Gardening

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Marigold
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Gardening

Post by Marigold » Tue Jan 01, 2019 4:03 pm

Following the success of the Nature Notes and Recipes threads, I wondered if anyone would like one about our various gardening projects, progress and problems. We live in so many different areas and climates, each with its own challenges and advantages. Rather like poultry keeping, actually - the type of gardening we choose is the result of space available, time, energy, and what we hope to get out of it. The scale varies from a window box or pot plant, to an allotment, a wildlife area, or a whole croft, in HenGen's case.

My garden is in the South of England, at the top of a hill on chalky soil, so drains fast and suffers drought in summer. Three huge, beautiful birches have spread their roots and tend to get whatever is going under the surface. 48 years of adding compost to the borders has produced decent soil, but plants here have to like alkaline conditions and be resistant to long dry spells. There's a largish pond, topped up by a hose that takes nearly all the water from the house roof. The main aim is wildlife conservation, with mature trees and shrubs and as much trouble-free ground cover as possible.

New Year's Day here has been Springlike, a calm and sunny 11C, and I've been digging out old raspberries, ready to top up with fresh soil and composted manure before planting new autumn-fruiting raspberries. I'm also going to instal a length of perforated hose under the surface, which I could connect to a water butt to give them rainwater when available, or to the tap when the butt is empty. Last summer, we had hardly any fruit on the old canes, mostly my fault for not watering them sufficiently in the heat, but also because the canes were too old and had become strangled by bindweed, impossible to dig out over the years. Primocane raspberries are the easiest and most trouble-free of fruit bushes, and I'm always amazed at the price of them in the shops, when at home they just go on giving for months on end!
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chrismahon
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Re: Gardening

Post by chrismahon » Wed Jan 02, 2019 9:18 am

Soft fruit doesn't like tap water Marigold- the Chlorine kills the taste in the fruit. Best to do as us, fill the water butt and leave it 4 days for the Chlorine to come out before using it. in practice this means two water butts that can be connected to your watering system.

Here the ground holds moisture well but dries out in Summer leaving big cracks in the ground. Growing vegetables requires a mulch over the top to suppress weeds and hold in the moisture- we use shredded leaves. Last year we didn't have enough so we've doubled the amount stored. Our 'potager' (veggie plot) is 225m2 of which half is beds and the rest grass walkways just wide enough to mow. Our rain water butts hold 1000L each and the contents is pumped to a 300L tank in the potager from which we fill watering cans. Ideally each crop is grown over a trench filled with compost and watering each trench is done using water bottles buried- the bottoms are cut off which acts as a funnel. This prevents the surface being watered which would encourage weeds.

It's a very untidy affair really, but to keep it looking like an English garden is far too much work. Winter crops are used here a lot, basically to avoid all the watering necessary in Summer. We did Spring sowing last year which was a mistake, so this year only tomatoes, beans and squashes will go in- basically those that are not frost resistant.

Need to add that an enclosure is essential to stop Roe Deer and Badgers eating the produce. Unfortunately if Wild Boar take a fancy to it no enclosure will keep them out, they are just too powerful.

And something else I forgot to mention is hailstorms. Hail can be the size of golf balls as our car demonstrates. Best if the more delicate plants, like tomatoes, are grown within a framework that allows debris netting to cover them over. Can't cover French beans here though as, unlike the dwarf varieties in England, these grow like runner beans up a 2 metre high framework. We used wire cages over the young squash fruits but the whole plants are too big to cover.
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Hen-Gen
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Re: Gardening

Post by Hen-Gen » Wed Jan 02, 2019 11:34 am

Some folk in these parts garden but not on the higher, exposed ground where I am. I’m fully open to the SE and E winds which are the killers.
However behind a 6ft wall on one side and a 5ft fence on the other, both of which I had built when I moved here, I have a copse. Does this count as gardening? There are about 200 trees of mixed species which have now reached their maximum height of about 12ft. They are very branched and underplanted with nectar rich shrubs. Last year I got round to planting snowdrops and two years ago some comfrey appeared. Don’t know where this came from as there’s none around.
Anyway on warm days I can go in and sit with a mug of tea and listen to the bees and hover flies which is blissful. Unfortunately no butterflies here but there are a range of nocturnal moths and the odd immigrant. Saw an elephant hawk moth last summer. There are hedgehogs around but never seen one in my copse. Rabbits and snipe seem to like skulking in it though.
This years project is to beg, borrow or steal some honeysuckle and let it run riot thickening up the lower levels to create undergrowth.
As you can see I’m very interested in wildlife gardening and particularly enjoy the migration seasons when all sorts of odd things stop over for some R and R. Unfortunately this also brings twitchers. Although I enjoy bird watchers twitchers are avian stamp collectors who care little for the birds well being and will drive them out of my copse so they can all see them. So when I see them they get short shrift from me!
So apart from the copse my only concession to gardening is doing what I can to encourage floral diversity on my bits of grassland. This means no fertiliser and no cutting until the flowers have set seed. And, at the behest of a neighbour who is a passionate ornithologist, leaving some docks because the seeds are a favoured food of twite.
A few cacti sum up my horticultural ambitions. I’ve had them for 20years and most visitors admire their size but they obdurately refuse to flower despite being on south facing window sills.
Future projects include buying a bunch of different fern species, which I love, but which I abandoned down south when I moved. This is one of those things I deeply regret. I mean what kind of saddo joins the British Pteridological Society? (Almost as sad as visiting poultry forums). I think the only other members are leading cast members of Black Books and Young Sheldon! 😉
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Marigold
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Re: Gardening

Post by Marigold » Wed Jan 02, 2019 2:34 pm

That sounds like the perfect garden, HenGen - good to relax in, and self-maintaining. Ours has a council-owned field at the back, which one day will probably have 200 houses planted on it, but meanwhile it's just rewilding gently. I'm gradually planting native tree seedlings along outside of our boundary, which I hope will make a screen by the time that happens.
bigyetiman
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Re: Gardening

Post by bigyetiman » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:54 pm

You could always shoot the twitchers Hen-Gen, you would be a public service, so says OH who is a keen birdwatcher, but doesn't feel the need to go haring after some poor little waif and stray and get ever closer with a great big photographic lens.
Our soil is thick heavy clay which floods in winter and dries out into huge cracks in summer. We have built raised beds to plant veg in, the gooseberry bushes seem to like the clay soil, as does the pyracantha which doesn't seem to mind being submerged every so often. Some of the traditional cottage garden plants don't seem to mind the variable conditions either.
One advantage to it getting very wet and swamp like in the winter is having Woodcock in the garden at dusk and dawn. We have had Snipe but they seem to prefer the farm fields, Little Egrets like it also.
bigjim
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Re: Gardening

Post by bigjim » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:33 pm

The allotment owner I follow on instagram is going no dig this year. Seems all you thought you knew about gardening is wrong. Digging damages the earth and what lives in it. I thought you dug, so you can introduce compost and improve the soil.
My mate collects my chicken poo and my nieces rabbit bedding, says it's fantastic for breaking down the compost.
Also I'm a big acer lover.
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Hen-Gen
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Re: Gardening

Post by Hen-Gen » Wed Jan 02, 2019 7:21 pm

bigyetiman wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:54 pm

One advantage to it getting very wet and swamp like in the winter is having Woodcock in the garden at dusk and dawn.
Oh dear! Woodcocks are my favourite bird but with game chips and red currant jelly.
We only get them coming through on the autumn migration.

The bird I really enjoy, not gastronomically, is the water rail some of which winter here and one in my little plantation but which comes out to a large, muddy puddle on my drive.
But back to gardening. If I win the lottery, which is rather unlikely because I don’t do it, then I’d have a greenhouse full of camellias. I bet some of you have them in your gardens.
PS
You’ve spurred me on. Just been on Amazon and bought 500g of wild flower seeds!
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Re: Gardening

Post by MrsBiscuit » Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:59 pm

I am going to join in this thread when I am feeling better, got a horrible 48 hour cold thing. We have camellias, they love Portugal, I think its all the winter wet plus warm spring temps; this gives them enough to survive the scalding summers. I also grew them in England as we had a very good camellia nursery close by, plus the requisite acid soil. On my New Year's Eve table I picked a whole load of white ones and put them in a white vase and felt much better about things because I had managed to get a home grown flower into the house!

Great idea Marigold, its been a fascinating read already!
bigyetiman
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Re: Gardening

Post by bigyetiman » Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:01 pm

My father in law bought M in law a camellia as she loved them. She tended it lovingly but never a flower. Then the year he died it flowered like there was no tomorrow, and has done ever since.
As you have eaten them Hen-Gen have you seen a Woodcock close up feathered as they have the most amazing colours, every shade of brown. We have Water Rail pop into the garden every so often. OH was at a farm up the lane yesterday looking at his owl boxes and whilst looking in his ditches surprised a Jack Snipe which was bobbing along which she was quite pleased about.
Another plant that seems to like our clay soil is Jerusalem sage
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Marigold
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Re: Gardening

Post by Marigold » Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:30 pm

I pruned our two apple trees this morning. One of those jobs that only happen once a year, and I try to do it early in January as it always seems to be a marker to help me look forward to Spring. There was a seed catalogue in the post over Christmas, and I enjoyed browsing through it for my new raspberry plants. I read all through the lovely selection of vegetable seeds and potato tubers, remembering how much I used to enjoy making planting plans and ordering seed when I had my allotment. The apple trees and the raspberries are more or less all the edibles I can fit in here, and I have to resist the lure of growing things in pots. It's lovely when they start coming up, but I know that in the heat of summer I shan't want to be bothered to keep on watering them.
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