How does your garden grow?

I'm on a voyage of discovery in my first garden.
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, 27 March 2011

Gardens visit: High Beeches

A lot of seasonal gardens have reopened this month - High Beeches in Handcross is one.
Here are some photos I took on my visit there this weekend.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Free plant labels

A cheap and easy way to label plants and seedlings is by re-using plastic food containers like margerine tubs or milk bottles.
Just wash out the container, cut the flat sides into strips and trim the ends into points so they poke easily into the soil.
Hey-presto! Now that's what I call recycling.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

How to build a budget greenhouse Pt.1

A few days ago I ordered a greenhouse - the cheapest one I could find. It was £69.
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

I'm gonna get that pesky wabbit

On Tuesday I wrote about my new fruit trees, which I was delighted with.
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

A tale of two feeders

I bought a nyjer seed feeder for my birds this week.
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...
Nothing.
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

Fruit trees: Impulsive purchase

With the weather looking a bit rubbish this week, I decided to turn my attention to interior decorating.
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.
Hmm...
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!