garden update

Today I’ve expended so much energy in the garden I don’t have the energy to think of a snappy title to go with it. I started out tidying up the patio a bit by taking some weeds out, and then moved on to the weeds in the veggie patch.

newly planted rocket

This strip up the middle of the picture above had been planted with spinach at the same time as the onions (left) and shortly before the shallots (right) were planted. I’d left things to get a bit out of hand because I have no idea what newly sprouting spinach looks like. Before today, things had got out of hand enough that I could say with some confidence that *none* of the things that were growing in this space were spinach.

This is pretty disappointing, because they were new seeds – not ones that I’ve kept in a cupboard for 5 years, which has been known.

So I decided that enough was enough, and after I’d performed a weedathon across the two veggie patches, half of a new packet of Rocket was put in here. The archways of twigs are an attempt to stop the local cat population from digging them up under the mistaken impression that newly turned ground is an ideal place to poo!

carrots & lettuces

Much poo was removed from here, along with a lot of weeds. Removing the weeds uncovered the few carrots which appear to have germinated – you can see some here to the left of the poly tunnel – two rows were put in but looking at it we’ll be lucky to get 3 meals. Fingers crossed! The lettuce again, very disappointingly, have all but failed to grow. You can see a tightly knit cluster of 3 at the far end of the tunnel, and I moved one from the middle of the path to the far end of the row. I’ve put in another half packet of seeds of assorted lettuces in a couple of rows, and then put the tunnel over for anit-cat protection while they get going. The hydrangea heads are another attempt at an anti-cat device. They are quite flimsy so I’m not super-confident, but we’ll see. It’s possible they may make it just uncomfortable enough that the cats are deterred…

disappointing peas

The peas, as you can see, have so far been super-disappointing. Of 3 rows planted, I have had TWO PLANTS poke their noses above ground. They don’t even have the common decency to be in the same row. And, the large green thing you can see in the middle of the middle row is not a pea. OH NO. It’s a sodding potato.

I’m told that the peas may be slow to germinate because of the cold weather. They have either one day or a few weeks, depending on how energetic I’m feeling tomorrow. The space could be used for something a bit more enthusiastic. Like courgettes. Or tomatoes. Tomatoes are looking good right now.

On the theme of potatoes, the compost heap is doing us proud again this year. And appears to be a refuge for snails.

compost potatoes

I also pulled about 5 plants out of the winter onion patch. Fortunately, of the 3 I planted before the frosts were over, two potato plants have survived & appear to be thriving in their intended location, so I may have broken the intentionally-planted-potato curse.


And so to the overview – I put a couple of wind breaks in to “protect” the courgettes after taking away their poly-tunnel, as it was a bit blowy this morning. The beans have been wind-blasted to oblivion, I fear, so I will start some off again tomorrow and plant in the many wide gaps.

All in, it’s not looking too bad I think – could just do with a little more space which I will see to… presently!

We’re going to need a bigger boat.

Variable weather this weekend meant I didn’t really crack on with anything garden-like until Sunday. Saturday was earmarked for acquiring a smart new outfit for Joel to attend his first communion in – fortunately we found just the right style of pure white dress in the form of a spiderman suit with purple monocle, so there was plenty of time to have a make-me-favourite-parent lunch at MacDonalds before braving the rain on the way home.

Anyway – garden news.

strawberry terraces

On Sunday my plan was to “free” the strawberries and rhubarb – a thick carpet of weeds had grown up around them and all over Lily’s patch, so my happy plan was to dig out the weeds, expose the strawberries and give the rhubarb a bit more breathing space. That turned into “relocate the strawberries to the front of the veggie patch for most sunlight as you’re digging them up anyway” which then turned into “and terrace the patch and have another strip of strawberries because it turns out you’ve got LOADS in there”. So, they are salvaged, spread out and heavily mulched. I found a couple of old shelves in the garage to hold back the dirt and I think it looks more attractive than the previous sloped effect.

You can see from the picture above that not much rhubarb was freed up. More on that later, if I remember.

The onions and garlic I planted last autumn are going great guns – I’m now wondering how I know when they should be harvested. I’m sure a short amount of research will give me the answer…

onions, garlic and broad beans

On Monday I had a helper – she actually came out to help briefly on Sunday but interest waned pretty quickly. Monday was a longer session, with clearing of her little patch, planting a couple of plants and chopping back of the bush which is really really invasive.

Lily gardening

Here she can be seen planting a couple of “spare” courgettes next to some french beans.

beans & courgettes & garden architecture

As usual, I’ve totally over-catered on planting stuff in pots. I had about 20 french bean seedlings altogether. Some are sharing holes, there’s a row down the middle of the tunnel and Lily has 5 planted in her patch. Luckily we like beans – I hope these survive the cool spring we are having and are super-tasty. The cloche contains 4 courgette plants. I still have 8 in pots, so if anyone wants any, give me a shout. NOBODY wants a repeat of the great marrow glut of ’76 and I fear that’s where we are heading if I don’t offload some of these plants.


panorama – click to embiggen

So – the beds that I have are pretty full now. I’ve kind-of decided that the tomates are going to be in containers on the patio. Assuming I have enough containers and patio space, which let’s face it is quite the assumption, given how many I’ve planted. I have lots of seeds left to plant, though, and nowhere to put them. These include things like rocket, more lettuces (although new lettuces could go where the existing lettuces are, given that only a handful appear to have successfully germinated – grr!), fennel and squash. And I’m sure I can think of more things as time goes by. Possibly even some courgettes…

I have my eye on this bit of lawn. Watch this space!

doomed lawn

ps. The rhubarb? Has been mostly freed in what we in the half-arsed gardening trade like to call a half-arsed job.

pps. in other news, I got stung on the bot by a nettle. The nettle is now stewing in order to provide us with tasty nettle wine later in the season. I know, I’m not really convinced either, but I feel as though I ought to try it at least once…


I planted lettuce a while ago, and have been a little disappointed that there are no signs of life yet… (Click to embiggen)


Given the general apparently cat-based disruption in this area, and the single clump of sprouting things that could be lettuces, I’m quite concerned that the local cat population has sabotaged my attempts to grow cheap salad.

All I can say for now is “watch this space”. I may have to employ more active anti-cat measures in future as (predictably, some might say) a single piece of string along the row just isn’t doing the magic.

On the other hand, this is a view of the tomato seed tray I planted up at the weekend. I’m hoping these are both tomatoes – they appear to be in the right places, and so far don’t look like not tomatoes, and I used proper compost from a shop, so I’m quietly optimistic.


Howling gales

No pictures today on account of the howling gale which kicked in about 5 minutes after I’d started gardening. The last time I was outside attempting to do stuff in weather that bad was when Mum & I were laying a brick path across the back of the “old” veggie patch. When it got so bad we couldn’t see the ground, Mum finally persuaded me that continuing was folly. The path never got finished…

Today I had got as far as digging over the next area for planting and putting in a row of shallots when my lack of a waterproof layer became ridiculous. I came back in to warm up and get a coat on. Leaving it a short while until I thought it was raining less, I went back out with a hat and coat on. It was awfully muddy, but I managed to get 3 rows of sugarsnap peas, 2 rows of broad beans, and another row of carrots in. Just for good measure I “planted” an old packet of marigold seeds I had. They were a gift from mum so they are at least 5 years old, if not more, but I figured that if I left them in the packet they would never grow. If they do grow, they are good companion plants for the onions and garlic.

My concerns with the shallots are that I’m not really sure what to expect. The things I planted were about the size of shallots I’d buy from the supermarket. Do they divide into multiple bulbs? Or just get bigger? I’m not optimistic about there being any outcome other than I’ve just stored some shallots in the ground for a few months.

Anyway – I’ve scheduled in another plant-a-thon (ish) for next weekend. In the meantime I need to get some tomatoes started, but frankly, by the time I’d got everything else in the ground, I was too darned cold to stop out any longer.

A little bit nippy


I’m just back from our fourth summer-kick-start break in Portugal. The weather this year was significantly windier than in previous years – to the point where, having not “anchored” the ever-present inflatables in the evening, I ended up getting up in the middle of the night to make sure they hadn’t blown away. I was pretty sure, at the time, that they would be far afield, but they were only just the other side of the pool.


joel at Silves castle

A rain storm was threatening as we went around Silves castle and enjoyed the brooding skies over the surrounding countryside. We ducked into Rui’s for a fish-based lunch and by the time we emerged it was raining like it was the end of the world.


I must have not been a gardener last time we went to Caldas do Monchique, because I don’t remember the carpet of nasturtiums that was all over the place. I narrowly avoided having a full-in Granny moment, as one of my favourite pictures of my mum with Lily was taken here when we came to Portugal when Lily was a year old. Mum would have appreciated the nasturtiums as well. She used to put the flowers in salads. Bless.

We managed a couple of visits to one of my favourite restaurants as well. The boys like it because of the artwork, but I like the food (quite key) and the service – they always look after the children very well, and it’s definitely appreciated.  The place is Onze - well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

The high winds made for a lot of good wave-watching. I find being by the sea very restful, even when the waves are crashing into the rocks, so long as I’m a good distance away… In the picture below there is a 10-foot drop immediately behind Lily, caused by the choppy sea of the past few days. The sea that night was calmer than it had been for a while. And, I appreciate the colours are probably thanks to rampant pollution, but I really like. A lot.

We had a couple of awesomely warm days before I came back, so the front of my legs is nicely toasted. Fingers crossed the guys make it back OK – there are French air traffic controllers grumbling which caused switch-over problems last week.

So, I’m back in the UK and planning a plant-a-thon for this afternoon. It’s fair to say it’s a little bit nippy compared to Portugal. And not as sunny…



Another lovely Saturday means I get to spend a bit of time in the garden. We are well within the window of opportunity for getting stuff in the ground, so I’m going for it now. I used the small bit of tree you can see in the vegetable patch as a stool to rest on while I read the instructions about depth & density of planting. I left a bit of a gap and shored up the change in height between the left & right side of the patch with a rotten old plank. The gap will eventually be filled with companion planting – marigolds and nasturtiums – or possibly something else, depending on my seed-buying promptness and how pesky the pests are.


New crops, then, are assorted lettuce (free to National Trust members from the Sarah Raven site – where I ended up getting the rest of my recent seed purchases from #marketingthatworked), carrots (they are a fly-resistant variety, but I still want to get some fleece just in case) – and a gap left for some staggered planting – 2 rows of garlic and a row of onions. Then I overflowed to the raised bed at the right (I remember giving them funny names, but will have to look back to see what they were  - clearly they weren’t so obvious that I’ve ended up remembering them). In the new bed there is another row of onions and a row of spinach. I also planted the 3 potatoes that I’ve been “chitting” om the window sill for about a month.  I don’t have high hopes, but can’t really put my finger on why. Every other year I haven’t planted any potatoes and yet have wound up with a fine old crop – usually in the  compost heap. I transplanted a couple of potatoes from the compost heap in the autumn, and then haven’t seen any sign of them since (I since found out that when building up around potatoes you’re supposed to leave some leaves above ground, you live & learn). I also transplanted one I dug up which was sprouting, with no leaves, but that, too, disappeared without a trace. The message I’m taking away from this is that my potato growing technique needs to be so passive as to be completely unintentional, otherwise the spuds rebel and die just to spite me.

There are plenty more crops in the pipeline, but some need to be planted later than others. I also have a schedule laid out for rhubarb wine making, starting in a couple of weeks – the forced stuff is a good 8″ tall under its dustbin, and you can see how the other stuff is doing.

Lily came out to help and so I had her plant a row of onions and empty the watering can over the newly planted stuff. We have agreed that she can have the patch behind the new rhubarb to grow some things of her own. I may be generous and clear the weeds off – or I may  not!

II had a happy plan of planting more broad beans – I used to hate them as a child, but am now of the opinion that there are few things nicer than a fresh broad bean. Sadly the dozen or so seeds I had left from the autumn had started to go mouldy, and I’m not willing to risk the wasted space if they fail to germinate.

So: shopping list is for more carrots and some broad beans. And some fleece. I thought I might need to get some more short canes for marking rows, but then hit on the genius plan of breaking the long sticks I have into short sticks. I’m aware that this may leave me short of long sticks, but in the short term I’m not worried. I have quite a few. I *am* out of llabels, though, so I will have to fish a milk carton out of the recycling and get chopping.

In house-related news, we had a chap in to do some plastering today. More years ago than either of us care to admit to we (and by we, I mean Steve) attempted to cover over the stippled artex in the back hallway with some “smooth-over”. It turns out smooth-over is really hard to get smooth if you’re covering something really spiky, so it has been in a semi-completed state ever since. Well, today it became actually nearly-smooth. I think it could still take a light sanding before being painted, but it’s very much closer than it was and will ultimately be all the same colour and look finished. It’s still very dusty (Joel has asked why I haven’t mopped the floor yet. I said he was welcome to butt in and do it for me) but I will clean it up presently.


Tonight is a bit of programming, some crochet (update anon – it’s all VERY EXCITING) and total control of the remote as Steve is away.

footnote: wordpress have a new version of the editor for mobile devices. It’s a big improvement – the main thing I love is that I’ve been able to resize the images without having to mess about with the html. It’s one of those things that I *can* do, I’d just rather not if I don’t have to. Big tick and a star to WordPress :-)

Let it snow, let it snow…


Just a quick trip out in the garden this morning to do some tidying (litter-picking~ I’m hoping mostly blown in by the wind) and rake over the soil I moved around last week, then tidying up the patio pots a bit.

Tidying up the fence is underway as well – we had a chap come around to give us a quite and we just need to check with the council what we want to do, as the two hawthorne trees are right on the border (we think on our side) and the ground is in no way level or solid, which makes putting a fence on it a tad tricky.


The rhubarb is starting to grow, which is awesome as I was a bit concerned that moving & dividing it was fatal. Clearly not. The clump under the rubbish bin is about twice the height of this which bodes well for a harvest & wine making. Om Nom.


I finished with some tidying of the patio pots – getting rid of the leaves & helicopters which have gathered and removing dead stems.

It had been drizzling lightly while I was out there, allowing me to road test my new rain Mac, acquired from a charity shop last weekend, and just as I stepped inside, massive snow flakes started falling, almost as though the weather was waiting for me to give in.

This afternoon will all be indoor activities – we have tickets to see “Big hero 6″ at the seaside – hopefully we won’t get blown away!

Tentative beginnings


I finally got around to sorting out my mum’s art stuff, having come to the realisation that as much as I might like to, I’m really not going to take up painting with acrylics or oils. The image above is from a birthday card mum made for me a few years ago.

I took the opportunity to combine my paper crafting stuff with mum’s, have a bit of a clear-out, and do some paper crafting.


I’m not super-pleased with the results but hopefully with a bit of practice, I’ll improve.


Also, I think having so many embellishments & features is a bit of a distraction and I’m better combining original script with actual crafting of paper – cut-outs and stamps in place of pre-made things.


I like the “your day” script as part of the main feature here. I’m not convinced by the embossing – that was something I’d did years ago, and I tried adding today’s stuff to improve the card. I’m not convinced it’s worked…


In other news, we took the opportunity of being short of polenta for tonight’s dish to try out the Lebanese restaurant in Southport. We got to their door, only to find they are temporarily closed.


So we went to the new Pizza Express on Lord Street. Classic time had by all.

Quick dash

I got some off-the-shelf orthotic insoles last night, on the hopes that I might be able to walk further than from the car to my desk without causing pain. It was late when I got in yesterday & Steve is the one who does the walking after-dark, so I went out for a quick dash around the block at lunchtime today. I only had about 20 minutes as there were timed support tasks to be done, but I thought that would be enough to whizz round the block.

It’s been so long since I did anything approaching proper exercise that I’d gone about a third of the way before I remembered to turn on runkeeper. If it’s not in runkeeper, it didn’t happen, so by that rule I only walked just under 2km ~ boo!

However, I only over-ran my timeslot by 5 minutes and so far there are no crippling after-effects. These old-lady shoe-props might be just the thing…

Frantically chewing…


For some time now I’ve been meaning to tidy up the ivy that grows on the wall by the patio. Jean next door occasionally sends her gardener to cut back the ivy that’s growing over the top of the wall and frequently points out how much damage it’s doing. I recently came up with a plan to put a temporary/small green house on the patio to assist with the new vegetable-growing hobby, so today I decided that the ivy must go. Now.

I enlisted Lily’s help and so, armed with brushes and secateurs, we set to. I pulled at the top corner and it came away from the wall quite easily.


It was at this point that I looked at the volume of ivy coming off the wall, and at the amount of space remaining in the bin, and wondered if we had bitten of more than could reasonably be chewed in the available time…

It’s fair to say it got messier before it got tidier, by quite some considerable amount of mess. A lot of spiders and wood lice have been re-homed, some, to my delight, in my hair when Lily brushed the wall above where I was leaning over to saw another chunk free – laarvely! Let’s say it’s just as well it was Lily helping me instead of Joel, otherwise he would have run for the hills!


So, it is now all lovely and tidy. To do the job super-properly I think we will need to lift the row of slabs at the end and dig the roots out, but that can wait until another day.

I was armed with my new RHS secateurs with leather holster styled fetchingly here with a pair of old tracky pants – they are awesome – fantasically sharp and the leather holster is great – totally lives up to expectations!


And as a happy bi-product, the Celtic warrior sculpture made by my mother can hang on the wall again – until I get my greenhouse, anyway!


In “proper” gardening news, I then went on to do some dirt re-distribution in the vegetable garden – moved 3 barrowfuls of soil from the new patch to the old, spread it around a bit, then spread compost over the new patch and turned over the compost heap. I’m wondering whether a new set of planks might be in order so that one can fester for a bit while we build up the other one. Will have to mull on that.

All in all a good afternoon’s work – there’s a panoramic view to upload, but wordpress keeps crashing. If it’s added here, I’ve succeeded in getting it to upload!