Sunday 31 May 2009

Friends and Fun

Yum Yum. We have just eaten a delicious meal using homegrown basil, oregano and the beetroot leaves from the thinnings I took today.

It has been something of an odd job weekend in the garden, because yesterday we had a get together of friends from university. Our friend and his wife had returned from America for a little while, so as many of us as could make it gathered together for a Friday night catch up and then a lovely Saturday in the park playing football, frisbee and rounders. The only gardening we managed was to pick the first strawberry, which Garden Girl had eaten before I had time to blink.

We were a little sluggish getting going this morning so, while Garden Dad made more headway digging over the rear raised bed, I thinned the carrots and beetroot. Then Garden Girl helped to plant out the extra sweetcorn, pumpkins, cobnut squash and spare onions, while Garden Boy chewed plant pots. He is teething and has reverted back to spending his days either chewing or drooling. After lunch we filled up the paddling pool and our little garden helpers got themselves wet and cool. Garden Dad added extra soil to the rear raised bed and I planted out the Celeriac seedlings.

Presumably feeling put out by Garden Girl eating the first strawberry, Garden boy pulled a semi-ripe strawberry from a plant and started to eat it, until Garden Girl shouted at him and we took it away. There are some ripe looking ones on the patio though, so I think a special strawberry supper is in order. I had better go before I miss out.

Friday 29 May 2009

The Case of the Cracked Fence

Just when our neighbours were about to put up a brand new fence between our properties a car rolled into our own new fence at the back of our house. We are destined to be forever surrounded by holes. Luckily the damage was restricted to one and a half panels and one post. They are still standing, if a little crookedly and with parts missing at the base, so Garden Girl and Garden Boy can't escape onto the road behind the house.

My Little Garden Helpers and I were inside making dinner when we heard the creaking and cracking of wood. Garden Girl came running to me asking 'What's that noise?'. At first I thought our neighbours had started to rip out the old fence, but when I went to look no panels had been removed. And then I saw the bowing, cracked fence at the back.

I went to investigate and a friendly postman, who had stopped to help, explained he had seen the car roll over the grass behind our house, stopped in its tracks by our fence. He gave me the registration number and I contacted the police. Meanwhile, a gentleman, who had rushed back to his house to freshen up before visiting his son in hospital, was phoning the police to report his car stolen. He had only nipped inside for five minutes and when he came back out his car was nowhere to be seen. In all his rush to get to hospital he hadn't put the handbrake on properly and his car had rolled down his drive, over the road, over the pavement and grass verge until it hit our fence.

The police visited us to explain what had happened and our neighbour called around to apologise and offer to pay for the fence but really we were just relieved it was an unfortunate accident, rather than an abandoned car. Garden Girl was thrilled to meet two policemen in full uniform, but was disappointed they didn't stay long enough for her to make them her a cup of tea in her play kitchen. Garden Boy was just a little bit annoyed his dinner was late.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Seddy the Scarecrow

Garden Boy threw straw everywhere, got himself all tangled up in wool and hid behind pieces of cloth. Garden Girl carefully cellotaped the straw in place and helped attach bits of cloth. A little bit of calm in a wind storm. I stretched my arms in two directions; one hand holding Garden Boy back from destroying other childrens works of art and the other tying scraps of material to a milk bottle. The result of this chaos was Seddy the Scarecrow.
Garden Dad was very impressed when he met Seddy on his return from work tonight and we put him outside to scare away the Pteredactyls, but when Garden Girl realised he might get wet he had to come inside again. He is a fair weather scarecrow. Currently he is keeping watch over our Dracaena. Maybe, if we are lucky, he will keep Garden Boy away and I will enjoy a day or two of not having to sweep up soil. One can only dream.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

A Grandparents Garden

We spent the final day of the bank holiday weekend visiting our Little Garden Helpers Grandparents. We took some of our many tomato plants with us to plant out. Garden Girl did an excellent job helping Grandad dig holes, water them in and feed them with chicken pellets. This is not anything I have thought to do before but apparently it does them a lot of good, so I may try it myself.

Luckily, Garden Boy was far more interested in splashing about in the watering can than investigating the chicken pellets. With the tomato plants happily basking in their new sunny home, Garden Girl joined in the splashing until they were standing in a washing up bowl and cracker tub, stamping their feet in 'puddles'. When these had been knocked over a sufficient enough times for Garden Girl to figure out how the hose pipe worked, she started to refill them herself. Very soon Garden Girl and Garden Boy were soaked through. They were entertained for hours and I enjoyed a glass of wine in the sunshine.

Need I say more about the joys of visiting a Grandparents garden?

Sunday 24 May 2009

Sun and Strawberries

What a lovely weekend! We have all been back in the garden, enjoying the sun, chasing butterflies, eating ice cream, re-potting plants, playing football and completing the rear raised beds. Garden Girl's finger is healing well so she was able to get her hands dirty and fill up some pots for the strawberry plants. Garden Boy joined in and I am very proud to announce that he managed to fill a whole plant pot with compost without even once trying to eat it. I wish I could remember what I had fed him for lunch.

Garden Dad has been working very hard at completing the rear raised bed but, as is often the way, the estimated couple of hours work has in reality been a couple of days. The structure is in place and he has started digging over the soil, so with a couple of evenings digging the two of us should have it ready to plant up next weekend. We are holding out to plant our peas next weekend as well, because our neighbours are replacing the fence and we wanted to avoid them getting trodden on.

Garden Girl has been particularly helpful pulling up weeds on the patio and the shadier side of the garden today. We have also managed to dig over the soil here ready to plant up with 'overflow'. It is the worst spot in the garden but rather than throw away those extra plants that don't fit in the raised beds we decided to give them a chance.

Meanwhile Garden Boy discovered that balls bounce. This occupied him for hours, the only trouble being that he has since been testing out if other things bounce when he picks them up and drops them. There has been a lot of crash, bang, splash and splat in our house.

The only real moment of distress was when Garden Girl spotted a strawberry that is starting to turn red and claimed it as her own. I (partially) jokingly said that all the strawberries were mine, to which Garden Dad replied they were all his, to which Garden Girl burst into tears because she just wanted the ones from the pot she had planted. Guilt ensued and the result is that we now all have a pot of our own to eat straight from the plant and all the rest must be brought inside to share. Garden Boy kept himself well and truly out of the argument; I strongly suspect he was secretly plotting to simply grab the fruit quietly and eat it all before the rest of us have a look in. But I am onto him.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

From Toe to Finger

Thank you all for the advice about wood pidgeons and caterpillars. There are a lot of cabbage whites flying around our garden. They look so beautiful fluttering around the herbs. We will make our way to the garden centre tomorrow and pick up some netting. Our brassicas have started to shoot through now, so I will get enough protection to cover those as well. My Little Garden Helpers haven't been to visit the fish in a little while and I could also do with some more compost, so it will be a worthwhile trip.

We haven't been out in the garden much this week, other than to run outside clapping our hands loudly evey time we see a wood pidgeon. Garden Boy enjoys this so much that, whenever he sees me open the patio doors, he has started turning in circles, while clapping his hands, until he gets dizzy and falls over. The trouble is that Garden Girl hasn't faired much better than the cabbages this week. Following her toe injury on Sunday she has gone on to do even more damage to her finger. Yesterday I received a call from playgroup asking me to collect Garden Girl early because her finger had been run over by a trolley. We subsequently spent two hours waiting in the doctors surgery only to be sent to A&E for an X-ray. She was extremely brave and and luckily came away with only a large plaster. A very small fracture was suspected but nothing showed on the X-ray, so we just have to keep the finger dry to let the skin heal. This means avoiding getting her hands too dirty, so we stayed indoors and played Doctors for most of the day.

Luckily we made a lot of headway on Saturday when Uncle M and Auntie H came to visit. Garden Girl and Garden Boy were not the least bit interested in gardening when they had Auntie H to play with; endlessly playing mechanic for a 'broken' bike, pushing Garden Girl around on a bike which is really too big and playing ball with Garden Boy. This did, however, leave me free to line, fill and plant up all the wall baskets Garden Dad had fixed to the garage wall for me, whilst Garden Dad and Uncle M dug up lots of soil in order to level the ground for the rear raised bed. Garden Dad believes he will have this ready to plant up on Saturday, so we will finally be able to plant our peas.

Hopefully the weather will hold and we will be able spend the whole bank holiday outdoors with gardening news to report next week, rather than injuries.

Monday 18 May 2009

Another Cabbage Catastrophe

The few cabbages that were lucky enough to survive the greenhouse slugs and Garden Girl knocking them over are facing new terrors outdoors. They have been pecked to pieces by wood pigeons, chewed to little more than stems by caterpillars and today the wind has been battering them almost to breaking point.

Garden Girl will be making a scarecrow next week to keep the birds away, but I haven't come up with a solution for the caterpillars. Garden Dad believes the wood pigeons were trying to eat the caterpillars; just a little over zealously, so keeping the birds away might encourage the caterpillars even more. If anyone has any good ideas we would be very grateful to hear them.

In the face of all this hardship I will be very pleased to have even just one surviving cabbage to harvest. If just one can make it to harvest time, I believe it will be the tastiest cabbage ever.

And Garden Girl's toe was feeling much better today. Apparently the blood hurts sometimes, but not enough to stop her walking, running, jumping and trying on my high heels. So back to normal I think.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Don't Toe Butt Me!

I just sat down next to Garden Girl to give her a kiss and was met with a very sorrowful 'Don't toe butt me,' as I accidentally brushed her toe with my elbow. The thing is she dropped a toy on her toe earlier and has since been propped up on pillows with her foot raised, looking like she believes she might lose her whole leg. She won't stand up to get back any toys Garden Boy takes from her, insisting that she needs to be carried because she hurt her toe.

To be fair it did bleed and required a plaster but whatever happened to a child's ability to do all sorts of damage to themselves and still really really want to climb the big climbing frame? As a result of Garden Girl's accident I have been helperless in the garden this afternoon so have had to plant the cucumbers into their growbags alone. I fear there will be tears when she realises, but she will have to make do with putting the remaining few in pots. I ran out of growbags not realising when I bought them they can only hold two.

Garden Dad informs me dinner is ready so I'm trotting off for some fish pie. I wonder if Garden Girl will be able to walk to the table?

Friday 15 May 2009

Wet Weather and a Shortage of Carrots

It has been very wet. This has its benefits. We haven't had to be outside watering the plants every evening but they have been drinking well and the garden has lovely green shoots all over the place.

Garden Girl and Garden Boy have also reaped the benefits of the wet weather, delighting in the opportunity to put on their wellies and splash, splash, splash in puddles. We went to the zoo today with Garden Friend and the puddles received far more attention than the animals.

Another benefit has been the chance to actually clean up a bit indoors; when the weather is nice it is so easy to justify leaving the ironing and making the most of the sun. But it was time to do some housework, so the rubber gloves replaced the gardening gloves and we all got cleaning. Even Garden Boy joined in cleaning the patio doors, until he decided it was far more fun to pull funny faces by squashing his nose and mouth against the glass. Old handprints have at least been replaced by fresh ones!

And then there was the much needed trip to the supermarket to finally restock our bare cupboards. Though I was in for a shock when I spotted the bare shelves in the vegetable section, discovering to my horror that there is a carrot shortage in Europe. We all love carrots, especially Garden Boy. Whatever will we do without them? As soon as we got home we headed outdoors to check on our carrots and thankfully they have finally started to grow so hopefully we will not suffer a localised shortage. I wonder if the shortage is a result of financial causes or some more menacing problem such as super sized carrot fly? I hope our crop survive. And, despite enjoying the rain for a few days, I hope the sun returns for the weekend. Its time to get back in the garden.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

A Tomato Muddle

Garden Dad reorganised the greenhouse and muddled up my tomatoes.

I had a few Saint Pierre tomatoes not yet repotted, along with all the tumbling toms waiting to go into hanging baskets. At the moment they look just the same, so now they are muddled up I can't tell the difference. The Saint Pierre variety are tall growing and will look rather peculiar in a hanging basket so I will have to make my best guess, but should you see funny looking hanging baskets in any future photos you know why.

Still Garden Dad had the best of intentions - he moved them all into a tray to help them retain water, so I musn't grumble too loudly. I'll just put him on watering duty for the rest of the week.

Monday 11 May 2009

Soldiers and Suntan Lotion

We haven't been out in the garden much over the past few days despite the lovely weather. My little garden helpers have had a full weekend of social events. They have been painting, sticking, visiting museums and entertaining friends. Then yesterday there were Roman Soldiers in the local park so we went to watch them march and practice their fighting techniques. Garden Boy enjoyed the sound of swords banging on shields and watching the horse trotting around with a Roman Soldier on its back. Garden Girl was afraid of the fierce looking soldiers but was thrilled with the opportunity to make her very own Roman Coin. I am going to bury it in the garden for her, along with some broken pots, so she can run her very own excavation.

When we did get out in the garden though it was mainly just to keep our vegetables watered, repot a few plants and dig over a little bit, so there is still quite a lot of planting to do. I am hoping for some good weather this week so Garden Dad and I can get the beds ready in the evenings. The little garden helpers will then be able to help plant the peas and remaining beans during the day. And if we are lucky we will get the rest of the hanging baskets fixed to the garage so they can help me plant the strawberries and tumbling tom tomatoes.

Garden Girl used the brief time in the garden this weekend to develop her own brand of suntan lotion for which Garden Boy proved a willing test subject.

As Garden Boy has very little hair we are always very careful to cover his head with Sun tan lotion, so Garden Girl was equally vigilant to cover his head. He happily let her cover his arms and legs but protested when she reached his back and most of it fell straight into his nappy. Having tested the product out though Garden Girl was satisfied it was safe to use on herself and while I found a clean nappy for Garden Boy she duly started on her arms...

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Painting Pots

Two of us turned 30 this week and it seems we have reached the age of cards containing jokes about aging. I don't feel like I have hit that milestone yet. Ok, we do ache a bit sometimes and have been known to fall asleep watching TV, but we are spring chickens with a whole lot more to learn about the world. Sometimes we feel not much older than our Little Garden Helpers; we want to go down the slide, play with playdough and jump in the ball pool just as much as they do.

Anyway I digress; what I wanted to show you were the lovely plant pots our Little Garden Helpers painted for Garden Dad's birthday. We bought some cheap and plain terracotta plant pots and some enamel paint and sat in the sunshine painting the pots. Garden Boy was happy to aim his paintbrush anywhere at all, including all over himself. This provided a challenge for me, as enamel paint won't just wash off like watercolours, so I had to keep a watchful eye and clean him up throughout the process. He had to stop when he decided he would like to paint the inside of his mouth orange. Garden Girl on the other hand, worried at the prospect of having permanently blue fingers, very carefully painted her pot all over in light blue and then very carefully painted over it all again in dark blue.

The result was a very pleasant afternoon painting and two lovely plant pots which now contain Red Robin tomato plants for Garden Dad to eat (though I daresay he will be compelled to share.)

And incase you are wondering, yes they did make me a birthday present; a lovely tin of homemade fudge, which yes, I have been compelled to share.

Monday 4 May 2009

Market Day

It was wet and drizzly today but I really wanted to make more headway in the garden. Our calendar is starting to look busy over the next few weeks and I was worried if I didn't plant some more vegetables it would all be getting a bit late. My Little Garden Helpers were eager despite the rain but eventually got wet and cold so went indoors with Garden Dad to build a market stall out of cardboard boxes.

It was quite nice to have the garden to myself. It was a little more peaceful than usual! Even in the rain the garden is a great place to reflect and relax. I also managed to sow lots of seeds; turnips, swede, perpetual spinach, kale, sprouting broccolli and also a second attempt at cabbage and Brussels Sprouts. I also decided to plant out the Dwarf French Beans I started in the greenhouse inbetween the squash I planted on Saturday that I didn't have room for in the Three Sisters bed. I figure if it works for the three sisters it could work with two sisters as well and I'm quite happy to experiment.

When it started to rain a bit too hard I pottered in the greenhouse, repotting the Red Robin tomato plants, searching for slugs and snails and cleaning up a bit. Then when I started to miss the noise I swapped with Garden Dad. While he drilled holes in the garage wall to hang baskets for the tumbling tom tomatoes and strawberries I went shopping at my Little Garden Helpers new market stall and was served up a lovely cup of pretend tea with a slice of chocolate cake to warm me up. What more could a Garden Mum ask for?

Sunday 3 May 2009

Two Sisters and a Painted Lady

I was very proud of our achievements yesterday. It was a lovely day, the whole family was out in the garden bright and early and we managed to plant up the Three Sisters bed. And then I realised my mistake...

According to Carol Klein, Squash, Sweetcorn and French Beans grow in beautiful harmony so I thought we would give it a go. Garden Girl and I made perfect mounds any mole would be proud of and in went the sweetcorn plants we had started off in the greenhouse. Then we placed the Painted Lady Beans close by so they could use the sweetcorn for support. The beans also add lots of lovely nitrogen to the soil which is good for the squash and sweetcorn. The bed was looking good.

I was happy, but a little dubious about how much support the sweetcorn was going to provide for the beans. The beans were already much taller than the sweetcorn but I figured Carol Klein knows what she is talking about so after lunch we popped the squash in the spaces between the mounds and it all looked great. The squash apparently benefits from the protection provided by the beans and sweetcorn and helps keep weeds at bay. I was still worried about the sweetcorn and beans though, so I thought I would play it safe and popped a short bamboo cane in nearby. If the sweetcorn grew well the beans would use this for support when the cane ran out and if it didn't then I would just have to tie some more cane to the top to make it taller.
How proud I was before it dawned on me

I was satisfied, but there was still a little niggle that wouldn't go away, so before I started to pot up the courgettes I went to check up the Three Sisters Planting method and then I realised. I had planted runner beans, not French Beans.

Oh dear; the runner beans would be too big for the sweetcorn. They had to be moved but the bed they needed to go into wasn't ready and I wasn't sure they would survive if I repotted them. Garden Dad came to the rescue and set about digging it over with the help of Garden Girl. Then out came the hammers and nails (Garden Girl has her own workbench and loves to use her toy tools to help Garden Dad) and the two of them built an A-Frame.

Garden Girl and Garden Dad to the rescue

I have to say at this point I was very impressed with the completed A-frame. Garden Dad and Garden Girl were justified in feeling chuffed with their work.
A new home for the Painted Ladies
With the A-Frame completed we dug up the Painted Lady Runner Beans and transferred them over. Then Garden Girl helped me pop some French Borlotti Beans in the gaps left in the Three Sisters bed.

I just hope the roots didn't get damaged in all the moving around, though we won't be short of runner beans this year as our neighbour has kindly given us some of hers that she had no space for.

All's well that ends well.