|Series 2 – Gardening Projects – 2021|
|Project Willow Courtyard|
This autumn through winter and into spring 2022 will see many changes – what’s new l ask myself now – in the garden here. They started in earnest last Wednesday and l continued on with several projects this last weekend to ensure the finalisation of stage 1.
Stage 2 will be mostly performed in November, although there will be some preparations regarding early spring 22 plantings later this month with the likes of ‘early blooms of sweet pea varieties’ which can be planted now easily enough. Also, l will be planting up in the next few weeks some dwarf tulip varieties into pots that can be scattered around the garden here to add in some colour splashes.
But l feel there will be several additional stages throughout December and January also … it’s not like there isn’t much to do.
This weekend though, l wanted to concentrate on a few smaller projects that needed addressing and decisions made….
1] Emptying off the mini-hotbin, 2] mixing a new bird mixture up for the approaching winter months, 3] moving the ‘bins around the garden’ so as to create new space and more movement efficiency, 4] making a final decision regarding the Cape Gooseberry plant and finishing off with 5] an ongoing job which is to increase the effectiveness of my small shed which is no mean task considering it is NOT an actual shed but an old converted coal scuttle. [There are huge expectations on this shed].
|1 – Mini-Hotbin Harvest|
The Mini-Hotbin was purchased last year  before l moved here and with a view to becoming a new replacement method of hot composting. Last year was a bit of a disaster due to the fact that in addition to garden wastes l also added the fermented content of my monthly bokashi bins … which did not perform well and if anything destroyed the chances of a good compost content due to the reality that the hotbin was simply unable to actually compost the kitchen scraps in this manner due to the bran. It turned the material into a sickly fermented mess of gloop! The hot bin was washed out and allowed to dry from August through to January. I started to use the hotbin again this February and this time ONLY added garden wastes and did not look into the bottom until l was ready to harvest off the content, which l did on Saturday. It had been left to its own devices from February to October – so 8 months and what was the result you ask?
Well … see below
…. l am not unimpressed with it and if anyone asked me for my thoughts and marks out of 10, l would furnish them with a ‘It does a good job when the conditions are right, although the content can be a bit moist, it doesn’t handle twigs that well but out of 10, l would say it’s a good 9!”
Of course, my situation has changed, last year l didn’t have my twin hot composter beds set up to function as compost units like today and therefore l only had the hotbin with one disaster to its name. I no longer require the hot bin and will be putting it up for sale. There are reasons for this – a] it doesn’t break the twigs down that well and let’s be honest not many hot bin composters could tackle this task with ease anyway, b] the compost is a bit too moist and would be better being dug into a garden bed direct and c] getting the compost out from the bottom of the bin can be somewhat hard graft as it means you are bending down all the time and my back isn’t as good as it used to be. BUT, having said that … these are not bad performance issues, they are more particular to me personally and my own limitations.
The bin is divided into two sections and of course you can’t simply easily empty out the bottom content without the top unbroken material falling down and out. You can see this in the two bins which is being used to hold the finished product. As a dig in or mulch type compost for beds l think this would be ideal though. The worm culture within was cracking though which was brilliant – but what l ended up doing with it was putting it back into my own compost units with all the bracken and twigs removed to dry out a little and l will fork it over a couple of times with a view to sieving it off during November.
|2 – Mixing a new bird mixture|
I love making up the bird feed mixtures as it allows me to experiment with different food types which encourages different species to the garden various times of the year. Willow is a garden that offers a safe haven to many species now, and although l have my regulars it’s a thrill to see new species testing the ‘waters’ so to speak. I have three types of water feature now; all are used by different species for different reasons.
Suet is one of the main feeding ingredients in the garden which requires nothing from me aside from taking out of tubs or packets be this for suet balls or suet cakes and placing into the feeders themselves. [I have plans of making my own suet blocks this winter] Peanuts is a big draw for many of the larger species and then there are the swinging seed feeders and the large tray filled with seed.
Yesterday afternoon l was thrilled to see a Siskin feeding, but l now see long tailed tits feeding most days now alongside robins, wrens, sparrows, blue tits, dunnocks, goldfinches, great tits, chaffinches, coal tits, greenfinches too. Many of the birds visit at varying times from morning through to afternoon.
Starlings are regular suet feeders and bathers, magpies and crows, thrushes, blackbirds, wood pigeons, feral pigeons, collared doves and the neighbourhood jay all pop in for a while as do the occasional seagulls passing over.
|The parakeet above is a photo l took earlier this week in the reserve to show you that they really are here and l have had these visit the garden here, but l am never quick enough with my camera.|
Also over the last few months l have seen woodpeckers, kestrels, bullfinches, goldcrests, chiffchaffs and on a few occasions l have had the parakeets drop in as well. I see them all the time in the reserve, but they also nest in a tree three houses down from where l am. But a real delight a few weeks back was having a blackcap in the garden also!
During the year l have made the bird mixes with the usual ingredients but also added in specials – so when it is not black crickets, or unsalted peanuts, or black sunflowers, there are sunflower hearts, suet pellets, Nyjer seed, dried mealworms, dried black soldier fly larvae, dried bloodworms, and silkworm pupae. I have got plans to produce my own live mealworm cultures later this year also.
But as l said to Ribana last week, one of the joys l really do have is being able to bring birds into the garden to feed, it’s a real pleasure, but so too is the enjoyment from any wildlife that visits.
Here is how the pigeons felt yesterday afternoon with the new feed mixes and peanuts out for them …
….. it’s always a full house! I have a few favourites as well who have started to trust me a little bit more each feeding and l can feed peanuts from my open palm … Charly and Uggers are two such birds. Uggers you can see in the first photograph in the second gallery. White pigeon with a grey cheek marking and Charly who dominates most photoshoots these days you can properly see below. She/he is very curious and quizzical!
|3 – Moving the ‘bins around the garden’ so as to create new space and more movement efficiency|
As l discussed in the last ‘Social Gardener’ episode last week, one of the tasks l was looking to complete, was moving the wheelie rubbish bins around so that l could ensure that the middle space of the garden was more productive as opposed to a bit of a dead space with no true functionality. I managed to sort this out properly on Saturday.
The space above is what it looked like Saturday morning … what required to be done was the green and black wheelie bins and the column of plastic recycle boxes that were sited inbetween the two smaller worm farms had to move. The green wheelie bin, was resited to the bottom of the garden near the back gate, whilst the black bin was resited out the back of the gate and in the alley. The column of boxes now lives in front of the green wheelie bin which was an inactive green waste bin, but now serves as the outdoor storage box for the bokashi bins.
Now the middle space is more aesthetic and attractive to the eye l feel. I also moved the clary sage to the back which will allow that to grow up the back wall, resited three earthen ware crock pots for future wall climbers and moved the large pond feature to the middle of the path. This is way better all around for productivity and more ease and manoeuvrability on the path. There are now three various water features in the pathway. The three square pots at the front have lavender planted. This area will be l hope a real butterfly and beetle fest zone next year. Especially as the long oblong troughs you can see will have bright and vibrant blooms planted. Other planted troughs are to be placed up on the wall with hanging strawberry’s.
Looking down the garden from the back patio doors, you can see the three water features, two baths and one drinking bowl.
|4 – Making a final decision regarding the Cape Gooseberry plant|
Some of you may recall that the Cape Gooseberry plants moved with me last year from the old garden. They were grown from seed which were sown in March of 2020. When they arrived here, l planted them all into this large pot above and whilst they never produced a crop last year that was edible, they produced a very good crop this year which would have been fabulous apart from one small problem …..l can no longer eat gooseberry’s and neither can anyone else! So the decision was made to cut down and reduce the volume of plant l had, clear the pot for a new growing which will be a buddleia bush which will also be a great addition to the Butterfly fest zone!
I didn’t want to offload the gooseberry completely, but l have resited it to the front of the garden where l shall train the new growth into some trellis.
Pot emptied, filtered and sieved ready for new plant and the remaining gooseberry transferred to the pot against the back wall.
|5 – Increase the effectiveness of my small shed|
One of the tasks in this garden which is a continuous all year activity is the small shed or coal scuttle – it requires a sort out every four weeks and every time, more expectations are placed upon its small quarters. Last month was the arrival of a lot of extra bits and pieces from Suze’s garden and l also decided to move the bird feeding storage box out this weekend. it was in desperate need for a clean, l had a rat visiting for a couple of months and it was making a hell of a mess on the floor bringing all sorts of bits and bots and dead mice in which meant the shed space reeked a few times also!
I had to have a big shuffle around yesterday to move this in, that out, the others needed to be wiggled and waggled, but everything managed to squeeze in just nice this time around. I even managed to raise the inner lip [introduced last month] by another panel! This works also as a rat deterrant.
Anyway, l have now completed the last few straggling tasks of phase 1, l am now gearing up for phase 2, so l will see you next month some time. in the meantime – thanks for reading.