Thursday, 28 May 2015

First of the season!

Not the first strawberries, but the first time this year that there 
has been more than one ripe one - which is quite hard
to divide between three!

Forget sugar and cream.
Best eaten freshly picked straight from the plants ...

It is well worth growing a few alpine strawberries - they'll grow in a pot, 
in hanging baskets, in crevices in the patio even, and they are hugely rewarding. 
They go on cropping month after month - right into November last year
in their sheltered spot by the back door.
And a handful is perfect for breakfast, scattered over cereal or with some yogurt
- as well as being a handy treat I can give the dogs while out in the garden.
I just have to keep an eye on them that they
don't sneak over and stuff themselves and give themselves upset tums.

Friday, 22 May 2015

A new toy

Archie found a new toy in the garden the other day,
and pounced on it with glee.

It wasn't really a toy - it was the Waspinator, which had blown down during the night.
It hadn't even been particularly windy, but nevertheless the fabric loop 
it was tied by had torn off.
It is my one complaint about them - they seem to do a good job of discouraging wasps from setting up home, and are perfect when you are trying to be as chemical-free as possible, both for the benefit of wildlife and safety of the dogs.
But they are ridiculously fragile - they never last a whole season and tear as soon as you so much as breathe on them. Okay so you can buy two for a tenner - but when you have to keep on spending a tenner each and every year, it starts to become irksome. And having to get the long ladder out to hang it up is a pain too, when you have other garden tasks planned. 
Would it really be so difficult to produce a more robust version?
Come on, Waspinator, we're sure you could do it!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Another encore

It's happened again ...
Every year I decide to chop down the ceanothus in the
front garden which has flopped to one side and now
makes it difficult to mow underneath ...

... and every year it goes and does this ...
The picture really doesn't do it justice ...
It is the most intense, eye-watering blue and the bees
adore it. They swarm all over it, working busily - everywhere you look there are bees 
and more bees - from a short distance away where you can't see them, you can
hear the humming sound they make.
A happy bee chorus? 
Or a less scary version of the Singing Ringing Tree?
It has once again got a reprieve - how could I ever have
thought of getting rid of it, even if I had planned to replace it with
another, better trained one.
It is simply glorious and I'm loving it. 

After a couple of days of glorious weather - yesterday was positively hot
work on the allotment - today we have been promised rain all day.
I'm quite pleased as I have lots of indoor stuff to get on with - such as working on the Your Dog gardening series - plus it will soften up the ground nicely - I still have another bed to dig over ready for the leeks. 
Archie and Angel are less thrilled.
Sunbathing by a radiator just isn't as good as the real thing.
Good thing doggy TV is switched on - rain never puts the pigeons off, so there's always something to watch in the garden outside whilst staying warm and dry indoors.

Saturday, 9 May 2015


I opened the front door the other day to find ants running round everywhere in the porch and beginning to venture into the house ... I wasn't thrilled as I'm not a fan of ants. Apart from hurting when they bite, I'm always baffled by gardening books which declare that they aren't a problem in the garden and won't hurt plants. Well they may not actually chomp their way through them like slugs and snails, that's true, but I've lost plenty of plants in the past due to them setting up home in and around the roots of them ... Happily they don't seem to be much of a problem out there these days, so I wasn't especially pleased to see a return of them. I didn't want to resort to anything chemical and locating the nest and pouring boiling water over it seems as barbaric as boiling lobsters. Everything has a place in the system, even if we aren't always aware of it's role anyway, so I preferred to encourage them to relocate rather than to actually kill them off. Enter the solution - a tube of toothpaste. I smeared a bit on a finger and rubbed it along the door lintel and watched. Ants encountering it turned back immediately, making no attempt to cross it. I worked more toothpaste into the area, creating a barrier into the house at any rate: it was a sunny day and before long the whole porch was filled with the smell of freshmint toothpaste.
I went out for a walk with the dogs and when I came back found that ant movement was greatly reduced and next day there were only a few to be seen scuttling around. The toothpaste appeared to have done the trick, but just for good measure I mixed a few drops of rosemary and lavender essential oil and used a cotton bud to smear it across the wooden lintel. The next day - no ants in evidence at all. Job done, and without endangering wildlife or Archie and Angel with any chemicals, or any death involved. Oh - and very cheap too ... Next time I find an ants nest in the garden I shall simply bury small pots with dabs of minty toothpaste in them and watch them packing their bags ...

PS I'm told that lemon or white vinegar is also an effective deterrent!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Flower power

"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough ..."

In fact everything is hung with bloom - this is an ornamental cherry by the garden back door - but the cherry tree on my allotment plot was an even more stunning sight: unfortunately I kept forgetting to take the camera along to capture it in all its glory ... The apple and pear trees have also bust out all over too and as with the cherry are as much of a delight to look at for themselves as much as for the promise of fruit to come later in the year. The alpine strawberries in the back garden are also flowering, and Archie and Angel have been rather optimistically making a point of starting to regularly check them - but it will be a little while yet before I have to make sure they don't pig out on the fruit!

Apologies for missing the weekend post - but being a Bank Holiday weekend and all I was rather busy trying to catch up on garden chores and finally getting the last of the spuds in. That's the good news: the bad is that after defrosting and cleaning the freezer in the shed ready for this year's produce, I moved it to sweep behind it and found that the floor at the very back had rotted and given way. Anyone know of a good shed repair man?