Tractor!

The big news is that we’ve given the garden an overhaul.  We’ve ditched the veg beds, the worms have been released into the wild and the compost heaps dismantled.  The small boy needs a football pitch!  Whilst it’s sad to see it all go, we haven’t entirely given up on growing our own.  I hope to be back into it before too long, but the small patch of earth is to be used for sitting about and kicking a ball around for the foreseeable whilst we do more baby wrangling (number two due early May.)

There are four small fruit trees in blossom at the moment, so the garden is not quite barren.  Two apples, a cherry and a plum are all budding away and we hope for some home-grown fruit this summer.  The boy is a fruit fiend and loved the apples last year – fingers crossed we get a good crop.  The raspberries also went in the overhaul, but it might be possible to plant some in pots on our new patio (does that mean I’m finally a grown up, having a patio?)

The most exciting discovery for the small boy was to find that we have a ‘Tractor!’ in the shed.  I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s just a lawnmower.  He was very excited about pushing it up and down, we may have a useful garden helper before long.  No doubt though by the time he’s strong enough to push it around on his own the novelty will have worn off.

June update

My lovely sister Hannah reminded me that it has been rather a while since I updated the blog.  The weeks have been flying by, and suddenly it’s June already. The small boy keeps us busy.  He is verging on walking but is majoring in shouting, at which he is already highly accomplished.

We made biscuits with him the other day. The wonderful thing about making biscuits with a one year old is that it’s all about the icing.  Every biscuit must be laced and sprinkled. As if we needed any excuse.

In other news I now have ‘ledge veg.’  Three tomato plants in a window box.  They flutter precariously in the wind, I hope they will make it.  We have a veritable orchard in the garden, two apple trees and a plum tree are fruiting.  We have also rescued a couple of potted patio cherry trees from my sisters’ house move.  They seem somewhat traumatised by the trip across Tooting and are clinging on to life itself rather than wasting energy on producing progeny.  I hope all your gardens are flourishing and enjoying some of the recent showers.

March update

Lots to report on and apologies for not having posted very much aside from recipes over the past few months.

I’m now on maternity leave, and gradually getting used to the change of pace from shift work (alarm clock goes off at 3.45am) to maternity leave (alarm clock turned off) to the impending arrival of LW (who is now the size of a watermelon, for those of you still interested in the fruit and veg analogies – alarm clock in human form goes off at 2am, 3am, 4am…)

The fair-weather gardener in me has kicked in over the last couple of days, with the sunshine coaxing me and Wilb into the garden to see how everything has fared during an extended period of neglect over the winter.  The lovely fruit trees Mum gave us a few months ago are planted, two apples and a plum, and will hopefully start producing a few new leaves soon, to prove that we haven’t killed them in the transplantation from their gorgeous Worcestershire home to rather less glamorous Tooting postage stamp.

I have been marvelling at the compost in both the compost bin and the wormery (the worms have miraculously survived the winter) which is more exciting than I should really admit to.  Have a look at my guide to setting up a wormery if you’re thinking of starting one yourself, I highly recommend it.  The compost heap is overflowing, and having spent a long time looking for a hand crankable garden shredder, I eventually resorted to a pair of secateurs and a bucket to convert some of the strings of ivy, bits of rose bush etc… down to manageable scraps.  Then all that remained was to weight the whole thing down with something, which Wilb kindly obliged to help out with.  I’m hoping that the heap will prosper now it’s been given some TLC.

In other news, I went along to the Transition Town Tooting first film night last night, a great event where six short films were shown and finally judged, with ‘Mine: story of a sacred mountain‘ winning the much coveted Tooting Palm Verte for the best film of the evening.  Many thanks to TTT for a great event and a good opportunity to find out about more TTT events, such as the Trashcatchers’ Carnival which I initially thought was just a big litter-picking event, but turns out to be a multi-coloured spectacular down Tooting High Street in July, which sounds like it’s going to be fantastic.

Finally I’ve been micro-gardening, which is where you wish you had more space for gardening, but you just don’t, so you have to make do with what you have to indulge the gardening passions, in this case a seed germination test, in which I’ve been testing a load of old seeds I found in my shed, to see whether they are still alive, despite not having enough space to then plant even half of them if they prove viable, but it’s fun to see all the different seeds.  It’s amazing how variable they are, from tiny, pitch black shrapnel like onion seeds to big, white, tear-shaped courgette seeds.  That and watching the garden out of the window, which is quite fun when the sun is shining, and there is something of a showdown going on between three migratory cats, several birds and of course the beautiful fox (no longer a cub) which has made its home on top of the garden wall.

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.

Book review: The London Gardener

The London Gardener: Guide and Sourcebook
The London Gardener: Guide and Sourcebook

There is something very exciting about London gardens and London gardening.  The gardening tends to be on a fairly small scale, unless you are really lucky, space being at a premium.  Many Londoners seem to start with a window box and once bitten by the gardening bug are forever moving in search of bigger and more flexible spaces to fill with fruit, veg and flowers.  As a garden fan, there is so much out there, hidden away in nooks and crannies around the city, but it is difficult to know where to find them.

Elspeth Thompson has compiled a fantastic book offering a wealth of inside knowledge for gardeners around the capital.  The London Gardener discusses the challenges of London gardening and points out some excellent urban gardens, from squares and churchyards to ‘secret’ gardens and parks.  The book ends with an really useful sourcebook with details of nurseries, garden centres, specialist shops, societies, designers, courses and even tree surgeons.  This isn’t just a big cluttered list, but like a section of Thompson’s personal black book of gardening, a real treat in which she explains a little about what can be found from each listed service.

It was last revised in 2006, so some of the information may be out of date.  The price of entry to the Chelsea Physic Garden is listed as £3 but it is now £8, so be warned!  Even so, this is definitely worth getting hold of if you can, for the sourcebook, and the great info on ‘proper’ London gardens which you can take your friends to and pretend you found yourself.