Monday, 3 October 2016

Tempus Fugit

It's been 6 months! 6 months since I posted anything here! Though to be honest I thought it had been much longer.
Back in April I came to the decision to no longer blog, I wasn't enjoying it anymore and I felt that I had nothing interesting to add or that others would want to read about. Over the course of the last year or so I felt like this blog had become a place of negativity for me and all I seemed to post about was how I had fallen out of love with gardening, it had become a chore and I was literally dreading doing something that I once loved so much.
So what's changed? Why come back? (thankfully I refrained from deleting anything).
Well the answer to that is Me! I've changed! Or rather my thought process has changed. It took a while though, I started out the year full of hope and plans after doing very little last year and all went well to start with. Then as things began to bloom in the garden it all got on top of me again and I couldn't juggle the garden with all the other things I had to do so to cut a long story very short I was doing a bit of everything but finishing and achieving nothing.
In the end it broke, or at least I did. I had to admit and truly believe that I can no longer do all the things I expected of me (no one else put me under that pressure except me) and that I had 2 choices - I could either continue in this awful cycle of self loathing because I couldn't achieve anything or I could prioritise and focus on one job at a time. I chose to focus but this is hard for me because my mind wanders, I have very little concentration now, pain is a daily fight and narcoleptic sleep naps pretty much dictate my daily life. On top of that I have had to hand the reins over to Mr TG, I can tell him what I want and where I want it but all heavy labour intensive work has sadly fallen to his shoulders.
It's just a new style of gardening for me.

Not much has improved in the garden this year but plans are afoot for next year and I've finally agreed that we need to make the garden low maintainence - a large portion is to be decked next year and another large portion is to then be gravelled with lots of planting in the gravel. The one thing we never do is sit out and really enjoy the garden because it never quite looks finished or inviting enough, this is something we have to change.

The pond had a leak this year. I didn't notice until Mr TG dug a hole for a Lilac tree and the hole filled in with water immediately. At first we thought it was just due to the rainfall and the ground being so wet but then we noticed the sleepers were wet and when Mr TG shone a torch through one (it was hollow) he could see water dripping constantly. I knew where the leak would be because I caused it and forgot to mention it when it happened. I'd basically tried to stab some ice with a garden hand fork and hit the liner instead.........3 times.
Luckily we found a product online that would seal the holes without needing to empty the pond. I was dubious that it work but it has.

Say hello to my little friend.

There's been a serious lack of Butterflies this year here.

 This is my favourite view and is every single year. We haven't made much use of the chairs I made yet - I did try sitting out one evening but I ended up wrapped like a mummy in a blanket because of the midges, thousands of them!

This both amazed and scared me. We have lots of Gorse hedge here and this particular morning it all looked like this. While I was amazed to see all the webs that we don't normally see the amount of them literally terrifies me.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Sleeper raised beds

I don't normally resort to writing lists of jobs to be done but we have so much that needs doing outside that I've had to list them all so that we can prioritise - often it seems that the one job we want to do cannot be done before another is completed to clear the way.

Filling these new raised beds is a case in point. The raised parts are finally finished mostly (the temporary ends need something more permanent) and so they needed filling. Some of it was filled months ago but then it got left as I pondered on all the other jobs that were piling up - a mistake I promised myself we wouldn't make this year.
I have to say there is great satisfaction in finally seeing the raised beds completed and filled with lovely top soil and compost.  We bought the topsoil in last year (or the year before, I forget) but the compost is all free of charge.

Mr TG collected several Hippo bags filled with all the plant material and spent compost from a local department store. Usually they would pay a firm to come in and haul away the bags but I was asked by an employee as to whether they were any good to me. So late last year hubby collected the bags on his trailer and bought them home - with a police escort as it turned out he was littering the entire 15 miles home, oops! I then covered the tops of the bags to allow the contents to rot down over the winter.

These bags contain a huge amount of material and it was pleasant to see that the contents had actually managed to rot down  over winter despite the cold, I was concerned that they wouldn't heat up enough to do so.

We have used this type of compost once before and I had forgotten just how back breaking the work is. Ordinarily I think a person could do this and not suffer any pain but for some reason 5 minutes of this and my back feels like it is broken and I have to rest.
There is a system to this stuff though. I cannot empty it directly onto the beds because the contents not only contain the rotted plant material and spent compost but ID labels get chucked in, sticks go in, cane toppers go in, plant rings are in there and even the odd pot has been thrown in.
This is the current sytem:
  • 3 to 4 shovel fulls go into the barrow. This then has to be hand sifted to remove all the plants that haven't rotted which go straight into the trailer, all the non degradeable stuff goes into a bucket for disposal and all the small weeds etc go into another bucket which again then goes into the trailer. Once the trailer is full I hook it up to the quadbike and it is then driven down the land where the plant material can be shovelled out to rot down.
It's the being bent over the barrow that actually cause the back pain.

This is what a full barrow looks like and each Hippo bag gets us at least 5 of these.

This is one part of the filled raised bed. It's approx 2ft in height so has used alot of top soil and compost.
Excuse the boarding to the left, this is going to be removed as Mr TG builds a wall there to protect the garden from the northerly winds that funnel down here. This means though that the plants I put in the raised bed will all be facing south and in full sun all day - insert smiley face.
These raised beds are to house shrubs to form another windbreak until the wall is built but also to add height and enclose the open garden a little.
I'm not 100% certain of the plant combination but I have alot of Hebe,large hardy Fuschia, Viburnums and Hydranges - this is a large area to fill and will frame the new patio we are going to lay.
Just in front of the raised beds we are adding another line of sleepers to create another smaller raised bed so that we can plant Day Lillies, Crocosmia and Iris.
The back larger raised beds will also contain honeysuckle and climbing roses to mask the aviary which is out of shot of the picture.

Monday, 28 March 2016

It's time to weed!

I've finally started what I put off for the whole of last year - weeding!
Last year I convinced myself that it would do me good to walk away from any gardening for a year because the tediousness of it was starting to make me not enjoy being out there anymore. A few years ago this would have been unheard of, I had less garden to tend and it was so easy to keep it looking immaculate but then over the years I've added another garden, a veg area and a polytunnel area and trying to maintain it all myself was just taking its toll. After spending another year just trying to keep on top of it while also mowing acres, looking after animals, keeping a house and accounting, I decided I was either going to a) completely gravel/pave/deck everywhere and just have pots b) dismantle the poytunnel and veg area and just let the weeds take over or c) simply take a break from it all and just see what happens.
I chose C - thankfully.

The weeds are awful - to be expected, but awful. I get alot of couch grass with runners that run like tentacles everywhere and the dreaded creeping buttercup. I don't mind any weed except creeping ruddy buttercup.

When I first looked at this trowel in hand I almost walked away.






Only now can I see that I can actually cram alot of new plants out here, which is a good thing really as I have approximately 400 in my polytunnel that are now getting quite depserate for a life outside their pot.

This though made me smile with happiness when I saw it. I have a Cordyline growing that is self seeded and has done so well until a couple of winters ago when a wishing well fell on it and snapped it right at the base. I managed to stand it upright and bashed a scaffold pole into the ground to tie it to. Then I mulched it with thick straw round the base and covered the straw with slate to keep it in place. The Cordyline appears to have survived which is amazing but now it has babies - twins no less. I thought the green leaves were from a flag iris that runs rampant in this bed but nope - they're definitely coming from the Cordyline stem.

I've been keeping an eager eye out for signs of my Peonies survivng the winter in the ground and sure enough 'Sarah Bernhadt' appears to be waking up.

I'm not sure what's going on with this pot grown Camellia in the polytunnel though. It has flowered a couple of times but nothing last year and nothing this year. It's in ericaceous compost that is topped up each year and I keep the watering right but it just doesn't seem to be thriving.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Slipped disc - but not me this time! Canine IVDD.

I think we've been blessed weatherwise for the past week or so, if it's rained it's been at night time and the sun has been out during the day. In fact it's been so mild that I'm already drying washing on the line and that is practically unheard of me because the sea air makes it too damp to dry usually.

I've had big plans to get started on the garden and while we've managed to clear it of rubbish and all manner of bricks, wood and broken projects I haven't actually managed to put a fork in the soil yet. This is down to a little Shih Tzu called Kasa

This naughty little ray of sunshine has managed to slip a disc in her back - something Shih Tzus and other long bodied stumpy legged dogs are prone to apparantly (why is it we never find this information out until it actually happens).
Initially the vet diagnosed arthiritis but after a couple of days we weren't happy with that diagnosis and took her back to the vet - IVDD is the medical term or Intervertrebal Disc Disease.
To start with a wobbly gait was all we noticed, Kasa was otherwise her normal happy stupid self but it progressed very quickly and by the time we took her back to the vet she had lost knuckle reflex in one of her back paws suggesting that the protruding disc was putting pressure on her spinal cord and causing sensation issues.
Strict crate rest is the solution for this if you opt out of surgery. Surgery isn't guaranteed to help and the nearest animal hospital to do this is about 300 miles away with costs going into the thousands.
Thankfully conservative treatment is the most popular way of dealing with this now especially at the stage Kasa has it so 24/7 crate rest it is! As I'm the only one at home all day this has fallen to me to do and it's taken a while to get my head round it - it's extremely difficult to crate a dog 24/7 and not feel guilty, even if you know it's for their own good.
Kasa hasn't made the journey any easier because she hates a crate and attacks it - literally! I cannot even begin to tell you all the different methods we tried in the first 2 weeks to get her to settle in confinement. Unfortunately her battle against the crate has made her condition worse and she has now lost the ability to gauge placement of both back legs. This is not like losing all feeling though, she still has deep pain sensation, it's just that the disc is pushing her spinal cord more and causing a loss in sensation. The 24/7 crate rest was and is supposed to prevent this!
As of now we have a crate sorted that she cannot scratch, jump out of, chew or attack and fingers crossed she will begin to heal, from all the research I have done (ALOT) this condition is completely recoverable so the crate is now her new best friend for at least the next 6 weeks, she's only allowed out to go to the toilet (whereby I have to carry her, then support her back end in a sling while she does her business and then carry her back).
You would think that crate resting a dog would be easy wouldn't you? Honestly, it is so time consuming you wouldn't believe it, especially with a dog that fights it like Kasa does.
So anyway Kasa is the reason I have not really been absorbed in the garden however that should change once we have Kasas pain meds sorted and controlled.

During one of my little stints to the polytunnel I did have a lovely surprise. Late 2014 I dug up a clump of amazing white Iris's and temporarily planted them in my polytunnel while the garden was renovated (pmsl, it still isn't done), anyway last year I watched as those Iris plants appeared to grow healthy and then suddenly shrivel up and die. I almost dug them up and chucked them but I didn't get round to it. I was so pleased when I checked the polytunnel bed yesterday and a couple of my pots and saw this sign of life

At first I thought it was Daffodils coming up because the stems of this Iris do look like Daffodil stems not regular Iris. Unfortunately I don't know the name of it but it has to be the most amazing Iris I have ever seen, it's been a bit reluctant to flower the last few years which is another reason I thought it was ready for lifting and dividing.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


The promised snow has finally arrived! We've been lucky of late because everytime it was forecast nothing actually came of it. The same goes with the wind too.
We have had rain though and it has literally saturated the ground, there is absolutely no way I can get outside and do any kind of gardening - such a shame as I would love to be out there in the cold, NOT!
As I said though, the snow has arrived. It won't stay long as it never does but we tend to get it worse in this village than just 1 mile up the road, I think it drifts and as we're one of the last properties before the sea we get alot of drift.
Having said that, it's hardly been an avalanche of snow. In fact we're talking maybe one inch is all.

 This is the start of it - not much huh!

Getting a little worse but it'll probably disappear overnight and then we just have the water run off to contend with. While we will never flood here - we're so far above sea level (at least those cliffs are a good 200ft drop) and a burn runs water straight to the sea - the garden could definitely benefit from a substantial drainage system as the amount of water we have is just sitting there freezing over.
We did a couple of drainage channels last year but TBH it looks like it was a complete waste of time!

I've spent a bt of time in the PT tidying it up ready for Spring and I've found a few issues with it that will need rectifying in spring. The main problem is one bolt holding the bottom trim in place has come away which means that piece is just flapping about, this in turn means the plastic to that area is also flapping and loosening. There's also a few rips to the plastic but I think once I repair those I should get another few years out of the plastic cover.

I have a system going with my daughters workplace, we collect all their broken pots and make use of them. They store them in giant dumpy bags and then we collect them and bring them home so I can sort them out. For the most part they are not salvageable so I break them up and use them as crocks for the bottom of pots

There have been a few pots worth saving though so I have quite a collection going now.
I know the big one has the bottom missing but I will sink this one into the ground and use it that way.

Monday, 1 February 2016

A new year!

Last year I decided that I would start growing veg again this year, I had everything planned - what I was growing, where it would grow etc etc however I have had to take a reality check and reign my enthusiasm in a tad.
I used to try to do it all - keep a house, look after animals, renovate the land, grow veggies, build 'stuff' etc but it got too much and I ended up losing all interest in absolutely everything. I couldn't keep everything in check and felt like I was juggling balls and despite being busy all the time nothing seemed to be getting done.
Then last year I gave it all a break, all of it. The polytunnel housed plants in pots or with no homes instead of fruit and vegetables, the garden probably got weeded once, the land renovations halted and I only built the odd piece of garden furniture. I took the year off and was determined to get back to it this year.
I'm not old - 44 - but no spring chicken either and health issues mean there are days when I physically cannot do anything, depression often seeps in and makes everything seem so much more traumatic and I simply cannot do the things I could do only 5 years ago.
So for the sake of my own health and sanity I have decided what is important this year and reigned the rest in.
The polytunnel will continue to house those plants while I spend this year renovating the land to make new homes for them but I will concentrate on small areas only and will get one area finished before another is begun.
The garden will be weeded and then mulched to help keep back the weeds releasing me from that chore every other day and project making will be stalled until/unless I have time. The only projects outside of gardening that I intend to do this year are a few furniture renovations for the house - which I am redecorating - and some items I am making to sell in my online shop.

As for the first garden area to be tackled, this is it!
The borders are to be extended and a huge patio laid. A new wall will be built to the left side replacing the fence (hence the boards behind the border) and it will be smothered in shrubs and climbers, especially over the aviary at the back.

What can I say about this one.
The sleepers have to be dragged out and those back borders have plastic underneath gravel over them - did nothing to stop weeds though. This aviary is also getting some colour to it.

This is going to be alot less lawn and alot more plants - yay for plants!

Dreadful! Even the dishwasher got dumped out there over xmas when it broke - it's since got to the landfill though. The house walls are what will hold me back some as we have to erect scaffold to get the harling on the walls.

This is also on the list for renovation this year. It's quite an extensive area and while MrTG does need some of it for stacking his building materials we're going to utilise at least half of it from the house side. Hoping to plant trees but we have a small issue with that because we had the rock on the ground set to about 3ft, nothing is growing in that! If you look closely behind the old digger you'll see tree stems, these are willow and we had to use the digger to dig out a trench along that back line and infill with topsoil so we could plant the willow.
I think I may have to build some massive planters for any other type of tree but this area is extremely exposed so I don't know what to do yet, I'm no tree expert and have no experience in this area. The sea is extremely close to us - you can see it behind the digger - and any wind from it can be seriously strong though not usually cold because although it's the east coast it's actually south of us.

This area will no doubt stay the same. There are about 500 plants in this polytunnel if not more, most of them are just waiting for a new home and have been stuck here for a few years. I have a feeling that we may need to renew the plastic on it this year as there are a fair few splits now. Most of them are along the bottom so if I can get a couple more years out of it by repairing rather than replacing that's what I'll do.
Before I can ever grow veggies in here again though I need to raise some on the beds more and add more top soil, some of the beds are too shallow because the area tends to hold water and so those beds can be very soggy.