Friday, 22 April 2011

Bits n Bobs

At this time of year, before thinking about putting the vegetables in (next month), there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to do out there. I cut the grass, weekend before last.

First cut of the year, looking good.

Last weekend, I did some light weeding, left and right, and sprayed the rose which is budding nicely, but covered in aphids. Looking at it today, that seems to have done the trick, as they are gone! Perhaps it's not very eco-friendly, but I use a spray called "Rose Gun 3". Still, I now have no aphids on my rose, so who am I to complain?

I spent a very pleasant half hour sitting in the grass in the warm sunshine, weeding dandelions. Filled a trug full.

I'm something of a dab hand at this as we had a neighbour, when I was a child, who paid me 25 cents per dandelion. His lawn looked great, and I was all the richer for it.

I played around with my latest garden purchase, the bulb basket. An interesting concept, but not one I'm sure I'm completely a fan of it now (having ordered a pack of 6. Hmm). Methinks just to plant some bulbs you have to dig an awfully large hole to accommodate the whole basket. And I'm not one to take my bulbs up for winter, so it probably wasn't my best idea ...

But that said, it is now full of crocosmia. I went a bit overboard ordering bulbs as I think I was too late last year (it's a summer-flowering bulb). There are 20 in the basket (hopefully not too tightly planted) and 10 elsewhere, just on the other side of the Delphinium.

Then there is the perennial problem of the front.

It's clear for now, but I still don't know what to do with it.

Today I have occupied myself with the normal Saturday jobs - laundry, shopping, in order to have blissfully nothing to do but what I want to, over the next three days of this glorious, sunshiney, hot, four day weekend. So far, so good, in terms of the weather. I remember one particular 4-day Easter weekend being full of sleet and rain and grey. Not this year, thankfully!

The only thing that worries me about this fantastic April weather, is the possibility of a hosepipe ban. That means you can't use your hose to water your garden (and they are very strict about this). Yes, they impose these things from time to time. It's been a few years now, but there hasn't been a lot of rain lately ... okay it was a horrible winter (by London standards) so hopefully the reservoirs are topped up. But still, one cannot legislate the whys and wherefores of the ban.

Right, I'm off to water the garden with the sprinkler while I can, because it needs it!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I don't know why I get so excited when I see a fox in my garden. Perhaps because I didn't grow up in a place where foxes were normal - sure, the odd racoon (as big as a small fat dog), rabbits, but no foxes.

London is replete with "The Urban Fox". I know they are around - I sometimes, rarely, see one or another in my garden. Once, coming home from the cinema at night, we saw a whole family roaming the street - probably about six of them. Occasionally, you hear that unearthly sound they make.

So last evening, I look out the kitchen window for the cat. I see the cat at the top of the walk, and the fox at the bottom. I've seen them encounter each other once before - they just eyeballed each other across the lawn, and went their seperate ways. This time, same thing. I believe they have due respect for each other.

Of course I ran for my camera (I should learn to keep it in the kitchen!) but he had gone. However, he came back. Seems there was something behind the fence, keeping him from permanently nipping round the back. He (she?) kept darting in and out, and then decided to just stop, and have a little lie down in the vegetable patch.

I apologise for the quality of the photos. My camera is acting up and I can't turn off the auto flash - not ideal when you're trying to take a picture through the window. This is from using my phone.

I love foxes. As a dog lover, to me, they are a particularly fine specimen of canine.

Eventually, after about 15 minutes, he scarpered. But he is (they are) welcome in my garden anytime!

Excellent film, by the way.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Friday Cuteness

I couldn't decide which one was cuter, so I'm sharing both.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

All Change

Neighbours moving in, neighbours moving out.

When we moved into this flat, the chap across the hall was an irregular visitor (lives with his girlfriend not too far away), upstairs there was a single woman, and across from her, another absentee owner, an empty flat.

4 years later, there are two small girls + partner (the handy builder man) upstairs, and Mark across the hall finally put his flat on the market and sold it. They haven't moved in yet, the new owners.

So upstairs, she decided (I'm pretty sure she made the decision) to move back to Northern Ireland, where she is originally from. Builder chap, Dom, well he's as London as they come. But he can get work anywhere and seems pretty equanimous about the decision. Even if there seem to be a few bombs about in that part of the world, again.

So, as we all have access to the garden, as it's shared, what is in store for me? Do I have new keen gardeners moving in? And my big question is, am I a garden hog? Do remember, the garden was a wasteland when I moved in. I mean, remember it looked like this, halfway through the digging out process

And what else did I do? Lay the lawn? Condition the soil? Put in some beautiful plants?

I wait to see. If they want the top, it's all theirs

to condition the soil (which to be honest is completely crap) and try to make something of a go of it. I'm sure it's possible, I'm just not willing. I have enough of a garden to contend with without worrying about up there. Frankly, we were just going to bark the whole part.

Let's see what they want.

Another question is, what sounds will replace what we have now, once they move out upstairs; they are lovely and nice people. We've had some nice times together, especially in the garden. But maybe, just maybe, I won't miss the jackboots of the 3-year old running up and down over our heads. And the baseball bat she likes to pound on the floor (or so it seems). She's a cute kid, but heck.

The latest news is, as of today, they've had an offer upstairs! Wow, that was quick! So another new neighbour to contend with (mind you, they have to come out the front and go down the side to get to the garden in the first place, not like me opening my kitchen door onto it ...).

I'm sure they'll all be nice. And lovely. And if they want to mess with my planting, well ....

And considering that moving to NI means shipping across the sea, will he want to take his wheelbarrow?

Because it sure is handy.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Round Two

So, in the battle to reclaim my land from Mother Nature, last weekend I attacked the vegetable patch.

Bad. Bad me, should have dealt with all of this last Autumn. Those are fully dead tomato plants, for goodness sake.

The weather was fine, enough even to doff my hoodie and sit in a sleeveless top while the sun was still shining. Yes, sit in the dirt, with my pronged fork and trowel, pulling out the weeds one by one. It's the only way.

Until I got to this bad boy. Then I had to change my gloves for the impermeable leather ones.

This is a nettle. Or, Stinging Nettle. "Stinging" is an understatement. Try, intense burning sensation where it touches your skin which eventually subsides. Eventually. Memorise this picture, and do not touch.

If I did ever have the misfortune to touch Poison Ivy back in the States (which I don't think exists here - this is our equivalent), I don't remember. I do remember this. I don't know where this came from, as it hasn't been there the last three years. Probably from next door which is horribly overgrown (no one cares about gardening over there). Ouch. Yowza.

So I was ready to tackle it, with gloves and diggers, ready to put it into the trug and bag it up to be taken away (with the numerous other weeds) by the council.

Somebody intervened.

Silly kitty. I eventually shifted him, and the nettle. I shall be keeping a close eye on that spot in the hope that it doesn't reappear.

Just for the record, apparently if you can find a dock leaf (whatever that is) and apply to the affected area, it takes away the sting. Apparently, also, you can make nettle tea. For why? I don't know. It's also an ingredient in my hair conditioner. Nettle, Burdock and Avocado. "Nettle: to soothe and calm the scalp" (are they kidding?). The Burdock must be that dock leaf that is the antidote.

So, patch cleared. Time to apply the manure.

I ripped into the 80 litre bag, dumped it, and spread with a rake. This of course is the well-rotted manure you get from the garden centre, so it wasn't overly fragrant. Just a faint whiff, vaguely reminiscent of childhood summers spent on my grandparent's farm.

I've decided not to do the newspaper/bark chip deterrent, as it said on the bag that the manure itself can be used as a mulch, i.e. weed deterrent in itself. As planting is only 6 weeks away at most, I shall hoe, as necessary. Good exercise.

I could have dug it in properly but I'm from the Jamie Oliver school of thought: "let the worms do their work and take it down into the soil."

I'm hoping next weekend (Saturday only - working Sunday) I will actually be able to give the lawn it's first cut. It's looking healthy, fingers crossed (remember I laid that baby myself) - a little trim and a rake will do wonders!