Building up a flower bed

We have a gorgeous flower bed along the fence in our back garden, but as it’s not got an edge or border to it, the soil gets kicked out by birds, the wind and the rain.

It’s also been staring to look a little bit tired recently, but to be fair, the primula and primroses from that bed have been in the garden since before we moved in. They’ve had a good shift.

So we’ve taken the chance to liven the bed up a bit and to give it a decent edge to keep it all together.

That’s no mean feat mind you, the bed is six meters long.
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We put together the frame to go around the bed in two halves, just to make it a bit more manageable. The hope being that this not so little wooden frame will help to keep the soil in the bed and maybe even provide a bit of shelter for the ground level plants.

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You can see just how big the framing has to be.

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Once we had that ready, we lifted out any of the existing plants we could and sorted them into the plants that were going back into the bed and the ones that were for the compost. Then we gave the soil a good turn over and a hoe.
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Not an easy job, as you can see we have a rowan tree there and the roots make working in that bed quite difficult. But apparently the Rowan keeps witches away so maybe it’s earning its keep.
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With the bed dug over, we added some compost and dug that through just to give the plants a wee boost and then we put the plants back in and replaced the poorer looking ones with some new plants.

This bed had previously been mostly primula and primrose, but this time round we’ve mixed that up with some mims. We’ve become big fans of mims as a summer plant.

So now it’s all looking gorgeous.
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Just a coat of paint so it ties in with the other beds and we have a nice new flower bed with some new plants.

Now, next… The flower bed at the back is seriously over grown. That really needs hacked back. I mean pruned delicately to bring out it’s shape and beauty. :0)




Ever wonder where it all started? Cooking, gardening, brewing and even cycling.

writing a blog littleI’ve been asked quite a few times recently when I started or why I got into or how we created the garden, or how on earth we started making our own beer and I was even asked this week if I had just started cycling and I always direct people to this blog telling them that there are loads of stories here about everything.

Sometimes people say “Wow that’s great I’ll really enjoy reading that”, which is always a nice feeling. However today someone said, ” there’s just so many stories on there, how do I find the start?”

That’s something that hadn’t occurred to me before, yes this blog has grown massively in the last couple of years and I suppose it isn’t as easy anymore to find the beginning of some of the on going stories about the garden or house or our first adventures in brewing etc so what should I do? I guess I help a little here, here are some links to help you – I guess it’s like our personal way back machine.

Some highlights from Ar Bruidair.

Lots of posts (in order) about how we created our gardens

All the posts about our brewing from our very first attempt at beer until our most recent

My adventures in cycling

If you are feeling very brave – a very old blog from when I was learning Gaelic

 




All you need is love, tea and gardening.

IMAG3345Another couple of happy hours in the greenhouse today for the final steps for this year, the final potting and placing of the tomatoes. The greenhouse feels so much bigger at the minute as the next door neighbour cut down the elder tree which was causing the back of the greenhouse to be in shadow. So for the first time I’m actually getting full use of all the space. It feels so big!

As promised in my review of last year I’ve got a couple  each of red and yellow little balcony/dwarf tomato plants. They are so compact that all four fit on a shelf at the back of the greenhouse leaving lots of space for the bigger standard tomato plants.

I’ve put a double shelf in at the back allowing me to have the tomatoes on top, salad under that and then some storage for bits and bobs under them on the floor.

That’s given me enough room for;

  • 2 Marmand heritage tomato plants. These things are ugly as sin but taste amazing.
  • 2 Chocolate coloured cherry plants
  • and 3 sweet million red cherry plants. These gave me such a huge yield of tomatoes both years I’ve grown them so I had to have more this year.

th_gardeningPootling away in the greenhouse with a cup of tea and some music playing is one of my favourite things so I was happy to be able to hang one of my christmas presents. I had held off, not wanting to hang it until the greenhouse was pretty much finished, so today it went up.

I couldn’t agree more with this sign.

 




Petunias – the growing from seed adventure

petunia seedlingsThis year’s experiment was to grow the flowers for our hanging baskets ourselves rather than buy plants from our local garden centre.

This would be the first time we’d grown flowers from seed so it was a bit of l new adventure for us and as usual I went into full research ninja mode before doing anything.

Normally when planting seeds, well I say normally but what I mean is that for all the seeds I’ve planted so far, you place the seeds onto damp soil and then cover them with more soil.

Research ninja however discovered that for petunias, you don’t cover the seeds they actually need the sunlight to spark off germination.

I have to be honest, this felt a bit weird and I REALLY wanted to cover them.

The second think to know if you should ever fancy growing petunias from seed is that they apparently are notoriously difficult to grow. Every article I read was full of doom and gloom telling me to plant 50 if I want 10 etc. I wasn’t filled with confidence, especially since we have 10 hanging baskets to fill at a rate of about 5 plants on average per basket. So back onto t’internet for a quick deal with old Mr Fothergill and another few packets of seeds were winging their way to us.

When it was time to plant up, I had lots of seeds, TINY, TINY seeds and I patiently made lots of little paper pots. The plan being to scatter the seeds throughout lots of these little pots and then IF any seeds germinated I could pot them on later as needed.

It took an age, I was getting so jittery as nothing was coming up and I took to staring at things really intently everyday as if my sheer will could encourage the little sods to get going But they did eventually start coming up and they were so tiny.

The advice was right, hardly any germinated, infact a couple of weeks after germination seemed to start I only had 16 plants… sod it, I planted a wee drop more.

Well the wee sods only almost all came up eventually!!!!!! So much for advice on t’internet.

Well potting on was fun let me tell you, 4 hours of making over a hundred new paper pots and transferring the now bigger seedlings into them. The only reason that it only took 4 hours was because Kate took pity on me and jumped in to get a production line going.

hanging basketsSo 5/6 weeks later and we have just planted up our hanging baskets with copious amounts of baby petunias plants which hopefully in a few weeks will start to look lush.

All good, we have the start of our hanging baskets out there and all being well we should have the most awesome cascade of colour in a few months filling the baskets and trailing over the sides.

There is just one thing though… what to do with the spare 36 plants that weren’t meant to germinate????????

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Potting up the petunias




Unheated greenhouse – does it really make a difference?

wpid-wp-1397999467867.jpgI was going to give you a very quick update on the garden today as things do seem to be coming along nicely but in looking at the photos to post it struck me that there is maybe a topic I could talk about that might be of help to some gardeners who are thinking about greenhouses. Namely does it make a difference. It’s something I wondered about when I was looking to buy our greenhouse as I couldn’t afford any of the top of or near top of the range models and I had no way of heating or controlling temperatures in there so I did wonder if an unheated greenhouse would make any difference. Well in short, the answer is yes actually it does and I’ll explain why.

My greenhouse is a lower end poly carbonate model, this means that instead of glass panels it has thin, clear, plastic panels on the sides and corrugated plastic panels on the roof. The first obvious benefit of this is that plastic is less prone to damage than glass and secondly should you need to replace it it’s also cheaper. If you’ve read the posts about storms in our neck of the woods and how it rips the roof panels out of the greenhouse then you know that cheap is a good thing.

I’ve never owned a glass greenhouse so I can’t compare poly carbonate to glass for you, I can only talk on my own experience and that is that when it’s cold, the greenhouse is cold. It’s unheated and as much as we did our best when we put it together there are a few small gaps in the construction that let the cold in. However in saying that if there is a little bit of sun, the greenhouse really does hold onto that heat, there is a marked difference in temperature outside and inside with even just a little bit of sun.

IMAG3287It was actually when I was planting my peas last weekend that I realised the difference this year and decided that it might be a topic worth talking about on the blog. The first photo here is some peas that I planted directly into the pots outside. They are beginning to show and as I write this blog they are all above ground, for this time of year that’s pretty much on que as expected. However when I show you the next picture which is the peas which were sown at the same time but in the greenhouse, you can really see the difference.

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Like I said these ones were planted on the same day but obviously have come on so much more than the ones sown directly into soil outside.

And it’s not just peas, I see this with everything. I regularly plant courgettes in the greenhouse and when the threat of frost is past I then put them outside. A colleague this week commented on the size of my courgettes, apparently compared to her outdoor ones, mine are monsters. I’ve always done this so I don’t have any outdoor photos to show you to compare but here are my courgettes as of 28th April.

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There is one smaller plant as you can see, this was a bit of a late one to take off from seed but I’ve kept it as I thought it’d be an interesting comparison this year.

 

So there you go. Unheated, poly carbonate greenhouse, it really does make a big difference.

Oh and one more thing, it’s great for over wintering plants that don’t like frost and snow, we just move them into the greenhouse before the bad weather starts to protect them.

 

 

 




So what’s growing? A spring time catch up in the greenhouse.

I was reading through some of our old blog posts from this time last year and I’ve realised that we are a little bit behind on this time last year. Just a few weeks but it goes to show you how the weather can be incredibly variable from one year to the next. This time last year we already had beetroot and carrots in the beds, this year, we’ve only just begun to see the little seedlings popping up in the greenhouse.

So what do we have then? Well.

This is the first year we have attempted to grow any actual flowers from seed. We normally just pop to Pentland Plants up the road and buy baby plants. This year however we are attempting to grow these on ourselves and have a fantastic supply of spring and summer colour, or that’s the plan at least. We’ve planted a few different things alongside our usual veggies.

Petunias

We’ve planted a few different types of Petunias as we use a lot of these in the garden especially in our hanging basket. They are only now just beginning to pop out of the soil and they are sooooooooooo tiny….. I’m terrified I’m going to kill them when I water them. I hope they grow a bit bigger and hardier soon.

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Dahlia

Kate is a big fan of Dahlias so we’re having a go at some of those called Yankee Doodle Dandy. They look pretty on the packets and they seem to be growing quite happily.

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Of course we have our usual array of veggies starting off, although these haven’t really come up much yet as it’s been a bit cold but we have the usual suspect…. COLIN!

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And lots of salad – that stuff will grow in a fridge, I swear!!

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Lastly, I’ve just planted some peas so watch this space for them.

 




Spring Spring Spring Spring – do you get the idea? Spring is on its way. Honest!

Colin 2015It feels like such a long time ago since Kate and I posted the story of our very first seed planting and gardening session: Flowers and Fun with Eli and Kate and of course since then we’ve had first day of spring plantings but it’s always exciting and never gets dull.

In our last post you saw the work that had to be done before we could even begin to think about planting seeds for the upcoming year in our garden but happily that’s all complete and the planting begun today.

It’s still cold in Scotland, not winter cold but unless you’re in direct sun it’s still surprisingly nippy so we can’t go about planting seeds out in the veg beds yet. That however doesn’t mean there is nothing we can start on. The tomatoes and courgettes live in the greenhouse, well the courgettes do until June so there is no issue getting these started as long as the greenhouse is holding a little heat. We also got some of the flowers planted today so that these can be started off in the greenhouse and then out into the hanging baskets etc when the time is right.
paper potsOne of the things we said we were going to try this year was making our pots out of newspaper rather than buying lots of plastic pots for seedlings.

I gave this a try for the first time today and although it took a few goes to get it right, I think this might be the way forward, depending of course on if they hold together as the plants grow.

The main issue we came across was that we are pretty much a paper free house. We don’t do anything on paper let alone get a newspaper so Kate had to bring some home from work for me to use.

paper potsAll in today I think I made about 40 little pots, so quite a successful day. I planted up the Tomatoes, Courgettes (which as tradition dictates are labeled Colin,), Basil, Petunias, Aquilegia and Dahlias,

They are now nestled safely and slightly more warmly in a big propagator in the greenhouse.

Living in Scotland you have to try to find ways to give the temperature a boost, even when you have a greenhouse.

 

2015 seedlingsFolk down south will be planting up quite happily buy now and even planting out directly into the soil in a week or two. In Scotland however, we are still getting snow in March and frost until June so you learn to do what you can to extend the potting times you have.

 

 

 

propagator 2015

I think putting a heater in the greenhouse is a bit of a waste as the seals aren’t great and most of the heat would escape so I just have to make little havens of warm where I can.

Colin 2015

 

 

 

 

For those of those of you who haven’t been following the blog for long, I should explain the Colin thing, well maybe not explain as direct you.

And there’s more if you fancy reading them. Just search for Colin in the search box on the top right.

Planting seeds, however isn’t the only thing we’ve been doing. We’ve also turned the beds over and added fertilizer to give the soil a good feed ready for the veggies this year

turned over beds

 

 

 

 

 

pruned and tidies the flower beds

flower beds Feb 2015

 

 

 

 

 

hospital corner 2015 feb

 

 

 

 

 

Something interesting that we also noticed is how much some of the beds have come on.

From this

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To this

Heather bed 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided that as we’d out all this work in we deserved a reward, so a wee trip to our favourite bottle shop this afternoon and now we are happily sitting enjoying some of “The Beerhive’s” finest beer. Ah, life isn’t all hard work. We just can’t wait till summer when we can enjoy a beer in the garden again and appreciate all our hard work.

 




Greenhouse calamity – the wind has it’s way

Well winter seems to have finally passed and I couldn’t be more thankful. We didn’t exactly get battered with snow but Musselburgh saw a couple of nasty storms and the garden, mostly the greenhouse took a hit.

Greenhouse  wind damageWe’ve been lucky in the past when the strong winds have taken roof panels from the greenhouse, we usually found them the next day in a neighbour’s garden. This time however they were long gone so we had to shore things up with cardboard and gaffa tape until the storms passed and we could fit some new polycarbonate panels.

It really was looking in a sorry state and not just

the lost panels, inside took a battering too because the wind was then able to get in and pots were smashed, shelves knocked over and general mess and debris everywhere.

There was a lot of clearing up to do, not just inside the greenhouse but the panels had gotten all covered in crud thanks to the storms so we jumped at the chance for a bit of a clean up and overhaul on the first calm day we got. It was calm, with no winds which meant we could get the new panels in place, but it was blooming freezing and washing things and having your hands in water was not fun.

 

cleaning and repairing the greenhouse

It was worth it though. It only took a couple of hours to wash the greenhouse down, take the panels out of the frame and wash them (including washing any green yuk out of the corrugated insides and then put everything back together with its new panels. It also gave us the chance to empty it out and give the inside a good tidy up and a sweep and get everything spick and span again.

The best part of being that it meant we were ready to go today when we started getting things planted up for the first time this year, the greenhouse was practically palatial.

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Getting ready for spring – the greenhouse

Folk who don’t work in the garden think that everything stops in winter. Well I wish I could tell you it does but unfortunately winter is when you get everything ready for spring’s arrival.

There is so much to do from cleaning the greenhouse to feeding the soil to organising and planning for planting.

There are obviously things that you do every year and therefore you are already ahead of the game as you are organised and planned for in your head but if you throw anything new into the mix, there’s a whole new batch of organising to be done.

The coming year

We’ve decided that we are going to try something new in the coming year. We’ve already had success with our various veg growing adventures so next year we are going to add flowers to this.  Now before you say,”hang on we’ve seen pictures of your garden and it’s full of flowers.” Let me explain.

We don’t grow our flowers, we buy them all ready to plant from a local nursery. For next year we want to try growing our own plug plants from seed. We have accepted that this might not be the success we hope for but if not we still have the option to buy plants from the nursery. If it does work out, well we will have the chance to increase our range of flowers to include those our local nursery doesn’t carry and save on car trips.

All this excitement will mean the greenhouse will see more use than normal over the spring and summer months so I am going to have to get thinking about how I’m going to do this.

Pots

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Lots more seedlings equals lots more pots required also equals lots more space to store pots and lots more money buying pots.

Solution:  newspaper pots
Kate has bought me a widget that I’m keen to try out. It is so that I can make the pots for my seedlings out of newspaper.
Cheap, biodegradable,  takes up less space and a bit of fun too.

 

 

Space

teeny tom plantMy greenhouse isn’t huge, just 8′ by 6′, and I struggle for space a bit each year as it is so I need to find a way to fit my usual tomatoes, courgettes etc in there with the new flower seedlings too.
Solution: little plants and less of them
Well this one is down to me not going mad with multiple varieties of things I’m afraid. I have a tendency to grow three or four of each variety of tomato or courgette taking up huge amounts of space. This year I am going to force myself to stick to a small number of plants and only those which we’ve already had success with.

I’m also going to grow smaller bush varieties where I can.




Winter draws in, the year comes to a close and we are already thinking about spring

carrots and beetrootIt’s getting dark about 4:30pm in the evenings now and it’s definitely chilly.

Our veggies gradually slowed down their growth and have now come to a stop.

It’s time.

As much fun as it is in spring when all the new plants first pop their heads literally “above ground”, we need to accept that to make this happen, we need to clear away the old stuff and get things ready for over wintering and eventually that spring surge. This means a bit of work to empty the beds and greenhouse and a bit of a scrub and polish to scoot away the muck and yuck of the year past.

We’ve planted up strawberries this year which means they have a permanent home in one of the beds so instead of emptying that one, we need to cover it over with a fleece to protect the plants once the frosts really start to bite. Hopefully our new frames over the beds will make this an easier job.

For the other beds, we’ve pulled all the beetroots and carrots that were there as our last harvest before topping the beds up with more soil and manure(for next years nutrients) and digging them over. We wondered if the soil was getting a bit tired this year after the two fantastic previous years so we are going to really focus on boosting it with nutrients before spring.

The greenhouse doesn’t escape either.  I’ve emptied out all the old tomato plants, cleaned the pots and gave the greenhouse a really good clear out and scrub down. I use a sanitising product called star san for this which is a contact sanitiser, meaning that once the greenhouse is cleaned I can spray this all over the frame and glass to kill any nasties leave the greenhouse sparkling ready to house the tomato plants for next year.

 

So was there anything we grew last year which we wont again?

  • Green beans – last year was our second try at growing green beans. We did have marginal success this year in that we got lots of beans, but they were small and weedy and not very tasty so we are not trying again.\
    It’s just not worth the amount of space and effort for the results.
  • Yellow courgettes – they just can’t be relied upon.
  • Orange carrots – they are the slowest growing and give the smallest yield.
  • Globe carrots – not impressed. Very small and took ages to mature.

 

Anything new for next year?

  • Not new but we are going to move the peas to their own spot. They were so successful that we feel they have earned it.
  • We are going to try the dwarf/patio versions of some of the tomato plants to try to help with space in the greenhouse.

Apart from that everything will be pretty much as usual. Purple carrots, stripy beetroot and all sorts of tomatoes.

Oh apart from one thing… this year will be the first year that we are going to attempt to grow our own flowers for the garden too, instead of buying them  as plugs from the garden centre… watch out for lots of updates about that.

 

Oh and before I go, we have to wave hello to one of our readers – Hey Katy!!!!! Hope you guys have a great thanksgiving!!!!!