Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Germination - the story continues

There are those that made it, those that faded away and those that just never really got started. The parsley and basil are our successes, and now beginning life outdoors, braving this unpredictable weather. The tomatoes and chillis have moved to the porch, to acclimatize for independence outside. And then there’s the lettuce and spinach, thin strips of pale green that seemed to hit an invisible ceiling and then keel over and shrivel up… Exactly the same scenario as last year! Maybe I’m destined never to have salad apart from the rocket which is thriving. Not that I really mind since it’s quite peppery, and I just LOVE pepper!

Perhaps there wasn’t enough air circulating in the house which would affect the rate of evaporation, moisture content and strength of the seedlings… this had never crossed my mind… of course, it makes sense! Outside there’s bound to be a breeze or some wind or rain forcing the seedlings to stand up for themselves. So I’ve started fanning my seedlings – feeling little a self conscious doing this in the porch for the whole world to see! Yes, they have the star treatment: water to prevent dehydration, a balanced diet from their compost, sunshine (April showers permitting), warmth and exercise! Hey, what more do you need?!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Creepy crawlies

It certainly was the day for it on Sunday! Started planting out the sweet peas in the front and although the ground was slightly cold and wet it was still teeming with life. With every hole dug some bug was disturbed. There were quite a few millipedes, earthworms (in abundance), the ubiquitous woodlice, spiders or various shapes, size and colour, beetles and lots of unwanted slugs and snails.

Insect life didn’t stop with the earth, no, they were airborne too! Apart from spotting our first butterfly (a cabbage white flitting across the front garden) there were plenty of hoverflies and bees. The bees have been present throughout the winter (the temptation of the flowering honeysuckle shrub was obviously too much) but was relieved to see the hoverflies back since there are aphids on the tulips. There I was worrying about the roses when I should have been looking lower down!

Of course these creepy crawlies are all welcome since they are a tasty treat for the next step up in the food chain. Hopefully the avian and amphibian communities and stop in at Chez Asha for a bite to eat!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Shimmering blue sky

Couldn’t just lie in bed on Sunday with the birds chatting away and the sun warming the room! There are sweet peas waiting to be transplanted, seeds to be sown, dahlias to be repotted (still relishing the fact that they have survived the winter!), a water butt to be fitted and countless other jobs.

The day was bright and light, the shimmering blue sky a fabulous back drop for the emerging bright pink apple blossom, the rich red growth of the roses and the flowering rocket (gracefully towering over everything). Colours seem richer with the deep pink quince drawing you in, and the soil smells warm and inviting (if still a little clammy)… all the necessary ingredients to get you in the mood for some garden action!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Seeds, glorious seeds!

Some how they've been accumulating from various sources, and really should be sown before they lose viability. In the box of delights there are: Limnanthes (scrambled eggs - couldn't find any poached); Floss Flowers (Blue mink which have already started germinating - ay!); sunflower and sweet pea (harvested directly from the garden!); Forget-Me-Not and Godetia (courtesy of Alan Titchmarsh and the folks at Shredded Wheat); Dahlia, Bellis Perennis and Aster. The vegetable/herb contingent consisted of various: French Bean; Parsley; Lemon Balm; Basil (hoping to make some pesto this year); Carrots; Onion; Coriander; Rocket; Chives; Sugar Snaps, Peas, Runner Beans and Climbing French Beans from Al ( Hmm, it might be a little late for some of the veggies but have got Al’s lot on the go this weekend.

I just love delving into the seed box routing around rediscovering forgotten gems! Gives you something to look forward to and plan... must confess to enjoying the whole researching, organising and implementing... control freak? Never!!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Weeds #1: ground elder

I take back everything said about keeping some weeds!

Ground elder, argh, it’s everywhere! At first it was restricted to a relatively neglected part of the garden but it seems that world (okay, garden) domination is the goal. It’s now turned up in my favourite/prized bed. Once established it’s tricky to remove due to a tenacious root system that resembles spaghetti junction. They seem to run for miles! Have to admit that it’s immeasurably satisfying pulling up them up but once you think you’ve caught them all you come across another set crisscrossing in every direction and at every depth – where do they end, do they ever end… Leave just one bit in the ground and it will come back to haunt you. It’s the only persistent weed in the garden I haven’t been able to control. It’s just a pain…

Do I start pulling it up, chasing root systems even if this disturbs the surrounding plants? Not something that I’d like to start now that they are just waking up and shooting back to life… What are you supposed to do?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Crystal ball reading

Yes, our water butt has arrived! We’d been talking them for ages, and as we want to be more sustainable this is step in the right direction. Friends told us about the scheme with Thames Water and obviously we jumped on the band wagon signing up for the butt, stand and tap. Well, if you’re going to do it at all you might as well go the whole hog! Didn’t actually realize how large it was – it’s massive!! We’ve been discussing where in the back garden it could go without taking up already limited space. Guttering and down pipes determining the final decision!

Really looking forward to using the butt since we’re definitely going to have a hot dry summer this year – yup been gazing into the crystal ball recently… Ah, no more trips to the kitchen, no more spillage in the house, no more dousing the plants in cold water, no more tap water (don’t mind our tap water for drinking but have always been uneasy using it for watering).

Roll on the hot, dry summer – we’re ready!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Going, going, gone!

Wow, it didn’t take the starlings long to devour the coconut feeder on the apple tree! Just a couple of days!! They’re not so partial to the feeder containing peanuts, thankfully the blue tits and sparrows aren’t as fussy.

It was great seeing the birds muscle their way in for the food. The pecking order is marsh tit, sparrow, blue tit and starling. Anything larger didn’t really get a look in. Its been highly entertaining watching the pigeon trying to get some of the action. Every time they have perched near the feeder the branches just bend down and away from the food… As the branches start curving they waver trying to retain their balance, but the momentum downwards is too great, and yes they are forced away deprived of a morsel. However they’ve noticed the fallen nuts and have been hoovering them up, so everyone’s a winner!

Fingers crossed the squirrels remain unaware of the feeders. After speaking with friends whose feeders have been pillaged or physically removed, it is one experience that I’d rather avoid…

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Who needs a grassy lawn anyway?

Um, our lawn doesn't really fit the description of a bright green, grassy area - it's more like mossville. Hence my intention to give it some much needed TLC. But during this week I've noticed that the blackbirds, robins and blue tits are quite partial to the moss - I guess nesting material is a priority at the mo. So going to wait a while before tackling the 'lawn'. I shouldn't really be doing this at all...

When we moved in the other half and I agreed that I would maintain the beds and borders and he would concentrate on the lawn - we had a bright green grassy area when we moved in. However years of neglect have reduced the patch to springy moss and persistent weeds. Mowing, it seems, just isn't enough.

I've debated pulling everything up and laying some turf down, but will try the old fashion approach first. I'm probably going to regret this decision once my back, shoulders and hands start to ache!! And for once it won't be due to yoga!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Yes, the weekend is finally here so that I can get the new additions into the ground. Luckily the weather has improved so today, Saturday, is sunny with bright blue skies. Although I've got a rough idea of where everything will eventually find its home, still got to try all possibilities! Since we spend more time in the back garden it tends to get more attention so you want your favourites out there. And here's my dilemma, we got some lovely Sempervivum (houseleeks, which I strangely find irresistable!) and they like dry, sunny spots. Do you plant them out in the front? This would be the most appropriate place for them, but where you won't really get to enjoy them. Or do you plant them in the back garden where you can see them struggle with the wetter, richer conditions? Looks like a decision has been made - the front garden it is. Just have to decide where in the front they should go?!?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Trim that bush!

Now, I like weeding for the simple satisfaction of a tidy area but don’t particularly enjoy the task (the old back, hips and knees tend to complain). I also enjoy sowing, particularly when rewarded with seedlings that make it through to maturity – slugs and snails permitting. But pruning is another matter…

It’s a joy when you know what you’re doing and not really concerned about the results, but for some reason I can’t cut back our roses in the same way as the buddleja, lavender and privet that have all had a good trim recently. So what’s with the procrastination? Maybe it’s because I’ve cut the roses before and they sulked all year long producing no leaves and only a few flowers. Now these roses (according to my immediate neighbour, Burt, who is a fountain of knowledge) have been around for at least 15 years and are pretty established old varieties. The flowers create the most amazing scent – so fragrant, and utterly sniffable! At the beginning of this year, ready with the secateurs, it was bring on some rose pruning! But a combination of bad weather and an inability to cut, now that there is actually some foliage, is ruining the good intentions! Going to bite the bullet this weekend … not going to get another opportunity; the time is right, just do it!