Saturday, 16 April 2016

Sleeper raised beds

I don't normally resort to writing lists of jobs to be done but we have so much that needs doing outside that I've had to list them all so that we can prioritise - often it seems that the one job we want to do cannot be done before another is completed to clear the way.

Filling these new raised beds is a case in point. The raised parts are finally finished mostly (the temporary ends need something more permanent) and so they needed filling. Some of it was filled months ago but then it got left as I pondered on all the other jobs that were piling up - a mistake I promised myself we wouldn't make this year.
I have to say there is great satisfaction in finally seeing the raised beds completed and filled with lovely top soil and compost.  We bought the topsoil in last year (or the year before, I forget) but the compost is all free of charge.

Mr TG collected several Hippo bags filled with all the plant material and spent compost from a local department store. Usually they would pay a firm to come in and haul away the bags but I was asked by an employee as to whether they were any good to me. So late last year hubby collected the bags on his trailer and bought them home - with a police escort as it turned out he was littering the entire 15 miles home, oops! I then covered the tops of the bags to allow the contents to rot down over the winter.

These bags contain a huge amount of material and it was pleasant to see that the contents had actually managed to rot down  over winter despite the cold, I was concerned that they wouldn't heat up enough to do so.

We have used this type of compost once before and I had forgotten just how back breaking the work is. Ordinarily I think a person could do this and not suffer any pain but for some reason 5 minutes of this and my back feels like it is broken and I have to rest.
There is a system to this stuff though. I cannot empty it directly onto the beds because the contents not only contain the rotted plant material and spent compost but ID labels get chucked in, sticks go in, cane toppers go in, plant rings are in there and even the odd pot has been thrown in.
This is the current sytem:
  • 3 to 4 shovel fulls go into the barrow. This then has to be hand sifted to remove all the plants that haven't rotted which go straight into the trailer, all the non degradeable stuff goes into a bucket for disposal and all the small weeds etc go into another bucket which again then goes into the trailer. Once the trailer is full I hook it up to the quadbike and it is then driven down the land where the plant material can be shovelled out to rot down.
It's the being bent over the barrow that actually cause the back pain.

This is what a full barrow looks like and each Hippo bag gets us at least 5 of these.

This is one part of the filled raised bed. It's approx 2ft in height so has used alot of top soil and compost.
Excuse the boarding to the left, this is going to be removed as Mr TG builds a wall there to protect the garden from the northerly winds that funnel down here. This means though that the plants I put in the raised bed will all be facing south and in full sun all day - insert smiley face.
These raised beds are to house shrubs to form another windbreak until the wall is built but also to add height and enclose the open garden a little.
I'm not 100% certain of the plant combination but I have alot of Hebe,large hardy Fuschia, Viburnums and Hydranges - this is a large area to fill and will frame the new patio we are going to lay.
Just in front of the raised beds we are adding another line of sleepers to create another smaller raised bed so that we can plant Day Lillies, Crocosmia and Iris.
The back larger raised beds will also contain honeysuckle and climbing roses to mask the aviary which is out of shot of the picture.

Monday, 28 March 2016

It's time to weed!

I've finally started what I put off for the whole of last year - weeding!
Last year I convinced myself that it would do me good to walk away from any gardening for a year because the tediousness of it was starting to make me not enjoy being out there anymore. A few years ago this would have been unheard of, I had less garden to tend and it was so easy to keep it looking immaculate but then over the years I've added another garden, a veg area and a polytunnel area and trying to maintain it all myself was just taking its toll. After spending another year just trying to keep on top of it while also mowing acres, looking after animals, keeping a house and accounting, I decided I was either going to a) completely gravel/pave/deck everywhere and just have pots b) dismantle the poytunnel and veg area and just let the weeds take over or c) simply take a break from it all and just see what happens.
I chose C - thankfully.

The weeds are awful - to be expected, but awful. I get alot of couch grass with runners that run like tentacles everywhere and the dreaded creeping buttercup. I don't mind any weed except creeping ruddy buttercup.

When I first looked at this trowel in hand I almost walked away.






Only now can I see that I can actually cram alot of new plants out here, which is a good thing really as I have approximately 400 in my polytunnel that are now getting quite depserate for a life outside their pot.

This though made me smile with happiness when I saw it. I have a Cordyline growing that is self seeded and has done so well until a couple of winters ago when a wishing well fell on it and snapped it right at the base. I managed to stand it upright and bashed a scaffold pole into the ground to tie it to. Then I mulched it with thick straw round the base and covered the straw with slate to keep it in place. The Cordyline appears to have survived which is amazing but now it has babies - twins no less. I thought the green leaves were from a flag iris that runs rampant in this bed but nope - they're definitely coming from the Cordyline stem.

I've been keeping an eager eye out for signs of my Peonies survivng the winter in the ground and sure enough 'Sarah Bernhadt' appears to be waking up.

I'm not sure what's going on with this pot grown Camellia in the polytunnel though. It has flowered a couple of times but nothing last year and nothing this year. It's in ericaceous compost that is topped up each year and I keep the watering right but it just doesn't seem to be thriving.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Slipped disc - but not me this time! Canine IVDD.

I think we've been blessed weatherwise for the past week or so, if it's rained it's been at night time and the sun has been out during the day. In fact it's been so mild that I'm already drying washing on the line and that is practically unheard of me because the sea air makes it too damp to dry usually.

I've had big plans to get started on the garden and while we've managed to clear it of rubbish and all manner of bricks, wood and broken projects I haven't actually managed to put a fork in the soil yet. This is down to a little Shih Tzu called Kasa

This naughty little ray of sunshine has managed to slip a disc in her back - something Shih Tzus and other long bodied stumpy legged dogs are prone to apparantly (why is it we never find this information out until it actually happens).
Initially the vet diagnosed arthiritis but after a couple of days we weren't happy with that diagnosis and took her back to the vet - IVDD is the medical term or Intervertrebal Disc Disease.
To start with a wobbly gait was all we noticed, Kasa was otherwise her normal happy stupid self but it progressed very quickly and by the time we took her back to the vet she had lost knuckle reflex in one of her back paws suggesting that the protruding disc was putting pressure on her spinal cord and causing sensation issues.
Strict crate rest is the solution for this if you opt out of surgery. Surgery isn't guaranteed to help and the nearest animal hospital to do this is about 300 miles away with costs going into the thousands.
Thankfully conservative treatment is the most popular way of dealing with this now especially at the stage Kasa has it so 24/7 crate rest it is! As I'm the only one at home all day this has fallen to me to do and it's taken a while to get my head round it - it's extremely difficult to crate a dog 24/7 and not feel guilty, even if you know it's for their own good.
Kasa hasn't made the journey any easier because she hates a crate and attacks it - literally! I cannot even begin to tell you all the different methods we tried in the first 2 weeks to get her to settle in confinement. Unfortunately her battle against the crate has made her condition worse and she has now lost the ability to gauge placement of both back legs. This is not like losing all feeling though, she still has deep pain sensation, it's just that the disc is pushing her spinal cord more and causing a loss in sensation. The 24/7 crate rest was and is supposed to prevent this!
As of now we have a crate sorted that she cannot scratch, jump out of, chew or attack and fingers crossed she will begin to heal, from all the research I have done (ALOT) this condition is completely recoverable so the crate is now her new best friend for at least the next 6 weeks, she's only allowed out to go to the toilet (whereby I have to carry her, then support her back end in a sling while she does her business and then carry her back).
You would think that crate resting a dog would be easy wouldn't you? Honestly, it is so time consuming you wouldn't believe it, especially with a dog that fights it like Kasa does.
So anyway Kasa is the reason I have not really been absorbed in the garden however that should change once we have Kasas pain meds sorted and controlled.

During one of my little stints to the polytunnel I did have a lovely surprise. Late 2014 I dug up a clump of amazing white Iris's and temporarily planted them in my polytunnel while the garden was renovated (pmsl, it still isn't done), anyway last year I watched as those Iris plants appeared to grow healthy and then suddenly shrivel up and die. I almost dug them up and chucked them but I didn't get round to it. I was so pleased when I checked the polytunnel bed yesterday and a couple of my pots and saw this sign of life

At first I thought it was Daffodils coming up because the stems of this Iris do look like Daffodil stems not regular Iris. Unfortunately I don't know the name of it but it has to be the most amazing Iris I have ever seen, it's been a bit reluctant to flower the last few years which is another reason I thought it was ready for lifting and dividing.