Tag Archives: garden

Pond – day 2

We popped to the local garden centre, marking us officially as ‘getting on a bit’, and bought some plants for the pond.  As it turns out, I think we bought marginals which are too big – I suspect the soil is going to wash away and they’ll die.  However, this kind of thing is a learning process, so we’ll see how it goes.

Here’s how it looks with a few pebbles and the new plants.

Close-up of pondPond with plants

Hopefully overnight the soil will settle and we’ll get to see how it looks without the water being a murky brown (moments before it goes murky green and fills with algae).

We also bought some ‘succulents’ for the house, in homage to our parents and grandparents who always seemed to have cacti around the house.

Like a rose Little bubbles Slightly purple Small hedge Like a fern

They look quite nice on the window sill, next to the orchid.

Lined up

Making a pond

Pond LinerI’ve been thinking about building a pond in our garden for ages.  After cutting the grass this morning, I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot.  We can’t run electricity to anywhere in the garden, for three reasons.

  1. I don’t have the skill to do that
  2. I can’t afford to pay anyone to do that
  3. I dread the day we ask someone to look at our electrics, because I fear the previous owners’ skills and enthusiasm

As a result, any pond will have to keep itself clean (solar powered pumps just aren’t up to the job, apparently).  We’ve got an algae problem in the water bucket thing I put together earlier in the year, and I’m pretty sure we’ll end up with an algae problem in the pond.  However, I’m not planning on putting fish in it, and if the local wild life don’t use it, then so be it.

I still want to build one!

We decided to start small, and use a pre-formed pond container thing.  We almost bought quite a large one, but decided to start very conservatively initially.  If it works, and it’s fun, we might go bigger.  However, as it turned out I’m glad we started small.  The second choice was where to place it.  We knew we wanted it at the bottom end of the garden, and since you can’t really see that from the house, it didn’t matter if it was the left or right side.

Given that algae issues are worse when ponds are subjected to a lot of continuous direct sunlight, we wanted somewhere with a bit of shade.  It was either left side near the fence, right side in the corner between the fence and the shed, or right side between the shed, Zorblag the troll, and our willow tree.

Left Side Right Corner Zorblag

In the end, we went for the third option.  That area gets the most shade, but still gets plenty of light as well, and we like the idea of Zorblag looking out over a new water vista.

For some reason, I decided doing this on one of the hottest days of the year, after having already been in the garden for a couple of hours cutting the grass would be sensible.  I started digging.  Well, I say digging, but really, it was more a case of excavating.  The turf layer was fine, but immediately below that was rubble.  Big pieces of rubble.

Rubble piling up Rubble with metal Final rubble

Hole in progressIt’s a mixture of reinforced concrete, bricks, and cement blocks from the looks of it.  All of that came out of quite a small hole.  I was going to take lots of pictures of the digging as it progressed, but frankly, it was too much hard work shifting the stuff to think about photographing it.  I started out with a spade, but ended up doing my impression of folk on Time Team and using a hand trowel.  I was literally digging around each piece of rubble to find out how big it was, and then removing it.  The hole ended up being bigger than necessary, because two or three of the biggest pieces were embedded in the side of the hole, which meant I had to dig under the turf layer.

In the photo with my foot, you can see the largest selection of the rubble.  I moved about 8 bags of soil as well as that rubble.  I am very glad we picked the smallest of the pond liners.

The PoolAfter about four hours, I had the hole lined with sand, and the pond inserted.  I filled the sides in as best as I could, and threw down some of the better looking pebbles that had come out of the hole.  Tomorrow I need to buy the plants, and get some proper gravel or pebbles for the edges.  Because the lawn isn’t flat, one edge of the pool is below the grass level, while another edge is at the grass level.  It’ll have to do!

The cats spent most of the day watching me working, and as usual, they refused to do anything useful like move some soil or get me a spirit level.

Bubbles is very interested in the new addition to her garden, and I’m hopeful it’ll be an interesting feature once we get some plants in it.  I really only care about it being useful for the wild life, I’m not too worried if it looks pretty.  Once I get some experience keeping it clean, we might get something bigger to go in the other corner.

Here’s Bubbles, with her first look at the pool.

Bubbles Pond

Houses, and sleeping and gardens and grass.

WillowTreeI am so tired all the time at the moment, it’s just insane.  I think I’m getting plenty of sleep, despite the heat, but the driving lessons are just screwing with our routine, and myself and Greté are all about the routine!  Driving seems to wear me out as well, even if it’s just the 30 minute drive home, so by the time I sort food and then settle down I’m knackered and just want to sleep.  Everything else is taking a back seat – including the garden which is now officially out of control again.

GrassWe’ve half managed to stay on top of the grass, and I actually did get rid of a patch of moss on the front lawn and get it replaced with grass (which now looks nothing like the rest of the lawn, obviously), but otherwise, the borders have gone crazy and the grass is patchy and full of weeds.

Despite that, we’re loving the wildlife in the garden – we’ve got pigeons nesting in our tree (which we were thinking of cutting down until we saw the nest), we’ve got dragonflies the size of small birds, and when I do cut the grass I’m often picking up and moving frogs out of the way.

FlowerSadly, the snails and the slugs eat just about anything we put in the ground, and they’ve worked out how to climb up the side of the water bucket thing and are eating the lilies and their flowers.  I can’t feel too angry at them, since they’re officially wildlife as well, but sometimes I wish they’ve give the stuff we plant a chance.

The sudden bout of insanely hot weather is doing the garden some good, drying it out after the first half of the year and the willow tree is really flourishing.  There are ants nests all over the bloody garden as well, and what used to be a flat lawn is now a small mountain range!

WoodBeforeOn the house, we noticed toward the end of March that the window sill on the outside of the bedroom window was warped, and we got a joiner to come and quote for a replacement.  He was great – except we had to chase him about 4 times for the quote, and then it took him 8 weeks to come and do the work (he kept pushing us back due to other stuff).  We got him to pull down the woodwork between the bedroom window and the downstairs window as well.  The brickwork behind it isn’t bad but it needs re-pointing.  £315 for the pleasure of replacing a single wooden window sill, and taking down the rest of the wood.  Could have done without it, considering how much I’m spending on driving lessons, but there you go.  The joiner also thinks we’ll need all the window frames treated, so we’ve asked a guy to come over and quote for that too.  That’s the royal we, obviously, since Greté actually sorts all this stuff out for us, I don’t.

WallAfter We’ll need to try and remember which bricklayer we used for the re-pointing last time and give him a call as well.  Looks like the previous owners did some ‘repair work’ with their normal quality.

I have a question, does anyone have any idea what the following bugs are?  They’re in the willow tree, and there’s loads of them.  Nearly every leaf has what looks like a tiny one underneath curled up, or larger ones moving around.  They’re black with a shock of red and they look spiky!

EDIT: They’re ladybird larvae.  Awesome.

Bug
Bug2
Bug3

And lastly, here’s Bubbles enjoying the shade offered by the willow tree (which made me very pleased we’d planted it).

WillowBubbles

And here’s our pigeon.

Pigeon

April Ahoy

It’s April already, and I’d like to think after the end of last year, things are finally getting back to normal.  Yesterday, myself and Grete went out and bought a sofa (actually, a pair, a 3 seater and a 2 seater), to replace the ones we’ve been using ever since Grete’s parents gave them to us.  Before that, we used the other sofa and chairs that Grete’s parents gave to us.  This will be the first time, since we’ve been married (1998) that we’ve owned a new sofa.

We almost went for just a 3 seater and one armchair, but we do every now and then have company, so a 3 and a 2 it is.  Not that much more expensive, the armchair is 2/3rds the price of the 2 seater anyway.  Delivery ‘up to 7 weeks’ but hopefully will be faster.  Although Grete did an amazing job with the sofa covers a couple of years ago (turns out, it’s more like 2 1/2 years), it’s finally time to accept that we need to replace them.  The small two seater is okay, it doesn’t get much use, but the 3 seater is dead.  The cover Grete made is worn through in places, and I spend most of my time re-adjusting it after it gets scrunched up from a few hours use.  The sofa has a duvet on it, under the brown cover, just to give the cushions some padding.  It’s dead, it needs to go, and we were pleasantly surprised that it didn’t cost the earth to replace.

Now I just need to work out how to get the 2 out of the house without killing either of us, and hope the delivery guys can get the 2 new ones in. I know they can, because clearly somehow we managed to get the 2 existing ones in, but it’s the kind of thing I worry about.

Pruned Apple TreeI had a couple of weeks of holiday at the end of March, and had hoped to get into the garden to start tidying it, but the snow kind of put paid to those plans.  This weekend however, has been glorious, so rather than waste it, I went out today and finished the apple tree pruning that Grete started a few weeks ago.  I don’t know if the tree will survive, but at least we’ll be able to see out of the kitchen window for most of the summer.

As Grete suggested, it’ll probably generate a bumper crop of apples this year, just to annoy us.

Have to say finally getting out into the garden and getting something done really helped clear the winter funk out of my head.  I love Autumn and Winter, but it’s nice to finally get some decent Spring weather and get started.  Check back in during the Summer when I traditionally lament how much I hate gardening.

I’m calling the big one Adam

The miniature willow tree we planted is doing really well.  Looks pretty healthy to me – but it’s clearly still got a strong ant and aphid infestation.  Click to embiggen any of the photo’s.

Here’s the garden in general with the tree,

And here’s the ant infestation.

Cold you say? (Picture heavy)

Some of these are a little out of focus, sorry about that, it was cold and I was in a rush (to get the car sorted and get to work).

Our tree – looking like someone dusted it with icing sugar.

Our poor willow tree – small but feisty, looks so sad despite the natural decorations.

Couldn’t get this close-up (of one of the last remaining leaves on the willow) to work well – my hands were too shaky in the cold.

Nature’s natural Christmas decorations – frozen spider webs.

Spider webs up-close (sorry for the terrible photography).

Dry day for a change

Last few weeks have been pretty wet (clearly, not on the same scale as some parts of the world), but it’s been a useful excuse not to get into the garden.  Today I’m on holiday and it’s sunny and dry, so no chance at any excuses.  To the left is the picture of one of our apple trees.  The other (much smaller, and looking pretty unhealthy) is in the middle of the garden.  This one is at the top, and despite some rather vicious pruning last year it’s grown huge again this year with a bumper crop of apples.  Which is nice, except it then slowly drops them onto the grass throughout the late summer and early autumn.  I’m not a huge fan of apples and Grete’s not a huge fan of apples which look like they’ve been used as living quarters.  Even if we were, there’s no way we could eat a tree’s worth.  Anyway, this is how it looks when it’s being nice and giving us gifts.

And here’s how those gifts look if you take a close look at them.

Anyway, we clear them up once a week or so, and I got them done today, so now it looks like this!

Since I was already wearing my gardening stuff I finally decided to move the wood from the side of the house and get rid of it.  Yes, it’s true, the deck is almost finally almost all gone nearly.

And while moving it, I found a guest.

It’s the Cavalry

Finally have some aphid eatin’ Ladybirds on the Willow.  During the day, they’re fast little buggers, this one was hoovering up aphids as fast as it could!

I have about 50 shots of it, blurry, running all over the leaves, it paused here just long enough for the autofocus to get it.  And then a moment later, it took off, this next shot was pretty lucky timing.

Went out a bit later, and there’s another one sleeping on the tree (looks asleep), which is good news for me, and bad news for the aphids.  Also, I think this ant was interested in me too.

And this one, I’m really pleased with, very pleased with this shot indeed.

The Story of our Willow Tree

Myself and Grete, we both like trees.  We were sad when we had to fund cutting down a very large tree in the garden (for various reasons) and we promised we’d plant some to make up for it.  We tried a cherry tree, but got it badly wrong and the tree it was grafted onto was the only thing grown (and would have been huge, so that had to come up).  Then we saw a miniature willow tree and that sounded perfect.

So this year we got it, planted it and cared for it, within only two days it had sprouted a load of extra leaves and branches (more than the cherry tree ever did) and we thought we were onto a winner, and then it went wrong.

We’ve got several large ants nests in the garden, and either I plant the tree in one, or they moved into the soft earth shortly after.  They swarmed all over the tree, and although I couldn’t see them doing any specific damage, they weren’t helping the root ball settle in.  We also got a spot of super-hot weather (just two or three days) and the tree didn’t get enough water.  The new foliage died.  We were sad, we were killing another tree.

But I took some corrective measures, more top soil, and some solid application of the end of a lump of wood on the ground left the tree solidly bedded in.  I watered it every day.  I tried to kill the ants (but failed, as usual).  I watered it some more.  And it stuck it out, survived a few weeks of miserable weather and made it to the long strip of hot weather we’ve had.  I’ve been out every day making sure that tree has enough water (even if the rest of the garden is turning into a desert).

I think it’s paid off – it flourished, new leaves, new branches, thickening of the branches already there.  I think it might pull through.

But now we have aphids.  Not one or two, but billions.  We’ve never had aphids in the garden that I can remember seeing in any number, so it looks like we’ve brought them in with the willow and they may well be a specific willow based aphid.  I’ve just been out to squish them, again.  The ants look like they’re milking them.

I need a ladybird infestation!

Anyway, I don’t think the aphids will kill the willow, but they do generate some annoying issues (honeydew and the stuff that feeds on it, including wasps and mold).

So I’ll be out making sure they stay as dead as I can for the next few weeks, washing them off and squishing the hangers on.

I’m rootin’ for you miniature willow (pun intended), we can do this.

Willow when we got it in April:

Willow in mid-June:

Willow now:

My hands are too shaky, I don’t own a big enough tripod and the camera is really not good enough to take photo’s of  ants and aphids, but I tried anyway.

Just aphids.

Ant vs Aphid (I think it’s milking them)

And last, but not least, more aphids.