Two things that give me hope

For over a week now I have been wondering what to post. Maybe a tale about my nectarine? Plans for my coastal garden? The plight of the never ending winter? No, I’m excited about two things today. The first is the true arrival of spring, the clocks going forward tonight and the second, I have finally booked myself some tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show.

So, after many years lusting after those show gardens on tv, I’m going to gain inspiration for myself. Woo hoo!

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Getting on with it

Seizing a moment of warm spring weather (yes can you believe it, must be the Eastbourne microclimate!) I got a few of those jobs done that should have been done over winter had it not been so wet.

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I turned the compost heap, and piled it into another compost barrel, I do this every couple of months to provide me with a fresh batch. I find that just piling it up in one heap doesn’t work for me, so I adopt this two stage process. I now follow a method recommended by John Harrison over at Allotment.org, he recommends a layered approach, adding an activator in between, which could be manure, or grass clippings or a shop bought one – anything that will heat the pile up. I then make a sandwich of garden and kitchen scraps, newspaper/card, manure, then lime, then repeat the process till I reach the top. It made lovely compost that wasn’t too acidic (from adding the lime) so didn’t kill the vital worms that do all the good work.

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I also got the kids into the garden to get them planting some seeds and plants for me, but they were more intent on digging compost with various earth moving machines, ah well at least they were outside.

I did manage to get Freyja to rake out the soil and help me get the broad bean plants in at last.

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I also made a sweet pea support and planted those around in the corner of one of my raised beds. These seedlings are grown from a rogue sweet pea that appeared in my front garden, so I let it set seed and am excited to see one of the first examples of a plant I have grown from my own seed!

 

Rugged Month

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The Anglo Saxons called the month of March Hyld monath which means stormy month, or Hraed monath which means rugged month. I rather like this, and it’s particularly true this year! We have another batch of heavy snow in Sussex that descended on us quite suddenly and a little unexpectedly. I knew some snow was forecast, but here on the coast we always take that with a pinch of salt (pardon the pun) as the sea air often melts the snow more so than inland. It wasn’t very welcome I have to say, but as always with nature, we are at it’s mercy.

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So everything sleeps for a bit longer under this snowy blanket, meaning spring will come even later

A new front lawn, is like doing up your top button!

My front garden is shameful. It’s definitely an been on the back burner ever since we’ve moved here. I have been endlessly wondering lately, what to do with this space? I did have an idea to turn it into a coastal garden, with gravel, grasses and succulents, but now I plan to do that in the back garden, I’ve gone off the idea in the front. Presently it’s been laid to lawn (in the loosest possible sense of the word) with a border all the way around. Eventually we will have to rethink this garden as we plan to open up the parking area to allow for two cars, but for now it must stay largely as it is.

Last summer I planted some lavender grown from seed under the window, and they took well, but I moved them in September to border the edges and they didn’t like it one bit, they now look limp. Late last summer I planted two lacecap hydrangeas under the window which I hope will bush out nicely and cover over the weedy bits around the drain where the downpipe comes meets the ground.  The soil is very stoney with lots of rubble, especially nearer the house, but the garden here is south facing so should do well.

As the weather this weekend turned out much better than I had expecting I decided to tackle the garden by removing the old lawn and resowing the seed. The existing lawn was domed, and mostly weeds, in fact I lost count trying to discover how many dandelions were growing there. It’s difficult to mow as what grass is left has reverted to some kind of wheat which is tough and knarly and seems the bolt to seed in no time. Quite clearly nobody has addressed this is in a long time.

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So where to start? I guessed I would have to tackle the perennial weeds, so I squirted them all carefully with a bit of Roundup which takes the poison to the roots. I don’t usually use chemicals, but this one is harmless once it comes into contact with the soil, and only kills the plant it is sprayed on. I knew I wouldn’t be able to dig out all of the dandelion roots as some were going over 2 foot deep, so hopefully this would weaken them significantly enough to give the grass a good chance. Then after a few hours, I began digging up the turf, shaking off the excess soil and double digging to aerate the soil (whilst dumping the old grass in the green bin) This took a fair while, in fact the whole of Saturday. Today, I levelled the soil with a rake and added sand, compost and some rotted manure and lightly forked over the top. I had to redistribute a lot of soil into the borders as the old lawn was mounded on top, then I trampled the soil with my feet and the back side of the rake before lightly raking again when flat.

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Now I was ready to add seed. A good couple of handfuls per sq metre I would say, and carefully lined up around the edges (you could use a plank for this if you wanted it to be more accurate). Then ever so lightly rake again to distribute the seed evenly, and give a good water with a fine hose. I covered mine with some netting to keep the pests off, namely my children!!

Fingers crossed it grows and it smartens things up!

Gardener’s World is back!

I’m a real sucker for gardening tv. At this time of year all I want to do is read about, watch and immerse myself in all things garden related. This year more than most I’m craving to get out there on some dry spring days and get my hands muddy. As I write the rain pounds on the window and the weather forecast promises snow at the weekend! So it looks like another weekend looking out of the window imagining all the things I could be doing, and sowing seed.

All is not lost! Tonight see’s the return of Gardener’s World, my Friday night staple with a glass of wine during the growing year. I have missed this all winter, so I’m very excited to have it reinstated tonight. Other good garden related programmes on at the moment are The A-Z of Gardening, usually airs on Sunday morning: re-runs of Sissinghurst on BBC 4, and if you missed it, Monty Don’s French Gardens was a real treat. Also over the winter we saw a return to Carol Klein’s beautiful cottage garden, and watched it grown through the seasons, I can highly recommend the book that accompanies this series. That’s probably enough promotion for the BBC!

 

The dangers of the garden for children

A couple of days ago, I went a bit ballistic buying new flower seeds, to stock my new beds that I will dig this year. One on the list was the Caster Oil Plant or Ricinus communis, known for it’s speedy growth, height and spectacular foliage, which I thought would look great in my mediterranean garden area.

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When the seeds arrived, then were marked very clearly with POISON! I was a bit shocked as I had no idea the plant was toxic. In fact after a bit of research I discovered it is the seeds which are potentially deadly, with one or two swallowed giving fatal effect. You can imagine how nerve wracking this would be with a toddler around, who’s inclined to pop things into his mouth at random. The plant also projectile shoots it’s seeds everywhere in late summer! so I discretely popped them in the bin, and made a mental note for it to be something to revisit… in about 10 years.

Shame, I loved that foliage, but as a mother, my children come first of course. It’s hard compromising as a gardener with children, only the other day my son was kicking a ball all over the spring bulbs I had lovingly chosen to border the lawn under the trees. This is really their lawn area, so I couldn’t say much, apart from, perhaps if you could just not kick the ball near the daffs please!