Turning those plans into reality. Or circles.

You'll know from earlier posts that I have great plans for our garden and that we plan to shape our lawn into a series of connecting circles, and that we've been thinking about that for a while. Well now - or in the next month or so - that's actually going to happen.  And now that it's on the horizon I have an even bigger plan so we can sequence the work and make the best use of the time off we have at the start of August.

I think the bigger plan scares MOH but I guess he also knows that's how I work, so that's how it is.  My even bigger plan is broken down into areas such as lawn circles, a new bike shed, the old vegetable beds, sleepers - that's a new addition - and the long awaited skip. Having the skip means it's a good chance to clear out both the shed and the greenhouse, as I've got that other challenge on my mind too. The plan is dependant on the weather though, as once we've cut where the circles will be we'll be carrying trugs of unwanted earth through the house, so keep your fingers crossed for dry weather!

This weekend we started to prepare where our old vegetable beds used to be. The beds themselves were rotting and redundant as we finally have an allotmentIt was only when we dismantled them that we realised how large this area was. And how much extra space we'd have here for our new flower bed. Maybe I'll finally get a much-longed for hydrangea, who knows?

It's in the part of the garden where last year we installed some trellis for the jasmine to clamber upon, to help the rhubarb. Now the rhubarb is at the allotment and doing well, although we're not picking any this year to allow it to recover from the move.  We added some flat roof slates in front of the trellis posts, so they and the fence behind them aren't sat in soil.  The roof slates were only £1.18 each from our local builders yard and were a cheap, and we hope effective way to protect the wood.

With the roof slates in place and the higher soil level evened out, we were finally able to plant out our little Christmas tree. Which is actually less little than it used to be. It's roots were growing through the pot and so I hope it's happy in its new unrestricted position.  I also planted some other plants I'd been collecting - some sedum from another part of the garden, a white berry-ed plant and some lavender which I picked up from the sale bin at the garden centre and a yellow flowering plant from my dad. So this is what that area currently looks like.

WORK IN PROGRESS

WORK IN PROGRESS

With the bigger plan coming to life we need to put more details into the sleepers part of the plan. Even before this weekend we knew that we'd need something to edge the beds and retain the soil. The half brick solution we have nearer the house wasn't going to work. We also wanted to add something bolder in the area under our laurel tree, and so after much searching for inspiration on the internet we settled on of using sleepers.

And of course I don't just want them to lay flat and square. That would be far too easy - although in my defence there will be some that are laid flat, but I can't promise square. The plan is to use the sleepers in front of the Christmas tree and other new plants in the photo above, and in front of the lilac which is to the left and under the small cherry tree, which is on the right of the jasmine trellis.

That's the bit with the sleepers laid mostly flat.

Under the laurel tree I want to have a curve of upturned sleepers. High enough in the middle to perch on, but low enough so it's not hard work to get the bikes over, as the new bike shed will be on the higher level. 

So with MOH on board, this weekend we've started doing some practical research. We've been online looking at sleepers and how to install them and at the garden centre we got up close to a sleeper to see just how heavy it was, and more importantly if we could lift one between us.  We think we could, just about...

OUR TEST SLEEPER WHICH WAS JUST ABOUT LIFTABLE

OUR TEST SLEEPER WHICH WAS JUST ABOUT LIFTABLE

We know for our plans we'll need to cut the sleepers to the lengths - and heights for the upturned ones - we want. And for that we'll need a pretty decent saw, and preferably not the manual sort. We'll also need to secure the sleepers to each other so they stay where we want them, so we've also been looking at which power tools we'll need. We definitely need the right kind of saw and most likely an electric screwdriver too.

With so many sleepers - the current estimate is more than ten, but less than twenty - having them pre-cut won't be cost effective, especially as we'll be fine tuning the plan as we go, which makes it even more important to have the right tools to hand. Hopefully that will help make sure things go smoothly.

One thing I did learn this weekend though - mentioning needing new power tools is the sure fire way to spark MOH's interest in a project! I fully expect when the sleeper project starts, despite being the master planner, to be demoted to 'gofer' when the power tools come out. Which is fine by me. I'll let you know how we get on!

Happy and Home at A Residence blog

Plaiting Garlic: it's fun, but not easy!

Last week I picked our garlic in the allotment. The bulbs were smaller than I'd hoped for, but still they were bigger than the single clove we'd planted in the autumn last year, so it felt like a small win. And I'll definitely be using them in the kitchen. 

I'd left them to dry - mud and all - in the conservatory; it gets relatively warm in there, is dry and there's often ventilation with the doors open. And they're drying out nicely.  But I needed to do something with them though so last night, as it was wet again, I decided to plait them.  

First things first, the mud and roots needed to go so crumbled the dried mud away and cut the roots with my gardeners knife. Rubbing a layer from the bulbs with my fingers to reveal mostly a glistening white papery skin was very satisfying.  

cleaning and trimming my home grown garlic

Next came plaiting. It wasn't so easy - and let's face it, I haven't plaited for a while. In the end I headed over to YouTube for some advice and got the hang, or sort of the hang of it partway through. Ah well, it's good practice for my onions, which are also on the small side. 

My garlic plaited, sort of!

It's not the tidiest, but it's doing the job and now my baby garlic are hanging on the dresser in the conservatory drying some more and waiting for me to use up the shop bought stuff. I think with the size of the cloves I'll be using that shaking technique for peeling garlic which seems a lot less fiddly.  

A string of garlic hanging in my conservatory

And I'll be hoping that next year's garlic and onions are a more usual sized. I've read recently that they do well on ground that's had potatoes in, so that's where they'll be next year. I was hoping to share a video of me plaiting it, but that wasn't pretty - so here I am adding raffia so I can hang it up. Maybe we'll get to a plaiting video in a couple of years!!

Happy and Home at A Residence blog

Fox-proofing my greenhouse

Before we left for France as well as getting as many plants as we could planted in the allotment - it took at least two hours just potting them out! - we also needed to rig something up to make my greenhouse fox proof.

This wasn't on a whim, but because I wanted to leave the door ajar but as our neighbour has four fox cubs living in her garden I knew I'd need some kind of barrier.  Looking around in MOH's shed I found the chicken wire I was looking for and some random bits of wood he'd sawed for, actually I'm not sure what for.  But they were both commandeered for my plan, along with our staple gun and MOH.

blocks of wood, chicken wire and a staple gun were all the tools i needed for my plan

I had a vague idea of what I wanted to achieve and MOH set about stapling the chicken wire to the blocks, which I hoped would act as a weight at the bottom of my chicken wire contraption.

Using the staple gun MOH attached the chicken wire to the wood
The wood acted as a weight for the bottom of my chicken wire contraption

And once it was in place, it looked as if it might work.

Now we needed to work out how much chicken wire we needed, we did that and added a bit to be safe,  MOH cut the wire and added a further block of wood to the top edge.  I'd hoped to be able to use the fixings of the greenhouse to attach it, but that wasn't to be as on closer inspection they were rivet-type things, not removable screws.

We measured the height of the greenhouse, added a bit more then used pliers to cut the chicken wire
Testing it out on our garden steps

And with it assembled, in true workman style MOH downed tools. Most likely with permission as I'd yet to ready the greenhouse for our holiday. I sowed some squash and courgette seeds, hoping they'd germinate while we were away and so far six of them have and if I'm lucky there'll be some more yet.  I also upended plastic bottles full of water into my greenhouse bed so that they wouldn't be entirely without water for the two weeks (if you try this, don't forget to pierce holes in the lids otherwise it won't be much use).

We were almost stumped as we tried to attach it to the top of the greenhouse door

With the greenhouse ready it was time to hang the chicken wire contraption. We stuck the ends of the chicken wire around the greenhouse fixings and used some extra wires to attach it to the left-hand side of the door.  On the right-hand side I hooked it over the handle twice and that seemed to secure it.

I added a couple of bricks to the blocks and then put pots in front of it to deter them further

To be extra sure - because I don't trust those pesky foxes - I put a couple of bricks on the wood at the bottom of the door and strategically placed some pots to make it awkward for them if they wanted to try and to provide and extra barricade and make it clear that there was really "nothing to see here."

Was I being overly cautious?

It's true the foxes (cubs or otherwise) hadn't tried to get into the greenhouse before, but they have increased their forays into our garden as they've grown. The advice to deter foxes is to make things tricky for them, and this certainly did that.  We're often in the garden of an evening and at weekends and our presence is a deterrent, with the garden empty for two weeks I had a feeling they'd be making use of the extra space so I wanted to be sure that my cucumbers in the greenhouse and other seedlings didn't come to any damage. Once you've grown plants from seed you have a feeling of responsibility, don't you?

So did it work?

That has to be a resounding yes! It was still in place when we got home on Saturday and there was plenty of evidence of the foxes in our garden, yes that and they'd started to dig small holes in the lawn - which MOH wasn't too impressed about. 

Infact it's worked so well it's still there!  It's a bit more awkward to get into the greenhouse than before but knowing I can leave the door open is well worth that.

Do you have trouble with wildlife in your garden? What measures do you take to deter them?