The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Rise of the Mutant Carrots

I think I will rethink any future investment in carrot seeds. They are so cheap to buy in the shops I will not make a profit with them. On the other hand it is nice to just go in to the garden and pull a few up - been good for my diet as an alternative to a biscuit when I have felt peckish.

Today's pick gave me these three beauties.

Number one looks more like a molar extraction than a carrot extraction...
Number two is some sort of weird bacterium...
And I leave it up to your imagination for number three...

All the 8s

Well I did it...

I deleted the whole damned caboodle from the cardbox.

It was a chore, having too much in it and not necessarily words I wanted to revise, and as such I had stopped using it.

And I have started a new one.

You may have thought I had given up studying what with all the gardening. It is true that I am doing nowhere near as much at the moment, but I am still trying to do some every day. I am currently, and have been for a while now, concentrating on 8s. These are definitely my weak area...

I am attacking them from more than one direction.

I should have finished revising the top 10000 by the BMSC this coming weekend, and now I am just adding those I miss into the cardbox. I will keep working my way through over time.

Alongside that I am slowly going through the higher probability 8s. I started at 23k, as that was as far as I had got when I was card boxing. With these I do a quick test, breaking them up into chunks of 250 words. Those I miss or get but wouldn't bet my life on in a game get saved to a file in groups of 1000, e.g. 8missed-23k-24k. I then retest myself on those files several times. After several passes then those missed also get added to the cardbox.

It is actually quite fun doing this - learning some new words as opposed to constant revision. I am currently going through 28001-29000.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

LB8 - The Start

Wanting to plant my new saxifrage Silver Velvet in the LBE bed under the wall meant that I had the motivation I needed to finish that bed off. As it was it only took a couple of hours yesterday as Penny had done most of the leg work for me earlier in the year, removing the stones and forking it over. I really only needed to weed it, dig it over with my hand trowel and then define the edge and line it with some of my many stones. It still needed more topsoil added to it to really finish it off, but not as much as the rest did - for a start we did not find any piles of bricks buried there unlike the part along LB9. It was duly christened with the planting of the saxifrage and the erodium to keep it company.

So on to LB8 proper.

I decided to start at the bottom. First task, as always, was to remove the surface stones. A bucket load and I was ready to start digging out the clay that is solid a couple of inches below the surface at the bottom. I was progressing well but two hours in and the weather changed so I called it a day. Back out this afternoon, with Penny helping for a while. A couple of metres completed and I have now started working my way up, joining up with LB9. A few bucket loads of soil have been relocated to the top, another couple should be enough to finish that off. Paul came out to get the two large rocks in place, the one under the bucket being the monolith we had dug out of the f-t-b-t-b last year and the dark grey one was amongst our freecycle top soil. I am almost ready for another where the trowel is, but I decided to stop when I noticed the midges coming - not sure if I have escaped unharmed but I already have so many bites I don't want to risk more...

It is hard to judge how much I have still to go, but I guess I have done somewhere between 10 and 15%. I have already exceeded my original target for the LBE this year so my new target is to complete up to the top from what I have done today, and maybe the clay removal and cobble stone edging all the way along. I will need to apply more weed killer as I have spotted some more ground elder coming through on the remaining weed patch.

On other gardening matters I reached profit on the veggie patch last week, mainly thanks to the free potatoes and rhubarb. I harvested my first cabbage today - four veggies (cabbage, runner beans, purple dwarf beans and peas) with Sunday lunch today not to mention the first dug King Edward potatoes.

I have now ordered an apple tree collection from Adam's Apples. Ten apple trees to grow as vertical cordons with a mix of cookers, eaters and dual purpose that are suitable for growing here. I specified a couple of varieties that I wanted but am leaving the rest up to the expert. The man was very helpful when I phoned and they are extremely competitively priced. He asked why I was wanting to grow them as vertical cordons and I explained that the bed I am planting has a low wall with a metre of railing on top and I am planning to use the railings as their stakes. He has suggested starting them as vertical cordons and then train them horizontally along the top of the railings. I suppose I could even try planting them as oblique cordons, still using the railings to train them. They start delivering in January, but will wait for me to say when I am ready for them which has taken a worry from me - if we have another winter like this year I could not plant before March. I now have to decide on what other fruit trees I want...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Plant Retail Therapy

I had said to Allan that I may go over to watch some of his BEST match against Ed Rossiter today, so Allan had said to come for lunch.

So I made plans to visit Edrom nursery in the afternoon, having spent the evening before going through their website and making a wish list. I had specific requirements. Plants must either provide ground cover (although not be invasive) to fill in gaps in LB 11 and 10, or be capable of filling the little nooks and crannies. Pluses awarded for plants that will be easily propagated, either by division or will layer root. And they had to be in my colour range of white/pink/purple/blue...

As it was I arrived at Allan's about 11.15 a.m. just in time to see the last four moves of the match, Allan winning 8-2. While Allan took Ed to the railway station I spent a pleasant half an hour wandering around his garden, and then we had lunch when Allan got back.

Then off to the real business of the day. I got several of the plants on my list, and a couple of impulse buys, but there were three plants that I had earmarked as really wanting that I could not see. The lady in the payment hut took my list with the three ringed plants over the road to see whether they had them in stock. She came back five minutes later with three pots newly labelled up for me.

So my latest Edrom nursery plants:

Phlox Nettleton variation
Rhodohypoxis baurii Confecta (impulse buy, but looks as if I can get several plants from the pot)
Saxifraga Silver Velvet (impulse buy - a large variety with the most amazing purple and silver foliage)
Saxifraga farreri
Saxifraga paniculata Lutea
Sempervivum Rosie

I had also wanted some gentians that I couldn't find but decided I would drop in at Lamberton on my way home as they are one of their specialities. Not only did I succeed with the gentians but also managed to find a few others that met my criteria:

Campanula cochlearifolia 'Alba'
Erodium 'Cezembre'
Gentian Bernardii
Gentian septemfida lagodechiana
Sedum spathifolium 'Cape Blanco'

Monday, August 16, 2010

LBE Marches On

A couple of good afternoon's work have been done in the LBE.

Saturday saw the violas and hibiscuses make it into LB9.

I followed that up with weeding (yet again) the bottom foot or so of LB10, 11 and 12. LB10 has now also been planted up with alternating patches of the black and then pink ajugas, sourced from LB12 where they are now 2 years+old. These themselves were sourced from two plants that I actually bought and planted in LB1 the first summer we moved up here and are still going strong. They are garden thugs but are doing a fine job of edging the LBE, with very few other than the fiercely determined weeds now getting through in LB12. Not bad for an initial outlay of three quid!

I found this growing amongst the weeds in LB10. Not sure what it is but it doesn't look like a weed so I have transplanted and will await its development with interest.

The primroses that I transplanted in the spring seem to like their new environs and are now large enough that I am contemplating dividing them again. One is even flowering! I did divide one of the primulas that I bought from Edrom nursery earlier this year into three healthy looking plants.

I have also been experimenting with the sedum/saxifrage/antennaria that I bought in the spring. When I first got them I pulled of a rosette from each and just popped then into the ground. Similarly with an old house leek that I had brought up in a pot from Sandhurst. They all seem to have taken - indeed the house leek rosette is now a good two inches across.

The sedum now has three rosettes. So spurred on I have pulled off a few more and popped them into the dirt path, hoping they will spread and keep the weeds down. I just have to be careful to avoid stomping on them.

All the parents are doing well and if I am successful will hopefully provide me with a lot more plants - if not they should be big enough for me to divide next spring anyway.

Yesterday I got out there again after lunch - the sun came out after an unpromising morning.

More weeding of the middle section of LB9 and 10, and I then planted the salvia and the penstemons.

One of the penstemons had a stem snapped off as I got it out of the packaging, so I decided to take some cuttings from it. Now I have never done this before so I was not too hopeful. But I could see four reasonable shoots so I cut them off below a leaf joint at a length of somewhere between two and three inches, removed the lower leaves and popped them into a pot filled with a mix of compost and grit. Then I gave them a good watering and they flopped over looking very sad. I placed the pot in my little propagator on the utility room windowsill. This morning when I checked on them they were all looking quite perky. Having looked in one of my gardening books it appears I have done almost text book stem tip cuttings without knowing it - the example they showed was even a penstemon. Hopefully they should root in two to three weeks time, and then I need to pot them on and plant out next spring. This could open a whole new source of plants to me if it works :)

I then moved on to the trellis bed to divide the iris that Anne gave me a couple of years back. Armed with a fork and spade I eventually managed to remove a good sized clump of it which has yielded ten new plants. Back to the LB9 and they are now in. Penny arrived whilst I was replanting them. It still looks pretty bare in places but give it a year or two to see where I do need more planting. The narrow bed along the bottom of the wall, however, is filling in very nicely.

I had been planning on making a start on the bottom of LB8 but it was actually too hot to do anything too strenuous. So after taking the dogs out and having a coffee we relocated to LB1 to finish weeding there - discovery of a wasp nest had scuppered us the last time but a copious dusting of ant/wasp powder at the dead of night a while back seemed to do the trick.

And finally the joys of gardening

coming across this self-sown cyclamen flowering away - parent in pot long since disappeared. It obviously likes it more there than where I have unsuccessfully tried to grow them.

and to think I almost pulled this out in the spring thinking it was dead and it was getting in the way of my weeding

and the discovery of a new shoot on one of the ceanothuses that never made it in to the garden last year, and has looked to all intents and purposes dead since the winter.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gardening Blues But Red Tomatoes

It has not been a good gardening summer.

On the whole it has either been too hot and the ground too dry or too cold/windy and/or threatened/half-hearted rain. On the days I have got out there I have been bitten to hell by midges. I am guessing midges as I can't think what else could 'reach the parts other insects cannot reach'...

Given that I spent almost as much time out there in April alone than I have in total since, the garden does appear to be coping extremely well. I am almost keeping on top of the weeds, although it does appear that the long bank extension is my own personal 'painting the Forth rail bridge'. Hopefully, I too will have it under control when fully planted by 2012! I do have a backlog of new plants waiting to be re-homed in there although still a drop in the ocean.

I dropped Paul off at the railway station this morning and then went shopping. I remembered to nip in to Aldi as Paul had mentioned they had hibiscus plants advertised for yesterday's special buys. So I now have a blue/purple one and a white one. Then on to Morrisons where I bought three penstemons and a salvia - I did forget the HP sauce but luckily for Jen and Poncho not the bonios. The violas that I potted on are also ready for planting now, as are the remaining half a dozen hostas. Looking at the forecast for the next few days it doesn't look hopeful although there may be a sunny interval tomorrow lunchtime!

So given the lack of sunshine it is a bit of a surprise that I am getting sun-ripened on-the-vine tomatoes on both my plants that are in the veggie patch. The man I bought them off of at the Paxton plant sale was sceptical when I asked about growing them outside.

New on to the veggie harvesting list are my Red Rum runner beans. Having seen how many are coming I am now doubting the wisdom of having grown so many plants.

On the plus (?) side the Sunbright variety are looking very decorative, having been flowering prolifically for some time now, but so far I have not spotted any actual beans coming.

I had kept up with the purple dwarf beans having found another outlet for some in the form of Reg and Diana, but saw that a load more are now ready...

And I Thank Goodness yet again that we bought another freezer last year.

So far a couple of pounds of goosberries, three pounds of rhubarb (still got plenty more growing away) and a pound of wild raspberries frozen, along with some de-pipped puree. I have actually picked over five pounds so far this year but have made one batch of jam (definitely the best variety) and have been eating the rest with Scotch pancakes and ice cream :)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Happiness is a New Back Lawn

We got three people to quote for the lawn.

Quote 1) Man was very nice but it did seem very finger-in-the-air estimating the amount of soil we would need, working on the principle that as little as possible was good. We did sort of agree on the area of grass needed, but he didn't measure anything so that was more that he took our estimate as his.
Quote 2) Border Aggregates. Much more impressed. Man measured the area with one of those wheel-on-a-stick measuring things - area about what we had estimated. Agreed that it would be advisable to break the ground up a bit first, and even went as far as discussing levels to determine the amount of topsoil needed and the best approach to laying the turf itself.
Quote 3) Man measured the area with a tape. Came up with a much lower area than us. Didn't seem to think the ground needed any preparation - would be a good hard base. Wrote me a quote on the back of an envelope as he had forgotten his pad. I wasn't sure if this included labour and on trying to get clarification was none the wiser.

Quote from Border Aggregates arrived in the post a few days later. I was pleasantly surprised. Quote from man 1 arrived a few days later. It was less but was also for a much lower quantity of topsoil. If we upped that to match Border Aggregates the quotes were about the same. So, Border Aggregates won the business hands down.

So on Tuesday we got a phone call to say they would be coming in the afternoon. This was really to drop off the mini digger and just ascertain exactly what was to be done (different two men from the one who had originally come to do the estimate). They would be back first thing the following day to start work. We ascertained that allowing for the drive in from Kelso this would be 7.30 a.m.

Now it needs to be watered every day for the next 3 to 4 weeks, and given a feed after a couple of weeks. Minimal walking on for a month so the dogs are going to have to wait before testing it out as a race track...

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