How does your garden grow?
It's mostly about the veggies at the moment but I'm also discovering lots about flowers and other plants - quite often the hard way and always on a very tight budget.
But this blog is not just about my garden, it's about all the things I see and discover in Sussex and beyond and I would love to hear from you too.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
By the time I saw it, the prey was pretty much unidentifiable but, from the colour of the feathers, I wondered whether it was a nuthatch.
I spent a good fifteen minutes watching the sparrowhawk tug and tear at its breakfast before it cleaned its beak on the wooden frame then flew away, leaving nothing but a pile of feathers.
Unsurprisingly, the nearby bird feeder is unusually quiet this rainy Sunday morning.
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Here are a few photos I took on my last visit.
Thursday, 20 October 2011
I love how the beauty of the house and garden are accentuated by the long shadows and the evening light.
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
This is the charity's recommended method...
1. Pick an area as large as possible and measure it to work out how much seed you will need.
2. If the top layer of soil is rich in nutrients, as most gardens are, remove the top 5-10 cm in August.
3. Let the bare ground rest for a few weeks, removing any weeds.
4. In September, sow a mixture of wildflower and meadow grass seeds evenly and rake them lightly into the soil. You can protect them from birds by hanging up shiny objects like CDs.
5. Mow your meadow the following spring with sharp blades to avoid uprooting the young plants, and then every 6-8 weeks during the first year.
6. In the second year, mow in early July to have a spring meadow, or in March and late September for a summer meadow.
7. Leave clippings on the ground for a few days to shed their seeds, and then remove and compost them.
I've missed the boat as far as clearing the ground in August, but I still plan to plant some seeds over the next weekend ready for the spring.
Saturday, 8 October 2011
Despite the cooler weather, we managed to see some late summer blooms in the walled garden, not to mention an unrivalled variety of pumpkins and squashes, peppers and chillis.
As it had been an unscheduled visit, I hadn't taken a camera, but here are a few pictures I took on my phone...
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
I've just made an impulsive purchase of spring bulbs.
I promised myself, after getting the veg plots going, I would turn my attention to the rest of the garden, which is currently one giant, bumpy lawn.
I have already planned a wild flower mini-meadow and I managed to pop in a few narcissus in time for last spring.
I'm not sure what anyone will think of my choice of bulbs but I was seduced partly by the colours.
I've bought some white 'Miss Vain' crocus, a black fritillaria persica, some white anenome, 10 black single tulips and some nectaroscordum siculum honey lily which, from the photo, look a beautiful creamy-white.
I'm excited to see the results.
Sunday, 25 September 2011
Every time I go there I see something new - one this trip I discovered a forest of carved tree stumps, some beautiful paths through the woods and some late summer blooms in the walled garden.
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
I spent much of the weekend tidying up the garden ready for winter.
Plenty of plants are still cropping and on Sunday I picked the sweet dumpling squashes.
One was soon put too good use in a vegetable curry, also starring other home-grown ingredients such as dwarf French beans, courgettes, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, peppers and chillis.
All this was accompanied with a side serving of Bombay alloo, made with my meagre crop of King Edwards (I'll definitely water them more next year).
Nonetheless, it was a good reward for a hard day's graft.
Thursday, 15 September 2011
The insects, which are frequent visitors to my garden, were among the butterfly species to suffer most as a result of the weather, with numbers falling by 61%.
The figures are a result of the Big Butterfly Count survey involving 34,000 people who recorded 322,000 sightings of butterflies.
Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation said it had expected a bumper year for butterflies because of the hot, dry spring but the prolonged spells of rain meant many of the insects were unable to fly, feed or breed.
I have plans to rejuvinate the wild flower corner in my garden next year to encourage more butterflies and other insects - perhaps I should supply a few umbrellas too!
Monday, 12 September 2011
It has been far too long since I posted on this blog, mainly because I've been working so much and rarely have time to sit in front of my computer at home.
All of that, however, is about to change as I have finally caught up with technology and got myself an internet-enabled phone.
All those hours spent bored between shifts will no longer be wasted.
My only immediate problem is the dozens of lovely photos stored on my PC waiting to be uploaded... They, I guess, will have to wait for the time being.
Sunday, 7 August 2011
Instead, the feeder was looking rather deserted and, rather than the usual array of garden birds, I saw a sparrowhawk perched on the edge of my compost heap, surveying the area - no doubt looking for some lunch.
It's not the first time we have seen birds of prey in the garden - sparrowhawks and kestrels are regular visitors here in the winter - but this is the first time we have seen one at this time of year.
It was a browny colour, so presumably a female, and had white feathers on its wings and back.
It sat there for ages, looking about. I managed to get a couple of shots but decided to watch it through my binoculars.
What a treat...
Saturday, 30 July 2011
Sussex Prairies at Morland Farm, near Henfield, is a well kept secret - partly because it was only planted in 2008.
One of the nicest things, if you're thinking of going, is that you can enjoy a drink on the cafe terrace overlooking the entire garden - something a lot of visitor gardens are unable to offer.
Here are a few photos I took of my visit.
Monday, 25 July 2011
The garden is beautiful - I especially enjoyed the vegetable gardens - and the house is equally stunning with beautifully crafted fireplaces, hand printed wallpaper by William Morris and a conservatory that lures you into sitting down and enjoying the views across the countryside towards Weirwood Reservoir.
Make sure you read the introduction blurb in the barns near the entrance gate before going into the house - you will get more from your visit if you understand its background.
Thursday, 14 July 2011
I've read that it happens when the atmosphere is moist but the ground is dry.
I had noticed it getting bad before I left and had been reluctant to remove any leaves in case I hindered its growth... I now very much regret not doing that.
The mould has spread to all the leaves and stems and the only fruit on the plant appears to have stopped growing.
My trusty Hessayon book told me to spray the plant with sulphur but all I could imagine was scraping the ends off endless boxes of matches and I wasn't really sure I liked that idea.
Another website suggested concocting a baking soda solution with liquid soap and spraying it on the plants.
Without any baking soda to hand, I decided instead to give the leaves a wash with a very weak soap and water solution as an interim measure.
I waited until the sun had moved around so as not to scald the plants and gently rubbed each leaf with the soapy water until all the white had gone. Unfortunately, it was only the moisture from the water which turned the leaves green again - as soon as they were dry, the white came back.
My efforts were wasted.
I've just added baking soda to the shopping list...
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Overall, I was quite pleased with my efforts. The greenhouse, for most of the summer, has been home to my tomatoes, peppers, chillis, aubergines and all the seedlings for my vegetable patch.
After weeks of variable weather - hot, dry, humid, wet, windy and, at times, chilly - the seemingly magic "transtape" gone all gooey and come unstuck. The covering on the back of my greenhouse has collapsed after THREE MONTHS.
What's that I heard at the back? What do you expect for £69?
Well, actually, what I've bought is a greenhouse frame and roof - the roof and sides of the greenhouse are just fine. It's the front and back coverings that are coming away - too much weight hanging on a bit of sticky tape.
I think the assembly instructions require some modification to prevent this happening so early on.
I've solved the immediate problem of my chillis getting a chill by using wire sandwich ties to hold the weight of the sheeting. I kinda wish I'd done that from the start.
So, if you've bought one of these things and you haven't built it yet or if it's still intact, I advise you to put some kind of batons or ties to the front and back of the covering to reduce the weight that is pulling on the tape at the roof apex.
Alternatively, just opt for the conversion kit at the beginning when it works out cheaper.
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
I spent the afternoon at the stunning Parham House and Gardens before having dinner in the Red Lion in Ashington - I highly recommend both.
These are some of the photos I took of my visit today.
If you do visit Parham, be sure not to miss the beautiful greenhouse and the marvellous long room on the top floor of the house.
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
The leaves went all white and papery - a sign that they have had too much sun - and growth was stunted, to say the very least.
My solution - because my garden does not have an ounce of shade in the summer until 6pm - was to place assorted items around the plants to give them some respite from the glaring sunshine.
The patio table, the potted walnut tree and the eastern white pine (also potted) were all enlisted to help. In fact, my patio hasn't been looking quite its normal self lately - it's been a collection of items huddled around the poor beleaguered cucurbits as if they were protecting it and seeing what was wrong.
But I persevered - at every stage, new growth has been apparent. I've fed them, watered them and made sure they don't get baked.
Alas, one by one the little plants perished. I have gone from 10 plants to just four in a matter of recent days.
But just as I was beginning to lose hope, I discovered a tiny little cucumber hiding under one of the crumbling leaves. The plants were recovering!
The moral of this story is that sometimes there is no magic cure when your plants have got poorly, but don't give up on them - they're doing their best.
The birds, which are on the RSPB's Red List of threatened species, are the UK's largest finches.
Trevor Weeks of the East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (ESWRAS), which rescued the hawfinch, said: "This is the first time we have ever had one to rescue or to treat in 26 years.
"It has a swelling on one wing near to the shoulder but we don't think there is a fracture, but it is being checked by the vet to assess the damage.
"We know they can be difficult in captivity to treat, and hope that it will be able to go outside as soon as possible and released quickly too.
"It has a large and powerful bill and is an amazing colour, and much bigger than I was expecting."
ESWRAS said hawfinches had previously been found in Kent but were "not so common" in East Sussex.
It is estimated that there are between 3,000 and 6,500 breeding pairs in the UK.
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
I have spent a considerable amount of time and effort on this topic, partly to encourage the goldfinches into my garden and to discourage the pesky squirrels from destroying my peanut feeder.
Well, the good news is that I seem to have had some success. Not only have the goldfinches at last discovered the £1.99 nyjer seed feeder attached to the shed, I also have a steady stream of greenfinches visiting the garden.
Sadly, the squirrel completely wrecked the peanut feeder but I have already installed another, which seems to be working well so far. I was worried the woodpeckers would be discouraged too but I have just seen one feeding quite happily - despit having to perform some extra acrobatics to reach the peanuts.
I have also purchased the Gardman "guaranteed squirrel proof" peanut feeder but have yet to find a suitable place to install it - it only works if the squirrels are forced to approach from above. I hope to borrow a ladder and fit it to the eaves of the house some time this week to see if it will work.
In the meantime, the lovely wooden peanut feeder given to me at Christmas hangs forlorn on the shed as a testament to the squirrel which systematically ripped all the wire mesh to pieces, removed the stopper on the back, snapped the wire which held it to the shed and chewed all the wood.
Saturday, 14 May 2011
So, in true Monty Don style, I've got some pictures of Italian gardens from my recent trip to Italy.
Included is the Roman Forum in Rome - while not strictly a garden, it does contain a formal area of hedging and water features. You will also see pictures of Catania's Villa Bellini public park, the Villa Giulia public park in Palermo and the botanic gardens in both of those cities.
I'm sure neighbours up and down the country are quite relieved that it's been intermittently overcast and, therefore, slightly on the chilly side today.
In any case, it's certainly not something I would advocate after looking at some of the photos on the WNGD website.
Not only was I in danger of bringing up my lunch, I'm also concerned for the health and safety of these people - please stay clear of the holly and just watch what you do with those secateurs!
Anyway, roll on Sunday when I can nosily peer into people's gardens again.
Saturday, 23 April 2011
Here are some of the photos I took on my visit today.
Friday, 1 April 2011
It's a Norfolk Greenhouses New Budget Greenhouse.
You may have already read Part 1 of my greenhouse diary during which I put down a base and built the frame before calling it a day.
The next phase of the task was to attach the plastic sheeting.
The sheeting came in two rolls about 2ft wide and I got hubby to help me drape them over the apex of the frame one by one and tack them into place before stretching them taught and taping them firmly, with the transparent tape provided, onto the metal.
The instructions tells you to bury the "tails" of plastic in the ground to anchor the structure but I decided instead to thread them under the frame and screw the frame to the ground. I'm not sure whether this made construction more complicated or much easier but it seemed to work for us.
The next phase was to cut and tape the plastic sections over the front and back of the frame then seal the whole covering with transparent tape. There were some additional sections to screw onto the outside of the sheeting to strengthen the structure and hold the plastic in place - this would have been impossible without assistance and someone needs to hold the bolt on the outside while someone on the inside attaches the nut.
A small panel was attached over the door and the runners were screwed to the outside of the frame.
The door was built in much the same way as the rest of the greenhouse - bolting together the frame, stretching over the plastic and taping it into place.
Two plastic pieces were screwed onto the top and bottom of the door to fit into the runners. When the door was put in it didn't run particularly smoothly and the fact that it has no handle didn't help.
To open and shut the greenhouse, I now have to hold the door on either side and slide it along with both hands. It's not bad and I'm not sure exactly what I expect from a £69 greenhouse but it's not the best workmanship in the world - perhaps I built it wrong but I'm not sure how.
Anyway, greenhouse complete, now I'm off to fetch my seedlings from my dining table.
Sunday, 27 March 2011
Friday, 25 March 2011
Sunday, 20 March 2011
There has been a fair amount of discussion about Norfolk Greenhouses New Budget Greenhouse.
Some people say it is too complicated to build, too flimsy, etc. but I thought, for £69 (plus £10 postage), it was worth a try and I decided to document my efforts for other people who were considering buying one.
When it arrived I admit to being a little concerned - the whole thing fitted in a long thin box which was relatively easy to lift.
I waited for a warm dry day and unpacked the contents - a whole bunch of labelled components and four sides of A4 with dodgy hand-drawn diagrams explaining how to put it together.
Having been warned that it was a tricky task, I decided to lay out everything and read the instructions carefully before I started - something I can never usually be bothered to do.
The instructions tell you to build the thing on level ground and anchor the plastic sheet covering by burying it in the ground.
I had decided to situate the greenhouse on the site of a child's playhouse that was left by the previous tenant but because my garden is on a slight slope I used four paving slabs to create a firm base on ground which I had prepared and levelled out beforehand.
This was trickier than I had anticipated and took the best part of a morning and a lot of help from my other half.
Next I assembled the front and back parts of the frame. The instructions were, I thought, fairly clear and I didn't have too much of a problem. The only tricky aspect of the build was the size of the nuts and bolts - they were tiny - or at least much smaller than I would have expected for something like a greenhouse. Although I had borrowed a ratcheting ring spanner, it wouldn't fit into some of the ridges in the frame and I ended up using some mini pliers and a screwdriver to tighten most of the bolts.
The next stage definitely needed a helper to hold the front and back sections while the joining pieces were bolted into place. After securing two or three, the structure was able to stand on its own and we continued bolting together the rest of the frame. It is possible to do some of this alone but having a buddy makes it a whole lot easier.
Because of the time we spent levelling the ground and making sure the paving slabs were level, I had not started building the frame until the after lunch, so by the time the frame was together, light was starting to fade. We therefore drilled four holes in the slabs, attached the frame to the base and called it a day.
Friday, 4 March 2011
Unfortunately, after a couple of days away from home, I returned to find those damn wild rabbits had nibbled the bark.
I knew they had a penchant for fresh leaves and shoots but I never realised they had a tree fetish.
Luckily my other half noticed and moved them, still in their pots, behind the rabbit-proof fence surrounding my veg patch. One of them is in a bit of a sorry state.
My much wiser partner in crime is optimistic the trees will be okay. The knawing has not completely circled the trunk or branches so he thinks they have a good chance of surviving.
In the meantime, if anyone can teach me how to humanely kill a wild rabbit and safely prepare it to eat - I have a few in my garden that are starting to look awfully tasty!
As Elmer Fudd said in the Warner Bros. cartoons: "I'm gonna get that pesky wabbit!"
Wednesday, 2 March 2011
My motivation? To encourage some of the goldfinches from the neighbouring woodland into my garden to join the party.
At £1.25 from Wilkos, I thought it was worth a try. One of my Twitter friends said theirs worked a treat and the goldfinches are regular visitors to their garden nowadays.
Having filled it full of the tiny black seeds, I nailed it to the shed.
It's safe to say it did initially generate a lot of interest from the great tits and blue tits - even the nuthatch came and had a look - but, with the exception of one or two blue tits, none of them managed to master the art of standing on the little green perches and feeding from the hole in the tube.
Meanwhile, the peanut feeder at the opposite end of the shed continues to be oversubscribed with a steady queue of woodpeckers, nuthatches, coal tits, great tits, blue tits and even a robin managing to cling on and feed.
Underneath, the chaffinches, dunnocks, blackbirds and occasional magpie, jackdaw and pheasant feed off the crumbs dropped on the ground.
Cut back to the other end of the shed...
I'll go back to the drawing board and see if I can find another feeder that would give the tweetlets easier access.
They look interested, but not interested enough to persevere.
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
We moved into this house last summer and, apart from one wallpapered wall and two sets of new curtains, it still looks like we've just arrived.
I pondered the colour charts and took the wallpaper samples outside into the sun to compare the shades.
After much indecision (interior design does not come naturally to me) I drew up a list of what I needed and headed over to Homebase.
Clutching my list in my hand, I strode up to the front doors but was immediately distracted by a big red sign: "Fruit trees only £9.99."
Ooh, I thought. I had been trying to find a pair of dwarfing apple trees for my garden since before Christmas but had never found any that were the right root stock, self pollenating or even two decent specimens of roughly the same size.
When I did find something suitable, they were so expensive, I gave up the idea completely.
Argh! Stop! Focus!
I came here to buy paint...
So I continued into the shop, grabbed the paint, paid for it, put it in the car and went straight home...
Well, kind of...
I admit I may have accidentally purchased two lovely Mini Patio Sophia apple trees at £14.99 each, which I plan to train between the posts separating the lower level of my garden.
As a penance, I emulsioned the chimney breast... Two coats!
Monday, 28 February 2011
Although it was only £17, I decided it was false economy. There was only room inside to grow a few things and the plastic on my mother's greenhouse had perished and subsequently ripped to shreds in only one season.
I decided instead to buy myself a greenhouse.
I looked at quite a few on eBay but they were not much cheaper than buying a new one. Sellers were also asking people to come and dismantle the frame and collect it themselves. It just didn't seem worth the money and hassle for something second hand.
After a hunt around I discovered Norfolk Greenhouses who are selling a 6'x4' budget greenhouse for £69.
The description says, instead of glass or polycarbonate, the steel frame is covered with PVC sheeting, supplied on a roll. The sheeting is buried in the ground, anchoring the greenhouse and preventing the sheeting from being blown away - a common complaint of people with plastic clear-as-glass panels in their greenhouse.
I imagined the PVC on a roll to be semi rigid like a coke bottle so ordered the thing.
Norfolk very kindly contacted me after I had made the order to clarify I knew exactly what I was buying and offered to send me a sample of the PVC before processing my order.
The plastic is not semi-rigid as I had imagined, but completely soft. Having said that, it is very strong, so I decided to get it anyway. Norfolk also offers a polycarbonate conversion kit so, if at a later date I am feeling a bit more solvent, I can upgrade.
The only health warning on the reviews I have read of this greenhouse is that it's a nightmare to construct.
Watch this space to find out how I get on.
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Sunday, 6 February 2011
Bob, the cottage robin, is believed dead.
I arrived home from work on Friday and did my customary circuit of the garden and discovered a little bird snuggled down in a hollow in the lawn. He must have been there a while because he was dead and had a drooped wing and a ruffled chest as though he had been attacked. He was less than a metre from the bird feeder and the hedge where most of our garden birds congregate.
While I can't be sure that it was Bob, there have been two robins in our garden since the heavy snowfall in December. I had been surprised that they had managed to co-exist for so long.
I had been quite worried about one of them which had been hiding in a hollow under the snow during the bad weather. I had given him water and mealworms to help him through and he seemed to be doing okay.
There hasn't been a morning in a long time when I haven't seen our robin on the corner of the shed roof but yesterday morning there was no sign of him.
I left the dead bird in situ overnight, expecting a fox or larger bird to take him, but when he was still there on Saturday morning, I decided to bury him behind the shed where he spent so much of his time.
Whether its Bob or his rival, RIP little bird.
Saturday, 5 February 2011
A crazy work schedule combined with a hectic and snowy December meant the veg patch didn't get dug over and, although I cleared it and removed all the roots some weeks ago, I still haven't fulfilled my plan of replenishing the soil by adding composted manure. February is now here so I'd better get a move on.
I dug over my compost heap last week, hoping the bottom layer would be rich crumbly compost but it still has some way to go before it is ready.
The wormery has arrived too but with the frosts still lurking, I daren't populate it just yet.
I remember, in years gone by, passing farms and stables displaying signs advertising well-rotted manure. I always pondered who would take up such a revolting-sounding offer, but here I am at the age of 36 wondering where the signs have gone. I tried Twitter, eBay, Friday Ad and was generally keeping my eyes peeled but with no luck.
Hilliers Garden Centre is selling selling 80 litre bags of manure compost of £3.99 or five bags for £15 but it seems a lot of money for a few bags of poo.
But this week, to my joy, I discovered a stables in Isfield, East Sussex, which has a small mountain of the stuff - eight-year-old rotten horse manure - so today we took a drive down there and picked up a couple of bags at £2 a pop.
My plan tomorrow morning is to dig the lot in.
It might sound funny, but I can't wait!
Monday, 10 January 2011
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
My brother bought me a new bird feeder for Christmas and on New Year's Day I attached it to my shed.
I can report that within 24 hours, my garden had turned into bird chaos - I've had a male greater spotted woodpecker, two nuthatches and countless blue tits and great tits squabbling over the peanuts.
When I have a little time I intend to film them and post the video on here.
Ridiculous work commitments in recent months have meant I put off planting my narcissus bulbs for way too long and they had started to sprout on my window ledge.
On Sunday I whacked them in the ground and hoped for the best. The professional opinion of my gardening partner is that I probably won't be lucky enough, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will grow.
I've planted dwarf February gold (narcissus cyclamineus), dwarf baby moon (narcissus jongquilla) and dwarf hawera (narcissus triandrus). They are in a cluster on a protruding ridge in my lawn. I just hope I don't regret not putting them in sooner.