Garden School:


Garden School:
Teaching this week: Rose pruning (as always!) and water management

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Terracotta pots on display

But first - April showers, in May! Yes, after something like 10 weeks without rain, we had big downpours at the weekend, and today we have had what you might call "heavy showers" and I spent the afternoon dodging in and out of  my client's garage for shelter.

All the gardens are gasping in relief for the rain, and the weeds - well, they are just growing visibly, the little tinkers. Still, it keeps me in work......

Right, here's a new little project which I did earlier this week: my client asked me to take out a shaped section in the grass so she could stand a selection of her beautiful and huge pots on it, one of which would then have a magnolia planted in it.

Here's my shape: I decided triangular would be appropriate - the client wanted corners, not a round or oval - and I made it only just big enough, to emphasise how big the pots are.

In fact, I cunningly made it so that when mowing, the mower just skims the edges of the pots, without touching them, and yet cuts all of the grass.


Here it is, lined with membrane and filled with gravel.

I rather got the impression that it was to have a wooden edge, but never mind, it looks nice like this.

And we can always add a wooden edge later, if we find that we need it.
Now, how's this for a contraption?

One of my clients has a very deft husband, who builds all sorts of interesting toys for use in their garden.

Croquet is his passion, and here is his  fertilising gadget.

Great, isn't it?

Like all his home-built items, it gets towed around by the sit-on mower, and it has to fit through a particular gate, which restricts the width.


Finally for today, here's the Yard again, I took two car-loads of plants up there yesterday afternoon, and filled up some of the newly-made benches.

Oddly enough, my front garden is not noticeably depleted!

Memo to self: better make some more rough benches.....

Friday, 20 May 2011

New additions to the Yard

As mentioned, my water tank is holding water beautifully.

But it's also holding a lot of mosquito larvae, which is not a good thing!

I read somewhere that the Victorians used to keep goldfish in their water butts to eat the bugs, so I thought I'd do the same.

The garden centre were clean out of goldfish, so I bought the smallest Golden Orfe they had:


Here he is, looking rather glassily at us from his Transport Module (ie plastic bag).

When, in due course, he was released into the tank he immediately shot up and down it at high speed, apparently overjoyed by the huge amount of food waiting for him.

He was christened Bram Tanking, and spent the rest of the day tanking up and down the length of the tank.

Next morning, I anxiously checked if he'd survived the night. Yes! He had! The tank has a small covered area at one end, where the intake valve used to be, and this provides a useful "safe" area where he can go and hide.

However, he wasn't tanking  up and down as much,  and I wondered if he was a bit lonely. Do fish get lonely? Well, it's a huge tank compared to most fish-tanks, so I thought I'd get him a friend or two.

A few days later, I added two ordinary fat red goldfish to keep him company, and they have had a lovely time since, chasing each other up and down.

I've also added a few more benches: my friend Jim, who helped me with the lean-to, brought me some old scaffolding planks that were too far gone to be of use, but which he thought might be all right for standing plant pots on.

They were fairly well rotted, and wouldn't be any good for making raised beds - which is the normal fate of old scaffolding planks these days - but I think they'll last a year or two here.

So I got out the rusty wheelbarrow and trundled round some more old bricks: luckily there are large piles of them lying around the farmyard.

"Cracking, Grommet!" as they say.

Propped up on piles of bricks, they make three good big benches, don't you think?

Plenty of room for more plants, now!


Here's the situation to date: two rows of benches well on the way to being filled, lots of room yet for expansion.

So far the bunnies haven't penetrated my netting, although I have found a couple of weak spots in it.

The bunnies seem to be mostly out in the main park area: perhaps they just haven't noticed the plants yet.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What's wrong with the pears?

The drought is having an effect on the pear crop: my client was anxiously asking my opinion on her orchard trees, and I had to give her bad news on the pears.

"It's not going to be a good crop, I'm afraid."

I've taken photos, but my phone camera can't do close-ups very well, so apologies for that.



If you are concerned about your pears, go out now and have a look at them.

Can you see that the pear forming on the left, under my finger, has a brown warty appearance?

It should be smooth and starting to plump up, like the ones to the right, but this one is clearly in trouble.

Once the pear has been damaged, there is no point letting it stay on the tree, as it is only wasting the tree's resources, as well as quite possibly being a harbour for disease.

So be strong, get rid of them! Nip the damaged fruits off individually,  with secateurs or scissors.

If you are not quite sure whether your fruits are damaged or not, take one that you think might be damaged, and cut it in half.

If it looks like this:

...then you know that you have correctly identified a bad one.

Sorry for the focus! But you can clearly see a brown section, and when you look at it, this section was soft and rotted.

It's better to get rid of them now.

As this damage is a combination of late frosts and lack of water, it's safe to put the damaged fruits onto the compost heap.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Yard is finally mine...

Yes, folks, after a mere six weeks of alternately waiting patiently, and chasing impatiently, at last I have my licence and the Yard is officially mine, so I can start moving plants in.

As soon as I got the licence - last Friday - I took along a couple of trays of not-particularly-lovely plants and set them down on the ground, to see how my bunny-proofing would hold up.

Then yesterday - Monday - I went back to start installing rough benches etc for the plants to stand on, and all seemed well.


In fact, better than well - excellent - as over the weekend we finally had rain.

We had lots and lots of it, probably all the rain that we were supposed to have during April.

So the water trough was full!

All that hard work mending it has paid off, I now have a huge dipping tank of lovely free water.

Incidentally, I have found that a dipping tank is much quicker than a water butt, as you don't have to stand there and wait for the cans to fill.

At home I have two watering cans, so one stands under the butt, filling, while I am emptying out the other one. But it's always a bit tiresome, sometimes you have to wait, and sometimes you're a bit late and the one filling overflows.

Digression: when that happens, I rush to turn off the tap,exactly as though it were my expensive metered water that was being wasted! But this is my free water! Training, I guess.

So, back to the yard - I have found it best to have plants up on benches for many reasons - see the page marked The Search for the background. It helps reduce slug/snail damage, likewise ants and woodlice: it assists drainage and makes it less far to bend when checking them.

So today I filled my car with all the framework from my old plastic "greenhouse", having spent a bit of time in the back garden with a hacksaw, converting it into as many shelves as possible.

 I'd already taken a pile of spare old planks and bits of wood down there, so yesterday I spent a pleasant hour or so in the sun, knocking up benches without legs and propping them up on piles of bricks.

The bricks came free, there are piles of old ones lying around in various places, so I have borrowed as many as I needed!

The smart-looking green ones are part of my Kingston Bagpuize bench system, where I built benches in sections that would just fit inside my small car.

The others are all rough stuff!

But as no-one will be visiting me here, I don't plan to spend much time in making smart benches. I think it's better to spend my time getting the plants potted on into good 3litre pots ready for sale.

So there you go, big news, at last I'm in!

One general gardening comment for today, before I go - frost damage. My client this morning was all upset because the lovely willow bridge looked as though someone had been over it with a flamethrower.




I was able to reassure her that it's more likely to be the frost than some horrible disease,  especially when the truncated Ash next to the bridge looked similarly scorched, as did the top of the Wisteria arch round the other side...

So I just trimmed off the damage, to make it look better, and assured her that it will soon grow back.