Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The 12 days of Christmas

A merry Christmas to everyone!

Nothing much to do with gardening, but to celebrate the start of the 12 days of Christmas, I'll be posting a picture each day as a bit of fun - do come back and visit!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Deck the halls ...

Picture: Didier Olmstead
In case you hadn't noticed, it's Christmas - and that time of year when the outdoors comes indoors in the shape of Christmas trees, holly, ivy and mistletoe. Very jolly and festive it may look, but do remember that they can cause problems to your dog if he decides to take a nibble. Fir tree oils can irritate, dropped needles can get stuck in paws and fur, chemicals used to prolong or decorate the tree may be toxic, while holly berries can make your dog very ill if he samples a few and those from mistletoe can kill. Hanging them high out of his reach doesn't mean they are safe, as the berries often drop off and fall to the floor, unnoticed by everyone except your dog who may think a few unexpected treats have come his way and will promptly hoover them up.
Some plants traditionally given at Christmas can be equally dangerous: Poinsettia is now off the 'fatal' list - apparently it was only there originally due to a misreported case of poisoning. However it can cause nausea and vomiting if it gets nibbled, so make sure it is out of reach. Amaryllis (Hippeastrums) and Hyacinths are also often given but can be toxic. You could of course, always drop a few hints that if anyone is thinking of buying you a plant or flowers this Christmas, you would rather they donated the money to a charity instead ...

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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Catching up

As usual I seem to be behind with all the end-of-year chores. The patio was becoming a real problem though - each time it rained it became perilously slippery both for me and the dogs due to the build up of algae on it. With a spell of dry weather I decided it took priority over other tasks so grabbed the pressure washer and gave the slabs a quick blast. It has been a good purchase and not only does a great job, but is a lot quicker and less exhausting than scrubbing by hand which I used to do previously. It is an own-brand model from a local DIY store and has so far proved to be a good investment, both in terms of time and money - it was much cheaper than the equivalent more famous brand name products. If you don't want to buy your own, you can always hire one instead from local tool-hire centres - but make sure you keep your dog indoors while working as the spray sent out is pretty powerful and could injure your pet.

A quick job this time around - enough to make the patio slabs safe underfoot
through the winter. In the spring I'll do the job again a bit more thoroughly:
nevertheless, the slabs look so much brighter and less oppressive now - it makes a really
noticeable difference.
Must pull up those weeds peeking through too!
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Sunday, 15 December 2013

A leak!

Plenty of leeks on the allotment - and plenty in the garden too, although not of the vegetable variety! The roof on one of the garden sheds sprang a leak - and as it isn't exactly the weather for re-roofing I rushed out to Wickes and bought a cheap tarpaulin which I'm hoping will keep the rain out until I can carry out a more permanent and attractive repair. The last time I covered the roof I used roofing felt, but I'm toying with the idea of using shingles this time - I think it looks a little prettier, and might be a lot easier for me to manage singlehanded!
Not very tidy perhaps - but I was on my own in wind and rain trying to get it on, and it has at least stayed in place so far and there are no more damp patches appearing inside!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

As time goes by ...

You know how it is ... your garden changes and evolves over the years, changing not just with the seasons or your tastes in plants, but sometimes quite radically to suit the changing needs of you or your dogs. And so it is with my garden - after finishing Dog-friendly gardening I was very busy writing another book, The Difficult Horse, with my friend Sarah Fisher. Inevitably the garden got a bit neglected and is now in need of a fairly drastic tidy up. Because the allotment is also making a lot of demands in terms of time, I've decided to simplify the garden so it needs a bit less maintenance. Losing some flowerbeds will also give my two whippets Archie and Angel a bit more space to scamper around in and make it more difficult for neighbourhood cats to hide out in the greenery. I do have plenty of plans for some interesting features to add though, so it is still a stimulating area for the dogs and a pleasant place for me to relax when I'm not writing or trying to keep up with weeding or harvesting produce on the allotment!

I'll try to post reasonably regularly here so you can see how things are progressing, and will pass on tips and details of projects. I'll also be adding details of the Dog friendly garden project at Tilley Farm near Bath, which all the money from the book is being donated to. When it is finished it should be a wonderful area where visiting dogs will have the opportunity to run and play safely off leash in a secure and stimulating environment. Tilley Farm plays host to many dogs from animal shelters - including a local greyhound charity and a number of foster dogs - who receive help from Sarah and other Tellington TTouch practitioners, and a safe place where they can relax and have fun is essential for them.
You can find out more about the book and about Sarah's work at the book's website HERE

Although there is a lot of work still to be done, you can see what a wonderful huge space the Tilley Farm dog friendly garden is going to be!

We paid a visit last weekend - the fencing is now all in place, and various features are beginning to pop up, providing lots of interest and things to explore.