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Blog posts of '2011' 'August'

Water, water everywhere...!


So what have people been asking me this month? Well, a key question has been, “Why is my veg not growing?” or words to that effect. Pretty easy to tell why these poor specimens are suffering when I can see from a couple of paces off the poor things aren’t getting any water. Yes, newsflash folks – when it is dry your fruit and veg need watering!

This sounds obvious I know, but do keep an eye on your veg in dry weather. Stick a finger into the ground and see if the roots of your crops are getting any moisture – if not give them a good drink. A good drink when they need it is better than a little sprinkling more often. Of course it has been very wet these last few days so you can probably relax a little depending whereabouts in the country you are!

Fruit and veg in pots need inspecting regularly – pots can dry out very quickly. If you have seeds in the ground you may need to water them every day in dry spells. Don’t forget your fruit and veg also needs feeding – so you can combine the two jobs nicely.

I try and take a little time out in dry spells - time to potter and have a little think as I’m filling up my watering cans from the water butts and watering and nourishing my crops – it can be very therapeutic!

Tutorial: Recycled and Crafty Plant Markers

This week we have had nothing but biblical rain so we haven't spent any time out in the garden, but being the crafty girl I am, and always on the endless hunt for things to amuse the children with we decided to do a little recycled garden related craft.
Garden labelling is always important especially when growing from seed but the wooden shop bought ones rot with the damp weather so you are constantly replacing them, but not with these!

(originally from Bunny Hill Designs)

Tools you will need:

  • Assorted old silverware
  • Anvil or a strong, durable surface
  • Letter stamping set 1/8″
  • Hammer
  • Black Sharpie Permanent Marker, any size.

The letter stamps aren't too expensive and are widely available in different font and size from eBay.
Simply place the piece of cutlery onto your desired surface and hammer it flat. Take the letter stamp of your choice, hold still and imprint the letter, and subsequent word, into the piece of cutlery by hitting the stamp with the hammer.And voila, your totally funky and unique garden markers.

As you can see from this lovely picture, they look awesome in situ!

--Liz Longworth

Jobs to do in August...


Agapanthus africanus,Tanacetum parthenium, Lichnis cornaria, Oenothera

Well, the summer is coming to an end in the UK. Overall, the first half of the year many of you will agree, has been odd. It has certainly been interesting; as some have put it, we had May, June and July in one month, the rest of the summer has been…let’s not be too negative. I love the month of August. The garden is just beyond its peak of flowering, but seeds are to be collected, fruit harvested, the ground prepared for the autumn sowings and planting of annuals and winter hardy veg. All in the gloriously warm (if perhaps wet) weather we still have.

At present, as well as continuing the ceaseless weeding, grass cutting and disease control, I am mulching borders with rotted leaf mould, a vitally important job to do between now and the first frosts, which given the years odd weather may well come as early as September (where have the Swallows gone?). I am also sowing winter vegetable seed, ready for planting out in September/October - remembering Brussels Sprouts can be ready for Christmas and need deep soil. Italian or Black Kale, Winter Cabbages and Purslane will sit happily over winter, ready to fill the hungry gap in early spring. It may also be worth looking now at some of the Japanese varieties of Onion if you are so inclined. Not forgetting if you have a greenhouse, new potatoes if kept frost free will be fit for the table on Dec 25th . Lastly, sweet peas need to be researched and ordered if you want to get an early sowing under glass. Lots to do, lots more to enjoy.

-- Guy Deakins

Enjoying your Garden


The best reward for all the effort you’ve put in over the past few months is to have friends round so they can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over your fabulous garden.

I love throwing garden parties. There’s something special about being outside in the evening with the scent of flowers in the air and the smell of a barbecue. Light the candles, fire up the fire pit and turn on the patio heaters and there’s no excuse not to enjoy the night air. The clink of glasses beneath a setting sun makes for a mellow mood and easy conversation.

Through experience, I’ve learned that a great garden party takes a bit of planning. Nothing too onerous, but with garden parties details count. Mow the lawn about two days before, a day before at the latest. Mowing stirs up dust and pollen. You don’t want hayfever to ruin the evening. Plump the mulch around flower beds and add a little more if it looks patchy. This makes everything look smart. Deep soak all the plants if you can so they look their very best on the day. I’m not a hosepipe fan usually - water is a precious commodity - but just once in a while they’re useful...if there’s no ban.

The day before, shop for food and clean the patio area. Ensure it’s weed free and position some of your most glorious pots to show them off to their best advantage. As most garden parties are often barbecues, check you have enough charcoal or gas and that a gas barbecue is in full working order.

Town & Country’s Portable Barbecue Grill comes in three bright colours. My favourite is the blue one. It is perfect for me because it doesn’t need any screws or tools.

Make sure you set out enough seating and don’t limit it to just the patio. Guests love to stroll off to explore, or may want to find a quiet corner for a chat. Make sure they’re comfortable. Buy some citronella candles to ward off uninvited guests. No one wants to be eaten alive by mosquitoes.

On the day, string up some fairy lights and set out clusters of tea lights for atmosphere. Create a table centrepiece. My best friend likes to use cut flowers from her garden. I’m a bit precious about flowers and feel terrible if I cut them so I use my potted herbs and arrange them as a centrepiece, or a couple of pots of African violets for colour. Then at the end of the evening I can give each of my guests a pot of something nice to take home.

I fill my wheelbarrow with ice and put all the beers and wine in there. For non-drinkers bottled iced teas make a refreshing alternative to orange juice. Finally, just before the guests arrive use this old Japanese trick: use a fine spray to mist the plants around the patio area. The leaves will glisten and sparkle and provide a magical feel. As I said, success is in the detail. Have fun...

-- Rob Amey

Meet the Chooks!


Although not strictly gardening - I thought it would be nice to talk a bit about my lovely chickens this month and encourage any of you out there, thinking of having a “chook” or two to definitely consider it - they are easy to keep, great fun to watch and there is the added bonus of beautiful tasty eggs!

This is my second lots of ‘girls’ as the first batch, which arrived three years ago, have sadly all died - they were rescued by a friend of mine from a battery farm, so were not in particularly good spirits when I got them! So this time I thought I would make sure of what I was buying.

I found a local breeder via the internet and got six lovely girls on POL - now this is short for Point of Lay and means that the chickens are just old enough to start laying eggs - this ensures that you get the most amount of time for eggs during their lives - as they don’t lay forever!

I keep them in a shed, with sawdust and hay inside, which I can lock at night so they can’t get out and Mr Fox can’t get it, but you can keep hens in a much smaller space - in fact there are special houses available to buy, or you could make your own - I am just lucky to have the space for a bigger house! They also have a run - a space fenced off with chicken wire but I also let them free range in the garden as they are brilliant at eating the grubs and pests that get into your plants.

As long as you provide food, water and shelter, they will be happy. I feed them a mixture of layers pellets (special food for hens) and corn with added grit which is needed for them to make strong and healthy shells. They also get lots of vegetable scraps and love lettuce, cabbage, courgettes and tomatoes - don’t give them any cooked food though, as this attracts the rats!

My girls are all named after characters from the BBC series Larkrise to Candleford, and I often sit with a cup of tea in the afternoon watching their antics and talking to them - passers by must think I am mad, but I love it. And as I mentioned before there is an added bonus of tasty eggs - and I mean tasty - with beautiful dark yellow yolks which are superb simply boiled or put into a huge range of other meals - particularly cakes! It kind of makes sense - the chickens eat the grubs so the veggies grow and we get to eat the veggies, sharing them with the chickens. Circle of life stuff, if you know what I mean. Happy gardening.

-- Jane Dubinksi

Summer Berries

Last Spring I finally decided to plant some new berry bushes against the brick wall that runs alongside our vegetable beds.

Redcurrants we already have, as they were left here by the last owner. We used to grow blackcurrants, but we decided to take them out as they were getting old and took up too much space. Wild blackberries we have in abundance, they sneak over the fence from the fields beyond. I also seemed to remember that blueberries are fussy about the sort of soil that they have so I discounted them too.
We love raspberries so that was one in the bag. Loganberries remind me of my Dad as he grew a thornless loganberry plant in the garden when I was a child and we loved it's halfway house between blackberry and raspberry, so I chose one of those. I then remembered a post on My Tiny Plot that spoke of fragrant Tayberries, so I thought I would give those a go too.
Last year we had a mere handful of fruit off each plant, but I didn't expect too much of them in their first year. This Spring we made sure that we covered them well with netting to stop the blackbirds stealing the fruits of our labour and we have been blessed with berries aplenty.
We have had bowls of berries with cream and made several fruit fools with them as well as adding them to cakes and puddings.
The Tayberries are the least productive, they have very spiky stalks and the fruits are so soft that they tend to come apart when you pick them. The loganberries are nice, but you must leave them until they are very dark in colour before picking. The raspberries are the best cropping, seem to get least attacked by insects and are so easy to pick and prepare as the husk gets left behind on the plant.
Soon I must get out there and get tying in and pruning to make sure we have a good crop next year.

-- Claire Sutton