Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Winter That Wasn't Really!

Autumn, that lovely season of stillness,  peace and. . .  rain.  And winter the season of. . .  oh, rain - lots and lots of rain!  Boo.

Well after last years' snow everyone wanted to prepare for the worst this year so I spent a lot of my time insulating greenhouses and bringing tender perennials under cover by the barrow-full!  However,  all that zealous preparation may have been a little extreme as we've actually seen very few frosts this winter.  Having said that, those tender plants wouldn't  have survived even those.

Winter started well with some crisp, dry days which meant that I could get all the serious winter pruning underway.  It also meant that I could do some long overdue structural work for another of my clients, including the removal of and old, decrepit trellis.  This involved extricating it from a rather wild climbing rose that was all that was actually holding it up.  The rose contained an awful lot of dead stems and wood so I decided to prune all that out  and cut the remaining stems down to below wall level so that they wouldn't be damaged when the new trellis is installed - I know the client was feeling extremely exposed! Unfortunately I also had to prune the Lavatera (which shouldn't really be done until spring) as it got damaged when the trellis finally gave up the good fight and collapsed.  The Lavatera has a vigorous growth habit (3m in a year) and is well established so it will survive.  Hopefully this year will see the installation of the new trellis and lots of lovely new growth from both plants which will be good indeed!

This weekend we're off to the allotment - the first time since the beginning of December, but I don't hold out much hope of being able to do any work.  We might manage a swim though!  I just hope everything has survived the gales, including the 400 trees we heeled in in November.  The trees were obtained from the Woodland Trust as par at of their 'Free Trees in Your Community' scheme and comprise of native species such as Hawthorn, Crab Apple and Dog Rose.  These species were chosen in consultation with Active Newham (who manage the site) to supplement the ancient hedgerow bordering the site and are due to be planted by a voluntary group in a couple of weeks.  Should be a good day!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Best Laid Plans

Met the client to discuss requirements + presented 3 plans, approved 1 + found a builder willing to take said plans seriously + builder priced up job = £3k over budget and postponed until next year.
This is both a disappointment and a relief as I was really quite nervous about the prospect of spending so much of someone else's money - what if they didn't like the finished article? What if I didn't like the result of my hours of planning?  Anyhoo, I've resigned myself to saying goodbye the the raised patio and sunken fire pit for what is hopefully only the time being.  I think most people would be surprised at my cowardice over this but it's a huge thing.  I really want to get into garden design (my body won't take endless years of lifting and digging) but would be much more comfortable if I could design and build a garden for myself first (never gonna happen).  That way I could make sure I knew what I was doing and to learn more about pricing jobs and materials as well as being able to oversee the fine details (control freak that I am).  Having said all that I was determined to see it through despite my doubts and fears, after all the first time you do anything is always the scariest isn't it?  The bonus is that the builder - the lovely Frank Hodder - said the plans were "spot on" and any minor issues could be worked out easily enough on the job.  One less thing to worry about next time around!
Meanwhile life goes on as usual, which involves me running around like the proverbial headless chicken toting various bits of kit back and forth along the streets of Forest Gate.  With the better weather every garden I work on is green and lush having had a wet summer and winter to nourish it - all we need now is a prolonged bout of warm, sunny days to get those blooms a' burstin'!
The allotment has been slow to say the least - we only started planting about 2 weeks ago and again everything needs a good dose of sunshine to get it going.  We plan to plant field beans (an older version of broad beans), cima de rapa (a form of broccoli less susceptible to white fly), crookneck squash, courgettes, bi-colour sweetcorn, cucumbers, pak choi and onions - all sourced from the Real Seed Company.  The globe artichokes are doing well as are the raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.  The apple and remaining cherry cordons are also full of fruit so we'll get some kind of harvest come autumn.  The asparagus is in it's third year but was disappointing. We've only managed to harvest a few spears but we've put in lots of the old reliable runner beans and the wild flower patch is looking really good - so are the ornamentals that I've put it at the end of the beds and under the apple cordons.  Just waiting for the French marigolds and nasturtiums to come up to give the place a good dose of colour.  The other good allotment news is that we now have 2 operational water harvesting units on the go, which is a big bonus as our site doesn't have any mains water supply.  The first water harvester was installed last year and the two huge drums are full and, despite the second only being completed last week, the dip tank is full so that's a good start for the folk at the other end of the site.  

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Woo-Hoo! 10 Down. . .

. . . 2 to go!  Blimey another essay done and dusted and sent to B for proof-reading, poor love. I am now, and she soon will be, a pocket expert on all kinds of beasties, fungi, bacteria, weeds and how to sock-it to 'em.  Beware all yukky things - grrrr!! 

Ahem, anyway I'll give myself a celebratory couple of days off and then start reading for the next one.  This one could prove particularly troublesome as I seem to have lost the coursework notes.  Bugger, I wonder where I could have put those then?

Monday, 21 January 2013

What Happened To Tuesday???

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

I can't believe my last blog entry was August 2012 - where on earth did the summer go?  I was born on a Thursday and am definitely living up to that one!  I'll pick up the saga of The Missing Tuesday (and the rest) at some stage but feel I need a quick update to bring us up to speed.  

Obviously the summer and autumn just shot by in a haze of rain and abnormal temperatures - the allotment has flooded twice and I fear that all our lovely earthworms may have drowned :0(    We did however manage to grow some lovely runner beans (I do love a runner - they just grow themselves!), got a lovely crop of Katy, Spartan and Saturn apples from our 2yr-old cordons, and some fab outdoor cucumbers.  Our potatoes were also blight free and tasty - but I'd have to put this down to luck this year as blight's been prolific in these humid conditions.  On the downside, between the moles and the rain the onions and leeks were a bit of a soggy mess and our squash and aubergines were a complete waste of time.  The rainbow chard is still hanging-in there and we've bedded-in a new batch of raspberry canes underplanted with strawberries to keep the weeds down, so next year's fruit crop should be fab!  The wildflower patch needs some urgent attention as it's overrun with creeping buttercup and not much else.  Will hoe over and re-seed come spring and keep fingers crossed.   I'm still hoping for a self-perpetuating wild flower garden but fear it may never happen.  Must learn to let it do it's thing - it's 'wild' after all. 
At home the garden was glorious as unlike the claggy allotment home is a sandy loam that sucked up all the moisture it could get and begged for more!  Having invested in a new water butt and managing to snag another from a local skip (bringing the total to 4) I hardly used them, except for our ceramic pots which lose moisture at an alarming rate.  The only downside was that the flowers weren't quite as prolific as normal but those that appeared were lovely to behold. Crop-wise at home we had success with the blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries.  It was just such a joy to go down in the morning and pick fruit for brekkie - yum!  We had B's cousin staying with us and she was left in charge of watering one weekend while we were away and she was so delighted with her batch of strawberries that she sent us a picture - bless!  The tomatoes did succumb to blight eventually but we got a fair few before they gave in.
Work has been great - busy, busy, busy!  Actually to the point where I've had to turn work down (not fun) and so I'm taking on an assistant this year.  I know it sounds very grand but the poor beggar concerned is a lovely woman who's interested in doing the RHS course that I'm doing and has an allotment on our site.  She's also crazy enough to come and help me out for a few hours a week in exchange for nothing more than tea and learnin'.  
Talking of my course, I'm actually blogging on a break from essay writing (pests, diseases and control of).  This is essay 10 0f 12 and I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.  Although that could be the migraine that I get just thinking about the final exam - waaarrrrgggh!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


 I have 2 regular weekly slots on Monday morning and one open slot in the afternoon for what I call the irregular regulars, the one-offs or as is sometimes know, the early finish (rare but lovely).
Job 1 is the garden of Mr Tidy Up, the north facing back garden of a double-fronted Victorian property.  Each week is different and can be as simple as mowing the lawn (the best that I do as it's really well maintained and virtually weed free - a miracle!) to digging out spent shrubs and trees ready for replanting.  This garden really inspires me with its varied planting and constant renewal to the point where I'm now planning a mini re-vamp at home and am no longer scared to death of moving things if I make a mistake or it's just not a happy plant.
Mr Tidy Up produces the most amazing compost in 2 open bins off to one side of the garden and has given me some of his precious worms for our stubborn pile of leavings and I have to admit that they seems to be doing the job - the level of our bin's dropped at least 6" (15cm in new money) in the last 3 months and we may see some compost at long last!
Job 2 is the House of Raspberries, another north facing back garden belonging to a double-fronted Victorian house (there are lots of these around as I live and work in a conservation area).  I really like the House of Raspberries' garden and have learned an awful lot about plants from the owner as well as being the recipient of a huge rhubarb crown (divided many times and distributed at the allotment) and. . . yes, you guessed it, raspberry canes!  The majority of which were planted at home so unlike the ones at the allotment, have flourished and we've been eating fresh raspberries with our breakfast for the last couple of months.
I can't take any credit for the layout of this lovely garden with pond, only for some of the planting in the new herbaceous border (top left) and for attempting to keep it weed free.  I also work on the front garden too, but again it's really only maintenance, taking instruction and learning tons of stuff!
Job 3 - I did have a slot booked for this one (a new client whom I see every 3 weeks or so to help with the weeding and lawn) but unfortunately being the numpty that I am I forgot to take a photo - duh!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

What Is It You Do Again?

I'm very aware that I haven't actually been blogging about work much of late.  This is partly due to the weather (sorry I was determined not to mention it again) making life a bit miserable and partly because I 'm soooo easily distracted by absolutely everything.
So, in an effort to put things back on track, next week I'll be photographing and commenting on my working week - hopefully it won't bore you to death and will go some way to explain why my blogging's a bit sporadic depending on how busy my week is and how much energy I have left at the end of it!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

More Flowers Please

Green is good; tall lush green is better, but where oh where is the colour?!
We've put in a lot of effort (and plants) over the last couple of years and by now the garden should be full of colour and flowers, so in a way the fact that everything is so verdant  is small consolation.  Having said that though, the old stalwart the Perennial Wallflower (Bowles Mauve) bloomed copiously, the Lupins and roses have been fab as were the  Delphiniums, but the Lavender is still obstinately refusing to open its flowers and is, like most of its neighbours, sagging under the weight of water falling from the heavens on a monotonously regular basis.
The real worry though is that I haven't seen many bees and insects over the last few days and I worry that bee colonies won't be able to make enough honey to see them through the winter.
On the upside (yes, there always has to be one!) I've been chuffed with some of the flowers that have appeared in the garden this year. Seeds that I scattered and forgot about such as cornflowers and wild poppies have suddenly come to life after 3 years if waiting.  It never ceases to amaze me how clever plants are, from the fact that we still don't know exactly what chemical process turns the leaves red in autumn to the appearance of flowers from seeds that have laid dormant for years just waiting for a nice soggy summer.
So come rain or shine and despite disgruntled Lavender, floppy Poppies and horizontal Verbena I'll count my blessings.