Garden revamp #3

So my project to reclaim the corners of my garden is really coming along, remember this space??


it now looks like this…. 

 Still a work in progress bt we have created two raised beds from sleepers, with lovely brick edging & path between – using leftover bricks from a building project. The larger bed will be a low maintenence flower bed – minus the Rhubarb:) I can’t wait to get started planting this, but it’s not quite ready yet, the other will be a small vegetable plot. Next step Lasagne….

  
……. The soil in my garden is very stony & quite dry – not good enough for growing veg- so I am layering thick cardboard- weed barrier layer, newspaper & the contents of 3 compost bins (in various stages of decomposition) onto the bed, & will continue to add layers of grass cuttings more paper & a layer of manure from a local stable & let the worms do their stuff over the winter, so next year we should have a lovely no-dig veg plot. This technique is known as lasagne gardening or sheet composting as described here Lasagne Gardening.

This is a fantastic way to start a new bed or revitalise & condition poor soil. No-dig gardening is great & takes lots of the hard work out of gardening by letting nature do the work. There’s loads of info around but check out these links which I used – Accessible Gardening and Sheet Mulching. We have had to cover the bed temporarily as there was something very stinky in one of the bins & Tilly the Sprocker Spaniel even abandoned her tennis ball to try to drag it out of the wheelbarrow, I have no idea what it was but it is now buried & covered in tarpaulin until it rots down! 

 This years crop is a little sad – a few tomatoes, beans & squash in pots & growbags 😦 never mind next year will be more productive!  

I had a very curious little helper whilst emptying the compost – a juvenile robin who followed me everywhere & was joined by mum & siblings later. Robins just love to ‘help’ gardeners don’t they.

Today I will be tackling the seating area next to the veg plot, where an old greenhouse used to be, it was a pretty white octagonal shape greenhouse but very impractical  as there was alot of wasted space & eventually too many footballs got the better of it & it had to go! 

Bye for now. 🙂

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Garden Therapy – Mum’s Garden

This week is the first anniversary of my sister’s death, she had breast cancer for eight years but sadly lost her fight this time last year & I have come to Lincolnshire to be with my parents at this time. 

Weirdly it feels even sadder this year than last – perhaps because we have less to do, or that we are surprised that a whole year has gone by already. We took flowers to the cemetery, but decided we needed more receptacles as two vases are not enough to make her grave look pretty – so we went garden shopping….

That turned into a garden centre ‘sweep’ as they had a sale on & we found ready planted window boxes for £8.00, which were just the right size for the front of the headstone, we bought 3 of those, some bargain bedding plants & a couple of hanging baskets to jazz up mum’s garden which needs some tlc too.

Once home to mum’s we decided to get going & plant up the things we bought. The hanging baskets were not to hang but to put in planters at the front of the house – instant planted pots – a great cheat, & so easy. A couple of the window boxes too & voila! the front is all cheered up in a flash.

Mum is a fan of old fashioned, bedding plant borders, she doesn’t like ‘messy’ cottage garden style planting – which I love – but I am trying to persuade her to introduce more permanent shrubs & perennials, I have brought a small penstemon cutting from my own garden which is a start!

  
Outside the kitchen window is a small paved area & rockery, & years ago a prostrate conifer -a blue juniper -was planted there & had completely taken over. 

   
It was drowning a lovely Azalea & providing a home for mice & maybe a hedgehog or so we thought! Anyway we decided it had to go, so dad & I spent a couple of hours yesterday evening getting to grips with it.

 It covered an area about 2m x 3m & took all of 2 hours to cut back to expose the roots, todays job is to dig it out…. & then think of what to replace it with.

It took another whole day to remove the roots – there was just as much below ground as above! No sign of any hedgehogs or mice but we disturbed a nest of miner bees, they were fairly docile but obviously not happy- I got stung but luckily the sting is mild compared to other bees. 

We planned to take some existing plants from around the garden & redistribute but I headed back to the garden centre & found lots more bargains – Geums for £1.00 – I bought 10 as I ‘need’ some too! Cistus, Scabious, Nemesia & a very sad Heuchera, all will be ok with a bit of watering, I got a car full for £30.00! 

 

This is looking sooo much better now, I planted a white Lavender & a Penstemon that had been in pots for a few years -hopefully they will really thrive now they are in open ground & together with some of the new plants, should fill out this space quite quickly. The soil is very sandy & free draining so its easy to dig & weed, most things  will grow as long as they are watered well at the beginning.

 I will split up the Asters at the back & spread them around, plant bulbs in the autumn & next spring this bed should look lovely. There’s also a clump of California Poppies & daisies that need dividing at the other end of the garden so we can use those in the side bed with some more shrubs (I will be back bargain hunting soon), there is also a bed at the front of the house that needs some more permanent planting but this is all I have had time for this visit.  

I love the combination of these two plants & have taken some for my own garden & some of the Asters which are spreading themselves around.

This little project has kept us busy during a difficult week & we all feel a sense of achievement that comes from making positive changes, we are also quite tired…….

More of Galicia

Continuing our trip, we have explored a little of the coastline of Galicia which is simply stunning. The beaches are so pretty, with white sand & crystal clear turquoise sea. As it is the most northerly tip of Spain, this area has coastlines which face both the Atlantic  Ocean & the Bay of Biscay, this provides some very dramatic scenery & as it is always windy here, some fairly big waves too! Really the whole area is a magnificent giant wind farm – it looks pretty surreal but I love the wind turbines & the soothing whooshing noise they make:)

  
We have seen a few kite surfers going at high speed across some of the bays. The winds also keep the temperature down so this area is not as hot as you might expect – a much more comfortable temperature for walking, sightseeing etc than Southern Spain.

   
   

 It seems that this part of Spain is a great area for activity holidays as there are well-marked coastal paths, river walks & opportunities for watersports, we saw new marinas ready & waiting to welcome sailing boats although we havent seen many yachts at sea – maybe it was too windy??

  
Just along the beach at Porto De Bares someone had planted the most amazing garden on an exposed slope, there were all manner of flowering succulents, Aloes, Acanthus & various grasses- I’m not very good at naming these seaside plants- but they look great growing almost onto the beach, amazingly they withstand quite extreme weather especially in the winter.

   
     The food here has been delicious, we have been to a local rural bar/cafe/bistro which serves food for farmworkers & the locals at lunchtime only, it was run by a lovely lady & has a very limited set menu of soup, squid, sardines, salad, steak & potatoes, all served in huge portions with house wine for around £10.00 per head!

We have had Caldo- a local soup of ham hock, beans & potatoes; Pulpo – Octopus cooked whole in water then chopped & served with oil & lemon; and also a Galician cheesecake made with soft cheese & baked but with the texture of old fashioned Yorkshire curd tart.  

 Pulpo 
We only managed a short trip this time but I am sure we will be back for a longer visit, & hope to go inland to visit some of the Romans towns & experience more of this very ‘different’ Spain.

 Our first trip to Galicia

We are currently having a short break visiting friends in Galicia. 

Our friends moved here nearly a year ago with their Spaniel Katie & are in the middle of renovating an old farmhouse in the hills near Ortiguera.

       

 They live in a tiny hamlet & have a small piece of land where they keep chickens, goats & a pig. They have also acquired 2 young Spanish dogs.

 

      I have never been to Northern Spain before & it is a revelation – sooo green. The climate is very similar to the UK just a little windier!! Compared to the rest of Spain it rains a lot here & so is good farming country. The main crop seems to be Eucalyptus – there are huge plantations of extremely tall trees which are used for the paper industry.

 

 Everyone seems to be very friendly & community spirited- helping each other with transporting logs, fixing things etc. 

A typical feature if this area – seen in most gardens or alongside the house is  an horreo or grain store. They can be built on a platform or stilts & have wooden slatted sides. They look very beautiful made out of local stone. 

   
Yesterday we went to a small port – Viveiro-  which is a lovely old town

  

 These galleried windows are typical of this part of Spain – aren’t they pretty?

Essendon Village Open Gardens

Yesterday I went to a nearby village where every other year some of the residents open their gardens to the public to raise funds for the local parish.    It’s a great example of English eccentricity, some people spend months taking cuttings & potting up plants to sell, others make cakes & do teas, the local pub does a roaring lunch trade, one resident sells her homemade ice cream…… you get the picture, its like a garden themed village fete.

It’s also a really lovely & interesting way to have a nosy at other people’s gardens -from the very tiny cottage garden to the large country house style & all in between, especially on a nice sunny Sunday.

Yesterday was drizzly & not very warm when we arrived, but that was good as it wasn’t busy, & we got first dibs at some of the plant stalls & saw some of the gardens with no one else around.  I think my favourite is the tiny cottage garden that is really a lovely meandering path, surrounded by all manner of plants, some in pots, all crammed in together – it’s fabulous as you can see.       The Hostas are magnificent with slugs being controlled by nematodes. This tiny garden still manages to have a bit of everything & feels very exotic as its so green & leafy, there are little secret seating areas & the owners make great use of placing pots in the borders to fill in any gaps. I am definitely using that trick in my garden.    I like the way this garden has a long border of nepeta (catmint) – it has a similar effect as a lavender hedge but is much easier to keep in check year after year, as lavender tends to get a bit woody & straggly after a while. Those amazing alliums in the foreground are fab but I can’t remember the variety..       Another gardener makes great use of old bits of scrap metal, wood & old pots & pans – I love the idea of a fake fireplace including over mantle mirror. The top picture shows a great bird feeding station using large wooden posts to hang feeders from- you can just about see in the foreground a long piece of metal guttering being used as a feeding trough. This garden also has an amazing pond, seating area & wall of teapots & old kettles all,planted up!     Two examples of plants I really want in my garden but they must be big:) Sambucus Niger (Black Elder) & Euphorbia.

We had a great day being inspired to go home & get stuck into our own gardens, as well as spending a small fortune on plants we probably didn’t need, or in my case that I’d forgotten I already had, (probably bought at the same place two years previously)!!

Adventures in Crochet

I learned to crochet just over a year ago. I love all kinds of crafts & I’ve always been able to knit – my mum taught me when I was little & over the years have made various items – many never finished as I got bored with my slow progress. 

Learning to crochet has been a revelation- it’s so versatile & I am much quicker at it than knitting!! 

I discovered the Attic24 blog online & loved all the colourful projects Lucy has made – she has tutorials too but I needed to learn the basics, You Tube is great for tutorials but I needed more, & then I found this lovely shop in Hertford – The Creative Sanctuary  – a knitting & stitching boutique where they run all sorts of workshops & they were running one for learning to crochet – perfect!!

 I signed up & the lovely  Anna Nikipirowicz  taught us to make a mobile phone cover. You can see my first ever piece of crochet here Crochet mobile phone cover 

Anna is a knitting & crochet designer & runs workshops in various places around the country, you can find her designs here Anna’s Ravelry Page She’s a brilliant teacher too – and can be totally blamed for starting my crochet obsession! Since then I have barely had yarn out of my hands. 

  
These are a few of my projects. 

I love making gifts for people & shortly after learning to crochet I started  looking for small projects to help me learn new techniques.

 I discovered this new charity Knitted Knockers UK who provide soft cotton knitted & crochet prosthetic boobs for women who have had mastectomies. They are donated free of charge to any woman who wants one & replace the heavy silicone ones provided by the NHS. 

This started in America as many women find the silicone ones uncomfortable & they can cause skin irritation. 

As my sister had breast cancer I thought this would be a great thing to do whilst learning new techniques. I had to make several before I was ‘approved’ to fulfill orders & I have made both crochet & knitted ‘knockers’ since & love the fact that something so small can change a life  A selection of my knitted & crocheted knockers

Recently Knitted Knockers UK were featured on BBC Breakfast- you can watch here  Knitted Knockers BBC       & now have loads of orders & now need more people to volunteer their time & skills so if you fancy joining us…..

I also discovered The Toft Alpaca Shop at the Knitting & Stitching show & saw the lovely Edward’s Menagerie animal designs – more small projects & new techniques to learn. They are crocheted using the Amigurumi technique & are very cute- they make lovely gifts. 

  
A few of my Edward’s Menagerie crocheted animals. Audrey the nanny goat is my most recent & she is off to Spain with me on Tuesday as a gift for someone. 

My next project will be a new baby gift but haven’t decided what yet in the meantime I am in the middle of another crocheted knocker

  
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my crochet journey – not bad for something I have only been doing for just over a year. I am still learning & choose projects that will teach me something.  I hope I have inspired you to share your projects or to try crochet too if you never have. 

Garden Revamp Part 2


So the tree surgeons came, there were 4 of them & they spent 3 hours in pouring rain sorting out our trees. Our garden looks so different, so much brighter & bigger.

  

You can just see one of the guys in this Laurel which had grown into a tree….  The large terracotta alien is my new water butt more about that later…..  

The conifer at the bottom has been reduced in height by  a third & the canopy lifted, it was also being strangled by a huge ivy so that has been cut at the bottom to allow it to die before removal – it was cutting a groove into the trunk & choking the tree.

  

My neighbour’s enormous Pine tree has had the most radical trim – three branches were growing horizontally into our garden, with their permission, these have been removed together with lots of deadwood, this has had a dramatic effect on the amount of light & rain which will now reach this side of the garden. The giant Laurel next to it has also had a large branch removed- it still needs some work to reduce the height but so much better already.

 

Much better- although I now have another corner to tidy!