New Year, New Start

e. e. cummings wrote, ‘in time’s a noble mercy of proprtion/ with generosities beyond believing’. One of these generosities is the New Year. Every year is another chance to start over, a renewal of hopes, dreams, good intentions and a reminder that life is a work in progress.

Gardens too are very forgiving in this way. Very few of our disasters will be noticable in a few years. You can plant over, redesign, take grass out, put grass back; even trees can be moved, although of course this should be avoided if possible. It is better to plonk something enthusiastcally in the wrong place and have to move it in the middle of summer than to sit around trying to decide until the poor thing expires in it’s pot. I’ve definitely killed more plants the latter way.

There may be gardeners who plan everything meticulously with beautiful water-coloured drawings (or computer generated 3D reditions) showing what it will look like and where each tree, shrub and annual will go. Some gardeners probably make it up as the go along. I suspect most of us are a combination of the two. I’m about half and half, I plan out for a bit and then think ‘What the hell, better get going or I’ll never start.’ This goes against all advice but I firmly believe it’s better to garden badly than not to garden at all.

And of course it’s better to attempt to revive your blog and end up fizzling out in May than to give it up entirely. Especially if your mum likes to sigh sometimes and say, ‘I wish you’d go back to your blog’.

So whatever type of gardener you are, or if gardening is not your thing but you want to paint, write, build  eco-pods, learn piano or take up cricket, just get out there and do it. Don’t worry that you might not stick to it, if you don’t you can try again next year. In the meantime here’s some good life advice from someone who isn’t me and I hope to still be around next year.

 

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The Veg Garden

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.

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The Veg garden – taken 2nd June
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The Veg garden this evening – almost 3 months later.

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.

Propagation.

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.

ippIf 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.

ippOf 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.

The Cottage Garden

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.

Cottage GardenThere 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.

Time to get moving

We’ve had a couple of warm springish days and the scent is starting to brew in the breeze as it drifts past. All this reminds me that time is ticking and there’s not much left before the real work must begin. I’ve been drifting about, umming and ahing but there are still jobs to do before spring gets here and, more importantly, plans to be made.

Transplanting Roses – in Perspective

Not my roses... but we can dream.
Not my roses… but we can dream.

Yesterday Davis and I moved the eight surviving roses from the rose garden to the bed we dug out in the cutting garden. It turned out to be filled with rubble so that was a bigger job than expected. We back filled the beds with the sand, sieving it through braai grill to avoid the smaller pieces of rubble and added loads of compost.  I delayed the transplanting for a week because I was waiting for my mychorrizial fungi to arrive. I felt we were very prepared for the job.

ippLots of minor stresses in the process but by mid day I was basking in the satisfaction of a job well done. Until this morning when I went out to turn the compost and it struck me that the bed doesn’t get much sun. With a sinking heart I realised that in winter the sun never quite reaches the bottom.
Even worse, my favourite (it’s okay to have favourite plants) was right at that end. I let it all percolate as  turned the compost heaps and decided quick action was better than no actions and quickly moved the two roses at the bottom to a higher position. They still only get about an hour of sun in winter but by summer they should get their full six hours. To be honest I don’t know if they’ll survive all this excitement. (On the plus side I didn’t plant them in the bed next door which gets no sun at all in winter.)

I should have planned better of course but I’m learning to live with my mistakes. After all it’s just a garden. I’m also learning to be ruthless in fixing things that niggle at me, even if it’s my fault they’re wrong. A garden is not a place to pay penance daily for your sins. Only time will tell if these roses will live and bloom and if they don’t time will take care of that too. As e. e. cummings wrote, ‘in time’s a noble mercy of proportion/ with generosities beyond believing’. So has the garden mercy and generosity and puts into perspective our petty grudges. A garden adapts, forgives and moves on; a lesson we do well to learn.

N.B. Although the garden as a whole is forgiving, individual plants are not necessarily so.

Garden Update!

This week has been freezing!!! It’s hard to think positively about the garden when it’s so cold, so mostly I’ve been stuffing myself full of gardening videos on youtube which is fantastic, but also a little nerdy, so double fantastic!!!

This series is GREAT!!

As is this one

And there are millions more. Being an anglophile I only watched the British ones which just makes me REALLY want to be planting an English wildflower meadow in summer RIGHT NOW.

It’s not all bad though. The compost is going great! I’ve turned it twice, on the 5th day and then the 3rd day after, because I didn’t get around to it on the days I was supposed to.  It was very hot, I don’t have a thermometre but I think it was too hot because there were signs of fire blight; probably because I didn’t turn it on time. Now that it’s better mixed hopefully that won’t happen again. The turning is hard work, just as I thought it would be, but it probably only takes me half an hour and it’s a good job for a cold morning. Have to remember to wear gloves though, the first time I did it I got blisters. 😦

I’ve started a second one, just a pile in the veg garden. I think it will be easier to turn because I’ll just knock it down and pile it up again. As we’ve got plenty of space at the moment this seems like a good idea.

We’ve enlarged the beds in the top garden ready to put in the fruit trees, I’m just waiting for my mycorrhizial fungi to arrive in the post, I thought it had arrived on Friday because I saw a parcel note sticking out the post box. I got so excited that I reversed into the bins. It was pretty awkward as someone was driving past and saw me and it turned out to be a parcel for my sister. :/

This morning I pricked out my cauliflower and broccoli seedlings. I sowed them into a six plug tray but there were quite a few in each so I transplanted some into more trays. That is more than I need so hopefully I can give some away for Mandela Day. The theme for Mandela Day this year is food security and literacy. Two of the things I’m most passionate about.

I also spent the afternoon planning my Rose Garden, (spoiler – not really a rose garden) so tomorrow I’ll be putting up the first of my garden plans. 🙂

My Project

July 1st! It is officially half way through the year and I have a plan for the rest of it. In the next six months I’m going to transform my property into a beautiful, organic garden that will feed me, give me flowers for the house and provide a sanctuary for wildlife and for me. This is not terribly ambitious as summer will completely transform the garden without my help but I’ll be planning out each section of my garden and, hopefully, putting my plans into action over the next few months.

Garden Design 3

To start with I’ve drawn up a basic plan of my garden (I did it on Paint) and divided it into different sections. This helps to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the size of it because I can focus on each area as a separate garden. Some of the work is already underway, like in the veg garden, but I’ll be drawing up proper(ish) designs for the sections and deciding what to put in on paper rather than relying on impulse buys.  Well here goes the rest of the year!

Winter is coming…

Right now, as I write, winter is blowing in with force. Swooshing, howling, banging and rattling, on what is otherwise a perfectly lovely sunny day, announce its coming with a fanfare and I know that tomorrow we may wake up to frost and if not just bloody cold.

I’m excited about this. I’m excited because even though I hate the cold I love winter as a time of death and rebirth. For gardeners, like the wiccans, the year ends and begins again with winter. It’s a time of reflection and preparation. Without the forgiving green growth summer provides to cover them up all our mistakes and failings are exposed. It’s a far better time to make New Year’s resolutions so I am making mine.

Despite having lived in my house for 6 years (it seems an incredible amount of time, almost a quarter of my life in fact) much of it looks like I got interrupted in the middle of something. I have a short attention span, a tendency to fall by the wayside; I lack focus, drive, follow through, self discipline, self motivation and all the other traits worthy doers have so most of my projects and plans, having begun with extreme enthusiasm, fizzle out. I’ve done a lot here and there but my dreams of living an organic, eco-conscious, semi self sufficient life in a Sandton suburb are unfulfilled.

At the beginning of May, after a difficult and depressing few months wrestling with demons, I “got serious”. In the last five weeks, I’ve cut down some stuff, unearthed my compost piles, planted seeds, taken cuttings, dreamed, schemed and pinned and I hope that by the end of next year I’ll still be blogging and I’ll be on my way to where I want to be. If not, well then I’ll just have to accept that this is where I want to be.