Vision Of Things To Come ~ Thursday’s Special

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The endless envisioning of how plants will grow and crop is what keeps us gardeners gardening. In the face of failure we regroup, and start again – perhaps a different variety is required, or more careful cultivation techniques; maybe weather conditions were against us, so prompting us to think how we might come up with new strategies to reduce the worst effects if the same thing happens next year.

So it becomes an on-going pursuit of forward thinking, learning, re-learning and visualizing. I find it also helps to try and see things from the plant’s point of view. If I were it, am I getting everything I need: food, appropriate levels of moisture, protection from extremes (which among others can include ravages by aphids, pigeons, drought and tempest). With climate change we may have to rethink entirely the kinds of fruit and vegetables we grow.

This year I am probably growing too many sweet corn plants. I thought the first lot of seedlings were set to fail after being assaulted by several days’ torrential rain while I was away. Just in case, I sowed more seed. But then the shredded little efforts rallied, and the second sowing burgeoned, so now I have about three dozen plants on the go.  They are greedy crops too, and also need lots of watering, which is hard work up at the allotment where cans have to be filled and hauled from the water tank. The site is also very exposed, and its heavy soil prone to turning to concrete at the slightest hint of a drought.

To cope with this I have adopted two different approaches. The later batch of plants has been planted out in a bed of deep litter from a dismantled compost heap. Hopefully this will both shelter and feed the plants as they get going and stop them drying out or needing quite so much watering.

The earlier batch I set out in a plot where I have overwintered trefoil and fenugreek still growing. I sowed these plants at the end of last summer as a green manure, and had meant to dig them in this spring. Then I had a much better idea, one that relieved me of much digging. When it came to plant out the sweet corn, I simply popped the seedlings in amongst the green manure plants.

There are all sorts of advantages to this. The fenugreek and trefoil are nitrogen fixing so should nurture the sweet corn. They also act as weed suppressants as well as providing shade and shelter to the developing plants.

So far this seems to be working quite well. I’m also trimming back the trefoil and fenugreek as the corn grows, so acquiring a crop of green stuff for the compost heap and to use as mulch around the beans, which also like to keep their roots cool and moist.

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So now my vision is of summer’s end and lots of juicy golden cobs – perhaps enough for us and all my allotment neighbours. We’ll see…

 

Thursday’s Special: vision

Did The Earth Move For Me? Not Blooming Likely. More A Case Of DIY

All right I confess. I’m a fraud. I call myself a writer, but in reality I move soil.  Year in and year out I move soil. It has become my lot in life – not only on the home front with The Man In My House  Who Keeps Having Ground Moving Notions, but also on my own time up at the allotment. How did this happen? Was this the plan I had for myself?

This time last year we were busy shifting ten tons of gunky green Silurian clay and the junk of builders past, removing a huge and hideous waist-high flower bed outside our back door. We had lived with it for ten years, but finally it had to go. Ground Moving Man, then became Wall and Steps Building Man – using traditional mortar and the old bricks and limestone lying around to place to build a much neater, narrower raised border, and safer steps to the top of the garden. (Our cottage is built into a  bank).  The effort was as momentous, as it was cunning. The Wall and Step Builder had devised a way of dismantling the old steps in tandem with building the new ones so that we always had access to the upper quarters of our small domain, and thence my path to the allotment. Hats off to you, sir!

Here are views of the work as it proceeded.

A wintery before:

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During the synchronised step demolition and rebuilding (pretty good work for a retired plant pathologist):

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After – a bit heavy on the limestone perhaps, but we had it on site, which is always a bonus when you live on a road where deliveries can be tricky:

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Most of the clay spoil and erstwhile builders’ rubble that had been hidden behind the steps and in the bed was barrowed round the front of the house and tipped into a Hippo Bag. This natty item is sent through the post in return for some loot. You fill it with 1.5 tonnes of stuff, and then a truck comes and cranes it away. Ideal for people who live on a busy main road, and have no room for a big skip. We had several of these handy mega bags.

Meanwhile up at the allotment I was dismantling a forty-year old allotmenteers’ spoil heap the size of Everest, and using the substance, which only vaguely resembled compost, to make new raised beds and terraces on my polytunnel plot.  I shifted probably sixty barrow loads, and all with the aim of creating (ultimately) a NO DIG gardening system. I know this may sound mad.

The year before I had started clearing the plot by slicing off the neglected, weed-choked surface and piling the turves into pallet bins in the hopes that one day they would decompose into something usable. This was in no way compatible with the principles of NO DIG, but was my quick and dirty method of checking the buttercup, couch grass, and dandelion infestation. After learning the error of my ways early last spring, I gave it up for covering the remaining uncleared ground in layers of cardboard, and tipping a good six inches of spoil heap soil on the top. He Who Builds Walls and Steps then knocked up a few raised beds. (Those of you who come here often will know all this.)

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This year I find that ants have been busy in the horrid heap of weedy turves, and the ensuing soil is usable, so am now repatriating it to the areas whence I cleared it two years earlier. So good on the ants, but more earth moving required.

Meanwhile, the notions of NO DIG, also require the seasonal application of deep layers of compost to the surface of all beds. The only problem with this is making enough compost. You need tons and tons. However, last autumn I made an effort and amassed material in bins and heaps all over my two plots – wherever there was space in fact. And now these need digging out, or at least turning.

NO DIG, it seems, does not mean the end of wielding forks and spades – not by a long chalk. So there we have it – ‘my days’ career’ as a young Kenyan farm wife once described to me her life of endlessly hauling things about.

And back on the home front  this year we have already dug up the front lawn and replanted the bank beside the road. And we have dug up the back lawn and moved more soil so He Who Builds can now branch out into shed construction, though we did at least have two strong young men come and lay the paved concrete slab from which said edifice will arise. I am told it will have a curved roof.

The arrival of the shed will next dictate the remodelling of the back garden flower beds. All of which makes  me feel as if my  life is founded on shifting ground; the strata beneath my feet in perpetual motion and always needing to be somewhere else, and in some other shape. Perhaps one day all the earth in my vicinity will be in the places where we actually want it – no more moving required. Then perhaps I can give up the fraudulent writer posture and finish off a book or two; return to mental heaving and lugging, re-shaping and visualising, create the content and structure exactly as I want it – and all this without heft of spade or putting on my wellies. Perhaps…

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copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Tonight Over The Garden Wall ~ The Foxglove Garden

A week ago the wilderness garden behind our house was all columbines. They went to seed very quickly and now it’s the foxgloves’ turn – along with the Dame’s Violets and the slender spires of purple toadflax. All self-sown and grown. I’m rather taken with the foxglove on the right, the one  with creamy lips. I must remember to collect some seed, though there’s no knowing how its offspring will turn out.

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The white foxgloves are lovely too. They have lime green speckles inside each flower.

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And finally a view looking out over the garden wall as the sun goes down over Wenlock Edge.

This Week Over My Garden Fence ~ Granny’s Bonnets Galore

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You can’t have too many, can you? Aquilegias that is, aka Columbine or Granny’s Bonnets. They self-seed all over our garden, and also outside the back fence where we have a self-gardening border between us and the field. Dame’s violet, feverfew, purple toadflax, moon daisies, corn cockle and foxgloves are the other vigorous self-sowers. The Dame’s violet in particular is welcome for its fabulous scent. This year most of the plants have come up white. Last year they were mostly pinky-mauve as the plant in the next photo. I like the way they give us a change of scheme:

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The border isn’t entirely made up of DIY flora. I have put in a few perennials, along with spreading useful herbs – various mints, oregano, lemon balm and marjoram. This year too, some left over allium bulbs put in 18m months ago, are making a nice show – quite unplanned planting scheme-wise.  They were planted in the places where I could get my trowel in the soil.

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You can also glimpse the transplanted crab apple tree in the top left corner. It’s just coming into full leaf. Next on parade will be the foxgloves. They are opening today under a sudden heat wave – so pictures to come. I’m also wondering if the invasion of opium poppies will be repeated this year. It’s nice to be kept guessing and to have a good garden fence to lean on – to watch and wait, and see what this unofficial garden will do next. It’s certainly keeping the bugs and bees happy.

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Gardens  Please visit Cee for more lovely plants and gardens.

Thursdays Special ~ Spring In My Garden

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This week at Lost in Translation Paula’s theme is ‘vernal’ and she is calling for our spring compositions. So here are a few scenes from my Wenlock garden. Things have been a bit slow this year because we’ve had no rain for weeks and weeks. But today we did – and the garden has come alive with aquilegias and alliums. And I had no time to take photographs because I had a hundred other things to do. Hey ho. So the photos here were mostly taken back in March/early April: ornamental cherry, crab apple, and damson – the flowers of fruit to come.

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The Trail Of Tish ~ My Path To The Allotment

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Here is a well worn path of my daily comings and going along the margins of Townsend Meadow. The visible sign: the trail of gardening not writing.

There’s an unofficial gap in the hedge beside the first ash tree, and that’s my way into the allotment. The farmer leaves a swath of uncultivated ground on two sides of the field to soak up rainstorm run-off before it hits the houses at the bottom of the hill. For a couple of years these abandoned areas were simply left to grow, hence the nose-high grasses still standing in winter. But last summer, just before the wheat harvest, the weedy  wilderness was mowed. Now the only signs of my passing  are muddy boot impressions among the fallen ash leaves – not quite so photogenic.

Black & White Sunday: SIGN  Paula says to interpret this prompt any way we like.

Foxgloves Over The Garden Fence ~ After And Before

 

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This Sunday at Lost in Translation, Paula asks us to show her a black and white version of a colour original. This summer shot was taken from the back of our house looking towards Wenlock Edge as the sun  was going down.

Just over the garden fence we have a strip of ground that grows itself each year – mostly self-seeded foxgloves, columbine, corn cockle, moon daisies and opium poppies along with some perennial lemon balm, spearmint and oregano. It’s a treat waiting to see what will happen there every summer. Just thinking of this brightens a rather gloomy January day here in Shropshire.

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And now I can’t resist posting some more transformations in and around Much Wenlock. Clearly, some work better than others, but in any event, as Paula says, it helps one to see with fresh eyes:

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Last Year At The Allotment ~ Seasonal Highlights

Now is the time of year when gardeners head for their seed catalogues and start making plans for the growing season ahead. Seed potatoes must be ordered, and preparations made (i.e. brain put in gear so as not to miss appropriate time slots) for crops that must be sown early. It is also a good moment to review which of the last year’s crops grew best, and most importantly, which we most enjoyed eating.

Actually all the produce was delicious. We had loads of Early Onward peas, courgettes and salad greens. Beans thrived – French, borlotti, fava, runners, and Cherokee, as did the globe artichokes, raspberries and Swift sweet corn. In the polytunnel the Black Russian tomatoes, and yellow cherry variety were the most prolific. I also grew some very good pink onions in there, and thus saved them from alium beetle attack which did a lot of damage in the outdoor crop.

There’s still stuff to eat on the plot too – Brussels sprouts, Italian broccoli, Tuscan kale, parsnips, and early purple sprouting to come.

And now as I look at these photos, I sense the horticultural sap rising. Soon it will be time to go out and get growing – all over again. For the gardener’s work is never done. Yippeeeeee!

 copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Thursday’s Special: 2016 Retrospective   Please visit Paula for her own fine retrospective, and be inspired.

Solstice Sky And A Fine Quotation To Match

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I dashed up to the allotment this afternoon while it was still fine. The weather forecast is promising us storms tomorrow so I thought I’d better get the Christmas parsnips dug up fast, and the Brussels sprouts and red cabbage gathered in.  The ground was very water-logged and the plots looked dreary, and naturally there were no other mad gardeners around but me. But as the sun went down, just a fraction later after the shortest day, the light over the town was magical.

These photos were taken with lots of zoom, and in the next one the sky looks to be on fire.

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All of which reminded me of an Albert Camus quote which I read on a writing blog earlier this week. It was so hope-inducing I thought I’d pass it on at the first opportunity. It’s especially apt for all you creative people out there, which would be every man Jack and Jill of you. More power to your making in 2017:

 In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

All Things Must Change ~ Frosted Lily

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Only on December 11th did I cut down the last of these lovely shell-pink lilies. They have been putting on a good show since September, the flowers opening day after day, and new buds forming. This is pretty impressive for a plant that is native to southern Africa where its red version goes by the name of Crimson River Lily.

Schizostylis coccinea was its botanical name, but it has now been reclassified as Hesperantha coccinea.  Go to this link if you want more information on how to grow it. I have found it a most obliging plant, requiring little attention, though I gather it likes to be moved around the garden every few years. It comes in a range of coral and pink shades, and makes very pleasing clumps that can be easily divided in spring.

Here’s how it will look next September. Doesn’t it make you smile?

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Cee’s Flower of the Day Please visit Cee for more blooming marvels. Or go there to post a floral link to your own.