Thursday, 19 September 2013

Garden 2013 no 9

Garden 2013 no 9

The harvest is completely finished and I seem to have spent the last month or so re-painting my blue gates, fences, doors and garden edging. 

I’ve not done the outside painting for a couple of years and the blue was looking quite worn. I figured if I do it this year and give every thing a couple of coats, maybe it will last another two, or at a push, even three years.
I painted the fence my daughter made a couple of years ago and I painted the new gate that her partner made earlier this year. The old one blew away one stormy day. 
This one has gaps between the wood so the wind blows right through it instead of blowing it off its hinges. It also has a wide strip of rubber nailed to the bottom that touches the ground; this stops the rabbits from coming under the gate into my garden.

I still have all the white walls to paint and retouch, but I’m having a bit of a break from garden painting for a while, I’ll go back and repaint the white later. This hansom couple were loitering in the fence, I didn't see them at first. Glad I noticed them before painting them. They even posed or a photo before diving for cover.

I’ve been so busy since retirement I’ve realised I have to prioritise on my activities. The two things I really want to spend my time doing is travel and painting, and I don’t mean painting garden fences either, I mean painting canvases. Therefore the plan is to cut down on the gardening for the next year or so. I want to dig the little vegetable garden and turn the whole thing back into lawn. Actually I’m quite looking forward to it. My lawn never was the pristine golf course sort of lawn, it always was a bit lumpy and bumpy and then I dug up most of it and turned it into a vegetable plot.
So if I carefully dig and level the whole thing and seed it, sometime next summer I should have a pristine lawn that needs a gentle mow every couple of weeks. Or at least that’s the plan. I’ve even bought this little machine to help me.

Before starting the painting I cut back the Tayberries.

I read up on this and found out that you have to cut back in the autumn after the fruit has finished.  All old wood has to go and the strong new canes have to be tied up and trained ready for the fruit they will produce the following year. I know I’ve done mine a bit early but I’ve already had quite a lot of fruit from it. There was some fruit left but it had something wrong with it. The fruit that was left was small, green and hard, and instead of ripening it was going moldy and rotting on the cane. I’m not sure  why this happened, maybe because I didn’t cut it back as I was supposed to last year; but I hope by cutting it back and training it along the fence, the same thing will not happen again next year.  Anyway………..if I had left it until all those little green fruits had gone mouldy and fallen off, I wouldn’t have been able to paint that bit of the fence. I’ve also been dead heading the buddleia, I know this has to be pruned back in the spring not the autumn, but I hate all the old, dead, brown flowers so I cut them off as they appear. I think this actually makes the flowers last longer, as soon as I cut the dead ones off, new ones appear. But, I’m sure I’ve seen the last of them for this year. I’ve cut the bush back a little, just enough to get rid of all the dead flowers and next year, I’m going to prune it quite hard to make sure it doesn’t grow too big and get too out of control.

The other thing I’ve been doing is using the harvest in the kitchen.

I have made loads and loads of rhubarb chutney ( with added red wine),
more jars of pickled onions than I can possibly eat and a whole batch of carrot and coriander soup for the freezer.
I’ve also made more herb oil. The herbs, onions and garlic all came from my garden and the red chillies came from my daughters greenhouse. I can’t grow chillies because I don’t have a greenhouse.
I tried to grow them in the windows last year but even that didn’t work, they really need the warmth of a greenhouse to grow properly here. I have a freezer full of fruit and only half a pot of jam left which means the next big kitchen venture is going to be a mammoth jam making session.
So; that’s my garden almost ready for winter. I still have the white painting to do, and I would like to get the lawn sorted out before winter, but apart from that, the garden is definitely winding down for winter.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Garden 2013 no 7 ( forgot to post it earlier)

Looks like I forgot to post number 7 so here it is

Garden 2013  no 7
It’s been a while since I posted on my garden. This summer has flown by; retirement is a very busy time of life for me. Like I said last time, I spent May in France and when I came home the garden was overgrown thanks to the deluge of rain that fell while I was away. 
The mini monsoons have been followed by six weeks of 30 + degrees, I’ve been hose piping the garden every night after the sun dies down.  These are temperatures virtually unknown in Scotland. Although I have to say this heqt wave is coming to an end, we have had thunder storms and today we are back to heavy rains. 

This bizarre combination of rain and extreme heat has made a noticeable difference to the garden. The soft fruit all yielded bumper crops and I have a freezer full ready for jams and preserves when I get back.
The only problem with the fruit was the birds, I think they ate as much as I picked; (mental note to self, buy fruit nets before next year). I even had 6 delicious red cherries from my young cherry tree. Not exactly a bumper crop, but it’s a young tree and this is the first year it has produced. I’m hoping this is a good omen for years to come.
The vegetables didn’t do so well. The beetroot looked as if it was flourishing, but under all those leaves leaves, were tough, woody baby beetroots hardly the size of walnuts.
I couldn’t leave them in the ground any longer because they started to go to seed, most of them didn’t even make it into the kitchen; they went straight into the compost. 

 I had more shallots than ever before. I’ve just lifted them out of the ground because I’m off to France again next week and I want to get them into jars of spiced vinegar before I go away. I’m struggling to find enough space to dry them all.
The garlic looks OK, not quite ready to lift yet so I’m hoping it doesn’t go to seed while I’m away. I need it to make my herb oil. I planted sets of red onions and the leaves grew tall but the onions themselves didn’t grow. I’ve pulled them from the ground because they started to flower, I’ll use the couple that grew to a decent size but the bulk of my red onions are destined for the compost pile. Salad has been strange, I’ve had a constant supple of huge radishes and spring onions, I pulled the last today because I want to use them before going away. That’s it for this year; I’ll not be putting in any more seeds in now, it’s too late in the season.
I’ve also had a never ending supply of cress growing in the window but; none of the lettuce, rocket or salad leaves survived. Despite my daily hose pipe watering, they died off as fast as I could plant them. In the end I gave up and concentrated on the things that grew. The oddest thing of all this year is the non show of the nasturtium flower. Every year I grow lots and lots of nasturtiums and they’ve always flowered profusely. 

This year I’ve had the usual abundance of good strong healthy looking plants, they are a great addition to the salad bowl, but not a single flower, and I’ve no idea why. My lavender liked the hot weather, I have lots drying ready to make little lavender sachets.
Talking of flowers, this year I have really enjoyed my flowers. I’ve spent the last few years transforming my garden from the traditional lawn and flower borders into a food producing plot. 

The plan was to have a fairly productive and established food growing garden by the time I retired so that I could indulge my love of the garden in all that extra time I was going to have. This is my first summer of retirement and so far things haven’t exactly panned out the way I planned. Rather than having extra time for the garden, I’ve ended up with a lot less. I’ve come to realise that retirement is exactly the same as any other time of your life in as much as there is a finite amount of time and usually an infinite amount of things you want to do. 


I’ve spent very little time here in the last few months because I’ve been trying to cram so much in. I’ve spent a long time in France, I’ve spent more time than usual enjoying the company of my grandchildren, I have my painting to find time for plus I now like to go out taking photographs AND, I like to walk every day. I have signed up for photographic competitions AND a painting competition. I can walk much further now than I used to. I’m determined to keep up with the walking, I want my retirement to be long, happy and healthy, and to do that I need to keep fit and walking every day is my chosen method.


So now I’m thinking maybe my garden would be better used as a quiet restful place where I can sit and relax occasionally rather than a place that needs time and effort. I guess its all about priorities; no one can do every thing. I’m considering grassing back over the vegetable plot and just keeping the soft fruit, they mostly look after themselves any way and I do quite like making jam. No firm decisions yet but I’m ‘considering my options’ as they say. I’ll miss the shallots, they always do well and I like to have pickles but I’ve come to realise, I can’t have every thing.
I’ve already made a quiet area at the top of my garden where I can sit and enjoy the sun and I’m still thinking about putting the grass back. 


These are just random photos taken over the last month or so. Like I said, I’m enjoying getting back into sitting watching the flowers. It’s been hectic, but it’s been fun.  

When I get back from France this time my priority will be to paint the garden walls, fences and gates. It’s a big job and should have been done this summer but now I’ll have to find time to for it in between this trip to France and my next one which will probably be in October. I hope the weather lasts because I can’t paint in the rain.
The grandchildren go home on Tuesday and I leave again for France on Thursday. It’s my sisters 60th birthday and we are having a garden party. I doubt I will post again before I leave although I will do my best to visit sites and posts I’ve missed.

By the time I come home in the middle of August, the children will be back at school, the evenings will be getting shorter and the best of the summer will be gone. Summer in Scotland never lasts much past the end of August, maybe, just maybe, some sort of normality will return to my life.