Showing posts from July, 2014

First Cut Comfrey

Comfrey is a new crop on my allotment for 2014, though I won't be eating any of it. Since I started to install raised beds on the plot last year, I now need to make lots more compost to keep them topped up. That's where the comfrey comes in as it acts as a great accelerator when added to the raw ingredients in a compost bin.

As you can see from the photo, my new comfrey bed is handily placed next to the compost bins in the middle of my plot. This is the variety Bocking14, the kind which isn't so much of a garden thug, unlike the comfrey I see growing right next to the River Avon in town, which is giving the invasive Himalayan balsam there a run for its money.

I'm growing it in a mini raised bed of its own made from some used car tyres I acquired ages ago. When I planted the comfrey out last year, I was a bit worried the couch grass nearby would invade the bed. The tyres plus an extra thick lining of cardboard and newspaper were my attempt to prevent this from happening…

The Portland Fling - Preliminary Snippets

3 days, 80 bloggers, 90 degree heat, 15 gardens, 3 nurseries and hundreds of photographs. How do I begin to summarise the Fling? Like Victoria I tended to my own garden first, which helped to sooth the jetlag fug in my brain and let the sights, sounds and scents of my trip settle down more comfortably.

"What can you learn by coming to the Fling?", was the question I was asked most often at Portland. The implication being that by coming from England - the cradle of all that is good about gardening - I should find all I need right here.

My response is "Loads!" -  there is so much which can be learned from an intensive immersion in a different country simply by going, observing and talking to like minded people and experts. It helps that the hard-working Portland Fling committee provided us with a smorgasbord of the very best the city has to offer.

I won't be reviewing every garden and nursery visited, but instead I'll draw out the main lessons I've learn…

Salad Days: The Food Programme

Whilst I was away, Radio 4's Food Programme broadcast a very interesting programme on Salad Leaves. The appropriately named Dan Saladino revealed that:

The UK's demand for salad leaves is worth £600 million annually and demand is rising steadily for leaf production throughout the yearMany of the salad leaves we buy are imported from Spain, particularly during the winter monthsChlorine is still used extensively by some firms as part of the bagged salad process as spring water supplies aren't sufficient for what's neededA new indoor growing facility in Essex is the size of 10 football pitches. This is set to grow to 20 football pitches to meet increasing UK demand and to compete against imported leavesSoil cleansing is practised at the Essex facility to reduce pests and diseases (but also eliminates the beneficials) and fertilisers are added to the soil before each crop cycleRose bay willow herb is edible and is being considered for inclusion in salads - a great way to b…

Wordless Wednesday: A Garden Nursery - Western Style


Postcard from the Pacific North West

I've just got back from an amazing holiday in the Pacific North West aka the Washington and Oregon states in the USA.

The main purpose of the holiday was to join the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, but a long journey across the pond deserves to be made into a road trip, which is precisely what Victoria, Charlotte and I did.

We flew into Seattle, where our friend Marty Wingate had arranged an amazing pre-fling garden tour for us, including another visit to the Bloedel Reserve, plus the company of Dan Hinkley to show us around the legendary Heronswood.

We then drove down the coast to Portland for the Fling. Here the organisers managed to squeeze us into an itinerary that included 15 gardens, 3 nurseries and one publisher (Timber Press) in a mere 3 days.

Our final stop was in the heart of Oregon, where Victoria found the wonderful Airlie Farm B&B for us to have some well deserved R&R. This included a couple more nurseries, a trip to the coast, plus horse riding Western st…

Impromptu Harvest

I've been hacking away at an enormous bramble up at the plot to try to get rid of it at long last.

An unexpected side effect was uncovering lots of ripe gooseberries which had yet to be discovered by the birds. Therefore it was important to harvest these straight away before the pesky critters realised what was there.

However, I hadn't expected to be harvesting anything and so hadn't bought any of my containers. My solution to the problem? An extra use for the gauntlets I did have with me. One gauntlet = half a kilo of berries, ready for making some delicious gooseberry fool later on.

I discovered the next day I should have checked the fingers for stray berries before putting them on again ;)

GBBD: Off-Piste Plant Buying and Planting

My plant buying is governed currently by a wants list for the terrace borders and front garden makeovers planned for this year. It's interesting to see how my tastes have changed since I started this blog and now show up in the list.

The pictured Astrantia 'Star of Royals' wasn't on there, but I couldn't resist it when I went to my local garden centre to claim my half price plant offer. I'd decided Trachelospermum jasminoideswas the plant of choice for my claim, but then found that was on special offer anyway.

I had planned to plant the Astrantia in the shady part of the terrace to replace the prickly Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Tricolor'*, where Victoria and I agreed the flowers would do a marvellous job of lighting up the gloom. However, it was so gloomy when I removed the Osmanthus, I didn't have the heart to plant it there.

Instead, I've given it a starring centre stage role in the top terrace bed, where I see it waving at me every time we sit…

Sloane Square Showstoppers

Sloane Square has a fab new planting which was turning heads when I made my way to Chelsea Flower Show last month.

Plenty of people were crossing the road for a closer look and then taking photographs, just like I did.

It may have had a flashier, tropical themed cousin around the corner, but unlike this Chelsea in Bloom winner...

... it forms a longer lasting feature on the Square (at least until the store opens in September) and is designed to help save the bees :)

I hope it'll be a permanent feature - watch this space.

Tree Following With Lucy: July

Just a quick post for now as I haven't had time to do the project I'd planned for my tree following this month.

I was going to lay a white sheet on the ground and shake the branches that stretch over our garden to identify some of the smaller critters which inhabit my tree, but I ran out of time :(

Those branches are a constant source of irritation to NAH, who doesn't like them bending further over the garden under the weight of their now fully grown leaves.

He's convinced they'll crash through our fence and onto the garden one day, just like what happened last December.

I then remind him that those branches help to keep our privacy. It's a circular conversation we have at least once a month.

NAH also says he needs to be renamed as 'The Drastic Gardener' for the purposes of this blog as he tends to act on his irritations without consulting me just before he gets started. So we have another circular argument on how his help is welcome, but could he plea…

I Love July For...

... the switch

There comes a point in July - or June if we're very lucky - when the heat of the day means gardening activities switch to early in the morning and the evening.

I love it when this happens as I'll happily spend a couple of hours up at the plot, then come home for breakfast and still feel there's plenty of time left in the rest of the day. Evening watering duties are also a pleasant way to keep cool and never a chore.

The switch is even more important this year as I'm remodelling part of the garden. July isn't usually the best time to do this, but a knee injury earlier in the year prevented me from doing the work in April/May as planned. I find digging at 8am is quite therapeutic!

If I'm up at the plot, then another glory of July is the golden last hour when harvesting activities take place. This week's stars are gooseberries and autumn - yes autumn - raspberries. I always forget how intensely flavoured gooseberries are, so it's good to hav…

GBMD: The Greatest Gift of the Garden