Garden: Box plants and topiary

Aldi had some funky tall pots that looked a good height (and weight) for the front of the house

Initially I bought some lovely red grasses that promised to be low-maintenance and evergreen: they went rotten absolutely rotten and black spotted with ick

So I’ve abandoned that plan and given into my husband’ pestering to get some box plants. I’ve never really liked box, it reminds me of overly formal planting. However I’ve promised to be more open minded if the box can be a topiary experiment – preferably something mildly obscene in shape

(Photo from Wisbech standard who also handily mention the possible public order offence)

The internet tells me that it will take a while (years) to get enough bush to meaningfully shape and that for now I should give the plants lots of feed and consider making a template or frame to help prune it once it gets big enough to look phallic

If all goes well I could start to like box after all

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2018 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Garden: Growing Parsnips

I didn’t think I liked parsnips based on the burnt sticky  things that accompanied occasional meals out, however it turns out that I do like parsnips when they aren’t overcooked; which was a good enough reason to decide to grow them in 2018

Parsnip seeds are apparently not very stable to the extent that using old seeds can lead to poor results – “old” can apparently mean even last years – which could be a pickle as my seeds for this year were bought in last year’s end of season sale

However I plan on trying them anyway, apparently parsnips should be sown directly into the ground between late March and June; planting earlier isn’t a great idea as parsnips hate wet soil and want the soil temperature is 12 degrees Celsius.

parsnip

(Photo from Pinterest)

The seeds should be sown thinly, or clump three seeds together 1.5cm deep and with 15cm intervals between sowings – multiple rows should be spaced 30cm apart.  Germination sounds very slow, up to 28 days, during which time the seeds may want watering if it’s very dry

Once germinated the seedlings want to be spaced 7cm apart – unless you want big roots at that point 10cm is better. Once they are growing parsnips don’t want much attention – however being too wet or too dry will split them.

Harvesting – the best bit of growing anything, can be from late Autumn until the end of January; the foliage beginning to die back is apparently the main indicator.  Although apparently even after the foliage dies back the roots can be left in the ground and picked as wanted. Rumour has it that being left in the ground until the first frost will lead to sweeter roots – I will be testing this!

Copyright  © WhereEvilThoughts 2018 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Garden: Growing Sweetcorn from seed

Last year we did grow sweetcorn from seed; of the 30 seeds only 15 germinated, those 15 were moved to the allotment where the rats / mice left us with 8, however those 8 plants gave us some very nice corn.

So my aim for this year is to try again, however with more germination and less rats, so this means I needed to do some reading!

Apparently sweetcorn seeds should be sown indoors from mid-April to early May and want to be 18 – 21 degrees Celsius. They want to be sown 2.5 cm deep and really dislike root disturbance – I tried the little biodegradable pots last year and they were useless, so I might try the deeper root trainer pots this year

sweet corn plant

(Photo from Pinterest)

Resist planting sweetcorn out until after the risk of frost has passed and the seedlings are 15 cm tall – planting out for sweetcorn is a bit weird as they want to be put in blocks rather than rows, with about 45 cm gap between each plant

The logic for blocks is so the wind can pollinate the corn. However there is also a manual way to help maximise pollination, tap t he tops of the plants when the male flowers (tassels) open, last year I went a bit beyond tapping and starting covering my hands in pollen and rubbed it on the emerging silk  of corn on the other plants (NOT on the same plant though!)

When the tassels on cob turn brown it’s a sign that the corn might be ready – although this was a false positive, a more reliable way to check was to carefully peel back the sheaf and pierce a kernel with a finger nail and if the liquid is milky then the cob is ready.

Other useful stuff to know is:

  • Corn needs to be watered a lot when the weather is dry
  • Corn likes liquid feed when the cobs start to swell – they also benefit from you using fertiliser in the soil before planting them out
  • Corn is stupidly shallow rooted so be really careful when weeding and perhaps even mound extra soil up at the bottom of the base
  • Last year our corn didn’t need staking, however this can be a good idea

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2018 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Garden: Crop Rotation

I’m currently trying to plan what we are going to grow on the allotment as I’d like happy and healthy vegetables – and lots of them!

One key thing that is apparently needed for healthy veg – even before buying seeds, is to understanding the basics of crop rotation; the core idea behind rotating crops is that to get the best out of crops you shouldn’t plant the same thing in the same place year after year.

Doing so increases the risk of disease and reduces the specific nutrients that those plants need.

carrot

(Picture from Pinterest)

Vegetables can be divided into four main groups – five if you count onions however I’m allergic to those so I am ignoring those!

  • Potatoes: Obviously potatoes and tomatoes
  • Roots: For example Beetroot, carrots, chicory (which I randomly bought despite having no idea what they taste like!) and parsnips
  • Brassicas: Broccoli, Brussel sprouts (which didn’t grow so well for us in 2017), cauliflowers, kale, swede, cabbages and turnips – not actually managed to successfully grow many brassicas so I need to do more reading on these
  • Legumes: Peas and beans

Rotation isn’t so important for most other vegetables; including sweetcorn, asparagus, rhubarb, squashes and courgettes – although planting them in the same place repeatedly isn’t a first grand idea

A simple rotation suggested by the internet and that I am going to try this year is:

Year One:

  • Bed One – Potatoes
  • Bed Two – Legumes and roots
  • Bed Three – Brassicas

Year Two:

  • Bed One – Legumes and roots
  • Bed Two – Brassicas
  • Bed Three – Potatoes

Year Three:

  • Bed One – Brassicas
  • Bed Two – Potatoes
  • Bed Three – Legumes and roots

I’m hopeful that this will work as our late potatoes did get blight last year – which wasn’t fun!

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2018 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Garden: Sweet peas from seed

I’ve had a packet of sweet pea seeds for two years and I keep meaning to plant them – in particular because everyone says how easy they are to grow and how pretty the flowers are. However the internet keeps telling me to soak them which is a bit off-putting

This year I am going to get informed and grow them!

The Royal Horticultural Society says that I should sow the seeds indoors between January and April – however they do not advise soaking the seeds; their suggestion is to place the seeds on top of moist kitchen towel in an airtight container in a warm room (15 degrees centigrade apparently)

(Picture from Gardener’s World)

Then when the seeds swell or sprout then you sow them – preferably covered with one centimetre of compost

The tricky issue of spacing is always something the internet has various opinions on, it seems 3 ish centimetres apart might be sufficient when planting the seeds, changing to 9 cm once the seedlings are 3.5 cm tall

AND then in April the January sown plants can be planted outside with a minimum spacing of 20 cm apart. I am starting to see why I put off growing these!

There is also them the matter of pinching out the tips when the plants reach 10 cm, apparently you want them to get bushy with side shoots – totally unlike tomatoes

Then as a final complication the plants want something to climb; a wigwam of canes or some netting structure which generally tie me in knots

I’m perilously close to informing myself out of trying these seeds – although maybe being so old they won’t germinate…

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2018 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Garden: Walnut Tree

We now have a second allotment, basically we were offered it and were going to decline – then Chris Grayling the Transport Secretary (?!) declared that a no-deal Brexit was all at going to be fine because the UK could simply grow more food

At which point having another allotment seemed a better idea than trusting the government to not send food prices skyrocketing

Anyway, the new allotment – affectionately nicknamed Site B, had a random tree on it, around six foot. The new neighbour – who was over the moon to have neighbours for the overgrown site,  advised that it was walnut tree and said it would be best removed

walnut tree

(Photo from Fast Growing Trees)

I took this with a pinch of salt until I decided to see how big walnut trees could grow… turns out 30 metres (100 feet) tall and 15 metres (50 feet) wide. This is rather too large for my tastes given the allotment is 125 square metres

it turns out you can’t even keep walnut trees in pots due to the ridiculously large and deep root structure that is required to support such a big  tree. So the walnut tree was cut down, which feels a little sad as it turns out that it was only six years old

Maybe I need to find a more manageable tree to grow in it’s place – assuming I can dig out the roots!

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2017 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Garden: Decoy / companion plants

I can’t comment on if the chemicals are winning against the aphids as I’m so unhappy using them that I’ve not being using it as much as the instructions tell me to.

Thankfully the internet found me something that I was happier with – decoy and companion plants.

The idea is that you plant flowers that attract or deter bugs / disease near the flowers you are uber concerned about.

marigold

(Photo from Wiki)

I’ve planted some marigolds to try to attract the aphids from the rose, they also look pretty which is nice!

The internet tells me that planting garlic near roses might also help, so now I really fancy trying growing garlic!

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2015 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

 

Garden: Scarlet Lily Beetles ate my Snake’s Head

A couple of months ago I purchased a Snake’s Head lily, AKA Fritillaria meleagris or snake’s head fritillary.

I’ve generally seen them in damper environments than my garden so I was aware they might need extra watering. What I didn’t think about was how tasty they would be…

The Scarlet Lily Beetles were a  fixture of my parents garden when I was little, my sibling and I used to carefully catch the little bugs (about 8mm in length) to listen to them squeak – in the straightforward naming convention that children use we called them “red squeaking beetles” and had rather fond memories of them.

snake's head lily

(Photo from Ebay)

What I’d forgotten was how quickly the lily beetles chomped through lilies (they utterly strip the foliage) and kill off the plant – my snake’s head has now entirely died.

Having done some reading it sounds like some pesticides might work but they will also kill everything else which seems a bit overkill.

Which probably means I won’t get another lily for the garden, I will just have to search the internet for photos of other people snake’s heads that didn’t get eaten.

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2015 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Garden: Roses VS Aphids

When the rose randomly arrived I did some reading about general maintenance and how to have a happy rose bush –  but at that stage no one mentioned aphids.

It turns out that aphids are actually rather prolific and once they get started they seem to multiple surprisingly quickly – which is bad as they munch through leaves and buds.

I had hoped for an non-chemical solution, so I asked the internet and was a bit disappointed at the response. Apparently ladybirds are best – but we don’t have any naturally, so I’d have to buy some online, hope the postman doesn’t squash them and then put them in the fridge for a bit so that they don’t fly off immediately the second you release them…

ladybird

(Photo from the Independent)

To be fair my in-laws happily told us that they put a dead mole in the fridge last week – to keep it fresh so they could show their grand daughter… so ladybirds in the fridge sounds almost sane by comparison.

Although ladybird larvae don’t have to be put in the fridge as they have no wings. I didn’t look up if I could buy hoverfly larvae or lacewing larvae online but someone probably sells them!

The other alternative is bug spray, toxic toxic bug spray – which is what I went for short term.

Longer term I am going to buy – or build, some ladybird houses and look at obtaining some ladybirds and hoping for a good postal journey!

On the plus side looking up aphids online taught me a new word, apparently lots of types of aphid are “monophagous” which means that  they feed on only one plant species.

Which means the bothersome black bugs on the cherry tree are probably some other sort of aphid – but it’s ok I can probably spray that with evil toxic chemicals too…  *bother* I really need to buy some ladybirds…

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2015 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Garden: Wood Chippings

It transpired that the lovely green ‘lawn’ that made up our backgarden was 92% moss and 8% random weeds.

This meant that I when I started trying to improve the condition of the lawn with a rake it quickly became obvious that there wasn’t enough grass content to improve. So I ended up digging up most of the garden.

This left us with a rather large view of under-nourished bare soil, which isn’t the prettiest thing in the world and isn’t great for when I randomly decide to buy a new plant.

wood chips

(Picture from B&Q)

So the mission was to add some nutrients back into the soil and to make it look less glaringly bare. It was amazing how far 50 litres of compost doesn’t go, even though my garden isn’t very big I’ve used at least 300 litres and the soil still sucks. This is where wood chippings come in, they are biodegradable mulch which will rot and improve the level of nutrients in the soil as they do

The added beneficial side effects are it should help moisture retention if we ever get any sunshine, it should help deter weeds and I think wood chips look pretty – at least compared to the bare soil!

The main thing I had to be careful of was to keep the wood chips away from direct contact from the stems of trees or shrubs (aka anything that has a wooden trunk) as that isn’t good!

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2015 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content