Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Thursday 30 October 2008

Snow in October?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Helen @ 11:54 am

I couldn’t quite believe it when I opened my curtains yesterday morning and saw how much white there was around. The snow had only settled on the grass and soil, not the paths or roads, but it was still an impressive effort for the time of year. I unwisely cycled to work, but did not fall off.

The day before yesterday I tried to persuade Wilkinson’s to give me a discount on a half-dead plant. It was a skimmia rubella, priced at £5.99. I am after a skimmia for my side border, in the dark next to the pulmonaria. I would prefer a female one, as I think the two male skimmia “Kew Green” planted in our residents’ landscaping would enjoy having a lady living across the road from them, but the male rubella is a good plant. For some reason, skimmias seem to be quite expensive, even for small plants, and had the plant been healthy, it would have been a bargain. But two stems were completely brown down to soil level and the soil was bone dry. I reckoned it had less than a 50% chance of survival (so slightly more than half dead) but for a couple of quid I was willing to take a chance. However, the best Wilkinson’s could offer me was 10% off, and I wasn’t taking those kind of odds. They’ve probably thrown the plant away now. Don’t they know there’s a recession on?

On the plus side, my plastic shed arrived this morning, and I have stowed it away in the garage until the weather gets warm enough for me to assemble it without dropping all the bits because my fingers are too numb to hold anything. I ordered it exactly a week ago, so well done to the Original Gift Company (aka Scotts of Stow).


Friday 24 October 2008

Shed progress

Filed under: Uncategorized — Helen @ 3:31 pm

I’ve had a cold and have been having a rest from gardening, although I did some tidying up yesterday. However, I have made some progress in that I have bought a second shed. I needed a tall one to go next to the short, fat, wide one, so I can put rakes and spades in it. A catalogue from “The Original Gift Company” came through my door, and when glancing through it before putting it into the recycling bin, I saw the perfect shed, called a ‘Sentry Shed’. It’s made of plastic, so doesn’t require drills and saws to put it together, and of course it won’t need painting. I had always assumed that gift catalogues contained entirely things that you would give to someone else but wouldn’t want yourself, but apparently not. Also it shows that junk mails works. Drat.


Thursday 16 October 2008

The boring stuff

Filed under: Pelargoniums,Progress — Helen @ 5:54 pm

Now that my hedge is underway, I am planning to spend a couple of weeks doing boring things like weeding the right-hand side border, tidying up the leylandii logs, and clearing up dead leaves, in between gawping at the stock market indices with horrified fascination. Then it will be time to start digging the trench for the cable.

I have been having some trouble with cats treating the area around the hedge as their toilet. My neighbour (not the one who owns the cats) suggested a product called “Get Off”, which consists of very smelly green crystals. He has been using it himself, which is possibly why the cats have chosen my garden for doing their business in. So I went down to Wilkinson to get some (£2.99 for 40 square metres’ worth). I decided to treat the cats’ favourite entrance route first and see if that puts them off, so I scattered the crystals on my new border along the fence and up to where I have planted the half-hardy annuals. If I can stop them coming into the garden in the first place then I won’t have to treat the whole area. As I weeded the other end of the garden, I could smell the crystals very strongly. I may have overdone the rate of application. I think I need to put the bottle in the garage, not in my living room, now I have opened the seal. That’s not to say it smells unpleasant – it’s just very strong.

The very badly taken pelargonium cuttings are looking well, and are flowering on their incorrectly chosen flowering stems.


Friday 10 October 2008

Installing the thuja

Filed under: Conifers,Pelargoniums,Progress — Helen @ 4:35 pm

After the heavy rain on Sunday and Tuesday, we have had another gorgeous warm October day, which seems all wrong given that the world is going through the biggest crisis that many of us have ever known. Last time we had a really big stock market crash, in 1987, loads of trees blew down at about the same time. I am hoping that there won’t be a repeat of that because I have put a lot of hard work into planting these thuja.

First lot of thuja planted

First lot of thuja planted

When I calculated how many thuja I would need, I decided that I needed the same number as the leylandii (10) plus two extra to make the hedge a bit longer, and therefore I bought 14, to include two spares. However, what I forgot to check was the spacing of my leylandii. I planted them (correctly) 2.5 feet apart, but thuja want to be 2 feet apart. So my four leylandii really needed to be replaced by five thuja. Actually, I decided to only plant four at this time because the fifth one might struggle a bit, being very close to a well-established leylandii, but it looks like I will need all 14 of my thuja. I just hope that they perform better than my HBOS shares.

I used my final bag of organic compost in planting the thuja. I put some in the planting hole, and spread the rest around the area, making sure that it didn’t touch any of the plants. My neighbour said that when she used the same compost, she got a load of mushrooms, even though it was May. If I get a good crop, I will take some photos.

My very badly taken pelargonium cuttings haven’t died yet.


Saturday 4 October 2008

In a hole

Filed under: Conifers,Progress — Helen @ 3:49 pm

I have lost count of how long I have spent digging this hole, but I have put in a stint every day that I haven’t been out doing my NHS job for the past two weeks, because it just hasn’t rained except when I have been working at the NHS. I think I have done about ten sessions. At 400 calories an hour, and about one and a half hours per session, that comes to about 6000 calories. The cake was 4000 calories, and I’ve eaten about 90% of it, so the project was funded by 2400 calories from my internal reserves. That equates to about 2/3 lb of fat. So here is a picture of me looking pleased about the hole, but not discernibly thinner.

Me in conifer hole

Me in conifer hole

My back started to give me a few twinges last night, but this morning was forecast to be fine, while tomorrow there is a weather warning for huge amounts of rain. So I took some ibuprofen and finished the job. Here is a picture of the hole without me in it. I hadn’t quite finished digging when I took the photograph – there were a few roots to be dug out at the far end – but I took the photograph because I needed a rest.

Hole dug for new conifers

Hole dug for new conifers

After that I tipped in one and a half bags of organic compost from The Compost Centre, tipped in some more soil, and put in another bag of compost. The compost is certainly organic. It was also very wet and slimy because I had left the bags outside for six months and they had ventilation holes punched in them so the water got in. I tipped in some more soil and decided that was enough for now. It is quite an easy job filling the hole in again, partly because I’m moving the soil downwards from the heap to the hole so am not working against gravity. However, I did find myself getting quite warm with the work, which is just as well because the temperature is getting very much more autumnal now.

In between all this manual labour, I have been doing some thinking about the hedge. My little thuja plants are about 3 ft tall, which is half the height of the fence. If they grow at a rate of 2 ft a year, which I think is a reasonable estimate, it will take them four and a half years to get to be 12 ft, and probably a few more years to get nice and bushy so they form a proper screen. If I replace the rest of the hedge in two phases, one part next autumn and the final part the autumn after, I will then be going for two to three years with hardly any screening from the hedge. But if I leave the Leylandii in place for longer than two years, the trees will grow that much bigger and may be too big for me to remove safely myself, and the thuja will be bigger and more difficult to plant too. I may compromise by removing the left-hand end of the hedge next autumn, but waiting a little longer before removing the middle.