The Cottage Smallholder

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Finally a whole weekend in the garden: Plans and promises

Photo: Busy bees

Photo: Busy bees

I spent most of the day in the garden today. I have prepared the borders in the kitchen garden and should have been setting seeds but I was drawn to tackle The Border of Stones.

This is not a horticultural installation rather a border that was laid on top of the place where the basket weavers’ pig sty and outbuildings were knocked down covered with a thin layer of topsoil and laid to lawn.

Over the years I have removed about six barrow loads of stones from a border than cannot measure more than 4’ x 8’. The stones gradually move their way up towards the surface. Today I took all the plants out of the border and spent a good seven hours double digging and removing the stones – it always seems to be two large builder’s barrow loads each time. I’m lucky that the gardening muscles are the same as the decorating muscles. I can work for eight hours in the Spring without dialling an osteopath.

Even though I did this last May, albeit just a two hour sojourn, the plants suffered on hot days looking wilting and unhappy. Last winter I lost several plant friends. The freezing weather and presumably ice cold stones were just clearly too much for them. So another deeper overhaul was a priority.

I noticed that the edge of the border was meandering. So I straightened it removing yet more stones.
“No one will notice it.” Said Danny. ”I don’t know why you bother.”
“But I notice it. I want a decent border. When the back door is open this is the border that I look at.”
My mum always says overhaul your borders before May and puddle the plants in well.
“If you tweak after May you will be watering special plants all summer and you’ll grow to resent them. Plants should give pleasure, after all.”

The stones were replaced with a couple of barrowloads of homemade compost. Then I divided the plants into two camps. Those to stay and those to go. The Larkspur was moved to a bigger border and the hellebores joined two similar ones in another border. I popped the remaining plants back, puddling them in well. And then planted five new plants that I’d picked up at Homebase – five for £10.  Lily of the Valley, Alstromeria (Princess Lilies, recommended by Pamela last summer), Physalis (Chinese lanterns), Echinacea and Monarda. The latter always remind me of Ostriches – real fun plants.

Tomorrow I’m going to dust off my electric propagator. This speeds up seed germination considerably. Next week will be a flurry of new seeds into the propagator and germinated seeds to the greenhouse.

The leaves are just beginning to open on the trees. They are that wonderful bright clean springtime green. And the sky was blue all afternoon. I love this time of year, full of plans and promise. The Min Pins are all sound asleep. Three small heads and necks followed the journey of the garden fork for hours. Apart from Danny, the household all soaked up vitamin D today and I’m feeling much more positive tonight.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Sarah G

    You have a great website. Thanks for your visits.

    Keep the stones. One day you will need hardcore and you will have your own!

    Thanks for the tips about the Chinese lanterns. They have never taken in our garden, fifth attempt this year. I remember them as a child in most Cambridge gardens so they must be easy to grow :).

    I’d love to venture out into the garden to contain them. Roll on the day!

    Perhaps I’d regret writing that in five years time.

  2. Sarah G

    I sympathise with your stone problem – our garden also has parts where old outbuildings were demolished and there are cairns dotted all around where we’ve dug holes for plants; and we find some lovely shards of pottery, too. We got rid of a few stones when we planted a fig last weekend but the new blackcurrants and gooseberries have generated even more. Maybe we’ll have to start loading up our rucksacks before we go out walking and lose them along the way!

    Watch the chinese lanterns / physalis. They’re lovely but if you turn your back for five minutes they really take advantage. I spent an afternoon last year lifting up a load of block paving and digging out the chinese lantern roots and sprouts. They’ve now been banished to a more wild corner of the garden!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Judy

    I do hope that all these plants do establish. Our veg patch is fine as this is where the basket weavers tilled their veg for decades.

    But the other parts of the garden are filled with stones and gravel and it’s difficult to get anything to flourish rather than just grow.

    I knew that Monarda was edible but didn’t know that it can be used to make tea. As an avid tea drinker (all kinds) I do hope that it likes my patch!

    Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Lily of the Valley, Alstromeria, Physalis and Monarda are plants that, once established, happily spread far and wide.

    The leaves of Monarda, commonly known as bee balm or Oswego tea, can be used for tea. It is in the Mint family (just look at the square stems, and it speads like mint too.) Here in New Jersey the red flowered ones are popular with humming birds. And the closely related M. fistulosa, horse mint, with lavender flowers, is a native plant.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Wendy

    Yes it’s wonderful to be outdoors and to have the lighter evenings.
    Spring is such a special time of year.

    Glad that you enjoyed the all animals are equal post!

    Hi Pamela

    That’s such a shame as you would get so much out of it. Interesting Joanna’s and S.O.L.’s points – I had no idea that councils have this obligation. It might be worth going to have a look at the allotments to see how many are not really being used.

    Hello Joanna

    I do hope that spring arrives quickly for you in Latvia.

    Hello Magic Cochin

    You can’t beat these days of spring sunshine.

    Hi Jane

    That sounds like a really peaceful day. I have some Paper Whites just coming into bud. Marigolds and Sun flowers – sound great. I do hope that we have a good summer this year.

    Hi Allotment Blogger

    I’m going to try using trenches for my runner beans too this year, filled with fresh kitchen vegetable pairings.

    That picnic sounds delish.

    Hi Scott at Realepicurean

    Good luck with your tomatoes. I haven’t even set the seed for mine yet.

    Hello Heidi

    I’ve heard of this beetle but have not seen it yet. I do hope that you can halt its progress.

    Hello S.O.L.

    The soil is mainly loam with a few patches of clay. The main herbaceous beds are very stony but gradually they are improving over the years. Building up the beds would be a good idea, I think.

    The kitchen garden has great soil as this is where the basket weavers had their kitchen garden.

    Hi Springtime

    Growing seeds is great fun! My first garden was tiny – barely 10’ x10’ but I loved it.

    Hello Domestic Executive

    I’m so pleased that we are in spring rather than autumn! I don’t like the short days in winter.

  6. Pamela

    Hello Joanna and S.O.L.

    Thanks for your advice. I didn’t know that the council is obliged to provide extra allotments. They must know that there are waiting lists so why aren’t they doing anything? I keep hearing from a friend who has an allotment that they are going to re-allocate some allotments but I’m not moving up the list. I have seen the list several times as I keep going in to make enquiries. I’m working on the principal that if I go in often enough they will get fed up and give me an allotment to get rid of me. Last time, the very nice lady told me that there are currently more people on the list than there are allotments in the town. There is land adjacent to the current allotments but the lady at the council didn’t seem to think there was land available when I asked.

  7. Domestic Executive

    I can’t help but feel a little jealous as I potter on with my autumn chores here in New Zealand. We are however having some glorious weather which cheers me up now the clocks have gone back and it gets dark earlier now.

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