Thursday, 17 January 2013


Well, there's really nothing doing in the garden at the moment.
The ground is either too frozen to work or too boggy to stand on, this time of year can be so disheartening can't it!
I've now purchased some of this years veggie and flower seeds and I'll do a post about what we've chosen in the next day or so. I wasn't going to bother doing that as a post because I don't have images to show what we've grown in the past but the whole point of this blog is to keep a kind of journal for the garden so I can go back and check out what has worked before and what hasn't - I do try to keep written journals in the polytunnel but I'm not as enthused about them as I am blogging, so you'll have to forgive me if I post a boring topic on veggie seeds.
For now though I will leave you with this quote:

One of the healthiest ways to gamble is with a spade and a packet of seeds. ~Dan Bennett

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Garden stakes & plant markers

The weather here in the Scottish Highlands is pretty much wet and windy and does not make for a happy gardening experience (insert sad face here).
We head off to sunnier climes in a weeks time so could have done with the weather helping me to get certain jobs done before we go - oh well, I'm sure I'll not worry too much about boggy, unkempt garden borders when I'm basking on the beach in Jamaica (insert self satisfied smirk here).
The lovely Scottish weather forecast has dealt us a tale of cold and snow for the next few days so I'm suspecting that other than preparing two weeks worth of wild bird feed for my daughters to put out on a regular basis while I'm away, that the garden is just going to have to plod along on its own for a while.
One thing I did try to do this week though was to make more plant labels ready for the sowing season. For most seed sowing I use plastic plant markers I make myself from empty milk cartons - click here to see -  but for anything more permanent or for plants in pots where I want to showcase the name & species etc I make plant markers from scrapwood.

Scrap wood plant labels.

These are so easy to make with just a few supplies and make fantastic garden markers - here's what you need:-
  • Scrap wood - I used lath type size
  • Hand saw or electric cutter.
  • Lost head nails or small headed nails.
  • Hammer.
  • Permanent marker pen - Molotow every time for me 
  • Outdoor clear varnish.

First step is to cut your laths into the length you require for the stake part of the label, mostly I stick to 8-10" but it depends on how far you want to stick it in the ground.
Then using your cutter of choice cut the ends into a point.
Next lay the lath on it's thin edge and cut straight down the end that's not pointed at a 45 degree angle.
Cut another piece of lath about 4 or 5" long and nail it onto the angled end of your stake so now when the stake is planted the face you write on is also sitting at an angle and is easy to read.
Finally write the name of your plant on the face of the stake, varnish it and leave it to dry.

That's it, it can now be used. Obviously you can paint these any colour you wish before writing on them and varnishing them - it's your choice!

So easy to make!


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Friday, 11 January 2013

Garden Blogs of the month : January 2013

I'm very honoured to be able to post that my blog has been recognised by Jean Potuchek over at Jean's Garden, for a place in her Garden Blog of the month: January 2013, alongside The Scottish Country Garden and Landscape Notes.
My own blog is still in it's newborn phase and as such I want to express my thanks to Jean for her recognition and kind comments.
Jean's own blog is full of information backed up with some of the most amazing images and is definitely worth a visit - after which you will be hooked I guarantee.
Here's what jean had to say about The Tenacious Gardener

The Tenacious Gardener is the newest of these blogs, only a few weeks old. As the title indicates, this is a blog about the experience of gardening in challenging conditions, specifically on the North Sea coast of the Scottish Highlands. Linda, the author of this blog, tells us that she already had some gardening experience before she and her family moved to the Highlands, but found that  gardening “in an exposed area slap bang next to the North Sea Coast has demanded that I forget about many of the blousy plants I enjoyed in England and acquaint myself with hardier, more durable species.” The experiences recounted in her very engaging blog posts include growing both flowers and vegetables and raising animals (including killer chickens). I especially enjoy her accounts of learning to garden using local natural resources like seaweed (see I need seaweed and Garlic & buckets of tea).

Jean found and chose my blog from Blotanical, a concise interactive directory of gardening blogs from around the world. It's also free to join!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

What's growing?

While browsing my favourite blogs lately I came across Sue Garretts post 'On starting blocks and itching to go' and immediately I found myself eager to get outside with the camera and start snapping away at all the fresh growth bursting through the borders.
However once I got out there, far from the lovely buds Sue was greeted with, this is what I'm faced with

This is the first thing I'm greeted with, pretty naff huh! This is all damage caused by dogs and has made my lovely garden resemble a quagmire (insert sad face here).

But look what else I found, a Leycesteria Formosa self seeded seedling. Leycesteria aka Himalayan Honeysuckle ot Pheasant berry bush is a must have for my garden.
It's pretty hardy and is capable of staying in leaf all through the winter depending on its location. The wind has stripped the leaves off some of the plants I have in slightly more exposed areas (in other words 15ft to the right of the ones in full leaf) but even these will perk back up in Spring, will grow rapidly in one year and produce amazing Purple bracts for some months.

I love this Hebe for its enthusiasm all year round. This particular one is at least 10 years old now and despite being in an exposed garden the shrub is now approx 9ft in height and easily has a circumference of about 16ft - it's moosive!
This particular one flowers a couple of times of years and it's just coming to the end of a flowering point just now but it's still nice to be greeted with lovely Lilac flowers and plenty of greenery on these dismal winter days.
Another plant that is easy to propagate too, I literally snip off 6" cuttings from the ends any time from spring to early Autumn, strip all but the end leaves off and leave them in a small tub of water until they root approx 4 weeks later (depending on the time of year). They're then potted on and will romp away quickly.

I had planned to throw this Clematis out this year. I've had it about 7 years and it has never flowered so I figured it wasn't worth the effort but when you're faced with buds like this forming on it how can I throw it out? I can't remember the name of it and the label has faded too much but I keep records of these things so I'll check it out.
The plan now is to re-pot it in new compost, prune it and give it a 2 year reprieve.  We'll watch and see what happens!

These are cuttings I did a few weeks ago and I honestly expected them to be dead and rotten by now. Cuttings are not my expertise, in fact the only cuttings I manage with any degree of success is Willow and Hebe (the easiest you can get).
These are Dogwood at the top and Olive at the bottom. The Dogwood actually has tiny buds forming so I'm hoping that's a good sign. The Olive is from a baby plant that snapped in half, rather than just compost it I thought I'd try cuttings from it and see if they work. They're looking pretty hopeful so far but I know nothing about this plant so I'm not getting my hopes up.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Guest post

Not much doing outside this time of year is there! There's plenty I'd love to be getting on with out there but anything that involves sloshing around in mud is pretty much out of the question. This unfortunately means that I can't even get on with the building projects I have planned.
Probably for this exact reason I find myself paying more attention than usual to the indoor plants I have. I realised lately that all my indoor plants with the exception of a Peace Lily are non flowering plants - how boring, I mean if I am going to spend so much time intricately clean each and every leaf of a Ficus with leaf shine wipes (yes, I seriously do) then you'd have thought I would have chosen something that will repay my dilligence with at least a smidging of colour wouldn't you?
My favourite indoor plant would have to be  the Orchid but I've always assumed these treasures would be difficult to grow and require constant daily attention so I've avoided buying them even when they appear on Lidl shelves looking O so pretty.

Imagine my surprise when my guest post writer - Lucas Barnes, of  Plantdex - furnished me with this post, explaining how easy some of them can actually be.
Lucas Barnes has a BA from the University of San Diego, and is an avid writer on all gardening related topics.

Most commonly grown varieties of orchids

 Moth Orchids
Moth orchids are the most common, least expensive orchids to grow. Blooms appear in shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, red, green and purple and can last for 4 months.
How to Grow:  Water Moth orchids every week or every fortnight. They thrive best in low, medium or bight light and in temperatures ranging from 50̊ -75̊ F.  Blooms are bigger if plants are fed monthly with orchid fertilizer. 
Hint: A drop in temperatures encourages them to bloom.

Dendrobium Orchids
Dendrobium orchids are a florist’s favorite. Color ranges from white to pink to purple and green.  Blooms can last up to a month or more.
How to Grow:   Dendrobium thrives in medium to bright light and temperatures ranging from 50̊-70̊ F.  Water them weekly or fortnightly and fertilize each month with orchid fertilizer.
Hint: There are hundreds of dendrobiums. They bloom on new stems and keep their leaves all year.

Oncidium Orchids
Oncidium or dancing lady orchids have small flowers appearing in clusters of 50 or more and in shades of white, purple, yellow, pink and red, with flashy contrasting designs.
How to Grow: They thrive best in medium to bright light and temperatures ranging from 50̊-75̊ F. Water them weekly or fortnightly in spring and summer and feed with orchid fertilizer once monthly.
Hint: Some Oncidium orchids emit a delightful fragrance. 

Cymbidium Orchids
Cymbidium orchids are popular, easy to care, indoor plants with waxy flowers that last long during winter or early spring.
How to Grow: Cymbidium orchids thrive best in bright light and temperatures ranging from 50̊ to 70̊ F. They can be taken outside during summer and placed in a shady spot. Water them every week and encourage blooms with a monthly feed of fertilizer during spring and summer.
Hint: Cymbidium orchids flower best in temperatures under 50̊ F for several of weeks, which result in winter blooms.

Paphiopedilium/Lady's Slippers Orchids
The most distinct of all orchids, lady’s slippers have large blooms consisting of a hollow “pocket” with two petals and a sepal. They have variegated leaves giving the plant an added beauty in the absence of the flowers.
How to Grow: Lady's slippers thrive best in low, medium, or bright light and temperatures ranging from 50̊-70̊F. Water them once a week, and feed them monthly with orchid fertilizer in spring and summer.
Hint: The multi-floral varieties produce many flowers per stem. They give a bigger display and will last longer. 

Cattleya Orchids
Cattleyas are great indoor plant with fragrant blooms which are available in shades ranging from pink to red, white, yellow and orange.
How to Grow: Cattleya orchids thrive best in temperatures ranging from 50̊-70̊ F and when placed in medium or bright light. Water them once per week, feeding them with orchid fertilizer each month during spring and summer.
Hint: They can bloom two times a year with the flowers lasting for weeks. Lots of light encourages quick re-blooms. 

Jewel Orchid
Jewel orchid is mostly grown because of the attractive purple leaves with pink stripes. The small white blooms appear in late summer.
How to Grow: Jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor) thrives best in low to medium light and temperatures ranging from 55̊-80̊ F.  Water them once per week or fortnightly and feed monthly with orchid fertilizer.
 Hint:  Lots of humidity will prevent brown, crispy edges developing on the leaves.

Cockleshell Orchid /Encyclia cochleata
With purple clam-shaped blooms and green sepals which look like tentacles, the cockleshell orchid is very easy to grow and can produce flowers throughout the year.
How to Grow: Cockleshell orchid thrives best in low to bright light and temperature ranges of 60̊-80̊ F. Water them once weekly or fortnightly and feed monthly with orchid fertilizer. 

Nun Orchid (Phaius tankervilleae)
This variety is easy to grow. Winter blooms features clusters of white, purple and brown on 3 feet tall stems with rich green uneven leaves.
How to Grow: Nun orchid thrives best in medium to bright light and temperatures ranging from 60̊ to 80̊ F. Water them weekly from spring to fall and fortnightly during winter. Add orchid fertilizer each week during spring and summer
Hint: Keep this orchid moist to prevent leaves from developing brown edges.

Odontoglossum Orchids
A relative of the oncidium, the odonttoglossoms’ blooms are large, appearing in clusters of shades of white, red, pink, orange and yellow and spotted with other colors. Blooms can last for weeks.   
How to Grow: Odontoglossoms (odonts) thrive in medium or bright light and temperature ranginging from 50̊ to 70̊ F.  Feed them monthly with orchid fertilizer during spring and summer. Water them once per week or fortnightly and feed once per month with orchid fertilizer during spring and summer.
Hint: Many odontoglossoms are easy to grow, but others can be challenging. Ask about this before taking it home.

LucasBarnes writes for Plantdex about gardening and cultivating plants.

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Sunday, 6 January 2013

Garlic & buckets of tea!

One of the many plants I've never managed to grow is Garlic. I know, I know, it's supposed to be darned easy but nope, I've never got a bulb to even peek out of the ground.
That was it, after several ridiculous attempts and the blinkin blighters doing absolutely nowt I gave up - I'll buy the darned stuff.
Then a few weeks ago I perusing another gardening blog - Fromseedtoscrumptious -  and this guy - George - was chucking bucketloads of garlic into the ground, covering it and had amazing results. It seemed that this guy could grow Garlic like I can grow weeds!
So I thought why not give it one more try? Only this time I wasn't buying garlic bulbs not when I had shop bought ones in the fridge. Yes I know that apparantly this isn't the right way to do things and I could possibly be setting myself up for another failure but I figured I'd plant 6 cloves - yes, a measly 6 cloves. I figured 6 cloves would take up no room so when they failed I wouldn't miss them any.
Well, I lifted the netting of the bed in the polytunnel today and look what welcomed me

Garlic, growing garlic, garlic in polytunnel

OK so I know they're not exactly anything to get peeing your pants excited about but believe me, that's the best I've ever managed to grow. In fact if they all die from this point on I'll still be chuffed that they even chose to grow - wish I'd planted 6 bulbs now instead of a measly 6 cloves.

On another exciting note - ok exciting for me - here are 2 of buckets of Seaweed tea brewing happily away.

Seaweed tea, seaweed, seaweed liquid feed

All I did was fill the buckets to halfway with Seaweed - I didn't even bother rinsing it first because the salt levels really aren't high enough to bother about - and then filled them to the top with water and covered them over. The stench from these as they brew is gonna be a bit stinky.
As my hosepipe has been put away for the winter and the house is way away from the polytunnel I used water from the pond to fill the buckets.
This pond is a real convenience to my polytunnel, it is completely natural, drains the land and has no liners. We think at some point in the past a previous owner may have created it by digging it out at the corner of the water ditch that comes through the land. The pond does have the ability to run off into another ditch and carry on through to Shelligeo burn further down the land should it overfill.


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Saturday, 5 January 2013

Killer hens! UPDATE

I've raised killer hens! Well not so much killers at the moment but certainly bullies.
Let me explain: A few weeks ago my husband rescued 10 battery hens, the hens were destined for broken necks simply because the lorry taking them south could only carry a certain amount, this left a surplus that needed homes.
10 was all we dared to take due to room, we have plenty of acreage but nothing big enough to house more than 10 of them.
2 of them died within the day, we think this was due to their appalling body condition as we took the ones that looked the scrawniest and were pretty bald. On picking them up you could tell these were the ones that hadn't the heart to fight for the food but we hoped that plenty of food, water and warmth that they didn't have to fight for would soon see them right.
After the two died the rest of them seemed to settle really well and our original hens and cockerel seemed to take to them fine despite the obvious size difference - ours were 3 times the size.
So all was well, until a couple of days ago when I noticed our hen 'Big Momma' attacking one of the rescues everytime it moved and this poor hen was literally screaming.
I grabbed the rescue hen, let the others outside and then put the tiny hen down outside to have a forage about. I was gobsmacked at what 'Big Momma' did next - she seemed to stand up really tall, looked this little hen square in the eye and ran at it and jumped on her pecking at her head.
That was it I grabbed the little rescue hen and picked her up, it was only then that I noticed she hadn't put on weight like the others and just didn't seem to be doing as well, it was obvious that she was still being bullied at food times and was still very underweight.
I made the decision then to cage the little rescue hen and feed her up before reintroducing her to the others once she has gained strength and feathers - she looks so pathetic bless her!

Killer hen 'Big Momma'
She just has that look doesn't she! She's scary is 'Big Momma'.

Rescue hen:- Bald butt and scrawny but otherwise happy.

These rescue hens are so so bald but they're putting on weight and doing really well.

poor rescue hen that is bullied by 'Big Momma'
We're new to rescue hens so we're not too sure what to expect or how long it will take for them to recover full body condition. They do seem to have an argumentative attitude with each other but I guess that comes form them having to fight one another before.
Also the wattles were bent over on most of them when they arrived, most appear to have recovered to their natural position now except for the poor hen that I've had to move to a protected area, she just hasn't recovered at all.
Still, she has a safe place to hide for a while now and doesn't have to fight for food or water. As she plumps up I will gradually reintroduce her to the others and let her walk around outside with them, but I'll be there the whole time to protect her from Big Momma until she can fend for herself.
I'm actually not a chicken person! I always said I would never ever have one due to childhood memories of them pooping all over my ponies stable door. That stuff would set like cement and stink to high heaven.
But I'm quite attached to the ones we have and I'm amazed that the rescue ones are extremely friendly. They fly onto my arms when I'm watching them, they jump onto my back when I'm cleaning out their water and they follow me everywhere outside - they love being picked up and cuddled.
Plus that cement poop is fabulous for the compost heap!

Cockerel 'Romeo' that is supposed to keep the hens in place...but doesn't.
As cockerels go, we've had better ones lol. Romeo is a Silkie and is only interested in his mate Missy, we have never seen him mount any of the others and he spends his entire time at Missys side or fending off the others if they get too close to her - which is probably a good thing as Missy is so small - actually so is Romeo lol.

'Missy', the only hen that Romeo is actually interested in.

It'll be nice to post pictures in a few months of healthy rescue hens and a perfectly happy, healthy and taekwondo expert little hen :)

Big Momma is now facing murder charges as poor little hen has gone to the chicken coop in the sky. I've told Big Momma that I won't be accepting a lesser charge of manslaughter either because I witnessed the assault - Big Momma doesn't appear ruffled!


Thursday, 3 January 2013

A little bit o seaweeds all I need....

After my recent dissapointing beach foray in search of seaweed for the garden and compost heap I decided to take a trip over to Keiss beach  and check out the so called 'abundance' of seaweed that I've been told about by the locals.
Here's what I found

Heaps of glorious seaweed.

Seriously deep.

Not sure what type of seaweed it is but it'll do me.

I'd forgotten to check tide times before leaving and when I saw on the drive in that the tide was actually in I thought I'd have no chance of getting any but I have to say the stuff was everywhere along the entire stretch of beach.
I stood at the opening to the beach and looked at the heaps of Seaweed up and down the coastline and then looked down at my 2 recycled dog food bags I'd bought with me and felt totally unprepared. The bags may be 17.5kg bags but still, I could have collected so much more than I did if I'd taken the time to stock up the bags first, but I didn't (such was my doubt there was even going to be any seaweed).
Oh well, I have 2 bags of Seaweed to get me going and tomorrow I plan to get that Seaweed tea brewing and then any spare I have or get in the future I'm going to coat any new soil beds with it on my garden because I've heard it may put the dogs off getting onto the fresh soil and digging it all back out again.