Sunday, 26 June 2011


Ok it is pretty easy to weed a garden before you plant things - if you put your mind to it and your back into it of course.

However, what do you do when you need to weed after the plants have gone in (and you have failed to mulch or keep weed free diligently every day)?

I had a feeling that my perfectionism would make me spend lots of time reading up about best practices rather than actually doing the job so I just got on it and did what felt right. I pulled out the biggest bits (which had scary thick stems and deep rooting - eek) then got a small hand fork and twisted and turned the soil to dislodge what I could. There is a chance that the weeds that have carelessly been left in the turned soil will just re-root. Morrissons dept manager extraordinaire, aka my boyfriend will be bringing home wood chip mulch. Morrissons have 2 for 1 on bags - I think he said they're about £2 or something. Jolly good!

Ok now is time to research.

I don't recommend typing "How to weed around plants" into Google - you'll get some wonderful info for a certain type of gardener - just not this one.

I tried again and I have found these tips:

* Give your garden a good water a little while beforehand (being careful not to splash the leaves of the plants you want to keep if it is sunny - to prevent leaf scorch) which will make the soil much easier to turn.
I have tried this the hard way. When we weeded the garden 3 weeks ago we did it with dry soil. Today I had watered the garden previously and it was much more fun. This is because you are suddenly dealing with soil rather than what feels like dirt.

* Weeds have a defence mechanism. This means that if you try and just pull out the weed it will break at the stem only which allows the roots to remain and thus it can grow again. Make sure you get it all.
I am confused, is this only weeds? All the plants that got damaged really badly stayed damaged (in the small animal trample-athalon) even though the roots remained undamaged in the earth. Here's hoping the mulch does it job here then as I have clearly half-finished my role.

* It is best to do weeding early on in the day so that any weeds left on top of the soil will dry out and wilt in the midday sun.
Aha - ok due to lack of sun in most of my garden this will not work...but this is hopeful anyway.

I read a few more pages and frankly weeding is a huge issue and not one that I am willing to cover fully. It is a subject that could clearly put off anyone who is still a fledging gardener like myself. I don't want to put myself off or anyone else. For example there is the Japanese knotweed (which I can't work out if I have or not) that actually has laws governing its removal etc. EEK!

Instead the above is just enough to be useful but to keep gardening lighthearted.

I had planned on preparing the garden better over winter and I can see why I should have done.

Again I'm not going to get too heavy with this but I am going to be better prepared next year. If I don't want to keep anything from this year I could:

* Lay a thick layer of newspaper, overlapping properly over all beds then cover in a thick layer of mulch. Apparently if you have a few months this allows the newspaper to break down whilst making it difficult for weeds to get what they need to grow. The mulch on top stops the garden from looking pants and keeps down the newspaper. I will need to do the same on the other side of the fence as that is from where most of the weeds are coming from as the other residents do not look after their section.

* In very early spring I will dump some wonderful manure all over to prepare the beds for growing again.

Or I could just continue with mulch and diligent weeding.

Sunlight and shade

I work up very late today to find the garden bathed in sunlight - most of the garden had either full or dappled sunlight on it at 10:20am (told you I was up late). This is wonderful. In my rush to get things in the ground along with a grumpy boyfriend who was grudgingly helping/hindering/rushing me, I put some things in the wrong place. I put tomatoes in the shady area for a start and the marigolds have not opened their flowers yet despite being ready 3 weeks ago - also in shady area.

Of course because I got up late I don't know when this sunlight first touched this area. But it looked lovely and I was so excited.

Unfortunately this wonder only lasted until about 11:30 but YAY!

The tenacity of plants

In the last year that I have been attempting gardening, I've learnt one amazing thing which blows raspberries in the face of my perfectionism. Mother nature is tenacious.


1. Not readily letting go of, giving up, or separated from an object that one holds, a position, or a principle: "a tenacious grip".
2. Not easily dispelled or discouraged; persisting in existence or in a course of action: "a tenacious legend".  

You just have to look at weeds, no matter what you do, these will grow without too much assistance or help and wherever.

Weeds aside (that's a whole other post) you just have to consider some of my experiments. Last year after I had pricked/thinned out my tomatoes, I casually threw the excess seedlings onto a bed in the garden. A bed I had not turned or done anything with and some of the seedlings took hold. Granted they didn't amount to much but it amazed me anyhow. These seedlings were determined to grow.

This year, I undoubtedly left things too late to plant things out but then it was not as if the ground was warm enough for planting out. But my holiday beckoned and I was aware that my fledging plants would have more chance in the ground while I was away then in a pot. Everything went into the ground, cats and foxes and squirrels duly jumped over everything that night and the plants looked battered and beaten but still I asked a friend if she'd water the plants whilst we were away and... I came back to find out that most plants (despite being broken in torn in many places) had decided to live anyway.

Hoorah! Perfectionism - 0, Mother Nature - 1.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Excuses excuses

I seem to have many of them!

However I am going to be sorting out my garden soon as I need to get everything into the ground before we head off to see my family in Florida.

Moved all my plants into my mini-greenhouse when the builders turned up. Well my boyfriend did and I cam home to find everything looking very sorry for itself. I gave everything a slug of water and things are looking more perky yay!

Aldi have some great deals on bedding flowers etc including things like French Marigolds which are perfect to plant near herbs and veg as a way of keeping down pests naturally. I do have seeds for these but I am learning that I only have a small amount of patience with growing things from seed. The whole process of thinning out etc just gives me an opportunity to - you guessed it - make excuses.

This is why I've not planted anything into the ground yet as I must have companion planting in place as well or else pests will ruin everything. I think the worst pest in my garden might just be me. :)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

I have a million (well at least 10) posts that I have failed to errr post

A quick update:

Things have been growing.

I've been waging war on pests and the odd one fought back.

Sweetcorn grew then died - I am finding out why. It is a common occurrence apparently.

I went to Barcelona for my birthday

I got inspired by gorgeous and funky spanish balcony gardens.

I further got inspired by a South American gift shop and now I considering a day of the dead theme for the garden.

I already have a day of the dead skull to place in future theme - I had a painting crockery party for my birthday and I chose to paint a skull.

We went to Arundal castle on the bank holiday just gone and I've fallen in love with Alliums and the Fitzalan Garden they have there. Oh my!

I'm awaiting loads of gardening things for my birthday presents apparently.

I got a fab tiered cake stand from a group of my close friends with deep shelves so I think I may turn that into a planting stand.

I'm going to B&Q tonight. Yay!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

On the subject of weeds

I got attacked by a beetle when I lost it (a tiny bit) in despair at what to do about our weed problem. I was going a bit gung ho at a crop of something in my soon to be filled herb bed without gloves. My poor middle finger came up in a big lump.

I struggle with the whole dirt and insects thing as it is without that.

I'm also having to train myself to see some other things as weeds. In the space of one week last month I heard the same thing said a few times. A weed is any plant/flower that is in the wrong place. There are a number of perfectly good plants in the wrong place.

Will I be able to get around the fact that I will be killing plants and flowers just because they are in the wrong place for my garden needs?

Monday, 11 April 2011

Even longer time no see.

Again, was severely embarrassed to be writing a blog that only one of my friends had set to following (thanks Bert) but I feel the need to update as I now have another friend and a very cool lady who I've been following for about a year now The Frugal Queen has very kindly become a follower too. Now this very smart lady has inspired me to turn my back on my spend spend spend habit.

What happened last year:

Tomatoes grew and grew and tiny little fruit appeared but right near the end of the season. It was recommended that I bring them in a ripen them indoors. Much strategic banana placing ensued and tomatoes stayed resolutely green. Then I read about wrapping in newspaper and putting tomatoes in a dark cupboard. Eventually I remembered they were there a few weeks later, and by now were underneath some cans for some reason (of plum tomatoes no less) and they were indeed almost red. Huzzah! Tasted of watery grey though... boo!

The peppers which were growing quite happily in the other grow bags bore teeny tiny fruit but again right at the end of season so they did not prosper but made wonderful food for the insects that decided to snack on them and the bags fantastic digging plots for one of the many creatures that frequent our garden.

The pumpkin made a wonderful soup. Yes I actually GREW SOMETHING! Almost didn't get to eat this if I hadn't had a brainwave and checked to see if you could get small white pumpkins. Found a wonderful white pumpkin and coconut soup recipe and there we go - success!

We did get potatoes too but they weren't anyway near as nice as the ones we've had elsewhere. However in this process I have learnt two things. We can grow potatoes and we prefer a waxy variety. I am thus chitting some waxy seed potatoes for this year.

Herbs have been fine and we have liked the fact that we can just pop outside for fresh herbs.

This post has been a long time coming so where are we now?

It's pretty clear that out garden is now a shady garden due to the large tree that is creating a canopy along with our actual home over the garden. I know that herbs have grown with no problem in our shady bit of land. Potatoes will be fine and it's a surprise that any tomatoes grew considering what I now know about growing them in shade and just how badly I grew them.

My future sister in law and her husband visited and helped us clear up the mess that had occurred over winter and gave us some solid advice. I took this away with me and after my usual amount of head-hurty research (that makes me panic more I fear) I rushed out a quick plan for our garden. I was really struggling with this but next thing I knew not only did I have a fairly solid plan but I had noted sun times, shade times and heat times. I have noticed that I am more likely to get things done when I stop thinking. I think what made me switch my brain off for a second was strangely enough a wonderful bit of planting advice that popped up in a gardening programme that I was watching. It was such an amazing, Mother-Nature-in-action bit of information that I couldn't help but stop 'thinking' - probably the sudden realisation that Mother Nature is the one in control and not me so why worry and just see what Mother Nature does why don't ya. The section of the programme that peeked my interest was about Three Sisters planting which was developed by the Mayans - check this out.

Friday night I coerced a very grumpy boyfriend to help me sow seeds and chuck Growmore everywhere in preparation for seedlings and starting the lawn again with a shady lawns seed mixture. Then Saturday I popped to the pound stores and got the rest of the seeds I wanted including what we needed for Three Sisters planting plus lettuces etc.

I've been watching re-runs of Groundforce and all the other new gardening programmes that have been cropping up on the TV and I have bought the odd book to help me. Not very frugal I know but unfortunately I need something solid to follow.

I really want a better stab at this, this year. In particular with lettuces as that's where we spend a huge amount of money for the leaf and herb salads we prefer over the cheaper more economical iceberg etc. Obviously fresh herbs will save us money even though i've got quite good at buying fresh bunches from the Mediterranean shop and freezing. They rarely have coriander when I pop in so I really want to get that growing this year. We have two pots sown waiting to sprout so fingers crossed.

I would also like an attractive garden this year. Luckily in my research I have found out just how beautiful vegetables and fruits are when growing. The broad bean my friend gave me before Xmas, not only survived the snow but is growing quite happily in the ground and has produced the most beautiful black and white flowers. I truly thought I would need to grow actual flowers to get beauty but now I will be picking flowers for permaculture reasons, yes I am getting professional and will be planting flowers to attract wildlife to keep my produce pest free - I'm actually starting to understand what I read this year.

The garden is in a bit of a state so when I look at it I do lose heart and I truly hope I don't have to do this alone with my shakey enthusiasm. I hope that boyfriend will get lively for it too.

We're having a lot of work done on our flat this year and my hopes are that we will have everything tied up by October. I would really love to actually sit out in my garden at least once this year as so far all we have done is enter it for hanging up washing, or grabbing the odd herb or something. I dream of having my breakfast out there on my lovely bistro set and having a bbq one warm evening. No it won't be sunny, but it will hopefully be leafy and flowery and scented and all mine.