Sunday, 24 February 2008

The changing of the bin

I mentioned the compost bin, our housewarming present, in a previous post. Well, it has sat in it's place in the garden

since last spring. And what we had, well, it wasn't, quite, compost.

So, my local council, and for anyone who is interested your own local council as well, offers a compost bin at a silly price, and they deliver it to your door! Plus you get the princely sum of £1 off when you order online. If you're interested, here's the link.

It is of course in their own interests as the less you put in your rubbish bin, the less the binmen have to collect, and in green terms, the less goes into landfill. I find I put out much less rubbish in the normal bin now than I recycle and compost. I even have a caddy which sits in my kitchen ready for tea bags, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, egg shells (crushed), those bits of lettuce you peel off from a head when you first get it which are a bit wilty (no cooked food or meat/dairy products, please), and of course, any weeds I pull up from the garden. Not to mention lawn clippings, and leaves.

Ay, here's the rub. You need a good mix in your compost bin, of "green" and "brown" (Recycle Now, the website above, has lots and lots of tips and advice). The problem as I see it is, during the summer, when you're cutting the grass on a regular basis, you have lots and lots of green. I try to get around this by adding shredded paper, and the core of a roll of kitchen paper or loo roll. But then in the autumn, you have leaves. Dry, and brown, even if you do have a leaf blower/vac with mulch attachment (yes we do). What to do?

I tried, valiantly, to create the perfect compost. I also added a product called "Garotta" which is supposed to speed things up by creating the necessary heat (available from most garden centres or the big DIY stores). I was really hoping that by now, or at least in a month's time when I start to prepare the vegetable patch, that I would have rich, beautiful compost from all my leavings. Not quite.

So, although the bin itself seemed to be a good thing and was a great idea, and a great present, I just couldn't make it work. It was taking much too long for my needs!

I bit the bullet and ordered this different kind of bin, round and enclosed on all sides, and top to bottom. As my husband says, much like a black plastic Dalek.

It sat in the communal hallway for a week, waiting for me to make the changeover ... which was, shall we say, less than fun. But necessary, so I wasn't going to back down. One of the problems with the old one was that firstly, it was difficult to put together, and then secondly difficult to keep together when you are trying to dig down with a fork to turn the compost over. The sides came apart, so for the last several months it was held together by a bungee cord. For a novice composter like me, this seems the better option.

The old bin was also something of a spider haven, due in part to it's square construction (corners, you see) and the many ridges available for web making. Now, it is something of a handicap when a gardener hates, and I mean hates, spiders. The worst time of the year is September when the spiders seem to love to build their homes in and amongst the plants in the borders. I am truly unable to work in the borders in September, which makes it difficult to get the bulbs down. I am trying to overcome this problem, and don't run screaming in the other direction when I see a spider (any more!) but I still can't get anywhere near one. I will only scream if one happens to run across my foot (it happened).

When I took apart the old bin, first the one side that wasn't staying together anyway

and then forked out the detritus, into a pile by the side, I took the three sided construction (carefully) and plonked it down onto the cement. Dozens of little, and not so little, spiders scurried away. Ugh. Then I proceeded to fork through the soil underneath as recommended (so the worms can come up and do their magic), and placed the new bin in the same spot. And then, yes I know it seems tedious and believe me it was, I had to refill the new bin with the stuff out of the old one. I half finished last night, but I was losing the light, and frankly I was losing the will to live.

However! Today the project is finished, and fingers crossed, we SHALL have compost at some point in the future. I shall keep you posted!

Friday, 15 February 2008

What do I do now?

So what did I do, between moving in and Rotovation Day?

Mostly I stared out my kitchen window, watching the cats; all four of them (yes, there are two gingers).

It was a wasteland, somewhat daunting, staring out of that window every morning as I waited for the kettle to boil for my coffee. I just wanted to get out there and dig, especially as the weather got warmer, and the earth got warmer too. Get out there with a shovel and a fork, pull everything up with my bare hands if need be, but I wanted it clear. We had an early discussion, a friend and I, about getting a group of friends round for a “digging party” wherein I would provide copious amounts of hearty food and as much alcohol as necessary to facilitate the process. But no, the most sensible option was always going to be, hiring a rotovator and digging the heck out of the whole plot.

Still, the cats loved it.

I believe that they thought it was their playground, as it hadn’t been tended for a very long time. Not by lack of desire by the other residents, but from what I understand those who occupied the flat before us used it as something of a dumping ground, for anything from mattresses to old, non-working appliances.

Besides, although cats of course are amazingly agile and can balance seemingly anywhere, if they felt lazy there is (not for much longer now) a perfect cat-sized hole in the back fence.

My sister and her family came to visit in February, and with that I had my birthday present; a brilliant spur of the moment gift found at Camden Market which couldn’t have been any better.

And a housewarming present – a compost maker. Yes, only she could understand that for me, this was a brilliant housewarming present!

But of course we needed to dig, before I could even think of setting it up…

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Welcome to our garden!

photo courtesy of Olivia Lahs-Gonzales (c)

It may seem odd to start a garden blog at this time of year, when everything is dormant. But I want to share with you what we did last year, from March to October, and that might just take us through to the spring, when we start up again!

My husband and I moved into this, our new home, at the end of January 2007. I was faced with a lovely 2 bedroom flat, and a huge, shared garden at the back, which was a wasteland. Now, I have created some gardens before out of nothing, but nothing quite on this scale. And let me make it clear from the start, I am not any kind of professional. I have a passion for gardening, and I have had good advice from friends and acquaintances, on what to do, and when and how to do it. The rest is down to me! And some good help from husband and neighbours.

So let’s have a look. The garden measures 30 ft long by 40 ft wide (approx) and when we moved in, the fence on the left was falling down, and the back fence wasn’t much better. There was half a path back on the right. Little did we know there was even a path on the left!

This is a conversion of four flats. Two up, two down. We have ground floor right. The man next door, he has ground left. Upstairs, just above us, fabulous couple. Upstairs next to them, owned but empty. Great people, wonderful people, but no keen, passionate gardeners among them.

With which, I can tell you now, I had no problem! Oh goodness, everyone has been brilliant in encouragement, support, finances, and bloody hard work sometimes. Not to mention appreciation for all I have done. But the rest ….. well, you shall see!

I hope you will join us on this garden journey. I hope to share with you all the ups (it’s all been up for me!), the practical, the plants and their names, and what we’ve accomplished. Then, next month perhaps? we start it all again! Plenty more to do (another whole border to plan and plant, plus of course the vegetable plot)... and plenty more to come!

Loads of pictures, loads of plants, any advice I can give (or get!) and lots of discussion. If you love gardening – what could be better? Do join us.

Over the next several weeks I shall take you through the delights of:

  • Erecting a fence

  • Rotovation

  • Turf laying

  • Border planning and planting

  • Snail control

  • Building a shed

to name but a few topics.

And of course, the unexpected, but not unwelcome acquisition of a cat!