Hare Today, No Veg Tomorrow

May 15, 2017

We’ve been sadly deficient in hares for the last few days, which is a great sadness to us because it’s been a huge privilege to be able to watch them chilling out in our back garden.

So I was quite excited the other morning to see something moving through the garden and snapped a quick somewhat hazy photo (I had just got out of the bath…)

hare in the veg plot

Hmm. Perhaps they can’t read after all. I thought my sign was pretty clear.

After it had had a nibble of the potato leaves, it hopped over my hare defences with insolent ease.

Unfortunately, we are off (again, I know, but family calls) to Colorado for a week leaving the hares in charge. At best this may bode ill for the vegetables. At worst, they may have moved in and changed the locks. I’m ruling nothing out.

Even if the latter, I think the other half is still Team Hare.


Hare’s Gap

May 4, 2017

As amazing a privilege as it is to wake each morning to find not one but two hares sunning themselves in your garden (in the immortal phrasing of Dave Barry, a large main hare and a small emergency backup hare), I felt that with the advent of the veg growing season, some boundaries needed to be made quite clear.

hare habitat and non hare habitat

So far, the large main hare has been keeping to the correct side of my anti-hare fence, but I’d left a gap to get the wheelbarrow in and out and as I was about to plant out my broad beans and peas and then leave them undefended while I went to Seville, except by the other half (who is pretty much Team Hare and unlikely to do anything to stop them eating whatever they like) it was time to close the gap.

hare defences mark one

First attempt at a gate.

My first attempt at a gate was pleasingly rustic, but effectively lasted 12 hours before it blew over. It was time for something less decorative and more solid. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to create anything like that, so I just bodged it as usual.

hare defences mark two

Ah sod it

It’s well known in the UK cycle infrastructure world that there’s no bodge so half-arsed that putting up a sign won’t magically make it work. I didn’t have a cyclists dismount sign handy, so I made one of my own.*

no hares

Looking forward to coming back and finding that at least some of my poor seedlings will have survived …

seedlings planted out

*Obviously, hares can’t read, so I drew a picture as well. I’m not a complete idiot.


101 Uses for a Brompton: Plant Shopping

April 29, 2017

Coming into New Nearest Village was a sight to gladden any gardener’s eye …

Plant Sale sign

I’ve been feeling a bit bad that I haven’t really had a chance to attend any of the many events that seem to enliven the village scene – compared with Old Nearest Village, it’s a hotbed of activity, but it always seems to coincide with me having something else on. So when I realised I could get to the annual plant sale this weekend, I hopped on the Brompton with great excitement. I do love a village plant sale as they tend to combine randomness with cheapness, and you never quite know what you’re going to find.

Brompton basket with plants

The Brompton’s basket takes a nice number of plants, with a bit of creative packing, but also acts as a useful brake on my acquisitiveness. As it is, I’ve now got a couple of dozen nasturtium seedlings to prick out, in my ample spare time…

plant sale haul

In the end, it wasn’t a bad haul for £13 (plus a jar of strawberry jam tucked into my jacket pocket which I did think might have made for an interesting medical puzzle had I come off my bike …)

Roseroot

Most of the plants were ones I was looking out for anyway, but this (Roseroot, or Rhodiola rosea) was a new one to me and looks like it would be a nice funky addition to the garden. The internet suggests it can be used to treat mild depression, among other things, although to be honest there’s not really a huge amount of evidence behind it.

strawberry plants

If these strawberry plants come good, though, that will definitely serve to cheer us all up.


Hare Brained

April 27, 2017

As spring (or ‘spring’, as it’s been rebranded after the last couple of days of icy winds and the odd shower of is that … snow?) advances, the garden is slowly revealing itself. Or at least, what survives of the garden after, apparently, ten years of neglect and rampant chickens, if our neighbours’ stories of the previous owners are anything to go by. Probably not plants that are going to need a whole lot of cosseting to survive.

Dicentra formosa

Dicentra formosa (according to Professor Google) which has popped up in one of the bits down to be managed by strimmer…

There’s a lot of it, so my strategy was to try and identify which bits of the garden I would try and change this year, which bits I would try to maintain as they are, and which bits would be left to be managed by strimmer until we have decided what to do with them and have the time to take them on.

hare hiding

spot the hare

Since the advent of the junior hare, however, the garden has been reclassified into ‘hare habitat’ and ‘non-hare habitat’. The hare, being downright adorable, gets to have whichever bits of the garden it likes to sit in (currently: under a pile of willow sticks that were going to be burnt, in a clump of weeds by a wall that were going to be weeded, next to the bench where we like to have our coffee in the sunshine, and tucked into a huge clump of grass beside an old tree stump where it has created a hare-shaped hole (technically a ‘form’). I’ve managed to retain the veg patch, the front lawn and, so far, the house although if it wanted to come in, I can’t imagine us denying it.

hare form

Hare-shaped hole in the grass

So the gardening will be somewhat patchy this year – but we’re not complaining. When the hare is around, and visible from the windows in the house, it’s actually quite hard to tear yourself away in case it does something extra cute like scratch its nose, pull down its ears to nibble at the tips of them, or stretch out one or more of its improbably long legs before settling down to look inscrutable again in its chosen spot.

hare in weeds

hare, what hare?

It’s also quite hard to go out to the garage for more fuel for the fire, or do any gardening, or generally do anything, without scaring it off, so we’ve been reduced to walking the long way around the house to the garage, or practising our special nonchalant ‘hare, what hare?’ walk as we skirt past it as unobtrusively and unscarily as possible.

hare running away

Sometimes this works better than others.

Hares aren’t territorial, so we know that this one is really only visiting and eventually it will move on and we will get full access to our garden again. But gosh we’ll be sad to see it go …


Facts in the Ground

April 13, 2017

Well, I don’t technically have enough time for gardening, but then again, I don’t have enough time to go insane either, so a bit of prophylactic horticultural therapy seemed in order. And besides, gardening has to be done when it has to be done, so if I was going to grow any veg at all this year, I had to get planting

seeds in modules

Seeds in the ground. Well, in pots anyway

So broad beans, peas, beetroot and leeks planted, because that was what my gardening pals had left over or what was still in date in my seed stash. Beans, kale, broccoli and squash still to come. I look back fondly on the days when I carefully planned out my seed order and rotation strategy…

Fork in the ground

Fork in the ground. Actually the soil is pretty good, albeit 50% willowherb root by volume

And I reasoned that digging this bed over now and then planting some actual plants in it would be less time consuming in the long run than trying to keep on top of the nettles, willowherb and brambles that were in it last year (this actually makes for quite an impressive display, but I don’t think Chelsea will ever come around to that). It means breaking the habit of a lifetime and going and splashing money out on plants, rather than seeds, but I have garden vouchers …

And now, back to the campaigning coal face.


Binge Gardening

April 5, 2017

We had gardening pals around for lunch today, who very kindly came bearing surplus seeds as I have neither bought any myself nor managed to get to the regular seed swap organised by the local guerrilla gardening group.

As well as the pleasure of their company, inviting them round also gave me the spur I needed to put some hours in on Sunday catching up with myself in the garden.

Veg plot in AprilNotice the veg plot now has proto hare-defences, created out of the hazel sticks and some willow that we cut back earlier in the year. In my head, this was going to be one of those Pinterest-worthy rustic woven fences, but it’s perhaps not quite as impressive (nor indeed likely to be as hare-proof) as I’d hoped. The main problem being that I didn’t have enough suitable material for weaving in, but as we have two largeish willow pollards in the garden, there will be more where that came from. Also, I am avoiding putting any of the willow actually in the ground as I don’t want my fence to turn into a line of willow trees the moment I turn my back on it, which willow is prone to do (even if stuck in upside-down, apparently)

As for the rest, well, we’re still seeing what’s coming up so that’s my excuse for not getting to grips with the other parts of the garden. I was pleased to discover that what I had thought were peonies are in fact hellebores

hellebores

And I’ve long wanted wood anemones, and suddenly I have a nice little clump of them. Not quite in the right place, but I can help to spread them.

wood anemones

Of course, some other less-welcome plants are popping up too

nettles emerging

A reminder not to let everything get too behind hand …


What Lies Beneath

March 25, 2017

So, I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to discover how the manky pink carpet experiment has been getting on.

carpet-covered veg bed

Well, as it happens, due to a rare confluence of events that meant I was not required to be in a random Scottish city this weekend, combined with a slight lull in the immediate pressure of POP preparation (but there’s still time to contribute to our crowd funder, just saying), and a day promising sunshine and light winds, gave me the perfect (indeed, possibly the only) opportunity to find out. In fact, I would have been hard pressed not to spend today out in the garden, given the gloriousness of the weather.

potatoes chitting

So far this year, my entire preparation for growing veg has been a half-hour trolley dash through potato day (top tip: label your seed potato bags before you pick your potatoes, and then put them in alphabetical order for maximum efficiency), and chitting my seed potatoes. I knew that the carpet hasn’t been down long enough to properly deal with the weeds or let the organic matter break down, but spring waits for nobody, and I decided to open up the first bed and put my first and second earlies in today.

veg bed uncovered

If I’d been hoping that underneath there had been a magical transformation into wonderful friable rich soil, I would have been disappointed, but if I’ve learned anything in gardening these past few years it’s to manage my expectations, so I was just pleased to discover that the grass it had covered up wasn’t just sitting there unscathed. There are still some clumps hanging in there to deal with, and a lot of the coarser plant material hadn’t broken down yet, but there was also a fairly healthy population of worms. So the carpet has saved me a lot of digging, although I suspect come later in the season when I’m battling the weeds that did survive, I will wish I’d been more patient

Fortunately potatoes have a fierce determination to grow and will do so even in a light-proof plastic bin so I suspect they will manage anyway (that said, I note that last year I was still putting potatoes in at the end of April, which might explain why we had such a rubbish crop – I had forgotten that. Clearly you can push even a seed potato too far.)

Anyway, given that I haven’t even bought any seeds yet, he rest of the bed can remain under the carpet for now, hopefully mulching down into something marvellous. Meanwhile the now-spare carpet has been moved up to where the fruit cage will be, which is currently about 50% nettle roots by volume. I don’t think we’ll be planting our raspberry canes there for a while …

potatoes planted

What with all the digging, lugging about of heavy stuff and general hard labour, I feel a bit broken now, but it does feel good to have got started for the season.