WP_20160523_20_06_08_ProTo Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Or perhaps, this month it should be ‘Deer’ Walter-  the tender tips of my raspberries and strawberries have been nibbled away! I suspect a Muntjac deer to be the culprit, though it could be rabbits. The netting has been duly placed over the strawberry patch!

It’s been a challenging, but productive month, old friend. Being away in Scotland for 10 days, and this week in Devon for 7 more (plus other, new commitments) have left me short of gardening time. So, apologies that my blogging has lapsed a little too of late. However, I can, happily report that the majority of the work to create the new pond garden is complete!

Continuing my ‘evolutionary’ approach to its design, I’ve added in some features and planting which help to continue the ‘crescent’ theme and start to soften the harsher edges of the water and landscaping. I’ve had a few problems with the stepping stones (I didn’t provide a wide enough base) and edging paving- the slabs were pretty heavy!

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However, I’m very pleased with the result, and its wonderful to discover some ‘happy accidents’ such as how the late afternoon sun lights up the steep border with its vibrant yellow planting and how the plants are really taking quite quickly. I’ve divided some Hostas from the Courtyard Garden, where the old metal planters have rusted through. After repotting some of these in other containers I’ve used others in the pond garden which has helped to start a really lush, leafy environment in the latter. Hopefully now the planting will really take hold and the wildlife will move in- I’ve already noticed some insect life in the form of Pond Skaters.

Alas, the time I’ve spent on this big project has meant that the weeding has taken a back seat. I’m not sure, but this year the Ground Elder seems to really have taken hold (maybe the mild, wet winter?), and though I’ve managed to dig out a lot, there are some areas where it’s too entangled with the planting, so it’s a case of ‘speed weeding’- deadheading and pulling up – and then ‘looking forward’ to digging out complete borders in the Autumn…JOY!

My catchup has continued with the Kitchen  Garden, too, where the early potatoes have started to poke through, and the onions I planted last autumn are looking very good. I’ve planted out some early Leeks and Calabrese and recently sown my first parsnips and carrots too. The ‘cut and come again’ lettuce is also starting to bulk up and the first, sweet rhubarb has been followed by a good stand of stalks, some of which have been grabbed for a few of this week’s desserts. I’ve also got the greenhouse set for its season of tomatoes, cucumber and pepper growing, though I’m still waiting to collect the latter two plants from my friend Steve, who is my regular supplier of these, hopefully along with a set of Courgette plants. Other things sown and growing so far include runner beans, squash, cauliflower, red cabbage, beetroot and basil. Having just potted most of these up, they should be ready to go out on my return from Devon.

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My other big project- sorting out the shed area and compost bays, has also seen some progress. The base for the new shed has been been put into place (it needs levelling) and I’ve reorientated the compost bays to provide more circulation space all round- the slabs in front of this still need to be firmed in.

Some of the ornamental areas look good- following a great show of Camassias with Tulip ‘Ballerina’, the Alliums are now into their stride, and these look great with the Lilac and Rhododendrons.

The mole problem in the grass continues, though the device my neighbour gave me which emits a regular pulse of sound, seems to have some effect- I’ve moved it to the latest popular spot for the moles! I haven’t yet got round to using the scarifier I was given by my mother-in-law; a job for when I get back. Oh, and remember I was given that petrol-powered shredder? Well it’s been serviced and I’ve started it up…it has yet to be used in anger, though…watch this space.

I’ve got to finalise my plans for my new ‘mound’ overlooking the church, but in the mean time have scattered a wild flower mix along the sunniest edge to give a bit of summer interest. I’ve also grass seeded the area in front of the machine shed, so this will hopefully look a little tidier. I’ve planted up two big hanging baskets for the front entrance- these are currently getting going in the greenhouse and will be put outside after ‘hardening off’ in the next week or two.

Our trip to Scotland- specifically the Isle of Skye and Glasgow –  was fantastic, blessed as we were with sunny, warm weather for almost the entire time. We managed to visit some wonderful places, including some interesting houses and gardens, and I’ll put the photos and information from these up on the blog in the next week or so.

So, in spite of lack of time, I seem to have achieved quite a lot, but as you know, we gardeners never have nothing to do…in my case its a return to the weeding at every opportunity! I hope that you and Lise are managing to cope with your own plot at one of the busiest times of the year.

Old School Gardener

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