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  1. Fake News! Read All About It!

    Fake News! Read All About It!

    Fake news is in the news again. Or is the news. Or isn’t. Oh, I don't know what to believe anymore. So-and-so is manipulating some other person's social media account; one country is being really naughty when it comes to hacking into other countries bits and bobs; and everyone is denying everything.

    So, in the spirit of topicality and sticking to the maxim, ‘if you can’t beat them there’s a good chance the eggs have gone off, I can exclusively reveal my own list of gardening fake news stories.


    fallen-ladderGardening is good for you. All that green gym, physical exercise malarkey - it’s got to be fake. In the past year alone, I have fallen off a ladder, got a splinter in my thumb whilst weeding, twisted my knee when getting up from a particularly vigorous session of planting and trapped my finger in the door of the greenhouse.

    Gardening is good for you? Obviously, some kind of propaganda being put out by local walk-in health centres.


    worryingHere’s another. Gardening is good for your mental heatlh. Rubbish - fake news if I ever smelt it. In the last year I have had sleepless nights over whether the frost was going to nobble my aubergines, whether I had sowed the carrots too thickly, and (whilst on holiday) if the automatic watering system dripping/leaking/blown off the tap or saturating the dahlia. Do you know the effects of sleep deprivation on your mental state? You will if you garden.

    Gardening is good for you? Obviously, some kind of propaganda put out by mattress makers up and down the country.


    muddy-handAnd here’s another I’ve unearthed. Gardening is good for your spiritual well-being. Getting your hands in the soil is great as it reconnects you to the earth. Tosh. In the past year, I have put my hands into lots of soil. I’ve reconnected with cat poo, slivers of glass and ceramic, lots of stones, tonnes of sand, a few dollops of clay and billions of microbes. The stats state that at least five of those billions will want to harm me. And stats never lie. Or do they? After all, 93.56% of stats are made up. And that’s one of them.

    Gardening is good for you? Obviously, some kind of propaganda being drip fed into society by manufacturers of dermatological creams.



    sawing-logsOne more, and I reckon you can guess what it is. Gardening is good for your sociable spirit. Yep, I’ve read that gardening is sociable. What utter nonsense. I won’t name names - or do a ‘call out’ in today's parlance of fake news - but the noise of one neighbour cutting logs solidly for two days kind of gets in your head. Another neighbour insists on singing ‘ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha ging gang goo, ging gang goo’ at his barking dogs on a Sunday morning, and as far as I’m aware neither he or his feral animals are scouts. It may come as a bit of a shock but I’m not perfect, honest, and I have to admit to scaring a very good neighbour away by offering beetroot every time I spot them in their garden.

    Gardening is good for you? Obviously, some kind of propaganda put about by the Jamboree Ticket Sales Agency and the Beetroot Aversion Therapy Clinics springing up around the country (Fake news - there’s lots of it around you know).


    I’m only kidding you. Of course, gardening is good for. We all know that.

    After all, recent news states that gardening gloves and ear defenders will be supplied free of charge by all local councils in 2018 so that decent, law abiding citizens can thoroughly enjoy the physical, mental and sociable attributes to reconnecting with the soil. Yeah right. 

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  2. Time Well Spent?

    Time Well Spent?

    I’ve found another survey to read. I do like a ‘on average’ type statistic, even though I know full well it probably isn’t backed by any scientific rigour or indeed, value. They are fun and somehow worm their way into becoming fact. Often quoted and usually referred to when supporting an argument.

    gardening statistics

    According to this particular survey I was reading, on average a gardener in the UK spends six and a half hours a year raking leaves. That same average gardener spends just over two days watering, solidly, for a year. He or she only spends half a day maintaining their plants. How about a quarter of a day painting fences and sheds? And every year, you will find that gardener jet washing the patio for four concrete, or stone, hours. A whole day a year is divided between mowing the lawn and cutting the hedges. According to the survey that is.

    more gardening statistics

    However, the survey hasn’t included some important gardening stats. Based on deep scientific principles, extensive market research and in-depth analysis of the figures (OK, asking our twelve-year-old where the calculator function is on my mobile phone), I can exclusively reveal that on average this particular gardener spends:

    • 365 hours a year drinking hot beverages in the garden. FACT. (see note *)
    • 30 hours a year tying/untying gardening boot laces. FACT. (see note **)
    • 12 hours a year shouting at pigeons. FACT. (see ***)
    • 6 hours a year muttering ‘aggghhh’ at freshly emerged bindweed shoots. FACT. (see note ****)
    • 2 hours a year locking/unlocking a shed/greenhouse/garage. FACT. (see note *****)
    • Zero hours per year wondering if I’m doing the wrong hobby. FACT. (see note ******)

    funny-gardening-statistics

    So, adding all those ‘official’ survey stats, all the other mush and tosh on the internet, my own highly researched figures above to this little lot:

    • If you are a driver then you will spend around 32 hours in traffic jams.
    • You may even be reading this on your phone or tablet standing in a queue - in the UK each and every one of spends 18 hours tutting at the snake of people before us at the post office, supermarket, football ground or doctors.
    • Don’t forget we spend 3000 hours sleeping every year.

    25-hour-clockAnd you will find that most gardeners actually have 25 hours in a day, 8 days a week, 53 weeks of the year. Brilliant. I always knew gardening was a six star hobby (see note ****** below)


    Notes: these always make any scientific study look more credible. Against all the odds, even this one.  

    * this time is divided between tea (75% of the time); coffee (20% of the time); hot Vimto (4% of the time) and water (1% of the time) NB this is ‘working in the garden’ time and not ‘relaxing time’. Even though working in the garden is relaxing - you get my drift.

    ** annoying as it is, proper boots take time to lace and unlace especially when you consider the beverage consumption figures (above) and the proximity of neighbouring gardens, patios and windows overlooking windows preventing the addition of natural compost additives. Drift got again?

    *** this is an average figure and takes into account vigorous arm flapping and aggressive movements towards the bird table whilst still inside the house.

    **** this also includes all other phrases, words and indeed expletives aimed at what must be the toughest weed known to gardeners.

    ***** there's important kit in the shed including my best gardening gloves, stored spuds and antique collection of used plastic pots (all sizes, all offers considered)

    ****** actually, is there any time spent rueing the time and effort spent on deciding on *;  possibly tweaking a back muscle on **; cursing those ***; raising the blood pressure at **** or even wondering why it can’t be like the old days when every door was unlocked and people borrowed cups of sugar when they moved into a new house?

    Nah, there’s only one hobby worth surveying. We’ve got to be gardening every day of the week. 

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  3. Quattro Stagioni

    Quattro Stagioni

    Yep, my garden at the moment could be described as that classic Italian pizza, the quattro stagioni.

    quattro-stagioni-pizzaThere are sections that represent each of the four seasons of the year. But obviously the patio isn’t fringed with a stuffed crust and no one sidles up to me, armed with a badly tuned guitar and a bucket of flaccid, imported flowers, suggesting a ‘rose for the lady’ or enquiring about my need for ‘black pepper?’ or ‘Parmesan?’ Well, not recently and definitely not whilst I’m turning the compost heap.

    A little like the quattro stagioni pizza’s artichokes (spring), tomatoes and basil (summer), mushrooms (autumn) and ham and olives (winter), my garden plants have decided to exhibit a year on a plate. We are tucking into autumn and the garden is all over the place.


    cyclamenAutumn it is and autumn it looks. Ornamental cherries are just about hanging onto their gorgeous autumnal coloured leaves and cyclamen, dainty little hardy cyclamen, are beginning to smother the soil beneath the camellias. It’s a comfort to know the gardening cycle is turning with perfect timing. All the cogs are oiled (extra virgin olive, of course) and running as sweet as a noce.  


    snowdropsHowever, winter isn’t too far away. I have hellebores in full bloom and even, remember it’s early November, snowdrop shoots poking up above the soil surface. Snowdrops aren't supposed to be entertaining me until deepest winter. It’s a variety called ‘Fred’s Giant’ so maybe it has to steal a march on smaller growing types? Whatever it is doing, it feels too early.


    primroseBut if winter isn’t your thing then my primroses will lift your spirits into next spring. Beautiful yellows already popping up all over the place. Usually they carpet parts of the garden in April. Ordinarily. Still, only four months early.



    rosePhew wot a scorcher - summer is still sizzling on. Roses in delicate hues of pink still adorn many rose plants in the garden. Nuzzling up to juicy hips. Pina colada anyone? Penstemons are still budding and the weeds - don’t talk to me about the rate of growth of that lot. Even fresh bindweed shoots are swirling and curling their deathly tendrils in the hedges. Pass the factor 50 will you?


    But I guess the odd plant throws up random flowers occasionally. My dwarf lilac forced out another flush of blooms a couple of weeks ago; a friend’s strawberry plants are in full flower in his garden, in deepest Derbyshire, and my own diascia is blooming away in complete ignorance of the calendar. The strawberries won’t set, the diascia will cop it when the frosts penetrate and the roses will fade to a slimy mush. The snowdrop better had burst forth with enormous blooms as that plant cost a small fortune. Nessuna pressione, my friend. As they say. Somewhere.

    four-seasons

    But the wildlife is spot on. A squirrel is digging and burying wherever he/she can. The robin is tussling with other wild birds when defending the bird table currently groaning under the weight of fresh bird food. There’s way too much for one robin so share it out pal. Pronto. The pigeons are planting themselves on the shed roof with a thud, beadily studying the sprouts and then flapping away with rusty hinged wings. Even the hedgehog poo has disappeared so he/she must be thinking about hibernating. Or is pooing somewhere else.

    garden-animals

    I know that things will calm and plants will stop. The cold weather will arrive (‘worst winter for five years’ being forecast) and autumn will slide into winter which in turn will awaken from its slumber into spring and blossom through to summer. I guess I just need to enjoy the anomalies. Embrace them as I would a free prosciutto-wrapped grissini breadstick or gratuito tiramisu - simply because…well, sometimes life is like that. 

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  4. Bird Care Autumn competition

    Bird Care Autumn competition

    It's COMPETITION TIME here at Great Little Garden! Don't miss out on being in with a chance of winning a fantastic Cast Iron Poppy Feeder for your feathered friends.

    All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this great prize is subscribe to our YouTube channel and share this post on your Facebook wall. We will pick 10 lucky new subscribers to win a poppy feeder each - easy!

    Deadline for the entry is midday on Wednesday 6th December 2017. The winners will be announced on Thursday 7th December 2017.

    Don’t forget to explore our website too! We have a wide range of birdcare items as well as lots more great products for your garden.

    Terms and Conditions:

    • This competition is for UK residents only.
    • 10 lucky winners will be chosen from a random draw of entries received in accordance with these Terms and Conditions between midday Monday 6th November and midday Wednesday 6th December.
    • You must be over 21 years old to enter this competition.
    • Deadline for prize draw entry: midday on Wednesday 6th December 2017
    • There is no voucher or cash alternative.

    In order to be entered for the prize you must follow the steps below:

    • Visit our Great Little Garden Youtube channel simply subscribe and share this post on your Facebook wall.
    • Users can only enter this competition once.
    • There is no cost to enter this competition and it is not endorsed by Facebook.
    • 10 lucky winners will be chosen from a random draw of entries received in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.  The draw will be performed by a random computer process.
    • A winner will be announced on Thursday 07th December 2017 via personal message and a post on Facebook.
    • The winners have 48 hours to reply. If the winners do not respond within 48 hours, the prize will be transferred to another winner
    Good luck everyone!! 
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  5. O Fiona, Fiona! Wherefore art thou, Fiona?

    O Fiona, Fiona! Wherefore art thou, Fiona?

    There comes a time in every gardener’s life when the spade comes out and a bit of digging is the order of the day. Even no-dig gardeners need a spade when constructing a pathway, or extending a current one. And I’m doing just that. 

    concreteUsually whenever doing DIY or GIY, you find the previous owner has bodged the job and done things on the cheap. Not with my garden path. Tonnes, and I mean tonnes (or do I mean tons?) of concrete have been used to haunch in the rope edging. Getting them out has been tortuous. Armed with a spade, lump hammer, bolster and bucket, I set about removing a massive three feet of the stuff. An afternoon of blood, sweat and tears later, I dragged the family out from the cosy confines of the wood-fire warmed lounge to look at my work.

    ‘Well?’

    ‘Er, yes,’ came the reply.

    ‘What do you think?’

    ‘Er, nice?’ was the somewhat guarded and rather disappointingly underwhelmed response.

    Clearly, they missed the point. I had created a clear, uninterrupted run for the new pavers to go down. Now that’s exciting. Surely?

     

    jewel‘But what’s that?’

    ‘What?’ I said.

    ‘That. Shining. On the soil.’ The outside light was burning bright in the gloom of the early autumnal evening. A swirling, cloying mist was developing and condensing on something shiny.

    I scrabbled around, flicked at the soil surface to reveal what could well be the next big thing on BBC Antiques Roadshow.

     


    (I can imagine the scene:

    ‘So Phil, where did you get it?’

    ‘Oh, it was just something I dug up whilst extending a path.’

    ‘And how much is it insured for?’

    ‘Nothing,’

    ‘Well, I can tell you it’s actually worth… … (crowd draws breath in tumescent anticipation) …a million pounds. (Wooos from the crowd. All eyes on me for a reaction) Would you think of selling it?’

    ‘Oh no, it’s part of the family now. I’d better take care of it then.’

    (And then Fiona Bruce fades away, just like in all of my dreams, before I can say ‘what about a selfie me luv?’))

    perfume-stopper

     

    OK, it’s only a bottle stopper. It looks like a perfume bottle stopper - all my perfume bottle stopper experience coming to the fore now - and has the word ‘Carons’ etched in the top. I’ve done my research. Carons is a perfume creator founded in the 1900s. In Paris. France. Ooh la la. Obviously, obviously, my stopper is an original and even though it is devoid of a bottle to stop, is worth a fortune. Do you think?

    rusty-keyBut that isn’t the only item I have uncovered that is surprising. In no particular order, and with no particular photos they are:

    - Shards of a blue pottery - Ming vase perhaps?
    - Old rusty key: to a secret safe still waiting to be discovered?
    - Some cat poop - no cats have lived here for decades. Strange?
    - A badge from a fireman's hat - plastic so not really worth anything. Unless you collect plastic badges from hats in which case please send your bid in an email.
    - Random glass fragments = cut finger. Wear gloves.


    And I am sure you lot have found weirder, stranger, more valuable items when digging your paths, beds, borders, or whatever.

    Let me know and I’ll give Fiona a call. 

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  6. Stickability

    Stickability

    Like discarded chewing gum on a pavement, some plants are hard to get rid of. Whatever you do, however careful you are when cleaning up the dead blooms… they still seem to pop up the following year. Or month, or week, or - in the case of marigolds - the next day. And I’m learning a lot about them.

    calendula-in-cracksmarigold-by-wallFirst of all, marigolds and in particular English marigolds are lovely. Really lovely. With little fuss and nonsense, they grow, flower and attract bees, hoverflies, ladybirds and all the other great insects into the garden. Blooms last all season and when it comes to rating them on a scale of stickability, they are tops. Allow the blooms to set seed and (with so many to deadhead you are bound to miss one or two) they will be deployed to the surrounding area and will grow. This I guarantee. In cracks and crevices in your paving, between bricks in any crumbly walls and, of course, in the soil. A marigold is for life and not just summer. A few quid invested in a pack of seeds will pay you back forever by the bucket load.

    sunflower-above-doorSunflowers are also sticky. I’ve had some pop out of a bag of compost I was using, but I’ve also deliberately grown some. Now they are over, I reckon that the birds, or the squirrel I spotted prancing and dancing around the veg plot the other day, have demolished the seed heads and no doubt will have dispersed a few for me to find next spring. There’s actually a seedling growing now, in autumn, on top of a canopy above my front door. It has rooted into the resident mossy cushions and is doing its best to survive. Not sure it will be a show winner, especially when the colder weather begins, but hats off to its spirit of adventure. Or to the bird that dropped it there.

    I go on about clearing all potatoes from the soil when harvesting. I try. Really, I do but, again, leave one and you just know it will grow. In fact, one of the best ever crops of spuds I grew came from a random potato peeling I threw on the compost heap. Perhaps the blight and bugs didn't spot it growing there. Or they just didn’t expect to see it growing there. Spuds are sticky.

    Same goes for dahlias. The tubers sometimes produce thick fingers that, if left in the soil, will usually regrow. It does put a question mark over all the gardening wisdom surrounding best practice. ‘Lift dahlia tubers, dry off, clean up, store in dry, frost free place before bringing back into life in mid-spring’ can surely be replaced ‘oh just leave ‘em where they grow and forget about them.’ However, I still don’t take any chances with my dahlia-tastic beauties, especially this year.

    But then some plants just don’t hang around.

    It may be different for you but every time I’ve grown chocolate cosmos, and it is now a fair few attempts, plants look great for a few weeks and then, well, they just up sticks and disappear. Lowest of the low on the stickability scale.

    But at least I am guaranteed a blooming great garden next year without actually doing anything. Sunflowers, calendula and dahlias to look at and a nice blob of mash or a crispy roasty. That’s not too bad. 


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  7. No Entry

    No Entry

    In the past few years I’ve grown a few bits and pieces for the local horticultural show. It’s a lovely event, full of friendly rivalry, good cakes and strong tea. I look forward to it. This year, however, the date clashed with another important event so I couldn’t make it. I had still grown my usual bits and pieces for the show but, for a change, they could all be used in the kitchen and house. Well, almost all...

    leek-seedlingsOur local horticultural society holds another tiny show just for leeks and onions. The idea is that back in April people buy a few seedlings of the same variety (all raised by one of the dedicated committee members) and then, throughout the year, we all grow the same type and variety of plants to show in October. It’s a policy F1 racing should adopt: exactly the same car, same tyres, same everything - just a different driver. This little show is a great way to end the showing season and kickstart the monthly lecture programme. And I was in the game!


    onionsSince April, I have been cultivating the five onions and five leeks I bought last April for this show. I have to admit to never really getting to grips with the nuances of leeks, but this year I reckon that I’d cracked the code. They looked good. As did the onions when I lifted them back in July to ripen. The onions were housed in a wooden tray resplendent in my shed. No one goes in the shed. It’s not that I don’t want people to go in, I just don’t think that the rest of the family has any desire to. I do however have a ‘Dad’s Shed; keep out’ sign on the door though. Just in case anyone begins to wonder what’s going on in there. Less than inviting. So, onions safely ripening.


    shed-signs

    Leeks, on the other hand, take longer to grow. I calculated that a day or two before the show I would lift the crop (all five plants were looking good), tidy them up and keep refrigerated for the big evening. The day before the show, a relaxing Sunday, I did just that. Unfortunately, three of the leeks had been nibbled by slugs so were quickly snaffled by my neighbour. Two left. Two beauties. Two long, straight shafts of pure white leekiness. I was pleased. Washed, dried and wrapped in tea towels they were ceremoniously carried down the garden, into the house and carefully placed in the fridge. The idea was the cold temperatures will keep them crisp and firm. I then went about my other Sunday gardening duties - raking leaves, sowing sweet peas, pruning a few branches. That sort of thing.

    leek-trio

    Sunday went. Monday arrived. I went about my Monday tasks (that particular Monday was heavy duty garden clearance to fill the skip that was now, apparently, ‘getting on everyone’s nerves’ as it was blocking the cars and generally ‘not looking nice’. Some people have no taste). It was getting towards 5ish when I felt it was time for tea. The right honourable Mrs McCann had the day off from work and had prepared a healthy and nutritious soup and homemade bread. I think you know where this is going.

    soupI didn’t give it a thought as I, or I should say ‘we all’, tucked into the soup and warm bread straight from the oven.

    Why would I even question the ingredients of the soup? Everyone knew about the leeks. Everyone knew that I had been growing them for just over half a year. Everyone knew I had missed the big show and wanted to support this smaller version. Everyone knew that if two leeks are wrapped in a damp tea towel in the fridge they shouldn’t be touched. Everyone knew that. Didn’t they? Apparently not.

    The show went well for the others. I was called out with much amusement for eating my own exhibits and the chap who won the trophy deserved it. Obviously. Without my leeks in contention. I’m not bitter. Neither were the leeks. Ah well, there’s always next year.

    PS: Just desserts?

    I developed heartburn later that evening.

    No one else did. 

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  8. Bird Lovers Bundle Giveaway!

    Bird Lovers Bundle Giveaway!

    It's GIVEAWAY TIME here at Great Little Garden! Don't miss out on being in with a chance of winning this fantastic Bird Lovers Bundle, a perfect gift for birthdays or Christmas!

    This bundle includes:

    • suet balls
    • bird seed
    • bird box feeder
    • coconut treat
    Plus, it all comes wrapped and with a personalised gift card from you to the lucky recipient!

    All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this great prize is LIKE our Great Little Garden Facebook Page then LIKE and SHARE this post. Easy!
    Deadline for the entry is midday on Friday 17th November 2017. The winner will be announced on Monday 20th November 2017.

    Don’t forget to explore our website too! We have lots more gift sets suitable for children, gardeners, new home owners and more. You’ll also find beautiful plants selected by experts, high quality garden furniture and everything else you could need to make your outdoor space your favourite place to be.

    Terms and Conditions:

    • This competition is for UK residents only.
    • You must be over 21 years old to enter this competition.
    • Deadline for prize draw entry: midday on Friday 17th November 2017
    • There is no voucher or cash alternative.

    In order to be entered for the prize you must follow the steps below:

    • Visit our Great Little Garden Facebook page and press the ‘Like’ button, find any of the competition posts to ‘Like’ and then share the post on your own Facebook wall.
    • Users can only enter this competition once.
    • There is no cost to enter this competition and it is not endorsed by Facebook.
    • One winner will be chosen from a random draw of entries received in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.  The draw will be performed by a random computer process.
    • A winner will be announced on Monday 20th November 2017 via personal message and a post on Facebook.
    • The winner has 48 hours to reply. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, the prize will be transferred to another winner.
    Read more »
  9. Skip A Dee Doo Dah

    Skip A Dee Doo Dah

    I'm out of them. The doldrums. They are a thing of the past. A recent memory but one consigned to yet another autumn start up. My bulbs are in. The leaves are a-fluttering, a-dancing and annoyingly settling on the lawn. But, most importantly, my skip is in place.

    skip-puppy-portWho doesn't like a skip and all it brings? Oh, the pleasure of anticipation. Having a garage that you can walk into, and maybe, just maybe, park a car. I am a dreamer. The delight of accessing bikes without the need for an hour’s warning of use; the climb and orienteering over defunct mower; seventeen old paint cans and a small stuffed dog on wheels. The pleasures are all mine.


    Of course, I'd like to be able to use all the cardboard in the garage in my compost bins. I'd make a small fortune if anyone actually wants to buy rusted lamps and ripped shades. I even uncovered a box of old shower gel containers. Some half full. And a sliver of soap, a shaving mirror and an opened box of bathroom tiles. Any offers? All bids welcome. Remnants of home DIY never quite making it to the bin or recycling centre.

    skip-mouseBut the vegetation from the garden does use up a lot of space in my current favourite cavernous depository. I just haven't got enough room to compost it all. I could load up bag after bag and take to the recycle centre to allow the council to do their bit for my taxes and make compost for all. Highly admirable but if I actually want this clearing to ever be done and dusted, it's a skip. The skip company assures me it all gets recycled anyway. I'm offsetting the cost of the skip with the cash needed for a car valet to remove all the spiders, slugs and what smells like the decaying body of a mouse rotting in a bin of grass cuttings from weeks ago. I was going to empty the plastic dustbin of clippings but whiffed the rodent and spotted the disco rice wriggling near the surface. Sometimes only a skip will do.

    So, a few top tips on skipping what remains of the garden:

    skip-sign

    skip-carpet1. Never overload – it says so on the side. I once saw a skip lorry scrape the overfill off onto the road and disappear with the skip.  
    2. Fill your skip quickly before others help you out. At night. When you're not looking.    
    3. Save your carpet remnants to add to the top. It prevents wind from lifting anything out. It also looks good. Take pride in your skip at all times.        
    4. Take care when trampling down the contents of the skip as this can cause nasty injuries. A friend did this and a rogue nail ripped precariously close to a major artery in his leg.    


    And what to put in it? Leave stiff flower heads on plants in the garden for the birds. Any soft, mushy flower heads on your herbaceous can be removed and skipped. Dead gladioli leaves can go in but if any of your plants suffered from virus then the whole lot goes in. Large branches should be cut into smaller pieces and stuffed into the skip. Or, in the absence of carpet remnants, used as a woody finale to your clearance. And we all know that a loggy topping beats a soggy bottom every time. Beautiful imagery.

    skip-bedding-trio

    However, I could change my ways and save a small fortune on hiring a skip. I could, after all, line my whole garden with compost bins and have them all on the go throughout the year, as opposed to my paltry three bins groaning under the pressure of homemade compost. I could throw away paint cans as they are finished and never utter the words ' just in case' or ‘that’ll come in handy one day.’ The children’s toys from years ago – who really needs them? Honestly. I could change. But where's the fun in that?

    skip-rubbish-trio

    skip-puppy-landBut the toy dog stays in the garage whatever happens. ‘Come on boy, off the skip. There’s a good lad.’




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  10. Neither Here Nor There

    Neither Here Nor There

    When cooking, I obviously ignore all instructions and guidelines. ‘Heat to 200C for an hour then reduce to 180C for two hours’ kind of instruction translates in my head to ‘max power for three hours’. ‘Iron on a delicate setting’ = ‘nuclear heat’. Dimmer switches? What are they?

    So, when it comes to the seasons I find myself marooned between moods.

    I love summer, when we have one. The heat, the watering, the leaving the greenhouse door open all day and night are all what makes the summer great.

    summer-trio

    And I love autumn. The colours of the leaves, the smell of bonfires, the general tidying up of the garden are all what makes autumn superb.

    autumn-trio

    But the bit between summer and autumn are perfectly defined by the word doldrums. Sure, the nights are drawing in but it isn’t quite dark at teatime. It’s cool in the mornings but the brass monkeys are only just digging about in their wardrobes for scarves and hats. Or, if you are into origins of phrases and words, they may well be looking for some warmer undergarments. Whatever, I don’t see them bedecked and be-clothed in higher tog rated stuff just yet.

    Dahlias are still doing their thing, and have been for weeks, but the bedding is all but over. There is a smell in the air and it isn’t freshly fallen leaves and candyfloss. It’s death and decay of summer. And I don’t like it.

    So, I have a choice. I can hunker down, peering outside from a cold room as it isn’t late enough in the year yet to put the heating on and wait for a few weeks until autumn really kicks in. Or, I can rejoice in this window of opportunity and…plant bulbs.

    phils-bulbsYep, spring flowering bulbs are my saving grace.

    This is the perfect time to plant most bulbs. Do it now and next spring will be ablaze with colour and awash with scent. You can clear away all that vegetation that has gone past its best and plonk in a few wonder-structures of the gardening world. Everything that’s needed to produce a flower is packed into each bulb. Leaves, flower and all the food it needs is sitting there waiting to be activated. Moisture from the soil is that catalyst. But don’t scrape at the surface and drop your big daffs into a shallow indentation. I insist on planting daffs at a depth three times the height of the bulbs. None of this ‘couple of centimetres will do and let's see what happens’ malarkey. Better flowers arise from well planted bulbs. Ditto with crocus, alliums and fritillaries. Later in the year, when autumn has really got its teeth into the calendar, in go your tulips.

    I do love the precise nature of gardening sometimes. And I guess that’s why my cooking is usually burnt; my clothes have a charred appearance; and the house is either plunged into total darkness or lit up like Blackpool illuminations. My flower displays are pretty good though!

    Three to get you through the doldrums:

    • Narcissus Katie Heath: oh, my goodness - what a beauty! Great for pots and borders.
    • Tulip Muvota: totally transfixing. Get it now and plant it later.
    • Ornamental Onion Globemaster: what a whopper!
    bulb-trio


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