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Dead heading Daffodils and vine weevel

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Have you noticed how quickly the Daffodil flowers are fading this year.  I put it down to the recent spell of dry warm weather.  Yesterday was just like a summer day here in West Sussex anyway. I spent an enjoyable few hours pulling off the dead heads.  By the removing the dead head the plant can die down storing all its energy into the bulb for next year.   As I was pottering around the garden I decided to sort out a few of my many pots.  One had a sad  looking Cordyline with some pretty little pansies around the base.  I dug out the pansies and put them into other pots.

Vine weevle grubs

Vine weevle grubs

Then to my horror as I was pulling out the Cordyline I noticed a little white grub.  On further inspection there were loads of them.  I went back to the pansies and found a few in the soil around their roots.  My favorite way of disposing with these nasties is to put them onto the bird table or squish them between my gloved fingers.  I learnt from Helen Yemms column in the Saturday Telegraph that Vine Weevil eggs are the colour of earth so undetectable.  One way to deter the adult beetle is to mulch the top of pots with a gravel type mulch.   I use my Eco Charlie Slug and Snail deterrent which not only looks attractive but stops water loss and deters any slug and snails that maybe looking for a snack.  My next job now is to  look in other pots.

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April is here and so is a new hedge

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Well April is here and the planting season has started.  I enjoy growing my plants from cuttings or seed but my husband has very different ideas.  He likes buy big and make an instant impact.  So on Thursday our new hedge arrived,twenty 9 foot tall laurels!  To make a hedge on another boundary.  This meant that another digger turned up to dig the trench and help the laurels out of the lorry then it was down to us and the digger to plant the monsters.  Luckily my daughter and son were around to help also my mother in law Paddy.  We all pushed and pulled and by day two the plants were safely in their new home and we were exhausted.  All that was left was to give them a good water and job done.  Tomorrow we will buy a leak hose so that we can get water right down by the root ball and then we will feed and mulch around the base to smother any weeds.  They have been planted with a good  mix of organic matter added to the existing soil so hopefully they will enjoy their new home.

New Hedge

New Hedge

I have managed to get on with digging the vegetable patch and I am itching to get planting.  I planted out the broad beans seeds ( a bit late really) also spinach, carrot, beetroot and in a large pot I put some rocket.   After a trip to the garden centre ( for the leak hose ) I cheated and brought some pea plants and some garlic so that I could have something green in the vegetable patch.  I also  moved some rhubarb to the  patch that I found growing in another part of the garden.

The weather was so warm and sunny here over the Easter weekend that I took the opportunity to sit in the sun and sow some seeds in module trays. I prefer these mainly because it saves time pricking out.   I planted  white Cosmos, Sweet peas ( another late sowing and seed saved from last year so not sure what variety it will be) some parsley and chives.  I will leave these in the potting shed to germinate.

While working in the garden I noticed a lovely patch of wild primroses hidden away behind an old gazebo.  They are one of my favorite spring flowers and when they have finished flowering I must remember to split and move them to where they will be noticed next year.

Wild primroses

Wild primroses

Our grass has started to grow really quickly now so cutting is going to be weekly  which means I will be  spending lots more time in the garden weather permitting. Yippee.

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Job for today

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

A job I felt I must get out and do today was to cut down the dogwoods in the garden.  These plants give such vibrant winter colour and if they are cut down around now bright fresh new growth will be assured for next year.  I also popped a few of the prunings into an out of the way place in the garden to let them take root and make new plants.  As I was walking around the garden I noticed how dry the pots were so I spent a very happy half an hour watering  pots and dead heading the  early spring flowers. I am pleased at the way the water spikes are working in the green house and I haven’t had to do much other than fill them up occasionally. While wandering around the garden I also found a big hole coming under our fence and realised that the badger has found a new way into the garden.  This could be a problem in the future when the vegetable garden gets going because  he has started to dig some of the borders. Although thankfully there is not too much damage, he has actually helped a bit by unearthing the ground elder roots and making it easier for me to weed them out.  I know this weed is prevalent in this garden and I am going to have to keep on top of it if I don’t want it to take over any more than it has already.  I think that I heard you could eat it, so any recipes would be gratefully received.

A bunch of Dogwood stems

A bunch of Dogwood stems

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A new project

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

We planted a new hedge on the boundary this weekend to cover an ugly fence.  The area also used to have three compost bins in it which have been moved to a more hidden area. Once  cleared this area of the garden that was unloved and redundant makes a perfect spot for a vegetable patch.  So while we had our hired digger which was used to dig the trench to plant the hedge and to move the compost heaps we used it to dig over the soil.  We found a lot of old glass bottles, broken tiles  paving stones and old tree roots.  After pulling out all this rubbish we raked the soil level and retired inside to draw a plan over a cup of tea.  So watch this space and see the vegetable patch take shape.

Our trusty digger

Our trusty digger

Another job I have been enjoying is sorting out and weeding the flower borders. Unfortunately, I have  found that  I have the dreaded ground elder and bind weed to contend with here although  I find it strangely satisfying digging out the roots and destroying them.  I am trying to knock  the borders  into shape before the warmer weather comes along and gets everything growing also I wanted to show off all the bulbs that are pushing through.  I have also been busy chopping down an out of shape privet hedge and finishing  the last of the rose pruning.  Many of the roses in the garden have been neglected and there was a lot of dead wood that needed to be cut or sawn out of them.  I noticed that most of the roses have had black spot so I made sure I cleared up as many of the fallen rose leaves and burnt them on the bonfire.  Picking up the diseased leaves helps to prevent the fungus taking hold but it won’t eradicate it completely.  I will need to keep an eye on the roses, feed and water them regularly and hand pick of any leaves that grow with black spot and burn them.

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New Garden Arch

Monday, February 8th, 2010


Well it is certainly a pleasure getting out into my garden again after all the cold and frozen weather.  I had a few projects that I was itching to do.  Firstly the snow had broken the support to a very old Clematis Montana, which had in turn squashed the shrubs in the rest of the border. The Clematis was in dire need of a haircut as it had become a rather unsightly tangle.  I had also been given a lovely arch  for Christmas made from galvanised steel which I wanted to use to replace a slightly rickety black plastic arch already in the garden.  So this was the perfect opportunity to change everything round.

Old arch relocated in garden

Old arch relocated in garden

I enlisted the help of my husband and by the end of a tiring but satisfying day we had dismantled the old broken arch, constructed the new arch and taken down and re-erected the black plastic arch tying in the now much smaller Clematis as we went. I now need to buy some more climbers for my new arch.   I had thought to use  Climbing Roses and Honeysuckles but then I thought about using it for vegetables instead I can’t seem to make my mind up at the moment so I think a wander round RHS Wisley  or West Dean Gardens near Chichester will give me some inspiration and a lovely thing to do on a bright day.

My new garden arch

The second job I wanted to tackle was to cut the bank to the side of my house. This was because I had noticed masses of Snowdrops pushing their delicate little heads through the soggy leaves and tangles of brambles and old grass. Now I know that they are there I will strim this area in the Autumn but as we had moved here in December it was a job that required my trusty shears and the upmost patience so as not to spoil them. As I cleared the bank I also noticed that there were also daffodils ready to take over when the snowdrops fade. With these tasks completed I can now turn my attention to the rest of the garden.

I must get to grips with where I want to sight my Vegetable garden I may use a border that runs through part of the garden by my new arch this year as there are many plans afoot to change certain areas of the garden.  So watch this space.  I think that this should work for a while, it may be small but the soil is well dug and nicely worked so not too much digging for me as it had already been cleared. There were some very, very old and mainly dead lavender bushes in it and it was a joy to have them removed. I can sow some Broad Beans this week and plant some onions and garlic as well alittle late as I like to plant  them normally before Christmas but the soil was too frozen.

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New House – New EcoCharlie Garden!

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Well the Christmas decorations have been taken down and we are frozen into our new house.  We must have moved in the coldest weather ever. Our removal men did so well to get us here to West Sussex.  All my garden paraphernalia survived even if I did bring along some of the frozen soil from the old garden.  I now have the pleasurable job of placing all my pots and arranging the new potting shed although given the conditions this will have to wait for the warmer weather.   As it is so cold all I have managed to do is to make sure the birds are feed and watered.

The country house where the new EcoCharlie Garden is being set up

New house where the EcoCharlie garde nis being set up

I have found that by melting some lard and adding bird seed and any scraps left over from toast etc then putting the whole mixture into a bowl I can take out the food in the morning and then bring in the old bowl to replenish in the evening.  I have also ventured out to knock the snow from the conifers before the snow breaks any branches.  As the sun is shining today I am off to take some pictures of my beautiful area.

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Notes of what to do!

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

have been in active for the last two weeks.  This is due to tearing a calf muscle while clearing leaves. It was such a lovely day with bright blue sky and I had a million and one things to do indoors but I just had to get outside.

It was the third wheelbarrow of leaves that did it.  I pushed the wheelbarrow full of leaves to the appointed leaf drop position and ping.  I heard a sound like an elastic band breaking and felt like I had been shot in the back of the leg. As I tried to put my foot down a dreadful pain shot through my leg and I realised that something was very wrong.  I was up a slight slope and on the lane outside my garden so I hopped 200m to the house in order to get my husband to help. He sat me down found me an ice pack and we decided to visit casualty.

The upshot is that I am now on crutches and having physio.  It is very difficult and tiring trying to walk let alone garden on crutches, although I have managed to reach the green house and pot up some spring bulbs that were buried under some fleece in the potting shed.  I have become quite inventive in the ways that I have transported things around when no one is there to help.  A small rucksack is a must to carry everyday bits that you might need mobile phone, pad and pencil, tissues, lip salve and the must have these days glasses!

The other must is somewhere that you can plonk yourself when your arms tire. My family have been positioning chairs and stalls for me all over the place and they have been very good at looking after me but I am not a good patient!


On the gardening front I have made copious notes about what I need to do A) when I can move unaided and B) the weather brightens up. Here they are:-

Green House:

Remember to open on brighter days for ventilation and to close in case of a frost.

Pick off dying leaves to prevent mould.

Take out old tomato plants and compost.

Keep checking for slugs and snails and other undesirable bugs.

Water plants.

Vegetable garden:

Clear up the soggy Rhubarb leaves and Borage plants.

Bring in some leeks and the last of the carrots (family to pick).

Continue to harvest kale and cabbage (again remind family).

Collect leaves (putting them into jute sacks) and lift the boards I walk on.

Tidy beetroot plants and cover to enable me to harvest baby beetroot leaves for salads.

Flower garden:

Pick up fallen branches from silver birch and keep for supports.

Re-tie in climbing roses and other climbers that have been battered by the strong winds.

Cover the pots I have missed with potato sacks or move into the potting shed.

Continue to dead head flowers that won’t stop flowering, great for the bees that I have still seen in the garden.

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Autumnal Leaves

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The trees have been an absolute picture driving through the country lanes near my house but since the heavy rain most have fallen to make a colourful carpet on the ground and with this in mind, it’s leaf collecting time again. Before the grass is too wet I use my lawn mower set on high for this task.  It’s good to use the mower because it cuts the leaves up into tiny pieces, which in turn speeds up the composting process.  I have special bins for the leaves made from chicken wire with stakes at the four corners.  Once the grass is too soggy I like to use my rake.  This is not only a very satisfying task on a crisp Autumn day but great exercise as well.  I must confess to hating the noise of all those leaf blowers, such an intrusion into your thoughts as you clear the garden.

I am in the process of moving all of my pelargonium’s and fuchsias into my potting shed.  The problem being that over the last few months I have let it become very messy!!  I will have to give it a sort out and then the moving can start. I cut the plants down by half and clean up any decaying leaves.  I need to make space for the dahlias as well.

For these I take the tubers out of the pots and leave in a tray upside down.   I then sprinkle with yellow sulphur, then cover with dry compost and leave in a dry, dark frost free place until the spring.

I have spent the odd dry day wandering around my garden, secateurs in hand, sniping and tidying the borders.

I also thought it would be a good idea to prune the roses that have a lot of fresh growth to prevent wind rock. In the vegetable garden I have cleared away any fallen leaves and weeds and harvested all the crops that will spoil in the very cold weather. I have covered the last of the salad with cloches to see if I can get it to over winter again.  Fingers crossed it will or I could always sow some on the window sill.

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Garden Madness

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Having a short time away from home, the garden has decided to take matters into its own hands.  On my return I had a walk around assessing what needs to be done.  I couldn’t believe how many baby strawberry plants have sprouted from their mothers, giving me a new supply to replenish the old tired plants or give away to friends.  I have finally managed to plant out the baby kale plants.  They have settled happily because the soil is so warm still after the fabulous September weather.  I have discovered that I no longer have only one toad I have a whole family and some newts as well.  I am pleased to see them and hope they will stay to eat any slugs and snails.  My blueberry bushes have now turned a spectacular shade of red.  In fact the whole garden looks so colourful and bright.

There is a tremendous amount of berries on our Holly and Sorbus trees, which will give the birds lots to eat.  I must remember to get out the bird feeders and give them a good wash ready to fill them for the Winter time.  I had a lot of trouble with squirrels last year, they managed to take down, destroy and try to bury any bird feeder I hung up even the square ones!

I have a lot of self seeded Verbena Bonariensis that seeded into the driveway.  I moved them into pots and they are now ready to plant out into the main herbaceous border along with the Guara  Lindheimeri that I have grown.  They should settle in quickly because the soil is still so warm.   I am an avid seed collector and have been out collecting the seeds of Nicotiana Sylvestris, fennel and coriander ready for next year.  I store them into paper bags that I have brought my market fruit and vegetables in or brown envelopes or sometimes I have asked my local camera shop for the plastic film cases that they just throw away.  All are great for seed storage.

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September 2009 – Getting Colder

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Autumn seemed to arrive on the 1st September, colder nights and longer shadows.  The courgettes have developed  mildew on the leaves but I will leave them in place for a while longer as they still seem to be producing courgettes,  which is great as the colder weather has made me won’t to make soups and courgette soup is a family favourite.   I decided to dig up all my remaining potatoes and store them in my Jute bags to make space for the pumpkins and squashes that have been rapidly outgrowing their containers in the greenhouse.

This completed I continued to tidy and weed the vegetable garden.  I planted out some very late lettuce and made sure to surround them with an ample circle of Slug and Snail Deterrent.

I still have a lot of spinach another soup favourite and masses of Raspberries which I am picking on a daily basis.  I must make some room to plant out some Garlic and make space for the kale that I am growing.  I had to pull up all the original kale plants as they had a bad attack of cabbage white caterpillars. The tomatoes in the green house are slow to ripen but then I remembered a tip I had heard it was to put a banana skin near the tomatoes and the chemical that is released from the banana will help the tomatoes ripen.  The good thing is that it is working.

I am also going to sow some Calendula ( pot marigold) for next year I love to have these bright little flowers in the vegetable patch and dotted around the garden.

In the flower borders I am continuing to dead head and collect seed for next year.  The Asters are the star flower  in the herbaceous border with the sedums coming a close second.  We have Aster novi-belgii and Aster frikartii ‘monarch’ and Sedum spectabile ‘carmen’  I seem to have inherited some plants this season that were not there last year.  One is the very large Rudbeckia Herbstsonne and a pink flower Chelome obliqua .  Perhaps the seed was dropped by birds or they came along with another plant.  It’s always fun when this happens.

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