Thursday, 31 July 2014

Lazy gardening

Californian poppies

The weather has been so hot recently that it hasn't really been conducive to doing anything much in the garden other than seeking a bit of shade in which to loll around in ...

Pot marigolds amongst the
alpine strawberries
round the olive tree

But it's nice to have an excuse to take it easy and let things slip a bit. There'll be plenty of time when things cool down again to catch up. And I'm all for a bit of lazy gardening. I allow the edges of the lawn to grow long by the fence rather than trimming them after mowing - it provides a bit of long grass for the dogs to munch on and a bit of shelter for the frogs. And I don't get too ruthless with some of the weeding either as I love the way many of my plants self-seed and spread. As a result of this I'm enjoying a lovely show of nasturtiums at the end of the garden (as is Angel, who enjoys nibbling at the odd leaf or two) and Californian poppies round the base of the washing line (improves it's looks no end) and next to the bird baths. There are also pot marigolds, and earlier in the year there were lovely drifts of blue forget-me-knots. And a couple of Evening Primroses have sprung up through cracks in the patio next to the wooden bench seat. The scent on a warm summer's evening as I sit out there with the dogs enjoying the sunset is sublime.

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Thursday, 24 July 2014

More cool stuff

It's been madly hot this last week. I put my portable car thermometer out in the patio to see just how hot it was getting: it shot up to 94 F and then started going into meltdown. I promptly brought both it and Archie and Angel back indoors again. They love to sunbathe, but aren't always sensible about it.

Lisa loved splashing in her paddling pool
Loves sun, hates water ...
When they first came to live here, I got out the old clam shell plastic paddling pool, thinking that they might like to paddle and play a few games in it as my previous dogs had. No, not a bit of it - they were absolutely appalled at the thought of dipping so much as a toe in it. Angel very reluctantly sploshed in to retrieve a few food treats floating in there, taking them elsewhere to eat. Archie, after a lot of deliberation and realising that his neck was not going to stretch far enough to be able to get hold of 
his tennis ball floating in it, gingerly put first one, then two front paws in, retrieved the ball and took it off indoors in disgust.
No matter how much I tried to interest them in it, they just didn't want to know, and eventually I gave up. The clam shell has, however, gone on to be useful in other ways - it has been converted into a shallow wildlife pond up on the allotment, and a gang of frogs now call it home. You don't have to be so drastic of course if your dog doesn't take to the idea of paddling either - a clam shell also makes a brilliant digging pit for your dog (fill with clean top soil, then bury a few 'treasures' for added excitement) and because it is portable, can be moved around the garden to wherever you want it. And it can also be multi-function: when it isn't being a paddling pool in warm weather, fill the empty shell with balls instead and hide treats or favourite toys in there instead.
If you have a dog that is a water lover, a paddling pool is a great way of having a bit of cooling-down fun on a warm day. If it is the rigid clam shell type, place a rubber bath mat in the bottom to give a bit of grip to paws. If you haven't yet bought a pool, it's worth looking into the canvas type which are a little bigger. They are self-supporting so do not need blowing up. Plastic children's pools may not last very long as claws can easily burst them.

If you are planning to install a water feature in your garden, install a dog friendly one for preference: bubble fountains can look good, and can also be fun for dogs to play with. If you are going for a more traditional pond, build it with shallow sides so that wildlife (as well as your dog) can easily escape from it and always keep an eye on your dog while out in the garden. Youngsters and elderly dogs can get into trouble in even the shallowest of water. With permanent garden ponds, keep an eye out also for blue green algae which can be a problem with standing water in hot water and can be fatal to your dog if he ingests it.   

Finally, this caught my eye the other morning: a slug munching on a snail for breakfast. Ick. I suppose that at least it is keeping down a garden pest and not eating my garden plants ...

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Friday, 18 July 2014

Cool stuff to do in the garden

Lots of us had spectacular lightning storms last night: there has even been a
bit of much-needed rain - it's just started again as I type this. I shall be glad to be able to skip a lot of the watering today - although the hanging baskets and pots will still need to be checked as foliage, blooms and a close proximity to walls can all mean that they don't get as much to drink when it rains as you might think they would.
The hot weather is not yet at an end however, according to the weather forecasters - there's still more to come.

With warm weather, apart from watering, it's time to think of cool things to do in the garden ...
one of Archie and Angel's favourite pastimes is to take a Kong out there.
Pack the tiny hole at the bottom with a dab of cream cheese or peanut butter,
pour a bit of low or non-fat fruit yogurt in through the big hole
(it helps if you first stand it upright in an old small yogurt carton so it doesn't
all slosh out) and pop it in the freezer until it's solid. I sometimes also add small pieces of fruit and bits of
biscuit to the yogurt to make it a bit more exciting.
Run it briefly under a running tap before giving it to your dog so
there is no danger of tongues getting stuck to it ... and the garden really is the best place
to enjoy this treat, as it can be a bit messy. 
But it gives a lot of fun, and lasts much longer than a Cornetto does for me! 

Angel likes to pin hers down with a paw and then gets stuck into it.
Archie likes to take his somewhere private ...

... and then gets up to all sorts of manouevres trying to find the best way of
getting the very last bit out of the end ! 

How does your dog eat his?

Friday, 11 July 2014


Once big enough to leave the shed, the tomatoes
and cape gooseberries were moved out to a cold frame in the front garden,
where the dogs can't access them.

Shop bought tomatoes never taste as good as home grown ones bursting with flavour. If you don't want to buy a whole packet of seeds which you probably won't use,  for the same amount of money you can buy just one or two seedlings ready to pot on. This will also mean you don't also end up with a huge glut of fruits, but just the amount you can use - although if you do go a bit mad and grow lots of plants, friends may be glad to have any which are surplus to requirements, and you can of course bottle and preserve and make sauces to put in the freezer.
But you must make sure that tomato plants are kept safely out of the way of your dogs as they are not good for them to nibble on. It belongs to the nightshade family Solanaceae, so be respectful! Although the ripe, red fruits are relatively safe, green tomatoes, plus the leaves and vines are toxic.
Dogs do not always appreciate the importance of waiting for things to ripen: given the chance Angel will happily munch her way through as many unripened strawberries as she can snaffle rather than wait till they reach their luscious best - although she eats those too. So keep your tomato plants safely away from pets, so they can't be sampled: mine, plus a crop of cape gooseberries are being grown in the front garden which the dogs don't have free acess to.
Remember that there are other plants too which although humans can safely consume them, are toxic to dogs - including grapes, onions and avocados. As you don't want your dog snacking on something which may be bad for him (or assisting your gardening by 'watering' plants for you either) fruit and veg are probably best grown in areas where your dog is not allowed - if it is a spot within the garden, make sure it is very securely fenced off - or on an allotment.
Allotments are in great demand, and in many areas there is a waiting list - but the sooner you get your name down for one, the sooner you'll get one!

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Thursday, 3 July 2014

The perfect plant for lazy gardeners

Just starting to bloom ...

This picture really doesn't do the plant justice.
I love seeing the sempervivums blooming - the delicate little clusters of  star-like
flowers growing on the ends of triffid-like stalks are a real delight.
But even when they aren't in flower, the foliage is still lovely all the year round.
Even the common names are wonderful - the Latin name means 'live forever' but they are also known as hen and chicks and houseleeks - the latter due to the traditional practice of
      growing them on roofs to ward off lightning strikes.
They are easy to keep and pretty hardy and even thrive on neglect - they don't need lavishing with lots of water and feeding - quite the reverse in fact. They like dry conditions and only moderate watering so are the perfect plant for lazy gardeners. As they are pet friendly, they are perfect for doggy gardens too!
If you have a sunny spot on a rockery they will love it, but if not, or if your soil tends to be wet and cloggy, try them in a tub - or even a small pot will do if you are stuck for space. Fill it with compost to which 25% horticultural grit has been added, as good drainage is important. Add your sempervivums, plus a bit more grit on the surface to further aid drainage, place in a sunny spot and enjoy!

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