Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Firstly, apologies to those of you suffering from the effects of flooding. Secondly, yay and double yay - it's raining!!!
Despite a slightly wishy-washy summer it's been quite a dry old year in the South East. Low rainfall, high humidity and blustery winds have left some plants stressed and unhappy and I've seen a lot more powdery mildew than normal, which has affected all manner if plants from phlox to sturdy perennial sunflowers.
No rain means that empty water butts aren't replenished and that combined with our refusal to use a hosepipe on the garden at home has lead to the frenzied collection of shower and bath water. Grey water's fine for the garden and we use biodegradable shower gels etc (and when not covered in mud I'm relatively dirt free anyway), so I feel fairly happy with using the the leftovers from our daily ablutions. Unfortunately as we live on the 1st floor it means schlepping up and down stairs with 2 watering cans and a 10L container full of water most days.
So, when rain was forecast for this week I was firstly sceptical that it was indeed going to rain and then overjoyed that on Monday it actually did. Although I did wonder if that was it for the year. But no, today I got soaked through for the 1st time this year (yay again!) so now like a squirrel storing nuts I'm stocking up on porridge and soups ready for the winter.
Thank heavens the autumn is finally here and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that my idea of absolute bliss is a dry pair of trousers.

Monday, 5 September 2011

A Good Day's Work

Today was a good day. Not only was the client happy but I got paid extra for doing a good job, which is very unusual (the extra pay obviously) and very welcome!
I met the owner of the Chinese garden over the fence when I was working on her neighbours plot. As usual I handed over a business card and thought nothing more of it until I got a phone call 3 months later. As you can see from the before and after photos there was a really lovely garden under all those weeds and I'm glad that I could really make a difference as the owner has a bad leg and can't get out to weed as often as she'd like. She also has 2 sons to look after who are totally uninterested in gardening so no help there either.
It's a real shame when people obviously invest a lot of money getting their gardens landscaped and then can't get out there and enjoy them. The owner said that she'd love to sit and read in her garden but the fact that it was in such a mess made her sad and disinclined to go outside, which is a real shame. Anyway, hopefully she can sit out there and enjoy some warm autumn days before winter sets in. Brrrrrr!


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cat Woman

I'd just hunkered down in bed with a good book last night when our peace was disturbed by an intermittent, high-pitched yowling. Being the guilt-ridden softie that I am I had to go and investigate, so off I trotted in my bed-wear and burkies to discover what all the fuss was about and hoping it was nothing gory. Bear in mind that it was about 11:30pm on the dark streets of Newham so I was half expecting to be arrested at any moment.
Anyway, the culprit turned out to be a kitten that had climbed up the net curtain and out of the glass louvers at the top of the window a couple of doors away (right) only to plop down onto the ledge with no way back - hence the plaintive catawalling (ooh, do you think that's where that phrase actually came from?). Meanwhile kitten number 2 is on the correct side of the window trying to attack the outsider through the glass with a fluffy paw.
So, to the rescue comes I. I clamber onto the window ledge - narrowly avoiding treading on said outsider as it launches itself desperately towards me - scoop the furry bundle up with one hand and pop it back through the top of the window where it looks at me questioningly. I'm hanging on to the ledge for dear life as I don't want to end up in a flower bed in the middle of the night and am in no mood for nonsense so I nudge it further into the window and watch it half fall, half clamber back down the inside of the curtain to join it's fighting friend. Mission accomplished and no baseball bat wielding homeowner intent on killing me. Yay!
I do hope this flat did in fact contain 2 cats and the owner didn't come home and wonder how they'd mysteriously gained an extra one. Hmmm. . .

NOTE: no cats were harmed during the writing of this blog. The true identity of the kitten in question has been witheld in case of legal proceeding.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Flower Power

I'm not sure if I've already told you but this year we decided to try out the Riverford cut flower collection - plug plants and seeds for growing at home to provide fresh cut flowers all summer. I must admit I was a bit dubious about the quantity of flowers we'd get but have been pleasantly surprised, especially in view of the fact that we don't tend to be overly generous with the watering can.
We've had cut flowers on a weekly basis for the past 2 months and as you can see from the picture the pack contains is a lovely selection of flowers including cosmos, statis and sunflowers and although the varieties remain the same the quantities of each differ from week to week so no bunch ever looks the same.
I think we paid about £18 for 10 different varieties but when you think that a bunch of supermarket flowers will set you back at least £5 I think we're really getting our monies worth. Plus, we know these are home-grown, organic, British species and it doesn't get much better than that! The only downside was the sweet peas, we just didn't water them enough and they are very sparse and sad looking. Will definitely do the same next year.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Ooh, New Toy!

I think there are a lot of gardening gadgets out there that are either a) completely useless or b) for the criminally lazy but I remember my dad always saying that you should use the right tool for the right job. With this in mind and a continually blunt pair of hedge sheers in hand I trotted off to buy myself some grass shears. Boy oh boy is life easier with these babies in hand! I have a pair of long handled edgers (definitely not the technical term but at least they have a name - usually I just mime the tool ) which are great for controlling stray grass overhanging flowerbeds and a strimmer which is good for a particularly long straggly edge, but for precision cutting these are fab.
These are made by Spear & Jackson and were purchased on Amazon for a bargain £11.99. The blades can be rotated so that they cut on either a horizontal plane (pictured) or vertical plane like a normal pair of scissors and now that I can actually get them open I wonder how I ever did without them. Yay for a gadget that really works!
FYI you can also pick up a pair in Wilkinsons for about a fiver if you're on a budget. We're gonna use those ones down on the allotment.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A New Project

Today I got myself a new project slightly different from my usual weeding and mowing jobs. The owner of this property wants a totally contemporary space (most of my regular clients have more traditional gardens) and I've been asked to come up with some planting ideas for the back section of the garden.
The side beds will be occupied by large stainless steel planters and the client wants some stunning architectural plants for the back bed. The existing trees are being kept so any planting will have to fit around and under them so shrubs are the obvious solution. I've also suggested a statue or large stainless steel structure be placed at the top of the central steps to fit in with the side planters (shame to remove the bag of bark chips but needs must). As the bed slopes forward there is the issue of soil migrating onto the astroturf (yep that grass is fake. . . !) so the client has agreed to raise the small front retaining wall by a few centimetres to contain the new topsoil and compost that we'll add before planting in the autumn. The only real problem will be getting through the existing tree roots deep enough to plant.
As for the planting I'm going to have to give that some thought over the next couple of weeks and make some recommendations, so any suggestions would be welcome. Evergreen, architecturally interesting & no thorns - flowers, colour and visual impact a must. Hmmmmm. . . Will let you know what I come up with.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

De Ja Vu?

I visited this garden last year to clear it, which took me a whole day. This week it took me half a day. Whether this is because I'm faster or because it was less overgrown I'm not sure! Actually that's a bit unfair as the tenants have a small child and are awaiting the birth of their second, so weeding isn't exactly a priority and they did keep on top of it for a while. Most of the folks I work for are out there in the garden doing the best they can and if everyone was a fanatical gardener I'd be out of a job, so I shouldn't complain really but it does break my heart to see good gardens going to pot.
If I'm honest his week has been sweaty and exhausting and I've spent most of it re-visiting neglected gardens. Below is another one that receives only part-time love from it's busy owner. The 'before' photo was taken after the grass had been strimmed down to a manageable height for the mower and the temperature was around 25 degrees - hot, hot, hot!
These jobs may be frustrating but they're also challenging - keeping up the enthusiasm and encouraging owners to get involved is part of the deal. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - c'est la vie. I think people who invest in creating gardens in the initial stages get a bit lost once the growing starts. It may be lack of knowledge, a busy schedule or just plain laziness, but whatever it is I'll keep egging them on to get involved and hope that I eventually do myself out of business.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Yukky People, Nice Life

Boy, life's been going at breakneck speed of late hasn't it? Ever since the rain hit signaling the end of the dry spell I've been digging, hoeing and pruning for England. My hands are like horn and I'm constantly crusted in mud and dirt!
Talking of dirt, why are people so disgusting? I've spent the last hour sifting through prunings removing rubbish - well cellophane cigarette packets and sweet wrappers to be exact. Why can't people put their rubbish in their pockets/a bin rather than throw it into someone's garden? Honestly it makes me so angry. Grrrrr!
Having said this I wouldn't change my job for the world. I found myself going into a very Zen-like place today and thinking about our endless quest for happiness. Maybe it's the constant seeking for bigger and better that's actually the problem. I am happy and I almost feel as though I have to justify or explain why. It's not as if I've just owned up to a crime and need to justify my actions. Why is it that we can't just sit still and be pleased with what we have and if we are fortunate enough to be able to should we have to defend the position?
I have an amazing partner, a loving family, some brilliant friends and do a job that I'm passionate about so why shouldn't I be happy? Maybe this is my destiny, not stardom or riches beyond compare and what's wrong with that? I'll not swap this for all the tea in China!
Ooh, maybe too much time on my own - waddya think?

Friday, 10 June 2011

Ah, Fame At Last!

Yes daaarling, it's official, I'm a star. Well in the Borough of Southwark at least!
Jim Hutchinson, the volunteer co-ordinator for the Imperial War Museum put several of the HMS Belfast volunteers forward to receive a Southwark Stars Award this year and me and my mukka Ern were both accepted for our visitor interaction work on the ship, as was Dough on the conservation team and John, who assists Jim with the volunteer scheme. In fact John received a Highly Commended Award as he volunteers with 3 separate organisations and puts in many, many hours of unpaid work across London.
It was a jolly evening with a buffet (I do love a good buffet), drinks, a mariachi(?) band and a host wearing much shiny star-like bling. It was really inspiring to hear that volunteers in Southwark put in a combined total of over 70,000 hours a year - how amazing is that? I was also blown away by the huge variety of people who volunteer in Southwark despite disability, busy family or work commitments or lack of financial reward. It's not all retired folk or people with excess time on their hands, it's people who manage to squeeze something else into their schedule because they think it's important or they love what they're doing.
So, while I'm pleased for myself I'm doubly pleased for everyone else who got an award as without them many of the organisations would find it difficult if not impossible to do the work they do. Big yay to everyone!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Sunny Side Up

I've had a really good week this week - some of my favourite clients old and new and have spent today in Whistable, eating the best chips I've ever had and purchasing bargains (see photo of BBQ bucket £12 and milk delivery carrier £29 - empty gin bottle all my own work). So, it doesn't seem quite right to have a "little whine and a moan" but I'm gonna, well kind of anyway.
Things I don't like about my job (or, why you should wear gloves at all times):
1. Cat poo.
2. Cat sick (I know, gross but not unheard of lurking in shrubberies).
3. Cat wee.
4. Any other non-vegetable squidgy stuff (inc crushed snails, spliced worms, frogs and toads).
5. Glass, rusty nails and other miscellaneous building/DIY materials.
6. Plastic, especially blue nylon string (I know it seemed like a good idea at the time but really?).
7. Fat balls - those that are left to coat the ground creating a gloopy mess and a stink that sticks.
8. Being intimidated by a tortoise (don't ask - it just followed me around everywhere!).
9. Bindweed - need I say more?
10. (Don't shoot me for this one) Dry, hot, rain-free springs - it's bloody dusty out there, which means sneezing, coughing and extra deep facial cleansing when I'm about fit to drop at the end of the day.
OK, so, as anyone who knows me will tell you I am probably the most annoyingly optimistic creature you'll ever meet. With this in mind it's impossible for me to leave you on a low. So.
Things I love about my job:
1. The people I encounter on a daily basis when I'm hefting my shopping trolley full of gear around the streets of Newham. Always a friendly word and an offer of help when I've scavenged an over-large chair frame for the allotment.
2. Being followed around the garden by a hungry Robin for 2hrs.
3. Seeing/hearing that Robin swallow a beak full of grubs and sing his heart out - does it get any better?
4. Timely cups of tea - keep them coming please folks.
5. Spring showers & summer rain storms.
6. Being asked to help judge the local front garden competition - how grown up and professional is that? Yay!
7. Everything else that isn't on the first list.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Busy As The Proverbial Bee!

Oh my word, where did the last couple of months go? The last time I looked round it was March. They do say that as you get older the time goes faster, but honestly!
Well, I shouldn't be surprised really as it is spring, the time of year where everything goes absolutely bloomin' mad and I am (happily) rushed off my feet. I now have 16 clients, which this time last year was only a dream. Most of them are regulars, a couple of hours a week or so, others are what I call my regular irregulars (better known as RI's) - not one-offs, but not every couple of weeks either - just when the weeds/lawns get too much for them to bear. For the last few weeks I've been visiting prospective clients and I have another 2 this week, which as I take Fridays as a study day and work on the Belfast on Thursdays, leaves me 3 full to bursting days a week for my lovely clients . It's all go but I love it!
Wendel - finished clearing the garden and am now putting down a path at the back of the garden so that the grandchildren can watch the trains go by.
Toto - still being found lots of jobs to do as well as digging in stone edging and general weed/unwanted things control.
Jack-Jack - still on clearance and have started planting and thinking about design/layout.
Cat in the Primroses - cut down to once a month at the moment due to the good weather enabling the client to get out and about a bit more herself.
Maxwell House (RI) - another visit to tame hedges, stake roses and dig up dandelions despite reccommendation to buy path and patio weed killer.
Mr 22 - come spring and the lawns need constant attention - laid more grass seed and treated for weeds. I really don't like green alcanet anymore.
Some Newbies: Thumbs, House of Gnomes, Stitches, 90's and Allergic to Gardening (no, they really are severely allergic to something in the garden that bites them every time they go out and get stuck in).
What's the saying, no rest for the wicked? Well I musta been pretty vile at some time as we also have the allotment at the weekends - although, thankfully, I have B to help me (or do most of the work as I'm usually faffing around with something or other). This is also going rather well as you can see from the photo. My only complaint is that there hasn't been nearly enough rain so that cackling, whirling dirvish type character you see is me in full rain dance mode - come on you clouds! oh, forgot to tell you, we celbrated our 1st anniversary at allotmenteers by holding a tea party and managed to raise £40 for Amnesty International (via their Amnestea campaign) at the same time. I made scones, toxic looking turquoise fairy cakes, banana cake and blueberry & lemon cake. Added to this there were generous donations of chocolate brownies, ginger fairy cakes, and a wonderful fruit cake topped with figs. Yum doesn't quite do it justice.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

And Then There Were Pinnies

Yep, got those babies made with a day to spare - yay!
Unfortunately the evening's Sing-a-long a Sound of Music didn't go as planned as the BTB was poorly with a migraine and had to go home.
In fact only B and I were left by the second half, valiantly waving our eidelweiss and warbling our hearts out.
However, the wedding is looming and the weather is definitely warming up, so all will be well!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Weed, Weed, Weed, Weed

Back for one of my periodic visits to the House of Raspberry's today to weed the front garden.
As you can see the flowerbeds were beginning to run wild and it took me 2 visits to complete the entire garden, which is lovely.
The garden was overrun with couch grass, dead nettle and Spanish bluebells which the owner didn't like and wanted taken out. This proved a bit tricky as the bulbs were buried deep, but I did my best to get them up but decided to leave some in strategic places such as at the back of a rambling rose to add some colour and hide the wall at the base.
To complete the job I had cut the edges of the lawn, weeded the drive and gave the whole place a good sweeping and the garden is now ready for the summer.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Wendel & The Builders

Another lovely day in the sunshine in one of my favourite gardens. Today Wendel was in full swing, literally - climbing trees, chasing next doors' cat and apparently, although I wasn't brave enough to go and look, bringing home dead squirrels - euuw Wendel!
I spent most of this weeks visit collecting empty, dead or overgrown pots from the garden and depositing them by the shed for later sorting. I also replanted this lovely ornamental, which I think is a variety of willow, to a more spacious place in the flowerbed, where I hope it'll be much happier.
By this time Wendel was distracted from hunting by the arrival of Terry and Ray, the builders who are repairing the leaky conservatory roof. We all work locally and bump into each other a lot and it was good to have some non-feline company for a change.
The garden is in need of some spring pruning which I'm hoping to get stuck into next week. Then I need to get back to clearing, laying paths, revamping the lawn and tidying the herb border - no pressure!
Sewing update: apron skirts finished. Waistbands are still non-existent however. Eek!

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Edge Of Reason

Oooh, busy week this week, gardening for 4 mornings, Thursday on the Belfast and a sewing project on the go for completion on Friday (bibs done, skirts cut out and no idea about waist bands). But everything seems possible in the sun and it's only gone and started shining and I'm gardening in a t-shirt. Woo-hoo, ta-ta merino, see ya next winter! OK, let's not get too carried away it is only March after all and frost and snow are not unheard of in spring.
Today I spent a lovely morning in Kansas with Toto, Chester and the gang edging one side of the path. Toto's owner likes delineation and purchased some lovely slate-gray barley sugar edging to put down, which certainly looks better than the lopsided bricks that were there before. Not too shabby considering it's been done by eye/hand huh?
We've also been sowing veg seeds in propagators and cat-proofing the veg patch ready for planting time. The rhubarb that went in last week has settled well and seems to be thriving so hopefully it'll be all systems go in a few weeks.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

What A Difference A Year Makes

When we took on our allotment last May we were a little overwhelmed by the prospect and at a loss as to how we were ever going to turn this weed plot into a veg patch, but just look at us now!
Weeds and brambles (well most of them) gone, water collection gate finished, compost bins constructed and beds planted up with rhubarb, onions, garlic, peas, beans, asparagus, perennial spinach and early 'tatoes and, to top it all, a gloriously sunny Saturday morning - does life get any better?
Tomorrow we finally start taking up the ground cover and laying the path, which consists of weed membrane and wood chips edged by upturned wine and bear bottles - oh the sacrifices we've made for this allotment - extra drinking, skip hopping - if I had any shame at all I'd be embarrassed!
Considering how far we've come the list of jobs still undone is frustratingly long - oh well, there's always next weekend.


Monday, 28 February 2011

50p Nightmare

Sometimes what seems like a bargain can end up being the bane of your life - no, not those shoes you bought on impulse last week, but in this instance a small pot of seemingly harmless periwinkle.
The owner of the cat in the primroses had enough of this usurper this week and asked me to get rid of it once and for all. She's not the first person to grow tired of this pretty little plant - my sister-in-law (who loves all things green and flowery) has been known to sigh loudly that she wished she'd never planted it!
Periwinkle is usually used for ground cover as it has evergreen foliage, is dense enough to smother most weeds and will happily tolerate poor soil and partial shade. In fact, in some parts of North America it is classified as an invasive species. It has simple purple or white flowers and will produce new plants along the root length.
I dug up as much of the greenery and root system as I could but have a sneaking suspicion that this job is far from over and we'll be seeing periwinkle sprouting for some time to come. C'est la vie. . .

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

It All Starts With A Good Tidy Up

Sometimes you can glance at a garden and know exactly how you'd like it to look, at other times ideas come to you as you're working and that's how it is at Jack-Jack's.
There are some lovely pieces in this garden but they aren't necessarily being displayed to best effect. Take the lovely Victorian urn for instance. This was on the lawn beside the shed and didn't really make an impact. Moving it back into the centre of the flowerbed and allowing the shrubs to form a natural frame gives this area much more impact as well as adding height to the flowerbed. The pedestal contains an ice plant and is surrounded at ground level by strawberry plants and once it's been planted up with some lovely hanging varieties such as ivy and lobelia it will be a real focal point. The bed is edged with michaelmus daisies to the right providing a natural division between the flowerbed and the composting area under the tree, which will be planted with shade loving forest plants with a path to the new compost bin in the summer.
I also moved a couple of small buxus plants to sit either side of the shed to soften the effect of the wood and am working my way around the garden finding little gems all the way. Next visit we tackle some lovely antique chimney pots and some rather forlorn Australis - can't wait!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

All Decoration and No Veg!

Ooh, actually this is a big fat fib! We've got garlic, onions and rhubarb on the go at the moment, but it does feel like we've been doing an awful lot of construction work and very little growing. This is what happens when you take on a neglected plot and when you're married to me. I start out with a picture in my mind and have to have everything just so before I can even think about the planting so it doesn't help in getting things going.
Mind you, in my defence we have had to spend best part of a year getting our plot under control and at a stage where we can think about planting. We now have a plan as to which bed will contain what veg and it's just a question of waiting for the right time of year. The propagators are out, washed and ready, so all we need now is the spring please!
In the meantime we've been thinking about water collection - the allotment doesn't have access to running water so collection and storage are always a priority and why B (better known as the headless builder) can be seen at the top of a set of steps putting a roof on the gateway she built before Christmas. The idea is to channel water off the roof and into the water butt. It's all very exciting and the only thing we (that means B) have to do now is attach the guttering and make it all pretty (me).
While B was busy with the water gate I, in an attempt not to interfere, was occupying myself with weeding and sowing grass seed. It's really too early to sow grass but as the mice have been at the packet and we had nothing else to store it in, I thought it better to try and sow it - or in other words spread it about for the birds to eat! I also dug a flower bed beside the Nissan and planted a climbing rose. We've already got a wild one and thought it'd be nice to be surrounded by them. The existing one's pink and we now have a yellow, a white and a red. The red one will be for over the water gate as a warning to all those that dare enter.

Friday, 18 February 2011

When A Pyracantha Goes Bad

A welcome return to the raspberry house this February brought an overhaul of the front garden. This involved deadheading, weeding (weeds don't have a dormant season as such and are already cosying on down in most gardens damn them!) and pruning back a rather impressive, if a little feral, pyracantha growing up and around the front door.
The owner of said pyracantha loves it because the birds feed on the fab red (red, yellow or orange depending on which variety you have) berries during the winter. We have one down at the allotment that serves the dual purpose of bird feeder and security guard - anyone who wants to clamber through 1cm long thorns is obviously desperate for the odd carrot or two so good luck to them! Mind you I say this because the pyracantha is the ultimate deterrent and would give even the hungriest veg snatcher pause for thought.
Anyhoo, this pyracantha had a trunk the width of my thigh (no small thing I can tell you) and lots of shoots popping out of the bottom that'd basically been left to their own devices. So, armed with sharp secateurs, gloves and a long sleeved sweat shirt in I went. I managed to stay relatively unscathed with the help of some tree loppers and a large dollop of good luck and as you can see from the photo the end result was well worth it.
I'm back again next week to finish off the deadheading and weeding which proves there really is no rest for the wicked (or thankfully the gardener).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Bird Bark & Buxus

Today at Toto's I had a number of jobs from laying down bark chips underneath the bird feeders to expanding the veg patch.
Toto's owner is an avid bird feeder (which is great) but when I first arrived the area under the trees where the bird feeders hang was covered in grass shoots and miscellaneous seedlings from the feeder and looked a little untidy in this otherwise well kept garden. In an effort to keep the area manageable we decided to put down a membrane and cover it with bark chips in an effort to stop the grass sprouting. Obviously if you dig up the sprouting grass you only unearth more seeds, perpetuating the problem. Hopefully in future we can just keep moving the bark chips around to dislodge the seeds and stop them from sprouting as the birds will always be fed in this garden.
Another of my jobs was filling the holes in the buxus hedge - seems I can't escape the little devils. I think the existing hedge suffered a bit due to other planting growing up and around it, which has been removed and placed elsewhere in the garden. The aim is to bring everything up to a level and have a little enclosed garden with a path going through the middle. It may take some time but it's gonna look fab when it's done.
Next visit - seed propagation for the veg patch - yes, it's that time of year at last!

Friday, 11 February 2011

A Serious Business

“This Much”
Ooh, things are becoming a bit professional around here. I've just submitted my first formal quote for maintaining a communal garden in a residential block in Haggerston - all very exciting. Who'd have thought a year ago that I'd have got so far - not me that's for sure, but like they say it's not always what you know, but who you know.
My fellow allotmenteer, Dina, is involved in setting up growing/gardening education projects in schools and local communities and she was asked if she knew anyone who might be interested in taking on the job. Luckily enough she saw me on the same day and hey presto.
Blimey, anyone would think I knew what I was doing - wish me luck!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Gardener Doolittle Does It Again!

The local pet network has been working for me again, this time via Jack-Jack the guinea pig, whose family are new clients this week. This is a mature garden belonging to a busy family and just needs some TLC over the next few months to bring it back to life.
When I heard the phrase "we'd like more plants" I knew I was going to enjoy working in this space, but the first step is practical as opposed to cosmetic - weeding, deciding what's going to be kept, and general tidying up to see what we've got before deciding on new planting.
There are some lovely plants already in this garden including a mature passion flower growing over the frame of a dead cherry tree, which looks decorative now but will be spectacular in the summer. I'm looking forward to my next visit and to discovering other surprises are in store.
The garden's at the back of the house and therefore north-east facing, which means it's fairly shady (except in high summer) and quite damp so planting the new planting will involve woodland and shade loving species, keeping the garden natural looking which the owners prefer anyway.
One thing I won't have to worry too much about is weeds in the lawn as dandelions are Jack-Jack's favourite snack apparently - go Jack-Jack!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Back To Work

Spring is on the horizon (I know this because I am very wise. Oh, OK it's because we've got snowdrops & crocus in flower and muscari, bluebells and narcissus popping up all over the shop) and my lovely clients have called me back into action. I'm extremely grateful for this especially as I've spent the last 2 weeks completing as assignment for my RHS course and was getting a little stir-crazy.
I've been to visit Wendel, Toto and the cat in the primroses over the last couple of weeks and have a new client to start the New Year so I'm really looking forward to getting started next week.
As I've said before I've never really been a fan of spring, preferring the autumn, but I'm really excited about it this year and can't wait to get stuck in!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

More Pallets Than You Can Throw A Stick At

Ooh, after a rather sloshy Janauary (bog dipping wasn't what I had in mind when we got the allotment, but that's what ya get when ya mix clay and rain), things are beginning to dry out down on the plot. Enough to get going building our super-duper compost bins at least - made from the finest pallets the Newham Wombles could come up with and part of a total delivery of 80.
I never thought I'd become the kind of person that gets excited about pallets, but neither did I think I'd ever find it impossible to pass a skip without having a good nosey to see if it contains anything that can be recycled for the veg plot. Oh my, how things change when you have potatoes chitting on your windowsill and nasturtiums to propagate. It's amazing what uses the pallets are put to - one of our more adventurous allotmenteers is using them to make a shed! B heroically tied ours together with some industrial strength string and we have one for general compost (veg waste that the worms can't cope with & overspill from our plastic composter at home which remains stubbornly compost free) and one for the bags of leaves we've had stacked in the garden for the last year - all good stuff.
We've also had a manure delivery down at t'ollotment, which caused an even greater stir than the pallets. I've really come to love horse poo. I know, this is the woman who won't leave the house unless her accessories are just-so, but now I'm as happy as the proverbial pig with my wellies, wheelbarrow and spade, rooting around for the ripe steamy stuff at the bottom of the pile. Horse poo is an absolute wonder and I highly recommend it.
We've also erected the posts and wires for our apple cordons, tied in the summer fruiting raspberries, drawn up a growing plan for this year and are all primed and ready for spring - lovely!