• Kay

Colin comes out for summer!


Oh dear, it is still extremely hot! After watering, I pause to admire the citrus trees in their new pots and then I pop down to the mushroom house to sprinkle the newspaper with water. After dragging myself away from the cool, gloomy depths of the mushroom house (there isn’t really an excuse for staying down there, however tempting), I decide to go up to the forest garden bed with Aideen hoping it might be at least in partial shade. Unfortunately, the forest garden bed is turning out to be considerably sunnier than I had expected.

First, I spread out the piles of cut grass which I intend to use as a mulch, not a very pleasant job in such extreme heat. Aideen stays firmly in the shade weeding. I decide to erect ‘pole wig-wams’ to support my sweet potatoes. This is not very easy as the poles are quite substantial and very hard to push into the soil, so I have to dig them in. I make four tripod wig-wams as I have 12 sweet potato plants.

I then make a final four pole wig-wam for my Mashua (tropaeolum tuberosum), which I’ve now learnt has edible tubers (it is a member of the nasturtium family).

This all helps to fill up some space which is what’s needed at the moment. I do not plant the plants at this point as it is far too hot. I feel myself feeling a bit unsteady and I notice I am getting sun burnt, quite unusual for me nowadays.

After lunch, I return to planting containers and plant out three pots for the children’s garden, two urns presently situated beside the fruit-cage and a small hanging basket that goes on the mock Tudor playhouse.

Finally, before I begin teaching, I carry Colin the cactus out to the polytunnel and give him some new compost.

When I finish teaching, I do some watering and I plant out the sweet potatoes and the Mashua.

Box Hedge Root Dilemma


The uncomfortable heat continues and now my watering is hindered by the pump for the rainwater harvesting system breaking down. This would not normally be a problem as I would just use the mains tap, but this requires several long hosepipes and they are presently set up in the orchard to water the new grass seeded area. I check on my small sweet corn, celery/celeriac and nicotiana companion plants and decide they will probably be ok until Thursday when rain is due.

Today Aideen makes a start on digging out the tulip bulbs from the display beds prior to me planting out the dahlias. In the morning, we have a visit from Derek and Sheila the blacksmith couple who have fabricated the fruit-cage, vine support and arches. This is to discuss handrails for the mount and also some shaped steel containers to fit into the box hedge enclosures next to the fountain.

These small areas have always presented a dilemma as you cannot plant straight into them because of the roots of the box hedge. The plan is for the metal container to fit into the enclosure made by the hedges and for it to finish a little higher than the top of the hedge. We would then fill it with soil and plant something pretty, maybe incorporating an obelisk in each container. It will certainly be a better solution than the few weeds these enclosures presently contain.

I then started to clear another large bed for beans, which are still waiting to be planted. I will have great fun trying to unravel them from their poles in the polytunnel! We keep going in the sun for a while, Aideen resorts to wearing a face mask to help with her dreadful hay-fever, this works quite well!

Eventually it becomes unbearable and I start working on a bed at the back of the house where there is more shade.

After my teaching, Patrick calls me outside to finish mulching the forest garden bed with the grass he has just cut and then I do some watering before cooking dinner. No peace for the wicked!

New String


Today is hopefully the final day of hot weather and rain is forecasted this evening, thank God! Aideen and I decided to stay inside to finish the talk. We have tried to work on the talk in the evenings but we end up staying outside and the talk just isn’t getting done. I finished the text weeks ago, but it takes ages to edit and rationalise the text, so it flows smoothly. Also, finding lots of good quality, relevant photos is very time consuming. It also seems quite sensible to stay inside because of the heat and Aideen's terrible hay fever.

However, before we start, I do spend some time in the polytunnel dead heading sweet peas and tying in the cucumbers.

This involved starting a new ball of string which I find very exciting. I muse on the fact that my life is such that I find starting a new ball of string an event!

By the time I start teaching, we are both happy with the text and we have checked the photos that have already been selected. We have also made notes about which further ones to include.

When I finish teaching I will go outside to continue digging up the bulbs in the display beds.

Weather Change!


Thank God the forecast was accurate, and it started to rain last night. Aideen and I were eager to get back outside and for most of the day we only had light showers, so working outside was not a problem. Aideen has been a complete hero today and has helped me in the garden all day. She started by finishing the weeding in the second bean bed that I started a couple of days ago. This is an annoying bed that is infested with fennel which is hard to remove. I was working in the forest garden bed planting things out and periodically she brought me some fennel that looked as if it might survive transplanting. Unfortunately, fennel has a tap root which makes transplanting difficult. I dutifully dug deep well watered holes for all of her offerings and hopefully some will take.

I was also planting out my Amaranthus seedlings which apparently have the most protein rich leaf of any veg and are good at surviving in higher temperatures, which means they could be a very valuable plant in these times of global warming. When Aideen finished the bed, she moved onto sorting out the dahlias prior to me planting them out. This involved weeding the tops of their pots, removing them from the cold frames and grouping them according to colour on the path. This can be tricky as they may have lost labels, so there is always a group classed as ‘unknown’!

I then moved onto planting out about 80 nasturtiums in groups all over the forest garden bed. One tray of nasturtiums was quite leggy, but hopefully they will rectify themselves.

I also noticed that a massive bramble had invaded my ‘bee friendly’ planting around the hives, so I waded into the undergrowth to remove it. The planting around the bees and viewing platform has really matured and the deutzias in particular were flowering beautifully.

Meanwhile Aideen had bravely moved onto the cannas. The canna pots had become ridiculously overgrown with weeds, so this was not an easy task. Having finished at the forest garden bed I realised that my weeding tool had disappeared. I had probably covered it accidentally with the grass mulch as I was planting. I wandered hopelessly about in the 40m long bed trying to spot it, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack! Thank goodness I bought more than one! I resolved to return later and headed off to finish planting the pumpkins and squashes.

Aideen had now moved on to the smaller display beds around the fountain, weeding and removing bulbs. This was incredibly helpful as it will give me clear beds to plant the dahlias. However, we notice that two of the dahlia beds have rotten boards, so we persuaded Patrick to replace them.

Aideen finishes the evening by dead heading roses. I finish planting the pumpkins and then return to the forest garden bed for another search for my weeding tool. I poke around the grass cuttings with a stick and miraculously, I find it! I go inside tired, muddy but happy!

One Extreme to Another!


Today, the weather is horrendous, heavy rain all day. Aideen, very sensibly decides to stay inside to finish putting together the images for the talk. I decide, very unwisely, to go outside. My first outfit for contending with this weather consists of shorts (I’m thinking my legs are waterproof!), my new, supposedly waterproof, jacket, a shower cap and my new waterproof Birkenstock clogs.

I am outside before 8:00am and my first job was to try to rectify the damage caused by the rain in the fruit tree border. Peonies, delphiniums and the giant achilleas were flailing about all over the place.

I spent two hours trying to tie things up and support them also taking the opportunity to remove the worst of the large weeds. We are suffering terribly with cleavers but in this area there are also giant thistles, nettles and a wild clematis! However, I did find one ripe cherry which I ate!

I came in prior to getting grandad up and I was dripping. The jacket was not waterproof, the Birkenstock’s filled up with water like two boats and the shower cap didn’t work either!

After getting dad up, I tried a different outfit; plastic trousers (supposedly waterproof), a different jacket, my Auntie Jean’s hat and my big boots. This time I went outside the front of the house. First, I weeded the front areas of the organ bed and the small bed by the front door. Then, I tackled the long bed that stretches from the main gate to the front door. This bed has been completely neglected since we dug out the parking area. Its edging has been moved out and it needs extra soil. Unfortunately, the salvias that had been growing between the hibiscus bushes were all killed in the cold spell and needed digging out. Another problem was some rampant flowering ground elder in my hydrangeas. This bed was hard work, but a job that desperately needed doing. I was soon soaked again, but Auntie Jeans hat was an improvement on the shower cap.

I then moved into the back courtyard and continued to weed the beds outside the house, again neglected since last year. I regretfully decided to remove my vulnerable sage that lived in an equally vulnerable, rotten, half barrel. It was very badly damaged in the cold spell, along with all the other salvias. Although it had grown back to some extent, it was past its best. By removing this container, which fell apart as soon as I tried to move it, the whole area was opened up. I am hoping to create a whole new look with the salvaged terracotta pipes from the orchard and the metal obelisk that I won in the Passionate Plotter competition in 2019.

Part way through this section of weeding, I changed into another pair of plastic trousers and another jacket! By this time, I am cold, soaked to the skin, filthy and almost beginning to wish it was hot again! What we need is normal weather, neither excessively hot nor ridiculously wet, have we got climate change to thank for this?

After a very late lunch, I went out into the Kitchen Garden and started to weed the manuka beds which are largely infested with seedling salsify. Salsify have very attractive, purple flowers, but these quickly turn to fluffy seed heads which need to be avoided and are the cause of why we have so much salsify.

It was a relief to come inside!

Dragonfly exodus


Everything was wet outside today after yesterday’s rain, but further rain held off until the evening. Patrick, Aideen and I walked aro