Sunday, 24 April 2011

Mo' Peas...beans and onions

Two visits to the allotment this week = good times. First visit Parsley, Weasel and I transported down runner beans to be dropped off at the pavilion. Spoke quite a bit with John and Sue about PESKY KIDS coming through the fence near the storm drain, running over all the plots. Little buggers! It's an ongoing battle to keep them out.

I planted two varieties of onions in nice straight lines (snigger) as Parsley pointed out to her daughter how often my bum crack was on show. Let's say about 99% of the time. Took a lot longer than expected. This was due to the soil being rock hard, cracked up into uncompromising slabs and boulders. If it wasn't the soil, it was layers of hay strewn horse manure...dried!

Oregano: 'Bloody hell this is hard! It's all rocks and dried tobacco leaves!'
Parsley: 'Haaa!'
Weasel: 'Haaaaaaaaaaah!' (Laughing at my bum falling out all the time, not my quip).

It was however a glorious allotment afternoon, splashed with gold.

Once home, I was fairly vivified by the time spent on the allotment. I cleared our 'wood store' comprised of kindling and treated planks, tipping some compost in for good measure. This was for our new herb and salad bed! Yeah winks!

* * *

Second trip was hardcore rugged and raw. Utterly rushed after spending a hellish half hour at Homebase, nearly arguing with an Oliver Reed lookalike for getting in the way, slapping four 60 litre bags of compost on a wonky donkey trolley, then getting the hell out of there, I legged it over to Parsley and Cakeatonne's. We (Cake and I) took down several lengths of wood, bantering about the size of our snakes / pythons, all the while trapping the skin of our arms, laughing, screaming etc, all the way down to the allotment. We dropped off the wood then met Alan (Parsley's dad in case you're new or have forgotten). He'd brought along some special stakes which would act as support for the beams, which in turn would support the beans! Arriba arriba! For the first time in my life I saw a swarm of bees, I don't mean a couple of winged dudes hanging around in a heat haze, I mean hundreds of buzzing insects about seven feet in the air. We beat a hasty retreat.

Whilst Cakeatonne and Alan erected the posts (I told you DIY was not my thing) I plucked out weeds from the carrot bed, aka a 70s bath raised from the ground on bricks. I didn't fail to take some photos though, as you can see.

Once the frames were up and tied together, I cut lengths of string that would run over both sides, in order that the runners could climb up them. In itself not a hard task, but Dieu, it was hot. The sweat was running down my face like it was going out of fashion. I kept on cowering under the trees, atop a pile of earth and weeds. Cakeatonne came back, armed with tent pegs and two forks. There's a joke and punchline in there somewhere, alas I have not the power to summon one at present. Tied the strings round the pegs (ten in total), making sure they were nice and taut. Cakeatonne forked over the plot behind us so we could put more stuff in. We swapped jobs half way through. Digging and a piggin, forking and a squawking on a blazing hot day is saved for Greek gods not Kings Heathians! Nonetheless we overcame. It's no mean task getting frames up, digging up hoochy coochy and then planting stuff on a day determined to turn your flesh to wax and joyously watch you melt into a puddle. Spring you say? No man, Summer's come early. Paaayce.

Operation Pondwater

Spurred on by the appearance of Pandora, David and I set about turning round the wonder that was our garden pond. Early Sunday morning last week, I went out and dredged the last of the mud and dried grass from the bottom of the pond. David had ripped out a veritable medusa's mane of grass and clogged up dirt prior to this, and cleaned up the paving tiles, so my job was easy. The frogs hated me, mutely leaping away, or suffering themselves to be handled for a moment, before being released into the hedges.Once David came out we got all the materials together - that is fleece, pond liner (£30!) scissors et al. Now as I'm utterly useless with anything approaching accurate DIY, it was in Mr Millers hands, and he did a stellar job. Whereas I was in my scrubs, he was there in customised houndstooth pants and chelsea boots. What a pair.

Started by lifting off the paving tiles and laying down an initial layer of fleece. Once this was in place, supported by said tiles, David then laid down layer number two. The pond liner was unwrapped, folding out like a pterodactyls wing, fairly swamping us both. It had two sides, green and black. We chose black. Although it was much thicker than the fleece, it was much easier to cut. Once we had it nicely tucked to the contours of the pond bed, the tiles were replaced and some compost added 'twixt the cracks. Previously the grass had kind of glued them all together, so some were very loose. When in doubt call it rustic.

Then the hard part came. Lacking the means to rig up a hose and fill up the pond in double time, we co-ordinated, filling a trug and a kitchen bin full of water and pouring it in the newly lined pond. Fairly took us an hour. At the end we had a celebratory beer, cooking ourselves under the sun, planning what to plant in there...

* * *

A week on and we now have two water lilies submerged at the bottom of the pond and two water soldiers. No wildlife as yet, unless you count a drowned, utterly pale worm and some wood lice. Come back Kermit!


What would any decent garden be without some ornamentation? Hanging baskets, gnomes, stone Buddhas, flamingos...Why not go one better and get a four foot something, thirteen stone concrete statue of Pandora?! Why not drive to Stourbridge on a late night mission to pick her up and bring her back in the dark, then have to ask Parsley and Cakeatonne for a wheelbarrow so she could be transported to the bottom of the garden? There she GLOWS.

I tell you what, she looks wicked! (And not at all kitsch!)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Ground Farce

I have been quite the handyman recently. Went over to see my sister, her boyfriend Tony aka the Boneman and my awesome nephew Joseph last Sunday. It was an emotional visit as our dear friend and bed humper extraordinaire Benson had died on Tuesday. He was a hell of a dog, my best four legged friend - bursting with personality, barks and a way of letting you know all was not bad in the world. I miss him.

As a new start I tidied up (some) of the garden. Worked my way from the top, removing weeds from under the palm tree then attacking the cooch grass. Damn stuff never wants to come up easily. The soil was a wonderful brick red colour and well drained, making me jealous. It kept raining so my job wasn't made any easier, but I ploughed on and was quite pleased by the results when it came to sundown. This is but the first phase of my job. I love doing it.

The energy I got from it was phenomenal and for the next two days I worked our garden hard, we're talking epic de-weeding, hover-mowering the grass, demarcating then cutting up turf for a border...and relax. Only I couldn't. Whenever I had a spare second I was doing a bit of weeding or piggin' and a diggin'.

This week has been the same. Just today I added a wicker border to the bottom of the garden. As ever it was an extreme bodge job. Playing close attention to the golden mean, using a spirit level and securing the border with plenty of soil was absolutely a brilliant idea for someone else to take up. I whacked it all in with a rubber mallet and to hell with it! When the grass grows back it will look mintball deluxe.

After that I tidied up the great little patch between the ivy bush and the buddleia, to better reveal the emerging poppies, the geraniums and the forget me nots. Then I planted some lillies in the freshly tilled and utterly weed free soil (snigger). I moved the mystery plants which I got from the Hardy Plant Society, see: to the freshly created shady border. In with the hellebore seeds next to the fern at the far end. May have to wait a long long time to see anything happen with these bad boys. Man oh man there's so much happening in this garden!

Allotment Afternoons = Allot of Fun!

The allotment hasn't been getting much of a mention of late - that is because I have barely been there, absorbed as I am in the workings of the lab and our own garden at Rue Albert. What a shame! Parsley and Cakeatonne have been down there way more than me. Time to pull the old socks up as well as the HOWARD JEANS.

With the weather getting better we have taken to having afternoon tea using a kelly kettle to boil up the water. Proper little unit going now! Of course you can't have tea without a pavilion to drink it on. To that end Cakeatonne and I shifted a load of carpet - yes it's still on the plot - to his steed, Fiesta. Along with brick rubble and stagnant soil we went forth to ye local tippe / dumpe: it depends on your upbringing. It was a glorious day for tipping, what with Com Truise on the saddlebag player. Once we were at the turnpike, a seasoned bloke in a high vis jacket fired a load of questions at Cakeatonne - without looking at him once. Stuff like 'What you got in the boot?' 'Postcode?' Hilarious! Almost as funny as the collection of gnomes they'd collected and put in a kitschy display at the entrance. I wanted to steal a terminator toy with a cannon for an arm...must be the magpie in me.

We unloaded the load and headed back for a well earned brew in the sun.

The following week we shifted more detritus into a wheelbarrow then did many a barrow of woodchip fly from beside the portaloo to our new pavilion. Weed suppression? Check. Attractive finish? Check. Spare fuel for the Kelly Kettle? Check. I frooking love our allotment! Now to spend some more time on it!

Tulips and Daffodils

It is worth waiting almost seven months or more to see these hunks and darlings roll out for Spring. In the case of the daffs it's the second year they've emerged, looking better than ever, adding flames of white and yellow to an otherwise greener than green world. The slugs have not ceased their assaults though, so this year I cut a load and kept them indoors in a vase. Very molto molto!

Special mention goes to the Thalia, which came out later than expected. These daffs are special with a double head on a single stem, much smaller than the other narcissus, dressed in a pale white that is quite exceptional.

The tulips have been predominantly red, although in the last few days I have seen a few golden yellow ones and a saucy pink make their way upwards. They look and smell mega. As with poppies they have a variety of markings at the base of the petals; if you're ever in my neck of the woods don't be surprised to see me gawping in a kind of stupor, with my bum hanging out (damn these ill fitting jeans and loose belts) wondering how all those colours and shapes started.

Tad's Mad (For Catmint)

The other day saw the glorious return of Tad, an Albert Road favourite. He's been strolling around sparring with evil face (a cat that looks like Tad but is in fact a colossal idiot and unfriendly), doing his thang. As I've been growing catmint I decided to give it a go. According to the packet, some cats are indifferent to it, whilst others will become very excited. At first Tad looked like he was in the former camp, but something must have twigged in that noble brain of his and he started eating it. The effect was dramatic, he was rolling around, purring like a tiger, his legs twitching, headbutting my legs. Hilarious. And here's the footage!

Dr Frankensted's Laboratory

My studio has become a full time plant laboratory. Thanks to (winks to) the sun, I now have a collection of eager sunflowers all growing, all knowing. Experiments with pot sizes, coke bottles, ariel liquitab boxes, used soup containers, all of it has come into play and the results have been varied, but always wicked.

Additionally, the malvas are coming along a treat, one particularly has grown like my barnet - that is, exponentially. I'm weary of putting them out on account of the threat of frost and slugs. Last year nearly all my hollyhocks were chomped by those invertebrate gits.

The marigold pinwheels are slow but show promise. Same goes for the Echinacea, which I had given up on but have recently really come to life. Patience!

The sweet peas have gone out and are currently climbing a natty trellis that sits on the shed, facing the sun. After the trough got flooded (April showers are beyond my limited powers), I had to do some emergency drilling, which basically involved me getting covered in sludge water. I felt like bellowing OIL! But I'm sure the neighbours have had enough of my stentorian outbursts and banshee laughs. I can't help being enthusiastic can I?

The Himalayan blue poppies have been planted in a tray full of compost out of the direct sun. If these grow I will be a smug Mancunian git.

I recently bought some Coleus seeds 'Wizard Mix' for the sake of G UNIT we'll call them Warlock Mixx, Charlie Sheen would love that. They too have been planted in compost and are very exciting - think psychedelic nettles and you're on the right path.

David purchased a climbing yellow rose from Poundland, that currently sits on the right hand side of the shed, next to a Trellis given to us by the Grand Gardening Warlock Sam (our neighbour). Slow progress here but ey we got all the time in the world.

In addition to that we have penny blacks, hellebores, lilies, ranunculus...

Whew. It's going to be a busy summer!