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!