A Gardener’s 2nd Anniversary

Flower patch

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Mrs. P the Mama Bird’s Story, Part 2

Mrs P - Aerial Shot

It’s the little things sometimes, isn’t it? I’ve been so pleased with progress so far in renovating my garden and sifting through all the ideas that keep drifting into my head, that I sometimes forget that it is the maintenance things that give the full effect. So I cut the grass! It’s getting easier now because the garden’s divided and some of it is barked and gravelled, so the whole task is much more manageable. It helps too when the strimmer behaves, which following the usual groan and burp noises that signify ‘the nylon broke’, strimmer and I settled down to re-nyloning the spindle. The little raised arrows gave me a clue and I’m happy to report that no more unpleasant noises were emitted.

But with the sun out you just can’t keep ignoring stuff, can you? Ironing, car washing, more ironing and cleaning the oven just don’t even scratch the surface compared to washing the fascias out the back. Suffice to say I did not iron, wash the car or clean the oven, I treated myself to a sponge wash up a step ladder to make the plastic trim shine again. I am just such an exciting person. It worked though, the garden needs a back drop that doesn’t irritate you when you sit down after doing your jobs or when you are just admiring nature’s work.
Solar post lights
Call me even sad but I then realised, with prompting, that rather than uprooting, re-digging and cementing a new washing line in, that I could revitalise the ones I’ve got with a tin of Hammerite. A very pleasing hours work with instant results and, unlike after fascia washing, I was not soaking wet. The neighbours probably think I’m sad too. I decided to put solar lights in the top of each washing line post so that at night it looks like I have two streetlights in the garden :)

To be continued…
Mrs. P

Mrs. P the Mama Bird’s Story, Part 1

Oh, I do wish I had taken some pictures of the old garden! Way back last year when I suddenly found myself in the nest alone after 25 years of worm-catching for baby birds (now strapping great lads), looking at the space that had been a football pitch, a water bomb arena, a wake up and take breakfast outside space, I discovered the garden was not just a place of frustrating chores and endless struggle, but a blank canvas of interest and plans and thoughts that chill me out and amuse me. I started on a journey that as a busy mum, I simply couldn’t have imagined…


With lot of clearing and a new fence, the transformation is underway!

In the worm-catching years I struggled with countless lawnmowers – a ‘lawn’ that would not weather the scrutiny of any trade description, blessed as it is with random lumps and bumps, half a metal scrap yard (now safely dug up and recycled), some horrid bionic leaves that grow bulbs on bulbs and the most rampant hedge you wouldn’t wish for. Many hours of my life that I’ll never get back were invested in keeping the garden ‘under control’ and a fair bit of money spent on the odd plant (but I gave up after the Eric Cantona’s prodigy beheaded the rhododendron in two hours flat). It had truly been a love-hate relationship!

But last year I used some of the time once invested in motherhood to harness some energy, engage a bit of brain and try to liberate the garden. It was never going to be a quick fix because there is so much of it. And despite harnessing and engagement, the grass and hedge still demand a degree of attention that frankly I could live without. Still, by the end of the summer I was committed to never having my nails manicured (wasn’t going to anyway) and happily puddling ‘round, ‘digging’ with a trowel because I am way too delicate to jangle all my bones hitting buried junk with a spade.

And, if I do say so myself, decent progress was made. The weediest weedy bit was cleared and covered with weed control. Bark was unceremoniously dumped on it and a couple of lavender plants plonked in.

Wow! They are so happy there — they have doubled in size. But the main bulk of my work (with my trowel) was the lumpiest bit of garden that the ‘horrible plants’ had overtaken. No word of a lie, their bulbs grow one on top of the other and form a ridiculous mat of impenetrable stuff. Still, I picked a good time when the soil was damp but not soaking to have a go at them and slowly but surely they got green recycled out of my garden.

And then a Eureka moment! My biggest ‘Grrr’ in the garden is not so much the work but the difficulty of doing it alone. Silly branches just out of reach necessitating some sort of acrobatic endeavour to reach and cut them, all sorts of wonderful fencing that would require more acrobatics and the firm belief that no one could YouTube me fighting with them, lovely paving stones that just shout at me to leave them in the shop because I can’t lift them and I love my toes. You know the stuff, the list goes on.

And then the question of the technical know-how and the skill to make things out of bricks or stones and concrete, Ewwww. My two will tell you that you could artex a ceiling with the semolina I make because of the lumps, so there was no way Mrs. Weedy-arms was going to try her hand at mixing stuff that is dusty and goes all sorts of random, wrong places. No, sir.

But I did fall upon the idea of raised beds. You can’t build them wrong because they’re made of sleepers. (OK, I did cheat and have a little bit of help with moving and screwing together. In my defence I bought ones I could lift the second time although I have to concede that I ended up in casualty when one landed on my foot. Only me…)

The whole principle of the sleeper worked because they are straight and natural, provide natural divides in the wonky garden and can also host a flourish of colour when you plant things in them. Eureka! The garden is now sort of divided into four areas and while only three of them are de-bumped and level, there is a space that is flat and gravelled.

It’s modest but it’s mine. This space is fab late afternoon and into the evening with some candle pots and good company!

Working at a modest pace, with a very small tool and being prepared to be the tortoise not the hare helped the process. So did working out what I could manage on my own in my non technical, not strong but prepared to try, enthusiasm. Somehow that Eureka transformed my view of the garden, from a place of thankless graft to a place of exciting manageable plans, albeit with a hearty helping of hard graft. I don’t mind that, but I wish I had taken some picture before I started.

To be continued…
Mrs. P

Hiring help in the garden the 4th

So now we are set up to plough through the rest of the plot with the system in place to filter to soil… However, Dex the digger finds yet another layer of buried debris, and we review our tactics.  I looked at hiring a small digger, one small enough to get round to the back garden; but that would set me back £186 for the week, plus £30 each way to deliver and collect.  Even then, we would still need to spend time sifting the soil.

Meanwhile at the local tip where I had just dumped the first rubble load of the day, the sun was shining.  I returned with another load, not an hour later to meet the man at the gate doing the waggy finger thing at me saying “No, no, no, you got to go to the weigh bridge.”  Spluttering and protesting I went there, explained that this was all new to me and I had no money on me. The patient and understandably defensive man showed me the signs that explained this new policy, but let me leave the rubble this time as a sort of trial run.  The eight bags that were light enough for me to lift would have cost me £55. I CANNOT BELIEVE IT!  Was this the end of project revamp?

Hmmmm.

Since I was in any event going down to deepest Sussex the next day I checked with the dump down there. No proof of residency and no charges, hoorah, job done. Now the top soil and turf is ordered, next comes trellis and the decorative planting. Since the chap from the job centre is sooo good, many other jobs are being tackles as well; just a path relayed and a side bed wall rebuilt, but I will stop as we approach the walls of the house itself.

I hired a wacker plate this week for the very reasonable sum of £23 for 24 hours.  It went in the back of my estate car as the handle folded down.  Having leveled the new top soil it needed compressing so that it would remain level and not sink in odd places.  Dex then laid the turf just before the hosepipe ban came in, and we had a timber to walk across so as not to damage the new grass.

Hiring help in the garden episode 3

Well….This is getting exciting. The keen garden labourer returned.  There was still debris in the ground.  I had dug over the entire plot 30 years ago…twice and got out 2 skips of rubble.  The section at the end only got one dig over, in a hurry.  The grass that had been down there was always poor and the ground hard and lumpy. I knew it was going to be hard going in this bit of garden, hence the need for help. This chap now took to the task with a vengeance.  He constructed a giant seiving system out of an old fire guard, several spades, the legs of a dead table and a grass rake. That started to take care of the filtering out of the rubble, but he excavated a trench that was remenicent of a Time Team excavation and has discovered so far: one wheel barrow, one tin bath and a timber shaft of some kind. Tune in next week to find out what it was.   — Wendy