Thursday, 29 August 2013

DIY potting bench.

I've wanted to build a potting bench for the garden for quite a while now and wasted spent many a hour scouring Google and Pinterest for ideas and plans to make the ultimate bench.
I had huge ideas for this bench - it was going to have built in bins for compost, a sink, plenty of storage and hooks for hanging "stuff", but most of all it was going to be the prettiest little potting bench this side of Caithness.

My inspiration included this bench from 'My Honeys Place'.
Love the colour, the little heart cut out and especially the sink.

Or this one from 'Homeroad'.
I love that suzy uses old gates/wood, slates on the top, has the cute drawers and the window to the side.

There are free plans available all over the tinterweb for pretty much any design of potting bench you could possibly want.
But Linda doesn't 'do' plans!
One day Linda is going to learn the concept of planning and is going to have all timber correct in size ready to hand before attempting a project that can end up being big and complex.
On this particular build though I stuck to my usual 'make it up as I go along' method and lets just say I had many moments of seriously hating the project and it came veeeeery close to being dumped on Mr TGs burning heap (if I could have carried the beast that is).
The end result is not particularly pleasing to the eye, it has none of the special compartments I wanted, only has one shelf (which is already home to a Hosta rather than the compost and pots it was made for) and is made from so many odds and sods of scrapwood that it could never look very well put together BUT it does the job.....just!

Ultimately it is not long enough which is why I had to add to a side tray and I suspect I'm still going to end up using the patio table as a potting bench rather than this.
I did have one groovy idea though - I was worried that after a few uses the bench part of it was going to look seriously grotty and dirty from compost and I know I'd be forever painting over it, then I remembered that somewhere I had a bottle of Crystal resin (see where this is going). The resin was a fair few years old (I'm guessing at least 8) so I didn't know if it would work but I thought if I could coat the top with resin then it would make it wipeable.
I have to admit the resin did look a bit dodgy and had actually crystalised in parts but I mixed it all with the hardener and just spread the stuff. It took a good 2 days to harden but harden it has and I now have that wipeable surface.

I also built this planter for a standard Rose that I bought from Homebase. The Rose looks a tad dodgy as it was on the reduced isle (last step before the skip) and it doesn't look a pretty sight at the moment but at least it has a pretty planter.
I made the whole thing from scrapwood (of course) and made it up as I went along (of course), lined it with large dog food bags (wish I'd used compost bags as at least they'd be black) and coated it with Cuprinol Garden shades 'Summer Damson'

Monday, 26 August 2013

Tomato blight and Pear problems

I think I'm going to have to destroy what is left of my Tomato plants because I think they have blight. It's not the first time this has happened, in fact it's happened a few times before, I'm just not 100% sure that it is actually blight they suffer from because they're in a polytunnel.
Are there any other blight sufferers out there who can confirm one way or the other?

The plants are covered in those brown areas and most of the foliage has now died back. The fruits still on the plants don't seem to be affected yet but that's just a matter of time.

I also have other disasters in the polytunnel - the Victoria plum tree has lost most of its leaves after they turned yellow and the very top branches are dying back too. On closer inspection it's infested with the dreaded Red Spidermite so we've had to remove it from the polytunnel. In the future it will over winter in the tunnel but will spend the summer outside.
The Bramley apple tree is suffering a little too. I positioned it next to the sweetcorn and the sweetcorn pollen has left a mess all over the leaves and fruit, the wasps have taken residence in the fruit.
I'll be more on the ball next year, will thin the fruit better and will reposition it.

This Pear tree is a annoying me now though. I posted earlier in the year the problems I was having with it and it was suggested it may have Pear scab. I left the fruit on it just to see what would happen and all of them are suffering from the same ailment, they're not rotting but the skins have gone scaly and split - is this a result of Pear scab?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Roses make a garden

I have a "thing" about Roses, I love them! To me there is no garden plant more perfect and it is the one plant I would never give up growing. I'll admit It can be quite a let down to shove your nose in the most exquisite, beautifully formed bloom to find there is no scent but still it's a let down you soon recover from.
I have added a few new Roses to the borders this year and to be honest I hadn't expected to get much in the way of blooms this year - even now I underestimate the Rose - so I have been pleasantly surprised by the show they're putting on right now.

I've already posted images of climber 'Compassion', it's still flowering as vigorously as it was weeks ago and showing no signs of bud formation slowing down. The scent is gorgeous and until recently was my favourite in the garden.

This next rose has a definite Blue hue to it. I cannot remember the name of it offhand as a few of them got mixed up untagged before planting but luckily I recorded descriptions of each one alongside names so it won't take me long to figure it out.
This Blueish rose is my new favourite for scent, it smells like sherbert (or what you imagine Sherbert to smell like) and really is gorgeous.

This next Rose is another new one for me, it's name is 'Nostalgia' and the two tone Raspberry and Banana colours certainly make up for any lack of scent.

I have had this next rose 'Faithfull' for a couple of years now, it flowers well but lacks any scent and the blooms are easily  ruined by rain. Gorgeous non the less though.

This next rose - unknown name - is long lived and would be a favourite if it wasn't so easily ruined by rain. For some reason it seems to time it's peak flowering time with a monsoon so we never get to see it in all its glory for more than a few days.

I have loads more Roses but the above are definitely my favourites right now - next year I intend to add several more climbing Roses to the next area of garden to be renovated. I'm going to mix climbing roses with honeysuckle as both are hardy in this climate and I need to cover parts of the bird aviaries quickly.

But look what else is flowering in the garden. This Verbena is growing amazingly well, Mr TG doesn't like it he says it looks like a weed but personally I think it looks quite sweet.

And look how cute this is. I spotted this Seaholly misshape and just had to share it - it's a heart!

Finally this Scabiosa is a new one for me. I grew it for cutting but I've never cut it.

On a different note I got around to building that potting bench. Once it's in situ I'll get some piccies but let's just warn ya, it ain't quite what I had in mind.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bad, bad gardener!

I've been a bad gardener lately! For some reason I'm going through a Meh stage and have avoided going anywhere near the polytunnel or the greenhouse except to water the contents (done with blinkered eyes so that I don't have to look at the suffering plants or growing weeds) and picked the odd bit of veg.
It all started when I couldn't get out there because of the slipped disc and then when I could get out there - but not do anything - I fretted and worried about the abundance of weeds that needed clearing and fruit / veg that needed picking. I did ask Mr TG to help me weed at one point but that just resulted in the loss of all my Parsnips so after that I avoided looking around.
Yesterday I just had to go to both the PT and the greenhouse in pursuit of some bolt croppers (that ended up being in Mr TG's work van anyways) - I put it off as long as I could but when I sauntered round there I was suddenly seeing it all with clear eyes and let me just say.....O....M....G!

This is the veg beds next to the greenhouse. The French beans have amounted to nothing - probably strangled and starved by the weeds - and I had intended to use this area for winter veg as it's sheltered here. Don't think that will be happening, not unless I get in some serious weeding beforehand.

Even Bob the mannequin has become neglected and lost a leg.
Bad isn't it!
Both beds are being covered in weed suppressant asap.

The PT area was no better. The outside raised beds were full of Horse tail and bolted veggies. The carrots finally appear to have got their act together, the problem is that although the raised beds are supposed to be easier to tend they're not when you're recovering from a slipped disc so the carrots aint getting thinned, at the moment I simply cannot bend across to thin them.
The inside of the PT was just as bad as the outside - so much neglect!

This apple tree had fallen over from the weight of the fruit. I need to have some kind of support system erected.

This is what greeted me as I walked in the PT and it's much worse than it looks. Cosmos flourish in the hot conditions of the PT but I won't be growing them again. I initially grew them for cut flowers but I've only ever cut them twice as I'm not particularly fond of them. I would cut them all back now but the bees love them so they'll stay, despite their thuggish behaviour, until they die off!

My poor Tomatoes! I had such high hopes this year for Tomatoes and have been quite pleased with 'Black Russian', a new variety for me. If I had tended these carefully and had tied them in, fed them regular etc etc (that bucket of comfrey tea still sits in the PT smelling like a cesspit) they would not look so forlorn and poorly as they do now.
Next year i am going to have a better support system in place.

It doesn't end there either.
The sweetcorn is seriously competing with weeds, luckily I'm coming to the end of the cutting of them anyway. Next year I'll be using black polythene in the Corn bed.
The Cucumbers are growing rampant like never before and the Courgettes have become Marrows which has encouraged the plants to stop producing more fruits.
The sweetpea hasn't been cut in weeks so has set seed which means no more flowers and to top it off there are huge Raspberry canes growing in the Sweetpea - at least I'm assuming they're Raspberries as I grew some in the PT a few years back, but they could just as easily be Tayberry or Loganberry which grows wild all over here.

I don't very often buy plants on a whim but Mr TG and I popped into Homebase the other day and I bought a veronica plant for £6 - it just looked so pretty.
When I saw the plant yesterday I was really annoyed with myself. I hadn't potted it up and it had completely dried out and looked half dead. I rectified it straightaway and it now looks 100% healthy again but this picture shows how neglected it was and this picture was taken an hour or so after it had been sitting in water - poor thing!

So, like I said I've been a very neglectful gardener of late. The house garden hasn't fared much better, I weeded a couple of the beds yesterday but I have to admit it was painful. The big bed still needs weeding but it is going to have to wait until there is a serious decline of wasps on the plants because no way am I purposefully going near them.

Today I will probably be attempting to salvage the PT and the PT outdoor veg beds, of course that depends on the temperature today as yesterday it was impossible to spend more than 5 minutes in there it was so hot.

Next year will be different - I'm going to weed suppress everything, I'm not going to waste another years hard work because of illness.

There has been a couple of lovely flowers come out of the PT though. I planted these Gladioli bulbs without realising that's what they were and it was lovely to see their flouncy, blousy blooms.

Gladioli 'Spic and span'

Unknown Gladioli

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Too much veggies

It's the time of year when i find out what I've grown too much and too little of in the veggie department.
I'm now having to give Sweetcorn away on top of Cucumbers and loads of hens eggs, yet the Courgettes aren't producing much and the Tomatoes aren't ripening very well - I've had 2!

After last years abysmal crop of Cucumbers I'm obviously rather pleased with good numbers this year but I'm finding it hard to crop at just the right time - I seem to either get them too early and they're not very juicy or too late when they're juicy but also seedy and with very coarse skin.

The outdoor veggies are not doing so well, the beds have been taken over by Horsetail so need a good weed. The only veggies that I think will survive will be the Swede and the Leeks, I've really let the outside go since slipping a disc and haven't managed to get back on top of it. I should also be sowing winter veg soon but I just can't find the oomph to do it - all the necessary jobs are stacking back up and it's making me not want to go out there.

Mr TG knows how to cheer me up though, look what he bought me home last week

We use one of the humongous ones of these as a table on the patio and Mr TG would have liked this to be a garden stool as it's the perfect height for sitting on. Originally I agreed with the idea but then I decided I wanted to turn it into a coffee table for a lamp I made, now though I want to pad the top and cover with fabric to make a stool for when I build a new telephone stand for the front room.
What do you think - stool or coffee table?
Here are the scrapwood lamps I made

And just to thrill me further look what else Mr TG bought me

Is it sad that I am more thrilled with a couple of boxes of screws as a gift than I would be of flowers?

The garden is blooming this time of year, won't be long before Autumn hits us so it's nice to capture daily images to keep me going throughout the winter months.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Garden Bees, wasps & birds.

I've noticed quite a large increase of wasps this year compared to the last couple of years, we've even had to deal with a couple of nests already.
I have to admit wasps are not my favourite garden critter in fact it's fair to say I'm scared poopless of them. I used to have the same fear of Bees - an irrational fear after being stung by a wasp and reacting badly - but over the last few years I've worked really hard at getting over that fear. I can now say I actually like Bees and will happily get as close as possible to photograph them.
The wasp situation is a work in progress though, I was stung again last year several times after one holed up inside my jacket, I didn't know it was there until I felt movement. Complete fear washed over me the second I realised what it probably was and even though I removed the coat as slowly as I could the blasted thing kept stinging me - again I reacted badly to it.
I tolerate wasps now simply because I know they have their uses in the garden but I will still run a mile from them if they start buzzing about and the only way I can capture a picture of them is to hold the camera at arms length, hope it focuses, snap the picture and run.

Bees are a different story now though, I'll follow them around and have no fear of them at all now.

This one looks more like a hairy wasp to me, is there such a thing? Could it be a Honeybee?

White tailed Bumblebee?

The more I try to identify the bees the more confusing it gets, so because I'm really interested in finding out what they are I've asked the Bumblebee conservation trust to ID them for me.

I spotted a Yellow Wagtail in the garden this morning, the first time I've ever seen one. Mr TG said he saw it yesterday and I just happened to spot it through the bedroom window this morning sitting on the washing line. It flew down to the pond so I took my opportunity to run downstairs and grab my camera, I expected it to have flown off by the time I got back upstairs but there it was flitting about the pond.
The pictures aren't brilliant as I used a point and shoot zoomed in from a closed window - I didn't dare open it in case it flew off.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Veg from the polytunnel

It's so nice to be able to pop out to the polytunnel and freshly pick veggies for an evening meal, last night we had friends over for a grill and the fresh picked Corn on the cob went down a treat with a smidgin of butter and plenty of black pepper

The Black Russian Tomatoes are currently huge, they're real beefsteak in size. The only problem I have is that it's kind of hard to tell visually when they're ripe because they retain some of the green to the top of them, in fact I only had an inkling they were ready because they were soft rather than hard. This was the first time I've grown Black Russian and while I wouldn't say the taste was anything terribly amazing I think I will grow them again purely for the fact that they are ripe when the 'Roma' and 'Gardeners delight' are showing no signs of relinquishing their green cover.

The Cabbages are proving popular too. I usually love to do Cabbage and Leek steamed together but these ones are particularly nice with Garlic, Onion and Red pepper all sauteed together.

As for the rest of the garden, it's holding up. There's still alot of weeds taking over that I haven't got around to tackling just yet and there's plenty of forgotten areas in the part of the garden that I haven't made a start on renovating yet - such as this Butler sink planter.
I'm not entirely sure what's actually a deliberate planting and what's weed as it's so overgrown but it's on my list of garden chores to bring it back to glory.

This hardy Geranium - G'Phaeum' Somobor - is treating us to a second flush of flowers due to me cutting it right back to the ground a few weeks ago after it had finished its first flourish.

Here in Caithness the weather can be very windy and decidedly cold even in the height of summer (made worse by the fact we live next to the coast and are very exposed)  so it's really hit and miss as to what will survive even in sheltered areas, so whenever I manage to successfully grow pretty flowers I make sure they're photographed for posterity.
This Orange Dahlia is flourishing in a tub alongside a red one - both of unknown names.

I've posted a photo of climbing rose 'Compassion' before but I just couldn't resist a new one. This rose is doing amazingly well, the blooms still look fabulous after heavy rain and the scent just has you constantly returning to stuff your nose in it. I'm definitely going to have a go at propagating this one.

Finally the Fuchsia 'Hawkshead' is getting to full bloom. This particular Fuchsia is very hardy and I have a few of them planted out in the beds all year round with fabulous success.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Skip treasures, detecting finds and yet another plant I.D

Mr TG and his friend are addicted to metal detecting, it's quite sad really but I have to admit that I'm glad he's finally found a hobby. I've been nagging him to find a hobby for years and while I had imagined more along the lines of Airfix kits or building something from matchsticks (basically something that kept him home lol) it's nice to see him so enthused about metal detecting - he's like a big kid when they come back and show me their 'treasure' which so far consists of weird Turtles (I kid you not), old coins, musket balls and spindle whorls. The greatest find as far as I'm concerned though is a sixpence he found on our own land, the reason being that Mr TG has always claimed he loves me sixpence (makes no sense I know) but I've never seen a sixpence so I love this sixpence and will cherish it forever.

We don't know the full history of this house and land, there is evidence to suggest that it could be up to 300 years old but the rest of what we think we know is pieced together by local memories and the way the house was built. We believe that at one point it may have housed large breed horses (probably clydesdales) before being turned into a living space and was part of the estate owned by Lieutenant - General Patrick Sinclair who not only founded this village but was a British army officer and govenor in North America, best remembered for overseeing the construction of Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island in what became the U.S state of Michigan. In fact Patrick sinclairs grave is sited in the field next to us as he was buried there at his express wish.

Anyway I digress - sort of - I was supposed to be telling you that I spied some other detecting finds that Mr TG has found on our land and I've claimed them as my own for garden use.

Not quite sure what I'll do with them but I was drawn to the sun looking object and the hook. we find loads of horseshoes and the bolt probably came from the railway which used to run alongside the house and is no longer there. We find a huge amount of railway bolts.

More horseshoes - these are rear shoes whereas the above one is a front shoe. Not sure what the two handles would have belonged to - farm machinery probably.

Here's a comparison of one of the rear horse shoes against my own size 7 foot - there were big horses.

He's found bucket loads of other metal items and strange looking objects so who knows what else I'll be able to sneak of with.

Back to gardening and I have a plant come up that is self seeded and I'm not too sure what it is. It looks like a Hypericum to me but the leaves are nothing like my clump forming one, this plant is spindly, taller and has tiny leaves. The flowers look like Hypericum though - what do you think?

The sweetcorn is ripening really well in the PT. This year has got to be the most abundant it's been, I always have good success with Sweetcorn but this year it seems extremely good.

This is the Garden Tiger Moth that seems to be popping up all over this year. I was quite suprised to read on the RSPB website that numbers are decreasing for this Moth because I've seen a few this year and have never seen them before. Maybe they're relocating lol.

We all love freebies right?  Well my daughter works at a local department store and I've blogged before about the plants she's bought me home that she's rescued from the skip - the most amazing one being 3 huge Golden Bamboo priced at £40 each. Those Bamboo are now thriving.
This little lot is my latest haul and I even had the chance to check the skip out myself, I cannot tell you how exciting that was, hmmmmm maybe I shouldn't have admitted that part huh!
Anyway included in this haul is Clematis 'Voluceau',  3 Fuchsia (think they'll be trailing), Arrow bamboo and a couple of other plants I'm not sure about yet.

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