I am not a patient gardener although I think gardening can teach us patience. If things don’t happen quickly enough I tend to lose focus and get on with something else. It’s a trait I inherited from my mother for whom the rice could never cook quickly enough. My childhood was filled with the smell of burning rice while my mother wandered back to her studio.
After the initial excitement of seedlings comming up, appearing like magic through the soil and putting out their first leaves, now is the boring bit of waiting, waiting, waiting and in the mean time watering. It would be fine if we didn’t need to water and tend, if we could come back in 3 months and pick all the vegetables. Unfortunately most garden jobs and plants, require constance and I try to be the gardener they need. I still harbour a special affection for the plants that do it without me. The annuals that reseed themselves, the bulbs that come back every spring even though I’d forgotten they were there, I feel like those plants really get me.
Last Christmas I lifted and divided a clump of spider lily bulbs. Of course I accidentally stuck my fork through a couple so I decided to use them to propagate. Reading the instructions in my RHS guide it promised that
in a year I would have new little bulbs. And I thought ‘goodess a year is a long way off.’ SInce the bulbs were damaged there was nothing else i could do with them so I chopped them up and sealed them in a bag of vermiculite.
As the saying goes ‘don’t put off a goal because of the time it will take to complete it. The time will pass anyway’. And so it has.
Today I pulled out the bag and planted each little spider-lily plant with it’s own furry roots and smooth shoot. I have twenty plants in large yoghut pots and grow bags. No doubt it will be another year before they grow up and flower but the time will pass with or without my plants so I may as well use it.
This week we have had rain. Finally after a scorching heatwave it rained on Friday solidly all afternoon. Since I had put up my rainguage on Thursday evening (my colleagues think I’m nuts for my obsessive folowing of weather predictions) I was able to accurately measure 29 mm. On Saturday we got a follow up 6 mm. When I went out in the evening to check it I heard my neighbours automatic sprinkers going on. Technically they’re allowed since restictions only prohibit watering gardens between 6 am and 6 pm – what a bunch of slug buckets.
I came across a gardening journal I kept for a week in 2011 and it was facinating. I wish I’d kept it for longer so I’ve started another and the first thing I did was write ‘some Serious gardening goals – keep the journal going all year.’ I underlined ‘serious’ so that when I find it in five years time with only the first week’s entries written out I’ll know how serious I was.
My other goals are
a wildlife pond (last attempt a disaster)
harvest something everyweek from my veg garden from March
reclaim unused spaces and provide seating areas, specifically (its important when setting goals to be specific) the Rose Garden, the North Corner and the Avenue.
I like giving grand names to all the little bits of my garden especially the ones that look as though the house is abandoned. The Rose Garden, for instance, is a bit of my drive way that I dug up after a very inspirational rose garden tour. I didn’t get very far with it, roses are expensive and blah blah insert excuses here; anyway it looks dreadful. It’s also right at the front door so you can’t miss it inless you choose not to go out of the house. Since I can’t do that I’m going to have to make it into a fabulous garden.
I have a lot more goals but I thought I should only write down a few and focus on those. Like having too many tabs open on your computer I suspect too many things to focus on slows down your performance. If you’re naturally a too many tabs open kind of person then you have to focus on cutting down your focusses which of course is just one more thing to focus on.
On a positive note, even if it all goes to pot now and I get distracted by whatever it is that usually distracts me, the veg garden I planted out in the weeks around the world spinning from 2015 to 2016 looks pretty awesome and the potatoes are doing marvelously. For some reason potatoes seem to be my most dependable crop and if nothing else we’ll get a good lot of them.
Last year was disastrous in terms of vegetable seed sowing. I managed to raise a couple of courgette plants a few french beans and four cucumbers which shriveled up and died. I think my grand total harvest was three beans and a courgette. The problem was a combination of my method and my dedication. Everything just got lost in the dust and I lost heart. I should have waited for the rains to plant them out because my enthusiasm couldn’t sustain watering them daily so most of them had died by the time the rains came. Those that hadn’t were sufficiently weakened to be suffocated by the forest of weeds which then sprung up.
This year everything is different. Although it’s slow progress I am getting things done and I’m determined to stick to my resolutions.
I have been planting the seedlings in my paper pots. It’s such a simple way of doing it, as they’ll just degrade into the soil when I plant them. I have even planted some carrots in them as the ones I sowed straight into the beds got eaten by chickens. These were sown on August 22, I even labeled them, so far the peas and carrots have come up as well as the pumpkin seeds I saved from one I bought at the Bryanston Organic Market. The only downside is they don’t stand up so well to an excited puppy stepping on them.
Spring has poked it’s nose in and retreated again, like a cat trying to decide whether or not it wants to come in; while it’s owner stands holding the door open and freezing. At any rate it won’t be long before it comes all the way in, promptly followed by summer. Time to get on with planning the veg garden.
There is no formal layout. I’m starting to wish I had put down straight rows of paths for the methodicalness and aesthetics of it if nothing else. Will do that next year.
Of course there is A LOT of garlic in already, some onions, possibly a couple of leeks and a few peas. I planted some more peas because most of them didn’t grow. Probably eaten by chickens. I planted out my brassica seedlings (now fenced because of chickens dust bathing) but I have a feeling we’re in the wrong season. Oops.
I’ve made a list of veggies I want to grow based on what we eat – lettuce, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, peas, beans, beetroot, carrots, sweetcorn, potatoes, peppers, squashes, melons – and I’ll probably add some others along the way.
I’ve already started planted some seeds in little paper pots but that’s another post.
Gardening needs a combination of time and money. The less time you have the more money you need and the less money you have the more time you need. You can buy almost instant gardens that take as much time as it does to swipe your credit card and plant everything out. Even hedges can be bought ready grown in rectangular blocks that can be put in the ground and watered in. But all this comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
If you lean more towards the no money end of the spectrum your cheapest option is to grow plants yourself. Drunk with success from my lavender and geraniums I’ve set up a propagation unit, in essence a mini greenhouse, to try and propagate on a larger scale. It’s very amateur, I made it out of the polystyrene casing of my fridge (I knew it would come in handy one day) and some polythene bags. I’ve covered it with a layer of shade netting; otherwise I think everything would get scorched.
Of course no sooner had I set it up than my cat decided to jump on it and broke one of the arms. I’m trying not to think he did it because he’s angry with me about the dog. I had just stuck another lot of rose cuttings in too and they all got knocked out.
I put them back and re-assembled, replacing the broken arm with a long stick which actually gives me better access. Hopefully he got enough of a fright not to do it again.
Just over a week ago I became a puppy raiser for the South African Guide Dog Association. It is a brilliant organisation whose work I greatly admire and a lot more goes into producing a successful service dog than I had thought. I will be raising this adorable bundle of cuteness for a year before he goes on to guide dog school and then, hopefully, into a life of service.
Of course the hardest thing will be saying goodbye at the end of the year but in the meantime there are other difficulties, like learning how to garden with a puppy and teaching him gardening time is not play time. This afternoon we managed a row of seedlings in the veg garden. He looks deceptively well behaved in both these photo’s.
Some gardens are meant to evolve over time, dependent on the whims of people and nature. I am talking about cottage gardens of course. I love them and having been suffering through my ongoing addiction to British gardening programmes I have decided to make one in the top garden and the herb garden.
The herb garden is a little alcove bit off the top garden which one of the kitchen windows look out on that a previous gardener planetd up with herbs; it’s not really suitable though because it gets hardly any sun. The top garden is a terraced piece at the back of the house. The terrace wall curves inwards which gives it a strange shape. Formerly I implemented a yellow and purple scheme, yellow on one side with a purple creeper covering the wall behind and purple the other, with a yellow creeper dripping off the mulberry tree above. It never truly worked and it has ended up being a bit of garden hardly ever used. It also has my disaster of a pond in which, I am sorry to say, sits directly underneath a mulberry tree.
There is a tiled green half oval patio (all the patios are tiled in an awful green tile) outside the door of a small room which opens out onto the garden. The part along the house is in full shade all day apart from a few wisps of dying sunlight. There are a few established shrubs and the fruit trees are creating a fence along the edge of the terrace with arches over the paths down to the vegetable garden. I’ve decided to keep a circular lawn off the patio and dig up the rest of the grass and plant STUFF. Anything and everything can go in here, lots of herbs and flowers and perennial vegetables. I tend to stick to restricted palettes and I’m thinking of a slightly formal, structured design in the front so it will be great to have an free area where anything goes. If I see something I like I’m going to put it in. Also of course I’m going to try and fix the pond.
This week LIFE outside my walls led me astray and ruined my rhythm. As for work in the garden, that has luckily continued even if I showed no signs of it on the blog.
The roses I transplanted are doing fine. No sign of expiration on any of them and this one seems to be going about it’s business as if nothing happened.
I’ve stopped taking the seedlings in at night, I forgot one evening and they seemed entirely unchanged in the morning so I gave it up. In fact they seem to not have changed for the whole of this past month, except for one pansy seedling which has put out a third leaf. Since only 20 of the pansies germinated this seems like a meagre victory. It is NOT worth planting seeds out of season. I am quite sure I will feel differently when they finally start growing and bloom.
As for the compost heaps, they are going well. The first I’ve stopped turning. I’ll probably turn it
again in a few days and then leave it for the next month. The second is still being turned every second day. They are both quite dry, like everything else, so I’m adding water. Turning, I’m happy to say, get’s easier.
I’ve pruned all of the hybrid teas and taken cuttings. I’ve put them into pots filled with a mix of coir, grit and germinating mix and covered them with coke bottle cloches. Some of the ones I took a few weeks ago are definitely showing signs of growth.
I’ve dug up some of my shrubs that have been almost completely destroyed by frost, put them in pots and are keeping them under frost blanket. I should have done it earlier, honestly didn’t realise how frost tender they’d be. I would probably have left them alone to see if they’d survive the winter if I wasn’t planning to redo the whole bed.
My rose geraniums and lavender ‘Margaret Roberts’ (my absolute favourite lavender) cuttings have rooted. I transplanted them into pots this morning. These are the first (non succulent) cuttings I’ve successfully rooted other than a rosemary I did once pretty much by accident so that doesn’t count and a lavender that died just after It started putting on new growth. It was a particularly nice grey leafed one and I’m still a little miffed about it.
On another happy note, I don’t thing I’ve ever seen my lavender such a vibrant deep purple. And this lavender arrangement I did three weeks ago still looks fantastic.
A few weeks ago I turned a little older and quite fantastically I got book vouchers. For some reason I usually only get them at Christmas. For those of us who love wandering through shelves of books, running our fingers along spines and opening up books to smell that new book smell (different but just as nice as old book smell), book vouchers are even better than books because a trip to the bookshop is included in the present. Book vouchers are also a liberation because you can’t spend them on other things. So even if you have a towering pile next to your bed you have to buy more books.
There are many ways to buy books, you can set out to buy a particular book, go into a bookshop with a set of criteria and find one that fits it, or just pop into a shop and see if something buys you. Sometimes the latter happens even if you have intentions of the first. Today I had all three. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, was planned, I’ve been waiting for a moment to buy it, then I wanted a book on orchids, so I don’t kill my fantastic unplanned plant buy, finally, browsing through the gardening section, I came across this. Completely serendipitous, Making the most of Indigenous Trees is unsurprisingly all about indigenous trees (of Southern Africa). It’s packed full of information about habitats, uses, especially with regards to wildlife, and cultivation. It has multiple photographs of each plant, it’s bark, flowers and seeds. It’s one of the best plant books I’ve ever come across and the fact that it’s on a subject not easily available elsewhere is a bonus.
The only way it might be improved is by adding a section at the back suggesting trees for specific garden uses for those too lazy to read every single entry. That’s not me though as I’ve already started book marking trees for use in the Bird Garden.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain