Archive for March, 2010
March 30th, 2010
March is nearly over, and this month in Melbourne we have had a mixed bag of weather! From grey damp days that made the garden subdued, or was it just me, to hot and relentlestly sunny. To complete the mixed bag we had huge hailstones, that broke roof tiles and stripped all leaves from some trees! The days leading up to the storm I had been hoping for some heavy rain to renew my flagging garden, but I had not wanted it quite so heavy! Waddles and Hazel are still a bit spooked! But then when you are a duck most things are a bit scary, especially at this time of the year!
As we move from summer and the days shorten, the mornings are delightfully cool and it is a treat just to be outside in the garden early after a drop of rain the night before has made it all smell just wonderful! Perhaps autumn is not quite here yet, but it is coming and the temperatures will soon start to drop. It is safe to visit a nursery and buy something without fearing that it may burn up if you plant it out! What bliss! The autumn colour is beginning to show as I drive about the hills of home.
I am just about finished clearing up after the storm, it took a few weekends, and I still have to do a little repair pruning on some bushes. I needed to buy new buckets and a watering can as they were torn to shreds. The creek out back turned into a torrent that Saturday and took with it a lot of my top soil and a couple of plants, but being sheltered in my little shady grove my tall trees protected my roof from the worst of the hail and all I lost was my sky light. In fact hardly any Sky lights managed to cope and Bunnings have a waiting list, still. 3 weeks later!
So a very exciting month – weather wise! What will April bring? Well, I am off out to fertilise my azaleas, all of whom are looking much the worse for wear after a long hot summer, will they pull through? Who can tell. But my sasanqua camellia is covered in buds, the bulbs are all pushing their way up and I have plenty of room in my compost bin for those leaves that are about to fall!
March 28th, 2010
Today the ducks & I had fun spreading compost in the vegetable patch. I removed the old tomato plants – always a sad little chore. No more summer red juicy tomato salads! But the basil is still doing very well and I might still get one or two egg plants if the nights remain as warm as they are at the moment.
The tomato plants were just about finished and needed to be removed to make way for some little broad bean seeds to go in. If I plant them now they can be up and moving within the next fortnight. Hopefully they will continue to grow slowly until the really cold weather, then they sort of slow down until August when they take off again and start bearing from the end of September. Hopefully I will get a good crop before I need to rip them out to make room for my next tomatoes! A gardener needs to plan ahead!
In the next week or two I will pop in some new seedlings of Silverbeet. I don’t like to be without my silverbeet, and my parsley needs to be replaced as the plants are beginning to go to seed. So today I spent mostly in the vege patch but I did discover a lovely surprise! That pot of layered bulbs have some shoots springing up already!! What fun!
It was a real race between me and the ducks with the compost. They thought they had died and gone to heaven with all the bugs & worms in the compost heap! But I wanted as many worms moved into my vege patch so we were working a little at odds with one another. But a fun day in the garden was had by all!
March 25th, 2010
Why do we all love to have and tend our gardens? I believe it is the love of growing things. It is the excitement of watching the wonders of Nature unfold before our eyes. To watch those first green sprouts of the bulbs we planted months ago and almost forgot about! To see the fascinating results of a tiny seed yielding its beauty. To feel the earth under our hands and get down and dirty!
In Wind in the Willows Ratty enjoyed mucking about in the river, on the river and in a very similar way I enjoy mucking about in the garden in amongst the weeds and plants. Digging amongst the rosemary enjoying the heady fragrance as I work! Feeling the earth – feeling connected.
Rest for a while in your garden and let your thoughts wander at random to ponder on its beauty. You will be surprised at how relaxed you will feel after a short time. Think of all the creatures we find in our gardens – the beauty of the butterfly, the swift flight of the birds, the joy of hearing them chatter and sing, the minute insects under stones and plants, our hardworking friend the earthworm.
My garden is not an award winning one, but it is a garden made with Love, with a capital ‘L’ – sometimes the ‘L’ stands for Learner! I am always learning – the garden can teach you many things, and not just about plants! A garden can teach you patience, it shows you how to look carefully and notice small things. It is alway full of surprises and little joys. If you allow it, you will learn how to slow down to the pace of life as it should be lived, one season at a time.
March 22nd, 2010
In my back garden there is a beautiful Chestnut tree that must be at least 50 years old. Each autumn it provides me with lovely autumn leaves for my compost. In the summer – welcome shade. All the year long it is a thing of beauty. Sometimes I wonder about the gardener who planted it all those long years ago. As gardeners we are all following in the footsteps of gardeners past, for the gentle pleasures of working in a garden goes right back to the beginning of known time.
The Bible mentions gardens frequently, and talks about them not only in terms of food but also in relation to pleasure. From the Garden of Eden in the very first book Genesis through to Ecclessiates, in which the author talks about his beautiful gardens. The book of Daniel refers to King Nebuchadnezzar II, the ruler of Babylon, who is thought to have created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Wonders of the Ancient World.
Murals in pharaohs’ tombs show how ancient Egypt cultivated food such as dates and olives, wheat and figs. It was probably the ancient Romans who first developed the now accepted concept of the garden room. As the Romans conquered Europe and Britain, they introduced many medicinal and culinary herbs. We can follow the chain back, right back into times past.
The cottage garden style that we all know and love so well came into being in the second half of the eighteenth century. It was based on a desire to grow everything you needed, both ornamental and productive, within a very small plot. That is why it is still so practicable today. Fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers and shrubs were crowded into a small space. This sort of garden also know as a romantic garden has remained popular ever since. Just as it was for our great, great, grandmothers!
When we head out into our little plot, be it ever so humble, we are following a great tradition. We are following in the footsteps of those who have enjoyed all the pleasures a garden can provide. All those gardeners of the past enjoyed the same pleasures we are rediscovering today, the relaxation and pleasure a garden can provide. Just sitting in a garden amongst the green and living plants helps to relax and renew the spirit. Creating a garden uses your imagination and taps into your artistic self.
March 20th, 2010
Life has been getting just a little bit busy recently and I am very glad to grab my mini mission basket, prepared earlier this year and head out into the garden for just the odd 5 – 10 minutes. If you are short on time you don’t need to miss out on some garden therapy! What is in my little basket at this time of the year you may ask? Well, secateurs; gardening gloves; strips of old nylon stocking for plant ties; my trusty hook for those weeds & a plastic bag for same.
So, what exactly can you do with just the odd 5 minutes. Well, quite a lot! With your trusty mini mission basket in hand trip on out into the garden for a little browse. Snip off dead heads on roses or dahlias or any other plants that need similiar treatment. Maybe treat yourself to a bunch to bring inside every few days.
Check soil for dampness at root level, with your finger of course and water if soil is dry. It is a good idea to add some yummy worm poo to your water in the watering can or perhaps some seaweed extract. Your plants absolutely love, love, love that! We aim to please them!
Pull out the odd weed or two. Then steal a few more minutes from your very busy day to linger in your garden enjoying its sensual delights. Listen to the birds, quiet your mind and last but not least smell the roses!
March 16th, 2010
The Gold Dust Tree
One of my most favourite shrubs, the beautiful Gold Dust Tree, or Japanese Laurel is indispensible for a shady garden like mine. I love the brilliantly marked leaves they shine and sparkle throughout the year. Sadly I have only one bush, but I am told by those who know that if you plant two, of both sexes of course, you could get small scarlet fruit, which are produced all through the winter. But never to mind, the one I do have is very beautiful and quite large for they grow very slowly.
So if you have a shady grove like me you could enjoy welcoming such a one into your back yard.
March 13th, 2010
Bulb season is here folks and bulbs mean garden fun! The great thing about bulbs is, that no matter how full your garden appears to be, there is always space for a few bulbs. If you have no garden at all there is always pots, and bulbs are great for these. There is nothing quite as lovely when spring comes around the corner than to find the new green shoots springing up!
This year I am trying some layered gardening! It is great fun! It is all about placing different bulb types in layers from the base of the pot to the top. You start with a small layer of soil at the base, and between each layer. The big bulbs go down below and smaller bulbs on top. So, layer of soil, then bulbs, then layer of soil, then smaller bulbs, then more soil. Just like a lasagne! You can do as many layers as you can fit into your chosen pot! As long as you remember to put larger bulbs down lower.
The flower shoots from each of the bulbs will find their way to the top and flower at the appropriate time. It is easy and fun! I have chosen mini daffodils (bottom) and then a layer of soil and tiny mascari.
Now I just have to find a spot for the pot where Waddles and Hazel won’t dig around in it and then when spring comes….
Well, I am off to plant a few more bulbs. Happy gardening.
March 9th, 2010
March is the month for planting sweetpea seed! St. Patricks day is said to be the best day for that – so I need to look about for a likely place where the sweet little peas will get plenty of sunshine! I have never planted them before but I might just give them a go!
In the vege patch the tomatoes are nearly finished and in the next week or two I will be pulling out the old plants and getting the patch cleaned up and ready for planting out some broad beans and swiss chard etc. Last year I tried pulling the plants before all the tomatoes had finished and hung the plant upside down over the fence, the tomatoes continued growing red and juicy and I was able to dig about and do what needed to be done to prepare for the next winter crop, it worked very well, so I might just do that this year too. Then the compost must be put on and all compost bins emptied ready for the autumn leaves to fall and me to pick them up and have somewhere to put them. I have a few other plans for the vege patch as well. But I will let you know how I get along.
March is also the beginning of the big bulb planting madness!! One that I love to indulge in! I have big plans to head out and get some bulbs very soon! It is a tough job – but someone has to do it! So, a busy month ahead, and the month is almost half way through already, I had better get going!!
Well, happy gardening!
March 5th, 2010
Every garden should have the addition of herbs. You can make this a small section dedicated to the growing of different types or you can just mix them in amongst other plants. Even people with no garden at all can pop some into a pot and make a mini herb garden. I love my herbs. They are so useful for adding flavour to food and there is nothing quite a satisfying as taking a little stroll into the garden while preparing a meal and coming back with some fresh sage or basil. Oh, how simple pleasures can lift the spirit. It also gives you a great excuse to get out of the kitchen and into the garden.
Herbs are different from most other plants because of the strong volatile oils and other substances contained within them. Many herbs, such as rosemary, use these pungent flavours to survive because grazing animals are able to eat relatively small amounts of the stems and leaves, just ask my ducks! They try rosemary every now and then, but don’t seem to like the taste, although parsley is another matter! Still, herbs can be tough and that makes them my little buddies in the garden. Useful, tough and pretty! Who could ask for more?
Most herbs need a lot of sunshine to fully develop their characteristic flavours. They also need a very well drained place in the garden. So, if you keep that in mind you are sure to find a spot where they will be happy and make you happy too! You don’t need to fuss about them – they actually thrive in impoverished soil so you can just plant and forget most of the time. So easy care!
Some additions to my garden which I have found very useful and pretty are:
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) This is a very pretty perennial plant with a sharp, lemony scent and flavour. It grows in sun or in part shade. You can use the leaves as a flavouring and pop them into stir fries or cook them up with vegetables. It also makes a lovely tea. Or, just float some into a cool summer drink, just like you would do with mint.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) Who can live without this in their garden? A superbly pungent herb, this little fellow loves the sun! He also needs a very well-drained spot. In the kitchen a touch of sage can add magnificent flavour so, if you don’t have any – get some!
Parsley (Petroselinum crisptum) Here is one of the great herbs, being very rich in minerals and vitamins. Parsely can be used in large amounts in most dishes. Although, sometimes I can overdo it a bit when it is growing like mad and I am trying to get ahead of it and stop it all from going to seed! My children have been known to wail ‘Can’t you leave out that green stuff?’ It really costs just as much to buy a bunch from the supermarket as to buy a punnet of seedlings and have parsley for months so it is very worthwile to try to keep some in the garden.
Of course there are many others: Thyme; Marjoram; Chives and all the mints. Once you start you won’t want to stop!
March 3rd, 2010
Dreaming has a great deal to do with gardening. Some of the best ideas come to mind while standing at a window, cup of tea in hand, contemplating. Sometimes a walk with the cup of tea in hand is required. But dreaming is essential!
My favourite time in the garden is in the early morning light, with no one about but me, the birds, the mists and the dew and this is the best time for dreaming and planning, for me at least! Sometimes the best features in any garden happen by chance. Two plants team together, often without my permission – and the combination works well, this is called serendipity! Happy coincidences! Wonderful! But, planning does have its place.
One of the things I like to do is to go inside the house and view the garden through the windows. It gives you another dimension to garden planning – thinking of what you will see when you are washing up the dishes, or how the view from the lounge into the garden will lift your mood when you are sitting on a wet winter afternoon. How will it look from there….
But the thing to remember is that a garden is never finished. It is always changing! Nothing is forever! Whatever you do is to please yourself and no one else. Plans, drawn to scale can be a really useful tool. Saving money and time in the end but they are worth nothing at all if you never dream.