Gardening Notebook

Gardening at the sharp end. An account of the agony and the ecstasy of a keen gardener as she gets to grips with a much larger plot than the one she was used to. Hopefully others can learn a lot from her discoveries and mistakes.

Location: Norfolk, United Kingdom

I am relatively inexperienced but a very enthusiastic gardener, who has just taken over a nice-sized (for the UK) plot of almost half an acre. To some extent, like all gardeners I am learning as I go, but I have been studying the subject very intensively for some time. I am also a keen amateur belly dancer.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Early winter garden

Early Winter Garden

Well, it hasn't really been very wintry so far, it's more like a late autumn. And here we are it's almost Christmas. Even here in dry North Norfolk we have quite wet weather, and windy too. This morning there was a crisp white frost which came as a bit of a shock. We haven't put the heater in the greenhouse yet so I hope all the stuff in there is OK. I didn't get the chance to look so far.

The leaves, well, I haven't been nearly as neurotic about picking them up this year as I was last. Last year autumn went on forever and the leaves fell very gradually. This year they held on until the last minute then all seemed to fall at once. Because of the strong winds they have obligingly settled into large clumps round the back by the sheds and the bins, so when I get round to it they should be relatively easy to pick up. There are some fairly evenly distributed over the unmown lawn but it's not too bad.

All the dahlias and cannas etc have been cut down, mulched etc. The bananas are fleeced and we have some small ones in the greenhouse. I really need to do some weeding and chop the brambles to the ground. I really need to get on top of them this next year. So here we are, winter's sort of here, dark nights - never mind, straight after Christmas it all turns around and the days start to get gradually longer. And, I'm so looking forward to seeing all those bulbs I planted coming up! (Mind you, some of the early ones are already doing so because it's been so mild!)

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Joys of Autumn

The Joys of Autumn

I often think that those who wax lyrical about the joys of kicking through pretty crispy red leaves in autumn are never the people who have to clean them up! It is such a pain, although we have a rather brilliant sort of massive hoover for getting leaves up from the lawn.

Considering we live in one of the country's driest counties it's amazing how much rain we have had lately. This has made mowing the lawn very difficult although it really needs it. I did mow the front lawn as it was ridiculously long, but it looks very scalped in places now and patchy. It was too wet to do it really but I did it anyway.

Also I have just ordered and received two massive rolls of bubble wrap for insulating the greenhouse and wrapping round the large Brugmansia and Banana pots. I don't look forward to that job either.

The Cannas, Ginger, Dahlias etc are all cheerfully blooming away as it has been very mild, like sitting ducks waiting for the first frosts to blacken them, then I have to rush around cutting them back and making sure they have enough mulch around them.

Yes, it's all work at this time of year, and it seems quite sad, because everything is being put away - but without winter, how would we appreciate spring and summer? And it gives most of us a break from the tasks of summer, so we can get on a bit indoors.

Don't think I have no romance in my soul - autumn really is a beautiful time, but sometimes it would be nice if someone else did all the tidying away!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Grass and Mole Rampant!

Grass and Mole Rampant!

Well, there's a mole, well I presume it is just the one, rampaging all over the back (and the front) lawns at the moment. It is really annoying as you get hills that look so big you'd think a labrador had dug them.

He/she has been getting away with it as we have been tired out by a serious crisis with our old dog, who has been in and out of vets like crazy for a fortnight. We hope it is now over and she will survive to woof another day, but it's all been rather mysterious, so it's just a case of fingers crossed.

Whilst I did manage to get a few daffodils planted, I still have lots of alliums, tulips and hyacinths to do, although the latter can easily wait until November. The lawn, although lush and green, has been sorely neglected by the mower in chief, due to work and dog commitments. It is far too long and he has now given it a cut with the mulching mower so it has clods of grass all over the surface. That, coupled with the huge molehills, looks a not so pretty sight I can tell you.

Let's hope we can get on top of it soon, before all the beech and oak leaves fall all over it!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fence painting

Fence Painting

We've had a chappie round the last couple of days painting some of our fences at the entrance to the property. He takes his time but he's done a lovely job. It's done in Red Cedar which I always think looks a bit darn red, but we had it at our old place and now this one, so I think we must like it. It is a bit scary at first, but it will look lovely and warm and welcoming as we drive in in winter, or look across from the conservatory.

We have a length of hose that goes the length of the fence, and all the way to the back of the garden, which is about 120 feet. The bad news is that when putting it back in place our painter guy managed to pierce it with a nail, which is a right pain, as attempts at repair with a connector failed. We might have to get some better hose. What with that, and me cutting the cable to the 12v garden lights, it's a real pain. Ray re-connected that, but it still doesn't work so he is going to put a new transformer on, and that was expensive. Hope it works!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bulbs, bulbs bulbs!

Bulbs, Bulbs, Bulbs!

I've just had hundreds of bulbs delivered which I should be merrily putting in the ground over the next few weeks. The bad news is that I am so busy at work at the moment that I'm not sure how on earth I can find the time, and I have spent quite a bit of money on them.

What's more I'm not even sure we will be here on this plot next spring. Mind you if we end up selling up then the garden would look spectacular next spring for viewers, but that's not the greatest incentive for back-breaking bulb planting is it?

Still, I will press on and try to just get them done, say 20 at a time. I'm sure it will all turn out beautiful in the end.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hedge Trimming

Hedge Trimming

Wow, I think the whole world is hedge trimming at the moment. Now (late summer, early autumn) is the time to cut back your conifers and beech hedges and all that, which in my garden is most of the hedging. I cut the privet last week, it should have had more cuts over the summer, but it has had to get away with just the one. I didn't want to disturb it in early summer because of all the birds.

Today I did one of the beech hedges and also a yew which isn't a hedge but a big bush by the bird feeders. Sometimes the sparrowhawk lurks in the bush waiting to pounce on the little birds, but it gives the birds refuge most of the time and a sneaky way of approaching the feeders.

We had to go to the dump later with many of the cuttings (some from the last few weeks!) and the household refuse site (to give it it's more formal name!) was teeming with people with sackfuls and armfuls of the stuff, so obviously everyone is hedge trimming now.

Some of the leylandii are too high for me to reach. They don't belong to me but to neighbours so I hope that isn't going to lead to trouble in the future. None of them encroach on our light as such although one is out to the east of us so could eventually obscure the morning sun. It wouldn't be such a bad thing as we get blinded by it in the conservatory of a spring morning, but having said that we do like to see some sky and birds in that direction. The neighbour who owns that leylandii is never there so it is difficult to talk to him. He seems like a nice enough chap but if he isn't there it is hard to know what to do.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Power Deadheading

Power Deadheading

I've been very busy at work lately hence my gardening blog has been somewhat neglected, for which I am sorry. For the same reason my actual garden is a little neglected too, and so is my physical fitness now I am doing much computer and sedentary work and not getting out there as I was, digging and doing hard work.

Today I decided to spend about twenty minutes marching round the garden just to get the circulation going. Let's face it the garden is not quite so much of a "green gym" at this time of year: the hard work is done and now it's down to a bit of deadheading and weeding (well, I've started giving some of the hedges a good seeing-to as well, because I am off doing jury service in September so I need to get on top of them now).

However, I digress. It seems that inadvertently I have invented a new form of aerobic exercise for the less-than-fully-fit. I have called it power deadheading. Instead of going round and getting down on my knees with secateurs and trug in hand, I decided to march around the garden, but as my husband pointed out, I cannot pass a dead flower without feeling the compunction to chop it off. Therefore I marched until I saw a plant needing deadheading attention. Then I squatted down and cut off a flower, then bobbed back up again, squatted down for the next one, back up, and so on. OK I didn't squat for every single dead flower, but you get my drift. Enough to keep it aerobic even though the marching had stopped. I did not allow myself to carry the trug with me, so could only carry as many deadheads and tidyings as I could carry in one hand. I then resumed the march, to the compost bin with the bits, then back round the circuit to get to the next plant needing attention, and so on.

I carried on doing this for about twenty minutes or more, and felt like I had had a darn good workout at the end of it. Of course it's not the most efficient way of deadheading and weeding, but at least something else constructive is done in the garden at the same time as having a bit of a physical workout. It's called making life difficult I guess, but in a good way.

Frankly I still needed to get around with the trug later, as there are so many flowering plants needing deadheading at this time of year, and I haven't been out there for a few days due to really awful rain, but I felt good for my workout and at least some gardening was done at the same time.

Come spring and autumn of course I will get more garden exercise anyway, tidying away stems and the dreaded leaf clearance from all the mature trees, mulching, and planting bulbs. Then spring, oh dear, spring is all work, digging and planting like mad, trying to keep the seedlings watered in the greenhouse. I don't think I will need to power walk around the garden then!