Thursday, 19 March 2015

Taking stock

I decided to do a list of all the plants I have in my polytunnel ready to get planted out in the garden this year - the result surprised even me and I see them every day.
Here's part of the list:
Roses x 17
Hydrangea x 4
Caryopteris x 3
Geum x 6
Hebe x 9
Honeysuckle x 3
Thread palm x 8
Rosa Rugosa x 15
Hosta x 12
Hibiscus x 20
and that's without all the Day lilys, pokers, Crocosmia and heaps upon heaps of other plants and bulbs.
What the heck am I supposed to do with 20 Hibiscus? I mean, I don't even know if they do well in this climate.
What about Thread Palms? Do they survive the weather here?
I also have a Chusan Palm but I believe they're supposed to be hardy enough to survive here and in fact someone along the main road has a huge one in their very exposed front garden and that one appears to be thriving, though it is secured with lots of pulleys.
I have a Phoenix Canariensis too but I'm not sure whether to plant it out and protect it through winter or leave it in a pot and bring it in for winter - I suspect the latter because I had one many years ago that died in the winter.

Anyways, those geese that arrived earlier in the year are still here. They appear at the same time every year but I've never known them to stay longer than a few days so I'm not sure what has happened to make them stay all this time. I'm not complaining though cos I love seeing them especially when they get ready to take off and land - they're so chatty.

The gardens been too boggy to work in at the moment, I've managed the odd day of weeding and tomorrow MrTG has stated that he'll be taking the day off work to give me a hand out there (Yes, I know how lucky I am) but for the moment I'm making use of my new workshop and decided to make a few bird houses.
I don't know why I did it but I decided to make a bird house from an old wooden carriage clock we were going to throw out, I figured it would look nice on my worshop wall when it's done and maybe even a Blue Tit would make use of it.
I kind of like the finished look but I am totally disappointed with Ronseal clear external varnish - it's not clear and it's ruined the colour of the paint I used, it's given it a dirty look and so the finished piece doesn't look like what I wanted.

See the dirty grungy look that the varnish has left! Not cool Ronseal!!!!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Crocus - the Tulip wannabe?

So today we're battening down the hatches ready for these storms that are supposed to be hitting us overnight and tomorrow. Already the wind is picking up and I'm finding myself looking out at my garden more and more as it starts to whip through - the damage from the last storm has been recified but I don't want to subject it to another onslaught.

I'm happy to report though that I am now quietly confident that the Yucca which had its root snapped during the last storm is looking like it is going to survive.
I really did have my doubts because the main root was snapped to halfway though but we staked the Yucca up using a scaffold pole, insulated all round the base with straw held down with slate and the Yucca appears to be thriving (if not a tad wind burnt).

I grew Crocus in pots last year and left them in my polytunnel pretty much forgotten about so I was really surprised to go in there a couple of days ago and find them flowering their little socks off despite my neglect. I bought them in doors onto the kitchen window whereby they very quickly seemed to wilt and as I've never grown these before I'm not sure if this is normal or whether they didn't like being looked after - ungrateful so snd so's.
Anyway with the weather outside being naff for a change (yes I joke. Not about it being naff but about it being for a change) I decided to get to grips with an Olympus bridge camera that I got for xmas 2 years ago after much moaning to MrTG that I desperately needed one (I've used it about 4 times...including this time).
As it turns out my Nikon Coolpix camera that is only 2 years old has finally given up the ghost. It's been repaired 3 times under warranty but I'm not paying for this new needed repair (dropped it in the pond for literally 1 second) so I figured I should get used to this Olympus bridge camera.
It has some really weird and strange functions and I can't imagine why a person would need to use them but I thought I'd try a couple of them:

Here's the reflection setting

I kind of enjoyed playing with that setting, it made the Crocus look so arty.

This next setting is called starburst I think and it adds a sparkle to the white highlights

The next two are just the usual P setting meaning that I could set all the white balance etc.

I'm not actually a fan of Crocus - they look too much like a Tulip wannabe to me, so I suspect these bulbs will all be planted out once flowerng is over along with some Iris retuculata in pots that seems to be determined not to flower despite producing lovely foliage.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Pallet wood planter

My new workshop is now up and running ready for Spring and I couldn't be more chuffed and so grateful that Mr TG gave up one quarter of his own shed to make me my own area. I now have a 20ft by 20ft space with fabulous scaffold board work surfaces and every tool I imagine I will ever need - except for one of Mr TGs table saws which I have my eye on, I've never used one because they scare the heck out of me but I still need one lol.

So my first projects are pallet wood planters. I've made planters before and I didn't want just a bog standard boring square but I've made 6 sided ones before and tbh I can't remember the degrees etc so bog standard square it is.....with a little scallop included.
These take me one day to build and cost nothing to make cos it's all pallet wood

I know not many people will want a blow by blow account of how I made it so if that includes you then I guess you shouldn't read on. If however you want to make one and want to know how I did it then continue reading and I'll try to tell you as best as I can, plus you can learn from my many mistakes as we go.

First assemble your materials - I know this is common sense but when I made the prototype of this (I had no plans) I kinda made it up as I went along and by the time I was on my third panel I realised I was out of pallet wood that had the same dimensions as the other 2 panels and although it only made a teeny weeny increase it affected the entire structure.
So gather your pallet wood first ensuring you have enough of the same size for the 4 panels, my panels measured 20" high by the combined width of 4 pieces of pallet wood wide (14").

First I cut 16 pieces of pallet wood @20" high and 4 pieces of batten @ the width of the panel (I used pallet wood that was about 3.5" wide so we'll say the panel width was 14") We actually need 8 pieces of batten but we'll come to that later.

So, I lay 4 pieces of the 20" wood down on my workbench best side down as we're working on the inside of the planter here. I actually made use of this iron angle square screwed to my workbench and I cannot tell you how much it helped, not only did it help square everything up but it helped keep everything tight together.

Next I attached a scrap piece of wood across the centre to keep all those boards tight together (I forgot to photograph that though).
Next I started marking out the arches top and bottom of the panel. I made a pencil mark 2" in from either side at the top at the same at the bottom, then I took a huge round plate and placed the edges against those marks and traced round it to create the curve - I did this top and bottom.

Next I used a jigsaw to cut out the arch following my pencil line.

TIP: Once you have cut the arches out do not be tempted at this point to remove the scrap wood. I did that once and it was ridiculously annoying trying to get the arch back to shape.
Next make a pencil mark 3" up from the bottom and 3" down from the top on either side of the panel. Take your cut batten and screw it down to the panel making sure each end is flush with your pencil mark. Do this top and bottom and then remove the scrap piece from the middle.
Then turn your panel over and screw into those battens from this side also as this will help make it super secure - remember to pre-drill first and use a counter sinker if you like, I didn't in the prototype and the wood split terribly.

That's one panel complete and you now need to make one more exactly like that.
Next you need to make 2 more panels the same as the first two but with one slight difference, the batten pieces need to be shorter to enable the entire structure to fit together.
To get the desired width of the shorter battens I simply held up the two finished panels against my new panel and measured the width required. This next photo shows you the process and the yellow pencil shows the width I need to take the measurement of

Fix the shorter battens in place 3" up from the bottom and 3" down from the top as you did on the other two panels. Once that's done pre-drill and screw in from the front again and then make another panel exactly the same.
You should now have 4 panels looking like these

The next bit couldn't be simpler - construct a box with the four panels.
Then pre-drill pilot holes and screw the sides together, again using the counter sinker if you like - this made it easier when I gave it a light sand too as there were no screw heads to rip paper on.

Once constructed this is what the inside will look like (those shorter battens suddenly make sense).

Next I cut 3 pieces of scrap wood and screwed them to the bottom battens to form a base, I left gaps between so that I can puncture the lining to allow water to drain.

For the liner I would usually use some of Mr TGs DPM poly as it's really thick but I was feeling particularly lazy and wanted to use what was to hand - bin liners!
As it happened these particular bin liners were a perfect fit and I secured it by stapling it to the top batten supports with my nail gun.
To hide the plastic and the staples I cut some really thin laths to fit around the top of the battens and nailed them in place.

Finally a quick sand down with 60 grit and then another quick going over with 240 grit and a coat of external varnish and the job was done.

My instructions may make this seem difficult but it really couldn't have been simpler to make nor quicker. It used minimal wood and cost nothing and a rose is going to look lovely in it.

I'm currently working on other planters, I'm hoping my mitre saw will cut accurate angles for an 8 sided planter and I'm trying to work out a square planter that staggers outward - could take a while.