Posts belonging to Category the garden



Spring is on its Way!

I’m always excited to see the first signs of spring – aren’t you?  Snowdrops and crocuses are showing their faces everywhere!

This week has seen some significantly warmer temperatures here in Cheshire as well as the very welcome sight of blossom on this tree in my garden. It’s so lovely to see spring bravely making its early presence felt!

welcome blossom

welcome spring blossom

Blossom always seems to hold such promise, as well as being pretty, of course. The tree in question is a cross between a plum and cherry, and I had to do a fair bit of Googling to find that out!  The fruit is apparently edible, but I’ve never tasted it ripe – the birds always get there first. It’s a big tree, so netting is out of the question. No matter, it’s good to see the wild birds being fed – and it attracts quite a variety of them.

a big tree

it's a big tree

All this spring in the air has had the result of my sketchpad taking a bit of a battering.  Birds and blossom, not surprisingly,  feature heavily in my ideas. I’m not sure yet where I’m going with them (apart from one Mother’s Day idea that’s made it as far as a plaque!) but as always, watch this space!

Have you noticed spring in the air this week?  Or maybe you live far away from me and have a different season right now?

Autumn

The unseasonally warm weather we’ve had recently definitely fuelled my delusion that summer was not quite over (although perhaps it’s now time to face facts – Christmas is a mere 38 days away!)

It’s not that I’m not a fan of autumn.  I do love autumnal colours

red autumnal leaves

red autumnal leaves

I love that autumn seems to make being untidy almost fashionable (all those dropped leaves)

autumn leaves on ground

autumn leaves looking untidy

and that the untidiness of autumn is actually good for the soil (don’t sweep those leaves up unless you’re returning them to the soil some other way).

But I don’t like the fact that autumn suddenly turns into winter the minute you turn your back.  We’re not quite there yet, but it could happen any minute . . .

Nobody told this strawberry plant in my garden that winter is on the way.

autumn strawberries

strawberries in November

Never before have I seen strawberries trying to ripen outdoors in the UK in November.  If this is global warming, crack open the champagne – I’ll just pop out for some cream for those strawberries.

 

Growing Your Own

I love growing fruit and veg!

This new* garden has been a bit of a challenge, to say the least, in the battle from seriously overgrown Conifer Hell** to Productive Patch.  But we’re getting there and have already enjoyed some strawberries and courgettes this year (the chickens have enjoyed the strawberries too -  they excitedly beat me to a few ripe ones!).  They are far superior to anything you can get in the shops and I need to make more space for more.  Can you ever have too many strawberries? (Courgettes are another story.  If you’ve ever grown them you’ll know what I mean).

I love the promise of newly planted pots.  These are the runner beans a few weeks ago:

runner bean seedlings

runner bean seedlings

And now they’re doing their best to grow as tall as possible but they haven’t flowered yet:

runner beans

runner beans

I love runner beans when they’re young and tiny and oh-so-tender – you can’t get them like that in the shops.

It seems growing your own is getting more popular and there’s an infographic about it below.  Not sure how they came about the figures (I’d guess they are an under- rather than an over-estimation).

 

Grow your own

Grow your own infographic from LoveTheGarden.com

If you click the link you’ll get even more info.

There’s not much on my website which is garden-oriented (I think maybe I should be thinking about remedying that) but these hanging plaques are always popular in the summer months!  You can choose your own wording but most people go for either I’m in the garden or we’re in the garden.

were in the garden x2

we're in the garden or I'm in the garden hanging plaques

They may well suit any keen gardener but are especially useful for people who want to let their visitors know where to find them.  For more information, or to buy one, click here.

* I’ll have to stop calling it a new garden at some point – we’ve lived here for two years now!

**Conifer Hell is no exaggeration – there were 64 of them!

The Henclosure

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have heard talk of us building a run for the chickens.   An enclosure.   A Henclosure, in fact.

the henclosure

the henclosure

The hen poo on the back door step got rather too much for Britain’s Tidiest Man.  I know, I know  - it’s unfortunate we share a home, what with me training for the title of Britain’s Untidiest Woman.  We agree on most topics, but not on the tidiness front. 

We didn’t agree much on this sign he attached to the chicken run, either . . .

warning sign

warning - any chicken or rabbit caught trying to escape this compound will be shot and eaten.

although it made me secretly chuckle (shhh . . . don’t tell him).   I didn’t hear the chickens or the rabbit laughing though ;-)

Anyway, the run is built and the chickens and rabbit are getting to know one another.

rabbit hiding under hutch

keep those nasty beaks away from me!

They weren’t too sure of each other at first – the chickens are too pecky and inquisitive for the rabbit and the rabbit is too quick for the chickens.  I think they’re all getting used to the idea of a shared garden though! 

I decided the chickens could eat at the table, as in all polite households.

eating at the table

eating at the table

They still managed to knock over their food

climbing on the table

climbing on the table

and even climbed on the table.  So much for manners.

Anyway, the Henclosure is complete.  They seem happy enough, if occasionally slightly bemused at not being able to find the exit. 

which way is out

so which way is out?

 I really want to set them free but I fear there would be some very disappointed comments about dirty door steps. 

Not to mention that trained and hungry sniper on the corner watching for escapees.

In the Garden

I really enjoy gardening. Not that you’d know it if you visited my garden (in my defence, I have to tell you we took on a “project” -estage agent speak – in the form of both the house and garden when we moved here)! 

I don’t take enough time off from my business, I know that, but it is starting to get slightly easier now that I’m spending more time on online sales and less time at fairs.  So. . .

I spent some evenings last week as well as last weekend, trying to find a home for these little babies. 

lawn turf

lawn turf

Well, that’s not strictly accurate.  I knew exactly where their home was going to be . . . trouble was, the designated space was covered in weeds, young trees of doubtful parentage, thuggish bramble and a decades-old honeysuckle that had rooted in at least three dozen separate places.  I had been given the lawn turf by someone who had over-ordered and I really couldn’t turn it down. 

before pic

before pic

It’s not a particularly good before pic – the area being cleared is to the right  and front in the photo. OK, let’s be brutally honest –  I actually forgot the “before” photos, this is one I happened to have of the general area!

 The chickens enjoyed helping me clear the area and enjoyed a good feast on worms and insects

chickens enjoyed gardening

chickens enjoyed gardening

and the signs of Spring were clear for all to see

apple tree buds

apple tree buds

The lawn turf is now starting to lose some of its yellowness (it was leftover turf, after all) and should blend in quite well with the rest of the grass before too long.

lawn turf laid

lawn turf laid and greening up nicely

My next task is making up some raised beds from felled logs.   I’ve made a start – I think these will look fab when weathered and covered with ivy and other plants:

raised beds from logs

raised beds from logs

I then need to tackle “the bit behind the greenhouses”. . .

the bit behind the greenhouse

the bit behind the greenhouse

Everyone assumes this is a tiny little patch, with room for maybe a few compost bins. ”The bit behind the greenhouses” actually measures about 25′ x 40′ plus a triangular bit!!  We’re really lucky as our garden is one of those corner ones, which fans out behind the house and gives us a huge back garden in comparison to our neighbours.  It looks shady in the photo above because it was taken in the morning – it’s south-facing though and gets enough sun for some lovely veg growing!

“The bit behind the greenhouses” will be my veg patch!  It already houses my compost bins, a thriving nettle patch

nettles

nettles

some old shrubs, a huge oak tree

oak tree blue sky

oak tree against this morning's gorgeous blue sky

and some overgrown conifers (we have already chopped down about 40 overgrown conifers and I reckon we need to get rid of maybe 20 more).

I think it’ll be next year though before the veg patch is properly ready for veg growing.   However, I think I’d like to make a start this year, so I’d better get my skates (or gardening shoes) on and make the most of this lovely sunshine.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying some sunshine too! :-)

It’s Been a Bit Wild and Windy!

We only got our chickens a few weeks ago, and we’d placed their coop in a temporary place by the house.  It’s been a bit on the wild and windy side around here . . .
So . . .  really, it was our own fault that this happened yesterday . . .
chicken coop blown over

chicken coop blown over

Whoops!

Fortunately, all three chickens were at the other side of the garden, mooching around for worms, insects and other tasty morsels

mooching

mooching

but they did go back to inspect the damage!

chicken in blown over coop

what's happened here then?

When I went to clear the coop out, ready to move it into its (now desperately necessary!) permanent  and more secure position, I found, sitting among the upturned bedding, right on the edge of a ledge (which is actually the dividing “wall” between two nesting boxes, now of course sideways up!) . . .

first egg

first egg

 . . . our very first, light brown, perfect egg!  The impact of the coop being blown over had, somewhat miraculously, not cracked the egg (however, I did later when I made a fried egg sandwich!)

So, despite having lots to do like customer orders, craft fair planning and website updating, much of the day has been spent relocating the coop and securing it.  Here’s to many more eggs and no more flying coops!

Oh, and a big thank you to everyone who took part in Handmade Monday yesterday  - lots of lovely blogs to browse in the last post!  Do have a look!

Rivendell Garden Centre (and the Great British weather!)

Today I’ve been putting the finishing touches to some items for the Rivendell Garden Centre Craft Fair.  It opens tomorrow (23rd October 09) for three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

a bit of a production line going on

a bit of a production line going on

It’s definitely feeling a lot colder lately, and my thoughts are turning to things like yummy vegetable soup in a flask as well as gloves, scarves and hats.  I’ll be taking my flask of soup to Rivendell, which I hope will keep me warm – we are sited in a marquee.  Not the warmest place to spend an autumnal weekend.  I shall dig out my gloves and scarf too.  Will I need a hat? 

The weather has been a bit mixed of late, and the plants seem a bit confused.  This little apple tree (below) currently lives in a big pot in the garden.  It’s patiently waiting for its permanent spot – but there’s a lot of hacking down of overgrown conifers to do first.

my baby apple tree

my baby apple tree

Have you noticed what’s unusual about this little tree?  It’s now well into autumn, and most of its leaves have turned brown or already fallen.  But there’s a confused little branch which believes spring has already arrived.  The leaves are bright green and fresh, and there’s even blossom!  Look a bit more closely:

apple blossom in October

apple blossom in October

I wonder how long it will be before the frosts come and cruelly rob my baby apple tree of all hope of producing winter fruit.  Possibly not very long, I guess!

A tour of the garden

What’s happened with the weather?  It’s been glorious these past few days, and I woke up this morning to hear the rain pouring down! 

I took a few pics of the garden yesterday.  Remember, we only moved into this house in March.  The garden was a bit of a jungle (still is, in places)… anyway, here’s the tour!!

baby courgette plants

baby courgette plants

 

I made the raised bed for the courgettes from various bits of a felled tree.  Worked pretty well, I thought.

onions in a raised bed

onions in a raised bed

 

The rased bed for the onions is a folding frame which I found outside our front door when we moved in.  Not sure what its original purpose was, but it works really well as a raised bed.  There are four of them, here’s another housing the potatoes:

potatoes in rased bed

potatoes in rased bed

 

Surrounding the raised beds is an area which was a bit wild – well-established ivy vying for ground space with healthy-looking weeds and dozens of stray cherry tree suckers.  I pulled out what I could, given my limited timescale, and covered the lot with cardboard (we had plenty of it, having just moved in!).

The worms apparently love cardboard, and I’ve used this method of weed suppression before.  It has the advantages of being easy, cheap and environmentally-friendly.  The cardboard will have rotted away in about 12 months, and will improve the soil structure as it does so.  If I get round to it, I will add shredded twigs on top of the cardboard (and there are lots of twigs and leaves under the cardboard too).  The only disadvantages to the cardboard method is the lack of visual appeal.  it does end up looking a bit like an allotment, but it is temporary.  And the autumn leaves will cover it later in the year if I don’t beat them to it with my shredded twigs.

We found a few gems hidden in the garden, such as:

a plum tree

a plum tree

 

this plum tree, which is laden with baby plums.  There looks to be more plums than one family can reasonably manage to eat, so apart from plums at beakfast, dinner and tea, I think I’ll be looking up recipes for jams and chutneys.  Yum.

There was also:

a pear tree

a pear tree

this pear tree, with lots of tiny baby pears.  I thought it was an apple tree to begin with, but if it is then they are very odd-shaped apples!!  There’s also an apple tree, but it’s looking a bit poorly and doesn’t have much fruit on it.

Before you get jealous of my lovely garden, let me just show you that everything in the garden is not coming up roses:

the nettle patch

the nettle patch

Yes, we have a flourishing nettle patch.  I think I may have to look up a recipe for nettle soup, although if I tell Mr 1st Unique that’s what we’re having for tea, he may well decide to go off and find somewhere else to live.  But, hey, credit crunch and all that!  Surely it has to be worth a try?  I think I’d have to call it something more attractive than nettle soup!!

Oh, and look here http://www.nettles.org.uk/ - we’ve just missed “Be nice to nettles week”.  There’s a recipe for nettle soup, too, but it needs half a pound of nettles.  My God, that’s a lot, even for my garden!!

Back to work!!