I am no gardener but I do want to get better at gardening. I have a large garden at home which fills me with dread every time I look at it.
My neighbour’s gardens all look so much better than mine.
Should you be in the same boat as me, please keep on reading. Together we might, given enough time, become competent gardeners. I’m not sure if you dream like me of owning a gorgeous garden with beautiful planted flower beds and colourful hanging baskets. I don’t desire a Chelsea Flower Show garden, just a nice garden. I thought to have a really good garden you needed access to closely guarded secrets that only the very gifted gardeners are allowed to know. Well it turns out all you need is the will to have a go and seek out good advice. The best place to get this information from is your local garden centre. Now whilst I’d admit I work for Baytree Garden Centre, I have the least green fingers across the entire site, you are more likely to find me buried in network cables and internet issues rather than with dirt under my finger nails, but lets have a go and see what happens!
Here goes then, I thought I’d start off with something quite seasonal since I am informed that we are about to hit the basket and bedding season.
I thought I would attempt a planted pot for my mum for Easter, nothing too showy but something I could be proud to say I’ve done.
I chose a fibre clay pot as they are easier to lift and move around as they are lighter than traditional ceramic pots, so I went with a slate effect pot for just under £18. Next I filled the pot with “Tub & Basket Compost” It cost me £4.99 but there was enough in the bag to do more. This is where I didn’t have a clue, what to plant. Sue, Baytree’s Plant Manager suggested I went for a Hebe Caledonia as Sue said it with give my mum all round colour. I chose the Hyacinths just because my mum likes them. The Primroses went in next followed by the Dwarf Daffodils or “Narcissi” if you want to impress your friends. At the back I planted some Trailing Ivy just to soften the edge of the container.
The whole thing came in at less than £35.00(don’t let mum know though)
My daughter came home from school the other week having done a project on healthy eating. I listened to her explaining what she had learnt as
I opened a bag of frozen chips and poured them into the fat fryer.
Spurred on by my recent success in creating an Easter planted container for my mum, plus feeling now that I really ought to be following Elizabeth’s advice on how to eat healthier, I thought this week I would have ago a growing my own potatoes to impress my daughter. I thought it would it be tricky as whilst I have a fairly large garden, in essence I’m lazy, the idea of spending hours digging , getting dirt under my finger nails and breaking my back didn’t fill me with joy. Then I read that you can grow potatoes in containers, no need for manual labour, result I thought.
I remember from science at school whenever you do an experiment you should have pictures and a written method so here goes, and for the health and safety conscious out there I can confirm that I wore goggles, gloves and a high-vis jacket.
Buy your seed potatoes, I went for Charlotte as I think they make great salad potatoes and it ticks the healthy eating box too. They weren’t expensive either at only £2.99 for the pack from Baytree. I rushed home thinking great I’ll plant these in some soil and in a few months I’ll have potatoes coming out of my ears. No you have to “Chitt” them first. Chitting turns out to be the process of getting the potatoes to start forming shoots, why they don’t call it shooting I don’t know. Actually on second thoughts telling people you’re shooting potatoes would probably land you in a lot of trouble.
Chitt your potatoes by placing them in an egg box one potato in each section and leave them in a cool room with plenty of natural light. I’m leaving them for a couple of weeks to form shoots. That’s as far as I’ve been able to get. I’ve put my potatoes on the window sill in my spare room. Everyone who visits the house is given a guided tour of my chitting potatoes whether they want a tour or not.
Following advice from Graham at Baytree I’ve bought some Multi -purpose compost with added John Innes, I have know idea who John Innes is and what he is doing in a bag of compost but Graham says it’s the best compost to use.
Whilst my Charlotte potatoes are chitting like true prize winning champions in the upstairs back room I needed something to do this week.
What about a Bonsai tree, surely they can’t be that hard to tackle. No, it needs to be something like my potato project where I am going to get something back from my considerable £2.99 investment. Fruit was the answer. I would grow some bananas. Well it turns out bananas don’t grow that well in Quadring. However apples do. I’d be an apple grower and whatever was left over from the harvest would be turned into a fine homebrew cider, there was no downside I could see.
As I have admitted previously I have a medical condition, whenever I try to tackle any type of physical exercise, I find I get very hot, sometimes sweaty, and almost always need a sit down afterwards. It can take me weeks to recover. My wife doesn’t recognise my serious medical condition. Despite of my affliction I decided that the perfect place to plant my “Katy” apple tree was right outside the back door. Sue, the plant manager at Baytree, advised me that the best place to plant my tree is somewhere sunny, sheltered and with well-draining soil. Perfect right outside the backdoor it is then, well more like the bottom of the garden it is then. Technically it’s outside the back door!
I made sure again that I was wearing the correct clothing for the job plus a whistle in case I got into difficulties. I also telephoned my mum to let her know I was in the garden, she does tend to worry. After literally minutes of heavy toil the hole for the apple tree was dug. I put the speed and quality of the hole down to my powerful manly physique. The hole was a little deeper that the pot the apple tree came in and about twice as wide. Sue also told me to sprinkle some “Mycorrhizal fungi” over the roots and into the bottom of the hole. As final tip she advised me to push the tree stake into the hole away from the tree roots. That would stop the stake from damaging the roots.
After a congratulatory cup of tea, I back filled the soil around the roots and firmed it in by stepping on the soil around the tree. For anyone watching, I looked like a pro gardener.
Since Peter Rabbit was released in the cinema just over a week ago both my wife and daughter have been asking me to take
them to see the new film. Well reluctantly I said yes and resigned myself to 90 minutes of Peter Rabbit animated drudgery.
However, it turns out that Peter Rabbit is actually a very good film which I really enjoyed.
Walking out of the cinema Elizabeth asked if we could have a small vegetable garden just like Mr McGregor in the film.
Since I was going to plant my chitting potatoes in a container I could do exactly the same with the new veg garden. Carrots and radishes where top of Elizabeth’s planting list, for that’s what Peter Rabbit likes to eat. My wife Claire said she didn’t mind what we grew but if the container was going to be near the house then it had to be a nice looking.
I managed to source some timber decking off cuts which I would cut to size and assemble. For a job like this I needed one of those leather tool belts. I filled each pocket and loop with every tool, screw, and nail that I could find. I thought I looked like a highly skilled professional but my wife said I looked like a wally.
With my DIY skills snubbed I headed off to Baytree for both the container and the veg plants. We went for Atlas carrots as Elizabeth liked their round shape and they’d be easy to pick and eat, Cherry Belle radishes, I don’t know why because none of us like radishes, and finally Cosmic Lettuce. The wooden “Bisbrooke Veggie Planter” cost £79, it’s really good size and it fulfilled the criteria of looking nice as set out by my wife. My font of all knowledge Sue told me to fill the container with Jacks Magic compost mixed with some organic matter. (I suited up for that bit as you can’t be too careful). Sue also said to put some polystyrene in the bottom of the planter to help with drainage and the weight of the planter. I planted the carrots first following the instructions on the label. The radishes went in next in a pretty similar way, same depth and distance apart as the carrots. Finally our salad crop went in about 5cm deep and 20cm apart. Job jobbed. Later that night when my wife had gone to bed, I put the tool belt back on, wally my ****.
During my recent foray into the dark art of gardening I have learnt several key lessons.
Number 1: Don’t garden in the rain, you’ll get wet.
Number 2: Make sure no one is watching you work. They will laugh at you when you fall over in the mud. Mud I must add that would swallow up lesser men.
My wife says she did not laugh whilst watching my life threatening incident and denies that it was her who posted the video to youtube. However if the clip does manage to find its way onto “You’ve Been Framed” I will of course seek my £250. Following my near death experience I wrote a very strongly worded letter to my local MP demanding that he take action against the woeful state of the mud in my garden. Fortunately during this time I was also telephoned by Lydia from a “No-Win No-Fee” company who told me I had a solid case.
I’d spied these “Carpet of Colour” Summer Bulb boxes at Baytree on my last visit which, were only £5.99 on special offer. They were essentially a box full of summer flowering bulbs of different varieties. Scatter and plant that was to be my next covert gardening mission.
Anyway safe in the knowledge that I would receive 100% of the compensation owed which I was sure would just be a legal formality I decided I could afford to risk a brief incursion into the garden. I can tell you now, Bear Grylls would have been proud of me. I even made sure I had some Kendal Mint Cake should I get into difficulties.
Before I started I knew I needed the right tool for the job, I needed one of those small spades. Sarah in Bulbland told me they are called trowels. Anyway I bought a trowel. Under the cover of darkness I followed the instructions on the box. I scattered the bulbs on the ground and where they came to rest was where I planted them.
Unknown to me my neighbours had reported seeing torchlights in the garden. The Police were very understanding once I have explained what I was doing. Perhaps looking like a cat burglar in the dead of night was not such a good thing. However it will be a long time before my wife lets me forget this night! A few days later I received a letter from my MP assuring me the mud in my garden would be dealt with following Brexit.
My favourite chair at home is set up in such a way that I have the perfect angle for my televisual pleasure whilst affording easy access for the placement
of hot or at the weekend cold alcoholic beverages.
To my left is a very large patio door which looks out over my new Katy apple tree and my daughters Peter Rabbit inspired vegetable garden.
Unfortunately the lawn in between these two oases looks more like a scene from a war zone. Only the other week I discovered a channel 5 news crew in my garden.
They were filming a new documentary, due to budget restrictions they’d ended up in my garden. The director said it had the look of a war ravaged garden without
the danger of unexploded ordnance.
My wife told me in no uncertain terms that the lawn needed sorting out as she would not entertain any further news crews. For a job like this I obviously consulted the Lawn Oracle, Dean at Baytree. He did advise me to contact the police beforehand to avoid another incident like last week. I conducted a thorough and comprehensive survey of my lawn and created pie charts and graphs which I presented to Claire later that evening. My survey had revealed the shocking truth that my lawn was more moss than grass. Dean told me to spread Neudorff’s Lawn Cleanse over my lawn. This would kill the moss and feed the grass for up to 100 days. My excitement rose as we discussed lawn spreaders, I knew even if I didn’t need one I had to have one!
The next stage of the process was enjoyable but didn’t start well. Claire had discovered muddy footprints on the kitchen floor whilst I filled my watering can, a red faced Claire ordered me back to Baytree to purchase a new hose pipe. I loved my new hosepipe with variable nozzle spray head. I pretended I was James Bond, licenced to slightly moisten. Out came Little Nell my new lawn spreader, I spread Gro- Sure Smart Grass Seed at 30g per square metre to my barren lawn. It’s not smart like a phone, it won’t let you text, but it does grow virtually anywhere and the birds don’t like the taste of the seed so they won’t eat it.
I haven’t watered the lawn since as it has rained everyday.
It’s stopped raining and we are in the middle of a ruddy heat wave. I take no delight in telling you that I’m outraged with the BBC weather forecasters.
So angry in fact that I have been forced to take drastic action, I have created a self-help group for “dedicated, responsible, individual, people, sprinkling”
or DRIPS for short. We meet for the very first time on Thursday morning in my local village hall. I expect turn out to be huge following my extensive poster
campaign in the post office. One day there could be drips in every town.
The reason for forming “DRIPS” was simple, I needed to ensure I could survive this drought and still keep my lawn healthy. I had two trains of thought, should I purchase one of those Water Butts things or an automated watering system. Surely it can’t be that hard to water a lawn without standing there. However I do enjoy pretending to be James Bond whilst watering, well you have to pass the time somehow.
I went for both options though I had other ideas for the Water Butt. I need a vessel to ferment my anticipated harvest of cider making Katy apples in and ideally dispense from. Step forward the Ward 210 litre slim line water butt. I told Dean my garden sundries guru at Baytree about “Drips” and invited him to be the first guest speaker. I think he was quite honoured, though he did say he would be busy that day tiding his sock drawer.
Anyhow, Gardena make a neat garden sprinkler, the polo. You attached your hose to one end, turn the taps on and hey presto you have a sprinkler which oscillates from side to side. My dog loved it. It was good but automation was what I craved, my neighbour is always bragging about his garden and all of the latest labour saving devices he’s bought, however he doesn’t have an automated watering system. Let the games begin.
Gardena also make an electronic timer which controls the sprinkler, set the start time, watering durations and days you want it to come on, mine cost £35 from Baytree. When I was setting the system up I deliberately talked quite loudly to Claire about the timer and how great it was. I then headed indoors and watched closely from the upstairs window. I didn’t have to wait long before Lionel my neighbour started peering over the fence. 23.2 seconds, one nil to me!
My wife and I have been together for nearly 20 years and we both felt that we needed to re-introduce some spice back into our lives.
Following some very hands on guidance from Sue at Baytree this week I’ve learnt to not feel embarrassed or inadequate about the size of my instrument.
Without this one on one training on how to use my tool to greater effect, I think I would still be nervously fumbling around in the dark trying to put
it where it really shouldn’t go.
Sue taught me that size does matter and this case having a smaller one helps to get the seed to the right place more effectively. Sue also showed me how to introduce a gentle flourish once fully inside. Timing is everything with this operation of course you can just go poking around if the times not right as they won’t appreciate it.
Many years ago I had a go a growing my own chilli pepper plants on the kitchen window sill, unfortunately in ended in disaster. I had managed to grow a beautiful looking plant for which I was only able to harvest one tiny Chilli from. This was the moment when my burgeoning gardening interest was snubbed out! Nearly 20 years later I feel ready to tackle growing Chilli Peppers once more and re-introduce some spice back into mine and my wife’s life. You see it turns out that what I had done wrong was to not help stimulate the plant in the right way. It would seem that some plants find it harder to reproduce than others. I needed to become like Professor Robert Winston, I would give IVF to plants.
You have to wait for the flowers to open on the Chilli plant as they struggle to pollinate indoors. Normally bees would do this job but they don’t know how to ring the doorbell be invited in. Because of their lack on domestication my Chilli’s failed. Therefore if you take a small soft paint brush and brush the pollen gently from one flower to another you fertilise the plant and hey presto a few weeks later you have a litter of little Chilli’s waiting to be picked.
It is the very act that I performed this week which I think will finally put to bed the ghosts of 20 years ago. My wife says I’m incredible and she only wishes I had done it earlier in our relationship
Bedding, what the hell is bedding? I always thought it was something you slept under so when people talk about it, I always look at them slightly bemused.
Are they trying to proposition me? You can’t be too careful especially in this day and age and it’s always the ones you’d never expect who bump you off.
A bit like Mr Jones at number 43, who’s developed a language of his very own it’s a cross between a really strong Norfolk accent and a salty sea dog pirate.
With his nicotine stained beard and overcoat he is a site to behold. I was in my local shop getting some milk when in walked Mr Jones and grumbled something
to me which went along the lines of “You be needing teachin’s …….argh” .
He grabbed my arm tightly and led me to his house, 4 pints of milk in tow. I thought if I’m not back soon Claire my wife would raise the alarm.
What I didn’t know at the time was that she was on the phone to her sister. These calls go on for days! Before I knew it I was at Mr Jones house. “Arrg we here” he said, as I stepped into his house. He then led me to his garden. A smile crept across Mr Jones face as he slowly walked me round the garden.
Bedding plants he explained come in all different colours, shapes and varieties. He had Begonias, Fuchsias, Geraniums, etc. “All from the Baytree” he muttered. I didn’t know what any of them where so I took his word for it. He began to explain how he had managed to make such an incredible display of colour. “You see boy, it’s all about the feed”. I feared for my life again, did he bury his victims in the garden to feed his plants? Was I going to be next?
“Miracle Gro Slow Release me lover” he said. It turns out that he mixes it with the compost he plants his bedding into. The slow release formula feeds his plants for about 6 months. He pointed out that in his containers he also adds Gardman water retaining gel.
We walked back into the kitchen where he asked if I wanted a cup of tea. I agreed and went to make it “Don’t touch me teapot lad” His bellow froze me in an instant. “It’s ott”. On reflection I think Mr Jones had only dragged me to his house because he had run out of milk.
“This weekend we are going to have a garden party” said my wife. My orders where to ensure the garden looked presentable and that I didn’t poison
anyone with my cooking.
With her orders still ringing in my ears a plan began to formulate, I wasn’t worried about the garden it was the comments Claire made around the food that had sparked a new and glorious idea. Operation Burnt Burger was born. I have been hankering after one of those fancy gas barbecues for ages you know the ones that make you look like a barbecue King. Claire had never been keen on me getting one as she felt it wouldn’t take long before I blew myself up. Over the bank holiday weekend I managed to convince Claire to visit Baytree with me as they had a Barbecue demonstration going on. I kept dropping hints about how cool they were and just think how great it would be if we had one say for an upcoming party in the garden. Operation Burnt Burger had worked as she agreed to a new barbecue. It was like all my Christmas’s and Birthday’s had come at once.
Step forward Quadring’s newly anointed Barbecue King. I’m fully expecting a BBC news team to cover my inaugural event, I’ll agree but only if Fiona Bruce presents. Her blend of style and charisma are very similar to my own. I know what you’re thinking, what barbecue did you go for. Well I, following some incredible man to man advice from Louis in Baytree’s Barbecue department opted for a Grill Stream 4 Burner Gourmet Barbeque. I could have gone for a 6 burner one but I didn’t want to appear to be ostentatious. Too be fair the choice they had was amazing.
Louis explained how the Grillsteam technology seals in the flavour and prevents fat from causing the burners to scorch your sausages. No one wants a scorched sausage. Every card carrying barbecueist over time has watched many a promising sausage become cremated. Anyhow the party was great, Claire looked stunning and I was magnificent as the chef even if I say so myself. I even went out and bought one of those tall chef’s hats just so I looked the part. I left the vegetable based nibbles for Claire to sort out. I guess it’s just that caveman instinct for man to burn meat.
As yet I have not heard of any direct or indirect cases of food poisoning from our guests. However Fiona wasn’t on the telly this morning?
Last week I hosted Quadring’s premier social event in my back garden. I can officially report that no one suffered any ill effects from my cooking including
Her Royal Highness Fiona the BBC Bruce.
Whilst tidying up following the party Claire my wife told me that one of our guests who shall remain nameless, let’s just say their name rhymes with Truce, said “that the garden looked okay but it really needed a water feature!” Claire was worried that since this comment had come from such an esteemed guest; the personification of country style and grace, her subscription to Horse and Hound would be in jeopardy Well you only have to watch Mrs Truce on the antiques roadshow to see why. A choice word from Mrs ‘Truce’ about our lack of water featurette and it could all be over.
Did she mean a large palace of Versailles fountain, a tasteful nude with a pair of large jugs, water jugs? Why in ancient times it was deemed necessary to strip off naked to carry water I’ll never know. How would we power our Horse and Hound subscription saving water feature. Given my DIY inadequacies the thought of mixing live electrical wires and water was a task I felt not fully ready to tackle. That’s before you then deal with the real elephant in the room or in the garden so to speak. The thought of digging a hole for hours then lining the hole and getting said water feature to work brings me out in a cold sweat just thinking about it.
There was only once course of action I could see and that was to sell the house and move out. In time Claire could then apply for a new subscription to Horse and Hound under her maiden name from our new address. In the dark days that followed we could not see a way to solve our problem until I had a chance encounter with Will at Baytree who said that they had just taken delivery of a range of solar powered water features. I could have kissed him but Claire was kissing him first.
I can with great pride announce that our solar powered water feature looks beautiful in the centre of our garden, a tasteful shallow bowl upon a Corinthian plinth, no digging, no wires, no stress and Mrs Truce says it looks wonderful. More importantly thought the latest copy of Horse and Hound arrived through the letter box this morning. Happiness and harmony, that’s what counts in a marriage.
This week in my own garden I was confronted by a killer beast. A beast so terrible he threatens to destroy what I have worked so hard for. His vicious sharp teeth and red glowing eyes would send lesser men running. I am of course referring to next doors cat – Tiddles.
Tiddles has decided that my veg bed is in fact his toilet and that no amount of discouragement is going to change neither his mind or his habits.
Ladies and gentlemen with a heavy heart I must declare that war has broken out in Quadring this week.
The trouble with Tiddles is he prefers to do his business at night under the cover of darkness with the evidence for all to see visible the following morning. I tried to convince my wife to allow me to sit up all night with a super soaker in hand ready to humanly, but also quite amusingly discourage Tiddles, but Claire quite politely reminded me that the last time I stayed up late working in the garden; the police were called as the neighbours thought I was a burglar. This was a fair point but she didn’t seem to have any objections to the use of a super soaker water blaster, 1.3litres of pure watering power. Ask Elizabeth my daughter; she’s lost many a water fight to the awesome power of this WMD(weapon of mass drenching). Tensions reached breaking point over the weekend when he introduced his gang of biker cats to my potato patch. My veg bed had become the hottest ticket in town for trouble making cats. I felt Tiddles was wiping my nose in it and succeeding.
I had to take matters into my own hands. After a quick flick through the yellow pages for Hitmen on a budget I had drawn a blank. So I picked up the telephone and rang the only person I knew who could possibly help. No not the Equaliser but Dean at Baytree. With my voice trembling I explained to Dean how this furry four legged menace and his gang had brought terror to my garden and that an Englishman’s home is his castle and must be defended. Step forward Dean’s recommendation of Neurdoff’s Super Strength Cat Repellent. Not normal strength but super strength. After a liberal sprinkling of these natural granules on my potato bed Tiddles and his gang have moved on, tails between their legs.
Dean we the people of Quadring salute you!
For the first time last week I experienced an event I can barely talk about but in the interests of self-help therapy I feel I need to share my life changing incident.
It was a normal Sunday night my wife was downstairs watching Countryfile, for those of you unfamiliar with Countryfile it’s a Sunday night show where presenters feature stories from rural communities along the lines of “And tonight on Countryfile we’ll be looking at sheep’s bottoms”.
Anyway as I’m not a fan of sheep’s bottoms I always take that as my cue to take my Sunday night bath. I had washed and was now well into the relaxation phase when I’d realised that I was in fact wedged in the bath. Twenty minutes later my body was still wedged however, I now looked like a soggy fat and slightly hairy prune.
It would seem somehow I had managed to form a vacuum between my back and the bath. My first course of action was to use my toes to pull on the plug chain therefore draining the bath. Ten minutes later the water had fully drained and now not only did I have the skin of an overripe prune but also stage 1hypothermia.
With voice weakening I managed to let out a cry for help, it may well have been several cries before my fading voice was heard above the sound of bleating sheep.
Claire my wife was first to discover me and rather than show compassion for a man who was obviously in distress, she ran out of the bathroom, fetched her phone and took a photo of me. I felt defiled.
At this stage now I was becoming delirious. Claire managed to slide her hand down my back breaking the vacuum seal. I was free at last.
During the darkest hours of my ordeal I had made a promise to myself to exercise more. The following morning I awoke early, glad to be alive and headed out into the garden. I was going to do manual labour. My task today was to edge the lawn and define my newly planted flower borders.
I grabbed my car keys headed down to Baytree and purchased myself a new Wilkinson Sword Lawn Edger. On returning home I headed straight into the garden gleaming stainless steel tool in hand. Slowly at first I began to work the tool into the ground. Pleased with the 2 metre progress I‘d made I decided to call it a day, well Rome wasn’t built in a day.
All I need now is a bath!
This week I noticed that my Katy apple tree, the one that I planted a few months ago in the hope of brewing award winning cider had started dropping its small but perfectly formed apples onto my lawn. Was my tree dying?
I couldn’t take my apple to A&E because it would take too long to dig it out of the ground, then there’s the problem of transporting the patient safely. It then hit occurred to me, call 111. They’d know what to do with my haemorrhaging apple tree.
Their first question was “Is the patient breathing” “no” I replied. “Is the patient responsive” no was my answer. “How old is the patient”, “about 2 years old” I said. “What’s the patients’ name” “Katy” I said. “Give me your address I’ll get an ambulance sent out to you”. “Is Katy normally a healthy child” the operator asked me. “No Katy’s an apple tree”. The line went dead
I then googled Baytree Garden Centre’s telephone number to speak to Sue the Plant Manager maybe she could help.
Plant Doctor Sue was able to allay my fears and explain that Katy was suffering from June drop and that it was perfectly natural for this to happen. The down side to this is come harvest time I will in fact only have one apple with which to make cider from.
Anyway back to the main story for which I am sure I am not alone in suffering from – WEEDS. They are everywhere at the moment, my paths, my newly planted borders and my veg patch are infested with them.
What I once thought looked like the beginnings of a nice garden now looks like a scene from the Triffids. For those of you unfamiliar with the Triffids they were huge man eating plants that featured in a TV show back in the 1980’s.
Baytree’s resident weed & pest specialist consultant Mr Dean Coad prescribed me a course of Neodorff Fast Acting Weed killer which does not contain Glyphosate but only naturally occurring organic compounds which would be child, pet and bee safe once applied and dried. Mr Coad explained how important it was to look after the bees in the garden.
The best thing though is because it’s organic I can control the weeds in my raised veg bed without fear of poisoning anyone.
Anyhow I need to get on and call Securicor to arrange 24 hour security for my last remaining apple. Other security firms are available.
All has been relatively calm in the garden this week, I haven’t been arrested, hung up on or kidnapped which in my opinion is a quiet week for me.
It has been several weeks now since I gave my lawn a bit of a once over and following advice from Dean at Baytree I embarked on giving the lawn a bit of a top up feed and watering. I used my lawn spreader to sprinkle my lawn feed and my state of the art Gardena automatic watering system to water the feed into the garden. It was at this point where I began to feel like maybe I was becoming a gardener albeit a very junior ranking one but a gardener none the less.
Whilst I was putting my gardening equipment away in the shed I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. It was a great big Laurel bush and it looked like it needed a right good trim. Since it was Claire who planted it and possession is nine tenths of the law I asked her to tackle it whilst I made a very deserved cup of tea. Well she began cutting off the wayward growth and managed to get it looking tidy after only few minutes. Just to the side of her now perfectly manicured bush was a beautiful display of rose flowers. It must have been growing there silently waiting for its moment to step into the spotlight. Claire first planted her Laurel bush by the side of the shed nearly 15 years ago but none of us could remember planting a rose bush. Using higher level reasoning I deduced that the roses in fact had originated from our neighbours. Claire said it was obvious they were George’s roses because you could see how the plant had obviously grown over the top of our fence.
The sweet scented roses looked and smelt amazing. In my mind there was only one thing to do. I would pretend they were mine and enter them into Baytree’s National Rose Festival. It’s kind of a celebration of roses and their growers which also importantly has a competition for the UK’s prettiest rose with a first prize of £1000. In the interests of sexual equality I thought I would enter into Baytree’s Rose Queen competition as well. That way if I won I’d have the clean sweep. Anyhow I’ve always thought I‘d look fab in a pair of killer heals. I’ll go for red ones to match the roses. Where has Claire left her ladyshave?
On Thursday my daughter Elizabeth came bursting through the door shouting “daddy, daddy you’ve got to help, you’ve got to help”. She started to explain in that way only children can were they start half way through a sentence and expect you to understand what they’re talking about.
Elizabeth was very worried about bees. Not just one bee, but all bees.
Obviously I tried my best to look concerned and I promised I would help her save the bees. I said “let’s create a poster to tell everyone about the worlds bees”, that way I could leave her drawing in the other room whilst I watched England v Belgium.
During the half time break I googled “Bees” and what I discovered shocked me. Over the last 5 years the bee population has fallen by a 1/3 and if this decline continues according to Sir David of the Blue Planet Attenborough we would in fact only have four years left to live. This would mean that we wouldn’t be able to defend our world cup victory in four years’ time. I guess the upside to this would be we’d go down in history as undefeated World Cup Champions. On the downside no one would know except for Wikipedia because they know everything.
I called out to Elizabeth. I said “put down your pen, the time for words is over, now is the time for action”. I felt like Hugh Grant in Love Actually when he tells the American President we won’t be bullied anymore. “Daddy, have you had too much beer” asked Elizabeth.
With the wind knocked out of my sails. I grabbed hold of Elizabeth’s hand and lead her out into the garden. I said “let’s make a conservation area”.
Now this has to be the easiest spot of gardening I have ever done. I pointed to a patch of ground at the bottom of the garden and said “let’s just leave that area alone and let the bees live there”.
I rushed back into the house and grabbed a packet of wildflower seeds that I’d got free with a copy of woman’s weekly, other magazines are available. It was for my wife, she was poorly that day.
Elizabeth scattered the seeds over our new conservation area and hay presto I had single-handedly saved the worlds bees from extinction.
I shall await my Nobel Prize, I’m sure it will arrive through the post anytime now.
Many many moons ago right at the beginning of my journey into gardening I decided to have a go at growing my own potatoes. I’d picked the variety Charlotte as Graham from Baytree had advised me that they were easy to grow and disease resistant.
Stage one involved chitting my potatoes in an old egg box in my back bedroom. Stage two saw me plant my fully chitted potatoes into a large pot filled with Westland’s Multipurpose Compost with added John Innes.
Fast forward 3 months and my potatoes had gone into labour; their contractions where roughly one minute apart and considering they hadn’t had any gas and air they were doing quite well.
Okay I thought, what to do now is not to panic I must remain calm in order to successfully birth my first crop of potatoes. I’m not going to lose any potatoes on my watch.
Anyhow after putting my gloves and surgical mask on I was ready for the final push.
Stage three was tense it began with me gently placing my hands in the soil and feeling around for my potatoes. I didn’t have to fumble about in the soil for long before I realised I may have double quadruplets.
I asked Claire my wife to mop the sweat from my brow it was all getting very serious. With my heart thumping out of my chest I gently tipped the pot containing my potatoes onto a small plastic birthing sheet to my side.
I carefully and sensitively wiped the loose soil away to reveal a good dozen perfectly formed beautiful potatoes. A small tear rolled down my cheek. Choking back further tears I asked Claire to pass me a pair of scissors so that I could cut each of the umbilical cords. Clearly moved by the emotion of the occasion Claire gave me a sympathetic smile.
I placed my new born potatoes in a small warm towel like they do in John Wayne films and carried them into the house.
Unfortunately despite my best efforts we lost the potatoes mother, I think the stress of the labour was just too much for her. I said a few kind words about her and then ceremoniously placed her on the compost heap a bit like when Luke Skywalker placed Darth Vader onto the funeral pyre in Return of the Jedi.
With my new midwifery skills and with the latest advances in technology, I am hoping to birth the other two potato plants tomorrow. Wish me luck.
Six or seven weeks ago during my “grow your own fruit and vegetables period” I planted some cherry tomatoes with my daughter Elizabeth and my wife Claire. To make it interesting we placed a bet on whose tomato plant would grow the tallest and whose tomato plant would produce the most fruit.
Well I can proudly announce that I won both contests, it’s not about the winning it’s about the taking part. However for me it was all about the winning!
Below I shall outline my winning plan. These top secret tips are for your eyes only. Please do not let them to fall into the wrong hands Mr Ward at number 23 would kill for these tips.
You have to start with a good quality tomato plant, and suffice to say the best place to buy one from is from a local garden centre.
I chose Sweet Million as my preferred variety following extensive discussions with Graham, Baytree’s Mr Botanist. I bought a large growbag as well as a bag of multi-purpose compost. I cut a round hole into the grow bag in which I then inserted a tomato pot which I found at a car boot sale for 50p. For those of you unfamiliar with a tomato pot it’s just a pot with no base, in other words a tube. Anyhow I filled the tomato pot with the multi-purpose compost. I then planted my tomato plant into the soil ensuring that the support cane was well away from the roots of the plant. After that I gave Derek my tomato plant a good watering mixed with tomato feed to welcome him into his new home.
I regularly watered him so that the soil was moist but not soggy. When Derek’s first truss of flowers appeared I began to feed him with ‘Tomorite’. As he grew taller I tied him gently against the support cane. Once four sets of flowered trusses had formed I removed the top of the plant just above that fourth truss.
Each day you could see Derek working hard to produce the best fruit he could. Slowly but surely the flowers began to form little green balls. At this point it was really important to keep feeding Derek though I was mindful to not overfeed or overwater him as I didn’t want my tomato crop to split as they ripened.
As the sun became hotter I kept watering Derek in the morning and in the evening being careful to water the base of the plant and not his leaves. Well harvest time has arrived and I am dead proud of Derek my award winning tomato.
After many months of dreaming about my family summer holiday my two weeks in the sun had finally arrived.
Unfortunately past family holidays have descended into utter chaos after only a few hours. There is the usual argument as to whether I’m driving the right way, I can confirm I was. Then there’s the debate as to whether I’ve left the cooker on, again I can confirm I didn’t.
This year though I was more anxious than before as now I have a young garden to worry about. How would it cope without me around? Would it be like dropping my daughter off to playschool and watching her little face crumple as I drive off into the distance?
My garden had never been left on its own for more than a few days. I knew it wouldn’t throw a party and crash my neighbour’s car, but I did know that after only a few weeks away most of my plants would either be dead or dying.
I desperately needed a plan of action which did not involve my nosey neighbour Lionel traipsing through my garden under the guise of “I’m only too glad to help”. The issue was I had no idea what to do or what needed doing. Step forward Sue, Baytree’s plant area manager: Below is mine, well actually Sue’s plant holiday plan.I moved most of my container plants to a shady spot in the garden, fortunately most of the pots weren’t that bad too move. Under each pot I put a special saucer which I filled with water to irrigate the plants whilst way.
In the pots that were just too big to move I inserted a couple irrigation spikes. They’re brilliant, you screw a normal plastic bottle filled with water into one end then turn upside down and drive the spike into the soil of your pot. The water in the bottle then slowly leaks into the soil gently watering the plant.
Since I had started dead heading my roses last week, Sue’s advice was to continue dead heading the remaining flowering plants in my garden. Sue said this would promote the production of more flowers whilst way.
On my return what I found was incredible, there was a 200ft bean stalk which had wrapped itself around my house and the top of the bean stalk was way up in the clouds. That’s the last time I’m swapping my cow for a bag of magic beans. It’s a good job Dean at Baytree was able to sell me a box of SBK tree stump killer to get rid of it.
I was asked the other day from a fellow gardener if I’d picked out my winter veg yet.
I thought he was joking as we are in the middle of one of the finest summers certainly I have ever experienced. What should I say? However rather than say yes or no I asked Bill if he had started preparing the soil for his veg.
Bill paused for what seemed like and age. “Well I’ve started enriching the soil ready for my over winter veg” Bill said. Happy that he wasn’t pulling my leg I replied “No I plan on getting started this week I’ve been on holiday and I’ve just got back”. I then rushed inside the house and rang my gardening guru Sue from Baytree.
Sue confirmed that yes I should be getting ready to plant my winter veg and more importantly she gave me advice on what I needed to do with the soil. The soil at the bottom of my garden in the old veg beds resembles a dried up river bed covered in dead weeds. Before I could plant my Broccoli, Onions and Cabbages these beds needed sorting.
Fortunately my old veg beds are not too big they’re about 6ft x 6ft however it took most of the morning to dig the soil over with a fork and remove the weeds. To celebrate the fact that I had successfully performed manual labour I retired to the house for a much needed rest. Columbo was on the TV so I had to watch it, who doesn’t like a bit of “just one more question mam”. By the time Columbo had finished it was too late to start digging again. Never mind there is always tomorrow I thought.
It was cooler the following morning which was good because I had to mix some Rose Tree and Shrub Compost into the earth to improve the soil. So I opened the bag of compost and scattered it over the top of the soil before forking it through. Once mixed, I raked the soil so that it was nice and flat.
Buoyed on by how great the soil looked I planted my veg cell plants following the instructions on the plant label into the soil and gave them a proper firm planting followed by a good watering.
I headed back inside as Midsummer Murders was about to start, other murder mystery programs are available.
Refreshed from my holidays and pleasantly surprised to see that my garden had not descended into a scene from ‘Jurassic Park’ I felt a new sense of purpose and vigour as I pondered my next gardening task.
With it being the middle of August I was not expecting there to be much to do in the garden, that was until I bumped into Sue, Plant Area Manager at Baytree who mentioned to me whilst I was eyeing up her plump hydrangeas that she had just taken delivery of their spring bulbs from Taylor’s Bulbs who are based just up the road.
Sue said that if I wanted to have a good colourful show of spring flowers next year then now is the time to start planting. With her words ringing in my ears I headed across to Baytree’s Bulbland to speak to Sarah as she is their ‘Bulb Queen’.
HRH Sarah helped me pick out a couple packs of Daffodils, Crocus, Camassia and Allium bulbs. She explained to me how to plant them for best results which I will try my best to recount now for you.
For a natural look HRH Sarah told me to open one pack at a time and gently scatter the bulbs in the area I wished to plant. Wherever they land is where you should plant them she said. This random way of planting would avoid straight lines and look more pleasing to the eye.
It is important to ensure that the bulbs are the correct way up when planting. This was news to me as I had always thought that bulbs where like seeds.
The Bulbs have a tapered top which when planting needs to be pointing upwards with the flatter base pointing downwards, sounds simple really.
Anyway back to the task in hand. I had scattered my first packs of Daffodils and had planted them to the correct depth following the instructions on the packets. All I had to do then was to plant the remaining bulbs in the same way being careful to scatter only one type of bulb at a time to avoid planting them at the wrong depth.
I had also chosen a couple packets of Fondant Fancy Tulip Bulbs because I liked the name. HRH Sarah of Bulbland explained to me that Tulip bulbs really need planting later in the year, November – December time so that they don’t suffer from ‘Frost Tip’ when growing.
Her advice was to store the bulbs in a really cool place. So I placed them on the front seat of my convertible car parked in my garage with a pair of Rayban’s sunglasses on. They looked pretty cool to me.
Growing up I remember one of my favourite films was Superman 2, it’s the one where Superman takes the hand of General Zod the main villain and crushes his hand after everyone thinks he’s lost his powers. It’s a great scene where the baddie regrets asking Superman to hold his hand, the music builds and the world is saved just in the nick of time.
Well this week I felt like Superman when I managed to crush the plastic handle on my garden trowel. The trowel was part of a gift set of gardening tools that my Mum had given me for Christmas. I think that it was made to the same exacting standards as a seaside plastic bucket and spade.
I had officially broken my first garden implement with just my bare hands, Monty Don would be proud of me.
The fact it was a gift from my Mother was causing me to feel a little tense. My Mum always whenever she visits asks if I’m still using the tools she bought me.
About six months ago I planted my first container with plants that I gave to my mum for Mother’s Day. I thought that if I were to re-plant the container for her she might not take it quite so bad when I reveal the news that her present is now in trowel heaven. For those of you who don’t know where trowel heaven is, it’s off the A17 near Fosdyke Bridge.
Also I thought it would give her something else to focus on other than the underwear on her neighbours washing line. My mum is convinced that they are far to revealing so therefore she must be a lady of the night.
Into the base of the pot I added some broken pieces of pot, I was told that this would help with drainage. Just how it does I don’t know but that’s what I was told.
I then half-filled the pot with a good quality multi-purpose compost into which I planted some short stemmed tulip bulbs to add surprise in the spring. Once the bulbs where planted I then added another 7 inches of compost so they were covered. In the centre I planted some wallflowers to give a bit of height and around the sides I planted some Winter Pansies, Violas and Polyanthus.
I took the planted container round to my mum’s house yesterday morning. For those of you wondering I can confirm that the underwear is in fact skimpy!
Nothing beats the sound of laughter especially when the infectious giggle is emanating from my daughter Elizabeth. Multiply that sound six fold and that would give you an insight into the noise that boomed through the house at about 5:30am yesterday morning. It was my little girl’s ninth birthday and in my infinite wisdom I had agreed to Elizabeth having five of her friends for a sleep over.
I headed downstairs to find cushions and soft furnishing everywhere. Then six giggling little girls started attacking me with left over Cadbury’s mini rolls from their previous midnight feast. Other rolls are available.
Reeling from the attack and now covered in chocolate I retreated upstairs. My wife then awoke, saw me and started screaming thinking I was some kind of sex pest with a fetish for confectionary.
Several blows to my head from Claire’s hair straightener’s later and enough chocolate had been removed in order for her to recognise me and for the second attack of the morning to reach a cease fire.
Peace talks began at breakfast and a plan was drawn up as to whom would be responsible for their particular patch of land. Within a few hours the front room had been returned to normal and by 11am the fearsome fives parents / guards had collected them.
I then headed outside into the garden to hang my chocolate stained washing out. It was apparent that a major battle had also taken place in the garden. A two metre square patch of lawn had been desimated.
However all was not lost because a quick trip to Baytree saw me return with several rolls of cracking quality turf. John in landscaping calculated that I needed 4 rolls of turf. He explained how to prepare the ground and how to lay the turf for best results.
I dug out the offending patch of land removing about 2 inches of soil which I then raked over to give the new turf a flat surface to lay on.
I rolled out the first roll of turf being really careful not to walk on it. John advised me to lay an old scaffold board on the turf in case I needed to walk on it. He said this spreads the weight and doesn’t damage the turf.
Within about 3 hours I had finished. My favourite bit was using a bread knife to cut the turf to the correct length. A good watering followed and the job was done. A quick phone call to the UN and a peacekeeping force was dispatched to protect my new patch of land.
Well it is definitely feeling a little more autumnal this week. My shorts have been consigned to the back of the wardrobe along with my bright purple shirt with green flowers that my Mum bought me for Christmas last year. The shirt really is sight to behold. It is said that because of its garishness it can if taken outside be seen from space. However I have never tried to prove this theory as I have two signed court orders from NASA and the European Space Agency forbidding me to do so.
Interestingly enough whilst searching the back of my wardrobe I happened upon an old gardening book by Geoff Hamilton.
I carried the book downstairs for Claire my wife to take a look at as it didn’t look like the normal type of publication that I would have tucked away in the back of my wardrobe.
Suffice to say the book belonged to Claire and for her, whilst growing up this was her gardening bible. Over the years the fairies in our house had moved it from the bookcase in the front room to my wardrobe upstairs.
Claire opened the book for the first time in years and with tears of joy welling up in her eyes for a moment I felt like a hero. It didn’t take long before the “where did you find that” question came. “Under your dressing table I replied” trying to look honest. It felt like ages before she said “Thank you”. I was out of the woods.
In Geoff’s book he continually mentioned the need for using good quality compost and how the best compost can be made from your own garden waste. Free compost, it was a light bulb moment for me.
A quick trip down to see Dean at Baytree and I had returned home with a new compost bin which resembled the bottom half of a Dalek. Following his instructions I placed the bin at the bottom of the garden in a nice shady spot. Because the compost bit was open at the bottom it could be placed directly onto the soil.
I started filling it with grass clippings, hedge trimmings, dead flower heads, cuttings, vegetable peelings and anything else I could find from my garden.
Dean said to once a month fork it over as this would help the micro-organisms to break down the matter. He said when it’s done you’ll have a beautiful crumbly compost that will do wonders for the soil in your garden.
It’s my little girl’s birthday this week and she turns nine. That means that it has been nine years since I witnessed first-hand the beautiful experience they call childbirth.
It’s 5am in the morning and after regular reports on my wife’s state of dilation our small Chinese midwife asks her colleague for the forceps. After much heaving the baby is not budging so the midwife asks the nurse to help pull. Unfortunately their combined strength is not enough. More people are required.
Soon the room and the corridor is full of people, some were medical staff the rest were made up of anyone they could drag in from the maternity ward. We had husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, cleaners and security guards all helping to pull. It was an epic tug of war.
By the time Elizabeth was born most of the hospital had met my wife. Thankfully she was so high on pain killers she doesn’t remember signing autographs at the end of the ordeal.
This week though it was my turn to go through what I thought would be quite a painful ordeal that would top what my wife had gone through.
It was a task that would require stamina, dedication, hard work and focus. Yes it was time to give my lawn its autumn weed and feed. Whilst I had given my lawn a spring feed I felt I needed to head down to Baytree again to speak to Dean just to confirm gardener to gardener the steps I would need to go through.
The best thing about talking to Dean is he makes looking after your garden seem so much easier. Especially when he showed me a product called “Aftercut Autumn All in One Weed & Feed”. How cool is that, a product named what you need it for.
To begin I gave my lawn a good going over with the lawn mower just to tidy it up. Then I left it for a couple of days which wasn’t very hard.
Over the course of an hour or two I gave my lawn a good even sprinkling of the lawn feed. Dean told me to try to sprinkle the feed on a dry-ish lawn and recommended doing it in the afternoon. He also said not to bother watering it in as at this time of year if it’s not raining it’s about to rain.
There we have it, another job ticked off the garden to do list. Now I’m off to take my daughter to bed and read her a story, it will be the story of her birth popularly known as The Enormous Turnip.