Friday, 30 April 2010

Buxus Balls

No, not an upmarket insult, just hedging. Spent the day hand trimming about 8 or 9 of the little devils for a friend of a friend with a rather nice roof terrace in SW7 (a bit like the pic on the left actually). This will hopefully be a regular slot which involves a bit of a schlep on the tube with all my kit in a shopping basket on wheels (well, when I get one that is - at the mo' it's one of those rather attractive blue Ikea bags - classy!), but a lovely job when I get to it. The roof garden is all pots and large pebbles with a little pond, which is really cool. I didn't enjoy pulling up the mind-your-own-business much though. It brought up most of the pebbles with it as the roots had grown around and absorbed them. I made myself feel a bit queasy removing the stones from the roots as the image of popping eggs out of an alien's stomach with my thumb wouldn't go away - yeuch!
Box is traditionally pruned back on Derby Day, all well and good if it's the annual haircut for your hedge, but not so good if you need to trim your spheres. . . Anyway I did some research and you can trim them at any time as long as it's not in direct sunlight, which is great as today was mostly overcast (that isn't a picture of me by the way - I'm not that clever with a camera or a set of shears). Haven't heard any anguished screams from South West London so assume the buxus balls are up to standard.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Not Quite Duffy. . .

And not quite Warwick Avenue - Warwick Road E15 actually! Another weeding job done and dusted. This time there were actually some plants in amongst the weeds, so I didn't feel as though I'd totally decimated the garden in question. This was a tidy-up job before the landlady came around to look at the flat as the tenant was leaving. 10 bags of weeds later and the job was all done. Newham Council's green waste collection service is great as it can be arranged online, which makes life sooo much easier for us poor non-car-driving gardeners.
The irony of today's job was that the tennant remarked how she wished she'd done the garden sooner as it looked really nice - yuh huh?
Oh dear! Took a look at Mr 122's garden today and the dandelions are coming back with a vengeance and he hasn't been watering his lawn so the seed I planted hasn't taken yet and the lawn is still a bit sparse. I can't help taking it personally when the gardens I work on aren't maintained, but I really do have to learn to let things go. C'est la vie and all that malarky.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Diggin' In with Aunty

Today was my first day volunteering with the BBC's Dig In campaign. This is it's second year and the team have been travelling around the country in a converted ice cream van encouraging people to grow their own vegetables, whether it's in pots on the widowsill, on a balcony, or in a garden or allotment. Today we were set up in the Market Square, Dover. There were lots of activities for kids and adults alike, photos of which you should be able to find on the website. Chris from the Blue Peter garden kicked things off with a chat about growing your own followed by games, a treasure hunt to identify garden insects and making a newpaper pot and planting a seed.
I was on pot making and seed planting. There was a choice of 5 seeds - basil, french bean, carrot, mixed salad and courgette with carrot being the seed of choice for most young 'uns. It was a great day apart from the sunburn (my forehead looked like a raspberry when I got back on the train as I'd blithely refused sun cream earlier in the day) and I can't wait for Kingston next week. We also gave away lots of packets of free seed, which you can also get on the website so log on and get growing.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Maxwell's House

Just spent the last two days doing another weeding job for one of my neighbours who inherited a house with a rather run down garden from his aunt. The front and back gardens were shabby and neglected so it was out with the hoe and down to weeding! Mind you, the back yard had an anderson shelter sitting outside the back door and lots of rubbish which needed moving before I could even get to the weeding - hard work on a hot day.
Did my first hedge trim/topiary work and was quite please with the results, despite having to do a bit of evening-up as he hedge had developed it's own style half way down the garden. No weeding blisters this time either, must be toughening up. Back next week to tackle the lawn as I didn't estimate enough time, which is something I need to work on. My brother-in-law, Ben, runs his own building business said that he did the same thing when he first started out so it's reassuring that I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Busy Keeping Bees

Yesterday I attended an introductory course on beekeeping at the Hackney City Farm. The course was was run by LILI (the Low Impact Living Initiative). The course was predominantly aimed at people looking to keep bees for honey production and although I said I was only interest keeping bees to benefit the environment, they were really helpful and enthusiastic, suggesting which type of hive would suite me best and the techniques I'd need to use. It was interesting to learn that honey bees don't need as much help (as they are being managed) as solitary and bumble bees, so I'll be building another insect house and encouraging the weed patch to grow!
The best part of the day was when we got to go up onto the roof to watch Ian, one of the course beekeepers, do a hive inspection. It was a beautiful sunny day and I found it really calming watching and hearing the bees go about their business. I am definitely still keen to have my own hive despite the process being quite a lengthly one, starting with an 8 week course, following a beekeeper for a year and then being mentored for another year. I'm going to look into the 8 week course in the second ha;f of the year and have plenty of resources to look into in the meantime.
The attached picture is of a Western Honey Bee, which are the most common species manged by beekepers in the UK.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Weeders' Back

Started a job down the road at no. 122. Have been hired for 3 days to tidy flower beds, re-plant and clear the front and back lawns of weeds. Sounds OK, but not when the law is infested with Dandelions and Green Alkanet it isn't! I spent all day today with a pitch fork and a weed knife digging out as many of the little buggers as I could. Also a million sycamore seeds had taken root in the overgrown grass so it was a bit of a mess really. Mind you, the kind of mess I love to get stuck into. Q: Is the weed knife the best invention ever?
According to my weeding bible, The Book of Weeds by Ken Thompson (ISBN 2468 10 97531), Alkanet isn't that badly behaved and I have to say that I really like it. We have some growing in our weed patch. The trouble is if it's in a place where you don't want it then it's a a bit of a pain trying to get rid of it as the roots go deep and spread everywhere. I did feel rather sad pulling it up in clumps as it was home to lots of lovely insects and bugs. I made sure I rescued as many as possible and gave them a good shake out before they went into the waste bag (10 in total).
There are now several bald patches in Mr 122s lawn so I'll get some seed when I go and get the other plants on Friday. Luckily Mr 122 also wants me to come in regularly to maintain the garden and decking, so all good as I'd hate to see it go to rack and ruin again.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Leaflets & Associated Residents

I was out hoeing an' a weedin' yesterday and the President of the Residents Association stopped by to say how nice the garden was looking, which was really nice to hear. It's funny how many comments B and I have had since we decided to do something with the front garden a couple of years ago. It's a really Tom & Barbara thing now that B has her veg patch going. The planting is a loose affair made up of various presents and cuttings from family gardens - all a bit experimental really, but we like it. We're trying to encourage the wildlife and have bird feeders, lots of lavender and rosemary, foxgloves, wild flower mix, a weed patch and hopefully soon my lupins and hollyhocks. I'll pop a picture on when it's in full bloom.
Distributed my gardening leaflet today and have already had some feedback. Outlook, an estate agent operating in Stratford and Forest Gate, want to put me on their books as their resident gardener so I've had to take out public liability insurance, which is good practice anyway - I don't want to be sued for leaving a rake or hoe hanging around for someone to fall over - not that I do as I'm very tidy. B would agree I was tidier in the garden than the rest of the house!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Hardening Off

My dwarf hollyhocks and lupins have gone into the cold frame for hardening off. Should be aloud out in about 10 days - yay something else to plant! Is it called a cold frame because ever since they went in there the sun has disappeared and the temperature has dropped considerably? Hmmm. The cold frame 's plastic, which isn't as good as glass but was slightly cheaper and a lot less breakable.
The lupins are in home-made recycled paper pots, which are great for the environment but do tend to dry out really quickly. The good thing is they can go straight in the ground as they are so as not to disturb those temperamental lupin roots. Now just got to find some space. . .

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Evil Weevils

Ooh, just got my first regular gardening job. It's in Queen's Gate, which is a bit of a schlep, but it's for a friend of a friend so I'm more than happy to do it. I'll be maintaining a roof terrace garden, which is predominantly planters although there is a rather majestic wisteria growing up the side of the house too. There'll also be seasonal planting and a infestation of vine weevil to keep me occupied. Vine weevil larvae are little horros as they sit in the soil feeding on roots, weakening plants and often killing them. They can be imported from buying infected container plants or from infected soil. The adults aren't so bad. They come out at night and eat little half moons out of the leaves but rarely cause any lasting damage. Apparently they play dead and drop off the the plant when you come across them so you ignore them - clever huh? Nematotes are the biological avenger and can be watered into the soil at the end of the growing season, so I"ll try that before I think about a chemical remedy.
Also ordered my business cards today, so hopefully they should be coming through soon. All very professional me, mind you they have this blog address on them and that might put people off!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


This morning I bought a DVD of WW2 public information films. They were running some of the films in the cinema at the Imperial War Museum as part of their Ministry of Food exhibition and they were great - really evocative of that stiff upper lip British attitude of the 40's that you see portrayed in old black and white movies and quite innocent by todays standards of propaganda. B saw the DVD advertised in the Guardian (I usually read The Times so would never have seen it) and I popped on the website and ordered it. It'll be great research for the business and just what I wanted to play on the TV screens in the cafe.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Trouser Joy

It's Easter Monday and I am suffering from extreme trouser joy as I've just managed to purchase an original pair of Land Girl breeches, which are in pristine condition. Yay, yay, yay, yay, yaaaay! Sorry, as you can probably guess I'm a tad excited. They're a little baggy in the bum, not because I'm particularly small in that area, but because they're actually made for someone who's 5ft10" leaving me 3 inches short in the leg and slightly bunched in the backside. Oh, but I love them all the same.
I found them when we were wandering around Greenwich after meeting with Ange & Sue for tea and a bun. Think it was fate - they were sitting on an empty market stall just waiting for me to find them and were an absolute bargain at £25.
OK, I'm going to sit in a dark room with a cool flannel on my brow now.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Seedlings, Seedlings Everywhere!

As mentioned, a few weeks ago I decided to propagate some old packs of seed I'd been keeping in a sealed tupperware pot in the fridge to see if they were still viable, so I popped them in the propagators and lined them up on the kitchen window sill. I am now the proud owner of 67 dwarf hollyhocks (60-90cm high) and 53 lupins (90-120cm high) with limited space left in my little plot. Luckily I can pop quite a few of them into Maria's flower beds and I'll have to see if I can pass any on to the neighbours. I've also got a couple of foxgloves from my own seed, which seem to be doing OK after an initial slow start.
Note to self: your garden is not a Tardis!