek! I don’t expect we will manage to be self sufficient for our vegetables but it was, is and will be wonderful to have fresh home-grown produce for much of the year.

 

P.A.W 15/02/17

Here is the latest round up of my Garden. The title implies that this happens weekly but it has slid somewhat because of the weather. Yes! PAW has slipped because of the weather, a case of “leaves on the line” effect! It has either been raining or so wet under foot that no gardening could happen or dry but soooo cold gardening couldn’t happen.

Plant of the week (!) has to be Snowdrops – I would love to say that these snowdrops were photographed in my garden  but sadly not. I think mine may have to succumbed to a visitation as detailed below.

However Monday!….aaah! Monday was blue skies and sunshine and an almost Spring-like day. Bliss! At last I could get out and get going and stay relatively warm and mud free. Then yesterday low cloud and mizzle all day and today…… wet. Ugh!

So what did I do with that glorious weather? I got on with making the barricades  netting framework for the Raised Veg Beds.

Let me back track a little. Last November I planted up various pots with bulbs as I had rashly ordered far too many for the Garden, I also tidied the Veg Beds and planted my Autumn Onions. I then went away for the second week of December.  Upon my return I did my usual tour of inspection of my domain to find Bulbs uprooted and chomped, and suspected mice had busy. But the Veg Beds were a battle zone. They had been trashed! Of course I blamed the 4 cats next door for that, until I could find none of their usual calling cards. So I have spent the last two months scheming, plotting, building and getting totally frustrated with any living thing going near my Beds, including my beloved fur-babies, our dogs.

So to fast forward……..Being on an extremely tight gardening budget I needed to get creative. What I came up with is not as aesthetically pleasing as I would have liked but practicality is my priority here. My DH had a quantity of waste pipe that was surplus and a reel of Polypipe (Blue). I had a couple of lengths of heavy duty pond water pipe and spotted some 1m wide netting going cheap @ 28p per metre, and bought 10 metres. I need to buy 3 more metres of the pond water pipe to cover up the ghastly blue pipe. The pond pipe has the advantage of being ridged so any covers do not slip. And here is the final product, neat effective if not beautiful


 

 

 

 

 

(the wooden framework is for my Square Foot Garden division)

And my mystery visitors? Well, its not the cats. It isn’t the Dogs. Birds cant get into the West Bed so if I see any further damage I will have to assume its rodents, and hereby will hang another tail tale!

And the W of PAW? W = Web and for the past week I can inform you that there has been quite a stirring amongst Gardening bloggers. Dave at The Anxious Gardener is still, I believe,wading through the response to his post, and another blogger, John at Rivendell Gardens has increased his listing of Garden blogs to well over 100! You can find links to both these blogs on my Links page. As for me, my internet triumph of the week has been to set up a Facebook page for Leaves From My Garden and you can find it by going  HERE  and be sure to click on the link to Leaves From My Garden on the Menu on the left of the page.

Silly Me!

I have spent a lot of time in the last week or so trying to get to grips with the IT of Blogging, I have tidied up the Menu (left of this page) checked and re-checked information, even set up a page of Links. Then it dawned on me that no where have I given you the opportunity to get in touch……….should you wish to! So again I have battled with the old grey brain cells and worked out how to get a contact form on the Contact page! Yay! For those of you who are techno savvy this will seem a minor matter but for me it is a triumph! And the photo?  The sculpture is made out of chicken wire and was on display at Lacock Abbey when I visited some years ago (along with a number of others). I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the creator of it, but if it is you or you know the Artist who’s work it is, please let me know so that I can give proper credit. But it just goes to show that you can take the most unlikely of material and sculpt something beautiful …..so there is hope for me yet!