Monday, 27 April 2015

More planting decisions

The slug defences are working well! Nothing more has been nommed in my new flowerbed since the homemade cloches went on, and both the Lychnis and the Aster (virtually eaten to death) are making a good recovery. Otherwise I’m out every evening watering and peering at each plant in turn, impatiently waiting for them to grow. 

 From this..........................

 To this.................................

Now that my fence flowerbed is planted up and sorted, it was time to turn my attention to my second flowerbed. Covered in weeds and overgrown lumpen shrubs, I got in some professional gardeners to pull the lot up and leave me with a lovely blank canvas to work on. I can do anything!

However its rapidly become clear that choosing what to plant is no easy task. Whilst the fence bed was super easy – (it was ordered from garden on a roll, so I simply chose the look I wanted and clicked), I now need to make all the decision for the new bed: choose the plants (there are hundreds out there!), decide how many I need, figure out how they grow, how far apart to plant them, what to put next to what, how big they get, how much maintenance they need etc etc. It hasn’t helped that my other half has vastly different ideas to me about what to plant; he favours textural greenery, low maintenance, maybe a dash of white bloom here and there, I prefer a cottagey garden look with riots of colour. Not exactly a meeting of the minds.

In the end I think it will come down to who’s willing to research the plants, measure up, and get the credit card out – i.e. ME! 

Before and after......................

Monday, 20 April 2015

Me vs the slugs!

My mini garden may only be a few days old, but it’s lovely to finally have something to stroll out and look at every night after work; a few minutes of giving a leisurely water and hunting for signs of growth is a real de-stresser after the cares of the day. However I’m already squaring up to some serious garden adversities who did not take long to sniff out the new food hall in town!

Day two of my morning strolls revealed several holes in the leaves of my Lychnis Coronaria and Aster Happy End, and the following morning even more appeared, only this time the Aster had been eaten down to a virtual stump! Whilst nothing else had been touched, it was clear that neither of these plants would withstand much more abuse. 

An emergency Google threw an array of solutions, and I decided to try as many as possible. First, the beer traps went down, next a liberal scattering of slug pellets around each of the victims. Finally, I constructed large plastic cloches out of old water bottles and sank them as far as possible into the ground around each plant (taking care around the roots) and stuck on a belt of copper tape just as an additional deterrent. Get past that scumbags!

A few days in and it seems to have worked. My poor aster is just about clinging on to life, and the slugs (at least that’s what I’m assuming is responsible) don’t seem to care for anything else on offer. I’m counting myself lucky that I’ve planted up just as the start of a long dry period, as apparently once it rains the slugs will REALLY go to town. Uh oh…! 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Garden on a Roll: Planting! (Part 2)

After a restorative cup of tea and large slice of cake we prepared ourselves to tackle the next stage – the planting! Having bashed down the soil to flatten it out a bit, we unrolled the planting guide paper roll and carefully slid it onto the bed, taking care to cut slots in the back to fit around the roses in situ. We then cut the holes indicated on the roll for the plants, and dug out small pockets underneath each one, putting in a good slosh of water as we did so. We then placed each plant in its hole to get an idea of how it would look - some minor rearrangement was then made by me at the back, deciding that one plant would look better further along the back.

Having argued debated the best way of wetting the plants root bowl we finally settled on a good dunk in a bucket of water then popping each one into place. A final layer of topsoil went down to cover the roll and we were finally done, save for some final patting down and checking that all the plants were nicely settled in their new homes.

As the clock stuck 5pm we were finally able to stand back, exhausted, and admire our handywork. The process took four hours in total and involved some serious physical labour on our part. However the thrill of finally getting some proper plants into our garden made it all worth it!

So what are all these lovely new plants I have to play with? Stay tuned for the next post to find out!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Garden on a Roll: Planting! (Part 1)

So last Friday I rushed home from work eager to see if Mother Nature had left a little something for me, and sure enough, my new garden was sat waiting on the doorstep!

Not sure how long the box had been sitting there, but it was now 7.30pm on a warm spring day so it was vital I got the plants out for a good drink before the light faded. The box itself wasn’t terribly heavy, but large and awkward, so I dragged it through the house and unpacked quickly. Inside were a series of instructions, gloves, tools, a thick paper roll, and the plants themselves, all in numbered pots, and slotted in carefully to avoid damage on the journey – and in remarkably good nick given the journey they’d been on! 

The next morning I sat down and reviewed the instructions, which came on both in a DVD and in print. Planting part did not sound too onerous, but the instructions stressed that good soil preparation was the key to giving the plants the best start in life. Hmmm. My flowerbed soil had not been looked after for years, so my plan for tipping a few bags of topsoil over it and hoping for the best suddenly did not seem enough. I googled the best methods for soil improvement and came across something called double digging, which basically involved removing the flowerbed topsoil, forking over the subsoil a bit, adding a layer of compost, then turning the topsoil back onto it. This can only be done in small trenched sections at a time, so takes up a shedload of time and looked backbreaking, but if we wanted a great garden then we needed to put in the groundwork. Literally!

So the work began and we soon got into our rhythm: husband digging up the topsoil before I jumped into the trench to remove stones/weed roots/bits of plastic, fork over the subsoil, then tip in a chunk of compost, before jumping back out to allow husband to replace the topsoil and move to the next trench. The sun beat down as we toiled our way along the bed, slowed down by a number of obstacles including the foundation of fence posts, and having to dig around the rose bushes being left in situ. Once or twice I tugged at roots which I then realized might be linked to the roses, and quickly covered them back over hoping that I’d done no damage (time will tell on this). After 2 hours we finally reached the end of the flower bed and were fit for collapse, but the job was only half done!...To be continued....

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Garden on a Roll: Preparation

Did you get much done in the garden over Easter? I had a lengthy to-do list in preparation for delivery of the Garden on a Roll, which will be arriving on our doorstep next weekend :)

First job was buying compost, as advised by the GoaR website, to help the new plans get nice and comfy in their new home. On arrival at the garden centre I found myself faced with bags of compost AND topsoil, both looking the same and with packaging claiming to do largely the same thing. Which should I choose?? On the basis of a 10 second google I plumped for topsoil (not sure how wise that was), and lugged home 8 bags of the stuff. I don’t even know if I’ll need that much, but the packaging was pretty unhelpful in terms of how much area coverage you get out of each bag, so will be reporting back with how massively I over/under-estimated!

Next was getting rid of the junk dumped at the bottom of the garden by the previous owners, including a baby bath, bricks, and a broken hedge trimmer (seriously, who leaves their crap for others to clean up?), as well as bags full of fallen leaves we collected last autumn. Whilst this job might not sound too onerous to some, we don’t actually own a car, and therefore trips to the dump/garden centre require organizing vehicle hire, schlepping to some distant spot to collect it, then getting it back again before our time is up. Fortunately two trips to the dump at breakneck speed was all it took to clear the rubbish just in time.

Final job was starting the preparation of the fence bed for all the new plants that will go in it. As per instructions from the parents I cleared all weeds and turned over the soil (apparently to expose slug eggs which will dry up or get taken by birds). I also dug up a nondescript shrub planted there by the previous occupants which didn’t seem to do much other than look unkempt. This turned out to be a Photinia Red Robin, and is apparently is a hedging plant, so what they were thinking putting it in a flower bed is anyone’s guess.

So we’re largely set for the big planting up of the Fence Bed with the Garden on a Roll next weekend. There are still three old rosebushes in situ that have been saved from the big shrub massacre planned for 2 weeks’ time, as I’d like to bring them back to their former glory (I don’t think they’ve had much TLC in the past). It’s going to be quite a day’s work, but I’m ready for it :)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

BIG Plans Revealed!

It's easter, and colours are starting to emerge from all the browny green meh :) Bulbs I was given last autumn by well meaning relatives which I randomly stuck in all over the place have sent up sunny daffodils, and the roses I massacred so thoroughly a few weeks ago have new shoots coming out in all directions - so I didn't kill them after all!

But all this is merely an overture to the big changes that are happening in the garden in the next few weeks. First, I have arranged for a tree surgeon/gardening firm to come in and give the large tree that overhangs our garden good cut back. It would have been better to have the whole tree trimmed, but a friendly note to the neighbours asking if we can jointly get the whole thing done together was met with zero response (charming!), so a trim it is. They are also taking almost 2 foot off the leylandii running up the right hand side of the garden, which will allow much more afternoon/evening sun into the garden, and finally they are removing the three shrubs in the top bed that we inherited from the last owners in the top bed.

It had been suggested that we leave the shrubs in place to "see what they do". Nice idea, but frankly, it feels a bit like living with the previous tenants furniture in the house - all their taste but not ours!  The shrubs don't even seem to be very nice anyway. Even the tree surgeon, when visiting, commented "urgh a pyracanthus, they're covered in thorns and are only fit for planting outside prisons!". That along with a sad looking palm thingy and a few other nondescript leafy mehs - I can do a lot better in that bed!

The next big plan is for the side border, and will take place next weekend. Have you heard of 'Garden on a Roll'? It a fab new idea for clueless new gardeners just like me! You decide what style of border you want (cottage garden, low maintenance, shady, etc), send your bed measurements, place your order, and wait. In 2 weeks a big box will arrive with all the plants that will suit your style (actual plants not seeds), with the tools, fertilizer, and a DVD reminding you what to do, as well as a long paper roll, which you spread along the bed showing where each plant is positioned (this is covered by the top soil and biodegrades. Then all you do is sit back, look after and enjoy! No trying to figure out what to buy or making expensive mistakes! The Garden on a Roll arrives next friday, and I cannot wait to get started!

Here's the top bed, a bit sad looking at present.All these shrubs will go..

And the side bed, where the Garden on a Roll will go. I'm digging up all the shrubby things and moving/chucking them, and will position the new flowers around the 3 roses.