Sunday, 23 November 2014


It sleeted the other day in Teddington, which I'm taking as a sign that the Wintersmith has stepped up for his turn at the dance.  As there's no planting or plant-activity left to do in the garden, I thought it might be an idea to just take stock of where me and my garden are at this year and what's planned for the quiet season.

First, we have a new addition to the family.  Our Sam had a baby.  I've mentioned her before, her name is Ellie, she's turning 1 in December and she's already toddling at a run.  She's got a fair vocabulary up to now:

Miaow = Bill or any cat
Doos = Juice
Doyan = Diane
Durj = George
Door = Door
Edjig = Hedgehog
Mum = Mum
Nana = Nana
Chickenchickenchicken = Chicken.

I buried my Dad this Autumn, which was as hard as you might expect.  I might write more on that in the next few months, but I'm in a weird sixth stage of grief right now.  I've gone through the five as normal, but my mind still isn't at rest so I've been making a lot of jam and I've been poopsocking heavily on the xbox.  On the plus, I can now make lemon curd.  He liked lemon curd did our Cubby, he liked the Beatles too, so when I did a job up Hampstead the other week I swung by Abbey Road on the way home, spent some time sitting by the zebra crossing with my thoughts.

It seems I've been shortlisted for a job as a lab tech.  Won't find out until tomorrow.

The garden then.  The trees out front had a fungal thing but I've treated that organically by dousing the leaves with diluted milk and by adding calcium to the soil.  The new thornless brambles are making it easier to gather the fruit, and Ellie loves doing that.  She sits on my Mum's lap out on the ramp and picks the blackberries that grow along the handrails.  There'll be more planted on the other side too, but not just yet.  I want to get two more cherries in first.

The back garden is having its annual lawn die-off.  The back garden faces North so we can only keep a lawn for a Summer.  The fruit bed is doing well though.  The loganberry plant is halfway along the trellis now, chasing the last of the Sun.  The gooseberries are looking iffy, in that I can't quite tell if they're dead or just hibernating and I shan't know until Spring.

Out front the neighbours' fence is still a bit dodgy.  It was put up by cowboys and so in the first breath of wind it collapsed and damaged their car and my pear tree.  I've made some repairs to it (because it's cheaper than cleaning up after cowboys - the last time they came out to make repairs they dug a hole round the post, filled it with dry cement powder and buried it) but I'm still not happy, so when I get some dough I'll buy a couple 8' tree stakes and drive them 4' deep.  Against that fence I've got an elderberry and three kinds of raspberries.

I'm looking at ways to make my front garden more wildlife friendly.  The bark on the ground is attracting woodlice, I've got a log with holes drilled into it which attracts ladybirds in the warmer seasons.  Plenty of dead wood for beetles.  Once my dwarf orchard grows to size it'll start attracting bats, at which point I'll consider bat boxes in the eaves.

Now birds and hedgehogs...  My front garden has two plantable areas, which I term the Island and the Outside.  Here's a map, not to scale:

The North edge of the Island is already lined with rosemary and lavender.  I think I might continue those around the Western edge and then along the South edge.  I'll site a hedgehog box in the centre and fill out the middle of the Island with gooseberries and bush roses.  There's already jasmine and brambles growing against the railings, and together it should make for a dense enough hedge to support birds and hedgehogs.  

At the Northernmost end of the Outside, up against the wall I've got climbing roses, Etoile de Hollande, but as they grow the bottom will need cover to look nice.  I'm thinking Buxus sempervirens, maybe bush roses, maybe lavender.  This'll come out by a foot or so and again I can work in a hedgehog box.  I'll put blackcurrants in front of that.  Maybe I'll separate the blackcurrants from the rest of the bush with a little hidden chickenwire so that Ellie isn't grabbing rose prickles. 

I'll put a narrow path down the middle of the Western bit of the Outside, from the blackcurrants down to just East of the Westernmost cherry.  At the end of this path I'll put a wee storage thing in the shade of the front fence (where little else grows), while either side of that path I'll sow herbs and strawberries.  I'll also put in bee pots to encourage bees.  

Next year I'll fit windowboxes for basil and sage.  I'm gradually accumulating nice pots, some of which will house a mix of flowers and herbs, others will hold mint by itself because mint is the Britain of plants: it'll colonise the entire pot! 

This year we were sufficient in three things: rosemary, bay leaves, and blackberries.  Next year we ought to be sufficient in those plus sage, raspberries, verbena, loganberries, blueberries, gooseberries and hopefully thyme.  Thyme's tricky though in my garden.  Within the next three years we should become sufficient in those plus strawberries, basil, mint, blackcurrants, elderflower, elderberry, figs, and seasonal stonefruits (apples, pears, cherries).  

And that's been my year!