Wild garden

The garden lies largely neglected during the winter. There is some kind of psychological barrier to going down a flight of stairs to get to it. Then there is the cold and the damp.

I love watching the fox who still manages to live on top of the wall at the back of the garden though. The neighbours chopped the hedge right back to try to get rid of him, but now the leaves are the same colour as his fur, so he has an even better hiding place. I am a little wary of him now the small boy is on the scene, so I may have to do the same later in the year.

Like this blog, the garden gets horribly neglected for large chunks of the year, but I know that when the first signs of spring start appearing, I will be all excited about it again.

I hope your gardens are all hibernating well, getting ready for new things in the months to come.

The tiniest water butt in Europe

Maybe.  It is laughably small.  Still, it holds three watering cans worth, perfect for sprinkling my lettuce seedlings.  Slugs and snails circle the veg patch, waiting for the little shoots to get big enough for a decent meal.  I wonder (again) whether I could squeeze a small chicken/quail coop into the garden?  It would be deeply satisfying to pluck a snail, mid-munch from the lettuce patch, and chuck it straight in with of a couple of hungry hens.  That’d learn it.  Turning snails into eggs, now that’s recycling.

In other news, I have been conducting an archeological dig in my compost heap.  I have found large quantities of leaves, grass clippings and woody prunings c.2008 all of which had formed stoic layers, entirely un-rotted, exactly as they were when I foolishly put them in.

I have learnt the hard way that building a compost heap does not mean you can shove every piece of garden waste into a pile and expect black gold in 6 months.  A lot of stuff still has to go into landfill, unless you’re prepared to invest in a chipper, which frankly, would be truly ridiculous in my garden.  I do cut some stuff up by hand, but there are limits.  Some things just aint gonna rot quickly.  Avocado stones, for example, have a half life of approximately 483 years, from what I can gather.

Happily, I have discovered that the answer with grass clippings is just not to collect them in the first place.  Let ’em die where they fall, far less hassle all round, and they even act as a rather neat green mulch for the lawn (if you can call a patch of grass the size of a postage stamp a lawn), so you should end up with greener grass into the bargain.

I have also discovered an incredible bread recipe/method via angry chicken, which is awesome.  I made some today.  It is easy, it is cheap, and it turns out bread just like the stuff from the artisan boulangerie (in Tooting? I hear you cry – it is true, it exists) down the road, except that you don’t have to pay £3.20 a pop.  Not only that but it’s the first time I’ve bought a specialist cookery book and managed to make the stuff with things I already had in my kitchen.  You don’t have to buy special equipment or ingredients, you don’t have to sit and spoon feed some kind of absurdly complicated yeast starter for a week and a half or anything.  Brilliant.

Garden update

I love my garden.  Here it is, as photographed from my kitchen window.  It is 5x5m square (one-hundred-and-sixtieth of an acre), small but perfectly formed.  Unfortunately the gardener does not measure up to the garden.  I am the worst kind of fair weather gardener.  On the first sunny days of the year I get over-excited and plan all sorts of amazing food growing adventures.  Sometimes I even get round to actually planting things.  Mostly though at some stage I will neglect everything for a month and a half, and then it all perishes.

My fruit and veg collection at the moment consists of a couple of very active raspberry canes, which are shooting up (no sign of any fruit yet though) and three beautiful cordon fruit trees I rescued from my Mum’s garden which are spending this year settling in.  We hope to have some fruit from them next year.  There is also a rhubarb crown hiding in my veg patch, but I have yet to nurture it into producing anything edible.

On the sustainability front, the compost heap has now become two compost heaps, because I naively filled the first with all kinds of woody prunings which are never going to rot down.  I need to go through it and get rid of all of that stuff.  Compost heap number two is a brave new departure, which has been treated nicely and should actually compost properly with a bit of luck.

The wormery is doing well, the little wrigglers seem to survive now whatever the weather, and are busily churning out lovely, friable black gold from my kitchen scraps.   It is very exciting to lift the lid and see all the life in there.  It is absolutely heaving at the moment!  Looking forward to using some of the worm casts when I plant up some lettuce shortly.

My next project (Him Indoors despairs of all this, and would much rather I actually grew stuff, rather than filling the garden with endless sustainability projects) is to harvest some rainwater.  This is something I should have set up years ago, but somehow it was difficult to work out the best way to do it, and so it never got done.  Happily I now have an ingenious plan.  It is the smallest scale water harvesting system ever, but I am very excited about it.

Finally, the chicken plan may eventually materialise as my downstairs neighbour is also keen.  No actual plans yet but it’s looking ever so slightly more realistic.

I hope your gardens are doing much better than mine, filled with beautiful flowers and burgeoning fruit and veg.  Hopefully I will have some better news next update.

Wilbhog in the snow

The obligatory ‘ooh it’s snowing!’ picture.  This is our Wilbhog.  We picked him up in South Africa and smuggled him home in our hand luggage on the plane, we were a bit worried they might confiscate him due to the extremely sharp tusks he has on him.  Luckily he sneaked through though, and now guards the garden from the fox cubs, Wilb and scavenging birds, in that order.

Garden update

GauraThis pretty gaura is the only thing I can find in the garden worth photographing at the moment.

The tomatoes, raspberries and strawberry plants are all looking distinctly sorry for themselves, and the garden is generally in need of a bit of TLC.

There’s something about living in a first floor flat which makes it difficult to get into the garden sometimes.  Clearly in reality this is just laziness, but having to descend a staircase, wander through downstairs neighbour’s garden and then pause on the threshold of the garden checking for cunningly spun spider webs at eye height puts me off going down there as often as I should.  This is really rubbish of me, because I spent the first three years of my life in London wishing I had a garden of any description, so to now abandon the poor thing is really just inexcusable.

wilb on compost heapWilb, on the other hand, seems to spend more and more time in the garden.  Mostly sitting on top of the compost heap, partly I think because it has a nice bit of carpet on top of it, and partly because it is probably pumping out heat as it decomposes all my grass cuttings etc…


Self-berating aside, I also think I might adopt Gill‘s brilliant no-internet-Tuesdays rule.  Not that I spend a lot of time doing anything on the internet, but it does seem to hoover up a lot of my time, despite my not actually doing anything on it.  That would surely leave more time for gardening, and making cakes for my new cake stand.

It is the most ludicrous thing in the world, but cakes look amazing in it, and this entirely justifies the impulse buy last time I was in IKEA (of all places.)

More on that fox cub…

I mentioned a little while ago that a fox cub had fallen through the roof of my greenhouse.  This sounds rather alarming, and caused some consternation on the comment threads, so I thought I should clarify.  My little garden is all of 16ft square, and backs onto a 12ft, ivy clad wall, over the other side of which is a large car park.  On top of the wall live a couple of beautiful young fox cubs, who scamper out of the ivy and along the wall every time I venture out of my back door.

I was a little worried that they would scare Wilb when I first noticed they had taken up residence, but so far they seem to live in harmony, and Wilb of course rules the roost, so I am happy enough for them to stay there for now.  However, they have a rather messy dismount from the wall, due to the fact that it is 3 or 4 times higher than anything they should really be jumping off.

Consequently one of these dismounts resulted in the poor creature crashing through the plastic roof of my greenhouse.   It is only really a plastic sheet rather than solid plastic, so I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have hurt itself too much.  The greenhouse may in fact have broken its fall, and prevented the poor creature being speared by a raspberry cane.

Their methods of getting back onto the wall involve jumping up a 6ft fence, and then from the fence up another 6ft onto the wall.  This often requires several attempts and is highly entertaining to watch from the kitchen window whilst doing the dishes.  Who needs television?

fox in the gardenAnyway, I noticed one of them practicing this technique a week or so ago, and managed to scramble the camera just in time.  Thought I would stick it up here so you can see my resident wildlife.  Now I’m never going to be able to set up with urban chickens am I?  Sigh.

Apologies for a slightly dodgy shot with intruding clothes line, but the cub would definitely have vamoosed by the time I got outside, so a pic through the window was all I could manage I’m afraid.


My neighbour is paving his 30ft garden with massive slabs of battleship coloured concrete.  This is a tragedy, clearly, but it was going to happen sooner or later.  He lets the house out to students, a transient bunch of doctors and nurses (probably, we live across the road from a hospital, so it seems a fair assumption), who understandably are not motivated to grow much in what has always been a bit of a wilderness.

It has been a source of some reassurance for me though.  I can relax, safe in the knowledge that however long I leave my garden when I’m too busy to give it the love it deserves, it will never quite descend into the natural jungle that is next door.  If you can call a combination of brambles and nettles a jungle.

I have attempted a spot of guerrilla gardening on it, by occasionally chucking various seeds over the fence, but to not much avail.  I’ve even entertained the odd day dream about knocking through and illegally using it as an allotment patch.  Now it seems the landlord has chosen the terminal option for garden maintenance.  Pave it once, and it will never be out of control again.  I suspect a man may pop in once a year to napalm the weeds out of the cracks between the slabs, and that will be that.

All of which reminded me that there is a new scheme which might save other plots from similar treatment.  Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, saviour of the chicken and committed supermarket-botherer has set up a website which aims to match gardeners with plots of orphaned land around the country.  There are nearly 40,000 people using it so far, have a look.