Monday, 28 February 2011

Fencing friends

Not the duelling type who charge at you wielding an epee in their hands; but the sort that  lower your garden fence so that finally, after 4 years, you can see right to the top of your garden. It's always bothered me that it's separated the garden so I asked my next door neighbour if he could cut it half way down.

Saturday provided good weather and after my neighbour set to with the jigsaw it wasn't long before I had a stack of sawn planks and a view up the field I haven't seen since before I moved in.  Once the fence posts have been cut down I can make a gate for the fence around the vegetable garden and use the cross bars as top rails for the fence. I'm also considering making an outdoor table from some of the leftover wood, and the rest will come in handy for something I'm sure.

Now you don't see it....... you do see it!
The veg plot feels enclosed and separated

Now it feels open and has views down as well as up the garden

I wanted to keep a small fence so that I can grow a few climbing plants along that border and still retain some sense of 'formal' and 'productive'.  They'll have to be plants that like partial shade as this border faces north-west and doesn't get any sun until late afternoon; even less in the winter time.  Perhaps an evergreen clematis and a jasmine? Hmmmm, further investigation is required I think.

So it doesn't feel right to call it The Field anymore. the garden not only looks but feels different, you can see the true expanse of it now.  Of course, it also means that I can see everything that needs doing every time I walk up there but that's not a bad thing.  It's been too easy sometimes to sit on the patio and not open the door to the 'Productive Area Formally Known As The Field', to ignore thoughts of strimming brambles, clearing piles of cut branches, moving heaps of soil and checking to see if the rabbits have tried to dig into the old warren. Now there's no avoiding it!

In the meantime, I've laid more straw around the veg patch as the weeds are starting to grow through last year's layer, and cleared the area underneath the Box that the 'THGT' (that's Tywardreath Highway Gardening Team for any new readers) cut back last year; making room for a bench this year. No doubt I'll be trawling the garden centres, DIY shops and online to find a lovely seat for this space...........then again, maybe I could make one.

On a plant-related note, my rhubarb is coming back lovely this year. As soon as I saw it popping through the mulch I placed a plant pot over it and over the last week or so it's really begun to shoot up.  The problem is we're in for some frosty nights this week so the plant pot has promptly gone back on for the time being!  This will be it's second year so I should be able to make some lovely rhubarb crumble later in the year and perhaps some rhubarb wine.......the possibilities are endless.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Pallets and plums II

Two compost bins for the price of 7 tree stakes and a pack of wood screws - not bad.

Yes, I got out before the rain came today and built my second compost bin.  It's not pretty, or level but it'll do the job nicely and it's not like I'm going to be entering any 'Glamorous Garden' competitions in the near, or distant future!

Let's see if it stays up in a storm!

Each time I complete a task in the garden I feel just that bit closer to my goal of making a garden out of The Field.  Some weekends I don't get much done at all and I don't often ask for help from others if I think I can do it myself, so the going is slower than most garden makeovers.  But, I enjoy it when I'm outside, whether it's digging, cutting, planting, weeding or anything else that needs doing. Plus I get a huge sense of satisfaction when I can stand back and say "I did that".

February 2008 after brush-cutting
February 2011 and it's slowly taking shape

 These two photos show the garden as it was in February 2008 (about 7 months after I moved in) and as it is now, in February 2011.  Hmmm, looks like the fence needs another coat of weather-proofing; that's another job added to the list of many!    
                                                                                                                                               For the time being though the next task on my list is the fencing around the raised beds; those cauliflower seeds are growing quickly and the leeks are just beginning to pop their heads up.  Fingers crossed for good weather next weekend.

On the wine-making front, the plum wine is now in the fermentation jar.  Although I can clearly see the sediment on the bottom, the rest of it still looks a bit cloudy, and it's very pink!  Is it supposed to look like that? I have no idea. It's got a few weeks to clear up and I've added the Bentonite which helps speed up the process so I guess I'll just have to wait and see.  Hasn't anyone invented an 'Instant Wine' recipe yet?

A very pink plum wine fermenting in the kitchen corner
The rack of wine bottles was recently given to me by a friend and it's sitting in the kitchen waiting for me to find somewhere to put it.  It's not there in an attempt to make the picture look interesting - honest!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Pallets and plums

I've been bringing home pallets from work again. They're incredibly useful if you're trying to redevelop a garden and can be used for all sorts of projects such as raised beds (although I did buy mine in kit form), hen houses and even garden table and chairs.  Check out this great inspirational book called 'Build It.....with Pallets' if you're looking for ideas for your own garden or have some spare pallets you want to use for something other than firewood. Another great place to find ideas for projects in the garden is the Gardeners World website. I built my first compost bin using instructions from there; now it's time to build a second. The idea is to create one heap whilst having another that is ready for use.  In theory I should always have plenty of good compost ready for the garden. So, if you ever spot any pallets lying around in building sites, factory yards or garden centres it's worth asking if they're going spare.

On a serious note, I stress the importance of asking very strongly!  Some pallets belong to delivery companies who'll want them back so don't just take pallets if you see them lying around - always ask first!

Once the compost bin is done then I'll turn my attention to constructing a log store behind the shed. I've never done that before either but it can't be much harder than constructing the compost bin.  I bought logs from a local supplier this winter - good logs too, a mixture of soft and hard wood fully seasoned.  But with the winter we've had he was in short supply so I'm thinking about starting to collect wood earlier this year and storing it so that it can finish seasoning through the year ready for this winter.  Plus any additional pallets I get can be broken down and used as kindling instead of buying it in bags.  Hopefully I'll save money on heating next winter that way and if I can find a local gardener or tree surgeon whose looking to get rid of excess wood, then even better!

In the midst of all this pallet procurement, I've planted my first leek and cauliflower seeds in trays and they're growing on the windowsill in the spare bedroom at the moment.  I went to check on them the other day and the cauliflowers are just beginning to show tiny shoots above the compost.  Ok, so this probably isn't the most exciting news for people who've been growing veg for years but as it's my first attempt I'm full of anticipation to see if I can grow them successfully.  

fingers crossed! 

First things first though - the rabbit proof fence.  Not the brilliantly made Australian movie but the one that's got to secure the raised beds from rabbits and other such pests in the garden.  I need to crack on with this sooner rather than later and planting the seeds has given me the incentive I needed.  So this weekend I've put the posts in to mark the area, using the back edge of the raised beds as one boundary and leaving enough space so that once the wire is up I can still get in with a wheelbarrow.  Having measured it all out it looks like I'm going to need around 18.5m of wire mesh around the beds!  Think I'll do some research on costs on the internet this week!

I'll be putting a seed cloche/mini greenhouse  in this area too.  I bought one last year and it's been sitting in my shed ever since.  It's about time it came out of its box and was made use of!

posts marking position for wire mesh fencing

I'm going to use a thick wire mesh fence rather than chicken wire; I learnt a valuable lesson when I used wire mesh around my young apple trees to protect them against the rabbits.  I used normal sized wire mesh and something (maybe not a rabbit?) still had a go at biting through the wire, so I added a second layer which seems to have kept pests at bay so far.  This time I'll be buying thicker wire mesh.

Clearing back the hedgerow has also begun with the cutting back of an overgrown Box shrub. I'll cut it right back to just a few inches above the ground and hopefully it will come back without any problem so that I can re-shape it and maintain its growth. I won't do much more to the hedges in the garden at the moment, not with Spring just around the corner but I have future plans to add some flowering shrubs where there are large gaps in the hedge on the right side of the garden and lay the ash and hazel hedge on the left side. I've asked my neighbours if they mind me managing their boundary hedge and (funnily enough) there's no objection.

A new wine is on the go as well.  Last year I made my very first home made wine - elderberry. I don't usually blow my own trumpet but it was a lovely wine to drink - very light and fruity. I was very proud of it and it was lovely to give to family and friends as a Christmas present. I was given the recipe by a friend of mine who makes wine in gallons.  Then my 'Secret Santa' present  this Christmas was a wine book with 130 wine-making recipes which should keep me busy for years. So I decided to have a go at making plum wine; just a gallon in case it turns out to be undrinkable and more useful as a drain cleaner!  The instructions are quite different from my friend's so I'll see if the one in the book produces as good a wine.  I should have a verdict in about 3 months.

Oops! this post has been up for about 3 days before I realised that a whole paragraph had gone missing at the end.  Otherwise these final photos don't make any sense!  They're images taken of the garden redevelopment which is part of the dementia project I'm involved with at work.  I mentioned a short while ago that the contractor was starting the garden and after 3 weeks we're beginning to see the new layout take shape. It's really caught the attention of the staff and residents at the home.  With the transference of top soil from the front garden to this courtyard garden it's beginning to catch the eye of the public as they pass too.......the first time in almost 2 years that I've seen anyone look at the building!  So here are just a few images to show what's been going on so far.

First the conservatory came down to make room for a canopy

Then the overcrowding shrubs came out to open up the views

Next, the slabbed pavement was removed
In goes hardcore and top soil for new paths, lawn and borders's been a busy time both at work and at home. That's all folks!(for now)