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The last day of the year, and the first proper frost to hit the garden. If you read the main blog, you might have already seen yesterday’s post about a frosty cemetery. The garden, though, is rather more sheltered so wasn’t really touched by yesterday’s frost at all. Today was the first day that the frost was hard enough for the cold air to get properly into the garden and touch everything down to the ground.
As I’ve said previously the nasturtiums normally have late autumn and early winter mostly to themselves in this garden, and by the time the frost comes the garden often consists mostly of nasturtium. This frost, though, will start to kill them off.
The honeysuckle should be made of somewhat sterner stuff.
The garden has been fairly quiet since I restarted this blog. Hopefully, 2021 will see some interesting new developments. You’ll have to wait and find out exactly what, though.
A month since the last post on the garden blog, and not much has changed. For a number of reasons I have not done very much at all in the garden, not least the continuous bleak weather: cold, rainy, and blustery. Occasionally there is a clear night and Mars, Saturn and Jupiter sail smoothly across the sky; but more usually the heavens are filled with fast-moving grey scudding clouds.
The plants are still growing, of course; or are settling down for winter. The honeysuckle’s flowers have gone, and it is covered in little dark round berries instead.
The nasturtiums I mentioned previously are still going strong, though, covering the back bed from top to bottom in yellow flowers and straggling halfway across the decking too. The bumblebees are still feeding from them; next year’s queen bumblebees preparing to hibernate, I presume. In this one, however, I spotted an earwig, its head down and pincers outwards.
Apparently you can sex earwigs by the size and shape of their pincers. I didn’t try with this one, and left it be inside its flower.
It’s been a few years now since we deliberately planted any nasturtiums, other than occasionally moving seedlings that have been popping up in particularly strange places. Since then, they’ve been left to self-seed. Every year, midway through summer we start thinking “there aren’t many nasturtiums this year,” and then when they come up, “the nasturtiums aren’t flowering much this year”, because we forget how late in the season they really come into their own.
This year was no exception. By the end of August we had plenty of foliage but barely a single flower; in mid-September we noticed they had suddenly leapt up and were climbing all over the back neighbour’s shed roof; and now, at the start of October, they have taken over half the back bed and are covered in flowers.
Their long, muscular stems are bursting through the honeysuckle, across the lemon balm and around the rosemary, and wide, round leaves are bursting through all over the place.
When The Children went back to school part-time in the summer term, one of the things The Child Who Likes Fairies did was plant basil seeds in a pot. In fact, she enjoyed it so much she did two pots, and brought them home with her. We put them on the kitchen windowsill without much optimism, and were as surprised as anyone when a number of seedlings came up. We split apart the most viable ones, and now she has four small basil plants growing on the kitchen windowsill, taking up most of it.
Given the current weather, we knew first thing in the morning yesterday that after lunchtime the garden would be too hot and sunny for us to comfortably spend much time in, but, we thought, at least we can put those basil plants outside to get some sun and some fresh air. Given we knew we wouldn’t be outside, it gave me an idea to try something I’ve thought about doing, on and off, ever since I first bought a digital SLR. I set up the camera on its tripod pointing at the basil plants and the nasturtiums, and programmed it to take time lapse photos, two per minute. We all went inside (and watched The Railway Children), shut the doors, and left the camera to do its thing.
After the film had finished I headed back outside and found that the camera’s batteries had run down after not much more than a couple of hours, and I hadn’t really thought about how the sun would move around and start shading part of the area in the frame as the afternoon progressed. Moreover, after being sat in the middle of the garden on a sunny day for that amount of time, the black rubber handgrips on the camera were now almost too hot to hold, and I had to carry it back inside rather gingerly with its strap. Maybe that had some sort of an effect on the battery life as well. In the evening, I worked out how to stitch each frame together into a video, and upload it onto YouTube.
“I, for one, welcome our new Triffid overlords” said one friend. The nasturtiums might not be changing much over the course of a couple of hours, but The Child Who Likes Fairies’ basil plants are definitely making the most of being in the sunshine.
This afternoon, I finished weeding the rosebay willowherb, until more shoots spring up at least. Weeded every shoot I could see, dug up every rhizome I could find, levelled out the soil and spread a layer of compost across the top.
The sowing plan for the bed starts with: peas at the back, against the trellis. Now, I’ve had issues with pea support in the past, and I suspected that the laths of the trellis are a bit big for a pea plant to wrap a tendril around, so the trellis has been covered in green plastic pea netting. It’s not the prettiest solution but it’s not too obtrusive; and I’m sure the vines of the back neighbour’s honeysuckle will love clinging onto it too.
In the front of the bed, we have scattered various seeds, mostly flowers, in the hope that the will grow up in front of the pea plants without eclipsing them entirely. We’ve scattered handfuls of:
Cornflower, Centaurea cyanoides “Blue Diadem”
Night scented stocks, Matthiola bicornis
Corn marigold, Chrysanthemum segetum
Poppy, Papaver rhoeas “Flanders”
Swiss chard, Beta vulgaris vulgaris Cicla-Group “Five Colour Silverbeet”, because Gretchen has spotted it elsewhere and liked the different colours of the leaves.
Tree spinach, Chenopodium giganticum “Magenta Spreen”, scattered from a packet I bought a couple of years ago and intended to sow but never did. The aim of the tree spinach is much as it was when I bought the packet: it has been sowed in the left-hand end of the bed, a dark and fairly damp corner where not much grows apart from dandelions. Tree spinach might prefer sun, but will hopefully cope with the shade there; and there won’t be any peas at that end that it might crowd out.
There are also nasturtiums, Tropaeolum majus “Empress of India”, apparently “a classic Victorian variety” according to the Internet, sowed in a couple of spots, their seeds like tiny miniature brains. The key to all of this, of course, is the idea that the peas are going to clamber up high enough and quick enough that none of the stuff around them will cause any problems. The other key, which you might have realised, is that nearly all of the ornamental (or semi-ornamental) stuff is self-seeding. Hopefully, once everything is set up, everything will keep on going year after year, or at least until we move house.
This is all very experimental and no doubt a Proper Gardener would tell us we were trying to cram far too many plants into a tiny space. However, we will wait and see. I won’t be surprised if not everything develops, or at least, doesn’t grow exactly how I originally envisaged things. It might need a bit of tweaking next year, or it might all come up again, irregular but satisfactory.
I’ve given up on the calendula seeds mentioned previously, and bought a new packet. Into pots, we sowed:
More calendula, obviously.
And more Tropaeolum majus.
Mixed rocket leaves
A different dwarf sunflower, Helianthus annuus “Choco Sun”, allegedly one of the smallest sunflower varieties available. Short enough for a toddler to sniff, I hope.
And with a general tidy-up, the garden is looking reasonable again. The back bed may be bare soil now, but hopefully within a month or two it will be full of greenery, and mostly the greenery we intended, too. In the tidy-up a lot of the wooden containers were thrown away, their wood rotted too far to save them, but that leaves us a good terracotta core. The plants we bought and potted up 2½ weeks ago are settling in nicely: the fennel looking lively, the thymes putting on new growth, and the marjoram already starting to fill up its pot. I’m rather pleased with how quickly things have been turned around. Even if things aren’t perfect yet, there’s not too much more tidying up left to do.