Gardening Turnarounds and Catch Ups

A lot has happened in the garden since Episode 3 on the 1st April, so just over three weeks ago – issues have been resolved and more issues discovered and resolved and discovered and yes you guessed it …. resolved, but first a small note before this catch up. This will be the second to last episode of this series displayed in this blog. Episode 6 and all gardening styled episodes and series will be published in the sister blog.

All previous posts in these series have been archived there already. But in the sister blog, this series will be more of a social post than an actual gardening post … pretty much like now .. me as a gardener prattling on about garden and what does the reader actually learn? From this series? Not much. However there are other gardening series that will be more hyperfocused on practicalities.

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I had an ant infestation and so l was willing to convince myself that the strange soil removals were maybe being performed by ant archaeologists looking for some distant ant farm or city or something. The 6 remaining pots were simply placed onto the table in the kitchen as they didn’t seem to be suffering any damage …. these 6 didn’t sustain any problem after the first 12 seeded pots were destroyed and the soils placed into a griddler for fine sieving. That is what l thought the problem was .. the compost l bought was cheap and ‘roughly produced’ and maybe it was great for outdoor use but quite useless for finer seed plantings.

I would have continued to have believed that too had it NOT been for my recent spinach planting! I have planted up two medium sized pots for Edward [next door neighbour] and his use. I planted them on Tuesday, but once indoors that night in the conservatory … whilst in the loungeroom, l could hear a strange noise in the kitchen and so l crept out and peered and then when in the right position, abruptly turned on the light! That’s when l saw my tiny furry excavator in shocked stance – discovered and wide eyed and pretending to be a statue for all of three seconds before scampering off into the shadows ……………

.…… but this time, l was in the right position, when the kitchen light was on and l caught my furred culprit in the act!! Simply put, l now know that l have a house mouse in the kitchen, who scurries under the fridge and then disappears to the left and behind the safety and sanctuary of the built in kitchen cupboards. It is a house mouse and not a wood mouse or a field mouse and from what l saw rather scarily, perhaps either a large male or, or, or a pregnant female …. noooooooooo!! However, my two humane traps have now arrived and they shall be set up properly ready for hopeful capture and release tomorrow in the garden.

I keep a clean kitchen and a tidy house, so l know it is not specifically something l am doing that has caused its arrival and judging by the freedom it passes through the kitchen, it has lived here longer than me. I have taken to leaving a small smidgen of bread corner on the ledge by the door in the same place every night and it’s gone in the morning. This way, tonight, the bread will be in the trap and hopefully l will be able to capture my seed nicker … but she/he might be quite savvy… so l guess l will have to see!

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For those looking for a recent Ava update – sadly l have bad news … she died. Her 5th birthday was on March 16th 2021, but she had been poorly prior to this for a few weeks – the blight which l had battled for a couple of years won the day. This is her – above [green pot] – this afternoon – l had transferred her to a smaller pot a week ago after her latest natural rainwater flush in an attempt to try and encourage her root ball to produce new roots – but that failed as well. Now she is outdoors just in case being outside as the very last potential for new growth encouragement is tried. But l think l know this is the end of her. All new growths were just being attacked by her blight the moment a fresh shoot appeared – this did sadden me a lot, it was like the final nail in a coffin of lost – lose Scrappy, lose Suze and now lose Ava, it was all quite disheartening..

I’ll not start another.

I moved the Snapster into Ava’s old giant pot and she has taken to her new space with renewed enthusiasm!

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For the last week, l have been transplanting the seeds sown into trays at the start of the month to the next stage in pots ready for moving outside next month and so far we have some nice growth in the French Climbing Beans, Courgettes, Nasturtiums and Lemon Cucumbers and more recently some of the tomatoes and yet despite being watered daily and kept in a very warm location … and with access to the sunny spots in the house – l am not ‘overly’ impressed with their growth. It seems more of a struggle this year than previous years. But by all accounts l must keep reminding myself they were only planted 21 days ago thereabouts and were grown indoors.

I was talking to Suze this morning, as she popped over to join me for a morning walk in the reserve so we could discuss her garden projects and she said she had experienced the same issues with the lack of growth spurts on the seedlings and her grandson who is a very keen vegetable gardener had been telling her that he too was experiencing more problems so far this season than last year.

I have also noticed that the seeds l planted direct to soil are struggling with growth and it was these thoughts and ponderings over this last week that perhaps persuaded me to take a different route with my gardening for this season and maybe the seasons afterwards. I have a few vegetables in ‘seedling form’ already some l have mentioned but others like , Tomatoes, Borage, Mints, Curly Parsley and Sweet Pepper and l have decided that l will plant out the strongest of those next month … but also to buy ready established plugs and plants for the garden.

I had tinkered with this last year as you may remember with plugs and hardies, but whilst l like the enjoyment of planting l am not overly keen on the frustrations associated with everything with regards seedlings. Things are not expensive these days, not like they used to be and l think that maybe if l still had access to a greenhouse like that stunning model l bought last year, the seedlings may have been stronger this year, but alas ……… l don’t have that now…. enough said, sore subject, ha ha ha.

But two other issues at hand are … time and diet restrictions … l don’t have a lot of the first, even less of that now than this time last year and on the subject of the second, l have more restrictions now than this time last year!! So why am l buggering about with the seedlings? Sometimes l do wonder at my own sanity!!

I have just placed an order with a nursery for some established and hardier seedlings and also, l have decided to concentrate less on vegetable growing and more on ornamental growing’s – like flowers, kitchen herbs and shrubs and start to really look at the wildlife aspect to this garden – it was that which was really my discovery. That l could grow vegetables of course, but why not try something different?

More on that next time.

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One of the other issues l was having major problems with was my end garden set up …. at the back of the garden l have quite a bit of space, that holds assorted black garden bins and also l have two 36″ x 36″ x 30H” wooden compost cubicles, one holds a massive worm farm and the other holds a cold compost heap! Both were on opposite sides of the garden and l was struggling with them for a couple of reasons a] l needed them on the same side and b] What was their point?

The second question may seem strange to ask 9 months on from the creation … but l have … well l don’t honestly know how many worms in there, but let’s just say … a lot. But what am l to do with them? It’s more like a pet project these days, like a ‘pet rock’ over a commercial concept. But they demolish the bokashi scraps really nicely … and l keep feeding them my and Suze’s kitchen waste, but l am not – apart from occasionally transferring a hundred or so into the cold compost unit – doing anything with them.

Also, l noticed after buying recently a lot of compost – that the quality was really quite awful and l then knew that l had to stop having a cold compost unit and start having a hot compost unit so that l could start once more to produce a qualitable product for this garden – but of course, l no longer have three wooden cubicles side by side as l did in Hillyfields, but two and one was holding worms ………. mm, what a conundrum! I didn’t have the space for the three cubicles either so l had to try and think of a solution.

Which after an hour of standing and looking serious and stuck in contemplation l realised that it was doable as long as l utilised my black bins. I could site the two cubes unjoined side by side and when l was in the process of producing a hot compost simply transfer the occupants to the worm farm and when the heating process was over, l could then transfer even more worms back into the finished product to griddle the soil and produce some worm castings as well and make for a really nice and healthy’ black gold’ and one that would be better served in this garden and Suze’s.

So last weekend, that’s what l did. I also brought the mini-composter back into action – last year l experienced a problem with that when l discovered it didn’t like bokashi and so l had to retire it on a temporary basis – but now l will simply use it for grass burns.

Emptying the cold compost unit into the garden bins took me just less than an hour and ten minutes to tip the bins back into the unit once it had been moved into the space beside the wormery. This is good news as it means that in order to heat it up it’ll take me less than hour to turn it to the bins and back into the cubicle .. l think the longest times will be during the first turn this weekend when l start to remove the worms from the compost and transfer them to the farm. I do this, because unlike the previous times to hot composting – the worms could escape naturally – whereas here they cannot, so it’ll be a very manual first turn.

This way means, that the worm farm now becomes very practical.

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From left to right, wild mixture layering – add mealworms, add crickets and add seed and mix together till bin is filled to the top.

Recently l changed my bird mixture ingredients and have now started adding in dried crickets. I have always added dried mealworms and black sunflowers, but l decided to make a few changes. As l feed and get through so much feed, l have started to really buy bulk now. I was only partially buying bulk before, but now it is all bulk buying for the ingredients – the wild bird seed basics, mealworms, crickets, sunflowers and also suet balls. With the latter l was buying 50 for £10 but now l am buying 150 for £10 – same quality.

The birds here mostly the starlings and the members of the tit family, robins and the wrens and quite a few others including the blackbirds, but also the crows get through perhaps 20 balls a fortnight. Which is a lot of balls. The bigger birds hang off the feeders and then crumbs tumble down to the grounds below which are are then ideal for the smaller birds, but also l have learned, that earthworms love suet!? When the worms come up to feed, the blackbirds are waiting….

I get through quite a bit of seed every month including peanuts which despite many thinking suet and peanuts are only ideal for winter feeding are actually ideal all year feeders and especially welcomed during the breeding season. The secret is to always have fresh water available.

So far the new mixture is a huge winner for everyone …. and to finish off this catch up post, l’ll leave you with my happy visitors in their feeding and bathing behaviours over the last ten days. In the gallery we have wood pigeons feeding and posing, collared doves forever feeding, feral racing pigeons feeding and posing and watching, magpies watching, starlings feeding and bathing and either a sparrow or dunnock drinking.

Anyway, Thanks for reading, see you next time.

19 thoughts on “Gardening Turnarounds and Catch Ups

  1. Your pigeons are pretty! I ran into a bedraggled, motley group on a walk this past week… not pretty.😂
    All the bigger birds have been absent recently. They must be sticking closer to their nests. Lots of little birds around, but they usually fly off too fast.

    Daughter’s garden is suffering neglect and poor weather. We have a very long season though, so maybe she’ll try again🤷🏼‍♀️

  2. You’re having more luck than us. Our first tomatoes have died, all bar one, so we have another set planted. The cabbages have also not been a success, but the carrots and onions are doing OK.
    Tip for ants which we tried last year and it worked, the dried petals of crysanths sprinkled on the soil deters them. We also put some along the inside of the front door and that kept them out too.

    1. Hey Di, interesting tip concerning the ants. I don’t mind ants outside, my infestation issues have been indoors, l am currently working on my third nest.

  3. Very handsome pigeons! You’re putting in a lot of effort in the garden. I hope you’re rewarded by generous growth in both vegetable and ornamental plants. And I hope you catch your mouse 🐁

  4. Your lovely garden shows all the work you put into it, Rory! And those mice have good taste in wanting to be your roommates!🐭

  5. I’m so sorry about Ava. You’ve taken such good care of.
    Oh my, a house mouse! Hope all goes well with that. If the bread doesn’t work you might try snickers. They like them very much. 😊
    Your birds are beautiful! I imagine you enjoy them very much. 😊

    1. Hey Suzanne, well l caught two mice the first night, then forgot to place the traps last night, because of issues with my training equipment and being tired, l will place them again today. They like Snickers, wow, chocoholic mice 🙂

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