K's Garden

Building a large garden on a budget

Welcome to kGarden Wednesday 13 September 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:05 am

kGarden is a chronicle of our attempts to build a large garden on a budget in Suffolk (East Anglia, UK), which started in 2006. It mostly comprises articles about the individual projects and occasional, infrequent, blog articles when something peaks my interest.

The Original Garden – Mar 2006

View Down the Garden – Sep 2016

If you are a new visitor you might like to start with the About page which has a Before & After photo of each of our projects, and will give you an idea of which ones are more bonkers than others!

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If you are looking for something specific please try the Blog Index.

I record pictures that interest me on Pinterest kGardenPins on Pinterest.

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Lapageria in flower

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:00 am

I’ve fancied growing some Lapageria for some time, particularly as a Conservatory plant, as I think the flowers look gorgeous. Charlie Pridham, at Roseland House Nursery, grows lovely plants but he’s all the way down near Truro in Cornwall and he says they rarely travel well with a courier, so opportunity for me to get one is limited. Charlie travels to rare plant fairs in the West Country, and I went to my nearest one at Kingston Bagpuize House, in Oxfordshire – although “nearest” was still a 6 hour round trip!

I hadn’t really expected them to flower young, but guess what? here they are 🙂

Lapageria Alba

Lapageria Alba

Lapageria Rosea

Lapageria Rosea

Oh! and it was my wedding anniversary that day too, so took the opportunity to buy some sheep as a pressie

Sheep!

Spring Flowering Bulbs have arrived for planting … I’ve got a bit carried away, as usual, this is a mix of Narcissus ‘Tête á Tête’ and Crocus ‘Ruby Giant’, 1,000 of each which I think will be enough to finish off the planting (started last year) of the Cross Court

Spring Bulbs

I only have this, not very clear, photo from last Spring. This Autumn’s planting will complete the planting at the far end, and i need to remember to take a better picture next Spring.

Crocus Ruby Giant

I’ve got three x 25KG sacks of other Daffodils to plant too, so it will be a busy, and hand-blistering, September. I’ve done a few hundred already, and what a difference the wet weather recently, and back in August, has made compared to the bulb planting last autumn when it was much drier. I will make a diary note that if August is wet its worth considering bigger bulb planting than in a dry year. I’ll also be interested to see if the early flowering Daffodils are indeed early next Spring, as they definitely were not this Spring (2017), although a friend told me that planting early Daffodils, such as Rijnveld’s Early Sensation takes two years to stabilise; because the are so early they are lifted at a time when they have already started into growth, they are therefore compromised in their first year and don’t store as much energy as they should, so its their third season before they are back to normal and that, for me, will be this coming Spring. I’m planting another 1,000 Rijnveld’s Early Sensation this year, but at an earlier date than previous years, so will be interesting to see how they compare over their first three seasons.

Daffodil Cutting Bed

 

July 2017 Roundup Saturday 8 July 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:01 am

Gloriosa looking good in the conservatory. There are a couple of different varieties in that pot but I don’t know which (apart from the obvious G. rothschildiana) because I planted a handful of varieties some years ago and each autumn I just abandon the pot, dry, until the following spring and now there are only 4 plants left, so I will restock it with some fresh tubers next year as clearly some have given up. Or I could take the view that the Good Do’Ers have survived, and I’d be better to stick to just them.

Gloriosa

and a new large-head Allium I tried – its a boy-thing! (this taken on 10-Jun)

Allium Univers

This is the first year that the Black Bamboo has put up some culms of decent diameter, so hopefully its now established and will be as bold in future years. I’m trying to water it more this year, than I have manged to do in the past, so will be interesting to see if that helps. The regime I’m trying for is to water well Spring and Summer, until the new culms have grown, and only then start feeding.

Black Bamboo

and also the first year that I’ve managed to get decent sized Echiums – I ought to measure them, they must be around 10′ tall

Echium

Echium

 

Lilium regale – caught the frost

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:00 am

I grew some Lilium regale from seed (hundreds of them!) some years ago, and this year they caught a frost. I had assumed they were rock-hardy …

Lily – Frost Damage 29-Apr

Lily – Frost Damage 29-Apr

some of them are almost non-existent, just a few leaves at ground level, sound have flowered, on long stalks even, but the plants supporting them have been weak, few leaves, and a complete mess, but in the main at the start of July they looked like this

Lily – Frost Damage

Perhaps I should let a seed-head ripen to maturity and grow another batch

 

Lifting Tender Plants for the Winter Tuesday 1 November 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:00 am

First frost was forecast so time to bring in the tender plants. This is in two stages for me, and takes a couple of days. I have a number of plants in the Exotic Garden which are in pots, plunged into the ground. These just need to be lifted and brought in – although the big ones need some effort to wrench them out of the ground.

Lifting Brugmansia Plunged-Pots for the Winter

When I plunge them, into their planting hole, in 1st week of June (after last frost and once it starts to warm up a bit) I put two ropes, knotted in the middle, under the pot so that I have a four-way cradle to winch them out of the ground with in the Autumn. I use an engine crane for this, and the plant releases with a significant “pop” as the roots that have grown out of the bottom of the pot give way.

Lifting Brugmansia Plunged-Pots for the Winter

I also have plants like tender Salvias which I just chuck in a pot and bring in for the Winter, here’s a photo of the Savlia amistad in full bloom

Salvia amistad

Salvia amistad

Salvia amistad

Salvia amistad

Its a bit of a performance at this time of the year as I have time in the Autumn, but come the Spring, when they start back into growth, there are a lot of other jobs seed raising, pricking out, and so on. So I take some extra time in the Autumn to pot them up, ready for Spring, rather than to just “store” them. I do the same for Dahlias [dry-ish compost] and Cannas, whereas the more conventional approach is to store them and then start them off in the Spring.

Here’s my one-man-work-party! for lifting tender plants ready for the Winter:

Lift Plants for Winter

Lift Plants for Winter

One barrow for the tops, that I cut down (and typically any other herbaceous plants that could do with cutting down too, although if frost is forecast I need to focus on getting things in, tidying the beds can be done later), another barrow with sieved home-made compost, which is all I use when potting them up, and a trolley to put the potted-up plants on.

I squeeze the plants into the smallest pot that will fit them, shaking off as much soil as possible. I want to keep the plants relatively dry during the winter, so the smallest pot and minimum amount of soil helps prevent anything rotting.

Lift Plants for Winter

Lift Plants for Winter

The area where the Salvias are planted has plenty of Spring flowering bulbs, and I tend to plant more each Autumn, and its always a pity to accidentally dig them up, so as an experiment this Autumn I have sunk a 2L pot in the space where each Salvia was lifted to mark that as a bulb-free-zone! I have quite a few Scilla peruviana which are in 2L pots (rather than being planted in the garden) because they are a bit tender and want good drainage, so my plan is to put then in the planting-holes after the worst of the February cold finishes and then at the start of June I can swap them for the Savlias again, or something else if I decide to have a change in that bed next year.

 

Logging the Flowering History Record Monday 18 April 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:00 am

I’m sure I make things far too complicated! but I’m a “detail person” and I don’t know another way.

The basic problem is simple: I want to record the dates that things flowered; if I then decide to move some plants around, or want to move a plant to be next to a companion that will show it off to best advantage, I want to remember, during the dormant / plant-moving season, what flowers at the same time as something else – or what will NOT flower until the other plant has finished.

I also need to remember what I have, and where it is planted, and there is no way on this earth that I would keep a fancy garden design CAD drawing up-to-date.

So some years back I came up with the idea of having a list of my plants in “walking order”. I can tell the difference between a Lily and a Lupin, so all I really need to know is that the Lily is “White Heaven” and the Lupin is “The Page”. Each time I planted something I added it into the list, between two existing entries, and I use the number of “strides” from the end of the bed as a distance indicator. I name my beds North, South, East or West, or perhaps NE, NW, SE, SW and so on. If a plant is recorded as NW04 then it is 4 strides from the end of the “NW” bed. The starting end, from which to stride out, is the house end. Of course I have beds at right angles to the house, and round beds, and all sorts, so there is some unconformity in the process – but so long as I am consistent for a bed that seems to have been good enough. Then I have suffixes “m” for the middle of the bed and “b” for the back … and “bb” for something that is right at the very back!

Nowadays I have an APP on my phone that the Walking Order plant list is stored in – I use EverNote which synchronises between my phone, tablet and desktop so I can just edit anything in whichever is close to hand and all the others stay synchronised. In the olden days I stored the list on my computer in a Notepad file, printed it out, scribbled on it when in the garden (if I had remembered to take it with me …) often didn’t get around to updating the original, and then got frustrated when I didn’t know what was where … I suppose Capability Brown always had a Scribe Minion at his side

The Walking order lists work well for me. If I need to know the name of the plant I can look it up. If I take some cuttings I just write “Penstemon NW12” on the label when I cut them and I don’t have to try to remember the variety – I can look that up later if and when it becomes necessary – or just plant the results around their siblings at NW12 the following spring. If I am walking around with a house guest I can look up the name of the plant to answer their question, and make a note to propagate one for them as a pressie.

But … how to record flowering? Or the fact that it needs protecting from a late frost, and do I care that it came from the Church fete rather than Kelways? When I place an order online I get a nice email confirmation, which is great as I can cut & paste it to my plant list … but it tends to include other information as well, which I am loathed to delete. I really should be more ruthless – the price will no doubt be of interest to a historian in 100 years time, but I don’t really need it in my Walking Order list! nor which flowering group the Pears are in, either I’ve planted the right ones near each other … or I haven’t!

Espallier Fruit list

Espallier Fruit – Walking Order Plant List

note that the Pears have got extra Wibble pasted into their entries … I need to get out of that habit … and clearly I didn’t look after the Cobnuts very well in their first season and several died of thirst.

For flowering I have been adding “18Apr16” next to the plant, and then year-by-year I get a list of cumulative flowering dates. If I manage to remember that I have not recorded the end of flowering then I edit it to 18Apr-10May16, but the trouble is the end of flowering doesn’t register with me as I walk around the garden, unless the plant needs deadheading.

So now I also copy the plant to a separate, chronological, list in Flowering Order. That is divided into fortnightly periods which seems to have been OK so far. The original Walking Order lists have separate pages for each area of the garden, and their NW, NE, etc. names make sense within that grouping. In the Flowering List I have had to invent Prefixes for the bed names so “Sh” is the Shrubbery, “Hot” is the Red Border, “Jun” is the Exotic Jungle and so on, but I have grouped the entries for each two-week period by bed, in walking order, so as I am walking round the garden I can easily see if anything should be in flower so that I note it. But so far I have not cracked remembering to record the end of flowering

Walking Order Plant List

Walking Order Plant List

But that was until I started the Daffodil Project – I planted 25 each of 28 varieties with a view to deciding on two or three varieties that would work well naturalised in the lawn, and would make a nice, complementing, selection from Early through Mid to Late flowering. For that I need to know the dates when the various varieties flower, but also the stem height and the greater detail of when the buds start to show colour, when the first flower opens and the last flower starts to fade, so I created a spreadsheet for them. They are listed in walking order (its a cutting bed – I planted them in Alphabetical Order so it was easier to guess a name …) and I used Conditional Formatting to highlight the cell that represents the next “event” for that variety – so as I walk along I just need to consider if that event has happened, rather than trying to record that the thing is in flower – which it has been the last three weeks when I walked down the bed!

This is the first year after planting, so the dates are probably meaningless – even as a relative measure of flowering times – and certainly they bear no relationship to the Early / Mid / Late indicators in the catalogue (although they may well turn out to be useless anyway). So another year, or two, data recording before I can decide which bulbs are going to be my shortlist-of-three for the main, naturalised, planting.

Daffodil Flowering Spreadsheet

Daffodil Flowering Spreadsheet

In other news:

I’ve updated the Long Walk article with details of the Folly we are building

See also:

The Daffodil Cutting Bed project

 

Seed Packet Storage, Organisation and Planning Wednesday 9 March 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:00 am

It comes up for discussion now and again, and folk have different ways of organising their seed packets. I think it depends on how many packets you have … I, for sure, have “too many” …

In the past I’ve put all the seed packets in a shoebox size container, in alphabetical order

Seed Packets Shoebox

Seed Packets Shoebox

and then had a Spreadsheet where I listed them with intended sowing date, germination temperature, and columns for when I actually sowed them, pricked out, planted out and so on.

Seed Sowing Spreadsheet

Seed Sowing Spreadsheet

There has been more good-intent than actual data logging! In the Winter months all the seed packets I have bought do indeed get logged (its not hard to cut & paste into the Spreadsheet from the email confirmation of an online purchase), but then I print out a To Do list, sorted by Sowing Date, and I scribble on that how many I grew, and when I planted them out … and typically I lose the piece of paper, or it gets “piled” in my office ready to join a long list of things reserved for the proverbial rainy day.

The import things, which have worked for me, are:

Find a specific seed packet – alphabetical in a box solves that.
Remember to sow it at the right time – Spreadsheet solves that.

There are some downsides to my current system. First, whereas it seems that seed packets used to be a similar size (at least the few brands that I favoured were) and thus align neatly in my shoebox, now they are all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Seed Packet Sizes

Seed Packet Sizes

There are two reasons for this, one is the blasted marketing people trying to differentiate their product – such as the fancy, double-wide, packet for the James Wong collect from Suttons, and the second is that many of the “economy” brands are shipping their seeds in small ziplock bags or similar. They just get lost, and muddled up, in my shoebox.

The second problem is that for some years I’ve been growing quite a lot of different varieties of some seeds. I’ve got 5 different types of Onion this year, but in practice they are all sown on the same day. Its a bit tedious to list them individually on my spreadsheet, then make sure they all have the same “Start” date, Germination temperature, etc. and chances are when I grab them from my showbox the one in the little fiddly packet might well escape and not get sown anyway.

I’m also in disgrace for commandeering a large amount of space in the kitchen at this time of year; it used to be more straightforward until the number of packets got out of hand. I liked to have piles of packets that were Work-in-Progress, and I knew which was what (tidy and organised people will be horrified to read this; sorry about that!). Its no longer practical, the piles either fall over or “have to be moved” and then I lose my place in the piling system.

So this year I’ve decided to try A5 envelopes instead. For some veg types I will have a couple of envelopes – e.g. one for Early Tomatoes (the ones that have a very long growing season and which I want to kick off on 1st January) and the second for Main Tomatoes which I will sow mid to end of February. I’ve got three seed packets in the Early group, and four or five in the Main group. I will pop those into the relevant envelop, all together, and then sow all the envelop contents on the same day. Next year whatever is left of the seed will still be there to be used up.

For organisation I’ve printed on the outside of the A5 envelop all the details about intended sowing date, how many plants I plan to grow, an then have space to handwrite all the varieties, the actual sowing / pricking out / planting dates – which in previous years I had such good intentions to enter into my spreadsheet!

Seedpacket Record Card

Seedpacket Record Card

I have always written the date of sowing on the packet, as well as on my spreadsheet printout, so writing it on the new envelope cover shouldn’t be onerous. There are about 30 lines on an envelope, so if I grow five or six varieties the envelope history will last for five or six years – probably about the lifetime of the envelope itself.

I may make a cut-down spreadsheet, omitting details of individual varieties, just to create a Calendar to remind me of the key dates when I should sow Early / Main Tomatoes etc. That will safeguard me from putting the Tomato envelope in the wrong place (more important to remind me about successional sowing crops), and the actual envelopes can be stored, back in the original shoebox, in either alphabetical order or sowing-date order.

This is what my printed A5 envelopes look like:

Seed Envelopes

Seed Envelopes

Initially I only printed envelopes for seeds that came in regular and small packets, but then I decided that Runner Beans etc. also needed an envelop (so that they were “in the system”), even though the actual bags-of-beans won’t fit in the envelop. I then added Envelopes for Cutting Bed Annuals and so on. I don’t need one-per-variety – for example: I only have one variety of Larkspur, but I have several other cutting bed Annuals that I sow at the same time, so three envelopes labelled Early, Mid and Late Sown Annuals is sufficient for things that need sowing from mid February to mid March, and I can then decide that a particular seed packet needs adding to one of my February packets … or a March one. Similarly for Herbs I’ve wound up with three envelopes, with a selection of different Herb seed packets in each one

I had one final, unexpected, “win”. I round-up and keep used labels from one year to the next. The permanent marker I use lasts well beyond the time when the plastic label disintegrates in the sun! but finding the right label, in a huge bundle of them, is a wretched nuisance. Now I can just chuck the used labels into the appropriate Seed Envelop and then, next spring, the label will be there together with the corresponding seed packet.

Old Labels - now stored "ready" in Seed Envelopes

Old Labels – now stored “ready” in Seed Envelopes